In the mean time my preaching had not interfered with my studies. I was working day and night, but life was very difficult; for among my schoolmates, too, there were doubts and much head-shaking over this choice of a career. I needed the sound of friendly voices, for I was very lonely; and suddenly, when the pressure from all sides was strongest and I was going down physically under it, a voice was raised that I had never dared to dream would speak for me. Mary A. Livermore came to Big Rapids, and as she was then at the height of her career, the entire countryside poured in to hear her. Far back in the crowded hall I sat alone and listened to her, thrilled by the lecture and tremulous with the hope of meeting the lecturer. When she had finished speaking I joined the throng that surged forward from the body of the hall, and as I reached her and felt the grasp of her friendly hand I had a sudden conviction that the meeting was an epoch in my life. I was right. Some one in the circle around us told her that I wanted to preach, and that I was meeting tremendous opposition. She was interested at once. She looked at me with quickening sympathy, and then, suddenly putting an arm around me, drew me close to her side.
"My dear," she said, quietly, "if you want to preach, go on and preach. Don't let anybody stop you. No matter what people say, don't let them stop you!"
For a moment I was too overcome to answer her. These were almost my first encouraging words, and the morning stars singing together could not have made sweeter music for my ears. Before I could recover a woman within hearing spoke up.
"Oh, Mrs. Livermore," she exclaimed, "don't say that to her! We're all trying to stop her. Her people are wretched over the whole thing. And don't you see how ill she is? She has one foot in the grave and the other almost there!"
Mrs. Livermore turned upon me a long and deeply thoughtful look. "Yes," she said at last, "I see she has. But it is better that she should die doing the thing she wants to do than that she should die because she can't do it."
Her words were a tonic which restored my voice. "So they think I'm going to die!" I cried. "Well, I'm not! I'm going to live and preach!"
I have always felt since then that without the inspiration of Mrs. Livermore's encouragement I might not have continued my fight. Her sanction was a shield, however, from which the criticisms of the world fell back. Fate's more friendly interest in my affairs that year was shown by the fact that she sent Mrs. Livermore into my life before I had met Anna Dickinson. Miss Dickinson came to us toward spring and lectured on Joan of Arc. Never before or since have I been more deeply moved by a speaker. When she had finished her address I made my happy way to the front of the hall with the others who wished to meet the distinguished guest. It was our local manager who introduced me, and he said, "This is our Anna Shaw. She is going to be a lecturer, too."
I looked up at the brilliant Miss Dickinson with the trustfulness of youth in my eyes. I remembered Mrs. Livermore and I thought all great women were like her, but I was now to experience a bitter disillusionment. Miss Dickinson barely touched the tips of my fingers as she looked indifferently past the side of my face. "Ah," she said, icily, and turned away. In later years I learned how impossible it is for a public speaker to leave a gracious impression on every life that for a moment touches her own; but I have never ceased to be thankful that I met Mrs. Livermore before I met Miss Dickinson at the crisis in my career.
In the autumn of 1873 I entered Albion College, in Albion, Michigan. I was twenty-five years of age, but I looked much younger—probably not more than eighteen to the casual glance. Though I had made every effort to save money, I had not been successful, for my expenses constantly outran my little income, and my position as preacher made it necessary for me to have a suitable wardrobe. When the time came to enter college I had exactly eighteen dollars in the world, and I started for Albion with this amount in my purse and without the slightest notion of how I was to add to it. The money problem so pressed upon me, in fact, that when I reached my destination at midnight and discovered that it would cost fifty cents to ride from the station to the college, I saved that amount by walking the entire distance on the railroad tracks, while my imagination busied itself pleasantly with pictures of the engine that might be thundering upon me in the rear. I had chosen Albion because Miss Foot had been educated there, and I was encouraged by an incident that happened the morning after my arrival. I was on the campus, walking toward the main building, when I saw a big copper penny lying on the ground, and, on picking it up, I discovered that it bore the year of my birth. That seemed a good omen, and it was emphatically underlined by the finding of two exactly similar pennies within a week. Though there have been days since then when I was sorely tempted to spend them, I have those three pennies still, and I confess to a certain comfort in their possession!
As I had not completed my high-school course, my first days at Albion were spent in strenuous preparation for the entrance examinations; and one morning, as I was crossing the campus with a History of the United States tucked coyly under my arm, I met the president of the college, Dr. Josclyn. He stopped for a word of greeting, during which I betrayed the fact that I had never studied United States history. Dr. Josclyn at once invited me into his office with, I am quite sure, the purpose of explaining as kindly as he could that my preparation for college was insufficient. As an opening to the subject he began to talk of history, and we talked and talked on, while unheeded hours were born and died. We discussed the history of the United States, the governments of the world, the causes which led to the influence of one nation on another, the philosophical basis of the different national movements westward, and the like. It was the longest and by far the most interesting talk I have ever had with a highly educated man, and during it I could actually feel my brain expand. When I rose to go President Josclyn stopped me.
"I have something to give you," he said, and he wrote a few words on a slip of paper and handed the slip to me. When, on reaching the dormitory, I opened it, I found that the president had passed me in the history of the entire college course! This, moreover, was not the only pleasant result of our interview, for within a few weeks President and Mrs. Josclyn, whose daughter had recently died, invited me to board with them, and I made my home with them during my first year at Albion.
My triumph in history was followed by the swift and chastening discovery that I was behind my associates in several other branches. Owing to my father's early help, I was well up in mathematics, but I had much to learn of philosophy and the languages, and to these I devoted many midnight candles.
Naturally, I soon plunged into speaking, and my first public speech at college was a defense of Xantippe. I have always felt that the poor lady was greatly abused, and that Socrates deserved all he received from her, and more. I was glad to put myself on record as her champion, and my fellow-students must soon have felt that my admiration for Xantippe was based on similarities of temperament, for within a few months I was leading the first college revolt against the authority of the men students.
Albion was a coeducational institution, and the brightest jewels in its crown were its three literary societies—the first composed of men alone, the second of women alone, and the third of men and women together. Each of the societies made friendly advances to new students, and for some time I hesitated on the brink of the new joys they offered, uncertain which to choose. A representative of the mixed society, who was putting its claims before me, unconsciously helped me to make up my mind.
"Women," he pompously assured me, "need to be associated with men, because they don't know how to manage meetings."
On the instant the needle of decision swung around to the women's society and remained there, fixed.
"If they don't," I told the pompous young man, "it's high time they learned. I shall join the women, and we'll master the art."
I did join the women's society, and I had not been a member very long before I discovered that when there was an advantage of any kind to be secured the men invariably got it. While I was brooding somberly upon this wrong an opportunity came to make a formal and effective protest against the men's high-handed methods. The Quinquennial reunion of all the societies was about to be held, and the special feature of this festivity was always an oration. The simple method of selecting the orator which had formerly prevailed had been for the young men to decide upon the speaker and then announce his name to the women, who humbly confirmed it. On this occasion, however, when the name came in to us, I sent a message to our brother society to the effect that we, too, intended to make a nomination and to send in a name.
At such unprecedented behavior the entire student body arose in excitement, which, among the girls, was combined with equal parts of exhilaration and awe. The men refused to consider our nominee, and as a friendly compromise we suggested that we have a joint meeting of all the societies and elect the speaker at this gathering; but this plan also the men at first refused, giving in only after weeks of argument, during which no one had time for the calmer pleasures of study. When the joint meeting was finally held, nothing was accomplished; we girls had one more member than the boys had, and we promptly re-elected our candidate, who was as promptly declined by the boys. Two of our girls were engaged to two of the boys, and it was secretly planned by our brother society that during a second joint meeting these two men should take the girls out for a drive and then slip back to vote, leaving the girls at some point sufficiently remote from college. We discovered the plot, however, in time to thwart it, and at last, when nothing but the unprecedented tie-up had been discussed for months, the boys suddenly gave up their candidate and nominated me for orator.
This was not at all what I wanted, and I immediately declined to serve. We girls then nominated the young man who had been first choice of our brother society, but he haughtily refused to accept the compliment. The reunion was only a fortnight away, and the programme had not been printed, so now the president took the situation in hand and peremptorily ordered me to accept the nomination or be suspended. This was a wholly unexpected boomerang. I had wished to make a good fight for equal rights for the girls, and to impress the boys with the fact of our existence as a society; but I had not desired to set the entire student body by the ears nor to be forced to prepare and deliver an oration at the eleventh hour. Moreover, I had no suitable gown to wear on so important an occasion. One of my classmates, however, secretly wrote to my sister, describing my blushing honors and explaining my need, and my family rallied to the call. My father bought the material, and my mother and Mary paid for the making of the gown. It was a white alpaca creation, trimmed with satin, and the consciousness that it was extremely becoming sustained me greatly during the mental agony of preparing and delivering my oration. To my family that oration was the redeeming episode of my early career. For the moment it almost made them forget my crime of preaching.
My original fund of eighteen dollars was now supplemented by the proceeds of a series of lectures I gave on temperance. The temperance women were not yet organized, but they had their speakers, and I was occasionally paid five dollars to hold forth for an hour or two in the little country school-houses of our region. As a licensed preacher I had no tuition fees to pay at college; but my board, in the home of the president and his wife, was costing me four dollars a week, and this was the limit of my expenses, as I did my own laundry-work. During my first college year the amount I paid for amusement was exactly fifty cents; that went for a lecture. The mental strain of the whole experience was rather severe, for I never knew how much I would be able to earn; and I was beginning to feel the effects of this when Christmas came and brought with it a gift of ninety-two dollars, which Miss Foot had collected among my Big Rapids friends. That, with what I could earn, carried me through the year.
