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Charles M. Sheldon
breakfast hour at the settlement was the one hour in the
day when the whole family found a little breathing space
to fellowship together. It was an hour of relaxation. There
was a great deal of good-natured repartee and much real
wit and enjoyable fun at this hour. The Bishop told his
best stories. Dr. Bruce was at his best in anecdote. This
company of disciples was healthily humorous in spite of
the atmosphere of sorrow that constantly surrounded them.
In fact, the Bishop often said the faculty of humor was
as God-given as any other and in his own case it was the
only safety valve he had for the tremendous pressure put
This particular morning he was reading extracts from a morning
paper for the benefit of the others. Suddenly he paused
and his face instantly grew stern and sad. The rest looked
up and a hush fell over the table.
and killed while taking a lump of coal from a car! His family
was freezing and he had had no work for six months. Six
children and a wife all packed into a cabin with three rooms,
on the West Side. One child wrapped in rags in a closet!"
These were headlines that he read slowly. He then went on
and read the detailed account of the shooting and the visit
of the reporter to the tenement where the family lived.
He finished, and there was silence around the table. The
humor of the hour was swept out of existence by this bit
of human tragedy. The great city roared about the Settlement.
The awful current of human life was flowing in a great stream
past the Settlement House, and those who had work were hurrying
to it in a vast throng. But thousands were going down in
the midst of that current, clutching at last hopes, dying
literally in a land of plenty because the boon of physical
toil was denied them.
There were various comments on the part of the residents.
One of the new- comers, a young man preparing for the ministry,
said: "Why don't the man apply to one of the charity organizations
for help? Or to the city? It certainly is not true that
even at its worst this city full of Christian people would
knowingly allow any one to go without food or fuel."
I don't believe it would," replied Dr. Bruce. "But we don't
know the history of this man's case. He may have asked for
help so often before that, finally, in a moment of desperation
he determined to help himself. I have known such cases this
is not the terrible fact in this case," said the Bishop.
"The awful thing about it is the fact that the man had not
had any work for six months."
don't such people go out into the country?" asked the divinity
Some one at the table who had made a special study of the
opportunities for work in the country answered the question.
According to the investigator the places that were possible
for work in the country were exceedingly few for steady
employment, and in almost every case they were offered only
to men without families. Suppose a man's wife or children
were ill. How would he move or get into the country? How
could he pay even the meager sum necessary to move his few
goods? There were a thousand reasons probably why this particular
man did not go elsewhere.
there are the wife and children," said Mrs. Bruce. "How
awful! Where is the place, did you say?"
it is only three blocks from here. This is the 'Penrose
district.' I believe Penrose himself owns half of the houses
in that block. They are among the worst houses in this part
of the city. And Penrose is a church member."
he belongs to the Nazareth Avenue Church," replied Dr. Bruce
in a low voice.
The Bishop rose from the table the very figure of divine
wrath. He had opened his lips to say what seldom came from
him in the way of denunciation, when the bell rang and one
of the residents went to the door.
Dr. Bruce and the Bishop I want to see them. Penrose is
the name -- Clarence Penrose. Dr. Bruce knows me."
The family at the breakfast table heard every word. The
Bishop exchanged a significant look with Dr. Bruce and the
two men instantly left the table and went out into the hall.
in here, Penrose," said Dr. Bruce, and they ushered the
visitor into the reception room, closed the door and were
Clarence Penrose was one of the most elegant looking men
in Chicago. He came from an aristocratic family of great
wealth and social distinction. He was exceedingly wealthy
and had large property holdings in different parts of the
city. He had been a member of Dr. Bruce's church many years.
He faced the two ministers with a look of agitation on his
face that showed plainly the mark of some unusual experience.
He was very pale and his lips trembled as he spoke. When
had Clarence Penrose ever before yielded to such a strange
affair of the shooting! You understand? You have read it?
The family lived in one of my houses. It is a terrible event.
But that is not the primary cause of my visit." He stammered
and looked anxiously into the faces of the two men. The
Bishop still looked stern. He could not help feeling that
this elegant man of leisure could have done a great deal
to alleviate the horrors in his tenements, possibly have
prevented this tragedy if he had sacrificed some of his
personal ease and luxury to better the conditions of the
people in his district.
Penrose turned toward Dr. Bruce. "Doctor!" he exclaimed,
and there was almost a child's terror in his voice. "I came
to say that I have had an experience so unusual that nothing
but the supernatural can explain it. You remember I was
one of those who took the pledge to do as Jesus would do.
