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Walter E. Fernald 
State School 

Waverley, Massachusetts 






[All rights reserved] 

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A WORD in explanation. About a year ago, the 
writer found herself at this Colony of Mercy, this 
Bethel. She did not know much about it, she had gone 
to take a work there — a work for Africa, too much for 
her own hands — and she went to fasten its threads in 
that Pastor's study. But having gone for one thing 
she brought away another : she brought away a vision 
of a Programme of Christianity realised. She had 
translated into German the booklet which sets forth the 
mission of Christianity, showing it to be a comforting 
of all that mourn. Strangely enough, the booklet was 
printing just as she got to Bethel, the proof-sheets 
actually finding her there, and how could she help 
seeing the Programme realised before her eyes — for 
Bethel is a comforter of all who mourn, proving her- 
self such comforter in her wondrous work. " To bind 
up the broken- hearted" says the Programme, " to give 
unto them beauty for ashes ; the oil of joy for mournings 
and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." 
These words were ringing in her ears as she went about 

viii Introductory Note 

the Colony, and she knew — for she saw it — the Pro- 
gramme is true. 

Thus the keynote of the booklet is the keynote of 
this story, the true reading of Bethel having come to 
her like a harmony set to this key. Bethel appeared 
as a working model of the booklet's teaching. A Pro- 
gramme deduced from the spirit of Christianity, however 
beautiful, might yet remain a vision only, a noble theory ; 
but she saw this vision realised, and knew therefore it 
speaks true. 

J. s. 


April, 1893, 





" The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." 



" The righteous is an everlasting foundation " 



" A city set on a hill." 



" Your bodies a reasonable service." 



" Out of the mouth of babes Thou hast perfected praise." 

x Contents 




" Serving the Lord." 



"Suffer the little children to come unto Me." 



..." saiv much people and was moved with compassion toward 



" There is room." 



" Compel them to come in." 



"Am I my brother s keeper ? " 



"And every one in distress , and every one in debt, and every one 
discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became 
a captain over them." 

Contents xi 



workman's home 226 

" Beauty for ashes." 



" Gather up the fragments ." 



" Go and do likewise." 


I. PASTOR von bodelschwingh .... Frontispiece 
II. ZION CHURCH Facing page I 



V. EBEN-EZER ,, 29 





IX. i; WELL BOWLED ! " ,,62 




> ) 


• • • 1J 








J , 


• • • >5 


List of Illustrations xiii 








To bind up the broken-hearted ; 

To proclaim liberty to the captives, 

And the opening of the prison to them that are bound. 

To comfort all that mourn. 

To give unto them — 
Beauty for ashes, 
The oil of joy for mourning, 
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. 

m /■' 




" The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." 

FEW years ago a church was opened, the founda- 
tion stone of which had been laid by the late 
Emperor Frederick, then Crown Prince of Germany. 
It is a beautiful church rising in a beech wood on a hill 
in the Teutoburger Forest. It is cruciform, and the 
people who meet there in a peculiar sense are bearing 
a cross. " Come unto Me, ye heavy laden," says a 
marble-wrought figure of Christ, the Healer, over the 
main porch ; and as you enter with eyes uplifted, you 
read the words over the high-arched chancel : "When 
the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion," or, as the 
German version, looking to a " restoring " to come, has it, 
with fuller meaning, " When the Lord shall release the 
bound ones of Zion, we shall be like them that dream." 
Fitly, this church has been called Zion Church, for 
the hundred and twenty-sixth Psalm in a beautiful 
metrical rendering is the favourite song — the song of 
longing, of hope, and of promise — of that congregation. 
It is a congregation of epileptics. Fourteen hundred of 
them are now gathered around that church. The name 
of the colony is Bethel. 

2 A Colony of Mercy 

Bethel is not an asylum, not a charitable institution as 
we know them ; it is rather, and in the fullest sense, a 
colony of mercy, a commonwealth of sufferers — the care 
of epileptics being the central object round which other 
needs have gathered, and as they arose, have been met. 
Bethel never was planned : it is a growth, a living 

From the main entrance of the church you have a 
lovely view into what has popularly come to be called 
the " Silly Valley," which name, however, is fast being 
replaced by that of " Happy Valley," and the visitor 
to the imbeciles and half-imbeciles sheltered there will 
not be slow to discover the reason. We shall pay a 
visit presently to the several Homes nestling in its 
winding length ; we are at this moment content with 
the view at our feet. It is a farmhouse to which one 
or two newer buildings have been added ; the beech 
wood opening out before you, the hills rising behind, 
frame this picture, and the whole seems a vision of 
peace. You are having a peep into the cradle of the 
place. That farmhouse — it was named Eben-Ezer — 
saw the seed-planting of all this colony ; there, just 
five and twenty years ago, a beginning was made with 
four epileptics. If a creation, Bethel is a creation from 
above ; but faith was the soil, love was the seed, and 
there has been a mighty outcome. 

The colony now consists of five distinct branches : — 

I. The Homes for Epileptics, these being the Bethel 

II. The Westphalian Mother-house for the Training 
of Deaconesses — Sarepta — which in the course of little 

Prisoners of Zion 3 

more than twenty years has produced a nursing and 
working staff of six hundred Sisters. 

III. The Westphalian Brotherhood — NAZARETH — 
forming the male complement of the Deaconesses' Insti- 
tution ; it was started fourteen years ago, and over two 
hundred Deacons or Brothers have since been trained. 

IV. The Labour Colony — WlLHELMSDORF — to grapple 
with social distress. 

V. The Association Workman's Home; a scheme for 
providing homes of their own for the labouring classes. 

These are the main branches of the work done at 
Bethel, but there are offshoots of noble effort in every 
direction, which are best left to appear as the story is told. 

The forlorn condition of epileptics was the need out 
of which Bethel has grown. Has the reader any idea 
how many of our fellow-creatures are suffering from this 
terrible disease ? It is difficult to get at reliable statistics, 
for epilepsy is one of the sorrowful afflictions of mankind 
which both the sufferers and their friends endeavour to 
hide ; but by a simple process, seeking to minister to 
a host of out-patients over and above the flock taken in, 
and by special researches from parish to parish, the 
workers of Bethel have arrived at the conclusion that 
one and a half to two per thousand is probably within the 
mark. But this means seventy to a hundred thousand 
epileptics in Germany. If this estimate may be applied 
to England — and why should it not ? the disease is as 
old as mankind and known all over the globe — nay, 
taking but one per thousand, there would be about forty 
thousand epileptics in this country. Are there ? Then 
where are they, and what is being done for them ? 

4 A Colony of Mercy 

Epilepsy is a mysterious and fearful affliction, an 
unsolved problem. It is a disorder of the borderland 
between body and soul, its seat the nerve-centres and 
the brain — this is about all even medical science can tell 
us. It was known to the ancients, and was probably as 
frequent then as now. Hippocrates treats of it in a 
special pamphlet. We learn from the New Testament 
and other sources that its terrors abounded in the time 
of our Lord. It prevailed in the Roman Empire, and 
frightful indeed were the remedies which were then 
employed. According to Origen, epilepsy was the thorn 
in the flesh for the removal of which St. Paul thrice 
besought the Lord, his prayer not being heard, or, rather, 
being heard in the answer, " My grace is sufficient for 
thee." Some of the greatest intellects the world has 
known have gone through life with this " thorn in the 
flesh." Julius Caesar was epileptic, and so was Moham- 
med ; Peter the Great also and Napoleon I. suffered 
from this malady ; Petrarch and Jean Jacques Rousseau 
likewise were epileptics. With these sufferers the afflic- 
tion must have been of a kind which befell them at rare 
'ntervals only, for it certainly never interfered either with 
their ambition or with their clearness of mind. Yet its 
deteriorating effects on the mental powers are well 
known. To popular perception, this disease has always 
been the " morbus sacer" the " morbus dwus" the punish- 
ment of the gods, a punishment even for special sin — 
" Who has sinned, he or his father ? " Hippocrates knew 
better — " It appears to me ' divine ' in no other sense 
than any illness is divine ! " The Christian knows that 
all illness is divine, sent, not always in punishment, but 

Prisoners of Zion 5 

always in love. Many of the " bound ones " of Bethel 
are learning this lesson, as through the shadow of their 
affliction they are growing to be children of peace. 

Often enough it is the father's sin, drink especially,* 
which lays this cross upon his child ; but it cannot be 
said that heredity is the most common factor. According 
to the experience of Bethel, the falling sickness in very 
many cases is due to a shock to the nervous system, to 
which attaches no personal blame. Here is a case of 
one rendered epileptic through the sudden news of the 
death of a relative. Here is another, a boy coming 
upon a mutilated corpse in a wood is seized with fright 
and falls in a fit. Here is yet another, a little girl 
is playing at her mother's feet, a stroke of lightning 
kills the mother, and the little girl from that moment 
becomes epileptic. However caused, it is a terrible 
affliction. Have you ever witnessed a fit ? seen an 
apparently healthy person, your fellow-traveller maybe, 
fall at your feet with a shriek that goes through you, 
the cry of an anguished soul ? The limbs in con- 
vulsions, the head jerking to and fro, the features set 
with an expression of unspeakable agony, the eyes 
rolling wildly and then glazed as in death, the mouth 
foaming, — this is the aggravated fit, and no wonder 
people shrink from the sight of it. The poor epileptic 

* Though drink is not by any means the only predisposing 
cause, yet it has been found that the percentage of this terrible 
illness keeps pace with the consumption of alcohol ; in certain 
districts in Germany where distilleries flourish, the number from 
two rises to four and even six per thousand of the population. 
It keeps pace with any kind of debauch ; but these are not the 
only causes. 

6 A Colony of Mercy 

is shunned ; his own family in many cases are almost 
ashamed of him ; he is hidden away. In the"[poorer 
classes of society, where he ought to gain his own liveli- 
hood, who will employ him ? The workshop, the office, 
is closed to him ; the church even, once he has had a 
seizure there, tells him not again to return. He is con- 
demned to starvation, mental, moral, spiritual ; no one 
will have him anywhere. Now, this is sad enough, even 
when there are means for his sustenance ; but think of 
the poor ! 

Here is a stonemason, on the death of his wife left 
with four children under ten, one of these epileptic and 
alone with her little sisters. Here is an orphan — there 
are scores of them at Bethel — for which a poor parish 
could do nothing but pay a pittance to the most 
wretched cottage in the village for the keep of that 
helpless worm. She had fits almost daily. There are 
children, tended now and cared for by the hands of love 
at Bethel, haunted in their dreams by the memory of 
what they have gone through. A poor man is there, an 
imbecile and has been so for years, but remembering, as 
often is the case, this and that of his early life before 
the never-ending night closed in upon him. He will tell 
you, amid sobs, the story of his cruel childhood — he will 
tell it you at the least sign of tenderness on your part ; 
you have but to stroke his hand, you have but to look 
at him with an eye of pity, and you touch that chord. 

Here is another case, typical of the hundreds appeal- 
ing to Bethel for admission : " I am a cripple, twenty-five 
years of age, and since my fourteenth year have suffered 
from epileptic fits. The first overtook me just after I 

Prisoners of Zion 7 

had been apprenticed. I was dismissed from the work- 
shop, and though I tried and tried again, anxious to learn 
a trade, no master would keep me. I tried work at home, 
but it was almost impossible because of the constant 
attacks. My parents are very poor, and never could pay 
any one to look after me ; they are both at work which 
takes them from home daily. Thus I have been in 
constant danger of life and limb, with the result of 
several serious accidents. I had learned to do a little 
fretwork, and was rising from that occupation one day 
to sweep away the cuttings. There was a heated stove 
in the kitchen, and on it a kettle with boiling water. I 
ought not to have gone so near, for I had a fit, fell 
unconscious, and lay on the stove, the boiling water 
pouring over me. In that state, terribly burned, I was 
picked up some time after and taken to the infirmary. 
Thirteen months I lay there, my right arm had to be 
amputated, and I came away a cripple. The parish since 
has allowed me half a crown a week ; I am not there- 
fore starving, but what I need more than bread is a 
friend to watch over me, and I pray you earnestly, 
receive me into your homes." — Yet another case : a father ? 
a busy workman, from morning to nightfall away in the 
town, a stepmother absorbed in her own children, a poor 
epileptic youth left to himself, wandering about the 
village streets, or roaming the country uncared for, in 
constant danger of being run over by passing vehicles. 
He has hurt himself badly in his fits. He is, moreover, a 
half-paralysed cripple, having a club foot and a palsied 

Ill-cared-for epileptics are to be found everywhere, 

8 A Colony of Mercy 

and as years go on, the disease works havoc not only 
in the bodily frame. They grow irritable, distrustful, 
quarrelsome ; but worst of alt, the hand of imbecility is 
upon them, and the end is idiotcy, the end is insanity. 
Such are met with in every country, an army of helpless- 

To Christianity, this very helplessness constitutes a 
plea. To Christian charity every stricken one is a 
creditor to whom she has a debt to pay — the debt of 
service. One of the saints of the ancient church, once 
being taunted with the poverty of his community, pro- 
duced the cripples, the sick and suffering of that church, 
and said, " These are our treasures." The church of our 
own time, the true Christian among us, is learning to say 
likewise — These are our treasures, our creditors, we owe 
them service. But though there is provision among us 
for almost every kind of human suffering, nothing was 
done till within the memory of this generation to alleviate 
the misery of epileptics. Hidden away with their trouble, 
no one has sought them out. If they appealed for help, 
there was the poorhouse, there was the idiot asylum, 
or possibly a hospital. But are these the places for an 
epileptic in the intervals of his affliction ? Remember 
he can work, and he ought to work ; for occupation alone, 
keeping him from brooding over his trouble, will stay in 
a measure the inevitable decay. If taken in hand in 
time, not more than five per cent, would be given over 
to helpless idiotcy ; yet even though taken in hand — 
such at least is the experience of Bethel — not more than 
seven to eight per cent, are likely ever to be cured, and 
these only the very young ; thus there is an intervening 

Prisoners of Zion 9 

host to be occupied, to be watched, to have their burden 
eased till they lay it down in death. These are the 
" bound ones " of Bethel. 

Hope of bodily cure, then, is almost precluded ; yet the 
great need of the epileptic is not a home for incurables, 
but a refuge, a place where he can first of all be at rest, 
learning the great lesson, " Rest thou thy soul upon the 
Lord." What a restless thing that soul of his has been, 
how driven between hope and fear ! How he has spent 
himself, seeking help and finding none ! Doctors could 
not restore him ; then how anxiously did he try the "un- 
failing" remedies of quackery and superstition — there 
are hundreds claiming mysterious power and promising 
the certain cure — remedies often foolish, often disgusting, 
and sometimes immoral, worse almost in their degrading 
influence than the disease itself. One need not go back 
to the Romans for folly and darkness. Think of the 
sufferer's inward state, seeking such help and finding 
none! Moreover, if he be a sensitive creature, the constant 
cry of his agonised soul is, " I am an outcast, I am set 
aside, I am shunned." He is far worse off in this respect 
than the lunatic, for the insane man knows nothing of 
his insanity, while the epileptic in most cases has a 
clear enough perception of his condition. He knows 
that every attack of his malady is a deadening blow to 
his intellect ; he knows that his irascibility, his helpless 
fits of anger, his maliciousness — part, these, of the dis- 
temper he writhes under — are but the moral outbursts 
of a trouble he cannot overcome. He knows there is an 
uncanniness about his affliction which makes even friends 
say, " 'Twere better he were dead." 

io A Colony of Mercy 

This is why first of all " Be still," the true medicine 
for all our deepest woes, is the one thing he needs, and 
those who would help him must help him first of all to 
an atmosphere of that stillness. It is something better 
than the tending of his stricken frame in a hospital, some- 
thing better than mere shelter in the hour of his weakness, 
it is the stillness of the children of Zion lifting their eyes 
to the hills whence cometh their aid. " Bring him to 
Me," said Christ, when not even the disciples could 
help the stricken one ! And there is that about the 
life at Bethel, healthful, natural and singularly free from 
all religious excitement, which constantly reminds these 
sufferers of a healing to come. It goes to one's heart to 
hear them sing — that great congregation of incurables — 
" When the Lord shall release the bound ones, we shall 
be like them that dream ; then our mouth shall be filled 
with laughter and our tongue with singing, for the Lord 
hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." 
And there is a true measure of gladness with them even 
now, a great hope ; they are learning to wait and to be 
still. Their Pastors say, and one may see for oneself, 
that of their very hymnbooks no part is more used and 
leaf-worn than the songs of thanksgiving and of praise. 

A strange feeling of awe naturally steals over the 
visitor when, for the first time, he meets with this people 
in their beautiful church. He has been warned there 
will be " fits," and even as he enters he sees the pre- 
paration for them — a curtained-off partition in the four 
entrance lobbies, with couches which have a sad look of 
much use about them. But everything is managed so 
quietly ; you hear a moan or a cry, you see some 

Prisoners of Zion 13 

brothers or sisters rising to take away the sufferer, — it 
never creates a disturbance. And what though oc- 
casionally a bad fit comes on — it often is but a giddiness, 
a momentary unconsciousness, passing like a summer 
cloud, yet at times you may witness a serious attack. 
The beautiful antiphonal service, maybe, has attuned 
your own heart, you are forgetting there is trouble, your 
soul is away on the pastures green by the still waters ; 
there is a sudden and terrible shriek — shriek upon shriek 
as of the lunatic when the spirit tare him. A poor 
fellow has started from his seat and falls foaming, the 
night of unconsciousness quickly overtaking his vexed 
spirit. They have carried him away, and he will be 
lying on one of those couches, knowing nothing of his 
trouble. The billows are passing over his soul ; he may 
wake presently, and in through the little window will 
stream the voice of the preacher, the song of the people. 
It was close upon such a harrowing attack one Sunday 
evening, the people rose and their hymn filled the building 
— " Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear," they sang, " it is 
not night if Thou be near " — and then they went home 
through the darkening beech wood quietly, though every 
one of these singers knew that he or she might be taken 
with such a fit the very next moment, and what assurance 
have they it is not the night of death upon them, the 
last of their many struggles ? They are learning to be 
still, with the stillness of Zion. 



"The righteous is an everlasting foundation." 

F you ask Pastor von Bodelschwingh who is the 
true founder and promoter of the work of mercy 
going on beneath the shadow of that church, he will 
take you to the quiet burial ground on the hill, at the 
farther end of the beech wood. There he will show 
you, as the last in a long row of sleepers, the resting- 
place of an aged pilgrim. You read an inscription : — 



Born March 31st, 1800; Died January 26th, 1882. 

" The Lord shall be Thine Everlasting Light." — Isaiah lx. 20. 

This man had been blind for sixty years. A peasant's 
son, of the Ravensberger country, he fell, when a young 
man, from the hayloft of his father's farm, had concussion 
of the brain, and lost his eyesight. But this closing up 
of the outward eye opened the windows of his soul for 
the light of heaven to stream in. He became a truly 
godly man, a bright Christian, and a blessing through a 
long lifetime to the whole country side. That Ravens- 


Typo EteJiin? C.\Sc. 

The Groundwork 1 5 

berger Land, a province within the province of West- 
phalia, no larger than a moderate English county, owns 
a people of peculiar sterling worth, a peasantry of the 
good old German type, thriving on their own soil, and 
owing no man anything. A Godfearing people of old, 
the light of the Gospel had grown dim, hid under 
the bushel of a lukewarm ministry. Blind Heermann 
saw deeper than others, and knew what was wanting. 
Year after year he went about the country from village 
to village— it was all he could do — and taught the people 
to pray, to pray for Christian pastors. He went pleading 
with the earthly authorities for true shepherds to the 
people, going, upon occasion, as far as Berlin even, at a 
time when railroads were not, to intercede with the king ; 
and his pleading and his prayer found answer. From 
one pulpit and another the gospel-sound was heard ; 
faith grew, and love abounded — that love which, being 
blessed in her own home, goes out to the highways and 
hedges. It is not as a company of saints those peasant 
folk would wish to be spoken of ; theirs is a simple and 
wholesome Christianity, and it will appear in the course 
of these pages what is understood by Christianity in the 
Ravensberger Land. But if you would know what a 
Missionsfest is, go there. If these people want a holiday 
they go for miles in their Sunday clothes to hear a 
missionary on leave, or their own pastors, conversant 
with missionary matters, proclaim the victory of the 
Cross in heathen lands. And they rejoice in the news, 
returning the happier to dairy or plough. They come 
long distances, and bring their offerings with them ; 
those who have much, give much, but not the least noble 

1 6 A Colony of Mercy 

are the mites of the poor. Think of a farmer's lassie 
found fainting as she was starting for her home after 
one of these gatherings. Taken back to the place, she 
begged the pastor, amid blushes, to let her have again 
one halfpenny of a day's wages she had put into the 
plate. She did not earn more than her keep, and had 
thought she could go without food that day to send her 
little all to the heathen. But she had set out in the grey 
dawn of the morning, the way had been long, and a 
Missionsfest in Germany never is short ; and though she 
had feasted her soul, sitting fasting in the church, here 
she was faint for want of a morsel. The afternoon sun 
was low, and she had some ten miles before her : would 
he return her one halfpenny to buy a piece of bread 
with, and she hoped it was not robbing the Lord, she 
had meant to give all. Needless to say, she did not get 
back her halfpenny, but was taken to the manse for a 
plentiful meal, and then went home to think of her 
Missionsfest till the next came round. At such gather- 
ings the wealthier peasant women have been known to 
put their amber necklaces into the plate, strings of amber 
beads as large as walnuts, ugly enough, but much prized 
as heirlooms, part of the national costume, and some of 
them worth ten pounds or more, for quantity of amber. 
These are incidents of years ago, when the u first love " 
was upon the land ; but the good folk in that country 
have never departed from their true interest in missions 
and in any good work they can aid. 

It is, of course, Pastor von Bodelschwingh's own beau- 
tiful modesty if he takes the inquirer to that grave ; but 
there is a deep truth in the humble assertion behind which 

The Groundwo7'k 17 

he would hide his own good share. Blind Heermann 
for half a century ploughed the field on which a noble 
harvest has grown ; and it is lovely to think that 
for the last seven or eight years of his life he was an 
inmate of Bethel — that is, more correctly speaking, of 
" Sarepta " — not because he needed the sisters to nurse 
him, being hale to the last, but he was old now, and 
Bethel was thus paying back her debt. And the aged 
man, awaiting the home-call in their midst, went in and 
out among the epileptics, telling them of the Love he 
had known ; and when he died the whole country-side 
turned out, though it was in the depth of winter, to bear 
testimony at his grave of what he had done for them. 

If you want to start a Bethel, a true home for the 
suffering, the sick, the destitute, the great thing required 
is not, in the first place, money. You may collect a 
hundred thousand pounds, and spend it too, yet your 
hoped-for Bethel is, not thus reached. It is not a founda- 
tion of money, it is a foundation of men that is wanted, 
of men and women with the love of Christ in their hearts. 
It is a great thing to put your money into the plate ; it 
is a greater thing to put in your own cherished amber 
beads ; it is greatest of all to put in yourself. Now, in 
that Ravensberger Land, so long and so faithfully prayed 
for, and prayed with, by that blind peasant, there is a 
wondrous spirit of giving abroad ; when the harvests are 
gathered in you should see the waggons of potatoes, 
of wheat, of farm produce generally, arriving at Bethel 
— the freewill tithes, largely given and gladly given, 
and given simply because they love this giving. But 
more than this, that people know how to give 


1 8 A Colony of Mercy 

themselves ; in some parts there is scarcely a family but 
one or more of the daughters and sons offer for service 
in the Kingdom. Scores of deaconesses are of the 
daughters of that land, dozens of ministering brothers 
— or if you will go further, of missionaries — are drafted 
from that stock. If Bodelschwingh has been able to 
train such an army of helpers, it is because he has 
such a countryside at his back. Bethel is indeed a 
blossom of the Church, but it has grown on a soil of 
Christ-stirred humanity ; it is the outcome of a people 
with whom the religious life and the everyday life are so 
blended that it is as natural to them to watch and pray 
over any work of mercy going on in their midst, as to 
till and tend their fields. 

Bethel recently celebrated her semi-jubilee — a sight not 
easily to be forgotten. It was on a splendid Sunday in 
July, for on a week-day these work-a-day people could 
not so largely attend. Some of them had started at two 
in the morning, and by six o'clock they came streaming 
up the valley, awakening Bethel — nay, Bethel was up by 
that time — but greeting her with their splendid bands. 
Posaunen-choirs they call them, from the beautiful word 
in the German Bible for the trumpet. By way of military 
instruments used for religious purposes, England has 
her experience of the Salvation Army ; but let it be 
understood, the Posannen-Chdre of the Ravensberger 
peasant folk are a thing to be heard. As chorale after 
chorale came rolling up the valley that morning you 
might have thought yourself in the heavenly Jerusalem. 
Indeed, these Posaunen-bldser (trumpet blowers is a 
miserable rendering), with their trombones, their cJario- 

The Groundwork 1 9 

nets and horns, great and small, could any day take 
their place in a Handel or Bach choir. How has this 
come about? Not by Blind Heermann, surely ? No ; but 
among the pastors given to that blessed Ravensberger 
country by his prayers, there was one who thought 
with Luther that while a man makes music the devil 
has little chance with him, and he started a band in his 
village. This was the beginning, some twenty or thirty 
years ago. These bands are now an institution all over 
the country, Pastor Kuhlo, a son of the old Posaunen- 
father, and like him a splendid musician, being band- 
leader-general. Every village has its own band, but he 
has them all under training ; they have their weekly 
practice, each band for itself meeting at intervals for 
common practice. The instruments are provided out of 
a general fund, and the whole is managed with method 
and orderliness. That day saw seven or eight thousand 
people gathered at Bethel, and several hundreds of 
instruments among them. And not only instruments : 
the peasant girls and young women are trained by that 
same Pastor Kuhlo to a hymn singing which is nothing 
short of marvellous. They gave proof of it several times 
that day, he, with his little trumpet for a baton, calling 
upon them, and these women rising with a simple 
dignity — girls mostly, but they looked women in their 
national costume with their quaint little caps. There 
was a pretty modesty about them, yet an almost queenly 
absence of all shyness, and their voices were " soft and 
low," sweetly modulated — you never thought of peasant 
girls — but full of volume and clearness and musical 
wealth. They sang, now the soprano, now the alto in 

20 A Colony of Mercy 

response ; it almost brought the tears to one's eyes for 
the unaffected simplicity of it. It was not art, it was 
nature answering the touch of art, these voices all instinct 
with the waving instrument which guided them. They 
seemed as one voice. The songs of praise and of 
thanksgiving were well rendered that day. 