The following spring our brother James, who was now living in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, invited my sister Mary and me to spend the summer with him, and Mary and I finally dug a grave for our little hatchet and went East together with something of our old-time joy in each other's society. We reached St. Johnsbury one Saturday, and within an hour of our arrival learned that my brother had arranged for me to preach in a local church the following day. That threatened to spoil the visit for Mary and even to disinter the hatchet! At first she positively refused to go to hear me, but after a few hours of reflection she announced gloomily that if she did not go I would not have my hair arranged properly or get my hat on straight. Moved by this conviction, she joined the family parade to the church, and later, in the sacristy, she pulled me about and pinned me up to her heart's content. Then, reluctantly, she went into the church and heard me preach. She offered no tributes after our return to the house, but her protests ceased from that time, and we gave each other the love and understanding which had marked our girlhood days. The change made me very happy; for Mary was the salt of the earth, and next only to my longing for my mother, I had longed for her in the years of our estrangement.
Every Sunday that summer I preached in or near St. Johnsbury, and toward autumn we had a big meeting which the ministers of all the surrounding churches attended. I was asked to preach the sermon—a high compliment—and I chose that important day to make a mistake in quoting a passage from Scripture. I asked, "Can the Ethiopian change his spots or the leopard his skin?" I realized at once that I had transposed the words, and no doubt a look of horror dawned in my eyes; but I went on without correcting myself and without the slightest pause. Later, one of the ministers congratulated me on this presence of mind.
"If you had corrected yourself," he said, "all the young people would have been giggling yet over the spotted nigger. Keep to your rule of going right ahead!"
At the end of the summer the various churches in which I had preached gave me a beautiful gold watch and one hundred dollars in money, and with an exceedingly light heart I went back to college to begin my second year of work.
From that time life was less complex. I had enough temperance-work and preaching in the country school-houses and churches to pay my college expenses, and, now that my financial anxieties were relieved, my health steadily improved. Several times I preached to the Indians, and these occasions were among the most interesting of my experiences. The squaws invariably brought their babies with them, but they had a simple and effective method of relieving themselves of the care of the infants as soon as they reached the church. The papooses, who were strapped to their boards, were hung like a garment on the back wall of the building by a hole in the top of the board, which projected above their heads. Each papoose usually had a bit of fat pork tied to the end of a string fastened to its wrist, and with these sources of nourishment the infants occupied themselves pleasantly while the sermon was in progress. Frequently the pork slipped down the throat of the papoose, but the struggle of the child and the jerking of its hands in the strangulation that followed pulled the piece safely out again. As I faced the congregation I also faced the papooses, to whom the indifferent backs of their mothers were presented; it seemed to me there was never a time when some papoose was not choking, but no matter how much excitement or discomfort was going on among the babies, not one squaw turned her head to look back at them. In that assemblage the emotions were not allowed to interrupt the calm intellectual enjoyment of the sermon.
My most dramatic experience during this period occurred in the summer of 1874, when I went to a Northern lumber-camp to preach in the pulpit of a minister who was away on his honeymoon. The stage took me within twenty-two miles of my destination, to a place called Seberwing. To my dismay, however, when I arrived at Seberwing, Saturday evening, I found that the rest of the journey lay through a dense woods, and that I could reach my pulpit in time the next morning only by having some one drive me through the woods that night. It was not a pleasant prospect, for I had heard appalling tales of the stockades in this region and of the women who were kept prisoners there. But to miss the engagement was not to be thought of, and when, after I had made several vain efforts to find a driver, a man appeared in a two-seated wagon and offered to take me to my destination, I felt that I had to go with him, though I did not like his appearance. He was a huge, muscular person, with a protruding jaw and a singularly evasive eye; but I reflected that his forbidding expression might be due, in part at least, to the prospect of the long night drive through the woods, to which possibly he objected as much as I did.
It was already growing dark when we started, and within a few moments we were out of the little settlement and entering the woods. With me I had a revolver I had long since learned to use, but which I very rarely carried. I had hesitated to bring it now—had even left home without it; and then, impelled by some impulse I never afterward ceased to bless, had returned for it and dropped it into my hand-bag.
I sat on the back seat of the wagon, directly behind the driver, and for a time, as we entered the darkening woods, his great shoulders blotted out all perspective as he drove on in stolid silence. Then, little by little, they disappeared like a rapidly fading negative. The woods were filled with Norway pines, hemlocks, spruce, and tamaracks-great, somber trees that must have shut out the light even on the brightest days. To-night the heavens held no lamps aloft to guide us, and soon the darkness folded around us like a garment. I could see neither the driver nor his horses. I could hear only the sibilant whisper of the trees and the creak of our slow wheels in the rough forest road.
Suddenly the driver began to talk, and at first I was glad to hear the reassuring human tones, for the experience had begun to seem like a bad dream. I replied readily, and at once regretted that I had done so, for the man's choice of topics was most unpleasant. He began to tell me stories of the stockades—grim stories with horrible details, repeated so fully and with such gusto that I soon realized he was deliberately affronting my ears. I checked him and told him I could not listen to such talk.
He replied with a series of oaths and shocking vulgarities, stopping his horses that he might turn and fling the words into my face. He ended by snarling that I must think him a fool to imagine he did not know the kind of woman I was. What was I doing in that rough country, he demanded, and why was I alone with him in those black woods at night?
Though my heart missed a beat just then, I tried to answer him calmly.
"You know perfectly well who I am," I reminded him. "And you understand that I am making this journey to-night because I am to preach to-morrow morning and there is no other way to keep my appointment."
He uttered a laugh which was a most unpleasant sound.
"Well," he said, coolly, "I'm damned if I'll take you. I've got you here, and I'm going to keep you here!"
I slipped my hand into the satchel in my lap, and it touched my revolver. No touch of human fingers ever brought such comfort. With a deep breath of thanksgiving I drew it out and cocked it, and as I did so he recognized the sudden click.
"Here! What have you got there?" he snapped.
"I have a revolver," I replied, as steadily as I could. "And it is cocked and aimed straight at your back. Now drive on. If you stop again, or speak, I'll shoot you."
For an instant or two he blustered.
"By God," he cried, "you wouldn't dare."
"Wouldn't I?" I asked. "Try me by speaking just once more."
Even as I spoke I felt my hair rise on my scalp with the horror of the moment, which seemed worse than any nightmare a woman could experience. But the man was conquered by the knowledge of the waiting, willing weapon just behind him. He laid his whip savagely on the backs of his horses and they responded with a leap that almost knocked me out of the wagon.
The rest of the night was a black terror I shall never forget. He did not speak again, nor stop, but I dared not relax my caution for an instant. Hour after hour crawled toward day, and still I sat in the unpierced darkness, the revolver ready. I knew he was inwardly raging, and that at any instant he might make a sudden jump and try to get the revolver away from me. I decided that at his slightest movement I must shoot. But dawn came at last, and just as its bluish light touched the dark tips of the pines we drove up to the log hotel in the settlement that was our destination. Here my driver spoke.
"Get down," he said, gruffly. "This is the place."
I sat still. Even yet I dared not trust him. Moreover, I was so stiff after my vigil that I was not sure I could move.
"You get down," I directed, "and wake up the landlord. Bring him out here."
He sullenly obeyed and aroused the hotel-owner, and when the latter appeared I climbed out of the wagon with some effort but without explanation. That morning I preached in my friend's pulpit as I had promised to do, and the rough building was packed to its doors with lumbermen who had come in from the neighboring camp. Their appearance caused great surprise, as they had never attended a service before. They formed a most picturesque congregation, for they all wore brilliant lumber-camp clothing—blue or red shirts with yellow scarfs twisted around their waists, and gay-colored jackets and logging-caps. There were forty or fifty of them, and when we took up our collection they responded with much liberality and cheerful shouts to one another.
"Put in fifty cents!" they yelled across the church. "Give her a dollar!"
The collection was the largest that had been taken up in the history of the settlement, but I soon learned that it was not the spiritual comfort I offered which had appealed to the lumber-men. My driver of the night before, who was one of their number, had told his pals of his experience, and the whole camp had poured into town to see the woman minister who carried a revolver.
"Her sermon?" said one of them to my landlord, after the meeting. "Huh! I dunno what she preached. But, say, don't make no mistake about one thing: the little preacher has sure got grit!"
IV. THE WOLF AT THE DOOR
When I returned to Albion College in the autumn of 1875 I brought with me a problem which tormented me during my waking hours and chattered on my pillow at night. Should I devote two more years of my vanishing youth to the completion of my college course, or, instead, go at once to Boston University, enter upon my theological studies, take my degree, and be about my Father's business?
I was now twenty-seven years old, and I had been a licensed preacher for three years. My reputation in the Northwest was growing, and by sermons and lectures I could certainly earn enough to pay the expenses of the full college course. On the other hand, Boston was a new world. There I would be alone and practically penniless, and the opportunities for work might be limited. Quite possibly in my final two years at Albion I could even save enough money to make the experience in Boston less difficult, and the clear common sense I had inherited from my mother reminded me that in this course lay wisdom. Possibly it was some inheritance from my visionary father which made me, at the end of three months, waive these sage reflections, pack my few possessions, and start for Boston, where I entered the theological school of the university in February, 1876.
