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Children's Story Garden  >  Mary Proude

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

The Children's Story Garden

Mary Proude


MARY PROUDE was afraid of the dark. She lay in her great high posted bed and watched the fantastic shadows made by Betsey's candle. Weird little imps they seemed, and Betsey's back was getting farther and farther away. In another minute Mary knew that she would be alone and it would be dark, pitch dark. She caught her breath and cast a furtive look at the heavy drapery that enveloped her bed. Then she shut her eyes and buried her head in the pillows. "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name," she prayed, trying to choke back the tears.

Mary Proude was Afraid of the Dark

Faster and faster she said the words and then suddenly she stopped. Like a flash she thought of something that Betsey had read to her after church. She could not remember the exact words, but it was about prayer, how it helped you and now it was the way to tell good people from bad, because those who did not mean to do the right thing could imitate others in everything except in praying right. That was the thing that struck Mary Proude. Every night for months past when the last glimmer of Betsey's candle had gone she had repeated the Lord's Prayer over and over again as fast as she could until, tired out, she had dropped off to sleep. She did not know just why she did it, but she felt sure that nothing could hurt her while she was praying. To-night, however, a new thought struck her. "If what Betsey read is true," she said to herself, "then I'm not really praying at all, I'm just saying words over. A very wicked person could do what I've been doing." Mary Proude was so interested in thinking about it that she forgot to be afraid, and dropped off quietly to sleep.

The next day she felt even more sure that just saying words was not really praying. But how was she to find oat more about it? Mary's father and mother had died when she was only three years old and she lived with her guardian, Sir Edward Partridge. Everybody was very kind to her, but she felt sure nobody would understand what she meant. In fact, Mary had never heard of anyone who prayed in any other way than by reading from a book or repeating prayers learned from a book. So she shut herself in her room alone and kneeling by her bed, cried, "Lord, what is prayer?" And presently she found herself just talking to her Heavenly Father, telling Him what she wanted to know and asking Him to help her solve her difficulties. And then she knew that her Heavenly Father had shown her what kind of prayer He desires.

That night, when Betsey took away the light, Mary Proude was not afraid, for she knew that she could tell her Heavenly Father all her troubles and that He was very near to her.

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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

Mary Proude
Mary Proude was the mother of Gulielma Springett who was the wife of William Penn. She was the only child of Sir John Proude and was born on his large country place in Kent County, England about 1624. This incident occurred when she was about nine years old. (Historical Notes.)
"Mary Proude ... was born 1624 in Chalfant, St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, En, and died September 18, 1682 in Chalfont, St. Giles, Bucks., England. She married (1) John Springett. She Married (2) William Springett January 1641/42 in England. She Married (3) Isaac Pennington May 13, 1654 in England, son of Isaac Pennington and Abigail Allen." Source: Proude familiy genealogy.
She was known to Friends as Mary Pennington.
Her third marriage was to Isaac Pennington (son of magistrate, alderman and for awhile Lord Mayor of London) in 1654. While in their 20s, both were active in the looser margins of religious dissent sometimes called the Ranters. (The sentiment expressed in the story above is in keeping with the Ranter distaste for hypocrisy.) They later became influential in the early Quaker movement. Her daughter Gulielma Springett married Willaim Penn in 1672 (see the romantic sketch of them in this work, chapters 2-3, for instance).
The Works of Isaac Pennington are available online, and are thought to reflect views that he and Mary Proude Springett Pennington arrived at together. The title page includes the following scriptural citation: "They also that erred in spirit shall know understanding, and that that murmured shall learn doctrine. - Isaiah 29:24"