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UNCLE HIRAM'S PILGRIMAGE, by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry's
Museum, February 1860, pp. 36-37)
It was somewhere in this neighborhood that I met a young man, in whose
history I became greatly interested. He was then about sixteen years of
age, but sorrow and trouble made him look much older. He was a cripple,
having had one of his legs broken, and so badly set that it was of but
little use to him.
When I first saw him, he was sitting on a small box on the sidewalk,
close against the iron rail of one of the houses which then occupied this
part of the street. At his side was a bench, covered with small articles
for sale--songs, papers of pins, matches, essences, and various other things
of little value, but nevertheless his whole stock in trade, and that on
which his living depended. His crutches--a sort of dumb testimony that he
had other pains than those of poverty, and that he did not sit there all day
from any unwillingness to work--were leaning against the railing behind him.
My attention was first drawn to him by the effort which a very
benevolent-looking lady was making to rouse him from a deep pit of
melancholy, or sullenness (it was difficult to guess which), and draw him
back to his business. At first, I thought he was ill-natured and surly, but
was soon satisfied that it was not so. After several times touching him
gently with her parasol, and addressing him in very kind tones, the lady
succeeded in arousing him. He start up as from a dream, and
exclaimed, in a tone that seemed half apology and half complaint--
"Oh! excuse me, madam--you have called me away from--," stopping
suddenly, as if unable to say more.
The lady was very kind to him; purchased several articles from his
stock, and paid him liberally; attempting, at the same time, to draw him into
conversation, but without success.
When she left, I approached him, and, after a few words of commonplace
conversation, said to him--
"That lady was very kind to you, my lad. She saw that you were
unhappy, that you had some great trouble in your heart, and she wished to
know if she could in any way do you a service. I am afraid you did not
notice what a motherly look she had, and how much interest she felt in you."
"No, sir," he replied, the tears glistening in his eyes, "I did not see
it, for I was too unhappy to look up. I was afraid I should cry if I did."
"Why? What was there," I asked, "in the very kind tones of that voice
to make you cry?"
"Oh, sir! that was just it," he answered, with deep emotion. "The
voice was so kind, so gentle, so like my own dear mother, that I did not
dare to look up, or to speak. I knew I could not do it, without crying.
And I was ashamed to do that among strangers."
"Where is your mother?" I asked, after a little pause.
"In heaven, sir!" he replied, with an expression so made up of
reverence, of assurance, of joy, and of deep, unutterable grief, that I was
awed in his presence. I did not know what to say next. I turned, for a
moment, as if to examine some of the articles on his bench. When I looked
at him again, he had that same fixed, absent, sad look, which attracted the
interest of the good, motherly lady, before I came up. He was away,
perhaps, in some distant land, among the scenes of his early home. To
divert him from this, and open conversation in another direction, I took up
one of his crutches, and asked how it happened that he needed to use them,
at so early an age. but here, again, I touched the tender spot. he burst
into tears, and said,--"Indeed, sir, I would not mind [m]y broken leg. If
both had been broken, it would have been nothing, but my poor dear mother
was killed by the same accident. It was on the railroad, sir. And I am
left alone, with three little sisters, for my father was dead before."
He paused to brush away tears; but his heart was open, and he went on.
"I do not mind the care of the children, sir. I would gladly die for
them, they are so good and loving. But oh! sir, without my mother, it is
not living. I die a hundred deaths every day, thinking of that terrible
scene. I don't know why such things happen."
There was something in the eloquence of that boy's sadness and love,
that far surpassed all the funeral orations I ever heard. There was a depth
and pathos in his filial affection, which was the highest possible eulogy of
a faithful, affectionate mother. I could not do much to soothe him at that
moment, for his emotions were too deep and excited. I became better
acquainted with him afterwards, and with his sisters, who clung to him with
all the fondness and confidence of infantile affection. I had his limb
properly attended to, so that he was, after a while, able to dispense with
his crutches. He has been prospered in business, and has educated his
sisters to be, like himself, ornaments to society, and a joy to each other.
UNCLE HIRAM'S PILGRIMAGE, by William C. Cutter (from Robert Merry's
Museum, March 1860, pp. 80-32)
Moving quietly along, among the bustling crowds of people, I was deeply
interested in everything I saw, especially in all that illustrated the
never-ending varieties of city life. At one of the doors, as I went along,
there stood a small girl, in earnest conversation with a woman from within.
It did not seem like the ordinary talk of a beggar asking for bread, and
getting a reluctant morsel, or an angry denial. There was a tone of
kindness in it, and a life and earnestness, which immediately drew my
attention. As I paused to get a closer look at so uncommon a scene, there
was a sudden shriek, and the little girl fell in a swoon upon the sidewalk.
The woman, with another shriek, that caused hundreds to stop and look round
in wonder, rushed to the fallen child, seized her in her arms, and bore her
into the house. My heart prompted me to follow her. She carried her to one
of the upper rooms, laid her on a bed near an open window, and then fell
back upon a chair, and gave way to a passionate flood of tears. I saw that
something must be done, at once, for the poor child, and looked about for
water. A pitcher upon a shelf in an open closet supplied this want, and I
bathed the child's forehead and temples and rubbed her hands for a few
moments, when the woman recovered her self-possession enough to find a
bottle of hartshorn, and to assist me in my efforts to restore the child to
her senses. Not a word was said, till the little one opened her eyes, and
looked wistfully around, as if to discover where she was.
