Bertha's Grandmother by Unknown

[Illustration]

Bertha Gilbert was fourteen years of age, and had just come home from boarding school, where she had finished her first year—a very nice, pleasant school, of about thirty girls, besides the day-scholars; and Mrs. Howard made it, as she promised, a kind of social family, giving each one her personal attention and care. Bertha had improved a great deal in her studies and deportment, and was a very lady-like, agreeable girl.

But as no little boys and girls are perfect, or large ones either, for that matter, I am going to tell you what a mistake Bertha made, and how she was cured of a feeling that might have settled into a very disagreeable habit. Indeed, I have met some grown people who have fallen into the way of treating elderly members of the family with a disregard that bordered on contempt.

[Illustration: "<i>There was one handsome house which Bertha had often
admired.</i>"]

Bertha was delighted to be at home once more, to be clasped to her dear mother's heart, to find her father quite improved in health, and her two little brothers as merry as ever; and to meet her dear old grandmother, an old lady who was nearly eighty years of age, yet bright and active, with a fair, sweet face, and silvery hair, which was nearly all covered with a fine muslin cap, the border being crimped in the daintiest fashion you ever saw.

I used to think she looked just like a picture, of a summer afternoon, when she put on a fresh cap and kerchief,—as she used to call the white half square of lawn that she wore round her shoulders,—and her clean, checked apron. In spite of her years, she did a great deal of work around the house, and I do not believe George and Willie would have known how to live without her.

The Gilberts were in very moderate circumstances, for Mr. Gilbert had been compelled to leave his business and retire to the country on account of ill health. This little village of Hillside was a very pretty place. A river ran on one side, and on the opposite side ran a railroad that led directly to New York. Consequently a great many rich and fashionable people lived here, as well as a poorer class.

There was one handsome house which Bertha had often admired. It was the home of very wealthy people—Mr. and Mrs. Bell. The lawn and gardens were very beautiful, and they had an elegant greenhouse and a grapery, indeed, everything that heart could wish. Then Mrs. Bell had traveled nearly all over Europe, and had visited China.

Bertha had met two of Mrs. Bell's nieces at school; one was a young lady, and the other a little girl not quite as old as herself; but somehow she and Ada Wilson became great friends. The two girls were to visit Mrs. Bell during their vacation, and Ada had promised to spend a day with Bertha—indeed, to come to see her often.

"For Aunt Bell is such a great lady," Ada had said, "and there are no children; so I'm afraid I shall be lonesome; and you must return my calls."

The idea of going to the grand house quite elated Bertha. She told it over to her mother with a great deal of pleasure.

But nothing ever happens just as one wants it. The Gilberts' parlor had been repapered, and there was some delay in getting down the new carpet. They would surely be in order by the time the Wilsons arrived, Bertha thought to herself one afternoon, as she brought her tiny workbasket to the sitting room and took out a piece of braiding to finish.

There was a long piazza across the front of the house. In the center was the hall door—the parlor being on one side, the sitting room on the other. As Bertha's eyes roved idly out of the window, she saw Mrs. Bell's beautiful grays coming down the road, and a carriage full of ladies. Why, they were actually stopping; the man handed out two ladies and a little girl, and opened the gate for them.

Indeed, the Wilsons had reached Hillside a week earlier than they had expected. When Ada spoke of her friend, Mrs. Bell proposed that they should call as early as possible, so that Ada and Bertha might see the more of each other.

[Illustration: "<i>O mother! here they are,</i>"]

"O, mother!" Bertha exclaimed, in astonishment, "here they are—Ada and Miss Frances, and their aunt."

"Go and receive them, my dear," said her mother rising.

Mrs. Bell was very gracious, and with a certain unassuming sweetness that immediately set at ease every one with whom she met. She and Mrs. Gilbert exchanged very pleasant greetings. Then they were all led into the sitting room, and Bertha flushed a little. She seemed to see all its shabbiness at a glance—the worn spot of carpet by her father's desk, and another in front of the sofa, the old-fashioned furniture, and grandmother sitting there in her corner, knitting a blue yarn stocking.

Grandma Gilbert rose and courtesied to the ladies. Her dress had no fashionable trail, but showed her low prunella shoes and white, home-knit stockings. She was a prim little body, looking as neat as a pin, but very old-fashioned.

Mrs. Bell presently crossed over to her. "It looks quite like old times to see any one knitting," she said, in her low, pleasant voice. "I think there ought to be a grandmother in every house; they always give a place such a comfortable, homelike look. I remember how my great-grandmother used to knit when I was a little girl."

"It isn't of much account," returned grandmother. "Stockings are so cheap nowadays; but I do think hum-knit wears better for boys. Willie and George do scour out stockings 'mazin' fast. And then it serves to keep an old woman like me busy."

[Illustration: <i>"It looks quite like old times to see anyone
knitting."</i>]

Ada Wilson glanced up with a peculiar look, and Bertha flushed. The young ladies at Mrs. Howard's were taught to pronounce their words correctly, and were not allowed to use any careless phrases.

Mrs. Bell continued the conversation, however, and grandmother did her best to be entertaining. But she was old-fashioned, and confused her grammar in various ways. Ada, in the meantime, showed a strong disposition to laugh, and finally begged Bertha to take her out to look at the flowers.

"O dear!" she exclaimed, as they went around the walk at the side of the house; "O dear! Isn't your grandmother a funny old woman! I couldn't keep my face sober." Ada laughed as if she considered it very amusing.

Bertha ought to have understood that this was very ill-bred, and espoused her grandmother's cause at once; but instead of that she was ashamed of her, and felt like crying. If she could only have taken her guests into the parlor, where they would not have seen grandma!

