From babyhood Kate Lee had been a delicate little mortal; she was so timid that even the visits of relatives to her home were a kind of torture to her, and she would hide in any corner rather than come forward and entertain or be entertained.
Her delicacy inclined her to selfishness, and her timidity to reserve and aloofness. She bid fair to grow up an insular, somewhat unlovable woman; but child though she was, conversion meant a radical change in character and purpose. She realized at once that as a follower of Jesus she might not live to please herself. She became interested in other people, their well-being and sorrows and needs. Then the joy of the Lord became her strength. It was so glorious to know that her soul was saved from sin; that she was at peace with God; that He had promised to be with her, and guide her, and help her through life, and give her Heaven at last. And this promise was for all the world; but people were still sinful and sad. Surely they did not know about Salvation. She must tell them!
Straightway she wanted to wear an Army bonnet, so as to silently witness for Jesus as she walked the streets. But opposition against Salvationists was strong in those days, and Mrs. Lee was fearful lest Kate should be roughly handled going to and from the meetings. In the matter of uniform, she had to content herself with a badge of Army ribbon. This she wore on her dress to school, and drew upon herself the ire of uncouth lads who noticed it; some even pelted her with mud. She used to remain behind after school hours to talk to her schoolmates about Salvation; some she won, but others resented her message. Invited to the birthday party of a school friend, she went, wearing as usual her Army badge. During the evening this was torn from her breast.
Kate's eyes began to be opened concerning the attitude of the world towards Christ. She found that most people did not want to know of His will, much less do it, and that if she intended to devote her life to seek and to save souls she must be prepared to suffer with her Lord. Far from repelling her, the challenge called up the reserves of love and courage that until now had lain dormant in her spirit, and once and for all she took sides with Christ.
The shy little recruit, with eyes as blue as the sky, golden curls reaching to her waist, and a complexion like pink rose petals, sang her testimony in the meetings until she gained courage to speak. She was ever planning ways by which she could direct people's thoughts toward God, and to arouse them to a sense of their spiritual state. An ingenious method she hit upon was to write carefully-worded little letters to the postmen and drop them into various pillar-boxes.
The family removed to Hornsey, and soon afterwards Lucy heard the 'call' to officership in The Salvation Army. This was the first real trial Mrs. Lee had felt in connexion with her daughters' association with The Army. Though herself anything but a woman of war, she had not interfered with their choice of religion, for they were 'such good girls.' But to break her home circle was not in her reckoning. It was a pain that went deeper than the parting which caused tears to sting Lucy's face as, on a snowy New Year's day, she said good-bye to mother and sister and left home for the Training Garrison; but in her heart rang the words, 'If any man love father or mother more than Me, he is not worthy of Me.' She must put God's call first, and trust Him to bring all right.
Kate's health remained frail, but her spirit grew stronger and stronger. Whenever able, she hied off to The Army hall, carrying her tambourine in a little green baize bag, and, as often as not, a bundle of 'War Crys' under her arm. In the Army papers she saw a powerful means of spreading Salvation, and she became a fearless Herald. [Footnote: One of a voluntary brigade of regular sellers.]
There are comrades at Wood Green who recall how on Wednesday nights Kate would go to the hall, fold a large bundle of 'War Crys,' and sally forth to the streets to sell them. The first time she ventured out on this service she saw a great, drunken navvy lounging against the door of a public-house. Mustering all her courage, the girl advanced and offered the paper to the drunkard. She felt she had scored quite a victory when the navvy bought a copy. By degrees she became braver, and would even go into the saloons to sell the periodicals. Then, noticing how the newsboys boarded buses with their papers, she thought that in the Lord's service she should be as eager and enterprising as they, and she became quite agile, running up and down the iron steps as she joined the buses and offered her papers for sale to the passengers.
Veteran soldiers also recall Kate's spiritual, earnest face, as she sat in side seats -- known as 'the boxes' -- at the Wood Green hall, whence she could study the congregation. As she recognized how people fell under conviction of sin during the progress of the meetings, she felt that she might help girls of her own age, who 'didn't look saved,' if she sat beside them in the hall, and spoke to them when the prayer meeting was begun.
She was still shy, still nervous, but she suffered no excuse for herself when the heavenly vision made clear a path of duty. In later years, a corps cadet asked her if, in those days, she never said 'I can't.' 'Yes,' she replied, 'I often said |I can't, but I MUST,|' and so she conquered.
