IN THE FALL of '91 she went with her brother to Omaha to help Irving Johnson, already there, in the formation of an Associate Mission in that city. This experiment, in supplying weak city and suburban missions, was a form of missionary work conceived in the hearts of five young men studying together at the General Theological Seminary. They met together frequently for prayer and study, and finally made an offer of their services for three years' missionary work in some far distant diocese, I think Texas. The Bishop rather firmly refusing the help of the five, who called themselves "Catholic," Bishop Worthington of Nebraska, who had already started work along something of the same lines with two young priests living and working together, heard of the suggestion and made a journey to New York to see the prospective missionaries, and accepted all of the original five, of whom two only, the Rev. Irving P. Johnson and Paul Matthews, were able to carry out their plans at the end of their seminary course. Other graduates, however, followed later.
These young priests gave a promise to live and work together from a common center, a clergy house, which could be run with greater economy than separate establishments, and for the same purpose of economy they promised not to marry during the time of their pledge. Their mornings were to be given to common study, their afternoons to calling and other duties, each in his own particular mission, and their evenings, of course, to club meetings and social functions in connection with the mission work.
In the beginning of the work, Eva and her brother undertook the housing of the other clergy in their own little house, she attending to the housekeeping and helping in the women's work. The Associate Mission ministered to St. Augustine's, Hanscom Park, St. Paul's and St. Andrew's, Omaha, and a mission in Florence, and gave assistance to St. Barnabas' parish church, Omaha. The parish of St. John's was added later.
Soon after their arrival in Omaha, Eva wrote to her sister:
I am really very homesick just now and just managing to hold on with such crumbs of home talk as stray to me from little corners of your time. But I know, though I struggle against the knowledge, that I can never be anything but a brief visitor in the dear old home again. The world has caught me in its drift at last and I must go outward with the set of the current.
And now to leave these "solemn-choly" reflections and to answer your questions about the clergy house:
Each member is to pay twenty dollars, and we hope to get house rent out of the diocese, but I am not sure. As to propriety, I was amused and a little provoked at Mr. M.'s account of "Paul's younger sister." I do not seem to have the faculty of impressing people with a sense of my years, although I never lose a decent opportunity of stating my age, and I find it always creates surprise. Did I ever tell you about Mrs. Riley, whom I met at St. John's Sunday school picnic? "Well now, are you Mr. Matthew's sister? What funny ideas we do have of people! Now I thought you'd be about thirty and real prim and particular!" And Mrs. Musson confessed that she had discussed my age with Mr. Musson and fixed it at twenty-two! Twenty-two, when I was still a child and still had my mother! I have made a proposition to a Miss B. to assist me as a sort of companion--no mistakes would be made about her age or her propriety, and besides that she is an old friend of the family and can talk of sister Bella and our Cincinnati friends, which has drawn me to her.
Miss B. as a companion does not seem to have materialized, but during the first months of the work Eva kept house for her brother and the Rev. Irving P. Johnson, the pioneers in the mission. The house at 608 North Eighteenth St. was the center for the work of the various missions, and Eva found herself drawn into organizing the women's work. Guild meetings were held around the dining room table, where kneeling cushions were made for the cold floor of little St. Paul's. A poor mother unexpectedly blessed with twins was sewed for by her neighbors, a branch of the Woman's Auxiliary was formed to include all the missions. An evening reception was held for the St. Andrew's people, unexpected guests in the way of clergy passing through Omaha from the west were entertained. A young shop girl, one of their parishioners, was taken in while members of her family were ill with diphtheria; a good half grown boy was also taken into the house, with fine enthusiasm, to be educated for the priesthood by these eager young missionaries in their leisure moments--to the spoiling of a good workman, Eva shrewdly opined, when she found him quicker of hand than of head. Ecclesiastical socks were darned and the marketing done. She describes some of her activities to her sister:
I am up to my eyes in work. Wednesday afternoons I attend a guild meeting at St. Augustine's; Thursdays, the guild from St. Paul's meets here to sew. Then I am trying to organize a branch of the Woman's Auxiliary out of the guilds of the three missions to meet once a month and work for some mission other than themselves. That will require a great deal of thought and preparation and some careful management, as the elements are heterogeneous. Then I have a Sunday school class of girls. I like teaching girls better than boys, and there was no teacher for this class, which was breaking up for want of a head. This involves giving up Saturday afternoons to calling upon them and some evening in the week to study. I am taking up the Gospel of St. Luke and I hope I may succeed in making it interesting to them. So you see I don't have much time to mope, my mornings being pretty well taken up with housekeeping, marketing, and shopping, and getting ready for the afternoons; and Wednesday and Friday evenings I usually attend service at the missions.
