Little Ella and the Beggar (1856)

This short Christmas story appeared in the December 1856 issue of The Lily:

“Go away you naughty little beggar—you shall not sit on my father’s steps—go right away,”—and the angry little speaker wrapped in her warm furs, eyed the shadowy thinly clad child with no friendly expression as she took up her little bundle of broken bread and stole timidly off the marble steps where she had stopped for a moment to rest her tired little feet. “And don’t you ever come here again,” continued the child, springing down one or two of the steps, and frightening the other so much by the movement that she began running, and in her haste to escape, she slipped upon the ice and fell, at which her little tormenter burst into a peal of merry laughter.

“Was that my little daughter Ella that I heard speaking so unkindly?” uttered a grave voice behind the still laughing child. The merriment was stilled, and little Ella dropped her eyes, abashed by the reproachful glance cast upon her by her father who had been an unobserved spectator of the scene.

“Was that your voice Ella?” repeated Mr. Hersey in a sterner tone.

“Yes papa—but it was only a little beggar girl—and she was so dirty. Mamma gave me leave to come out on the steps and play, and I expected Susan Linden to come too, and I’m sure I should not want her to see me sitting here with my pretty new pelisse on, and that beggar girl here too, and she had such a dirty bundle in her hand, papa. Why I think she was real impudent to come here and sit down with her old torn dress on our nice white steps, don’t you papa?” she added, emboldened by the smile which she saw playing for an instant on her father’s face.

“Is my daughter any better than the little beggar because she has on a cashmere frock and new pelisse, rather than a torn calico?” questioned Mr. Hersey.

“Why papa,” said Ella, “I always thought I was better than a beggar.”

“Who made you Ella?” asked her father.

“God,” replied the child.

“And who made the little, poor little girl whom you drove off the steps a few minutes ago?”

Ella thought an instant and then answered hesitatingly.

“Why God, I suppose.”

“Certainly,” replied her father smiling.— “And do you suppose God loves one of his children more than another simply because she has a large house to live in, and a father able to give her a nice new pelisse whenever she wants one?”

“But papa,” responded Ella. “Susie Linden says she is better than a poor child, and I am sure I am as good as she is.”

“I hope you are better my daughter, if your little friend thinks as she speaks,” said Mr. Hersey gravely.

“What day is it to-morrow, Ella?” he continued.

“Why papa, it is Christmas Day—how could you forget?”

“Well my daughter, do you remember who was born on the first Christmas Day—born in a stable and laid in a manger?”

“Yes papa,” reverently answered the little girl, “It was our Saviour.”

“Right Ella—and was not he poor, poor in the riches of this world? You remember the Bible tells us he had not where to lay his head.”

“Oh! dear papa,” interrupted the child, bursting into tears. “I was so wicked to send that poor girl away, she was cold and perhaps hungry. Oh! I am afraid God will never forgive me. I wish I could find her and I would give her my new gold piece that you gave me to-day. Do you believe ten dollars would do her any good, papa?” And then— “Oh! papa! papa—there she is now, just a little way from here—please do come quick.” And she fairly dragged her father down the street.

“What Ella! you are not going to speak to her surely—and with that new pelisse on too. Why what would Susie Linden say?”

The little girl blushed as she replied, “I don’t care, papa, what she says, for I know I am doing right,” as she ran up to the half-frozen child who shrunk from her, remembering her unkindness a short time previously— and taking her frost-bitten hands in hers she ran towards her father and said,

“Now papa, please let us hurry home.— I’m going to keep this little child to-night may I not? And I will give her one of my warm frocks. And,” she added in a lower tone, “I am going to give her the whole of my ten dollars, and then dear papa, won’t God love me then? You know he says, ‘Blessed are they that give.’”

A placid smile was Mr. Hersey’s reply to Ella—but from the depths of the father’s heart welled up to God a deep thanksgiving.

By Gertrude Graham

About The Lily

The Lily, the first newspaper for women, was issued from 1849 until 1853 under the editorship of Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894).

Published in Seneca Falls, New York and priced at 50 cents a year, the newspaper began as a temperance journal for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848.

Bloomer felt that as women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform.

The circulation of The Lily rose from 500 per month to 4,000 per month because of the dress reform controversy. At the end of 1853, the Bloomers moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio, where Amelia Bloomer continued to edit The Lily, which by then had a national circulation of over 6,000. Bloomer sold The Lily in 1854 to Mary Birdsall because she and her husband, Dexter were moving to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where no facilities for publishing the paper were available.

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