A Brave Little
More than a hundred years ago twin girls walked hand in hand across the common, or public park, of Portland, Maine. With them was a schoolmate, and the three friends skipped happily across the grass. Suddenly they heard a shout, and looking back, they saw a girl of about thirteen running after them and calling in an angry voice.
“What's the matter with her?” asked one of the girls.
“I don't know,” answered Elizabeth, one of the twins. “But let's run. Mother says not to answer back when someone is angry, but to hurry home.”
The three girls started to run as fast as they could, their feet fairly flying over the ground. They were almost across the common when the girl shouted again, and Ellen, Elizabeth's twin sister, looked back to see how close the older girl had come. Just as she was turning her head, the girl threw a stone which she had in her hand.
“Oh,” cried Ellen, as the stone struck her full in the face. She was so badly hurt that she sank to the ground. The angry girl, horrified at what she had done, turned and ran away.
The next thing Ellen knew, she was in a store and people were standing about wondering what to do. A kind man stepped forward.
“I will take you home in my carriage,” he offered.
“Oh, no! Thank you,” Ellen murmured weakly, as she sat up. “I feel stronger now. I can walk. I am afraid the blood will stain your carriage.” The people who were in the store did not know how badly the brave little girl was hurt, and so they let her start home, with her sister holding one arm and her schoolmate the other. After she had walked only a short distance she grew faint, and the two girls had to carry her home.
For three weeks Ellen lay in her bed, too sick even to know what was happening or that time was passing. Many of those who saw her felt that she would not live. Ellen's mother prayed earnestly to God for her daughter's life, and He impressed her with the feeling that her little daughter would not die.
When Ellen finally began to notice those about her, she thought she had been asleep. She did not remember the terrible accident.
As she became stronger, neighbors came in to visit and to bring her fruit and flowers.
“What a pity!” said one woman as she left.
“I would not have known her,” said another. Ellen wondered what the women could mean.
“Why are they so sorry for me?” she thought. “Do I look different for some reason?” She called for a looking glass. When she saw herself in the mirror she was shocked. Every feature of her face seemed changed. This could not be the round, healthy, smiling face she had always seen reflected in the glass. Then Ellen's mother explained to her that her nose had been broken, and this, with her long illness, had changed her appearance.
“Why do you not prosecute the girl who has ruined Ellen's life?” advised many who came to the house.
“No,” answered the mother, who was a faithful Christian woman. “If it would bring back health to Ellen, there would be something gained, but it would not do that. It would only make enemies.”
Ellen felt so sad when she looked at her face in the glass that she almost wished she could die. She was very unhappy. Then the thought came to her that perhaps she might die, and she was frightened, for she felt that she was not ready to die. Her parents had taught their children to trust in the Lord and to turn to Him in prayer. Now Ellen prayed to the Lord that if she was going to die, He would forgive her sins and make her ready to meet Him.
After Ellen had prayed, she felt happy. She loved everyone, even the girl who had struck her. She only wished that all could have their sins forgiven and could love Jesus as she did.
Ellen gained strength very slowly, but at last she was able to join her playmates. She learned then the bitter lesson that one's appearance may make a difference in the treatment one receives. Those who had been happy to have her as their playmate when she was a healthy, lively girl had little sympathy for her now that she was weak and sick and her beauty and health had been destroyed. Ellen felt this deeply, and it made her very unhappy.
When Ellen was hurt, her father, Mr. Harmon, was away on a trip. It was several months before he came home, and he was eager to see his children again. When he came into the house he hugged Ellen's brother and her sisters, and then he looked about for her. She timidly stood back away from the others.
“Where is Ellen?” he asked.
“There she is,” said the mother, pointing to where she stood by herself. He looked at Ellen and then back to his wife, thinking, “Surely this is not my little Ellen.” It seemed to him that the pale, thin little girl with the disfigured face, who stood so quietly by herself, could not be his once-happy, healthy daughter. Although she smiled at her father when he took her in his arms, she felt that her heart would break at the thought that not even her own father could recognize her.
At last it was thought that Ellen was strong enough to go to school again. But when she tried to write, her hand trembled so, that she could write only the simplest of words. It seemed impossible for her to study and remember what she had learned.
The teacher asked the girl who had thrown the stone at Ellen while she was crossing the common, to be monitor. It was her duty to help Ellen with her writing and her other lessons. Ellen never reminded her of the accident, but she seemed very sad when she saw Ellen struggling to write her lessons. She was sincerely sorry for her hasty act and for the results of her anger. She was always tender and patient with the poor little pupil.
After a few months the teacher felt that until Ellen should become stronger she should not be allowed to exert herself in school. So she had to give up her studies. It was a severe trial to the little girl to leave school, for she loved her schoolwork and wanted to have a good education.