Blanche J. Read
"Read, I am thinking of giving Mrs. Read and yourself a change of work."
So spoke Commandant Booth as we sat in his office after being pre-emptorily summoned for an important interview.
"Yes, sir, at your service," replied the Editor, for though he loved his War Cry work he had often expressed a hope that at some future day we might have an appointment in the field.
"I want you to take charge of Newfoundland, Mrs. Read will have an opportunity of doing some rescue work there also," the Commandant added, he thought, and correctly too, that this information would add to the attraction of the new command.
"Can you go at once? When can you be ready? Staff-Captain McIntyre has brought away his wife on account of her health and has offered to return alone for the winter, but I cannot allow him to make that sacrifice, and I want you take hold of the Self-Denial Scheme at once."
Further conference took place with the result that we left Toronto for the Sea-girt Isle on the 1st of October. Staff-Captain Read's journal entry for the day of this appointment is as follows:
We naturally felt badly leaving Headquarters. For nearly five years we had been stationed there. We loved our comrades, had enjoyed many blessed victories and much happy fellowship and sweet communion with them. Then we had seen the good ship "Salvation Army" pass through some severe storms of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The ship's timbers had strained, trembled and quivered before the mighty rolling waves, but gallantly she had bent her prow to their surging force and triumphantly ridden the highest water mountain.
Army links of comradeship and affection are not easily sundered and especially under such circumstances of testing.
Then there were the dear home friends graciously lent us, for those few years, to be left behind, and, altogether the separation had its underlying cross. But we had heard much of the devotion of the Newfoundland troops and rushed forward with bright anticipations for glorious conquests in the name of our King.
At that time Newfoundland was not as easy of access as at the present and we arrived in Sydney, C.B. after travelling day and night to find our steamer had left an hour-and-a-half previously. There was nothing to do but wait patiently for a "Tramp" steamer to convey us to our destination. After watching two weeks at Sydney for a chance we sailed from Cow Bay for Newfoundland.
The first thing that impressed us as we stepped upon the steamer's deck in St. John's harbour and waited for the doctor to come aboard, was the sound of hammers verbrating and reverbrating among the rocks causing them to ring again with the unusual sound of industry.
The sight of the city as it stretched away to the right was one not easily obliterated from one's memory. A great devastating fire had swept across the greater part of it the previous July, and all that remained of some of its finest edifices were charred ruins and the temporary buildings being erected.
As the traveller approaches St. John's, the capital, he cannot but be impressed with the picturesque appearance of its wonderful natural harbour. In the lofty iron-bound coast there suddenly presents itself to the voyager an opening in the rocky wall, as if by some convulsion of nature the rampart had been rent asunder and the ocean had come rushing in. Great dark-red sandstone mountains piled in masses on a grey slatestone foundation, guard the entrance on either side. Away to the right of the "Narrows" is an almost perpendicular precipice, on the highest summit of which rises the crest of "Signal Hill," five hundred feet above seal-level, where stands the blockhouse for signalling vessels approaching the harbour. On the left side the hill is even higher, and at its rocky base a promontory juts out. On the highest point the lighthouse is stationed. It is the scene of sublimity not surpassed along the coast. Formerly batteries armed with formidable guns rose amid the clefts of these rocks, but the garrison has been withdrawn and the cannon removed. In ten minutes after leaving the wide sea, the steamer is safely moored in the calm waters of a perfectly land-locked harbour. My dear husband used this fact as an illustration once, and wrote a stirring article upon the subject, an extract from which I cull in passing:
Many have heard of that narrow neck of water leading into the St. John's, NF., Harbour, called "The Narrows." On either side rises steep precipitous walls of weather-beaten rock. In one or two of the niches of these rocks are still to be found the remains of what were once strong fortresses. The small ramparts are still there. The rails on which the guns used to revolve are there, but in a rusty condition. So narrow is this piece of water that it would be a sorry day for a man-o'-war to attempt an entrance to this land-locked harbour, provided the fortifications are strong and good. But they are not. Cannons have been removed; soldiers have been withdrawn; rampart walls are tottering and decaying, and with ease could an enemy sail into the quiet harbour, unless troops ships happened to be on hand, open fire on and bombard the Colony's Capital, and cause bloodshed, ruin and death on every hand. What a useless, powerless thing is an unfortified fortress! Such is the St. John's Narrows.
What about an unfortified soul? Such is the soul of the poor backslider. Once his heart was strong; once he had power to resist and repel the strongest temptation. Though an host encamped against him, he feared not, because his armour was bright and his weapons were strong. He was strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Thus he conquered. Now all is changed. The cannons of his soul have been removed; the ramparts have tottered; his soul is black with despair; temptations overcome him. He yields to every foe, and the ruin is complete. The devil's cannonade has wrought terrible work; the city is spoiled, and onward to despair he speeds, by his influence and by his unholy life, taking thousands of others with him. Poor backslider!
What about the great army of backsliders? Like shattered hulks they strew the shores of time; they hinder poor sinners from coming to the Cross; like waves of the sea they are driven and tossed, hungry, starving, miserable and destitute, veritable stumbling blocks to those who desire to be saved.
Newfoundland is the oldest colonial possession of the British Crown, and occupies an important place in the marine world. Anchored off the American Continent, and stretching right across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reaching out its farthest point towards the Eastern Hemispheres, it forms, as it were, a stepping-stone between the Old World and the New, and has been marked out by many as the probable future travel route between the two Hemispheres. Its coasts are penetrated deeply by the mighty Atlantic, and some of its bays, coves and inlets make fine harbours for the protection of the fisher-folks' craft. Miles of rocky walls, from two hundred to three hundred feet high in some places, with little verdure crowning their summits, form its iron-bound coasts. Dark, massive cliffs, magnificent in their grandeur, defend the Island from the watery battalions which madly rush upon it, driven by the pressure of the storm. Here and there dark green forests dot the shores and hamlets. The fisher folk line them with their "stages" and "fishflakes" for landing and drying codfish. The towns and villages are situated chiefly on the coast line, the interior as yet being little cultivated, but travellers and explorers inform us there are vast resources for agricultural purposes in the large tracts of excellent land not yet utilized.
