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"The Little Hunchback"

From: The True Child
Creator: Elizabeth Oakes Prince Smith (author)
Date: 1845
Publisher: Saxton and Kelt
Source: American Antiquarian Society

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"O MOTHER," said little Ellen, bursting into tears, and throwing her head into her mother's lap, "how happy I am that there is a heaven! and I wish I could go to it now, now, dear mother."


Mrs. Gates raised the little, thin, pale child in her arms, and the tears came to her own eyes; she kissed her cheek, and took a rose from the glass by her side, and held it to Ellen's lips; but she did not speak, for she knew that her daughter had many griefs.


Ellen kissed the rose, and then she lifted up her head, and smiled through her tears, and said, --


"I am very selfish, dear mother; but I sometimes think I am only here to grieve you, and to hear harsh and cruel words from others; and then I wish to die."


"We must wait God's time, my dear, and we must learn to bear his will."


"Yes, yes; but, mother, how easy it must be for the beautiful to be good! they are so beloved, so smiled upon, and are so a part of all that is lovely. O, were I as beautiful as cousin Mary, I would sing hymns to God always -- I could feel no evil."


Mrs. Gates groaned heavily.


"There, now, I distress you," continued Ellen. "But I will tell you all, now, dear mother, and then I will be patient.


I do not mind if the children sometimes call me humpback, and little dwarf, and such names, but I shut in my soul, and say, God forgive them and I remember how the blessed Savior was reviled, and was silent. So I look at bright things, and grow glad in my heart.


"But sometimes gentle children and beautiful women look pityingly upon me, and then I burst into tears. This morning Mary and I were playing together, and a lady passed by with a sweet, pleasant face. I loved her as soon as I saw her.


"She stopped and praised Mary's pretty ringlets and bright eyes, and kissed her rosy checks. Then she looked pitifully at me, and said, ' Poor child,' and I burst into tears.


"She stooped down, and spoke very softly; she gave me some bright money, and told me not to cry, and then she went away. She could not love me, and so she gave me bright pennies -- gave me money."


"Ellen, Ellen," cried the widow, in the bitterness of her feeling, "you will break my heart!"


"Mother, take the money, and buy something for John, the poor idiot boy, and let us think no more about it. I will read now."


"I am afraid Mary is troubled because you left her when you were weeping. Will you not go and see her?"


"Not now, dear mother; she does not love me, as I love her; she does not feel as I do. When I came away, she said, "What a fool you are, Ellen! I should rather have the money than all the lady's kisses. I wouldn't mind having a hunchback, if people would but give me money to buy nuts and candy with.'"


"Poor Mary! Her beauty will be her ruin. Would you not rather be as you are, Ellen, than feel as Mary does."


"Yes, indeed, mother; but I have tried and tried to think and feel that what you tell me is true -- that the good are loved -- but, mother, it is not so. It is the beautiful, the joyful, who are beloved. The sorrowful must weep, and weep alone, as I do; or break the hearts of others, as I break yours, dear mother. Who is there to love poor idiot John?"


"He does not understand love, Ellen. He can only understand kindness, and all are kind to him." "I never thought of that, mother; and he has no delight in the beautiful. He needs only kind words and good food. Poor John! He has not thought enough to be unhappy."


"Nor enough to be happy, my dear."


"I am tired of thought. I wish to be happy."


"Ellen, dear, I love you. I love you without beauty, and I should love you were you less good and dutiful than you now are. I am your mother, and it must be so; but the good love the good. You must think of the life within, and you will not be unhappy."


"Ay, my dear mother, talk to me;" and the tears fell from the eyes of poor Ellen.


"Remember, my dear, beauty is in the soul. Weak, and stinted, and ill-shapen as we may be, our Father above may see within us souls fair as those of the angels; souls beautiful, far more, than your cousin Mary's body, which I fear you sometimes envy."


Ellen started up. "Envy!" she exclaimed, "envy! have I so bad a spirit? Yes, it is true; I must have envied her, or looking upon her beauty would have given me joy, not pain. Great God, take this evil from my heart;" and she clasped her pale bands in prayer.


The widow drew little Ellen close to her heart, and they wept long together.


"Ellen, many and many have been the tears I have shed for you, for I knew all these trials awaited you. But I have prayed that a spirit might be given you to bear the evils of your lot, and God has heard my prayer."


Poor Ellen was hardly seven years old, and yet did she long to die. "Say not it is wrong for me to feel so, dear mother," she would sometimes say. "Earth is not for me. No one can love me here, but you, as I wish to be loved. You see my soul, others my body. I long to be where souls are seen; I long to be where all that is good and all that is lovely can be seen face to face."

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