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´╗┐Title: The Comrade in White
Author: Leathem, W. H. (William Harvey)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Comrade in White" ***

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THE COMRADE IN WHITE


By The Rev. W. H. Leathem, M. A.


Introduction By Hugh Black


  "I shall not fear the battle
  If Thou art by my side."



1916



INTRODUCTION

The Great War has put a strain on the resources of human nature, as
well as on material resources. Men who have come through the hell of
the trenches have discovered some of the secrets of life and death.
Many of them have known a reinforcement of spiritual power. It is
quite natural that this fact should often be described in emotional
form as direct interposition of angels and other supernatural
agencies. Among these the most beautiful and tender stories are
those of "The Comrade in White." In essence they are all testimony
to the perennial fount of strength and comfort of religion--the
human need which in all generations has looked up and found God a
present help in times of trouble.

The origin of the many stories brought back to England from the
battle fronts by her soldiers is that to the average Briton this a
religious crusade, and men have gone with an exaltation of soul,
willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, willing to die that the
world might live. Men and women are face to face with eternal
realities, and are driven by the needs of their hearts to the
eternal refuge. Unless we see this we miss the most potent fact in
the whole situation.

The tender stories in this little volume are a reflex of the great
religious stirring of the nation. They describe in a gracious and
pathetic way the various abysmal needs of this tragic time, and they
indicate how many human souls are finding comfort and healing and
strength. They are finding peace as of old, through the assurance
that "earth has no sorrows, that heaven cannot heal."

HUGH BLACK.

NEW YORK.



"THE WHITE COMRADE"


I


  When soldiers of the Cross waged Holy War,
  With courage high, and hearts that did not quail
  Before the foe, in olden times they saw
  The blessed vision of the Holy Grail.
  Tho' Christ was gone, His pledge was with them yet,
  For, borne on wings of angels, from the skies,
  They saw the chalice that once held the wine
  As emblem of the Saviour's sacrifice
  For men, and knew that still the Master met,
  With His own friends, in fellowship divine.


II


  Christ has His soldiers now.
  Though years have rolled
  Away, the warriors of the Cross are strong
  To fight His battles, as the saints of old,
  Against oppression, tyranny, and wrong.
  And still amid the conflict, they can trace
  The Saviour's influence. Not the Holy Grail
  Which once as His remembrance was adored,
  But Christ Himself is with them. For a veil
  Is lifted from their eyes, and, face to face
  They meet the presence of the risen Lord.


III


  O blessed vision! After all the years,
  Thou'rt with us yet. To-day, as heretofore,
  Men see Thee still and they cast off their fears,
  And take fresh courage to press on once more.
  The soldiers, bearing from the desperate fight
  A wounded brother, see Thee, in the way,
  And know Thee for the Saviour, Healer, Friend,
  For once again, Thy loved ones hear Thee say
  (O Christ! White Comrade, in their stand for right!)
  "Lo, I am with you alway, to the end."


_Fidei Defensor_.



CONTENTS


I.        IN THE TRENCHES

II.       THE MESSENGER

III.      MAIMED OR PERFECTED?

IV.       THE PRAYER CIRCLE



I. IN THE TRENCHES

  "And immediately He talked with them, and
  saith unto them, 'Be of good cheer; it is I; be
  not afraid.'"

  --THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MAKK, chap, vi: 50.

  "And His raiment was white as snow."

  --THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, chap. xvii: 2.

"The Battle of Mons, which saved the British Army from annihilation,
was, for the most of those who fought with the angels, a sepulchre.
They saved the British Army, but they saved it at fearful cost. No
'great host' withdrew from that field of destruction; the great host
strewed the ground with their bodies. Only a remnant of those who
stood in the actual furnace of Mons escaped with their lives ... Let
those who mourn, take encouragement from these stories of visions on
the battlefield, quietly and with a child's confidence, cultivate
within themselves a waiting, receptive and desiring spirit. Let them
empty themselves of prejudice and self.... Let them detach
themselves more and more from the obsessions of worldly life.
Serenity is the path by which the thoughts of God travel to us; and
Faith is the invitation which brings them to the table of our souls."

--ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS.



IN THE TRENCHES

Strange tales reached us in the trenches. Rumours raced up and down
that three-hundred-mile line from Switzerland to the sea. We knew
neither the source of them nor the truth of them. They came quickly,
and they went quickly. Yet somehow I remember the very hour when
George Casey turned to me with a queer look in his blue eyes, and
asked if I had seen the Friend of the Wounded.

