Menella Bute Smedley

The Little Maiden

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There was a little maiden,
She was not six years old;
Blue were her eyes as summer skies,
Her hair like burnish'd gold;
She took her wicker basket,
With rosy ribbons twined,
And little Jane ran down the lane
Wild strawberries to find.

There was a wicked gipsy,
She met her in the glade;
She said, “Come here, my pretty dear,
Oh, never be afraid!
I'll give you sugar-candy
And cakes and comfits sweet;
Oh, come with me, and you shall see
A most delightful treat.”
Alas! that little maiden
Believed each pleasant word,
She did not know of crime or woe,
Of falsehood had not heard;
Her peaceful life was stranger
To the very name of sin,
For love and truth did guard her youth,
Her happy home within.

She look'd up at the gipsy
With such a merry smile,
Her pretty eyes with glad surprise
Are shining all the while;
Her tiny rosy fingers
In that brown hand she laid;
They run so fast—they stop at last,
Alas! poor little maid!
The wicked gipsy led her
Into a dismal wood;
She took away her garments gay,
Her scarlet cloak and hood;
But when in rags and tatters
Her tender form was drest,
The little maid was not afraid,
She thought it was a jest.

And now the sun is setting
'Mid clouds of rosy light,
Soft shadows pass o'er moss and grass,
Where dewdrops glitter bright;
She kneels before the gipsy
And bends her pretty head,
With childish grace and sweet grave face,
“I'll say my prayers,” she said.
Her small hands claspt together,
She whisper'd soft and mild,
“Pray God bless both my parents,
And make me a good child.
And bless this dear old woman,
For very kind is she;
I'll take her home, if she will come,
Pray God bless her and me.”

, when the gipsy saw her,
And heard her childish prayer,
Big tears arise into her eyes,
Unwonted dwellers there.
She felt that she was sorry,
And with the sorrow came
Repentance true—as it must do—
And with repentance, shame.
The little maiden kiss'd her,
And then fell fast asleep;
Like twilight rose, her eyelids close,
Open they could not keep.
The gipsy raised her gently;
With weariness and pain,
She set her face back to retrace
Her wicked steps again.

To that dear home she bore her,
Where mourners watch'd all night,
And still she slept while others wept
With rapture and delight.
In her deserted nursery,
Upon her own white bed,
They softly laid that little maid,
And prayers above her said.
Ah, children! little children!
Your innocence hath power:
The gipsy left the paths of theft
From that eventful hour.
Repentant for past errors,
She toil'd with honest care;
Ah, well she might bless day and night
The little maiden's prayer!

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Menella Bute Smedley