Many volumes would be needed to contain the story of all the souls who found deliverance from sin, sorrow and terror by the message of Kate Lee, but her memoir would be sadly incomplete without, at least, a few sketches which illustrate the courage, the faith, and the love with which she sought and won and held souls who, unless such love, and faith, and courage had been expended upon them, would have died in their sin.
The following stories are true, but they do not profess to be vivid.
Few of us would care for a passport-photograph of ourselves to be given to the world as a true likeness, and when giving word-pictures of souls who are still fighting their way to Heaven 'midst many enemies and dangers, there is surely need of a kindly 're-touching!' Scars which sin has made are wisely unnoticed; sins of the past best forgotten; there are conditions of strange and fierce trial in the lives of some which, if told, would magnify the triumph of grace, but should, for obvious reasons, remain unmentioned.
It was a great change for Kate Lee when, after her command of Norland Castle, she was appointed to Reading, a prosperous county town in charming surroundings. In its best business part stands a fine Army hall. It was faultlessly kept, and attended by a most respectable congregation. After her heavy term in the slums of London, it might reasonably be expected that she would take things quietly in a provincial corps and recuperate her spent strength. But Kate Lee could no more settle down to enjoy a pleasant time amongst pleasant people than could her old General during his field days.
She by no means despised her 'nice' people, but she hungered for those without the camp. 'Are there none of our sort in Reading?' she inquired of the local officers. To be sure there were Silver and Coley Streets; they were bad enough for anything. Too true. Kate Lee found in that small area drunkenness, cruelty, misery, hideous sin -- a match for anything in Shepherd's Bush.
She began with the children. Poor, ragged, neglected little souls they were; not because of want, but because of the sin of their parents. The Adjutant rented a small hall in Coley Street, and to it invited the children; they came in swarms. She made music for them with her concertina and banjo; sang to them; chatted with them; laughed with them; patted them. One of the first songs she taught them was, 'Let the blessed sunshine in.'
Straightway they took her to their hearts and called her 'The Sunshine Lady.' She worked week after week amongst them. As well as telling them about the Saviour who wanted to make their lives good and happy, she drilled them, and after a while, announced a surprise to the parent corps. She would show them what her Coley Street children could do. She marched them up to the citadel, where they gave a programme of songs, drills, and recitations. What parents are not pleased when some one charmingly loves and makes a fuss of their children? Certainly, Silver and Coley Street parents were gratified.
One little group of youngsters begged the Adjutant to come and see their grandfather who was dying. She found a dear old Christian, living with his daughter and son-in-law, the latter a terrible drunkard. The Adjutant visited the old man until he died, comforted him, and promised by the help of God, to win his son-in-law. It seemed like attempting the impossible, but with God on her side nothing was impossible with Kate Lee.
Shepherd's mother died when he was six weeks old; later his father died a drunkard. At five years of age wee boy Shepherd was carried home drunk, for men had stood him on a bench in the tap room and 'filled him up with beer.' He drank for forty years. During a brief, steady bout, he had married a decent girl, who, not knowing his character, was carried away by the smart appearance of a handsome soldier in the glory of red coat and gleaming buttons. Once married, habit reasserted itself as the years stole on. Shepherd broke up his home, beat his wife, and terrified his children. His good wages went to the saloon-keeper's till while his family starved and went in rags.
He had not been in a place of worship since the day of his marriage until, in an effort towards decency, in acknowledgment of Adjutant Lee's kindness, he attended the memorial service of his father-in-law.
Kate Lee threw her net, but never was fish more wary, more determined not to be caught, than Shepherd. For months she followed him.
'Where's father?' she would ask the children. 'In the |Blue Lion,|' they would reply, and into the 'Blue Lion' the Adjutant would go and visit him there. She waylaid him on his way home from work. She took the corps into the plot of garden in front of his house on Sunday afternoons and held meetings there.
'She fair terrified me,' says Shepherd, now. He was furious with her and determined to insult her, but when he met those blue eyes that knew no fear, brimming with love for his soul, and heard her ringing inquiry, 'And how's Brother Shepherd to-day?' angry words died on his lips, and he sought refuge in escape.
At last, word went round the Coley district that the 'Sunshine Lady' was leaving Reading. Shepherd would soon be free from this bothering, interfering woman. But strangely enough, he did not feel relieved. Upon his heart had settled a load heavier than lead. He felt unutterably oppressed and miserable. He must see that Adjutant once more. He went to her farewell meeting. As she shook his hand, and looked into his soul to make her last appeal, his heart broke. He had loved sin greedily, but now it appeared hateful to him. If only he could be free from it! Down at the penitent-form he cast himself asking God to make him a new creature. He rose, feeling strangely, wonderfully light and free, sweet and clean in spirit. He was delivered from all desire to sin. Arriving at home, for the first time in his life he wanted to kneel at his bedside and 'say his prayers.'
