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A Red Wallflower by Susan Warner

''She is a lace mender' 'A lace mender


'Now,'

said Betty, 'I suppose I may ask. What did you take me to that last place for?'

'That will appear in due time. What did you think of it?'

'It is difficult to tell you what I think of it. Is much of London like that?'

'Much of it is far worse.'

'Well, there is nothing like that in New York or Washington.'

'Do not be too sure. There is something like that wherever rich men are congregated in large numbers to live.'

'Rich men!' cried Betty.

'Yes. So far as I know, this sort of thing is to be found nowhere else, but where rich men dwell. It is the growth of their desire for large incomes. That woman we visited--what did you think of her?'

'She impressed me very much, and oddly. I could not quite read her look. She seemed to be in a manner hostile, not to you, but I thought to all the world beside; a disagreeable look!'

'She is a lace-mender'--

'A lace-mender!' broke in Betty. 'Down in that den of darkness?'

'And she pays-- Did you see where she lived?'

'I saw a room not bigger than a good-sized box; is that all?'

'There is an inner room--or

box--without windows, where she and her child sleep. For that lodging that woman pays half-a-crown a week--that is, about five shillings American money--to one of the richest noblemen in England.'

'A nobleman!' cried Betty.

'The Duke of Trefoil.'

'A nobleman!' Betty repeated. 'A duke, and a lace-mender, and five shillings a week!'

'The glass roofs of his hothouses and greenhouses would cover an acre of ground. His wife sits in a boudoir opening into a conservatory where it is summer all the year round; roses bloom and violets, and geraniums wreathe the walls, and palm trees are grouped around fountains. She eats ripe strawberries every day in the year if she chooses, and might, like Judah, "wash her feet in the blood of the grape," the fruit is so plenty, the while my lace-mender strains her eyes to get half-a-crown a week for his Grace. All that alley and its poor crowded lodgings belong to him.'

'I don't wonder she looks bitter, poor thing. Do you suppose she knows how her landlord lives?'

'I doubt if she does. She perhaps never heard of the house and gardens at Trefoil Park. But in her youth she was a servant in a good house in the country,--not so great a house,--and she knows something of the difference between the way the rich live and the poor. She is very bitter over the contrast, and I cannot much blame her!'

'Yet it is not just.'

'Which?' said Pitt, smiling.

'That feeling of the poor towards the rich.'

'Is it not? It has some justice. I was coming home one night last winter, late, and found my way obstructed by the crowd of arrivals to an entertainment given at a certain great house. The house stood a little back from the street, and carpeting was laid down for the softly shod feet to pass over. Of course there were gathered a small crowd of lookers-on, pressing as near as they were allowed to come; trying to catch, if they might, a gleam or a glitter from the glories they could not approach. I don't know if the contrast struck them, but it struck me; the contrast between those satin slippers treading the carpet, and the bare feet standing on the muddy stones; feet that had never known the touch of a carpet anywhere, nor of anything else either clean or soft.'


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