SHE GOES TO CHURCH

JANEY CLARK was taken ill one day and was carried to the hospital. When
she returned months afterward, she had something to tell Marian.

“You want to get yourself adopted,” was her advice. “I’m going to,
first chance I get. When I was too well to stay in the hospital and not
enough well to come home, a pretty lady came and said would I like to
go to her house and stay until I was all better.”

“Did she ‘dopt you?” questioned Marian.

“No, of course not, or I could have stayed at her house and she would
be my mother. She didn’t want to keep me but only to borrow me so
the children she is aunt to would know about Little Pilgrims and
how lucky it is not to be one their own selves. And at her house,”
continued Janey, “if you liked something they had for dinner pretty
well, you could have a second helping, if you would say please. You
better believe I said it when there was ice cream. And the children
she was aunt to took turns dividing chocolate candy with me, and the
only trouble was they gave me too much and made me sick most all the
time. What do you think! One day a girl said she wished I was a little
cripple like a boy that was there once, because she liked to be kind
to little cripples and wash their faces. Wasn’t she just lovely? Oh,
Marian, I want to be adopted and have a mother like that lady and a
room all my own and everything.”

“But I would rather live with Mrs. Moore,” objected Marian. “I’ve
picked her out for my mother.”

“All right for you, stay here if you want to,” agreed Janey, “but I’m
not, you just wait and see.”

Janey Clark was adopted soon after and when Marian was invited to visit
her, she changed her mind about living forever in the Home for Little
Pilgrims. Mrs. Moore promised to choose a mother for her from the many
visitors to the Home, yet she and Marian proved hard to suit.

“I want a mother just like my Nanna,” said Marian to the
superintendent, who agreed to do all he could to find one. In spite of
his help Marian seemed likely to stay in the Home, not because no one
wanted her but because the child objected to the mothers who offered
themselves. All these months the little girl was so happy and contented
the superintendent said she was like a sunbeam among the Little
Pilgrims and if the school-teacher had some ideas that he and Mrs.
Moore didn’t share, she smiled and said nothing.

In time, Marian talked of the mother she wished to have as she did of
heaven–of something beautiful but too indefinite and far away to be
more than a dream. One never-to-be-forgotten morning, the dream took
shape. A woman visited the Home, leading a little girl by the hand. A
woman so lovely the face of the dullest Little Pilgrim lighted as she
passed. It was not so much the bright gold of her hair, nor the blue
eyes that attracted the children, but the way she smiled and the way
she spoke won them all.

She was the mother for whom Marian had waited. It didn’t occur to the
child that the woman might not want her.

It was noon before the strangers were through visiting the chapel, the
schoolroom, the nursery and the dormitories. Like a shadow Marian had
followed them over the building, fearing to lose sight of her chosen
mother. On reaching the dining-room the woman and child, with the
superintendent, stood outside the door where they watched the Little
Pilgrims march in to dinner. Noticing Marian, the superintendent asked
her why she didn’t go to the table, and Marian tried to tell him but
couldn’t speak a word. The man was about to send her in the dining-room
when he caught the appealing look on the child’s face. At that moment
the stranger turned. Marian seized her dress and the woman, glancing
down, saw the dear little one and stooping, kissed her.

The superintendent smiled but Marian began to cry as the woman tried
ever so gently to release her dress from the small, clinging fingers.

“We must go now,” the stranger said, “so good-bye, dear child.”

“I’m going with you,” announced Marian. “I want you for my mother.”

“But, don’t you see, I have a little girl? What could I do with two?”
remonstrated the woman. “There, there,” she continued, as Marian began
to sob piteously, “run in to dinner and some day I will come to see
you again. Perhaps they may let you visit my little girl and me before
long. Would you like that?”

“No, no,” wailed Marian, “I want you for my mother.”

“Come, Marian, sweetheart, let’s go find Mrs. Moore,” suggested the
superintendent, taking her by force from the visitor, whose eyes
filled with tears at the sight of little outstretched arms. For years
afterwards there were times when that woman seemed to feel the clinging
fingers of the Little Pilgrim who chose her for her mother. She might
have taken her home. The next time she called to inquire for the
child, Marian was gone.

