A Thrifty Bonnet

With all the dreadful, un-spring-like weather, I wanted to share this story. I think a good many of us can relate to the panic of “my bonnet!” as the sky opens up.

This chapter, “Lydia’s Thrift,” comes from  “A New England Girl of Seventy Years Ago” (Lady’s Realm , 1898.) The story follows the life of  young Lydia, the youngest of 11.untitled

Lydia, so the story was told in her family, used the same cambric needle for her fine sewing during three years, and the same darning-needle for mending, during seven years. When the darning-needle at the close of its seven years of faithful service, lost its eye, Lydia made for it a fine head of red sealing-wax and used it for years longer as a shawl-pin.

Lydia is said to have worn the same bonnet to meeting, winder and summer from her ninth to seventeenth year, eight years and three months in all. The bonnet was of a very fine straw to begin with, – Lydia’s mother had feared it was an extravagance. She charged her  little daughter to be very careful of her new bonnet, for it must last her many years, and she was literally obeyed. One Sunday in August, not long after Lydia had her new bonnet, she was wearing it proudly home from meeting when a thunder shower came up suddenly and threatened it with utter destruction.

Lydia cried out, when the first bigs drops of rain began to fall, :Oh, my bonnet, my bonnet!” The chaise was not in attendance that day. Lydia’s mother, not being well, had remained at home, and her father had walked. She could not shelter her bonnet under the friendly roof of the chaise. There was not a house for a mile. It seemed at first as if it were fated.

“That green and white ribbon will run and stain the straw; your bonnet will be spoiled, but there’s no help for it.” said sister Tabitha grimly. “Run as fast as you can, Lyddy.”

But to Lydia came a fertility of resource born of desperation; a vision of her beautiful bonnet covered with unsightly green stains flashed before her eyes, and she made up her mind that it should not be.

She stopped running, pulled off her bonnet, and sat down beside the road with her back against the stone wall. Then gathered up the skirt of her gown like a bag, put the bonnet inside, put her shawl over that, then, to complete her protection, bent her small self over the whole. There she sat, the rain pelting on her bare brown head and her uncovered shoulders, until the shower was over. How thankful she was that she had been obliged to wear her merino gown that day, though it was warm, on account of her calico meeting-gown requiring to have a tuck let down, and her mother’s not discovering it until after the sundown on Saturday night. How thankful she was, too, that her mother had made her carry her little shawl, lest and east wind come up and she take cold in her delicate throat!

Lydia sate there fairly brooding over her bonnet while the rain fell and the thunder rolled she kept her eyes tightly closed and did not see the lightning. Luckily the shower was of short duration or Lydia might not have lived long to wear her bonnet. When it was over she got up and heastened home, still holding the bonnet in the skirt of her gown, lest the drops, from the wet trees spoil it after all the trouble.

Lydia’s mother was never quite sure whether she would have commended the child for obeying her and taking such care of her bonnet, or punished her for being so careless of her health. As it was she compromised by immediately  taking off Lydia’s wet clothes, putting her to bed, and making her drink some hot ginger-tea sweetened with molasses. As Lydia did not like to go to bed so early, and was fond of sweet ginger-tea, this course savoured of both punishment and reward; so the desired end might quite reasonably have been considered gained.

Lydia wore the bonnet with green and white ribbon all summer. In the fall a brown lutestring ribbon was substituted, as being darker and more suitable for cold weather. When spring opened again the brown was changed for the green and white. The two ribbons, worn turn and turn about, lasted Lydia three years. Then she had a plaid blue ribbon for summer, and a purple on for winter which served her turn well for three years more. Then, the bonnet having been twice bleached in the meantime, she had a white ribbon for summer, and a red one for winter, which in two years’ time outwore the bonnet itself. It cam at last to mending. Lydia tried that faithfully, but a bonnet was a difficult thing to mend. She was obliged to have a new one. She endeavoured not to feel proud when she came out in it, trimmed with the two seasons’ old white ribbon carefully washed, and a little wreath of fine pink rosebuds in a blonde lace ruching, under the brim.

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Published in: on April 21, 2013 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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