The Christmas Bonnet

The Christmas Bonnet, by J.E. M’C.(Arthur’s Ladies’ Magazine, 1867)

Two young ladies were busy in their own apartment turning over various bureaus and wardrobes of dresses.

“Now, Louise, what shall we give Hannah for a Christmas present? It must be something handsome, you know, for servants all compare notes over their gifts, and it wont do to seem mean.”

“Why couldn’t we make her a real stylish bonnet? We have plenty of old ribbons and velvets, and you know we served quite an apprenticeship last season at the business in order to have a different bonnet to match each dress. “

“That’s the very thing, and will only cost us a trifle. A new dress for her would cost at least five dollars, but this need cost nothing but the price of the frame. I am sure I am willing to take the trouble to save the money for something I want myself. So, Louise, bring out your bandboxes, and let us pick out and freshen up your reddest ribbons and roses.”

The result of the morning’s work was a green velvet bonnet, with flaming strings and flowers. The sisters enjoyed a good laugh over it, but they knew it was exactly to Hannah’s taste. A few additional trifles were culled out of their wardrobes – mere second-hand finery – too shabby for their own use, but stylish enough to quite turn the head of a young country girl, who was fast learning city ways, and beginning to prefer outside show to substantial comfort.

That velvet bonnet was the admiration and envy of all Hannah’s set. But that was just what she wished. The evil seeds of vanity found a mellow soil in the poor girl’s heart. How they all pitied poor Sarah Jane, whose mistress only gave her a stout pair of overshoes and a warm, knitted hood. Such meanness they all declared it.

But now began the serious trouble of Hannah’s life. She had nothing fit to wear with the bonnet. Her “blanket shawl” did very well with her old dark straw, but it would look poorly enough with this gay top-know above it. Every cent must be saved now to get herself a flimsy cloth coat with shiny buttons. But after it was bought, it was found to have no warmth in it, and poor Hannah shivered and chattered with cold every time she went out with it on. Even her pride did not keep her warm. Then her dress did not match her coat, and she laid awake many a long night contriving ways and means to get her a new on. A sleazy imitation of French merino was one she had her heart set on. A good substantial delaine would have been much prettier and more becoming; but Hannah could not see that.

The young ladies who had started her on this course of folly felt no responsibility to see how she came out. They felt they had done a very handsome thing in the way of Christmas gifts, and now all they desired was that Hannah should show her gratitude by discharging her household duties faithfully. But she had little heart in her work now. Her brain ran all the time on her new finery. She became careless in her work, and sharp words were frequently spoken, which as often brought surly or fretful answers. The final result was that poor Hannah wended her way to an intelligence office with her velvet bonnet upon her head, and all her flimsy finery about her, and took her seat with a score of others to wait for a new mistress.

She was surprised to see that the plain and neatly dressed girls were always chosen first. Ladies scarcely gave a second glance at her gay bonnet, though she felt sure it was as fine as many of the ladies wore themselves.

A weary time she had waiting and her next situation was far from being one that would improve either mind or heart.

Ladies little know the mischief they often do by giving domestics cast-off finery wholly unsuited to their wants or circumstances. It is a far greater kindness to bestow on them a much plainer gift, which will be of real service. A prudent, kind-hearted mistress will take her pains to instruct a servant in the care of her clothing, and will give useful suggestions with regard to the best way of making a little money go the farthest. Such advice, will hardly fail of being well received, and will usually result in much good.

It is idle to say that it is none of our concern how our servants manage their affairs. It is our duty to do them good by every means in our power, and God will not hold us guiltless if we turn away from these duties. Above all let us guard against fostering that love of dress which ruined so many of our poor serving girls for this life and the next. Seek to fill their minds and hearts with something higher and better, even though the work costs us time, and thought, and labor. The Master’s eye is upon us. He will certainly call us to give a strict account of stewardship, when the day comes that we shall be no longer stewards.

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Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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