"Marcia, dear, God bless you, darling," exclaimed the poor woman, in an
agony of joy, which quite overcame her, and she sat down again to cry. I
continued my manipulations, and in a few moments more the little sufferer
opened her eyes again, and said, in a faint whisper, "Arnie, are you here?"
"Yes, darling, Arnie is here," sob-
bed the agitated woman, throwing herself upon the child, and sobbing
afresh, as if her heart would break. "Arnie is here, and will not leave
you--no, never, never."
I stepped aside for a while, feeling that they would be better alone
during the first moments of returning to consciousness, for I saw that there
was a painful and interesting history involved in this sudden and unexpected
recognition; and, much as my feelings were excited and my curiosity
awakened, I did not feel at liberty to intrude on the first sacred
interview, or to listen to the inquiries and explanations which I knew would
follow. I therefore went down to the street again, and amused myself, for
half an hour, with what I could see in a fancy book-store.
Returning to the upper room in which I had become so deeply interested,
I found the child, Marcia, sitting cosily and affectionately in Arnie's lap,
near the window. she had been much excited and exhausted, and was about
falling asleep. As I entered, she started up, and looking earnestly at me,
exclaimed, "you won't take me away, will you, sir?"
"No! my child," I answered, "I have no wish and no right to take you
away. I am most happy to see that you seem to have found an old friend, and
I have come to see if there is anything I can do to help you."
With these assurances she was satisfied, and snuggling down close to
her old friend's mother heart, began to sob a little, but was soon lost in a
sound sleep. I then learned from Arnie, or more properly Mrs. Arnold, that
Marcia was the daughter of a wealthy merchant in one of the flourishing
villages of Western New York, and Mrs. Arnold had been her nurse. One day,
some three years past, while Mrs. Arnold was busily engaged in the upper
part of the house, the child, who was left to play with her pet dog and
kitten, in the little garden before the door, was most mysteriously spirited
away. She could not be found, or traced. No one had seen her carried off.
No one had heard her scream. The most diligent search had been made, in all
directions, and kept up for a long time, but no trace had been discovered,
either of the child or any person or persons who could be suspected of
having stolen her, or aided in her capture. Her parents were almost
distracted. Her mother was thrown into a violent fever, with long continued
delirium, which had nearly terminated her life. Her own life (Mrs. Arnold's)
was rendered so miserable, she suffered such constant and severe misgivings
and self-reproaches, because the child was lost while under her care, that
she could not remain in the neighborhood. She came to the city and hired a
room, where, by taking care of the rooms and stores adjoining, and executing
a certain kind of net-work, in which she was skillful, she had been able to
secure an honest living, and get away from scenes and associations too
painful to be borne. "This morning," she said, "as I was sweeping out the
lower hall, the little girl accosted me, and begged for bread. There was
something in the tones of her voice, and in the peculiar expression of her
eyes, which at once attracted my notice. But she was so meanly clad, and
spoke with such a timid and downcast air, that it was some minutes before
anything like a distinct image of the lost Marica presented itself. The
poor child did not seem to recognize me at all. Indeed, she
scarcely looked at me, so much was her spirit broken. At length I said,
almost afraid to trust myself to speak the words, 'Did you ever hear of a
little girl named Marcia?'
"'Yes, ma'am--that is my name,' she replied, looking up with something
like a smile.
"In an instant she comprehended the whole thing. She did not know me,
but she knew, by a sort of child's instinct, that none but Arnie could speak
so. It was too much for her feeble frame, and she swooned, as you saw, when
you came up."
Mrs. Arnold then went on to repeat what Marcia had told her of her own
As she was playing in the garden, a dark-looking man came along, and,
without saying a word to her, seized her in his arms, put his hand over her
mouth, and carried her off. She was terribly afraid and thought she should
die. At length, in her agony and despair, she began to cry. The man
threatened to kill her instantly, if she made the least noise, or any effort
to get away. He carried her to the rail-road station, and brought her to
New York. Here she was put under the charge of a very cross old woman, who
took away all her clothes, and dressed her in rags, and compelled her to go
out and beg. For a long time, the old woman would follow her at a little
distance, or get some one else to watch her, to see that she did not speak
to any one, except to beg for bread. She was often severely whipped,
because she complained of being tired and sick. Her heart was broken. She
thought all her friends were dead, and, to use her own sad words, began
to fear that God was dead, too. She did not dare to look anybody in the
face. She was afraid to speak out openly, and only in mumbling accents
asked for bread, which she must have, or go home to be severely
punished. She would gladly have died, but she couldn't.
"And now," said Mrs. Arnold, "I shall go home with her to-morrow, and
restore her to her bereaved friends."
As she said this, her feelings overcame her. She burst into a violent
fit of sobbing, and Marcia awoke.
I have since seen Marcia in her own happy home. Her friend Arnie was
still with her, as a sort of foster-mother, and all the bitter past was
remembered only to enhance the happiness to which she was so remarkably