And then he told me all he knew. After many a hot engagement a man
in white had been seen bending over the wounded. Snipers sniped at
him. Shells fell all around. Nothing had power to touch him. He was
either heroic beyond all heroes, or he was something greater still.
This mysterious one, whom the French called _The Comrade in White_,
seemed to be everywhere at once. At Nancy, in the Argonne, at
Soissons and Ypres, everywhere men were talking of him with hushed
voices.

But some laughed and said the trenches were telling on men's nerves.
I, who was often reckless enough in my talk, exclaimed that for me
seeing was believing, and that I didn't expect any help but an
enemy's knife if I was found lying out there wounded.

It was the next day that things got lively on this bit of the front.
Our big guns roared from sunrise to sunset, and began again in the
morning. At noon we got word to take the trenches in front of us.
They were two hundred yards away, and we weren't well started till we
knew that the big guns had failed in their work of preparation. It
needed a stout heart to go on, but not a man wavered. We had advanced
one hundred and fifty yards when we found it was no good. Our Captain
called to us to take cover, and just then I was shot through both
legs. By God's mercy I fell into a hole of some sort. I suppose I
fainted, for when I opened my eyes I was all alone. The pain was
horrible, but I didn't dare to move lest the enemy should see me,
for they were only fifty yards away, and I did not expect mercy. I
was glad when the twilight came. There were men in my own company
who would run any risk in the darkness if they thought a comrade was
still alive.

The night fell, and soon I heard a step, not stealthy, as I expected,
but quiet and firm, as if neither darkness nor death could check
those untroubled feet. So little did I guess what was coming that,
even when I saw the gleam of white in the darkness, I thought it was
a peasant in a white smock, or perhaps a woman deranged. Suddenly,
with a little shiver of joy or of fear, I don't know which, I
guessed that it was _The Comrade in White_. And at that very moment
the enemy's rifles began to shoot. The bullets could scarcely miss
such a target, for he flung out his arms as though in entreaty, and
then drew them hack till he stood like one of those wayside crosses
that we saw so often as we marched through France. And he spoke. The
words sounded familiar, but all I remember was the beginning.
"If thou hadst known," and the ending, "but now they are hid from
thine eyes." And then he stooped and gathered me into his arms--me,
the biggest man in the regiment--and carried me as if I had been a
child.

I must have fainted again, for I woke to consciousness in a little
cave by a stream, and _The Comrade in White_ was washing my wounds
and binding them up. It seems foolish to say it, for I was in
terrible pain, but I was happier at that moment than ever I remember
to have been in all my life before. I can't explain it, but it
seemed as if all my days I had been waiting for this without knowing
it. As long as that hand touched me and those eyes pitied me, I did
not seem to care any more about sickness or health, about life or
death. And while he swiftly removed every trace of blood and mire I
felt as if my whole nature were being washed, as if all the grime and
soil of sin were going, and as if I were once more a little child.

I suppose I slept, for when I awoke this feeling was gone. I was a
man, and I wanted to know what I could do for my friend to help him
or to serve him. He was looking towards the stream, and his hands
were clasped in prayer; and then I saw that he too had been wounded.
I could see, as it were, a shot-wound in his hand, and as he prayed
a drop of blood gathered and fell to the ground. I cried out. I
could not help it, for that wound of his seemed to me a more awful
thing than any that bitter war had shown me. "You are wounded too,"
I said faintly. Perhaps he heard me, perhaps it was the look on my
face, but he answered gently, "This is an old wound, but it has
troubled me of late." And then I noticed sorrowfully that the same
cruel mark was on his feet. You will wonder that I did not know
sooner. I wonder myself. But it was only when I saw His feet that I
knew Him.

"The Living Christ"--I had heard the Chaplain speak of Him a few
weeks before, but now I knew that He had come to me--to me who had
put Him out of my life in the hot fever of my youth. I was longing to
speak and to thank Him, but no words came. And then He rose swiftly
and said, "Lie here to-day by the water. I will come for you tomorrow.
I have work for you to do, and you will do it for me."

In a moment He was gone. And while I wait for Him I write this down
that I may not lose the memory of it. I feel weak and lonely and my
pain increases, but I have His promise. I know that He will come for
me to-morrow.



II. THE MESSENGER

  "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood
  in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace
  be unto you."

  --THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE, chap. xxiv: 36.

