"Mary Smith"


"Mary Smith"


Children's Fiction, Class Difference, Letter Writing, Republicanism


A young girl from a modest family is hurt by another young girl from a wealthy family.


Sedgwick, Catharine M.
Stockbridge, S.


Juvenile Miscellany V2 (edited by Mrs. LM [Lydia Maria] Child) Boston: p. 110-134


Allen and Ticknor


May 1829


J. Robinson


Sequel to “The Good Son” in Juvenile Miscellany (Jan. 1829): 217-29






In the January number of the Miscellany, we promised to show how far little Mary Smith merited her royal title. We did not mean to imply that Queens were better—they are often not half as good as their subjects; but as no one is born to a title in our Republican country, it is supposed to be a badge of merit.

We left Mary's father on the eve of sailing for Europe. About a year after his departure, Mrs. Smith, who was living in her economical cottage in Brookline, received a visit from Mrs. Gray, a lady who had been her neighbor in Boston, and who had a beautiful country seat in Brookline. She brought with her, her daughter Helen, a girl about a year older than Mary. She was dressed very beautifully in a French Frock, sent to her, with many other presents, by her aunt, who resided in Paris.

Mary Smith was a very polite little girl—she had true politeness; the only politeness of any value. She attended to others from a real desire to make them happy. While her mother was talking with Mrs. Gray, she asked Helen if she would like to go out and see the pigeons
"No I thank you," said Helen.

"Perhaps you do not like pigeons," said Mary modestly; "will you go and see ray Bantam chickens? They are perfectly white and the cunningest things you ever saw. Will you go?"

"No I thank you."

"What is Miss Mary saying to you?" asked Helen's mother.

Helen ran to her and whispered loud enough to be heard, "She wants me to go out and see her pigeons; and I am afraid that I shall soil my frock and not be fit for the party."

"Oh, go my dear," said her mother, "if Miss Mary wishes it." Helen went; but not in a humour to be pleased with any thing. -As they went out, Mary took a basket from a shelf on the piazza, and when they were in the yard she said, "Now Helen, I will show you something;" and she took a handful of oats from her basket and strewed them on the ground, and whistled for her pigeons. They came from all points of the compass; from the roof of the house and the eves of the barn. As they descended, their beautiful throats glittered in the sun; and as they lighted they folded their wings to their graceful bodies.

"Oh are they not sweet creatures?" exclaimed Mary.

"Why, they are nothing but common pigeons; are they?" said Helen.

“I suppose they are called common pigeons," replied Mary.

"Then, my dear child, you can't expect we to admire them; we have so many kinds of uncommon ones."

"But do yours come like these, when you call them 1—Our Nancy says I put her in mind of Eve in Paradise calling down her birds."

"I wish Nancy could see ours once; to be sure they don't come down like yours, because papa keeps them confined, for fear we shall lose them. Some of them are beautiful ring-doves, and one kind we call blood pigeons, because they have a bright red stain on their white bosoms, and look as if they had just had a knife plunged into them."

"They must be very curious," said Mary. "I wish I had some like them."

"Oh my dear child," replied Helen, "I don't think it is very probable you can get them. Papa sent a great way for ours, and he says they cost quite a sum of money; but come Mary, if you have any thing more to show, you must make haste, for I would not be late at Anne Rush's for any thing. It is her birth day; and we expect a most elegant time."

Mary turned away from her pigeons without giving them her usual parting look of admiration, and passed by the coop where her bantam chickens were, without pointing them out to Helen. She did not know exactly why, but she did not want to show them, after what Helen had said about the pigeons.

"Would you like to see my little garden, Helen?" she asked.

"Yes—if you will make haste."

Mary led the way to the gate as quick as she could, and as soon as they entered, Helen laughed and said, " Why, what a little bit of a place."

"It is quite big enough for mother and I, and little Ben Lacy to take care of," said Mary, in a tone of slight displeasure: for she could not bear to have her garden, which was her pride and her delight, spoken of with contempt.

"You need not be angry Mary," said Helen; "come let us see what is in your garden."

"You do see, Helen, almost all I have—asters, and mary-golds, and cockscombs, and this pretty crimson dalia."

"Are these all?" asked Helen, scarcely looking at them.

"Almost all I have now; you know Helen, it is the fall of the year—and we cannot have such a very great variety of autumnal flowers; mother says so."

" Oh my dear child, you are very much mistaken—our green house is full of flowers now ; geraniums, and myrtles, and jessamines, and heliotropes, and three kinds of passion flowers, one perfumed—of course, you know, seeing so many at home, I cannot think much of these, which one sees in every garden patch by the road side. Oh, this cockscomb is decent!"—and she pulled off a very fine one; the finest in the garden.
Mary's heart beat hard when she saw Helen snap off the stalk: but she did not speak.

