Don't think I forget you or your kindness, and I will always love you no matter what becomes of me. Gratefully yours,
"Bessie! Bessie! what shall I do? what must I do?" I cried, wringing my hands and handing her the letter to read. Hurriedly reading it, she quickly said, "Let us pray." Immediately suiting the action to the word, she as briefly as possible asked the Lord for speedy help. It came—an instantaneous impression to telephone to the hotel at S—— where Reba had been employed. "Keep on, Bessie, keep on praying," I requested as I arose from my knees and hastened into the next room, took down the receiver, called for the long-distance operator, asked for my party, and emphatically declared it to be a matter of life and death requiring immediate service. Shortly I was talking to the landlady of the N——- J——- Hotel, who told me that Reba was still under her roof, but was expecting to leave for San Francisco on the next train.
"Please call her to the 'phone," I said, and very soon I heard Reba's voice.
"Hello; who wants me?" she said.
"Mother Roberts, Reba dear," I replied. "Stay where you are. I am coming on the next train"
"But I'm going on the next one to San Francisco I can't; my trunk is at the depot."
"Reba, you must wait till I come, dear. I've some good news for you."
"Very well; I'll wait. Fortunately, I haven't bought my ticket yet."
"Good-by," I gladly said. "Meet me."
There was barely time to make the next train; but, as usual, the Lord (bless his dear name forever!) favored me. I reached S——- at 7:30 P.M. On our way to the Hotel Reba whispered, "Mother Roberts, will you occupy my room with me tonight? I want to have a long, long talk and it's the quietest part of the house, up on the third floor."
After supper we repaired to her neat little room, and following prayer, soon retired, but not to sleep. Dear Reba, with many tears, particularized the trying situation, as she lay with my arms about her. Shortly after midnight she sweetly slept. Not so with me. I heard every hour and half-hour strike, up to half-past four, on some clock near by. It seemed very close and warm, attributable, so I thought, to the smallness of this inside room.
I must have just fallen asleep when suddenly I was awakened by a terrible, terrible sensation, accompanied by fearful screams and crashing of glass and furniture. Reba was thrown out of bed, then back again, where I locked her fast in my arms, gasping the words, "God cares! God cares, Reba! 'We shall see him face to face and tell the story saved by grace,'" for at first I could only believe that the end of the world had come. This dreadful noise was followed by an awful stillness in our immediate vicinity, though we could hear, apparently from outdoors, mingled cries, screams, and groans of fright, distress, and pain.
Reba leaped out of bed, instantly grasped her clothing and mine, and was rushing from the room when I called out: "Come back! Come back and dress. We've had an earthquake and an awful one, but somehow I feel the worst of it is over." Never did we more quickly get into our clothing and step outside. The hallway and rooms were piled with debris. Plaster, laths, broken pictures, and furniture lay in shapeless confusion on every hand. We came to the staircase. Part was gone; every step was likewise covered with the ruins of broken ceiling and wall. Devastation was everywhere, everywhere. Trusting the Lord, I landed safely on that tottering staircase, Reba quickly following; and soon we were with the frightened population out on the streets, gazing, well-nigh speechless, at the awful ruins which lay on every side. Every one was wondering, with aching, troubled hearts, concerning their absent loved ones. How was it faring with them? How far had this earthquake extended? Could it possibly have been any worse in other places than in this one? Soon we discovered, as we hurried to the telegraph and telephone offices, that all communication with the outside world was absolutely cut off. All sorts of dreadful rumors were afloat; later many were verified; whilst some proved to have been more or less exaggerated.
In the afternoon word reached us that San Francisco was burning. My dear son, now in the employ of the Gorham Rubber Company was living there. I wondered if it had reached Haight Street: all I could do was to pray and wait, wait and pray. Many, I suppose, gave hunger no thought that day, for anxiety was well-nigh consuming us. The depot was crowded with people anxious to get aboard the first train that might arrive, but there was no promise or prospect of one that day. Reba and I put in our time between the telegraph-office and the depot; so did hundreds of others.
That night we had a shake-down at the home of her aunt, whose house had not been very badly damaged. I had so satisfactory a talk with her that Reba agreed to remain with her until she could get back to her mountain home.
Early the next morning I was again at the depot. About nine o'clock the agent privately notified me of the prospect of a train from the south in perhaps an hour, at the same time advising me to "hang around." I made a quick trip to where Reba was staying, bade her farewell, managed to purchase a few soda crackers and a piece of cheese (the stores which had not suffered severely were speedily cleaned out of all provisions), and returned to the depot to watch and wait.
At last! at last! praise God, at last! a train, a crowded train arrived. In a very few minutes, standing room was at a premium. After a long wait we began to move slowly, but we stopped after going a very few miles, for the road was practically being rebuilt. This was our experience the livelong day. In some places we sat by the roadside for hours, or watched the men rebuilding the track. When we came to one high trestle, only a few were permitted to cross at a time, it being not only severed from the main land at either end, but also very shaky. Here we parted from train No. 1.
At the other end of this trestle, we waited hours for the coming of a train from the direction of San Jose. This delay seemed interminable, for all of us were now out of provisions and in an intense state of suppressed anxiety and excitement. But finally a train slowly moved into view, and we all lustily cheered, once, twice, thrice, and again, as we gladly boarded it. Then we learned somewhat concerning the terrible destruction in other places all along the line, and also of the fearful holocaust in San Francisco.
What, oh! what was the fate of our dear ones there? Ah! dear reader, people who had never given much thought to God and their Savior were now imploring mercy and pardon, and making, oh! such promises of future loyalty and service, if he would but spare their loved ones. Alas! but few of these promises were kept. These people soon drifted back into the world and the former error of their ways.
RELIEF DUTY—SAN FRANCISCO—MISS B_.
As this is not a history of the awful calamities of that trying time, they will be but lightly touched upon. Suffice it to say that when late that night our train slowly crept along the streets of San Jose and finally reached the station, the people thronged the streets. They heartily cheered and welcomed us. Upon learning that an "inquiry bureau" had been established right there, we soon packed it almost to suffocation, and oh! bless the Lord! I was one of the few to receive news. I got three unstamped, torn-out-of-note-book letters from my dear son, stating that the fire had not reached beyond Van Ness Avenue. He lived a little beyond. He was anxious for my safety. I at once sent similar short messages of assurance to the "inquiry bureau" of his residence district. Then I was passed through the line and taken to Beth-Adriel (martial law was in force), there to discover all of the family lodging under the beautiful walnut-trees. The house had suffered considerable damage, but, praise God! the inmates had escaped personal injury.
Relief duty at the depot was my next call. For two days and nights a large delegation of us remained on perpetual watch; for the refugee trains, crowded with sick, hungry, homeless, or penniless men, women, and children, were now arriving, at intervals of from fifteen to thirty minutes. Statistics show that San Jose, the first large city southwest of San Francisco, fed, clothed, and sheltered, temporarily, some permanently, in the neighborhood of thirty-seven thousand refugees. Moreover, its probation committee of the juvenile court handled the cases of over fifteen hundred destitute children. Busy times! I should say so! Only the wonderful power of God sustained us, for it was break-down work. At the close of the second day I was compelled to rest. After a good night's sleep I procured a furlough of forty-eight hours; for two more notes from San Francisco had reached me, and they described the great suffering, especially because of long waiting (sometimes all night) in the bread line.
San Jose generously supplied me with an immense telescope basket filled to its utmost capacity with canned goods, cooked meats, etc., so that it required the assistance of two to put it on the train, it was so heavy. On reaching the outskirts of San Francisco, I was informed that I could be taken no further than Twenty-fourth and Valencia Streets. There people seized every available rig, even to garbage wagons, paying exorbitant prices for conveyance to their points of destination. What was I now going to do? The eight hundredth block on Haight Street seemed miles away (I think it was about three and a half), and I had nobody to help me. Everybody was strictly for self. Bless God! he had not forsaken me, as I soon found out, when he gave me the strength to shoulder that stupendous burden. Oh, bless God! Every few steps I rested. I would rest and pray, go a little farther, and then rest and pray again. I kept this up until completely exhausted; then I sat on a broken-down step, minus the house, imploring the kind heavenly Father to send me help. Did ever he fail his own in the hour of need? Never, no never.
Coming over the hill several blocks distant, carefully guiding his horse through the debris, was a man in a wagon or buggy. Like a drowning person grasping at a straw, I frantically called and waved my hands. It took me some time to attract attention, but finally he turned in my direction. Hallelujah! As he neared me, I noticed the words, "Spring Valley Water Works," on the sideboard of his wagon. "Madam, can I assist you?" he inquired. Most certainly he could. And I humbly, tearfully, and wearily described the situation. To lift that heavy basket into the vehicle required our united effort. Never did I more appreciate help. The sun was at its zenith when I started; it was now setting. God bless that dear young man, whose name I have forgotten! I hope that he is living and that this book may fall into his hands, so that he may better than ever realize that our blessed Lord never forsakes those who truly love and trust him.