"The War has powerfully changed the 'psychological atmosphere,' and
the thoughts of a great multitude are turned towards the spiritual
aspect of existence. In this vast but connected universe we are not
the only self-conscious beings. Life is working here as elsewhere,
for some sublime purpose. The day is at hand when we shall turn from
the child-like amusements and excitements of physical science to the
unimaginable adventures of super-physical discovery; and in that day
we shall not only flash our messages to the stars, but hold
communion with our dead."

--HAROLD BEGBIE.



THE MESSENGER

The Parish Church stood high perched in the Glen, and through its
clear windows we could see the white, winding road that was our one
link with the great world beyond the mountains. Perhaps our eyes
strayed from the preacher's face more than was seemly, and in spring
time we had this excuse, that the fresh green of the larches against
the dark rocks made a picture fairer to the eye than our plain old
Church and its high pulpit.

But that Sunday in the spring of the Great War the minister had us
all, even the young and thoughtless, in the hollow of his hand. It
was the 18th chapter of Second Samuel that he had read earlier in
the Service, and now he was opening its meaning to us with deep-felt
realisation of those great dramatic episodes.

We saw the young man Absalom die. We saw Cushi start to bear his
tidings to the king. We watched Ahimaaz swift on his track. We
marked the king's anxious waiting, and the fixed gaze of the watchman
on the city walls. We strained in the long strain of the runners. We
fainted with the fears of a father's heart. We saw Ahimaaz outrun his
rival yet falter in his message. And we heard the blow upon David's
heart of Cushi's stroke. "And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young
man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king,
and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man
is."

There were tears in the women's eyes as the preacher called us to see
the stricken and weeping king climbing with weary step to the chamber
over the gate. And in a solemn hush we heard the cry of his anguish
"--O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died
for thee. O Absalom, my son, my son!"

We had anxious fathers and mothers and wives and sisters in the
Church that day, and it was as though our own sorrows were all
gathered up into the old, unhappy, far-off things of which the
preacher spoke. I had a dear one to be concerned for, but I was
thinking now of some one else. For Widow McDonald was there, and the
days had grown into weeks since last she had tidings of John--and he
was her only boy.

Suddenly she rose and slipped out. I followed her, for there was an
odd, silent friendship between us, and I thought that I might help.
To my surprise she did not turn homewards, but down the Glen, and
there I saw that some one was waiting for her by the pine wood.
"I saw your sign, sir," she said, "and I guessed you brought news of
John. Oh, sir, tell me quick, is he safe?"

"He is safe," the stranger answered. I could not see His face, but
He seemed weary and far-travelled. It was His voice that made me
wonder. For as He said "safe," it was as a new word to me, so full
of healing and of peace that it laid to rest every fear of my unquiet
heart.

"And will he be home soon?" It was the mother who was speaking now.

"I have taken the dear lad home," answered the stranger. "His room
has been long prepared for him in my Father's house. He has fought a
good fight. He was wounded, but his wounds are healed. He was weary,
but he has found rest." And so speaking He looked at us, and as the
mother clasped my hand I knew that the truth was breaking on her too.

"He is dead," she sobbed.

"No," said the stranger, "he is alive, for he has laid down his life
that he might take it again."

There was silence then, and the stranger turned to leave us. Even in
her grief the mourner was mindful of what was due to Him who had
taken upon Himself the burden of sorrowful tidings.

"Come back with us, and break bread, and rest a while," she said,
"for, sir, you seem spent, and it is out of a kind heart that you
have spoken."

"I may not tarry," He made answer, "for there are many who need me,
and I must go to them, but for thy comfort thou shalt first know who
hath brought thee tidings of thy son's passage through death to life."

I dare not try to tell what happened then under the shadow of the
pines, but somehow we _knew_ our eyes looked into the face of the
soldiers' _The Comrade in White_; and we knew Him. And then His hand
was lifted in blessing, and we heard this word, that is now as the
music of our daily lives: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give
unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your
heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

       *       *       *       *       *

We walked in a strange, calm silence to the widow's cottage, and
then as we parted she turned to me a face filled with heavenly
peace--"My dear boy lives," she said.



III. MAIMED OR PERFECTED?

  "Now no chastening for the present seemeth
  to be joyous but grievous: nevertheless, afterward,
  it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness
  unto them which are exercised thereby."

  --HEBREWS xii:11.

