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rich, full, deep tones, as their owner cleared a chair of spangled robes and plumes, and offered it to her visitor.
"Mother is going to wear this dress this evening-isn't it pretty?" said Ida, climbing upon the foot of the bed.
Zuleime turned her eyes with childish interest towards the robes; and Mrs. Knight, observing her look of curiosity, said, "They form a portion of the Queen Katherine costume; they are going to bring out Henry VIII.' this evening."
Zuleime glanced from the costume to the haggard but noble-looking woman, and thought that she might represent the unhappy Queen very well, as far as personal appearance would go; but instead of expressing this opinion, she said, "The young German girl told me that you wanted some assistance in needlework. I shall be glad to help you.'
The dark, mournful eyes rose slowly, and grew still, looking at the young widow, in whom they now began to recognise that most piteous of all beings—a reduced lady.
"Sit down, pray sit down," she said to Zuleime, who still remained standing.
Zuleime took the vacant chair.
Would you object, Mrs. Fairfax, to sitting with me while you sew? There are alterations to be made in these four Queen Katherine dresses, in which you would require my advice."
Zuleime hesitated, and then answered, "I should not like to leave my little child alone, madam.”
"Let me-let me-let me go up and stay with the baby!" eagerly interrupted Ida, jumping down from the bed, and running up and seizing the hand of her mother.
The dark eyes sank fondly on the little one, and the rich voice, richer now with maternal love, replied, "Certainly you may, if the lady will permit you to do so."
Zuleime hesitated again, then said, "Thank you, I shall be very glad. Let me go up first, and make the fire safe." And she left the room, followed by Ida, who ran back first, to throw her arms around her mother's neck, and kiss her good-bye.
When Zuleime reached her room, she placed the blower before the grate for safety; hid away all implements with which the children might harm themselves; and, leaving the little ones at play upon the rag carpet, returned below stairs, and went to work. Her new occupation was, indeed, of an
odd and miscellaneous description: ripping off gold lace, and sewing in its place imitation sable; trimming buskins; and, lastly, making up an ancient coiffure-all under the direction of the shadowy-faced woman, who, all this time, sat upon the trunk with a tattered play-book on her knee, studying her part.
Zuleime spoke of Ida-her beauty, her charming manner. "Is she? Do you find her so? I thought that might be only my partiality. Poor little one! She is a great comfort and a great sorrow to me, if you can understand such a paradox.'
"Yes, I can understand it," said Zuleime.
I have to leave her all the forenoon for the purpose of attending the rehearsals; and then before it is time for her to go to bed, I have to leave her alone, and go to the theatre, and be absent till a late hour of the night; and then the fear of fire, or of accident, while I am gone from her, wears me out. Worse than that, all day and night, while away from her, is the dread of her getting in the street, and into evil company." And the eyes of the woman assumed an anxious, haggard, querulous look, as she dropped them upon her book.
"Give your little girl into my care. I am never absent from home except early in the morning, as to day, and at that hour you are here.'
The dark eyes flew up and fastened themselves upon the face of Zuleime, and the deep voice inquired, "Would you really take charge of her for me? Oh, it is too much for you, and too good in you. I don't understand it." "Indeed, I shall be very glad to do so.
The presence of
a lovely child is a great pleasure to me. me this evening while you are gone, and I will put her to bed when the time comes."
"For this evening I will gratefully accept your kindness; but you may find her more inconvenient than you anticipate," said Mrs. Knight; and then she dropped her eyes again upon her book, and Zuleime went on silently with her sewing. About sunset the work was nearly completed; and the costume, with the exception of the coiffure, upon which Zuleime was still engaged, was packed in band-boxes, to be conveyed to the theatre. Then Mrs. Knight rang a little handbell; and when it was answered by the entrance of
Bertha Erhmientraut, she said, "Please send me a lad to carry these boxes for me, and ask your mother to make me a very strong cup of coffee."
Bertha disappeared, and Mrs. Knight put on her bonnet and shawl; and soon a ragged boy appeared at the door, who agreed to carry the boxes for a sixpence. Mrs. Knight loaded and despatched him at the same moment that Bertha re-appeared with a huge cup of strong coffee, which she took and drank off, standing. Then, as she handed back the empty cup to the German girl, and received from Zuleime the finished coiffure pinned up in a paper, she said, “That cup of coffee will give me strength to go through my heavy part to-night, but will leave me at its close more exhausted than ever; thus I discount future health and life for present bread." Zuleime went up to her own room, and prepared the frugal supper for herself and the two children, who were still playing on the carpet. She got a double portion of milk from the German people, on account of her little guest, Ida declaring that she liked milk with corn-cake crumbled in it better than anything-it was so sweet. And then when the babe was undressed and put to bed, the little girl's eyes waxed heavy and dim; and Zuleime took her down stairs into her mother's room, and disrobed, and washed, and prepared her for bed; and when the child was about to kiss her friend and spring into bed, Zuleime said, "Stop, Ida. Don't you say your prayers? "No, ma'am."