The general physique of the Newfoundlanders impresses one with the fact that they are a healthy, robust race. No doubt the various occupations engaged in by the majority is answerable for this, which also testifies to the purity of the air and the invigorating breezes which blow so freshly from the salt water bed in which the country lies. Employed as they are, mainly in open-air pursuits, they are an energetic and courageous people, and as they have freer access to educational advantages, are also competing successfully with the foremost of other lands.
The principle industries of the Island, as is well known, are the cod fisheries, seal fisheries and the copper and iron mines.
While some, of course, are engaged in cultivating the land and in mercantile undertakings, the majority of the people depend upon the sea for their livelihood. The sea is their bountiful mother. It is also the tomb of many of their loved ones. Stories of wreck and peril oftentimes form the topic of conversation round the fisherman's fireside on a winter's night as the sound of the ocean's distant roar falls upon their ears.
Newfoundland's cod-fisheries are more extensive than others. Authority tells us that the Arctic current, which washes the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, chilling the atmosphere and bearing on its bosom huge ice-argosies, is the source of the vast fish wealth which has been drawn on for ages, and which promises to continue for ages to come. The men go away by the thousands to "The Banks" and Labrador in the spring time, sometimes taking their wives and little ones with them. In such cases they live in temporary houses, and the wives help in curing and drying the fish. When the wives stay at home they attend to the garden and the home, and at the end of the summer they have a nice store of vegetables for the winter, and watch eagerly for the return of husband and son. If the season has been successful and they reach home in safety with their vessel full of "quintals" of fish, it is a time of great rejoicing, and in the homes of the Salvationists, of thanksgiving and praise to the God who holds the sea in the hollow of His hand. While the season lasts the work is incessant and laborious.
Earlier in the season - in February and March - these hardy toilers hie them away to the sealing stations. The steamers are equipped for the accommodation of from one hundred and fifty to three hundred men, with great spaces in the ship's hold for the seal oil, etc. They leave the city and various out-harbours, and steer away northward till they reach the icy wilderness, which, agitated by the swell of the Atlantic, threatens destruction to all invaders. But these hunters are quite fearless among the bergs. They are quite accustomed to do battle with the floes and crashing ice-mountains, and undauntedly dash into the ice whenever an opening presents itself, in search of their prey.
The surface of the ice-field is rugged and broken rising frequently to steep hillocks and ridges. In fact, as the Ancient Mariner tells us:
Under the pressure of the raging storm, it sometimes happens that the ice is "rafted," as the sealers call it - that is, the fragments which are dashed up by the upheavals of the surging waves are piled in layers, one over the other, to the height of forty feet, being lifted by the swell and hurled as if from catapults.
How fearful the condition of the unfortunate vessel that comes within the range of these terrible missils! Sometimes the gigantic ice-berg takes part in the fray, and with the roaring of the blinding snowstorm, a scene of great confusion ensues. Happily these raging storms are not of very frequent occurrence. The sea is mostly at rest, and then the ice-fields present a scene of marvellous beauty.
Beneath the mild light of the moon aided by the glittering stars and flickering aurora, are the glories revealed, especially after a wild storm. An immense curtain of light spreads the sky like a huge canopy, waving its changing colors of every imaginable tint from side to side of the great overarching dome.
The outfit of the sealers is of the simplest description. Sealskin boots, reaching to the knee, having a thick leather sole; a strong canvas jacket is worn over warm woollen under garments. A sealskin cap, and tweed and moleskin trousers complete the costume, which is the most picturesque. They endure the severest hardships, and are often eight or ten weeks without seeing the land. Their food is of the plainest consisting chiefly of biscuit, pork, tea and "duff." They also use the fresh flesh of the seal, this being highly conducive to health and a safeguard against scurvy. There is usually very little sickness among them, and they return home well and hearty after their trying and arduous labor.
This then was the country and these the people whom we went with loving eagerness to serve.
We were immediately at home with these warm-hearted enthusiastic folk, and just after our arrival, before the winter season made travelling from the northern part of the island an impossibility, we had our first Officers' Council. I wrote my dear mother in Toronto a description of this from "my point of view":
I am sure you will be glad to know they seem to want us, dear mother.
I am having a meeting with the girls on Monday, I want to be a blessing to them, they do need someone. One Lieutenant has told me today she has been alone four months, and had been stationed in a place where she had to walk twenty miles to get a boat to bring her here. This place is two hundred miles away, so you see they do need a little encouragement, do they not?
The little mission boat, "Glad Tidings," is in. They have had a good summer. The Captain is coming here tomorrow to be "interviewed" so watch for a report in the War Cry. I have not seen the boat but may go down to the harbour some day soon. I am sending a local paper with a notice about it, also two others giving an account of the "Deep Sea Mission" or work on the Labrador coast. I thought papa might like to read it and it will give you an idea of the hardships some of our poor soldiers have to endure.
It was not long before my dear husband was on the field conducting meetings, cheering our own workers and making arrangements for new openings in some of the out-harbours. The first great effort was the piloting of our yearly Self-Denial scheme.
The dear officers, soldiers and friends toiled with dauntless energy and a glorious achievement was the result. I could fill a book with stories touching and beautiful of the sacrifice of these dear Newfoundlanders.
During the month of January, 1893, Commandant Booth visited the Island and conducted gatherings unprecedented in the history of the Army there.
Many volumes might be filled with the interesting events of those useful and active months of my husband's warfare in Newfoundland. However, I cannot pass on without mentioning one or two occasions similar to experiences which are the ordinary occurrences in the lives of the devoted Army warriors in the island we loved so much.
It was his first visit to the west coast which is most difficult of access. He desired to visit a place named Garnish.