"I have nothing more to show you, Helen," she said, "but one tube-rose," and she turned round a high seringa bush, on the other side of which was the tube-rose.

"Oh yes," exclaimed Helen, “here is something really worth showing;" and as she said this, she plucked, without the slightest hesitation, from a fine grape vine, its only bunch of grapes.

Mary jumped up as if she had been shot; then walked away; and then as suddenly returned. She tried hard to help it, but in spite of her efforts the tears were running down her cheeks.

"Do pray take your grapes, Miss Mary," said Helen, bridling up.—" I had no idea a bunch of grapes was such a mighty affair—how should I, when we have bushels and bushels in our grapery."

"It is not for the grapes I care," said Mary, "but"—

"But what, child?"

"I had rather not tell you, if you please, Helen," replied Mary with a dignity that would have become a true Queen; "but I hope you will excuse my appearing rude to you."

Helen at this moment perceived that in her haste to devour the grapes, she had permitted the juice to run down on her precious frock. She was vexed with herself, and vexed with Mary; and she threw down the grapes, and trampled on them.

She was relieved from her awkward and disgraceful position by a call from the coachman, who told her that her mother was already in the carriage awaiting her. She ran off without bidding Mary good by.

Mary did not follow her; she stood bending over her grapes till she heard another carriage drive up to the door, and saw her aunt Ray, and her cousins, Julia and Mary, alight from it.
The girls ran to her, and embraced her most affectionately.

"Come back in the garden with us, Mary," they both said in a breath, and both exclaimed, as they entered, "How sweet pretty your flowers look! Oh Mary, mother is in such a hurry, we must tell you right off what we came for. Mother wants you to come and live with us this winter, and go to dancing-school with us. Oh how delightful it will be! We are to have cotillion parties ; and father says he will take us all to the theatre to see Aladdin, and we are all to spend Thanksgiving at uncle Henry's— but what is the matter, Mary? You do not seem at all pleased."

"Because you know, girls, I cannot go and leave mother."

"Ah, but that is the best of it—your mother is going too—mamma has come to persuade her."

"Oh that will be delightful," said Mary; and she forgot her grapes and her cockscomb, and every trouble on earth, and ran with her cousins to the house.

There they found their mothers so earnestly engaged in conversation, that they did not venture to interrupt them, but returned to the garden, and staid merrily talking till the girls went away. Their last parting words were, "We shall soon be together, and for the whole winter."

As the carriage drove away, Mary sprang up the door steps—ran into the parlor, and jumping into her mother's lap, she threw her arms around her neck, exclaiming, “Oh, how glad I am we are going to stay at Aunt Ray's."

"We are not going there, my dear Mary."

"Not going mother?" exclaimed Mary with a look and tone of dismay—"did not aunt Ray ask us?”

"Yes, she did ask us very kindly."

"And you are not going; and all the dismal winter I must stay here, where there is nothing pleasant."

"Nothing pleasant! my child, you forget your garden."

"In winter, mother, that is nothing; and beside, Helen Gray does not think it is pretty at all, now.

"And your Bantams, Mary, and your pet pigeons—have you forgotten them?"

"Why, they are nothing but common pigeons, mother; Helen says so. But why don't you go to aunt Ray's."

"I have good reasons my child, for not going; but you could not perfectly understand them if I were to tell them. You are a little unreasonable just now; but I trust you will soon be as happy as ever."

"No, mother—no! I never shall be happy again here. Julia and Mary are going to have pleasures all winter; and Helen Gray is living away in all her grandeur. Oh, I wish we were rich again, and had our carriage, and could ride away from this desert place."

Mrs. Smith was distressed at seeing Mary, usually as happy as a lamb frisking on the grass, so discontented and repining.

"My dear child," she said,” I am mortified to hear you express such wrong feelings and foolish wishes; and you really think riches would make us happier than we are?”

"I am sure of it; for then we should not have to live in the country."

"You said yesterday, Mary, you could live any where with me."
Mary coloured a little, but quickly replied, "So I could, mother; but that does not make it out that it is not far pleasanter to live in one place than another." Mary saw her mother looked very grave; and she thought of another reason, which she felt very sure her mother could not answer. "If we were rich, mother, we should have something to give away; but now, what good can we do?"

