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قراءة كتاب The Elm Tree Tales

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‏اللغة: English
The Elm Tree Tales

The Elm Tree Tales

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

linen and muslin, streaming out the death-mist upon the weakened lungs of that wretched girl in the corner; and the old woman, with her tremulous hands, was smoothing out the robes that were to rustle amid scenes of pleasure and folly, while the wearers never bestowed a thought upon the lowly ones who helped to adorn them.

"There is a prescription for Jessie," said the doctor, as they rose to go; "it will cost you a dollar, for the medicine is a valuable one."

The old woman took the paper and looked vacantly upon it, while her thoughts dwelt upon the many comfortable things that one dollar would buy for the approaching winter. Jessie's life, to be sure, was most precious to her, but to what purpose would it be saved, if, after all, the poor child should suffer for the necessaries of life. The medicine must be got, but oh! there were so many other things indispensable!

How her heart was lifted up, as the kind physician said, "You may send to the dispensary for it, however, and it will cost you nothing!"

"Oh! thank you, doctor," said she with a beaming face, "times is so hard; we don't mean to complain, but a dollar goes a great ways with poor people;" and then with a cheerful step she followed her visitors to the door, internally blessing the benevolent physician, and the glorious dispensary; but her cup of joy was full to overflowing when she turned back again into the room, and found the nice suit for the sick girl, and a new cap and warm sack for herself. "This will be so grand to go to the pump with," said she, as she laid it carefully away in a box which she drew from under the bed. "Come cheer up, Jessie, better times is coming, and it seems ongrateful-like to sit there moping when there is so much good fortune in the house."


As the little party reached Broadway again, they met some officers leading a man who had been detected in some dreadful crime, and the doctor offered to go to the city prison with Madame La Blanche, that they might show Jennie where wicked people were confined. The stout high walls looked very cheerless and gloomy, after the splendor and brightness of Broadway, and the child dreaded to enter them; but she kept close to her guides, and as they stood within the yard where was a green park, and a pretty fountain playing, she thought it much pleasanter than the brown and loathsome places she had just left. Madame La Blanche seemed to read her thoughts, and said, "This is very pretty and nice, my dear; but you shall tell me what you think about prison life when we reach home again. We have yet much to see within these high walls; very few are allowed to walk in this pleasant yard." Then the prison physician went with them inside and they wandered up and down the long corridors, and looked through the iron doors at the criminals, and Jennie shuddered as their guilty eyes looked out upon her through the gratings.

Here and there, at the different cells, were wives, or sisters, or mothers, talking through the massive bars. The cells were capacious, and neat, and the prisoners looked careless, and indifferent to their punishment; but Madame La Blanche and Jennie both felt that however light-hearted and cheerful they might appear in the broad day, with their friends all about them, in the darkness and silence of the night, terrors must take hold upon them, and almost drive them mad.

In the female department, they saw only those who were committed for vagrancy and drunkenness; but as they observed a woman stretched out upon a bed in one of the cells, lost in the deep sleep of the inebriate, they thought that no measures for the abolishment of so beastly a vice could be too strenuous. Sitting in the door of a cell was one with coarse features, bloated, and ugly, hugging to her depraved bosom a delicate and lovely child. Madame La Blanche stopped to give the weak mother a few words of wholesome advice, and she spoke to her of the little creature in her arms, and plead with her, for her sake, if from no higher motive, to put away her sin. The woman seemed touched, and hiding her face in the child's neck, she wept. The little blue-eyed thing looked sadly weary of the dull walls, and Jennie longed to lead her away from the lonesome place to a home as bright as she had found. She stroked her silken hair, and caressed her as if she had been a sister, and giving her a few toys from her rich pocket, she hurried on to overtake her teacher who was descending the stairs that led to the lowest corridor, and thence to the yard.

The night was coming on, and husbands and wives, mothers and sisters, were leaving the prison walls with a burden of grief and shame for the loved yet lost ones within; and as Jennie and her kind teacher, one hour later, entered the peaceful abode of innocence and joy, the light had wholly departed from the long corridors of that gloomy building, and the doors were closely secured upon the shuddering inmates of those dismal cells, who crept into their beds, and covered their heads with the thick clothes to shut out the demons that were hovering about them in the polluted air.


"Rosalie," said Jennie, as she tossed to and fro upon their soft bed that night; "I can not sleep for the thought of those poor creatures we saw to-day. Come closer to me and put your arm around me, every time I close my eyes some of those miserable objects are before me with their pinched and haggard looks. I can not go with Madame La Blanche again, for it takes away all the pleasure and beauty of my life, and it can do them no good since I have so little power to relieve them."

"But," said Rosalie, "Madame La Blanche says 'it is our duty to visit them, even though we have nothing to offer them but our sympathy, and kind words are often better to the poor then costly gifts.' I felt as you do when I first went among them, but I don't believe our teacher would ever excuse us from going since she thinks it right. I should think," continued Rosalie, twining her arms lovingly about her companion, and drawing as near to her as possible, "that what you have seen to-day would make you enjoy this pleasant room, and these nice comforts all the more."

"But, Rosalie," said Jennie, "how can I sleep when there are so many sick and weary ones down in those dirty streets who have no resting-place for their tired bodies, although they need it so much more than I do? It makes me uneasy and troubled. Don't you think we should be a great deal happier if all the people in the world had an equal share of the comforts of life?"

"Sometimes I think so, Jennie, but Madame La Blanche says 'it is God that makes us to differ; that He gives to some poverty, and to others riches, and that if we only have contented minds we shall be happy, whether we are rich or poor.'"

"That is not exactly what I mean, Rosalie; you know I am rich now, but I am sad about others, and don't you suppose that people who suffer for things that they need feel badly when they see others with more than enough for their wants, so that they even waste it or throw it away."

"I don't know, Jennie, I suppose they must. It does seem strange to me, sometimes, that some have so much more than is necessary to their comfort, while others lack even their daily bread; but Madame La Blanche, says 'we must never allow ourselves to raise such questions, even in our own minds; but that we must feel that whatever God does for His children is right, even as we feel that our earthly parents will do every thing for our best good, though they may do many things that we can not understand, and withhold from us much that we earnestly desire.'"