|CHAPTER XXIX. -- HOW I CAME TO TAKE LITTLE BOB--TEACHING HIM TO READ-- -- HIS CONVERSION--SOME OF HIS TRIALS, AND HOW HE MET -- THEM--BOB GOES TO SCHOOL.|
When I first went to Africa I saw there was much to do, and I felt I could do but little. At that time there was no real medical doctor within twenty or thirty miles of Monrovia. Of course there were plenty of patent medicines to be had, such as pills and quinine, and other helps. And then the natives helped in fever cases, and all kinds of sickness, by the use of herbs, which, when skillfully administered, as many know how to do, in my opinion are much better than doctors' medicines, except quinine.
But I had never been where a doctor could not be called in a case of emergency.
So I thought if I could get a nice little boy I would train him for a missionary, and a doctor as well. I saw how he might do much good. So I felt led to pray, and ask the Lord to open the way that I might get a boy.
I saw three boys that I liked. They lived in different Liberian families.
One was the son of a king, who lived with Mrs. Crusoe at Hartford. He was a nice lad, and I would have liked to have him.
Another was at Edina, Bassa. He lived with Mrs. Moore.
The other lived with Mrs. Horris, at Lower Buchanan, in Bassa.
They were very bright, smart boys, and only needed a little help, as I thought. But none of these parties would consent to my taking them. They wanted I should take a Liberian. But I did not feel led just that way, and I plead with them for one of the boys. But I could not get them; so then I gave it up. I thought the Lord knew my heart, and what I wanted to do was for His glory only.
In 1887, while at Cape Palmas, though I had given up all hope or desire of getting a boy, little Bob and a little playmate of his used to come to Mrs. Harmon's. They were very little fellows, and as I did my own housekeeping, and so often had bits of food left, I would call these children and give them to them. My! they were pleased; and I became very fond of them, and often would talk to them as best I could. I could not understand them so well as they could understand me. Ma Harmon could talk the Gredebo language just like a native, and they almost idolized Mr. Harmon. They knew they lost a true friend when he was taken.
Ma Harmon had told these children that they must always speak to me; say "Good morning, Mammy."
So one day I was going downtown, and little Bob and his friend were hanging on the gate as I passed. When they saw me coming they began shouting, "Good morning, Mammy! Good morning, Mammy!"
I went up and put my hand on Bob's head. I always admired him so much; he was so black, and his skin was so soft and smooth, like a kid glove.
"Well," I said, "are you fine boy to-day?"
He understood what I said.
"True, you be fine too much," I said.
To a native child that means everything we mean when we say, "You are a good boy," or a "nice boy."
My! they were so pleased. I had noticed, as I was passing, a man and woman who stood talking together; and when I had gone a few steps away the man called out, "Mammy!"
I turned, and he said, "Mammy," (for you must know that all foreigners and Liberians are called 'Mammy' and 'Daddy;' and in the sense it is used in America, one would feel like drawing up their shoulders sometimes; but when the natives use it, it is as we would use 'Mr.' and Mrs.'), "I want you to take that pick'n and teach him God palavar," pointing to little Bob. "Myself, I be fool; I no sabe God. I don't want my pick'n to be fool all same like myself."
"Jack," I said, "is that your pick'n?"
"For true? You be his daddy?"
"Yes. I want you to take him; all that place you live to
"Well, Jack," I said, "myself don't be well just now; dem fever humbug me too much. I be weak plenty. So when dat steamer live to catch here, with Bishop Taylor's missionaries, myself I go down the coast a little bit. Jack, why not give him to some of the Liberian people? He will teach him."
"No, Mammy," he said, "if you left him on his hand, he no sabe nothing."
And, strange as it may seem, there was much more truth than poetry in this statement.
This was on Tuesday; and on Saturday the looked for steamer arrived, with Bishop Taylor's second party of thirteen or more missionaries for the Congo.
