[Editorial] “Little Susan, The Poor-house Girl,” by J. A. (from Youth’s Companion, August 12, 1847; p. 60)
In the town of K——, in the state of New York, a Mrs. Martin was in want of a little girl to assist her in her domestic labors. As she did not succeed in finding one in the neighborhood, she rode to the Poor House for the county, and selected a little girl about twelve years of age, and took her home with her.
“Is your father or mother living?” said Mrs. Martin to her as they set out on their way to Mrs. Martin’s abode.
“No, ma’am, they are both dead.”
This was spoken in a soft plaintive tone, which went to the heart of Mrs. Martin, and awakened there a deep sympathy for the orphan.
“How long have you been an orphan?”
“My mother died about a year ago, and my father was killed a little more than a month ago.”
“How was your father killed?”
“He was assisting in raising a barn, and fell from the top of the frame, and was taken up dead.”
“Was your father a good man?”
“Not always,” said the girl with some hesitation. “My mother was a good woman.”
“Of what disease did your mot[h]er die?”
Mrs. Martin looked on the pale, thin countenance of the orphan, and saw clearly that she had inherited her mother’s constitution, and that she would probably, at an early period, fill a consumptive’s grave. She addressed a few consoling and encouraging words to the orphan, and rode on in silence, musing upon the wide differences in the allotments of Providence, to the members of the human family. She had a daughter, now two years old. A tender father and mother now watched over her. Was she to be left an orphan and destitute, and would some one find that darling child among those supported by public charity? If her child’s condition was to differ from that of the poor orphan before her, to what would it be owing? Not to the worth or care of the mother, for it was evident, from the language and manners of Susan, that her mother was a woman of refinement and worth. “After all I can do for my child,” said she to herself, “I must leave her in the hands of God, to be disposed of according to his holy pleasure. I will be kind to this poor child, as I should wish one to be kind to my own, if she should be left an orphan?” So let every reader say of the bereaved and destitute, “I will be kind to them.”
After Susan had lived with Mrs. Martin a few weeks, she made known to her more fully, the particulars of her history. It appeared that her father had been a drunkard, that he was under the influence of intoxicating liquor when he received the fall that cost him his life. He had often abused his wife and children. Mrs. Martin often wept, as she listened to Susan’s simple and affecting story of the suffering thus endured.
“You have a good home, now,” said Mrs. Martin, and you shall never go away from here, so long as you behave well.”
“I am afraid I shall be sick, like mother, and be unable to work for you,” said Susan.
“Never mind; you shall always have a home here while I live.”
That promise was kept, but it secured Susan a home only for a brief season. Mrs. Martin was taken ill, and in about a week, she died. She was delirious from the first, and hence could not express to her husband, her wishes respecting Susan. Mr. Martin broke up housekeeping, and Susan was received into the family of a neighbor, a very different woman from Mrs. Martin. She had to toil hard, and heard few pleasant and encouraging words. In a few months, she bled at the lungs, and the woman with whom she lived, hurried her back to the poor-house, lest she should die on her hands. She lingered for several months, and then died, with no friend to smooth her dying pillow, and weep for her when she was gone.
My dear young reader, have you a good home and kind friends? Remember with kindness the poor orphan who has neither. Remember to adore the wisdom and goodness that has made you to differ.