Read CHAPTER VII. of The House in Town , free online book, by Susan Warner, on ReadCentral.com.

Norton asked to be allowed to go with the shopping party, which his mother refused.  To Matilda’s disappointment, she took Miss Judy instead.  Matilda would rather have had any other one of the household.  However, nothing could spoil the pleasure of driving to Stewart’s.  To know it so cold, and yet feel so comfortable; to see how the dust flew in whirlwinds and the wind caught people and staggered them, and yet not to be touched by a breath; to see how the foot travellers had to fight with both wind and dust, and to feel at the same time the easy security, the safe remove from everything so ugly and disagreeable, which they themselves enjoyed behind the glass of their Clarence; it was a very pleasant experience.  The other two did not seem to enjoy it; they were accustomed to the sensation, or it had ceased to be one for them.  Matilda was in a state of delight every foot of the way. This was what she had come to, this safety and ease and elegance and immunity.  She was higher than the street or the street-goers, by just so much as the height of the axletree of the carriage.  How about those little dust covered street-sweepers?

The thought of them jarred.  There was nothing between them and the roughest of the rough.  How came they to be there, at the street corners, and Matilda here, behind these clear plates of glass which enclosed the front of the carriage?

“How very disagreeable it is to day!” Mrs. Laval said with a shudder.  “This is some of New York’s worst weather.”

“It’s just horrid!” said Judy.

“I would not take a walk to-day, for all I am worth,” the lady went on.  “There is one thing; there will be fewer people out, and we shall not have to wait so fearfully long to be served.”

The carriage stopped before a large white building, and Matilda followed the others in, full of curiosity and eager pleasure.  In through the swinging doors, and then through such a crowd of confusion that she could think of nothing but to keep close behind Mrs. Laval; till they all stopped at a counter and Mrs. Laval sat down.  What a wonderful place it seemed to Matilda!  A small world that was all shops ­or one shop; and the only business of that world was buying and selling things to wear.  Just at this counter people were getting silk dresses, it appeared; here, and all round the room in which Mrs. Laval was seated; blue and rose silks were displayed in one part; black silks before some customers; figured and parti-coloured silks were held up to please others; what colour was there not? and what beauty?  Matilda found that whatever Mrs. Laval wanted of her that afternoon, it was not any help in making her purchases; and she was quite at liberty to use her eyes upon everything.  The beautiful goods on the counters were the great attraction, however; Matilda could not look away much from the lustre of the crimson and green and blue and tawny and grey and lavender which were successively or together exhibited for Mrs. Laval’s behoof; and she listened to find out if she could by the quantities ordered, which of them, if any, were for herself.  She was pretty sure that a dark green and a crimson had that destination; and her little heart beat high with pleasure.

From the silk room they went on to another where the articles were not interesting to look at; and Matilda discovered that the coming and going people were.  She turned her back upon the counter and watched the stream as it flowed past and around her.  Miss Judith also here found herself thrown out of amusement, and came round to Matilda.  They had hardly spoken to each other hitherto.  Now Miss Judy’s eye first went up and down the little figure which was such a new one in her surroundings.  Matilda knew it, but she could bear it.

“You were never here before?” said her companion.

“Never,” Matilda answered.

“What do you think of it?”

“I think they have nice things here,” said Matilda.

Judith did not at all know what to make of this answer.

“What is aunt Zara going to get for you?”

“I do not know ­some dresses, I think.”

Judith’s eye ran up and down Matilda’s dress again.  “That was made in the country, wasn’t it?”

“Mrs. Laval had it made.”

“Yes, but you will want another.  Aunt Zara ­aunt Zara! ­Aren’t you going to get her a cloak?”

“A cloak?” said Mrs. Laval looking round.  “Yes; that is what I brought her for.”

“There!” said Judy, “now you know something you didn’t know before.  What sort of a cloak would you like?”

“I don’t know,” said Matilda in a flutter of delight.  “Mrs. Laval knows.”

“I suppose she does, but she doesn’t know what you would like, unless you tell her.  Let us watch the people coming in and see if we see anything you would like.  Isn’t it funny?”

“What?” Matilda asked.

“All of it.  To see the people.  They are all sorts, you know, and so funny.  There are two Irish women, ­very likely they have come in from the shanties near the Central Park, to buy some calico dresses.  Look at them! ­ten cent calicoes, and they are asking the shopman, I dare say, if they can’t have that one for nine.  I suppose the calicoes are made for them.  No, there is somebody else wanting one.  She’s from the country.”

“How do you know?”

“Easy enough.  See how she has got her hands folded over each other; nobody does that but somebody that has come from the country.  See her hat, too; that’s a country hat.  If you could see her feet, you would see that she has great thick country shoes.”

