Patty's Secret by Unknown

[Illustration: "<i>I'm awake, mother, come in</i>."]

Mrs. Lomax softly opened the nursery door and peeped in. "I'm awake, mother," said a voice from the white cot; "come in."

The lady quickly poked the smoldering fire into a blaze and opened the blinds. It was a bitter cold day, and Jack Frost had decorated the windowpanes with silver pictures of forests and castles.

"What wakened you so early, Patty, dear?" asked her mother, coming over to sit on the edge of the bed. To her surprise the young face was wreathed in bright smiles.

"I had such a strange, sweet dream," said Patty, her eyes shining. "I think it must have been my dream that waked me."

"What was it, love?" But Patty was silent. "You don't want to tell me your dream, little daughter?"

"I think I'd rather not, mother, if you don't mind."

"No, I don't mind."

"Well, then, I won't tell it."

Patty's mother had no dream of her own to tell, for she had hardly slept a single one of the many hours between dark and dawn. Many of them she had spent on her knees beside her bed, pouring out her heart in prayer for her darling who was, with the returning day, to undergo a painful and dangerous surgical operation.

For days Patty herself had been in a sad state of nervousness and depression; it had been necessary, for certain reasons, that she should know what was before her, and though she bore up bravely for her years, it could not but be to her like entering a dark cloud.

And yet there was the smile on her lips and the light in her eye, though the hour of trial had come!

The weeks slipped away, each one leaving little Patty stronger than it found her, and nearer to the end of her prison-life behind window panes. For the great trial was safely passed, and the surgeon said one reason that the little girl came so safely through it, without fever or inflammation of any sort, was that she was so quiet and brave, and didn't excite or fret herself.

When Patty heard these praises she only smiled and said, "That's my secret." Though she did not ask, Patty's mother sometimes wondered what she meant and why she would not tell her secret.

But one day Patty overheard a visitor speaking of another child who was to undergo an operation. This visitor was one of the managers of St. Luke's Hospital, and the child she spoke of was a charity patient, a poor, little deformed girl in the public ward. She was an orphan, and had no friends except the kind people at the orphanage where she had been put when only a few months old.

Patty was very quiet until the visitor left; but when her mother turned to her sofa, she found her little daughter eager to tell her something.

"Oh, mother!" she cried, "I must see that little girl; I have something to tell her."

"I'll see her for you, dear," said Mrs. Lomax, "and tell her anything you say."

But Patty, who had been so reasonable and obedient, did not seem able to listen to reason. She wept, and entreated to be carried to the hospital, until at last her mother consented to let her go in a closed carriage with her father to lift her in and out, and carry her every step up and down the halls and stairway. "Only father," she said: "I'd rather have only father."

After all, the drive did not seem to hurt Patty at all; when she had taken off her wraps in the waiting room, and was being carried up to the ward, she whispered a little nervously: "Can I see the little girl all by myself, father?"

Mr. Lomax felt troubled at this almost stubborn secrecy. "I think not, daughter," he said gravely; "the nurse would hardly leave her patient in the hands of such a little girl as you. Why is it that you can't trust me to hear what you have to say?"

Patty hesitated a minute, and then said, "I'm so afraid that you might laugh at it, or say it was just a fancy; and, oh, I couldn't stand anybody's laughing, because it helped me so."

"Dear little girl," he said to himself. Then he answered Patty in a very gentle voice: "You need have no fear of that, darling. Now that I know how you feel about it, whatever you have to say will be very precious to me."

[Illustration: "<i>Will you ask for me? I don't know Him very well.</i>"]

Nothing more was said, but the little arms tightened about his neck, and he heard a little sigh of content.

Laugh at her! No listener could have smiled at Patty's secret, except as one might smile in glad surprise if an angel spoke.

In very simple speech, as one child uses to another, Patty told this little hospital patient of her long time of suffering and disease; how she had felt that she could not stand the surgeon's table, the knife, the stitches and all the horrors of an operation.

"But the night before it was to happen," said Patty, "after I had prayed with all my might to our Saviour to help me bear the pain I fell asleep, and dreamed that I saw Him.

"Oh, I wish you could know how He looked! Just as if He was all our mothers and fathers in one person. I did not hear Him speak, but I knew from His smile that He was going to be with me. And then I waked up and remembered what He said when He was going back to heaven, 'Lo, I am with you alway,' and I wasn't afraid any more after that."

"And did it hurt very much?" eagerly asked the child in the cot.

"I don't know," said Patty, looking rather puzzled, "maybe it did. The doctor couldn't give me as much of the go-to-sleep stuff as he will you; and part of the time I knew what he was doing, and felt the pain. But I did not mind it; I said to myself, 'Why, I can easily stand it; just as long as I must.' You see Jesus had answered my prayer, and He will answer yours, too. Don't forget, what He said about 'Lo, I am with you.'"

"Will you ask for me?" said the little stranger; "I don't know Him very well."

And Patty promised.