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Charles M. Sheldon
WAS the afternoon of that morning when Burns was installed
in his new position as assistant janitor that he was cleaning
off the front steps of the Settlement, when he paused a
moment and stood up to look about him. The first thing he
noticed was a beer sign just across the alley. He could
almost touch it with his broom from where he stood. Over
the street immediately opposite were two large saloons,
and a little farther down were three more.
Suddenly the door of the nearest saloon opened and a man
came out. At the same time two more went in. A strong odor
of beer floated up to Burns as he stood on the steps. He
clutched his broom handle tightly and began to sweep again.
He had one foot on the porch and another on the steps just
below. He took another step down, still sweeping. The sweat
stood on his forehead although the day was frosty and the
air chill. The saloon door opened again and three or four
men came out. A child went in with a pail, and came out
a moment later with a quart of beer. The child went by on
the sidewalk just below him, and the odor of the beer came
up to him. He took another step down, still sweeping desperately.
His fingers were purple as he clutched the handle of the
Then suddenly he pulled himself up one step and swept over
the spot he had just cleaned. He then dragged himself by
a tremendous effort back to the floor of the porch and went
over into the corner of it farthest from the saloon and
began to sweep there. "O God!" he cried, "if the Bishop
would only come back!" The Bishop had gone out with Dr.
Bruce somewhere, and there was no one about that he knew.
He swept in the corner for two or three minutes. His face
was drawn with the agony of his conflict. Gradually he edged
out again towards the steps and began to go down them. He
looked towards the sidewalk and saw that he had left one
step unswept. The sight seemed to give him a reasonable
excuse for going down there to finish his sweeping.
He was on the sidewalk now, sweeping the last step, with
his face towards the Settlement and his back turned partly
on the saloon across the alley. He swept the step a dozen
times. The sweat rolled over his face and dropped down at
his feet. By degrees he felt that he was drawn over towards
that end of the step nearest the saloon. He could smell
the beer and rum now as the fumes rose around him. It was
like the infernal sulphur of the lowest hell, and yet it
dragged him as by a giant's hand nearer its source.
He was down in the middle of the sidewalk now, still sweeping.
He cleared the space in front of the Settlement and even
went out into the gutter and swept that. He took off his
hat and rubbed his sleeve over his face. His lips were pallid
and his teeth chattered. He trembled all over like a palsied
man and staggered back and forth as if he was already drunk.
His soul shook within him.
He had crossed over the little piece of stone flagging that
measured the width of the alley, and now he stood in front
of the saloon, looking at the sign, and staring into the
window at the pile of whiskey and beer bottles arranged
in a great pyramid inside. He moistened his lips with his
tongue and took a step forward, looking around him stealthily.
The door suddenly opened again and someone came out. Again
the hot, penetrating smell of liquor swept out into the
cold air, and he took another step towards the saloon door
which had shut behind the customer. As he laid his fingers
on the door handle, a tall figure came around the corner.
It was the Bishop.
He seized Burns by the arm and dragged him back upon the
sidewalk. The frenzied man, now mad for a drink, shrieked
out a curse and struck at his friend savagely. It is doubtful
if he really knew at first who was snatching him away from
his ruin. The blow fell upon the Bishop's face and cut a
gash in his cheek. He never uttered a word. But over his
face a look of majestic sorrow swept. He picked Burns up
as if he had been a child and actually carried him up the
steps and into the house. He put him down in the hall and
then shut the door and put his back against it.
Burns fell on his knees sobbing and praying. The Bishop
stood there panting with his exertion, although Burns was
a slightly-built man and had not been a great weight for
a man of his strength to carry. He was moved with unspeakable
Burns -- pray as you never prayed before! Nothing else will
God! Pray with me. Save me! Oh, save me from my hell!" cried
Burns. And, the Bishop knelt by him in the hall and prayed
as only he could pray.
After that they rose and Burns went to his room. He came
out of it that evening like a humble child. And the Bishop
went his way older from that experience, bearing on his
body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Truly he was learning
something of what it means to walk in His steps.
But the saloon! It stood there, and all the others lined
the street like so many traps set for Burns. How long would
the man be able to resist the smell of the damnable stuff?