Judy’s eye as she spoke glanced down again at the floor where Matilda’s feet stood; and it seemed to Matilda that the very leather of her boots could feel the look. They were country boots.  Did Judy mean, that?

“There’s another country woman,” the young lady went on.  “See? ­this one in a velvet cloak.  That’s a cotton velvet, though.”

“But how can you tell she’s from the country?”

“She’s all corners!” said Judith.  “Her cloak was made by a carpenter, and her head looks as if it was made by a mason.  If you could see her open her mouth, I’ve no doubt you would find that it is square.  There! ­here! ­how would you like a cloak like this one?”

The two were looking at a child who passed them just then, in a velvet cloak stiff with gimp and bugle embroidery.

“I don’t think it is pretty,” said Matilda.

“It is rich,” said Judy.  “But it is not cut by anybody that knew how.  You can see that.  Why don’t you ask aunt Zara to let you have a black satin cloak?”

“Black satin?” said Matilda.

“Yes.  Black satin.  It is so rich; and it is not heavy; and there is more shine to it than silk has.  A black satin cloak trimmed with velvet ­that is what I should like if I were you.”

A strong desire for a black satin cloak forthwith sprang up in Matilda’s mind.

“There is not anything more fashionable,” Judy went on; “and velvet is just the prettiest trimming.  When we go up to look at cloaks, you see if you can spy such a one; if you can’t, it would be easy to get the stuff and have it made.  Just as easy.  I don’t believe we shall find any ready made, for they are so fashionable, they will be likely to be all bought up.  Dear me! what a figure that is!” exclaimed Judy, eying a richly dressed lady who brushed by them.

“Isn’t her dress handsome?” Matilda asked.

“It was handsome before it was made up ­it isn’t now.  Dresses are not cut that way now; and the trimming is as old as the hills.  I guess that has been made two or three years, that dress.  And nobody wears a shawl now ­unless it’s a camel’s hair.  Nobody would, that knew any better.”

“What is a camel’s hair?” said Matilda.

“A peculiar sort of rough thick shawl,” said Judy.  “People wear them because they set off the rest of their dress; but country people don’t know enough to wear them.  Ask aunt Zara to get you a camel’s hair shawl.  I wish she would give me one, too.”

Matilda wondered why Miss Judith’s mother did not get her one, if they were so desirable; but she did not feel at home enough with the young lady to venture any such suggestion.  She only did wish very much privately that Mrs. Laval would choose for herself a black satin cloak; but on that score too she did not feel that she could make any requests.  Mrs. Laval knew what was fashionable, at any rate, as well as her niece; that was one comfort.

Thinking this, Matilda followed her two companions up the wide staircase.  Another world of shops and buyers and sellers up there!  What a very wonderful place New York must be.  And Stewart’s.

“Does everybody come here?” she whispered to Judy.

“Pretty much everybody,” said that young lady.  “They have to.”

“Then they can’t buy things anywhere else?”

“What do you mean?” said Judith looking at her.

“I mean, is this the only place where people can get things? are there any more stores beside this?”

Judith’s eyes snapped in a way that Matilda resolved she would not provoke again.

“More stores?” she said.  “New York is all stores, except the streets where people live.”

“Does nobody live in the streets where the stores are?” Matilda could not help asking.

“No.  Nobody but the people that live in the stores, you know; that’s nobody.”

Matilda’s thoughts were getting rather confused than enlightened; however the party came now, passing by a great variety of counters and goods displayed, to a region where Matilda saw there was a small host of cloaks, hung upon frames or stuffed figures.  Here Mrs. Laval sat down on a sofa and made Matilda sit down, and called for something that would suit the child’s age and size.  Velvet, and silk and cloth, and shaggy nondescript stuffs, were in turn brought forward; Matilda saw no satin.  Mrs. Laval was hard to suit; and Matilda thought Judith was no help, for she constantly put in a word for the articles which Mrs. Laval disapproved.  Matilda was not consulted at all, and indeed neither was Miss Judy.  At last a cloak was chosen, not satin, nor even silk, nor even cloth; but of one of those same shaggy fabrics which looked coarse, Matilda thought.  But she noticed that the price was not low, and that consoled her.  The cloak was taken down to the carriage, and they left the store.

“Where now, aunt Zara?” said Judith.  “We are pretty well lumbered up with packages.”

“To get rid of some of them,” said Mrs. Laval.  “I am going to Fournissons’s.”

