In His Steps
by Charles M. Sheldon
BUT more than any other feeling at this meeting rose the tide of fellowship for one another. Maxwell watched it, trembling for its climax which he knew was not yet reached. When it was, where would it lead them? He did not know, but he was not unduly alarmed about it. Only he watched with growing wonder the results of that simple promise as it was being obeyed in these various lives. Those results were already being felt all over the city. Who could measure their influence at the end of a year?
One practical form of this fellowship showed itself in the assurances which Edward Norman received of support for his paper. There was a general flocking toward him when the meeting closed, and the response to his appeal for help from the Christian disciples in Raymond was fully understood by this little company. The value of such a paper in the homes and in behalf of good citizenship, especially at the present crisis in the city, could not be measured. It remained to be seen what could be done now that the paper was endowed so liberally. But it still was true, as Norman insisted, that money alone could not make the paper a power. It must receive the support and sympathy of the Christians in Raymond before it could be counted as one of the great forces of the city.
The week that followed this Sunday meeting was one of great excitement in Raymond. It was the week of the election. President Marsh, true to his promise, took up his cross and bore it manfully, but with shuddering, with groans and even tears, for his deepest conviction was touched, and he tore himself out of the scholarly seclusion of years with a pain and anguish that cost him more than anything he had ever done as a follower of Christ. With him were a few of the college professors who had made the pledge in the First Church. Their experience and suffering were the same as his; for their isolation from all the duties of citizenship had been the same. The same was also true of Henry Maxwell, who plunged into the horror of this fight against whiskey and its allies with a sickening dread of each day’s new encounter with it. For never before had he borne such a cross. He staggered under it, and in the brief intervals when he came in from the work and sought the quiet of his study for rest, the sweat broke out on his forehead, and he felt the actual terror of one who marches into unseen, unknown horrors. Looking back on it afterwards he was amazed at his experience. He was not a coward, but he felt the dread that any man of his habits feels when confronted suddenly with a duty which carries with it the doing of certain things so unfamiliar that the actual details connected with it betray his ignorance and fill him with the shame of humiliation.
When Saturday, the election day, came, the excitement rose to its height. An attempt was made to close all the saloons. It was only partly successful. There was a great deal of drinking going on all day. The Rectangle boiled and heaved and cursed and turned its worst side out to the gaze of the city. Gray had continued his meetings during the week, and the results had been even greater than he had dared to hope. When Saturday came, it seemed to him that the crisis in his work had been reached. The Holy Spirit and the Satan of rum seemed to rouse up to a desperate conflict. The more interest in the meetings, the more ferocity and vileness outside. The saloon men no longer concealed their feelings. Open threats of violence were made. Once during the week Gray and his little company of helpers were assailed with missiles of various kinds as they left the tent late at night. The police sent down a special force, and Virginia and Rachel were always under the protection of either Rollin or Dr. West. Rachel’s power in song had not diminished. Rather, with each night, it seemed to add to the intensity and reality of the Spirit’s presence.
Gray had at first hesitated about having a meeting that night. But he had a simple rule of action, and was always guided by it. The Spirit seemed to lead him to continue the meeting, and so Saturday night he went on as usual.
The excitement all over the city had reached its climax when the polls closed at six o’clock. Never before had there been such a contest in Raymond. The issue of license or no-license had never been an issue under such circumstances. Never before had such elements in the city been arrayed against each other. It was an unheard-of thing that the President of Lincoln College, the pastor of the First Church, the Dean of the Cathedral, the professional men living in fine houses on the boulevard, should come personally into the wards, and by their presence and their example represent the Christian conscience of the place. The ward politicians were astonished at the sight. However, their astonishment did not prevent their activity. The fight grew hotter every hour, and when six o’clock came neither side could have guessed at the result with any certainty. Every one agreed that never before had there been such an election in Raymond, and both sides awaited the announcement of the result with the greatest interest.
It was after ten o’clock when the meeting at the tent was closed. It had been a strange and, in some respects, a remarkable meeting. Maxwell had come down again at Gray’s request. He was completely worn out by the day’s work, but the appeal from Gray came to him in such a form that he did not feel able to resist it. President Marsh was also present. He had never been to the Rectangle, and his curiosity was aroused from what he had noticed of the influence of the evangelist in the worst part of the city. Dr. West and Rollin had come with Rachel and Virginia; and Loreen, who still stayed with Virginia, was present near the organ, in her right mind, sober, with a humility and dread of herself that kept her as close to Virginia as a faithful dog. All through the service she sat with bowed head, weeping a part of the time, sobbing when Rachel sang the song, “I was a wandering sheep,” clinging with almost visible, tangible yearning to the one hope she had found, listening to prayer and appeal and confession all about her like one who was a part of a new creation, yet fearful of her right to share in it fully.