Reader, I leave you to imagine the joyous reunion of mother and son.
Perfect peace and good will was then temporarily reigning in that stricken city. Would to God it had continued! but alas! it was but for a few days. Once more the adversary of the souls of men reigns in its midst; the liquor devil reigns supreme; whilst the few faithful ones are still daily crying to the throne of grace, "How long, O Lord, how long?"
Before all this occurred and whilst I was in San Francisco one day seeking aid for Beth-Adriel, I called at the house of a Christian friend of mine. Presently, in the course of conversation, she informed me that her niece, who was an employee in one of the large department stores of San Francisco was at home sick with severe headache, and asked if I would care to see her. I gladly acquiesced. Then my friend took me into the next room, where lay the young lady with her head swathed in a wet towel and evidently suffering keenly. I expressed sympathy and at once offered to pray for her, to which she replied:
"I'll be so glad, though I fear I haven't much faith in its efficacy. Yes, pray for me, for I must get down to the store to report for duty at one o'clock. I must. Sick or not sick, I must."
After prayer I inquired, "Laura, dear, why must you be compelled to be on duty? Under existing circumstances they will surely make every allowance."
Instead of making immediate answer, she asked for her business dress and presently drew from its pocket a latch-key.
"Do you see this?" she inquired.
"Yes," I replied.
"Yes, but you do not know what it means. Let me tell you. This key is to be used to unlock the door of the down-town private apartments of one of our floor-walkers. I've had my place only a few weeks. Auntie is having a struggle to keep her lodging-house filled so as to meet her payments on the furniture, rent, etc. I am only getting small wages, not sufficient to support me, as yet; but if I can manage to qualify in a large reputable store like —- —-, I shall have no trouble in commanding a better salary before long—having become so well acquainted with my position as to then be a necessity."
"But what has all that to do with your possession of this key?" I interrogated.
"Wait, I am coming to that," she replied "About a week ago he (the floor-walker) said, among other things: 'I observe that you are quite ambitious. I intend, if you will allow me, to still further your interests. In order that I may do this, I must have your promise to respect the confidence I am about to repose in you.' Innocently I promised. 'First of all,' he went on to say, 'you have doubtless heard I am a married man and a father.' I had. He has a very delicate wife and two dear little girls. He then produced the key, stating why he wanted my friendship."
"Why did you not immediately expose him to the firm?" I indignantly inquired.
"Mrs. Roberts," said Laura, "you don't know what you are talking about. My word would not be taken against his. I do not yet know what door this key unlocks. I am not to know until I consent to use it whenever he may request a private interview. Every chance he gets, he wants to know when I mean to yield. I am, for the sake of business experience, resorting to all sorts of strategy; then, when I qualify, I can afford to snap my fingers in the face of this profligate. You've no idea how much the honor of business young ladies is menaced, Mrs. Roberts. I'm not by any means the only one. The trouble is, very few have the backbone to resist these propositions, which invariably come in one form or another to the working girls attractive of face or form, or of both. They are, with scarcely an exception, poor; from infancy they have been well dressed, too well in fact; very few are qualified in domestic art, and those who are would almost rather do anything than be subjected to such humiliations as some people in social standing inflict upon their maids—maids who ofttimes both by birth and breeding are their equals if not superiors.
"I want to help Auntie. She is so good to me in giving me a home. If I can only keep up, I shall soon be able to repay her."
"I'm glad to tell you my head is much better, so that I shall be able to report for duty. I'll be all right so long as I trust in God and have people like you and Auntie pray for me."
I wanted to report this case to the proprietors of that store; but Laura was so distressed for fear of notoriety, ultimate results, also the deprivation of a living for that libertine's delicate wife and children, that I reluctantly desisted. This I know: In answer to many prayers, both her friends' and her own, she won out; but she never gave up that key, and to this day she does not know what door it unlocked or whether some other poor, silly girl received and made use of its duplicate.
In visiting among the outcasts, I have learned from the lips of many that the primary cause of their downfall was the inadequacy of their wages as saleswomen, stenographers, etc., for their direct necessities; temptations became too great; the ultimate results were, alas! inevitable.
THE HOME REPAIRED—MRS. S—-'S EXPERIENCE.
Thinking to appeal for the required means to repair our home, I, after prayerful consideration, journeyed to Portland, Oregon, for our State was now taxed to its utmost for finances. My sojourn was brief; for, besides being seized with sudden illness, I learned that a large sum of money (thirty-five thousand dollars, I think) intended for the erection of a Florence Crittenton home in their midst had now been generously donated and sent to the general fund in San Francisco, to be applied to just such charitable needs as I represented. In consequence, I decided that, as soon as I was able to travel, I should go back to San Francisco. Through the interposition of the Y.W.C.A., I was furnished with free transportation. Upon my return I learned that all available funds for that purpose had already been bespoken; but God, ever mindful of his own, had laid it upon the hearts of some people of means, in the interior, to pay all expenses for repairs, so that before many months Beth-Adriel was once more in good order. In its interest, many, many miles were traveled and thousands of people addressed, personally, also collectively.
Rarely did any service close but that one person or more had an unusual case of some unfortunate one, demanding immediate and special interest; for instance: Mrs. B——-, who personally knew me, approached me one day in a greatly agitated state of mind and confidentially imparted some dreadful knowledge concerning her son, aged fourteen, and a girl schoolmate of his, but a few months younger. Producing some notes, she permitted their perusal. They were from the girl to the boy, and were couched in the most licentious, unguarded language imaginable. I was unutterably shocked. "Mother Roberts," said Mrs. B——-, "I will deal with my son, but what about the girl who has written these and, as you read, has met H——- clandestinely? I can not go to her; will you?" The girl's mother was a lady of means and fashion, a member of one of the exclusive card-clubs of that town, and an inveterate player. Pearl was an only child. I admit I felt timid about approaching the mother, but—It had to be done and done quickly.
In glancing over the local paper, I had observed that her progressive whist-club was to be entertained at Mrs. ——-'s lovely residence that afternoon. It was now 11 A.M. I must telephone, for I knew that I should not be received except by previous appointment. Soon I heard her voice:
"What is it, please; what do you wish?"
"A private interview immediately, of the utmost importance."
"Impossible. Every moment is engaged until I go out this afternoon."
"Can not help it. You must grant it. It concerns a member of your immediate family. It is of vital import."
"Very well; you may come right away, but be brief. I will grant you only a few minutes."
"Thank you," and both receivers were hung up.
In response to my ring the maid ushered me into a lovely reception-room, where Mrs. S——- soon appeared in a high state of nervous excitement.
"You have greatly upset me, Mrs. Roberts," she said. "Kindly be brief. To your point at once. I have much to do, also must dress before luncheon, for our card-party at Mrs. ——-'s this afternoon."
"Mrs. S——-, you no doubt will be able to identify Pearl's handwriting." I replied.
"Most assuredly," she rejoined. "What of it?"
"Simply this: In my possession are three notes. They were written by your daughter to a boy companion in school. The boy's mother lent them to me. It is my painful duty to show them to you. First of all, permit me to assure you that this matter is perfectly safe with me," I said.
"Come into the next room where we can be undisturbed and unobserved," she requested. Then she rang the bell and said to the maid:
"I shall not be at home to any one who either 'phones or calls."
(Here let me say that having once been associated with Mrs. S—— socially, I was not a stranger.)
"Mrs. S——, doesn't Pearl sometimes ask permission to go home with a favorite girl companion, also at times remain with her over night, or else she with your daughter?" I asked after we had retired to the other room.
"Certainly," she answered, "and I may add, I am quite satisfied to have her do so, for they can both be implicitly trusted."
"Mrs. S——, please read these letters. I beg of you, prepare yourself for an awful shock...."
Presently the great beads of perspiration broke out on her forehead and dripped unheeded into her lap. After reading those notes she made mincemeat of them, and then lay back in her chair white and speechless. The silence was painful beyond description. Finally I broke the silence by saying:
"Mrs. S——, permit me to assist you to your room, then 'phone Mrs. —— of your sudden illness, and also send for your daughter to come home immediately."
She gladly acquiesced. Before my departure she faintly acknowledged her realization of neglect of duty and confidence toward the precious soul entrusted to her keeping, and promised to deal gently with the erring child. Furthermore, she said that she had played her last game of cards.
