"Ella"

Title

"Ella"

Subject

Children's fiction, Christian behavior, class difference.

Description

A modest young woman from the country comes to live with her city cousins, and uses Biblical and parental precepts to adjust and thrive.

Creator

Sedgwick, Catharine M.
Miss Sedgwick

Source

Juvenile Miscellany, 3rd Series, V4, (edited by Mrs. D. L. [Lydia Maria] Child), Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 11-35.

Date

March and April, 1834.

Contributor

D. Gussman

Relation

Also collected in Stories for Young Persons, 95-112, 1840.

Language

English

Type

Document

Text

" Is your trunk packed, Ella ? "

" Yes, mamma, — all to putting in my little box of treasures."

" Your treasures ! — What can they be ? "

Ella sat down in her mother's lap, and opening a painted wooden box, said, " In the first place, there are your's and father's profile — there is the guard-chain Sarah made for me — there are the garters Kate knit — there is the hair ring Anne made — and there is the lavendar Mary gave me off her own little bed. This little stone Willie picked up when he saw all the rest giving me something; ' Here, sissy, is my teepsake,' said he : dear Willie! though it be but a common pebble, it will be a precious stone to me. This little mite of a fan, mamma, you remember ?— I made it the week before James died, out of the wing of the last bird he ever shot."

" Yes, I remember," answered her mother, with a sigh.

" And there is a lock of the baby's hair," continued Ella; " forgive me, mother, for stealing it; it was almost hidden by her cap-lace. You will not miss it, and it will be such a comfort to me."

" You are welcome to it, my dear child; it is but a small return for all your patient care of Bessie."

" Oh, mamma, Bessie more than pays me every day. She knows my voice — she smiles whenever I play to her, and yesterday she cried for me."

" I am afraid I shall cry for you too, when you are gone, Ella. I am glad to see your little Bible among your treasures: but what are all these paper marks in it?"

" Those I put in to mark the places where you have marked the verses with your pencil, so that I may turn to them at a minute's warning."

Ella's mother had marked those passages that contain the plainest precepts — precepts that may be applied to the lives of the highest and the humblest -— that appear very simple, but that require such exertion, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice, that no life but that of our divine Master ever perfectly fulfilled them.

" I cannot tell you, my dear Ella," said Mrs Mayhew, " how glad I am that you are aware that to this book you must come for counsel and consolation. You say you wish to be able to find particular passages at a minute's warning; you are right—you are going where you may often want a present help in time of trouble."

Ella was soon after this conversation transferred to her new residence, unlike her home in all respects. Her father, Doctor Mayhew, was a physician, with a large family and very moderate income, with which he must support and educate a large family of children. Of course, frugality and industry, those prime virtues, were habitual with them. But their humble fortune did not prevent the Mayhews from associating on an equal footing with the best society in their town and county. Perhaps there may be some of our young city ladies, who are not yet aware that there are families and individuals throughout the country, as intelligent and refined as those in our cities.

Mrs Anderson, the cousin and friend of Ella's mother, — who had invited Ella to pass a year with her, and had generously offered to support her during that time, and furnish her the best instruction in New York, — was a fashionable lady of large fortune, with two grown up daughters, and half a dozen growing up boys and girls.
She announced the expected arrival of Ella to her children. They were at breakfast.

" Dear me! " exclaimed Miss Anderson, "I forgot you had such a cousin as Mrs Mayhew. I make it a rule, as Colonel Crane says, to forget all relations beyond the degree of brother and sister; indeed, the Colonel says, upon his honor, he does not know how many brothers and sisters he has."

"I am glad he is not my brother," said one of the younger children.

" What sort of a person is this Miss Ella Mayhew? " asked Miss Julia Anderson.

" A North American savage, as Colonel Crane says, you may be sure," replied her elder sister.

" Pardon me, Miss Anderson," said her mother, who found she must be the champion, as well as the patroness of her young friend — " Ella Mayhew is a clever, quiet little girl, not quite thirteen, who will in no way interfere with you. She is going to school, and will get her lessons in the nursery."