It was an instance of stepping off a solid plank and into space; and though there is exhilaration in the sensation, as I discovered then and at later crises in life when I did the same thing, there was also an amount of subsequent discomfort for which even my lively imagination had not prepared me. I went through some grim months in Boston—months during which I learned what it was to go to bed cold and hungry, to wake up cold and hungry, and to have no knowledge of how long these conditions might continue. But not more than once or twice during the struggle there, and then only for an hour or two in the physical and mental depression attending malnutrition, did I regret coming. At that period of my life I believed that the Lord had my small personal affairs very much on His mind. If I starved and froze it was His test of my worthiness for the ministry, and if He had really chosen me for one of His servants, He would see me through. The faith that sustained me then has still a place in my life, and existence without it would be an infinitely more dreary affair than it is. But I admit that I now call upon the Lord less often and less imperatively than I did before the stern years taught me my unimportance in the great scheme of things.
My class at the theological school was composed of forty-two young men and my unworthy self, and before I had been a member of it an hour I realized that women theologians paid heavily for the privilege of being women. The young men of my class who were licensed preachers were given free accommodations in the dormitory, and their board, at a club formed for their assistance, cost each of them only one dollar and twenty-five cents a week. For me no such kindly provision was made. I was not allowed a place in the dormitory, but instead was given two dollars a week to pay the rent of a room outside. Neither was I admitted to the economical comforts of the club, but fed myself according to my income, a plan which worked admirably when there was an income, but left an obvious void when there was not.
With characteristic optimism, however, I hired a little attic room on Tremont Street and established myself therein. In lieu of a window the room offered a pale skylight to the February storms, and there was neither heat in it nor running water; but its possession gave me a pleasant sense of proprietorship, and the whole experience seemed a high adventure. I at once sought opportunities to preach and lecture, but these were even rarer than firelight and food. In Albion I had been practically the only licensed preacher available for substitute and special work. In Boston University's three theological classes there were a hundred men, each snatching eagerly at the slightest possibility of employment; and when, despite this competition, I received and responded to an invitation to preach, I never knew whether I was to be paid for my services in cash or in compliments. If, by a happy chance, the compensation came in cash, the amount was rarely more than five dollars, and never more than ten. There was no help in sight from my family, whose early opposition to my career as a minister had hotly flamed forth again when I started East. I lived, therefore, on milk and crackers, and for weeks at a time my hunger was never wholly satisfied. In my home in the wilderness I had often heard the wolves prowling around our door at night. Now, in Boston, I heard them even at high noon.
There is a special and almost indescribable depression attending such conditions. No one who has not experienced the combination of continued cold, hunger, and loneliness in a great, strange, indifferent city can realize how it undermines the victim's nerves and even tears at the moral fiber. The self-humiliation I experienced was also intense. I had worked my way in the Northwest; why could I not work my way in Boston? Was there, perhaps, some lack in me and in my courage? Again and again these questions rose in my mind and poisoned my self-confidence. The one comfort I had in those black days was the knowledge that no one suspected the depth of the abyss in which I dwelt. We were all struggling; to the indifferent glance—and all glances were indifferent—my struggle was no worse than that of my classmates whose rooms and frugal meals were given them.
After a few months of this existence I was almost ready to believe that the Lord's work for me lay outside of the ministry, and while this fear was gripping me a serious crisis came in my financial affairs. The day dawned when I had not a cent, nor any prospect of earning one. My stock of provisions consisted of a box of biscuit, and my courage was flowing from me like blood from an opened vein. Then came one of the quick turns of the wheel of chance which make for optimism. Late in the afternoon I was asked to do a week of revival work with a minister in a local church, and when I accepted his invitation I mentally resolved to let that week decide my fate. My shoes had burst open at the sides; for lack of car-fare I had to walk to and from the scene of my meetings, though I had barely strength for the effort. If my week of work brought me enough to buy a pair of cheap shoes and feed me for a few days I would, I decided, continue my theological course. If it did not, I would give up the fight.
Never have I worked harder or better than during those seven days, when I put into the effort not only my heart and soul, but the last flame of my dying vitality, We had a rousing revival—one of the good old-time affairs when the mourners' benches were constantly filled and the air resounded with alleluias. The excitement and our success, mildly aided by the box of biscuit, sustained me through the week, and not until the last night did I realize how much of me had gone into this final desperate charge of mine. Then, the service over and the people departed, I sank, weak and trembling, into a chair, trying to pull myself together before hearing my fate in the good-night words of the minister I had assisted. When he came to me and began to compliment me on the work I had done, I could not rise. I sat still and listened with downcast eyes, afraid to lift them lest he read in them something of my need and panic in this moment when my whole future seemed at stake.
At first his words rolled around the empty church as if they were trying to get away from me, but at last I began to catch them. I was, it seemed, a most desirable helper. It had been a privilege and a pleasure to be associated with me. Beyond doubt, I would go far in my career. He heartily wished that he could reward me adequately. I deserved fifty dollars.
My tired heart fluttered at this. Probably my empty stomach fluttered, too; but in the next moment something seemed to catch my throat and stop my breath. For it appeared that, notwithstanding the enthusiasm and the spiritual uplift of the week, the collections had been very disappointing and the expenses unusually heavy. He could not give me fifty dollars. He could not give me anything at all. He thanked me warmly and wished me good night.
I managed to answer him and to get to my feet, but that journey down the aisle from my chair to the church door was the longest journey I have ever made. During it I felt not only the heart-sick disappointment of the moment, but the cumulative unhappiness of the years to come. I was friendless, penniless, and starving, but it was not of these conditions that I thought then. The one overwhelming fact was that I had been weighed and found wanting. I was not worthy.
I stumbled along, passing blindly a woman who stood on the street near the church entrance. She stopped me, timidly, and held out her hand. Then suddenly she put her arms around me and wept. She was an old lady, and I did not know her, but it seemed fitting that she should cry just then, as it would have seemed fitting to me if at that black moment all the people on the earth had broken into sudden wailing.
"Oh, Miss Shaw," she said, "I'm the happiest woman in the world, and I owe my happiness to you. To-night you have converted my grandson. He's all I have left, but he has been a wild boy, and I've prayed over him for years. Hereafter he is going to lead a different life. He has just given me his promise on his knees."
Her hand fumbled in her purse.
"I am a poor woman," she went on, "but I have enough, and I want to make you a little present. I know how hard life is for you young students."
She pressed a bill into my fingers. "It's very little," she said, humbly; "it is only five dollars."
I laughed, and in that exultant moment I seemed to hear life laughing with me. With the passing of the bill from her hand to mine existence had become a new experience, wonderful and beautiful.
"It's the biggest gift I have ever had," I told her. "This little bill is big enough to carry my future on its back!"
I had a good meal that night, and I bought the shoes the next morning. Infinitely more sustaining than the food, however, was the conviction that the Lord was with me and had given me a sign of His approval. The experience was the turning-point of my theological career. When the money was gone I succeeded in obtaining more work from time to time—and though the grind was still cruelly hard, I never again lost hope. The theological school was on Bromfield Street, and we students climbed three flights of stairs to reach our class-rooms. Through lack of proper food I had become too weak to ascend these stairs without sitting down once or twice to rest, and within a month after my experience with the appreciative grandmother I was discovered during one of these resting periods by Mrs. Barrett, the superintendent of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, which had offices in our building. She stopped, looked me over, and then invited me into her room, where she asked me if I felt ill. I assured her that I did not. She asked a great many additional questions and, little by little, under the womanly sympathy of them, my reserve broke down and she finally got at the truth, which until that hour I had succeeded in concealing. She let me leave without much comment, but the next day she again invited me into her office and came directly to the purpose of the interview.
"Miss Shaw," she said, "I have been talking to a friend of mine about you, and she would like to make a bargain with you. She thinks you are working too hard. She will pay you three dollars and a half a week for the rest of this school year if you will promise to give up your preaching. She wants you to rest, study, and take care of your health."
I asked the name of my unknown friend, but Mrs. Barrett said that was to remain a secret. She had been given a check for seventy-eight dollars, and from this, she explained, my allowance would be paid in weekly instalments. I took the money very gratefully, and a few years later I returned the amount to the Missionary Society; but I never learned the identity of my benefactor. Her three dollars and a half a week, added to the weekly two dollars I was allowed for room rent, at once solved the problem of living; and now that meal-hours had a meaning in my life, my health improved and my horizon brightened. I spent most of my evenings in study, and my Sundays in the churches of Phillips Brooks and James Freeman Clark, my favorite ministers. Also, I joined the university's praying-band of students, and took part in the missionary-work among the women of the streets. I had never forgotten my early friend in Lawrence, the beautiful "mysterious lady" who had loved me as a child, and, in memory of her, I set earnestly about the effort to help unfortunates of her class. I went into the homes of these women, followed them to the streets and the dance-halls, talked to them, prayed with them, and made friends among them. Some of them I was able to help, but many were beyond help; and I soon learned that the effective work in that field is the work which is done for women before, not after, they have fallen.
