Tommy's Prayer by John F. Nicholls

In a dark and dismal alley where the sunshine never came,
Dwelt a little lad named Tommy, sickly, delicate, and lame;
He had never yet been healthy, but had lain since he was born
Dragging out his weak existence well nigh hopeless and forlorn.
 
He was six, was little Tommy, 'twas just five years ago
Since his drunken mother dropped him, and the babe was crippled so.
He had never known the comfort of a mother's tender care,
But her cruel blows and curses made his pain still worse to bear.
 
There he lay within the cellar, from the morning till the night,
Starved, neglected, cursed, ill-treated, nought to make his dull life
bright;
Not a single friend to love him, not a loving thing to love—
For he knew not of a Saviour, or a heaven up above.
 
'Twas a quiet, summer evening, and the alley, too, was still;
Tommy's little heart was sinking, and he felt so lonely, till,
Floating up the quiet alley, wafted inwards from the street,
Came the sound of some one singing, sounding, oh! so clear and sweet.
 
Eagerly did Tommy listen as the singing came—
Oh! that he could see the singer! How he wished he wasn't lame.
Then he called and shouted loudly, till the singer heard the sound,
And on noting whence it issued, soon the little cripple found.
 
'Twas a maiden rough and rugged, hair unkempt, and naked feet,
All her garments torn and ragged, her appearance far from neat;
"So yer called me," said the maiden, "wonder wot yer wants o' me;
Most folks call me Singing Jessie; wot may your name chance to be?"
 
"My name's Tommy; I'm a cripple, and I want to hear you sing,
For it makes me feel so happy—sing me something, anything,"
Jessie laughed, and answered smiling, "I can't stay here very long,
But I'll sing a hymn to please you, wot I calls the 'Glory Song.'"
 
Then she sang to him of heaven, pearly gates, and streets of gold,
Where the happy angel children are not starved or nipped with cold;
But where happiness and gladness never can decrease or end,
And where kind and loving Jesus is their Sovereign and their Friend.
 
Oh! how Tommy's eyes did glisten as he drank in every word
As it fell from "Singing Jessie"—was it true, what he had heard?
And so anxiously he asked her, "Is there really such a place?"
And a tear began to trickle down his pallid little face.
 
"Tommy, you're a little heathen; why, it's up beyond the sky,
And if yer will love the Saviour, yer shall go there when yer die."
"Then," said Tommy, "tell me, Jessie, how can I the Saviour love,
When I'm down in this 'ere cellar, and He's up in heaven above?"
 
So the little ragged maiden who had heard at Sunday School
All about the way to heaven, and the Christian's golden rule,
Taught the little cripple Tommy how to love, and how to pray,
Then she sang a "Song of Jesus," kissed his cheek and went away.
 
Tommy lay within the cellar which had grown so dark and cold,
Thinking all about the children in the streets of shining gold;
And he heeded not the darkness of that damp and chilly room,
For the joy in Tommy's bosom could disperse the deepest gloom.
 
"Oh! if I could only see it," thought the cripple, as he lay,
"Jessie said that Jesus listens and I think I'll try and pray";
So he put his hands together, and he closed his little eyes,
And in accents weak, yet earnest, sent this message to the skies:—
 
"Gentle Jesus, please forgive me as I didn't know afore,
That yer cared for little cripples who is weak and very poor,
And I never heard of heaven till that Jessie came to-day
And told me all about it, so I wants to try and pray.
 
"Yer can see me, can't yer, Jesus? Jessie told me that yer could,
And I somehow must believe it, for it seems so prime and good;
And she told me if I loved you, I should see yer when I die,
In the bright and happy heaven that is up beyond the sky.
 
"Lord, I'm only just a cripple, and I'm no use here below,
For I heard my mother whisper, she'd be glad if I could go;
And I'm cold and hungry sometimes; and I feel so lonely, too,
Can't yer take me, gentle Jesus, up to heaven along o' you?
 
"Oh! I'd be so good and patient, and I'd never cry or fret,
And your kindness to me, Jesus, I would surely not forget;
I would love you all I know of, and would never make a noise—
Can't you find me just a corner, where I'll watch the other boys?
 
"Oh! I think yer'll do it, Jesus, something seems to tell me so,
For I feel so glad and happy, and I do so want to go,
How I long to see yer, Jesus, and the children all so bright!
Come and fetch me, won't yer, Jesus? Come and fetch me home tonight!"
 
Tommy ceased his supplication, he had told his soul's desire,
And he waited for the answer till his head began to tire;
Then he turned towards his corner and lay huddled in a heap,
Closed his little eyes so gently, and was quickly fast asleep.
 
Oh, I wish that every scoffer could have seen his little face
As he lay there in the corner, in that damp, and noisome place;
For his countenance was shining like an angel's, fair and bright,
And it seemed to fill the cellar with a holy, heavenly light.
 
He had only heard of Jesus from a ragged singing girl,
He might well have wondered, pondered, till his brain began to whirl;
But he took it as she told it, and believed it then and there,
Simply trusting in the Saviour, and his kind and tender care.
 
In the morning, when the mother came to wake her crippled boy,
She discovered that his features wore a look of sweetest joy,
And she shook him somewhat roughly, but the cripple's face was cold—
He had gone to join the children in the streets of shining gold.
 
Tommy's prayer had soon been answered, and the Angel Death had come
To remove him from his cellar, to his bright and heavenly home
Where sweet comfort, joy, and gladness never can decrease or end,
And where Jesus reigns eternally, his Sovereign and his Friend.