The only way he could reach it was from the coast, by walking twenty miles across a bleak, barren country, but he had promised to go, and they had so few visitors in that isolated spot. Nothing daunted his ardor or deterred him from carrying out his plans. When he thought, too, of the disappointment of the dear folks there, he made up his mind to attempt the journey. The way was very rough and there had been a heavy fall of snow previously. After two miles of most trying pedestrianism they stopped at the one little lonely cottage in this deserted locality to hire, if possible, a horse and sleigh. The little Newfoundland pony was, however, unequal to the task of plodding through the snow, and, after a short distance, they had to return him to his owner. There was only two alternatives - retrace their steps, or walk the remaining seventeen or eighteen miles. But they were not of the "turning-back" nature; the comrades of Garnish must not be disappointed, to Garnish they would go. After the first few miles, my husband had to lift one foot after another with the assistance of his hands. The last two or three miles his strength failed altogether, and the kind, brave men accompanying him carried him between them. They arrived at Garnish, but the Staff-Captain could not stand on his feet, so led the soldiers' meeting and talked to the Salvationists, lying upon the sofa in the officers' quarters.
The solders had a regular Newfoundland time of rejoicing, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of his concertina.
As a result of this experience, he lost his toe-nails, and I have seen him walk the floor hour after hour with the agony of the pain which kept him from sleeping after each of his walking expeditions. These things he never mentioned to any one, for it was a delight to visit the appreciative people all over the Island.
The dear officers in the different outports constantly walk these lengthy distances to their appointments, but my husband was unaccustomed to it, and evidently was not strong enough to stand it. He was storm-bound two weeks at this time, as the sea was too tempest-tossed on the west coast for the mail boats even to anchor outside the harbour of Burin and Grand Bank.
My husband was a great believer in visitation - going to people in their own homes - not so much for a social chat as to hold direct conversations with those visited on subjects of soul-interest. Whenever in a position to do this, it was always his pleasure to visit either sick, sad or sinful. In Newfoundland he visited much in the moments between travelling, correspondence and meetings. I will give just one of his many personal reminiscences:
He referred to this sort of thing frequently in his diaries. While visiting Trinity Bay on April 26, 1893, he says:
Saturday, April 29, 1983. - Oh, my soul got blessed this morning as I went with the officers and visited several homes. Such harrowing tales of sorrow and woe were poured into our ears of the losses by water. What a place Newfoundland is!
Another reference to this tour:
Wednesday, May 10, 1893. - Could not sleep all last night. The sea raged quite a bit, and the captain at one time had to have the vessel run through a big floe of ice. It was a terrible trip indeed from Trinity. After beating about for hours, reached St. John's harbour at four o'clock. Captains Payne and Tilley were on the wharf to meet us, and pleased I was to see them. Oh, how glad I was! I got very sick on reaching home and went to bed directly. The dear Lord is always near in every time of need. Bless Him! How glad I was to see and kiss dear Blanche and Winnie!
The Commandant wrote to the Cry at that time of the work in the Island, from which the following will be interesting:
In June we took our first tour together "round the Bay." I shall never forget that first Sunday on tour. The Newfoundland Salvationists are noted for their free primitive style of worship, praising God with all the unaffected simplicity of little children. Their fervent prayers are beyond all description. From what I had heard I expected much in Carbonear but the meetings far transcended my most extravagant anticipations. Especially can I see by memory's eye the Sunday afternoon service. It was the old-time "testimony meeting," and when my dear husband gave the opportunity - without a word of exhortation - it seemed as if half the splendid audience rose to their feet. At least sixty people responded to the invitation, and stood ready to magnify the grace which set them free.
It was a sight to make angels tune their harps in a gladder note of praise and cry, "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain."
We drove fifteen miles across the Barrens to Heart's Content the next day. The glittering rays of a brilliant June sun playfully danced upon the rippling waters as the waves, tossing, and tumbling, chased each other in Conception and Trinity Bays as if in gay, childish frolic. Away in the distance the huge icebergs, like magnificent crystal castles, moved slowly and majestically in the sea's deep emerald, their snow-white purity standing out in unique contrast against the dense sapphire of the vaulted sky overhead and the sombre hues of the rolling hills of the uplands above.
Over Newfoundland's little harbours the spirit of peace brooded, and the gentle breeze rising from the ocean beyond fanned the toilers at their nets, and the women working industriously in the little gardens surrounding the fishermen's cottages. After some hours driving we found ourselves approaching Heart's Content.
It was in the pretty half-circle bay at Heart's Content that the Great Eastern anchored years ago with the first Atlantic Cable. The Telegraph Company's offices are located here, making it rather an important place.
At Hant's Harbour (thirteen miles away), we arrived next day, just in time to witness a sight which we shall never forget. Flags were flying - including that at the top of the Army flag-pole - all over the harbour all the morning. Three schooners bound for the Straits of Belle Isle had been waiting for fair wind to enable them to start for their summer's work. In fact, they had started out once but were obliged to return. On board they had a living freight of about ninety souls, among them being nearly thirty of our own soldiers. When they returned they prayed earnestly that they might be detained, so that they might enjoy the night's meeting with us, but we and they were doomed to disappointment. Suddenly from the verandah of the officers' quarters we saw them weighing anchor, hoisting their sails, and taking the schooner's boats aboard. One after another the three boats beat out of the harbour. They go in companies like this so that they may aid each other should they encounter ice. As we stood waving our handkerchiefs, we saw a crimson one go up at the stern of one of the vessels, and across the water in the distance we caught the strains of a hymn. It was carried by the breeze over the waves, and the words which reached us as the vessels tacked back and forth before reaching the open sea were, "O say, will you go to the Eden above?" It was beautiful.
A few years ago, as all final preparations were being made for their arduous summer's toil, a listener would have heard oaths and curses. How different now! Many are saved, and if they do not all return - for many are lost every year off these coasts - they have left behind them bright testimonies of God's saving and keeping power. In spite of the number who had left this little place the barracks was crowded with people and the platform with Salvationists. A veil of sadness seemed to rest upon them, for many present had parted with their best loved ones. These dear Newfoundlanders feel their annual separation very much, for they are an affectionate people.