"Six months passed within the danger zone, produces a subtle but
marked change. Bright lads become men, who bear all the marks of
having passed through a solemn purification by fire. And the subtle
influence, as thus depicted, is communicated to us.... To say that
the horrors of war have subdued and overawed them is but part of the
explanation. It seems nearer to the truth to add, that these
harrowing experiences, whatever they may have been, have only helped
to make our young men susceptible to spiritual influences of the
highest quality. In fine, they have been following in the footsteps
of Him who is The Great Sacrifice, and even amid the bursting shells
have caught a glimpse of wounds that transform and consecrate their
own."

--_The Great Sacrifices_, JOHN ADAMS.



MAIMED OR PERFECTED?

My heart grew bitter in me when the news came of Harry's operation.
I had been half relieved when I heard that he was wounded, and that
the wound was not dangerous. For the grim alternative was seldom out
of my thoughts, and at least his dear life was safe. Now I was
crushed by the brave, pathetic letter in which he told me that his
right leg had been amputated, and that he was lucky to get off so
easily. That made me rebellious and very, very bitter. And it was
against God that I felt worst--God who had allowed this unthinkable
thing to be.

Harry a cripple! Harry of all people! I could not imagine it, nor
accept it, nor even face the truth of it. And away at the bottom of
my heart lurked the thought that it had been better for himself that
he had died in the strength and beauty of his manhood. Why should
his spirit be doomed to live on in a ruined home?

Harry is my only brother, and he has been my hero always. Manliness,
strength, courage, unselfishness--I know what these things mean;
they mean Harry. And of course I was proud when he got his double
blue at Cambridge. Cricket and football were more than pastimes to
him. He put his heart and soul into them, and when he made 106 not
out against Oxford he was as happy as if he had found a new continent.
And now the great athlete, the pride of his College, the big
clean-limbed giant was a cripple. I could not weep for it, because I
could not believe it. I took the thought and flung it from me. And
then I picked it up again, and gazed at it with hard, unseeing eyes.
It was at that time I stopped praying. What was prayer but a mockery,
if Harry was maimed?

Harry was at Cairo, and I could not go to him. And though that made
me feel helpless, and almost mad with inaction, yet in my heart I
dreaded meeting him, seeing him, taking in the bitterness of it
through the eyes. I was a coward, you see, and my love for him a
poor thing at the best. But there are some who will understand how I
felt, and will forgive me.

His letters were all right, not a word of complaint, for Harry never
grumbled, and many a good story of the hospital and its patients and
its staff. But there was something else, a kind of gentle
seriousness as if life were different now. And I read my own misery
into that, and pictured him a man devoured by a secret despair,
while he smiled his brave undefeated smile in the face of all the
world.

The weeks passed, and I braced myself for the coming ordeal. Then
everything came with a rush at the last, and there I was at the docks
giving my brave soldier his welcome home. It was not any easier than
I expected. I tried my hardest, as you may guess, to be all joy and
brightness, but when we were alone in the motor together my eyes
were full of tears, and I broke down utterly. Poor Harry, poor Harry,
why are physical calamities so awful and so irrevocable?

He let me cry, and then he said suddenly, "Come, Mary, look at the
real 'me,' don't bother about that old leg, but look into my face,
and tell me what you see. There is something good for you to see if
you will look for it."

He said it so strangely that I was myself in a moment, and doing what
he told me just as in the good old days before the war. And then I
saw that Harry was a new Harry altogether, and that he was radiantly
happy. His face was pale and thin, but his eyes were ablaze with
something mysterious and wonderful. "Don't ask me anything now," he
said; "wait till we are in my old den, and then I will tell you
everything." And by this time I was so comforted that I was content
to lie back and watch that dear, happy face of his.

I shall never forget the talk we had afterwards. "Mary," he said, in
his straight, direct way, "I've come back a better man. I have been
all my life a healthy, happy pagan. We were brought up, you and I,
on the theory of a healthy mind in a healthy body, and, of course,
it's a good theory so far as it goes. But it did for me what it does
for many a fellow. It made me forget my soul. Sport did a lot for me,
I know, but sport became my world. The life I lived there was
wholesome enough, but at the best what a poor, contracted, limited
thing is the body, and its joy. And what a big, splendid world I've
found the door to now."

"How did it come about, Harry?" I said, and the frost and the
bitterness and the anger against God were all gone out of my heart
and voice.

