Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Going-Away Present

Emma Hyde-Pruitt could have lived a life of incredible luxury. Born into one of London's top-hat families in the 1860s, she was destined to take her place among the fashionable set at Ascot. When she was seventeen, a fabulously wealthy duke asked for her hand in marriage. But the strong-willed young woman shocked the tony set by rejecting her suitor, for she had a far more important mission in mind.

As a young girl, Emma had ridden in her carriage through the mean streets of London's slums. There she had seen the children in their tattered rags, their emaciated bodies desperate for a few morsels. She gave what monies she could as a child, but as she grew older, she knew that it would not be enough. She could feed a few children for a few days, but what she really wanted to do was change their lives. So Emma Hyde-Pruitt did what no other woman of her social standing had ever done--she attended teaching college and eventually gained her license to teach!

Day and night she would roam London's dangerous "throat-cutter" alleys, gathering groups of children to teach them to read and write. If she could educate but a few, she knew, she could provide hope for all of them. Forsaking her fashionable life, Emma Hyde-Pruitt became a fixture in the slums.

When the public learned of her noble deeds, she became one of the most beloved people in London, "the Angel of the Alleys."Emma had but one dream for herself. As she was growing up, she would sit upon her father's knee, and he would regale her with tales of the great queens of the ocean, the fleet Atlantic liners. To sail one day aboard one of these great ships remained her lifelong wish; but with the family fortune given away to the needy, she knew that would never be possible.

Or so she thought. As Emma Hyde-Pruitt approached her fiftieth birthday, her students, young and old, began pooling their money for a grand surprise. Hundreds of them gave what pittance they could, a farthing here, half a sixpence there, but they all gave. And on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday, hundreds of people whose lives she had changed gathered around as she was given the gift of their love for her: a first-class ticket on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

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