At Scilly Cove, which my husband had opened, and where we had encountered opposition and persecution from a source it should not be expected, we had two of the most interesting meetings in which I have ever had the privilege of taking part. A dear girl volunteered to the Cross while the Staff-Captain sang, "The door of God's mercy is open." How she wept over her heart-backslidings! "A backslider just out of hell," she cried; "God have mercy on a backslider just out of hell!" I thought her poor hands would be bruised and broken as she struck them vehemently upon the penitent-form. At night she testified twice to her new-found peace.
The building was densely packed for the evening meeting. English Church people Methodists and Salvationists testifying in rapid succession to a happy salvation, everyone telling their name and denomination when doing so. Five recruits were then enrolled, and a most enjoyable Soldiers' Council was conducted.
The scenery around the two bays is delightful, as we proved during our eighty-five miles driving over rocks, under rocks, around cliffs, beside the lovely natural harbours, and through a charming though wild country.
Some one has written:
John Read was a great worker. He toiled incessantly, not only for the good he was anxious to do and the blessing he longed to bring to those about him, but for the pure love of doing. Activity was his natural element and his whole being seemed set on fire with a determined energy that nothing had power to suppress. Hundreds of time I have seen him in Newfoundland, the North-West, and those last three years when he was always doing battle with pain and weakness, go to what he felt his post of duty when it seemed a physical impossibility for him to do it. "Life is short, God will help me," was always his argument. And, with this conviction strong upon him, all who have been closely associated with him will testify that he surely triumphed where those of less buoyant courage would have given in and felt the task before them impossible. If it is true, as Herbert Spencer says, that "Genius is the art of taking infinite pains," and of so taking hold of circumstances as to control them and make them subservient to one's will and purpose, then John Read was a genius, for this was ever his aim. If he had a small audience to address, he was just as earnest and interested as if a larger crowd sat before him, and when, through his failing health, he was obliged to relinquish some of his more important departments of work, he was not discouraged or depressed by the fact, but took up the lighter duties with the same zeal and energy as characterize his efforts when at the acme of his strength and usefulness. Perhaps his greatest power, however, was his faculty for setting others to work.
There are several references in his diaries to the Monthly Sergeant's Councils in Newfoundland. These meetings were a great stimulus to the Local Officers in St. John's and the means of inspiring them to greater exploits for their God. Only last summer, while visiting the Island, one of them, Sergeant Coffeil, of No. 2 corps, said to me, "Oh, I never forget the great blessing those monthly meetings were to my soul, they live with me yet."
Another way in which he was instrumental in starting others into fields of greater usefulness, was the uncompromising way he urged upon those who had been called by the Holy Spirit into the work of soul-saving to go forth in obedience to that call. I believe between sixty and seventy candidates for Officership were accepted during his command of Newfoundland. He regularly conducted Candidates' meetings in St. John's, which were a real blessing to those who attended. A promising officer remarked to me the other day, "I should never have been in the field if it had not been for the way he followed me up in the dear old days in Newfoundland." Not only did he use his powers of verbal persuasion and imperative urging, but he used his pen freely on the subject, He wrote many burning appeals to "those at ease in Zion," to rise up, and, as watchmen upon the walls, proclaim "the way of life and the way of death." In one of these appeals he says:
Jesus laid down his life for His enemies. Reader, you are literally surrounded by thousands of dead souls who need to be revived. If you seek to find your life, you will surely lose it; but if you lose your life you will find it.
We want no cowards in our band. We want stout-hearted women as well as men, who are not afraid to die. For earthly honors, for a paltry medal, men will leave their dear wives and children, go with their lives in their hands, literally shoot and mow down their fellow beings, and if they survive, will glory in the accounts of the bloody charges in which they have engaged. Such sacrifices will earthly soldiers make.
Oh, what a lesson, and what a rebuke to many so-called soldiers of the Heavenly King! Careless, limp, luke-warm, indifferent folks are no good as candidates for Salvation Warfare. This battle rages too fiercely. Canons roar too loudly. The fight is too stern and real for those who `want a job.' Young people of hope and faith and prayer are needed. If you are one of this sort, and your heart has been touched with sympathy for this poor sin-stricken world, respond to the call.
Oh, that this message from the heart - now still in the grave - that once throbbed warmly with one purpose; from the pen of one whose hands often traced just such straight, fervent appeals, may touch some one yet keeping back "part of the price," that they may rush into the breach and spend teir lives in seeking and saving the lost ones.
John Read believed in setting everyone to work. "Strengthen your spiritual muscle by exercise," I have often heard him exclaim; and, with this in view, the most timid and backward soldier, or most reticent beginner in the Christian life was brought forward to take part in his meetings.
The open air was his favorite battle field. Some months ago, before he went to his reward, a well-dressed, highly-educated gentleman came to speak to me in a public gathering. "I am a stranger to you," he began, "and to your husband, but I want you to tell your husband when you return home that eight years ago I heard him speak at the corner of College and Yonge Streets, Toronto. I was a nominal Christian at the time, but the words of truth he spoke took hold of my heart. I am convinced that I, as a Christian, should not indulge in the habit of smoking. I gave it up then and there, and have been a better man ever since. Tell him, will you, I shall never forget the blessing that open-air service was to me!"
In Newfoundland we had a great deal of opposition to the open-air work. Its purpose was not understood by the citizens, and many objected strongly to it. There were several cases of arrest on various pretexts, but in each case my husband ultimately triumphed, and, since that time there has been very little difficulty on this line, and some real victories have been achieved through this mode of preaching the Gospel, a method adopted by our Great Example on the mountains, road-sides, and sea shores of Palestine. There is one touching little picture of this open-air work among his papers, a scene which reminds one of that depicted by Matthew, when the poor leper, kneeling in the sands, cried for cleansing. He thus describes it:
Soon he found peace in believing in Christ. We believe this is the first case of open-air, soul-saving in St. John's City. And no wonder it caused shouts of joy. Praise the Lamb!
The beginning of the new year, '93, found my husband very busy, not only in regulating the ordinary work of the Province, but in urging upon the Government the settlement of the Army's relationship to the Education and Marriage Questions. The Premier, Sir William Whiteway, the Colonial Secretary, Hon. C. Bond, Hon. Moses Monroe (since deceased), and Hon. Mr. Morine, were always cordiality itself, and in every way facilitated the Staff-Captain's efforts to bring these matters to a satisfactory climax.