Pearl and her mother became inseparable companions. To this day the daughter has no idea who informed on her, but this occurrence taught a never-to-be-forgotten lesson to more than one I hope and pray that the mothers who read this may profit by the story.
One with whom I am well acquainted has an only son. She also was a great lover of cards. When the boy was quite small, this mother in order to prevent his disturbing her and her friends in their social game, provided him with a tiny deck of cards. She often smiled approval at his and his little companion's attempts to imitate their elders. Time went on. He grew to manhood. Many an anxious evening she now spent alone; for seldom did he spend one with her, and he always had a plausible excuse in the morning.
He was employed by one of the leading firms of the city and stood an excellent chance of future promotion. One day, however, he came home, informed her of his discharge, refused to give the reason, but begged her to go to his employers and plead for his reinstatement. The grief-stricken mother was soon ushered into the manager's private office and there very kindly treated; but her pleadings were all in vain. Her son, she learned, had been discharged for card-playing and frequenting the pool room. He had been warned twice, but he had failed to take heed. The firm would make no exceptions.
On her return he eagerly interrogated her as to the results of the interview.
"When?" she asked, "when did you ever learn to play cards and pool?"
"Why, Mother, don't you remember?" he answered. "You taught me yourself when I was a little shaver."
"No, dear, not a real game," she sobbed.
"No matter if you didn't," he rejoined. "It didn't take me long to become fascinated and learn how from older boys and girls. Then, when it comes to playing, I hate to remind you, Mother, but I can not remember the time when you didn't play. I've seen you, time and again, work harder to earn a dinky vase or prize than at anything else under the sun. You can buy them anywhere for fifty cents or thereabouts, and without such hard work as I've seen you put in for a whole evening. You can blame yourself, and you ought to, more than you blame me."
Then he flung himself out of the room and went up-stairs to bed.
The next evening he returned from an unsuccessful day's tramp. His chances for further employment in that city were anything but encouraging. That evening as they sat by the fireside, Will's mother said:
"I've been thinking very, very seriously during your absence today, my dear. I've made a resolution, but with this proviso: if I never touch another card, will you promise me never to play again?"
"Mother, I should like to, but I'm afraid to make such a promise," he replied. "You don't know what a hold it has on me. But I will try, I surely will."
Will's mother worked hard to substitute other pastimes and to make his home life as interesting as she knew how. She gathered musical friends about her, encouraged him to cultivate his voice, and worked herself almost to a shadow in order to wean him from the hurtful habit for which she knew she was directly responsible. She succeeded, bless God! she succeeded. Later he married a very sweet young lady, and God blessed their union with three children. It is safe to say that, because of his experience, card-playing will never be tolerated in that happy little family, and my earnest prayer as I relate this is that my reader, if a card-player, may consider this: "If meat [card-playing] make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh [no more play cards] while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." I Cor. 8:13.
THE ANNUAL BOARD MEETING-RESULTS.
I have mentioned the fact that the nature of the work of Beth-Adriel had so changed that many applicants were, for certain reasons, debarred from the home. One day whilst I was calling upon one of the board members my soul was greatly grieved; for a girl who came and appealed for admission was refused—kindly but firmly refused, on the grounds that her physical condition would be detrimental to the welfare of the many mothers and babes with whom Beth-Adriel was now well filled; and yet it had never been incorporated for a maternity home.
What was I to do? God knew how hard I had Worked. The property was now more than half paid for. What was I to do?
As the holidays, which always caused a temporary cessation in fund-raising, were approaching, I busied myself in making little gifts for each member of the family. Whilst so doing I prayed unceasingly to know the mind of God's Spirit and to be definitely led of him.
Can I ever forget that first prayer-meeting of the new year, 1907? It being a wet night, there was nobody present besides the members of the family, the matron, and her husband, except Brother Norton, his son, and I. We had had the usual songs, prayers, and Scripture-reading, and we were now testifying. I had testified, as also had most of the family, when one of the young mothers suddenly said:
"Mrs. Roberts, I've something to ask you. When you persuaded me to come to this place, didn't you tell me I need give only my first name?"
"I did, Amelia," I answered.
"Didn't you say that no questions that might embarrass me would be asked?"
"I certainly did."
"Didn't you say no girl had to sign any papers here, and that if she had no money, the home was free to her?"
Reader, that poor girl dealt me a blow that I can not say I have yet fully recovered from. Then I knew that modern Tobiah and Sanballat and Geshem (Neh. 2:9) had interfered and intercepted the building of God's work. I felt brokenhearted and could not be comforted. That night I spent in tears, nor could I pray as I desired to pray. The next evening as I was kneeling by my bedside, worn out with sorrow, I chanced to look up, and I found my gaze riveted on a little wall-motto containing these precious words: "Rest in the Lord."
(It hangs here on my wall as I now write. It is a priceless possession.) Instantly I said, "I thank thee, O my Lord, I thank thee, for reassurance." Somewhat comforted, I then wrote the following verses:
I was kneeling in prayer by my bedside, Beseeching a comforting word, When I opened my eyes on this motto, Simply telling me, "Rest in the Lord."
It hangs where I ofttimes can see it, This message direct from our God. As I ponder, my load seems to lighten, I'm resolving to rest in my Lord.
For, oh! I was troubled and weary, And dark seemed the road that I trod; Of this I was telling my Savior, When he showed me, "Rest thou in the Lord"
I wonder why I should forget this And weight myself down with a load; Why don't I depend more on Jesus, Who loves me, and rest in my Lord?
I'm persuaded this message from heaven, Direct from his throne, will afford Perfect peace under trying conditions To all who will "rest in the Lord."
For, oh! if his yoke is upon us, Our strength is renewed and restored; And the burdens, so heavy, are lightened If we only will "rest in the Lord."
I thank thee, dear heavenly Father, When I prayed for thy comforting word, For directing my eyes to that motto 'Tis enough. I will rest in my Lord
Beth-Adriel cottage, 9:30 P.M., January 4, 1907.
It was enough. I was comforted, and I was determined, like Paul of old, that 'none of these things should move me.'
The annual meeting of the board for the election of officers for the ensuing year was about to take place. Before the board convened, I asked God for a test, promising him to abide by it even though he required me to give up this hard-earned home if necessary; then I quietly "rested in my Lord."
The day arrived. The rain poured in torrents all morning. I besought the Lord for a clear afternoon and also for the presence of every member. He answered my prayer. When it came to the reelection of officers, my election was not unanimous. As the test I had besought was that if the Master intended I should continue with them, he should cause my reelection to be unanimous, I read my resignation. Thus ended the annual board meeting of 1907. (My resignation was never legally accepted.)
With scarcely an exception, "they all forsook me and fled" (Mark 14:50). I walked out of Beth-Adriel unattended—one of the loneliest beings on earth, yet in the "secret of His presence." This created considerable newspaper notoriety; but though my resignation had cost me all, my conscience was "void of offense toward God" (Acts 24:16).
Soon I busied myself looking for other quarters. Even they were providential; for a friend met me in the post-office and proffered me her beautiful studio, then in disuse, for a merely nominal rent. There I rested and wrote for three months, intending that the proceeds of the book entitled "The Autobiography of an Autoharp" should start another home. But God willed otherwise, as you will presently learn.
Was the rescue work that I so dearly loved, at a standstill? Oh, no indeed. Not for one day was I idle; neither was Beth-Adriel. The name "Beth-Adriel" was soon dropped, and the place became one of the chain of Florence Crittenton homes. I have often sent there poor unfortunates that needed a refuge of that nature.
It was marvelous, the strength and the courage that the blessed Lord gave me during those trying days, even to the turning of my other cheek (Matt. 5:39).
Soon I received unanimous reendorsement and much encouragement from the pastors' union and other sources; but I was advised to try for a training-school and home for orphans at the limit age (fourteen) and also for juvenile court dependents and delinquents. As is my custom, I inquired of the Lord. I received so strong an impression regarding "an ounce of prevention," etc, that I said, "Yea, Lord, it is worth one hundred thousand pounds of cure." In a short time beautiful and practical plans were drawn up and presented to me by one of San Jose's best architects, Wesley W. Hastings. Before this took place, however, several very striking incidents occurred, in a few of which, I feel sure, you will be interested. One was a case of casting bread upon the waters and finding of it after many days (Eccl. 11:1).
Since my coming to San Jose it had been my habit to attend frequently the mission then situated on Fountain Alley. One night a poor, forlorn drunken man came to the altar and "got salvation." After rising from his knees, he said, "Lady, will you trust me with a quarter? I want to get a bath and bed and breakfast with it."
"You can not get all three for a quarter," I replied.