Consider for a moment the elevating influence of this ! 
These people should not be taken for saints, but their 
music is the music of saints, an occupation truly to the 
glory of God. For one thing is quite certain : these 
hundreds of trumpeters, while practising their instruments 
together or singly, are far from the public-house. They 
meet on two or three evenings a week, they lead the 
singing of the congregation on Sundays, they have their 
festivals, choral and instrumental, on all sorts of occasions, 
of sacred music mostly, for which they practise dili- 
gently ; the devil of drink, anyway, has .no chance while 
this goes on. 

These people, then, came flocking, bands and all, to 
greet Bethel on her " Jubilee." There was an early service 
at 8 a.m. in the church to welcome the first arrivals — 
the other services, morning and afternoon, being in the 
beech wood, for the church could not hold such numbers. 
Weather permitting, the Bethelites often have service in 
the open air. It was a most stirring day — a sight to 
witness — the epileptics in the centre, surrounded in very 
deed by the Ravensberger Land. That day the hundred 
and twenty-sixth Psalm rang mightily, the singing of the 
home congregation being taken up by the visitors, and 
the hundreds of instruments ; and what though even 
amid such service of song the well-known plaintive 

The Groundwork* 


shriek would rise, and a poor patient be carried to the 
tent made ready to receive him, yet there was praise 
and thanksgiving in every heart. 

At the early service, the pastor's text for a short address 
had been, " Let us arise and go to Bethel." He acknow- 
ledged warmly and simply that in the active Christian 


love of these gathered peasant folk, the great work done 
at Bethel had its mainstay. " You give not only of your 
substance," he said, " you give us your sons and daugh- 
ters ; and yet there is room ! " Then followed a stirring 
appeal for more of these sons and daughters, and, with- 
out doubt, yet more will obey the call. Yes, Bethel is 

22 A Colony of Mercy 

strong in the love of Christian people such as these. 
Here is proof: — 

That day a new house was opened, having room for 
eighty to a hundred epileptic imbecile little girls— it 
had long been wanted, and here it was all ready for 
occupation. It had been raised at a cost of four 
thousand pounds. A fortnight before just about half 
that sum was to hand, when the pastor suddenly was 
fired with a great longing to present this house free 
of debt at this Jubilee. He put out an appeal to the 
friends of Bethel round about — Let all parents send one 
penny as a thank-offering for every healthy child they have. 
And there was a wave of response from far and near : 
within one short fortnight four hundred thousand pennies 
came in — four hundred thousand thank-offerings for 
children hale and sound, and the good pastor had his 
desire given him, his Baby Castle was free of debt. 
Four hundred thousand pennies in one fortnight sent 
by grateful parents, and they came with such pretty 
messages — " four children, four pennies, for a child in 
heaven two" they paid doubly for the children the 
Good Shepherd had taken home ! A happy husband 
and father writing : " Five children, all sound and well, 
five pennies ; for a splendid wife, five pennies to boot ! " 
What a happy house that Baby Castle ! Four hundred 
thousand pennies in one fortnight is wonderful enough ; 
but to think that four hundred thousand glad thanks 
were therewith presented, to think that so many thou- 
sand hearts combined in turning their gratitude for their 
own children into pitying love for the helpless ones — 
that indeed is a strength to rest on ! Bethel need never 

The Groundwork 23 

fear while she can strike her roots into such soil. 
The love and the prayers of humble folk are the main- 
stay of that work of mercy. 

The peasant congregation gathering that day, how 
happy they looked ! What a pride they took in hearing 
of the growth of the year's work, aye the twenty-five 
years' work, and how they went about in the intervals of 
service from place to place, looking at the houses they 
had dozens of times seen before ! " It is for love of the 
Master," said an old man with weather-beaten face and 
work-worn hand — " to further His work, that is the one 
thing required of us." And they are satisfied this work 
at Bethel is in the best of hands — they all know Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh, and have long known him. 

Several thousand " thank-offerings " that day were 
added as an overflow ; but these people did not therefore* 
like the girl we have mentioned, pass the day starving. 
Bethel could harbour her guests. By fifties and by 
hundreds they were billeted upon the houses, and a 
plentiful dinner, for which each recipient paid twopence, 
was served them — the twopence being levied with a fine 
tact, that an army of such visitors would not wish to feel 
a burden. 

Having witnessed that day, one understood how it was 
possible that such a work had grown up and multiplied 
within the short space of five-and-twenty years. 



" A city set on a hill." 

FIVE-AND-TWENTY years ago Germany had 
done as little for her epileptics as England has 
to this day. In south-western France the cry first was 
raised by Pasteur Bost, whose noble institutions at La 
Force in Dordogne are known to Christian people of 
this country, yet not so largely as they should be. He 
has gone to his. rest, but his work is still carried on. It 
was he who first pointed out the moral wrong done to 
a patient of this kind, even though he be intellectually 
weakened, if there is no better provision for him than 
the idiot asylum ; the great duty to him being an 
upholding of his inner man with a firm kindly grasp, 
and not to surround him with scenes to the level of 
which he must the more speedily sink. The cry raised 
was heard on the Rhine. A conference was called, and 
men said the Church of Christ had a duty towards the 
epileptics. It was not through medical progress, it was 
through Christian sympathy, the perception gained 
ground that a great neglect, medical, moral, spiritual, 
was waiting to be redressed. Here was a whole class, 
and a numerous class, stricken with all but incurable 


Bethel 25 

disease, yet many of them capable of much good work 
in the intervals of their disease, utterly neglected. 
They were practically outcasts : even the Church had 
said, " You are disturbing the rest." They had knocked 
at many doors, they had wasted their substance on 
many physicians, they were a host of sorrowing ones, 
with only the idiot or lunatic asylum at the end of a 
long vista of despair. They were told they had " fits," 
yet is there not a sufficiency of love in the world 
to stand by a man in the hour of his infirmity that he 
may take courage between ? But the world was afraid 
of them, the world of usefulness had said, " We cannot 
employ you." 

What then can the Church of Christ do? can it do 
more than show them the heaven where epilepsy is not, 
where even their tears are wiped away? No private 
undertaking could ever sufficiently grapple with this 
terrible need ; not even public charity can, for the public 
asylum is not the thing wanted. A fellowship of Christian 
service is the only thing which can effectually step into 
this breach. The " Comfort ye, comfort ye," surely was 
written for this people also. What the epileptic needs 
most of all is a strengthening, a steadying of his soul, 
and he sadly needs comfort. Give it him. Surround 
him with sympathy. Give him nature, give him flowers, 
give him the song of birds, give him the blue sky 
drawing his eye heavenward, and give him work. Give 
him all that will tend to the calming of his troubled soul 
— give him love. He has been so fretful, so despairing ; 
curtain him with compassion, and help him to be still. 
" This kind can come forth by nothing but prayer 

26 A Colony of Mercy 

and fasting." Prayer ? the inward stillness ; fasting ? 
what is it but the great " Thy will be done " ! " I used 
to be so dreadfully afraid of these fits," said one, as we 
went about Bethel seeking to understand their life, " but 
now I am trying to think it is just a falling into the 
hands of Christ." That man was beginning to know 
the secret of living, the one lesson of life — a falling, in 
things great, in things little, into His hands. It is easy 
to fall when you are quite sure hands of love are about 

The Church of Christ, then, is the family to take in 
this troubled one. In that Church all know they are 
falling ones but for the Love which upholds them, and 
it makes them very merciful, very tender ; they alone 
can nurse the epileptic and be his stay. 

It was in 1867 that Pastor Balcke of Rheydt, a little 
town in the Rhine-land, took up the call, and the 
provincial committee of Home Missions convened a 
meeting at Bielefeld, a manufacturing town in Westphalia ; 
a resolution was passed to make a beginning in that 
populous centre. Bethel, with its beech wood and hill 
— such a retreat of country quiet and awayness from the 
world — is in the very outskirts of busy Bielefeld. It lies 
at the foot of an old castle, a stronghold of the Counts 
of Lippe in days gone by, when it was thought necessary 
to put such bridle upon a town. It is well worth while 
on a fine evening to ascend the height on which that 
turreted castle stands, the twin hill of what is now called 
Zion Hill. You have a splendid outlook over the blue 
ranges of the Teutoburger forest, the Weser mountains, 
and the fruitful country between, the principality of 

Bethel 27 

Lippe Detmold and that thrice blessed Ravensberger 
Land — a glorious expanse of meadow and field and 
woodland stretching away in the mellow distance. 
It is the Germany of Tacitus, where Arminius, the 
Prince of the Cheruscans, defeated Varus and his 
Roman legions. The name of the castle is the Sparren- 
burg, and at its foot, in the narrow valley, a mere cutting 
between the two hills, stood a farmhouse. It is the 
house on which we looked from the main entrance of 
the church. A respectable peasant lived there, who had 
been a well-to-do man, owning much of the land on 
which Bethel now stands, and the hill with its beech 
wood. It had been the home of his fathers for genera- 
tions. That property was to be sold, and it was bought 
by those friends who were seeking to make a home for 

Even the little story connected with this property 
now acquired by Charity is worth telling. That peasant 
— his name is Steinkamp— had to part with the home of 
his fathers for no fault of his own ; he understood his 
farming and was an honest man, too honest and innocent 
perhaps for a ne'er-do-weel brother of his, who dragged 
him down in his ruin. The place got mortgaged and 
poor Steinkamp was a beggar. He went abroad, seek- 
ing to make his way among strangers. Years after 
he returned, the love of home being strong. He was 
old now and had neither kith nor kin ; and Bethel 
did not close her gates against him. The visitor now 
going about the colony is sure to fall in with an old man 
somewhere about the fields, whitehaired, but as straight 
as a pine, and with a look of old Wrangel about him. It 

28 A Colony of Mercy 

is " Field-marshal " Steinkamp, over eighty now, but up 
at four of a summer morning, and about the property 
all day long to see that the farming goes well, and the 
cattle are tended : the place is the property of his heart 
anyway, and having no children of his own, there is 
all this family of epileptics in their stead. Himself 
one of the adopted ones of Bethel, he also has adopted 
Bethel. He does not feel turned out now of house and 
home, but rejoices to see what in the good providence 
of God has come of it. He in no way is a recipient 
of charity, though Charity took him in, for he fills his 
place. This aged peasant, once the owner of all he 
surveys, living in a little chamber opening out of 
the hayloft, is simply the patriarch of this common- 
wealth, where no man calls anything his own, where 
there is a wealth of service, where every one, pastor or 
nursing brother, is rich, having his daily need provided 
for and spending his life in ministering to the rest 

This farmhouse then was bought, and a beginning was 
made with four epileptics. It was named Eben-Ezer. 
That was an hour of faith when a venerable pastor — in 
position a bishop of the church, only they do not call 
them bishops in Germany— took these four " first-fruits " 
and, by way of opening the house, knelt down with 
them quietly in the farm parlour asking God's blessing 
upon the work. It was the planting of a mustard seed, 
and what a tree has come of it ! 

The greatest things have the smallest beginnings ; 
Bethel has grown. There was no outward show, no 
noise made. Those who put their faith into this work 
five-and-twenty years ago were quite satisfied to begin 



humbly. Only that one farmhouse was then acquired ; 
the rest of the property passing into other hands, was 
bought in gradually as Bethel grew. The little home 


for epileptics had no money. Friends it had, and friends 
of the best kind, friends who could pray ; but it had no 
patronage. It began with simple faith that it was right 

30 A Colony of Mercy 

to begin ; for epileptics abounded and no one did any- 
thing for them. 

Two years later another mustard seed was planted in 
that same soil, indeed close by, and this also has grown 
into a tree — Sarepta, the Westphalian Mother-house for 
Deaconesses. And these two trees, although each is an 
independent growth, doing its own work of sheltering, 
have their boughs of mercy so intertwined, the one being 
handmaiden to the other, that you could not do full 
justice to-either without pointing out that in truest sense 
they are twins. 

Again, a few years later, in 1872, when the seedling 
trees had begun ]to^ grow, Friedrich von Bodelschwingh 
was called tobe the directing pastor of the work ; and 
though not the original author, he has ever since been 
the very soul of the colony, an instrument of God's 
special preparing. He has of course been told that an 
outline account of the work was to be given to English 
readers. " Do not say anything in praise," he urged, 
" not of any of us : if anything has been done, it is by 
the goodness of God, who has used us." And it needs 
but a look into the face of the humble man, overflowing 
with the love] which fills him, to make one feel it were 
almost wronging him • to sing his praises, but they 
are reflected in the work which has grown up about 

A Freiherr, that is a baron, by birth, of an ancient 
Westphalian family, he grew up in surroundings which 
by no means indicated the work awaiting him. His 
father was minister of finance, and afterwards prime 
minister, of Prussia. Young Frederick in those days 

Bethel 3 1 

was a playfellow and schoolroom companion of his 
august namesake, the late Emperor Frederick, who, to 
the last, preserved a warm personal regard for him. To 
this boyish friendship much of the kindliness is due 
with which the three Emperors subsequently have been, 
and in the persons of their present Majesties continue to 
be, interested in Bethel. It is indeed curious, how, from 
the throne to the cottage, Bethel now has friends. 

Herr von Bodelschwingh, though quite ignorant of the 
ultimate object of it, has had a perfect training, and is 
at home in every department of the great machinery of 
which he is the guiding hand. 

First, his home training. 

If anywhere you see a great man, be sure there is a 
true woman behind him, be she his wife, or mother, 
or sister. Bodelschwingh's mother was the woman who 
moulded him : one trait of her character suffices to show 
this. Though the wife of a cabinet minister, having 
to shine in society and be fashionable, she never, if she 
could help it, dealt with fashionable tradespeople, but 
ever tried rather to employ the small folk, those who 
had difficulty in winning their daily bread. The humble 
dressmaker, the shop in the back street, were those she 
patronised wherever it was possible. Hers was the 
true spirit of charity. Through her he early acquired 
a love for the working people round about, and tried 
to influence them. His early college training was ap- 
parently aimless — arts chiefly, with a leaning to natural 
science : yet, considering the grasp he now has of every- 
thing pertaining to national economy, a career like his 
father's in the public service would seem to have been 


2 A Colony of Mercy 

his ultimate destiny. But his health was not strong, and 
after having served his year in the army, he went through 
a course of gentleman-farming, acquiring the practical 
knowledge so useful to him now. For several years he 
managed a large property, being steward of the estate to 
a friend of his father. It was then, more even than in 
his early home years, that he looked into the lives of 
labouring men, endeavouring to be their helper in things 
temporal and spiritual. 

A little story is told of his distributing tracts to his 
humble friends, and how one day conscience spoke : " Do 
you read these tracts ? " He kept back one he was just 
giving away ; it was a missionary tract, ending with the 
home question, " What are you doing to bring the 
heathen to Christ?" It was the turning point of his 
life. That question haunted him, and did not again 
leave him till he had made up his mind to become a 
messenger of the Gospel. He went back to college, first 
Berlin, then Basle, studying theology, in which he took 
the degree of D.D., resolving thereupon to offer himself 
as a missionary. This was at Basle ; and the Basle 
Missionary College was planning to send him to India ; 
but before this was carried into effect, a discerning friend 
invited him to Paris, telling him there were heathen 
there, and lost sheep among the German ragpickers and 
crossing sweepers. Among these he laboured, collecting 
them into a little mission church which still does its 
work. He lived in a wooden chalet, a contrivance in 
portable sections, sent as a specimen of Swedish work- 
manship to the great London exhibition of 185 1, and 
thence obtained by a friend for use of the mission. A 

Bethel 3 3 

stone or brick building was beyond their means ; besides, 
this missionary loved to live among his people, and they 
were of the poorest. 

To this humble abode, in the Faubourg La Villette, 
he brought his young wife, a namesake and cousin of his 
— no small thing for a girl who, like himself, had grown 
up in a Berlin mansion. Her father also was in the 
cabinet. And there his eldest child was born. It was 
the young mother's health which eventually obliged him 
to return to Germany. He was called to a pastorate 
in 1864, in a village not far from his present sphere. 
There three more children were born, and there God 
took him through the furnace. His four little ones, 
within a fortnight, were taken from him by diphtheria 
ensuing upon whooping cough, and the poor parents 
were left alone in the desolate manse. It was not long 
after this sorrow that Bethel called him to gather about 
him a great family of the helpless, and that is why he 
is such a father to them, most loving to the most 
stricken, most tender to the least ! God's ways often 
are sharp and thorny, but the end is peace. And his 
house was not left desolate ; God remembered him again, 
even as He remembered Job. He had taken four 
children from him, He gave him again four children, 
and, curiously enough, in the same order — two boys 
and a girl and a boy — and the second family so 
like the flock in heaven that chance visitors, seeing 
on the parsonage walls the photographs of the latter 
at a time when the ages corresponded, would take 
them for the likenesses of the four then running 
about ! Bodelschwingh is a man now turned sixty 


34 A Colony of Mercy 

and his two elder sons are at college preparing for 
the ministry. 

When Pastor von Bodelschwingh accepted the call, 
there were twenty-six epileptics at Eben-Ezer, male 
patients only, but three hundred patients of every des- 
cription were urgently entreating to be admitted. These 
were of all classes of society, rich and poor, educated 
and illiterate, and of all ages ; every stage of the trouble 
was represented among them, and the ever recurring 
cry in these requests for admission was not so much 
"Help me to get well again," as "Help me out of 
this despair, — I filled a position in life, I lost it ; I had 
a home, it has grown afraid of me as of a man stricken 
and marked." 

" This then is to be our object," said Bodelschwingh ; 
" to give them back in a measure what they have lost. 
We will look after their health, but we will give them a 
sense of home here ; we will give them a sense of useful- 
ness — they may work ; we will give them family life and 
a sense of community — they shall work for each other ; 
we will have a school for the children and church life 
for all. This place shall be their place, the church 
their church. Above all, they shall know they have a 
right to be ill here ; no one shall be afraid of them. Let 
their trembling souls be comforted, and lean upon us ; 
we will not fail them." 

It has been the aim of Bethel for a quarter of a century 
to alleviate the infirmity, which has its victims with grim 
impartiality in the palace and in the cottage, by giving 
to each patient a sphere of usefulness. If he can only 
push a wheelbarrow, he shall have that wheelbarrow to 

Bethel 35 

push ! It is the common sense of the treatment which 
so strikes the beholder — attempting the cure from within. 
They try to cure the man in him, reaching the body 
through the soul. And the patient is surrounded with a 
sense of fellowship : all are his friends there ; his poor 
little skiff has run into a haven of peace. 

A new great house was already rising, which had room 
for about two hundred patients. But Bodelschwingh 
came with new ideas, giving quite a novel departure to 
the place ; and the house — a large three-storied building 
of the usual charitable-institution kind — really is out of 
keeping now with the general plan of the colony. It 
had been begun as an enlarged Eben-Ezer, and was 
named Bethel. It soon filled, male patients in the right 
wing and women patients in the left — it is the " Bethel " 
proper whence the name passed gradually to the whole 
colony ; for " Bethel " became the mother of many 
children, the central hive whence the whole apiary has 

For it soon became apparent that it is a mistake to 
herd these patients together under one roof, as you might 
any number of other sufferers in a great infirmary. The 
nature of their illness is against it ; some are far gone in 
imbecility, others halfway towards it ; others again are 
of a fairly sound mind ; most are irritable, and it is 
difficult to keep the peace among them. Now, though 
Eben-Ezer was to retain the imbeciles, yet here there 
were men and women, children and adults, poor people 
and patients of the well-to-do classes, all collected in one 
house. It grew more and more difficult to manage such 
a conglomerate, there is too great a diversity of outward 

36 A Colony of Mercy 

requirements and inward needs. Moreover, the question 
was not, to receive a number of patients, sooner or later 


to be replaced by others ; it was not an ever-changing 
population, as in a sick ward; but most of these sufferers 
came to stay, to be settled there for good; and the 

Bethel 3 7 

question was, how to fit the unequal elements into a 
common homelife, to be carried on day after day, week 
after week, with its education, its discipline, its work and 
its play. They were to have family life, so they must 
be separated into congenial groups ; and this principle 
obtaining — a principle growing out of Bethel's daily 
experience and daily need — they were parted according 
to sex, according to age, according to the stage of their 
illness, according to occupation. As these " families " 
formed, they emigrated — leaving Bethel for homes of 
their own ; and in this way, a process as natural as the 
original peopling of the globe, the colony, counting now 
over a hundred houses, grew and grew. The Bethel of 
larger meaning may be set down at fully a hundred and 
fifty houses, including all the outlying offshoots and 
settlements gone out from her, not only of epileptics ; 
while Bethel, the mother — that three-storied building — 
continuing for a time as the first landing-place of all 
newcomers, is reserved now for the bulk of female 
patients, and sub-divided into fourteen stations. 

This decentralising of course requires a much more 
complicated nursing staff, and more than nurses — atten- 
dants, guardians, teachers, friends — friends ever watchful, 
ever remembering their charges are labouring under 
grievous sickness, a sickness not always apparent, but 
always there ; remembering that even trying " tempers " 
must be met with unruffled gentleness and with a pity 
greater than the most ungrateful outburst. Yet such 
pity with tenderest kindness must combine firmest rule 
— a wisdom knowing how to use restraint which shall 
not seem a punishing of the patient, but rather a kindly 

38 A Colony of Mercy 

assistance in the hour of his weakness. Such attendants 
are not to be hired for money ; and it was the gift of 
God to the growing colony that the twin tree, Sarepta, 
had been planted near it, quite independently, it is 
true, of its special need, yet likely to meet this special 
need most fully. From the house of deaconesses an 
ever-willing stream of true helpfulness has flowed for 
Bethel, while, at the same time, the training genius of 
the first " house-father " of Bethel proper produced a 
staff of male nurses — the nucleus whence the " West- 
phalian Brother-House," Nazareth, the complement of 
Sarepta, presently evolved. 

The most striking feature of this colony of sick folk is 
its capacity for work ; the place is a hive indeed, and as 
busy as a hive. And not merely work for occupation's 
sake, such as oakum-picking in a reformatory, but work 
of an elevating character, leaving with the patients a 
sense of usefulness, of still being wanted ; scope for 
ambition even — their own old aim and effort come back 
to them. For life brightens, even though the sunny ray 
be wanting, and gains in value just in proportion as we 
know we are doing something in this world — something 
worth doing, something for which somebody beyond 
ourselves will be the better. And even that other cause 
of content, that a man " pays his way," though it be a 
sick man's way, is a wondrous help along that way ! It 
is true sympathy which understands and meets this want 
in a sick man's life. 

Going in and out among the houses you come upon 
what is called Workshop Street. You enter the first 
house, paying a visit to the carpenters. You find some 

Bethel 39 

forty men here doing the joiner's work of the place. 
Last year alone seven new houses were added to the 
colony, the woodwork done by these patients, besides 
their meeting a never-ending demand for bedsteads, 
chairs, tables ; and how often do they piece together the 
little house which even the most homeless wanderer at 
the last will have for his own ! Most of these forty are 
joiners or carpenters by trade ; but it is a favourite 
occupation, and often a gentleman patient, his mental 
capacity weakened, by preference chooses the carpenter- 
ing. These carpenters form a family living in that 
house ; its name is, Little Nazareth * The head of this 
family is one of the brotherhood of Nazareth Deacon 
House — a trained carpenter, who is also a trained nurse 
and a trained evangelist. 

These " house-fathers " as a rule are married men ; 
a succeeding page will show their making and training. 
They form a remarkable institution. The house-father 
carpenter has the full management of Little Nazareth, 
business and all, his wife managing the household ; and 
to these two is committed the daily physical and spiri- 
tual welfare of the carpenter family. The pastors and 
medical men of the colony of course have their times 
of visitation, and know exactly what is going on. Each 
house-father has a staff of brother deacons at work 
among the patients, acting as foremen and sleeping in 
the night-wards. 

There is a large dining-room, and a common sitting- 

* What fitter name for a Carpenters' Home than Nazareth ? 
But this was appropriated already by the Deacon House, hence 
Little Nazareth. 

4-0 A Colony of Mercy 

room, furnished with books and games ; here you may 
find your joiners when work is done, unless they are 
taking recreation out of doors. Their work is not play- 
work ; they do their eight or nine hours daily, and true 
work is expected of them. Meal-times are the family 
gatherings — five times a day. The early cup of coffee 
at seven is followed by a more substantial breakfast a 
couple of hours later ; there is a wholesome, simple, and 
plentiful midday dinner, an afternoon cup of coffee, and 
supper at seven. At nine the men go to bed, rising 
between five and six. Before breakfast and after supper 
the house-father conducts family worship, not forgetting 
the reading of a psalm after dinner ; and if you happen 
to pass at the moment, you will know that the singing 
of a hymn is never omitted. There is a harmonium in 
every dining-room. 

You enter another house — Peniel, the Tailors' Home — 
managed in the same way. The coats and trousers of 
the colony are made here, and the needful repairing 
done. Over against Peniel is Horeb, the Shoemakers' 
Home. If you pay a visit here on a Monday morning, 
you find a mountain of invalid boots and shoes to be 
turned out hale by Saturday night. The next house is 
the Smithy, Gilgal ; the next the Gardeners', Sharon, 
with a seedsman's shop, doing a flourishing business 
with the outer world by post. 

