The Stray Lamb. A Grandmother's Story.

Category: Poetry
We had finished our pitiful morsel,
And both sat in silence a while;
At length we looked up at each other.
And I said, with the ghost of a smile, -
"Only two little potatoes
And a very small crust of bread -
And then?" - "God will care for us, Lucy!"
John, quietly answering, said.

"Yes, God will provide for us, Lucy!"
He said, after musing a while -
I'd been quietly watching his features
With a feeble attempt at a smile -
"For, 'trust in the Lord, and do good,'
Our Father in Heaven has said,
'So shalt thou dwell in the land,
And verily thou shalt be fed!'"

Scarcely the words had he spoken,
When a faint, little tap at the door
Surprised us, - for all the long morning
The rain had continued to pour.
I am sure I shall never remember
The pelting and pitiless rain
Of that desolate day in November,
Without a dull heart-throb of pain.

For work had grown scarcer and scarcer,
Till there seemed not a job to be done;
We had paid out our very last sixpence,
And of fuel and food we had none.
John had tried - no one ever tried harder -
For work, but his efforts were vain;
And I wondered all faith had not failed him
That morning when out in the rain.

"Come in!" said John, speaking quite softly.
And opening the door a small space,
For there stood a thin, little beggar
With such a blue, pitiful face!
"O sir, if you please sir, I'm hungry,
Do give me a small bit of bread!"
"Come in, then, you poor, little woman,
I am sure you are freezing!" John said.

We each caught a hand cold and dripping,
And drew the poor trembler in;
But she sank at our feet like a baby,
Half-frozen, and drenched to the skin.
John ran for our last bit of fuel;
And I, to an old box, where lay
Our own little Maggie's warm clothing, -
Our Maggie - dead many a day!

I tore off her old, dripping tatters,
And rubbed her blue, shivering form;
And then put those precious clothes on her,
And made her all glowing and warm.
"O ma'am, if you please, I'm so hungry!"
Again the dear innocent said;
So John brought our two cold potatoes
And our one little morsel of bread.

"Here, take this," - he said; and she snatched it,
And ate till the last bit was done;
And we two looked on, never grudging
Our all to the famishing one.
I looked up a half-minute after,
But John had slipped out in the rain;
And the wind was still howling and raging
Like some great, cruel monster in pain.

Soon the pale, little eyelids grew heavy,
And I watched till the weary one slept; -
Then I, a poor weak-hearted woman,
Held her closer, and oh, how I wept!
With our fire all burned out to black ashes, -
Our very last bit of food gone, -
Poor John, too, out facing the tempest, -
And I left there shiv'ring alone!

But the little, warm head on my bosom
Seemed so strangely like hers that I lost;
And the soft, little hands I was holding,
So like the dear hands that I crossed
In their last quiet rest, - and those garments -
Ah, those garments! - I mused till it seemed,
I had got back my own little Maggie; -
And then, for long hours. I dreamed.

* * * *

"Why Lucy, my girl, you are sleeping! -
Come, rouse up, and get us some tea!" -
It was John, who'd returned, and was speaking -
"Poor wife, you're as cold as can be!
See, here are some coals for the firing;
And here is a nice loaf of bread, -
A steak, and a morsel of butter,
Some tea and some sugar" - he said.
"Nay now, do not ask any questions! -
Let me just lay this lammie in bed,
And when we have had a nice supper,
I'll tell you, dear, all how it sped."

And so, when the supper was over -
That supper! - I'll never forget
The warm, glowing fire - oh, so cozy -
I can see every coal of it yet -
We knelt down, and John thanked the dear Father
For all He had sent us that day; -
Yes: e'en for thee dear, pretty baby
His own little lamb gone astray!

And then, in a few words, John told me
Of his desperate walk in the storm -
Every minute believing, expecting,
That God would His promise perform; -
Of the merchant up town who had hailed him,
(One of his men being sick,)
And hired him to run of a message;
And, because he'd been trusty and quick,
Had trebled his wages, and told him
To come the next morning again;
"Just because," added John, softly laughing,
"I'd been willing to work in the rain!"

Well, long ere the morning dawned on us,
The child had grown frantic with pain;
And for many long days she lay moaning
With the fever that burned in her brain.
Every morning John prayed by her pillow,
Then went to his work; and I stayed,
And kept my sad watch the long day through,
And at night he returned to my aid.

At length the fierce struggle was over,
She lived, and we both were content,
For we knew God had given her to us -
His lamb, through the wintry storm sent
The fever had burned every record
Of home and friends out of her mind;
And though we sought long, yet we never
Any traces of either could find.

And so she grew up by our fireside,
And we called her - not Maggie - oh no! -
That name we had laid up in Heaven,
And no one must wear it below! -
But we just called her, Pet; and her husband
Calls her nothing but Pet to this day: -
She's a grown woman now, and a mother,
How swiftly the years glide away!

Well, John never has lacked for employment,
And we never have wanted a home;
We never said nay to a beggar,
Or refused one that asked it a crumb.
Pet grew up a dear, loving woman -
"God's light in our house," John would say -
And when a good man came and took her,
He took us, too, the very same day.
But here she comes now with the baby,
And grandmother never says nay;
So here's a good bye to my story,
For baby has come for a play!

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