During my vacation in the summer of 1876 I went to Cape Cod and earned my expenses by substituting in local pulpits. Here, at East Dennis, I formed the friendship which brought me at once the greatest happiness and the deepest sorrow of that period of my life. My new friend was a widow whose name was Persis Addy, and she was also the daughter of Captain Prince Crowell, then the most prominent man in the Cape Cod community—a bank president, a railroad director, and a citizen of wealth, as wealth was rated in those days. When I returned to the theological school in the autumn Mrs. Addy came to Boston with me, and from that time until her death, two years later, we lived together. She was immensely interested in my work, and the friendly part she took in it diverted her mind from the bereavement over which she had brooded for years, while to me her coming opened windows into a new world. I was no longer lonely; and though in my life with her I paid my way to the extent of my small income, she gave me my first experience of an existence in which comfort and culture, recreation, and leisurely reading were cheerful commonplaces. For the first time I had some one to come home to, some one to confide in, some one to talk to, listen to, and love. We read together and went to concerts together; and it was during this winter that I attended my first theatrical performance. The star was Mary Anderson, in "Pygmalion and Galatea," and play and player charmed me so utterly that I saw them every night that week, sitting high in the gallery and enjoying to the utmost the unfolding of this new delight. It was so glowing a pleasure that I longed to make some return to the giver of it; but not until many years afterward, when I met Madame Navarro in London, was I able to tell her what the experience had been and to thank her for it.
I did not long enjoy the glimpses into my new world, for soon, and most tragically, it was closed to me. In the spring following our first Boston winter together Mrs. Addy and I went to Hingham, Massachusetts, where I had been appointed temporary pastor of the Methodist Church. There Mrs. Addy was taken ill, and as she grew steadily worse we returned to Boston to live near the best available physicians, who for months theorized over her malady without being able to diagnose it. At last her father, Captain Crowell, sent to Paris for Dr. Brown-Sequard, then the most distinguished specialist of his day, and Dr. Brown-Sequard, when he arrived and examined his patient, discovered that she had a tumor on the brain. She had had a great shock in her life—the tragic death of her husband at sea during their wedding tour around the world—and it was believed that her disease dated from that time. Nothing could be done for her, and she failed daily during our second year together, and died in March, 1878, just before I finished my theological course and while I was still temporary pastor of the church at Hingham. Every moment I could take from my parish and my studies I spent with her, and those were sorrowful months. In her poor, tortured brain the idea formed that I, not she, was the sick person in our family of two, and when we were at home together she insisted that I must lie down and let her nurse me; then for hours she brooded over me, trying to relieve the agony she believed I was experiencing. When at last she was at peace her father and I took her home to Cape Cod and laid her in the graveyard of the little church where we had met at the beginning of our brief and beautiful friendship; and the subsequent loneliness I felt was far greater than any I had ever suffered in the past, for now I had learned the meaning of companionship.
Three months after Mrs. Addy's death I graduated. She had planned to take me abroad, and during our first winter together we had spent countless hours talking and dreaming of our European wanderings. When she found that she must die she made her will and left me fifteen hundred dollars for the visit to Europe, insisting that I must carry out the plan we had made; and during her conscious periods she constantly talked of this and made me promise that I would go. After her death it seemed to me that to go without her was impossible. Everything of beauty I looked upon would hold memories of her, keeping fresh my sorrow and emphasizing my loneliness; but it was her last expressed desire that I should go, and I went.
First, however, I had graduated—clad in a brandnew black silk gown, and with five dollars in my pocket, which I kept there during the graduation exercises. I felt a special satisfaction in the possession of that money, for, notwithstanding the handicap of being a woman, I was said to be the only member of my class who had worked during the entire course, graduated free from debt, and had a new outfit as well as a few dollars in cash.
I graduated without any special honors. Possibly I might have won some if I had made the effort, but my graduation year, as I have just explained, had been very difficult. As it was, I was merely a good average student, feeling my isolation as the only woman in my class, but certainly not spurring on my men associates by the display of any brilliant gifts. Naturally, I missed a great deal of class fellowship and class support, and throughout my entire course I rarely entered my class-room without the abysmal conviction that I was not really wanted there. But some of the men were goodhumoredly cordial, and several of them are among my friends to-day. Between myself and my family there still existed the breach I had created when I began to preach. With the exception of Mary and James, my people openly regarded me, during my theological course, as a dweller in outer darkness, and even my mother's love was clouded by what she felt to be my deliberate and persistent flouting of her wishes.
Toward the end of my university experience, however, an incident occurred which apparently changed my mother's viewpoint. She was now living with my sister Mary, in Big Rapids, Michigan, and, on the occasion of one of my rare and brief visits to them I was invited to preach in the local church. Here, for the first time, my mother heard me. Dutifully escorted by one of my brothers, she attended church that morning in a state of shivering nervousness. I do not know what she expected me to do or say, but toward the end of the sermon it became clear that I had not justified her fears. The look of intense apprehension left her eyes, her features relaxed into placidity, and later in the day she paid me the highest compliment I had yet received from a member of my family.
"I liked the sermon very much," she peacefully told my brother. "Anna didn't say anything about hell, or about anything else!"
When we laughed at this handsome tribute, she hastened to qualify it.
"What I mean," she explained, "is that Anna didn't say anything objectionable in the pulpit!" And with this recognition I was content.
Between the death of my friend and my departure for Europe I buried myself in the work of the university and of my little church; and as if in answer to the call of my need, Mary E. Livermore, who had given me the first professional encouragement I had ever received, re-entered my life. Her husband, like myself, was pastor of a church in Hingham, and whenever his finances grew low, or there was need of a fund for some special purpose—conditions that usually exist in a small church—his brilliant wife came to his assistance and raised the money, while her husband retired modestly to the background and regarded her with adoring eyes. On one of these occasions, I remember, when she entered the pulpit to preach her sermon, she dropped her bonnet and coat on an unoccupied chair. A little later there was need of this chair, and Mr. Livermore, who sat under the pulpit, leaned forward, picked up the garments, and, without the least trace of selfconsciousness, held them in his lap throughout the sermon. One of the members of the church, who appeared to be irritated by the incident, later spoke of it to him and added, sardonically, "How does it feel to be merely 'Mrs. Livermore's husband'?"
In reply Mr. Livermore flashed on him one of his charming smiles. "Why, I'm very proud of it," he said, with the utmost cheerfulness. "You see, I'm the only man in the world who has that distinction."
They were a charming couple, the Livermores, and they deserved far more than they received from a world to which they gave so freely and so richly. To me, as to others, they were more than kind; and I never recall them without a deep feeling of gratitude and an equally deep sense of loss in their passing.
It was during this period, also, that I met Frances E. Willard. There was a great Moody revival in progress in Boston, and Miss Willard was the righthand assistant of Mr. Moody. To her that revival must have been marked with a star, for during it she met for the first time Miss Anna Gordon, who became her life-long friend and her biographer. The meetings also laid the foundation of our friendship, and for many years Miss Willard and I were closely associated in work and affection.
On the second or third night of the revival, during one of the "mixed meetings," attended by both women and men, Mr. Moody invited those who were willing to talk to sinners to come to the front. I went down the aisle with others, and found a seat near Miss Willard, to whom I was then introduced by some one who knew us both. I wore my hair short in those days, and I had a little fur cap on my head. Though I had been preaching for several years, I looked absurdly young—far too young, it soon became evident, to interest Mr. Moody. He was already moving about among the men and women who had responded to his invitation, and one by one he invited them to speak, passing me each time until at last I was left alone. Then he took pity on me and came to my side to whisper kindly that I had misunderstood his invitation. He did not want young girls to talk to his people, he said, but mature women with worldly experience. He advised me to go home to my mother, adding, to soften the blow, that some time in the future when there were young girls at the meeting I could come and talk to them.
I made no explanations to him, but started to leave, and Miss Willard, who saw me departing, followed and stopped me. She asked why I was going, and I told her that Mr. Moody had sent me home to grow. Frances Willard had a keen sense of humor, and she enjoyed the joke so thoroughly that she finally convinced me it was amusing, though at first the humor of it had escaped me. She took me back to Mr. Moody and explained the situation to him, and he apologized and put me to work. He said he had thought I was about sixteen. After that I occasionally helped him in the intervals of my other work.
The time had come to follow Mrs. Addy's wishes and go to Europe, and I sailed in the month of June following my graduation, and traveled for three months with a party of tourists under the direction of Eben Tourgee, of the Boston Conservatory of Music. We landed in Glasgow, and from there went to England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, and last of all to Italy. Our company included many clergymen and a never-to-be-forgotten widow whose light-hearted attitude toward the memory of her departed spouse furnished the comedy of our first voyage. It became a pet diversion to ask her if her husband still lived, for she always answered the question in the same mournful words, and with the same manner of irrepressible gaiety.
"Oh no!" she would chirp. "My dear departed has been in our Heavenly Father's house for the past eight years!"
At its best, the vacation without my friend was tragically incomplete, and only a few of its incidents stand out with clearness across the forty-six years that have passed since then. One morning, I remember, I preached an impromptu sermon in the Castle of Heidelberg before a large gathering; and a little later, in Genoa, I preached a very different sermon to a wholly different congregation. There was a gospel-ship in the harbor, and one Saturday the pastor of it came ashore to ask if some American clergyman in our party would preach on his ship the next morning. He was an old-time, orthodox Presbyterian, and from the tips of his broad-soled shoes to the severe part in the hair above his sanctimonious brow he looked the type. I was not present when he called at our hotel, and my absence gave my fellow-clergymen an opportunity to play a joke on the gentleman from the gospel-ship. They assured him that "Dr. Shaw" would preach for him, and the pastor returned to his post greatly pleased. When they told me of his invitation, however, they did not add that they had neglected to tell him Dr. Shaw was a woman, and I was greatly elated by the compliment I thought had been paid me.