What that meant, Matilda could not guess.  The drive was somewhat long; and then the carriage stopped before a plain-looking house in a very plain-looking street.  Here they all got out again, and taking the various parcels which contained Matilda’s dresses, they went in.  They mounted to a common little sitting-room, where some litter was strewn about on the floor.  But a personage met them there for whom Matilda very soon conceived a high respect; she knew so much.  This was Mme. Fournissons; the mantua-maker who had the pleasure of receiving Mrs. Laval’s orders.  So she said; but Matilda thought the orders rather came from the other side.  Mme. Fournissons decided promptly how everything ought to be made, and just what trimming would be proper in each case; and proceeded to take Matilda’s measure with a thorough-bred air of knowing her business which impressed Matilda very much.  Tapes unrolled themselves deftly, and pins went infallibly into place and never out of place; and Madame measured and fitted and talked all at once, with the smooth rapid working of a first-rate steam engine.  New York mantua-making was very different from the same thing at Shadywalk!  And here Matilda saw the wealth of her new wardrobe unrolled.  There was a blue merino and a red cashmere and a brown rep, for daily wear; and there was a most beautiful crimson silk and a dark green one for other occasions.  There was a blue crape also, with which Miss Judy evidently fell in love.

“It would not become you, Judy, with your black eyes,” her aunt said.  “Now Matilda is fair; it will suit her.”

“Charmingly!” Mme. Fournissons had added.  “Just the thing.  There is a delicacy of skin which will set off the blue, and which the blue will set off.  Miss Bartholomew should wear the colours of the dahlia ­as her mother knows.”

“Clear straw colour, for instance, and purple!” said Judith scornfully.

“Mrs. Bartholomew has not such bad taste,” said Mme. Fournissons.  “This is? ­this young lady?” ­

“My adopted daughter, madame,” said Mrs. Laval.

“She will not dishonour your style, madam,” rejoined the mantua-maker approvingly.

Judith pouted.  She could do that well.  But Matilda went down the stairs happy.  Now she was sure her dress would be quite as handsome and quite as fashionable as Judy’s; there would be no room for glances of depreciation, or such shrugs of disdain as had been visited upon the country people coming to Stewart’s.  All would be strictly correct in her attire, and according to the latest and best mode.  The wind blew as hard as ever, and the dust swept in furious charges against everybody in the street by turns; but there were folds of silk and velvet, as well as sheets of plate glass now, between Matilda and it.  When they reached home, Mrs. Laval called Matilda into her room.

“Here are your five dollars for December, my darling,” she said.  “Have you any boots beside those?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You want another pair of boots; and then you will do very well until next month.  Norton can take you to the shoemaker’s to-morrow, ­he likes to take you everywhere; tell him it must be Laddler’s.  And you will want to go and see your sisters, will you not?”

“O yes, ma’am.”

“Where is it?”

Matilda named the place.

“316 Bolivar St.,” repeated Mrs. Laval.  “Bolivar St. Where is that?  Bolivar Street is away over on the other side of the city, I think, towards what they used to call Chelsea.  You could not possibly walk there.  I will let the carriage take you.  Now darling, get ready for dinner.”

Feeling as if she were ten years older than she had been the day before, Matilda mounted the stairs to her room. Her room.  This beautiful, comfortable, luxurious place!  It was a little hard to recognize herself in it.  And when all those dresses should come home ­

Here there was a knock at the door, and Sam, the head waiter, handed her the bundle of her new cloak, in a nice pasteboard box.  Matilda put that in the wardrobe drawer, and made her hair and dress neat; not without a dim notion, back somewhere in her heart, that she had a good deal of thinking to do.  A feeling that she was somehow getting out of her reckoning.  There was no time however now for anything before the bell rang for dinner.

Nor all the evening.  Norton was eager with questions; and Judith was sharp with funny speeches, about Matilda’s wonder and unusedness to everything.  Matilda winced a little; however, Norton laughed it off, and the evening on the whole went pleasantly.  He and she arranged schemes for to-morrow; and all the four got a little more acquainted with each other.  But when Matilda went up to her room at night, she took out her Bible and opened it, resolving to find out what those things were she had to think of; she seemed to have switched off her old track and to have got a great way from Mr. Richmond and Shadywalk.  She did not like this feeling.  What did it mean?

She tried to think, but she could not think.  Folds of glossy blue silk hung before her eyes; her new odd little cloak, with its rich buttons and tassels started up to her vision; Mme. Fournissons and her tape measure and her face and her words came putting themselves between her and the very words of the Bible.  And this went on.  What was she to do?  Matilda sat back from the table and tried to call herself to order. This was not the way to do.  And then her mind flew off to the Menagerie, and the roars of those wild beasts seemed to go up and down in her ears.  Yet underneath all these things, there was a secret consciousness of something not right; was it there, or no?  It was all a whirl of confusion.  Matilda tried to recollect Mr. Richmond and some of his words.

