PART 12 of 24 parts

Meanwhile, the Rectangle awaited the issue of the election with more interest than usual. And Mr. Gray and his wife wept over the pitiful individuals who, after a struggle with surroundings that daily tempted them, too often wearied of the battle and went whirling over the cataract into the boiling abyss of their previous condition.

The Sunday aftermeeting at the First Church was now well established and eagerly attended. Henry Maxwell went into the lecture room on the Sunday following the week of the primary, and was greeted with an enthusiasm that made him tremble. He noted again the absence of Jasper Chase, plus two others, but all the rest were present and they seemed drawn close together by a bond of common fellowship. Out of this was coming the realization that the Spirit of Jesus was a Spirit of very open, frank confession of experience.

It seemed the most natural thing in the world, therefore, for Edward Norman to be telling all the rest of the group about the details of his newspaper.

"The fact is, I have lost a good deal of money during the last three weeks. I cannot tell just how much. I am losing many subscribers every day.

"What do the subscribers give as their reason for dropping the paper?" asked Mr. Maxwell.

"There are a good many different reasons. Some say they want a paper that prints all the news; meaning by that, the crime details, sensations like prize fights, scandals and horrors of various kinds. Others object to the discontinuance of the Sunday edition. I have lost hundreds of subscribers by that action, although I have made satisfactory arrangements with many of the old subscribers by giving them even more in the extra Saturday edition than they formerly had in the Sunday issue. The loss of advertising revenue has hurt a lot.

"But taking a stand on political questions has probably cost me more than any other. The bulk of my subscribers are intensely partisan. I may as well tell you all frankly that if I continue to follow the plan I honestly believe Jesus would pursue in the matter of political issues and their treatment from a nonpartisan and moral standpoint, the News will soon not be able to pay its operating expenses. There is only one hope for the paper, as I see it."

He paused a moment, and the room was very quiet. Then he continued, "That one hope is the Christian people in Raymond. Assuming that the News has lost heavily from cancellations by people who do not care for a Christian daily, and from others who simply look upon a newspaper as a purveyor of all sorts of material to amuse and interest them—are there enough Christian people in Raymond who will rally to the support of a paper such as Jesus could presumably edit? Or are the habits of the church people so firmly established in their demands for a standard journalism that they will not subscribe to a paper that attempts to deal with issues from both a Christian and moral viewpoint?

"As I understand the promise we made, we were not to ask any questions about, ‘Will it pay?’ but all our action was to be based on the one question ‘What would Jesus do?’ After my three weeks’ experience, I’m convinced that most businessmen would lose vast sums of money if this rule of Jesus were honestly applied. And unless the Christian people of Raymond, the church members and professing disciples, will support the paper with subscriptions and advertisements, I cannot continue its publication on the present basis."

"Do you mean that a Christian daily ought to be endowed with a large sum, like a Christian college, in order to make it pay?" Virginia asked with intense interest.

"That is exactly what I mean. I have laid out the plans for putting into the News such a variety of material, in such a strong and truly interesting way, that it would more than make up for whatever was absent from its columns in the way of non-Christian matter. But my plans call for a large outlay of money. I am confident that a Christian daily, such as Jesus would approve and containing only what He would print, can be made to succeed financially if it is planned on the right lines. But it will take a large sum of money to work out the plans."

"How much do you think?" asked Virginia quietly.

Edward Norman looked at her keenly, and his face flushed a moment, as an idea of her purpose crossed his mind. He had known her when she was a little girl in the Sunday school, and he had been on intimate business relations with her father.

"I should say a half-million dollars in a town like Raymond would be needed in the establishment of a paper such as we have in mind," he answered.

"Then," said Virginia, speaking as if the thought were fully considered, "I am ready to put that amount of money into the paper—on the one condition, of course, that it be carried on as it has been begun."

Startled by Virginia’s offer, the editor was speechless for a moment. But Virginia had more to say.

"Dear friends," she went on, with sadness in her voice, "I do not want any of you to credit me with an act of great generosity. I have come to know lately that the money I have called my own is not my own, but God’s. If I, as a steward of His, see some wise way to invest His money, it is not an occasion for praise or thanks from anyone simply because I have proved honest in my administration of the funds He had asked me to use for His glory. I have been thinking of doing something like this for some time. The fact is that in our coming political fight against corruption in Raymond—and it has only just begun—we shall need the News to champion the Christian side.

"You all know that all the other papers are for the entrenched interests. As long as the liquor problem exists, the work of the mission at the Rectangle is carried on at a terrible disadvantage. What can Mr. Gray do with his gospel meetings when half his converts are drinking people, daily tempted and enticed by a saloon on every corner? It would be giving up to the enemy to allow the News to fail. I have great confidence in Mr. Norman’s ability. I have not seen his plans; but I have the same confidence that he has in making the paper succeed, if it is carried forward on a large enough scale. I believe what I am doing is what Jesus would do."