Kate Lee had won him to God. Now she must leave him. Years later, when visiting Reading, she met Shepherd, a bandsman in full uniform, beating the drum in Silver Street. Tears of joy ran down her face at the sight.
Shepherd has proved to his own happiness and to the satisfaction of the town that 'the blessing of the Lord maketh rich and addeth no sorrow.' By the grace of God he has never slipped. At the time of his conversion he had no clothes but those he stood in. When he left Coley Street, all his furniture went on a push-cart. Recently he moved house, and needed two vans. He is foreman at his place of employment. His wife sought salvation two weeks after he was saved, and of his family, five out of the seven children are Salvationists. His home is a joyous place. He loves to entertain, to take people home on a Sunday afternoon, and have a happy time with singing, reading God's Word, and prayer. Then off to the open- air meeting, where he delights to witness to God's wonder-working power! Saturday night, when his workmates gather round The Army ring, and in Coley Street, are his favourite open-air meetings.
Shepherd is a happy man. His healthy face beams with goodwill to men and gratitude to God. His eyes grow moist, but they still shine, when he speaks of Kate Lee. 'Aye, bless her heart! I'm going to frame that picture of her that came out in |The War Cry,|' he exclaims with a deep, ringing voice. 'I look upon her as my mother -- a real mother to my soul she was.'
In the streets of Reading almost any day, an old man may be seen pushing a tinker's barrow. The small carriage is gay with yellow, red, and blue paint and bright with polished brass, and on a conspicuous place appear the words, 'Where will you spend Eternity?' The barrow-man has a pleasant, bearded face, and steady-gazing, merry, eyes, with a cheerful nod and word for every one; he steps in and out of gardens, mending kettles, sharpening knives, and doing other handy jobs for housewives. 'Mr. Wellman, of The Salvation Army,' an established resident would inform an inquirer.
Thirteen years ago, Wellman was one of the most wretched men in Reading. Drink had brought him, with his wife and family, to a common lodging- house, and there they herded, sometimes as many as twelve men, women, and children in one room, eating, drinking, sleeping, cursing.
A son of Christian parents, Wellman was a decent youth, but in his early married life he began to go down-hill and long before Adjutant Lee took charge of the corps at Reading, had reached the dead level of misery, degradation, and hopelessness. He had turned his back upon God; he feared Him, dreaded Him, longed to escape from His presence, but the Heavenly Father did not forsake him. His mother had died, he was filled with sorrow and remorse, when one Sunday evening The Army band halted before the lodging-house. Wellman was in the yard lounging against the wall when the drum tapped. He walked through the passage and gazed at The Army. Kate Lee was leading the meeting. She looked at him and smiled. There was a world of power in that look; interest, kindness, gentleness, sorrow for sin. Wellman listened with apparent indifference to the meeting, and the march moved off.
He had heard the Army drum hundreds of times before in Reading, but while it called to every one to remember God, its message had never reached him; but the look on that woman's face did. For the first time he followed the march, and, arriving at the hall, was invited inside. The place was already full, but a wise-hearted orderly piloted Wellman to a front seat.
He has no remembrance of the message of the meeting; but he saw himself; his loathsome condition; his sin to God and man; his failure in life. At the invitation he went forward to the penitent-form and asked God to take away his sin; he rose from his knees believing that he was saved.
How wonderful is the work of God! Wellman came into the hall dirty, unkempt in body and soul. For years he had given no thought to his appearance, cared nothing for the contempt of respectable people. Now he fled to the lodging-house, ashamed to be seen.
The next morning the Adjutant called to see him. He had broken up eight homes, and for years had felt no wish for so troublesome a possession, but now he longed to get out of that hovel and to have a decent place to which he could invite this 'angel woman.' The Adjutant smiled upon him, told him he had only to follow God and things would soon improve. She fostered the desire to make home again with his family and his own bits of furniture about him, and helped him to get rooms. During Wellman's years of sinning, whenever he had seen the word God in print, he had dropped the paper or book as though it were hot; now he opened his mother's Bible and found it to be a library of delight; and his spare time, between work and the meetings, was spent in reading it for sheer pleasure.
The desire for strong drink had been swept out of him by one touch of the Holy Spirit, but his love of tobacco was even stronger than of beer. No one spoke to him about giving up smoking, but from the day of his conversion he felt ashamed of the habit and only smoked in the house. The heavenly vision growing stronger he determined to have nothing in his life about which he had any doubt, and he thus reasoned with himself, 'If God can cure me of the drink, He can cure me of the pipe.' From that day he had no desire for tobacco.