He refers continually in his diaries to these interviews, and to our prospective inauguration of the Rescue Work.
On Wednesday, February 22nd, he says:
Our predecessor, Staff-Captain (now Brigadier) McIntyre, had brought before the Newfoundland Government a bill asking for a special Act by which Staff Officers of the Salvation Army should have the legal right to perform the rite of marriage. The Staff Captain was successful in his endeavor. Unfortunately, it was found when the Act came to be applied it only empowered the Chief Officer of the Army in the Colony. This was not satisfactory, for there were districts in the far-away sections of the Island the Provincial Officer could not possibly visit for months together. An Amendment Act asking for an extension privilege to all Staff Officers holding commissions and being in charge of these districts, was therefore introduced and championed through the Lower House by Mr. Monroe, and the Upper House by Mr. Morine. The amendment was carried, and to the Staff Officers was secured the same right in the celebrating of marriage as the clergy.
Staff-Captain Read performed the first ceremony under the provisions of the new Act. I remember a typical wedding he conducted shortly after in Scilly Cove. We drove down from charming little Heart's Content, a distance of five miles. As we descended the hill leading to Scilly Cove, we were met by a number of Salvationists who were watching for our arrival. They escorted us into the harbour, where the buildings were decorated with flags and everything bore a gala day appearance.
The meeting was an ordinary Army one, characterized, of course, by Newfoundland fervor and zeal. At its close we retired to the home of the bride's friends, I believe, amid the firing of guns and general evidences of rejoicing on the part of all. The tables were spread with the best the harbour could offer, and a large number of guests sat down to supper. During its progress there was singing and music, and, later, testimonies on Salvation lines made joyous the scene for many hours. My dear husband was in his element, and led in his usual happy vein. While singing a favorite chorus, "Oh, we are going to wear a crown, To wear a starry crown," he noticed one of the soldiers, instead of clapping his hands as were the others, tapping his head vigorously. "What are you doing, Brother D______?" he asked. "Oh, it just fits, Staff, it just fits - the crown just fits!" The brother had been carried away by the spirit of the song until in his imagination he had risen above earth's cares and burdens and felt the pressure of his crown upon his head.
At our farewell at No. 2 St. John's the following year, the wedding service, uniting two of our soldiers was performed. The place was gorged with an eager crowd, many could not find even standing room.
The Staff-Captain was in one of his merry moods, and amid amused excitement told the audience how many people he had married in Newfoundland, adding: "If you want me to marry you, you must hurry up, I'll tie the knot for you all if you like before I go."
"Yes, sir, I'd rather go on one meal a day if I could only get Army Officers to come out to our place," said a man who called at our Headquarters one day to plead the interest of his outport home. Many similar urgent appeals were made; some we were unable, through lack of men and means, to respond to. But Staff-Captain Read opened several places, among them Old Perlican, Wesleyville, Trinity, Scilly Cove and Dildo.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
There are hands stretched out with pity
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Towards the erring, and the weak
Tender hands of loving women,
Who their wandering sisters seek;
There are eyes from which the tear-drop
Steals in silent sympathy,
While they look upon the lost ones,
In their guilt and misery.
There are hands stretched out with pity
While in Newfoundland the presence of the gentle, brown-eyed little Winnifred was lent us to brighten our home for a few months. Her short life was a blessing to ourselves and many others. The night of her public dedication when the "little white coat," as some of the friends lovingly called her, was given to God twelve precious souls made their way out of the great crowd at old No. 1 and knelt at the Cross. A young boy, Willie Collins, much afflicted bodily was drawn to the meeting through curiosity, and was afterwards converted in the dining-room of our home through its influence. He went to Heaven some time ago after three years' faithful soldiership, two of which were spent confined to his bed, rejoicing in the Salvation that he always said he found through little Winnie Read. Her father idolized her, and his fond hope was that she should grow up a useful woman. But when, one Sunday in August as the grey shadows of early dawn penetrated the night's darkness, the little life, after thirty hours' struggle with a virulent malady, fluttered out into the tender Shepherd's bosom, his voice was the first to find utterance through his tears and say, "It is Jesus, darling, we must not rebel," little dreaming how short a time would elapse before he would, in the Angel land, claim his loved treasure again.
Ensign Payne was like a brother, and managed all arrangements for us, conducting the funeral and laying the tiny remains away in St. John's pretty cemetery. It was in those dark days, when the sun seemed to have set in the gloom of night and the light had gone out of our home, that the depth of the affection of our loving soldiers and the interest of the many warm-hearted friends was made manifest. My own heart was numbed with the pain that finds no relief in tears.
As the solemn funeral cortege passed along, the silent sympathy which showed itself in the uncovered heads of the crowds on the streets and the large procession of Salvationists following was touching in the extreme. And when I turned and saw three lame sisters who were unable to march on ordinary occasions, walking with the others, the evidence of their sympathy touched my heart's deepest fountains and I wept floods of tears. My husband wrote a pathetic letter to my dear mother, which shows the depth of his affectionate spirit and the faith he exercised in his God:
To Mrs. Goodall, Toronto:
Dear Mother, - Under the trying circumstances, it was hard, very hard, for darling Blanche to write you, and I thought it best to take upon myself the task, feeling assured, first of all, of God's help in the matter. You will, dear mother, no doubt, ere this, have learned, through Miss Kinton, of dear Winnie's death. Both Blanche and I thought it best to wire to her to break the news to you, as we felt sure that a telegram would have distracted you, and had we not said anything until a mail goes, it would have been far worse.