Mrs. Smith did not reply to her question, but she said, “Mary, something has curdled your sweet disposition to-day. Your head is full of wrong thoughts and false notions. But every body has them, old and young. Some are cured in one way, some in another; and some are never cured at all. I will not talk any more with you now. Get your hat, and we'll take a walk."

The result of this walk will be seen from Mary's letter to her brother.

"To his Majesty, King William; or what is far better, to my own dear brother, Will."

"I have a great deal to say to you, and cannot wait till you get home, though it will be so soon. Soon mother calls it; but to me it seems a great while.

"I have counted the time every way, and ciphered it into hours, minutes and seconds, but I can't shorten it—21 days, 504 hours, 30240 minutes, 1814400 seconds. Only think what a horrible number of seconds! Mother tells me that some great man says, 'an hour may be tedious; but cannot be long.' 1 guess if he had spent an hour waiting for his only darling brother, it would have seemed both tedious and long too. But then we can't expect great folks can know how little ones feel. "Now, William, as we agreed to tell one another every thing that happened, I am going to tell you how badly I behaved the other day; and the good way mother took to drive away all my cross, wrong feelings. Don't you wonder if there are any real children that talk so wise and so good, and always do just the right thing, if it be ever so difficult, as children do in books ? I guess there are no such children in the world; though they really seem alive in some of the books I have read. How I do run on without coming to my story; but some how or other, when I am writing to you, William, I think of so much to say, that I wish I had a pen that would write two lines at once—something like an old woman's tongue, I have heard of, that was fastened in the middle and talked at both ends. But to begin with my story. A certain young lady came here yesterday, I will only write her initials—H. G. She was dressed as fine as a toy shop doll. Mother says Mrs. Grey is almost the only mother in Boston that dresses her children fine. I think it is very silly of her. I will tell you one thing, William, that I have found out—and that is, that there are several grown up people very silly. Well, I wished to please H. and I offered to show her whatever we had that was pretty. In the first place, I called the pigeons; they never looked more beautiful—the sun shone on their necks and they glittered, and looked as if they had been dipped in a rainbow; but Miss H. did not admire them in the least; but tried to make me sick of them. I did not show her my little Bantams, for I knew she would scorn them too; but I led her to the garden, for I thought she could not possibly help admiring that. But no—my lady walked straight along the alley, as if she had neither nose nor eyes, though the flowers were on each side like a rich fringe—till she came near to my most beautiful cockscomb. It was the one you sowed the seeds of, the very last thing you did before you went away, after we carried your trunk to the gate, and while you was waiting for the stagecoach—you remember it. As we were both stooping over the flower bed, you dropped a tear on it. I thought of what Mr. Brown said in his sermon,' that tears often produced good fruits,' and if they did fruits, I did not see why they should not flowers ; so I took particular care of this one cockscomb, and watered it, and grubbed about it every day ; and to be sure it was the most superb one I ever saw— twice, yes, five times as big as our rooster's, that was frozen last winter.* By the way, I have made the funniest little fur-cap for my bantam cockscomb against next winter. Well, Miss H. marched up to this cockscomb, and snapped it off, as if it had been any common thing. I liked to have screamed out; but I kept my lips fast together, and we turned round the seringa and came full in view of my grape vine. Now you know this is my pet and darling, above every thing else. I never look at it without thinking how kind it was of Mr. Perkins to give us such a valuable vine, three years old! And what a tug you had of it bringing it home with all the soil about it; and how you taught me to take care of it, and told me Mr. Perkins said girls and ladies might take the whole care of grape vines, if they would. I never let any body touch it but myself. Every day I bid it good morning with my little trowel, and good night with my watering-pot; *and I have tied it up, and taken out all the false wood. It put out four bunches in the spring; but they all died away but one, and that was a grand one. I looked at it twenty times a day: it grew larger and larger, and the grapes seemed almost crowding one another off the stem, and they had turned purple, and were darker and brighter every day, and mother, and I, and Ben Lacy, all thought they would be just perfectly ripe when you came home. How do you think I felt then, William, when Helen Grey—I must write her name full out this time—jumped forward, and before I could speak, tore off the stem, and began to devour the grapes? I cried, I must own it. I could not possibly help it; and then she was affronted, and threw them down, and trod on them. As I told mother, it was a dreadful sight to see my beautiful grapes all covered with dirt, and trampled on! Mother says, after all, it is one of the lesser miseries of life. If that is the case, don't you hope we shall never have any of the greater, William 1 "As good luck would have it, H.'s mother called her, and they went away; and in their place came our dear Aunt, and Julia and Mary? as rich as Miss H.; but oh how different!