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Children's Story Garden  >  The Mistake

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

The Mistake


IT was a warm, sunny day. Almost every one was napping. The moss hanging from the big live-oaks swayed sleepily to and fro. In the cabin doorway sat good, old, fat Mammy Lize.

"Come hea', Ma'cus. Ma'cus, does you year me?" It was Mammy Lize's voice. She was calling Marcus Aurelius Lincoln, her little boy.

Mammy Lize had six other children, but every one was old enough to go to Sunday school except Marcus.

Two little boys heard Mammy Lize call. One was little black Marcus, the other was little white Julian. But neither of them answered.

They stole slowly through the underbrush near the cabin. They hoped that Mammy Lize might not notice them.

"I year you, en I sees you, too," Mammy Lize called out cheerfully.

"Ma'cus 'relius, de switch am handy, en I isn't gwine call no mo'."

Then Marcus knew that it was time to obey his mother, and Julian knew that he must mind his nurse. He called her "Mammy — Mammy Lize."

"Wat you want?" said Marcus, coming nearer to the cabin.

"Wat I want? I wants you."

"Now, den, jes' you stan' right hea' twel I learns yous a verse fum de Scriptur'."

Then Mammy Lize began, solemnly:

"De Lo'd sayd, 'Let us make man in our image, an' Gawd he created de man in his own image.'"

"Now, you Ma'cus, say dem wo'ds."

"An' Gawd created" — began Marcus slowly.

"De Lo'd sayd," put in Mammy Lize, "de Lo'd sayd dat he done c'eated man ——"

Now Mammy Lize was getting impatient. "You say w'at I says," she commanded. And she made Marcus repeat the verse, word for word, after her.

"I reckon I can say it," whispered Julian in Mammy Lize's ear.

"Co'se you can, honey."

"Now hea' Julian say de Lo'd's wo'ds," said Mammy Lize.

Then Julian stood as straight as any little five-year-old boy could stand and repeated the verse. He knew it would please his mother to hear him say the verse at bedtime, when she and he "talked and prayed" together, so he repeated the words once more under his breath lest he should forget them.

"Now, den," continued Mammy Lize, "who made you, Ma'cus?"

"Gawd," Marcus replied quickly.

"Gawd what, you good-fo'-nutten chile!"

"Gawd made me," Marcus said.

"Dat's true and dat's right," Mammy Lize commented, leaning back in her chair. "Now git along." And the two scholars dashed off to play.

Soon after the lesson both boys were out on the roadside. They were getting boughs together to build a cabin. '

"Marcus, you go for wood," said Julian, "and I'll start the house."

Marcus turned to obey — but — such a rough voice roared at him, "You keep out of the road, you black nigger, you! Can't you keep from under my machine? Get back there!" And poor little Marcus jumped as though he had been shot, as a big, dusty auto glided by.

Both boys watched it until it vanished, when Julian said, "You're not black, are you, Marcus?"

"I reckon I is," answered Marcus.

"Well," said Julian, comfortingly, "I'll talk to my mother about it." And the playmates went on with their building until teatime.

When the bed hour came, Julian knelt before his mother, and they "talked and prayed" together.

"Mother, did God make Marcus?" asked Julian.

"Yes, dear," the gentle voice answered.

"Did God make Marcus black, mother?"

"Yes, dear; He did."

Then Julian's mother took the little boy on her knee, saying, "Why does my son ask this question?"

"The bad man called Marcus a 'black nigger,'" Julian said. "I guess God did forget and made a mistake."

"My dear little boy, God does not make mistakes," was the reassuring answer. "God is good and wonderful. He is the only God in all the world. He makes everything and takes care of everything. God does not only make white people. He makes yellow people, like 'Wang,' the Chinaman; and he makes red people, like the Indian you saw last summer; and He makes black people, like Marcus and Mammy Lize; and He makes white people, like you and me. Where the Bible says God created man in his own image, it doesn't mean the outside, which is black or white, or yellow. It means the inside which thinks and loves and helps. And the wonderful part of it all is that God loves every one alike, no matter what color.

"Do you understand, now?"

"Yes, Mother dear," said Julian, and bowing his head the little boy prayed:

"Dear God, please bless Daddy and Mother, and Marcus, and all the people everywhere, no matter what color they are, and bless Julian."

Then he climbed into his little bed.

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Notes and links

The Mistake
One of the "stories written by members of our committee." (See Introduction.)
"And God said, Let us make man in our image..."
Genesis 1 : 26 (KJV)