I thought at the time, poor fool that I was, that I had
all along been doing the Christian thing. I gave liberally
out of my abundance to the church and charity. I never gave
myself to cost me any suffering. I have been living in a
perfect hell of contradictions ever since I took that pledge.
My little girl, Diana you remember, also took the pledge
with me. She has been asking me a great many questions lately
about the poor people and where they live. I was obliged
to answer her. One of her questions last night touched my
sore! 'Do you own any houses where these poor people live?
Are they nice and warm like ours?' You know how a child
will ask questions like these. I went to bed tormented with
what I now know to be the divine arrows of conscience. I
could not sleep. I seemed to see the judgment day. I was
placed before the Judge. I was asked to give an account
of my deeds done in the body. 'How many sinful souls had
I visited in prison? What had I done with my stewardship?
How about those tenements where people froze in winter and
stifled in summer? Did I give any thought to them except
to receive the rentals from them? Where did my suffering
come in? Would Jesus have done as I had done and was doing?
Had I broken my pledge? How had I used the money and the
culture and the social influence I possessed? Had I used
it to bless humanity, to relieve the suffering, to bring
joy to the distressed and hope to the desponding? I had
received much. How much had I given?'
this came to me in a waking vision as distinctly as I see
you two men and myself now. I was unable to see the end
of the vision. I had a confused picture in my mind of the
suffering Christ pointing a condemning finger at me, and
the rest was shut out by mist and darkness. I have not slept
for twenty-four hours. The first thing I saw this morning
was the account of the shooting at the coal yards. I read
the account with a feeling of horror I have not been able
to shake off. I am a guilty creature before God."
Penrose paused suddenly. The two men looked at him solemnly.
What power of the Holy Spirit moved the soul of this hitherto
self-satisfied, elegant, cultured man who belonged to the
social life that was accustomed to go its way placidly,
unmindful of the great sorrows of a great city and practically
ignorant of what it means to suffer for Jesus' sake? Into
that room came a breath such as before swept over Henry
Maxwell's church and through Nazareth avenue. The Bishop
laid his hand on the shoulder of Penrose and said: "My brother,
God has been very near to you. Let us thank Him."
yes!" sobbed Penrose. He sat down on a chair and covered
his face. The Bishop prayed. Then Penrose quietly said:
"Will you go with me to that house?"
For answer the two men put on their overcoats and went with
him to the home of the dead man's family.
That was the beginning of a new and strange life for Clarence
Penrose. From the moment he stepped into that wretched hovel
of a home and faced for the first time in his life a despair
and suffering such as he had read of but did not know by
personal contact, he dated a new life. It would be another
long story to tell how, in obedience to his pledge he began
to do with his tenement property as he knew Jesus would
do. What would Jesus do with tenement property if He owned
it in Chicago or any other great city of the world? Any
man who can imagine any true answers to this question can
easily tell what Clarence Penrose began to do.
Now before that winter reached its bitter climax many things
occurred in the city which concerned the lives of all the
characters in this history of the disciples who promised
to walk in His steps.
It chanced by one of those coincidences that seem to occur
preternaturally that one afternoon just as Felicia came
out of the Settlement with a basket of food which she was
going to leave as a sample with a baker in the Penrose district,
Stephen Clyde opened the door of the carpenter shop in the
basement and came out in time to meet her as she reached
me carry your basket, please," he said.
do you say 'please'?" asked Felicia, handing over the basket
while they walked along.
would like to say something else," replied Stephen, glancing
at her shyly and yet with a boldness that frightened him,
for he had been loving Felicia more every day since he first
saw her and especially since she stepped into the shop that
day with the Bishop, and for weeks now they had been thrown
in each other's company.
else?" asked Felicia, innocently falling into the trap.
said Stephen, turning his fair, noble face full toward her
and eyeing her with the look of one who would have the best
of all things in the universe, "I would like to say: 'Let
me carry your basket, dear Felicia'."
Felicia never looked so beautiful in her life. She walked
on a little way without even turning her face toward him.
It was no secret with her own heart that she had given it
to Stephen some time ago. Finally she turned and said shyly,
while her face grew rosy and her eyes tender: "Why don't
you say it, then?"
