Bertha's Grandmother by Unknown
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
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.
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
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.
"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."
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!
"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
"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
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
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."
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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."
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.