The Bishop went out on the porch. The air of the whole city
seemed to be impregnated with the odor of beer. "How long,
O Lord, how long?" he prayed. Dr. Bruce came out, and the
two friends talked about Burns and his temptation.
you ever make any inquiries about the ownership of this
property adjoining us?" the Bishop asked.
I haven't taken time for it. I will now if you think it
would be worth while. But what can we do, Edward, against
the saloon in this great city? It is as firmly established
as the churches or politics. What power can ever remove
will do it in time, as He has removed slavery," was the
grave reply. "Meanwhile I think we have a right to know
who controls this saloon so near the Settlement."
find out," said Dr. Bruce.
Two days later he walked into the business office of one
of the members of Nazareth Avenue Church and asked to see
him a few moments. He was cordially received by his old
parishioner, who welcomed him into his room and urged him
to take all the time he wanted.
called to see you about that property next the Settlement
where the Bishop and myself now are, you know. I am going
to speak plainly, because life is too short and too serious
for us both to have any foolish hesitation about this matter.
Clayton, do you think it is right to rent that property
for a saloon?"
Dr. Bruce's question was as direct and uncompromising as
he had meant it to be. The effect of it on his old parishioner
The hot blood mounted to the face of the man who sat there
beneath a picture of business activity in a great city.
Then he grew pale, dropped his head on his hands, and when
he raised it again Dr. Bruce was amazed to see a tear roll
over his face.
did you know that I took the pledge that morning with the
you never knew how I have been tormented over my failure
to keep it in this instance. That saloon property has been
the temptation of the devil to me. It is the best paying
investment at present that I have. And yet it was only a
minute before you came in here that I was in an agony of
remorse to think how I was letting a little earthly gain
tempt me into a denial of the very Christ I had promised
to follow. I knew well enough that He would never rent property
for such a purpose. There is no need, Dr. Bruce, for you
to say a word more."
Clayton held out his hand and Dr. Bruce grasped it and shook
it hard. After a little he went away. But it was a long
time afterwards that he learned all the truth about the
struggle that Clayton had known. It was only a part of the
history that belonged to Nazareth Avenue Church since that
memorable morning when the Holy Spirit sanctioned the Christ-like
pledge. Not even the Bishop and Dr. Bruce, moving as they
now did in the very presence itself of divine impulses,
knew yet that over the whole sinful city the Spirit was
brooding with mighty eagerness, waiting for the disciples
to arise to the call of sacrifice and suffering, touching
hearts long dull and cold, making business men and money-makers
uneasy in their absorption by the one great struggle for
more wealth, and stirring through the church as never in
all the city's history the church had been moved. The Bishop
and Dr. Bruce had already seen some wonderful things in
their brief life at the Settlement. They were to see far
greater soon, more astonishing revelations of the divine
power than they had supposed possible in this age of the
Within a month the saloon next the Settlement was closed.
The saloon-keeper's lease had expired, and Clayton not only
closed the property to the whiskey men, but offered the
building to the Bishop and Dr. Bruce to use for the Settlement
work, which had now grown so large that the building they
had first rented was not sufficient for the different industries
that were planned.
One of the most important of these was the pure-food department
suggested by Felicia. It was not a month after Clayton turned
the saloon property over to the Settlement that Felicia
found herself installed in the very room where souls had
been lost, as head of the department not only of cooking
but of a course of housekeeping for girls who wished to
go out to service. She was now a resident of the Settlement,
and found a home with Mrs. Bruce and the other young women
from the city who were residents. Martha, the violinist,
remained at the place where the Bishop had first discovered
the two girls, and came over to the Settlement certain evenings
to give lessons in music.
tell us your plan in full now," said the Bishop one evening
when, in a rare interval of rest from the great pressure
of work, he was with Dr. Bruce, and Felicia had come in
from the other building.
