Sunday, December 26, 2010

An Angel


A little pauper boy sat down on the curbstone, and tried to think.  His feet were bare, red and cold; but never mind that.  The chill air penetrated his ragged garments; but never mind that.  He wanted to think.  Who are these people passing him, looking so warm and comfortable?  What did it mean that they should be happy and cheerful, and he so sad?  None of them had such heavy hearts; that he was sure of.  He looked up into the cold blue sky.  What was it, and who lived up there? – Somebody had said once that God would take care of him.  Where was God?  Why didn’t he take care of him?  Oh! If he could only see God for one little minute, or the angel that the good men told him of when his mother died!  Did folks ever see God?  Did they ever see angels?

An organ grinder came near and took his stand.  The melody he played lightened the little boy’s heart somewhat; but it didn’t warm him; it didn’t make him less hungry.  He kept shivering in spite of the music, and he felt so all alone, so despairing!  Then the organ grinder passed away; he never heeded the little child sitting on the curbstone, he had so many things to think of.  The carriages passed by, and the carts, and a company of soldiers; but it was all a dumb show to him – he was trying to think; with such a dull pain at his heart. – Presently three or four coarse looking boys gathered behind him, and winked and laughed at each other.  In another moment, the youngest gave a thrust, and over went the poor little homeless child into the gutter.  One scream, one sob of anguish, as he gathered himself up, and looked after the boys, now flying away with shouts of mirth.  Oh! How cruel it seemed in them – how cruel!  The little hungry boy walked on, sobbing, and shivering to himself.  He didn’t know what he was walking for, or why he was living.  He felt out of place – a poor, forlorn spirit that had lost its way – a bruised reed that any one might break – a little heart so tender that a look was anguish, how much more a blow!

The little boy stood at last near the corner of a street.  An apple stand, at which he gazed with longing eyes, not far off, was tended by a cross looking old man.  There were cakes on the stand, and the poor little mouth of the homeless child watered as he saw one boy after another deposit his penny, and take his cake.  He had no penny, and though there was hunger in his eyes, the cross-looking old man never offered him a morsel.

The tempter came.  The old man’s back was turned.  A vile boy at his side – at the side of the homeless child – nudged his elbow.  “You take one,” he whispered; I’ll give you half.”

The little child gazed at him steadily.  He saw something in the bleared eyes that made him shrink; something that set his heart beating.

“I tell you, hook one,” whispered the boy; “I won’t tell, and we’ll go away and eat it.”

“I don’t want to steal,” said the homeless child.

“Oh! You fool,” muttered the brutal tempter, and smote him in the eyes, his heavy hand dealing a blow that sent the poor little child against the wall, his whole frame quivering with anguish.  The terrible blow had almost blinded him for a moment.  A great sob came up in his throat, “Oh! What have I done to be treated so?”  There never, never was a God, or He would not let him suffer so, and that because he refused to be wicked.  I don’t believe that ever a man in his deadliest bereavements suffered more than that sad little child.  His heart was literally swelling with grief, and though he could not reason about it, he felt as if there was a great and sore injustice somewhere.

He started to cross the street.  A dark, blinding pain still made his poor temples ring.

“Back! back!  Good heavens!  The child is under his feet!  Back! back!”

“Oh! Mamma, it’s our horses run over a poor little boy.  Oh! Mamma, mamma!”

“Is he hurt much, coachman?”  The woman is pale as ashes.  “Yes, he is hurt badly. – Take him right in; don’t wait; carry him right in and up stairs.  It was your carelessness.  The child shall [be] tended to.”

There is no anguish now.  Perhaps God saw he had borne all he could, and so took the poor little broken heart there to heal.  How very white and quiet!  “Oh! A sweet face – a sweet sweet face!” murmured the woman, bending over the boy; and tears fell upon his forehead, but he did not feel them.

“Oh, the poor little boy!” sobs Nelly, “the poor little boy!  I wish he had kept on the side-walk; I wish he had staid at home with his mother.”

Alas! in this world there was no mother to keep him.

The doctor came, said he was not dead, but would very likely die.  There was a hospital near.  The poor thing had better be sent there.  But the good woman would not allow that.  She would care for him herself, she said.  He had been injured by one of her horses, and she felt it was her duty to attend to him.  Besides it was likely the child had no mother.  Such a boy as he, with a face so sweet and girlish, so pure and loveable, would never been sent on the streets like that, if he had a mother.  Besides (and her tears fell) there was a little mound not yet green over just such a child.  No, no; it was not in her heart to put the poor wounded boy away.  Let him stay whether he lived or died.

The weary, weary days passed on.  One morning, the little boy opened his dim blue eyes, but he did not know himself.  His glance fell wearily on his hands.  There were white bands around his wrists, with ruffles on them.  The bed was so snowy white, too, and a crimson light fell over everything.

“Dear God! I am in heaven,” Murmured the child.  “Yes, God will take care of me now.”

What visions of loveliness glanced forth from the shadow behind the bed?  The beaming eyes looked love and [gladness] upon him.

“Oh! yes there is an angel!” he said softly.  “They won’t knock me over again; they won’t want me to steal apples here; and perhaps I shall never die again.  Now, I want to see my mother.”

“My dear boy, are you better this morning?” asked a low, soft voice.

He turned slowly, wearily.

“Is it mother?” he murmured.

“Oh! yes,” and there were quick sobs and tears, “yes my little child, I will be your mother, and you shall be my son.  Will you love me dearly?”

“Heaven! No darling, it is earth; but God sent you here to our hearts, and you shall be loved and cared for.  See here is a little sister and you will be very happy with her.  Kiss him, Nelly”

Her rosy lips touched his pale ones, and a heavenly smile lighted up his face.  The past was not forgotten, but it was gone.  No more mouldy crusts, oaths, harsh words and blows.  No more begging at basement doors, and looking half famished envy to a dog gnawing a bone in the streets.  No more fear of rude children who never knew where their own hearts lay; no more sleeping on door steps and listening in terror to the drunken quarrels of the vicious and depraved.

Yes the past was gone; and in the rosy future were love, home, even God and the angels.  Certainly sweet spirits had guarded that child and guided him out of seeming evil into positive good.  Surely henceforth he would put his hand trustingly in theirs and turn his face heavenward.  Yes, it was so to be.  The dear teachable child – a jewel picked from the mire, a brand snatched from the burning – was yet to illume the dark paths of this world with his holy, heaven-like teaching.  Like a dove he was to go forth over the waters and find the olive branch with which to garland his glad tidings.  Blessings, then on all who hold their arms out toward needy little children, making their homes arks of refuge!  Beautiful stars shall they have in their crowns of rejoicing, for surely there is no jewel brighter in the world, and perhaps in all eternity, than the soul of a little child. –{Wesleyan Methodist Magazine

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 24, 1862, p. 1

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