Before the Toy Window

(A Little Child Shall Lead Them)
Author Unknown

They stood before it, hand in hand
Out in the cold, while the keen wind fanned,
His pale cheek and her dark hair –
Two little waifs in the wintry air,
A tattered coat and a ragged dress
And hungry eyes full of wistfulness,
And a sigh in each heart that you may guess;
Two little Arabs, hand in hand,
Looking into wonderland.

Looking into wonderland, where
They saw a doll with flaxen hair
And eyes of blue that opened wide,
With a big white wooly dog at her side,
There were automobiles and a train of cars,
There were wagons and horses and spangles and stars,
There were trumpets and drums and birds that flew,
And lions and tigers, and elephants, too.
That bowed their heads with a howdy do!
And brownies and elfins as if fairies had planned
The wonderful things in this wonderland.

The day was closing, it was time to leave;
The window was lighted, ’twas Christmas eve,
And still they lingered, with look intent,
And forgot their home in a tenement,
Down on the East Side, cheerless and cold,
In this wonderful scene of glitter and gold,
So they warmed their cold little finger tips
With breath of their chilled and blue little lips,
That quivered and trembled as when on one night,
They looked on their mother, so still and so white,
In a box that was long and was covered with black,
When they took her away and – she never came back.

But instead a strange woman that took her place,
Who was ugly and cross, with a scar on her face,
They forgot their home with its rough wooden stairs
The cold cheerless room with its rickety chairs,
And a table so broken it could hardly stand,
They saw only before them the wonderland.
Outside, by the curb in her limousine,
That shone like a jewel with polish and sheen,
Sat a lady of wealth with a face that was fair,
But I noticed that traces of sadness were there,
And the shouts of the merrymakers seemed drowned,
At the thought of the little wind-swept mound
On a hill far away, ‘neath the whirling show
Where her life went out in the long ago.

When suddenly she saw in the window’s glare
Those two little waifs that were standing there,
And a strange new feeling tugged and stirred
At her heart strings till it seemed she heard
As she sat in her sables and comfort and ease
These words, “Unto one of the least of these,”
And before she knew it she had each little hand
And she led them into the wonderland.

Then, O! what a wonderful time they had –
This little maid and this little lad,
With his fairy godmother so rich and so grand,
She bought trumpet and drum, she bought the whole band,
And the nice big doll with its eyes so blue,
And the elephant that bowed with a howdy-do
And a sled and some candies and some other things too.
Then the pockets that bulged and little hands filled
Somehow the heart hunger that cried was stilled,
And when she look’d down on each little child
A wan little face looked up and smiled,
And somehow to her, when the presents were given,
It seemed that each smile held a wee bit of Heaven,
And that night when later she went to ther bed,
Her sadness had vanished, there was peace there instead,
As she thought of the little tin soldier grand
Held tight in a dirty, bare little hand.

O, we beggars with pride and power and self
Who look for our happiness centered in self,
Who follow it far through pleasure or pain,
And seek it in wealth, so often in vain, –
We who are poor and hungry and blind
And give up in despair, at last may find,
Like the prodigal son from a far away land,
That happiness oft dwells quite close to our hand;
That in hungering hearts and wistful eyes
To cheer and relieve the partway lies;
A pathway not flowered with dogmas and creeds,
‘Tis the pathway of love and daily it leads
Through a world of suffering, a world of needs,
In a wonderful way we can’t understand
‘Til it seems as if Heaven itself were spanned.

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