There is bookbinding, there is printing ; a bookselling 
establishment also, with a business connection all over 
the country. You may order any book you like, of 
wholesome literature ; the printing and bookselling 
department is called Bethphage, the " house of figs," 

Bethel 41 

and books should be wholesome food. Several patients 
of the educated class are employed here. In the same 
" house of figs " there is a depot for illuminated texts, 
large and small, Christmas and birthday cards, photo- 
graphs, engravings, etc. The texts and cards are largely 
the work of talented patients ; if any have a capability 
in any direction it is sure to be cultivated both for his 
own happiness and the welfare of his companions. You 
rarely enter this place without finding some customers 
who have walked out from Bielefeld, or some peasant- 
wife from the neighbourhood seeking a pretty acquisi- 
tion for her cottage walls. Bethphage, quite apart from 
its moral objects, really pays, occupying and housing 
some twenty patients, and leaving a yearly surplus of 
several hundred pounds. 

You continue your round, finding almost every trade 
represented ; there are saddlers, there are basketmakers, 
and last, not least, there is the bakery. At Bethlehem 
(" house of bread ") there is quite a model house-father, 
grown up with the place. He came as a baker's lad in 
the early years of the colony, and now is bread-master 
of Bethel ; ever cheerful, with a cheerful house-mother 
who makes no trouble of anything, and a family of 
olive branches, too, of his own, growing lustily about his 
table — they count the rolling years in the place by these 
never-failing babes. Bethlehem produces all the bread, 
cakes and buns the colony consumes ; no small under- 
taking, for there are nearly three thousand mouths daily 
to fill. Over two hundred pounds' worth of flour is 
required every month. The hands employed in this 
establishment, if patients, of course are picked and 

42 A Colony of Mercy 

chosen with some regard for those who eat the loaves ; 
they are convalescents, not often troubled with fits. 
Indeed, that house-father, if you ask him, with not a little 
pride, and with a genial smile on his flour-powdered 
face, will show you a former patient who "got quite 
well here " ; the bakehouse, according to him, being 
the finest sanatorium going, "especially for these poor 
fellows." So let a man make bread for others when he 
is in trouble ; it may tend to his healing unawares. 

There is quite a family of such, and in their off-hours 
you see them in their white bakers' . clothes on a bench 
before the house, the " olive branches " toddling in and 
out among them, as happy a family as any in the colony. 
The master himself in his off-hours, as likely as not may 
be found in the great kitchen garden weeding a bed of 
lettuces or planting out cabbages, and if you happen to 
pass at the moment with an " Always busy, House-father 
Baker ? " he is sure to answer : " It's all in the day's work, 
bread or cabbages, and for the common good." In these 
two words you have the secret of these men. He makes 
nothing for his own pocket, nothing even for the little 
pockets he well might think of; he and his children are 
fed, housed, clothed, he making his loaves while looking 
after his family of patients. It is all one to him, be there 
five hundred loaves wanted or five thousand — it is for 
the common good. Everything is managed well and 
thriftily in the colony at large, so in Bethlehem ; and 
even the visitor not initiated in baking mysteries can 
understand the economy when he is shown three giant 
ovens, one above the other like berths in a ship, and 
heated with one fire running through a set of flues. 

Bethel 43 

Besides bread-making there is brick-making, there is 
farming, there is also a grocery store — every house doing 
its own shopping, and keeping its own accounts ; and 
there is the brom kali (bromide of potassium) office, send- 
ing this medicine — the one drug employed at Bethel — free 
of charge, and with " advice " to epileptics in ten different 
languages all over the globe. Not one applicant in ten 
can be received at Bethel ; they take the most needy, and 
correspond with thousands besides.* These are the poor, 
whose claim is for Christ's sake. The great bulk are 
from the home provinces, but patients arrive from the 
ends of the earth, sometimes knowing two words only — 
Bielefeld and Bodelschwingh. A seven-year-old deaf-and- 
dumb epileptic boy once came from Prussian Poland in 
this way, having a paper with these two words sewn on 
his coat. And Pastor von Bodelschwingh did not fail to 
turn this little event to good use. A petition went to 
Berlin setting forth that poor people could not afford 
to travel long distances with attending friends, yet 
surely it was taxing the travelling public to expect 
them to look after such wayfarers — if these were taken 
with a fit, it was taxing that public sorely. Would 
government grant a reduction of fares to all epileptics 
going to and from the colony? It was granted, and 
Bodelschwingh's growing family ever since has travelled 

* The stress on Bethel has been lessening as other refuges 
for epileptics opened. Yet there is but one " Bethel," and 
hundreds always lying at her doors. A law is now coming into 
force in Germany, according to which, for the future, it is laid 
upon every province to provide for its own insane, idiots and 
epileptics. How this State provision will tell on the aims of 
Christian charity is a serious question. 

44 A Colony of Mercy 

on soldiers' tickets — that is, at one-third of the usual 

That brom kali office just mentioned yields another 
glimpse into Bodelschwingh's ways — ever merciful, ever 
watchful, ever seizing his opportunity. There was a 
chemist at Bielefeld who did not " get on." He knew 
all about his drugs, was an upright man, but he had no 
conciliating ways, and somehow his business came to 
grief. He had a wife and eight children, and went to 
Bodelschwingh saying they were starving. " Oh," says 
Bodelschwingh, " I happen to want a chemist," — in that 
place a man in trouble appealing for help somehow 
always happens to be wanted, — " you could take charge 
of our brom kali depot." The man was appointed ; he, of 
course, settled in the colony, had a house given him, and 
his eight children now nowise look starving. 

Now, how has this act of kindness repaid itself? 
Bromide is largely employed at the colony, the patients 
taking it as regularly as their daily bread to keep 
the fits under. Other remedies have been tried ; Bethel, 
however, has always returned to the bromide as the 
one drug which avails. But when an ever-increasing 
number of epileptics lay waiting at her doors, and only 
the most helpless of even the poorest could be admitted 
for want of room, merciful Bethel made an effort to aid 
them by post, sending them the medicine with careful 
instructions as to their mode of living. For an astonish- 
ing number of out-patients the gain of this was twofold : 
in the first place they were kept out of the hands of 
quacks, and in the second place they received the medi- 
cine in a purer form than obtainable at the ordinary 

Bethel 45 

chemist's — a great thing, considering the quantities a 
patient consumes, and the ill effects on some constitu- 
tions unless the bromide is of the purest. They are 
very careful at Bethel, even with the purified drug, 
making a study of every patient for the happy medium, 
so that the medicine may lessen the malady without 
producing what is known there as the " bromide face " 
— skin eruptions, and not only on the face. 

It is, however, an expensive process to produce this 
bromide pure. It passes muster with the German phar- 
macopoeia if it contains not more than \\ per cent, of 
other salts. But Bethel sought improvement ; and be- 
cause of the enormous quantity required there, a Berlin 
company found it worth while to set up more elaborate 
chemical works in order to supply the colony with a 
preparation which contains only \ per cent, of deleterious 
substances. Bethel requires about half a ton of the 
drug in one month — three hundredweight for home 
consumption, the remainder for the ever-increasing host 
of out-patients. Within the last ten years, ninety thou- 
sand epileptics have thus been supplied in Germany 
alone ! In many an instance, of course, this means the 
selfsame patient applying again and again ; but the 
books also show that the recipients often are pastors 
or other public persons procuring the medicine for a 
number of afflicted ones ; and thus, while from these 
figures alone the percentage cannot be accurately gauged, 
they yet give an idea how widespread the malady is. 
They also exhibit the vastness of the charity dispensed. 
Bethel, indeed, has out-patients in almost every part of 
the world. Even a Sumatra chief once applied, and 

46 A Colony of Mercy 

through her missionaries the healing hand of Bethel is 
busy also among the bound ones of the Dark Continent. 
The bromide can be had at cost price from the colony, 
but no regular charge is made for the medicine thus 
sent, and fully one-half of those out-patients had it quite 
free — it only needs a line from some minister, or other 
person of trust, to ensure that, and prevent abuse ; others 
who can pay, send their shillings ; wealthier folk, grateful 
for the service rendered, their half-sovereigns and 
sovereigns, with the result that, although a real charity 
is being shown to multitudes, yet this charity pays, 
leaving even a surplus for the general treasury. And not 
only has that chemist presiding over this vast dispensary 
thus been provided for, but clerks and bookkeepers are 
needed — of what class a future chapter will show, a 
rescued class — and several patients are at work there, 
preparing the consignments for postal transmission. It, 
of course, entails an enormous correspondence, for Bethel 
is in individual touch with very many of these out- 
patients. What letters are received ! what experience 
is gained ! and what a blessing is this establishment ! 
Was not Bethel repaid, repaid grandly, for lending a 
helping hand to a man in trouble? But Bethel has 
made it her privilege to be the ever-ready comforter 
of "all that mourn." 



"Your bodies a living sacrifice." 

WHAT a gift of genius to find work for such a 
community ! It is possible only because of the 
vastness of the undertaking. A smaller colony would be 
ten times as expensive, ten times as difficult to manage ; 
and it is because of the all-roundness of the charity 
that every particular branch is so flourishing. Recipro- 
city is the great watchword there. 

Far better than the bromide for the patients, indeed, 
is a wholesome and steady occupation. Nothing is 
more hurtful to them than being left to their thoughts ; 
they grow morbid and fretful, whereas work acts as a 
tonic, physically even, and morally still more. Even 
the poorest of them, joiner or tailor, has the feeling 
that he is not, or not altogether, an object of charity, 
but a man, though a stricken one, earning his wage. 
And if but nominal in some cases, yet for the greater 
part it is work, some of these patients actually having a 
certain wage allowed them — the poorer ones especially. 
They get it in the shape of pocket money, and often 
for the sake of helping their own poor relations. When- 
ever possible, a patient is employed according to the 


48 A Colony of Mercy 

occupation he followed before the malady overtook him. 
Indeed, most of them stubbornly cling to this link with 
their past. It has been found almost hopeless to teach 
them any new trade, no doubt because of a feeling on 
their part they may after all get well again, at least well 
enough to return to the world ; and they would like to 
return, not as strangers, to the place which knew them. 

Out-of-door labour, of course, is the most conducive 
to their wellbeing, and a natural occupation with very 
many of the men. Farming, therefore, almost from the 
first, has been a recognised pursuit at Bethel. As you 
pass on through Workshop Street, past the home 
farm where the " Field-marshal " Steinkamp has his 
little room, over against the hayloft, with some thirty or 
forty head of milch cows beneath him, and past the 
gardens where Sharon cultivates her kitchen stuff 
and flowers and seeds, you follow a winding road lined 
with buildings, all belonging to the colony — pretty 
little houses, where many of the working-staff live ; 
and ascending towards the uplands, fields all about you, 
and meadows and woods and the hill-chains beyond, 
you reach, about a mile from the centre of the colony, 
the farm, Hebron. This farm was acquired in 1879. It 
was the property of a drunken peasant whose wife and 
children had been taken in at Bethel to be safe from his 
ill-usage ; and the poor woman, far gone in consumption, 
had died there. It is noteworthy that many of the 
houses gradually joined to the colony before passing 
into its hands were either public-houses or the neglected 
homes of drunkards ; the area now covered by Bethel, 
some four hundred acres, being in the precincts of a 

Walks About Bethel 51 

manufacturing town (Bielefeld) with a reputation for 
socialism. Thus Bethel, by extending its borders, 
has actually lessened the enemy's camp — the angel of 
mercy dislodging the devil of drink, and turning a field 
of strife into a garden of peace. 

The farm in question formerly went by the name of 
" Chicken Farm," because of a tribute of barn fowl levied 
of old by the counts of the Sparrenburg, the turreted 
castle of which, with the home colony of Bethel at its 
foot, offers a fine view as seen from here. It was re- 
christened Hebron, and is quite a model farm. There 
are nearly a hundred patients employed here ; and since 
work is harder than on any of the other farms, much 
uncultivated soil being gradually reclaimed, it is always 
the strongest among the Bethelites who are drafted 
off to this " station " — that is to say, those who are 
tolerably well between their attacks, or do not have them 
often. The health bill at Hebron is among the best of 
the colony, yet here also at times there is trouble, patients 
requiring to be isolated, and even put under restraint 
in the " cell." Outbursts of temporary insanity are not 

There is a pretty story how Hebron came by a house- 
father. He was the son of a rich Westphalian peasant, 
and heir to a large property. There is a real aristocracy 
among this peasantry, of long descent — high-minded folk, 
and of as thorough breeding as any nobility. This man 
had a younger brother whom he loved, but who was 
epileptic ; and the two youths together one day arrived 
at Bethel, the elder coming with the younger to 
tend him — to be his brother indeed. Of course he 

52 A Colony of Mercy 

was allowed to stay. The invalid grew worse, and after 
a few years the afflicted soul laid down its worn-out 
shell. He was buried in the little cemetery, but the 
elder brother did not then shake off the dust of Bethel 
from his feet. Hale and strong, and heir to a life of this 
world's good things, he had learned at Bethel to choose 
the better part. He offered to stay for good, join the 
brotherhood, and be ready for any service. He had 
gone through the usual training of sick-nursing while 
attending on his brother. He was a born farmer and 
of the right stuff altogether. 

Now Hebron with its eighty acres wanted a house- 
father who knew all about farming ; and a house-father 
must have a house mother by his side. This young man 
had loved a girl, and was betrothed to her, she being the 
daughter of another of these peasant lords. At first she 
did not approve of her lover's " whims " : it was all very 
well that he had been good to his own brother, but to 
go and be " brother " to everybody else — any ailing 
creature that might need him — was too much for her. 
Besides, he must give up his prospects, and she had 
intended to be a peasantess in state, governing her dairy 
and presiding over her linen chests, with all implied 
therein of dignity and housewifely glory. No, she was 
going to jilt him rather than say yes to this. So be it : 
he was going to throw in his lot with Bethel, for there 
was a love passing the love of woman constraining him. 
Now she had a true, tender heart, this youthful peasant 
princess ; and, as he would not give in, she gave in : love 
being strong, it can give in, even at a loss sometimes. 
Only it turned all to her gain, and there is not a statelier 

Walks About Bethel 53 

peasant-dame now, far and wide. Of course they gave 
up their earthly claims, as far as entering into possession 
was concerned — there was a third brother at the ancient 
homestead who could " succeed." This young man and 
his maiden true were married by Bodelschwingh on the 
" deel " (threshing-floor) of the ancestral farm, according 
to Westphalian peasant custom since time immemorial. 
And a comely couple they were. 

Their own families, though good folk at first, stood 
aghast ; but, after all, they failed not to grace the wed- 
ding, and even the young man's favourite sister, who had 
been most staggered by these " whims " — who ever heard 
of a Westphalian so slighting his own good peasant 
prospects ? — relented sweetly, and presented Hebron, by 
way of a wedding present, with her own primest cow. 
It was, indeed, a giving up of " prospects," and a sacri- 
fice quite as great, as regards any sense of position 
and wealth and dignity, as if an eldest son of English 
nobleman or country squire, on coming of age, gave up 
his rights. 

The pair thus were installed at Hebron, and it is 
beautiful to see how they manage this farm with the 
same pride as though it were their very own. In her 
domain, dairy or kitchen, everything is spick and span ; 
and for his part, the fields all about and the thriving 
cattle speak for it. It is the farm of their heart, if not of 
their pocket. And over and above the farm they have 
taken to their hearts the hundred epileptics, teaching 
them to be good farm labourers, and doing their best by 
them in any way they can. There is the same home- 
life at Hebron as there is at the carpenters', or in any of 

54 A Colony of Mercy 

the houses. Hebron has a beautiful dining-room, low- 
ceiled, and with plenty of casements, a farmhouse room 
of truest style, and as clean as a young lady's boudoir, 
Mrs. Bargholz — why should she not be named here ? — 
looking after everybody's comfort, and ruling her women- 
folk to the credit of the place. It is, indeed, the farm of 
their heart, if not of their pocket. 

Concerning that pocket, it may interest, almost startle, 
the English reader to hear what these people actually do 
get. These Nazareth brothers, house-fathers and all, 
never have a penny of salary ; they get pocket-money 
according to their need. A married house-father, such 
as the one we are speaking of, has out of the general 
Nazareth fund about twenty pounds a year to clothe 
himself and his wife ; if there are any children, there is 
an addition according to the number of children. For 
the rest, they do not need any money ; they are fed with 
the household they have adopted, and which has adopted 
them. If they are ill, why, Bethel has three doctors, 
and Sarepta six hundred nursing-sisters ; no one is left 
uncared-for. When they get old, Bethel will still pro- 
vide for her workers, for Bethel is a commonwealth, 
and no man, once having entered that service of love, 
need have any care for himself. It is a lovely arrange- 
ment, and only a man like Bodelschwingh could have 
devised it ; — or, if others could have devised it, it is only 
one like him, so possessed of the charisma of service, that 
could so inspire every other worker about him with the 
perfect beauty of self-surrender. These people — and we 
give this just as an instance, there are others like them 
in the colony — work for the place with as jealous an eye 

Walks About Bethel 55 

for its advantage as if it were a hundred times their 
own. And, because of this, owners indeed they are 
while they live. Who ever would turn out such a house- 
father ? His very children will inherit the blessing, for 
Bethel is a commonwealth. 

In certain respects Mr. and Mrs. Bargholz do differ 
from other " house-parents." There is an air of wealth 
about them ; their children will come in for the father's 
and mother's share of those Westphalian u prospects," 
and their own people are good meantime to Hebron. At 
the harvest season waggonsful arrive, as though Hebron 
had stepped into the rights the heir to the Bargholz's 
gave up on becoming a brother and house-father. So 
Hebron is well off. 

One afternoon Pastor and Mrs. von Bodelschwingh, 
with their family and a number of visitors, had announced 
themselves at Hebron, by telephone, for an afternoon 
cup of coffee. We sallied out through the fields, and, lo 
and behold, Mrs. Bargholz had bethought herself of her 
housewifely pride, receiving us with stately dignity, all 
smiles and blushes and curtseys, and having set a table 
with her own china and silver — her family see to that — 
and with cakes and cream abounding. Call her a 
farmer's wife and a peasantess ! She has an artless 
dignity about her, as to the manner born. It was a 
pleasant afternoon, and one came away not only de- 
lighted, but having gained a new insight. She has two 
little girls of her own, and sees to their being well 

There are considerable brickfields at Hebron, turning 
out four millions of bricks a year, for home use partly, 

56 A Colony of Mercy 

but also for business. These brickfields are a rising 
concern, and a paying concern, as anybody can under- 
stand. The bricks being made with machinery — the 
management of which cannot be entrusted to epileptics 
— are the work of men from the " Labour Colony," of 
which anon ; but the Hebronites dig the clay and bring 
it to the spot by means of little trucks on rails. When 
the soil can no longer be worked for clay, it has to be 
brought into use for grazing land ; besides, there is a 
great deal of neglected forest land and waste heath- 
country round about, which these patients by diligent 
labour render productive. So life is busy at Hebron. 
There is a fine show of milch cows, the farm selling 
about five hundred pounds' worth of milk yearly ; there 
are fowls and pigs, a number of horses, too, for use in the 
brickworks when there is no ploughing ; also for taking 
the milk-carts about the colony. 

This is how Bethel does much of its work. Hebron, 
farm and brickfields, costs the general treasury not a 
farthing, for it amply keeps itself, its hundred mouths 
and all, even with a surplus. It is a model farm, and 
like Bethel itself, a city set on a hill. Everything is so 
very ideal about Bethel, yet so very practical. Such a 
colony never could be imitated : that is the beauty of it, 
and its mark of the divine. Yet you may learn of 
Bethel ! 

To show the dark side of the picture, that very after- 
noon we had so pleasant a cup of coffee, the pastor was 
called downstairs to speak to a poor fellow who had had 
bad fits lately, and had been put under restraint, having 
been violent, and threatening to lay hands on himself. 

Walks About Bethel 57 

A few days afterwards, as the foundation-stone was 
being laid for a house to receive temporarily such as he 
— a lunatic asylum, with its walls of isolation thought- 
fully hidden from the patient's eye by shrubberies — that 
same fellow, in his right mind now, stood by the side of 
the pastor, who spoke to him. " You didn't mean it, 
Peter," says the pastor, with that look of compassion 
which is hardly ever out of his eyes. " No," says Peter, 
" only I could not help it." " Well," says the pastor, 
" here, you see, we are building a house, where you will 
never feel shut up, but only taken care of; and when 
that evil spirit takes you, you must just always tell us, 
and for a while come here." 

A sister-farm of Hebron goes by the name of Mamre, 
and some of us walked across that evening to have a talk 
with the house-mother there. Mamre, related in character 
to Hebron, yet altogether on a more modest scale, has 
charge of about seventy patients, employed similarly to 
those at Hebron. The house-father there had been a 
simple farm labourer, a mere ploughman, before offering 
for service at Bethel. He has a splendid wife, and the 
legend of their loves has it that she disappeared from 
their native village when he quitted the plough for 
Bethel, thinking she was no wise good enough for him. 
It turned out afterwards that he had thought he was not 
good enough for her ; and, judging by appearance, you 
would have said so too, appearances often leaving you 
ignorant of riches and graces unseen. She entered the 
service of a Dutch family, with whom she travelled as 
lady's maid. But if you want a talk with a lady, go and 
see Mrs. Engelmann, though you may find her in her 

58 A Colony of Mercy 

kitchen with both her arms in a trough mixing salad for 
her large family. She evidently has had an education 
in her travels, and she has the education which comes 
from within. Taking a chair, one watched her pro- 
ceedings ; the subject of conversation was handy. 

" To think of the mere feeding of these numbers " — 
she had been saying they were peeling a hundredweight 
and more of potatoes daily — " the peeling is one thing, 
but to be sure of your potatoes always is another thing ! 
It is marvellous." 

" No, not marvellous," said she, looking up with her 
calm light-blue eyes, her pleasant common-sense face — 
" not marvellous ; it is very natural : while we have him 
to pray for us (meaning Bodelschwingh) never a screw 
will fall out of its place, never a wheel come to a stand- 
still in this machinery." 

" But it is hard work for you, and with such patients ! " 

"Yes, hard work ; we are up at four and busy till night 
— yet not hard. You see," she said, " you have got to 
put your heart into it. There is one thing, you soon 
know your fitness if you come to try your hand here. 
There are only two attitudes you can assume towards 
this work, — you are either hot to it, or cold to it, and you 
know which before a week is out ; and unless you are 
hot, right hot with the something burning within you, 
you will be running away fast enough ; if need be, with 

Whether with * wooden shoes " one runs more quickly, 
she left unexplained ; but her meaning was patent — love 
only keeps these folk to their post. We had supper 
with them, a humble repast, the patients here being of a 

Walks About Bethel 59 

poorer sort altogether. They came in from the fields in 
their working blouses, a brother presiding at each table. 
Grace having been said they fell to with a will. The 
house-father came in late, for there had been a home 
bringing of hay — a simple unassuming man, shorter than 
his wife, and certainly no beauty to behold. Yet you 
need give but one look in his face, and you see a beauty 
unmistakable ; there is that written in his countenance 
which lets you know at a glance he is a Christian. It 
is strange how one knows that at first sight, with some 
people — that chastened look glorifying even the homeliest 
features. We shook hands — his were hard and knotty 
— and sat down ; he had not much to say. But he 
conducted a little evening service like a priest of the 

" How came he to choose this life ? " He was not 
quick with an answer, the wife answering for him : 

" It was because of his ernsten Sinn" — because of his 
unworldly mind — said she quietly, as though it were the 
most natural thing for a man to turn his face from the 
things of this world for the serving of Christ's poor. 
Possibly they never heard of " consecration," for they are 
simple folk ; but theirs is the consecrated life, the 
" living sacrifice," the " reasonable service " of which 
Paul speaks. 

They also have some rosy, flaxen-haired children 
(there is the true Saxon type among these folk of the 
Ravensberger Land), growing up among these poor. 
The children of the colony are particularly thriving, as 
though to gainsay the apprehensions of those who say 
it is " bad " to be about epileptic patients. After supper 

60 A Colony of Mercy 

the industrious house-mother showed us over her 
domain ; and seeing her linen closet, a big room, the 
walls all covered with pigeon-holes, one for each man 
with his weekly linen all ready, it being Friday evening ; 
and being shown the mendings and washings all done 
by her and her two or three young servants — think of 
the socks only which these men wear into holes — one 
wondered again. What paid labour could do this ? But 
there is a love which never faileth and before which 
mountains yield. We are told that simple house-father 
prays with his wife for their epileptics every day, and 
for each troubled one individually. This is the unseen 

We went home, the sinking sun casting a glow over 
the pretty country, so peaceful despite all the suffering 
gathered there. We had had talk with the patients as 
they sat or stood in groups about the yard after supper, 
and were carrying away an impression that probably 
they are happier now than ever they were in their lives 
before. They tell you they have got to work, but they 
always add, " It is good for us " ; and there is an air of 
fellowship about them which is a power in itself. Strange 
that longing for fellowship, as though it were easing our 
own burden to know there are others like us ! But here 
sympathy comes in, saying, I am looking upon thy 
burden as though it were mine. There must be a deep 
meaning underlying this God-implanted need, else One 
would not have spoken of " treading the winepress 
alone." And he is truly man who truly shares. 

On our way we passed a little homestead belonging to 
Mamre, where a number of youths are housed with two 

Walks Abotit Bethel 


brothers — boys of fifteen and sixteen, who, having left 
school, are now being initiated into the mysteries r of 
farming. They were just singing their evening hymn, 
their " Abide with us " ringing over the meadows. But 


as we neared Bethel the hand of evening was opening 
doors everywhere. Young men were out playing at 
ninepins — you heard the thud and fall the more clearly 
as sounds of work were hushed ; and you met them in 
groups, the carpenters, the tailors, the shoemakers, each 


A Colony of Mercy 

with a towel slung across his shoulders going out to the 
baths for a plunge or douche. 