I had been down with fever for three or four days, and was very weak. I hardly knew how to get ready. But the kind friends came in, and my old standby, Betty Tubman, and Rosetta Cole, took hold and helped me get my things together; and the dear old Bishop, God bless him, got hold of my trunk and helped out with it, then rolled up my things in the rug and carried them down, and I can hear him say now:
"Come on, Amanda."
Oh! but wasn't I weak! He saw and knew it, and I could see the great sympathy in his eyes. But, Oh! he did not know how much he helped me when he went ahead and said, "Now come on, Amanda." I said, "Lord, help me." And He did, and we reached the boat. They helped me in, and we were soon off to the steamer.
Now aboard the steamer. Thank God. How nice to see a lot of home folks, and all so happy. I seemed to gather strength. We had a pleasant time.
I was away for months, and returned with but little gained, if any; for my trip of seven days from Calabar to Cape Palmas was so sad that whatever I had gained I lost, and was so weak I could scarcely get out of the boat.
"Well," I said, "it is no use; I see I have got to go home."
For three years I had been planning and hoping, but could not seem to get clear light from above, and I was so sure God Himself had sent me to Africa that I felt I dare not leave without His permission; although the doctors at Lagos and old Calabar
I waited one week and no steamer stopped. Two weeks, three weeks, and no homeward steamer stopped. How tiresome. But then, what will you do? and what could you do?
I worked away, as usual, doing all I could by day and night. The latter part of the third week brought a letter, by an outward bound steamer, to Brother Pratt, Bishop Taylor's agent, that thirteen missionaries would be out soon, giving the date that they would leave Liverpool; and the Bishop had asked me to help Brother Pratt in looking after the missionaries when they arrived. Brother Pratt came to me and said;
"Now, Ma, you can't go. These missionaries are coming, and the Bishop said he wanted you to help get them settled."
So I felt that delay to me was of the Lord, though I seemed to be of so little use. But, though I say it myself, I really don't know what Brother Pratt or the missionaries would have done if it had not been for the little help I was able to give; and this, I believe, dear Miss Whitt field and Miss McNeil would say, too.
"Well," I said to Brother Pratt, "all right; I'm in for it."
So we went to planning as best we could. Jack was not home when we first got back. So I thought it was all over about taking the child. But one day I met Jack in the street.
"Mammy," he said, "howdy; I glad for see you. You be well now."
"Thank you, Jack, but myself don't be well. Weak, weak, all time."
"Mammy, I be sorry for you. You goin' take that pick'n?"
"Well, Jack, that boy be very small boy; he live to give somebody plenty trouble; small boy, so."
So I spoke to him in what we call broken English. He could speak it well, and understand it very well if you would break it up.
"You see, Jack, if I take him I must be all same as his mammy. All same like if I born him myself. My heart must be big like his own mammy's heart; and this fever bother me all time; so I am weak."
"Well," he said, with a sad face, "Mammy you promised to take him."
"Well, Jack, I go home; I look my head; then I will speak to God, and if my heart lay down I will call you."
So he said "all right," and went. Several times he came to see me to see if I had got light.
"No, not yet."
He and his wife came, and I still said "No."
So I said one night, "Now, Lord, this must be settled. I must say something to these people when they come again."
Then I prayed, and asked the Lord to show me His will in the matter. "Oh! Lord, Thou knowest I have no money to support this child if I take him; and I don't want to take the care and responsibility of this child, with nothing to help myself, or him. But if Thou dost want me to take him, and wilt make it clear that it is Thy will, and I should do it, it will be all right; and I know Thou wilt help me to take care of him. Now, Lord, make it clear what I must do. I will wait until Thou dost speak to me."
Then a few moments' quiet, as I knelt before Him. And these words came to me, clear:
"Is not Ethiopia stretching out her hands to God?"
"Cannot you help a little?"
"Lord, Thou knowest I am very weak, and I don't know what I can do."
Then these words came clear and distinct: "You do what you can, and where you leave off, God will raise up somebody to do the rest."
"Well," I said, "that is reasonable, and I will trust the Lord, and take the child, and do the best I can."
In a few days Jack and wife, Bob's own mother, came, and brought Bob; and they both signed the agreement, relinquishing all claims. Bishop Taylor and Betty Tubman were witnesses.
