The Motherless Boy

ONE day, about a year ago, the door of my sitting-room was thrown suddenly open, and the confident voice of Harvey thus introduced a stranger:

“Here’s Jim Peters, mother.”

I looked up, not a little surprised at the sight of a ragged, barefoot child.

Before I had time to say anything, Harvey went on:

“He lives round in Blake’s Court and hasn’t any mother. I found him on a doorstep feeding birds.”

My eyes rested on the child’s face while my boy said this. It was a very sad little face, thin and colorless, not bold and vicious, but timid and having a look of patient suffering. Harvey held him firmly by the hand with the air of one who bravely protects the weak.

“No mother!” said I, in tones of pity.

“No, ma’am; he hasn’t any mother. Have you, Jim?”

“No,” answered the child.

 “She’s been dead ever so long; hasn’t she, Jim?”

“Yes, ever since last winter,” he said as he fixed his eyes, into which I saw the tears coming, upon my face. My heart moved toward him, repulsive as he was because of his rags and dirt.

“One of God’s little lambs straying on the cold and barren hills of life,” said a voice in my heart. And then I felt a tender compassion for the strange, unlovely child.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Round in Blake’s Court,” he replied.

“Who with?”

“Old Mrs. Flint; but she doesn’t want me.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, because I’m nothing to her, she says, and she doesn’t want the trouble of me.” He tried to say this in a brave, don’t-care sort of way, but his voice faltered and he dropped his eyes to the floor. How pitiful he looked!

“Poor child!” I could not help saying aloud.

Light flashed over his pale face. It was something new to him, this interest and compassion.

“One of God’s little lambs.” I heard the voice in my heart saying this again. Nobody to love him—nobody to care for him. Poor little boy! The hand of my own child, my son who is so very dear to me, had led him in through our door and claimed for him the love and care so long a stranger to his heart. Could I send him out and shut the door upon him, when I knew that he had no mother and no home? If I heeded not the cry of this little one precious in God’s sight, might I not be thought unworthy to be the guardian of another lamb of his fold whom I loved as my own life?

“I’ve got heaps of clothes, mother—a great many more than I want. And my bed is wide. There’s room enough in the house, and we’ve plenty to eat,” said Harvey, pleading for the child. I could not withstand all these appeals. Rising, I told the little stranger to follow me. When we came back to the sitting-room half an hour afterward, Jim Peters would hardly have been known by his old acquaintances, if any of them had been there. A bath and clean clothes had made a wonderful change in him.

I watched the poor little boy, as he and Harvey played during the afternoon, with no little concern of mind. What was I to do with him? Clean and neatly dressed, there was a look of refinement about the child which had nearly all been hidden by rags and dirt. He played gently, and his voice had in it a sweetness of tone, as it fell every now and then upon my ears, that was really winning. Send him back to Mrs. Flint’s in Blake’s Court? The change I had wrought upon him made this impossible. No, he could not be sent back to Mrs. Flint’s, who didn’t want the trouble of him. What then?

A barefoot boy wearing ragged clothes

THE MOTHERLESS BOY.

 Do the kind hearts of my little readers repeat the question, “What then?” Do they want very much to know what has become of little Jim Peters?

It is just a year since my boy led him in from the street, and Jim is still in our house. No one came for him. No one inquired about him. No one cared for him. I must take that last sentence back. God cared for him, and by the hand of my tender-hearted son brought him into my comfortable home and said to me, “Here is one of my lambs, astray, hungry and cold. He was born into the world that he might become an angel in heaven, but is in danger of being lost. I give him into your care. Let me find him when I call my sheep by their names.”

As I finished writing the last sentence a voice close to my ear said “Mother!” I turned and received a loving kiss from the lips of Jim. He often does this. I think, in the midst of his happy plays, memory takes him back to the suffering past, and then his grateful heart runs over and he tries to reward me with a loving kiss. I did not tell him to call me “Mother.” At first he said it in a timid, hesitating way, and with such a pleading, half-scared look that I was touched and softened.

“She isn’t your real mother,” said Harvey, who happened to be near, “but then she’s good and loves you ever so much.”

“And I love her,” answered Jim, with a great throb in his throat, hiding his face in my lap and clasping and kissing my hand. Since then he always calls me “Mother;” and the God and Father of us all has sent into my heart a mother’s love for him, and I pray that he may be mine when I come to make up my jewels in heaven.