Our entire party of thirty went out to the gospelship the next morning, and when the pastor came to meet us, lank and forbidding, his austere lips vainly trying to curve into a smile of welcome, they introduced me to him as the minister who was to deliver the sermon. He had just taken my hand; he dropped it as if it had burned his own. For a moment he had no words to meet the crisis. Then he stuttered something to the effect that the situation was impossible that his men would not listen to a woman, that they would mob her, that it would be blasphemous for a woman to preach. My associates, who had so light-heartedly let me in for this unpleasant experience, now realized that they must see me through it. They persuaded him to allow me to preach the sermon.
With deep reluctance the pastor finally accepted me and the situation; but when the moment came to introduce me, he devoted most of his time to heartfelt apologies for my presence. He explained to the sailors that I was a woman, and fervidly assured them that he himself was not responsible for my appearance there. With every word he uttered he put a brick in the wall he was building between me and the crew, until at last I felt that I could never get past it. I was very unhappy, very lonely, very homesick; and suddenly the thought came to me that these men, notwithstanding their sullen eyes and forbidding faces, might be lonely and homesick, too. I decided to talk to them as a woman and not as a minister, and I came down from the pulpit and faced them on their own level, looking them over and mentally selecting the hardest specimens of the lot as the special objects of my appeal. One old fellow, who looked like a pirate with his red-rimmed eyes, weather-beaten skin, and fimbriated face, grinned up at me in such sardonic challenge that I walked directly in front of him and began to speak. I said:
"My friends, I hope you will forget everything Dr. Blank has just said. It is true that I am a minister, and that I came here to preach. But now I do not intend to preach—only to have a friendly talk, on a text which is not in the Bible. I am very far from home, and I feel as homesick as some of you men look. So my text is, 'Blessed are the homesick, for they shall go home.'"
In my summers at Cape Cod I had learned something about sailors. I knew that in the inprepossessing congregation before me there were many boys who had run away from home, and men who had left home because of family troubles. I talked to the young men first, to those who had forgotten their mothers and thought their mothers had forgotten them, and I told of my experiences with waiting, heavy-hearted mothers who had sons at sea. Some heads went down at that, and here and there I saw a boy gulp, but the old fellow I was particularly anxious to move still grinned up at me like a malicious monkey. Then I talked of the sailor's wife, and of her double burden of homemaking and anxiety, and soon I could pick out some of the husbands by their softened faces. But still my old man grinned and squinted. Last of all I described the whalers who were absent from home for years, and who came back to find their children and their grandchildren waiting for them. I told how I had seen them, in our New England coast towns, covered, as a ship is covered with barnacles, by grandchildren who rode on their shoulders and sat astride of their necks as they walked down the village streets. And now at last the sneer left my old man's loose lips. He had grandchildren somewhere. He twisted uneasily in his seat, coughed, and finally took out a big red handkerchief and wiped his eyes. The episode encouraged me.
"When I came here," I added, "I intended to preach a sermon on 'The Heavenly Vision.' Now I want to give you a glimpse of that in addition to the vision we have had of home."
I ended with a bit of the sermon and a prayer, and when I raised my head the old man of the sardonic grin was standing before me.
"Missus," he said in a husky whisper, "I'd like to shake your hand."
I took his hard old fist, and then, seeing that many of the other sailors were beginning to move hospitably but shyly toward me, I said:
"I would like to shake hands with every man here."
At the words they surged forward, and the affair became a reception, during which I shook hands with every sailor of my congregation. The next day my hand was swollen out of shape, for the sailors had gripped it as if they were hauling on a hawser; but the experience was worth the discomfort. The best moment of the morning came, however, when the pastor of the ship faced me, goggle-eyed and marveling.
"I wouldn't have believed it," was all he could say. "I thought the men would mob you."
"Why should they mob me?" I wanted to know.
"Why," he stammered, "because the thing is so—so—unnatural."
"Well," I said, "if it is unnatural for women to talk to men, we have been living in an unnatural world for a long time. Moreover, if it is unnatural, why did Jesus send a woman out as the first preacher?"
He waived a discussion of that question by inviting us all to his cabin to drink wine with him—and as we were "total abstainers," it seemed as unnatural to us to have him offer us wine as a woman's preaching had seemed to him.
The next European incident on which memory throws a high-light was our audience with Pope Leo XIII. As there were several distinguished Americans in our party, a private audience was arranged for us, and for days before the time appointed we nervously rehearsed the etiquette of the occasion. When we reached the Vatican we were marched between rows of Swiss Guards to the Throne Room, only to learn there that we were to be received in the Tapestry Room. Here we found a very impressive assemblage of cardinals and Vatican officials, and while we were still lost in the beauty of the picture they made against the room's superb background, the approach of the Pope was announced. Every one immediately knelt, except a few persons who tried to show their democracy by standing; but I am sure that even these individuals felt a thrill when the slight, exquisite figure appeared at the door and gave us a general benediction. Then the Pope passed slowly down the line, offering his hand to each of us, and radiating a charm so gracious and so human that few failed to respond to the appeal of his engaging personality. There was nothing fleshly about Leo XIII. His body was so frail, so wraithlike, that one almost expected to see through it the magnificent tapestries on the walls. But from the moment he appeared every eye clung to him, every thought was concentrated upon him. This effect I think he would have produced even if he had come among us unrecognized, for through the thin shell that housed it shone the steady flame of a wonderful spirit.
I had previously remarked to my friends that kissing the Pope's ring after so many other lips had touched it did not appeal to me as hygienic, and that I intended to kiss his hand instead. When my opportunity came I kept my word; but after I had kissed the venerable hand I remained kneeling for an instant with bowed head, a little aghast at my daring. The gentle Father thought, however, that I was waiting for a special blessing. He gave it to me gravely and passed on, and I devoted the next few hours to ungodly crowing over the associates who had received no such individual attention.
In Venice we attended the great fete celebrating the first visit of King Humbert and Queen Margherita. It was also the first time Venice had entertained a queen since the Italian union, and the sea-queen of the Adriatic outdid herself in the gorgeousness and the beauty of her preparations. The Grand Canal was like a flowing rainbow, reflecting the brilliant decorations on every side, and at night the moonlight, the music, the chiming church-bells, the colored lanterns, the gay voices, the lapping waters against the sides of countless gondolas made the experience seem like a dream of a new and unbelievably beautiful world. Forty thousand persons were gathered in the Square of St. Mark and in front of the Palace, and I recall a pretty incident in which the gracious Queen and a little street urchin figured. The small, ragged boy had crept as close to the royal balcony as he dared, and then, unobserved, had climbed up one of its pillars. At the moment when a sudden hush had fallen on the crowd this infant, overcome by patriotism and a glimpse of the royal lady on the balcony above him, suddenly piped up shrilly in the silence. "Long live the Queen!" he cried. "Long live the Queen!"
The gracious Margherita heard the childish voice, and, amused and interested, leaned over the balcony to see where it came from. What she saw doubtless touched the mother-heart in her. She caught the eye of the tattered urchin clinging to the pillar, and radiantly smiled on him. Then, probably thinking that the King was absorbing the attention of the great assemblage, she indulged in a little diversion. Leaning far forward, she kissed the tip of her lace handkerchief and swept it caressingly across the boy's brown cheek, smiling down at him as unconsciously as if she and the enraptured youngster were alone together in the world. The next instant she had straightened up and flushed, for the watchful crowd had seen the episode and was wild with enthusiasm. For ten minutes the people cheered the Queen without ceasing, and for the next few days they talked of little but the spontaneous, girlish action which had delighted them all.
One more sentimental record, and I shall have reached another mile-stone. As I have said, my friend Mrs. Addy left me in her will fifteen hundred dollars for my visit to Europe, and before I sailed her father, who was one of the best friends I have ever had, made a characteristically kind proposition in connection with the little fund. Instead of giving me the money, he gave me two railroad bonds, one for one thousand dollars, the other for five hundred dollars, and each drawing seven per cent. interest. He suggested that I deposit these bonds in the bank of which he was president, and borrow from the bank the money to go abroad. Then, when I returned and went into my new parish, I could use some of my salary every month toward repaying the loan. These monthly payments, he explained, could be as small as I wished, but each month the interest on the amount I paid would cease. I gladly took his advice and borrowed seven hundred dollars. After I returned from Europe I repaid the loan in monthly instalments, and eventually got my bonds, which I still own. They will mature in 1916. I have had one hundred and five dollars a year from them, in interest, ever since I received them in 1878—more than twice as much interest as their face value—and every time I have gone abroad I have used this interest toward paying my passage. Thus my friend has had a share in each of the many visits I have made to Europe, and in all of them her memory has been vividly with me.
With my return from Europe my real career as a minister began. The year in the pulpit at Hingham had been merely tentative, and though I had succeeded in building up the church membership to four times what it had been when I took charge, I was not reappointed. I had paid off a small church debt, and had had the building repaired, painted, and carpeted. Now that it was out of its difficulties it offered some advantages to the occupant of its pulpit, and of these my successor, a man, received the benefit. I, however, had small ground for complaint, for I was at once offered and accepted the pastorate of a church at East Dennis, Cape Cod. Here I went in October, 1878, and here I spent seven of the most interesting years of my life.