In the same letter she wrote:
Omaha has been on a great boom for the last five years, homes have been built by hundreds, giving employment to carpenters and masons, plumbers and others--but this year there is a great collapse. The boom has run its course, the houses stand tenantless, no new ones are building, and there is no work, so even the sober and industrious are closely pinched.
This was the case with the little woman I told you of who gave birth to twins about two weeks ago. She really did not have enough to eat, and while very ill, before the babies were born, she had to do her washing as well as her other work, living in a wretched little cottage without foundations, and of course cold floors. I called to see her last Monday with a nice basket of fresh eggs and oranges, jellied chicken, and a bottle of port wine which Paul carried for me. A mature looking child of nine or ten was washing as we entered the clean, tidy kitchen, not doll clothes, poor little soul, and a nice looking man was fixing the fire. I went in to see Mrs. F. in a little room that looked neat and pretty. She was a bright, cheery woman and proud of her babies, though perhaps one was a bit superfluous, as he was the exact copy of his brother--wee red faces, wrinkling and twisting and righting as little new born babies will. They were dressed in the little garments the guild had made for them and looked clean and fresh. A neighbor came every day and washed and dressed them, she told me, but she could get up now and do it herself--it was only her tenth day--and twins! What a help money is and what hard times the poor have!
When I came out into the kitchen again I found Paul and Mr. F. bending over a drawing for a hymn board which Paul wants for one of the missions, and we soon took our leave and separated on our different errands, meeting with some odd contrasts in the course of the afternoon. I wound up at Mrs. W.'s where I played with the baby and chatted with her and shouted to old Mrs. S--, her mother, who is deaf, and showed pictures to four-year-old Will, and had a generally delightful, homelike time. Paul and Mr. Johnson have concocted a new name for St. Barnabas--Sanctus Barn--a most appropriate title. But in spite of the deadly cold, the water freezing in the sacred vessels, Paul has never caught cold there and has hardly missed a morning service.
Some of her pictures are vivid, and the characterizations of our beloved and distinguished bishops of the future are human and amusing. She wrote:
Mr. Johnson has been laid up with a bad cold. He makes a great fuss when the least little thing is the matter with him, and I am not yet used to it, but regularly get alarmed and then half amused, half provoked, at his sudden recovery when anything nice comes up. Last night we dosed him with hot lemonade and mustard plasters, and all morning he toasted himself by the dining room fire, too ill to do anything but a little light reading. This afternoon he went off in perfectly good spirits to Bishopthorpe where he is to spend the night and I suppose he will be quite well tomorrow.
Irving Johnson and Paul Matthews reached a deep and abiding friendship in seminary days, which has lasted through their busy, consecrated lives, and which was only the more firmly cemented by the humorous, faithful, keen, and witty intimacy of life in the Mission. Such friendship stands every test: work, study, mutual service, laughter, and prayer carry us far together. On only one occasion did Paul confide an intellectual achievement to his brother priest. It was the custom for the young missioners to exchange pulpits often on Sunday evenings, so avoiding the drudgery of two sermons a week.
Late one Saturday evening Irving, coming in fagged out, threw himself into a chair by the fire.
"You ready for tomorrow, Paul?" he asked casually.
"Yes, I'm ready."
"What are you going to preach about?"
"The Law. 'Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.'
"You couldn't make anything out of that," challenged Johnson.
"Oh, yes, I can." And growing eloquent, Paul expounded his three points. First. Guilty of all because the Law is One, and one least law broken, all is broken. Second. The Law is of God, and God is One. Third. Man is one, and breaking the Law breaks the unity of his nature.