" Poor Ella Mayhew! " thought James Anderson, a good-natured boy, who had often attempted getting his lessons in the nursery.

"But why," pursued Miss Anderson, "does she not stay at home and go to school ? I thought New England was one great school, and all the men and women there school-masters, and school-mistresses."

" She is coming here to acquire some accomplishments she cannot get in the country."

" Absurd, mamma! What does a country doctor's daughter want of accomplishments?"

" She wants the means of assisting her parents in the education of their family, which she can get by qualifying herself to teach the expensive branches, called accomplishments."

" Oh ! then she is to be a regular schoolma'am apprentice, is
she?—I request, children," the young lady added, turning to the youngest persons at table, " that you don't call this Miss Ella cousin. She’ll be sure to begin with cousining you; for that is country fashion ; — and, mamma, I hope you mean Ella shall eat in the nursery — it is always disagreeable having these equivocal characters at the table."

" I shall do no such thing, Mary. I have not asked Ella here to mortify, or degrade her."

Miss Anderson would have replied, but they were interrupted by a ring at the door, a bustle in the entry — the door of the breakfast room was opened, and Ella appeared. Nothing can be much more appalling than the transfer from a retired, simple country home to a magnificent town-house — from familiar objects and loving looks, to strangeness, indifference, coldness — it may be, scorn.

Mrs. Anderson received Ella kindly. Her elder daughters merely bowed when she was presented to them. The children stared. James, and only James, advanced and greeted her cordially as " Cousin Ella." The tone would have fallen like music on Ella's heart, had she not followed the involuntary direction of James's eye, as he pronounced her name, and seen a very significant and a very disagreeable twist of Miss Anderson's mouth. After she had taken her breakfast, Ella was conducted by her aunt to the nursery, and told that a cot-bed should be placed there for her. — " You are used to children, Ella," she said, "and I hope, therefore, mine will not disturb you."

" Oh, no, ma'am," said Ella, hardly knowing what she said; for she perceived by the expressive countenance of “Mammy," the mistress of the nursery, that she was looked upon as a very unwelcome interloper in her premises. The nursery looked dreary to her, and her thoughts were in her own little quiet room at home.

Ella soon found that she was not only to sleep in the nursery, but to live there. For the first two days she took her work-box, or her book, and seated herself in the drawing-room, imagining that, like her mother's social, cheerful parlor, it was the family resort. The first day her cousins were " not at home," and they passed the morning, from ten to three, alone. The second morning, company was ushered in. The ladies received them, but took no notice of Ella, who sat by the window, plying her needle, and keeping her eye modestly fixed on her work. Once the ladies followed some particular friends into the entry. One lingered behind the rest, and Ella heard her ask in a tone, so loud that it was evident she did not care whether she were heard or not, " What, in the name of wonder, is that little sempstress perched up in your drawing-room for? "

Ella did not hear the reply ; but it was followed by a loud laugh. Her cousins retired to their own apartment. A servant soon after came in, and with a grin, asked " if Miss would please to go and sit in the nursery ? " adding, " Miss Julia bids me tell you, Miss, nobody comes in the drawing-room as is not called for." Poor Ella, stung by the insult, and mortified that she had even involuntarily intruded, retired to the nursery. But there, was no rest for her. Mammy was engaged in some deeply interesting chat with a visiter, and she said, rather pettishly, " I wish you would not come in here just now, Miss."

"Where shall I go?" asked Ella with a tremulous voice.

Mammy, who was really not an ill-natured woman, though she was fidgetty, and did not like to be interfered with, was struck with Ella's gentleness and her faltering tone ; and rising, she opened a door into a dressing-room. — " There," said she, " Miss Ella, is a nice, quiet place, that you may have almost any time to yourself."