The following is a copy of the agreement:
Cape Palmas , February 16, 1888.
We, Jack Smart or Na we, his father, and We a de, his mother, do give our son, Bob, to Mrs. Amanda Smith to raise and educate as her own child. And we relinquish all claim to him from this time forth.
Jack Smart (his X mark).
We a de (her X mark).
Wm. Taylor , Bishop.Witnesses.Elizabeth Tubman ,
Now there was Bob; a little, naked heathen, but he was as happy as a prince.
His mother had given him his bath in the river; so I gave him a nice red kerchief to put on around his loins, and he was dressed! A day or two more, and I had made his first pants, out of a half yard of calico.
When he got them on, oh! if you had seen him strut! He was the proudest little darkey that ever got into pants, and calico at that!
Next thing was his lesson. Mrs. Margaret Davis, Foxrock, my ever faithful, untiring friend, has sent me a box, and in it were some A,B,C cards, and several little primers.
I had given them all away but one little primer, and one card; so I must begin my work at once; for I was so miserable I thought I could not live long, and the little I could do, I must do quickly. I prayed the Lord to help me, and bless Bob, and help him to learn quickly. I thought if I could get him so he could read the Bible for himself, that was about all I could hope to do.
In two weeks he could say his A,B, C's, and knew every letter.
One day he got a little stubborn, and did not want to say his lesson. I coaxed him, and reasoned, but he had "spottie" on him; he would not learn. I saw that would not help any. I thought, "Well, I cannot give it up now; so I must doctor him a little bit." So I went out and got a little switch; when he saw it he said;
"Oh! I can learn; I can say it."
"All right," I said; so he did; and his lesson was all right.
Now the next. I had no little spelling primers, nor could anything of the kind have been got in the republic anywhere, at that time, whatever there may be now. The little primer Mrs. Davis had sent was good, large reading, only. The first lesson began:
"God is good. He gives us our food every day."
Now Bob knew every letter when he saw it; so I had him use this book for a spelling book and a reader. After he would spell the word out, "G-o-d, i-s, g-o-o-d, h-e," etc., I would have him stand up on the floor, and I would give it out, "God," he would spell; "is," "good," and so on.
Finally, I told him he must learn to read. I would start off myself to show him what I meant; then I would say, "Now, go on."
He would begin, "G-o-"
"No, go on."
"Ah! that's right."
"Is," he would read.
"Ah! that's right. Go on."
I felt he caught the idea of what it was to read. And so he went on. And in six months he had learned to read a little, and spell most of the words, though he did not know what they all meant; but I stuck to him, and prayed the Lord to help him.
I do not know how old he was when I took him, as the natives do not keep dates, as we do. The only thing I had to go by was his teeth; a child is about six years old when he cuts his back teeth; he was just cutting his back teeth when I took him, so I thought he was about six years old.
He was short, and fat, and very strong. He had learned English remarkably fast, so that months before I brought him to England he had got so he could read in the Testament, and, at family prayers every morning, he and I would read verse about; and he could read almost as well as I could in the Testament when I brought him to England.
The people were astonished. They could hardly believe that a little while before, he was a little, raw, naked heathen, and could speak but two words of English when I took him: "Good morning, Mammy," and "Drink water."
When he would want a drink he would take hold of my dress, and lead me where he could see the pitcher or pail of water, then he would say, "Mammy, drink water."
Now, when all is considered, I don't believe there is a child in this country, born of Christian parents, that would have shown a capability beyond that child's. It is nonsense to say that a native African is not capable of learning.
It was in March, 1891. I had been invited to Folkston, England, to hold a mission. On my way from Southport to Folkston, we spent a day or two in London, with Mrs. Dr Bordman,
I had arranged in April for Bob to go to school at Southport. I had become very much attached to him, so I felt I hardly knew how to let him go away from me, and yet, for his good, I knew I must do so. But I was anxious that he should become converted. I was very much burdened for him. I had taught him all about the way, simply as I could, and he and I often prayed together. Dear little fellow!