"You might make something of that," Irving ruminated, and went to bed. And so did Paul, all unsuspecting. The next evening as he tucked his sermon away in his overcoat pocket, Irving Johnson stopped him. "You'd better not preach that sermon this evening, Paul," he said, with his genial laugh. "I preached it at St. Andrew's this morning!"
This is the same man who says today: "I have no time to write my Witness editorials; all the time I ever had was on the train--and now I have to use that time for cross word puzzles!"
Glimpses of their life are taken from many letters Eva wrote to her sister in the early winter:
On Sunday afternoons I have the tea tray brought up into the parlor and make tea myself with my pretty Christmas kettle and have bread and butter and cake with it; then at nine o'clock, after the evening services, when my preachers are all very hungry, we go down to the dining room for supper, of cold meat, bread, cake, and wine, and sometimes a blanc mange or jelly.
We have had intensely cold weather since last Sunday, twenty degrees below zero at night, with magnificent days that set the blood leaping and dancing from some new and secret fountain of life, though double underwear, sealskins, arctics, and face and ears wrapped in a long thick veil are precautions only properly prudent. I was haunted, though, by two boys who had come to Sunday school without overcoats. Investigation showed that they were in need of them, so I made arrangements for them to come down this afternoon and I would fit them out. And down they trooped this afternoon, a whole family, mother and three boys. The youngest, about three or four, was provided and only came to see the fun. Apples and doughnuts solaced their souls as they warmed themselves at the drawing room fire, and I was rolling myself up in my multitudinous precautions. Then we sallied forth, the mother with her youngest boy and myself walking soberly and cautiously over the well-packed and slippery snow, and the two boys, without overcoats this bitter day, running ahead, turning and twisting, sliding and doubling, for all the world like two fantastic little brownies of the Palmer Cox type.
We reached the store at last, and after a half hour in looking, bargaining, and trying on, fitted them out with very decent little ulsters and caps at a cost of about three dollars apiece. And just here I put in a plea for boys' clothes of any kind or description that you may know of going to waste.
I am afraid, dear, that my letters are very full of the first person, and am I writing in flourishing capitals, I wonder? That reminds me to answer your question, which shows at any rate that you do not pay much attention to any third person who may creep modestly into these epistles.
Mr. Johnson has gone to New York, partly for a little change and rest, which is the reason we have the sole care of F--'s education just at present. When he returns, Latin will be added to that poor youth's already heavily burdened intellect, and a redivision of the subjects will probably be made. [This youth Fr. Johnson had added to the household to be educated for Holy Orders.
Besides the intensive life of mission work there were for Eva certain social duties not altogether connected with it, but coming of her old life in Washington. She writes in this connection:
We had a heavy snow storm on Saturday night after two or three days of cold, gloomy weather, followed by some bright sunshine making good sleighing. Monday afternoon, coming in about five o'clock from a snowy walk and returning a call, I found Mr. W--in the drawing room with Paul. He had just returned from Washington where he had called upon and dined with Jane and Judge Gray. He spoke of having been very delightfully entertained, but I fancied from the amused expression on his face that Jane had dilated somewhat upon her ideas of Omaha. He glanced around our drawing room, so pretty and comfortable since the hangings are up, and said that she seemed to be particularly anxious to know if we were comfortably housed. He was cordial in his invitations to call, and yesterday we received an invitation to dine and go to a concert with them tomorrow evening. Paul, alas! cannot go, having his Confirmation class at that time, but I have accepted, he to come for me and bring me home.
It was half after five when Mr. W--left and we were invited out to tea at six, at the P--s'. Not the madonna of the tubs but the Cathedral P--s'. It was hopeless, of course, to be there on time, for it was quite a half hour's walk, and we had to dress besides. We did get there by half past six, which turned out not to be too late as tea was not served until seven. Mr. Johnson was before us and the room seemed quite full of children. They have five, the oldest about eleven or twelve, a boy, and one of Paul's servers at St. Paul's; then a girl, Faith, then two almost babies, dark-eyed beauties, the youngest the only one with light hair, which made a striking contrast to his big brown eyes. They were well trained, all of them, with graceful, pretty manners, and the goodnight kiss given to all the members of the family reminded me of our own childlife at home, so many, many years behind us now.
