The Lost Child

by the American Sunday-School Union

It was a Sabbath morning in November, clear, bright and frosty. Mrs. Dudley's family were preparing for church. They heard Carlo bark violently, and knew a stranger must be near. Carlo is a faithful watch-dog, but his habit of barking at visitors is so disagreeable, that he is usually kept chained in the day-time. On Sunday, as no company is expected, he is permitted to go at large. When Mr. Dudley heard Carlo, he immediately threw open the window, and spoke to him. He saw a gentleman, who was evidently much alarmed. None of the family knew him. The stranger soon made known the occasion of his call, by inquiring,

"Have you seen any thing of a stray child?"

"No, we have not; whose child is lost?"

"Mr. McPherson's."

"How old is the child?"

"About six years old. His mother sent him from home, yesterday, about two o'clock, and she has heard nothing from him since. He had a small tin pail with him to get some yeast."

It is sad to hear that a child is lost, and all the family sympathized with the anxious parents. "How badly you would feel if I was lost!" said Eddie, and he looked sober and grieved, as he thought of the little boy about his own age, who had wandered from home, no one knew where. There was much fear that he had fallen into the river, as he had been seen on the dock.

At ten o'clock the family started for church. They met people who were searching for the child, and who asked them, as the gentleman had done at the house, "Have you seen any thing of a stray child?"

Notice was given in the churches that a boy was lost, and many a mother's heart beat quicker as she thought of her own dear little ones, and imagined one of them sleeping, perhaps, through that cold November night on the ground, or (fearful thought!) buried deep in the chill water.

After church, you could hear one and another inquiring anxiously, "Has the child been found?" But no favourable answer was received. In the afternoon, however, many hearts were gladdened by learning that he was safe. He had gone to the village, and got his pennyworth of yeast, and then, instead of returning immediately, he stopped to play with some boys. He had gone with them to a part of the village with which he was not acquainted and when he wished to go home, he did not know what direction to take. He chose a road leading him from home, and wandered at least five miles. Just before dark an old gentleman and his grandson were walking on the road, and they observed this little boy crying.

"What do you suppose he is crying about?" said the child to his grandfather.

"I don't know. Perhaps he has been sent to the grocery, and does not like to go."

They watched him and found he did not stop, but passed on with his tin pail, crying grievously. They waited for him to come up to them, and asked him,

"What are you crying about?"

"I want to go home!"

"Where is your home?"

The boy could not tell.

"What is your name?"

"William Hudson." He did not say, as he should have done, William Hudson McPherson.

The old gentleman kindly took him by the hand, and led him to his own home. William's tears were soon dried, and he became quite contented. It was too late to attempt to find his parents that night, as he could not tell where they lived, and the name of Hudson was not familiar to the good people who had given him shelter.

When Sabbath morning came, William was questioned again and again, till at length some clue was obtained of his father's place of residence. The horse was harnessed, and William, with lame and blistered feet, was placed in the wagon. About noon he safely reached home, and was clasped once more to his mother's heart. The father had not returned from his search, and he afterwards said, it had seemed to him that he never could go home without his child, on account of the terrible and almost frantic distress of the mother. As he approached his house, borne down with grief, he saw a wagon at the door. His heart leaped with joy, for he thought the lost one was found. He opened the door hopefully, and there, indeed, was William gathered once more with his brothers and sisters around the great cooking-stove, tears of joy flowing down the grateful mother's cheeks.

All this great grief which William's father and mother endured—all the anxiety felt throughout the town—and all the sufferings of the boy himself, were occasioned by William's stopping to play, when he ought to have gone directly home!

Children often think they are quite as capable of judging for themselves, as their parents are for them. Sooner or later this opinion will lead them into trouble. William thought it was safe to stop and see the boys play marbles, but he found, to his sorrow, that it would have been far better to have resisted temptation and denied himself the short pleasure he enjoyed.

Every human heart is grieved when a child like William strays from home. We do not wonder that his mother should be fearfully anxious in regard to his fate. But, oh! how much more bitter tears a loving mother sheds, when her dear ones stray from the path of virtue, and become disobedient and wicked! I hope none of the children who read about William will go astray from the right path, but will ever choose that which is pure and lovely and of good report, and which, through the grace of God in Christ Jesus, will safely lead them home to heaven.