No one spoke for a while. Mr. Maxwell standing there, where the faces lifted their intense gaze into his, felt what he had often felt before—a strange but vivid change of setting, back to the first century, when the disciples had all things in common and a powerful spirit of fellowship flowed freely between them. How little his church membership had known of this fellowship until this small group had begun to do as they believed Jesus would do!

He felt the development of unspoken comradeship such as they had never known before. It was present with them while Virginia was speaking and during the silence that followed. If he had to define the common feeling it would go like this: "In the course of my obedience to my promise, if I should meet with loss or trouble in the world, I can depend upon the genuine, practical sympathy and fellowship of any other Christian in this room who has with me made the pledge to do all things by the rule ‘What would Jesus do?’"

An overwhelming love for his people swept over Henry Maxwell. They were developing the kind of trust in their Lord that the early disciples had as they faced loss and death with courage and even joy.

Before the group broke up, there were several confidences like those of Edward Norman. Two young men told of the loss of jobs owing to their honest obedience to their promise. Alexander Powers reported that the Commission had promised to take action on his evidence at the earliest possible date. He was engaged at his old work of telegraphy. It was significant that since resigning his position, neither his wife nor daughter had appeared in public. No one but himself knew the depth of that family estrangement and misunderstanding of his higher motive. Yet many of the disciples present in the meeting carried similar burdens. These were things they could not talk about.

Henry Maxwell, from his knowledge of his people, concluded that obedience to their pledge had resulted in emotional upsets and even strife in many a home. Truly "a man’s foes are they of his own household," when the rule of Jesus is obeyed by some and disobeyed by others. Jesus is a great divider of life. It seemed that one must walk parallel with Him or directly across His way.

Compensating for these problems, however, was the tide of fellowship which arose 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. He only watched with growing wonder the results of that simple promise as it was being obeyed in these various lives. The 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 that 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 in 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 Edward 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, tore himself out of the scholarly seclusion of years. The pain and anguish he experienced cost him more than anything he had ever before 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 experiences and suffering were the same as his; for their isolation from all duties of citizenship had been the same.

The same was also true of Henry Maxwell, who plunged into the horror of this fight against the liquor forces with a sickening dread of each day’s new encounter. 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. He was not a coward; but he felt a 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.

Saturday, election day, arrived, and 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. Mr. 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 forces of good and evil were in 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 dirt, rocks and garbage 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.

At first the evangelist hesitated to have a meeting on election night. But he had a simple rule of action and was always guided by it. In this situation the Spirit seemed to lead him to continue the meeting, and so Saturday the tent meeting 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 up for vote under such circumstances. Never before had such contrasting elements in the city been arrayed against each other. It was an unheard-of thing for the president of Lincoln College, the pastor of the First Church, the dean of the cathedral, the professional men living in the fine houses on the boulevard, to come personally into the wards and, by their presence and their example, represent the Christian conscience of the community. 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.

It was after ten 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 over the growing influence of the evangelist’s work in the worst part of the city.

Dr. West and Rollin arrived with Rachel, Virginia and Loreen, who now lived with Virginia. The latter stayed near the organ. She was sober, but possessed a humility and dread of herself that kept her as close to Virginia as a faithful dog. All through the service Loreen sat with bowed head, quietly weeping most of the time; actually sobbing when Rachel sang the song "I Was a Wandering Sheep." She listened to prayer, 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. The noise outside had increased as the night advanced, and Gray thought it wise not to prolong the service. Once in a while a loud cry 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 while with the converts.

Rachel, Virginia, Loreen, Rollin, President Marsh, Mr. Maxwell and Dr. West went out together, intending to walk to the usual waiting place for their streetcar. 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 special 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 whisky interests have been beaten."

"I hope it is true," exclaimed Maxwell. "Marsh, we are in danger here. We ought to get the ladies to a place of safety."

"That is true," said Marsh gravely. At that moment a shower of garbage pelted 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, Rollin and Dr. West he started to go forward through the small opening. Virginia, Rachel and Loreen followed close, 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 who had perhaps robbed them of their 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 afterward that Rollin jumped directly in front of her and received on his head and chest a number of missiles that would probably have struck her if he had not shielded her from them.

Just then, before the police reached them, Loreen darted forward in front of Virginia and pushed her aside with a scream. Out of the upper window of a room over the very saloon where Loreen had been the week before, someone had thrown a heavy bottle. It struck Loreen on the head and she fell to the ground. Virginia turned and instantly knelt down by her. Police officers by this time had reached the little company.

President Marsh raised his arm and shouted over the howl that was beginning to rise from the mob: "Stop! You’ve killed a woman!"

The announcement partly sobered the crowd.

"Is it true?" Henry Maxwell asked, as Dr. West knelt 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, then bent over and kissed her. Loreen smiled again, and the next moment she was gone.


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