After supper there was a fierce discussion between Mr. Johnson and Mr. P--on certain doctrines of the Church, particularly the origin of evil. For about half an hour I sat on the edge of my chair ready at any moment to rise and leave, as I did not know how well Mr. P--knew Mr. Johnson, and the wordy war was considerably more heated than any between Paul and Harlan ever was. Just when the discussion would be at its height, however, Paul would put in a word, and it was very flattering to me to see with what respect Mr. P--would listen to him. Perhaps it was hereditary, for he told me that he had the most profound respect and admiration for my father, although he had never known him personally. And so dear Father's influence still surrounds and blesses us, even in this faraway Omaha.
A day or two later she wrote of the dinner at Mr. W--'s after a hurried day:
I never have time to dress any more--but I was not more than ten minutes late. The W's are wealthy, with a great deal of refinement. They have a daughter, an only child, I think, whom they are just bringing out into society. It was all so like Washington, and the concert afterwards, fair enough for amateurs, and so unlike life as I now know it, that I can hardly say whether I enjoyed it or not. It just seemed curious. I talked, however; it was necessary, with Miss W's calm, adhesive silence. Mr. W--is a lawyer, prominent in this state. He was a close friend of Justice Miller, and he also knew our father, having argued cases before him in the Supreme Court.
Social life as a consummation had never seemed natural to Eva, who took her Lord's counsels of perfection as principles of conduct for every day. Her feeling was expressed in a letter written during a short holiday visit to her sister in Washington later in this same winter of '92:
Jane is just as sweet and good as she can be and eager to have me happy with her, but the life is strangely laborious. I suppose one could get used to it in time, but my visits are too short and far between for that and it is weary work to have to think so much about one's self.
I have fared very well socially. I find myself a complete stranger in a room full of people, yet last evening at dinner I was seated between Mr. Theodore Roosevelt and Sir Julian Pauncefote and had a charming time, to the unfeigned delight of Jane and Judge Gray, who both look upon me as a hen might upon an unexpected duckling assaying to swim. I care so little about it now either way that I suppose the good time comes of itself.
Perhaps her life in Omaha would also have seemed "strangely laborious" to her Washington friends. There was nothing she did not attempt, from embroidering stoles to long-distance parish visiting. On March 10th she wrote:
A few days ago I went with Mr. Johnson to the funeral of a young man who had died of tuberculosis, and realized while there that it was the worst day we had had this winter. I knew there was a high wind. We had all been awakened in the night by a tremendous thumping on the roof and a general door-banging through the house, to find out in the morning that our trap giving access to the roof had been blown off. Still I did not realize the full force of the wind until I saw a little girl blown off a porch before my eyes, and I came very near going off at the same corner in spite of all my efforts to keep my footing. There are so many steep grades and deep gullies here that I had to be careful, as the wind kept pushing me to the dangerous side of the board walk, to edge back again, and once I had to catch hold of a telegraph pole to keep from being whirled off into some abyss.
It was the afternoon of the guild meeting at St. Augustine's, so, after the funeral, I hurried there as fast as I was able, but with such a wind against me did not arrive until four o'clock. Mrs. Montmorency and I composed the meeting, and as I had made arrangements not to return to tea, we had a quiet, unhurried two hours of talk and sewing together. We struggled over to the chapel at about half after seven and had service, every minute the wind rising, raging around the little building like mad, and when we came out again, we were pushed hither and thither, tossed about like shuttlecocks, and at last crowded down under a mud bank sitting on the frozen earth and feeling delightfully warm and comfortable with a sudden sense of shelter. I do not know of anything that makes one feel so like a disembodied spirit, so thin and unsubstantial, as being beaten about by a high wind, without power to stand against it. And these winds that roll over the bare reach of prairie have an all out of doors about them that makes one feel lonely and exposed.