Now, dear mother, let me start out by saying that our precious, dear one had every earthly attention possible; Blanche did not leave her till she died in her arms. All through Saturday the darling suffered terribly, never resting but a few minutes in one place, first in Blanche's arms, then in the cradle. Blanche would sing to her, and the moment the singing ceased she would cry. I thought it was very serious, and several times during the day, with tearful eyes, told darling Blanche that I thought she would not live, but she hoped on, worked on, gave the darling every care possible, all through Saturday, and through the night. Early in the morning, at five o'clock, the dear little creature breathed her last on Blanche's arm and all was over. The doctor was there a few minutes before - said nothing could have saved her. Now, dear mother, you can rest contented in nowing that the darling had every care, and you must not worry on that account. Blanche wishes this to be made very clear. We understand, dear mother, how you will feel, with all past anticipation for the future, for seeing dear Winnie. We hav wept together over all this, and weighed up in our sorrowing hearts the bitter disappointment it will mean to yourself, grandpa, Ella and the rest, but, in a wonderful manner, God is helping us to bear up and thank Him that the darling's sufferings were no worse and no longer than they were, for, mother, during that Saturday, if ever a dear babe suffered, she did; and, if ever a babe had a mother who tenderly cared for, loved and attended it, Winnie had one in darling Blanche, who is so thankful to God that she did not leave her treasure from the time she took sick till she died in her arms and went to sleep in Jesus. Together at the sweet little casket containing the body of our treasure, we have knelt and given ourselves to Jesus in a far deeper sense. She died just seven months after she was born, and just ten months after we arrived in St. John's. Oh, what a ten months it has been! What difficulties we have faced, and, as Blanche said today, "Johnnie, dear, God gave her to us for the time we were treading our rough path to help smooth the way, and now He has taken her back to Himself."
All day yesterday (Sunday) crowds of people were flocking into the house, to see the sweet little face. We can trace many cases of blessing and some of conversion to the influence of our dear, glorified Winnie's life. The little casket has been covered with flowers sent by kind and loving hands. Friends all over the city are so kind to us. We don't know what we have done to merit such love at their hands. But we love Jesus, and they must do it for His sake. You will naturally long to know how darling Blanche is bearing up, and I am glad today, dear mother, that she has been wonderfully helped by God.... We have hearts, mother, tender ones, too, which have been wounded deeply, but there is "a balm in Gilead," and, through our tears of sorrow, we look to that city containing our jewel, confident of seeing her again some day when "we all gather home in the morning." And, dear mother, who knows what the precious pet is saved from? God's ways are mysterious. It is through much tribulation that we enter into the Kingdom, therefore, dear mother, for our sakes, for Blanchie's sake, for Johnny's sake, look on the bright side. The darling might have been a life sufferer. Far better for her to be in glory than suffer thus. And, mother, only a little while and we shall be there. A few more battles, a few more victories, and our warfare will close. Life is becoming so much more real to both of us now. Heaven is far dearer and far nearer, for have we not two darling Angels there? And is not dear Florrie waiting and watching with them? Yes, yes, mother! Glory be to God, we have every encouragement to look on the bright side and continually sing,
"The cross is not greater than His grace, The storm cannot hide his blessed face."
Dear mother, let us thank God it is no worse, and while others have so many burdens to bear, given Him glory for his bountiful love and manifold mercies to us all.... We are going to be brave, and, under the most pressing time of trial, trust Jesus, although we may not be able to trace him. Praise His Name. God is His own interpreter, and he will make it plain. Of course, dear mother, there are lots of things we can and will tell you when we meet face to face. I could not write them all. However, above all things, we do not want you to worry, but take it all for the best. Oh, how we should rebel, if we were not converted people! "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth;" and mother, if you want, and I know you do, to comfort us in our sore bereavement, the best way to do it will be by bearing up yourself, looking on the bright side of things and feeling that in darling Blanche and myself you have two children whose refuge and strength is alone in God. He is helping us through. Cheer up, mother, it is better on before. We love His work more than ever we did, and count it all joy to be engaged in it at the Battle's front.
Tuesday, August 15, 1893.
Well, dear mother, the funeral is all over. It was a lovely sight. Nearly eighty soldiers marched. God bless them! They are so kind and true. The house was full of people. Lady Thorburn and others have sent notes of sympathy. Oh, it was a wonderful time! Dear Blanchie and I rode in one carriage, and the little coffin was borne in a carriage which went in front of us. Pretty wreaths and flowers covered the casket. Captain Jost made a beautiful wreath. It was a blessing she was with us, as she acted like a mother, looking after everything. It feels so lonely without our lamb this morning, but it is all right. We prayed together fervently this morning that God would make up to us with His love and presence our sore loss, and I believe He will do it. Bless His dear name! How the soldiers sang on our way to the grave, and never did the old song "Loved ones have gone before us" sound more real than it did yesterday afternoon. It was a lovely, cool afternoon. God helped us both to speak a few words at the graveside, and the sergeants and officers spoke so tenderly about the way in which they loved that "dear baby." It all seems so much like a dream now, and the worst of it all seems that there are little things lying around all reminding us of the loved darling gone away. It is so quiet today. However, dear mother, the needs of the poor, lost world cry out to us to be up and doing, and we must work while it is called day for the night cometh when no man can work.
Your telegram came just after breakfast this morning, and the two words, "look up," cheered us in a remarkable manner. We are looking up, mother.... You can fully understand a mother's love and a father's care. I feel that I cannot write much more, and dear Blanche wants to finish what I have begun. Captain Payne has just come in this morning to ask me to go and bury a poor woman tomorrow.
Our hearts were possessed with the desire so beautifully expressed by Margaret Sangster:
The Self-Denial effort was an important feature of the later end of the year. I will only quote from the Commandant's comments upon the success of the scheme:
I must pass over an interim. The later part of the year was spent by Staff-Captain Read in visiting the northern coast of the Island, and the story of his adventures and experiences is a second edition of the travels of the apostles. We spent Christmas in the Bonavista district, my husband in Wesleyville, myself in lovely Trinity.
We had expected to rejoin each other and return to Divisional Headquarters for the Yuletide season, in fact, had some special gatherings arranged which, of course, had to be postponed. It was the steamer's last trip for the winter, and she was ice-bound for many days. I waited a week in Trinity, watching in vain on a hilltop all one beautiful moonlight night for her appearance in the picturesque bay beyond.