Sometimes when I would be so weak, when we would get down to pray, he would pray for me so earnestly, and say, "Oh! God, bless my ma. Make her well, so she can be strong, so she can walk about."
I used to suffer a great deal with my back. So he would say, "Oh! Lord, oh! God, make my ma's back well."
And then he loved to hear Bible stories. He would sit for hours and listen to anything you would say about Jesus.
Before he could speak English at all, when at family prayer, he seemed to have such a love for the words "God," and "Jesus." He used to kneel beside me and those two words were all he could say in English. So, as we would kneel down, while someone would be praying, he would pound on the chair with his little hand, and say, "Oh! God. Oh! Jesus. Oh! God. Oh! Jesus." I could not understand what else he said, but-there was something religious in him.
One night I got greatly burdened for him, while at Folkston. I slept very little all night. Oh, how I prayed that God would save him.
Next morning, at family prayers, just he and I, we read our chapter over, and I preached a little sermon to Bob, about an hour and a half long. I read, and explained, and illustrated, by what I knew he could understand, things he knew of in Africa. I took my time to explain it, so he could give it back to me in correct answers to my questions, so that I knew he had clearly in his mind what I tried to teach.
"Now, Bob," I said to him, "you know that I have always told you that if you ask Jesus to do anything for you, you must believe He will do it."
"Yes," he said.
"You know I never told you a lie, did I?"
"When I told you I was going to do something, I always did it, didn't I?"
"Well, just so you must believe Jesus. When you ask Him to make you heart good, believe that He will do it, because He loves you, and wants you to be good. So now He can give you a new heart this morning, if you will just tell Him what you want, and just believe Him, and trust Him. Now, we will just kneel down, and you pray for yourself. Tell Jesus just what you want. Tell Him in your own way, just the best you know how."
So we knelt down. Dear, little Bob! He waited for a few moments, thoughtfully and sincerely, and then he began to pray. He said;
"Oh! God, I come to you. I beg you to make my heart good. Take all the bad out of my heart, so I won't lie; so I won't steal. Oh! God, put your good Sprint in my heart, so I can always obey my ma; so I can be good. I beg you, Jesus. I will believe you. Help me. For Jesus' sake. Amen."
I felt sure God heard that little prayer, for my heart went with it; and when Bob stopped praying, I took hold of God. Oh, how I prayed, and how I believed. And I claimed Bob's conversion with him, that God had done what we asked Him. I felt peace in my heart, and assurance, and I rose up and we sang. Praise God!
This was on Friday morning. In the afternoon I was invited to take a service at the Rev. Mr. Toke's church. He was an Episcopalian clergyman, and a grand man of God, and was what they call in England "a Low Churchman."
We had a wonderful meeting that afternoon. God gave me great liberty in speaking, from the 12th chapter of Romans. A number of people came to me at the close, and told me that they had received help, and blessing, and light, as they never had before. To God be the glory.
On our way home we met a crowd of six or seven little boys, and they began to call out to Bob:
"Oh, there goes a little black boy."
And I began to pity Bob so, because I knew he was sensitive,
I felt very sorry for him, and would tell him they were not accustomed to seeing little black boys. I was very weak, and they were taking me to my lodgings in a perambulator; and when I heard the boys call out to Bob, I began to say: "There, now, poor Bob." So I said:
"Boys, boys; that little boy's name is Bob."
"Oh, Bob, hello," they said: "Hello, Bob; how do you do?"
Just then little Bob came running up to me, and said to me;
"Oh, ma, the boys like to look at me, don't they?"
"Yes, they are not accustomed to seeing little black boys, you know. There are not many in this country."
"Well," he said, "I don't mind if they do look at me now; since I told Jesus this morning, and he made my heart good, I don't care if they do look at me now."
His face was beaming with delight; and I said: "I know Bob is changed. The old things have passed away, and the things that he hated, he has begun to love."
And the word from him in England now is, that he is a good boy, and trying to be a Christian. Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should convert a little heathen child? Amen.
