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art of dressmaking, which could not be entrusted to the aforesaid machines.
It was a very comfortable room, well ventilated and nicely carpeted, with a pleasant look-out from the windows on to the flat-leaded roof of a projecting parlour below— pleasant, because the nakedness of the dull roof was almost covered and hidden by evergreen shrubs in pots and boxes prettily arranged. It was winter, near the end of the year. In spring the shrubs would be removed, and replaced by a fresh arrangement of flowering plants, which through the whole summer would regale and cheer the happy company in the workroom, with a succession of lovely tints and delicious perfumes.
The happy company in the workroom f This is not written ironically, but in sober earnest. Mrs. Gee was a loving disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in her 'ordinary calling she did not think of putting her religion " on the shelf," but made manifest that it is possible to be "not slothful in business * while "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Her Christian consideration embraced the whole course of her large' and prosperotts boss-mess. Her customers liked and respected her because she was moderate and conscientious in her charges; also, because she did not promise what she knew herself to be unable to perform. Her employees loved her because not only was the law of kindness on her lips, bat in her heart. Whatever might be the case in other establishments, they were' not over-1 worked, ill-fed, and uncased for. On the contrary, Mrs. Gee really entertained the- notion that her assistants and dependents were not only very much, but altogether like herself in all matters of humanity and feeling; and she treated them accordingly. They were made to understand and feel that their employer really cared for them—not only cared, too, for their personal comfort, but for their souls. Don't smile incredulously, reader; dressmakers have souls.
If you had looked round on the young people as they sat busily plying their needles, you could not have wished to see a more cheerful looking company. There were no sallow, unwholesome countenances; no bodily frames showing symptoms of early distortion because of long sitting at what is generally considered to be an unhealthy occupation; no discontented, scowling faces. Several -were pious young women, for Mrs. Gee preferred giving employmerit to such; and others, who were not thus decided, were under the restraint of religious association, and were modest, well-conducted, and intelligent.
Mrs. Gee's workroom was a sight worth seeing by curious female eyes on that particular winter's day. For some time almost all the young seamstresses had been busy in preparing a bridal outfit for a young lady whose wedding-day was quickly drawing near, and only the last few finishing strokes were needed to be put to some of the garments preparatory to their being packed up and sent to their destination. Meanwhile the room was gay and bright with those rich and rare joint products of the loom and needle, which may be better imagined than described.
"There, I think I have put the last stitch to that," said Lucy Smith, as she snipped asunder the silken thread which connected her needle with the beautiful robe which she then held up to the admiring gaze of her companions. It was the wedding-dress.
"Isn't it lovely?" she asked, with pardonable enthusiasm. And then Lucy sighed very gently, and yet just audibly. It might have been a sigh of relief, that the responsible work was turned out of hand without accident; or it might have been a sigh of regret that she could never expect to wear such an expensive robe on any possible occasion.
The other young women looked up at the object of admiration thus held at arm's length by flushed little Lucy, and gave it due meed of praise.
"Four hundred pounds! They say that Miss K—'s father gave her a cheque for four hundred pounds, only to provide her own wedding outfit," said Lucy.
"He can very well afford it, I suppose," another remarked, "if all that is said is true. He is thought to be
the richest man in C , and he has certainly settled a
large fortune on his daughter."
"And Miss K—'s husband, that is to be, is very rich too, isn't he?" asked a third speaker.
"He is said to be," replied the other; "at any rate he has spent a great deal of money in furnishing the house they are to live in; and he would hardly be allowed to marry Miss K— if he were not pretty nearly as well off as her father."
'' Well, it does not matter to us," said Lucy, as she tenderly conveyed the beautiful and delicate dress to a glazed wardrobe; "only "And then she filled in the unfinished sentence with another gentle sigh.
"Only what, Lucy?" The voice was Mrs. Gee's, who had entered the workroom while the little conversation was going on, and had noticed her young dressmaker's flushed face and her scarcely audible sigh.
Mrs. Gee was lovingly disposed towards Lucy Smith. She had known Lucy from childhood, before she received her into her employ as an outdoor apprentice first, and afterwards as an assistant, or regular hand; and she had always found her teachable and trustworthy. Lucy was intelligent, and, for her station, well-educated; so too was Mrs. Gee; and this similarity had drawn out the employer's sympathies towards her dependant. Another reason why Mrs. Gee had an almost tender regard for Lucy was, that they were not only fellow Christians — sisters in the common faith, and members of the same church—but that the instructions and affectionate solicitude, the example and the prayers of the pious tradeswoman had been instrumental in bringing her young servant to religious decision. In a spiritual and Scriptural sense, therefore, Mrs. Gee and Lucy stood to each other in the relationship of mother and child.