"Oh yes, I can," he said. "Down at the Salvation Army lodging-house for men."
One of the workers whispered, "Don't do it He'll only spend it for liquor."
He evidently surmised what the worker told me, for he quickly said:
"Don't be afraid to trust me. I promise you you shall never regret it."
I gave him what he had requested, and, in consequence, received rebukes from several of the other workers.
The next night he came in looking fairly neat, but surely clean. At the close of the meeting he returned the money, remarking that he had earned fifty cents that day mowing lawns and chopping wood. He continued to frequent the mission, a changed man. After moving to the studio I lost sight of him almost entirely, but often wondered what had become of him.
There came a time toward the close of my sojourn in San Jose when I was financially down to bedrock. Money and provisions were all gone. My rent, to be sure, was paid up to the first of the month (three weeks hence), but my cupboard was bare. A friend partook with me of my last meal. Little did she realize it, or she would never have stayed at my invitation. I told only my heavenly Father. After supper I went home with her, about three blocks distant. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and as I came up the garden walk on my return, I noticed a good-sized box resting on my steps, but simply thought the children must have been playing there and had failed to take it away after they had finished. I attempted to thrust it to one side, but discovered that it was too heavy. Looking more closely, I could read my name on a card. With considerable effort I lifted it into the room, pried off a portion of the cover, and was soon reading a note which said:
Please accept a slight token of appreciation from one who is
Your true friend.
From whom did this come? The crude handwriting was not at all familiar. I wondered, but in vain. Then I lifted up the paper cover. The box was filled with groceries. Not even butter and bread had been forgotten; also there were some fruit and vegetables. I fell on my knees, the tears falling fast as I humbly thanked God and prayed him to bless the donor. I had told no one. Who could have sent it? Inquiry the next day of several groceries failed to throw any light on the matter. I had to give it up, but oh, how I appreciated and enjoyed the contents of that box, which lasted me until my time at the studio expired.
I stored my few effects with a friendly furniture man. Whilst walking down Santa Clara Street near Market, I came face to face with Brother Louis, the converted drunkard. He certainly was looking his best. As he greeted me, he said:
"Mother Roberts, I was on my way to call on you."
"I've moved this very day, Brother," I replied, "but I'm so glad I met you. Where have you been?"
He had been working out of town. To honor God and also to help strengthen his faith, I related His care for me through all the trying times. I spoke about my being out of provisions and then finding them on my doorsteps, adding:
"To this day I haven't found out who sent them."
The expression that came over his countenance instantly betrayed him.
"Brother Louis," I said, "you sent that box."
"No, Mother Roberts, I didn't," he replied; "I brought it, and I'll tell you why. I read in the paper that when you quit Beth-Adriel you only had sixty dollars of your own. I calculated that couldn't last very long. I knew you wouldn't take money, and I wanted to express my gratitude in some way; so I decided groceries would not come amiss to one who was doing light housekeeping. I didn't knock on your door, because I thought you were in and what a surprise it would be when you opened it in the morning. I hope you aren't offended at what I did"
"Brother Louis, don't you realize that God used you to answer my prayer?" I rejoined. "He knew my needs, and laid it on your heart to supply them."
I do not know where he now is, but I earnestly pray that God may bless and prosper this kind-hearted man and finally receive him into glory.
Still farther down the street, near Second, I suddenly thought I heard some one calling my name. Again it was called, and I turned to find a Mr. Parkhurst, an old gentleman, endeavoring to overtake me. He wished to let me know that his wife, one of my valued friends, was very ill, and to inquire if I knew of any one who could come to their home and care for her a few days, at least until she was somewhat recovered. Instantly I felt that God was providing a temporary shelter for me; therefore I unhesitatingly replied:
"I myself will go, Mr. Parkhurst."
"What you! But are you not too busy?" he asked.
"Not just at present," I answered. "Besides, I gave up my studio this very day and therefore am quite free to go."
Their appreciation was such that a few days later I was invited to make this lovely home mine, or at least headquarters, which very kind offer was, in the name of our wonderful Provider, gratefully accepted.
A TRIP EAST—I ESCAPE FROM A CONFIDENCE WOMAN.
After I had enjoyed the freedom of the Parkhurst home for a few months I learned through friends that a young lady whom I had befriended at the time of the earthquake and who had become temporarily deranged was about to be sent to the East. The supervisors inquired whether it would suit my convenience to take the trip, and said if so they would defray expenses from and to California in order to have her safely chaperoned. I gladly consented; for, praise God! this would give me opportunity to pay a brief visit to my son and his bride, now making their home in Allegheny, Pa.
Following her safe arrival, I was on the way to Cincinnati in less than twenty-four hours. Thence I was to take train early the next morning. Having several hours to dispose of after securing a room in a hotel close to the station, I decided to see as many points of interest as possible in this fine city. Accordingly I was thus delightfully occupied until about four o'clock, when I heard some one speak of the Zoo. Upon inquiry I learned of the wonderful gardens so called. Soon, following directions, I boarded a car at Fountain Square, which conveyed me up a very steep incline. Returning in the neighborhood of six o'clock, I followed the example of several persons, who on the incline stepped out of the car on to the platform in order to enjoy the magnificent view.
A white-haired, elderly lady who had sat opposite to me on the return trip, now pleasantly remarked:
"Cincinnati is well worth a visit, is it not?"
Upon my replying in the affirmative, she rejoined:
"Doubtless you are a stranger. May I inquire from whence you come?"
"From California," I answered.
She clasped her hands together and exclaimed ecstatically:
"Dear, dear California! How happy I am to meet some one from there! Some of my most delightful, very happiest days were spent there."
We were now once more in the car and at the foot of the incline.
Presently she continued, "Are you going to remain for some time here? If so, I shall be delighted to contribute to your pleasure."
I then informed her of my prospective visit to my son and his wife.
Her next question was, "Pardon me, but have you any dinner engagement? If not, dine with me at ——'s restaurant, unless you have choice in the matter, in which case I gladly defer in your favor."
She had handed me her card, and of course common courtesy required that I reciprocate.
At the table I quietly (though not by request) returned thanks, and then followed this up with the message that the Master had, in answer to silent prayer, laid on my heart.
Her patronizing smile was rather disconcerting as she responded:
'My dear, I am much older and have had much more real experience than you. I've come in touch with every phase of humanity, and have at last reached the place where I have decided to get all I can out of life—all the fun, all the pleasure possible. I once thought and felt as you do. You'll get over it when you have had a few hard knocks to contend with. Take my advice. Enjoy yourself every day and hour, and as much as you can."
"I do," was my reply. "I would not exchange the experience of the past decade for all the former years of worldly dissipation and pleasure put together. They have all been unsatisfactory. This is quite the opposite, and, better still, it is the enjoyment of indescribable peace and delight. You are not going to be much longer in this world. Mrs. R——, I beg of you to seek the Lord whilst he may still be found. It is not too late, but soon, yes, very soon it may be. Then where will you spend eternity?"
Her lips curled with a sinister, contemptuous sneer. Nevertheless she managed to smile as she resorted to repartee.
"You must come with me this evening," she said. "I intend to take possession of you for an hour or two, and give you a good time."
"You will please excuse me from anything of the kind," was my quick reply. "I have long ceased to enjoy worldly amusements."
Just then the waitress came with the cheque.
"One or two?" she inquired.
"Two," promptly replied Mrs. R——
I politely wished her good evening as we stood at the desk, and was quickly walking away when she called after me.
"Wait a minute," she said, and took a firm hold of my arm and sleeve, so that it was impossible to free myself without attracting attention. We were now on the street. As she walked beside me, she said:
"You may not think so, but I intend to do you a favor. People in your line of work are never blest with overmuch of this world's goods, especially money. I'm going to take you with me across the bridge [into Kentucky] to the house of one of my friends and win a stake for you. You needn't touch a card unless you want to. Now don't be afraid to trust me, because——"
Before she had hardly finished speaking, I suddenly tore away from her grasp, ran down the block to the corner, and boarded a passing car, not caring where it took me, so anxious was I to get away from this female gambler, this confidence woman.
Why did I not have her arrested? First, because I had already purchased my ticket for my journey to Pittsburg, and secondly, because her private conversation with me would not have warranted me in so doing. Moreover, I knew that the all-seeing eye of God was taking cognizance of her actions as well as of mine. He protected me, and you may rest assured that she and her kind will not go unpunished.
Why have I told you this? In order to show that it is not only the young girls and youth who are in danger, but also the more mature, even the rescue missionary. It therefore behooves us to be constantly in an attitude of watchfulness and prayer, for Satan goes about in all manner of garbs seeking whom he may devour. Nothing could better please him than to overpower or side-track one of the children of God, more particularly a missionary.
