« 上一页继续 »
appointed Miss Lacings to meet me here-I wonder she has not arrived-she can tell you how much is necessary for the four dresses. If Miss Fanny finally concludes to be like other people and put on black, I suppose she will attend to it herself. These very sensible young ladies are beyond my comprehension."
"I am sure," said Helen, "no one is more easy to understand than my dear aunt Fanny."
"And herel" continued Mrs. Bleden, "is the double-width crape for the veils. As it is of very superior quality, you had better have it to trim the dresses, and for the neckkerchiefs, and to border the black cloth shawls that you will have to get."
Mrs. Parkinson on hearing the prices of the crape and bombazine declared them too expensive.
"But only look at the quality," persisted Mrs. Bleden, "and you know the best things are always the cheapest in the end-and, as I told you, nobody now wears economical mourning."
"We had best wear none of any description," said Mrs. Parkinson.
"Ah!" cried Mrs. Bleden, "I see that Miss Fanny has been trying again to make a convert of you. Yet as you are not quakers, I know not how you will be able to show your faces in the world, if you do not put on black. Excuse me, but innovations on established customs ought only to be attempted by note-by persons so far up in society people of that they may feel at liberty to do any out-of-the-way thing with mipunity."
"I wish indeed," said Mrs. Parkinson, "that some of those influential persons would be so public-spirited as to set the example of dispensing with all customs that bear hard on people in narrow circumstances."
The mantua-maker now made her appearance, and Mrs. Bleden exclaimed, "Oh! Miss Lacings, we have been waiting for you to tell us exactly how much of everything we are to get.'
A long and earnest discussion now took place between Mrs. Bleden and the mantua-maker, respecting the quality and quantity of the bombazine and crape.
Miss Lacings having calculated the number of yards, Mrs. Bleden inquired if there was no yard measure in the house. One was produced, and the measuring commenced forthwith; Mrs. Parkinson having no longer energy to offer any further
opposition. She sat with her handkerchief to her face, and her daughters wept also. Mrs. Bleden stepped up to her, and whispered, "You are aware that it will not be necessary to pay the bills immediately."
"Ah!" returned Mrs. Parkinson, "I know not when they can be paid. But we will strain every nerve to do it as soon as possible. I cannot bear the idea of remaining in debt for this mourning."
Their business being accomplished, the shop-boys departed, and Miss Lacings made her preparations for cutting out the dresses, taking an opportunity of assuring the weeping girls that nothing was more becoming to the figure than black bombazine, and that every body looked their best in a new suit of mourning.
At this juncture, Fanny returned to the room, and was extremely sorry to find that the fear of singularity, and the officious perseverance of Mrs. Bleden, had superseded the better sense of her sister-in-law. But as the evil was now past remedy, our heroine, according to her usual practice, refrained from any further animadversions on the subject.
Little Louisa was now brought in to be fitted: and when her frock was cut out, Fanny offered to make it herself, on hearing Miss Lacings declare that she would be obliged to keep her girls up all night to complete the dresses by the appointed time, as they had already more work in the house than they could possibly accomplish.
Mrs. Parkinson expressed great unwillingness to allowing her sister-in-law to take the trouble of making Louisa's dress. But Fanny whispered to her that she had always found occupation to be one of the best medicines for an afflicted mind, and that it would in some degree prevent her thoughts from dwelling incessantly on the same melancholy subject. Taking Louisa with her, she retired to her own apartment, and the frock was completed by next day though the overflowing, eyes of poor Fanny frequently obliged her to lay down her sewing. In reality, her chief motive in proposing to make the dress, was to save the expense of having it done by the mantuamaker.
Miss Lacings took Mrs. Parkinson's gown home with her, saying she would send one of her girls for the two others; and Mrs. Bleden then began to plan the bonnets and shawls. She went off to a fashionable milliner, and ordered a mourning bonnet and four mourning caps for Mrs. Parkinson, and a bonnet for each of her daughters. And she was going back
and forwards nearly all day, with specimens of black cloth for the shawls, black stockings, black gloves, &c.
The girls, at their aunt's suggestion, hemmed the crape veils, and on the following morning, she assisted them in making and trimming the shawls. Still, Fanny was well convinced that the expense of the mourning (including the suit bespoken for Frederick) would be greater than they could possibly afford. The cost of the funeral she intended to defray from her own funds, and she took occasion to request Mr. Brooks to have nothing about it that should be unnecessarily expensive.
The hour arrived when the sorrowing family of Mr. Parkinson were to be parted for ever from all that remained of the husband, the father, and the brother. They had taken the last look of his fixed and lifeless features, they had imprinted the last kiss on his cold and pallid lips; and from the chamber of death, they had to adjourn to the incongruous task of attiring themselves in their mourning habits to appear at his funeral. How bitterly they wept as their friends assisted them in putting on their new dresses; and when they tied on their bonnets and their long veils, to follow to his grave the object of their fondest affection.
