New Free Read: Muriel’s Bright Idea

4 Apr

Throughout her adult life, Isabella wrote many short stories that were published by different Christian magazines. For your enjoyment, here is a sweet short story Isabella Alden wrote for Christian Endeavor World magazine:


My friend Muriel is the youngest daughter in a large family of busy people. They are in moderate circumstances, and the original breadwinner has been long gone; so in order to enjoy many of the comforts and a few of the luxuries of life the young people have to be wage-earners. I am sure that they enjoy life just as much as they would if such were not the case, though there are doubtless times when they would like to be less busy. Still, even this condition has its compensations.

“Other people do not know how lovely vacations are,” was the way Esther expressed it as she sat one day on the side porch, hands folded lightly in her lap, and an air of delicious idleness about her entire person. It was her week of absolute leisure, which she had earned by a season of hard work. She is a public school teacher, belonging to a section and grade where they work their teachers fourteen hours of the twenty-four.

Alice is a music teacher, and goes all day from house to house in town, and from school to school, with her music books in hand.

Ben, a young brother, is studying medicine in a doctor’s office, also in town, and serving the doctor between times to pay for his opportunities. There are two others, an older brother just started in business for himself, and a sister in a training school for nurses.

So it was that this large family scattered each morning to their duties in the city ten miles away, and gathered at night, like chickens, to the home nest, which was mothered by the dearest little woman, who gave much of her time and strength to the preparation of favorite dishes with which to greet the wage-earners as they gathered at night around the home table. It is a very happy family, but it was not about any of them that I set out to tell you. In truth, it was Muriel’s apron that I wanted to talk about; but it seemed necessary to describe the family in order to secure full appreciation of the apron.

Muriel, I should tell you, is still a high school girl, hoping to be graduated next year, though at times a little anxious lest she may not pass.

But about her apron . . . I saw it first one morning when I crossed the street to my neighbor’s side door that opens directly into the large living room, and met Muriel in the doorway, as pretty a picture as a fair-haired, bright-eyed girl of seventeen can make. She was in what she called her uniform, a short dress made of dark print, cut lower in the neck than a street dress. It had elbow sleeves, and a bit of white braid stitched on their bands and around the square neck set off the little costume charmingly.

Her apron was of strong dark green denim, wide enough to cover her dress completely. It had a bib waist held in place by shoulder straps; and the garment fastened behind with a single button, making it adjustable in a second. But its distinctive feature was a row of pockets—or rather several rows of them—extending across the front breadth; they were of varying sizes, and all bulged out as if well filled.

“What in the world . . . ?” I began, and stared at the pockets. Muriel’s merry laugh rang out.

“Haven’t you seen my pockets before?” she asked. “They astonish you, of course; everybody laughs at them. But I am proud of them; they are my own invention. You see, we are such a busy family all day long, and so tired when we get home at night, that we have a bad habit of dropping things just where they happen to land, and leaving them. By the end of the week this big living room is a sight to behold. It used to take half my morning to pick up the thousand and one things that did not belong here, and carry them to their places. You do not know how many journeys I had to make, because I was always overlooking something. So I invented this apron with a pocket in it for every member of the family, and it works like a charm.

“Look at this big one with a B on it; that is for Ben, of course, and it is always full. Ben is a great boy to leave his pencils, and his handkerchiefs, and everything else about. Last night he even discarded his necktie because it felt choky.

From Pinterest

“This pocket is Esther’s. She leaves her letters and her discarded handkerchiefs, as well as her gloves. And Kate sheds hair ribbons and hatpins wherever she goes. Just think how lovely it is to have a pocket for each, and drop things in as fast as I find them. When I am all through dusting, I have simply to travel once around the house and unpack my load. I cannot tell you how much time and trouble and temper my invention has saved me.”

“It is a bright idea,” I said, “and I mean to pass it on. There are other living rooms and busy girls. Whose is that largest pocket, marked M?

“Why, I made it for mother; but, do you know, I have found out just in this very way that mothers do not leave things lying around. It is queer, isn’t it, when they have so many cares? It seems to be natural for mothers to think about other people. So I made the M stand for ‘miscellaneous,’ and I put into that pocket articles which will not classify, and that belong to all of us. There are hosts of things for which no particular one seems to be responsible. Is it not a pity that I did not think of pockets last winter, when we all had special cares and were so dreadfully busy? It is such a simple idea you would have supposed that any person would have thought of it, but it took me two years. I just had to do it this spring, because there simply was not time to run up- and downstairs so much.”

“You have proved once more the truth of the old proverb, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’” I said. “And, besides, you have given me a new idea. I am going home to work it out. When it is finished, I will show it to you.” Then I went home, and made rows and rows of strong pockets to sew on a folding screen I was making for my work-room.

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4 Responses to “New Free Read: Muriel’s Bright Idea”

  1. Karen L Chaudoin April 4, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    This post is lovely! A wonderful idea and one I should sew up! I have a tiny closet to sew in with minimal storage so I am making a pocketed organizer with some of my quilting fabric to hang on the wall or back of the door just like in the story. I am anxious to finish it soon and can’t wait to see what ends up in the pockets!

    • Isabella Alden April 5, 2017 at 7:16 am #

      That’s a great idea, Karen! This story inspired me, too, and I think I will use some left-over fabric to stitch up an apron of my own. At my house I’m always carrying things from upstairs to downstairs, and vice-verse. —Jenny

  2. Karen April 10, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    Oh, how I love this little tale! I had a pocketed pinafore as a little girl, but I was always tearing around the house so much that I managed to rip them halfway off. My mother, who was an amazing seamstress, finally solved the problem. She sewed them all shut!! XO The OTHER Karen

    • Isabella Alden April 10, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

      What a sweet story, Karen! Thanks for sharing it, and your mother’s solution. —Jenny

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