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 worn.

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 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 child.

"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."

"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 taken her.

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 of that.

After the children came in, they combed their hair, and braided it, and washed their hands and faces.

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 to 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 country.

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.'"