"Well, I don't quite know. That's the queer thing about it. I don't
deny I was a bit savage at first at what had happened. And I often
wished I were dead, for I saw my old self wasn't much good for this
new life I was up against. Then one Sunday the padre, who was a very
decent sort, gave us a straight talk that opened my eyes a bit. He
was speaking about Paul and the difference Christ made in his life.
Paul was a splendid fellow, and as good as good could be, and just
like many a man to-day who seems all right without Christ. But what
a difference Christ made in him for all that! And how He made the
old Saul of Tarsus seem a poor thing in comparison with Paul the
apostle! There was something, too, about Paul's thorn in the flesh,
but I forget that bit. Anyhow I did some furious thinking that
Sunday in Cairo, though I saw nothing clearly, and didn't lay much
store by my own future.

"That night the strange thing happened. I woke up in the early hours
when no one was astir, and I saw a man come in by the door and walk
down the ward. He gave a sort of understanding, tender look at every
face as he passed, and when he saw that I was awake he came close
beside me and held my hand for a moment. Then he said, 'Will you let
me help you with this burden of yours?' I thought at first it was
the new doctor we were expecting. Then I knew quite suddenly that it
was _The Comrade in White_, and that He wanted me very much to say
'Yes.' And as I said it I felt the first real happiness that I had
known since I was wounded. And then He smiled and went away.

"I told myself next day that it was a dream, and perhaps it was, but
that strange, odd happiness has never left me since. I wouldn't be
back again in the old way, not for all the world could give me, not
even to have my leg restored."

"And is He really helping you with your burden?" I whispered.

"Why, Mary child, can't you see," he exclaimed, with his merry laugh;
"can't you see that He has carried my burden quite away? I was but
half a man before. He has made me whole."



IV. THE PRAYER CIRCLE


  " ... More things are wrought by prayer
  Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
  Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
  For what are men better than sheep or goats
  That nourish a blind life within the brain,
  If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
  Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
  For so the whole round earth is every way
  Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."


  --_The Passing of Arthur_, ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON.


  "Fight the good fight with all thy might,
  Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right,
  Lay hold on life, and it shall be
  Thy joy and crown eternally."

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Faint not, nor fear, His arms are near,
  He changeth not, and thou art dear:
  Only believe, and thou shalt see
  That Christ is all in all to thee."

  --J.S.B. MONSELL.



THE PRAYER CIRCLE

Lieutenant Roger Fenton had a lump in his throat when he said
good-bye to his boys. There they were in a bunch on the station
platform, the ten wayward lads into whom he had sought to instil the
fear of God on Tuesday evenings in winter, and with whom he had
rambled and played cricket every Saturday afternoon in summer. Boys
of fourteen to seventeen are a tough proposition, and though Fenton
would answer for their bowling and batting he wasn't over sanguine
about their religion. But they had filled a big place in his lonely
life in the dull little country town, and now he had to leave them
and lose them. For the great call had reached him, and he bore the
King's commission, and in his heart of hearts he had the feeling
that he would never come back.

Now the chaff and the parting words of good luck were over, and the
train was panting to be off. "Boys," he cried suddenly, "I want you
to do something for me, something hard." "Anything you like, sir,"
they answered eagerly. But their faces fell when they heard their
teacher's word. "Look here," he said, "it's this. You'll meet in the
old place every Tuesday evening for a few minutes and pray for me
that I may do my duty, and, if it please God, that I may come back
to you all. And I'll pray for you at the same time even if I'm in
the thick of battle. Is it a bargain?"

I wish you had seen the dismay on those ten faces. It was any odds on
their blurting out a shamefaced refusal, but Ted Harper, their
acknowledged chief, pulled himself together just in time, and called
out as the train began to move:--"We'll do it, sir. I don't know how
we'll manage it, but we'll do our best. We'll not go back on you."

As Fenton sank into his corner he was aware of the mocking looks of
his brother officers. "I say," said one of them, "you don't really
think those chaps are going to hold a prayer-meeting for you every
week, and if they did you can't believe it would stop an enemy's
bullet or turn an enemy's shell. It's all very well to be pious, but
that's a bit too thick." Fenton flushed, but he took it in good part.
"Prayer's a big bit of our religion," he said, "and I've a notion
these prayers will help me. Anyhow I'm sure my lads will do their
part. Where Ted Harper leads, they follow."

And sure enough the boys did their part. It was fine to see them
starting out in the wrong direction, and twisting and doubling
through the crooked lanes till they worked round to the Mission Hall,
and then in with a rush and a scuttle, that as few as possible might
see. The doings of the Fenton crowd, as they were known locally,
were the talk of the town in those first days after Roger departed.
Would they meet? Would they keep it up? Would they bear the ridicule
of the other boys of their own age? And how in the world would they
pray?