My husband's journal entry for Christmas Day reads:
The year 1894 dawned, a year that was to mean so much change, joy and sorrow in our lives and work. It commenced with a never-to-be-forgotten Watch-night gathering.
John's first entry for the New Year was:
Rescue Work. - We had not been long in Newfoundland before we were quite convinced that a Rescue Home was much needed, as there was no institution of the kind on the Island. The importance of this, however, was not so patent to many of St. John's citizens, and they did not seem prepared to give it the support without which we could not make such an undertaking successful. Some preparatory work in the way of personal visitation among the most philanthropic people was done, however, and the need emphasized. My husband was always anxious to help those whose early environment had been of a degenerating nature, whose childhood had been deprived of the elevating influence of Christian home-culture. Many such find their way into our Rescue Homes, as well as others in whom a higher standard of morality might be expected. The last verse in the Good Book he ever drew my attention to was Isaiah xlii. 22: "But this is a people robed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses; they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith restore." Saying: "I think this text would be helpful to you sometime in your Social and Prison work."
When, therefore, the Commandant said to me during my visit to Canada in 1893: "If you can raise the money, Mrs. Read, you have my consent to open a Rescue Home," my husband was anxious to facilitate every effort in this direction. We had the pleasure of inaugurating the Rescue work in a splendid, influential gathering in No. 1 Barracks, at which a large number of leading citizens were present, and we opened a little Home a few days afterwards. His deep interest is shown in his diary:
Wednesday, January 3, 1894. - Again Blanche has been very busy getting things together for the Rescue meeting tomorrow night. I assisted a bit. Captain Payne was here doing a little work. Rev. Mr. Cowperthwaite came in to see us today. I was busy all day long with candidate matters and other important work. Oh, there is such a lot of writing to be done. We had a glorious beginning to our special meetings at No. 1 tonight. It was a soldiers' meeting, and the dear Lord came so very near and touched our souls. "All hail the power of Jesus' name!" I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness. Ten dear soldiers knelt at the Cross for deliverance. People coming to the door all day for tickets for the Rescue Demonstration.
Thursday, Jan. 4, 1894. - We had a big day before us today, but God lifted up our heads. Bless His Name! When in the tempest He hides me. This has been a very busy day, indeed, to me. I have been full of labor and love for Jesus. Then Blanche, too, was very busy with her Rescue operations for the great meeting tonight. Much anxiety has been manifested by all, and God has so helped. All glory to God for His sustaining power. The Rescue meeting is over, and God came near to Blanchie in a wonderful way and assisted her. Many of the elite of the city were there. Bless God, and how they listened. Two souls and $100.00 collection.
Friday, 5, 1894. - Lady Thorburn and Dr. Sommerville called today to bring their donations to the Rescue Work, and also to wish us God speed.
Monday, Jan. 8, 1894. - Up not very early with such a pain-wracked body. The dear Lord is my strength, though Blanche and I are both very weak this morning, yet the dear Lord sustains us all the way. I have not felt much like work today, as my head is so muddled with cold. It makes me feel, oh, so bad. After dinner dear Blanche went out to see a few people on behalf of the Rescue Work, getting promises of donations, etc.... Yesterday's meetings were times of great power and blessing. All glory to Jesus. It made us weak in body, but we feel strong in soul. Jesus had times of great weakness, but He conquered and so can we. All hail the power of His Holy Name. I did not feel at all well this evening, so did not go out, but went to bed. Blanche took the meeting and two souls knelt at the Cross. The three converts of last night testified. Bless the Lord.
Tuesday, 9, 1894. - In strong and mighty faith we went off to the last of the series of special meetings at No. 1 Barracks. We had a glorious time, no less than five souls out for mercy. Subject, "Boundless Salvation." All the young converts doing well. Twenty knelt at the Cross during the seven days. Tired, oh, so tired.
Tuesday, Jan. 16, 1894. - Blanche and I a bit better today. We are thinking and planning for our three weeks' tour which is coming on very fast. We shall have a glorious time I have no doubt. Bless the dear Lord. Hallelujah to the Lamb! The snow covers the ground very thickly. This afternoon dear Blanche drove out in Mr. Tuff's rig and saw Chief McGowan of the police force about Rescue Work. I have been straightening up a bit. Mrs. Read had a good time in her Women's Meeting tonight. About fifty sisters attended. We had a good sing after tea today.
This reference to the singing in our little home brings back to me memories of the delightful intermissions in our busy lives in Newfoundland Headquarters. When our official work was finished, often late in the evening, we put away books, reports, pens and paper, and, for a little time, enjoyed mingling our voices in praise to our King. We were sometimes joined by other friends. I remember on one occasion, especially, Secretary Charlie Ollerhead was spending his vacation with us, assisting in the office. Ensign Payne had joined our family party. We sang of the War, Heaven and the Blood, little thinking that, in less than five years, three of the five who composed the happy group would have ended the warfare, and washed in the precious Blood, be singing the song of Moses and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem. But it was so. Charlie Ollerhead, after a faithful soldier ship in his Heart's Content home and the Cable Telegraph Offices, finished a beautiful life, known and admired by all, and left, as a dying testimony, "I shall soon be in glory." Ensign Payne, after a brave service of Officership, and eighteen months' suffering "behind the scene," triumphed in the power he so earnestly recommended to others. My own loved one also finished his warfare as he always prayed and hoped to finish. "He fell like a warrior; he died at his post."
John's favorite song on those occasions was:-
. . . . . . . . .
I seemed as though I awoke from a dream -
How sweet was the light of day!
Melodious sounded the Sabbath bells
From towers that were far away;
I then became as a little child,
And I wept and wept afresh;
For the Lord had taken my heart of stone,
And given a heart of flesh.
Still oft I sit with life's memories,
And think of the Crystal sea;
And I see the thrones of the star-crowned ones -
I see there's a crown for me;
And when the voice of the Judge says, "Come!"
Of the Judge on the Great White Throne,
I know 'mid the thrones of the star-crowned ones,
There's one I shall call my own.
