|CHAPTER VI. -- MARRIAGE AND DISAPPOINTED HOPES--RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA -- --A STRANGER IN NEW YORK--MOTHER JONES' HELP--DEATH -- OF MY FATHER.|
The minute she shut the door I turned the key and ran into the bed-room and got on my knees and prayed, "O, Lord, sanctify my soul and give me enduring grace. O, Lord, sanctify my soul and give me enduring grace."
Oh! how I struggled and wept and prayed. I threw myself on the floor, on my face, then I got up and walked up and down the room, wrung my hands, pulled my hair and cried, "O, Lord, sanctify my soul and give me enduring grace."
I thought if I could only get it before James came home at night, for I could never go through another night like last night, then I would cry, "O, Lord, sanctify my soul and give me enduring grace." So I went on for an hour, and when I got through I did not have the great blessing; God had prepared a better way. I was in such distress that I never thought about faith; I was taken up with my desire and distress when seeking the blessing. Well, I did not get it then, of course, for faith without works is dead, so works, without real faith in God, are dead also.
"I struggled and wrestled to win it,
The blessing that setteth me free,
But when I had ceased all my struggle,
This peace Jesus gave unto me."
In this connection I will give a brief account of the closing years of my father's life, as doubtless some may desire to know how he who had fought the battle of life so bravely met the last great enemy--death.
After my mother's death my father married again, but his second marriage was not as congenial as the first, and father had got older, and was not patient and forbearing as he ought to have been; and mother's people and children and grandchildren all lived in Baltimore, so that she would be away often for months at a time. Father was old-fashioned, and did not like some of the new methods in church, such as fairs and festivals and the like; so that in speaking against these things, and not in the mildest spirit. I fear, he offended the pastor of the church he belonged to; it was the African Zion Church, called Big Wesley, in Philadelphia, on Lombard street, below Sixth. He was a class leader, but he had incurred the displeasure of the pastor and the people mostly; so
The Quakers had a mission on St. Mary's street, for the colored people, and they did a great deal of good, and father used to go there 'regularly; he seemed to enjoy it; they were plain and very kind; they manifested such a kind spirit towards all the colored people, and looked after the poor so nicely in the winter time. There were large and good Bible classes, and they had excellent teachers. But notwithstanding all this, my father had lost his spiritual life. Oh! how it grieved me to think of it. I wept and prayed for him, and would talk to him sometimes when he would let me; but the old-time people did not want much talk from the children; so I had to be very careful.
After the Lord had sanctified by soul, my burden for my poor father increased! Oh, how sad! I wept, and it seemed that the Lord 'must save him anyhow, whether or no. But, oh! how I learned that we cannot do anything by trying to drive God. He cannot be driven. "But, oh!" I said, "It is my dear father I want saved, and the Lord can and must save him."
He was working at that time on a large and high building, and I was so afraid if he were to fall and be crippled, or killed; I could not bear to think of it. So I prayed more fervently. One day I had an awful test while I was praying for him in New York; he was in Philadelphia; and it came to me, "Would you be willing for your father to be lost?" Oh! my blood seemed to curdle at the thought; how I did cry to God. Then it came, "Suppose it was God's will, could you submit?"
"Oh! Lord," I cried, "You made him, and he is yours, and you have a right to do with your own what you please; but oh! save my father."
Then it came, "Suppose you were to hear that he had fallen off that building and was injured for life?" Just then it seemed I saw him fall, and saw the men bring him home, all mangled and bleeding. Oh! what horror! I held my breath, for it seemed it was really so.
"I cannot bear the thought of seeing him suffer," I said. "But, oh, Lord, if there is no other way, then let Thy will be done." And I let go of father and took hold of God; and though I cannot tell how, I rested so sweetly in God. His justice is right. His love is right. Two years after this passed away before my father
I had been home to Philadelphia on a visit, and I had father come around one night to tea before I left; he seemed so changed and different from what he had been; he had been sick for several days, but not in bed. I was not there when he died. The morning he died; he got up as usual, was very weak, but dressed himself, put on all his Sunday clothes, went out and took a walk, came back and read his Bible, and then said to my sister, "I feel so weak, I think I will go upstairs and lie down." And they went up a little while after, and she saw he was dying; not a struggle or a groan. I never had an anxious thought about him from the time I sank down into the will of God. What else ought we to do, when we bring our friends, but to sink into the will of God, and put them into His hands, and trust Him? Amen. Amen.
I had three brothers in the late war. My youngest brother came home sick, and died in the hospital at Harrisburg, in September, '62. I did not hear of his sickness until it was too late. I went at once, but when I got there he was dead and buried two days or more. Oh, what a blow it was to me! He was my favorite brother. He was home on a furlough with his captain, and came to see me. He and I had talked of trying to buy a little home for father. He was rather wild and I wanted him to save his money and send it to me, and I would put mine with it. Poor boy! I wondered why he didn't write after he went away. But he was taken with smallpox and died, and I never saw him again. I saw the men that were with him while he was sick and dying, and his grave; that is all, till the morning of the Resurrection.
My next brother, Samuel Grafton, served three years. He lived at Towanda, Pa., and about a year ago he was drowned.