I must tell you about the Quiet Day for women, held in the Cathedral on Friday of last week. You would have enjoyed it so much--a series of meditations adapted to the especial needs of women. One was on Martha and the trials of housekeeping, and another on Mary, with a beautiful thought of the reparative character of our worship of Jesus, the beauty which we pour into His services, the reverence with which we utter His holy Name, being in some sense a reparation for the bare poverty of His earthly life, the humiliation of His atoning death, and as such accepted by Him. It was a good work that Mary had wrought, anointing His body beforehand for burial; that sacred body which was to suffer all indignities at the hand of man, and to be raised beyond all conceivable glory by the power of God. Sometimes the thought of the Incarnation, all that it means to God and all that it means to man, is absolutely overwhelming. When shall we be able to bear the weight of glory that is our inheritance? Weak souls, that can scarce hold their meed of human joy and sorrow--how must we be strengthened and purified before we can enter fully into that blaze of unutterable glory--sonship to the Almighty? May we be given that holy fear and reverence that lingers lovingly, worshipfully, at the feet of our dear Lord, pouring out our precious balms with the lavish spirit of true devotion--good-night my dearie.
March 21, 1892.
Monday morning and a white snow falling thickly, and so a holiday for me, for it is not worth while to go out in such a storm. Sophy is going to make the cookies, and though my mending bag is looking reproachfully fat, I have put it in the corner where I can't see it, for I have quite determined to have an idle hour with you.
The morning's mail brought me your letter, and also Mr. Johnson's stole, which looks much better than I thought it ever would again. You would be amused at his latest mishap--a handsome new overcoat presented to him last Christmas by his Mission, with a great jagged tear in a most conspicuous place. He was bragging this morning about the care he took of his clothes, and when I suggested the poor overcoat he said: "Oh, you ought not to bring up accidents against a fellow."
It was in the dining room while he was cleaning his coat with gasoline, having refused my proffered assistance, and as he went to put it on, I discovered a great gap under the sleeve and a long rent in the lining; so leaving this letter, which I had just begun, I mended the coat for him while he stood over the fire entertaining me with the scrapes of his boyhood--and he would have been a perfect little imp of darkness had he not been so bright!
Friday morning he took me with him to see a sick child he had unearthed the day before. We had to go to the extreme limit of the city and then walk for nearly a mile over the prairie. I think I told you in one of my letters how the first sight of the prairie affected me, and it was no whit lessened on this occasion, with the March sun pouring its cold brilliancy over the bare uplands, and the keen north wind blowing in our faces, and the earth beneath our feet as hard as iron.
It was a wretched cottage, looking forlorn and lonely on the vast stretch of the landscape reaching to the faraway horizon, and the attempt at a fence about it served only to render its exposure the more pitiful by giving it self consciousness. A sapphire-eyed descendant of the ancient Vikings with the red gold hair and beard of his race rose out of some hole in the ground as we picked our way over the litter of the enclosure. After some persuasion he gave his consent to having the child baptized, though with the reluctance of suspicion, and we entered the low-browed, sullen looking cottage, where the black demon of uncleanliness reigned, and where I should have believed seven other spirits blacker than himself had their habitation, if it had been possible to imagine the place had ever been swept and garnished. The child, a plump little girl, not yet two, lay in a great feather bed, too sick to notice or care about strangers, and the mother, hard featured and heavy looking, met us at the door. The service was exceedingly simple, a soup plate serving for a font, but as we concluded with prayers for the sick child, the dull cloud upon the woman's face broke into a rain of tears, and as we left, the golden-haired son of the Sea Kings asked us to come again with a cordiality very different from his scanty greeting.