An unexpected thing happened as Marian was borne away to the nursery.
The stranger’s little girl cried and would not be comforted because
she couldn’t stay and have dinner with the Little Pilgrims. She was
still grieving over her first sorrow after Mrs. Moore had succeeded in
winning back the smiles to the face of her precious Marian.

“Well, I know one sure thing,” declared the Little Pilgrim as she
raised her head from Mrs. Moore’s shoulder and brushed away the tears.
“I know that same mother will come and get me some time and take me
home and then you will come and live with me–and won’t it be lovely!
Let’s have some dinner, I’m hungry!”

Mrs. Moore smiled and sighed at the same time, but she ordered a
luncheon for two served in the nursery and Marian’s troubles vanished:
also the luncheon.

The next time the superintendent saw the child, she was sitting on the
nursery floor singing to the babies. He was surprised and pleased when
he heard the sweet, clear voice and straightway sought Mrs. Moore.

“Let me take her Sunday,” he suggested. “I didn’t know our Marian was a
singer.”

“Are you going into the country?” asked the nurse.

“No, Mrs. Moore, not this time. We expect to have services in one of
the largest churches right here in the city. We have made special
arrangements and I shall take twenty-five of the best singers in the
Home with me. Marian will have plenty of company.”

“She is young,” objected Mrs. Moore.

The superintendent laughed. “Petey Ross,” said he, “was two years old
when he made his first public appearance on the platform; Marian is
nearly six.”

“Yes,” agreed Mrs. Moore, “that is true and I remember that Petey
Ross was adopted and in less than a week after that first appearance.
Marian,” she continued, “come here, darling. Do you want to go to a big
church with the children next Sunday and sing one of the songs you and
I sing to the babies?”

“Yes, Nanna, what for?”

“Because the superintendent wishes you to. Every Sunday he takes some
of our little boys and girls away to sing in the different churches,
where he tells the people all about the Home for Little Pilgrims.”

“Oh, yes, now I know,” declared Marian. “Janey Clark used to go and
sing. She said that was the way to get yourself adopted. I’d like to go
if I don’t have to get adopted and if Nanna may go too.”

“All right, Marian, I will go,” assented Mrs. Moore, “and nobody shall
adopt you unless you wish it. Now run back to the babies. Little Ned
and Jakey are quarreling over the elephant. Hurry, Marian, or its ears
will be gone.”

“She’ll demand a salary in another year,” remarked the superintendent,
watching the little girl’s successful management of the babies.

“I shouldn’t know how to get along without her,” said Mrs. Moore, “and
yet it isn’t right to let her grow up here.”

Sunday morning it would have been hard to find a happier child than
Marian anywhere in the big city. She had never been in a church before
and quickly forgot her pretty white dress and curls in the wonder
of it all. She sat on the platform, a radiant little Pilgrim among
the twenty-five waifs. Soon the church was filled. After the opening
exercises the service was turned over to the superintendent of the Home
for Little Pilgrims. He made a few remarks, and then asked Marian to
sing. Pleased by the friendly faces in the pews and encouraged by Mrs.
Moore’s presence, Marian sang timidly at first, then joyously as to the
babies in the nursery.

“‘I am Jesus’ little lamb
Happy all the day I am,
Jesus loves me this I know
For I’m His lamb.'”

As she went on with the song, the little girl was surprised to see many
of the audience in tears. Even Mrs. Moore was wiping her eyes, although
she smiled bravely and Marian knew she was not displeased. What could
be the matter with the folks that bright Sunday morning? Janey Clark
said everybody always cried at funerals. Perhaps it was a funeral. At
the close of her song Marian sat down, much puzzled. After Johnnie
Otis recited the poem he always recited on Visitors’ Day at school,
“The Orphan’s Prayer,” all the Little Pilgrims, Marian included, were
asked to sing their chapel song. What was there sad about that, Marian
wondered. She always sang it over and over to the babies to make them
stop crying.

“It is all for the best, oh, my Father,
All for the best, all for the best.”

When the Little Pilgrims were seated, the superintendent made a speech
to which Marian listened. For the first time in her life she knew the
meaning of the Home for Little Pilgrims. She understood at last all
that Janey Clark had tried to tell her. No wonder the people cried.
Marian stared at the superintendent, longing and dreading to hear more.
Story after story he told of wrecked homes and scattered families; of
little children, homeless and friendless left to their fate upon the
street.

