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Christian care, become in early youth “the victims of circumstances," and who end their days in the den of the spoiler.
The TOMBS.—Mrs. Foster, the excellent matron of the female department of the prison, had told us of an interesting young German girl, committed for vagrancy, who might just at this crisis be rescued. We entered those soiled and gloomy Egyptian archways, so appropriate and depressing, that the sight of the low columns and lotus capitals, is to me now inevitably associated with the sombre and miserable histories of the place. After a short waiting the girl was brought in—a German girl apparently about fourteen, very thinly but neatly dressed, slight figure, and a face intelligent and old for her years, the eye passionate and shrewd. I give details, because the conversation which followed was remarkable. The poor feel, but they can seldom speak. The story she told with a wonderful eloquence thrilled to all our hearts; it seemed to us then like the first articulate roice from the great poor class of the city. It may jar our refined sensibilities, but we ought to hear it. Her eye
had a hard look at first, but softened when I spoke to her in her own language. “Have you been long here?"
"Only two days, sir.” "Why are you here?”
“I will tell you, sir. I was working out with a lady. I had to get up early and go to bed late, and I never had rest. She worked me always; and finally, because I could not do everything, she beat me—she beat me like a dog, and I ran away. I could not bear it.”
The manner of this was wonderfully passionate and elo
“But I thought you were arrested for being near a place of bad character,” said I.
"I am going to tell you, sir. The next day I and my father went to get some clothes I left there, and the lady wouldn't give them up—and what could we do? What can the poor do? My father is a poor old man who picks rags in the streets, and I have never picked rags yet. He said, “I don't want you to be a rag picker. You are not a child now—people will look at you-you will come to harm. And I said, No, father, I will help you. We must do something now I am out of a place, and so I went out. I picked all day, and didn't make much, and I was cold and hungry. Towards night a gentleman met me, a very fine, well-dressed gen tlman - an American and he said, “Will you go home with me?' and I said “No. He said, “I will give you twenty shillings, and I told him I would
go. And the next morning I was taken up outside by the officer.
“Poor girl!” said some one, “had you forgotten your mother? and what a sin it was!"
“No, sir, I did remember her. She had no clothes and I had no shoes, and I have only this (she shivered in her thin dress), and winter is coming on.
I know what money is, sir. I am only fourteen, but I am old enough. I have had to take care of myself ever since I was ten years old, and I never had a cent given me. It may be a sin, sir (and the tears rained down her cheeks, which she did not deign to wipe away), I do not ask you to forgive it. Men cannot forgive, but God will forgive. I know about men. The rich do such things, and worse, and no one says anything against them. But I, sir-I am poor!-(this she said with a tone which struck the very heart-strings.) I have never had any one to take care of me. Many is the day I have gone hungry from morning till night, because I did not dare spend a cent or two, the only ones I had. Oh, I have wished sometimes to die! Why does God not kill me?"
She was choked by her sobs. We let her calm herself a moment, and then told her our plan of finding her a good home, where she could make an honest living. She was mistrustful. “I will tell you, said Meine Herrn, I know men, and I do not believe any one. I have been cheated so often. There is no trust in any one. I am not a child. I have lived as long as people twice as old.”
“But you surely do not wish to stay in prison ?”
“Oh, God, no! Oh, there is such a weight on my heart here. There is nothing but bad to learn in a prison. Here are
up in Mr. G
dirty Irish girls! I would kill myself if I had to stay here. Why was I ever born? I have such kummerniss (woes) here—(she pressed her hands on her heart)-I am poor!”
We explained more, and she became satisfied. We wished her to be bound to stay some years. "No," she said passionately, “I cannot; I confess to you, gentlemen, I should either run away or die, if I was bound.”