I have long thought of the hired girl problem," said Felicia
with an air of wisdom that made Mrs. Bruce smile as she
looked at the enthusiastic, vital beauty of this young girl,
transformed into a new creature by the promise she had made
to live the Christ-like life. "And I have reached certain
conclusions in regard to it that you men are not yet able
to fathom, but Mrs. Bruce will understand me."
acknowledge our infancy, Felicia. Go on," said the Bishop
this is what I propose to do. The old saloon building is
large enough to arrange into a suite of rooms that will
represent an ordinary house. My plan is to have it so arranged,
and then teach housekeeping and cooking to girls who will
afterwards go out to service. The course will be six months'
long; in that time I will teach plain cooking, neatness,
quickness, and a love of good work."
on, Felicia!" the Bishop interrupted, "this is not an age
we will make it one," replied Felicia. "I know this seems
like an impossibility, but I want to try it. I know a score
of girls already who will take the course, and if we can
once establish something like an esprit de corps among the
girls themselves, I am sure it will be of great value to
them. I know already that the pure food is working a revolution
in many families."
if you can accomplish half what you propose it will bless
this community," said Mrs. Bruce. "I don't see how you can
do it, but I say, God bless you, as you try."
say we all!" cried Dr. Bruce and the Bishop, and Felicia
plunged into the working out of her plan with the enthusiasm
of her discipleship which every day grew more and more practical
It must be said here that Felicia's plan succeeded beyond
all expectations. She developed wonderful powers of persuasion,
and taught her girls with astonishing rapidity to do all
sorts of housework. In time, the graduates of Felicia's
cooking school came to be prized by housekeepers all over
the city. But that is anticipating our story. The history
of the Settlement has never yet been written. When it is
Felicia's part will be found of very great importance.
The depth of winter found Chicago presenting, as every great
city of the world presents to the eyes of Christendom the
marked contrast between riches and poverty, between culture,
refinement, luxury, ease, and ignorance, depravity, destitution
and the bitter struggle for bread. It was a hard winter
but a gay winter. Never had there been such a succession
of parties, receptions, balls, dinners, banquets, fetes,
gayeties. Never had the opera and the theatre been so crowded
with fashionable audiences. Never had there been such a
lavish display of jewels and fine dresses and equipages.
And on the other hand, never had the deep want and suffering
been so cruel, so sharp, so murderous. Never had the winds
blown so chilling over the lake and through the thin shells
of tenements in the neighborhood of the Settlement. Never
had the pressure for food and fuel and clothes been so urgently
thrust up against the people of the city in their most importunate
and ghastly form. Night after night the Bishop and Dr. Bruce
with their helpers went out and helped save men and women
and children from the torture of physical privation. Vast
quantities of food and clothing and large sums of money
were donated by the churches, the charitable societies,
the civic authorities and the benevolent associations. But
the personal touch of the Christian disciple was very hard
to secure for personal work. Where was the discipleship
that was obeying the Master's command to go itself to the
suffering and give itself with its gift in order to make
the gift of value in time to come? The Bishop found his
heart sing within him as he faced this fact more than any
other. Men would give money who would not think of giving
themselves. And the money they gave did not represent any
real sacrifice because they did not miss it. They gave what
was the easiest to give, what hurt them the least. Where
did the sacrifice come in? Was this following Jesus? Was
this going with Him all the way? He had been to members
of his own aristocratic, splendidly wealthy congregations,
and was appalled to find how few men and women of that luxurious
class in the churches would really suffer any genuine inconvenience
for the sake of suffering humanity. Is charity the giving
of worn-out garments? Is it a ten-dollar bill given to a
paid visitor or secretary of some benevolent organization
in the church? Shall the man never go and give his gift
himself? Shall the woman never deny herself her reception
or her party or her musicale, and go and actually touch,
herself, the foul, sinful sore of diseased humanity as it
festers in the great metropolis? Shall charity be conveniently
and easily done through some organization? Is it possible
to organize the affections so that love shall work disagreeable
things by proxy?
All this the Bishop asked as he plunged deeper into the
sin and sorrow of that bitter winter. He was bearing his
cross with joy. But he burned and fought within over the
shifting of personal love by the many upon the hearts of
the few. And still, silently, powerfully, resistlessly,
the Holy Spirit was moving through the churches, even the
aristocratic, wealthy, ease- loving members who shunned
the terrors of the social problem as they would shun a contagious
This fact was impressed upon the Settlement workers in a
startling way one morning. Perhaps no incident of that winter
shows more plainly how much of a momentum had already grown
out of the movement of Nazareth Avenue Church and the action
of Dr. Bruce and the Bishop that followed the pledge to
do as Jesus would do.