As I was walking up street, a few days since, I met two little girls who looked very much alike, and were nearly of the same age. They wore gingham sun-bonnets, which came far over their good-natured faces. Their calico dresses were neatly made. Their blue woollen stockings looked warm and comfortable, but their shoes were old and much worn.
As I passed, the elder held out her hand in a way which I could not mistake, but I thought I would ask her what she wanted. She replied, “A penny to get mother some sugar for her tea.” I talked with the children a few minutes about their mother, and inquired if she sent them out to beg. They said she was obliged to do it, for their father was dead, and she was not able to work.
[Illustration: The elder held out her hand.]
The children had such good, honest faces, and gave such evidence, in their general appearance, of more care than most of this class of children usually receive, that I thought I would go home with them, that I might better judge of the correctness of their story, and of the necessities of their mother. So I said to them—
“Where does your mother live?”
They named the street.
“Will you take me there?”
“Yes, ma’am. We must go this way;” and they turned off in the direction of their home.
“What is your name?” I inquired of the elder child.
“Mary Ann ——.”
“And what is your’s?”
“Ellen ——,” answered the younger.
“Have you any brothers and sisters?”
“We have one sister and one brother. Her name is Joanna, and his is Michael. A man took Michael away the fifth of July—the day after the Fourth—and we haven’t seen him since. Mother thinks we shall never see him again.”
They told me that their father was a stone-picker, and while he lived, they did very well, and went to school; but since he died, their mother had been ill, and had bled at the lungs, and was not strong enough to work.
I was pleased to see the children take each other by the hand, and walk along quite lovingly by my side. They appeared kind and polite to each other, and seemed to think that in me they had found a friend. They talked very fast, and told me many things about themselves and their way of life.
“We save our money to pay the rent.”
“How much does your mother pay?”
“Three dollars a month!” I said, thinking how much it was for a poor woman, who had herself and three children to feed and clothe.
“I don’t know whether it is a month, or a week, or how long; I only know it is three dollars.
“Once we were turned out in the snow. Oh! how cold my feet were!” The remembrance of her sufferings seemed almost to make her shiver.
“What did you do?”