Let us go back to Bethel, the mother-hive, managed 
by Sister Louise. There are only women now in that 
large building — nearly two hundred, of all ages, from the 

i • " - Wh ■ . ' 3 


schoolgirl upward. Only about one-third of the patients 
are of the weaker sex, for the simple reason that women 
can be more easily managed at home. There are four- 
teen " stations " in Bethel House ; for here also, though 
under one roof, the family system prevails. Each dozen 
or so of girls or women, parted from the rest, form a 

Walks About Bethel 6 


" station," having their own dormitory, their work and 
sitting-room ; meals only are in common. Work for 
the women patients, of course, is less varied ; it consists 
in household work, needlework, gardening. Go into the 
sewing classes, and you find some sixty or seventy of 
the girls in four rooms busily engaged round a table, at 
the head of which is a deaconess ; here garments are 
made and clothes mended, not only for their own large 
family, they also help their neighbours — Nazareth, for 
instance, with its many boy patients and unmarried 
brothers. And there is singing and reading aloud 
while the work goes on. In another room you find 
great baskets full of socks and stockings to be turned 
out again for wear. And then Bethel has her own large 
kitchen garden, having six hundred mouths to cook for 
daily, some of the neighbouring <f families " — such as the 
Nazareth boys and men — coming in for their dinner, or 
dinners are sent out. Thus Bethel House keeps up her 
position of " mother," and many of her inmates are 
occupied in this department. Five times a day the men 
and boys come streaming in, two or three hundred of 
them ; they have a separate entrance into a large dining- 
hall on the ground floor, not mixing at all with the 
Bethel patients. You can hardly watch a meal when 
such numbers meet without being a witness to their 
affliction. There is a beautiful stained-glass window in 
this hall, the gift of a thoughtful friend. It represents 
Peter sinking in the waves but upheld by his Lord ; and 
surely there is a silent help passing from that window 
into the hearts of some as they sit there at meat, a 
strengthening better than of earthly food. This hall, 


A Colony of Mercy 

used at meal times only, registers about three thousand 
fits in the course of the year. 

The great kitchen of Bethel House, of course, requires a 
goodly provision of garden produce ; and the girls and 
women, in the intervals of their sewing and cooking, are 
taken to the fields ; there is weeding to be done, or hoe- 
ing, or the gathering-in of vegetables, and it is a pretty 
sight to see them — always with a white-capped deaconess 




in their 'midst — doing such work as they can on their 
own extensive domain. And possibly you may find 
" Field-marshal " Steinkamp out inspecting their work. 
Bethel also has large wash-houses, for much weekly 
washing has to be done : there also her women and girls 
find work. It is a laundry with every appliance, and a 
couple of deaconesses always there, fellow-workers with 
the patients. This laundry, if a busy place, would seem 

Walks About Bethel 65 

a happy place ; at least, you hardly ever pass without 
hearing hymn or song. 

And then Bethel has regular schoolrooms for girls 
under fifteen ; you find them in three classes, four hours 
daily, taught by deaconesses. The work done, of course, 
is not fully equal to the curriculum of the national schools ; 
the scholars are too unequal in mental capacity, and also 
in previous management ; but it is a pleasant hour you 
would spend in any of these class-rooms, especially if you 
happen to chance on an " examination," combining, say,- 
the story of Noah's ark with a lesson in arithmetic, and 
see the little fingers come up so eagerly announcing the 
ready answer. The boys are similarly taught — at 
Nazareth — religious instruction, history, geography, 
ciphering, etc. But in all these class-rooms you see the 
familiar couch — it is never wanting in any room, any 
workshop you enter, and one of the most beautiful things 
to witness is the mutual assistance rendered by these 
afflicted ones to each other. They never wait for the 
brother or sister to lift the stricken form if they can 
do so. When first the question was mooted to collect 
epileptic patients in a common home, fears were ex- 
pressed that thereby, through fright, the trouble would 
be increased — an epileptic, of course, having no idea of 
the nature of an attack, unless he sees it in others, and 
the shock, it was thought, might induce worse things in 
himself. But this fear has turned out to be quite ground- 
less : possibly that sense of fellowship is the neutralising 
agent. There seems to be something soothing in the very 
knowledge that they are surrounded by fellows in grief 
and are no longer the shunned exception ; and so far 


66 A Colony of Mercy 

from taking fright at each other's attacks, they run to help 
one another. The most common seizure is the mere giddi- 
ness, the sudden unconscious slipping to the ground, or 
falling back in a chair ; but even in a bad fit, arms are 
about such falling one directly — the helpful arms of his 
own companions. They know exactly what to do to pre- 
vent him biting his tongue or hurting himself otherwise ; 
even the little children know, and do it so tenderly, 
supporting their sinking comrade till stronger hands are 

You get a beautiful glimpse of this fellowship if you 
will station yourself outside their church on a Sunday, 
say half an hour before service ; and having done so once, 
you will not miss it again on any Sunday during your 
stay. They arrive in batches, streaming up the hill, 
some headed by brother or sister, but many filing up by 
themselves, by twos and threes, and in little groups. 
And then only you get a full impression what a stricken 
company they are. There is scarcely one but the 
malady has touched his bodily frame, — you see it in 
their faces, you see it in their bodies, afflicted in many 
ways. They are cross-bearers ! But how beautifully 
they help one another up that hill ! — leading one another, 
leaning on one another — it is impossible to witness it 
and go away unmoved. " Bear ye one another's burden " 
— unconsciously they act upon it. Is not such mutual 
helpfulness in very deed the prayer of which the apostle 
tells us that by praying for another we shall ourselves 
be healed? 

On the ground floor of Bethel, till quite lately, sixty 
epileptic little girls were housed, perhaps one-fourth of 

Walks About Bethel 67 

them unable to use their limbs, perhaps one-half unable 
to speak, all of them more or less imbecile, some hopelessly 
so. These are " the least of them." The rooms they oc- 
cupied were scarcely spacious enough for half the number, 
but who could refuse admittance to such helpless ones 
when they knocked at Bethel's gates ? It is for these that a 
new house has been built, opened at the Jubilee and paid 
for by thank-offering pennies. The latest acquisition, it is 
the most beautiful of all Bethel homes; and rightly so, says 
Pastor von Bodelschwingh, for it is destined to receive the 
most afflicted of these children of grief. Yet children 
of love withal, — it needs only one look into the face of 
Sister Mary, who is mothering this flock, to be sure of 
this. How proud she is of them, proud because they 
need her so ; and to tend imbecile children is no light 
thing. Think only of cleanliness ! But Sister Mary 
has a large heart, and she and her helpers spend a life 
of happiness — she said so — bearing the burden of these 
little ones. There are some blind among them, some 
deaf and dumb, some who for intelligence never saw one 
ray of light. But some can play, and some can sing, and 
they sing their little hymns to the Shepherd of even this 
flock. The new house is named "Little Bethel" and 
within a few months of the opening the number h?s in- 
creased from sixty to nearly a hundred. Bethel itself has 
rapidly filled up. There are so many always waiting 
for leave to come i 

Sister Louise of Bethel has a brother, one of those 
Ravensberger friends ; he owns a farm not many miles 
distant, and he and his wife take a special interest in 
BetheL Again and again in summer-time an invitation 

68 A Colony of Mercy 

is sent to the Bethel girls — " girls " in general meaning 
female patients ; they are such children, and com- 
paratively few reach over thirty — to come out for an 
afternoon feast in his orchards. And he sends waggons 
to bring his guests, to whom such outings are a rare 
delight — all they can have of such recreation ; they 
cannot go holiday-making like the rest of us ! 

Sister Louise's brother is not the only one who does 
this. The good peasant folk round about vie with each 
other in showing this love to the epileptics, and some 
have been known to add to the invitation the special 
request, Send us the most afflicted I They are not afraid 
of them ; they think only of the pleasure they would like 
to give to this band of misery. Is not this beautiful ? 
Who among ourselves, having a large house or a garden, 
would open it to such visitors ? Should we not say, we 
would like to do so, but there are such sights to be 
dreaded ; we pity them, but we cannot risk such visions 
of distress in our own houses ? There is such a look too 
about these patients — for epilepsy is not a beautifier of 
the human face divine, and there is much about them 
repulsive — should we not say it would really be too much 
for us, we'll send them a contribution ? These peasant 
folk then are before us — " Send us the most miserable I ' ! 
And out they go, and there is singing, and there are 
games and cherryfeasts and tables set, and hosts in their 
Sunday best to honour these guests, and there is happi- 
ness. And there is One among them Whom they see 
not — " Ye have done it unto the . least of these % ye have 
done it unto Me." 

As you go up the valley, leaving Bethel and Little 

Walks About Bethel 69 

Bethel behind you, you nowise leave the colony — there 
are some forty Houses in all, that is, homes of epileptics 
— nearly a hundred buildings. We cannot enter them 
all with our pen, though we have done so with personal 
interest, visiting these patients by turn at meals, at 
work, at play, whenever one could get near them. At 
the far end of the colony in this direction there is a 
homestead, Carmel, occupied by Sister Minna, who has 
a taste for farming. Her patients — not by any means 
bright ones — do washing, knitting, sewing, as women- 
folk ought ; but they also work on the farm, the heavier 
part, actual field-labour, being done for them by the 
male patients of Bethsaida, a station close by. A visit 
to these " girls " on a summer afternoon, and taking 
in at a glance the pretty little farm, leaves one with 
a happy feeling that such a pleasant retreat should be 
provided for these troubled ones. It is a " women " 
station (for adults, that is) ; but Sister Minna has carried 
off to her rustic bower two of the epileptic half-imbecile 
little girls — one of them a dumb child, but engaging 
enough — to have something to pet, as she tells visitors. 

We have not yet been to the " Silly Valley." The 
colony is strewn about two valleys, meeting at an angle, 
and having the hill with the church between them. The 
" Silly Valley " is but a narrow cut, separating the twin 
hills. It has been so named, popularly, because so 
many of the clouded intellects are housed there ; but it 
is " Happy Valley " now, for the Love going in and out at. 
Bethel made it her special abode. Eben-Ezer is in this 
valley, and Zoar, and other homes of this kind. But 
there are one or two houses among them which should 

yo A Colony of Mercy 

be classified differently, such as the epileptic ladies' 
home — Bethany. Here, patients of the upper classes 
are received. Bethany consists of two houses with their 
own pleasant garden between : the one house for " first- 
class " patients, the other for " second-class " ; they pay 
£50 or ;£ioo yearly, with this difference, that those of 
the first class have a room to themselves, and every two 
or three patients a sister between them. Bethany, 
especially of the first class, is all a ladies' home should 
be — sitting-rooms with cosy corners, pretty tables, 
sofas, books, photographs and everything— pianos and 
a harmonium, of course. There is a large, airy dining- 
room, both classes meeting at meals, no difference in 
food being made. The private rooms of the patients 
are prettily furnished and decorated with their own little 

There are some forty patients at Bethany, and the 
ruling genius, the head sister, is a character. She is 
the widow of a Prussian General, a lady of rank and 
wealth, over sixty years of age now, and looking older, 
but, as she herself says, " as tough as shoe-leather." Her 
history is the school in which she was trained. Her 
husband, thrown from his horse, grew imbecile and she 
had the nursing of him for seven years, after which she 
nursed a relative in similar trouble ; and now, having no 
children of her own, she has dedicated the remainder of 
her life to Bethel — " Sister Laura " now, but her girls 
call her " Grannie." She is the regular General among 
her flock, but a loving one, upholding strict discipline 
with the funniest airs of command. Grannie is a great 

Walks About Bethel 71 

An English girl from Capetown was recently brought 
there, not knowing anything of German. After a week or 
so she had picked up a phrase, she had heard it so often. 
" I am very happy here," she said, " though it is all so 
strange to me in this strange country ; the sisters are 
so kind, and I know a German word now — Mein 
LieblingX" It says something for a place, does it not, 
that " My Darling " should be the first words a stranger 
from a far country is sure to begin upon. What a boon 
such a house is ! That Cape girl came a long way : 
it was the only house of the kind her friends ever 
heard of. 

Epileptic patients of the wealthier classes, especially 
girls, can be treated in their own homes ; they can at least 
be kept from harm, and their own people surely would 
be kind to them. But it often is a mistaken kindness — a 
kindness which lets them have their own way ; the firm 
hand is wanting. Such patients are far better in a home 
of love like this ; they have a better chance of recovery 
there, a chance, at least, of not getting worse, which 
sometimes is all they can hope. Among the Bethany 
girls quite a number are but in their teens, and they are 
receiving such education as their capabilities admit of — 
languages, music, drawing, reading. For the sisters in 
that house, though nursing sisters, are women of culture, 
are ladies. That Cape girl, for instance, has a charming 
attendant, one she fell in love with directly, a clergyman's 
daughter, herself quite young, of a cultivated mind and, 
what is better, evidently of a cultivated heart. It was 
she who taught that young stranger her first German 
lesson — Mein Liebling. Even the 'ologies can be studied 

72 A Colony of Mercy 

at Bethany, under these nursing sisters, if any patient 
has a turn that way. Needlework, too, is done diligently, 
either for the poor or for missions. And if you happen 
to drop in of a morning, you may come upon some of 
these girls, sitting round their " General " and shelling 
peas or something of that sort. The busy wholesome 
life is their medicine and discipline ; they, too, if cured 
at all, are cured from within. Once a week, in a house 
like this, there is Familien-abend, or, as we should say 
here, an " At Home." Any visitors about are invited, 
one of the pastors and his wife come to preside, there 
is a tea-supper and a pleasant evening. 

A little further up this valley there is Bethesda, a 
similar institution for ladies, not epileptic, but of "weak 
nerves " ; ladies old and young, the better for a little 
supervision and regular living. They are all of good 
position, of rank often, ladies who never had anything 
particular to do, and never had their wills trained. It is 
bodily treatment and soul strengthening they are here 
for : they get it, and seem happy. 

The valley ends where these ladies of weak nerves 
might end if not taken in hand in time ; Magdala is the 
terminus of this valley— a female lunatic asylum. It 
was, in the first instance, the needs of the colony 
which led to this development, a place of refuge being 
required for women epileptics under temporary insanity. 
But Pastor von Bodelschwingh has an idea that the 
Church, as a Church, has a duty towards the insane, 
and since asylums for lunacy are provided by the 
municipalities, he will, at least, have this Bethel do 
its Christian part, though it be but on a small scale. 

Walks About Bethel 


This house has twenty regular patients, mostly in- 
curables, and it is managed by deaconesses fitted 
for the work, one of the medical men of the colony being 
a specialist in diseases of the mind. A lunatic asylum 
for male patients as already mentioned, is in course of 
erection ; it is planned for about thirty to forty patients, 
and is to be called Moriah. 

The companion house to Bethany, for gentlemen, is 
Hermon, in the midst of the beech wood on the hill, over 
against the church. Pastor Schmidt and his wife are 
house-parents here. It is a large house, having patients 
of all ages, youths and men. These gentlemen are all 
busy according to their capacities, some as clerks in 
the offices, some in the library — that is at Bethphage, 
with its several departments — some doing postman's 
work about the colony, or carpentering; or gardening. 
They are tended by brothers, as Bethany is by sisters. 
They have their books, they have music, they have 
games. You find men there of many nationalities ; for 
nowhere on the globe are there homes like these for 
men thus stricken. 

Bethel, though outwardly a sad gathering of human 
misery, is nevertheless a college where sick folk may 
graduate. It is beauty for as/ies, even in their grievous 
affliction, the hand of love leading them step by step to 
the submission which is peace. 

" Out of the mouths of babes Thou hast perfected praise." 

IT is a sight to see Pastor von Bodelschwingh among 
his idiots — his children, as he calls them by pre- 
ference. How they cling to his love ! Men, women^ 
boys, girls, in four different houses. Bethel has a large 
idiot colony, — nearly one-third of her numbers must be 
counted imbecile ; many arrive such, others gradually 
become such. If epileptics were taken in hand in time — 
that is, if there were enough " Bethels " to take them in, 
— this need not be ; not more than five per cent, need 
sink away into that outer darkness. 

How strange that, with clouded intellects — among 
these epileptics, at least — the religious faculty often is 
the one thing left ! They know their hymns and their 
Bible verses when all else is gone. And it is cultivated. 
It seems as if the deteriorating effects of this terrible 
malady troubled the mind rather than the soul. The 
affections, for instance, are left, when thought and reflec- 
tion are almost gone ; gratitude is left — they do know 
when you are kind to them ; the spiritual faculty is left, 
— enough, at least, to be cultivated. There was the 
head-sister's birthday — " Auntie," they call her — at the 


More Walks About Bethel 75 

home for women idiots, so there was coffee and cakes, 
and Pastor von Bodelschwingh and his wife were invited. 
This house has locked doors, and is walled in, to warn 
off curious strangers ; but, by a happy chance, one was of 
the company. There are about sixty patients in that house 
—poor, helpless things, not an unclouded mind among 
them! But Bodelschwingh began talking to them (the 
house is called Siloam) : " Children, can you tell me 
about Siloam ? " None but foolish answers. " Listen, 
children ! " and he read to them and talked to them about 
the pool and the blind man ; and they, some of them, at 
least, presently understood that Jesus sent the blind man 
thither to get eyes. " What sort of eyes, children ? " 
And a poor imbecile girl actually cried back, " Herzens- 
augen ! " " Yes, Herzens-augen" says Bodelschwingh ; 
" and stille Herzen — hearts that give up fretting and 
quarrelling." And, somehow, he got them to understand 
that " Herzens-augen " (eyes of the heart) to see Jesus 
with ; and " stille Herzen," the stillness within, was the 
one thing wanted of them ; and, however much or little 
they understood, these two words were left with them 
like two lights shining on their darkness. No sermon 
could have impressed one more — the loving preacher, 
the imbecile flock, the power of love making itself 

On another occasion there was a similar gathering at 
the same house. Pastor Sturmer had arranged it : he 
is Bodelschwingh's coadjutor for Bethel, on whom the 
captainship of the epileptic colony long has devolved, 
there being two other pastoral appointments besides, 
one for Sarepta, and one for Nazareth. Sturmer was 

J 6 A Colony of Mercy 

Bodelschwingh's friend before either of them came to 
this work. He was his curate, and, indeed, an inmate of 
his manse when the four little children died ; and there 
is nothing which knits men more closely than a great 
sorrow gone through together. If we were asked to 
characterise Stunner, we should do it with the one 
word — self-effacement. He is the very last to make 
a " hero " of Bodelschwingh ; but unconsciously he is 
setting him forth, and it is a treat at any time to get him 
on this topic. But the thing to be noted is, that although 
his is an independent position, the several pastors holding 
appointment under a committee, and although he most 
certainly goes his own way, he yet is the captain he is, 
because so fully impregnated with the spirit of his 
general — more truly said, of his friend. It is, more or 
less, the same with all these workers : once appointed 
they go their own way, only — it is Bodelschwingh's way. 
He truly is their chief, yet not so much a ruler as an 
influence^ and his fellow-workers grow like him ; they 
cannot help it. There is an educating spirit pervading 
this colony, the spirit of not seeking one's own. The 
wondrous thing in this chief is that magnetic power in 
him attracting the right workers ; they are never looked 
for, never sought ; they come, they are there ; they do 
their own part as free agents almost, he so completely 
trusting them, yet his spirit is in their every act. It comes 
to this, that Christian genius is a spiritual force, ever 
begetting, ever imbuing ; and this is the working secret 
of this strangely constituted colony, the true characteristic 
of which is found in the text, " He that is greatest 
among you, let him be as the younger ; and he that is 

More Walks About Bethel jj 

chief, as he that doth serve." They are all servants 
there, from Bodelschwingh to the youngest brother. If 
there were a few more colonies like it, there would be no 
social question left. 

Sturmer, then, is working pastor of the Bethel proper. 
The patients never think of going to Bodelschwingh 
direct ; but with all their little griefs, with their every 
need, bodily or spiritual, real or imaginary, they have 
free access to Sturmer any hour of the day ; and though 
he be in the midst of his heavy office work — all the 
Bethel accounts, the Bethel correspondence going through 
his hands — how patiently he listens to their troubles, 
how lovingly he enters into their need ! He is the 
faithful shepherd of this flock, and if their troubled souls 
find peace, it is largely due to this pastor's gentle and 
indefatigable ministrations. 

So Pastor Sturmer, according to his frequent habit, 

was arranging that afternoon gathering at Siloam. He 

read them a story — it was a Christmas tale, all about 

dying, curiously enough ; but anything about death and 

dying has a strange fascination for these epileptics. One 

could not tell how much they took in of the reading ; 

but the pastor kept their attention wonderfully, stopping 

every few lines wanting a text from them or the verse 

of some hymn fitting his subject, and they always gave 

the right one, he setting the keynote, as it were, with 

a leading word, and after they had repeated it once or 

twice in chorus, it was sung. Their eyes simply were 

riveted on the pastor, whose very voice upon occasion is 

an echo of Bodelschwingh's. 

The story having told about Christmas and the Babe 

78 A Colony of Mercy 

in the manger, went on to tell how one Christmas day 
a kind mother died, leaving her little ones orphaned. 
" This is very sad," says the pastor, " but it would not be 
right to go sorrowing always ; the Christian must be joyful 
again, knowing it is the Lord, — for why ? And pat came 
the answer — 

" Why should I go sadly weeping? 
If bereft, Christ is left, 
He all joy is keeping." * 

What better answer could even the wisest of us have 
given ? One simply wondered, and went home in silence. 
The memory for hymns they have learned seems about 
all now left to them. But were they not faithful with that 
one talent — shall He not be satisfied with these children ? 
Even as that hymn was being said there was a terrible 
bang, one of them falling forward, knocking her head 
against the table. It created no disturbance : the girls 
to the right and left of her lifted her up in their arms — 
even the idiots do it so tenderly, stroking the sufferer's 
face : not that this is any use in a fit, but yet ! but yet ! 
They are so responsive to affection, these poor things ; 
they crowd round you for barest sign of it ; they under- 
stand that universal language of which the " Greatest 
Thing" speaks. You have but to press their hand, 
stroke their cheeks, and a wonderful gleam of light 
passes over their faces, — yes, love is left ! 

It is not easy to be still at Siloam, and they certainly 
do a lot of quarrelling these poor fretful things — it is 
part of their infirmity — the sisters have much ado to 

* "Warum sollt' ich mich denn gramen." — Paul Gerhard's 

More Walks About Bethel 79 

keep this flock still. But even they learn a little of 
that stillness, acquire it by degrees ; it is so deeply im- 
bedded in their environment, how can they but learn a 
little ? and what a blessed change for some of them from 
the homes they knew before Bethel opened her arms to 
their distress ! There is much hymn singing at Siloam : 
the sister raises the song, and they follow, follow. It is 
thus their way Home is made easy — it is not so very 
long a way for any of them, and then the night will 
vanish, the morning break. 

A number of them are quite capable of being set to 
work ; they do some knitting, not very beautiful, but still 
they do it. To whom little is given, of them little will 
be asked. 

Some of them go to church, and they do sit still. 
Whether they take in much or little of the service, 
there is at least the beautiful singing and the voice of 
their own Pastor von Bodelschwingh, whom they all 
love — such as they can love — and who has such a simple 
way of talking to his flock from the pulpit ; or of Pastor 
Sturmer or another, it makes little difference to them ; 
yet it is a soothing influence, and who shall say it is in 
^vain ? They at least recognise the name of Jesus when 
they hear it, and who shall say that is vain ? The Great 
Shepherd does not forsake these troubled ones in their 
hour of darkness. They tell you the story of one who 
had brain fever as a child, became epileptic, and lost all 
mental powers. For eighteen years they had him, and 
for eighteen years he sat shaking his head to and fro ; 
and almost the one thing that passed his lips, and this 
fifty times a day, was a baby song his mother had taught 

80 A Colony of Mercy 

him — " Because the Lord's dear lamb I be, He will ever 
care for me " — the one thing he remembered ; it clung 
to him, and with this he died. Who shall say this is 

The male patients of this class are at Eben-Ezer, 
the house where a quarter of a century ago a beginning 
was made with four. There are over fifty there now, 
hopelessly shattered, physically and mentally. Yet there 
are degrees even here. You mostly find them just 
wandering in and out of the house and about the yard ; 
when you go in, there is a troop about you directly, so 
anxious to shake hands. Some tell you they are waiting 
for letters. Some are occupied peeling potatoes — they 
do it neatly enough — or on cleaning days busy with 
broom and bucket. In the rooms they are divided by 
tens or so, each room under a brother who has the care 
of them, and sleeps in the night ward. 

We dropped in one Saturday, and going from room to 
room found one poor fellow, he might be about twenty 
years of age, cleaning the boots of the " station " — there 
was quite a basketful, a good deal of work for him, for he 
could use his left hand only, the right being bent double 
upon the wrist ; he held the boots between his knees 
and seemed quite happy to get them to shine. " This is 
your Saturday work, is it not ? " — " Yes, and to-morrow 
is Sunday, — I go to communion." — " Can he ? " we said, 
looking wonderingly at the brother. — " This one can, he 
knows just that much that going to communion is going 
to Jesus, don't you, Wilhelm ? " — " Yes," says Wilhelm, 
lifting his clouded eyes, — "and He is good to us." 
Possibly he mixes up Jesus with the pastor who is good 

More Walks About Bethel 81 

to them, for he is a half imbecile — well, and if he does, 
who shall say he should not go ? Does he not go with 
the one thought " Jesus is good to us," and maybe 
hungering for his share of that goodness ? 

There are several smaller houses with patients of this 
kind, all more or less imbecile, affiliated to Eben-Ezer, 
the dining hall gathering the whole flock, about a hun- 
dred and fifty, at meal times. The good house-father 
of Eben-Ezer once was a shepherd ; he is " shepherd " 
still, and has been these twenty years, shepherding these 
helpless sheep ! His wife had come to Eben-Ezer as a 
servant girl five-and-twenty years ago, when the work 
first began. They have brought up five children of their 
own, five promising boys, being father and mother also to 
this helpless family ! Well may Bodelschwingh trust his 
workers : these " house-parents " — watch them in any of 
these houses, fathers and mothers true, what are they 
but just shepherds for the great Shepherd of afflicted 
men ! They all differ in character, for the Shepherd 
Himself has had the original training of them. They 
are simply Christian characters doing the common work 
in their own way. And the houses differ just as human 
families differ ; it is the inimitable beauty of this colony, 
proving the living growth. 

