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Anne and Tilly

Creator: Mary A. Denison (author)
Date: 1869
Publisher: Alfred Martien
Source: Straight Ahead Pictures Collection
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3

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A homely room, so very poor and homely! And God bless the sunshine, say I, the noble, glorious king of day that in all his greatness and splendor loves just as dearly to fling his beautiful golden beams in the humblest cottage, as in yonder great palace built of fine marble, and furnished with the richest things that money can buy. How he seemed to rejoice in reddening the posts of that old, worn bedstead, bought at the cheapest of cheap auctions -- indeed I am not sure that it had not seen the light, or rather the darkness of a good many auction-sales. Every one of the three chairs, reduced to their original color, by frequent scouring, had passed from owner to owner, and many were the stories they might have told, could they have spoken. There was just one yard of carpeting, all told, placed before the old bedstead, before spoken of, and its faded flowers revived every morning at seven, when that wonderful sunshine laid upon it, as if it had been the most beautiful rug in the city, all woven of silk and velvet. There were pictures on the walls of this poor room, and such pictures! Some people might have laughed at them, and cried out, "Oh! what a farce!" Here and there hung a fine fashion plate cut from a magazine; an illustration, coarse and common, that the torn newspapers furnished when they came into patient Tilly's hands. That was very seldom indeed. There was a little lame boy who always wore a red scarf, and who sold papers, living in the next room, which was meaner than Tilly's, who saved every picture he could find for the girl. And the mother, coarse and uncoated though she was, hunted for refuse newspapers, and happy enough she was when she could find a picture for Tilly to cut out.


Who was Tilly? I've been waiting for you to ask. Picture a saint's face that has grown holy with waiting and suffering with the meekest eyes and the sweetest smile that were ever seen in this poor wicked world, set on a poor, deformed, crooked body, forever wasting with pain and anguish, forever being tortured with some unknown, incurable disease, and you have Tilly Margery before you. Picture her bed, drawn close up to the window that looked down upon a dirty, stifled court, but at the same time permitted a glimpse, between two houses, of a green square not a dozen yards off, and part of a beautiful garden; and see the girl looking out upon this, her only glimpse of Paradise, her head propped up on pillows, a lovely smile curving her colorless lips. Tilly's mother worked like a slave for the sake of that one little bit of tender beauty that nestled in green grass and flowers. She could have had a cheaper room, on the back floor, higher up, and taken a little rest sometimes, but oh! for Tilly's sake! the child born to suffer through no fault of her own, she kept the more expensive home. She had tried all manner of loving expedients, in order that the child might be happier. A coarse curtain was drawn across the room, so that when she took in washing as she did three days in the week, Tilly should not be troubled at the sight of clothes, and the confusion incident to such labor. Ah! there was never tenderer love in the fairest and richest homes, where the petted darlings of wealth knew no wish unsatisfied, than in this poor room, looking down into the noisy, dirty court, and over at that spot of brightness and loveliness, where the colors that nature rejoices in, satisfied one pair of eyes, at least, with a sense of the beautiful.


"And what makes ye look so pleasant, dear?" asked the woman, one morning, coming from her tub of steaming suds to the bedside.


"I was thinking, mother dear, that God was so good to me," said the girl, smiling.


"Dear knows ye've little to be thankful for," murmured the woman, furtively wiping her eyes.


"O, mother," then there was a pause, and an expression of intense love on the sweet, pale face -- "I've got you."


"Ah, and the one sweet drop in my cup, that would be overflowing with bitterness, ye are my soul's darling!" cried the homely woman bending over and kissing the pale brow. "But ye've little beside me, poor as I am."


"Mamma, just see here; I've been thinking about that dear little view there, and how good the great Father up in heaven is to have placed me where I can see it. There's a little yellow bird been flitting about from tree to tree, and it sent my thoughts up into the happy country that I love to think is full of birds and flowers. It's like a jewel between rough stones, a jewel beyond all price, that's what it is. And sometimes in that bit of beautiful garden there's a young girl comes out, always dressed in soft fine dresses, or I fancy so, and she walks among the flowers, and stoops down to them. Perhaps she kisses them -- I should -- O! how I should kiss them! I see her every day, now, and I know she is beautiful. I love her, mother, though not like you, but then I do love her, and I don't know why. Sometimes I dream of her; always, these summer days, in white, always among flowers. I don't suppose I shall ever know her."

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