“He said I was to go by that motto, ’Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all’ ­Well, but I am not doing anything, am I, just now?  What have I been doing to-day?  I will take a piece of paper and put the things down! and then my thoughts will not slip away so.”

Matilda got the piece of paper and the pencil; but she did not immediately find out what she was to put down.

“The Menagerie? ­I did not go there of my own head; Norton took me.  Still, ’whatsoever ye do’ ­I was getting pleasure, that’s all; it was nothing but pleasure.  What has my motto to do with pleasure?  Well, of course it would make it impossible for me to take wrong pleasure ­I see that.  I could not take pleasure that would be wrong in God’s sight, nor that would make me do wrong to get it.  Other pleasure, right pleasure, he likes me to have.  Yes, and he gives it to me, really.  I couldn’t have it else.  Then certainly my motto says that I must remember that, and thank Him first of all for everything I have that I like.  Did I do so about the Menagerie?  I don’t think I thought about it at all; only I was very much obliged to Norton.  I did not thank God.  And yet it was such a very, very great pleasure!  But I will now.”

And so Matilda did.  Before going any further in her inquiries, she kneeled down and gave thanks for the rare enjoyment of the morning.  She rose up a little more sober-minded and able for the other work on hand.

“What next?  Those little street sweepers.  I did not have anything to do with them ­I had no pennies in my pocket, and I could not wait.  But I shall be seeing them every day; they are under foot everywhere, Norton says; how ought I to behave towards them?  They are a great nuisance, Norton says; stopping one at every corner; and they ought not to be encouraged.  If nobody gave them anything, of course they would not be encouraged; and they would not be there sweeping the crossings.  But then, we should not have clean crossings.  I wonder which is worst, having them swept or not having them swept?  However, they will be on the streets, I suppose, those poor children, whatever I do.  Now what ought I to do?  I can’t give pennies to them all; and if not, how shall I manage?”

Matilda put her head down to think.  And then came floating into her thoughts the words of her motto, ­“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

“What would He say?” questioned Matilda with herself.  “But I know what he did say!  ’Give to him that asketh thee.’ ­Must I?  But how can I, to all these children?  I shall not have pennies.  Well, of course! when I haven’t pennies I cannot give them.  But I cannot buy candy much, then, can I! because I shall want all my odd cents.  After all, they are working hard to get a living; how terribly hard it must be, to live so dirty and so cold! ­and I have cake and ice cream and plenty of everything I like.  I suppose I can do without candy.  I know what Jesus would do too, if he was here; he would give them kind looks and kind words, as well as pay.  But can I?  What could I say to them?  I wonder if Mrs. Laval would like me to speak to them?  Anyhow, I know Jesus would say kind words to them ­because He would love them.  If I loved them, I could speak, easy enough.  And then ­He would try to do them good, and make them good.  I wonder if they go to Sunday school, any of them?  But I don’t go myself yet, here.  I suppose I shall” ­

Matilda’s wits went off on a long chase here, about things that had nothing to do with her piece of paper.  At last came back.

“Where was I? what next?  The next thing was the shopping.  I had nothing to do with that.  I did not ask for anything; it was all chosen and done without me.  But this was another pleasure; and I am to take my dresses, and wear them of course, according to my motto.  How can I?  ’Do all in His name?’ How can I?  Well, to be sure, I can do it in such a way as to please him.  How would that be?”

There seemed to be a great deal of confusion in Matilda’s thoughts at this point, and hard to disentangle; but through it all she presently felt something like little soft blows of a hammer at her heart, reminding her of a very eager wish for black satin, and disappointment at not having it; of a violent desire to be fashionable, and to escape being thought unfashionable; and of a secret delight in rivalling Judith Bartholomew.  And though Matilda tried to reason these thoughts away and explain them down, those soft blows of the hammer kept on, just as fast as ever.

“Does the Lord like such feelings?  Does he care that his children should be fashionable?  How are you going to dress to please him, if the object is to be as fine as Judith Bartholomew, or to escape her criticism, or to shew yourself a fine lady?  Will that be pleasing him?”

The answer was swift to come; yet what was Matilda to do?  All these things were at work in her already.  And with them came now an ugly wicked wish, that religion did not require her to be unlike other people.  But Matilda knew that was wicked, as soon as she felt it; and it humbled her.  And what was she to do?  Seeing the wrong of all these various feelings did not at all take them out of her heart.  She did want to be fashionable; she was very glad to be as handsomely dressed as Judith; her heart was very much set on her silks and trimmings, in a way that conscience whispered was simply selfish and proud.  Were these things going to change Matilda at once and make her a different child from the one that had been baptized in a black dress at Shadywalk, and only cared then for the “white robes” that are the spirit’s adornings?