Fanny with an almost breaking heart sat in her chamber, and little Louisa hung crying on her shoulder, declaring that she could not see her dear father buried. But Mrs. Bleden came in, protesting that all the children must be present, and that people would talk if even the youngest child was to stay away. Mrs. Bleden then put on Louisa's mourning dress almost by force. When this was done, the little girl threw her arms round the neck of her aunt and kissed her, saying with a burst of tears, "When I see you again, my dear father will be covered up in his grave." Mrs. Bleden then led, or rather dragged the child to the room in which the family were assembled.
Fanny threw herself on her bed in a paroxysm of grief. She heard the slow tread of the company as they came in, and she fancied that she could distinguish the sound of the lid as it was laid on the coffin, and the fastening of the screws that closed it for ever. She knew when it was carried down stairs, and she listened in sympathetic agony to the sobs of the family as they descended after it. She started up, and casting her eyes towards an opening in the window-curtain, she saw Mr. Brooks supporting the tottering steps of her half-fainting sister-in-law. She looked no longer, but sunk back on the JANUARY, 1840.
bed and hid her face on the pillow. By all that she suffered when indulging her grief alone and in the retirement of her chamber, she felt how dreadful it would have been to her, had she accompanied the corpse of her brother to its final restingplace.
In about an hour the family returned, pale, exhausted, and worn out with the intensity of their feelings at the grave. And they could well have dispensed with the company of Mrs. Bleden, who came home and passed the evening with them; as she foolishly said that people in affliction ought not to be left to themselves.
After some days the violence of their grief settled into melancholy sadness: they ceased to speak of him whom they had loved and lost, and they felt as if they could never talk of him again.
The unfortunate family of Mr. Parkinson now began to consider what they should do for their support. Fanny was willing to share with them her little income even to the last farthing, but it was too small to enable them all to live on it with comfort. Great indeed are the sufferings, the unacknowledged and unimagined sufferings of that class who "cannot dig, and to beg are ashamed"- whose children have been nursed in the lap of affluence, and who "every night have slept with soft content about their heads"-who still retain a vivid recollection of happier times, and who still feel that they themselves are the same, though all is changed around them. "The
Such was the condition of the Parkinson family. world was all before them where to choose," and so low were now their finances, that it was necessary they should think and act promptly, and decide at once upon some plan for their subsistence. Fanny proposed a school, but the house they now occupied was in too remote a place to expect any success lady had already attempted establishing a seminary in the im mediate neighbourhood, but it had proved an entire failure. Mrs. Parkinson thought that in a better part of the town, and in a larger house, they might have a fair chance of encourageBut they were now destitute of the means of defraying the expense of a removal and of purchasing such articles of furniture as would be indispensably necessary in a more commodious dwelling; particularly if fitted up as a school.
Frederick Parkinson, who was twelve years old had just completed his last quarter at the excellent academy in which he had been a pupil from early childhood, and it was now found
necessary, after paying the bill, to take him away; as the present situation of the family did not seem to warrant them in continuing him there any longer. He was, however, very forward in all his acquirements, having an excellent capacity, and being extremely diligent. Still it was hard that so promising a boy should be obliged to stop short, when in a fair way of becoming an extraordinary proficient in the principal branches appertaining to what is considered an excellent education, Forfunately, however, a place was obtained for him in a highly respectable bookseller's.
There was now a general retrenchment in the expenditure of the Parkinson family.
In the meantime their only resource seemed to be that of Literally supporting themselves by the work of their hands. Fanny undertook the painful task of going round among their acquaintances, and announcing their readiness to undertake any sort of needle-work that was offered to them. Nobody had any work to put out just then. Some promised not to forget them when they had. Others said they were already suited with seamstresses.
At length a piece of linen was sent to the Parkinson family for the purpose of being made up by them. And so great was their joy at the prospect of getting a little money, that it almost absorbed the painful feelings with which for the first time they employed their needles in really working for their living,
They all sewed assiduously, little Louisa doing the easiest parts. The linen was soon made up, and they then obtained another piece, and afterwards some muslin-work. Fanny, who was one of the most indefatigable of women, found time occasionally to copy music, and correct proof-sheets, and to do many other things by which she was able to add a little more to the general fund. For a short time, her not appearing in black excited much conversation among the acquaintances of the family but these discussions soon subsided, and after a while nothing more was said or thought on the subject,
But to pay for the mourning of Mrs. Parkinson and her children was a necessity that pressed heavily on them all, and they dreaded the sound of the door-bell lest it should be followed by the presentation of the bills. The bills came, and were found to be considerably larger than was anticipated. Yet they were paid in the course of the winter, though with much difficulty, and at the expense of much comfort. The unfortunate Parkinsons rose early and sat up late, kept scanty fires, and a very humble table, and rarely went out of the house, except to