"Oh, thank you—thank you," said Ella; and as soon as she was alone, she sat down, and overcome with homesickness, and a sense of loneliness, she wept bitterly for a few moments. Then suddenly wiping away her tears, she took her little Bible from its hiding-place in her basket, and opened it at one of her mother's marks. Her eyes fell on these words: " In whatsoever state you are, learn therewith to be content."— " The very words for me," thought she — and she kissed them, and kissed the delicate trace of her mother's pencil beside them. " It will be pretty hard work to be contented in this house," thought Ella; " but I can try. — Mamma has often told me one of the surest ways of driving away disagreeable thoughts was to keep busy, and to be doing for others, and not for yourself." So opening the door into the nursery, she said, " I don't mean to interrupt you, Mrs Hardy, but I heard you say you had two aprons to finish for the little girls today. If you will give me one of them, I will do it for you."

" That's real thoughtful, Miss Ella," replied Mammy, bustling about to get the work. " Do, Josephine, be still! Sam, put down that whip! Oh dear, I wish I ever could have a quiet minute! "

" Let the children come in with me," said Ella; " I can tell them a story while I am sewing. I often do so to our children at home." The children were immediately tranquillized and happy. Mammy enjoyed her comfortable hour's talk with her friend; and Ella was happiest of all; for the light she shed upon others was reflected upon herself. Some young persons in Ella's condition would have shed thousands of tears, and would have written home letters filled with grievances.

Instead of this, Ella concluded a letter, that night, to her mother, which she had chiefly filled with an account of her journey, thus : 'Aunt received me very kindly. They were at breakfast when I arrived; and as aunt did not expect me till the next day, they all appeared surprised. James shook hands with me, as if we had been old friends; he has just sent me up a delightful new book; is not this very kind of him? the children already begin to love me. I thought Mrs Hardy, aunt's nurse, rather a hard-favored cross concern at first; but she takes pains to make me as comfortable as possible. This is very important to me, as I sleep in the nursery. She has just emptied one of her drawers for my accommodation. I shall, as you charged me, dear mamma, do my best to give her, and all the family, as little trouble as possible."

Our readers will perceive there were no false statements in Ella's letter; only a suppression of whatever might give her mother pain, and a careful communication of every circumstance that could give her pleasure. If my young readers should be pleased with Ella's disinterestedness, we hope that, in similar circumstances, they will imitate her.

The little dressing-room, which Mrs Hardy had given Ella leave to occupy, communicated with the nursery by a door, the upper part of which, being glazed, lighted the small apartment.

Ella, on the morning after her expulsion from the drawing-room, was seated in her quiet asylum, when she heard her aunt and her daughter Caroline enter the nursery. There was a pane of the window broken. This compelled Ella to hear whatever was said.

" Mamma," asked Caroline, who was a year older than Ella, " what school is Ella to attend?"

" Madame C.'s, of course."

" Oh, mamma, you do not mean so," exclaimed Caroline.

" And oh, mamma, do let her go with us! " exclaimed the two
younger girls in a breath.

" Why not mean so, Miss Caroline? "

" Because it would be so ridiculous to send her to such a school as Madame C.'s."

"And why?"

" Because it would."

" Admirable reason; have you no better ? "

Caroline pouted and looked sulky: and then muttered something of having heard her mother say a hundred times that she liked Madame C.'s school, because there were none but genteel children there.

Truth compels us to pause for a moment to confess (and we are sorry for it,) that Mrs Anderson had the weakness of anxiously desiring to see her elder daughter distinguished in fashionable society; and of keeping the younger ones within the magic circle of what are called the genteel. And when her children often heard her say, " What a mixed party Mrs ___ had! "— " Why should you call on Miss___ , or Miss____, nobody visits them," — or "Children, do not ask those girls here; their parents are not in good society." When they heard her make those restrictions, instead of saying, " Miss ____ is a well-bred, charming girl ; I wish you would make her acquaintance" — or, if those children are, as you say, very intelligent and well behaved, I should like you to ask them here," — is it strange they should early get false ideas? and that these ideas should become principles of action?

I return to the conversation which poor Ella, much to her discomfort, was obliged to hear.

" Certainly you have heard me say so, Caroline; but there is no reason why Ella should not be genteel. As your cousin and friend, she will be on an equal footing with the other girls."