Over against Eben-Ezer, facing the same courtyard, 
is Zoar, the home of the epileptic boy imbeciles — about 
thirty, such little boys some of them, a pitiful sight. 
Some attempt is made at teaching them — mere object- 
lessons : there cannot be more than the humblest of 
attempts and with the humblest results. 

A few, the brightest of their number, are gathered in a 


82 A Colony of Mercy 

Scripture class, faithfully and patiently taught till they 
repeat a Bible story with baby understanding and sing 
a hymn. One boy of seventeen can write his name, and 
is very proud of the feat. 

With Zoar a story is connected. The last time Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh had an audience of the aged Emperor 
Wilhelm, His Majesty said, " How was that about Zoar? 
tell me again." And the pastor repeated the story. When 
the foundation stone of this house was being laid in 1878 
a poor day labourer presented himself, confessing with 
much contrition that two years previously he had made 
a vow and had not kept it. He had been at the annual 
meeting, and for the first time had seen with his own 
eyes what it is to be an epileptic ; he had witnessed some 
cases, children among them, and saw them carried away. 
He himself had four little ones at home, all hale and 
well, and the thought smote him he had never thanked 
God as he ought. He resolved that in future he would 
present a yearly thank-offering of a penny each for his 
children. He had not done so, but now he was here 
with sixteen pennies for two years past and for two 
years to come. He did not want to give his name, not 
even the name of the village he hailed from ; he was a 
poor man, but he would say this : " Might not other folk 
be asked to do likewise ? " Even the poorest of the poor, 
he thought, if they had healthy children, could well afford 
to spare a penny a year as an expression of their 
gratitude to God. 

Pastor von Bodelschwingh was not slow to act upon 
this hint — a poor man's thought, who would fain do some- 
thing for this work of mercy. The story was made 

More Walks About Bethel $3 

known, and people liked it, and the poor farm labourer 
had quite a host of grateful imitators. The following 
year, when Zoar the Little could be opened free of debt, 
it was because the thousand pounds required had all 
come in, in pennies mostly. And a book is kept at 
Zoar in which not only the names, but many of the 
messages sent with these pennies have been entered. 
Not only parents had sent thank-offerings for their 
children, but little children out of their money boxes had 
sent pennies, that God might bless their kind parents. 
And others joined, remembering all manner of mercies 
to be returned thanks for. Some returned largely, but 
most were the offerings of the poor.' An old grannie 
sent ten shillings because all her family were safe in 
heaven ! 

The aged Emperor also liked the story, and many a 
thank-offering he sent to Bethel ; he never forgot Bodel- 
schwingh's family when Christmas came round, or any 
special help was required. But that poor man's happy 
idea of thank-offerings has been very fruitful at Bethel. 
There is an organised penny collection, mostly among 
children, all over the country, and the offerings of the 
poor on many an occasion are the drops filling the 

Thus, both Zoar and Little Bethel, the homes for the 
little ones of this afflicted flock, have been built by thank- 
offering pennies on behalf of children hale and sound. 

It was not only Pastor von Bodelschwingh's idea, it 
was the main principle laid down by Pasteur Bost who 
was the first to gather in epileptics at La Force, in 
south-western France — a principle he laid great stress 

84 A Colony of Mercy 

upon — The epileptic patient must first of all be brought to 
Christ. There is little help for such in the body, but 
One can heal the soul ; and, while very faithful, as we 
have seen, to all that pertains to the body, this soul cure 
is the main object at Bethel. Bodelschwingh says he 
considers a patient " doing well " when he has learned to 
bear his cross meekly ; that he considers him " cured " 
when, laying down his poor tabernacle, he can die in 
the faith of the Saviour. There is no religious over- 
dosing at Bethel ; there is too much of true work, of 
practical endeavour, there, to have time for unhealthy 
excitement. The patients are simply surrounded by 
the influences of the sanctuary, and many of them are 
true children of peace. They become so gradually ; the 
fruits of the spirit grow. The word of God is ever in 
their midst, and the voice of prayer about them ; but 
they are not driven — they are loved, they are nurtured. 
They are not asked about their inward experiences, 
about being " saved," and all that ; but they are every 
day taken to Christ, and they know it. They learn it. 
There are classes of religious instruction ; there is a 
Young Men's Christian Association among them ; there 
is their own beautiful choir, too, the singing and the 
instruments — means these, surely, helping them to grow. 
There is such an environment, so many about them 
who can help them on. 

There is a house-father of a house not yet mentioned, 
Becrsheba, a station for gentlemen patients of a more 
troubled kind than at Hermon ; this house-father is a 
retired schoolmaster, a man, too, of the Ravensberger 
country, and, for the rest, you need but exchange two 

More Walks About Bethel 85 

words with him, and you will know. Such a look about 
him, too ! His name is Budde ; he has long been a 
fisher of men in his own way, and folk in the neigh- 
bourhood call those " caught " by him BuddJiists. He is 
Father Budde at Bethel, anyway ; and one of those who 
make one wonder so much — or rather, give up wondering 
the more one sees of it — how Bethel has become such 
a church of the saints : a church which does not talk 
about Social Christianity, but which most truly acts it. 

Father Budde tells the following of one of his patients 
— a man of good position and education, who had been 
making his way in the world. He became epileptic 
through the shock on the news of the sudden death of a 
beloved one. He had not troubled much about religion ; 
but in the years of his affliction was noticed to open 
gradually to the Word of God. He began to value his 
Bible ; he looked for its promises of comfort, of healing. 
He had always been a silent man. One day he surprised 
Father Budde with the question, " How was he to 
picture to himself the Saviour?" a question Father 
Budde met by another question : " Well, how should 
you say ? " Says this man, " I have seemed to see 
Him lately — the face surrounded with a glory, and the 
light seems to go out from Him, and I feel swallowed up 
in the light. But I have a better vision still. I see Him 
on the Cross, with arms outstretched, and then I can 
pray to Him ; and I feel drawn close, and I lay my head 
where John, the Beloved, laid his — quite close." Re- 
member, the man in his day had not been a Christian, 
and was fast going down the hill now ; he had no 
memory left, no mental powers for any work to speak of, 

86 A Colony of Mercy 

yet the things he heard, the teaching he received daily, 
— scarce knowing it for teaching — did its work in him. 
A few days later — it happened to be Ascension Day — 
Father Budde read to them about the world to which 
He has gone to prepare a place — a place for them also, 
where sorrow has passed away, and earth's crosses are 
laid down. This patient listened ; they all listened ; all 
such talk is made so plain and attractive to them. They 
retired to rest, and this man was telling the two or three 
he slept with he was just dying with a sense of Heimweh, 
a longing to be home ; and he repeated to them the verses 
which had been read to them of the former things which 
shall be past. And then he lay down quietly, and he 
did go home. He had his last fit that night, and gently 
passed away. They found him, with hands folded, and 
with a look on his face as though he knew already why 
his beloved was taken from him, why he had to pass 
through years of growing darkness — that he might wake 
up, and know it is light. These patients often die in 
a fit, or of the exhaustion ensuing. 

On the whole they are happy — their pastors say so, 
and one can see it for oneself : there is more contentedness 
among them, contentment with the life which is their lot, 
than you would find among an equal number of ourselves 
perhaps. They have come through such deep waters, 
most of them : they are learning to be content, and they 
love Bethel. Some years ago another colony was founded 
— there are about a dozen epileptic establishments now in 
Germany — and it happened to be a Roman Catholic one 
claiming her patients. So a number had to be sent 
away — two or three waggonsful. A month after a 

More Walks About Bethel 87 

petition arrived, signed by the whole of them with their 
crooked letters and trembling strokes, entreating their 
mother Bethel to take back her children. It was not 
Bethel's fault the prayer could not be granted ; and at 
this moment a number of patients from East Prussia are 
under dread of being required to leave, the province of 
Brandenburg being about to open an epileptic establish- 
ment of a thousand beds. How it will answer will have 
to be proved, for it is an undertaking of the public purse. 
Still, Bethel cannot take in the hundred thousand 
sufferers, and all efforts to mitigate the vast distress 
must be welcomed. Would they all were Bethels ! 

The mortality among these patients is very great ; few 
reach over thirty or thirty-five, very few over forty, and 
only two or three in all these years of Bethel's expe- 
rience have passed the age of fifty. The little mortuary 
bell of the colony (including the Sarepta patients) may 
be heard five or six times a week, Bodelschwingh 
telling his people almost every Sunday, they are a con- 
gregation of the dying — eine Gemeinde der Sterbenden 
— this too is morituri te salutant I and it is strange 
what a fascination their little cemetery has for them. It 
is their favourite walk. When there is a funeral, the 
coffin, whenever possible, is borne by the companions 
of him who is gone ; and some of these patients would 
not miss a funeral for anything. To what should one 
ascribe this? It is noticeable even among the children 
— dying and going to heaven is all one to them, and 
like going from one room to another. Everybody there 
talks quite freely about dying. We happened to meet 
Pastor Sturmer in the burial ground one afternoon, and 

88 A Colony of Mercy 

we passed a youth sitting on one of the benches. We 
forgot to ask was he epileptic, but he certainly was 
consumptive. Says the pastor to him, with a nod, 
" Well, Charley, you like to sit here and look at your 
own little spot, don't you? it is all waiting." And 
Charley smiled ; he said nothing, but he looked " yes." 
The pastor did not make it an occasion for speaking 
of the Beyond. It was just a sympathetic remark, as 
he would take it, to a dying youth. Their cemetery 
somehow to them is a garden of peace. That youth 
was not alone in the little burial ground ; you always 
meet patients there, and who can tell what passes in 
their souls ? 

A pastor once died in their midst — Pastor von 
Liibke. He had for years been principal of a missionary 
college. He once came to preach at Bethel, and in that 
pulpit confessed himself a brother in affliction. " I have 
a right to speak to you, for I too am epileptic." He 
gave them a sermon which must have gone through and 
through them : " We are children of wrath," he said, 
" dwelling in bodies on which He has set a mark." But 
his text was Genesis ix., and it not only speaks of 
judgment but also of the arc of peace. And he led 
them on to Him who even in their mortal bodies shall 
be glorified, and they changed into His image. This 
man remained in their midst for nearly a year, as 
house-father of Hermon — a patient sufferer, bearing his 
cross meekly, and helping others to bear theirs. And 
his death spoke louder than any sermon. His wife had 
been away, and he was going to meet her. The trap 
stood at the door. It must have been in the premonitory 

More Walks About Bethel 89 

excitement of a coming fit ; the gentle, quiet man was 
suddenly seen dashing from the house, overturning 
chair and table and leaping wildly upon the vehicle. 
He seized the reins, and remaining standing whipped 
and whipped the poor pony. It was little Fanny, a 
quiet animal ; but she dashed away down the hill, he 
still whipping and whipping. The maddened creature 
fortunately took the road to her stable ; the vehicle was 
seen careering through Workshop Street, stopping short 
at the end. It was a sharp pull-up, and the poor pastor 
was thrown ; when they picked him up he lay in a fit. 
They could hardly hold him for violence ; but he had 
knocked his head and the blood trickled down. It fell 
on his hand, and he saw it. And there was a great 
calm. " The blood of Jesus Christ," he said, " cleanseth 

us — cleanseth us " and his spirit fled. 

It was a going Home, even like Elijah's, in a chariot 
of fire. 



" Serving the Lord." 

THE backbone of Bethel is found in the spirit of 
her workers — the perfect surrender to a Christian 
ideal. These sisters, these brothers, have made that 
development possible. There is nothing in this country 
corresponding exactly to the German deaconess ; and of 
ministering " brothers " we have so far not heard here. 
Mildmay and Tottenham, following the example, have 
trained deaconesses, we know ; but how many of their 
sisters witness to the work by a lifelong devotion ? They 
are to be counted by the dozen — by the score, perhaps. 
Of German deaconesses there is an army, and a steadfast 
army. What has made, what has constituted, it ? What 
is the power at work, the spirit moving, what the cause 
of this visible effect ? There are two things which stand 
out bright in a Bethel sister : her humility, her perfect 
obedience. If any doubt this, let them go to Bethel and 
see. These sisters, these brothers, have made the sacrifice 
of their own will completely ; not for a day, not for a 
week, but completely. Yet they take no vow ; theirs 
is the liberty of surrender, and the knowledge of this is 

the strength of their work. They are not units, they are 


The Ministry of Mercy 9 1 

freewill parts of a whole. We do not question the 
humility, the obedience, in workers here ; but this we 
say : The British character rather tends to individualise ; 
the freeborn Briton survives even in consecration. This 
yields splendid results of its own, able workers, but 
it yields workers, rather than lifelong fellow-workers ; it 
yields devoted lives in their own right. But there is 
a limit to this : the strength born of union is wanting ; 
nay, more, that is wanting which tells such worker he 
or she is but an outpost of something stronger than 
personality behind. Personality is a great thing, but a 
fellowship of personalities is greater. In one word, the 
English deaconess is an embodiment of independent 
charity, but the German deaconess is a blossom of the 
Church, not of the visible institution, but of the Church 
life of the country ; she is a part representing that 
whole She is as much of the Church as the pastor is — 
both being servants — and she knows that. It is easy to 
give up your own will, to surrender personality, when 
you know yourself part of a mighty power — the world- 
conquering power of Christ. Using the word Church, 
we mean the outward expression of this power — the 
Church, apart from " Hsms " ; and it seems to us that 
this spirit of Church-membership is the thing wanted 
to lift the English deaconess to that higher level, 
to make her one of a body, the ranks of which will 
swell just in proportion to the strength of the living 
thing behind that body. Vitality is the outcome of 

If any doubt this, let them go to Bethel and judge for 
themselves — only, by a mere visit they will not so easily 

92 . A Colony of Mercy 

discover this hidden secret of the work. Most emphatically 
we would say, We do know that of English workers there 
are splendid examples — examples not easily matched 
in any country ; but speaking of this German body of 
workers we are endeavouring to account for its strength. 
It is a fundamental difference, the difference between in- 
dependence and union, the difference between a " free 
lance " and a soldier at his post. 

The English sisterhoods each go their own way, 
strangers to one another ; the German deaconesses, the 
ten thousand of them, of about fifty houses, form in 
reality one sisterhood, though each sister owes allegiance 
only to the house of her training, or, as the case may be, 
of her adoption. The houses — mother-houses they call 
them — each raising its own family of sisters, may differ in 
minor respects ; but there is a bond of unity in their 
leading principles, in their working aims and efforts, in 
their mutual upbearing ; and there is a strong esprit de 
corps among them. The cause of one house is the cause 
of all the other houses, and that cause is simply the 
cause of handmaidens of the Kingdom — of a body of 
handmaidens, all pursuing one object, following one 
calling, having for "honour" no first and no last. It is 
very beautiful, this work, which has nothing left of self- 
importance ! These deaconesses are the Protestant 
equivalent of the " Sister of Mercy," with all her dis- 
cipline, with more than her devotion — a devotion 
enhanced by the fact that she does not thereby lay up 
for herself any works of righteousness she has done. 
They are an army of Christian helpfulness going their 
quiet way in the land, but an organised army ! They are 

The Ministry of Mercy 93 

what Phebe of Cenchrea was, whom St. Paul himself de- 
scribes as a servant of the Church and a succourer of many. 

The name of Kaisers werth is known to English 
readers ; there the first seedling of this organised work 
was planted just upon sixty years ago. It has had a 
wondrous development. Kaiserswerth has trained over 
eight hundred sisters, and has sent workers into many 
countries. The Westphalian House in so far is a child 
of Kaiserswerth, as its original band of four sisters was 
delegated by the elder institution, when a few Westphalian 
pastors and Christian friends had resolved themselves 
into a committee for the purpose of starting a deaconesses' 
establishment in their own province. 

Like Bethel itself, Sarepta also was first planned at 
Bielefeld, the work beginning humbly in a small house 
acquired by the committee. One of the four original 
deaconesses, Sister Emily Hauser, has ever since been 
the head-sister, or " mother," as she is called at Bethel. 
She is over seventy now, and has seen the little band of 
four expand into a sisterhood of six hundred, in little 
more than twenty years. No other deaconesses' house 
has had so rapid a growth, the reason here also being 
the fitness of the soil. From that Ravensberger country 
alone, over a hundred young men and women offer 
yearly for the service of mercy. 

The house at Bielefeld, where the work first began, is 
now used as a home for aged women— one of the colony's 
many out-stations. It soon grew too small, and when the 
committee resolved on building, it was almost natural, 
yet surely it was by a special guidance, that the site 
bought was close to that other site where Bethel was 

94 A Colony of Mercy 

rising ; for God was even then preparing His servant 
who should carry this double work to a common de- 
velopment and to a height not dreamt of by the founders. 
The mother-house, " Sarepta," as we now see it, is a fine 
Gothic building right in the centre of the colony, as 
though to be " mother " even to the epileptic homes, 
which, strictly speaking, are quite an independent 
growth ; and, apart from being a training home for 
deaconesses, it is an infirmary with about one hundred 
and thirty beds. 

It is a mistake to think that the deaconess is a sick 
nurse only ; but this is true, that most deaconess 
institutions devote themselves to sick-nursing exclu- 
sively, and Sarepta, in this respect, materially differs 
from the bulk of them. The sisters are all trained 
to sick nursing — it is their own vocation ; but they are 
also trained to parish work, looking after the poor, 
the forsaken, the sinking, and they are trained to 
teaching, infants especially. And if one in her own 
past history has developed a special fitness in any 
direction, that fitness is looked upon as a " talent " 
and put to use. Bodelschwingh's six hundred sisters 
are a power for good in the land. Is there one of them 
in a parish — they never enter a parish unless called 
— she is the pastor's right hand of influence. She 
is sick nurse, Bible-woman, a messenger for Christ, and, 
most important, she gathers in His lambs. They can 
put their hand to almost anything ; and this yields a 
beautiful arrangement for relieving the tension of over- 
work : for instance, a nursing-sister worn with night- 
watchings will be sent for a time to do infant-teaching 

The Ministry of Mercy 97 

by way of a change ; or a Kinder-garten sister tired out 
with her lively charges— they often have seventy or eighty 
to manage — will be called to rest her voice by some 
quiet sick bed. When it can be done, the perfection is 
a trio of sisters in a parish — one for the infants, one for 
sick-nursing, one for visiting ; such trio is like three 
times three for strength, relieving one another, helping 
one another — this too is fellowship. Such three make 
a little home for themselves, the parish providing the 
building, and the " keep " of the sisters — a home large 
enough to accommodate the infants and, if need be, oc- 
casional cases of nursing ; patients mostly being attended 
in their own homes. This latter indeed on principle : 
a patient's relatives, his or her neighbours even, should not 
be deprived of the blessings inherent on sickness ; they 
should be taught rather than relieved, taught how to 
attend on a sick one and how to make a sick bed com- 
fortable within their means and by their own efforts. 
A great deal of help can thus be given, actually training 
people to help themselves. This is one of the great 
aims a Sarepta deaconess endeavours to keep in view, 
mere relief often being but poor charity ; but that is 
true charity which seeks to lift folk, friends and neigh- 
bours included, to the level of any trouble requiring 

Of course the six hundred could never all be wanted 
about the colony itself: some seventy are employed 
among the female epileptics, some thirty are stationed 
by the sick beds of Sarepta, about twenty-five in the 
infant schools of the neighbourhood ; the rest, nearly 
five hundred in number, are at work on two hundred 


98 A Colony of Mercy 

different stations, in Germany, in the Netherlands, in 
France, in America, in Africa. 

Any young women offering for service — and they 
come of all ranks, from the peasant maiden to the high- 
born lady, but most are of the people — are admitted on 
trial ; after six months or a year passed by the sick beds 
of the mother-house they become auxiliary sisters. But 
it is only after some years of probation they enter the 
sisterhood by a solemn act of consecration, generally at 
the annual meeting. They do not take upon themselves 
any vow, neither of celibacy, nor of any other kind ; it 
is, however, expected of them that by that time— none 
being " consecrated " under the age of five-and-twenty — 
they fully know their own minds, and are honestly 
willing to devote their lives to the service, " unless some 
plain guidance at any future time should point to 
another path, in which case they shall consult the 
mother-house with the deference of a child to its 
parent, for the mother-house has ' adopted ' them." 
There are occasional defections ; some sisters do marry, 
some do change their minds, returning to their families ; 
but, taken as a whole, they are a steadfast army. 

The mother-house is mother indeed to this band of 
daughters : it supplies all their wants ; feeds them, 
clothes them, nurses them in sickness, sees to their 
recreation when worn. They have a beautiful home of 
rest, Salem, among the hills, a few miles distant, 
where overworked sisters recruit, and a seaside home 
on one of the Hallig Isles, in the German Ocean ; and 
they are cared for still when old and no longer able to 
work. A deaconess has no pay of any kind ; she may 

The Ministry of Mercy 


not receive any pay or presents from patients ; if she is 
nursing private cases any freewill gift is sent to the 
mother-house— no claim is made ; for she is no pay- 
worker, she does labour of love. For sisters sent to 


public hospitals — such as those working at Bremen, for 
instance, sixty or seventy in number, or those stationed 
in Berlin — the municipalities pay Sarepta at the rate of 
nine pounds a year per sister ; parishes, too, pay at 
this rate, or less, for a parish sister ; but this is simply 
refunding the mother-house for clothing and other 

fill * 


ioo A Colony of Mercy 

incidental expenses, the mother-house supplying its 
absent daughters as it supplies those at home ; supplying 
them, not with clothing alone, but with a little pocket 
money also of six to nine shillings a month, that she 
may have to " give of her substance " to the poor, or to 
missions. And there are deaconesses (like the mother of 
Sarepta herself) who for a lifetime have thus lived and 
worked, have always been cared for, have always spent 
themselves, but never have had any money to speak 
of to spend. This, too, constitutes a difference between 
a deaconess here and a deaconess there. The Mildmay 
and Tottenham sister is not paid, but Mildmay and 
Tottenham are paid — taking their guinea or two a week 
— if they send out sisters. It lowers the character of the 
work. Much of the strength of these German sister- 
hoods has its hidden root in this unpaid work ; having 
no cares for themselves, present or future, they have 
no thought for themselves, they can live for others. 
It is the ministry of love ; and love begets love. The 
funds of Sarepta, like the funds of Bethel, apart from the 
provincial grants for poor patients, are largely made up 
by the freewill offerings of a multitude of humble friends 
— friends knowing the beauty of this work, happy and 
proud, therefore, to support it. 

If you speak to any of these sisters, you are struck 
most with the brightness about them. They know they 
are serving Christ. Their service is a living sacrifice — a 
sacrifice of everything pertaining to self; but they have 
risen beyond the thought of "sacrifice," and they are 
truly " cared for." They are a precious band, and those 
who have authority over them know that anything worth 

The Ministry of Mercy 101 

having is worth tending. We once heard Bodelschwingh 
say, " If I want to nurse my patients, I must first nurse 
my nurses." Then how does he nurse them, and how 
does Sarepta ? The mother-house is in constant and 
regular communication with its six hundred daughters. 
For instance, Bodelschwingh holds a weekly class of 
religious and professional instruction — meaning by " pro- 
fessional " the moral apprehension of their calling. Now, 
of course, only the home sisters can attend in person, but 
all the rest of them attend by post. The questions set to 
the home circle are sent out to all the absent ones — there is 
a special " Sister Scribe " for that work — and the hundreds 
of them far and near answer the papers, and send them 
home, one of the pastors returning them corrected. And 
in several other ways the mother-house is in personal touch 
with the ever-growing band, the " Sister Scribe " sending 
out a monthly letter, for instance, with all the home 
news, and matters of interest concerning the work. And 
every absent sister has a birthday letter and Christmas 
present sent her of a useful kind. That " Sister Scribe " 
is " Sister Sacristan " also, with no end of little duties 
thereby involved ; she is a niece of the famous theologian 
Hengstenberg, so for antecedents is all a scribe and 
sacristan should be. And from time to time the sisters 
from distant stations are called home, if not to the 
mother-house itself, then at least to the colony, to 
renew their sense of oneness with the place on which 
they are taught to look as " home." 

They have a weekly family gathering. Of a Wed- 
nesday evening their large hall is set for a tea-supper, 
a little more festively than for ordinary meals. All the 

102 A Colony of Mercy 

sisters about the place or from the near neighbourhood 
who can be spared from their stations, attend — some 
eighty to a hundred, perhaps, in all ; the several pastors, 
with their families, and other workers about the place are 
invited, and any visitors who happen to be at the colony 
are sure to be honoured with a seat near Pastor von 
Bodelschwingh. He, of course, presides, unless una- 
voidably prevented. The meal over, the pastor gives 
them a pleasant talk, telling them anything of interest 
within the colony, anything of interest happening in the 
world at large — a simple and pleasant way of keeping 
them in touch with the world about them. Or, if there 
is nothing happening, then he has a store of recollections ; 
and if one could only be at many of these gatherings, 
one could almost catch his biography unknown to him. 
He will never tell it otherwise ; but he has a charming 
and artless way on such occasions of diving into his own 
history — a field rich and varied. 

The sisters evidently value these evenings, if contented 
faces are a criterion. One can imagine a stranger alighting 
at one of these gatherings, stirred to the heart with 
HeimweJi — that nameless longing which will be stilled 
when wanderers reach home. We all know it at times, 
but do not all own to it — that hunger for something we 
have not. These sisters have won beyond it, or nearly 
so. There is a great strength in such union ; they upbear 
one another. No wonder the colony is growing and 
spreading which has such workers. If England is ever 
to start in right earnest a work for her epileptics — and 
surely she should ! — she must first train such nurses. 

The deaconesses are drafted off to the various epileptic 

The Ministry of Mercy 103 

homes round about, simply on the strength of the love 
which surTereth long — suffereth long even with loath- 
some things ; for there is much that is loathsome about 
epilepsy. And their thought is not to win heaven thereby, 
but rather to make this poor earth a little more like 
heaven than epilepsy has left it for these stricken ones. 

