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A Stranger in the Pew. Rhymes and Jingles by Mary Mapes Dodge for children

Poor little Bessie! She tossed back her curls,
And, though she is often the sweetest of girls,
This was something she couldn't and wouldn't endure;
'Twas the meanest, most impolite act, she was sure,
And a thing, she declared, that she never would do:
To go to a church where one didn't belong,
Then walk down the aisle like the best in the throng,
And seat one's self plump in another one's pew.

Humph! Didn't her father own his out and out,
And didn't they fill it up full, just about,
When Mamma and Papa, and herself and the boys,
Were seated? And didn't their boots make a noise
In moving along to make room for a stranger?
And wasn't it cool, with the brazenest face,
To expect at each hymn Pa would find out the place
(If Ben didn't, or Bob, but there wasn't much danger)?

With such feelings at heart, and their print on her face,
Last Sunday our Bessie hitched out of her "place"
To make room for a girl, very shabby and thin,
Who had stood in the aisle till mamma asked her in.
The poor little thing tried her best not to crowd
And Bessie, forgetting, soon had the mishap
To slip from her drowsiness into a nap,
From which she soon wakened by crying aloud.

Poor Bessie sat upright, with cheeks all a-flame
At sleeping in church, and trembled with shame;
But 'twas strange at the close of the service to see
Our Bessie, now gentle as gentle could be,
Take the hand of the shabby young girl in the pew,
And walk with her out of the church with a smile
That shone through the tears in her eyes all the while,
And brightened her face with a radiance new.

"Good-by," whispered Bessie at parting, "and mind
Our pew's forty-five, with a pillar behind."
Then she stole to her mother: "Oh, Mother, I dreamed
Such a curious dream! 'Twas no wonder I screamed.
I thought I was sitting in church in this dress,
With a girl like a beggar-girl right in our pew—
We were sitting alone on the seat, just we two—
And I felt more ashamed than you ever could guess;

"When, all in a moment, the music grew loud,
And on it came floating a beautiful crowd;
They were angels, I knew, for they joined in the song,
And all of them seemed in the church to belong.
Slowly and brightly they sailed through the air;
The rays from the window streamed crimson and blue,
And lit them in turn as their forms glided through;—
I could feel their soft robes passing over my hair.

"One came to my side. Very sadly she said,
'There's a stranger in here.' I lifted my head,
And looked at the poor shabby girl with disdain.
'Tis not she,' said the angel; 'the haughty and vain
Are the strangers at church. She is humble and true.'
Then I cried out aloud, and the minister spoke,
And just as they floated away I awoke,
And there sat that dear little girl in our pew!"

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