Beside my uncle and the rest of his kith and kin of the wars, you see, yonder, a row of beauties, all smiling and gay, or pensive and tender—interspersed with bright-faced children, blooming like so many flowers along the old walls of the hall. How they please and interest me! True, there are other portraits in our little house at home—not my hall here—which, perhaps, I should love with a warmer regard; but let me not cramp my sympathies, or indulge any early preferences. I must not be partial. So I admire these here before me—and bow to them, one and all. I fancy that they bow in return—that the stalwart warriors stretch vigorous hands toward me—that the delicate beauties bend down their little heads, all covered with powder, and return my homage with a smile.
Why not? Can my shabby coat make the lovely or proud faces ashamed of me? Do they turn from me coldly because I’m the last of a ruined line? Do they sneer at my napless hat, and laugh at my tattered elbows? I do not think of them so poorly and unkindly. My coat is very shabby, but I think, at least I hope, that it covers an honest heart.
So I bow to the noble and beautiful faces, and again they smile in return. I seem to have wandered away into the past and dreamed in a realm of silence. And yet—it is strange I did not hear her—Annie is still singing through the hall.
I promised to tell you of the incident of the coat, the unfortunate coat which I sometimes think makes the rich folks visiting the hall look sidewise at me. It is strange! Am I not myself, whether clad in velvet or in fustian—in homespun fabric, or in cloth of gold? People say I am simple—wholly ignorant of the world; I must be so in truth.
But about the coat. I hinted that Annie even saw, and alluded to it; it was not long after my arrival at the hall, and a young lady from the neighborhood was paying a visit to Annie.
They were standing on the portico, and I was leaning against the trunk of the old oak beneath, admiring the sunset which was magnificent that evening. All at once I heard whispers, and turning round toward the young ladies, saw them laughing. Annie’s finger was extended toward the hole in my elbow, and I could not fail to understand that she was laughing at my miserable coat.
I was not offended, though perhaps I may have been slightly wounded; but Annie was a young girl and I could not get angry; I was not at all ashamed—why should I have been?
“I am sorry, but I cannot help the hole in my elbow,” I said, calmly and quietly, with a bow and a smile; “I tore it by accident, yesterday.”
Annie blushed, and looked very proud and offended, and it pained me to see that she suffered for her harmless and, careless speech. I begged her not to think that my feelings were wounded, and bowing again, went up to my room. I looked at my coat, it was terribly shabby, and I revolved the propriety of purchasing another, but I gave up the idea with a sigh. She needs all my money, and my mind is made up; she shall have the black silk, and very soon.