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Charles M. Sheldon
"Righteousness shall go before him and shall set
us in the way of his steps."
Bishop was not in the habit of carrying much money with
him, and the man with the stake who was searching him uttered
an oath at the small amount of change he found. As he uttered
it, the man with the pistol savagely said, "Jerk out his
watch! We might as well get all we can out of the job!"
The man with the stake was on the point of laying hold of
the chain where there was a sound of footsteps coming towards
behind the fence! We haven't half searched him yet! Mind
you keep shut now, if you don't want--"
The man with the pistol made a significant gesture with
it and, with his companion, pulled and pushed the Bishop
down the alley and through a ragged, broken opening in the
fence. The three stood still there in the shadow until the
then, have you got the watch?" asked the man with the pistol.
the chain is caught somewhere!" and the other man swore
don't break it," the Bishop said, and it was the first time
he had spoken. "The chain is the gift of a very dear friend.
I should be sorry to have it broken."
At the sound of the Bishop's voice the man with the pistol
started as if he had been suddenly shot by his own weapon.
With a quick movement of his other hand he turned the Bishop's
head toward's what little light was shining from the alleyway,
at the same time taking a step nearer. Then, to the amazement
of his companion, he said roughly: "Leave the watch alone!
We've got the money. That's enough!"
Fifty cents! You don't reckon--"
Before the man with the stake could say another word he
was confronted with the muzzle of the pistol turned from
the Bishop's head towards his own.
that watch be! And put back the money too. This is the Bishop
we've held up -- the Bishop -- do you hear?"
what of it! The President of the United States wouldn't
be too good to hold up, if -- "
say, you put the money back, or in five seconds I'll blow
a hole through your head that'll let in more sense than
you have to spare now!" said the other.
For a second the man with the stake seemed to hesitate at
this strange turn in events, as if measuring his companion's
intention. Then he hastily dropped the money back into the
can take your hands down, sir." The man lowered his weapon
slowly, still keeping an eye on the other man, and speaking
with rough respect. The Bishop slowly brought his arms to
his side, and looked earnestly at the two men. In the dim
light it was difficult to distinguish features. He was evidently
free to go his way now, but he stood there making no movement.
can go on. You needn't stay any longer on our account."
The man who had acted as spokesman turned and sat down on
a stone. The other man stood viciously digging his stake
into the ground.
just what I am staying for," replied the Bishop. He sat
down on a board that projected from the broken fence.
must like our company. It is hard sometimes for people to
tear themselves away from us," and the man standing up laughed
up!" exclaimed the other. "We're on the road to hell, though,
that's sure enough. We need better company than ourselves
and the devil."
you would only allow me to be of any help," the Bishop spoke
gently, even lovingly. The man on the stone stared at the
Bishop through the darkness. After a moment of silence he
spoke slowly like one who had finally decided upon a course
he had at first rejected.
you remember ever seeing me before?"
said the Bishop. "The light is not very good and I have
really not had a good look at you."
you know me now?" The man suddenly took off his hat and
getting up from the stone walked over to the Bishop until
they were near enough to touch each other.
The man's hair was coal black except one spot on the top
of his head about as large as the palm of the hand, which
The minute the Bishop saw that, he started. The memory of
fifteen years ago began to stir in him. The man helped him.
you remember one day back in '81 or '82 a man came to your
house and told a story about his wife and child having been
burned to death in a tenement fire in New York?"
I begin to remember now." The other man seemed to be interested.
He ceased digging his stake in the ground and stood still
you remember how you took me into your own house that night
and spent all next day trying to find me a job? And how
when you succeeded in getting me a place in a warehouse
as foreman, I promised to quit drinking because you asked
remember it now. I hope you have kept your promise."
The man laughed savagely. Then he struck his hand against
the fence with such sudden passion that he drew blood.
it! I was drunk inside of a week! I've been drinking ever
since. But I've never forgotten you nor your prayer. Do
you remember the morning after I came to your house, after
breakfast you had prayers and asked me to come in and sit
with the rest? That got me! But my mother used to pray!
I can see her now kneeling down by my bed when I was a lad.
Father came in one night and kicked her while she was kneeling
there by me. But I never forgot that prayer of yours that
morning. You prayed for me just as mother used to, and you
didn't seem to take 'count of the fact that I was ragged
and tough- looking and more than half drunk when I rang
your door bell. Oh, what a life I've lived! The saloon has
housed me and homed me and made hell on earth for me. But
that prayer stuck to me all the time. My promise not to
drink was broken into a thousand pieces inside of two Sundays,
and I lost the job you found for me and landed in a police
station two days later, but I never forgot you nor your
prayer. I don't know what good it has done me, but I never
forgot it. And I won't do any harm to you nor let any one
else. So you're free to go. That's why."