We talked with the matron. She had never known, she said, in her experience, such a remarkable girl. The children there of nine or ten years were often as old as young women, but this girl was an experienced woman. The offence, however, she had no doubt, was her first. We obtained her release, and one of us, Mr. G-, walked over to her house or cabin, some three miles on the other side of Williamsburg, in order that she might see her parents before she went. As he walked along, she looked
's face, and asked thoughtfully why we came there for her? He explained. She listened, and after a little while said, in broken English, “Don't you think it better for poor little girls to die than live?" He spoke kindly to her, and said something about a good God. She shook her head. "No, no good God. Why am I so? It always was so. Why much suffer if good God?” He told her they would get her a supper, and in the morning she should start off and find new friends. She became gradually almost ungoverned-sobbed-would like to dieeven threatened suicide in this wild way. Poor girl! to her there was only one place where the wild embittered heart could rest. Kindness and calm words at length made her more reasonable. After much trouble they reached the home, or the den, of the poor rag picker. The parents were very grateful, and she was to start off the next morning to a country home, where, perhaps, finally the parents will join her.
For myself, the evening shadows seemed more sombre, and the cheerful home-lights less cheerful, as I walked home remembering such a history.
IMPORTANCE OF YOUTHFUL DILIGENCE. “ What do you mean to do for a living when you come to be a man?” said Mr. Hedges, the schoolmaster, to William Marsh, one evening as they were sitting by Mr. Marsh's fireside.
“I mean to be a stage-driver," was William's prompt, and, in manner, not very respectful reply.
Mr. Hedges did not say anything more to him. He asked the question with the hope that it might lead to some profitable conversation. He had noticed that William was very inattentive to his studies when at school ; and he was in hopes, now that he had come to live for a week at his father's, that he could induce him to feel more interested in the cultivation of his mind. The boy's reply to his question discouraged him altogether. Perhaps he was discouraged too soon. Perhaps, if he had persevered in his attempt, he might have awakened some feelings of desire or shame that would have led William to pay more attention to his books.
As Mr. Hedges was about to leave for another place, he took occasion to speak to William's mother respecting her son's inattention to his books, and to advise her to require him to be more diligent.
Mrs. M- replied that she had never known much good to come of book learning. William was a smart boy for a bargain, and could drive the team as well as his father.
The teacher came to the conclusion that William would realize his purpose of becoming a stage-driver.
In the same school was a boy named Joseph Reed, who was very fond of his books. He always stood at the head of his class in all their studies. He did not, perhaps, learn more easily than several other boys of his age, but he was diligent. He took his books home with him every night, and studied his lessons in the evening, when the other boys were at play.
“ Come, Joe,” said William to him one night after school, " let us go to the long-pond to-night, and have a good time at skating,"
I cannot do it,” replied Joseph. “Why not?”
" Because I cannot get my lesson if I do. Mr. Hedges told us he wanted us to learn the lesson he gave us out as soon as we could."
"Can't get your lesson!” said William, in a tone of contempt; " what good will getting your lessons do you, do you think? Nobody likes you any better for your fuss about your lessons, and a great many do not like you so well. John,” said he to another boy, “will you go to the pond to-night?"
“I am agreeable,” said John, imitating the manner, as he had copied the words, of a lounger at the tavern, whose wit was the admiration of all the young candidates for ruin in the place.
Several other boys were asked, and consented to go. The prospect of a skating party on a bright moonlight night was very tempting to Joseph. He loved skating very much, but not so much as he loved his books. He hastened home, carried in the wood, and took care of the sheep for the night, and sat down to his lesson. He soon mastered it, at least so far that he could see through it. He then took his skates, and ran to join the party who were going to the pond. They had assembled, but had not yet started. “ There comes Joe,” said one.
" I asked him to go,” said William, " and he would not go, and now he sha'n't go."
As William was somewhat of a bully, none of the boys liked to enter into a dispute with him. Besides, Joseph paid so much attention to study and reading that he did not associate very much with the boys, and was not regarded as one of them. They therefore made no objection to William's authoritative declaration, and so poor Joseph had to go home and forego the pleasure of trying his new skates on the glassy ice. Some reproachful and insulting words were uttered by William, but he paid no attention to them, and went home and comforted himself with his book.