Part 20 of 24 Parts

Their plan as it finally grew into a workable fact was in reality nothing more than the renting of a large building formerly used as a warehouse for a brewery, reconstructing it and living in it themselves in the very heart of a territory where the saloon ruled with power, where the tenement was its filthiest, and where vice and ignorance and shame and poverty were congested into vicious forms.

It was not a new idea. It was an idea started by Jesus Christ when He left His Father’s house in order to get nearer humanity, and by becoming part of its sin help to draw humanity apart from its sin. The university settlement idea is not modern. It is as old as Bethlehem and Nazareth. And in this particular case it was the nearest approach to anything that would satisfy the hunger of these two men to sacrifice for Christ.

There had sprung up in them at the same time a longing that amounted to a passion to get nearer the great physical poverty and spiritual destitution of the mighty city that throbbed around them. How could they do this except as they became a part of it, as nearly as one man can become a part of another’s misery? Where was the suffering to come in unless there was an actual self-denial of some sort? And what was to make that self-denial apparent to themselves or anyone else unless it took this concrete, actual, personal form of trying to share the deepest suffering and sin of the city?

So they reasoned for themselves, not judging others. They were simply keeping their own pledge to do as Jesus would do, as they honestly judged He would do.

Everyone in Chicago knew that Bishop Hampton had a handsome fortune. Dr. Bruce had acquired and saved a substantial sum from literary work carried on in connection with his parish duties. The two friends agreed to put a large part of this money into the work, most of it into the furnishing of a Settlement House.

Meanwhile Nazareth Avenue Church was experiencing something never known before in all its history. The simple appeal on the part of its pastor to his members to do as Jesus would do had created a sensation that still continued. The result of that appeal was very much the same as in Henry Maxwell’s church in Raymond, only this church was far more aristocratic, wealthy and conventional.

Nevertheless, when one Sunday morning in early summer Dr. Bruce came into the pulpit and announced his resignation, the sensation deepened all over the city. Dr. Bruce had consulted with his board of trustees so that the step he intended was not a matter of surprise to them.

But when it became publicly known that the bishop had also announced his resignation and retirement from the position he had held so long, in order to go and live in the center of the worst part of Chicago, public astonishment reached its height.

"But why?" the bishop replied to one valued friend, who had, almost with tears, tried to dissuade him from his purpose. "Why should what Dr. Bruce and I propose to do seem so remarkable a thing, as if it were unheard of that a doctor of divinity and a bishop should want to save souls in this particular manner? If we were to resign our charges for the purpose of going to Bombay or Hong Kong or any place in Africa, Christian people would applaud our missionary goals. Why should it seem any different for us to give our lives to help rescue the heathen and the lost of our own city? Is it, then, such a tremendous event that two Christian ministers should be not only willing but eager to live close to the misery of the world in order to know it and try to alleviate it?"

Though the bishop may have satisfied himself that there ought to be nothing so remarkable about it all, the public continued to talk and the churches to record their astonishment that two such men, so prominent in the ministry, should leave their comfortable homes, voluntarily resign their pleasant social positions and enter upon a life of hardship, self-denial and actual suffering.

Nazareth Avenue Church parted from its pastor with regret, for the most part, although the regret was modified with a feeling of relief on the part of those who had refused to take the pledge.

Dr. Bruce carried with him the respect of the men who, entangled in business in such a way that obedience to the pledge would have ruined them, still held in their deeper, better natures a genuine admiration for courage and consistency. They had known Dr. Bruce many years as a kindly, conservative, safe man; but the thought of him in the light of sacrifice of this sort was unfamiliar. As fast as they understood it, they gave their pastor the credit of being absolutely true to his recent convictions as to what following Jesus meant. Nazareth Avenue Church became a stronger church because of the movement started by Dr. Bruce.

It was fall again, and the city faced another hard winter. One afternoon the bishop came out of the Settlement and walked around the block, intending to visit one of his new friends in the district. He had walked about four blocks when he was attracted by a shop that looked different from the others. The neighborhood was still new to him, and every day he discovered some strange spot or stumbled upon some unexpected humanity.

The place that attracted his notice was a small house close by a Chinese laundry. There were two windows in the front, very clean, which was remarkable to begin with. Inside the window was a tempting display of cookery with prices attached to the various foods. This made him wonder, since he was familiar by now with many facts in the lives of the people who were once unknown to him.