I took a long round-trip ride on that car, my heart overflowing with gratitude to the heavenly Father for having made the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). It was after nine o'clock before I reached my hotel. I wondered, as I retired, who would be the next to be victimized by that runner for a private gambling-house. I fell asleep with earnest prayer for the deliverance of whosoever it might chance to be, and for God to deal speedily with all such agents of the evil one.
MY HOMEWARD JOURNEY—LAND FOR THE TRAINING SCHOOL AND HOME.
After a delightful five days' visit with my son and his bride I was soon back in California, both ready and eager to transact business for the Master's kingdom.
Anybody who has traveled on a tourist car can readily understand that, even though one may not be prying or curious, one is apt to learn more or less of its other occupants, particularly those in the adjoining sections; and be the porter ever so watchful, he can not cope with every suspicious situation.
Being a rescue missionary, I particularly yet secretly kept a watchful eye over a girl just graduated with honors from a school in the old country and now about to join some relatives at a point near San Francisco; for she was fast succumbing to the influence of a woman with whom some of the opposite sex seemed very familiar, considering the fact that the latter was as much a stranger to them (when first we started out) as she was to me. Besides, the pretty young graduate evidently was a very guileless, convent-raised girl. Matters assumed such a condition at the close of the third day of our journey that I felt it incumbent upon me to invite the latter into my section for the sake of some friendly advice. She appeared to take it all in good part and promised to act upon it. Had she done so, I should not now be relating that before the end of the next twenty-four hours I was subjected to most unkind, uncalled-for criticism from nearly all the occupants of that car, mostly young people. The schoolgirl was foolish enough to betray every word of our conversation to the older woman, whose actions that same night were such that the porter had to interfere. Notwithstanding the unkind treatment accorded me, I still continued privately to chaperon the girl until she reached her destination where she was, thank God, welcomed at the depot by her relatives.
That porter told me that he had constantly to be on the lookout for questionable characters of both sexes, who made it their business to travel back and forth continuously in search of victims to rob or aid them in plying their nefarious trades, but that some acted so sanctimoniously, as in this case, that they were rather hard to detect. I have no doubt that this adventuress obtained the young girl's address, so that the acquaintance could, a little later on, be renewed in order that some of this woman's accomplices, if not herself, could secure this another victim for the white slave traffic.
Moral: Parents and guardians, secure reliable chaperons for your young people to travel with, or else keep them at home pending such times as they can be accompanied by you or trusted friends.
A letter from a wealthy pioneer with whom I had had several interviews respecting land for a training school and home now sent me word that he had decided to donate six acres for that purpose, provided I should secure pledges to the amount of thirty thousand dollars for building purposes. The undertaking looked stupendous; nevertheless, what was to hinder if this were the plan of God?
At his invitation, I shortly went to inspect the land, then in grain. The tract was hardly as much as was requisite for horticultural purposes and a large home, but the situation was charming; so, without consulting any one as to the nature of the soil, I promised to do my utmost to earn a quit title to the land. I worked indefatigably for several months before being able to secure a promissory deed, but finally, after much effort and persuasion, I succeeded in obtaining the latter. Then I worked harder than ever. Two years were spent in this wise. Everything pointed to ultimate success. A board of representative business men was secured in order to meet legal requirements. By faith I now saw the beautiful, practical home for delinquent and dependent children looming up in the very near future.
One day whilst on my way southward I was telling an acquaintance of my hopes and also showing her the plans. Presently a gentleman sitting immediately back of us thus addressed me:
"Pardon me, madam, but I can not refrain from hearing part of your conversation, also seeing your plans." (With that he handed me his card.) "For over twenty-two years I was a resident of the place where you propose to build that home," he continued, "and I know every foot of its soil. Would it be asking too much of you to inquire just where those six acres are located?"
Upon his receiving the desired information, he said:
"I am very sorry to hear it. I regret to have to inform you that it is absolutely useless for horticultural purposes. It is worked out, having been in grain for at least forty years; besides, it is gravelly soil with clay bottom. I do not ask you to take my word for this. Inquire of —— ——- or any of the reputable business men. It is too bad that you should have had so much work for nothing."
Reader, endeavor if you can, to put yourself in my place at this moment. Through undescribable toil I had procured nearly ten thousand dollars in pledges, though, thank God, I had collected no money. So this distressing information almost stunned me. Thanking the gentleman, I promised, at his earnest solicitation, to satisfy myself beyond a doubt.
What he said was all too true. For a few days the effects of the confirmation of this stranger's statements almost prostrated me. I humbly thank God, however, that this experience was the means of His getting me into a place where He could have a chance to talk to me. He told me that zeal for His house had well-nigh eaten me up and that what was lacking was a need of more watchfulness and prayer on my part. Also, he assured me that notwithstanding another crushing disappointment, the home would be built, but not in the manner anticipated; that the silver and gold, "the cattle on a thousand hills," everything, everywhere was His. The wound eventually began to heal.
During this trying time, whilst I was one day conferring with Lieutenant-Governor Porter, a lady came into his office, to whom he immediately introduced me. Acknowledging the introduction with a very warm handshake and a sweet smile, Mrs. Tallman Chittenden, of Chittenden, Santa Cruz County, said: "Mrs. Roberts, for a long time I have heard or read of you. I so much desire to know you. Can you not return to my home with me today? My husband will be as pleased as I to have you for our guest." (They owned one of the most beautiful, picturesque estates in Santa Cruz County. The Southern Pacific passes through their magnificently cultivated grounds) Expressing my regrets, owing to having an urgent call from the probation officer of the juvenile court of Santa Cruz City, I promised to visit them on the return trip—a promise that I carried out on the following evening. Soon I was made to realize that God was adding two more to the list of true and tried friends; for after learning the nature of my recent disappointment and that I did not now have any settled abiding-place, Mr. and Mrs. Parkhurst having removed to Washington, they cordially invited me to consider their lovely home mine also indefinitely.
This kindness overwhelmed me with gratitude. Rest at last, real rest for the body as well as for the soul; but it was not for long. The calls accumulated thick and fast, and again I had to be up and doing. But even to this day (unless the place, which is for sale, has passed into other hands) I am at liberty any hour of the day or night to avail myself of the freedom and the home comforts of lovely Chittenden, where a most cordial greeting has ever been mine from the generous hostess and her friendly husband. Thus God is ever providing his chosen ones with what he has promised; for has not he said in Psa. 84:11, "The Lord is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly"? He always knows best. He never closes one door but that he opens a better one. It pays to stand still, to be true to him.
CALL ON THE GOVERNOR AND THEN GO SOUTH.
Acting upon the suggestion of several sympathetic, interested friends, who realized, with me, the great necessity for "the ounce of prevention home and school" for many of the rising generation, I took a special trip to Sacramento in order to submit specifications and plans to Governor Gillett, then in office.
This was not our first meeting; therefore I was by no means a stranger to the Governor, who very kindly and cordially received me. Almost his first words were, "Time being at a premium with me, tell me what I can do for you." In as few words as possible the story of effort and apparent though not total failure was being poured into his attentive ears. Presently, to my great joy, he replied:
"Mrs. Roberts, this has been a pet project of mine for many, many years. All I have lacked was the time, means, and assistants to carry it into execution. Let me tell you something for your encouragement: right now I am considering certain offers of land for just such a purpose. No paltry six acres for it either, but three hundred or more. I hope soon to see this vitally important and absolutely necessary plan receive the approbation of our next legislative session, and an appropriation made for the purchase of a large tract of land, together with necessary and suitable buildings. I know you have been working very hard. Do not nurse disappointment any longer; instead join me feeling assured of the future welfare and maintenance of the delinquent and dependent children of our State."
Much more did he encourage me, but the above was the sum and substance. Lighter hearted than I had felt for many days, I now took more interest than ever in the rescue work. In response to a call I hurried to southern California, where, with others, I engaged in the Master's service in seeking and warning the lost, working from San Diego on up the coast.
Perhaps it would be advisable at this time to quote from the report made in the San Diego Sun of July 14, 1908.
LOW DANCE-HALLS, CURSE OF THE CITY.
Mrs. Florence Roberts, known throughout the State as "Mother Roberts," who has been in this city for two weeks in the interests of fallen humanity has visited the red light district of this city. One conclusion that she draws is this: "The dance-hall is an abomination that must go. It is more degrading than any other form of dissipation. The future of the State is being ruined. The young—men are being degraded past redemption; the young women, especially working girls, are in danger."
Discussing her observations with a "Sun" reporter, Mrs. Roberts said: "I visited at least a dozen of the saloon dance-halls. The private houses would not admit me, not knowing who I was; but the saloons are of course public.
