easter-hats

Ruby’s “Easter Hat” – April 1883

For much of the 19th century Godey’s Lady’s Book’s editors used the magazine to showcase the literary work of American authors. This short story,  Ruby’s “Easter Hat”, appeared in the April 1883 issue.

Ruby’s “Easter Hat”

“I wish I was dead, so there;” and Ruby Brown stood the picture of lovely despair, gazing down at a yellow mass at her feet, consisting of six dozen crushed eggs. Poor Ruby had been a whole month saving and hoarding these treasures which were to play an important part in the purchase of a lovely “Easter bonnit,” Aunt Rushy had contemptuously called it, when Ruby had said in a pleading tone:

“But auntie, all the girls are going to have pretty new hats to wear Easter Sunday.”

“Easter bonnits, indeed,” snapped Aunt Rushy, “better be thinkin’ of the good Lord, and how he riz on that day, then hey their minds on bonnits.”

“But auntie—”

“Now, no buts, Ruby Brown; girls in my time wusn’t thinkin’ eternally ’bout bonnits and gimcracks; and Easter Sunday wasn’t made a show day for bonnits, either.”

“If I could have the eggs, auntie,” pleaded Ruby, ignoring her last remarks.

“Well, take ’em; I don’t, know as I care, if you can save enuff ‘tween this and then. You’ll hey to hey a bonnit eny how shortly after Easter.”

Ruby ran joyfully out into the coop to gather the first installment, after giving Aunt Rushy an affectionate little hug.

“That child always will get the best of me long as grass grows and water runs,” smiled the spinster aunt, grimly—who had been mother and aunt for many years, nearly eighteen now, since her dearest and youngest sister had died, putting baby Ruby into Jerusha’s arms, murmuring “Be kind to her, love her for my sake,” and had died; and the young girl well repaid the care and grim sort of love lavished upon her. No one knew what ever had become of gay, wild, dissipated Will Brown, Ruby’s father, whom people said had once been Jerusha’s lover, and who had deserted her for the younger sister, pretty Helen.

The eventful morning had come on which Ruby’s eggs were to be disposed of. Blithely and gayly she started forth, a neat willow basket on her arm, her eyes shining like twin stars, and cheeks rivaling summer roses. A stray robin chirped dubiously overhead in the budding but leafless trees, and visions of the “Easter hat” floated before Ruby’s vision, with which the young minister who had just been settled at the “Caworth village” church, should be ensnared; for all the girls, Aunt Rushy said, “wus casting sheep’s eyes that way.”

Ruby tripped along in the crisp March air, satisfied with herself and the whole world, when alas! for human hopes and joys how fleeting, Ruby caught her foot in some tangled weeds, and fell headlong upon her precious basket of eggs, and for a moment felt as if the whole world had crushed all the joy and happiness out of her young heart and life. In her great sorrow she gave vent to the ejaculation, “I wish I was dead,” as she slowly arose from the ruins of all her (eggs) hopes.

“Can I be of any assistance?” asked some one behind her.

Ruby started and looked around, to encounter the amused smile on the young minister’s face.

“I hardly think any one can remedy this disaster,” stammered Ruby, dismally viewing the mass at their feet.

“Eggsactly,” laughed Mr. Howard.

“Don’t laugh,” said Ruby, suddenly bursting into tears.

“Don’t cry, I beg. I will try not to laugh,” he said anxiously.

“How foolish I am,” said Ruby, bravely trying to smile, “but I have lost my Easter hat.”

“Your Easter hat?” he asked, a little nonplussed.

“Yes. With those eggs I should have bought it,” sighed Ruby.

“Hem! Well, is it absolutely necessary to have Easter hats, Miss Brown?”

“Oh no. Still, every one does, you know,” said Ruby, gravely.

“No, I did not know it before. Do you not think you could enjoy that grandest and loveliest of anniversaries without a new hat, Miss Brown?” he asked, looking into the sweet face searchingly.

“Oh, yes I could,” replied Ruby, blushing rosily. “I think I have been a little vain, and I am punished this way,” and Ruby laughed quite merrily.

“Not one left to tell the tale,” he answered, joining in her laughter.

“Only on my dress and mantle,” laughingly said Ruby; “that will tell all.”

“Allow me to remove a few flecks from your hair,” and he bent forward with a dainty cambric handkerchief, removing the golden spots from the soft, curling brown hair; both faces had taken on an added hue of pink.

“May I walk back with you?” he asked a little eagerly, as she turned to go home, after their united efforts to clean the basket, which they partially succeeded in doing. Permission was shyly given, and soon they were chatting like old friends, and Ruth was surprised that she felt no greater disappointment in the loss of her “Easter hat.”

“Well I swun if here doesn’t come the minister ‘long with Ruby,” ejaculated Aunt Jerusha, peering out of the window. “But—heavings and airth, what is that yaller all over the front of your
dress, Ruby? How de do, Mister Howard: walk in. What on airth—”

“Oh Auntie, its my ‘Easter hat,’ cried Ruby, almost hysterically, ‘look at, me! Only for Mr. Howard coming to my rescue, I don’t know what would have, become of me.”

“Well I never! such a child,” gasped Aunt Rushy, shocked beyond measure at Ruby’s appearance before the new minister.

How was she to know that he was thinking she was the loveliest and most sensible girl he had ever met?

Ruby went to church “Easter Sunday” with her winter’s hat, and the Rev. Clinton Howard thought the face so sweet and good beneath it, that all the new “Easter hats” sank into insignificance in contrast; but Ruby looked around at the pretty sprays of rose-buds, mignonette, violets, and pansies, and could not help but feel a little pang of envy. How could she know that the young minister was not admiring the pretty faces so sweetly adorned? And how could she know that while the organ sent forth its grandest music, and the anthem, “He has arisen from the dead,” swelled from the lips and hearts of that Christian congregation, that the thought had come to him (and was not an irreligious one) that the Lord had ordained Ruby Brown for a minister’s wife, and that another Easter she should wear an “Easter hat,” and it should be bridal white.

So Ruby’s “Easter hat” was worn the very next “Easter,” and all the good folks said never a sweeter bride blushed beneath an “Easter hat,” than the minister’s young wife, née Ruby Brown, now Mrs. Clinton Howard. Even Aunt Rushy had indulged in the fashion for once, and came out in an astonishing beflowered hat, and she explained in her earnest emphatic way: “I don’t know but it is a sort of a hangin’ out of a signal, of how happy you air, by decking out in posies, that our blessed Saviour riz to glory that day; never quite looked at it in that air light before, come to think of it. I don’t see how I ever wanted to put down sich kind of rejoicing. Ruby does look like a picture in hem, and the eggs after all did get her ‘Easter hat,’ so Clinton says.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Source

Collection: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Date: April, 1883
Title:  Ruby’s Easter Hat
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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