As he stood looking at the windows, the door between them opened and Felicia Sterling came out.

"Felicia!" exclaimed the bishop. "When did you move into my parish without my knowledge?"

"How did you find me so soon?" asked Felicia.

"Why, don’t you know? These are the only clean windows in the block."

"I believe they are," replied Felicia with a laugh that did the bishop good to hear.

"But why have you dared come to Chicago without telling me, and how have you entered my diocese without my knowledge?" asked the bishop. Felicia looked so like that beautiful, clean, educated, refined world he once knew that he might be pardoned for seeing in her something of the old paradise.

"Well, dear Bishop," said Felicia, "I knew how overwhelmed you were with your work. I did not want to burden you with my plans. And besides, I was just on my way to see you, offer my services and ask your advice. I am settled here for the present with Mrs. Bascom, a saleswoman who rents us three rooms, and with one of Rachel’s music pupils, who is being helped to a course in violin by Virginia Page.

"She is from the people," continued Felicia, using the words from the people so gravely and unconsciously that her hearer smiled. "And I am keeping house for her, and at the same time beginning an experiment in good food for the poor. I am an expert and have a plan I want you to admire and develop. Will you, dear Bishop?"

"Indeed I will," he replied. The sight of Felicia and her vitality, enthusiasm and purpose almost bewildered him.

"Martha can help at the Settlement with her violin and I will help with my recipes. You see, I thought I would get settled first and then come to you with something specific to offer. I’m able to earn my own living now."

"You are?" Bishop Hampton asked a little incredulously. "How? Making those things?"

"’Those things’! exclaimed Felicia with a show of indignation. "I would have you know, sir, that ‘those things’ are the best-cooked, purest food products in this whole city."

"I don’t doubt it," he replied hastily, while his eyes twinkled.

"Come in and try some," she exclaimed. "You poor bishop! You look as if you hadn’t had a good meal for a month."

She insisted on his entering the little front room where Martha, a wide-awake girl with short, curly hair, was busy with her music practice.

"Go right on, Martha. This is the bishop. You have heard me speak of him often. Sit down there, Bishop, and let me give you a taste of something special, for I believe you have been actually fasting."

So they had an improvised lunch, and the bishop, who to tell the truth had not taken time for weeks to enjoy his meals, was delighted at the quality of the cooking.

"Felicia, do you mean that you will live here and help these people to know the value of good food?"

"Indeed I do," she answered gravely. "That is my gospel. Shall I not follow it?"

"You’re right. Bless God for sense like yours. When I left the world"—the bishop smiled at the phrase—"they were talking a good deal about the ‘new woman.’ If you are one of them, I am a convert right here and now."

Felicia laughed gaily. And the bishop’s heart, heavy though it had grown during several months of vast burden-bearing, rejoiced to hear it. The laughter sounded good. It was good. It belonged to God.

Felicia wanted to visit the Settlement and went back with him. She was amazed at what money and a good deal of consecrated brains had done. As they walked through the building they talked incessantly. She was the incarnation of vital enthusiasm, and he marveled at it as it bubbled up and overflowed.

They went down into the basement and the bishop pushed open a door, behind which there came the sound of a carpenter’s plane. It was a small but will-equipped workshop. A young man clad in shirt and overalls was driving the plane as he whistled. He looked up as the two entered.

"Miss Sterling, Mr. Stephen Clyde," said the bishop. "Clyde is one of our helpers here two afternoons a week."

Just then the bishop was called upstairs and he excused himself for a moment, leaving Felicia and the young carpenter together.

"I’m surprised to see you here," said Felicia, a faint color appearing on her cheeks. "And glad too."

"Are you?" The flush of pleasure mounted to the young carpenter’s forehead. "You have had a great deal of trouble lately," he said, and then regretted that he had called up a painful memory.

"Yes, but that is in the past. How is it that you are working here?"

"It is a long story, Felicia. My father lost his money and I was obliged to go to work. A very good thing for me. The bishop says I ought to be grateful. And I am. I’m learning this trade, hoping sometime to be of use. I am also a night clerk at the Windsor Hotel. That Sunday morning when you took the pledge at Nazareth Church, I took it with the others."

"Did you?" said Felicia slowly. "I’m glad."

Just then the bishop came back, and soon he and Felicia left, leaving the young carpenter at his work, whistling louder than ever.