"As far as I can see, the traffic is not organized as it is in most places. Each saloon seems an individual institution.
"We went into place after place, dirty and squalid, most of them, and all very unattractive. The 'glittering place of vice' was not to be found; merely the girls, the low dance-music, and the catering to every bestial passion.
"Many of the men were young. Almost all were well dressed and respectable looking, and, thank God, many of them were ashamed when we came in, and pulled their hats down over their eyes. We saw, not only the common sailors, but the officers, the men who command the great ships, who plan and direct the battles of the world, parading their gold braid in these dens of vice, in the company of the lowest.
"The indecent postures, the short-skirted, low-necked dresses, the sensual dancing, and the frequent trips to the places behind the saloons, were nauseating and repulsive. But the heart-sorrow, the sometimes unconscious longing for something higher and better, showing through the paint and powder, the hard, sinister lines, the brazen, defiant eyes, touched my heart with the awful sorrow of it all, and I would give all I possess to be able to touch them and to help them.
"I said to one poor girl, 'Do you enjoy this life?'
"'Not on your life, lady,' she replied. 'We drift into it, and we can't see the way out.'
"Many are totally resigned to the life. One girl said to me indifferently, 'I don't expect ever to live any other life. I'm used to it, and it's good enough now.'
FORCED TO LEAVE.
"In one place the barkeeper allowed me to sing to the girls, but just in the middle of my song, the proprietor came in and said something in a gruff voice to the barkeeper. The latter came over to me and apologetically said, 'Say, lady, the boss is giving me h—— for allowing this. I guess you'll have to quit.'
"Two of the girls were deeply touched by what I said to them. I spoke of the wrong influence of some kind of home life.
"'You're right, lady. That's so. It was that way with me. I was started wrong, and everybody helped to grease the hill I was sliding down, and I soon reached the bottom.'
"The girls are decoyed by some man friend, who has so compromised the girl that she feels she is being shunned, to the house of a 'kind woman who will protect her.' She is ruined. She begins smoking and drinking and soon unless she takes great care of herself, she is sent from a first-class house to a second class, then a third class, then lower and lower, until she ends in some vile dance-hall, compared to which the orthodox hell is a paradise. Five years altogether Is the average life in this business.
"One thing I found here that I have found nowhere else, and that is the rigid enforcement of the no-screen law. Everything was open. I shall speak of it in other places. And then the law forbidding the sale of spirituous liquors means so much to the girls, the poor, poor girls, who are so bitter against the whole world, and who are suspicious of every woman.
"A barkeeper asked me, lady, what are you doing in a place like this?'
"'I am here to do some good if I can. I am a mother.'
"'Well,' he replied, 'this is no place for decent people.'
"Just then a rough-looking customer spoke up, 'Don't you leave because he wants you to. Do all the good you can'
"I am afraid some of the girls thought I was there out of mere vulgar curiosity. No, indeed. I have seen the worst places in the State, I have visited the girls, talked with them, eaten with them, and praise God, have helped some of them to do better."
Mrs. Roberts has no use for so-called Christianity that forgets the virtue named charity. She tells a story of a young girl who was won from the tenderloin by a Salvation Army lassie.... [Here follows the story of Dollie, found between these pages.]
"As I said before," continued Mrs. Roberts, "we visited all the houses, but were not admitted to all. They are very superstitious, and to admit visitors on Monday would 'hoodoo' the business for the rest of the week. None of the houses were attractive. We learned the name of only one, which, the girls tell me, is the worst in the whole district.
"There is one place, though, that I must mention. It is most attractive with lights, mirrors, and music. But I assure you it is the first step of its kind downward. [A first-class saloon.]
"This place has a most appropriate electric sign, a winding, twisting snake. 'There is one thing more I must tell you,' I said to a young, attractive-looking boy, 'What attracts you here?'
"'For the life of me I can't tell you, except that there's no other place where we fellows can enjoy ourselves.'
"What an opportunity for an immense, well-equipped reading-room, where the boys can have games, books, and all sorts of harmless amusements."
Mrs. Roberts will be here for some little time, and she expects to speak several times before she leaves. She spoke at the Central Christian church yesterday to a large audience.
Among other things at this meeting I mentioned this incident:
In one of the Northern towns, the chief of police, knowing I was in the town, sent for me to confer with him on a case of "strictest privacy." Wondering what was the matter, I hastened, and soon was hearing this:
"In one of the houses on —— Street, I have just learned from one of my men, who was told by a near-by saloon-keeper, of a young girl inmate who has been constantly in tears for the past two weeks, a new-comer aged about sixteen. I want some one to get her away from there. My political situation is such at the present time that it will never do for me to figure in this matter; at the same time I am aware if you are conspicuous in it, those doors will be closed upon you, and that will be unwise, seeing these landladies are more or less kindly disposed toward you.
"I understand this girl is from San Francisco, where she has a mother, who ought to be notified and the daughter at once sent home to her; but I'm in a quandary how to proceed so as not to incur ill-feeling with the politicians of that neighborhood. [He was a candidate for reelection.] What would you suggest?"
Quickly I replied: "If that landlady does not know your voice, 'phone, asking if she has any new girls at present? Then ask her to send the new one to the 'phone. If she does so, have a talk with the girl of a nature calculated to lead the landlady to infer you are friendly, and as soon as it is safe to do so, tell her, the new girl, that she is to come out presently as though to go to a restaurant for breakfast, that friends are going to rescue her from her awful predicament, but that she must be very cautious for fear of creating suspicion. Tell her to look on the corner of Fourth and L—— Streets for a lady wearing a small black bonnet trimmed with white and to follow her into the building where she sees her disappear. Tell her to act as though she were making arrangements for an evening engagement."
In less than half an hour that poor child was closeted with the chief and me in his private office. Soon, after reassuring her, he left us alone in order that I could freely interrogate, and this, after many tears, was the sum and substance of what she told:
"I've a very comfortable home, a dear mama and two little brothers. Perhaps I have a stepfather now, for mama was intending to marry again. He's a chef in —— Hotel."
"Is your papa long dead, dear?" I inquired.
"Papa isn't dead. Mama got a divorce from him a little while ago. He wouldn't support us —— and ——."
"Has your mama known this chef very long?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, quite a while. I never saw much of him though, 'cause Mama would rather I wasn't around when he called; so she often used to let me go to the nickelodeon or the dance with some of the girls I know, when she expected him to spend the evening."
"How did it happen you came here, my child?" was the next question.
"It was this way. I got acquainted with a fine-looking young lady, a swell dresser, too, at ——Hall. We took a 'shine' to each other on sight, and I asked her to call on me, 'cause I wanted Mama to meet her. Mama liked her, too. She told us she lived with her aunt, Miss Clark, on Post Street, who was quite nicely fixed. Said she must take me to see her soon.
"Well, we met often after that, and Mama was pleased because I now had a companion old enough to take good care of me. One day when I went home with Tessie, to take tea, her aunt said to her, 'I've just received a letter from Louise, and she wants to know when you are coming to make her a visit.' Tessie said, 'Oh, I'd like to go next week. Mamie, I wonder if you couldn't come, too? Louise is my cousin; she's well off, and will give us a good time. You ask your mama and I'll write Louise.' Mama was willing. Tessie's aunt soon got another letter saying Cousin Louise would be pleased to have me come, so we made arrangements. I was to meet Tessie at the boat Monday morning at ten o'clock. Mama wasn't very well, so I went down alone on the car with my suitcase. We'd bought our tickets Saturday, and for fear of accidents Tessie gave me mine for safekeeping.
"I went on board the boat and waited and waited, but up to the last minute Tessie didn't come, but a messenger boy did—with a note saying her aunt was sick, but for me to go and she'd come on the next boat. Louise would be dressed—and described how I would know her, for she was to meet us. Tessie never came, neither did her cousin. This woman I'm with is named Louise, but she says she doesn't know Tessie. I don't know what to make of it, do you?"
Then she told me exactly what kind of life she had been forced to lead for over two weeks, and that when she first came the landlady dictated a letter which she (Mamie) wrote to her mother.
"As big a lie as ever was told," said Mamie; "but I had to do as Miss Louise said, and she mailed it. I haven't written Mama since, 'cause I didn't want to spoil her pleasure. Guess she's safely married now, 'cause she expected to be."
"My dear child," I said, "will you give me your San Francisco address, your mother's name and initials? You are going home on the next steamer. I am going to have her meet you at the wharf. I know the stewardess, who is a good woman. She will not let you out of her sight until she hands you over to your mother."