Matilda was determined that should not be.  She prayed a great deal about it; and at last went to bed, comforting herself with the assurance that the Lord would certainly help a child that trusted him, to be all that he had bidden her be.

The subject started itself anew the next morning; for there on her dressing-table lay her pocket book with the five dollars Mrs. Laval had given her last evening.  There were two dollars also that were left from November’s five dollars; that made seven, to go shopping for boots.  “I should think I could do with that,” Matilda thought to herself.

She asked Norton to go with her to Laddler’s shoe store.

“Well,” said Norton; “but we must go to the Park to-day.”

“And Madame Fournissons wants to see you this afternoon,” said Mrs. Laval.  “I think the Park must wait, Norton.”

“But I have only to-day and to-morrow, mamma.  School begins Monday.”

“To-morrow will do for the Park,” said Mrs. Laval.  “And you will have other Saturdays, Norton.”

Matilda went upstairs to get ready, thinking that she was beginning to find out what sort of “opportunities” were likely to be given her in her new home.  She was going to have opportunity for self-conquest, for self-denial, harder than she had ever known hitherto; opportunity to follow the straight path where it was not always easy to see it, and where it could only be found by keeping the face steadily in the right direction.  In the midst of these thoughts, however, she dressed herself with great glee; put her purse in her pocket; and set out with Norton, remembering that in this matter of buying her boots her motto must come in play.

As it was rather early in the morning, the shoe store of Mr. Laddler was nearly empty, and Matilda had immediate attention.  Matilda told what she wanted; the shopman glanced an experienced eye over her little figure, from her hat to the ground; gave her a seat, and proceeded to fit her.  The very first pair of boots “went on like a glove,” the man said.  And they were very handsome.  But the price was seven dollars!  It would take her whole stock in hand.

“Can’t you give me a pair that will cost less?” Matilda asked, after a pause of inward dismay.

“Those are what you want,” said the man.  “They fit, to a T; you cannot better that fit.”

“But you have some that don’t cost so much?”

“They would not look so well,” said the shopman.  “We have boots not finished in the same style, for less money; but you want those.  That’s the article.”

“Please let me see the others.”

He brought some to shew.  They were of less fine and beautifully dressed stuff, were more coarsely made, and less elegant in their cut.  Matilda saw all that, and hesitated.  The man looked at her.

“There’s a pair here,” he said, turning back to his drawer, “that I can let you have for five dollars; ­just as good as that first pair.”

He produced them and tried one on.  It seemed to be quite as he had said.  Matilda could see no difference.

“That will do,” said he, “if you like them.  They are exactly as well made as that first pair; and of the same leather.”

“Then why are they only five dollars,” Matilda asked, “while the others are seven?”

“Fashion,” said the man.  “Nothing else.  You see, those are wide at the toe; that was the style worn last winter; these first, you see, are very narrow at the toe.  There is no demand for these now; so I can let you have them low.  If you like these, I will let you have them for four and a half.  Seven dollar boots.”

Matilda felt a pang of uncertainty.  That would save her two and a half dollars of her seven, and she would have pennies for street girls and change for other objects.  But Judy would look at those square toes, and think that Matilda was from the country and did not know, as she said, what was what.  The thought of Judy’s eyes and smile was not to be borne.

“I will take the others,” she said hastily to the shopman ­“the first you tried on.”

“I thought so,” said the man.  “Those are what you want.”

Matilda paid, and Norton ordered them sent home, and the two left the shop.

“If that had been a good shoemaker,” said Norton, “he would have fitted you in half the time.  We have been half an hour there.”

“O that is my fault, Norton,” said Matilda; “because I could not decide which fashion to have.”

“Sure you have got the right one now?” said Norton.

“I got the newest.”

“That’s the right one,” said Norton, as if the question was settled.

But it was not settled, in Matilda’s mind; and all the way home she was trying the boots over again.  Had she done right?  It was on her lips to say she wished there were no such thing as fashion, but conscience checked her; she felt it was very delightful to be in the fashion.  Was that wrong?  How could it be wrong?  But she had paid for being in the fashion.  Had she paid too much?  And was she any the better for having round toes to her boots, that she should be so delighted about it?  She wanted to be as well dressed as Judy.  She wanted that Judy should not be able to laugh at her for a country girl.  She could not help feeling that, she thought; but then, she had paid for it.  Was this going to be the way always?

Matilda was in such a confusion of thoughts that she did not know what she was passing in the street.  Only, she did know when there were little street-sweepers at the crossings, and she tried to slip by without seeming to see them, and to put Norton between them and herself.  Not a penny had she for one of them.  And she would not have, until the month came round again.  Fashion certainly cost.  But she had the narrow-toed boots; she was glad of that.

“What ails you?” said Norton at last.  “Are you cold?”