A few extracts about the tour referred to in his diary of Jan. 16, and which in some ways was a real disappointment as my husband had a serious breakdown in his health, and much of the tour I was obliged to fill his engagements. He was beginning to feel the effects of his exposure and laborious work on the Island. I had been obliged to leave him behind at Brigus. He was not able to stand on his feet, but, in his anxiety to be at his post, he followed the next day.
Sunday, 21, 1894. - Mr. Stevens drove me from Brigus to Bay Roberts this morning. I arrived there at noon. Bless the Lord! His mercies are new every morning. I find that Blanche had conducted a Saturday night meeting and a Soldier's meeting after that and had had good times. Bless the Lord. I feel very weak, indeed. I led afternoon meeting at Bay Roberts, and night at Port De Grave. I visited Dad Hampton.
Saturday, Jan. 27, 1894. - Up at 8 a.m., feeling very tired, but strong in Jesus, and ready for my big ride to Old Perlican (new opening). Bless God. Did business this morning, then, at 11, started out for Old Perlican on a slide. That was a terribly rough journey from Hant's Harbour. We started out at 11 a.m. and got there at 6 p.m., very tired. Captain Campbell welcomed us at the little quarters. The cold, cold Barracks was filled, the platform, too. Fifty-seven have been saved since Captain C. went there. Praise God! We had a grand welcome meeting. Blanche at Hant's Harbour while I am here.
Monday, 29, 1894. - I awoke this morning very weak in body and in my throat, but, from what I heard this morning, I have great reason to believe my visit to Old Perlican was a blessing. The whole place is alive. We rigged out our little "Catamaran" to start for our sixteen mile journey to Hant's Harbour through deep snow banks (as it snowed hard last night). Snow drifts we met. Blanche left here for Heart's Content this morning. I met the Sergeants here at the Quarters for Council. God is giving us grand times all along the tour.
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1894. - In quite a bit of pain tonight. Tossed on the bed, but felt a bit better when I got up. The severe cold has changed to soft weather and rain. I am at Scilly Cove, likely again to be a prisoner here, while Blanche is the same at Heart's Content, and this is the day we should have travelled across the country to Carbonear, but God knows all about it, His will be done. We can be a blessing wherever we are in this world.
Later. - We started to walk out to Heart's Content tonight - Bro. Downey, Bro. Buston, Bro. William Downey carrying my different things, and together we plodded through heaps of snow and water up to our knees. It was a terrible time. We arrived in Heart's Content at 4 p.m., wet and tired, Mrs. Gardner kindly gave us a good dinner, and after this we had a very profitable talk with old Mr. Gardner.
We finished the tour amidst the greatest difficulty, but in spite of sickness and inclement weather, and almost impassable roads, we visited every place planned for - had crowded gatherings and a real harvest of souls for the Master.
But in the midst of our schemes for the future, and when we hoped to stay on until the middle of the coming year, anyway - we were willing to live and die there - the unexpected news of our farewell arrived. We had been conducting one of a seven day's series of special meetings at No. 2 St. John's, and for the first time had spoken publicly of our plans for coming warfare. As we walked home, four of us, Captain Jost, Scribe, Captain Rice, Trade Special, we talked happily of the beautiful enthusiastic march and meeting we had just participated in - but my husband's journal shall describe what followed:
A beautiful work of soul-saving was going on in St. John city. The Officers in charge, Ensign Payne and Captain Baldwin (now Mrs. Ensign Collier), with their helpers and soldiers were being much blessed.
No. 1 Corps reported fifty-two souls saved the week prior to our farewell, and No. 2, fifty-one, the same week. We were soldiers to obey, and, though we loved our people much, and would like to have completed several things we had on hand, yet we believed our Commander, who understood the needs of the whole field, knew where his Officers would do the most useful service, so we made preparations immediately to depart, not knowing whither.
There was much to do - arrangements to be made for our successors, the Colonial Secretary to be visited respecting a Government subsidy to our new Rescue Work. Farewell meetings to be conducted - campaign to the nearest harbours round the bay to be made, and hundreds of minor matters which required attention.
Our last Sunday in the Island was one that will ever live in my heart - fifteen people professed to find Christ in the services. There was also a delightful meeting with the Officers of the city, who had endeared themselves to our hearts, great gatherings at the two city corps, farewell supper and council with our own people and other services.
The St. John's press said of my husband in reporting our farewell:-
And he wrote of our brave warriors -
Then there are those two hundred and fifty Local Officers and Sergeants - the backbone of the Newfoundland Salvation Army Contingent. Nobly have they rallied round us and their Field Officers. Without a cent remuneration, they have braved the wildest blasts in order to do their duty. Then, the host of kind, hospitable friends, who have entertained us on our many travels. Jesus has noted all their kindness and will reward them. To one and all, then, we would say farewell, and as we do so, urge upon them to take hold of, and lift up, their new God-appointed leaders, as they have done us. Extreme has been the kindness we have received on all sides, and we feel confident that this kindness will still be given to those who follow us in the Commandant's "pet Colony." In our weakness, we have striven to help and bless. Storms have been weathered, the grim hand of death snatched our darling baby from our side. No wonder we love this "Sea-girt Isle," for its soil contains the earthly remains of her who for seven months cheered our home. Happy will be the memory of the past months. The Newfoundland fight has made us better soldiers. The love of Christ constrains us to urge upon all left behind the great importance of being Christlike, loyal and truthful in the inward parts, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, living and dying at their posts. Beware of getting "set" and settled. The secret of your success is your simple, daring, blood and fireism. Lose it, and you fail. Keep it, and you progress. "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." Be as loyal on the coasts of Labrador, and on "the Banks," as you are while in your public meetings at home."
Surely of these self-denying officers it may be written, as the poet, Whittier, wrote of an Indian Missionary:-
The memory of those last days in Newfoundland, time and eternity will not erase, nor the sight of that great crowd of friends and soldiers who stood in the blinding rain and falling snow singing, as our steamer moved towards the Narrows out to sea:-
No, we never, never, never will give in, no we won't
No we won't. No we won't, no we won't;
No, we never, never, never will give in, no we won't,
For we mean to have the victory forever.