Poor, frail, pretty, little, sixteen-year-old Mamie wept with joy. The next morning, long before it was time to sail, she was safely hidden away on board the steamer. The mother, in response to the telegram, was on hand when the ship reached the San Francisco wharf, and unless she is different from other women of that caliber, she can not, I think, ever forget that registered letter, in which some good wholesome advice was given and such motherhood as she represented was so scathingly denounced as to upset her honeymoon. Furthermore, I did not hesitate to inform her that her little daughter was both physically and morally ruined and that God would hold her (the mother) and her alone responsible. Was that all? No. The right persons were put on the track of Tessie and her aunt. Unfortunately, however, they were never, on account of some technicality, made to suffer, aside from having to take their immediate departure. However, the just God is taking cognizance of all these things. Nothing escapes him. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
Dear reader, I generally leave my audience with a heavy load on my heart. Why? Because, as other public workers and speakers, I find few, very few, comparatively speaking, who heed the warnings which observation and practical experience have prompted me to give out. Once as I was walking out of a church, two ladies directly behind me were conversing on the address just finished. One said to the other, "Weren't you immensely interested in those dreadful word-pictures from real life?" "Yes," replied the other, "but that work is very unpopular, and requires peculiarly adapted people, entirely different from you and me." I silently thanked God for so richly endowing a few of us with sufficiently peculiar qualities to seek for wonderful, priceless jewels among the fallen who, through lack of proper home training and companionship, have taken the downward course. Many of these outcasts, if sought and cared for, will some day occupy an exalted place in the Master's kingdom.
LOS ANGELES DANCE-HALLS AND OTHER PLACES.
Well, you may call them first-class if you like; I call them first-class stepping-stones to an everlasting hell. Furthermore, I will prove my statement.
On July 24 of that year (1908) I was again in Los Angeles. As usual, I was interviewed, this time by a Times editor. Among other things I made mention of the fact that many mothers did not know what their children were doing after school-hours, and stated that such women had better play less whist and give their children more attention. And oh! the terrifying iniquities of society. Do you know, the worst enemy a girl who has fallen into error has is her own sex. Women simply will not have anything to do with her, and that is what keeps the world back. The cause? Selfishness, of course.
"Yes, I believe there are too many marriages of convenience. And oh! the dreadful race suicide that I know is going on around me on every hand. It sounds the doom of the American race. We are indeed on the downward path."
"Why do not our mothers bring up their girls in a full knowledge of this world and its snares for young and faltering feet, instead of letting them run the streets and meet unknown men?"
"It is because the mothers themselves are too often unfit for the divine duties of motherhood. They are lacking in a knowledge of what makes for the best life. I have seen so much of it that I am going to try to arouse the mothers of Los Angeles at a special meeting."
The different dailies kept tab of "Mother Roberts" for some time. To be a target, a cynosure, is an indescribable cross to the Christian; but some one must be willing, else how is the world to comprehend the situation?
Among other things said in the mothers' meeting were these:
"Too many mothers will not, because of their false modesty, give proper instruction to their children. Yes, parents fearfully misrepresent conditions to their boys and girls, even resorting to absolute falsehood. Of course the children soon learn the facts, and instead of the parents and children making confidants of each other, both practise deception. When girls find out these things, they often slip away to their downfall.
"When I was sixteen years of age, I saw in a paper an advertisement stating that an elderly lady wanted a young lady as companion and amanuensis. The advertisement read very smoothly and I answered it. The woman, who was seemingly a prepossessing, lonely old woman, inspected my recommendations and at once engaged me on trial. I shortly returned to her, taking with me some of my choicest worldly possessions; but before I had been with her twenty-four hours, some of her strange actions so alarmed me that on the following morning I made the excuse at the breakfast table of wanting to go to my boarding-place for expected mail, promising to return within half an hour. After I had told the family of my experiences and suspicions, the mother would not allow me to return even for my effects, which I have not seen from that day to this. It turned out that I was only one of about forty girls who had been engaged by that diabolical woman to fill 'positions as companions.' I am very thankful that 'the way of escape' had been made for me, and though feeling badly about losing my belongings, I agreed with my friends that it were better to avoid notoriety than to create a disturbance.
"At the time of this occurrence (it was in San Francisco) I had but recently arrived from England, the land of my birth and breeding, under the protection of elderly people, who consigned me to the care of relatives in California. As with thousands of other girls, my education on certain lines had been badly neglected. I was, alas! too unsophisticated.
"In after-years, when I became a Christian in spirit as well as in name, I thanked God for this early experience, which has enabled me to sympathize with those who, much of the time, are more sinned against than guilty of sinning, and who so often are enticed away by the various methods devised by unprincipled beings called men and women.
SATAN LURKS IN THE WALTZ.
"Yes; I have watched them dance in many places, even in Los Angeles. Is it degrading, demoralizing? You know as well as I that there is nothing uplifting, nothing of a good moral tendency, about the dance, especially the waltz; and I saw nothing else offered than the waltz, or round dances closely resembling it, in either of the places I attended last evening.
"My heart sorely ached as I observed mothers with their little girls, five to twelve years old, allowing, aye, even encouraging them to get up and waltz on the same floor with questionable characters. Evidently there is little or no need of introductions. Both sexes anxiously observe who are the best dancers, and soon these, though perhaps total strangers, are spinning, sliding, or gliding about together, in many instances in a close embrace, breast to breast, and cheek to cheek. But they 'must dance.' they 'love it so.' And the music! The most sensual, the most alluring, as subtle as a wily serpent, and just as harmful.
"There were church-members there; mothers chaperoning their young daughters; mothers who profess to be following in the footsteps of the Redeemer; mothers who have promised to bring up their little ones in the way Jesus would have them.
"In a few instances I even saw fathers waltzing with their own little girls on the great crowded dance-hall floor as late as nearly midnight. 'What!' you say, 'surely no father would think of such a thing.' Perhaps not; perhaps I am presuming. Perhaps it was the mother's escort to the ball in each instance. I don't know. This I do know: Those little children last night were eager, hungry, craving, tireless dancers. O merciful God! The pity of it, the pity of it!
"I observed some of the young men. The contour of some of their heads peculiarly interested me. To be sure, you could not tell what the girls' heads were like because of so many etceteras bulging out all over; but as I looked at many of the young men's heads, I was not long in deciding that those who danced the most gracefully evidently had the bulk of their brains in their heels.
"At the first place I visited, one young fellow walked up to a pretty pompadoured, short-skirted miss who stood close to me and who had waltzed with several strangers, and asked her to dance. She refused him. Why? He smelt too strong of whiskey and was unsteady in his gait, but she did not give him that as her reason, and because of his persistence she soon said to her companions (some other young girls), 'Come on, let's go down to——; there isn't enough fun here.' It was no sooner said than done. I also left for this other place, where I found hundreds of couples dancing, and many refined, pretty-looking young girls sitting or standing around, waiting for any strange young man to invite them on to the floor and hug them (oh yes, better call things by their proper names)—hug them to alluring waltz-time.
EVEN ON THE LORD'S DAY.
"There is hour after hour of this, day after day, night after night; yes, even on the one day set apart for the worship of our Redeemer and Creator, and this in the so-called respectable dance-hall. At the entrance is a prominent sign—'Dancing every night including Sunday.' 'No bowery dancing allowed.' Tell me why that sign if the dance is strictly respectable?
"A young gentleman made this comment to me: 'You won't find one girl in a hundred today, who is not fond of the dance.'
"'Why?' I inquired.
"'Considering their training, it isn't to be wondered at,' he answered.
"'What training?' I questioned.
"'Because their mothers loved it before them, and the girls do not hesitate to say so.'
"Another young man said: 'I can take advantage of the situation, if so inclined, every time. Invariably any girl who dances will drink, and any one that drinks will go still farther.'
"One girl said: 'It isn't what occurs at the actual dance, but any girl that dances often has to fight for her virtue, almost her life, after the dance—on her way home. Often her escort takes her only part of the way. Yet, "like moths that court the candle," even though we know that death and ruin are in the wake, still we will dance.'
"Whoever heard of any man worth the having, seeking for a wife and the future mother of his children in a ballroom?
WARNING TO GIRLS.
"Let me quote another young man: 'If the pure-minded girls with whom we sometimes are dancing knew our thoughts, they would never put a foot on the ballroom floor again, as they value their lives; but lots of young girls don't know this, and their mothers who sometimes chaperon them, don't suspect us. I consider the dance-hall even worse than the saloon. I'm a dancer myself, but I won't pay serious address to any girl who dances.'
