A little crippled figure, two big pathetic eyes,
A face that looked unchildish, so wan it was and wise;
I watched her as the homesick tears came chasing down each cheek.
'I had to come,' she whispered low, 'I was so tired and weak.
My spine, you know! I used to be so strong, and tall, and straight!
I went to school and learned to read and write upon a slate,
And add up figures-such a lot, and play with all my might,
Until I hurt my back-since then I just ache day and night.
'Tis most a year since I could stand, or walk around at all;
All I am good for now, you see, is just to cry and crawl.'
Poor, pale-faced thing! there came to us the laughter gay and sweet
Of little ones let out from school, the sound of flying feet.
She listened for a moment, then turned her to the wall
To hide the tears. 'Oh, me!' she cried, 'I'm tired of it all.
I feel so hurt and useless, why can't I run about
As others do?' 'Some day, please God, you will,' I said, but doubt
Was in the eyes she turned on mine, and doubt was in her tone.
'Perhaps,' she faltered, then the pain grew harsh; the plaintive moan
Smote sharply on my heart. I knew she had but lately come
From mother's care and father's love, and all the joys of home.
'I wished I'd lived on earth,' she sobbed, 'a long, long time ago,
When Jesus came at eventide, because He loved folks so,
And just by stretching out His hand made all the sick folks well.
If it were now, oh, wouldn't I creep close to Him, and tell
All that I wanted Him to do. I'd kneel down low and say:
'It is my back, dear Jesus, please cure it right away.
I'm tired of being weak and sick, I want to jump and run,
And play at games, and laugh out loud, and have such heaps of fun!
Be good to your poor crippled girl,' and He would touch me-so-
And every atom of the pain and crookedness would go.'
I held her close, and kissed her, and soothed her off to rest,
So frail she was, so homesick for the ones she loved the best!
But yesterday I saw her, and would have passed her by
Had I not caught the greeting smile, the glance so bright and shy.
'Can this be you?' I questioned. She laughed, 'O yes, I thought
You'd hardly know me when you came, I've changed, oh, such a lot!
For see how tall and straight I am! My back don't hurt at all,
And I can stand and I can walk-I never have to crawl.
I'll tell you, it's a secret, I raced with nurse last night.
Just think of it! I raced and won,' and then, in sheer delight,
She laughed so loudly and so long the nurse looked in to say,
'Is not this little girl of ours quite boisterous to-day?'
'They are so good to me,' she said, 'I know I'll want to cry
When I start off for home next week, and have to say good-bye.
What if I hadn't come at all?'-the sweet blue eyes grew wet-
'My back would ache and throb and hurt-I'd be a cripple yet.
For folks as poor as my folks are, they haven't much to spare
For nurse's bills, and doctor's bills, and all-but won't they stare
When I go home, red-cheeked and straight, and fat as I can be?
My daddy, he will never take his dear eyes off of me;
My mamma, she will cry some tears, and bend her head and pray,
While all the others kiss and hug; then I can hear her say:
'Give me my girlie, she's been gone so many long months-five,'
And hold me close-oh, I will be the gladdest thing alive!'