“No, Norton.  Nothing ails me.  I am thinking.”

“About what?  You think a great deal too much.  Pink, we will go to the Park this afternoon; that will give you something to think about.”

“Norton, we cannot this afternoon, you know.  I have got to go to the dressmaker’s.”

“O so you have!  What a nuisance.  Well, to-morrow, then.  And I say, Pink! there is another thing you have to think of ­Christmas presents.”

“Christmas presents!” said Matilda.

“Yes; we always have a great time.  Only David and Judy do scowl; it is fun to see them.”

“Don’t they like Christmas presents?” said Matilda, very much bewildered.

“Christmas presents all right; but not Christmas.  You know they are Jews.”

“Jews?” said Matilda.  “What then?  What has their being Jews to do with it?”

“Why!” said Norton, “don’t you know?  Do you think Jews love Christmas?  You forget what Christmas is, don’t you?”

“O ­I remember.  They don’t believe in Christ,” said Matilda in an awed and sorrowful tone.

“Of course.  And that’s a mild way to put it,” rejoined Norton.  “But grandmamma will always keep Christmas with all her might, and aunt Judy too; just because Davie and Judy don’t like it, I believe.  So we have times.”

“But how comes it they don’t like what you all like, and their mother?” Matilda asked.

“They have Jew relations, you see,” said Norton; “and that goes very much against the grain with aunt Judy.  There is some old Rabbi here in New York that is David’s great uncle and makes much of him; and so David has been taught about Jewish things, and told, I suppose, that he must never forget he is a Jew; and he don’t, I guess.  Not often.”

“Is he good?” asked Matilda.

“Good?  David Bartholomew?  Not particularly.  Yes, he is good in a way.  He knows how to behave himself.”

“Then how is he not good?”

“He has a mind of his own,” said Norton; “and if you try him, you will find he has a temper.  I have seen him fight ­I tell you! ­like that Bengal tiger if he was a Jew; when a fellow tried him a little too hard.  His mother don’t know, and you mustn’t tell mamma.  The boys let him alone now.”

“At school, was it?” said Matilda.

“At school.  You see, fellows try a boy at school, all round, till they find where they can have him; and then he has got to shew what he is made of.”

“Do they try you?”

“Well, no; they like me pretty well at St. Giles’.”

“And they don’t like David?”

“They let him alone,” said Norton.  “No, they don’t like him much.  He keeps himself to himself too much for their liking.  They would forget he is a Jew, if he would forget it; but he never does.”

Matilda’s thoughts had got into a new channel and ran along fast, till Norton brought them back.

“So we have got to look out for Christmas, Pink, as I told you.  It’s only just three weeks from to-morrow.”

“What then, Norton?  What do you do?”

“Everything we can think of,” said Norton; “and to begin, everybody in the house gives something to every other body.  That makes confusion, I should think!”

“Do you give things to your mother? and to Mrs. Lloyd?”

“To every one of ’em,” said Norton; “and it’s a job.  I shall begin next week to get ready; and so must you.”

Matilda had it on her tongue to say that she had no money and therefore nothing to get ready; but she remembered in time that if she said that or anything like it, Norton would report and ask for a supply for her.  So she held her tongue.  But how delightful it must be to get presents for everybody!  Not for Mrs. Lloyd, exactly; Matilda had no special longings to bestow any tokens upon her; or Mrs. Bartholomew; but Maria, and Anne, and Letitia!  And Norton himself.  How she would like to give him something!  And if she could, what in the world would it be?  On this question Matilda’s fancy fairly went off and lost itself, and Norton got no more talk from her till they reached home.

She mused about it again when she was alone in the carriage that afternoon driving to Mme. Fournisson’s.  As she had not the money, she thought she might as well have the comfort of fancying she had it and thinking what she would do with it; and so she puzzled in delightful mazes of dreamland, thinking what she would get for Norton if she had the power.  It was so difficult a point to decide that the speculation gave her a great deal to do.  Norton was pretty well supplied with things a boy might wish for; he did not want any of the class of presents Matilda had carried to Maria.  But Norton was very fond of pretty things.  Matilda knew that; yet her experience of delicate matters of art was too limited, and her knowledge of the resources of New York stores too unformed, to give her fancy much scope.  She had a vague idea that there were pretty things that he might like, if only she knew where they were to be found.  In the mean time, it was but the other day, she had heard him complaining that the guard of his watch was broken.  Matilda knew how to make a very pretty, strong sort of watch guard; if she only had some strong brown silk to weave it of.  That was easy to get, and would not cost much; if she had but a few shillings.  Those round toed boots!  It darted into her mind, how the two dollars and a half she had paid for those round toes, would have bought the silk for a watch guard and left a great deal to spare.  There was a little sharp regret just here.  It would have been such pleasure!  And she would not have been quite empty handed in the great Christmas festival.  But the round toes?  Could she have done without them?

