by Mindy Gathman, April 2001A rat scuttled across the alley and over Mary's foot. She sighed and turned her skinny body over. What in the world are we going to do about eating tomorrow? She thought worriedly. We can't go another day without food.
Thirteen-year-old Mary and her two sisters, Emily and Gertrude, ten and eight, had had a bad day that day. At every fruit and vegetable stand, they had been turned away. When they went to look in the trash cans, someone had always been there to shoo them away. The day before had hardly been better.
What are we going to do? Mary thought. What if we starve? What if we never live to be twenty? Someday soon we're just gonna keel over and rot in some alley. Mary looked at her two scraggly little sisters and prayed that that wouldn't happen anytime soon.
“But what if we die?” she whispered.
The next day Mary got desperate and decided to steal apples from a fruit stand. She hid her sisters in an alley and darted out past a fruit stand with a middle aged women behind it, scooping up apples as she passed.
“Stop, you dirty little ragamuffin! Thief, thief!” the woman screamed. The policeman on duty looked around, then ran after Mary.
“Come back, ya little beggar!” he shouted.
“Follow me!” Mary shouted to her frightened little sisters as she ran by them.
The three of them ran through the alley and across the next street. Suddenly, a hand gripped Mary's arm.
“Ha, got you now, urchin,” the policman shouted triumphantly, and began to drag her away.
“No, get away from me, get off!” Mary struggled violently. Emily hit the policeman again and again. Gertie shouted and finally bit his hand.
“Ow!,” he bellowed. He pulled his hand away and shook it. The three children ran away with the policeman cursing after them. They darted through alleys and accross streets. They clattered down wooden sidewalks, trying to lose the policeman. Finally, he gave up, giveng a final shout after the children.
Finally, the children sat down on a door-step and ate the apples. When they were finished, they felt only a little better.
They stood up and started walking aimlessly down the street. Mary read the signs above the shops as she passed.
“Hey, Emily, look at that sign. Do you know what the Childrens Aid Society is?”
“Oh, that. That's a place where they put you on a train and take you far away and give you a new home,”
Later that afternoon, Mary and Emily and Gertrude were huddled in a alley, wishing they had something good to eat.
“If we were rich, I would eat a whole turkey, everyday!” Gertrude exclaimed.
“And lots of exotic fruit,” put in Mary.
“And don't forget bread, lots and lots of fresh bread,” said Emily.
“Maybe we should go to the Children's Aid Society. They could help us,” Mary wondered.
“I think we should go too,” Emily agreed. “We need food.”
“But what if we get separated? What if the people there are cruel?” Mary worried.
“We only have to stay long enough for one meal.”
“You're right. I remember how to get there. But we have to be very careful.”
An hour later, Mary and Emily and Gertie were at the door of the Children's Aid Society again. They knocked timidly. The door opened, and a large, jolly, merry faced woman stood before them.
“Well, hello girls, what can I do for you?”
“Is this the Children's Aid Society?” Mary spoke up shyly.
“Well, yes it is! This is the Children's Aid society. Come right in. I'm Mrs. McGregor.”
The three girls stepped up on the step and peered inside. It looked very inviting. The lady led them to a large room filled with long tables. Children filled the benches. When the girls walked in, the other children looked up and stared.
“Children, these are-what did you say your names were?”
“We didn't,” Emily said, “but they're Mary, Emily and Gertie. The little one right there is Gertie, she's six. I'm Emily, I'm ten and that's Mary, she's thirteen.”
“What lovely names. Children, did you hear that? Their names are Mary, Emily and Gertrude,” the lady turned to the girls. “Girls , you may have a seat right over there.”
She pointed to a spot over to the right, at the back of the room. “I'll go tell the cook to bring out three more plates.” She bustled off and the three girls started moving toward where the lady had pointed.
The children already seated at the tables turned and stared at the girls . They tried to ignore it, but Mary was worried.
What if no one likes us? Will we be totally alone here? She thought. When they got to their table, the five other girls sitting at it smiled at the three new-comers.
“Hi, I'm Sarah, and I'm thirteen too. I'm the oldest of everyone, but now there's two of us. I'm so glad you came.”
One by one, the other girls said their names, and introduced themselves. Mary sat down next to Sarah, and Emily and Gertie sat next to Mary. When the cook came with the plates of hot steaming food, the girls stomachs rumbled loudly. Mary blushed, and started eating. Why didn't we do this sooner? She wondered to herself. When they were done, they were led into another room and given baths and new clothes to replace to replace the dirty, worn out ones from the street. Mary loved her new dress, and the coat was beyond belief-it was so warm and cozy. Her old one had been holey and thin. And the shoes! Mary had never had shoes in her life. She was so excited.