But this is not all. Sarepta really is a power in the 
land ; she is training others besides her own regular 
sisterhood. The Order of St. John, for instance, has 
made an agreement with the Westphalian mother- 
house to train nurses for its purposes, to be ready for 
summons in time of epidemic or of war. Many a 
maiden offers for this service, goes through a six 
months' term or so, of training at Sarepta, adding to her 
experience in other hospitals, if she likes, as a candidate 
of this splendid " order." And even private applicants 
are received for training, the mother-house being of 
opinion it is well for daughters and future wives to 
understand something of sick nursing. All such go 
through the regular course, and would be ready for any 
national calamity. Sarepta herself is ready. Against 
time of war, at least of invasion, the colony, in return 
for facilities and actual aid granted by the country, has 
pledged itself to put up a thousand beds, Sarepta and 
Nazareth supplying them with their own deacons and 
deaconesses. Everything is so thorough in the Father- 
land, everything so methodical, so thought of beforehand, 
there would be no bustle ; these good sisters, like the 
great army itself, are ready to take the field at a 
day's notice, the Kriegs-Schwestern, that is, the amateur 
sisters just spoken of, taking their place the while at home. 


A Colony of Mercy 

Pastor von Bodelschvvingh, as military chaplain, went 
through the campaigns of 1866 and of 1870, so he 
knows something about it. Some of the sisters get 
first-rate surgical experience, the Charite of Berlin, the 
great Infirmary of Bremen, and other large hospitals 
being supplied with nurses from Sarepta. In lunatic 


asylums also Sarepta sisters are found — in fact, there is 
no branch of the work to which they are strangers. 
Some are in rescue homes for the fallen of their kind. 
Some have gone to Africa to do missionary sick-nursing. 
Sarepta, in one word, is spreading a net of mercy, and 
no place is too distant if she is wanted. She is not 
encroaching, does not want to make proselytes for power 
or influence ; she is simply a handmaiden of the Gospel 

The Ministry of Mercy 105 

of Christ, carrying help and healing, and serving for the 
sake of serving. Her great work is to the poor, because 
they need her. 

And the Brothers ! The deacons are of more recent 
date than the deaconesses, and there are not many 
deacon-houses as yet in Germany ; but they are yielding 
firstrate workers. The visitor to Bethel will notice a great 
red-brick building, standing at an angle between Sarepta 
and Bethel House. It is named Nazareth, bearing the 
inscription over its main entrance, " Can there any good 
thins come out of Nazareth ? Come and see." And if 
you go and " see," this is what you find : It is scarcely 
a dozen years since this house was opened, and much 
good has come out of it. Out of Bethel's own need this 
brotherhood has grown. Male nurses were required for the 
epileptic colony, and it was found more and more diffi- 
cult to procure an adequate supply from other quarters. 
So the brothers at work there already set themselves to 
train their own helpers and successors. The calling of 
these deacons includes more than sick nursing ; they are 
required for general home mission work, and trained, 
therefore, as evangelists. Many of them, as they advance 
in years and experience, become " house-fathers," such 
as those we have spoken of; and if not required at Bethel 
itself, house-fathers, and junior brothers too, are wanted 
for the labour colonies, and their kindred institutions — of 
which anon — or they are sent to the foreign mission field. 
The Brotherhood of Nazareth in these ten or twelve 
years has grown to about two hundred and thirty members. 

Many of the brothers have learnt a regular trade ; the 

106 A Colony of Mercy 

house-fathers at Bethel, for instance, as we have seen, 
act as masters of the various workshops, and the junior 
brothers as foremen to the patients over whom they are 
set, being their nurses bodily and spiritual at the same 
time. Others, again, are thorough farmers ; farming 
was their occupation originally, and their knowledge is 
turned to use in the brotherhood. In fact, in this 
respect, these brothers are something like St. Paul, who 
was a tentmaker. They do not renounce their trade 
on becoming deacons ; it is put by, as it were, to be 
called into service if wanted. It may be wanted ; it 
may not be wanted. But sick nursing is the regular 
course they all go through ; they are trained in the 
Infirmary of Sarepta, and further educated by hospital 
work in the great cities — in Berlin, Bremen, etc., — and 
they are sent out also for private nursing. While at 
Nazareth, they are having religious and other instruction 
by the pastors, to fit them for the deeper part of their 
calling. They form a body, with rights of corporation, 
and are governed by a " Bruder-rath" — a council, con- 
sisting of the pastors of the colony and a number of 
senior brothers, such as happen to be stationed about the 
colony itself. Every brother owes implicit obedience to 
this council, by whom the work is appointed.* 

Theirs are consecrated lives ; and you will know what 

* As we go to press, we learn that Pastor Kuhlo, of trumpet- 
fame (p. 19), has accepted a call to Nazareth, as Principal of 
the Westphalian Brotherhood. What a start the Posaune7t 
Chor of the colony will be taking ! His work, of course, will 
be the spiritual training of the brothers, but he will not, there- 
fore, lose sight of that other work of his, the musical development 
spoken of on a former page. 

The Ministry of Mercy 107 

this means if you watch the brothers at work among the 
imbeciles of Eben-Ezer, and Zoar. These houses are 
the test-station ; it is the hardest work, that is, the most 
repulsive to the natural man. So the young brothers, 
those who have entered the service but lately, are put on 
their trial there. If after a month or two in these houses 
they still feel they can make sick nursing their calling, 
then, indeed, they are fit for it, as far as the moral fitness 
is concerned. We have no words to express the admira- 
tion one feels — simple admiration — as one watches these 
brothers. If a woman, through inborn pity and from the 
love that sways her, can render to the suffering service in 
itself distasteful, — well, that is largely implanted in her 
nature ; she can scarcely help it. Motherhood is strong 
in every woman, and naturally goes out to the helpless. 
But that men should tend these imbeciles with woman's 
tenderness is a marvel. It takes true charity to do what 
we saw, and a rare devotion. Think what that " tend- 
ing " means : sleeping with some ten of them ; and these 
epileptics — partly due to the medicine — have an odour 
about them which love only can put up with ; it means 
seeing to the cleanliness of human creatures who have 
lost all sense of cleanliness. They do it — for what paid 
servant would ? And as we watched the young brothers 
at Zoar, some under twenty, mere bright-faced boys some 
of them, we thought again, What power save that of love 
can do this ? Yet whence have these boys such love ? 
If men advanced in years, perhaps from life's teachings, 
find strength for such service, it is marvellous enough ; 
but what words will express one's admiration in seeing 
such work done by young men, who have all life before 

108 A Colony of Mercy 

them, with its promises and shining hopes ! Admira- 
tion is not the word, it is simple reverence. We ex- 
pressed some of our thoughts to one of these youthful 
brothers — he was but nineteen, and looked such a bright 
youth — " How can you do it ? " " Well," he replied, " we 
know we cannot in our own strength, and we are here 
on trial for the life we have chosen. It is a little hard 
sometimes, but there is a love which helps." And there 
was a light in his eye which said he spoke true. He 
was a mere boy, with no down on his lip, and his idiot 
flock clung to him, crying, " Brother ! Brother ! " Truly 
there is a love which helps ; one saw it, and felt rebuked. 
And they do look happy, these brothers, as though they 
had a real compensation in their work. It is for them 
the Silly Valley will have changed its name. You may 
scan their faces as they sit at dinner, some twenty of 
them, with the imbeciles of Eben-Ezer and Zoar — they 
are of all ages between eighteen and forty — and you will 
not see one gloomy face among them ; degrees of bright- 
ness you may notice. 

It is not only the "brothers" who appear to be under the 
spell of pitying love at Zoar. There is always a batch 
of young men at Bethel fresh from college, and waiting 
for holy orders. They come — some of them sent by the 
Berlin Dom Stzft* — to undergo a little training, and 
to gather some practical experience at this colony of 
mercy as to what Charity is. Of course, they must 
themselves be desirous of being fitted by some extra 
" course " for the ministry awaiting them. These young 
gentlemen, then, for a month or so, very readily are set 
* The Divinity Hall in connection with the Berlin Cathedral. 

The Ministry of Mercy 109 

to make " studies " at Zoar, doing the regular brother's 
work for the time being ; and some of these " candidates " 
even are caught with the spirit of the place. One, a 
young Swiss, stayed three months at Zoar, and went 
away saying he had learned more there than in his three 
years at college. Of course he had — he had matricu- 
lated in that higher college of which the thirteenth of 
the first of Corinthians speaks. 

The " brothers " are mostly recruited from the so-called 
lower classes — why do we call them lower, when they 
yield such men ? — yet gentlemen sometimes offer. As 
a rule, a " gentleman " who wants to serve Christ has, by 
position and education, other roads before him ; but there 
is now at Beersheba a brother, not quite a young man, 
and lately entered, who was going to be a barrister, had 
taken his degree at college, and all that, and, led by 
what private life-teaching one would not inquire, came 
to enrol himself a deacon at Bethel. 

It is the wonderful spirit of service, emanating from 
some central influence, and almost infectious, which is 
the strength of this colony. Bodelschwingh holds a 
Bruder-Stunde on Sundays, the one hour in the week 
when he talks to these brothers in training about the 
life they have chosen. We can, of course, not speak of 
it from personal knowledge, but we heard one of these 
young men say that the brothers, after such talk, are 
always ready for the lowest place, nay, fired with a long- 
ing for it ! He, of whom they all learn, in his simple 
heart-stirring way has been talking to them of the 
Christ-taught washing of feet, 'till even the meanest 
work of Eben-Ezer and Zoar becomes transfigured, and 

no A Colony of Mercy 

they see Christ Himself going in and out of these houses 
lavishing His tenderest love on these helpless sufferers. 
Having heard this, we understood the light in the eye of 
a Zoar brother saying, " there is a love which helps " ; 
we saw the mainspring of that work. This is why this 
colony prospers, why it is so successful. Money, though 
of course money is needed, is mere dross when you want 
to do such work. It is the workers — men and women 
consecrating themselves — who are the secret of all this. 
It is real consecration. What outward gain is there? 
Pocket-money to the extent of one shilling per week, 
rising a little as years go on ; and, if they marry and 
become house-fathers, then fifteen to twenty pounds or 
so a year for clothing themselves, and attiring the house- 
mother, of a like mind with themselves. 

One cannot speak too strongly of this consecrated 
work, this ministry of mercy, for this is the true spring 
of all that goes on there. Epileptic homes, on a smaller 
scale and of different character, could be managed per- 
haps with paid labour ; but if Bethel had to advertise 
for nurses, seek them, remunerate them, her work would 
collapse. Such a colony requires the workers Bethel 
has found. As our story goes on this will become 
clearer still. It is only because Pastor von Bodelschwingh 
has such workers he can spread like the tree planted by 
the rivers of water, extending his branches of mercy in 
every direction, and whatsoever he doeth does prosper. 

For Bethel, if a working model of the Programme of 
Christianity, is a wonderfully complete one. 



" Suffer the little children to come unto Me." 

YOU cannot spend a month at Bethel without 
witnessing the laying of foundation stones and 
the opening of new houses — it is one of the commonest 
occurrences there. That colony has a marvellous faculty 
of extending its borders, augmenting its work ; and if 
growth means life, there is much life at Bethel. We 
have already spoken of a Baby Castle, the beautiful 
new house paid for by thank-offering pennies, " Little 
Bethel," to which Sister Mary on the day of the semi- 
Jubilee carried her sixty epileptic and otherwise afflicted 
children. But there are two other " castles " for the 
little ones, Bethel among her many missions, having a 
special one devoted to the lambs of the flock. 

The beech wood round about Zion Church on a sum- 
mer's day is always an animated scene ; there are patients 
about, and Sarepta convalescents, and deaconesses flit- 
ting in and out, taking the short cuts through this centre 
of the colony. Nor is the place they call their open-air 
church hedged in for Sunday use only ; it forms a 
week day class-room, in which the pastors on fine days 
hold their catechisings and similar gatherings of the 

ii2 A Colony of Mercy 

stricken congregation. Walking about that wood, 
therefore, in itself is an education in Bethel history. 
One day we noticed a special commotion : a clearance 
had been made in one of the quietest parts ; there was 
levelling going on, a number of epileptics being busy 
with wheelbarrow and shovel. A fortnight later the 
wheelbarrows had disappeared, and one noticed a 
foundation wall rising ; and presently the women folk 
arrived with garlands, and a flagstaff was raised for the 
hoisting of their Zion banner, " Let us arise — ." " What 
is it all about ? " " Oh, Pastor Siebold is coming home 
to-morrow, and we'll lay the foundation stone of the new 
orphanage." And it was laid two or three days before 
the Jubilee day. 

So they have an orphan work at Bethel ? Yes, they 
have. It has grown out of the infant classes of the 
sisters. We have spoken in the previous chapter of the 
Kinder-garten work in connection with Sarepta, these 
sisters having about a dozen infant schools in neighbour- 
ing parishes, and one at Bethel itself, which, at the same 
time, forms the " academy " where deaconesses train for 
this special work. This house — it bears the name of 
" The Good Shepherd " — besides its little day -scholars, 
the " infants " proper — has grown to be the centre of a 
very remarkable orphan work. It gathers the waifs of the 
province, but it does not keep them ; it finds parents for 
them round about. That Ravensberger country is the 
real orphanage. These wonderful peasant folk, when 
they have brought up their own children, hand in their 
names at Bethel for the receiving of any orphans, for 
Christ s sake, Bethel can send them ; and Pastor Siebold 

Baby Castle 1 1 3 

assured us that he has always more parents ready to take 
his waifs to their homes and hearts than he has waifs 
needing parents ! The house of " The Good Shepherd " 
has collected about five hundred orphans these last ten 
years, and most of them are out in these peasant homes. 
This seems to us a wonderfully fine way for a province 
to bring up its orphans. It is something like Dr. 
Barnardo's and Miss Macpherson's plan, yet how alto- 
gether different ! These children are not sent to strangers, 
however kind, across the sea ; they are not expatriated ; 
they are brought up in their own home country, in the 
most natural way, by people as like their own parents 
as possible, in outward surroundings as like as possible 
to those in which they were born. How wholesome, how 
natural this seems, does it not? It seems a way after 
God's own heart, does it not, that Christian folk, having 
brought up their own children, should be ready to bring 
up a few more, just for His sake ? If we really believed 
what Christ once said, that the angels of these little 
ones always behold the face of their Father in heaven, 
perhaps we too would deem it a privilege for His sake 
to be father and mother to them here. Some of us in 
this might learn a great lesson from these humble 
Ravensberger Christians. But the fact is, we do our 
charity by deputy, we send our subscriptions to an 
orphanage ; and sending our sovereigns there, possibly 
we send the blessings there, which, with one such little 
one, might enter our own house and home. Did not 
Christ say very specially, " Whoso shall receive one such 
little child, receive th Me ? " Why do we not act as though 
we believed this ? 


ii4 A Colony of Mercy 

Well, these Ravensberger peasant folk believe it, 
and act upon it ; they take in these children, Bethel 
being " guardian " to the whole of them. Pastor Siebold 
— Pastor von Bodelschwingh's coadjutor for Sarepta, 
as Pastor Stiirmer is for the Bethel proper — is in 
regular correspondence with all these parents ; the 
children are not lost sight of : however trustworthy these 
foster parents in any individual case may be, Bethel 
continues the mother of them all, and they are visited. 
Father Budde, the house-father of Beersheba, goes his 
regular rounds in this great orphanage, not announcing 
his visits, but coming in upon these parents and children 
on all sorts of unexpected occasions, so that Bethel may 
be quite sure that her orphan family is doing well. At 
regular times also Pastor Siebold arranges gatherings of 
these adoptive parents and adopted children, sometimes 
at Bethel, sometimes in neighbouring parishes, to keep 
up their feeling of relationship with the colony. 

As a Christian work surely this is beyond praise and 
commendation — it is done simply for love ; work for 
which no money whatever is wanted, work, therefore 
wondrously pure and beautiful ! With a sense of shame 
one says, It is what cannot be copied. It appears to us 
a spark from the fire Divine, and such things needs must 
grow from within. Yet might not some of us learn 
a lesson of these simple Ravensberger Christians ? 

Over and over again one asks oneself the question at 
that colony, How is it ? One sees and feels the flowing 
streams of Christ-inspired work. Is their main course 
from the centre to the outer circle, or from the outer 
circle to the centre? Is Bethel the secret source of so 

Baby Castle 1 1 5 

much blessing, her spirit overspreading the surrounding- 
country ? Is the country a land of the chosen, so that 
a Bethel there cannot but grow ? We have spoken on 
another page of the groundwork, yet it is a question 
not easily answered : many things must work together 
for such fruit-bearing ; but Bethel, both centre and outer 
circle, is true to its name — a house of God among men. 

Yet another Baby Castle — the real one, the Kinder- 
heim. Our illustration speaks for it, showing the ailing 
flock (not epileptic) in their summer haunt in the beech 
wood. Sarepta means a refiner's place, and their text is, 
" He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Well, 
just over the way is the " Sarepta " of the little ones, and 
the Refiner would seem to have His own chosen place in 
this " Children's Home." There is much suffering here, 
but the silver grows bright ; there is much dying here, 
but Kznderheim, altogether lovely, is one of the happiest 
places in the colony. 

We got our first impressions there, dropping in one 
early afternoon, and happening upon the infants' ward — 
a whole row of them, under twelve months, cot after cot. 
They were all awake, all smiling, though the hand of 
death was on every one of them. " What wonderfully 
good babies ! " said we to the sister, not trusting ourselves 
with more for the lump rising in one's throat. " They 
have just had their midday sleep," says the sister, as if 
that most fully accounted for it. But who, knowing 
nursery life, ever heard of a dozen infants all going to 
sleep together, and all waking up together, smiling? 
It seemed as though even these unconscious little souls 
had learned the one lesson of the place— self-surrender, 

1 1 6 A Colony of Mercy 

And if you went near, their little hands stretched out to 
you. If you gave them a finger they clasped it almost 
gratefully, and their eyes followed you — it was all the 
talking they could do. Such white little faces : what 
ails them ? " They are all in consumption," says the 
sister — all in consumption, paying for father's or mother's 
sin, children of drunkards, laying down their innocent 
little lives. They in the Refiner's furnace, some of their 
parents in prison the while — some in actual prison, all in 
the prison of vicious living. Surely the angels of these 
little ones behold the face of the All-Merciful in heaven 
while this goes on — laying down their little lives for their 
sinning parents ! There is much silent redemption going 
on we wot not of. Not many months will pass, and 
every one of these babies will stand before the Throne, 
little lambs of the Shepherd. And what of their parents ? 
No brother can redeem a brother, we know; but these 
death-marked infants spoke to us more loudly than any 
sermon we ever heard of the dying Love paying the 
debt for a sinning world. 

Let no one say we are idealising, romancing, giving 
subjective impressions. We showed a deputation of 
magistrates round the place one day ; they had come 
from a distant part of the country, wanting to start some 
public charity in their own town. It was just before the 
Jubilee, when everybody was busy, and we, beginning to 
be at home in the colony, could not but take pity on 
these forlorn deputies. It was not an infant ward they 
were thinking of; but we took them to these dying 
babes, that they might hear that sermon also. And 
we noticed the awe stealing over their faces, and 

. -4 



Baby Castle 1 1 9 

one turning away to hide something very much like 
a tear. Perhaps he had children at home— perhaps 
troublesome children. He had been bending over one 
of these cots, thinking his ticking watch would please 
that dying infant ; and he saw a wasted baby face 
turned up at him, a smile passing over it, and eyes 
saying they were beyond glittering things, and he 
suddenly turned and left the room. 

Almost every week or two one of these children goes to 
its crown : that Baby Castle also is a "congregation of the 
dying," the mortuary bell going very often for Kinderheim. 
But death has lost its terrors there. There are children 
here up to the age of twelve or thirteen, but their one 
talk, when one has gone, is : "Gone to the Hebe Heiland" 
—to the children's Saviour in heaven. One wonders and 
wonders, but it is simply true. It is Sister Lina who has 
this lovely work among this flock ; they call her " Auntie " 
— everybody is uncle or auntie to these children — but 
she is the Auntie, and her influence is something mar- 
vellous. A quiet, unpretending woman is Sister Lina. 
What a heart hers must be, for there are fifty or sixty 
always appealing to it ! and how jealous she is of laying 
bare the inner life of Kinderheim, always drawing close 
the veil of holy silence about these little ones, to present 
them unspotted to Him who seeth in secret ! We have 
watched her with a dying baby, and we shall never 
forget it : there are things too sacred for words. When 
we called the next day, the passing-bell having told us 
the child had gone, she showed us the little conqueror 
lying with hands folded, and wearing the victor's crown 
— myrtle or laurel, she never omits that ! And presently 

1 20 A Colony of Mercy 

the Nazareth boys come to carry the little coffin, she 
collecting those of the children who are able, and follow- 
ing the babe to its resting-place. How many she has 
laid to sleep, and what a mother she will be in a Day to 

If it were question of biography much could be said 
of Kinderheim and its little lives. Truly there is a 
refining going on there — a purifying, and the silver 
grows bright. It was Christmas once at Kinderheim. 
In the summer you may see them as in our illustration, 
and hear their voices as of birds in the beech wood, 
there being not only happiness, but even mirth at 
Kinderheim amid all the suffering. But now it was 
winter. The little convalescents, boys and girls, were 
singing their hymns, and on Christmas Eve the cots of 
the babes stood in a circle about the tree — a girl baby 
of the number who would not much longer be among 
them, evidently. The white wasted face was getting 
more wasted every day, and the little chin more pointed, 
and the children called her " Mousie " because of the thin 
pointed face. Well, " Mousie ; ' too had been taken to the 
Christmas tree. She was perhaps a year old ; and her 
eyes grew bright, she raised her wasted hands in baby 
wonder, a smile flickered over her face — and she was gone. 
It was somewhat unexpected, and it saddened all that 
flock beneath the tree. But none more sorrowful than 
little Laura — a frail child about ten years old, though 
you would have taken her for scarcely more than six or 
seven. Little Mousie had been her special charge, given 
her by " Auntie," who teaches these children they are 
one another's care. " I didn't pray for Mousie this 

Baby Castle 121 

morning," she wailed : " I thought of Christmas only, and 
now she is gone ! " But that night, when the children's 
ward was hushed, the sisters being at their supper, a 
song rose, and following the voices " Auntie " came upon 
Laura and five or six others outside the door, behind 
which Mousie lay sleeping : here they stood in their 
night dresses in the dimly lit hall, singing a children's 
hymn of little feet crossing the border — " To live is 
Christ" they sang, " and to die is gain" It was Laura's 
doing, who had called up the others — herself a dying 
child and barely ten years old. We do not know what 
the doctor said to this performance of little patients on a 
December night ; but there are things by the side of 
which " what the doctor says " shrinks into a corner. 

Laura had been for some years in the Kinderhehn ; 
she was but five when she was brought there by a parish 
sister, who had found her utterly neglected. Her early 
childhood had been nothing but misery; she was reticent 
and shy, as though she had never known a beam of love. 
It took some time before that chilled little heart thawed 
to the influences of Kinderheim ; but these influences 
won her completely, and for six years — she was in a slow 
decline, dying eventually of heart disease — she, in her 
weakness, was the child-servant of the children. Not 
that she did not require purifying. One day some 
naughtiness had been committed. " I haven't done it," 
says Laura, and another child was punished. Laura 
went to bed that night, but could not sleep. Another 
girl, knowing what was wrong, stepped up to her cot. 
" Laura, aren't you asleep yet ? " u No," says Laura, " I 
cannot sleep." " Do you know that our Auntie is sitting 

122 A Colony of Mercy 

in the parlour and crying ? " At this Laura, bursting 
from her bed into the room adjoining, is on her knees 
before Sister Lina. " Oh, Auntie, I have told a story ! " 
But she never after this told another, growing in grace 
almost visibly ; and to the last, even when she had to be 
carried, and could sit on a sister's lap only, she never 
missed the children's service in the home chapel, — white, 
and frail as a lily, she never lost a word of the teaching 
given these children. And quite a number of the dying 
nurslings were her " care " ; she would sit by their cots, 
spending her love on them, and heaven was the nearer 
because so many of her little charges went there before 
her. Her own sufferings often were acute, but when 
asked, could she still bear the pain, her invariable answer 
was, "If the Hebe Heiland has sent it, surely I can ! " 

One day — it was not so very long before her own 
going — Auntie said, half playfully, " Do you think there 
will be room there for us to follow ? " " Oh," cried 
Laura, " I can squeeze myself together : look how I can 
squeeze ! " And she drew in her thin little figure as 
though her one thought were to make room for all the 
rest of them. Said another girl, " I am not so sure I 
want to go, — I know what Kinder Jieim is, and I don't 
know heaven." " Don't you ? " cried Laura ; " you would 
then if you'd just believe the Hebe Heiland is there ! " 

And she would talk of the many children gone during 
the six years of her own illness, right certain she would 
meet and know them all again. By-and-by the home- 
call came for this child also ; she lay with laboured 
breath quite satisfied the time had come. " Look," she 
cried, starting suddenly, " a host of angels, and — oh, 

Baby Castle 12 


yes ! — all the children among them ; and — oh, look ! — 
little Mousie right on Jesus' lap ! " And thus this little 
sufferer died in simplest faith that dying was to be with 
Jesus, and with the " other children " in glory. When 
they laid her to rest, the pastor gave this testimony 
at her grave : " We preach the peace of God — she had 

What influences of the sanctuary must be playing 
about these children's cots to ripen such fruit ! 

There was another little sufferer about the same time — 
little Jeannie, hopelessly scrofulous, her mother dead, her 
father serving his term in prison. She was all swathed 
in wadding and bandages, a little Lazarus to look at. 
But she, too, heard and saw much at KinderJieim she had 
never heard or seen before, and was as willing a learner 
as Laura. One day, when Auntie went her morning 
rounds, the child showed her a fresh swelling about 
her neck. " Oh, Jeannie," says Auntie, " I think I know 
where you are going ! " " To church ? " cried Jeannie. 
It had been her desire for weeks that she might be 
carried once more to church with the others. " No," 
says Auntie ; " I think you are going to a place better 
still — don't you know ? " " We know," cried the other 
children. " Jeannie will be leaving us to go to heaven." 
And Jeannie was content to go ; she only was anxious 
to know if there were churches in heaven ; she thought 
there must be. And she was making ready to go, for 
Auntie had said she should go. 

