Read Chapter VI - Frankie and the cripple of Little Frankie at School, free online book, by Madeline Leslie, on ReadCentral.com.

One evening, near the close of the term, Nelly walked home in company with one of her schoolmates, and did not notice that her cousin went another way.  One, two hours passed by, and Frankie did not make his appearance; and at last his mother became so anxious, that she sent his brother out to search for him.

Willie went to the square to see whether he had stopped at any of the stores, then, as he did not find him, to the houses of some of his schoolmates, but none of them had seen him since school.

“Where can he have gone?” said Willie to himself.  “Perhaps he was at his teacher’s, and has returned before this time.”

He walked back toward home, looking around on every side.

He was passing a house, when he heard a noise in the yard, and looking through the trees, saw a company of boys standing round a curious little carriage, in which sat a boy who was talking to them.  He ran eagerly into the yard, for he thought Frankie was among them.

As he drew nearer, he found it was not a boy in the carriage, but a man without legs.  He had met with a dreadful accident, and been obliged to have both his legs cut off; and now he was trying to support himself by selling pictures, rolling himself in his carriage from house to house by means of a crank wheel.  This was very hard work for him, especially when he was going uphill; sometimes he was obliged to get boys to push behind.

Willie saw his brother Frankie standing by the man, helping him hold his pictures, which he was exhibiting to the lady at the window.  Frankie’s face was very red, and great drops of perspiration stood on his forehead and nose.

“Why haven’t you been home?” asked Willie.  “Mother is very anxious about you.”

“O, Willie, see this poor man!” exclaimed Frankie.  “I have been pushing his wagon for him ever since school.  He says he is a cripple, and can’t walk at all.  I’m going to push his carriage home now, as soon as he has sold pictures here, and then ask mamma to give him some supper.”

“Why, Frankie Gray,” called out the lady at the window, “is that you?  Well, come and take this money, dear, to pay for three pictures.”

When the carriage started, the boys all ran along; but none of them offered to assist in rolling it, except Willie and Frankie.

“You are tired,” said Willie; “I’ll push now.”  So Frankie took off his straw hat, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.  His hair was wet through, and curled in small rings all over his head.

Mrs. Gray was looking anxiously from the window when they entered the avenue, and ran eagerly down to meet them.

“O, mamma!” cried Frankie; “I met a poor man.  He has no legs, and can’t walk at all.  He has to wheel himself about in a little carriage, to get enough money to buy his food.  It’s very hard work, and so I waited to push it for him a little while.  Was it naughty, mamma?  Will you please to give him some supper?”

Mrs. Gray looked in her son’s earnest, loving eyes, and all her displeasure against him vanished.  She caught him to her heart, and kissed his cheek and lips.  “Yes, my dear,” she said, “you shall have the pleasure of giving him a good supper.  But are you not hungry yourself?  It is long past tea time.”

“I did not think any thing about it, mamma,” said Frankie, “I was so sorry for the poor man.  There, Willie has pushed his carriage up to the back door.  I wonder how he can get out.”

In a few minutes the poor cripple had walked on his knees to the table, where Jane had set him a bountiful meal.  Frankie seemed to consider the man his especial charge, and Mrs. Gray drew Willie into the entry, where, through the door, they could see what passed.

As soon as the food was before him, the cripple began to eat; and Frankie, who was seated opposite, so as to be ready to attend to his wants, gazed at him in great surprise.  “Why!” said he, “you didn’t pray to God.”

I suppose the dear child had never before seen any one begin to eat without first asking a blessing.  Even when he and Nelly were playing tea, one of them always shut their eyes, and solemnly asked God to bless the food.

The man stared at him and went on eating, while Mrs. Gray smiled as she peeped through the door, to see how serious the boy looked.

“Don’t you love God?” asked Frankie.

“I dun know,” said the man.

“I love him,” continued the child, “and I should think you would;” then, after waiting a moment, he asked, “Did he cut your legs off?”

“No,” said the man, laughing; “the doctor did it.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Frankie.  “You ought to love God, and pray to him every day.  Perhaps, if you did, he would let your legs grow again.”

Willie almost laughed aloud; but Frankie was so eager to do the man good, that he did not hear him.

“I am afraid you are a wicked man,” he said, “if you don’t pray any.”

Mrs. Gray saw the cripple lay down his knife and fork, and gaze at the child; presently he spoke, but his voice trembled as he said, “I used to pray when I was a little shaver like you.  My mother taught me.”

“Where is she now?” asked the boy.

“She has gone up there, long ago,” said the man, softly pointing his finger upward.

“Well,” said Frankie, earnestly, “you can’t go to heaven and live with her there, unless you are a good man and love God.  I used to be naughty once, but my mother whipped me to make me good.”

“That’s too bad,” said the cripple.

“No; it’s just right.  The Bible says she must.  I’m trying now to be a good boy; and I wish you would try too.”

“I guess there isn’t much danger of you,” said the man.  “You’re the most wonderful chap I ever saw.”

“I don’t know what chap is,” replied Frankie.  “When I say my prayers to-night, I am going to ask God to give you a new heart; and then you can’t help being good.”

“I wish you would,” whispered the man, drawing his shirt sleeve across his eyes.

He pushed his chair back from the table, saying, “I’ve had a first-rate supper; and I thank you and your mother a thousand times for all your kindness.”

Willie then stepped into the kitchen, and helped him from his chair into his carriage, at the back door.  The man gave Frankie two of his handsomest pictures, saying, “Don’t forget what you promised to do for me to-night.  I have nobody else to pray for me now.”