The Bishop did not stir. Somewhere a church clock struck
one. The man had put on his hat and gone back to his seat
on the stone. The Bishop was thinking hard.
long is it since you had work?" he asked, and the man standing
up answered for the other.
six months since either of us did anything to tell of; unless
you count 'holding up' work. I call it pretty wearing kind
of a job myself, especially when we put in a night like
this and don't make nothin'."
I found good jobs for both of you? Would you quit this and
begin all over?"
the use?" the man on the stone spoke sullenly. "I've reformed
a hundred times. Every time I go down deeper. The devil's
begun to foreclose on me already. It's too late."
said the Bishop. And never before the most entranced audience
had he felt the desire for souls burn up in him so strongly.
All the time he sat there during the remarkable scene he
prayed, "O Lord Jesus, give me the souls of these two for
Thee! I am hungry for them. Give them to me!"
the Bishop repeated. "What does God want of you two men?
It doesn't so much matter what I want. But He wants just
what I do in this case. You two men are of infinite value
to Him." And then his wonderful memory came to his aid in
an appeal such as no one on earth among men could make under
such circumstances. He had remembered the man's name in
spite of the wonderfully busy years that lay between his
coming to the house and the present moment.
he said, and he yearned over the men with an unspeakable
longing for them both, "if you and your friend here will
go home with me tonight I will find you both places of honorable
employment. I will believe in you and trust you. You are
both comparatively young men. Why should God lose you? It
is a great thing to win the love of the Great Father. It
is a small thing that I should love you. But if you need
to feel again that there is love in the world, you will
believe me when I say, my brothers, that I love you, and
in the name of Him who was crucified for our sins I cannot
bear to see you miss the glory of the human life. Come,
be men! Make another try for it, God helping you. No one
but God and you and myself need ever know anything of this
tonight. He has forgiven it the minute you ask Him to. You
will find that true. Come! We'll fight it out together,
you two and I. It's worth fighting for, everlasting life
is. It was the sinner that Christ came to help. I'll do
what I can for you. O God, give me the souls of these two
men!" and he broke into a prayer to God that was a continuation
of his appeal to the men. His pent-up feeling had no other
outlet. Before he had prayed many moments Burns was sitting
with his face buried in his hands, sobbing. Where were his
mother's prayers now? They were adding to the power of the
Bishop's. And the other man, harder, less moved, without
a previous knowledge of the Bishop, leaned back against
the fence, stolid at first. But as the prayer went on, he
was moved by it. What force of the Holy Spirit swept over
his dulled, brutal, coarsened life, nothing but the eternal
records of the recording angel can ever disclose. But the
same supernatural Presence that smote Paul on the road to
Damascus, and poured through Henry Maxwell's church the
morning he asked disciples to follow in Jesus' steps, and
had again broken irresistibly over the Nazareth Avenue congregation,
now manifested Himself in this foul corner of the mighty
city and over the natures of these two sinful sunken men,
apparently lost to all the pleadings of conscience and memory
and God. The prayer seemed to red open the crust that for
years had surrounded them and shut them off from divine
communication. And they themselves were thoroughly startled
The Bishop ceased, and at first he himself did not realize
what had happened. Neither did they. Burns still sat with
his head bowed between his knees. The man leaning against
the fence looked at the Bishop with a face in which new
emotions of awe, repentance, astonishment and a broken gleam
of joy struggled for expression. The Bishop rose.
my brothers. God is good. You shall stay at the Settlement
tonight, and I will make good my promise as to the work."
The two men followed him in silence. When they reached the
Settlement it was after two o'clock. He let them in and
led them to a room. At the door he paused a moment. His
tall, commanding figure stood in the doorway and his pale
face was illuminated with the divine glory.
bless you, my brothers!" he said, and leaving them his benediction
he went away.
In the morning he almost dreaded to face the men. But the
impression of the night had not worn away. True to his promise
he secured work for them. The janitor at the Settlement
needed an assistant, owing to the growth of the work there.
So Burns was given the place. The Bishop succeeded in getting
his companion a position as driver for a firm of warehouse
dray manufacturers not far from the Settlement. And the
Holy Spirit, struggling in these two darkened sinful men,
began His marvelous work of regeneration.