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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER IV FINDING FRIENDS

The Poorhouse Waif And His Divine Teacher by Isabel C. Byrum


Oh! ask not, hope thou not too much
Of sympathy below;
Few are the hearts whence one same touch
Bids the sweet fountains flow.

-- Mrs. Hemans.

The first morning for Edwin in his mother's home dawned clear and bright, and as the soft gleams of brilliant sunlight shone in upon the coverlet of his bed, he, who had been a poorhouse waif, opened his eyes and in bewilderment gazed about the place. Suddenly he remembered some of the events of the previous day, and especially the form of the |big man| and that of the |woman,| who, he had been told, was his mother. He remembered, too, his decision to do all in his power to please both.

His heavenly Father understood his heart if his earthly parent did not, and this all-wise guardian, knowing how very hard it was going to be for the child in this new home, enabled him to find friendship that was really warm and true.

Slipping noiselessly from beneath the covers -- for the night had been cold -- Edwin went to the window through which the morning sun was streaming, and there he saw a scene that thrilled him with delight. Lying asleep upon the walk in the warmest spot that could be found was a large Newfoundland dog. Clad in his heavy coat of shaggy fur and surrounded by a bed of green, he was indeed a pleasing picture. There had been several dogs at the poorhouse of which Edwin had been especially fond, but there had been none so beautiful as the one upon the walk below. The bees, too, were busy gathering among the flowers the honey for their winter's supply, and hopping about here and there over the lawn were the little |jumper-men.|

As Edwin from his elevation beheld the part of God's creation that he had already chosen for his friends, his loneliness was quite forgotten. He was still gazing down upon the scene when his mother appeared in the doorway and with cruel words ordered him to hasten below to the kitchen. Little did she know that her child was finding in the animal kingdom the friendship that she had denied him, and she would not have cared had she known.

During the day and those that followed, Edwin endeavored in every possible way to help his mother, but his understanding so little about her ways and the names and uses of the simplest articles about the house seemed only to increase his troubles and hardships. And as slaps and bruises such as the dog had not known were his portion, the unfortunate child endeavored, whenever it was possible to do so, to hide from sight, but he always tried to be ready to give heed to the slightest order. But even this faithfulness, as well as the fact that he had so much difficulty in comprehending her meaning, made the mother still more unkind.

One duty that was assigned him as a daily task was sweeping the crumbs from beneath the dining-table, and when he had learned how, so thoroughly did he do this work that he never stopped brushing until he had found every particle of dust or lint in sight that had settled under other articles of furniture.

Another duty was carrying food to the dog, and he soon found that the well-filled plate of scraps contained far better food in many instances than he was allowed to share at the table. Whenever this happened, as it often did, and there was plenty of other food for the dog, Edwin ate a portion, but never without feeling confident that he was not robbing his friend. As the dog usually looked very wise, Edwin took it for granted that his motive was understood as right and just, and in this way the child was able to get some of the food that he would otherwise have been denied, and the dog's allowance was still sufficient. Rather than rob the dog, he would always have gladly done without.

When Edwin was given the care of his little baby cousin, who was just beginning to walk, he felt that this work was very hard indeed, but he did his best to understand just what was expected of him. Having been the youngest child at the almshouse and having spent so much of his time apart from the others, Edwin was unable to think of many ways in which he could amuse the little fellow, and sometimes it seemed that all of his efforts to please had been in vain.

A few weeks after Edwin's arrival in his mother's home the children -- Edwin and his three cousins, Elmer, Jennie, and the baby -- were playing in the yard with Perry the dog. Elmer, a lad scarcely a year younger than Edwin, was tossing a stick for the dog to return to him, and Edwin was astonished to find that his friend Perry was so very wise. The baby, who was in Edwin's charge, was barely able to keep upon his feet, but Edwin was doing his best to protect him from falling and to keep his eyes upon both the child and the dog at once.

Suddenly above his head in a large apple-tree Edwin heard a rustling of the leaves and a chattering of little birds, and he realized that his feathered friends had returned with a breakfast for the little ones. As he gazed upward endeavoring to locate the nest, he was just pointing to the spot when whiz went the stick with which Elmer had been amusing the group. So dangerously near to the nest did the missile go that Edwin, crying out with terror and anxiety, for the moment forgot all about his baby cousin. Running toward the tree as though hoping to protect the nest, he was just in time to see the stick miss the mark and then fall upon the ground alarmingly near the baby's foot. Although unhurt, the baby screamed, and a moment later Mrs. Fischer came rushing from the house and demanded a reason for the little one's crying.

Elmer, ever willing to justify himself at any cost, said hurriedly: |It was all Ed's fault! I just tried to throw that little stick up there in the tree, and when it came down it struck the baby's foot. If Ed had been minding his work, the baby wouldn't have been there.| But Elmer failed to tell that he was throwing at the little nest with the intention of knocking it out of the tree and that the stick had done no harm to the baby's foot.

Accepting the explanation without any further details, Mrs. Fischer became furious, and, picking up the stick, she struck Edwin time and again upon the head and shoulders. Then, after calling him many hard and cruel names, she said, |I'll teach you how to attend to your business if there's any sense in you at all!|

After looking at the baby's foot and finding that there was nothing wrong with it at all, the woman, without a word of apology or sympathy for her suffering child, returned to the house.

Once again when the poor boy was so much alone, as far as a human friend was concerned, his heavenly Father understood and supplied his need. Perry at once left his former master and, going close to Edwin, did all within his power to soothe the little sufferer, and his sympathy was as balm to the wounded, troubled spirit of the child. Casting aside his grief and reserve, he caressed the noble animal, and when comforted he arose and was soon able to care for the little child that had been placed in his charge. And thus the afternoon slipped slowly away.

So thoroughly seasoned with bitterness and grief had the day been that Edwin was glad when he saw the shadows lengthening, for he knew that it would soon be dark. The sweet quiet and rest of the night were inviting. He thought of the pattering of tiny feet upon his coverlet and wondered if the rats and mice would call again. He hoped that they would, for they too were his friends. But after supper another surprize and disappointment was awaiting him. At bedtime he was told that he need not go to the attic to sleep any more, as there was room for him in Elmer's bed, and that thereafter the two would sleep in his mother's room. Edwin would have preferred the attic, but he submissively did as he was told, and as he slept the Lord kept vigil and watched tenderly over the sleeping child, for |his eye seeth every precious thing| (Job 28:10).

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