In “Child’s Grief,” Mary Ann explores the death of a child, a favorite topic in The Youth’s Companion; this piece, however, also offers an intimate look at family life.
[Nursery] “Child’S Grief: A Story for Addison,” by Mary Ann (from The Youth’s Companion, April 2, 1846; pp. 190-191)

I am a little boy, only five years old; I used to be very happy, but I feel sad, now; perhaps some of my little friends would like to know why I feel so.

I live in a pretty white cottage where there are a great many beautiful trees, and flowers; my father has a beautiful garden, where he lets me play sometimes; I have a little garden, too, and a spade which I used to dig with.

Sometimes I would fill my little wheelbarrow with stones, and wheel them away, or get on my dog Neptune’s back to ride; poor fellow, we used to have fine times together, but I do not care to play with him as I did then.

I sleep in a little crib by my mother’s bed; her bed has white curtains round it, and a honeysuckle vine grows all over the windows, so that in summer the sun can hardly shine in through the leaves; it is a very pretty chamber, I think.

One morning, a good while ago, I awoke and found my little crib in another room, instead of mother’s chamber; I began to cry, for I didn’t like to be away from father and mother; pretty soon father came, and carried me in to see mother; but the room was all dark, and mother was in bed, and an old lady was there, with a cap on, (it wasn’t my grandmother, either.)

Mother held out her hand to me, and smiled; but she looked so pale that the tears came right into my eyes, again, and I asked father if she was going to heaven.

But before he had time to answer, the old lady turned down the bed-clothes, and there lay a little baby, all wrapped up in blankets, and it kept kicking and moving its little hands, all the time; I thought it did not look like Mrs. Belmont’s little baby.

Mother said it was a little sister for me, and then, how glad I did feel; I kissed her over and over again, and pulled up her dress to see her little feet.

Well, after a great while, my mother got well again, but

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she didn’t stay down stairs much, she kept the baby up in her room.

By and bye winter came; and then we were so happy—grandma came to spend the winter with us. Father bought me a new sled, but I didn’t care to coast much, for I loved to stay up in mother’s room, and play with baby.

Sometimes after tea, we would all go up stairs, and sit round the coal fire in mother’s chamber; mother would take the baby, and father me, and grandmother would sit in the rocking chair with her knitting-work; then we would sing, “While shepherds watched their flocks by night,” and baby and I would be undressed before the fire, and papa would lay me in my little crib right there by the bed, and after mother had rocked baby to sleep, she would put her in the bed. Oh! I used to be so happy, going to sleep there with papa, and mamma, and grandma all in the room.

But by and bye, baby became sick, and the doctor came, and mother had to hold her on a pillow in her lap; papa looked very sad, and mamma cried, and grandma told me not to make a noise; in a few days they told me that my sister was dead; I didn’t know what being dead meant, but I ran behind the bed, and cried, and everybody cried, and the next day they put my little sister in a box, and carried her away; and mother took me on her lap, and said I was now her only child.

That night, when we sat round the fire, there was no baby for us to play with, and we were so sad, that we couldn’t sing, “While shepherds watched,” &c. It was a good many days ago, that baby died, but we all feel sad still. Papa says she is a little angel now, and lives in heaven.

But I shall never forget my little sister, I do not love to play now, I do not care for my sleds or skates. I do not care to play with Neptune, or to hear grandma’s pretty stories; and when I go to bed, the tears always come into my eyes, because I have no little sister. Next summer, the flowers will grow again, and so will our honeysuckle vine, and the robins will build their nest in the old pear tree again, but I shall not care for the birds, nor the flowers, as I used to. I shall never forget my sister. Father and mother tell me, that if I am a good boy, I shall go to see the baby in heaven when I die, so I try to be good but I feel very sad all the time, and don’t think I shall ever forget my sister.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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