My oldest brother, William Talbert, served two years in the war, and died about eight or nine months ago at York, Pa. How glad I was that I went to see them all before I went to Africa, and talked and prayed with them, and helped them all I could. Out of a large family of thirteen children, two sisters and myself are all that are living. One of my sisters lives in Brooklyn, N. Y., and the other in San Francisco, Cal.
But I return to the story of my experiences in New York.
The rent in York street was high. We got a room on Broom
When my baby was three weeks old I took a situation with a person that seemed to be a real lady; she gave me three dollars a week, with my baby. I had not been in the house long before I saw it was the wrong place. Several girls passing back and forth through the kitchen and laughing and behaving so rudely, I saw that they were not straight. Oh! how sad. I had gone for a week until she could get some one. What shall I do, shall I go? I need the money and I said I will stay this week, so I told the madame I would stay only for a week. She said she was sorry, but if I would only stay she would give me more wages. I told her she must get some one, I could not stay, I would go when my week was up; so when the day came she stayed out of the kitchen all day, and sent orders. Then she went out pretending to look for some one; got back very late, sent word if I would stay till the next day she would pay me, some one had promised to come, so she went on for several days. One night I waited until nine o'clock; I sent up for the money; she wanted me to stay till morning; I said I will not stay in this house another night, I will leave here to-night if it is not till twelve o'clock. She sent the money, not as she promised, but with cursing. I was glad to take what I got and get out. I went to a friend, Mrs. N., on Sullivan street, and stayed all night; I slept but little. She had a house full of washing, but little room, so she made me a bed on an ironing board and two chairs. Next morning while my baby slept,
There was a carpet on the floor, a good sized stove, a bedstead, three chairs, a table and a lamp. I ran away and got my poor baby and was soon back. It was rather damp and I had never lived in a basement before in my life, but I soon had a good fire, and then when my husband came he was glad and sent the things, what few we had, and in a week or two I began to feel quite at home. Persons began to bring in washing to me, a half dozen, then a dozen, etc., and so I went on. After the first two months Sister A. wanted the carpet off the floor; a day or two later she wanted the table. All right, I said, it was rather inconvenient, but still I gave it. Another month's rent paid. Two or three days after she wanted the mattress off the bed, and I said, "Sister A., you let the basement furnished for six dollars a month."
"Well," she said, "I can get more than that for it, and I want the mattress."
"All right," I said, and gave it to her. Then I began to guess what New York sharpers meant. Next thing was a chair, then the next was the stove. She said she had a good chance to sell it. I begged her then to let me have the stove a little longer, and in time the Lord helped me and I got a stove. In the meantime some one moved out from the upstairs. I told James, and we moved upstairs. Four rooms at eight dollars a month. I kept two and rented out the two attic rooms, so that helped to pay my rent. Then I began to get in some families' washing and was getting on very nicely, so much better to be upstairs and out of the damp basement, and I was happy. Then a shadow. Little Tom Henry, my baby, was taken sick, and after several weeks of
I still went on with my washing. Many nights I have stood at my wash-tub all night, from six in the morning till six the next morning, and so at my ironing table, night and day. I would get so sleepy I could hardly stand on my feet, then I would lean my head on the window ledge and sleep a little till the first deep sleep would pass off, then I would work on till daylight with perfect ease. I had to use all the economy I could, and I knew just how much ironing I could do with a ten cent pail of coal. If I lay down I would oversleep myself, and my fire would burn out, and my coal would be gone. I worked hard day and night, did all I could to help my husband, but he was one of those poor unfortunate dispositions that are hard to satisfy, and many a day and night my poor heart ached as I wept and prayed God to help me:
In the next rooms to me, on the same floor, a Mrs. J. lived; she was an old Philadelphian. She had known my husband, and I thought as she was an old Philadelphian, and she seemed so nice, I would have a true friend who would sympathize with me and help me. How often when we are passing through deep trials we look for human sympathy, and lean on the human more than on God. In this I have always failed; but still I had to learn by experience. She was a widow. She and her daughter lived together. I was as kind as I could be, and did all I could for her poor daughter when she was ill. Mrs. J. and I had the same landlady, Mrs. Bowen. She lived in the front house just above Sixth avenue on Amity street. She was far from being a Christian woman, but was kind and lenient about her rent.
We paid her, not always the first day of the month. She would take a dollar at a time just as she could get it and say nothing. Christmas time came. Mrs. B. sent over to ask Mrs. Johnson to come in and cook her Christmas dinner, and she would let it go on the rent, as she was behind, and so it would help her. Mrs. J. said she would do it, but in the evening another party came for Mrs. J. and paid her the cash, notwithstanding she had promised Mrs. B. she would go. She sent her daughter to Mrs. B. and she went where she would get the cash. This displeased Mrs. B. very much, when she considered how lenient she had
I tried to talk to her as best I could, and told her to see Mrs. J. and not put her out; it might be she would pay up all her back rent. No, she would go to Jefferson Market and have a notice sent her to move.
"Wait," I said, "till she comes home to-night and hear what she says." So when Mrs. J. came I told her she had better go in and see Mrs. B. and not have her send the notice; but to my surprise Mrs. J. was quite spunky, and said if she wanted to send her a notice she could do so.