“Whatever may be the causes which bring these waifs to our doors,
remember,” said he, “the children themselves are not to blame. It is
through no fault of theirs their young lives have been saddened and
trouble has come upon them while your little ones are loved and cared
for in comfortable homes.”

The superintendent grew eloquent as he went on. How could it be, Marian
wondered, that she had never known before what a sad, sad place was
the Little Pilgrims’ Home? Where did her mother die and where was
her father? Perhaps he was in the dreadful prison mentioned by the
superintendent. It was such a pitiful thing to be a Little Pilgrim.
Marian wondered how she had ever lived so long. Oh, if she could
change places with one of the fortunate little ones in the pews. The
superintendent was right. Every little girl needed a father and mother
of her own. She wanted the lovely mother who had passed her by. What
was the superintendent saying? something about her? The next thing
Marian knew the man had taken her in his arms and placed her upon the
little table beside him. She thought he said “‘For of such is the
Kingdom of Heaven,'”–she wasn’t sure.

In the quiet moment that followed, Marian looked all over the church
for the mother of her dreams. Maybe she was there and perhaps she would
take her home. If she could only see that one face for a moment.

“I am going to ask our little girl for another song,” the
superintendent said, telling Marian what to sing. The child hesitated,
then looked appealing towards Mrs. Moore. She had forgotten her during
the speech–dear, kind Mrs. Moore.

“Don’t be frightened,” whispered the superintendent, whereupon to the
surprise of every one in the church, Marian put her head upon his
shoulder and sobbed aloud, “I don’t want to be a Little Pilgrim any
more! Oh, I don’t want to be a Little Pilgrim any more!”

Another second and Mrs. Moore’s arms were around the child and the
superintendent was alone on the platform with the twenty-five.

“He told me to take you for a walk in the park,” whispered Mrs. Moore,
“so don’t cry, Marian, and we will leave the church quickly as we can.
We will talk about the Little Pilgrims out in the sunshine where the
birds are singing and we can see the blue sky.”

Mrs. Moore would have been tempted to have stayed in the church had she
known the superintendent’s reason for wishing her to take the child
away; nor would the good man have done as he did, could he have guessed
the immediate consequences. When Marian was gone, the superintendent
told her story effectively. She might have had her choice of many homes
within a week had it not been for the appearance of Aunt Amelia.

THERE was no question about it. Aunt Amelia had a perfect right to
claim the child. The superintendent was sorry to admit it, but what
could he do? Mrs. Moore was heartbroken, but she was powerless. The
proofs were positive. Aunt Amelia’s husband and Marian Lee’s father
were half-brothers and here was Aunt Amelia insisting upon her right to
do her duty by the child.

Marian never heard of Aunt Amelia until it was all over and the
superintendent sent for her. She came dancing into the office, her
face aglow until she saw Aunt Amelia. Then the sunshine faded from
her eyes and she shrank past the stranger, scarcely breathing until
the superintendent’s arms were about her. From that safe shelter she
surveyed Aunt Amelia.

There was nothing in the woman’s appearance to inspire confidence in
a little child. She was tall, thin, bloodless. One felt conscious of
the bones in her very forehead. She wore her scant, black hair in wiry
crimps parted in the middle. Her eyes were the color of stone, while
her lips formed a thin, pale lone line closing over projecting front
teeth. There was a brittle look about her ears and nose as though a
blow might shatter them. Angles completed the picture.

“You say you have a child of your own, Mrs. St. Claire?” The
superintendent asked the question doubtfully. It seemed probable that
his ears had deceived him.

“I have,” was the reply.

“Then Marian will be sure of a playmate.” The man seemed talking to
himself.

“If she behaves herself–perhaps,” was the response.

“What do you mean?” demanded the superintendent.

“I think I expressed myself clearly,” said Mrs. St. Claire. “If Marian
behaves and is worthy of my little daughter’s companionship, we may
allow them to play together occasionally.”

“Does she want to ‘dopt me?” whispered Marian; “tell her no, quick–I
got to go back to the nursery. Put me down.”

“I am your Aunt Amelia,” announced the woman, “and I have come to take
you to Michigan to live with your Uncle George and me.”

“Where did I get any Uncle George?” asked Marian, turning to the
superintendent.

