Christian Poems and Poetry
Wanted - A real Mother
Mary King sat before the dressing table in her bedroom holding in her hands a string of beads-pearls they were, but they showed signs of much wear, and as Mary looked at them her eyes blazed with anger.
Tomorrow was her graduation day from high school. All day she had been at the class picnic and had had such a glorious time. They had danced and played, they had rowed on the lake and sent their high school songs in the moonlight. She had been happy as a girl could be, and to have it spoiled in this way was cruel.
Why should her mother give her a string of old beads for a graduation present? Other girls had wrist watches, pretty dresses, checks, and all sorts of beautiful things. When they asked her what her mother's gift had been, how could she say, "A string of old beads?" Mother would expect her to wear them at their graduation, how could she?
She had found them on her table when she came into her room, with them was a note saying:
I waited for you to come home so that I could give you my gift, but it is so late and I am too tired to wait any longer, so I will leave it for you. I could not buy you a real gift, so I have given
you the dearest thing I have. Every bead has a story which some day I will tell you-perhaps on the day you graduate from college, but not now. I hope you will love them as I do. I shall see them tomorrow
on your pretty new dress. Good night, girlie. I hope you had a good time.
Why was mother so queer? All her life it had been hard for Mary to have her mother so different. Her mother worked for Mr. Morse and so she could never bring her friends to their rooms, lest she should annoy the Morses. Other girls' mothers had pretty faces, and her mother's face was all red and cross-looking. Other girls' mothers had pretty hair, but her mother had straight hair and little of it. She had tried to get her to wear false hair, but instead of doing it, her mother had gone to her
room and cried because Mary had suggested it. Other girls' mothers let them wear pretty clothes but hers were always
plain, though they were always very neat. Most of the girls had fancy new graduation dresses, but hers was only a little dimity that her mother had made-and now these dreadful beads were more than she could stand and she threw them on the bed in anger. She wished she had a "real mother" of whom she could be proud.
As she started to take down her long wavy hair, she saw a letter in Mr. Morse's handwriting on her desk. Perhaps it was a check for her graduation present, so she hastily tore it open. But no check dropped out. Instead there was a long letter, and she sat down to read.
"My dear Mary," it began. "A few days ago, I chanced to be on the beach when you were there with your friend, and I heard you say to her, "I wish my mother were as beautiful as yours. Mother can't even go down the street with me for she drags her foot so that everybody turns and looks at us, and it makes me feel so conspicuous. You must be very proud of your mother." So I have decided that for your
graduation, I shall give you a story instead of the check that I had intended to give you. The
check can wait."
"A story," said Mary to herself. "That is worse than the old beads. What a house of queer people this is! Anyway, I am curious to see what sort of story he could write." So she read on.
"Seventeen years ago there came to town in the eastern part of Pennsylvania a young man and his bride. Just a slip of a girl she was, but her face was full of sunshine, and everyone soon loved her. She had
beautiful, wavy hair and bright, blue eyes and a cheery smile. After they had been there for a while, their story came to be known, for his father was a great mill owner in a nearby town. When the young man had married the high school girl instead of the wealthy one whom the father had chosen for him, there had been a lot of trouble and the young man had been told to leave home with his bride and expect no more help from the father.
"Now the young man had never worked, so it was very hard for him, but she also worked and, little by little, they bought the things needed in the tiny home on the hill, and they were very happy. Then, one day a scaffold fell and they brought the young husband to the little wife all bruised and bleeding. And that very night a tiny baby girl came to the home to live. The neighbors helped all they could, but in a few days the father of the baby was gone, and the little girl-wife was left alone to
care for the baby.
When the mill-owner heard of the death of the son and the birth of the little girl, he sent to the mother and said, "We will take the little girl, and bring her up as our own if you will give her
to us and have no more to do with her." But the brave little woman sent back her answer,
"As long as I have a mind with which to think and two hands with which to work, I can and will support my little girl."
"But it was a hard pull. She worked in an office; she worked on a farm. Then a position was offered her as a teacher in a home for children. Here she could have her own room and keep the baby with her. When she was not teaching, it would be cared for with the others. Gladly, the mother took the position and for more than a year she was very, very happy.
"One night when the baby was nearly three years old, she sat reading in the parlor of the home when someone called, "Fire,Fire! Fire in the left wing!" Oh! That was where her baby was, on the very top floor. Like a bird she flew across the hall where the smoke was already pouring out. Up the first flight, choking, she went. Up the second. Then she had to fall to the floor to creep along. She could see the fire. It was on the fourth floor where Mary was. Could she ever reach it? Would the fire block her way?
