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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.

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 weren’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 didn’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,


“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.”