— Aunt came to ask mother and I to pass the winter with her, but mother did not consent; and I was so disappointed, and had been so plagued with Helen, that I was cross as a cat, or, as mother says, unreasonable. I fretted about living at Brookline, and about being poor ; and what is worse, William—I will tell you all, for that is the bargain—I tried to excuse myself by turning it off upon our having so little to give away. Now that was not what made me feel so bad— it was not the real truth—and that was what mother cared most about; for you know she hates above all things to have us pretend to be better than we are. However, she did not scold me—that she never does—she did not talk to me either, then; but asked me to go and walk with her. We went down the green lane. It was just at evening, and you know ‘how sweet the hedge smells then—and there was an uncommon number of birds, and especially one bob o'lincoln, singing deliciously, what mother calls their evening hymn; but I don't think it sounds at all like a hymn. I began to think to myself that the country was a pretty decent place after all. Pretty soon we came in sight of Mrs. Warner's house. I must stop and tell you a little about her. She is a very poor woman; but not so very, very poor as some others, because she has a house, and a little land and a cow. Her husband died last spring, and left her with five children and his old bed-ridden mother to take care of. I said five, but I forgot the one in New York, who, she has lately heard, has the consumption. He is a very good young man, and used to help his mother a great deal; but now he has not even money enough to get home. As soon as mother turned towards the house—" There," said I, " if we were only as rich as we used to be, you could have brought Mrs. Warner money enough to send for her son." “Yes, Mary," she said,” but if we do all we can for the poor, we shall not so much regret what we cannot do. I spoke to Mrs. Grey about poor Mrs. Warner— she gives away a great deal of money, and I do not doubt she has stopped and left her something." By this time we got to the house and went in. Mrs. Warner did not appear at all, as she usually does: instead of stepping about quick, and smiling, and speaking pleasantly, she just bowed her head, and after she had set out the chairs for us, she went into the other room; to wipe the tears out of her eyes, I rather think, by their looks when she came back. Old Mrs. Warner, her mother in law, seemed really cross for the first time in her life, though when mother asked her how she was, she answered just the same she always does. 'Thank 'e, ma'am, little better than I was yesterday; but not quite so well as the day before.' I took up the baby and began to play with it; and then the old woman began to talk. You must know William, she is a queer old woman: she talks in such an old fashioned way, and never stops; and her teeth are all gone, and her nose and chin almost meet, and her head shakes all the time. But I will give you a specimen: I shan't put any commas and periods to the sentences, because she has neither pauses nor stops. 'I hope Miss Smith,' she began, ' you and Mary wont surmise we ant glad to see you because we seem so frusticated (frustered) I am sure you are both as pleasant to our sight as light to the eyes; butmy darter and I are as it were upset by a visit from Miss Grey and her gal an airy little piece she is (mother says she meant full of airs) she walked into the room here as if she had been coming into a kanel (kennel) and stood in the middle of the floor and held up her frock as if she were in a muddy road, to be sure Miss Warner had just been mopping and when the baby went up to look at her fine bag she cried out ' hands off hands off and when poor Jemmy come in all covered with mud from being knocked down by a big dog in the road her mother there that Miss Grey gave him ninepence and told him to buy some water to wash his face— Jemmy took the ninepence and chucked it out of the window and if it had been a goold guinea much as we want money I would have been glad to see him do the same when his mother was reflected on for occrdoingness is Miss Warner's besetment—(mother says that she meant that her daughter was too nice) and Ma'am knows the house and the children are always kept like silver—and I too—the Lord reward her—a poor bedridden old soul as I am and not her own mother—I hope ma'am wont be affronted for when I boil over I cant help the words coming out—Miss Grey may be ma'ams friend as she called herself but they are as different as black and white—she gave us money to be sure but that was nothing but an aggravation—she asked me if I had been confined to my bed long, and I told her ten years and I was nothing but an atomy (an anatomy) and I was going to show her my arm— and she said ' keep it under the blanket good woman it makes me sick at my stomach—many is the time ma'am has looked at it and rubbed it too with her soft hand, and I guess her stomach is full as weak as Miss Grey's ; but I can tell her her difficulty lies in her heart and not in her stomach—sick at her stomach indeed ! what does she expect to do when its the Lord's pleasure to send sickness to her and hers—and when I told her I had terrible turns of lethercdge (lethargy) her gal laughed out— but the crowner of all was she came up to the bed and said ' Goody do stop talking one minute, and let me see if your nose and chin really meet'—Does ma'am think money could pay for such insults? To be sure she gave my darter ten dollars and she wants it bad enough to getjpoor John home—but its the hardest piece of humiliation we ever experienced yet to take it from her—I tell you what it is Mary Smith that does ithe poor most good—a kind word kindly spoken—when your mother comes here and sits down by my bed and convarses with me about my difficulties and talks to my darter and the young ones jist like a book only more understandingly (intelligibly) and when you come down and read to me you read full equal to a church minister—and teach Jemmy and Sally their hymns and writing—that's what feels good to us—it seems as if you thought we had the same natur and I guess that is what Miss Grey never thought of—and if she were to make me a present of the bank of England I should not feel thankful for it."