I?" cried Stephen, and he was so careless for a minute of
the way he held the basket, that Felicia exclaimed:
But oh, don't drop my goodies!"
I wouldn't drop anything so precious for all the world,
dear Felicia," said Stephen, who now walked on air for several
blocks, and what was said during that walk is private correspondence
that we have no right to read. Only it is a matter of history
that day that the basket never reached its destination,
and that over in the other direction, late in the afternoon,
the Bishop, walking along quietly from the Penrose district,
in rather a secluded spot near the outlying part of the
Settlement district, heard a familiar voice say:
tell me, Felicia, when did you begin to love me?"
fell in love with a little pine shaving just above your
ear that day when I saw you in the shop!" said the other
voice with a laugh so clear, so pure, so sweet that it did
one good to hear it.
are you going with that basket?" he tried to say sternly.
are taking it to -- where are we taking it, Felicia?"
Bishop, we are taking it home to begin--"
begin housekeeping with," finished Stephen, coming to the
you?" said the Bishop. "I hope you will invite me to share.
I know what Felicia's cooking is."
dear Bishop!" said Felicia, and she did not pretend to hide
her happiness; "indeed, you shall be the most honored guest.
Are you glad?"
I am," he replied, interpreting Felicia's words as she wished.
Then he paused a moment and said gently: "God bless you
both!" and went his way with a tear in his eye and a prayer
in his heart, and left them to their joy.
Yes. Shall not the same divine power of love that belongs
to earth be lived and sung by the disciples of the Man of
Sorrows and the Burden-bearer of sins? Yea, verily! And
this man and woman shall walk hand in hand through this
great desert of human woe in this city, strengthening each
other, growing more loving with the experience of the world's
sorrows, walking in His steps even closer yet because of
their love for each other, bringing added blessing to thousands
of wretched creatures because they are to have a home of
their own to share with the homeless. "For this cause,"
said our Lord Jesus Christ, "shall a man leave his father
and mother and cleave unto his wife." And Felicia and Stephen,
following the Master, love him with a deeper, truer service
and devotion because of the earthly affection which Heaven
itself sanctions with its solemn blessing.
But it was a little after the love story of the Settlement
became a part of its glory that Henry Maxwell of Raymond
came to Chicago with Rachel Winslow and Virginia Page and
Rollin and Alexander Powers and President Marsh, and the
occasion was a remarkable gathering at the hall of the Settlement
arranged by the Bishop and Dr. Bruce, who had finally persuaded
Mr. Maxwell and his fellow disciples in Raymond to come
on to be present at this meeting.
There were invited into the Settlement Hall, meeting for
that night men out of work, wretched creatures who had lost
faith in God and man, anarchists and infidels, free-thinkers
and no-thinkers. The representation of all the city's worst,
most hopeless, most dangerous, depraved elements faced Henry
Maxwell and the other disciples when the meeting began.
And still the Holy Spirit moved over the great, selfish,
pleasure-loving, sin-stained city, and it lay in God's hand,
not knowing all that awaited it. Every man and woman at
the meeting that night had seen the Settlement motto over
the door blazing through the transparency set up by the
divinity student: "What would Jesus do?"
And Henry Maxwell, as for the first time he stepped under
the doorway, was touched with a deeper emotion than he had
felt in a long time as he thought of the first time that
question had come to him in the piteous appeal of the shabby
young man who had appeared in the First Church of Raymond
at the morning service.
Was his great desire for fellowship going to be granted?
Would the movement begun in Raymond actually spread over
the country? He had come to Chicago with his friends partly
to see if the answer to that question would be found in
the heart of the great city life. In a few minutes he would
face the people. He had grown very strong and calm since
he first spoke with trembling to that company of workingmen
in the railroad shops, but now as then he breathed a deeper
prayer for help. Then he went in, and with the rest of the
disciples he experienced one of the great and important
events of the earthly life. Somehow he felt as if this meeting
would indicate something of an answer to his constant query:
"What would Jesus do?" And tonight as he looked into the
faces of men and women who had for years been strangers
and enemies to the Church, his heart cried out: "O, my Master,
teach the Church, Thy Church, how to follow Thy steps better!"
Is that prayer of Henry Maxwell's to be answered? Will the
Church in the city respond to the call to follow Him? Will
it choose to walk in His steps of pain and suffering? And
still, over all the city broods the Spirit. Grieve Him not,
O city! For He was never more ready to revolutionize this
world than now!