Except from “The Romance of a Tassel” (The Christmas Annual, 1860)
We were to have a sleigh-ride, and the principal topic of conversation was, the delightful morning and the promise of pleasure; I was olde enough to feel all the enthusiasm of the occasion, and yet to temper my feelings with quietness. My Cousin Kate and I had been knitting some new hoods, beautiful we thought them, and of a new pattern. As my fingers had toiled through the countless loops, I had only thought what a delight it would be to wear it, and a little vanity was mingled with my feeling, for truly I looked like another person in its scarlet and white border than in the faded silk of my old hood.
All the young girls and boys of the village were to go to this ride, and I knew very well that Kate and I would have the most dashing head-gear of the party and I remembered with pleasure, that Esquire Thomas’s son Chester had come from the city and was to be one of the party.
I presume I tried my hood on twenty times the day before, because, I said, it felt so comfortable, but I had to look in the glass each time to see just how comfortable it felt.
After our breakfast was over, my Uncle Oliver rode up with his daughter Nancy, who had been sent to join in the day’s pleasure. She lived several miles back in the country, and I must acknowledge that I felt too little interest in her pale face and quiet manners, because I thought she was not quite so smart in her ways and dress as we village girls; but I had not an unkind heart, and so I ran to meet her with a hearty welcome, saying “Why, how cold you are; your cheeks at least are red as roses; come to the fire.” My mother with gentle manner took off her straw bonnet, trimmed with its light faded ribbon, and gave her some coffee, and I ran to get ready for the ride. It took me an hour. I twisted my curls over and over again. I asked Kate if I looked well enough. Then I put on my hood – too it off – re-arranged my curls. “There,” said Kate at last, “you look like father’s beautiful scarlet and white carnation pinks, and if Chester does not say so, I will box his ears.” – And what will Chester say of you?” I asked “Oh what he always does. “you most beauchiful butcherfly.” “But is not Chester handsome, Susy? And he is really so good, so manly, so noble, father says, none of your fops – but come, let’s go down.”
Just then my mother with her gentle touch opened the door. I remembered the look she cast on me – it was one of mingled pride and trust – her eye was bright and cheerful, but there was a look so ful of hope for me and trust in me, that I ran up to her with a kiss as hearty as when I was five instead of fifteen.
“Susy,” said she, in her animated but gentle manner, “Nancy has nothing to wear but her straw bonnet. She will be ill if she thus exposes herself to the cold wind. She says sh will stay with me rather than suffer as she did coming here this morning.” “Well I think it’s queer how some people live,” said I, “Never having anything to wear that is appropriate.” But Susy, she says her mother has been so sick, and you know her father is rather afraid of pennies.” “Afraid! I should should think he was anything but afraid the way he hugs them. Well, Nancy can have my old hood, thought it don’t look very well, but it is better than that old straw bonnet.”
My mother’s look changed instantaneously; there was a sad, half reproachful, half hopeful look on her face as she opened the door, saying, “Would you like to have her wear the old one?” She shut the door and went out. What a commotion was in my heart. I knew my mother had expected me to offer my new hood to Nancy, and wear the old one myself; but what visions were before me of Chester and the effect of my hood on him; of the general look of the whole party as they saw me again in that old Silk. Then came to my ear the sweet tones of my Mother’s voice. I heard all she felt, but more powerful was the thought of what would they say to see me looking like an “old dud.”
I believe I should yielded to the selfishness of my heart if Kate had not spoken.
“I think it is absurd for your mother to ask it; of course you will wear your own things.” Her tone and manner brought to me my Mother’s hopeful trust in me, for she had called her absurd and I knew she was anything but that.
“Of course I shall,” said I, and I ran from the room with swift step. I tore my hood from my head on the way. “Here Nancy,” said I, “You must wear my hood this once, it is so warm and perhaps your father will get you worsted to knit one – Wont you Uncle Oliver? It only costs a dollar., and just see how fine it looks.”