Time answered all these questions except the last. They met, they
continued to meet, they faced ridicule like heroes. But how did they
pray? That mystery was as deep and insoluble as before, for whatever
awful oath of secrecy bound them to silence not a whisper of the
doings of those Tuesday evenings was divulged to the outside world.

I was the only one who ever knew, and I found out by chance. Ted
Harper had borrowed "Fights for the Flag" from me, and when I got it
back there was a soiled piece of paper in it with something written
in Ted's ungainly hand. I thought he had been copying a passage, and
anxious to see what had struck him, I opened the sheet out and read
these words:--"O God, it's a hard business praying. But Roger made
me promise. And you know how decent he's been to me and the crowd.
Listen to us now, and excuse the wrong words, and bring him back safe.
And, O God, make him the bravest soldier that ever was, and give him
the V.C. That's what we all want for him. And don't let the war be
long, for Christ's sake. Amen."

I felt a good deal ashamed of myself when I came to the end of this
artless prayer. I had got their secret. I could see them kneeling
round the Mission forms, two or three with crumpled papers in their
hands. They were unutterably shy of religious expression, and to read
was their only chance. The boys on whom the fatal lot fell the
previous Tuesday were bound to appear with their written devotions a
week later. This war has given us back the supernatural, but no
miracle seems more wonderful to me than those ten lads and their
ill-written prayers. And, remember, that liturgical service lasted
six months, and never a break in the Tuesday meeting. What a grand
thing a boy's heart is, when you capture its loyalty and its
affection!

It was a black day when the news came. The local Territorials had
advanced too far on the wing of a great offensive, and had been
almost annihilated. The few survivors had dug themselves in, and
held on till that bitter Tuesday faded into darkness and night. When
relief came, one man was left alive. He was wounded in four places,
but he was still loading and firing, and he wept when they picked
him up and carried him away for first aid. That solitary hero,
absolutely the only survivor of our local regiment, was Lieutenant
Roger Fenton, V.C.

When his wounds were healed, and the King had done the needful bit
of decoration, we got him home. We did not make the fuss they did in
some places. Our disaster was too awful, and the pathos of that
solitary survivor too piercing. But some of us were at the station,
and there in the front row were the ten men of prayer. Poor Roger
quite broke down when he saw them. And he could find no words to
thank them. But he wrung their hands till they winced with the pain
of that iron grip.

That night I got a chance of a talk with him alone. He was too
modest to tell me anything of his own great exploit. But there was
evidently something he wanted to say, and it was as if he did not
know how to begin. At last he said, "I have a story to tell that not
one in fifty would listen to. That Tuesday evening when I was left
alone, and had given up all hope, I remembered it was the hour of
the old meeting, and I kept my promise and prayed for the boys of my
Class. Then everything around me faded from my mind, and I saw the
dear lads in the Mission Room at prayer. I don't mean that I went
back in memory. I knew with an absolute certainty that I was there
invisible in that night's meeting. Whether in the body or out of the
body, I cannot say, but there I was, watching and listening."

"How wonderful!" I said.

"That's not all, there's something stranger still," he went on.
"They were kneeling on the floor, and Ted Harper was reading a prayer,
and when it was done they said 'Amen' as with one voice. I counted
to see if they were all there. I got to ten right enough, but I did
not stop there. I counted again, and this is the odd thing--_there
were eleven of them_! In my dream or vision or trance, call it what
you will, I was vaguely troubled by this unexpected number. I saw
the ten troop out in their old familiar way, and I turned back to
find the eleventh, _The Comrade in White_, and to speak to Him. I
felt His presence still, and was glad of it, for the trouble and
perplexity were all gone and in their place a great expectation. I
seemed to know the very place where He had been kneeling, and I
hurried forward. But there was nothing to be seen, nothing but the
well-remembered text staring down at me from the wall--'For where
two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the
midst of them.' I remembered no more, till I found myself in the
base hospital. But of course I knew then how I had been saved, and
what my boys had done for me.

"It makes a man feel strange to have his life given back to him like
that; it's as if God would expect a great deal in return. But
there's a stronger feeling still in my heart. I believe the lads got
their answer not for my sake but for their own. Think what it means
to them. They've got their feet now on the rock of prayer. They know
the truth of God. I'm not sure, but I don't think I'll ever tell
them that I saw Christ in their midst. They know it in their own way,
and perhaps their own way is best."

And as he said it, I saw that Lieutenant Roger Fenton was prouder of
his boys than of his Victoria Cross.





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