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EFORE entering upon the reading of the book, it will
be well to open the door of the Retreat to its readers. and let them take a view of the circumstances under which it was written. First, we will introduce them to “Mother Benedict," a small specimen of humanity nearing her seventieth year, so feeble in health that much of the time her dictation was given from her couch, while one of her girls acted as stenographer, thus transmitting to paper the experience of many years as it flowed almost spontaneously from the crowded storehouse of her memory, scarcely the scratch of a pen of all these years having been preserved.
The reader must not imagine “Mother Benedict” alone in quiet with her young amanuensis. But, on the contrary, see her broken in upon by, "Emma is not so well to-day; "the work in the laundry is not being done as it should be; 66 what shall we have for dinner?” and “my baby don't seem just right; what do you think ails her?" and the oft-repeated call of "mamma, can I do this?" or "can I do that?" from her darling foster treasure, Ray; and then, with his little arms about her neck, “let me kiss mamma and then I will go away and not bother her for a long time."
Add to this the responsibility of superintending the nursery, where eight little ones have opened their eyes to the light for the first time during the three months in which the pages of this book were written; and where one of our girls has lingered for weeks, and still lingers, as helpless as an infant and almost as childlike. The pale messenger of death, too, has come and claimed one of our little ones, to which her attention is called to make all the arrangements necessary, with her own hands robing the little treasure, placing it in its coffin, then conducting the funeral exercises, closing the lid o'er the pallid face, and soothing the sorrowing mother with the promises of a glorious hope beyond. And then, too, has four times been repeated that which, to her loving mother heart, is the heaviest strain of all-that of witnessing the separation between mother and child, which comes through placing the little ones in foster homes, in which cases the young mothers, although wellnigh heart broken, yield up their sacred treasures as a duty they owe to them, as by this means they will be disconnected with their mother's disgrace and never know her sorrow.
And this is not all. Every dollar of finance must pass through her hands and her quiet is broken in upon by a rap at the door, and the coal or wood bill is presented. Or the carpenter has come and wants directions as to the work he is to do. The mason is here, and the rooms he is to plaster must be cleared. These and numberless other interruptions have so repeatedly broken in upon the time that is ordinarily sacred to the author that not at any time has there been more than fifteen minutes uninterruptedly given to the work.
It would be unjust to woman's ability to earn her own way in the world, if she is only given half a chance, not to introduce you to the young stenographer who, although still in her teens, has ability to do well her part amid all these interruptions. And just here we are interrupted with, “
-is in a spasm." "Why, what is the matter?" "Oh, she has received another letter from her mother.” Here dictation had to cease and two of the strongest girls were sent to bring the sufferer to Mother Benedict's room. Now the reader may see the kind-hearted mother make room for her on the couch beside her, take her in her arms and soothe her with the blessed promises of God through his wondrous love manifested to a fallen world in Christ Jesus. The agony of the poor girl has
been soothed and the stiffened limbs chafed back to life and action again. This painful ordeal past, dictation is again resumed, but before going farther we will give the reader a short quotation from that letter of ten pages:
There is great preparation here for commencement. Memory carries me back to 1884 when I, too, was interested in commencement. Of that class you are the only one that has disgraced it. The rest will ever blush to own such a low, mean, degraded one as you for a classmate, as I am ashamed to own you as a daughter. Oh, shame, shame, SHAME. You should ever hide your head in shame. Can you ever look a virtuous person in the face again? You are mean, low, degraded.
I make but this short quotation, for the balance of the letter seems but a repetition of the same denunciations so calculated to destroy both the soul and body of the unfortunate girl who aside from the one sin gives every evidence of being a devout Christian.
Of the mother, who could write such a letter, there seems but one comment to make and that is, it is a pity for her that she could not have lived under the Mosaic law so that she could have had the privilege of seeing her daughter stoned to death, rather than under the benign rule of Him who said "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." It is this stone-casting spirit of woman toward her sister woman that the author has felt especially commissioned of the Lord to war against these many years. It is pursuant to the extermination of this lurking yet gigantic evil together with the lecherous spirit in man that the pages of this book are written. And while reference is made to otherwise noble Christian women or their names used as antagonizers of the work for the rescue of these perishing ones, it is only at this lurking foe that the author is ever aiming, while she admires and lauds the noble womanly qualities that these possess separate from this one spirit in them that is forever in one way or another barring the way of the return of the once erring one to an acknowledged and honored place in society. “Yes," responds Mother Benedict, "It pains me to the heart to pen one word of the trials and hindrances I have had to contend with in the W. C. T. U. ranks, yet I can conceive of no other way by which the reader can get a correct history of the work, and I would ever have it kept in mind that it was only from some of those in the front ranks whose minds were too full of the cares of leadership in the other departments to give to this new department the thought that was necessary to qualify them for the leadership that they thought it their duty to exercise, that the hindrances came. While from the local unions throughout the State I received the help that made it possible to accomplish the work in behalf of whom my heart is ever bowed in gratitude to my Father in Heaven whose word to me at the first was, “ Present this work through my church and carry it forward under the auspices of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Iowa."
WOMAN'S WORK FOR WOMAN.
GIVE HER A CHANCE.
In yielding to the oft repeated solicitations of my friends to write the story of my work for the fallen, it may be well to give some account of my parentage and the circumstances ander which I was born. The parents who so carefully reared me until my seventeenth year were born in Ulster county, New York, and carefully reared in the Christian faith of the Quaker church, under whose sacred ceremony they were joined in marriage in the winter of 1820. At this time my mother left the home of her childhood near Newburg on the Hudson, and went with my father to his boyhood's home. Soon arrangements were made by which my grandfather came into possession of fifteen hundred acres of the woods of Ohio and decided to make it his future home with a view of settling his children about him. Thus my mother, taking leave of all her own relatives, took her journey with her husband's people, six hundred miles in the only conveyance of the times which would now be called a cumbrous lumber wagon. After a journey of six weeks through almost impenetrable forests they came to the land they had purchased "unsight, unseen." Where the woodman's ax had scarcely been heard and where the sturdiest manhood might well be appalled before the beech, the vak, the inaple and kindred trees of the forest which towered far above anything which they had known in the East. Here trees were soon felled and rolled together to make a temporary house for my grandparents where my parents remained until five acres of the sturdy forest had been felled and cleared away to give place to the first sowing of the golden grain in hope of a harvest for the coming year.