"Well, Johnson," I said, "you know Mrs. B. has been very kind, and I think you ought to go in anyhow and tell her why you did not come;" but she did not; so Mrs. B. had her summoned before the court of Jefferson Market. Saturday morning came. I had a large basket of gentlemen's shirts to iron. Mrs. J. came in and asked me if I would go to court with her. I said, "J., I have to get these shirts home by one o'clock; the gentleman in going away and I have promised, and if I go with you I can't do it." A friend of Mrs. J.'s was there, and I said, "Charlotte, can't you go?"
"Yes," she said, "I am going."
"O," I said, "then you don't need me; there is no use of so many going." She said, "yes."
I went to my work, and thought when they came back they would tell me how they came out; but no, neither of them came near. When I met Mrs. J. in the evening I said, "Good evening, Mrs. J., is that you?" She did not speak. I was dumbfounded. I said, "That is Mrs. J., I know; but what is the matter?" A week passed. She went and came, and one evening as I was coming in I walked up to her and took hold of her and said, "But say, Johnson, what is the matter?" She pulled away from me, but never spoke a word.
O, how vexed I was at myself. I said the idea of my forcing people to speak to me when they don't want to, and I have done nothing to them. "I will never speak to her again while I live," I said. For two years after, God only knows what I had to undergo through that woman.
She had succeeded in paying up the back rent, and Mrs. Bowen was kind enough to let her stay. She lived next door to
A Sister Brown, to whom I had let my two rooms upstairs, and Mrs. J. got to be very special friends. In the spring I went out house-cleaning, and often when I would come home from work Mrs. B. would come in to talk and have a great story to tell me about what Mrs. Johnson said. I said nothing. I knew if I opened my mouth that both of those dear sisters would wish they were miles away. I prayed God not to let me speak; so one day I got home about four o'clock; a little while after Sister B. came in, so kind, apparently. After talking, she began about what Mrs. Johnson said. I said, "Look here, Sister B., I have no objections if Sister Johnson and you talk about me all you like. I work hard, and though I live beside Mrs. Johnson, I don't live off of her. I I don't owe her a cent"--(and she did owe me, for she had borrowed money from me and never has paid it yet). I said, "You must never tell me anything she says again while you live. I am next door to Mrs. Johnson, and if she wants me to know these things she must tell me herself."
These sisters were both in my own church. So poor Sister B. took offense at what I said and moved into Mrs. Johnson's. Mrs. Johnson moved into her two attic rooms and let Mrs. Brown have the lower rooms. I said nothing, but went on as if nothing had happened. My! what fine cronies they were; but it was not of long duration. After a few months Mrs. B. and Mrs. J. had a terrible falling out, and I had to take Mrs. B. to keep her from being set out in the street; and so had a chance to return good for evil. This greatly changed Mrs. B.'s spirit. We got on nicely till they were able to suit themselves better. Amid all this my soul cried out after God. I would talk to my husband, but he had no sympathy with holiness. He had had advantages far above me, and was far more intelligent. He would always want to argue on this subject, and I could not keep up on that line and it would
"No; they have got a young Irishman, just from the old country, a nephew of the cook who has lived in the family for a number of years, and they have taken him at fifteen dollars a month. He has been around me for two weeks, pretending he came to visit his aunt, but I see now he was only taking lessons how to manage the horses."
James got forty dollars, and a reduction to fifteen was a good deal in the employer's pocket. My heart throbbed. "O," I said, "if he should find out I prayed he would blame me," and I was afraid to talk much. He was like a fish out of water when he had no work. It was two weeks before he got a situation. Being a first-class coachman, he would not take less than forty dollars. Finally he got a situation at fifty dollars a month at New Utrecht, with a Mr. Roberts. He had only to drive twice a day. They had fine English horses, and they wanted them well cared for. They gave a comfortable house, rent free, two tons of coal for the winter, and a barrel of flour. This was the first of September. He went and wanted me to go, but having a right young baby I said, "No, James; I have got some nice families' washing in, and you go and try till spring, and I will save up and in the spring we will take a fresh start and we can have our garden and everything." But no, I must go right away. I reasoned every way I could, but he was determined I should go. At last I said, "James, I am afraid to go; you have done me so bad right here where I have just begun to get used to the people, and know how to turn around, and what will it be if I go there out in the country, no church near, and a stranger, and if I give up my washing what will I do? I can help myself a little now." But this did not please him, and I told him I would wait till spring. The landlady died, and a new landlord raised the rent,--thirteen dollars. He paid the rent, but would do no more. His daughter was married and lived in Philadelphia, so he sent for them to come on and live
One day while cleaning up my room I distinctly heard a voice say to me, "On Sunday morning go to Green Street Church and hear John Inskip."
"Yes," I said, "I will."
Then came such a quiet hush all over me, and I smiled. This was on Wednesday morning. So I went on thinking it over. Now, I was not definitely seeking the blessing as I had been. I thought when an opportunity offered and I could be baptized and come up to the Bible standard, then the Lord would have to sanctify me. How blind I was!