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parently, the examination was not very satisfactory, for he let the coat fall, in a careless manner, across a chair, giving his shoulders a shrug, while a slight expression of contempt flitted over his countenance.
“ Not much good !” fell from his lips after a pause.
By this time I had turned to his basket, and was examining, more carefully, its contents. Most prominent stood the china vases, upon which my heart was already set; and instinctively I took them in my hands.
“What will you give for the coat ?” said I.
The old man gave his head a significant shake, as he replied
“No very good.”
“It's worth something," I returned. .“ Many a poor person would be glad to buy it for a small sum of money. It's only å little defaced. I'm sure its richly worth four or five dollars.”
“Pho! Pho! Five dollar! Pho!” The old man seemed angry at my most unreasonable assumption.
“Well, well,” said I, beginning to feel a little impatient, “just tell me what you will give for it.”
“ What you want ?” he enquired, his manner visibly changing
“I want these vases, at any rate,” I answered, holding up the articles I had mentioned.
“Worth four, five dollar!” ejaculated the dealer, in well feigned surprise.
I shook my head. He shrugged his shoulders,
and commenced searching his basket, from which, after a while, he took a china cup and saucer, on which I read, in gilt letters, “For my Ilusband.”
“Give you this,” said he.
It was now my time to show surprise; I answered—
“ Indeed you won't, then. But I'll tell you what I will do; I'll let you have the coat for the vases and this cup and saucer.”
To this proposition the man gave an instant and decided negative, and seemed half offended by my offer. He threw the coat, which was in his hands again, upon a chair, and stooping down took his basket on his arm. I was deceived by his manner, and began to think that I had proposed rather a hard bargain; so I said“ You can have the coat for the vases, if
you care to make the exchange; if not, why no harm is done.”
For the space of nearly half a minute, the old man stood in apparent irresolution, then he replied, as he set down his basket and took out the pair of vases
“I don't care; you shall have them.”
I took the vases and he took the coat. A moment or two more, and I heard the street door close behind the dealer in china ware, with a very decided jar.
“ Ain't they beautiful, aunty ?” said I to my old aunt Rachel, who had been a silent witness of the scene I have just described ; and I held the pair of vases before her eyes.
“Why yes, they are rather pretty, Jane,” replied aunt Rachel, a little coldly, as I thought.
“ Rather pretty! They are beautiful,” said I warmly. “See there!" And I placed them on the dining room mantle. “How much they will improve our parlors.”
* Not half so much as that old coat you as good as gave away would have improved the feelings as well as the looks of poor Mr. Bryan, who lives across the street," was the unexpected and rebuking answer of aunt Rachel.
The words smote on my feelings. Mr. Bryan was a poor, but honest and industrious young man, upon whose daily labor a wife and five children were dependent. He went meanly clad, because he could not earn enough, in addition to what his family required, to buy comfortable clothing for himself. I saw, in an instant, what the true disposition of the coat should have been. The china vases would a little improve the appearance of my parlors; but how many pleasant feelings and hours and days of comfort, would the old coat have given to Mr. Bryan. I said
Aunt Rachel went on with her knitting, and I took the vases down into the parlors and placed them on the mantles—one in each room. But they looked small, and seemed quite solitary. So I put one on each end of a single mantle. This did better; still, I was disappointed in the appearance they made, and a good deal displeased with myself. I felt that I had made a bad bargain—that is, one from which I should obtain no real pleasure.
For a while I sat opposite the mantle-piece,
looking at the vases—but, not admiringly; then I left the parlor, and went about my household duties, but, with a pressure on my feelings. I was far, very far from being satisfied with myself.
About an hour afterwards my husband came home. I did not take him into the parlor to show him my little purchase, for, I had no heart to do so. As we sat at the tea table, he said, addressing me
“You know that old coat of mine that is up in the clothes-press ?"
I nodded my head in assent, but did not venture to speak.
“ I've been thinking to-day,” added my husband, “that it would be just the thing for Mr. Bryan, who lives opposite. I'ts rather too much worn for me, but will look quite decent on him, compared with the clothes he now wears. Don't you think it is a good thought ? We will, of course, make him a present of the garment.
My eyes drooped to the table, and I felt the blood crimsoning my face. For a moment or two I remained silent, and then answered“I'm sorry you didn't think of this before
; but it's too late now."
“ Too late! Why?” enquired my husband.
“I sold the coat this afternoon," was my reply.
“ Sold it !”
“ Yes. A man came along with some handsome china ornaments, and I sold the coat for a pair of vases to set on our mantle-pieces."
There was an instant change in my husband's face. He disapproved of what I had done; and,
though he uttered no condemning words, his countenance gave too clear an index to his feelings.
“The coat would have done poor Mr. Byran a great deal more good than the vases will ever do Jane," spoke up aunt Rachel, with less regard for my feelings than was manifested by my husband. “I don't think,” she continued, “that any body ought to sell old clothes for either money or nicknackeries to put on the mantlepieces. Let them be given to the poor, and they'll do some good. There isn't a housekeeper in moderate circumstances that couldn't almost clothe some poor family, by giving away the cast off garments that every year accumulate on her hands."
How sharply did I feel the rebuking spirit in these words of aunt Rachel.
“What's done can't be helped now," said my husband kindly, interrupting, as he spoke, some further remarks that aunt Rachel evidently intended to make. “We must do better next time.”
"I must do better," was my quick remark, made in penitent tones. “I was very thought
To relieve my mind, my husband changed the subject of conversation; but, nothing could relieve the pressure upon my feelings, caused by a too acute consciousness of having done what in the eyes of my husband, looked like a want of true humanity. I could not bear that he should think me void of sympathy for others.
The day following was Sunday. Church time came, and Mr. Smith went to the clothes press