and, with the timely aid of a stray sunbeam
I only said that it is a thousand pities that you were not a boy; then you could graft my trees for me, and hoe, and dig, and plant, and plough, and all that sort of thing. This puttering round, washing dishes a little ...
— Fanny Fern (1811-72), Shadows and Sunbeams : Being a Second Series of Leaves from Fanny’s Portfolio. Illustrated by George Thomas (London, 1854) : 6
different copy and scan, same edition, at hathitrust : 6
“Hetty,” said my uncle, as the door closed upon Mr. Grey, “I suppose you must go to school, or the neighbours will say we don’t treat you well. You ought to be very thankful for such a home as this, Hetty; women are poor, miserable creatures, left without money. I wish it had pleased Providence to have made you a boy. You might then have done Jonathan’s work just as well as not, and saved me his wages and board. There’s a piece of stone wall waiting to be laid, and the barn wants shingling. Josiah, now, would be at the extravagance of hiring a mason and a carpenter to do it.
“Crying ? I wonder what’s the matter now? Well, it’s beyond me to keep track of anything in the shape of a woman. One moment they are up in the attic of ecstasy; the next, down in the cellar of despondency, as the almanac says; and it is as true as if it had been written in the Apocrypha. I only said that it is a thousand pities that you were not a boy ; then you could graft my trees for me, and hoe, and dig, and plant, and plough, and all that sort of thing. This puttering round, washing dishes a little, and mopping floors a little, and wringing out a few clothes, don’t amount to much toward supporting yourself. Let me see: you have had, since you came here” — and my uncle put on his spectacles, and pulled out a well-thumbed pocket memorandum — “You’ve had t-w-o p-a-i-r-s of shoes, at t-h-r-e-e s-h-i-l-l-i-n-g-s a pair, and nine yards of calico, for a dress, at s-i-x c-e-n-t-s a yard. That ’mounts up, Hetty, ’mounts up. You see it costs something to keep you. I earned my money, and if you ever expect to have any, you must earn yours” — and my uncle took out his snuff-box, helped himself to a pinch, and, with the timely aid of a stray sunbeam, achieved a succession of very satisfactory sneezes.
The following day, under the overwhelming consciousness of my feminity and consequent good-for-nothingness, I made my debut at Master Grey’s school.