The tent had been crowded. As on some other occasions, there was more or less disturbance on the outside. This had increased as the night advanced, and Gray thought it wise not to prolong the service.
Once in a while a shout as from a large crowd swept into the tent. The returns from the election were beginning to come in, and the Rectangle had emptied every lodging house, den and hovel into the streets.
In spite of these distractions Rachel’s singing kept the crowd in the tent from dissolving. There were a dozen or more conversions. Finally the people became restless and Gray closed the service, remaining a little while with the converts.
Rachel, Virginia, Loreen, Rollin and the Doctor, President Marsh, Mr. Maxwell and Dr. West went out together, intending to go down to the usual waiting place for their car. As they came out of the tent they were at once aware that the Rectangle was trembling on the verge of a drunken riot, and as they pushed through the gathering mobs in the narrow streets they began to realize that they themselves were objects of great attention.
“There he is — the bloke in the tall hat! He’s the leader! shouted a rough voice. President Marsh, with his erect, commanding figure, was conspicuous in the little company.
“How has the election gone? It is too early to know the result yet, isn’t it?” He asked the question aloud, and a man answered:
“They say second and third wards have gone almost solid for no-license. If that is so, the whiskey men have been beaten.”
“Thank God! I hope it is true!” exclaimed Maxwell. “Marsh, we are in danger here. Do you realize our situation? We ought to get the ladies to a place of safety.”
“That is true,” said Marsh gravely. At that moment a shower of stones and other missiles fell over them. The narrow street and sidewalk in front of them was completely choked with the worst elements of the Rectangle.
“This looks serious,” said Maxwell. With Marsh and Rollin and Dr. West he started to go forward through a small opening, Virginia, Rachel, and Loreen following close and sheltered by the men, who now realized something of their danger. The Rectangle was drunk and enraged. It saw in Marsh and Maxwell two of the leaders in the election contest which had perhaps robbed them of their beloved saloon.
“Down with the aristocrats!” shouted a shrill voice, more like a woman’s than a man’s. A shower of mud and stones followed. Rachel remembered afterwards that Rollin jumped directly in front of her and received on his head and chest a number of blows that would probably have struck her if he had not shielded her from them.
And just then, before the police reached them, Loreen darted forward in front of Virginia and pushed her aside, looking up and screaming. It was so sudden that no one had time to catch the face of the one who did it. But out of the upper window of a room, over the very saloon where Loreen had come out a week before, someone had thrown a heavy bottle. It struck Loreen on the head and she fell to the ground. Virginia turned and instantly kneeled down by her. The police officers by that time had reached the little company.
President Marsh raised his arm and shouted over the howl that was beginning to rise from the wild beast in the mob.
“Stop! You’ve killed a woman!” The announcement partly sobered the crowd.
“Is it true?” Maxwell asked it, as Dr. West kneeled on the other side of Loreen, supporting her.
“She’s dying!” said Dr. West briefly.
Loreen opened her eyes and smiled at Virginia, who wiped the blood from her face and then bent over and kissed her. Loreen smiled again, and the next minute her soul was in Paradise.
And yet this is only one woman out of thousands killed by this drink evil. Crowd back, now, ye sinful men and women in this filthy street! Let this august dead form be borne through your stupefied, sobered ranks! She was one of your own children. The Rectangle had stamped the image of the beast on her. Thank Him who died for sinners that the other image of a new soul now shines out of her pale clay. Crowd back! Give them room! Let her pass reverently, followed and surrounded by the weeping, awestruck company of Christians. Ye killed her, ye drunken murderers! And yet — and yet — O Christian America, who killed this woman? Stand back! Silence, there! A woman has been killed. Who? Loreen. Child of the streets. Poor, drunken, vile sinner. O Lord God, how long, how long? Yes. The saloon killed her; that is, the Christians of America, who license the saloon. And the Judgment Day only shall declare who was the murderer of Loreen.