V. SHEPHERD OF A DIVIDED FLOCK
On my return from Europe, as I have said, I took up immediately and most buoyantly the work of my new parish. My previous occupation of various pulpits, whether long or short, had always been in the role of a substitute. Now, for the first time, I had a church of my own, and was to stand or fall by the record made in it. The ink was barely dry on my diploma from the Boston Theological School, and, as it happened, the little church to which I was called was in the hands of two warring factions, whose battles furnished the most fervid interest of the Cape Cod community. But my inexperience disturbed me not at all, and I was blissfully ignorant of the division in the congregation. So I entered my new field as trustfully as a child enters a garden; and though I was in trouble from the beginning, and resigned three times in startling succession, I ended by remaining seven years.
My appointment did not cause even a lull in the warfare among my parishioners. Before I had crossed the threshold of my church I was made to realize that I was shepherd of a divided flock. Exactly what had caused the original breach I never learned; but it had widened with time, until it seemed that no peacemaker could build a bridge large enough to span it. As soon as I arrived in East Dennis each faction tried to pour into my ears its bitter criticisms of the other, but I made and consistently followed the safe rule of refusing to listen to either side, I announced publicly that I would hear no verbal charges whatever, but that if my two flocks would state their troubles in writing I would call a board meeting to discuss and pass upon them. This they both resolutely refused to do (it was apparently the first time they had ever agreed on any point); and as I steadily declined to listen to complaints, they devised an original method of putting them before me.
During the regular Thursday-night prayer-meeting, held about two weeks after my arrival, and at which, of course, I presided, they voiced their difficulties in public prayer, loudly and urgently calling upon the Lord to pardon such and such a liar, mentioning the gentleman by name, and such and such a slanderer, whose name was also submitted. By the time the prayers were ended there were few untarnished reputations in the congregation, and I knew, perforce, what both sides had to say.
The following Thursday night they did the same thing, filling their prayers with intimate and surprising details of one another's history, and I endured the situation solely because I did not know how to meet it. I was still young, and my theological course had set no guide-posts on roads as new as these. To interfere with souls in their communion with God seemed impossible; to let them continue to utter personal attacks in church, under cover of prayer, was equally impossible. Any course I could follow seemed to lead away from my new parish, yet both duty and pride made prompt action necessary. By the time we gathered for the third prayermeeting I had decided what to do, and before the services began I rose and addressed my erring children. I explained that the character of the prayers at our recent meetings was making us the laughingstock of the community, that unbelievers were ridiculing our religion, and that the discipline of the church was being wrecked; and I ended with these words, each of which I had carefully weighed:
"Now one of two things must happen. Either you will stop this kind of praying, or you will remain away from our meetings. We will hold prayermeetings on another night, and I shall refuse admission to any among you who bring personal criticisms into your public prayers."
As I had expected it to do, the announcement created an immediate uproar. Both factions sprang to their feet, trying to talk at once. The storm raged until I dismissed the congregation, telling the members that their conduct was an insult to the Lord, and that I would not listen to either their protests or their prayers. They went unwillingly, but they went; and the excitement the next day raised the sick from their beds to talk of it, and swept the length and breadth of Cape Cod. The following Sunday the little church held the largest attendance in its history. Seemingly, every man and woman in town had come to hear what more I would say about the trouble, but I ignored the whole matter. I preached the sermon I had prepared, the subject of which was as remote from church quarrels as our atmosphere was remote from peace, and my congregation dispersed with expressions of such artless disappointment that it was all I could do to preserve a dignified gravity.
That night, however, the war was brought into my camp. At the evening meeting the leader of one of the factions rose to his feet with the obvious purpose of starting trouble. He was a retired sea-captain, of the ruthless type that knocks a man down with a belaying-pin, and he made his attack on me in a characteristically "straight from the shoulder" fashion. He began with the proposition that my morning sermon had been "entirely contrary to the Scriptures," and for ten minutes he quoted and misquoted me, hammering in his points. I let him go on without interruption. Then he added:
"And this gal comes to this church and undertakes to tell us how we shall pray. That's a highhanded measure, and I, for one, ain't goin' to stand it. I want to say right here that I shall pray as I like, when I like, and where I like. I have prayed in this heavenly way for fifty years before that gal was born, and she can't dictate to me now!"
By this time the whole congregation was aroused, and cries of "Sit down!" "Sit down!" came from every side of the church. It was a hard moment, but I was able to rise with some show of dignity. I was hurt through and through, but my fighting blood was stirring.
"No," I said, "Captain Sears has the floor. Let him say now all he wishes to say, for it is the last time he will ever speak at one of our meetings."
Captain Sears, whose exertions had already made him apoplectic, turned a darker purple. "What's that?" he shouted. "What d'ye mean?"
"I mean," I replied, "that I do not intend to allow you or anybody else to interfere with my meetings. You are a sea-captain. What would you do to me if I came on board your ship and started a mutiny in your crew, or tried to give you orders?"
Captain Sears did not reply. He stood still, with his legs far apart and braced, as he always stood when talking, but his eyes shifted a little. I answered my own question.
"You would put me ashore or in irons," I reminded him. "Now, Captain Sears, I intend to put you ashore. I am the master of this ship. I have set my course, and I mean to follow it. If you rebel, either you will get out or I will. But until the board asks for my resignation, I am in command."
As it happened, I had put my ultimatum in the one form the old man could understand. He sat down without a word and stared at me. We sang the Doxology, and I dismissed the meeting. Again we had omitted prayers. The next day Captain Sears sent me a letter recalling his subscription toward the support of the church; and for weeks he remained away from our services, returning under conditions I will mention later. Even at the time, however, his attack helped rather than hurt me. At the regular meeting the following Thursday night no personal criticisms were included in the prayers, and eventually we had peace. But many battles were lost and won before that happy day arrived.
Captain Sears's vacant place among us was promptly taken by another captain in East Dennis, whose name was also Sears. A few days after my encounter with the first captain I met the second on the street. He had never come to church, and I stopped and invited him to do so. He replied with simple candor.
"I ain't comin'," he told me. "There ain't no gal that can teach me nothin'."
"Perhaps you are wrong, Captain Sears," I replied. "I might teach you something."
"What?" demanded the captain, with chilling distrust.
"Oh," I said, cheerfully, "let us say tolerance, for one thing."
"Humph!" muttered the old man. "The Lord don't want none of your tolerance, and neither do I."
I laughed. "He doesn't object to tolerance," I said. "Come to church. You can talk, too; and the Lord will listen to us both."
To my surprise, the captain came the following Sunday, and during the seven years I remained in the church he was one of my strongest supporters and friends. I needed friends, for my second battle was not slow in following my first. There was, indeed, barely time between in which to care for the wounded.
We had in East Dennis what was known as the "Free Religious Group," and when some of the members of my congregation were not wrangling among themselves, they were usually locking horns with this group. For years, I was told, one of the prime diversions of the "Free Religious" faction was to have a dance in our town hall on the night when we were using it for our annual church fair. The rules of the church positively prohibited dancing, so the worldly group took peculiar pleasure in attending the fair, and during the evening in getting up a dance and whirling about among us, to the horror of our members. Then they spent the remainder of the year boasting of the achievement. It came to my ears that they had decided to follow this pleasing programme at our Christmas church celebration, so I called the church trustees together and put the situation to them.
"We must either enforce our discipline," I said, "or give it up. Personally I do not object to dancing, but, as the church has ruled against it, I intend to uphold the church. To allow these people to make us ridiculous year after year is impossible. Let us either tell them that they may dance or that they may not dance; but whatever we tell them, let us make them obey our ruling."
The trustees were shocked at the mere suggestion of letting them dance.
"Very well," I ended. "Then they shall not dance. That is understood."
Captain Crowell, the father of my dead friend Mrs. Addy, and himself my best man friend, was a strong supporter of the Free Religious Group. When its members raced to him with the news that I had said they could not dance at the church's Christmas party, Captain Crowell laughed goodhumoredly and told them to dance as much as they pleased, cheerfully adding that he would get them out of any trouble they got into. Knowing my friendship for him, and that I even owed my church appointment to him, the Free Religious people were certain that I would never take issue with him on dancing or on any other point. They made all their preparations for the dance, therefore, with entire confidence, and boasted that the affair would be the gayest they had ever arranged. My people began to look at me with sympathy, and for a time I felt very sorry for myself. It seemed sufficiently clear that "the gal" was to have more trouble.
On the night of the party things went badly from the first. There was an evident intention among the worst of the Free Religious Group to embarrass us at every turn. We opened the exercises with the Lord's Prayer, which this element loudly applauded. A live kitten was hung high on the Christmas tree, where it squalled mournfully beyond reach of rescue, and the young men of the outside group threw cake at one another across the hall. Finally tiring of these innocent diversions, they began to prepare for their dance, and I protested. The spokesman of the group waved me to one side.
"Captain Crowell said we could," he remarked, airily.
"Captain Crowell," I replied, "has no authority whatever in this matter. The church trustees have decided that you cannot dance here, and I intend to enforce their ruling."
It was interesting to observe how rapidly the men of my congregation disappeared from that hall. Like shadows they crept along the walls and vanished through the doors. But the preparations for the dance went merrily on. I walked to the middle of the room and raised my voice. I was always listened to, for my hearers always had the hope, usually realized, that I was about to get into more trouble.
