Kate Lee's last five years were as the life of a bird with a broken wing. She struggled hard to do as she had ever done, but again and again had to admit that her strength had failed. Following the operation which closed her work on the field, she spent a year under drastic and painful surgical treatment. When sufficient strength was recovered to enable her to undertake an appointment under the eye of her doctor, she was promoted to the rank of Staff-Captain and saw two brief periods of service at the International Training Garrison in London, and a few months in the Candidates' Department at Headquarters. Then another breakdown, and another year's furlough.
Her health again improving, to her great delight the Staff-Captain was re-appointed to the Training Garrison, this time as Secretary of Field Training. Twelve months of golden service followed. She revelled in her work amongst the women cadets, who, under her holy, gracious influence, were trained in the arts of service on the field. She had a remarkable influence upon the cadets. They knew her record, and accepted her because of that; but coming close up to her they rejoiced in her as a teacher and a leader because of what they found her to be. The cadets delighted in her classes. She made the field work appear to be the most glorious calling on earth. She inspired the weakest girl with hope that she might rise and excel if she would be at pains to grip herself and make the most of the talents and opportunities God had given her. She held herself up as an example of what God can do with a timid girl who was so entirely yielded to Him as never to say 'I can't.'
The air raids on London were very severe during that twelve months. One Saturday night, Leyton suffered terribly, and on Sunday morning, Staff- Captain Lee with a detachment of cadets arrived to minister to the needs of the terrified, and in many cases, homeless people. The police at once gave them right-of-way in the distressed area.
There were lodgings to arrange for people whose homes were in ruins, letters and messages to send to anxious relatives, terrified little children and the elder people to comfort and provide food for. The Staff- Captain was in her glory. Her cheerful face, ringing voice, and capable management had a remarkably soothing and steadying effect upon the distressed people, while the cadets revelled in the service she set them to perform.
To be included in a campaign led by Staff-Captain Lee was a great delight to the cadets chosen for this privilege. This the twelve sergeants [Footnote: Probation Officers selected to assist in the work of Training.] enjoyed in the recess between the sessions. Southend, during holiday season, was the place chosen for the attack. House-to-house visitation, open-air 'bombardments' among the holiday crowds, and great meetings in the citadel were included in the attack. The first to lead the way of eighty seekers for pardon or purity was a little child, unaccustomed to Salvation Army meetings. Dressed in white, with wistful, earnest face, the little one had listened to the Staff-Captain's message, and when the invitation was given she came forward, looking up to the platform with inquiring, wondering eyes. Then at the penitent-form the Staff-Captain pointed the little one to Jesus. She loved to rescue the drunkard and criminal from the pit of sin, but to lead a little child to the Saviour was the dearest joy of all to Kate Lee. The following day she visited the child in her home; her parents both sought the Lord and became Salvation soldiers.
The Staff-Captain's example amongst the cadets was more powerful than her word. One tells of a week-end visit to Shepherd's Bush with a brigade, and one of her local officers asking if she couldn't spare half a day to visit his home, to which she replied, 'You know me better than to think that is in my line.' She was away with her cadets by eight-thirty next morning.
Many are the loving, tender memories of the cadets she trained. Those who, by reason of long distance or for other reasons, could not go home for Christmas, reckoned they were privileged to remain at the garrison because of the tender love Staff-Captain Lee expended on them, whom she feared might feel lonely and deprived at the Christmas season.
After recess came a transfer for a few months to The Army's Holiday Home at Ramsgate, where it was hoped that the good air and freedom from heavy responsibility would re-establish her health. The officers to whose comfort she ministered during the holiday months, recall sweet memories of her influence. One says: --
She was wonderfully gentle in spirit. But about her was a strength and authority that made one feel all the while the presence of a superior soul; that one must be at his best in her company. In guiding the conversation at the table she showed a winsome discretion; pleasant, bright topics were the order; she enjoyed wholesome fun and encouraged it, but unkind criticism and sarcasm could not live under her eyes.
Another writes of her sweetness to the little children who stayed in the Home; how they remembered the stories she told them, and her quaint little grace before meals, which they adopted for home use.
Receiving word to return to London and prepare for a foreign appointment, she came on wings of joy. Her doctor gave her a reassuring report, and to her friends she sent notes of pure happiness, telling that at last after six years of hoping against hope, her doctor had given her a clean 'bill of health' and she was well enough for service in any part of the world. She had not the strength of former days for field work, but somewhere in America, Australia, or Canada, she was to be appointed to training work. How she would love the girls committed to her charge. How she would pray over them, travail in spirit for them, until she saw the passion of Christ born in them, and they go out to do the work that had been her delight.
Her face glowed with joy; her eyes sparkled; her feet skipped; her hand gripped as she told her comrades, 'I'm good for ten years yet.' She went to her dressmaker with the palpitating joy of a bride-elect. She sorted her papers; tore from their mounts and rolled the photos of her field associations; chose a few of her favourite pictures and packed them. All was ready, and waiting orders she spent the days at her desk, or visiting her spiritual children. She appeared to be so well. Then, bronchitis, which foggy weather always induced, laid her up for some days.
