Of Lesser Folk

Alright, so I love Dickens.  He is my weakness.  Most of the time.  I’m reading Dombey and Son right now, which I think is one of his lesser-known novels.  BUT it’s great.  SO, a short summary of what it is about so far (I’m only 200 pages into it – it’s 800 pages, and I won’t let myself read ahead)… Florence Dombey is neglected by her father simply because she’s not the and Son that he hoped for so that he could continue the business “Dombey and Son” to an actual son and heir.  Her mother is the only one who loved her, but Mrs. Dombey dies in childbirth to the hoped for son.  The child Florence is sent away for awhile, hardly seeing her brother.  A nurse is hired for the boy, someone who’s sweet, simple, and loving.  She has like… eight rambunctious kids, by the way – most of them under five. :D  I wanted to share this part of the book, which takes place fairly near the beginning:

 

…. As she [the nurse] was sitting in her own room, the door was slowly and quietly opened, and a dark-eyed little girl came in.  “It’s Miss Florence come home from her’s aunt’s, no doubt,” thought Richards, who had never seen the child before. “Hope I see you well, miss.”

“Is that my brother?” asked the child, pointing to the baby.

“Yes, my pretty,” answered Richards.

“Come and kiss him.”

But the child, instead of advancing, looked her earnestly in the face, and said,— “What have you done with my Mamma?”

“Lord bless the little creeter!” cried Richards, “what a question! I done? Nothing, miss.” ”

What have they done with my Mamma?” inquired the child.

“I never saw such a melting thing in all my life!” said Richards, who naturally substituted for this child one of her own, inquiring for herself in like circumstances. “Come nearer here, my dear miss. Don’t be afraid of me.”

“I am not afraid of her,” said the child drawing nearer. “But I want to know what they have done with my Mamma.” “My darling,” said Richards, “you wear that pretty black frock in remembrance of your Mamma.”

“I can remember my Mamma,” returned the child, with tears springing to her eyes, “in any frock.”

“But people put on black, to remember people when they’re gone.”

“Where gone?” asked the child.

“Come and sit down by me,” said Richards, “and I’ll tell you a story.”

With a quick perception that it was intended to relate to what she had asked, little Florence laid aside the bonnet she had held in her hand until now, and sat down on a stool at the nurse’s feet, looking up into her face.

“Once upon a time,” said Richards, “there was a lady—a very good lady, and her little daughter dearly loved her.”

“A very good lady, and her little daughter dearly loved her,” repeated the child.

“Who, when God thought it right that it should be so, was taken ill and died.”

The child shuddered.

“Died, never to be seen again by any one on earth, and was buried in the ground where the trees grow.”

“The cold ground,” said the child, shuddering again.

“No! The warm ground,” returned Polly, seizing her advantage, “where the ugly little seeds turn into beautiful flowers, and into grass, and corn, and I don’t know what all besides. Where good people turn into bright angels and fly away to Heaven!”

The child, who had drooped her head, raised it again, and sat looking at her intently.

“So; let me see,” said Polly, not a little flurried between this earnest scrutiny, her desire to comfort the child, her sudden success, and her very slight confidence in her own powers. “So, when this lady died, wherever they took her, or wherever they put her, she went to God! and she prayed to Him, this lady did,” said Polly, affecting herself beyond measure, being heartily in earnest, “to teach her little daughter to be sure of that in her heart: and to know that she was happy there and loved her still: and to hope and try — oh, all her life — to meet her there one day, never, never, never to part any more.”

“It was my Mamma!” exclaimed the child, springing up, and clasping her round the neck.

“And the child’s heart,” said Polly, drawing her to her breast: “the little child’s heart was so full of the truth of this, that even when she heard it from a strange nurse that couldn’t tell it right, but was a poor mother herself and that was all, she found a comfort in it—didn’t feel so lonely—sobbed and cried upon her bosom—took it kindly to the baby lying in her lap—and—there, there there!” said Polly, smoothing the child’s curls and dropping tears upon them. “There, poor dear!”

….

The child, in her grief and neglect, was so gentle, so quiet, and uncomplaining; was possessed of so much affection, that no one seemed to care to have, and so much sorrowful intelligence that no one seemed to mind or think about the wounding of, that Polly’s heart was sore when she was left alone again. In the simple passage that had taken place between herself and the motherless little girl, her own mother heart had been touched no less than the child’s; and she felt, as the child did, that there was something of confidence and interest between them from that moment.

I always wanted to be something like Polly Richards. (Polly Toodles is actually her real name.)  She’s so sweet, so unassuming, and so approachable.  In my mind’s eye, when I’m a woman, I would rather be like Polly than anyone else.  People like Polly are forgotten and obscured by the great women of the age.  The memory of Joan of Arc’s mother, simple housewife that she was, is blotted out by Joan of Arc herself, yet Joan’s mother was as necessary to France as Joan was, for without her Joan could not have been.  It works like that.  These people are like unspoken thoughts or quiet words.  They come, they’re present, but nobody remembers.  Yet they accomplished the task they were assigned, and did the part they were meant to play.  And in the long run, they are as necessary to history as anyone else.

People like Polly are beautiful because they’re so different from everybody else.  They’re intelligent, but they’re simple, in that they are humble.  Polly had just the right things to say, yet she thought that they were the wrong words – rough words.  But no other words could have comforted and uplifted Florence from the despair of her childish grief.  I want to be that kind of person.  Unassuming and approachable.  To have the courage to love and comfort the people in suffering and pain.

Florence was so neglected, yet her heart bursts with love and tenderness for her father, who not only neglects her, but does not like to look at her.  Instead of growing bitter, she yearns for his love.  Polly, in part, watered the parched and thirsty heart with her motherly love and care.  I want to be like that.  An encouragement, and a blessing.  Something that’s those two things, yet unconsciously.  For Florence knew how much Polly had helped her, but Polly would never have guessed.  She gave what was in her power to give, and she did not with-hold.  The only way I can hope to do this is simply by practicing these attributes.. everybody knows them… Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.  If I practice these, if I tend to these nine seeds planted in my heart, then I will be a woman like Polly.  The fact that we practice these things are necessary… not only to our own spiritual life, but to the people living around us.  They will be loved, they will be blessed if we are in sync with the fruits.

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” – C.H. Spurgeon

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One thought on “Of Lesser Folk

  1. That was so lovely, Ruby! Thanks for posting it! What an encouragement for those of us who aren’t the heroes/heroines of all the stories!

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