To wear full Army uniform was still the desire of Kate's heart. When she needed a new dress, she prevailed upon her mother to let it be a blue one, and by dint of great perseverance she made a uniform herself. Now, if she might but have the bonnet!
Lucy had passed through the Training Garrison, and was now an officer in the Field. A great Salvation demonstration was held at that time at the Alexandra Palace, and Lucy, with her captain, came to London for the important event. The mother and sisters met in the ground of the Palace. Lucy's eyes were sparkling with quite extraordinary delight, and, needing a wash and brush up, she asked her mother to excuse Kate, and the girls slipped away.
'Guess what I've got for you, little dear,' Lucy exclaimed when they were alone. Kate laughed, but shook her head. Then, from a box, the elder sister drew a small Army bonnet. 'Oh!' gasped Kate, 'where did you get it?'
'I've been saving and saving for it, and at last here it is; and you're going to wear it right off.' Kate's hat was transferred to the box and the bonnet tried on. 'Darling, you look lovely; now come to mother,' cried Lucy. Kate's face was pink with pleasure, and her eyes shining with anticipation when the girls returned to Mrs. Lee. She looked a moment in surprise, then her eyes filled with tears. There was a beauty not of this earth about the child. She would not mar it. Kate might wear the bonnet. And thus it was that the mother, herself unreached with revelation, and untouched by inspiration, followed slowly but surely in her daughters' steps.
Whilst Lucy was stationed at Folkestone it was a great joy to the sisters when it was arranged for Kate to visit her. To work amongst the people all day long, get them to the meetings at night, and 'land' them at the mercy-seat, seemed to Kate service that the angels might envy. One day she begged to be allowed to 'visit' [Footnote: Visiting the people in their homes -- usually from house to house.] as her sister and the captain did. The captain consented somewhat reluctantly, but afterwards doubted the wisdom of allowing this child of fifteen to go alone into all manner of houses. Seeing Kate enter the home of a drunken sweep, she stepped along to the door and listened. Kate was dealing with the man as earnestly and directly, if not as skilfully, as she herself could have done. She smiled and turned away. When Kate had visited her street of houses, she returned to the quarters radiant. The sweep had promised to come to the meetings, and, 'Just look what he gave me for tea,' she announced triumphantly, and produced a currant loaf, a luxury in those days.
A kind-hearted woman soldier, touched by Kate's delicate appearance, felt that the child needed the air of the hills, and abundant nourishment, and begged Lucy to allow her to take Kate to her home. Lucy, ever alive to Kate's welfare, joyfully sent her off, and the child spent several health-giving months in the country. To help her happily to occupy her time, the good friend bought Kate a cheap concertina. By the hour she would sit in the sunshine, mastering the keyboard, and soon she could play simple Army tunes. How richly our Heavenly Father blesses the gifts of love! All unconsciously, the good soldier was preparing the Angel Adjutant of the future to win the hopeless and despairing of many great cities for God.
Kate had an extraordinary love for music. Her ambition had once been to make music her profession; but after her conversion she realized that there were higher things to live for than a successful career, and lest music should be a snare to her, she gave it up. This determination to allow nothing to interfere with her entire devotion to the will and service of God was a sure foundation for her spiritual life, but as she grew in the knowledge of God she realized that every gift may be consecrated to God's service. She worked at the piano again; now she wrestled with the concertina, then tackled the banjo. Later they all became useful aids to her in her work amongst the people.
Soon after Kate's return home from the country she wrote to Lucy telling her privately that for the upkeep of the home it was necessary that she should seek employment. This prospect caused Lucy much anxiety. Her own experience of earning her living in so seemingly irreproachable a business as photography returned to her with horror. The manager of the firm for which she had worked had been a dissolute man. Much of his conversation in the presence of the girl employees was incomprehensible to Lucy, who did her work faithfully, was pleasant and obliging, but lived her life largely apart from the others. Her later experience in moving amongst the people had enlarged her knowledge of life, and now she realized that, as a certain white flower with smooth petals remains unspotted at the mouth of coal pits, so by the innocency of her mind and the purity of her spirit, she had been preserved from dangers worse than death. The thought of Kate in such company was intolerable. With her usual motherliness towards her sister, she replied, 'On no account must you take a situation without my approval. Surely, there must be some godly place in London for you. I am going to pray hard that the Lord, will direct you to it, and you must wait till the right thing turns up.'
