Unawares by Emma A. Lent

They said, “The Master is coming
To honor the town to-day,
And none can tell at what house or home
The Master will choose to stay.”
And I thought while my heart beat wildly,
What if He should come to mine,
How would I strive to entertain
And honor the Guest Divine!

And straight I turned to toiling
To make my house more neat;
I swept, and polished, and garnished.
And decked it with blossoms sweet.
I was troubled for fear the Master
Might come ere my work was done,
And I hasted and worked the faster,
And watched the hurrying sun.

But right in the midst of my duties
A woman came to my door;
She had come to tell me her sorrows
And my comfort and aid to implore,
And I said, “I cannot listen
Nor help you any, to-day;
I have greater things to attend to.”
And the pleader turned away.

But soon there came another—
A cripple, thin, pale and gray—
And said, “Oh, let me stop and rest
A while in your house, I pray!
I have traveled far since morning,
I am hungry, and faint, and weak;
My heart is full of misery,
And comfort and help I seek.”

And I cried, “I am grieved and sorry,
But I cannot help you to-day.
I look for a great and noble Guest,”
And the cripple went away;
And the day wore onward swiftly—
And my task was nearly done,
And a prayer was ever in my heart
That the Master to me might come.

And I thought I would spring to meet Him,
And serve him with utmost care,
When a little child stood by me
With a face so sweet and fair—
Sweet, but with marks of teardrops—
And his clothes were tattered and old;
A finger was bruised and bleeding,
And his little bare feet were cold.

And I said, “I’m sorry for you—
You are sorely in need of care;
But I cannot stop to give it,
You must hasten otherwhere.”
And at the words, a shadow
Swept o’er his blue-veined brow,—
“Someone will feed and clothe you, dear,
But I am too busy now.”

At last the day was ended,
And my toil was over and done;
My house was swept and garnished—
And I watched in the dark—alone.
Watched—but no footfall sounded,
No one paused at my gate;
No one entered my cottage door;
I could only pray—and wait.

I waited till night had deepened,
And the Master had not come.
“He has entered some other door,” I said,
“And gladdened some other home!”
My labor had been for nothing,
And I bowed my head and I wept,
My heart was sore with longing—
Yet—in spite of it all—I slept.

Then the Master stood before me,
And his face was grave and fair;
“Three times to-day I came to your door,
And craved your pity and care;
Three times you sent me onward,
Unhelped and uncomforted;
And the blessing you might have had was lost,
And your chance to serve has fled.”

“O Lord, dear Lord, forgive me!
How could I know it was Thee?”
My very soul was shamed and bowed
In the depths of humility.
And He said, “The sin is pardoned,
But the blessing is lost to thee;
For comforting not the least of Mine
You have failed to comfort Me.”