One day, while in Liverpool, Bob and I started down street to take a little walk. Bob was carrying my handbag, and I walked slowly, and he was behind me. As we were going on, we met a crowd of rather rough boys, and they hallooed out:
"Look at the darkey! Look at the darkey!"
And by and by I heard one of them say, as though he was going to strike somebody, though I didn't look around:
"Look out! I'll knock your head off."
I knew Bob had done something; shook his fist at him, or made a face at him. It was in him, and he was full of pluck. After a while I turned around, and, oh! such a face as Bob had on him; long, and sour. So I said to him:
"Bob, what's the matter?"
He was very pouty. I stood still till he came up to me. Then I said to him: "What ails you?"
"Ma, didn't you hear what those boys said?"
"Yes: didn't they say it to me, too?"
"Did I say anything to them?"
But still he was frowny and sulky. Then I said to him: "Bob, did you sleep in bed last night?" For he always slept in the bed with me, and it was as much as I could do to keep him covered, for he would kick the covers off, and I was afraid he would freeze.
"Did you have your breakfast this morning?"
"Have you got your boots on?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said, looking down at his feet.
"Have you got your pants on?"
"Have you got your coat on?"
"Have you got your cap on?"
"Did what those boys said to you hurt you?"
"Well, what is it? You have had your breakfast, and you have your boots on, and your pants on, and your coat on, and your cap on, and you are not hurt. What is the matter?"
So he saw the point, that nothing the boys said to him had done him any harm. He smiled, and we went on.
Now this was before he was converted; and so the change, in my mind, when he was converted was very clear. Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever. Amen. Amen.
The question has often been asked me, how I got Bob in school. This, too, was the Lord's doings.
We had been at Southport, and I had an engagement in Liverpool, and was to leave by a certain train. My friend, Mrs. Stavely, was going to the station with us, and I mistook the time. She had gone out for a few moments, and said she would be back in time to go with us to the station. But I got a little nervous, and felt I must not miss that train; the carriage was at the door, and I said: "I will just get into the carriage, and drive on to the station; I am so afraid I will be late." So off we went.
I sent the carriage back immediately, but when I got there I found I was twenty minutes too early: and I thought to myself, as I sat in the waiting-room, "What does this mean?" What will Mrs. Stavely think of me for driving off in the carriage as I did? Oh, dear, I'm so sorry. But what does it all mean?" Then I said, "Lord, there is some lesson in this; teach me what it is."
A few minutes later a lady came in, and looking at me, she said:
"This is Mrs. Amanda Smith, is it not?"
"My daughters have been to your meetings, and they enjoyed them so much. I would like to have attended myself; but other duties have pressed me so, I was not able to come; but my daughters have enjoyed them." Then turning, she said to me, as she looked at Bob, "Is that your little boy?"
"What are you going to do with him? Why don't you put him into school?"
"I have been looking to the Lord, but no place has opened up yet. I would like to get him into a good school somewhere."
"I will tell you of an excellent school, right here in Southport;" she said, "a good Christian school where he will have good attention and care; just as good as if you were with him yourself; and you might go thousands of miles away, and leave him, safely; and they have had several of your people from the West Indies, and they understand how to care for them, coming from those warm climates."
I thanked her very kindly, and she gave me the lady's name, and said, "I will go and see her about it, and let you know. I will go at once."
"I am going to Liverpool," I replied, and gave her my address, where she could write me. And sure enough, she did so; and so in April I took Bob to Miss Hobbs' school, at Southport, where he has been ever since.
They made a reduction for me, as I was a missionary, from their regular terms, so as to make it as easy as possible for me, which is another token of God's loving kindness.
I went on paying for about six months; then I got a letter from a friend, saying I needn't send any more money for Bob; it was all attended to. Since then no bills have come to me for him.
And this winter has been the first time he has been sick, anything special; he has had a sore throat, and cold, but the Lord has taken wonderful care of him.
How I thank God for the dear friends He has given; and how true His word; surely he has raised up friends, and I have done the little I could. Praise His name forever. Amen. Amen.