"You are determined to dance," I began. "I cannot keep you from doing so. But I can and will make you regret that you have done so. The law of the State of Massachusetts is very definite in regard to religious meetings and religious gatherings. This hall was engaged and paid for by the Wesleyan Methodist Church, of which I am pastor, and we have full control of it to-night. Every man and woman who interrupts our exercises by attempting to dance, or by creating a disturbance of any kind, will be arrested to-morrow morning."
Surprise at first, then consternation, swept through the ranks of the Free Religious Group. They denied the existence of such a law as I had mentioned, and I promptly read it aloud to them. The leaders went off into a corner and consulted. By this time not one man in my parish was left in the hall. As a result of the consultation in the corner, a committee of the would-be dancers came to me and suggested a compromise.
"Will you agree to arrest the men only?" they wanted to know.
"No," I declared. "On the contrary, I shall have the women arrested first! For the women ought to be standing with me now in the support of law and order, instead of siding with the hoodlum element you represent."
That settled it. No girl or woman dared to go on the dancing-floor, and no man cared to revolve merrily by himself. A whisper went round, however, that the dance would begin when I had left. When the clock struck twelve, at which hour, according to the town rule, the hall had to be closed, I was the last person to leave it. Then I locked the door myself, and carried the key away with me. There had been no Free Religious dance that night.
On the following Sunday morning the attendance at my church broke all previous records. Every seat was occupied and every aisle was filled. Men and women came from surrounding towns, and strange horses were tied to all the fences in East Dennis. Every person in that church was looking for excitement, and this time my congregation got what it expected. Before I began my sermon I read my resignation, to take effect at the discretion of the trustees. Then, as it was presumably my last chance to tell the people and the place what I thought of them, I spent an hour and a half in fervidly doing so. In my study of English I had acquired a fairly large vocabulary. I think I used it all that morning—certainly I tried to. If ever an erring congregation and community saw themselves as they really were, mine did on that occasion. I was heartsick, discouraged, and full of resentment and indignation, which until then had been pent up. Under the arraignment my people writhed and squirmed. I ended:
"What I am saying hurts you, but in your hearts you know you deserve every word of it. It is high time you saw yourselves as you are—a disgrace to the religion you profess and to the community you live in."
I was not sure the congregation would let me finish, but it did. My hearers seemed torn by conflicting sentiments, in which anger and curiosity led opposing sides. Many of them left the church in a white fury, but others—more than I had expected—remained to speak to me and assure me of their sympathy. Once on the streets, different groups formed and mingled, and all day the little town rocked with arguments for and against "the gal."
Night brought another surprisingly large attendance. I expected more trouble, and I faced it with difficulty, for I was very tired. Just as I took my place in the pulpit, Captain Sears entered the church and walked down the aisle—the Captain Sears who had left us at my invitation some weeks before and had not since attended a church service. I was sure he was there to make another attack on me while I was down, and, expecting the worst, I wearily gave him his opportunity. The big old fellow stood up, braced himself on legs far apart, as if he were standing on a slippery deck during a high sea, and gave the congregation its biggest surprise of the year.
He said he had come to make a confession. He had been angry with "the gal" in the past, as they all knew. But he had heard about the sermon she had preached that morning, and this time she was right. It was high time quarreling and backbiting were stopped. They had been going on too long, and no good could come of them. Moreover, in all the years he had been a member of that congregation he had never until now seen the pulpit occupied by a minister with enough backbone to uphold the discipline of the church. "I've come here to say I'm with the gal," he ended. "Put me down for my original subscription and ten dollars extra!"
So we had the old man back again. He was a tower of strength, and he stood by me faithfully until he died. The trustees would not accept my resignation (indeed, they refused to consider it at all), and the congregation, when it had thought things over, apparently decided that there might be worse things in the pulpit than "the gal." It was even known to brag of what it called my "spunk," and perhaps it was this quality, rather than any other, which I most needed in that particular parish at that time. As for me, when the fight was over I dropped it from my mind, and it had not entered my thoughts for years, until I began to summon these memories.
At the end of my first six months in East Dennis I was asked to take on, also, the temporary charge of the Congregational Church at Dennis, two miles and a half away. I agreed to do this until a permanent pastor could be found, on condition that I should preach at Dennis on Sunday afternoons, using the same sermon I preached in my own pulpit in the morning. The arrangement worked so well that it lasted for six and a half years—until I resigned from my East Dennis church. During that period, moreover, I not only carried the two churches on my shoulders, holding three meetings each Sunday, but I entered upon and completed a course in the Boston Medical School, winning my M.D. in 1885, and I also lectured several times a month during the winter seasons. These were, therefore, among the most strenuous as well as the most interesting years of my existence, and I mention the strain of them only to prove my life-long contention, that congenial work, no matter how much there is of it, has never yet killed any one!
After my battle with the Free Religious Group things moved much more smoothly in the parish. Captain Crowell, instead of resenting my defiance of his ruling, helped to reconcile the divided factions in the church; and though, as I have said, twice afterward I submitted my resignation, in each case the fight I was making was for a cause which I firmly believed in and eventually won. My second resignation was brought about by the unwillingness of the church to have me exchange pulpits with the one minister on Cape Cod broad-minded enough to invite me to preach in his pulpit. I had done so, and had then sent him a return invitation. He was a gentleman and a scholar, but he was also a Unitarian; and though my people were willing to let me preach in his church, they were loath to let him preach in mine. After a surprising amount of discussion my resignation put a different aspect on the matter; it also led to the satisfactory ruling that I could exchange pulpits not only with this minister, but with any other in good standing in his own church.
My third resignation went before the trustees in consequence of my protest from the pulpit against a small drinking and gambling saloon in East Dennis; which was rapidly demoralizing our boys. Theoretically, only "soft drinks" were sold, but the gambling was open, and the resort was constantly filled with boys of all ages. There were influences back of this place which tried to protect it, and its owner was very popular in the town. After my first sermon I was waited upon by a committee, that warmly advised me to "let East Dennis alone" and confine my criticisms "to saloons in Boston and other big towns." As I had nothing to do with Boston, and much to do with East Dennis, I preached on that place three Sundays in succession, and feeling became so intense that I handed in my resignation and prepared to depart. Then my friends rallied and the resort was suppressed.
That was my last big struggle. During the remaining five years of my pastorate on Cape Cod the relations between my people and myself were wholly harmonious and beautiful. If I have seemed to dwell too much on these small victories, it must be remembered that I find in them such comfort as I can. I have not yet won the great and vital fight of my life, to which I have given myself, heart and soul, for the past thirty years—the campaign for woman suffrage. I have seen victories here and there, and shall see more. But when the ultimate triumph comes—when American women in every state cast their ballots as naturally as their husbands do—I may not be in this world to rejoice over it.
It is interesting to remember that during the strenuous period of the first few months in East Dennis, and notwithstanding the division in the congregation, we women of the church got together and repainted and refurnished the building, raising all the money and doing much of the work ourselves, as the expense of having it done was prohibitive. We painted the church, and even cut down and modernized the pulpit. The total cost of material and furniture was not half so great as the original estimate had indicated, and we had learned a valuable lesson. After this we spent very little money for labor, but did our own cleaning, carpet-laying, and the like; and our little church, if I may be allowed to say so, was a model of neatness and good taste.
I have said that at the end of two years from the time of my appointment the long-continued warfare in the church was ended. I was not immediately allowed, however, to bask in an atmosphere of harmony, for in October, 1880, the celebrated contest over my ordination took place at the Methodist Protestant Conference in Tarrytown, New York; and for three days I was a storm-center around which a large number of truly good and wholly sincere men fought the fight of their religious lives. Many of them strongly believed that women were out of place in the ministry. I did not blame them for this conviction. But I was in the ministry, and I was greatly handicapped by the fact that, although I was a licensed preacher and a graduate of the Boston Theological School, I could not, until I had been regularly ordained, meet all the functions of my office. I could perform the marriage service, but I could not baptize. I could bury the dead, but I could not take members into my church. That had to be done by the presiding elder or by some other minister. I could not administer the sacraments. So at the New England Spring Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held in Boston in 1880, I formally applied for ordination. At the same time application was made by another woman—Miss Anna Oliver—and as a preliminary step we were both examined by the Conference board, and were formally reported by that board as fitted for ordination. Our names were therefore presented at the Conference, over which Bishop Andrews presided, and he immediately refused to accept them. Miss Oliver and I were sitting together in the gallery of the church when the bishop announced his decision, and, while it staggered us, it did not really surprise us. We had been warned of this gentleman's deep-seated prejudice against women in the ministry.
After the services were over Miss Oliver and I called on him and asked him what we should do. He told us calmly that there was nothing for us to do but to get out of the Church. We reminded him of our years of study and probation, and that I had been for two years in charge of two churches. He set his thin lips and replied that there was no place for women in the ministry, and, as he then evidently considered the interview ended, we left him with heavy hearts. While we were walking slowly away, Miss Oliver confided to me that she did not intend to leave the Church. Instead, she told me, she would stay in and fight the matter of her ordination to a finish. I, however, felt differently. I had done considerable fighting during the past two years, and my heart and soul were weary. I said: "I shall get out, I am no better and no stronger than a man, and it is all a man can do to fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, without fighting his Church as well. I do not intend to fight my Church. But I am called to preach the gospel; and if I cannot preach it in my own Church, I will certainly preach it in some other Church!"