While Lucy was praying 'hard,' a representative of The Army Outfit Department visited her corps. He carried uniforms and books, set up a stall, and sold his goods before and after the meetings. Lucy knew little about the Outfit Department, but she was inspired with an idea. People must be needed to make the uniforms, she mused, and to sell the books, keep the accounts, and write letters. Why should not Kate be employed by The Army? She made inquiries of the salesman and was encouraged to write to Headquarters. God had heard Lucy's prayer, and in a little while her sister found herself installed as a clerk at the Outfit Department at Clerkenwell.
Kate realized that a knowledge of shorthand would be to her advantage, and, obtaining the necessary books, she began to study, rising in the bright summer mornings at four o'clock and plodding her way along in spare minutes until she attained a speed of the coveted 'hundred.'
So reliable was she found to be, that before long she received the title of lieutenant. She was very happy. All her time was now occupied in work for the Kingdom of Heaven; indirectly by day on correspondence and accounts, at night at the corps, she sought for souls, and she was ever a comfort to her mother.
So matters might have continued until to-day; indeed, one comrade of those years, a godly woman, 'content to fill a little space if God be glorified,' still continues in the hidden but important duty of getting out uniform for the Salvationists. But deep in the silence of her soul Kate heard the call of God to leave this quiet post and seek the lost. Humanly speaking, there seemed to be every reason why she should not embark upon the life of a field officer.
When Kate mentioned her call to her mother, the little woman was overcome with sorrow and apprehension. She had become reconciled to Lucy's absence, and even took pleasure in her work, but to part with her 'ewe lamb,' to allow her to leave the shelter of her love and care and pour out her life in Army field service, was more than her faith could accept. She consulted the family doctor; he shook his head and declared that six months of such a life would kill her daughter.
Not one single voice was raised to encourage Kate Lee in obeying the Divine call. Even Lucy thought she was going 'before the time.' The soldiers of the corps expected her health would fail. Colonel Laurie, under whom she worked in the Outfit Department, says, 'She was a thoroughly good girl, conscientious and faithful in her work, but quiet and very frail. When she told me of her call, I would not discourage her faith, but I hoped she was not mistaken. The thought that she would ever become a spiritual leader in The Army never once occurred to me.' Mrs. Lieut.-Colonel Moore, then Sister Stitt, Kate's friend in the home corps, with many misgivings watched her go away. 'The home arrangements seemed so sensible; this fresh undertaking and her breaking away, so foolish! She was so good, always loving holiness, always sweet and unselfish, but terribly shy; and the idea of her roughing it, or becoming anything more than a behind-the-scenes officer, seemed impossible,' said Mrs. Moore in passing on some reminiscences of her friend.
The day of farewell arrived, and with aching heart, conscious only of obeying the heavenly vision, Kate exchanged her title of lieutenant for that of cadet, took leave of her mother, and crossed London to the Training Garrison at Clapton.
General Bramwell Booth writes of this step, 'Her beginning was a great act of faith. She put her hand in her Master's hand, and went out on the great adventure of Salvation Army life -- stepping on to the waters with much tremulousness and many questions -- but her faith carried her through.'
In those days the cadets were trained in small groups placed at certain corps, and to the Chalk Farm Garrison, under Ensign, now Brigadier, Elizabeth Thomas, Kate was appointed.
The brigadier, who has now retired from active service, delights to look back upon those days of rough fighting which tested the mettle of cadets, some thirty years ago. She says: --
When Kate came to me she was a sweet, fragile girl of about twenty. There was a look of indescribable tenderness about her, and a faraway look in her eyes. She might have been a sentimentalist, but there was no room for dreaming in that fight. From the first Kate showed an appreciation of her calling and a spirit that was determined to go through to the end. I have seen her lips quiver before we set out upon some bombardment, but her eyes were steadfast. She never refused a duty, nor failed in a charge. Every ounce of her was devoted to the work of the moment and to her own improvement for the future. She gave herself to every duty as it arose -- boot-blacking, scrubbing, or scullery work -- as readily as to her field training.
At one and the same time I had two cadets of exceptional promise -- Kathleen Harrington and Kate Lee. Kathleen Barrington was a beautiful Irish girl, well educated, and from a home of wealth. She was full of enthusiasm, dash, and courage, and possessed a deep spiritual experience. Kate was not brilliant, and had merely an elementary education, but she was gentle and calm and refined by the grace of God, which seemed to permeate her whole nature. These two girls were kindred spirits. They were one in purpose, in outlook, and consecration. They delighted in each other's company; and yet, so that there should be nothing that savoured of a clique in the Garrison, they devoted themselves to the other cadets, particularly linking up with those who were dull or timid and indulging their friendship only on occasions when the sign of preference for each other's company would excite no jealousy.
