chapter  5
48 Pages

Illustrations: Random Observations From Booth's Notebooks

W e had received a post-card asking us to call on Saturday afternoon, from 3.30 to 5, when “ we should find a full room, and be able to talk after.” The door was opened by a matronly-looking Jewess, who proved to be the wife of the missionary. The room into which I was ushered was a small one, and was, as had been claimed, fu ll, with twenty-five Jewesses and five Jews. I was given a seat at the top of the room, next to a strange-looking individual with a black beard, who is the most important person in this

story. The missionary and another man, who acted as a chair­ man, sat also at the upper end of the room. On his legs was a German, who was addressing those present in Yiddish. H e spoke fluently, and with a good deal of gesture} but, with the exception of two Jewesses in the front row, all seemed to hear him with complete apathy, mingled with unconcealed signs of boreclom. But the two women were evidently following the speaker closely, and constantly nodded their heads, apparently in consent to his arguments. The German having finished, the black-bearded man was asked to say a few words. H e was a most extraordinarily grotesque person, and it is not easy to give any, even the most remote, conception of his appearance, his speech, his manner, his gestures. H e spoke in English, with a voice something between a rook and a corn-crake} but even more astounding than his voice was his accent, which, if reproduced on the stage, would be described as an absurd burlesque of the vilest type of modern cockney speech. The matter was of the visual street-preaching kind, on the lowest level. The Jews probably did not understand a word of it, and they mainly looked profoundly bored. A t the end, we Christians sang a hymn in English, out of Moody and Sankey’s collection: “ I am trusting, I am trusting, Sweetly trusting in H is blood.” The Jews had no hymn-books, and showed no signs o f being able to follow. The proceedings closed with a prayer in Yiddish from the missionary, and the audience trooped out, leav­ ing me with the missionary and his wife, and the bearded man. From the conversation that ensued, I gathered that this man was in truth the founder of the mission, twenty-six years ago, and that the present missionary and his wife were his converts, having “ loved their Saviour,” respectively, twenty-six and twenty-two years. As to present conversions, they said that all those in the front rows at the meeting were really converts} though owing to persecution, they were not all “ professing Christians.” “ The persecution is terrible,” said the missionary’s wife, adding, “ I have been through it, and know what it is.” Asked about relief, she said “ they were very poor, and that what God sends us we give them.” The mission, being in financial difficulties, was about to be transferred to a larger organization. The bearded man said he saw signs of a great movement among the Jews, and asserted that this mission had converted thousands! “ You may

report,” he said, at the end, “ that they are coming over in thou­ sands.”