Two letters in early April tell of the first Confirmation in which her influence had a share:
This evening I cannot say that I am feeling very bright, but I am certainly very happy and I have good cause to be. Last summer, shortly after I was confirmed, I met a Miss Wood from Omaha, who was visiting Miss Findley, and we had a pleasant talk together about the city which was to be my future home. She called soon after we had settled into our house here, and we have exchanged calls several times this winter; and the more I saw of her the better I liked her. About three weeks ago she called and told me that she had been thinking of being confirmed, and, knowing that I too had been a Presbyterian, she had come to me for help. I felt almost overcome with so great a responsibility and with the sense of my own ignorance and incapacity, but I plunged in, and we had a long talk together on the episcopate and the sacraments, the only essential points of difference, you know, between us. She did not care much about the historic Church, but her eyes grew big and bright as we talked about the sacraments. I lent her some books when she left, and you may be sure she was much in my prayers during these weeks. Today I called upon her, and after various talk we went to evensong at the Cathedral. It was a beautiful service, calm and solemn, and as we came out into the golden twilight she told me that she had decided for the Church. I could not go home immediately after that, so I walked part way back with her and we talked together about it. She told me that I had helped her in her decision, but more by my evident happiness in the change than by anything else. Is it not wonderful that we should be associated with Christ in building up the walls of His Church? He, the Lord of Glory, calling us to be fellow workers with Him! And now I shall not cease to pray that all the choicest spirits of the age may be gathered for His Crown. Even in the Miserere comes the prayer, "Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem." Ah, my own twin sister, do you ever think of me as lacking something infinitely precious which you possess? Do you feel richer in the means of grace than you conceive me to be, and long with an inexpressible desire to impart that source of wealth to me? Truly, I feel how much less I advantage by it than you would in my place. I need it more than you, and perhaps that is why it is given to me first. Character is of such slow growth, long and painful; after the mind has seized mighty truths, has fed upon them and grown by them, the character stumbles and falls back and then slowly stumbles forward into them. The transmutation of truth into the precious gold of a true life needs long and patient expectation. Pray for me, dear, that having received so great an illumination I may not incur the heavy penalty of neglect and sloth, hiding my lamp under a bushel.
It is not often that I have a Sunday afternoon, but though the sun is shining brightly now, we have just come through a severe thunderstorm with the heaviest rain I have seen since the Johnstown disaster. I suppose our Sunday school is assembling now, but if we should start this minute we should not get there until four o'clock, the closing hour, so Mr. Johnson has given it up and has settled down to reading Carlyle's Hero Worship. Paul came in a few moments ago looking like a drowned rabbit after fruitless waiting on the corner for a street car to take him through the deluge to Sunday school. He has a service, however, after Sunday school, so, after getting dry clothes on, he sallied out again to try his fortune, which cannot be doubtful with this sunshine.
Yesterday morning I went to the meeting of the Woman's Auxiliary, our missionary society. It was very interesting as the Bishop came in and gave us a little address, closing with a letter he had just received from a small town not far from here that was torn to pieces in a cyclone last Thursday, which utterly destroyed our church there. We are having cyclonic weather, heavy thunder storms and high winds, every other day. Today at dinner it was so dark that we had to light the gas and candles, and when the storm first broke, the lightning and thunder burst almost simultaneously. Friday evening, on the contrary, it was a wind storm, and Mr. Johnson and I fought our way to St. Paul's, step by step, and when we finally reached the chapel I felt as if every particle of vitality had been blown out of me. I had hardly strength to strike the notes out of the organ in the first hymn, but coming home, with the wind at our backs, we did not seem to walk at all, but to be gently shoved along in a quite delightful fashion. Kisses for the Stanley boy.
A few days later she wrote an account of the expected Confirmation:
Sunday I went to the Cathedral instead of, as usual, to St. Paul's, in order to be present at the confirmation of Miss Wood. It was Palm Sunday and the altar was beautifully decorated with palms. There was a large class, about fifty I should think, many of them young girls looking very sweet and virginal in their white dresses. There was also a Congregational minister among the number. His case is peculiar. He is bound by contract to remain with his congregation until June, and, though he explained fully his change of conviction and the duties it devolved upon him, they refused to let him off before the set time; so he procured a substitute for the morning while he was at the Cathedral, and in the evening preached to his congregation as usual, but on the Catholic Faith! The Bishop told me last evening that the minister he secured as substitute, when informed of the reason for his morning's absence, said, "Well, you are doing just right, I wish I could be there too!"
My interest, of course, was in Miss Wood, but in the many crowding up to the altar rail I could not distinguish her. The service was solemn and beautiful, and when it was over I waited, hoping to see her as she came out, nor was I disappointed; for she was almost the last one, and I slipped out of the pew as she passed and joined her. We were both too deeply moved to say much, but she promised to come this week and see me, and I am half hoping that she may come today.
In the afternoon I went to Druid Hill to our Sunday school there. It is hard work teaching a class who distinctly disapprove of you and who steadily look out of the window when not directly addressed. I must, however, teach what I believe. I cannot even be silent, for the message is importunate and forces itself out, and there is no part of the Bible that is not full of it.
