In the midst of Belle’s story, a more exciting bit of gossip caught her ear, and she plunged into the conversation going on across the table, leaving Polly free to listen and admire the wit, wisdom, and charitable spirit of the accomplished young ladies about her. There was a perfect Babel of tongues, but out of the confusion Polly gathered scraps of fashionable intelligence which somewhat lessened her respect for the dwellers in high places. One fair creature asserted that Joe Somebody took so much champagne at the last German, that he had to be got away, and sent home with two servants. Another divulged the awful fact that Carrie P.’s wedding presents were half of them hired for the occasion. A third circulated a whisper to the effect that though Mrs. Buckminster wore a thousand-dollar cloak, her boys were not allowed but one sheet to their beds. And a fourth young gossip assured the company that a certain person never had offered himself to a certain other person, though the report was industriously spread by interested parties. This latter remark caused such a clamour that Fanny called the meeting to order in a most unparliamentary fashion.

“Girls! girls! you really must talk less and sew more, or our society will be disgraced. Do you know our branch sent in less work than any of the others last month, and Mrs. Fitz-George said she didn’t see how fifteen young ladies could manage to do so little?”

“We don’t talk a bit more than the old ladies do. I just wish you could have heard them go on, last time. The way they get so much done is, they take work home, and make their seamstresses do it, and then they take credit for vast industry,” said Belle, who always spoke her mind with charming candour.

“That reminds me that mamma says they want as many things as we can make, for it’s a hard winter, and the poor are suffering very much. Do any of you wish to take articles home, to do at odd times?” said Fan, who was president of this energetic Dorcas Society.

“Mercy, no! It takes all my leisure time to mend my gloves and refresh my dresses,” answered Belle.

“I think if we meet once a week, it is all that should be expected of us, with our other engagements. Poor people always complain that the winter is a hard one, and never are satisfied,” remarked Miss Perkins, making her diamonds sparkle as she sewed buttons on the wrong side of a pink calico apron, which would hardly survive one washing.

“Nobody can ask me to do any more, if they remember all I’ve got to attend to before summer,” said Trix, with an important air. “I’ve got three women hard at work, and want another, but everyone is so busy, and they ask such abominable prices, that I’m in despair, and shall have to take hold myself, I’m afraid.”

“There’s a chance for Jane,” thought Polly, but hadn’t courage “to speak out loud in meeting”, just then, and resolved to ask Trix for work, in private.

“Prices are high, but you forget how much more it costs to live now than it used to do. Mamma never allows us to beat down workwomen, but wishes us to pay them well, and economize in some other way, if we must,” said Emma Davenport, a quiet, bright-eyed girl, who was called “odd” among the young ladies, because she dressed simply, when her father was a millionaire.

“Just hear that girl talk about economy! I beg your pardon, she’s some relation of yours, I believe!” said Belle, in a low tone.

“Very distant; but I’m proud of it; for with her, economy doesn’t mean scrimping in one place to make a show in another. If everyone would follow the Davenport’s example, workwomen wouldn’t starve, or servants be such a trouble. Emma is the plainest dressed girl in the room, next to me, yet anyone can see she is a true gentlewoman,” said Polly, warmly.

“And you are another,” answered Belle, who had always loved Polly, in her scatter-brained way.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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