"Felicia," said the bishop, "did you know Stephen Clyde before?"

"Yes," replied Felicia. "He was one of my acquaintances at Nazareth Avenue Church."


"We were good friends," added Felicia.

"But nothing more?"

Felicia’s eyes sparkled for an instant. Then she looked her companion in the eyes frankly and answered, "Just friends."

It would be just the thing for those two young people to come to like each other, thought the bishop to himself, and somehow the thought made him grave. It was almost like the old pang he felt over Camilla. But it passed, leaving him a bit sad. After all, he reasoned, is not romance a part of humanity? Love is older that I am, and wiser.

The following week the bishop had an experience that belongs to this part of the Settlement’s history.

He was coming back to the Settlement very late from a meeting, and was walking along with his hands behind him when two men jumped out from behind an old fence that shut off an abandoned factory from the street and faced him. One of the men thrust a pistol into his face.

"Hold up your hands and be quick about it!" he said.

The place was lonely and the bishop entertained no thought of resistance. He did as he was commanded, and the other man began to go through his pockets. He was calm. His nerves did not quiver. As he stood there with his arms uplifted, an unknowing spectator might have thought that he was praying for the souls of these two men. In fact, the bishop was.

Since the bishop was not in the habit of carrying much money with him, the man searching him uttered an oath at the small amount of change he found. Then the man with the pistol growled, "Grab his watch! We might as well get all we can out of the job!"

Suddenly there came the sound of footsteps.

"Get behind the fence!" hissed the man with the pistol, making a menacing gesture with it. With his companion, he pushed the bishop down the alley and through a ragged, broken opening in the fence. The three stood still there in the shadows until the footsteps passed.

"Now then, have you got the watch?" asked the man with the pistol.

"No, the chain is caught somewhere." And the other man swore again.

"Break it, then!"

"No, don’t break it," said the bishop, 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. With a quick movement of his free hand he turned the bishop’s head toward what little light was shining from the alleyway, at the same time taking a step nearer. Then he said roughly, "Leave the watch alone. We’ve got the money. That’s enough!"

"Enough? There’s only fifty cents!"

"Leave 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? I don’t care if he’s the President of the United States."

"I say 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 now."

For a second the robber seemed to hesitate at this strange turn in events, as if measuring his companion’s intention. Then he dropped the money back into the rifled pocket.

"You can take your hands down, sir." The man lowered his weapon, still keeping an eye on the other man and speaking with rough respect. The bishop brought his arms to his side slowly 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 continued to stand, making no movement.

"You can go on. You needn’t stay any longer on our account." The man who had acted as spokesman was suddenly nervous and uncertain. The other man stood by angrily.

"That’s just what I am staying for," replied the bishop.

There was an uneasy silence.

"If you would only allow me to be of help…" said Bishop Hampton gently, even lovingly. The man with the pistol stared at him 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.

"Do you remember ever seeing me before?"

"No," said the bishop. "The light isn’t very good and I haven’t really had a good look at you."

"Do you know me now?" The man suddenly took off his hat and walked over to the bishop until they were near enough to touch each other. The man’s hair was coal black except for one white spot on the top of his head about as large as the palm of the hand.

The minute the bishop saw that spot he started. A past memory began to stir in him. The man helped him.

"Don’t you remember one day fifteen years ago when a man came to your house and told about his wife and child having been burned to death in a tenement fire in New York?"

"Yes, I begin to remember."

"Do 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 me to?"

"I do remember it. I hope you have kept your promise."

The man laughed hoarsely. Then he struck his hand against the fence with such sudden passion that he drew blood.

"Keep it! I was drunk inside a week. I’ve been drinking ever since. But I’ve never forgotten you or your prayer. Do you remember the morning after I came to your house and you sat down with me after breakfast and prayed with me? That got me! 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," he continued, "and you didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that I was more than half-drunk when I rang your doorbell. Since then, the saloon has housed 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 the police station two days afterward; but I never forgot you or 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 anyone else. So you’re free to go. That’s why."

The bishop did not stir. Somewhere a church clock struck one. He was thinking hard.

"How long is it since you had work?" he asked.

"More than six months since either of us did anything to speak of. Unless you call robbing people work."

"Suppose I found jobs for both of you. Would you quit this and begin all over?"

"What’s the use?" The other man spoke sullenly. "I’ve reformed a hundred times. Every time I go down deeper. It’s too late."