"I have given you a pretty large sample of the poor woman's talk, but I had no idea how much paper it would fill. The hardest hearted thing of all was, Mrs. Grey's telling Mrs. Warner she ought to send her mother to the alms-house; and when Mrs. Warner told her she did not feel as if she could ever do that—' oh' says she, ' when poverty comes into the door, you should let your feelings fly up the chimney !' Mrs. Warner said, ' my feelings are my greatest comfort ma'am.' Mother says she believes this is true; for there was never any body who had better feelings.

“My letter is so very long I am afraid you will be tired; and I will only just tell you what mother said coming home, because I think it will do me good and may do you good too. I wish I could put mother's sweet voice into my letter; but you will remember well enough how it sounds.

" My dear child,' she said, ' old Mrs. Warner has answered the question you asked me before we came out: ' Mother, what good can we do, when we have nothing to give away?' It would be a grief indeed, Mary, if in losing our fortune we had lost the power of doing good. But you see there are charities the poor value more than the gift of money. In all our intercourse with the poor we should never forget they have, as old Mrs. Warner said, the same nature we have; the same faculties and affections; that the accidents of life, far more than our own merits, have placed them in one station, and us in another: that though they may have uncultivated minds in awkward bodies, yet those minds are immortal, like our own; those bodies, like ours, destined to suffer and perish. That the only difference our Creator and Judge will mark between us, will be the degrees of goodness; and when you think of Mrs. Grey, seeking her own pleasure, frivolous and selfish; and Mrs. Warner, humble and patient, and devoting her life to others, you will perceive the justice of the reverse in another world, of the condition in this. 'The high shall be cast down and the humble exalted.' Sympathy, Mary, is the key that unlocks all hearts. By sympathy I mean the feeling you have when you dismiss all thoughts of yourself, and enter into the feelings of another. It is my sympathy and yours, with this poor family that has won their hearts. I listen to all the old woman's tedious complaints. I enter into her daughter's sorrows and apprehensions and disappointments: and you my dear child, are patient in instructing the children: you show that you have their improvement at heart, because no weather keeps you at home, when the time comes for giving them their lessons. You do not carry them money; but you seldom So without a little basket of strawberries, or of some other fruit, or a bunch of flowers; and they see you take pleasure in their pleasure. 'Now Mary' you know it is not my habit to praise ourselves—I think it far better to go to others for examples of virtue when I am instructing you : but now I thought the best way to tell you what ' good we can do,' was to fix your mind on the good, the old woman says we have done.

“One thing, my child, let me caution you against. It is a vulgar notion that all rich people are selfish and cold hearted. I know many, many rich people who bestow their gifts so freely and so tenderly, that we may say they are ' like apples of silver in baskets of gold :' that is, that the manner and feeling with which they are given, are still more beautiful and valuable than the gift.'

"Dear William, I made a great many mistakes in writing down what mother said; but she corrected them for me; and the rest of my letter I have written without being helped at all. I hate to be helped; don't you?

“Mother has not yet told me why she does not go to aunt Ray's to spend the winter: but now my bad feelings have cleared off, I am sure she does right; and besides, as the old ladies say, I don't think it would be at all suitable to leave my family, (pigeons and bantams,) in the winter: and mother and I have a great many plans of reading and studying, and making new-year's gifts. But hush; I must not let out that secret. Writing to you, William, is just like opening the door of a bird-cage; everything that is in my heart flies out.

"21 days, 504 hours, 30240 minutes, 1814400 seconds, and then dear Will, you will return to your affectionate sister MARY.

"Postscript. Mother says you must not skip her little bit of a sermon when you read the letter; but I am not afraid—you are never tired of what mother says.—M. S.

"N. B. A pretty long letter, I think, for a girl not eight years old!—M. S,"

*Our young town readers may not know that the fowls are very apt to have their combs frozen in extreme cold weather.



Sedgwick, Catharine M. Stockbridge, S. , “"Mary Smith",” Sedgwick Stories: The Periodical Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick, accessed September 28, 2022, https://sedgwickstories.omeka.net/items/show/7.

Social Bookmarking