Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

At The Party

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Half a dozen children
At our house!
Half a dozen children
Quiet as a mouse,
Quiet as a moonbeam,
You could hear a pin--
Waiting for the party
To begin.


Such a flood of flounces!
(Oh dear me!)
Such a surge of sashes
Like a silken sea.
Little eyes demurely
Cast upon the ground,
Little airs and graces
All around.


High time for that party
To begin!
To sit so any longer
Were a sort of sin;
As if you were n't acquainted
With society.
What a thing to tell of
That would be!


Up spoke a little lady
Aged five;
"I 've tumbled up my over-dress,
Sure as I'm alive!
My dress came from Paris;
We sent to Worth for it;
Mother says she calls it
Such a fit!"


Quick there piped another
Little voice--
"I did n't send for dresses,
Though I had my choice;
I have got a doll that
Came from Paris too;
It can walk and talk as
Well as you!"


Still, till now, there sat one
Little girl;
Simple as a snow-drop,
Without flounce or curl.
Modest as a primrose,
Soft, plain hair brushed back,
But the color of her dress was
Black--all black.


Swift she glanced around with
Sweet surprise;
Bright and grave the look that
Widened in her eyes.
To entertain the party
She must do her share,
As if God had sent her
Stood she there;


Stood a minute, thinking,
With crossed hands
How she best might meet the
Company's demands.
Grave and sweet the purpose
To the child's voice given:--
"I have a little brother
Gone to Heaven!"


On the little party
Dropped a spell;
All the little flounces
Rustled where they fell;
But the modest maiden
In her mourning gown,
Unconscious as a flower,
Looketh down.


Quick my heart besought her,
Silently.
"Happy little maiden,
Give, O give to me
The highness of your courage,
The sweetness of your grace,
To speak a large word, in a
Little place."

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Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward