A friend of mine, seeking for objects of charity, got into the room of a tenement house. It was vacant. He saw a ladder pushed through the ceiling. Thinking that perhaps some poor creature had crept up there, he climbed the ladder, drew himself up through the hole, and found himself under the rafters.
There was no light but that which came through a bull’s-eye in the place of a tile. Soon he saw a heap of chips and shavings, and on top a boy about ten years old.
“Boy, what are you doing there?”
“Please don’t tell anybody--- please, sir.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Don’t tell anybody, sir; I’m hiding." "What are you hiding from?"
"Don’t tell anybody, if you please, sir.”
"Where’s your mother?”
“Mother is dead"
"Where’s your father?”
“Hush don’t tell him don‘t tell him! but look here!”
He turned himself on his face, and through the rags of his jacket and shirt, my friend saw the boy’s flesh was bruised, and the skin broken.
“Why, my boy, who beat you like that?”
“Father did, sir.”
"What did your father beat you like that for?"
"Father got drunk, sir, and beat me ‘cos I wouldn’t steal."
“Did you ever steal?”
“Yes, sir. I was a street thief once."
“And why don’t you steal anymore?”
“Please, sir, I went to the mission school, and they told me there of God, and of heaven, and of Jesus; and they taught me, ‘Thou shalt not steal; and I’ll never steal again, if father kills me for it. But, please, sir, don’t tell him."
"My boy, you must not stay here; you will die. Now, you wait patiently here for a little time; I’m going away to see a lady. We will get a better place for you than this.” Thank you, sir; but please, sir, would you like to hear me sing a little hymn?
Bruised, battered, forlorn, friendless, motherless, hiding away from an infuriated father, he had a little hymn to sing.
“Yes, I will hear you sing your little hymn.”
He raised himself on his elbow and then sang:
“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Suffer me to come to Thee.
Fain would I to Thee be brought,
Gracious Lord, forbid it not;
In the kingdom of thy grace
Give a little child a place.”
“That’s the little hymn, sir. Good-bye."
The gentleman went away, came back again in less than two hours, and climbed the ladder. There were the chips, and there was the little boy with one hand by his side, and the other tucked in his bosom, underneath the little ragged shirt dead.
- John B. Cough
Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893