This is how these children have the fear of death taken 
from them — love standing by their cots, and telling 
them of the " better place," as we talk to children of a 

124 A Colony of Mercy 

a holiday treat. But Jeannie did not go just yet — there 
was a work she yet should do — she, one of the faith- 
ful ones also in the children's vineyard. Bethel about 
that time had begun a mission-work in Africa, and 
since in that commonwealth all bear together and suffer 
together and rejoice together, and, as a colony, work to- 
gether for the Kingdom, even the babes at Kinderheim 
are within this circle of outgoing love. The first batch 
of sisters had left for East Africa, and Sister Lina had 
told her flock all about it, and of the black children out 
there who never had a Christmas tree and never heard 
of a Saviour. Little Jeannie was deeply moved, and 
looking about in her play-box, gave Sister Lina one 
halfpenny ; it was all she had, the gift of some visitor — 
was it enough, she wondered, to send some of the good 
things they had to that poor Africa ? And He who saw 
the widow's mite will have seen Jeannie's halfpenny. 
But the child did more — how the thought grew in 
her little brain no one knows ; but for two or three 
months after, this dying child-pilgrim, about to win 
home, put out her bandaged hand to every visitor passing 
by her cot, pleading for pennies for the poor black 
children. And she collected nearly ten pounds ! Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh was away in the colony's home of 
rest by the North Sea when that child's home-call came. 
She firmly believed he was away in Africa looking after 
the black children, and she did not close her weary eyes 
without sending him a letter, getting another child to 
write it for her. " Dear Uncle," the letter said, " I think 
I am going to heaven now ; I would have liked myself 
to give you this money for the poor black children, but 

Baby Castle 125 

I am so weak now, so this for them, with Jeannie's 

Will the reader tell us we are idealising a place in 
which such fruit grows even among the children ? 
Pastor von Bodelschwingh begged us not to say any- 
thing in praise of any one, yet what can we do, telling 
this story, but just say what we have seen and heard ? 

A dying child is there at this moment, little Henry — 
Heini, they call him — seven years old, dying of hip 
disease. If you ask him, " Heini, how are you ? " ( Wie 
geht es dir ?) his invariable answer is, " Gam gtct ! " And 
indeed it " is well " with him, though his poor limbs are in 
weights and bandages, and he wasted to a skeleton. It 
was his one desire to see yet a Christmas here — " I am 
going to heaven," he kept saying, " but I would so like 
to have Christmas yet with all the children ! " It was 
his first Christmas, he being of Jewish parents, and he had 
it. He was carried in, the central figure of that flock 
beneath the tree. These children had all come in with the 
one thought they were coming to the manger, to sing 
their hymns to the Holy Child Jesus born that night. 
And the prayerfulness, aye the worship shining in their 
upturned faces — one must have seen it in order 
to believe. Pastor von Bodelschwingh conducted the 
children's Christmas service, they repeating the Gospel 
story, their verses and hymns one after another. To look 
at them it was the one business of life to sing and say 
of the goodness of God ; yet they were like other 
children, being gathered for the presents human love 
had prepared. They were to have their dolls and whips 
and whistles, only their little service came first. And it 

126 A Colony of Mercy 

was real. There was a hush ; Heini was folding his 
hands to say what he had to say — a hymn of hosannas 
for mercies bestowed ! " What then must heaven be," the 
child was saying, " if this poor earth is so full of light ! " 
He has never known aught but suffering here, yet with 
his simplest conviction — you saw it in his eyes, a light 
more shining than of Christmas tree — he spoke of the 
shower of mercies making this poor life so bright — " What 
then will heaven be ? " He is waiting to go — like a ripened 
sheaf to be garnered home. He lingers yet, surely yet 
having a mission — for is not such child a living sermon, 
nay, one of God's own angel messengers to all that 
ailing band ? No wonder there is peace at Kinder Jieim, 
and loveliest obedience, yea, holy submission, and happy 
little lives ! 

Even their everyday life is a pleasure to watch. Go 
in, say at meal time, and you find the little things, such 
as are up and too young to feed themselves, sitting on 
low stools in a half circle, here six and there six, mouths 
open, for all the world like swallows' nests, the feeding 
sisters, black dress and white cap, hovering before them 
like mother swallows, now filling this little mouth, now 
that — it is the sweetest picture. One would love to 
photograph Kinderheim in all its aspects. Little friend- 
ships spring up. There is one little dot having taken to 
its heart another little dot ; neither can walk for limb 
disease, except by pushing a little chair ; but if dot two 
cries, dot one is after it to wipe its tears. They are not 
three years old. 

There is a black child at Kinderheim, not a sick 
child, a little girl, Fatuma — Elizabeth Fatuma since 

Baby Castle 1 2 7 

her baptism — saved from the slavers and sent home by 
one of their missionaries. For Bethel has begun a 
noble work in Africa, it is her latest development, and 
we will just mention it here, little Jeannie being the 
link between Baby Castle and the "poor black 

So even in the Dark Continent the merciful hand of 
Bethel is busy. There are four stations in East Africa, 
a fifth just forming, and some of her deacons and 
deaconesses at work there, telling the story of Christ the 
Healer to the " poor black children " who come to them 
for bodily treatment. The leading missionaries, some 
of them pastors gone out at their own expense, are 
in every instance men who, whatever their college 
honours, have gone through their course of training as 
simple brothers among Bethel's own afflicted children, 
learning to serve Christ humbly among the imbeciles 
and epileptics before carrying His Gospel of good-will 
to the heathen ; and who, gone out now to their larger 
sphere, have taken with them the spirit of Bethel, that 
comforting spirit to which every " bound one," black or 
white, and bound in whatever fetters of Satan's kingdom, 
is a Prisoner of Zion, a captive to be set free. And 
these missionaries, these Bethel brothers and sisters, are 
armed with a special strength, — ambassadors of Christ 
they for that home-congregation, whose love, whose 
prayers are ever with them. So this work too is likely 
to grow ; you cannot go about Bethel and doubt this, for 
her very patients — not only the little ones — are warmed 
towards the Dark Continent. 

This mission has quite a character of its own, and in 

128 A Colony of Mercy 

certain respects it is unique : it is unique in its kind of 

workers, its pastors, its deacons, its deaconesses ; it is 

unique in its manner of finding and preparing workers ; it 

is unique in the special blessing to be noted, that it is the 

only African mission which after three years of work has 

not a single death to record ! Bodelschwingh on taking 

over the struggling stations of a Berlin Society — which 

society still finds the funds, he finding the men — at once, 

from the fever-breeding coast districts made a start for 

the hill country, his ever being the practical eye, however 

ideal the endeavour. The mission and hospital work at 

Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam nevertheless goes on. 

As for finding the men, the visitor, right in the centre 

of the epileptic colony, in the beech wood, and in the 

very shadow of Zion Church, will come upon a house 

bearing for inscription Candidaten Convict* the inmates 

of which in every instance are university graduates 

preparing for holy orders, some of whom, having heard 

the call from Bethel, have come to this little college in 

obedient surrender, to be fitted there for Christ's missions 

to " the least of them," whether at home or abroad. 

The one thing asked of them is a willingness to be 

workers of the Kingdom in whatever sphere. And as 

* " Convict," Latin cojivictus, from convivo, a boarding or living 
together. It is a pet thought with Bodelschwingh that in this 
Candidaten Convict Bethel has a Divinity Hall of her own, 
where university graduates, leaving their college honours and 
college wisdom behind them, might have an opportunity of 
resting their minds awhile from "higher criticism," girding 
themselves for the time being with the towel of practical 
theology instead. As shown in the foregoing chapter (p. 108) 
many, coming to this little " Hall," return thence to the regular 
ministry of the country. 

Baby Castle 129 

you go about the colony you come upon these young 
men everywhere, learning to be servants — Christ's 
servants. But the so-called higher knowledge is not 
therefore neglected : even Suaheli is being studied at that 
" Convict" and Scripture instruction of course is there. 
When they are ordained, some are sent to home mission 
work, some to Africa, according to their fitness ; and 
the lessons learnt at Bethel go with them to whatever 
sphere they go. The African mission, however, one 
cannot help seeing, is a pet child at Bethel, amid her 
manifold work. Even among the clouded ones of her 
flock, if you go and tell them there has been happy 
news, a nice letter, faces brighten with expectance and a 
deafening cry of" Africa " goes through the room. Among 
the epileptic boys* at Nazareth, there is one, little Peter, 
a nice bright lad, who spends all his spare time in 
catching mice, getting a penny or two for every dozen 
he traps ; and if you ask him what his efforts are for, it is 
always " the black children," he investing his pennies at 
Bethphage in illuminated cards and Bible pictures to go 
out to Africa, where some sixty or seventy children 
saved from the slavers have been gathered into a school 
in which the Bethel children are deeply interested. 

There are two Washamba boys at Nazareth, lads of 
about fourteen or fifteen, doing well ; and it is their one 
hope, as also it is little Fatuma's, that one day they may 
go back to Africa, taking the message of Bethel with 
them to their own people. Walking about the colony 
the other day, we came upon two adult negroes— stalwart 
young men. Who were they ? They had come to Bethel 
of their own accord, one but lately, one some little time 


130 A Colony of Mercy 

ago, bringing their story with them. They had been, the 
one with a menagerie, the other with a circus troupe, 
acting " wild men " till they were sick of it ; and hearing 
of Bethel they came, one of them all the way from 
Copenhagen, asking to be " saved " ! To be sure they 
were kept— no one coming to Bethel with the prayer to 
be helped is sent away — and being muscular fellows 
they have been put into the smithy, to prove their 
willingness of giving up the " wild man " for honest 
labour. They are learning horse-shoeing now, or what- 
ever may be going, no one taking any particular notice 
of them — everything is done in such wholesome fashion 
at Bethel — but they will be watched, they will be taught, 
and they will be trained according to their fitness. 
There must be something in these fellows worth 
training, considering that of their own free will, having 
come to the dregs of a miserable life, they yielded to the 
power of attraction going out from this colony. They 
are both of Jamaica origin, having run away, one of 
them from Christian parents, but now safely landed at 

Such is the connection of this colony with the Dark 
Continent. It is because Bethel does so much at home, 
that she has love and time and possibilities left to carry 
her message of mercy to poor Africa also, " bleeding to 
death through all her pores " with the horrors of slavery. 
For Charity, beginning at home, never stops there. And 
if there is one thing to be learned at Bethel, it is the 
lesson of the love abounding — the love of Christ encom- 
passing every human need. 

>. . *9Lr£ 



"... saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them." 

BEHIND Pastor von Bodelschwingh's little manse 
you notice a rough retaining-wall against the 
slopes of the church hill. The path above leading 
straight to the recreation ground of the convalescents 
of Sarepta and Kinderhetm, you naturally conclude the 
wall to have been erected for their greater privacy, 
shutting off, as it does, the beech wood from being too 
freely entered by any chance passer-by. So it has ; 
but it is a memorable wall. Great things have small 
beginnings, and here the modern problem has been 


132 A Colony of Mercy 

solved — how to deal with social distress. That rough 
stone wall is a monument ! 

The question what to do with the unemployed has 
been as much to the front over there as it is here. 
There is this difference, however, between England and 
Germany : that the " submerged " and starving here * 
form the helpless sediment of the great cities, whereas 
there they swarm over the country, or, rather, they 
swarmed, for things are greatly changed. A way out 
of Darkest Germany has been found, and not only 
found, it has been trodden these ten years by an ever- 
increasing crowd of the submerged, many of whom are 
being landed in positions of self-help and thrift. That 
stone wall was the first lifeboat going out after them 
into the surge. 

Social distress had reached its height in Germany 
with the reaction setting in upon what is known as the 
Griinder Jahre f — the years of speculative enterprise, 
more sanguine than solid, and best described as 
" bubbles " — following upon the national renascence 
after the Franco-German war. Money had become 
more plentiful, trade and commerce more active ; 
speculation grew giddy, and presently there was a 
collapse. Thousands were thrown out of work. The 
rural population in masses, seized with the fever of the 
day, had left the fields for the manufacturing centres, 
wishing to better themselves, and dreaming of wealth. 
But the years of plenty were followed by the lean years, 

* Excepting, indeed, Scotland, as a succeeding page will show. 
t From "griinden," to found, to set going: the mercantile 
world all agog then for starting " paying concerns." 

Bethel to the Rescue 133 

leaving a floating population, not so much " submerged " 
as caught on a wave of misery heaving to and fro in 
the land. Moreover, there were wandernde Handwerks- 
burschen — journeymen artisans, on the tramp for work 
— a time-honoured institution, but much degenerated. 
Beggars abounded. 

Says Pastor von Bodelschwingh, " It always was a 
habit with us that poor wayfarers knocking at the door 
of our colony, now at this house, now at that, obtained 
relief ; we never gave them money, but any distressed 
individual who asked for a meal had it, sitting down 
with his plateful at the doorstep where he was fed. The 
good house-father or kindly house-mother, thus pitying 
him, believed firmly such feeding of the hungry, if 
charity, was not charity abused ; a hungry man must be 
fed, be he ever so undeserving ; and if the food was con- 
sumed under their own eyes, they were, at any rate, sure 
it was not being converted into money for drink. Their 
own hands were too full to watch these roving guests ; 
no one, for a time, noticed that the same man would 
return in a week, perhaps return a third time in a fort- 
night, and so on. Nor did they notice that public-houses 
in the neighbourhood throve and multiplied ; nor did any 
one think of keeping count that two or three dozen of 
these vagrants every day thus had their dinner at the 
several kitchens of Bethel, the distance between the 
houses concealing their numbers ; indeed, if any one had 
counted these visitors, you would still not have doubted 
it was rightful charity, for who could distinguish between 
the deserving poor and the vagabond who will not 
work ? And if any of the wretched beggars pointed 

134 A Colony of Mercy 

to the rags he wore, was it not merciful to give him a pair 
of boots that could be spared, or a shirt or coat ? Who 
could tell that the selfsame man might appear all ragged 
again to-morrow at your neighbour's door to be fed and 
clothed, having sold what he had received at your pity- 
ing hands yesterday ? When we grew more experienced 
in their ways, we discovered that some of these daily 
customers repeated that trick half a dozen times over ; 
we discovered that some of them went their systematic 
round of our kitchens, and having reached the last 
returned to begin again at the first. But," says Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh, " if a man will not work, he shall not 
eat — or rather, if we feed them, let them do some work." 
Hammers and trowels were procured, and one hour's 
labour for a meal was asked of them. That stone wall 
behind the Pastor's house — or, rather, its idea—was full 
of possibilities. It proved a test-wall; the daily 'band 
of starving pilgrims diminished wonderfully ; instead 
of twenty or thirty ,~only half a dozen appeared, some- 
times two or three only, willing to do a stroke of honest 
labour'for the food one was ready to give them. Among 
the few those could plainly be distinguished who had 
never handled trowel or spade in their lives. These mostly 
were gratefully willing ; they even returned, saying, " We 
will gladly do this work we are not used to, if only you 
will keep us." Then where should they be housed : — 
some of them in rags which had not seen a stitch or soap 
and water for weeks and months ? They must be kept 
from the public-house. The good house-fathers were 
ready to receive them ; " only not in this condition," 
they said. The men must first be new-clothed. How 

Bethel to the Rescue 135 

was it to be done ? Why, they must give work for 
clothes, as they gave work for food. And thus that wall 

But this wall is the beginning of the LABOUR COLONY, 
WlLHELMSDORF, based on a principle first laid down in 
tJie building of that wall. 

The winter of 1881 was a peculiarly hard one, and 
band after band arrived starving, in rags, and willing to 
work for food, for clothes. They came in such numbers 
that Bethel could not keep them all, — the most needy, 
the most starving, were those asked to stay. " Would to 
God," said a hungry vagrant bitterly, " would to God we 
too were epileptic, then you would keep us ! " That 
went to the pastor's heart. " I will try and keep you — 
find work for you," he said. And he went prospecting. 

You follow the bending course of the valley in a south- 
eastern direction, and presently it opens out into a 
sandy plain,some thirty miles long and ten broad, running 
along the western slopes of the Teutoburger Forest, and 
known to geologists as the " Gulf of Miinster." The 
German Ocean, in bygone ages, rolled its waves here. It 
is called the Senne (or Sende), for it is a vast tract of 
sand. Nothing indigenous but coarse grass or heather, 
and stunted fir trees. If you examine that soil you find 
at a depth of from two to four feet, the cause of its 
natural unproductiveness— a stratum of ochreous deposit, 
a bog iron ore, nowhere more than a few inches thick, but 
hard as iron ; no root or sucker of plant can pierce it, and 
it lets no moisture through. A farm dotted here and there 
struggles against this barren soil. If you dig deep enough 
to turn up that layer, leaving it exposed to the air, it 

136 A Colony of Mercy 

soon disintegrates ; and if you examine it presently, 
you find a powdery ferruginous earth, a rich natural 
manure, changing your sandy waste into fruitful soil. 
This, however, presupposes toilsome labour, and does 
not pay the ordinary farmer. But it would " pay " 
Bodelschwingh, who could bring a peculiar capital to 
bear, called Charity, and who was in search of labour of 
a peculiar kind. 

Here was a problem : a soil " submerged " ages ago, 
but fit to be reclaimed, and a " submerged " humanity 
struggling in the waters of social distress, but capable of 
being reclaimed, — why not set the one to reclaim the 
other? This, too, was reciprocity — a grand inspiration, 
a stroke of genius. Bodelschwingh set the two forces at 
one another — the latent productiveness of the soil, and 
the latent labour capacity of these starving men, and in 
the course of ten years that Senne has become a garden : 
a stratum is turned up, and a sunk stratum of men, 
hundreds of them, are " turned up " in the process — up 
to that higher level of thrift and industry whence they 
have fallen. This, too, is geology. 

Having completed his investigations, Pastor von Bodel- 
schwingh called together the magistrates and leading 
men of the province and unfolded his plans. He made 
a speech which first startled them, and then startled the 
country. His speeches are always simple in the extreme, 
but to the point. His voice carries conviction, and 
there is that in his face and bearing which captivates. 
He is so simple, so unpretending, so modest, so humble, 
this nobleman born, this Doctor of Divinity, this Knight 
of St. John and three or four other orders which he 

Bethel to the Rescue 137 

never wears ; he has no rhetoric, if thereby you mean fine 
language, polished style, clever exposition ; he just talks 
to you, but that talk, like a swelling river with a resist- 
less undercurrent, carries you along. " Love is the one 
motive power," he once said : " the question is, Have you 
a sufficiency of it ? " He does not always lay bare that 
undercurrent when he addresses such meetings, but the 
unpretending pastor, with all his simplicity, on such 
occasion gives proof he is a ruler of men and a born 
political economist. He knows all about the social 
trouble, he knows the laws which exist and the laws 
which ought to exist ; he knows, for the simple reason 
that he is so interested ! He has the country's trouble 
at heart, her resources, her prospects, the whole situation, 
therefore, at his fingers' ends. His father was minister 
of finance and prime-minister, and if this pastor were 
not the humble servant of mercy, he, for administrative 
faculty, like the Bodelschwinghs before him, might have 
been the right hand of kings. 

He gave that meeting a lesson in arithmetic. At the 
lowest computation, there were then a hundred thousand 
unemployed begging their way through the land ; and 
some estimated their numbers at a hundred and fifty, 
even two hundred thousand. The country has got 
to keep them, though it keep them only by beggar's 
pence. These fellows at the least beg their shilling a 
day ; some with little trouble make their two shillings, 
even three and four shillings, daily, for they are practised 
in the trade. But even taking the lowest figures you 
have the net result of about two million pounds sterling 
a year collected by beggars, for the public-house mostly. 

1 38 A Colony of Mercy 

" We could keep them all, house and clothe and feed 
them, at a tenth the present expense, if we gave them 
work, for that is what they want," suggested the pastor. 
" We must help them back to a thrifty, useful life. 
I propose to start a Labour Colony \ if the province will 
back me, and I promise that in the space of a couple of 
years the province will be rid of the pest." 

Bodelschwingh is a sanguine man, full of optimistic 
views, if a great idea has a hold of him. He even 
promised the astonished magistrates that the example 
would be followed in no time, and that in sheer self- 
defence, by the other provinces ; " for, look you," he said, 
" how was it with the fox in the fable ? How does he, 
when he wants to rid his coat of certain inmates ? He 
takes a bunch of hay between his teeth and slowly 
backs into the water, tail first : the lodgers he wants to be 
rid of, quitting his hind-quarters, seek refuge on his back, 
then on his shoulders, his head, and lastly in the hay- 
bunch. Then he drowns them all, dropping the hay, and 
walks away rejoicing. The moral is plain — we must rid 
our own province, the tail ; the neighbouring provinces 
for a time will swarm the more : let them do then as we 
have done — let each province start a colony of its own. 
Yet we are not going to drown all our poor^ fleas ; those 
who will work shall work, and shall be helped, but the 
rest — every good-for-nothing one — will disappear ; the 
country presently will be rid of them." Now, this was 
optimism of the purest water ; the magistrates, the friends 
said so ; but Bodelschwingh is a man who before then 
had shown people he might at least be trusted for an 
attempt. And though some laughed and others shook 

Bethel to the Rescue 139 

their heads, they did trust him. The province gave him 
a loan, a couple of thousand pounds free of interest, 
following it up with a further loan as the work grew. 

The result proved that Pastor von Bodelschwingh was 
right. He started a labour colony for the unemployed 
of Westphalia and one or two neighbouring provinces ; 
and what was begun in a side lane behind his own little 
manse, that rough stone wall, has grown and multiplied. 
By sheer force of example, Wilhelmsdorf has become 
the mother of five-and-twenty similar colonies all over 
Germany, and the great mass of starving vagrants, 
formerly accosting you at every turn, has practically 
disappeared from the country. 

Land was bought in the Senne, and the old farm- 
house upon it renovated and enlarged. In March 1882 a 
band of convalescent epileptics, farm labourers, went out 
from Bethel to form the nucleus of the labour colony, 
or rather to set about establishing it. But long before 
the place was ready for its intended occupants, news had 
gone like wildfire along the highways of Germany, and 
north, south, east and west, it was known among the 
tramping population that tables were being spread, 
a refuge opened for every hungry beggar, if he would 
work. On the whole, it was the most honest of the sunken 
mass who first appeared— a man willing to be saved is 
already half saved — and the place soon was as full as 
it could hold. On August 17th, 1882, this colony was 
opened, a day to be held in remembrance by all who love 
the people, a birthday of " good-will unto men." The 
aged Emperor stood sponsor — it is after him that the 
first labour colony is named — and a few months later 

140 A Colony of Mercy 

his noble son, the late Emperor Frederick, wrote a letter 
to Pastor von Bodelschwingh, accepting the Protectorate, 
in these words : — 

" It is with the most gracious approval of my august 
father, His Majesty the Emperor and King, that I, in 
compliance with the desire of your Committee, herewith 
accept the Protectorate of the Labour Colony, Wilhelms- 
dorf, expressing the glad hope in doing so that this 
undertaking, which has set itself to combat a far-spread 
evil, will not only continue as successfully as it has 
begun, but that it may soon be imitated in other parts 
of our country, for the trouble is everywhere. The 
colony Wilhelmsdorf, though existing but a few months 
as yet, has already proved its efficiency in rescuing from 
utter perdition hundreds of the sunken and lost, leading 
them back to orderly and industrious lives. It is not too 
much, therefore, to say that you have started an institu- 
tion deserving the sympathy and support of all among 
us who are anxious to further a healthy national de- 
velopment. It is not too much to say that this effort, 
independent of religious or political differences, should 
be the common cause of all who are striving to uphold 
the foundations, well aware of the clouds gathering 

" Frederick William, 
" Crown Prince. 

"Berlin, December i$tk, 1882." 

Wilhelmsdorf, legally, is the property of Bethel, for to 
the epileptic colony, Bethel, as trustee of the fund, the 
loans in question were made. It is very beautiful that 

Bethel to the Rescue 141 

the first human loan, the first eighteen settlers, were from 
Bethel's own stricken children, — a number of epileptics 
capable of work. It is ever those who themselves have 
known trouble that are the fit helpers of others. These 
eighteen, indeed, themselves were being helped when, 
headed by a house-father, they went out into the Senne 
to make room there for the starving; for Bethel, at whose 
doors every year between two and three hundred fresh 
cases stand waiting for admittance,no longer had any room 
for them. The convalescents must leave her, and where 
should they go ? Sending them back to the outer world 
and the less careful life, too often means sending them 
back to their own old trouble. So here was a beautiful 
arrangement : let them help themselves by helping 
others. And when their work was done, when the call 
had gone forth from Wilhelmsdorf, " Come hither, ye 
homeless and starving, we have made room for you," 
these eighteen again became the nucleus of a settlement. 
Back to Bethel they could not go, but the Senne lias 

About a mile from the labour colony there was another 
broken-down farm. This too was acquired, and the 
eighteen settled there. They wanted a name for their 
new home, and they found it in the twenty-sixth 
chapter of Genesis. The farm - settlements in the 
Senne have always followed the chances of water, a 
little brook seeking its course through the sandy waste 
being the first condition of better things. That new 
home also had its brook ; and when it was dedicated to 
its new destiny, the pastor gathered the eighteen and 
read to them the story of Isaac, and his digging again 

142 A Colony of Mercy 

the wells of water of his father Abraham, which the 
Philistines had stopped. Isaac too was homeless just 
then, and only when he got to the third well he might 
stay ; and he called it Rehoboth, saying, " For the Lord 
hath made room for us." And the eighteen called their 
new home Rehoboth^ for now they " had room," and were 
able to make room for more of their brothers in affliction. 
Rehoboth now has room for about sixty convalescent 
epileptics, and as their numbers increase and further 
room is needed, further room yet will be made. And 
thus Bethel's convalescents, instead of returning to a pre- 
carious, unwatched and too often unbefriended existence, 
have this beautiful refuge. It is easy to dig wells in the 
Senne ; water is bursting up everywhere — plentiful and 
clear, if you dig but ten or twelve feet ; and in the 
Senne the consolations of Christ's Programme are an 
ever-welling fountain ; patients and vagrants alike may 
sit down and drink. But the convalescents have ever 
since been working hand in hand with the moral " con- 
valescents" of Wilhelmsdorf, reclaiming that barren soil; 
with this difference only, that whereas of the former, 
so far there are about fifty, there have on an average 
never been less than a hundred and fifty of the latter. 
Wilhelmsdorf " has room " for four hundred of the un- 
employed, and in winter time this number has often been 

Thus Love went out, found a desert and turned it into 
a garden. 


