A Modern Cinderella and other stories
fell into evil ways, and permitted curiosity, that feminine sin, to enter in and take
possession of his manly mind. A great desire seized him to discover what book his pretty
neighbor; but a cover hid the name, and he was too distant to catch it on the fluttering
leaves. Presently a stout Emerald-Islander, with her wardrobe oozing out of sundry paper
parcels, vacated the seat behind the two ladies; and it was soon quietly occupied by the
individual for whom Satan was finding such indecorous employment. Peeping round the
little gray bonnet, past a brown braid and a fresh cheek, the young man's eye fell upon the
words the girl was reading, and forgot to look away again. Books were the desire of his
life; but an honorable purpose and an indomitable will kept him steady at his ledgers till
he could feel that he had earned the right to read. Like wine to many another was an open
page to his; he read a line, and, longing for more, took a hasty sip from his neighbor's
cup, forgetting that it was a stranger's also.
Down the page went the two pairs of eyes, and the merriment from Debby's seemed to
light up the sombre ones behind her with a sudden shine that softened the whole face and
made it very winning. No wonder they twinkled, for Elijah Pogram spoke, and "Mrs.
Hominy, the mother of the modern Gracchi, in the classical blue cap and the red cotton
pocket-handkerchief, came down the room in a procession of one." A low laugh startled
Debby, though it was smothered like the babes in the Tower; and, turning, she beheld the
trespasser scarlet with confusion, and sobered with a tardy sense of his transgression.
Debby was not a starched young lady of the "prune and prism" school, but a frank, free-
hearted little body, quick to read the sincerity of others, and to take looks and words at
their real value. Dickens was her idol; and for his sake she could have forgiven a greater
offence than this.
The stranger's contrite countenance and respecttul apology won her good-will at once;
and with a finer courtesy than any Aunt Pen would have taught, she smilingly bowed her
pardon, and, taking another book from her basket, opened it, saying, pleasantly,--
"Here is the first volume if you like it, Sir. I can recommend it as an invaluable
consolation for the discomforts of a summer day's journey, and it is heartily at your
As much surprised as gratified, the gentleman accepted the book, and retired behind it
with the sudden discovery that wrongdoing has its compensation in the pleasurable
sensation of being forgiven. Stolen delights are well known to be specially saccharine:
and much as this pardoned sinner loved books, it seemed to him that the interest of the
story flagged, and that the enjoyment of reading was much enhanced by the proximity of
a gray bonnet and a girlish profile. But Dickens soon proved more powerful than Debby,
and she was forgotten, till, pausing to turn a leaf, the young man met her shy glance, as
she asked, with the pleased expression of a child who has shared an apple with a
"Is it good?"