My afternoon's work, though discouraging, was not fruitless. There was a young girl who had come from Walnut Hill with Mr. Johnson and who took her seat in my class. She evidently knew me, though I felt certain I had never seen her before. At the end of the lesson, when I had leisure to pay some attention to her, a certain resemblance struck me, and I asked her if she were not Miss Abbie Gard. I had heard a good deal about her from Mr. Johnson as she was in his Confirmation class, but that she had decided almost at the last moment not to be confirmed. Her sister, Miss Mamie Gard, had poured tea for me at the reception we gave to the St. Andrew's people a little while before Lent, but I had never seen Abbie.
The closing service had not yet begun so I got into talk with her and soon asked her if she were going to be confirmed the next evening. She laughed a little nervously and said No, she had decided not to be. I felt sure that what she needed was a little encouragement, but took the time of service to consider it. In the general confusion of breaking up I found an opportunity of saying a little to her, only a few words, pressing her to reconsider her decision. She answered, rather sadly, that she was afraid it was too late now, but she promised gladly, almost gratefully, to come and see me sometime this week.
Last night was the Confirmation at St. Andrew's, and Paul and I, of course, went to it. We were seated far back and I could not see very well, but there was one whose jet black hair relieved with a bow of white ribbon seemed to me could belong to no one but Abbie Gard. The service was rather long, as one of the candidates had to be baptized and the baptismal service is considerable, and then the Bishop's charge lengthened itself into a sermon. But after it was all over, and Mrs. Needham was leaning over to speak to me, Abbie Gard stood before me, a bow of white ribbon in her jet black hair, her long cloak half open and showing the dainty white muslin dress; and putting her cold little hands in mine, she said, "You see I came, and I think it was what you said to me yesterday that made me." The words of St. James flashed into my mind, "How great a matter a little fire kindleth"--whether it be lighted from heaven or from the deep places of hell! What I did was to hold her hands in mine and kiss her sweet, red lips trembling with emotion, and tell her how glad, how very glad, I was. And towards this young girl, seen for the first time the day before, I felt the tender interest of an elder sister. Oh, I am beginning to find out, G--, what the household of God, Christian brotherhood and sisterhood, means.
Paul set out in the rain some time ago with a great branch of Annunciation lilies in one hand and purple flowers in the other to place upon the altar. It was impossible for him to carry an umbrella, so I am afraid he will be drenched by the time he gets home. We have certainly had an unrelenting enemy in the weather this past winter and spring. You see I am not waiting to talk over things when I see you, for news is like waffles, never so good as hot from the coals. Kisses to my Stanley boy.
In April and the early days of May the brother and sister took their vacation in the old home at Glendale, Eva lingering behind until time for the diocesan council. On the return journey the train was packed with Presbyterian ministers on their way to the General Assembly.
The porter told me this morning, as I had my Bible out reading the morning lessons, that nearly everybody on the train was reading a Bible. He said he kind of liked it. He used to be a good deal of a Churchman himself but had given it up since de wah!
Perhaps it was our general godliness which brought us on our journey so successfully, for Paul tells me the roads are considered very unsafe from the general floods. Indeed the whole country as we came along was water soaked. No plowing, no planting, had been done. Cattle stood disconsolate in a little corner of their submerged pastures and the farmhouses were on little islands oftentimes separated from the barns by a sheet of water.
I had quite a day on Friday, but I must first tell you something about it. Just before our visit to Glendale Mr. Johnson was called to the hospital to see a man dying of cancer. He had never been baptized, being a Methodist (it seems to be the rule), and after some persuasion he consented to be baptized. He has led a wild sort of life, being a cowboy and ranchman, and nobody knows what he has or has not done. He is, however, a comparatively rich man for his station in life, and has only one child, a daughter, who was committed to the reform school about three years ago for uncontrollable wildness. She was sent for when her father was so ill, and it was she whom Mr. Johnson took me to see, hoping I might interest myself in her. Unfortunately she was out, and I only saw the aunt, a squat little woman of about the face and figure of Mary Mullen of ancient memory, with an Irish tongue for temper. Evidently there was little love between aunt and niece.