“It isn’t necessary to give a mere child too much information,” put in
Mrs. St. Claire; “it is enough for her to know that she has relatives
who are willing to take her and do their duty by her.”

Regardless of this the man answered one of the questions he saw in
Marian’s solemn blue eyes.

“Your uncle and aunt,” he explained, “are visiting in the city; they
were in church last Sunday when you sang. When relatives come for
Little Pilgrims, Marian, we have to let them go.”

“You will not send me away with–her!” exclaimed the child, terror and
entreaty expressed in the uplifted face.

“Dear child, we must.”

“But I won’t go, I won’t go,” cried Marian, clinging to the
superintendent for protection. “Oh, you won’t send me away, Mrs. Moore
won’t let them take me–I won’t go! Please let me stay until the pretty
mother comes again and I will ask her to take me and I know she will.
Oh, if you love me, don’t send me away with her!”

“It is just as I told my husband Sunday morning,” remarked Mrs. St.
Claire as the superintendent tried to soothe Marian’s violent grief. “I
said the child was subject to tantrums. It is sad to see such traits
cropping out in one so young. Lack of training may have much to do with
it. Other influences—-”

“Pardon me, madam,” interrupted the superintendent, “you forget that
this little one has been with us since she was six months old. Mrs.
Moore has been a mother to her in every sense of the word. It is only
natural that she dreads going among strangers. She is a good little
girl and we all love her. Hush, sweetheart,” he whispered to the
sobbing, trembling child, “perhaps your aunt may decide to leave you
with us.”

“I–I–I won’t–won’t go,” protested Marian, “I–I won’t go, I won’t
go!”

“Are you willing, madam, to give this child to us?” continued the
superintendent; “perhaps you may wish to relinquish your claim, under
the circumstances.”

“I never shrink from my duty,” declared the woman, rising as she spoke,
grim determination in every line of her purple gown; “my husband
feels it a disgrace to find his brother’s child in an orphan asylum.
She cannot be left in a charitable institution while we have a crust
to bestow upon her. She will take nothing from this place except the
articles which belonged to her mother. I will call for the child at
eight this evening. Good-morning, sir.”

“I–I won’t go–I–won’t go! You–you needn’t come for me!” Marian had
the last word that time.

The babies were left to the care of assistant nurses that afternoon.
Mrs. Moore held Marian and rocked her as on that night so long before
when she became a little Pilgrim. For some time neither of them spoke
and tears fell like rain above the brown head nestled in Mrs. Moore’s
arms. Marian was the first to break the silence. “I–I won’t go, I
won’t go,” she repeated between choking sobs, “I–I won’t go, I won’t
go, she’ll find out she won’t get me!”

Mrs. Moore tried to think of something to say. Just then a merry voice
was heard singing in the hall outside,

“It is all for the best, oh, my Father,
All for the best, all for the best.”

“Will they let me come to see you every day?” asked Marian when the
singer was beyond hearing. “Will they?” she repeated as Mrs. Moore made
no answer. “Where is Michigan, anyway? What street car goes out there?”

It was some time before Mrs. Moore could speak. Her strongest impulse
was to hide the precious baby. What would become of her darling among
unloving strangers? Who would teach her right from wrong? Suddenly
Mrs. Moore realized that in days to come there might be time enough for
tears. There were yet a few hours left her with the little girl which
she must improve.

Gently and tenderly she told Marian the truth. Michigan was far, far
away. She must go alone, to live among strangers–yet not alone, for
there was One in heaven who would be with her and who would watch over
her and love her always, as He had in the Home. Poor Marian heard the
voice but the words meant nothing to her until long afterwards. Mrs.
Moore herself could never recall just what she said that sad day. She
knew she tried to tell Marian to be brave, to be good; to tell the
truth and do right: but more than once she broke down and wept with her
darling.

When Mrs. St. Claire called at eight, she was greeted by a quiet,
submissive child who said she was ready to go. More than that, the
little thing tried to smile as she promised to be a good girl. Perhaps
the smile wouldn’t have been so easily discouraged if Mrs. St. Claire
had kissed the swollen, tear-stained face, or had said one comforting
word.

The time of parting came. When it was over, Mrs. Moore lifted the
sobbing child into the carriage. Then she knew that in spite of the
stars the night was dark.