ELM TREE TALES.
F. IRENE BURGE SMITH.
Little know they who dwell 'mid rural shades,
Of life's great struggles. Poverty and want
In direst forms, are never seen, where bloom
And verdure revel, but within the dark
And loathesome cellars of the crowded town,
They hide their tattered forms.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court, for the
Southern District of New York
Thomas B. Smith,
82 & 84 Beekman Street
John A. Gray,
97 Cliff St.
"There is a wisdom in calling a thing fitly. Names should note particulars."—Proverbial Philosophy.
To make the title of this book significant to you, I must transport you to a sylvan nook, far from the city's boundaries, where an old stone cottage peeps forth from the thick foliage. Down through the maple avenue you will take your pleasant route, past the willow and alder clumps, and the ancient mill, that hangs its idle arms listlessly by its sides—on and on, over the little style, and the rustic bridge, which spans the rivulet, until you reach the giant elm that spreads its broad branches far and wide. Books and work are scattered about on the verdant turf, bright flowers peep forth from amid the green, and many a fair face greets you with its frank and cordial welcome. The sky is very blue and clear, and the summer's breath comes refreshingly to you through the leafy screen, as you seat yourself upon a mossy stone and join in the merriments of the happy circle gathered there. But you are quite too late for the manuscript volume which a guest from the city has been reading aloud for the amusement of the group.
Perhaps you have lost nothing, however. I have obtained permission to give it you for a more leisurely perusal. I hope it will please you.
When a stranger goes to your door seeking your regard and patronage, you naturally look for some note of introduction, which generally reads somewhat after this fashion:
"Any attentions you may bestow upon my friend ——, will confer an especial favor upon
Brooklyn, October 27, 1855.
THE ELM-TREE TALES.
THE STREET SWEEPER;
VICISSITUDES OF LIFE.
Poor little girl! How sadly came her wailing tones on the frosty air, while the multitudes that hurried past were hidden from the chilling blasts by warm and furry garments!
There were some humane ones who lifted her softly from the ground, and bore her carefully to the nearest apothecary's, to examine the extent of her injuries—and a slight figure clad in the deepest weeds, followed after and held the child's hand, and bathed her forehead, while the surgeon bound up the broken limb.
"She was such a pinched wee thing to be sweeping those dangerous crossings," said the lady; "no wonder the heedless crowd jostled her down, and nearly crushed her tiny body."
"Is not her consciousness returning, doctor?" continued she, addressing the surgeon, as a slight flush was beginning to be perceptible upon the little girl's cheek.
The child had lain in a kind of stupor from the time of the accident, and now, as her dark eyes slowly opened, she gazed faintly upon the curious faces that were gathered around her, until she met the sweet yet sorrowful glance of the strange lady—then, bursting forth into a wild and bitter sobbing, she cried, "Who now will help my poor weak mother, and my sick and dying father!—nine pennies only have I earned to-day, and all is lost in the muddy street—oh! who will get them bread and coals, now their Jennie can not work!"
"God will provide, only trust Him, poor child," said the kind lady, as she wiped the tears that had moistened her own eyes at sight of the child's grief.
"Where do your parents live, my little girl," asked the benevolent surgeon—"we must be getting you home, or they will be anxious about you now that the night is coming on."
The child started as she heard the word "home," and blushing the deepest crimson, replied, "If you please, sir, I am able to walk now, and will go alone, for dear mamma would be angry if I had strangers with me—she never sees any one but father, now."
"'Twould be madness to send her forth into this wintery air with a newly broken arm," said the lady—"if you will come with me, little Jennie, we will soon satisfy your parents that you are in comfortable quarters, my carriage is at the door, and John shall go alone to your home with a message"—and, calling her servant, she bade him bring one of the soft robes from the carriage, and wrapping it closely about the shivering child, she had her conveyed to her own noble home.
Up, up, up till you reached the very topmost room in a rickety building in —— street, and there they were—a woman in neat but coarse raiment, seated by a flickering candle, stitching for the life, and with every effort for the life, stitching out the life. Near her, on a lowly bed, lay her suffering husband, watching the wan fingers as they busily plied for him who would fain have spent his last strength for their rest.
The frosty breath of a December night came through the chinks in the roof, and around the windows, and left its bitter impress upon the sick and weary. A few coals partially ignited, seemed to mock at the visions of warmth and comfort they inspired, and the simmering of the kettle that hung low over the coals, made the absence of a cheery board, and a happy group around it only the more painfully apparent.
The sick man closed his eyes, as if to shut out the memory of those wasted fingers that were ever so zealously moving, and then looking wistfully at the murmuring kettle, he said, "Has not the child come yet, Mary?—perhaps she has enough for our scanty meal to-night, and yet my heart misgives