The Little Pilgrim

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In a large old house, with two kind aunts,

The little Marian dwelt;

And a happy child she was, I ween,

For though at times she felt

That playmates would be better far

Than either birds or flowers,

Yet her kind old aunts, and story books,

Soothed many lonely hours.

Her favorite haunt, in the summer-time,

Was a large old apple-tree;

And oft amid the boughs she sat,

With her pet book on her knee.

The "Pilgrim's Progress" was its name,

And Marian loved it much;

It is, indeed, a glorious book,

There are not many such!

She read it in her little bed,

Beside the winter fire,

And in summer-time in the apple-tree,

As though she would never tire.

But, unexplained, 'tis just the book

To puzzle the young brain;

And the poor child had no kind friend,

Its meaning to explain.

For though her aunts were very kind,

They were not overwise,

And only said, "Don't read so, child,

I'm sure you'll spoil your eyes."

But Marian still went reading on,

And visions strange and wild

Began to fill the little head

Of the lonely, dreaming child;

For she thought that Christian and his wife,

And all their children too,

Had left behind their pleasant home,

And done what she must do.

"I'll take my Bible," said the child,

"And seek the road to heaven;

I'll try to find the Wicket Gate,

And hope to be forgiven.

I wish my aunts would go with me,

But 'tis in vain to ask;

They are so deaf and rather lame,

They'd think it quite a task.

No! I must go alone, I see,

So I'll not let them know;

Or, like poor Christian's friends, they'll say,

'My dear, you must not go.'

But I must wait till some grand scheme

Can all their thoughts engage;

And then I'll leave my pleasant home,

And go on pilgrimage."

She had not waited long, before,

On fine autumnal day,

She saw the large old coach arrive,

To take her aunts away.

"We're going out to spend the day,"

The two old ladies said;

"We mean to visit Mrs. Blair--

Poor soul!--she's ill in bed.

"But, Marian, you must stay at home,

For the lady's ill, you see;

You can have your dinner, if you like,

In the large old apple-tree,

And play in the garden all the day,

Quite happy and content."

A few more parting words were said,

And off the ladies went.

The servants, too, were all engaged;

"The day is come at last,"

Said Marian, "but oh, I wish,

My pilgrimage was past."

She knelt beside the apple-tree,

And for God's assistance prayed;

Then, with her basket in her hand,

Forth tripped the little maid.

Behind the house where Marian dwelt,

Far off in the distance, lay

A high steep hill, which the sun at morn

Tinged with its earliest ray.

"Difficulty" was its rightful name,

The child had often thought;

Towards this hill she turned her steps,

With hopeful visions fraught.

The flowers seemed to welcome her,

'Twas a lovely autumn morn,

The little lark sang marrily,

Above the waving corn.

"Ah, little lark, you sing," said she,

"On your early pilgrimage;

I, too, will sing, for pleasant thoughts

Should now my mind engage."

In clear sweet strains she sung a hymn,

And tripped lightly on her way;

Until a pool of soft thick mud

Across her pathway lay.

"This is the Slough of Despond," she cried,

But she bravely ventured through;

And safely reached the other side,

But she lost one little shoe.

On an old gray stone she sat her down,

To eat some fruit and bread;

Then took her little Bible out,

And a cheering psalm she read.

Then with fresh hope she journeyed on,

For many miles away;

And she reached the bottomm of the hill,

Before the close of day.

She clambered up the steep ascent,

Though faint and weary too;

But firmly did our Marian keep

Her purpose still in view.

"I'm glad, at least, the arbor's past,"

Said the little tired soul;

"I'm sure I should have sat me down,

And lost my little roll!"

On the high hill-top she stands at last,

And our weary Pilgrim sees

A porter's lodge, of ample size,

Half hid by sheltering trees,

She clapped her hands with joy, and cried,

"Oh, there's the Wicket Gate,

And I must seek admittance there,

Before it is too late."

Gently she knocks--'tis answered soon,

And at the open door

Stands a tall, stout man--poor Marian felt

As she ne'er had felt before.

With tearful eyes, and trembling hand,

Flushed cheek, and anxious brow,

She said, "I hope you're Watchful, Sir,

I want Discretion now."

"Oh yes, I'm watchful," said the man,

"As a porter ought to be;

I s'pose you've lost your way, young Miss,

You've lost your shoe, I see.

"Missus," he cried to his wife within,

Here's a child here, at the door,

You'll never see such a one again,

If you live to be fourscore.

She wants discretion, so she says,

Indeed I think 'tis true;

But I know some who want it more,

Who will not own they do."

"Go to the Hall," his wife replies,

"And take the child with you,

The ladies there are all so wise,

They'll soon know what to do."

The man complied, and led the child

Through many a flowery glade;

"Is that the Palace Beautiful?"

The little Pilgrim said,

"There, to the left, among the trees?

Why, Miss, 'tis might grand;

Call it a palace, if you please,

'Tis the finest in the land.

Now we be come to the fine old porch,

And this is the Marble Hall;

Here, little lady, you must stay,

While I the servants call."

Tired and sad he left the child,

But he quickly re-appeared,

And with him the lady of the house--

Poor Marian's heart was cheered.