Her sister Lucy watched her with a strange misgiving at her heart. Kate had always been of an independent disposition, had despised breakfast in bed, but for a week or two she accepted this indulgence without resistance. The least noise pained her, and the loving, mother-sister crept about in soft slippers, pondering things in her heart but saying nothing, until one morning she declared, 'Little dear, I think it's more than a bottle of bronchitis medicine you need; I'm going to ask the doctor to call.' Kate was resting somewhat listlessly, but at that word she rose, the commander in every tone of her voice. 'Indeed, no! I'm not very grand this morning, but not that. If you're late for the office, of course you must give a reason, and no idea that I'm not fit must get around.'
'But -- -- ' persisted Lucy.
'Well, you can go to-night if you still feel so,' compromised Kate, and smiled her sister away.
The following day the doctor called, and gave an opinion that hastened a specialist to the tiny cottage. He was a kind man and shrank from giving a verdict that meant a full stop to this precious life. An immediate operation was the only hope to save life, and this was arranged.
From the first, Kate Lee felt she was going |Home.| She wrote to a special friend, 'I have my appointment; very different from what I expected; but all's well. I am in His will.' The comrade hastened to her to learn the news, 'Where are you going?' she asked. 'To another country altogether -- to Heaven,' she replied.
There was a wondrous peacefulness about the little home as those two gentle women made preparations for the hospital.
Kate's last day at home was spent chatting with her sister, writing letters settling personal affairs, and resting.
Down to the very brink of the River she wrestled for souls. The last letter she wrote that day was to Lieut.-Colonel Mary Bennett, of the Women's Social Work, in London, whose interests she had enlisted in a woman addicted to drugs. She writes, 'I am feeling concerned about her. I meant to do my part fully in helping you, and am grieved to fail you in this way.' Then she mentions her sudden illness and continues on the subject of self-denial (Self-Denial Week was to begin the following Saturday),' I was trying to give you a little surprise, and, as I have no special target this year, felt I would like to do a little for your home. As this has come it will not be much I am afraid, but I have three pounds for you which we have both collected. My sister will bring it over.' Her personal Self-Denial gift had gone to give another corps a lift. She was full of hope that the corps were having a good Sunday.
The morning of her last day at home, the corps cadet whom she had come to call 'my little Leff,' was with her. She writes: --
I will never forget that talk; she went over the names of her dear, saved drunkards, one by one, giving me messages for some I would see. She urged me to continue praying for them, if the Lord called her Home. She said it would be a luxury to slip away; then, sitting up in bed and looking right into my face, she said, 'Little Leff, those are the people I want you to live for. You do, and you will love them, won't you?' With the tears running down my face, I promised that I would do so.
A few days under observation at the Mildmay Hospital, to which she was admitted and cared for with much tenderness not only for Christ's sake, as is the purpose of that excellent institution towards sufferers, but for her work's sake, then came the operation. The warrior spirit entered into fires of suffering that she had not hitherto felt; but while the flesh shrank, her faith triumphed. Her sister, who had hovered about her bed during the week, spent the Sunday with her. Even then, those women held themselves at attention at the call to service, and, at the request of the Sister of the ward Kate occupied before the operation, Commandant Lucy left her sister's side and conducted a service with the patients.
Kate felt that she had not much longer to live, and reaching for her writing pad and pen, she wrote a last message of love for her sister and brother. Her sister found the letters in her blotter after Kate had 'gone home.' To her she wrote: --
I am writing this line in case I do not see your dear face again, as I want you to have a last message of love. It will not be long until we meet again, and you can think of me watching for you. I do not want to leave you all alone, but the thought that to-morrow I may see His face thrills my soul, and it would be easy to slip away. I am very tired, but I want to finish my course, and am quite willing to face the struggle again if it is His will.... Now, my own treasure, I cannot write more, but must say one great big thank you for all you have done for me, and for all the love you have lavished upon me.
The next morning when Lucy saw Kate again, she was sure that soon her precious sister would see the King in His beauty. What the separation would mean to her no one would fully know; but, as ever, forgetful of herself, she sat beside her, smiled and said brightly, 'Little love, if you see mother before I do, tell her I'm coming.' Back came Kate's ready smile, and she replied, 'Rather!' so naturally that for a moment it seemed impossible that she was on the borderland of earth.
But soon the brave spirit became troubled. 'What is it, little love?' asked Lucy.
'Oh, the people, the people! I haven't the heart to send them away.' moaned Kate. Her mind was wandering, and the ruling passion of her life, in death was strong upon her. She was out amongst the crowds, seeing their sins and their sorrows, and their needs, and in a dim way was conscious that she no longer had power to serve them.
'Darling, do not worry any more; you have loved them and sought them all these years, and now you're going to rest,' said Lucy. The words reached her ears, but she shook her head, 'I haven't the heart to send them away,' she moaned.
Faithful, brave little follower of The Army's Founder, in life; even to her deathbed there came an echo from his. In his blindness, William Booth had mourned to his daughter, 'Oh, the sins, the sins of the people!' He went into eternity, sighing for the sins and sorrows of the world.
But further back than the human, we can trace this spirit. The Saviour, looking upon a multitude of needy souls, is saying, 'I have compassion on the multitude; I cannot send them away.' William Booth caught the spirit of Christ; he lived it; breathed it into thousands of his followers, of whom there has not fought and triumphed in life and death a truer saint and soldier than Kate Lee, the Angel Adjutant.
We conclude this sketch of her career with some words of General Bramwell Booth: 'I pray that many of those who knew her, and of those who did not know her,' he says, 'may be stirred up by the testimony of her life and death to walk in the same path, and so glorify God and bless their fellows.'