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Clara Morris: The Girl Who Won Fame As An Actress
by [?]

A certain young person who lived in a boarding-house in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was approaching her thirteenth birthday, which fact made her feel very old, and also very anxious to do some kind of work, as she saw her mother busily engaged from morning to night, in an effort to earn a living for her young daughter and herself.

Spring came in that year with furious heat, and the young person, seeing her mother cruelly over-worked, felt hopelessly big and helpless. The humiliation of having some one working to support her–and with the dignity of thirteen years close upon her, was more than she could bear. Locking herself into her small room, she flung herself on her knees and with a passion of tears prayed that God would help her.

“Dear God,” she cried, “just pity me and show me what to do. Please!” Her entreaty was that of the child who has perfect confidence in the Father to whom she is speaking. “Help me to help my mother. If you will, I’ll never say ‘No!’ to any woman who comes to me all my life long!”

In her story of her life, which the young person wrote many years later, she says, in telling of that agonized plea: “My error in trying to barter with my Maker must have been forgiven, for my prayer was answered within a week…. I have tried faithfully to keep my part of the bargain, for no woman who has ever sought my aid has ever been answered with a ‘No!'”

Somewhat relieved at having made known her longing to Some One whom she believed would understand and surely help, the young person went through the dreary routine of boarding-house days more cheerfully, to her mother’s joy. And at night, when she lay tossing and trying to sleep despite the scorching heat, she seemed to be reviewing the thirteen years of her existence as if she were getting ready to pigeon-hole the past, to make ready for a fuller future.

With clear distinctness she remembered having been told by her mother, in the manner of old-fashioned tellers, that, “Once upon a time, in the Canadian city of Toronto, in the year 1849, on the 17th of March–the day of celebrating the birth of good old St. Patrick, in a quiet house not far from the sound of the marching paraders, the rioting of revelers and the blare of brass bands, a young person was born.” Memory carried on the story, as she lay there in the dark, still hours of the night, and she repeated to herself the oft-told tale of those few months she and her mother spent in the Canadian city before they journeyed back to the United States, where in Cleveland the mother tried many different kinds of occupations by which to support the child and herself. It was a strange life the young person remembered in those early days. She and her mother had to flit so often–suddenly, noiselessly. Often she remembered being roused from a sound sleep, sometimes being simply wrapped up without being dressed, and carried through the dark to some other place of refuge. Then, too, when other children walked in the streets or played, bare-headed or only with hat on, she wore a tormenting and heavy veil over her face. At an early age she began to notice that if a strange lady spoke to her the mother seemed pleased, but if a man noticed her she looked frightened, and hurried her away as fast as possible. At first this was all a mystery to the child, but later she understood that the great fear in her mother’s eyes, and the hasty flights, were all to be traced to a father who had not been good to the brave mother, and so she had taken her little girl and fled from him. But he always found her and begged for the child. Only too well the young person remembered some of those scenes of frantic appeal on the father’s side, of angry refusal by her mother, followed always by another hasty retreat to some new place of concealment. At last–never-to-be forgotten day–there was a vivid recollection of the time when the father asserted brutally that “he would make life a misery to her until she gave up the child”–that “by fair means or foul he would gain his end.” Soon afterward he did kidnap the young person, but the mother was too quick for him, and almost immediately her child was in her own arms again.