"Ten minutes after the call of fire had been given, the workers saw someone staggering through the lower hall. In her arms she carried a bundle wrapped tightly in a quilt. And dangling from her hands was a long string of beads. Her face was burned. Their was no hair on her head. She was writhing in agony, but she reached the door, handed the burden to the worker, saying quietly, "I am badly
burned, but I have saved my two treasures. Keep them safe for me!" Then she fell in a heap on the floor.
"For months and months she tossed on a bed of pain. No one thought she could possibly live. But she did, for she was living for her baby. When at last she came from the hospital, her beautiful face
scarred and red; only in sots had her hair grown back; her hands were stiff and painful; and one leg dragged as she walked. But she was alive, and that was all she asked.
"While she had been ill, I had gone to see the mill-owner to ask for help for the brave little woman who had shown us all what a heroine she was. But his answer had been. If she will give the child to me, I will bring it up in luxury, but I will not have her here."
"So when she was ready to go back to work, I told her that another offer had come from the grandfather of the child to adopt it and I said to her, "Don't you feel that you had better give him the baby?"
"For answer she patted the curly head and said, "If I can fight death for my baby, I can conquer in the fight to live. I shall keep her. You may tell him that the child will not live in luxury but that she shall not know want, and she shall have both the education and the culture which befits her fathers child.
"But the mother's heart was sore when she looked in the glass and saw what a pitiful change had come to her pretty face. "I am glad it came while Mary was little," she said. "Had it come later, she would have minded my ugly face. Now she knows no better and she will grow used to it.
"So she was glad when I offered to have her come to live with us in the distant city where none had known of her or of that awful fight she was planning to make. We had taken a large house and there
were many things the mother could do with her stiff hands which gradually, because of the long hours she spent on them, were beginning to limber up a bit. I gave her rooms for herself and the child, and there she lived, keeping away from all so that none might see her shrunken, changed body. She lived
only for the child, hoarding carefully the little money she could save lest there be not enough to send her to college when high school would be over.
"Often have I heard her praying for strength to fight through the battle often have I begged her to let me tell the child the story of the days that had gone, but her answer was always the same,
"No. Let her live the happy, carefree life. Someday I will tell her, but not now. It would kill me to have her pity me. She must love me for myself and not for what I did. My only happiness is to live and work for her.
"So the heroine had spent 15 years, and to my way of thinking, she is a mother of whom you may be proud. "She must never know I have told you. But not for the world would I have you add to her burden by thinking she was not all that you wanted your mother to be.
When Mary had finished the letter, she sat as one stunned. Her mind was on fire. Mechanically she picked up the pearls that she had thrown on the bed. Her mother had carried them with her through
that awful fire! They were one of her two treasures, and she had almost said she would not wear them. Oh, what a selfish girl she had been! She had thought only of herself. Once she had asked her mother why the scar was upon her face and she had answered, "Just an accident, child, when I was a young
woman." Then she had talked of something else. The lame foot, the misshapen hands, the red face, the queer little knot of hair were all the price paid for her child's life. Every minute since she was born, she had been a burden to her mother.
Now she remembered that it had been years since mother had had a new dress, but she had thought it because she was queer. There had been many days when mother had seemed cross! What could she do
to make her happy, now that she knew?
Slowly she prepared for bed. She must be in the dark to think. When she knelt in prayer, she asked God to forgive her-but she remembered that she could not ask her mother to do so. She remembered the words of her mother to Mr. Morse, "It would kill me to have her feel sorry for me. She must love me for myself and not for what I did."
So she tossed and tumbled as the time slipped by. Suddenly she heard a foot dragging across the hall, and a big lump came into her throat. How often she had rebelled at that foot. Then her mother
came quietly into the room. "Mother," said Mary, "Why are you here? Aren't you asleep yet?" "No, dear," she said, and the girl thought she had never heard a more beautiful voice. I heard you tossing in bed and I thought perhaps you were ill so I came to see. What is the trouble, dear?" "Oh, tomorrow is my graduation day and I think I am sorry to leave school, "said the girl. "I love these dear little
beads which I have under the pillow, Mother. Have you had them long? I never saw them before".
"Many, many years, girlie. Your father gave them to me and how hard he worked to earn them. I love every little bead on the string. But I shall love to see you wear them for his sake. I saved them
for you once in the long ago because I wanted you to have something that he had earned for us. And now you just go to sleep, for you must look bright and pretty tomorrow. Oh! I shall be so proud of you when you receive your diploma!"
Then a white arm drew the mother down close to the bed and a sweet girlish voice said: "Be all ready when the carriage comes for me tomorrow, Mother dear, for you are going with me ,even though it is
early. No other girl has a mother worked so hard as you have to keep her in school. You are the best mother in the whole world and I am so proud of you."
"Well, if you are as proud of me as I am of you, we are the happiest little family in the whole world," said the mother, kissing her on both cheeks. And two people were happy because real love
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