" That's the worst of it; if I could just say Ella was a country girl, that you had taken up out of charity, I should not mind it; but I am sure it will come out she is my cousin; and then the girls will laugh at me."

" I cannot help that; it is very important that Ella should have the best instruction. I have engaged a place for her at Madame C.'s ; so you must make the best of it."

Caroline actually burst into tears. At this moment Ella moved towards the door of the dressing-room. Her cheeks were flushed with pride and indignation. " I will ask to be sent home," she thought; " I will not stay here, to endure such mortifications! " She paused — the thought of her parents, and of their disappointment if she should lose the opportunity of improvement from which they had expected so much, arrested her. Then her heart yearned for her home, where she loved and was beloved. She thought of the humiliation she had endured, in one way and another, ever since she crossed Mrs Anderson's threshold ; and her hand was again on the door. " But Mrs Anderson has been very kind to me; to her, at least, I should be grateful; " and once more she slipped into her seat, and taking up her Bible, opened to the words, " Be patient in tribulation." There was her mother's mark against the passage; and it seemed to Ella that her mother had pointed her to the words. A tear fell on them. She wiped it off, and meekly raising her eyes to heaven, her heart replied, " I will try to be patient."

Perhaps some of my readers will think that Ella gave too big a name to her little trials. They were the severest she had ever felt. A hill appears as high to a child, as the Alps to a man. The next morning came, and Ella was to enter the school.

" I never can walk up Broadway beside that plaid cloak and dowdy hood," said Caroline Anderson to her sister.

"Never mind, Cary," said her sister; "it's useless speaking to mamma about it; for do you know she says she wishes she could persuade you to wear anything so suitable for the purpose, as Ella's school rigging. C'est un horreur! I pity you, my child, but you can easily cut her, as soon as you get into the street."

" After today, I can and will; but now she does not know the way to Madame C.'s."

" Oh, trust to' her finding it. She 's ' an exceeding clever little person,' as Col. Crane says." Caroline left her sister and joined Ella, whose sweet and somewhat sad countenance awakened her better feelings. " It would be cruel to leave her to go alone," thought Caroline.

Few girls of thirteen, (we hope none) have their hearts so hardened by worldliness that they can be cruel. Caroline roused her courage to what seemed to her a pitch of great generosity; and resolved that for this morning, at least, she would not flinch from the "plaid cloak and dowdy hood;" so she and Ella proceeded side by side up Broadway. Caroline found Ella very agreeable, and in the feeling that she had a delightful companion, had actually forgotten the cloak and hood, when she saw approaching her, though still at some distance, the very Col. Crane so often quoted by her sister. Now this Col. Crane belonged to a species, unknown, we trust, to our simple young readers. He was a travelled gentleman; and it would seem had gone about the world for no better purpose than to bring the coxcombries of other countries into his own. He declared that "existence without silver forks would be a burden to him;" and that "to eat an egg out of a glass instead of the shell was 'decidedly sauvage.' "And there were certain young ladies who listened to these sage aphorisms of the Colonel, and regulated their conduct by them. Caroline so often heard him quoted by her sisters, that, without knowing why exactly, he was the last person in the world whose eye she would have chosen to have encountered, while she was in company with the plaid cloak and hood. Therefore the moment she saw him, she muttered something of an errand for her sister; and turning into a cross street, she disappeared, leaving poor Ella at an utter loss whether to proceed, or turn back. The conversation she had overheard recurred to her ;and she very naturally concluded that Caroline had left her to avoid introducing her into the school. Ella felt the unkindness keenly; but she remembered that she had resolved to be patient. "I will not return," she thought; " it will only be giving Mrs Anderson trouble, and making her angry with Caroline; everybody must know where Madame C.'s school is ; and I can find out by inquiring. It will, to be sure, be forlorn enough going alone the first day; but then it will soon be over; and there will not be another first day." Certainly everybody in the city of New York did not know where even Madame C.'s celebrated school was; but fortunately Ella went into a French shop to inquire, and was very politely directed by a young woman, who was in the habit of serving Madame C. She found the house without further trouble; entered it, and hung up the offending cloak and hood in an ante-room filled with the young ladies' outer garments. What different feelings from Caroline's were called forth in her bosom by the sight of that hood! It was the last article her mother had made for her; and as she hung it on the nail, it seemed to speak to her of her mother, and of the dear familiar things at home. She was alone in the room, and she kissed it, brushed away a tear, and proceeded, with all the courage she could muster, to the school-room door. She opened it; and it must be confessed, that for one short moment she was appalled by the sight of two very large apartments communicating by open folding-doors, and filled with well dressed young ladies, arranged according to their ages and different pursuits. Some at a table with an Italian master; others at their desks with their drawing master; others who were awaiting their teachers, fixed their eyes on Ella. Madame C., a middle aged lady, with a countenance worn by care, but intelligent and benevolent, sat at the upper end of a long table; and fortunately at this moment her eye meeting Ella's, she beckoned to her. Ella, from being the eldest of her family, had been accustomed to act independently, much more than most young ladies of her age; and she now advanced and introduced herself with so much modesty and propriety, and communicated her parents' wishes in relation to her studies with so much clearness, that Madame C. was quite charmed with her. Assigning Ella a desk, and introducing her in the kindest manner to her teacher of music, she relieved her at once of half her uncomfortable feeling of strangeness. Of half, I say; for I believe to most girls the first day at school, is more or less a day of little miseries.

