The Little Beggar
by the American Sunday-School Union
As I was walking up street, a few days since, I
met two little girls who looked very much alike,
and were nearly of the same age. They wore gingham
sun-bonnets, which came far over their good-natured
faces. Their calico dresses were neatly
made. Their blue woollen stockings looked warm
and comfortable, but their shoes were old and much
As I passed, the elder held out her hand in a way
which I could not mistake, but I thought I would
ask her what she wanted. She replied, "A penny
to get mother some sugar for her tea." I talked
with the children a few minutes about their mother,
and inquired if she sent them out to beg. They
said she was obliged to do it, for their father was
dead, and she was not able to work.
The elder held out her hand.
The children had such good, honest faces, and
gave such evidence, in their general appearance,
of more care than most of this class of children usually
receive, that I thought I would go home with
them, that I might better judge of the correctness of
their story, and of the necessities of their mother.
So I said to them—
"Where does your mother live?"
They named the street.
"Will you take me there?"
"Yes, ma'am. We must go this way;" and they
turned off in the direction of their home.
"What is your name?" I inquired of the elder
"Mary Ann ——."
"And what is your's?"
"Ellen ——," answered the younger.
"Have you any brothers and sisters?"
"We have one sister and one brother. Her
name is Joanna, and his is Michael. A man took
Michael away the fifth of July—the day after the
Fourth—and we haven't seen him since. Mother
thinks we shall never see him again."
They told me that their father was a stone-picker,
and while he lived, they did very well, and
went to school; but since he died, their mother had
been ill, and had bled at the lungs, and was not
strong enough to work.
I was pleased to see the children take each other
by the hand, and walk along quite lovingly by my
side. They appeared kind and polite to each other,
and seemed to think that in me they had found a
friend. They talked very fast, and told me many
things about themselves and their way of life.
"We save our money to pay the rent."
"How much does your mother pay?"
"Three dollars a month!" I said, thinking how
much it was for a poor woman, who had herself and
three children to feed and clothe.
"I don't know whether it is a month, or a week,
or how long; I only know it is three dollars.
"Once we were turned out in the snow. Oh!
how cold my feet were!" The remembrance of her
sufferings seemed almost to make her shiver.
"What did you do?"
"A woman took us in her house."
"It is a long walk for you," said Mary Ann, as we
crossed one of the broad avenues, "and we live in
the top of the house."
When we reached the house where the children
lived, Mary Ann and Ellen ran up before me so fast
that I lost sight of them. The hall was so dark
that I could not see the stairs, but I could hear
their feet pattering quickly on, and I followed as
best I could. The last flight of stairs I could see
distinctly, for the sky-light was just over them.
They were brown with age, but they were evidently
often swept and washed. I entered a room in which
I saw the children. The woman there they introduced
as their mother. She did not receive me with
much cordiality. I suppose she wondered why I had
come there. Her room was small and scantily furnished.
It was heated by a small furnace. The
great gray cat was dozing in the corner.
I seated myself on a clean wooden chair, and began
to talk with the mother about her children.
She told me of her only son, "as fine a boy as ever
stood on two feet," and her anxiety in regard to
him. I attempted to encourage her to hope that so
soon as navigation closed, he would return to her,
for he had been employed on a coal-boat; but she
refused to be comforted. She wished to find a place
for Joanna in the city.
Mary Ann, who is nine years old, said she should
like to go to the country. She thought she could
wash dishes, set the table, and sweep, and I thought
so too, for she seemed to me one of the smartest
little girls I ever saw. She would have been
quite willing to accompany me to the country,
if her mother had consented, and I could have
The children's mother came to this country when
she was quite young, and lived for several years as
a servant in different families. She showed me
several papers which she carefully preserved in a
basket. One was a certificate from a physician—another
from the person who had employed her
husband. As she opened her trunk I observed its
contents were nicely folded and arranged, as if she
had a love of order. She told me she was able to
do nothing but sew and could not procure much
After the children came in, they combed their
hair, and braided it, and washed their hands and
I inquired if the children could read. Ellen got
her "Easy Lessons," and came and stood by my
side while she read in it. Mary Ann read very well
in her geography, and Joanna in some "Reading
Lessons" which she had used at school. I asked
them if they could write.
"I can," replied Mary Ann. "I can write my
name, or I could your's if I knew it."
I gave each of the children a piece of silver.
They immediately handed it, with a bright smile, to
their mother. I told them I would call again and
see them some time, but I could not do it often.
When I bade them good-by, they all followed me
to the door, and looked so pleased and happy that I
felt amply repaid for my long walk. I had gone
but a few steps, when Mary Ann came bounding
along, and asked, "When will you come to see us
again?" I took her hand, and we walked together
to the next street.
There are many children as destitute as these
little girls, and many, very many, who have not
even a feeble mother to care for them. Many poor
children are sent out to gather the coal from the
streets, or bits of wood where new buildings are
being erected, and their bread they beg from door
In some of our cities benevolent people have
opened schools for these miserable children, where
they are taught to sew and read, and to observe to
some extent the decencies and proprieties of life.
In some, a dinner is given to its pupils, and, where
it is possible, a home for the homeless in the
Children often save a part of their money for
missionary or other benevolent purposes. I cannot
conceive a more suitable object for their benefactions
than other children who are poor and destitute.
"It is more blessed to give than to receive," the
Bible tells us.
I hope you do not forget to thank God for the
comforts and happiness of home, which you enjoy;
and I hope, also, that you will not forget that we
have the poor with us always, and must do them all
the good in our power.
"Have pity on them, for their life
Is full of grief and care;
You do not know one half the woes
The very poor must bear;
You do not see the silent tears
By many a mother shed,
As childhood offers up the prayer,
'Give us our daily bread.'"