"No!" said the bishop. And never before had he felt the desire to salvage people burn 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."

"No," the bishop repeated. "What does God want of you two men? It doesn’t so much matter what I want. You two men are of infinite value to Him." And then his wonderful memory came to his aid and he remembered the man’s name.

"Burns," he said, "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 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 and I."

And the bishop broke into a prayer to God that was a continuation of his appeal to the men. His pent-up feeling could find no other outlet.

Before he had prayed many moments Burns was sitting with his face buried in his hands, sobbing. 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, the Holy Spirit swept over his dulled, brutal, coarsened life. This same supernatural Presence that smote Paul on the road to Damascus and poured through Henry Maxwell’s church and then broke irresistibly over the Nazareth Avenue congregation now manifested Himself in this dark corner of a mighty city over two sinful, sunken men. The prayer seemed to break open the crust that had for years kept them from divine communication. And they themselves were thoroughly startled by it.

The bishop finished praying, and at first did not realize himself what had happened. Neither did they. Burns still sat with his head bowed between his knees. The other man leaning against the fence looked at the bishop with awe.

The bishop took charge.

"Come, 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 in the morning. He let them in and led them to a room, pausing only a moment before leaving. His tall, commanding figure filled the doorway, and his pale face, though worn with his recent experiences, was illuminated with love and joy.

"God bless you, my brothers," he said, leaving them his benediction.

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 of the Settlement needed an assistant, owing to the growth of the work there. So Burns was given that place. The bishop succeeded in getting his companion a position as driver for a shipping firm not far from the Settlement. And the Holy Spirit, struggling in these two men, began a work of regeneration.

That very afternoon Burns was installed in his new position as assistant janitor. While he was cleaning off the front steps of the Settlement, he paused a moment and stood to look about him.

The first thing he noticed was a beer sign just up the street, next to the Settlement. He could almost touch it with his broom. Across the street were two large saloons, and a little farther down three more.

Suddenly the door of the nearby saloon opened and a man came out. At the same time two more went in. The enticing odor of beer floated up to Burns as he stood on the steps.

He clutched his broom handle tightly and began to sweep again, one foot on the porch and another on the step just below. He took another step down, still sweeping. By now 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. Then a child went in with a pail and came out a moment later with a quart of beer. As the child went by him on the sidewalk, the odor of beer was overwhelming. He took another step down, still sweeping desperately. His fingers were purple as he clutched the handle of the broom.

Suddenly he pulled himself up by a tremendous effort to the porch and went over to the corner farthest from the saloon and began to sweep there. "O God!" he cried. "If only the bishop would come back!" The bishop had gone out with Dr. Bruce somewhere, and there was no one about that Burns knew.

He swept in the corner for two or three minutes, his face drawn with the agony of the conflict. Gradually he edged out again toward 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 toward the Settlement and his back turned partly on the saloon nearby. He swept the step a dozen times. The sweat rolled over his face. He could smell the beer and rum, as the fumes rose around him.

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. His soul shook within him.

He crossed over the little piece of stone flagging that separated the saloon from the Settlement, and now stood in front of the saloon, looking at the sign and staring into the window at the pile of bottles arranged in a great pyramid inside. Moistening his lips with his tongue, he 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 toward the saloon door, which had shut behind the customer. As he laid his fingers on the doorhandle, a tall figure came around the corner. It was Bishop Hampton.

Burns felt a strong hand on his arm. He tried to shake it off, now in a frenzy for drink. When the bishop held on tightly, Burns struck at his friend savagely. The blow fell upon the bishop’s face and his signet ring cut a gash in his cheek.

The bishop never said a word, though over his face there spread a look of majestic sorrow. He picked Burns up as if he had been a child and actually carried him up the steps and into the Settlement House. Putting him down in the hall, the bishop shut the door and put his back against it.

Burns fell on his knees, sobbing. The bishop stood there panting with exertion, although Burns was a slightly built man and not a great weight for a man of his strength to carry. He was moved with unspeakable pity.

"Pray, Burns. Pray as you never prayed before. Nothing else will save you."

"O God, save me!" cried Burns. "Oh, save me from my hell!" And the bishop knelt by him in the hall and prayed with him.

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, with a wound on his face that would be a lifetime scar. Truly he was learning something of what it meant to walk in His steps.



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