It was very kindly, then, that Mrs. Gee interposed the interrogatory, " Only what, Lucy?"
"Only it must be pleasant to be rich, ma'am," said Lucy, straightforwardly, but with a little blush.
"I am not sure that it must be pleasant, my dear; that would depend on circumstances. Eiches do not make up the sum of human happiness. They are not even a principal ingredient in it."
"No, ma'am, I suppose not," said Lucy, who by this time had resumed her seat and taken up a fresh piece of work which was waiting for her.
"And yet, Lucy, you sighed as though you almost envied Miss K— the happiness which seems to lie before her, and which you fancied to be beyond your reach," said the lady, with a smile.
"I don't think 1 envy her, ma'am; I am sure she is not really to be envied," returned the young dressmaker; "for I do not believe that riches have made her happy, at any rate."
"Perhaps not, Lucy; but we will not speculate upon that," said Mrs. Gee, rather checkingly; for she did not choose that her customers and their peculiarities should be too much, or more than could be avoided, talked of in the workroom.
"I was only thinking, ma'am, how much good might be done by having plenty of money."
"Having plenty of money will do no good to any person, by itself," remarked the lady.
"No, ma'am; but I mean that having money helps anyone to be of so much use in the world."
"If the heart be in the right place, not otherwise. Well, you have told me your thoughts—some of them; shall I tell you what I am thinking at this moment?"
"If you wouldn't mind, ma'am," said the young dressmaker, looking up from her work, and then returning to it as she spoke.
"I do not mind. I am thinking that among other persons you, for instance, Lucy, have the power, if the will be present, to be as useful in the world without money as many persons are who have plenty of money—to use your own expression."
"Me, ma'am! only a poor dressmaker? How can I be useful in the world?" asked Lucy.
Here the conversation broke off, so that the question was not answered then. It was so long a time before it was answered that Lucy had almost forgotten having asked it .
A YEAR AFTER.
Sunday and New Year's Day came together—that is, they were one and the same day that year; and Lucy was specially invited to take tea with her kind-hearted Christian employer. Being thus by themselves, there was no barrier to free intercourse.
"Lucy," said Mrs. Gee; "you asked me a question a year ago which I did not answer."
"Did I, ma'am?"
"It was on the occasion of Miss K—'s marriage; and you asked how a poor dressmaker could possibly be of any use in the world, in comparison, of course, with one who is largely blessed with means of doing good."
"Did I say that, ma'am? But I do not think I could have really meant to complain of being what I am," said Lucy, hesitatingly.
"No, no; you did not altogether complain, my dear; though there might have been a shade of discontent on your heart, just then. However, I am glad to think it soon passed away. But your question still remains; and I will answer it now. I could have answered it then; but I preferred to leave it for a while. You have had a year's experienoe since that time, and are a year older in your Christian, as well as your natural life; and my answer, in fact, will be drawn from those experiences of yours. For I wish to show you, my dear Lucy, how you have practically refuted your own argument."
"My argument, ma'am?"
"Yes; your argument was what I have just stated,— that a young person in your position has no opportunities for usefulness to God and her fellow-creatures."
"I am afraid I have thought so sometimes," said Lucy; "or, at least that the opportunities are very small and trifling."
"Very well, my dear; then I wish to show you that they are neither small nor trifling."
"Small and trifling, 1 mean, in comparison with those of others," said Lucy.
"Yes, Lucy, in comparison with those powers of usefulness belonging, for instance, to that rich young lady whose bridal dresses you had been helping to make, a year ago. Well, we will say nothing about her and her powers, because it is not for us to judge of them; but it is for us to judge of ourselves. Now, let us think. In the first place, have you not been useful to your parents?"
"It is very little that I have been able to do for them when I think of what they have done for me," said Lucy, with tears ready to start from her swimming eyes.
"Very true, my dear. I know that they were kind and loving; lhat they trained you in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; that they gave you a good education; and that if unforeseen circumstances and reverses had not taken place in their history, they would have done better for you than making 'a poor dressmaker' of you. These are your own words, Lucy, or I would not use them," said Mrs. Gee, with a genial smile. "But," she continued, "they did the best they could for you under the circumstances, and endured some piivations for your comfort and advantage. I admit all this; and admit, too, that no