[Illustration: "<i>Isn't your grandmother a funny old woman?</i>"]

"Such a funny old woman, with that immense check apron! Bertha, she looks like some of the little old lady pincushions that I've seen, and she makes such a queer mouth when she talks. She hasn't a tooth in her head, has she? and I guess they didn't teach grammar when she went to school. Why do you let her wear that white cap? all the old ladies that I know wear black lace caps, with ribbons. I thought I should laugh outright when she made that little dip of curtsy."

"But she is real old," said Bertha, deprecatingly, "and she has lived in the country most of her life."

"I should think she had come from the backwoods! I wonder she doesn't make you wear 'hum-knit' stockings; or don't you 'scour yours out?' O dear!"

"It is not right to laugh at old persons," Bertha said, summoning all her courage; yet she was mortified and humiliated in the extreme.

"Oh! I don't mean anything, you know—only it's so funny! You ought to see my grandmother. She is nearly eighty, I believe, but she only owns to seventy."

Bertha was too deeply hurt to make any comment. Then Ada kissed her and coaxed her into good humor, telling her of the enjoyments Aunt Bell had in preparation.

When they returned to the room, Mrs. Bell was preparing to leave, and the carriage stood at the gate.

"We have decided on Thursday, Ada," Mrs. Bell said to her niece; "and, Miss Bertha, I have coaxed your grandmother to pay me a visit. I think a pleasant old lady, in possession of all her faculties, is rare good company—quite a treat for me. Now, Mrs. Gilbert, I shall send the carriage, and you will be sure not to disappoint me, if you are well."

"You are very kind, indeed;" and grandmother gave another little "dip of a curtsy."

Bertha looked amazed.

She was very quiet after her visitors had gone. Her mother appeared to admire Miss Frances Wilson, and grandma said of Mrs. Bell: "She's a tender, true-hearted Christian lady."

[Illustration: "<i>I am disappointed.</i>"]

"Mother," said Bertha, the next day, when they were alone; "couldn't you fix grandma up a little to go to Mrs. Bell's?"

"Why, she has a nice brown silk dress to wear, and a clean cap and kerchief."

"But she looks so—so—old-fashioned, mother."

"My dear, she is an old-fashioned lady. I think she looks a great deal prettier than to be dressed like people thirty or forty years younger than she is."

"But—"

"O Bertha! you are not ashamed of dear old grandmother?" and Mrs. Gilbert looked at her daughter in amazement. Bertha's cheeks flushed, and tears came to her eyes.

"My little daughter, I am deeply pained!"

Some way the story came out, and Bertha sobbed away her mortified feeling.

"My dear Bertha!" her mother said, "I am disappointed to see you show so little true courage and warmth of heart. Ada Wilson has certainly shown herself very ill-bred and heartless in thus criticising so old a person to one of her own relatives. I am not sure but it would be better to decline the invitation altogether."

"O mother! I do not think Ada meant any real harm. She laughs at the girls, and mimics everybody; but she's real good and generous, for all that. And grandma does make mistakes."

"But even if she does, Bertha, when you are tempted to despise your dear old grandmother, I want you to think of her life. When she was a little girl, twelve years old, she went to work in a mill, to help her mother take care of her younger brothers and sisters, and then afterward she took the whole charge of the family upon herself.

"Fifty-three years ago she married a plain farmer, and went West, into what was a wilderness at that time. In her turn, she was left a widow, with a large family, and I shall always honor her for the wisdom she displayed. It would be hard to find four better men than your uncles and papa.

[Illustration: <i>Grandma's Early Home in the Wilderness.</i>]

"Aunt Bessy was poor and had a great deal of trouble, but grandma staid with her to the very last, and now she has come to me. I really don't know what I should do without her, and her life has been most praiseworthy in every respect. She would give her life for any of us. Suppose she were cross and fretful, and thought, as some old ladies do, that we ought to work every moment, and never take a bit of pleasant recreation.

"Instead of this, she is a genial, tender-hearted woman, serving God and doing good every day of her life, and I am sure Mrs. Bell honors her.

"Suppose, Bertha, that I began to fret at her old-fashioned ways, the caps she loves to wear, and the manner in which she expresses herself? It would make her nervous and timid, and if she thought we were growing ashamed of her, I really believe her heart would break. Would you be willing to give her such a wound?"

"Oh, no," returned Bertha, sobbing. "Dear grandmother."

"I think the commandment to honor one's father and mother takes in one's grandparents equally. And, most of all, I want to see my little daughter brave enough to respect true worth, even if it is not clad in fashionable garments, and fresh from school."

[Illustration: <i>The Carriage Came for Grandma.</i>]

Bertha began to think she had been very weak and foolish, and after a long talk with her mother, she resolved that Ada should never speak so disrespectfully in her presence again.

And so, when Mrs. Bell's carriage came, they started on their visit, grandma looking as fresh and sweet as a rose. In spite of the fact that she was wrinkled, her skin was white and clear, and her soft brown eyes were overflowing with love.

Mrs. Bell welcomed them warmly; but she took possession of grandma, while the young folks amused themselves.

Such a lovely home as it was; full of curiosities, beautiful pictures, handsome statues and elegant furniture!

Some unexpected visitors came in the afternoon, and Bertha found her grandma quite the center of attraction. She overheard one lady say: "What a charming old lady! I feel like envying her relatives."

As for Ada, she made no further remarks. Her sister had been shocked at her thoughtless levity, and had threatened to inform Aunt Bell, of whom she stood in awe; and so Bertha had a very pleasant visit.

She grew up with a sense of respect for old age; and Bertha Gilbert's pretty manners were often remarked upon. If she met with people less refined than herself, or poorly educated, instead of ridiculing them, she tried to think of their hard lives and few advantages, and was most tender and gracious.

Let us all try to be kind to the poor and aged, for some of them are God's choicest jewels.