I asked her to let the girl spend the day with me on Friday, and Friday she came. I must confess I was agreeably surprised to find her sweet faced, with an honest, open look in her gray eyes, and soberly dressed. I spent the day entertaining her and trying to know her, showed her pictures, let her jingle some waltzes on the cabinet organ, and talked with her. She was the most unrestrained piece of nature, talked with me as freely as a child and, I think, as honestly. Certainly her aunt seems to be determined that she shall go to ruin. The girl's life is emptied of every possible interest. She is crossed in every possible way, even to such a small thing as buying a brown dress for her when she wanted black, and she is allowed the run of the street during the day though fortunately she is not permitted to go out at night. Her aunt is a Methodist, and hates Episcopalians with a pious hatred, and expressly forbade her to talk on religious subjects while she was here. This she must have told Mr. Johnson when he went home with her, for she did not say it to me, and I was surprised at her evident terror when Mr. Johnson declared he was going to ask permission of her aunt to baptize her. This was after quite a conversation in which she had told us how Dr. Oliver, one of our oldest clergymen here--Father Oliver she called him, with very evident affection--had come to the prison every Sunday and held services there for two or three years, and finally about twenty-five of the girls had petitioned the superintendent for permission to be baptized, and he, being a Methodist, refused. She said the girls after that had stopped trying to be good, and that she had, too, but now she felt that if she did not have something to help her--she did not know if she could hold out--poor thing, and only seventeen, to be afraid of that! Do you remember Rhoda Fleming, and how it ends with "Help poor girls"? I feel that I have got to help this poor girl no matter what it costs. I gave her a piece of embroidery to take home with her. It will help to keep her off the streets, and will fill some of those terrible, vacant hours of which she has so many every day, and at the same time let her feel that she is doing something for some one else. Pray for her, my dear; if ever any helpless child needed it, she does.
In her next letter she told of the move to the California street house, immediately after the council. It was the first day of June.
It is really very pleasant, quite in the country and yet near our work. We have a little vegetable garden at the back, and the spinach, radishes, and lettuce are already above ground, a flower garden to screen the vegetables from view with nasturtiums, geraniums, and roses, and a summer arbor on the side lawn--the derision of Mr. Johnson, but the pride of my heart. It is planted with moonvine which, if tales be true, grows like Jack's beanstalk, and will be an impenetrable mass of verdure before the summer is over. The little front lawn is steeply terraced, and next door is an open field where Paul and Mr. Johnson are proposing to lay out a tennis court. Opposite is a pasture where cows are peacefully grazing, with thickets of young trees beyond, and far away, the silver gleam of the river, and the bluffs and purple slopes of the prairie.
I had Jessie S--, the girl I told you about in my last letter, spending the day with me today. She is in very bad surroundings at home, and I decided to have her here for two or three weeks, and Mr. Johnson will then be able to prepare her for baptism. So I went home with her and had a little talk with her father, who was evidently pleased at the interest we showed in "his girl" and gave his consent readily enough. The old aunt was at the wash tub, and being summoned, came in, wiping her wet hands and arms, and apologizing for her dress. Her consent was also obtained, and so Jessie is to come here Saturday, by which time I can have her room ready for her.
Perhaps I gave you a wrong impression in my last letter. The Methodists tolerate Baptism, since it was ordained by Christ, but regard it as usually practised, highly flavored with superstition and in no case so necessary to salvation as an experience meeting or a good rousing gospel hymn. I do not know that any of them actually condemn it, but it must be the merest formalism with them.
During this year, besides the smaller missions, St. John's parish was turned over to the Associates and was taken reluctantly by Paul Matthews. He disliked giving up St. Paul's, where he had worked to such purpose as to complete the building of a new church, which he declared the prettiest in the city, though costing only fifteen hundred dollars. Before the close of the year, the Rev. Samuel G. Welles, the Rev. G. H. Sharpley, and two deacons, were added to the clergy house force. This was a year of beginnings. I have lingered tenderly over this first year of the trying of Eva's powers in work for Christ and His Church because of the evident joyousness of these months of close and intimate work with her dearly loved brother. "What joy," she exclaimed, "I have found in this full, rich life of service that the Church is ever offering! When you realize its order and its beauty you feel that it is no human invention but the very voice of God."
Her vocation seems to have been in abeyance and the life of active, religious benevolence full of satisfactions--but this could not last.