EBooks - Fiction, Nonfiction 1000s of them ~ Index

 
 
 

The Mother's Heaven by Jacob A. Riis

 

The door-bell of the Nurses' Settlement rang loudly one rainy night, and a Polish Jewess demanded speech with Miss Wald. This was the story she told: She scrubbed halls and stairs in a nice tenement on the East Side. In one of the flats lived the Schaibles, a young couple not long in the country. He was a music teacher. Believing that money was found in the streets of America, they furnished their flat finely on the installment plan, expecting that he would have many pupils, but none came. A baby did instead, and when they were three, what with doctor and nurse, their money went fast. Now it was all gone; the installment collector was about to seize their furniture for failure to pay, and they would lose all. The baby was sick and going to die. It would have to be buried in “the trench,” for the father and mother were utterly friendless and penniless.

She told the story dispassionately, as one reciting an every-day event in tenement-house life, until she came to the sick baby. Then her soul was stirred.

“I couldn't take no money out of that house,” she said. She gave her day's pay for scrubbing to the poor young couple and came straight to Miss Wald to ask her to send a priest to them. She had little ones herself, and she knew that the mother's heart was grieved because she couldn't meet the baby in her heaven if it died and was buried like a dog.

“'Tain't mine,” she added with a little conscious blush at Miss Wald's curious scrutiny; “but it wouldn't be heaven to her without her child, would it?”

They are not Roman Catholics at the Nurses' Settlement, either, as it happens, but they know the way well to the priest's door. Before the night was an hour older a priest was in the home of the young people, and with him came a sister of charity. Save the baby they could not, but keep it from the Potter's Field they could and did. It died, and was buried with all the comforting blessings of the Church, and the poor young parents were no longer friendless. The installment collector, met by Miss Wald in person, ceased to be a terror.

“And to think,” said that lady indignantly from behind the coffee urn in the morning, “to think that they don't have a pupil, not a single one!”

The residenters seated at the breakfast table laid down their spoons with a common accord and gazed imploringly at her. They were used to having their heads shampooed for the cause by unskilled hands, to have their dry goods spoiled by tyros at dressmaking, and they knew the signs.

“Leading lady,” they chorused, “oh, leading lady! Have we got to take music lessons?”

 
 
 

EBooks - Fiction, Nonfiction 1000s of them ~ Index