As if in response to this outburst, a young minister named Mark Trafton soon called to see me. He had been present at our Conference, he had seen my Church refuse to ordain me, and he had come to suggest that I apply for ordination in his Church—the Methodist Protestant. To leave my Church, even though urged to do so by its appointed spokesman, seemed a radical step. Before taking this I appealed from the decision of the Conference to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which held its session that year in Cincinnati, Ohio. Miss Oliver also appealed, and again we were both refused ordination, the General Conference voting to sustain Bishop Andrews in his decision. Not content with this achievement, the Conference even took a backward step. It deprived us of the right to be licensed as local preachers. After this blow I recalled with gratitude the Reverend Mark Trafton's excellent advice, and I immediately applied for ordination in the Methodist Protestant Church. My name was presented at the Conference held in Tarrytown in October, 1880, and the fight was on.
During these Conferences it is customary for each candidate to retire while the discussion of his individual fitness for ordination is in progress. When my name came up I was asked, as my predecessors had been, to leave the room for a few moments. I went into an anteroom and waited—a half-hour, an hour, all afternoon, all evening, and still the battle raged. I varied the monotony of sitting in the anteroom by strolls around Tarrytown, and I think I learned to know its every stone and turn. The next day passed in the same way. At last, late on Saturday night, it was suddenly announced by my opponents that I was not even a member of the Church in which I had applied for ordination. The statement created consternation among my friends. None of us had thought of that! The bomb, timed to explode at the very end of the session, threatened to destroy all my hopes. Of course, my opponents had reasoned, it would be too late for me to do anything, and my name would be dropped.
But it was not too late. Dr. Lyman Davis, the pastor of the Methodist Protestant Church in Tarrytown, was very friendly toward me and my ordination, and he proved his friendship in a singularly prompt and efficient fashion. Late as it was, he immediately called together the trustees of his church, and they responded. To them I made my application for church membership, which they accepted within five minutes. I was now a member of the Church, but it was too late to obtain any further action from the Conference. The next day, Sunday, all the men who had applied for ordination were ordained, and I was left out.
On Monday morning, however, when the Conference met in its final business session, my case was reopened, and I was eventually called before the members to answer questions. Some of these were extremely interesting, and several of the episodes that occurred were very amusing. One old gentleman I can see as I write. He was greatly excited, and he led the opposition by racing up and down the aisles, quoting from the Scriptures to prove his case against women ministers. As he ran about he had a trick of putting his arms under the back of his coat, making his coat-tails stand out like wings and incidentally revealing two long white tapestrings belonging to a flannel undergarment. Even in the painful stress of those hours I observed with interest how beautifully those tape-strings were ironed!
I was there to answer any questions that were asked of me, and the questions came like hailstones in a sudden summer storm.
"Paul said, 'Wives, obey your husbands,'" shouted my old man of the coat-tails. "Suppose your husband should refuse to allow you to preach? What then?"
"In the first place," I answered, "Paul did not say so, according to the Scriptures. But even if he did, it would not concern me, for I am a spinster."
The old man looked me over. "You might marry some day," he predicted, cautiously.
"Possibly," I admitted. "Wiser women than I am have married. But it is equally possible that I might marry a man who would command me to preach; and in that case I want to be all ready to obey him."
At this another man, a bachelor, also began to draw from the Scriptures. "An elder," he quoted, "shall be the husband of one wife." And he demanded, triumphantly, "How is it possible for you to be the husband of a wife?"
In response to that I quoted a bit myself. "Paul said, 'Anathema unto him who addeth to or taketh from the Scriptures,'" I reminded this gentleman; and added that a twisted interpretation of the Scriptures was as bad as adding to or taking from them, and that no one doubted that Paul was warning the elders against polygamy. Then I went a bit further, for by this time the absurd character of the questions was getting on my nerves.
"Even if my good brother's interpretation is correct," I said, "he has overlooked two important points. Though he is an elder, he is also a bachelor; so I am as much of a husband as he is!"
A good deal of that sort of thing went on. The most satisfactory episode of the session, to me, was the downfall of three pert young men who in turn tried to make it appear that as the duty of the Conference was to provide churches for all its pastors, I might become a burden to the Church if it proved impossible to provide a pastorate for me. At that, one of my friends in the council rose to his feet.
"I have had official occasion to examine into the matter of Miss Shaw's parish and salary," he said, "and I know what salaries the last three speakers are drawing. It may interest the Conference to know that Miss Shaw's present salary equals the combined salaries of the three young men who are so afraid she will be a burden to the Church. If, before being ordained, she can earn three times as much as they now earn after being ordained, it seems fairly clear that they will never have to support her. We can only hope that she will never have to support them."
The three young ministers subsided into their seats with painful abruptness, and from that time my opponents were more careful in their remarks. Still, many unpleasant things were said, and too much warmth was shown by both sides. We gained ground through the day, however, and at the end of the session the Conference, by a large majority, voted to ordain me.
The ordination service was fixed for the following evening, and even the gentlemen who had most vigorously opposed me were not averse to making the occasion a profitable one. The contention had already enormously advertised the Conference, and the members now helped the good work along by sending forth widespread announcements of the result. They also decided that, as the attendance at the service would be very large, they would take up a collection for the support of superannuated ministers. The three young men who had feared I would become a burden were especially active in the matter of this collection; and, as they had no sense of humor, it did not seem incongruous to them to use my ordination as a means of raising money for men who had already become burdens to the Church.
When the great night came (on October 12, 1880), the expected crowd came also. And to the credit of my opponents I must add that, having lost their fight, they took their defeat in good part and gracefully assisted in the services. Sitting in one of the front pews was Mrs. Stiles, the wife of Dr. Stiles, who was superintendent of the Conference. She was a dear little old lady of seventy, with a big, maternal heart; and when she saw me rise to walk up the aisle alone, she immediately rose, too, came to my side, offered me her arm, and led me to the altar.
The ordination service was very impressive and beautiful. Its peace and dignity, following the battle that had raged for days, moved me so deeply that I was nearly overcome. Indeed, I was on the verge of a breakdown when I was mercifully saved by the clause in the discipline calling for the pledge all ministers had to make—that I would not indulge in the use of tobacco. When this vow fell from my lips a perceptible ripple ran over the congregation.
I was homesick for my Cape Cod parish, and I returned to East Dennis immediately after my ordination, arriving there on Saturday night. I knew by the suppressed excitement of my friends that some surprise awaited me, but I did not learn what it was until I entered my dear little church the following morning. There I found the communion-table set forth with a beautiful new communion-service. This had been purchased during my absence, that I might dedicate it that day and for the first time administer the sacrament to my people.
VI. CAPE COD MEMORIES
Looking back now upon those days, I see my Cape Cod friends as clearly as if the intervening years had been wiped out and we were again together. Among those I most loved were two widely differing types—Captain Doane, a retired sea-captain, and Relief Paine, an invalid chained to her couch, but whose beautiful influence permeated the community like an atmosphere. Captain Doane was one of the finest men I have ever known—highminded, tolerant, sympathetic, and full of understanding, He was not only my friend, but my church barometer. He occupied a front pew, close to the pulpit; and when I was preaching without making much appeal he sat looking me straight in the face, listening courteously, but without interest. When I got into my subject, he would lean forward—the angle at which he sat indicating the degree of attention I had aroused—and when I was strongly holding my congregation Brother Doane would bend toward me, following every word I uttered with corresponding motions of his lips. When I resigned we parted with deep regret, but it was not until I visited the church several years afterward that he overcame his reserve enough to tell me how much he had felt my going.
"Oh, did you?" I asked, greatly touched. "You're not saying that merely to please me?"
The old man's hand fell on my shoulder. "I miss you," he said, simply. "I miss you all the time. You see, I love you." Then, with precipitate selfconsciousness, he closed the door of his New England heart, and from some remote corner of it sent out his cautious after-thought. "I love you," he repeated, primly, "as a sister in the Lord."
Relief Paine lived in Brewster. Her name seemed prophetic, and she once told me that she had always considered it so. Her brother-in-law was my Sunday-school superintendent, and her family belonged to my church. Very soon after my arrival in East Dennis I went to see her, and found her, as she always was, dressed in white and lying on a tiny white bed covered with pansies, in a room whose windows overlooked the sea. I shall never forget the picture she made. Over her shoulders was an exquisite white lace shawl brought from the other side of the world by some seafaring friend, and against her white pillow her hair seemed the blackest I had ever seen. When I entered she turned and looked toward me with wonderful dark eyes that were quite blind, and as she talked her hands played with the pansies around her. She loved pansies as she loved few human beings, and she knew their colors by touching them. She was then a little more than thirty years of age. At sixteen she had fallen downstairs in the dark, receiving an injury that paralyzed her, and for fifteen years she had lain on one side, perfectly still, the Stella Maris of the Cape. All who came to her, and they were many, went away the better for the visit, and the mere mention of her name along the coast softened eyes that had looked too bitterly on life.
Relief and I became close friends. I was greatly drawn to her, and deeply moved by the tragedy of her situation, as well as by the beautiful spirit with which she bore it. During my first visit I regaled her with stories of the community and of my own experiences, and when I was leaving it occurred to me that possibly I had been rather frivolous. So I said:
"I am coming to see you often, and when I come I want to do whatever will interest you most. Shall I bring some books and read to you?"
Relief smiled—the gay, mischievous little smile I was soon to know so well, but which at first seemed out of place on the tragic mask of her face.
"No, don't read to me," she decided. "There are enough ready to do that. Talk to me. Tell me about our life and our people here, as they strike you." And she added, slowly: "You are a queer minister. You have not offered to pray with me!"