The young ladies, who are established at the school, get together in coteries or tete-d-tetes, and discuss the parentage, residence, appearance, and dress of the new comer; casting the while sidelong, inquiring, it may be quizzical glances at her, of which her burning cheeks betray that she is painfully conscious. I have often seen, and I have felt what I describe; and I have wondered that girls reared in civilized society, in well bred families, and girls with kind hearts, too, should receive a poor stranger cast among them, with almost as much inhumanity, as if they were Cornwall wreckers.

This purgatory, that every new scholar passes through, was made more painful to Ella by Caroline's carefully keeping aloof from her. Besides Caroline's false and foolish fear to explain to her fashionable friends her relationship to a raw country girl, she felt secretly ashamed of having deserted Ella in the street. The only certain relief in such a case, is to make what amends can be made for the fault; but Caroline had not magnanimity for this; and all the morning she kept close to her desk; avoided seeming to hear the remarks that were made about the stranger; and only now and then cast a stolen glance towards her.

The hour of recreation arrived; and the young ladies rushed from their tasks to the yard which was fitted up for calisthenic exercises. Some ran to the balancing boards; some jumped into the swings, and the air was filled with the loud laugh and the merry shout. All joined, I say, — but I should have said all but but poor Ella, — who sat alone in the porch, looking on, not ill-naturedly, but with a sad feeling of loneliness. At last one of the young ladies, if not more kind hearted, far more thoughtful than the rest, broke away from her companions, and with a sweet voice, that went to Ella's heart, and which she never forgot, was begging her to join in their sports, when they were startled by a sudden noise and a piercing shriek. Caroline had fallen from a wooden horse, and striking a glass, that had carelessly been left standing on the ground, received a deep cut on the cheek. She was stunned, and the blood gushed from the wound. The girls were terrified; no one knew what to do; no one but Ella; who was instantly at Caroline's side, raised her head and carefully closing the gaping wound, bound her handkerchief tight around it, saying while doing it in a low calm tone, " Caroline ! Caroline ! don't be frightened, Caroline!" In a few moments, Madame C. and a physician were on the ground. The physician, with Ella's aid, carried Caroline in, and laid her on the sofa; and after examining the wound said it must be immediately sewed up to prevent an ugly scar.

Caroline consented to the operation; for though she dreaded the Doctor's needle, she dreaded an ugly scar more. Madame C. was nervous at the sight of blood; and Ella, who had no inconvenient nerves, and who never seemed to remember herself when anything was to be done for another, held Caroline's head, and gently encouraged and soothed her, while the Doctor was performing the operation. That done, " I will hurry home and tell your mother all about you," said Ella; " and she will send the carriage for you."