Kathleen Harrington, after a brief service as a single officer and then as an officer's wife, her life beginning to fulfil its brimming promise, radiant with happiness and victory, was promoted to Higher Service, while Kate Lee was left to wage warfare on earth.
Brigadier Thomas continues: --
There were about twenty-four girls at the Garrison. By 9:30, the work of the house was finished. From then till dinner hour, we had school, studying the Bible, the F.O., [Footnote: Orders and Regulations for Field Officers.] D.D., [Footnote: Doctrine of The Army.] and 'Why and Wherefore'. [Footnote: A book explanatory of Salvation Army terms and works.] After dinner the cadets set out for field training. These exercises included house-to-house visitation, open-air meetings, and 'War Cry' selling in the streets and the saloons. In our open-air meetings we were continually moved on by the police, but we aimed to deliver some definite message at each stand, and so to make our moving-on an occasion to reach more listeners.
Those were rough days. We had all our band instruments smashed and the windows of our Garrison as well, and one man, madly infuriated against us, heated a poker red hot and threw it into the hall amongst the congregation. We lived in danger to limb and life, but had the overshadowing presence of God with us.
Not every cadet who entered training had the grit to go through with it. Once, during her afternoon home, Kate sprained her ankle, but persuaded her mother to get a cab for her so that she might return to the Garrison the same night. 'Why did you not remain at home to-night?' an officer asked her, as Kate hopped into the Garrison. 'I was afraid you would think I had run away,' she laughed, 'and I did not wish you to have that worry.'
Brigadier Thomas tells us: --
In house-to-house visitation I would take the cadets in turn, speak with the people on their door-steps, and, if possible, get into their houses and point them to God. Kate gloried in this. She was a most successful visitor.
Saloon 'raiding' was, perhaps, our most difficult work. We used 'The War Cry' as a means of entrance and introduction. Going into the bar we offered the paper for sale and suggested singing one of the songs it contained. Conversation with the men and women followed, and before leaving we would pray. Often we were thrown out of the bars, and often, as we prayed, beer was dashed into our faces or over us, and on reaching the Garrison we would need to wash our clothes to remove the bar-room filth. 'Trench mud' we might have called it, had the war been on in those days. But the trial hardest of all to endure was the horrible talk of those dens of sin. Before leaving the Garrison we used to kneel and ask the Lord to sanctify our ears, and surely that was not the least of the prayers that He answered for us. Our souls were entirely delivered from that paralysing horror that the hearing of such profanity at first produced upon our minds, and we were kept in purity and simplicity as though such vileness had never been heard.
The only duty which Kate Lee really shrank from was to take up a collection for the maintenance of the Garrison. This was called the 'Bread and Butter Box'; and the Cadets took turns to stand at the hall door after each meeting, hold the box and shake it. Kate heartily disliked this, but it was part of her duty, and she did it with a smile that brought success. In after years she became a wonderful woman, but in those early days she held the secret that made her wonderful. She walked with God. When the cadets had leisure time, the majority would engage in innocent chat of one kind and another; but you would find Kate a little withdrawn from the others, with her Bible. Yet there was nothing censorious about her. She was quick with a smile and an answer to any remark from the other cadets; but there she was, already her life was hid with 'Christ in God.'
Captain Lucy rejoiced over her sister with trembling. She understood Kate's willing, eager spirit, and the more she thought about her, the less did she believe her to be strong enough to take the position of an officer on field duty. So Lucy began to pray, and soon she felt inspired to act. Writing to Miss Evangeline Booth, then the Field Commissioner in London, she explained her fears for Kate, and asked if, for a year or two, her sister might be stationed with her.
The Commander was quick to see the wisdom of the suggestion, and after a few weeks Captain Lucy received orders for Penarth, in Wales, with Kate as her lieutenant. Her way lay through London, and she knocked at the home door one night. A quick, light step flew to answer it. 'My captain!' cried Kate. 'My lieutenant!' cried Lucy, as they clasped one another. Happy tears glistened in their eyes as they held each other at arms' length to get a good view of each other in the full glory of their respective uniforms, and in the eyes of the little mother, who, learning to walk by faith, was finding the joy as well as the pain of sacrificing her treasures upon the altar of Christ.