Wellman's business increased, and the Adjutant was interested in his barrow which had taken on a gay appearance in The Army colours. Pointing to a clear space she remarked, 'Wouldn't a message go well there?' ''Twould, Adjutant; what one would do?' She thought, 'I think, |Where will you spend Eternity?| would be a good one,' she replied. So Wellman had the words painted on his barrow.
His quiet eyes smile as he says, 'Her text shall preach in Reading while ever I can push the barrow. It gives me no end of chances to speak to people. Some ladies on bicycles stopped me one day and said, |What is the meaning of those words?| |It means that you're going to die, and are you ready for what comes after?| I told them. Some have said, |What have you got that rubbish on there for?| Then I tell them what Salvation has done for my life. But most people know me now, and look for a little word.'
He is now Sergeant Wellman at the corps, in full Army uniform, and does useful work as doorkeeper and orderly, always on the watch to welcome poor souls such as he was. He has had his share of trials since he was converted. Bronchitis and asthma often keep him a prisoner and make work slack. 'I don't have to look for troubles, they come trooping along, but grace keeps them company,' he says joyfully. Then a shade of sadness steals into his voice as he continues, wistfully, 'What was I doing to miss all those years? Wretched, terrible years, mind always brooding, never happy, never at rest!'
It is often more difficult to rescue a sinful married woman than a man. A man as soon as he is converted goes to work, and during the day remains under some sort of discipline and restraint; whereas the very privileges of a married woman's position often become hindrances in the way of her Salvation. No one can compel her to work, and undesirable neighbours may visit her and tempt her to sin. Adjutant Lee never relaxed hope or effort because success was difficult of realization. There are bright stars in her crown of jewels whom she discovered in the depths; but after a woman has been restored to her family, the past forgiven and laid aside, her dear ones are naturally unwilling for the past to be recorded, and in this book we must content ourselves with a very slight sketch of one who has passed beyond the touch of pain.
A married woman had worn out the patience of a loving family. So ruinous to the happiness and well-being was her presence in the home, that when at last she went away her nearest made no effort to bring her back. The Adjutant found her in the depths of sin, and determined, by the grace of God, that she should be saved. This was one of the most difficult cases she ever undertook. The woman had lost hope and will power, and it took love that would not let go, and faith that would not accept defeat, before the desire to rise again stole into the poor heart made captive of the devil. At last the Adjutant persuaded her to attend the meetings and there she found deliverance. After a few weeks Kate Lee got in touch with the husband in a distant town, but his family had suffered too much at their mother's hands for him readily to consent to his wife's return. Yet he was not a hard-hearted man, and upon the suggestion of a reconciliation, if, for six months, his wife proved herself to be indeed a changed woman, he consented. During that trying probation the Adjutant mothered this soul, who, with tottering steps, had turned her face homeward, and she won through.
At the end of the allotted time a letter brought the husband to a meeting-place. He looked apprehensive, but meeting the wistful eyes of a well-dressed, comely woman, he saw once again the wife he loved and the mother his children loved. That day he bore her off to the expectant but anxious home. With beating hearts, the daughters waited the arrival, but it was not the abandoned drunkard who had spoilt their home, and horrified and frightened them, who stood on the doorstep with father. It was just mother. Home was really home once more. Mother at the head of the table, mother's hand here, there, upon everything. Then she became ill. Months of agony followed. The doctor ordered stimulants; these were refused to the end. Slowly the delivered soul slipped down death's river; then, as it met the sea of eternity, she looked up. 'All's well!' she said, and crossed the bar.
It was through the house-to-house canvass of a Salvation Army Assurance Agent that Adjutant Lee came into contact with the Parrot family at Brighton. They lived in a poor enough street and house; but thinking people who live close to the working classes know that pounds a week which should go into the homes frequently find their way to the saloon- keeper's till. 'The only saving I want to think about is to get my husband saved from the drink,' Mrs. Parrot had told the agent, and, like a wise man, he reported the incident to Kate Lee.
It was Sunday morning. There was a tap at the door; a little child appeared, took one look at the pure, radiant face there, and disappeared saying aloud to his mother, 'There's a Salvation Army lady at the door, mother, and I don't think you ought to send her away.' Kate Lee heard the words, and uninvited, slipped into the passage. Meeting the mother, she said gently, 'If I have a welcome from the child, I am sure of one from you.'
That morning the strings of Mrs. Parrot's harp of hope were reduced to one. A brave-hearted girl, she had started married life determined to fill it with music, despite the prophecies that she was a fool to marry Parrot. But the strings of her harp broke one by one, and this morning there was no song in her heart; she could see no star in the heavy sky. She was a fine type of the working woman; had been servant in a good family, and had had a godly Sunday School teacher who had taught her the reality of God and the efficacy of prayer. Through all the wretched, terrible years of her married life, she had prayed and hoped for deliverance from the earthly hell in which she and her children lived. The week before Adjutant Lee's visit she had in desperation gone to a spiritual leader and implored him to try and reform her husband, and had received the extraordinary reply, 'Well, you must bear with this little habit. I may tell you I have the same weakness myself.'