" Oh no — no, Ella ! do not leave me — ask Madame to send a servant to tell mamma."

" I am afraid your mother will be very much alarmed, if we send a servant."

" But she will soon know just how it is." Ella still hesitated. "Well, go yourself, Ella ; but do come back in the carriage for me. — How she does think of everybody but herself," thought Caroline, as Ella tying on her cloak and hood, hastened away. Quiet was deemed best for Caroline; and she was left alone for the hour that intervened before the coach arrived with Ella. It was a blessed hour to Caroline. Her heart was softened, and the incidents of the morning impressed a lesson there, that was never effaced.

Not long after this she took up Ella's little Bible, and opening to the passage (one of the marked passages)
"Do good to those who despitefully use you," she wrote with her pencil on the margin, " Illustrations of Scripture — Ella Mayhew's first day at school." She showed what she had written to Ella. It was the first time she had ever alluded to her own contemptible conduct on that first day; for Caroline, like many others, had found it easier to repent a fault than to say she repented it. Ella took up her India rubber and effaced what Caroline had written ; then affectionately kissing her, she said, "All that I desire to remember of that first day, Cary, is, that it was the first day we began to love one another."

Now, my reader, whoever you may be, I fear you are thinking "there is nothing after all in this long story worth telling." Certainly it contains no striking incidents; but it may serve to show you that our happiness depends chiefly on the state of our own hearts; and farther, that in most circumstances we may improve the virtue, and consequently the happiness, of those around us. Do you think you would have been happy in Ella's condition? Would you not have thought, " I cannot, and will not, and ought not, to bear the insults and slights of these proud, rich people! Or, if you had borne them, would you not have suffered many an hour of homesickness and tears?—Would you not, — sure of their sympathy and love, — have poured out your heart in some letter to your father or mother ?— Not so Ella. Her trials did not end with her first day at school; for she was surrounded by the self-indulgent and selfish, but they became from week to week less and less. God had given her a very sweet temper, and a happy disposition. Her mind was enlightened and fortified by Christian principles. She was the eldest of a large family at home; she was in the habit of exertion for others, and of sacrificing her own inclinations; so that it was easy for her to bear and forbear. But after all, what seemed to me to help Ella along in her difficult position, more than anything else, was a way she had of finding some good point in every one; and by always addressing herself to good feelings instead of bad, she was sure to bring the best into exercise. Evil she sometimes met, but she overcame evil with good. She lost no opportunity of doing kindness; and this in so unostentatious and natural a way, that she did not seem herself to be aware she was doing a favor. Before she returned home, she was a favorite with every member of Mrs Anderson's family. " I never thought," said Miss Anderson, " that I should like Ella Mayhew so much; but, as Col. Crane says, ' she is a charming little person.' " Miss Julia, who, as it may be remembered, requested that Ella would not sit in the drawing-room — Miss Julia gave a musical soiree in honor of Ella's birthnight. — The boys said "who will mend our gloves?—who will sew up our balls ? — who will fix our kites ? — who can we always tease, and she never will be angry with us, when Ella is gone?" " Angry !" exclaimed one of the children ; " Ella is just like the angels; for mamma says they are never angry." " Oh, Miss Ella, come back to us," said Mammy ; " the luckiest day that ever happened to us was that which brought you among us ! " " Mamma," said Caroline, " do let me go home with Ella and pass the summer. If you will, I will try to be like her." —I venture, in conclusion, to borrow a sentence which contains the whole meaning of my story. " It is happy for us, when a being of noble sentiments, and beneficent life, enters our circle, becomes an object of interest to us, and by affectionate intercourse takes a strong hold on our hearts."

Collection

Citation

Sedgwick, Catharine M. and Miss Sedgwick, “"Ella",” Sedgwick Stories: The Periodical Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick, accessed October 28, 2021, https://sedgwickstories.omeka.net/items/show/6.

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