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Chapter XL An Event and Some Incidents

WITHIN a year I became an officer in the Salvation Army, and was stationed at the Richmond Street barracks in Toronto.

The meetings began suddenly to take on an added note of interest.

It was a note of merriment, and was furnished by a young woman who came regularly and always sat in the same seat.

It didn’t take me long to discover that she came to the services solely to see me. This sounds like conceit. It isn’t.

She thought I was the funniest thing she ever saw or heard. She came to laugh at my queer, broken speech and my comic make-up.

The Army uniform I wore—also my hair. It was long and black and glossy. I was proud of it.

When I found what I stood for in the young woman’s mind, I-

Well—I thought of Buckskin.

To most people who sized me up, my make-up was like my old bronck’s—one big laugh in itself.

When he showed what he could do, the laugh turned into respect.

I would show this young woman what I could do.

I made her acquaintance. I went to her house. I met other young men there. I entered the race.

I became a frequent visitor at her home—too frequent, according to her step-mother’s notions.

The old lady herself met me at the door one day.

I braced myself and spoke as pleasantly as I knew how.

“Is Miss Rebecca in?”

“Miss Rebecca Rooney,” came the reply in her rich Irish brogue, “will never be in again—to you!”

She slammed the door in my face.

I stood there, shook my fist at the door and registered a vow.

“Rebecca will be at home to me, not some day, but every day—at my home!”

I kept my vow.

I was in the running about two years.

But, like Buckskin, I won.

We were married in Orangeville, Ontario, and ever since Rebecca has been at my home.

It is a good home, for she has made it that, as she has made a good wife and a good mother to the five children born to us.

While with the Salvation Army, part of my time was given to special work.

When a corps was in need of money I was sent out to some place where I could collect a crowd. I did it by telling of my life as a savage and as a denizen of the underworld.

I often raised considerable sums this way.

It was this special work that led me to feel I might do some good as an evangelist.

So I left the Army and started work in the rescue missions. I found it interesting, illuminating and sometimes amusing.

In the Jerry McCauley Mission, New York City, where the wrecks wash in, I once got my hands onto a well-soaked piece of driftwood. Two weeks afterward when the new life within him had in a degree pushed off the old, tattered garments and some of the marks of dissipation, he spoke in the meeting. He said but little, but it, with his glowing countenance, was convincing.

“Boys,” he wound up, “I’m not what I was two weeks ago to-night. Then I didn’t give a d—n whether I went to hell or not."

He said it with perfect sincerity, unconscious of the language he used. The old habits of speech still clung to him as broken shackles to an escaped convict.

That man eventually became a successful pastor in a western town.

It was in St. Bartholomew’s Mission, New York, that I again got my hands on one of the lowest of bums. He was among the men who came to the meeting for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. He was also looking for a lodging ticket.

I singled him out as I used to single out a buffalo from the herd, and I soon had him down on his knees at the seekers bench.

The superintendent, Colonel Hadley, was a kind-hearted, but gruff-speaking man. In his usual harsh way, he came out with:

“What do you want here?”

“I want t’ git saved,” whined the bum.

“Pray then!” thundered Hadley.

“I don’t know how, sir,” whimpered the penitent. “Ever ask your mother for a piece of bread and butter? That’s how to ask God for what you want. Now, ask him!” commanded the militant colonel. The bum prayed:

“God!—but I want som’thin’. Give it here.”

He did his best there on his knees, the colonel standing over him. When the poor old outcast was about to give up in despair, the mentor again thundered, “Pray more earnestly!”

The penitent pounded the bench with his fists and cried out:

“Oh, God save me! Why th’ h—l don’t ye save me?” •

And He did. That man became an effective worker in the mission.

During my mission work I kept up my studying. I worked alone in my school of hard knocks, until I made myself fit to be ordained.

I became associate pastor of the First Free Baptist Church, of Buffalo, N. Y., and afterwards acting pastor of the Second Free Baptist Church. After that I went to Woonsocket, R. I., where with the Reverend William Sheafe Chase, now Canon Chase, we established a Rescue Mission. Later I returned to Buffalo, N. Y., where, after a rigid examination, I became a Presbyterian minister.

My first pastorate was in Akron, N. Y. While there I was also missionary to the Tonawanda reservation of Seneca Indians.

From Akron I was called to the South Presbyterian Church of Buffalo.

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