"Have matters assumed such shape that we can not furnish the majority of the present generation, pleasures so pure, refining, and alluring that the dance and other vices may not be relegated to oblivion? This question should stir the innermost recesses of the souls of all who are interested in the welfare of the young people of today, be they young or old, rich or poor. The next generation is cursed already, frightfully cursed, unless unusual sacrifice will now be made. There is no time to lose, especially on the part of those who love the title, 'Soldier of the Cross.'
"'Put on the whole armor of God.' Go where he wants you to go. Do what he wants you to do. Be what he wants you to be, in thought, in word, in deed, even though it may mean to part with your very life. God is yearning for a few more Calebs and Joshuas and Daniels. What use to pray 'Thy Kingdom Come,' if you patronize or countenance places where, under no consideration, could you invite the One you profess to love and serve."
WOMAN EMPLOYED AT DANCE-HALL TELLS OF MANY PITFALLS.
Whilst contending against the dance-hall evil, I received a note asking for an immediate interview. The writer, who signed her own name, stated that she had been an employee in ——'s Dance-hall (rated as one of the exclusive and first-class places) and that she believed that, under the existing circumstances, my granting her an audience, would still further aid the cause, as she could throw much light on the subject.
Soon she was at my rooms, also a reporter, and the following is, in part, what she had to say:
"I am utterly disgusted with dance-halls, and am determined to do all I can against them. Mr. C—— [her husband] and I came here from New York in reduced financial circumstances, and I applied for and obtained a position at ——'s Dance-hall.
"For reasons best known to ourselves, we posed as brother and sister, pretending my husband was in the East. I worked there only fourteen days, or until my husband secured a permanent position, but I left the place with a complete knowledge of the disreputable work done there under the guise of a respectable dance-hall. I do not wish to be mean in my assertions, but the facts will bear me up in what I actually saw and heard during the two weeks I was engaged at ——'s Dance-hall.
"I was on the reception committee to introduce the lonesome boys to the charming girls for the dances. It would take me two hours to state the disgusting features I saw there.
"The manager at one time asked me to drink whiskey with him. I told him that I was not in the habit of indulging and that if I should get drunk he would have to take care of me, to which he said, 'I can do that all right.'
"One night a young man became dead drunk in the dance-hall, in full view of the dancers, making a disgusting show of himself, all of which apparently passed unnoticed by the manager. The friends of the young man took him out of the hall.
"One time I saw a young girl dancing with a young man who was trying to hide a whiskey bottle, with which she and her partner appeared to be mixed. All this was supposed to be in plain sight of the manager.
"A young girl on duty selling tickets asked me to bring her an empty glass from the soda fountain. A young man took it and filled it nearly full with brandy and passed it to the girl. She slyly wrapped her handkerchief around it to hide the brandy, and drank it as if drinking a glass of water. This was seen by several by-standers.
"It makes me shudder to think of what I saw and heard in that hall. One young girl unused to the ways of the world was taken out of the hall in a ruined condition, and after an unlawful surgical operation had been performed, she was sent to a well-known hospital. She was the victim of a prominent lawyer of Los Angeles.
"One night last week the manager spoke through a megaphone, during the intermission of the dance, asking everybody to sign a petition he had prepared stating that the place was properly run, and to sign it in order that he could continue the dance-hall business. I know of one man who signed a fictitious name to the petition, with the remark that others were doing the same," etc.
She told much more, some of which was not fit to print, but surely that is sufficient from her.
I was able one night to show a reporter that no erroneous statements had been made. On the contrary, he was shocked as he noted the wily depravity. His attention was attracted to a good-looking young man who had slipped one of the reception committee young women a piece of money. Together we watched the outcome. She made for a pretty, graceful young girl just leaving the dance-ring and whispered audibly, "There's a swell young fellow wants to have the honor of dancing with you." Before the girl had time to think or answer, he was right on hand, saying, "May I have the pleasure of the next waltz? My name is Jones." Then the introducer manufactured a name for the pretty young girl, the music started up, and the next moment she was gliding over the perfect dancing-floor in the embrace of this strange fellow. Is that all? Not by any means. He invited her to an innocent dish of ice-cream. (If a girl does not accept such an invitation, but she usually does, the would-be seducer knows she is a gold mine if he can ever secure her, and he works to that end.) She accepted. We watched our opportunity, and, between dances, when no one was taking notice, we whispered the word of warning. For a moment she looked alarmed, but did she heed? Evidently not. Possibly she resented the well-meant advice, and, in consequence, soon paid the fearful price for so doing.
Upon getting out once more into the fresh air, we could not fail to observe the many automobiles in waiting. Wherefore? Listen! Shortly before this visit when I was accompanied by the Times reporter, I was a temporary guest in one of Los Angeles' representative families, the mother of whom was one of my tried and true friends. She had two noble, handsome sons. One of them came home one day in a high state of indignation. After he had related to his mother an incident that had just occurred, she besought him to repeat it for my benefit.
While he was resting in the park bounded by Fifth, Sixth, Olive, and Hill Streets, a middle-aged man of good dress and appearance seated himself on the same bench and, disregarding conventionalities, began to make himself agreeable, first commenting on the weather and then gradually leading up to the subject in which he was most interested. Presently he inquired if my young friend was occupied in business, and received the reply, "No; not at present, but I am on the lookout for something that will be worth while." As one word always leads to another, the stranger soon inquired if the young man could dance. Receiving an affirmative answer, he remarked:
"Good! I notice you are a swell dresser also, and a pleasant conversationalist; in fact, have all the requirements if I'm not mistaken."
"What requirements?" asked my young friend.
"Say, young man," the stranger answered, "I can put you wise to something that will bring you the quickest returns for the least labor you ever struck, but 'mums the word.'"
"Fire ahead," replied my young friend; "'mums the word.'"
"First, I note that you are agreeable, educated, well dressed, and a dancer, all of which takes with the majority of girls, at least the girls we have to reach. Next, I need you in the ballrooms. Perhaps you may occasionally require an automobile. To be sure, that is expensive, but..."
"What is he driving at?" silently wondered my young friend. "Guess I will hear him through. Here's something out of the ordinary."
"Girls will be girls," the man continued. "It's dead easy to win some, harder with others; but there's big money in it for each new supply you can furnish."
"Furnish for what?" inquired my young friend.
"The necessary evil, my boy, the necessary evil, of course," was the startling answer.
Trembling with indignation, my young friend quickly arose and unhesitatingly shouted:
The procurer disappeared so suddenly that no one of the small crowd which quickly gathered knew what was the matter until too late to arrest the scoundrel.
Is that stranger the only procurer? Common sense answers, "No!" My reader, there are thousands. Therefore if nothing else, no other reason —and they are many—should cause young ladies to refrain from a practise which means compromise or ruin, often eternal damnation, surely this illustration should be sufficient.
Permit me to mention another reason, one I am also able to verify, for it came from one shipwrecked at the age of twenty-two, and now passed into eternity, but then lying in one of the wards of the county hospital. To be brief, he was a dancer. Honor, however, forbade his making any improper advances to his girl partners, but the effects of their close proximity were fatal. All the evil of his nature was stirred, and it would not be suppressed. He yielded; visited places whose thresholds he would never otherwise have crossed; then followed depravity, disease, and an untimely death. Who was responsible for this? The unharmed girls with whom he danced. Surely a word to the wise is sufficient. If dancing causes my brother to err, I will dance no longer.
Whilst doing a house-to-house work in one of our large coast towns, also filling various pulpits whenever opportunity permitted, I was on one occasion cordially invited to enter the lodging of a girl, who, when I was seated, quickly turned the key in the lock, remarking as she did so: "You're just the kind of a person I have been hoping this long time to meet. Excuse me for locking you in, but I don't want to be disturbed while you are here, where I'm truly ashamed to have you find me. I want to tell you my situation and see if you can not immediately get me out of this awful predicament."
Calling attention to the fact that there was no odor of liquor, no signs of cigarettes about, and stating that in consequence she was unpopular with the habitues of the other lodgings in the immediate vicinity, she inquired:
"Do I look like a hardened sinner?"
"You certainly do not," was my reply.
"Oh! I'm so relieved," she rejoined, "so relieved to hear you say so, because I want to get away from this life, and I am sure you can help me."
"All that is in my power, dear girl," I assured her. "Now tell me your story."
"I've a little brother and sister," she began. "My father, when I was seventeen years of age, ran off with another woman and deserted poor Mother, who took it so hard that she lived only two years. This left me to provide for the children. I had to get some help from the county for the funeral expenses, and it wasn't easy to make a good appearance and provide properly for the little ones on what I was earning."
"What were you doing for a living, dear?" I asked.
"I was working in a laundry, from early morning till, many times, late at night. I got a dollar a day and for over-time was paid extra." (If I remember correctly, she said ten cents an hour.)