The question was not settled when she got to the dressmaker’s; and for a good while there Matilda could think of nothing but her new dresses and the fashion and style which belonged to them.  All that while the dressmaker, not Mme. Fournissons by any means, but one of her women, was trying on the bodies of these dresses, measuring lengths, fitting trimmings, and trying effects.  It was done at last; and then Matilda desired the coachman to take her to 316 Bolivar street.

It was very grand, to ride in a carriage all alone by herself; to sink back on those luxurious cushions and look out at the people who were getting along in the world less easily; trudging over the stones and going through the dirt.  And it was very pleasant to feel that she had a stock of rich and elegant dresses getting ready for her wear, and such a home of comfort, instead of the old last summer’s life at Mrs. Candy’s.  Matilda was grown strong and well, her cheeks filled out and fresh-coloured; she felt like another Matilda.  But as she drove along with these thoughts, the other thought came up to her, of her new opportunities.  The Lord’s child, ­yes, that was not changed; she was that still; what was the work she ought to do, here and now?  Opportunities for what, had she?  Matilda thought carefully about it.  And one thing which she had expected she could do, she feared was going out of her reach.  How was she ever to have more money to spare for people needing it, if the demands of her new position kept pace with her increased means?  If her boots must always cost seven dollars instead of three, having twice as much money to buy them with would not much help the matter.  “And they must,” said Matilda to herself.  “With such dresses as these I am to have, and in such a house as Mrs. Lloyd’s, those common boots I used to wear at Shadywalk would not do at all.  And to wear with my red and green silks, I know I must have a new pair of slippers, with bows, like Judy’s.  I wonder how much they will cost?  And then I shall hardly have even pennies for the little girls that sweep the street, at that rate.”

Opportunities? were all her opportunities gone from her at once?  That could not be; and yet Matilda did not see her way out of the question.

So the carriage rolled along with her, and she by and by got tired of thinking and began to examine more carefully into what there was to see.  She was coming into a quarter of the city unlike those where she had been before.  The house of Mme. Fournissons was in a very quiet street certainly; but what she was passing now was far below that in pretension. These streets were very uncomfortable, she thought, even to ride through.  Yet the houses themselves were as good and as large as many houses in Shadywalk.  But nothing in Shadywalk, no, not Lilac lane itself, was so repelling.  Nothing in Shadywalk was so dingy and dark.  Lilac lane was dirty, and poor; yet it was broad enough and the cottages stood far enough apart to let the sky look in.  Here, in these streets, houses and people seemed to be packed.  There was a bare look of want; a forlorn abandonment of every sort of pleasantness; what must it be to go in at one of those doors?  Matilda thought; and to live there? ­the idea was too disagreeable to dwell upon.  Yet people lived there.  What sort?  Dingy people, as far as Matilda could see; dirty people, and as hopeless looking as the houses.  It was not however a region of the wretchedly poor through which her course lay; the windows were whole and the roofs were decent; but it made the little girl’s heart sick to look at it all, and read the signs she could not read.  Through street after street of this general character the carriage went; narrow streets, very full of mud and dirt; where the horses stepped round an overturned basket of garbage in one place, and in another stopped for a dray to get out of their path; where children looked as if their heads were never brushed, and often the women looked as if their clothes were never clean.  Matilda could never walk to see her sisters, that was plain; she was glad nobody was in the carriage with her; and she was much disappointed to see even a part of New York look like this.

In a street a little wider, a little cleaner, a shade or two more respectable, the carriage stopped at last.  It stopped, and Matilda got out.  Was this Bolivar street?  But she looked and saw that 316 was the number of the house.  So she rang the bell.

It was the right place; and she was shewn into a parlour, where she had to wait a little.  It was respectable, and yet it oppressed all Matilda’s senses.  The room was full of buckwheat cake smoke, to begin with, which had filled it that morning and probably every morning of the week, and was never encouraged, nor indeed had ever a chance, to pass away.  So each morning made its addition to the stock, till now Matilda felt as if it could be almost seen as well as felt.  It certainly was in the carpet, the dingy old brown carpet, in which the worn holes were too many and too evident to be hidden by rug or crumb cloth or concealed by disposition of furniture.  It wreathed the lamps on the mantelpiece and the picture on the wall, which last represented a very white monument with a very green willow tree drooping limp tresses over it, and a lady in black pressing a white handkerchief to her eyes.  An old mahogany chest of drawers and a table with some books on it did not help the effect; for the chest of drawers was out of place, the cotton table cover was dingy and hung awry, and the books were soiled and dog’s eared.  Matilda felt all this in three minutes; then she forgot it in the joy of seeing her sisters.  The greeting on her part was very warm; too warm for her to find out that on their part it was a little constrained.  They were interested enough, however, in all that had befallen Matilda, to give talk full flow; and made her tell them the whole story of the past months; the ship fever, the visit at Briery Bank, the adoption of herself to be a child of the house, the coming to New York, and the composition of the family circle in Mrs. Lloyd’s house.  The elder sisters said very little all the while, except to ask questions.

“And it’s for good and all!” said Letitia, when Matilda had done.

“Yes.  For good and all!”

“And what is Maria doing?” said Anne.

“Maria is in Poughkeepsie, you know, learning mantua-making.”

“Is she happy? does she get along well?”

“I don’t know,” replied Matilda dubiously.  She had not known Maria to seem happy for a very long period; certainly not at the time of her last visit to her.

“And we are here,” said Letitia.  “I don’t know why all the good should come to Matilda, for my part.”

Matilda could say nothing.  It was a dash of cold water.

“I suppose you have everything in the world you want?” Letitia went on.

“Does she treat you really exactly as if you were her child?” said Anne.  “Mrs. Laval, I mean.”

“Just as if I were,” said Matilda.

“And you can have everything you want?” asked Letitia; but not as if she were glad of it.

“If Mrs. Laval knows it,” said Matilda.

“You can let her know it, I suppose.  It ain’t fair!” cried Letitia; “it ain’t fair!  Why should Matilda have all the good that comes to anybody?  Here this child can have everything she wants; and you and I, and Maria, have to work and work and pinch and pinch, and can’t get it then.”

“Is that your dress for every day?” said Anne, after she had lifted Matilda’s cloak to see what was underneath.

“I don’t know, Anne.”

“You don’t know?  Don’t you know what you wear every day?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what will be my every day frock.  I do not wear the same in the morning and in the afternoon.”

“You don’t!” said Anne.  “How many dresses have you?”

“And what are they?” added Letitia.

Matilda was obliged to tell.

“Think of it!” said Letty.  “This child! She has silks and cashmeres and reps, more than she can use; and I, old as I am, haven’t a dress to go to church in, but one that I have worn a whole winter.  I could get one for twenty shillings, and I haven’t money to spare for that!”

“Hush,” said Anne; “we shall do better by and by, when we have gone further into the business.”

“We shall be delving in the business though, for it, all the while.  And Matilda is to do nothing and live grand.  She’ll be too grand to look at us and Maria.”

“Where do you live?” Anne asked.

“It’s the corner of 40th street and Blessington Avenue.”

Anne’s face darkened.

“Where is Blessington Avenue?” asked Letitia.

“It’s away over the other side of the city,” Anne answered.

“Well, I suppose there is all New York between us,” said Letitia.  “Don’t you think this is a delightful part of the town, Matilda?”

“I should think you would go back to Shadywalk, Anne and Letty, when you have learned what you want to learn; it would be pleasanter to make dresses for the people there, wouldn’t it, than for people here?”

“Speak for yourself,” said Letty.  “Do you think nobody wants to be in New York but you?”

“I don’t want to live where Mrs. Candy lives,” said Anne.  “That’s enough for me.”

The conversation had got into a very disagreeable channel, where Matilda could not deal with it.  Perhaps that helped her to remember that it was getting late and she must go.

“How did you get here?” asked Letitia.  “You could not find your way alone.  I declare! you don’t mean to say that carriage is for you?”

“I couldn’t come any other way,” said Ma-tilda, as meekly as if it had been a sin to ride in a carriage.

“I declare!” said Letitia.  “Look, Anne, what a carriage.  It is a close carriage, just as handsome as it can be.”

“Was nobody with you?” said Anne.

“No, she has it all to herself,” said Letitia.  “Well, I hope she’ll enjoy it.  And I would be glad of twenty shillings to get a dress to walk to church in.”

Matilda was glad to bid good bye and to find the carriage door shut upon her.  She was very glad to be alone again.  Was it any wrong in her, that she had so much more than her sisters?  It was not her own doing; she did not make Mrs. Laval’s wealth, nor gain Mrs. Laval’s affection, by any intent of her own; and further, Matilda could not understand how Anne and Letitia were any worse off for her better circumstances.  If she could have helped it, indeed, that would have been another affair; and here one thorn pricked into Matilda’s heart.  She might not have thought of it if the amount named had not been just what it was; but twenty shillings? ­that was exactly the two dollars and a half she had paid to be in the fashion as to her toes.  Now was it right, or not?  Ought she to have those two and a half dollars in hand to give to Letty for her dress?  The thorn pricked rather sharp.