Little habit indeed! It had lost Parrot two businesses. Now he pushed a barrow, hawking anything he had money to buy; generally the proceeds went in drink, his family starved and lived in terror of him, and his wife, the soul of respectability, could not keep the family decent.
A year ago, her patience completely worn out, she had told him not to come home any more. This was the last straw to Parrot's own wretchedness. He went to a chemist, purchased some oxalic acid, dropped it into a pint of beer and drank it; stumbling into the street, overcome by pain and gasping for breath, he fell to the ground. The police picked him up, took him to the hospital and his life was saved. When he had sufficiently recovered to go before the magistrate, he was sent to jail for a week; while in there, he made desperate resolves that he would do better; but once released, life went on as before.
Mrs. Parrot lifted her eyes to the Adjutant's face. Was God going to help her after all? The Adjutant invited her to the meetings. She frankly said her husband had no clothes to wear. 'Where was he?' 'Upstairs in bed.' The Adjutant asked if she might go up and see him. Mrs. Parrot thought she had better go and inquire.
A Salvation Army woman wanted to come up to his bedroom and see him lying drunk in bed! The impudence! He would show her out of this British workman's home quicker than she had come in. Lunging into his rough clothes, and staggering down the stairs, with muttering lips and angry eyes, came Parrot. He found Kate Lee talking with his children. She looked up at him with a smile and said, 'They told me I was coming to a drunkard's home, but these don't look like a drunkard's children. The dears!'
Parrot was struck dumb and stood with a strangely-working face and a peculiar tearing at his throat staring at this fair, fragile woman. 'I want you to come to our meeting to-night,' continued the Adjutant. 'Mrs. Parrot tells me you haven't any good clothes; but I'll have a full suit ready for you in time, and shall expect you there.' She prayed and was gone.
This was the first vision of Divine love that Parrot had ever seen. Born in a beer shop, fighting and quarrelling from childhood, his life had been a hideous, hopeless failure. Hell he understood -- felt; but such words as God, Heaven, Love, had meant nothing to him at all. Now they did. Love seemed to shine all over that woman. Angels' wings never looked lovelier to human eyes than the Army blue of Adjutant Kate's uniform looked to Parrot.
By-and-by a parcel arrived. It contained shirt, trousers, coat and vest, socks and boots, collar, tie, and even a handkerchief. Parrot handled them with wonder. He had never worn such clothes -- the Adjutant had begged them from a gentleman. He put them on, and walked up and down the back yard. How good it felt to be well dressed -- to look respectable.
Meeting time arrived and, piloted by his wondering wife, Parrot went to the hall. 'Let's go up out of the draught,' diplomatized Mrs. Parrot, and edged her man as near to the front as possible. Kate Lee gloried in God that night. She told of His boundless love, His seeking -- seeking to find, and make good and happy, every soul of man. Parrot and his wife knelt at the penitent-form.
Next morning Parrot felt desperately ill, but the craving for strong drink had gone. He must face life in earnest and see about providing for the family. He must have something to sell. Mrs. Parrot remembered a kind-hearted man who had promised, that if ever her husband tried to do better, that he would help him. Parrot walked several miles to find this man, who trusted him with a dollar's worth of fish.
The spiritual life in this new convert was very feeble. Parrot felt comfortable in his mind, and happy to believe that angels still walked this earth, and that one had come his way. An ambition had come into his weak, undisciplined will to make a decent home for his wife and children. He would have been content to have let things rest there. But Kate Lee bore down upon him, not only with smiles, but commands. He must fight for God. He must tell all his townspeople of his conversion. Parrot was terrified, but there was no escape. When the Adjutant arrived with the band to carry him off, he slipped out of the back door, but there he was met by the wisest of recruiting sergeants, a man who understood men and loved them. Trembling in every limb, Parrot was marched off to The Army Hall, and sat by the Adjutant on the platform. In an open-air meeting in his own street, an Army cap was placed on his head. There could be no turning back. He was literally carried up the Delectable Mountains and shown higher views of life; and, seeing them, he desired them.
To-day, he is proud of his Salvation Army family, and of his good wife, who is the neighbours' friend, helping them in trouble, comforting them in bereavement, praying with them in distress. When The General called for homes for the destitute Austrian children, the Parrot household was the first in the corps to open their door. Mrs. Parrot has a prosperous business, as also have two of their sons, and Parrot is in steady work. He is grateful for temporal mercies, but no words can express the gratitude of this man and his wife for the miracle of Salvation, the deliverance from sin, the love for the things of God, which has come to their home and their hearts by the grace of God, brought to them by the love that feared no insult, no violence; the faith that would not be disappointed, of Kate Lee.