"But don't you wish to ?"
'Oh, yes, ma'am," said the child; and, running back, she kneeled down at Zuleime's knees, and placed her little hands together and looked up for instruction.
Zuleime thought the shortest, simplest infant's prayer she knew of was the best, because readily understood and easily remembered; and so she took the little one's folded hands between her own, and bade her repeat after her--
Now I lay me down to sleep,
"That is a sweet little verse. What is my soul ?" asked the child.
Zuleime hesitated, puzzled for an answer; then she said
for want of a better, "It is what you think with, and wonder with, and what you are sorry or glad with, and what will live for ever."
I love you with it, then. Good-night, good, pretty lady." Good-night, sweet child." And Zuleime laid her in the bed, and kissed her fair eyelids down to slumber.
HEAVEN knows that it is now difficult enough for a poor. woman to make a living; but in the days when Zuleime lived and suffered it was even more so. It was especially hard in Virginia, where, owing to the prevalence of the law of entail, the rich were very rich, and the poor very poorwhere, besides, ladies took pride in their domestic and industrious habits, the favourite and most inveterate of which was that of doing their own sewing, forgetful of the poor widow and orphan, who might be suffering for the want of the work. It was for such reasons that Zuleime found little or no employment-at most of the houses where she applied she was told that, 'We never give out needlework,” that "The ladies of the house do all the family sewing." All very well, in moderation. Industry is a praiseworthy habit, when it does not compromise justice and mercy-when it does not hinder us to "live and let live." Let us be diligent in our several callings; but for Heaven's sake, if we can possibly afford it, let us never refuse to give work to those who need, or who ask it of us. They may be suffering for it, they may be starving for it, they may be dying for it, as Zuleime was. They may be driven to vice, to crime, for the want of it, as Zuleime was not, thank Heaven! Reader, this portion of my story, at least, is no fiction. Nor was Zuleime's case then a solitary one; nor would it be such now. There are many poor women, in every city, who have not work enough to earn their necessary food and fuel; and this is one of the causes: there are hundreds of ladies, of the middle classes of society, who work themselves nearly to death, and really shorten their lives, by sewing for their
large families, in order to save money to lay out in dress for themselves and children more genteel than needful; or in furniture which they do not live very long to enjoy. And all this time there are hundreds of poor women around them suffering for a part of this very work with which they are killing themselves. Yes, hundreds who die annually of innutrition—a slow, cruelly slow starvation, prolonged from month to month, or from year to year, according to their relative strength of constitution. I know it; for I have lived among them, and seen for myself, and not another. The doctors call the want, of which they die, consumptionI think it is rather non-consumption. Zuleime sank deeper and deeper into penury. As autumn advanced into winter, and as her necessities increased, her ability to supply them decreased. Her poverty began to betray itself sadly in her personal appearance. Her face was thin and wan, with great, bright, hungry-looking eyes-her hands wasted to semitransparency. Her only gown, her black bombazine, was rusty and threadbare, and embossed with darns; her shoes were so bad as to look scarcely decent; and amid all her other troubles, there was room for humiliated feelings upon even this account. The present was wretched-the future hopeless. She had heard of people perishing from cold and hunger, and to such an end she thought her life seemed tending. Yet miserable as was the condition of Zuleime, there were many then, are many now, in much worse situations. She at least was starving in a tolerably clean room, in privacy and in peace; far happier than some who perish in the midst of vice, and filth, and squalor. Yes, reader, there are such things; they do exist in my neighbourhood, and yours, and it is just as well that they should sometimes be remembered. Zuleime was dying of want. And did the people of the house know nothing of this? Yes, they knew something of it; and her German landlord trembled for his rent, his wife wished that they had never seen the poor thing, and the two girls pitied her very deeply. And Mrs. Knight saw it all, and suffered in sympathy, and gave the poor, dying girl all the work she had to give, and paid her for doing it as liberally as she could afford; but Mrs. Knight was not able, from her scanty salary, to keep up her expensive professional wardrobe, and support two families besides. The greater part of the money Zuleime made by sewing for