Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
At the Party
By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (1844–1911)
HALF a dozen children
  At our house!
Half a dozen children
  Quiet as a mouse,
Quiet as a moonbeam.        5
  You could hear a pin—
Waiting for the party
      To begin.
Such a flood of flounces!
  (Oh dear me!)        10
Such a surge of sashes
  Like a silken sea.
Little eyes demurely
  Cast upon the ground,
Little airs and graces        15
      All around.
High time for that party
  To begin!
To sit so any longer
  Were a sort of sin;        20
As if you weren’t acquainted
  With society.
What a thing to tell of
      That would be!
Up spoke a little lady        25
  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;        30
Mother says she calls it
      Such a fit!”
Quick there piped another
  Little voice:
“I didn’t send for dresses,        35
  Though I had my choice;
I have got a doll that
  Came from Paris too;
It can walk and talk as
      Well as you!”        40
Still, till now, there sat one
  Little girl;
Simple as a snow-drop,
  Without flounce or curl.
Modest as a primrose,        45
  Soft, plain hair brushed back,
But the color of her dress was
      Black—all black.
Swift she glanced around with
  Sweet surprise;        50
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        55
      Stood she there;
Stood a minute, thinking,
  With crossed hands,
How she best might meet the
  Company’s demands.        60
Grave and sweet the purpose
  To the child’s voice given:
“I have a little brother
      Gone to Heaven!”
On the little party        65
  Dropped a spell;
All the little flounces
  Rustled where they fell;
But the modest maiden
  In her mourning gown,        70
Unconscious as a flower,
      Looketh down.
Quick my heart besought her,
“Happy little maiden,        75
  Give, O give to me
The highness of your courage,
  The sweetness of your grace,
To speak a large word, in a
      Little place.”        80

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