"Sweet little girl," the lady said,

In accents soft and kind,

"I'm sure you sadly want some rest,

And rest you soon shall find."

To a room where three young ladies sat,

The child was quickly led;

"Piety, Prudence, and Charity,"

To herself she softly said.

"What is your mane, my little dear?"

Said the eldest of the three,

Whom Marian, in her secret thought,

Had christened Piety.

"We'll send a servant to your friends,

How uneasy they must be!"

Admiringlly she watched the child,

Who, indeed, was fair to see;

Around her bright and lovely face

Fell waves of auburn hair.

As modestly she told her name,

With whom she lived and where.

"How did you lose your way, my love?"

She gently raised her head,

"I do not think I've lost my way,"

The little Pilgrim said.

"This is the Palace Beautiful,

May I stay here to-night?"

They smiled and said, "We're glad our house

Finds favor in your sight:--

"Yes, gladly will we keep you here,

For many nights to come."

"Thank you," said Marian, "but I soon

Must seek my heavenly home.

The valley of the Shadow of Death

Is near this house, I know"--

She stopped, for she saw, with great surprise,

Their tears began to flow.

She little thought the mourning dress,

Which all the ladies wore,

Was for one whom they had dearly loved,

And should see on earth no more.

Their brother had been called away,

Their brightest and their best;

No wonder, then, that Marian's words

Roused grief in every breast.

Sobs only for awhile were heard;

At length the ladies said,

"My, love, you have reminded us

Of our loved and early dead;

But this you could not know, my dear,

And it indeed is true;

We are all near to Death's dark door,

Even little girls like you."

"Yes," said the timid, trembling child,

"I know it must be so;

But, ma'am, I hope that Piety

May be with me when I go.

And will you show me your armory,

When you have time to spare?

I hope you have some small enough

For a little girl to wear."

No more she said, for Piety,

As Marian called her, cast

Her arms around the Pilgrim's neck,

The secret's out at last.

"You puzzled all," said Piety;

"But now, I see, you've read

A glorious book, which, unexplained,

Has turned your little head.

"Oh, dearly, when I was a child,

I loved that Pilgrim Tale;

But then mamma explained it well--

And if we can prevail

On your kind aunts to let you stay

Some time with us, my dear,

You shall read that book with my mamma,

And she will make it clear."

Now we'll return to Marian's home,

And see what's passing there.

The servants all had company,

And a merry group they were.

They had not missed our Pilgrim long,

For they knew she oft would play

In that old garden, with a book,

The whole of the livelong day.

"Betty," at last, said the housekeeper,

"Where can Miss Marian be?

Her dinner was in the basket packed,

But, sure, she'll come into tea!"

They sought her here, they sought her there,

But they could not find the child;

And her poor ould aunts, when they came home,

With grief were almost wild.

The coachman and the footman too,

In different ways were sent;

But none thought of the narrow way

In which the Pilgrim went.

"Perhaps she followed us to town,"

Poor Aunt Rebecca said,

"I wish we had not left our home;

I fear the child is dead."

And to the town the coachman went,

For they knew not what to do;

And night drew on, when a country boy

Brought Marian's little shoe.

With the shoe in her hand, the housekeeper

Into the parlor ran,

"Oh, Mistress, here is all that's left

Of poor Miss Marian.

It was found sticking in the mud,

Just above Harlem Chase;

I fear the poor child's perished there,

For 'tis a frightful place."

Then louder grew the ladies' grief;

But soon their hearts were cheered,

When a footman grand, with a note in his hand,

From the distant Hall appeared.

Aunt Ruth now read the note, and cried,

"Oh, sister, all is well!

The child is safe at Brookland Hall,

With Lady Arundel,

Who wants to keep her for a month;

Why, yes; I think she may--

Such friends as Lady Arundel

Are not met with every day.

"Our compliments, and thanks to her,

When you return, young man;

We'll call to-morrow at the Hall,

And see Miss Marian."

Then came a burst of grateful joy,

That could not be suppressed,

And, with thankful hearts and many tears,

The ladies went to rest.

We'll take a peep at our Marian now,

There in her bed lies she;

How blissful were her dreams that night,

In the arms of Piety.

Oh, that happy month at Brookland Hall,

How soon it passed away!

Cheerful and good were Marian's friends,

And who so kind as they?

And, more than all, while there she stayed,

They did their best to bring

The little lamb to that blest fold

Where reigns the Shepherd King.

For many a lesson ne'er forgot,

The little Marian learned;

And a thoughtful and a happier child

She to her home returned.

Years rolled away, the scene has changed,

A wife and mother now,

Marian has found the Wicket Gate,

She and her children too.

And oh! how sweet it is to see

This littel Pilgrim band,

As on towards their heavenly home,

They travel hand in hand.

When cloudy days fall to their lot,

They see a light afar,

The light that shone on Bethlehem's plain,

The Pilgrim's guiding star.

And now, dear children, whosoe'er,

Or whereso'er you be,

Who ponder o'er this strange, true tale

Of Marian's history,--

If to the flowers of your young hearts,

Instruction's dews are given,

Oh! be earnest as our Marian was,

To find the road to Heaven.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.