"There is room." 

ABOUT a year (strictly speaking fifteen months) after 
the labour colony was first opened, a deputy 
magistrate paid a visit, and thus reported : " I found 
two hundred and twenty-five colonists, mostly occupied 
on the fields, and working cheerfully though it was 
pouring with rain. They were of all classes — men who 
had been in the army, men who had been to college. 
It is a mistake to think the out-of-work, the sunken 
and submerged, are of the lower ranks only. There 
was a former custom-house official among them, there 
was a man who had been in the civil service ; there 
was another who had been a Landwehr officer, and 
one decorated, too, with the iron cross ; there was a 
man who had served in Algiers, another who had 
been a well-to-do gentleman farmer, and another an in- 
spector of a coal-mine ; there was a surgeon, there were 
schoolmasters who had lost their pupils, there were 
clerks, waiters — in fact, there were all sorts and condi- 
tions of men. Here they were ; they had come starving, 
they had come ragged. They were decently clothed now 
and looked well fed, and the work I found them doing 

145 10 

146 A Colony of Mercy 

was not play-work. A house-father and some brothers 
(deacons) are set over them, and you cannot help seeing 
how these just live to be an example to them, help 
them, comfort them, show them how to work. I mar- 
velled how such a number of by no means easy customers, 
considering their antecedents, could be managed as one 
family. About one-half of their number before coming 
here, were " known to the police " ; about one-fifth were 
actual convicts ; but they apparently gave no trouble — 
the wheels of that queer household seem wonderfully 
oiled. I simply marvelled. (This magistrate forgot 
there is an oil called brotherly kindness.) There are 
strict rules to be observed in the colony, but there is no 
punishment. They are spoken to if insubordinate, they are 
exhorted, and if that avails not, they are just dismissed ; 
yet a man rarely need be dismissed, — they are thank- 
ful enough to obey while in the colony. During the 
first fourteen months, 1200 in all have been admitted. 
Of these, only 42 (3! per cent, that is) ran away from 
the colony ; 966 left for regular employment, and of 
these 830 have actually been placed by means of the 
Labour Committee in connection with the colony. The 
place, the houses, everything is a pattern of cleanliness. 
The men are well cared for, the food is of the simplest, 
but sufficient and wholesome — rather above the pro- 
visioning of the army — for these men arrive starving, 
and as labour at once is required of them, they must 
be fed up." 

The figures have not continued quite so favourable as 
in this report, and for the simple reason that the earlier 
colonists were of the better sort of the unemployed. 

The Labour Colony 147 

Those who first came to be helped were the most worthy 
of help, the most capable of being reclaimed ; the per- 
centage of men who had " come down in the world," and 
not always criminally, being larger at first than it is now. 
These, by means of the colony, have largely found their 
way back to an honourable life, and the work, so to 
speak, is now amid a lower stratum. 

But the figures of ten years are these : There are now 
twenty-six of these colonies in Germany — we should 
speak of twenty-two only, for the four latest have only 
just been started ; and of the twenty-two, one only, 
Wilhelmsdorf, is ten years old. About sixty thousand 
vagrants and men described as " unemployed " have 
passed through them. Of these, no doubt, the lesser pro- 
portion only has actually been saved, yet is it not a 
great thing that year by year so many thousands — say ten 
thousand yearly, now that so many colonies exist — are 
within the chances of being saved, are kept, taught, fed 
outwardly and inwardly ; so many thousands who other- 
wise would rove about the country, starve, and do mis- 
chief? Is it not a great thing, if only one-fifth, if only 
one-tenth are saved ? It is, of course, difficult to venture 
upon figures when you speak of being "saved." The 
lives of those leaving the colony cannot be followed up 
very far. The results of the whole rescue-work, as will 
appear presently, are gauged in a different way. 

And, in any case, let the reader not take the word 
" saved " in the sense of the Salvation Army ; they do 
not use the word in its highest meaning quite so freely 
in Germany. The good men at work at Bethel, and 
watching over the welfare of Wilhelmsdorf, know that 

148 A Colony of Mercy 

" saving," in that sense, is of the Holy Ghost : it is not 
expected of these vagrants quite so readily as the change 
from their rags into clean clothes — this, too, is " saving." 
But the spiritual saving is growth, and a very slow 
growth sometimes. The influences of salvation are all 
about these men at Wilhelmsdorf ; they are beset behind 
and before with them ; they are so, because we all are : 
it is God's way — a way not always noticed, not always 
seen ; and they are so, because of the influences streaming 
in from Bethel. But these men are not saved wholesale : 
they do not undergo processes of kneeling down a 
sinner and rising up a saint. We do not say that such 
holy process is not God's way sometimes ; it was God's 
way with Paul ; but conversion is not made a condi- 
tion at the labour colony. They are not asked much 
about their inward experiences — they are fed, cleansed, 
loved ; and the rest is left to the Love abounding. They 
are taught too ; but those who teach them know that the 
teaching of the Spirit is required. They are prayed with 
— the day at Wilhelmsdorf begins with prayer and ends 
with prayer, as a family ; but there is no overdoing it — 
and a great deal more are they prayed for. If the labour 
colony has succeeded, it is because of the natural whole- 
some spirit pervading it. The thirteenth of the first of 
Corinthians is the great text-book in that house. There 
are indeed some entering the colony as prodigals who 
leave it children of their Father's house ; but these things 
are not spoken of, not printed in the reports — those who 
manage these know better ; and if the word " saved " 
occurs in these pages, what is meant thereby is the 
change from the disorderly to the orderly life, a change 

The Labour Colony 149 

back to industry, and very often to that humility for 
sins remembered to which a blessing pertains — a lifting 
up, in short, out of the mud. 

It was a beautiful day in June when we first drove out 
to the Senne. The man who drove us was one of the 
original settlers — he had gone out with those eighteen — 
now employed as driver and farm servant at Bethel. 
He is but a homely, poor-bodied fellow, with a crippled 
wife too : they do not earn much money : children they 
have none, but these two, for Christ's sake, as he said 
simply, have brought up one after another sixteen of 
those orphans which Pastor Siebold puts out to those 
who, " for Christ's sake," will take them. Some are 
with this couple still ; and, as we drove along, he ex- 
plained his mode of training. " You have just got to 
love them," he said. He showed also how he tried to 
foster faith in them : " you must be true to them, for 
they have got to believe in you." As for his wife, going 
to see her, we found her walking on crutches. More 
than twenty years ago she had a leg amputated — 
" by God's own love to me," she said. Is not this 
being a mother in Israel ? a crippled woman, and in a 
humble cottage, having taken, one after another, sixteen 
orphan children to her heart — and he but a farm- 
labourer ! They keep them at their own expense ; train 
them in the fear of God, aye, in the love of God ; they 
keep them till they can earn their own living ; some of 
them are grown up now and married, looking upon them 
as parents still. It is their own doing ; they began 
it " for Christ's sake," before Pastor Siebold started that 
orphan-work. We have seen this humble little home, 

t 50 A Colony of Mercy 

and the adopted children there now (three, at this 
moment, between the ages of seven and seventeen), and 
we can only say, Happy those children ! * 

But a simple labourer, that man has managed an 
education somehow, if by education you mean insight 
and understanding. He is Spirit-taught, and it is won- 
derful what that does for a man ; you never think of 
" gentleman " or " not-gentleman " if you talk with such 
a one. This man would tell you all about the growth of 
the Senne — it is an " evolution," he said, an Entwicklung, 
actually using the word. We met him again, just before 
leaving ; he had discovered meanwhile that there was 
an intention of telling English folk something of that 
Entwicklung. " May God give you a blessing upon it," 
he said ; " for it is most important. It is like putting 
seed into the ground ; if you tell them something about 
it, it may grow ! " He is but a farm labourer, knowing 
about seed and growth and God's blessing, and he said 
it was " evolution." 

* We earnestly beg any of our readers who may visit Bethel, 
not to tell these humble people they have read of their work. 
They do it in all simplicity, that they " may have a family 
of children in heaven one day, having none here." They do it 
not knowing the rare beauty of it — jewels they of Christ's own 
crown. It is a simple fact ; their work is not generally known at 
the colony even, or, if known, where so much is done, it is the violet 
blossoming unseen. Let friends beware lest the breath of earthli- 
ness touch the perfect beauty of this ! But if any reader be moved, 
as well he may be, the writer of these lines will gladly receive any 
token of sympathy, to be spent, first of all, in a bath-chair for that 
crippled woman, who hardly ever on her crutches can manage to 
climb the hill now to Zion Church. Her husband's earnings are 
half- a- crown a day. 

The Labour Colony 153 

After about an hour's drive, you saw you were getting 
into sand — sand right and left and before you — but a 
good firm road led through that sandy waste, a road 
made by the colonists. And presently you saw this 
waste, heather-grown only, and dotted with stunted firs, 
assume signs of cultivation, fields stretching away on 
either hand — and such fields ! — and after another half- 
hour's drive, Wilhelmsdorf was reached. The colony 
owns about a thousand acres now, and some of the 
colonists are continually at work in trenches digging up 
that stratum, — there is work left for years to come, and 
when all is under cultivation, why, they can acquire 
more. There is room for growth in the Senne, room to 
spread. If you take up some of the subsoil, after it has 
been lying on the surface awhile, you find it a lump very 
much like chicory for colour and substance, crumbling 
to powder, too, at your touch, like a cake of chicory. 
The men are interested in showing it to you ; they have 
quite a regard for the soil which costs them such honest 
sweat of the brow. Last year twenty-six additional 
acres of land were brought under cultivation ; they have 
mostly required a four-foot digging. 

The harvests in 1892 yielded 334 cwt. of rye, 196 of 
oats, 1500 of potatoes, 2100 of turnips, 240 of beet, 200 
of Indian corn, 1800 of hay, and 1250 of straw. There 
is a good deal of irrigation work, and of plantation 
making ; roadmaking, too, goes on, and. there is a flour- 
ishing live-stock. There being plenty of water, they 
are planning to set up a mill to do their own grinding. 
This will naturally be followed by their own bakery. 
As yet the Bethel bakery provides Wilhelmsdorf. 

154 A Colony of Mercy 

Six hundred and twenty colonists were received last 
year, over six thousand having been registered in this 
colony since it first was opened. 

Any one presenting himself is admitted, those of the 
province having first claim. The clothes he wears, if 
worth anything, which hardly ever is the case, are dis- 
infected and put away against the time of his leaving ; 
for every man, as a preliminary, is put into a new suit 
of clothes. This is a wonderful stroke of Christian 
genius : a man feels a new creature ; he has put on 
respectability. But there is nothing of the uniform 
about these clothes ; the men are not treated as 
convicts — not even as charity boys. They may choose 
what they fancy out of a large stock of clothing always 
on hand. And they generally choose in accordance 
with their former condition of life ; so by their very 
clothes, and by their own doing, there is a sort of 
distinction of class in the colony. They have to pay 
for their clothes ; money they have none, so the 
articles are given them on credit, against which their 
labour is set. A man then is no longer a beggar ; he is 
beginning to work his way up, and, as a first step, he has 
to pay for his own new clothes. These clothes, ser- 
viceable and good, are cheap ; they are given them at 
manufacturers' prices, the colony not making one penny 
upon the transaction. The men know that. At manu- 
facturers' prices ; but these clothes are not made in 
wholesale factories at sweating labour. Pastor von 
Bodelschwingh has a wonderful knack of killing two 
birds with one shot. These clothes are made for the 
colony by all sorts of poor women in the neighbour- 

The Labour Colony 155 

hood, widows by preference ; no middle-man is required, 
there is no "sweater" or anybody wanting to make 
any profit, so the poor seamstresses earn their decent 
penny, and yet the clothes are cheap. How full of 
little strokes of this kind is the economy of Bethel ! 
And what a head that man must have ! — but it is 
his heart rather than his head which does such 

The colonist signs a contract on entering the colony, 
one clause of which says that the clothes are not his 
property till he has fully worked for them ; and that he is 
acting feloniously, and will be prosecuted for thieving, if 
he runs away with his new clothes unpaid for. And this is 
no false threat : it does not happen often ; but if a man thus 
robs the colony, the police are forthwith communicated 
with. The men know that, and probably honour the 
place the more. Indeed, the contract they sign is exceed- 
ingly strict in many ways. For instance, by signing it 
they agree that they have no claim whatever to any 
remuneration beyond their food, though they do eight, 
ten, and, in harvest time, twelve hours a day. They 
agree that whatever is given them over and above their 
food, that even the work provided, is a free gift, and 
found for them by the kindness of those who would help 
them. Thus the colonists at once are taught that eating 
one's own bread, that is, bread one has honestly worked 
for, is a possession and a blessing in itself. They are 
treated as men capable of appreciating that blessing. 
During the first fortnight they receive no wages. Then 
they receive twopence-halfpenny a day ; after a month, 
if they work well, they get fivepence, but never any 

156 A Colony of Mercy 

more if they work by the day. For the colony is a 


bridge towards better times, and- not — as, for instance, 
the socialists would have it — an institution for supply- 

The Labour Colony 157 

ing a man with work on public responsibility. The work 


provided for them is the benefit, the gain lying in the 
work, not in the pay. 

158 A Colony of Mercy 

Nor are these wages ever given to the men ; the 
money is booked for them, and if there is a surplus, over 
and above the clothes to be paid for, such surplus is 
not handed over to them even on their leaving, else 
public-houses would spring up all around and catch 
the men in a body as soon as the colony has dismissed 
them. If the men go into a situation on leaving, their little 
savings are remitted to the care of their new employer ; 
if they go to seek work, the sum is sent by post-office 
order to any address they can name at a safe distance. 
For provision along the road they are directed to the 
" Verpflegungs-station" (of which anon,)* or, as the case 
may be, a railway ticket to their destination is given 
them at their own expense. 

The colony endeavours to encourage piece-work, 
especially when the men do more than eight hours a day ; 
for thus the diligent man gets more than the loiterer, and 
industry is inculcated. Also piece-work, singling out 
the laborious man from the idler, enables the former to 
repay the colony the sooner for the clothes given. And 
once this stage is reached — requiring some months, of 
course, even with an industrious man, if he has been 
fully clad — the battle towards respectability generally is 
won, and the man may be drafted back to the outer 
world. For the colony is not only a helper in distress, 
it is also a labour agency, assisting the men to regular 
employment elsewhere ; and the sooner this can be 
effected, the sooner others may be received in their 

There is a healthy look about the men, and if you 

* Vide p. 174. 

The Labour Colony 159 

talk to them, they express themselves satisfied. It is 
hard work, but it is just as hard as it should be, and it 
is what they are told they have come for. Most are 
thankful for the well-ordered life — it is luxury con- 
sidering the life left behind. 

There is of course perfect discipline, although really 
there is no one to enforce it. At 5.30 of a summer 
morning the men have had their breakfast, and are 
standing in rows in the farmyard, awaiting the house- 
father's telling them off for the day's work, every troop 
going its way with an overseer — not a slave-driver but a 
man to keep them to their work by just working with 
them : it is a brother of Nazareth, not to talk religion 
to them, but to act religion before them, and be their 
example. He keeps up the cheerful tone, and shows 
them the beauty of work. They may get religion along 
with that, but unconsciously. There is a time for every 
thing, is the order at Wilhelmsdorf, and there is a time 
for saving, even for soul saving — by the sweat of the 
brow. Besides the fields surrounding, there is a beauti- 
ful garden producing a variety of vegetables, strawberries 
and other fruit. Walking about, you would see a fine 
nursery of fruit trees bursting with their first blossoms after 
being grafted. The colonist who had done that grafting 
was watching his work with evident love for the saplings, 
and maybe he was learning something of the new life, 
and the pruning away of old sins. At any rate he had 
it there before him in nature, and he looked like a man 
pruned — one would not ask him. Yet this man had 
been a ragged tramp, an habitual out-of-work, and had 
been in the house of correction for loafing and disorderly 

1 60 A Colony of Mercy 

doings. He had been nearly a year at Wilhelmsdorf, 
when he did that grafting. 

Much of course depends on the house-father, and 
Wilhelmsdorf has a house-father and house-mother 
after Bodelschwingh's own heart. There was a soldier 
in the Franco-German war, a peasant's son of the 
Ravensberger Land, who, pressed by the enemy one 
day, vowed a vow, if he should be spared, to consecrate 
his life. On returning to his native village, he found 
that on that very day, his father, with an old friend 
(none other than blind Heermann !), had been on their 
knees for hours, praying for their soldier lad, moved 
with a sense of his danger. This man, Meyer by 
name, returned to his calling — he was bailiff on a 
large property. Several years passed, and he had not 
redeemed his vow — he did not " quite know how." One 
day a Missionsfest was announced, a special missionary 
gathering, at which Pastor von Bodelschwingh was to 
speak. Meyer had heard of Bodelschwingh, but he had 
never heard or seen him, and was anxious for that 
treat. So he took a holiday from his farm labour — he 
was away on the Rhine — and went. Bodelschwingh 
probably that day, with his usual warmth, pleaded 
for labourers in the vineyard. Meyer was conscience- 
stricken, and offered himself to Bodelschwingh for one 
year's collector's work * at his own expense. This, 
some one had told him, might be his thank-offering. 
But Bodelschwingh looked at him — " Stay your year by 
all means," he said : " perhaps you will stay altogether. 
I want a house-father for the unemployed — one who can 

* Vide p. 269. 

The Labour Colony 161 

teach them how to work." And this is how the first 
labour colony came by the man to whom most of the 
outward success is due. 

Meyer is a splendid farmer, and a true-hearted 
Christian. And there is a house-mother — he found 
her only after he had decided for that work — his true 
helpmeet. That simple couple manage these hundreds 
of degenerate men ; and everything is in order, every- 
thing under authority, everything cared for. One 
wonders how — but there it is, one cannot help seeing it. 
Everything as it should be. It needs but a look at the 
place, and seeing is believing. That quiet house-mother 
in her kitchen, with only three young servant-maids 
under her, managing such a household ! Everything is 
spick and span, the colonists supplying rough labour — 
a plain farmhouse kitchen, with saucepans like engine 
boilers, clean as a drawing-room, and the little house- 
wife explaining to you, as you follow her wonderingly, 
how she is ever trying to do well by the men, yet not in- 
creasing expenses. There is no law as to expenses, no rule 
laid down to guide her — " so you have to satisfy your own 
conscience both ways" she said, and surely all is as it should 
be. Her contrivances bear examining. That kitchen 
would cost double in this country, and not turn out more 
satisfactory food. Conscience and heart are two wonderful 
possessions in such a house-mother — a wealth in them- 
selves ; spending wealth, that is kindness, yet keeping 
under expenses. No one who works along with Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh is under any law, save that one law, 
" Do it as unto God," and this is how the colony works. 

Dining with the labour colony of course was a novel 



A Colony of Mercy 

experience ; but having walked about all the morning, 
one was ready to share labourers' fare. The Crown Prince 


once had done so, refusing any extra culinary attention, 
and Bodelschwingh always sits down with his Wilhelms- 

The Labour Colony 16 


dorfer when he visits the colony. But you might have 
been in a Trappist cloister for silence. They had done an 
honest morning's work — hard work — and ate with a will. 
It was with a strange sensation, even with a lump in 
one's throat, one watched these men ; they all looked 
alike, some a little more heavy than others, some a little 
more wistful than others — not much difference ; and yet 
one knew that side by side with the cottage-born out- 
cast, here one and there one, were those not born to be 
there — men of gentle birth and training, who had come 
hither by the way of transgressors, which is hard. As 
one scanned their countenances, one could not say there 
was bitterness among them, nor did they look cowed, 
but rather humbled, and thankful for their food. Who 
can tell what goes on in the hearts of these men ? A 
Psalm is read after dinner, and then they have an hour 
to themselves, the midday rest. 

Mrs. Meyer has five little children, rosy and fair, 
growing up among these outcasts — a happy family of 
their own. The house-father kindly gave up a whole 
afternoon to our inquiries, though it was harvest time ; 
and one learned much of him. His unostentatious ways, 
his real piety, his honest manhood, and affection for his 
large family, help one to understand how this rescue 
work is done. His eye is everywhere — a simple, guile- 
less eye, but nothing seems hidden from it — and obedience 
to him seems, not the law, but the natural condition of 
the place. The men — remember they are a collection of 
vagabonds of all ages between sixteen and sixty — all 
call him " House-father." How much there is in that one 
word to educate these men ! 

164 A Colony of Mercy 

Wilhelmsdorf has not only its fields to show, but also 
a fine live stock. They began ten years ago with two 
cows ; there are now about fifty, all bred and reared in 
the colony ; horses, also, some of them the house-father's 
pride ; and last, but not least, Master Bacon and family — 
such a tribe of them. There is a pattern swineherd, too, 
one of the colonists, a regular Wamba — Gurth, we ought 
to say, but somehow he reminded us of Wamba. The 
man is over seventy, but if ever you go to Wilhelmsdorf, 
be sure and watch him. " Aren't they darlings ? " he said, 
showing his herd — there must have been nearly a 
hundred, old and young, boar, sow, and sucking-pigs, 
and they did look flourishing. He has a way of cluck- 
clucking for them, quite tenderly, like a hen for her 
chickens, and they come running after him, rolling and 
waddling — there appears to be room for affection even 
in a pig. He at least said, " You have got to love 
them else they won't thrive ! " He was right, if his 
meaning was, " whatsoever thou doest, do it with all thine 

He is quite a character, that man, tall and lean, with a 
long white beard, wearing an indigo-coloured blouse with 
a leather belt. Call him Wamba ? he is more like that 
honest old swineherd of the Odyssey, in whom Homer 
delighted. He has been in the colony some six or seven 
years, so is quite a fixture, old and useless as the world 
goes, yet surely earning his bread. He is a Roman 
Catholic, and it so happened when Romish Rhineland 
started a labour colony of its own persuasion, poor old 
Wamba was induced to report himself there. He went. 
But labour colonies are no houses of detention, and 

The Labour Colony 165 

before long he presented himself again at Wilhelmsdorf, 
asking for re-admission, was received and for the rest 
was silent. A visiting magistrate after awhile got it out 
of him : " Why did you not stop at Maria Veen ? — that's 
the place for you ! " — " Didn't like the food," says 
Wamba. " Oh no, surely," urged the visitor, " the monks 
cook well, besides we don't pamper you here." " No," 
says Wamba, " but the pigs is cared for. . . . You see," 
he broke out, " them monks is always a-praying, and 
that church bell never stopped. / could nohow do my 
duty by their pigs — and that's why I came back ! " And 
so to this day, a queer-looking solitary man, he is doing 
" his duty " by the bristly creatures which are kith 
and kin to him, he having neither kith nor kin left 

There are several " fixtures " of that sort at Wilhelms- 
dorf. A son of a pastor is there, having no one left to 
care for him, and who, in consequence of an illness, has 
grown deaf and dazed, but who is earning his bread 
honestly on the farm — a " faithful soul," said the house- 
father. What more can a man be, even at Wilhelms- 
dorf, than faithful ? 

Wamba's opinion as above given has not been recorded 
to disparage the Roman Catholic labour colony, but 
rather to show his own affection and loyalty for 
Wilhelmsdorf, which had first taken him in. Wilhelms- 
dorf, as the original labour colony, fitly stands as a type ; 
moreover, it is the only one of which these pages may 
speak from personal observation. Maria Veen does good 
work, both agriculturally and as a rescue agency, among 
the Roman Catholic population which preponderates in 

1 66 A Colony of Mercy 

the Rhine-land. It was opened three years ago, and has 
registered about six hundred inmates. 

It were necessary, perhaps, to visit the several colonies 
in order to get a comprehensive impression of the com- 
pleteness and thoroughness of the undertaking ; certainly 
in order to grasp fully the whole machinery in its details. 
It so happened that a Frenchman has done so, a M. 
Georges Berry, deputed by the Paris Municipal Council. 
France had heard of these colonies, and, standing face 
to face with her own social question, delegated a com- 
mission, headed by M. Berry, to consult her neighbour 
across the Rhine. Now, no one will accuse Frenchmen 
of a natural leaning to enhance the merits of that neigh- 
bour; and going from colony to colony, this commission 
in duty bound will have examined things with a critical 
eye; but their report, written purely for the Paris 
Municipal Council, is a fine feather in their neighbour's 
cap. M. Berry prefaces his Bulletin with the admirable 
remark : " II y a beaucoup a apprendre chez les Allemands, 
mais peu a prendre " — i.e. y " We have much to learn 
from these Germans, but we cannot just copy them ! " 
His report, however — quite a pamphlet, soberly written — 
is brimful of the sincerest approval ; and returning to his 
own Paris, he urges his fellow councillors not to " copy," 
but to do likewise. 

He describes several of the colonies minutely, especially 
the Berlin colony, which is an industrial one, and the one 
at Magdeburg which is both industrial and agricultural. 
This latter was started only in 1888, and according 
to this Frenchman is not only in splendid working order, 
but is actually a "paying concern," due to the fact 

The Labour Colony 167 

that it is situated on ground for which only a nominal 
rent, so far, was paid, and which now, at a nominal price, 
is about to become the property of the colony. This 
colony from the second year of its existence has paid its 
way, even with a surplus — the result chiefly of market 

We inquired of House-father Meyer how Wilhelms- 
dorf stood in this respect ; and he told us, if he never had 
more than a hundred mouths to feed, