Before the close of the year Miss Macpherson had returned from Canada, and at the usual monthly meeting for workers was again enabled to tell of the goodness and mercy that had followed her.
One of the great needs of the East End which has already been mentioned, was that of some central spot where Christian workers might meet for prayer and counsel. This need was abundantly met at the Home of Industry, open at all times, with a welcome and words of cheer ready for the servants of the Lord from every part of the world. The workers' meetings, once a month, have given opportunities for hearing tidings of the spread of the gospel in the "regions beyond." Those who had hitherto been standing idle have been aroused, and many who have long borne the burden and heat of the day have been refreshed. It would be difficult to reckon the number of those who have in the Home of Industry first heard the summons from the Lord to "go forth," as "messengers of the glory of Christ," and are now toiling in distant lands.
The difficulty of keeping a number of active restless spirits within the hounds of a house in the position of the Home of Industry, without one inch of yard or playground, and in the midst of streets in which it was unsafe for one of these boys to be seen, can hardly be imagined. It was a subject of the greatest astonishment to a descendant of Immanuel Wichern's that in such circumstances Miss Macpherson was enabled to keep them under control. It was, however, most desirable to find some place where their active energies could be employed in some sort of training for the Canadian out-door life. Miss Macpherson thus refers to her thankfulness that such a spot was found: --
"Those who share with us the burdens of this work will rejoice to hear that we have now a Home in the country, where we can cultivate a few acres, and where the children can become efficiently trained for Canada under the superintendence of Mr. and Mrs. Merry. It is situated near the village of Hampton and is now being furnished. This will enable me to rescue another hundred from street-life at once. What a boon from the Lord Whom we serve!"
It proved to be just what was needed, as is shown by the testimony of another friend: --
"The Training Home at Hampton bids fair to be a most valuable addition to Miss Macpherson's scheme for rescuing these dear children if only for their health's sake; the pure air, the early hours for rising, the outdoor and spade exercise, the plentiful supply of real milk, are all good; and the absence of all noise and excitement gives a much fairer chance of seeing what the boys really are, and the probability of their taking to Canadian life."
The next party was arranged to leave for Canada by the "Prussian" on the 4th of May, and on this occasion one who had the privilege of accompanying them thus wrote: -- "I feel it as impossible to convey to friends in England a true idea of the kind welcome accorded to our poor little ones, as it is to give to dear Canadian friends any adequate idea of the crowded misery of our own dens and alleys.
"It has scarcely been credited by some that so many hundreds of little travellers could have crossed the Atlantic in many successive voyages and not have experienced one storm. How we realised the power of Him 'who stilleth the noise of the sea, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people!' for on this voyage, as on every other, it has been remarkable that no discord has arisen among her many young charges. The work begun on land was carried on at sea, and many young hearts were blessed of the Lord ere they left the ship. It was pleasant to hear many testimonies in their favour among the passengers and crew; pleasant also to hear testimonies of thankfulness for Miss Macpherson's presence in the ship; for she laboured unceasingly among the crew and steerage passengers as well as with her own special charges.
"Kind letters of welcome were received off Quebec. For a few hours we were detained at Point Levi, waiting for the emigrants' train, and watching with delight the sun descending and streaming with splendour on the cliffs and magnificent river; some of the heights bare, others clothed with firs, all picturesque and grand. The evening star shone before us as we were carried westward; one of the little orphan girls said it looked as if watching over us to help us; and in the morning we reached Montreal Junction, where one of the warm Canadian friends who have welcomed Miss Macpherson so cordially entered the cars, and spoke very encouraging words to the young travellers, telling them how he had himself been as dependent on his own exertions as any of them could be, and how by perseverance in the situation he had first entered, he had risen from the humblest post to the highest, and had long been in a position to help others. This friend is the superintendent of a large Sunday-school, and his scholars have undertaken the support of an English child.
"A lovely cloudless day was just dawning as we arrived at Belleville, and we were greeted at the station by the kind voice of Mr. Henderson, one of the evangelists, for whose labours in Canada we have had so much reason to praise the Lord. The sun had not risen when we were first taken across the blue rushing river Moira, carrying with it the floating logs, felled far away, and borne by its rapid current to the Bay of Quinte, the beautiful shores of which we caught sight of just 'as the crimson streak in the east was growing into the great sun.'
"But we were now at Marchmont; and lovely as it was in the fresh green of spring, (the maples, not yet in full leaf permitting a glimpse of the bay,) yet all other feelings were lost in the joy of being welcomed by dear Miss Bilbrough, who had been watching for us all through the night. Miss Macpherson was allowed but few hours to rest before the throng of visitors came to welcome her, and to take away the newly arrived little ones. Among the first was a lady, the mother of eight girls, who had lost her only son, and who carried away, with tears of joy, a boy brought from Southampton workhouse. There were farmers from many miles round, bringing their recommendations from ministers or other well-known friends; there were children who had been brought out the previous year, some earning good wages, and bringing their savings to Miss Macpherson, too full of joy to say much, but clinging round the one whom the Lord had blessed in rescuing so many from want and misery. Among these were three former little matchbox-makers, who had known more sorrow and care during their early years than is sometimes crowded into a lifetime. Tears on both sides were sometimes the only greeting given. Pages might be filled with records of one day at Marchmont, records of the Lord's goodness to the fatherless and motherless, and those rescued from a worse fate still; whose parents would have dragged them down into the haunts of drunkenness and sin, from which, in later years, it would have been so much harder to reclaim them. Oh, that many more in our own land could witness with their own eyes the boundless openings for work, and provision made for our poor children in the broad lands the Lord has so mercifully spread before us!
"The first experience I had of the home of a Canadian farmer was in the neighbourhood of Stirling. Our drive was partly along the banks of the river Moira, which, perhaps, from being the first with which I was made acquainted, has always appeared to me one of the loveliest in 'this land of broad rivers and streams.' After leaving the river, our road passed through woods, in which we saw wild flowers of larger size and brighter colours than our own, though fewer in number; and from a rising ground we saw Stirling beneath us, and a few miles beyond reached the dwelling of one who had come out with no other riches than the strength of his own hands. His house was humble in outward appearance, but contained every comfort, and was surrounded by orchard and garden, and many acres of cultivated land. Huge barns to hold the abundant produce are always the most conspicuous feature in every Canadian farm. Cattle, sheep, and poultry were all around, and all his own, and in his own power to leave to the sons growing up around him. In this family the sons were all following the father's occupation.
"In most families that I have seen, as a good education is within the reach of all, some of the sons have preferred following the study of law or medicine; the farmers have therefore the more need of helpers, and welcome the more eagerly the young hands brought out. Though we were quite unexpected, all but one of our party being perfect strangers, we were pressed with the usual Canadian hospitality to remain the night; and while our horse rested, our kind host took out his own team and drove Mr. Thom to visit children settled in the neighbouring farms.
"My next experience was that of a farm beyond Trenton, where one of the boys was engaged. Our drive was along the bay, and the opposite shores of Prince Edward's county often reminded me of the Isle of Wight as seen from the Hampshire coast. Our road first passed the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, a grand and spacious building, a mile out of Belleville, and then was bordered by orchards and rich cornfields, scattered cottages and farmhouses, with lilac bushes clustering round the doors and verandahs. Outside every farmhouse may be seen by the roadside a wooden stand, on which are placed the ample cans of milk waiting for the waggon to carry them to the cheese factories. No fear, it appears, is here entertained either of milk being stolen or of fruit being missed from the abundant spoils on either side the road.
"At Trenton, beautifully situated near the head of the bay, a boy rushed out at the welcome sight of his friend, and farther on more greetings of love and gratitude awaited her. The farm we this day visited was one of more importance than the last. Four hundred acres of ground surrounded a well-built house, two stories high, and covering much ground. In such a dwelling a handsome piano is seldom missing, and here stood one in the inner drawing-room. Luxuries that could be purchased for money were not wanting, but labourers were not so easily procured, and the contrast between the interior of the house and the rough approach to it was most remarkable.
"So much must necessarily be done with so few hands, that time for a flower-garden, or even the making of a neat footpath, cannot be found. The mistress of the house looked sadly worn and wearied from want of help in her indoor labours.
"Within easy reach of this house stood a much smaller one, built by the owner of the farm for himself and his wife to retire to whenever their eldest son should choose a bride and undertake the farm. This I have seen elsewhere in Canada and have also known the heir of the property to go out for the day helping at another farm, where no labourer could be found in the neighbourhood. No contrast could be greater to one coming from the sight of the constant distress in the crowded East of London, -- distress arising from want of work, food, light, air, and room to live and breathe in, and the comfort here beheld and experienced through the abundance of all; the pure fresh air, the sight of 'God's blessings growing out of our mother earth,' the ground ready to bestow so rich a return for all the labour bestowed on it, and the only want that of the human hands -- the hands that, in our own land, are to be had so easily, that human beings are expected to work like machines, and human frames are used as though made of brass or iron."
Miss Macpherson was not permitted to remain many days quietly at Belleville. The call came for her to go farther into Western Canada, and this eventually resulted in the establishing of the Home at Galt. The journey is thus described in her own words: --
"Believing that our gift was to pioneer, we left our dear friends embosomed at Marchmont among the bursting maple trees in loveliest spring-time. At early dawn on May 23rd we started, with a party of twenty of our boys of different ages, for Woodstock and Embro, a district of country where thousands of Scotch families have settled, and where there has been a wave of blessing from the Lord, through the faithful preaching of evangelists in the past year. Therefore we longed to 'spy' the land, not so much to gain an increase of dollars or more cultivated land for our boys, but our object was to find hearts that had been awakened to newness of life; and we trusted that with such our children would be nourished by the sincere milk of the Word, and grow thereby into godly men and faithful witnesses of the Lord Jesus."
"At the close of a long and hot day's travel, we reached Woodstock; and though a single telegram had been the only announcement of our expected arrival, warm hearts greeted us. Next day the boys were gazed at, admired, wished for, questioned, and feted, until we began to fear lest they should be spoiled by seeing the great demand for them, and the eagerness with which they were sought after, being considered, as they term them, 'smart boys.' With ourselves it was a day of much prayer for the needed wisdom. And in the afternoon, (being the Queen's birthday, and kept by loyal Canadians as a complete holiday), the dear boys went off with us through shady groves for a walk. We went into a cemetery, and read together from our penny Gospels the 9th of St. John. But here we were found out, and invited to one of the loveliest country-seats we had ever seen. It had been an old Indian settlement, and from its groves we had a view of the distant woodlands clothed in richest foliage. On a beautiful lawn, the old Scotchman, with tearful tenderness, fed our dear boys with unaccustomed dainties, and jugs full of new milk."
"In the evening a Scotchman arrived from a still more western district, Arkona, deputed by his neighbours to come for seven more boys. We could, however, only spare him five. The boy he took from us last year had behaved so well, that the demand had increased. Then came those painful leave-takings; and to see great boys of sixteen and seventeen sobbing, was no easy work for my clinging heart; but He who scattered His disciples, and went Himself by lonely pathways, knew our need, even at this time."
"Next day we went farther inland, nine miles beyond the railroad, to Embro. There we found 'democrats,' each with a pair of horses, for the boys and luggage, in which they went off in high glee, under the care of a good man of my own name; and for myself and friend, a Highlander long frae the hills of our native land, had sent a carriage and pair of splendid spirited horses."
"Our party of boys had by this time considerably decreased; and had they been hundreds instead of ones, of similarly trained boys, there would have been no difficulty in distributing them into good homes."
"Canada is just now in a most prosperous state. Farmers' sons do not remain at home, but either, enter professions or stores, or go farther West to colonise. Hence the need of further help, which is met by our boys, who take their place, beginning with the A B C of farm-work, or, as Canadians express it, 'choring round.'
"This new district was very pleasing to a Scotch eye -- hill and dale, rich woods, substantial farmhouses, richly cultivated orchards, beautiful with blossom; picturesque views of gushing rivers in wild gorges, with grand old monarchs of the forest telling the tales of years gone by, ere the emigrant's axe had laid their companions low."
"We reached a lovely village, and were warmly welcomed by 'Macs' of every name, reminding one of childhood's summers spent in the Highlands of old Scotia. Here we were at home; the sweet assurance of a Saviour's love shone in the faces that now surrounded us; we were on the trail of an evangelist, and Jesus 'lifted-up' had been beheld, making faces beam with thankfulness to Him who had given Himself for them."
"The kind McAuley, who had opened his house and heart in expectation of the whole twenty boys from London, had himself been overwhelmed with love-offerings in the shape of food the good neighbours had sent in, vying with each other in showing kindness to the orphan and the stranger.
"Ah! what a power and privilege is granted to us women, in that we are permitted to arise and second the work of the evangelist by showing our faith by our works, and giving to the Christians in this land of plenty and no poverty objects upon which to work out their love! Words fail to depict the extreme tenderness and delicate attention shown to us, for Jesus' sake, during the forty-eight hours we spent in the midst of this kindred people.
"In the evening the old Scotch kirk was filled to the door, and after the singing of some sweet hymns and several heart-breathings of prayer, we spoke of the dealings of the Lord in this mission among the children of our million-peopled city. Whilst doing this, it was difficult to realise that we were not at home, among the dear brothers and sisters who are wont to meet with us for prayer at the Home of Industry.
"The thank-offering to the Lord at the close was spontaneous, also the supply of food sent in by the farmers, and which was sufficient for a hundred children. It seemed almost more than my poor heart could bear when I called to mind the starving multitudes gathered in, and ravenously devouring the morsel of bread dealt out to them in London. It made me long that the Christian women of our land would rise up in some great national movement, and help many thousands of our oppressed families to come out to this land of plenty, where millions of acres are crying for labour. It is no romance nor ideal of a heated brain, but a plain, practical way of showing our Christianity, this bearing the burdens of many a sinking, crushed-down family.
"The much-dreaded Canadian winter is really the most enjoyable period of the whole year, and when it is over one hears of nothing but sorrow that 'winter's noo awa.'"
Miss Macpherson had intended returning to England in October, but was delayed for a time by many calls for service. From Montreal she writes: --
"Strike another note of praise for the answer to the many prayers of our Glasgow fellow-labourers. A friend in Scotland has been stirred up to give 2000 pounds in order to build an Emigration Refuge in that city, that homeless lads may be trained for Canada. Let us unite in asking that ere long similar Homes may be opened in Edinburgh and Liverpool, where poor and oppressed orphans abound. Before returning to you, we trust that corresponding Homes on this side will be in course of preparation, one in the East and another in the West, so that when the 150 young emigrants arrive at Quebec, fifty can proceed at once to each Home for distribution.
"We leave Marchmont accompanied in our mission carriage by two boys; and these two have histories which contain a lesson for all boys. Their antecedents in England were much the same -- orphanage, want of caretakers, misery. One is still self-willed, having no mercy on himself, a runaway from the home in which we had placed him, and was brought to us a second time by the police as homeless. We are now taking him back to his master to hear all about the grievances, and find out that they arose from his determination not to go to school. A boy that does not value the opportunities afforded him, but prefers growing up in ignorance, must suffer for it sooner or later. May all boys who read this determine to apply themselves to every lesson heartily; each difficulty overcome will render it more easy to master the next.
"The other boy was one of the first hundred; he arrived by train from Toronto at midnight, and rang us up, expecting admittance, for he felt that he was coming home to see his friends, his master having given him a holiday. This boy, though utterly alone in the world, snatched by us from a life in London stables, stands there, at fourteen, a self-reliant little man, with his purpose in life clearly defined. He is not many minutes in the house before he discloses the joy it is to come home, and tells us how he has as good a suit of Sunday-clothes to put on as any gentleman.
"Next morning he sits during Bible-lesson in the schoolroom side by side with the ne'er-do-weel. Both are received for Jesus' sake, the one in his poverty and self-will, the other in his good suit and self-complacency, but both still wanting the 'one thing needful' to fit them for the home and mansions on high. Whilst endeavouring to explain how Jesus had loved them, and wrought out a righteousness for them, and was as willing to receive them as we had been, and that He had a large and loving heart, and cared for the many hundreds still wandering about in the great city, tears filled the eyes of the little group. Just picture what we felt as J -- - P -- -, in the most humble and childlike way, put his hand in his pocket and drew out twenty-five dollars, saying, 'Miss, that will bring another.'
"My words ceased, and a choking feeling came into my throat as the lesson was being learnt by half-a-dozen of self-willed returned boys. Much we longed that all our children could have witnessed this scene. Very few of them, except the selfish and depraved, would like to be behind J -- - P -- - in having the privilege of giving us so much encouragement in this work.
"The first year J -- - P -- - received no wagers, only his food and clothes; now, his services having become valuable, he gets six dollars a month. He has purchased for himself a silver watch, a good overcoat, and has also returned most honourably his passage-money, therefore he has received his neatly framed and beautifully illuminated discharge, to hang up, showing he is now no longer a poor emigrant.
"J -- - holds that the habit of saving the cents is the secret of success, and he intends plodding on until he can purchase a farm of his own, and we think it will not be very long before he does so, if his life is spared. Thus he accompanies us as a son, and as such is received and lodged in the various homes we visit.
"It was most amusing to hear him tell the runaway sitting by him in the carriage how to get on and advise him not to give way to his own will and his own temper.
"By boys this advice is more easily given than taken, as was proved in this case. We left the boy on his promising that he would be obedient and go to school. But the subtle enemy, ere the day was out, gave this boy of fourteen years old the idea of being his own master, rather than live out that wondrous word of four letters, obey. Again he escaped from a good home, and after wandering many miles, knocked late at night at a ferryman's, and asked for food. Here Robert Jack, a kind Scotchman, recognised the English corduroy, and at once met him with, 'You are one of Miss Macpherson's' boys.' He was fed and lodged, and strange to say, next day we were led, in the course of our journey, to cross that very ferry. The young runaway seeing us from the window exclaimed, 'Oh! here comes Mr. Thorn,' and would have hidden away from our sight, knowing he was doing wrong, for he would not understand that we were his friends, willing to help and love him. Oh, may all boys who read this seek earnestly to believe that Jesus is their very best Friend, and He only can remove their self-will and blindness of heart!
"In crossing the ferry early in the summer, we had spoken faithfully to this ferryman, and had sent him the 'Life of Robert Annan' by post. They had been schoolfellows together, and after reading the book, he got many others to read it also. This small sixpenny gift, accompanied by prayer, had done a work. Robert was willing to become a co-worker with us, and is now trying to train to honest industry our little self-willed runaway. Thus we hope that in the log-hut of the Scottish ferryman he may learn to read and write, and that the blessed Spirit will work on the hearts of both master and boy.
"The experience of yearning over this orphan boy moved our hearts to speak of Jesus, who bore with such long-suffering love our own rebelliousness ere we came to Him."
The story has been told before of the first poor girl rescued in the East of London through Miss Macpherson's blessed agency, one whose father had died suddenly of cholera, whose mother had thrown herself into a canal, and, though rescued, had been, through drink, a source of misery to her children. The eldest brother [Footnote: This boy, now a shoemaker, has written asking to be allowed to have one of the lads, as an apprentice.] of this poor girl, about sixteen years of age, had been brought out the previous year to Canada, and appearing one day at Marchmont, I thought from his looks and dress that he was one of the farmers' sons come to engage a boy, little thinking that so short a time had passed since he was destitute as the poorest among them.
In England we are so accustomed to the sorrowful sight of neglected children, it can hardly be imagined by us how such a fact strikes a Canadian. Often have I seen the tears in the eyes of the farmers at the sight of little ones brought so far to seek a home at such an early age. This was especially the case with regard to little Annie referred to in the following lines, the youngest of three sisters left motherless in a workhouse. When I last saw this little sufferer health and strength had been given to her, and she was the pet of all in a home of comfort.
"OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES AND SUCKLINGS."
"From the mouths of babes and sucklings,"
And e'en yet from infant voices
Little Annie sat beside me,
Little feet, too weak to wander
Thoughts of pitying love came thronging
So I asked the little maiden,
Strangely solemn, seemed the answer,
English sisters, rich and gifted!
"Take this child and nurse it for Me?"
If too stately are your dwellings,
Room where orchard boughs are dropping
When the winter snow lies sparkling,
When our maple pours its nectar,
When our Sabbath-scholars gather,
Sisters, shall we share the blessing?
S. R. GELDARD.