A couple weeks later, at dinner, Mrs. McGregor announced that there were enough children to go on the train out West.
“We'll be going to a town called Elsberry. It's in Missouri.”
Everybody cheered. Almost everybody. Some of the kids looked scared. Mary felt sorry for them.
At the train station early the next morning, Mrs. McGregor made a head count.
“ ...sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen! Good, we're all here. Okay children, let's get on the train, single file, single file now!”
The orphans filed onto the train noisily, jostling each other and shouting excitedly. Mary held onto her sister's hands, but they pulled ahead.
“Emily! Gertrude! Come back, now!”
“Don't worry Mary, we're gonna' save you a seat!” came the reply.
But what if they can't find one! Mary worried. We'll get separated from everybody! Ha! How silly! How could we get separated! There's only nineteen children. I shouldn't worry. Besides, there's Emily, and she did save me a seat.
“Emily, where's Gertie?!”
“All aboard!” the conducter shouted, signaling that the train was about to leave.
“Gertie!” Mary called franticly, “Mrs. McGregor, Gertie's gone!”
“Calm down Mary, just calm down, She's got to be around here somewhere.”
Mary looked around. Suddenly, she saw Gertie and another little girl playing happily on the floor of the train. Mary started to scold Gertie, but didn't.
“Let them play. Lord knows she needs it.”
“Did you find her?” Mrs. McGregor came over.
“Yeah, right there.” Mary pointed.
“Good. They look right happy down there, now don't they?” She smiled. “ You'd better take a seat, we're leaving.”
A few hours into the journey, Mrs. McGregor came over to Mary's seat.
“Mary, I noticed that you looked very frightened. Can you tell me what the problem is?”
“I don't know. I guess I'm just scared. I mean, what if nobody wants to adopt m sisters and I? Worse, what if someone only wants one of us, not all of us?”
“Well, first of all, you don't have to go with someone if you don't want to. And if no one takes fancy to you, you just come back to the office, and you go on the next train. Do you have a Bible?
“Why, no, of course not.”
“Well, then I want to give you this.”
Mrs.McGregor pulled out a small white leather Bible.
“Here,” she said, thrusting it into Mary's hands, “for you.”
Mary was speechless. “Thank you,” she managed.
“Here, I want to show you something.” She flipped through the book to a place near the end. “Here we are; Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. See, Mary? You don't have to worry about what will happen in the future, because it worries about itself!”
“Oh my, look at the time! We've got to give everybody dinner. Would you like to help?”
“Sure,” Mary replied. “Come on Sarah.”
The three of them gave everybody a sandwich, an apple, and a little bottle of milk.
Two days later, the train arrived at Elsberry. As the train neared the station, Mary, Mrs. McGregor, and Sarah brushed the little boys hair and tied big bows in the girls hair. The children marched single file down the train steps and walked down a wooden sidewalk to a small white church. They marched up onto the stage and sat down.
“Look at all those people Mary,” whispered little Gertie. The crowd of men and women soon began to file onto the stage to look at and talk to the children. Mary saw a young couple look at the three girls.
“Look at those two coming over to us, Emily,” whispered Mary.
“Hello, girls, our name is Schumacher, and this is my wife Ginger. I'm Edward. What are your names?”
“Oh, these girls are Mary, Emily, and Gertrude. They're too shy to talk. I don't much like the name Gertrude. My name is Sarah, and I'm thirteen.”
“We do to know how to talk, Sarah! You're just mean,” shouted Emily.
“My, my, what a rude little girl,” said Sarah hautily. “And if this is how they act in public, heaven knows how they act at home.”
“Well, we did ask them, Sarah. How old are you, girls?”
“Thirteen, ten and six,” said Emily.
“Oh yes, and you're Emily, right?”
“And I'm Gertie!”
“Why, yes you are!” said Ginger. “Would you like to come home with us?”
“All of us?” put in Mary quickly.
“Oh, why of course! We would never think of separating you! Yes,we'll adopt all three of you girls.” said Ginger.
“Oh good! Then we will go with you,” said Emily happily.
When Ginger, John, Mary, Emily, and Gertrude arrived home, they were given a hot bath, a hot meal, and a warm bed - each! Later that evening, Mary lay in her bed, worrying. She was afraid that the Schumachers would change their minds and take Mary or Emily or Gertrude back to the Children's Aid Society. And even if they didn't take her back, she would have to go to school, and she had never been to school. And what if - but wait.
Mary slipped out of bed and took her Bible out of the drawer where she had put it earlier. She found the book of Matthew and the verse Mrs. McGregor had shown her. “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”
Mary smiled and snuggled under the the quilt.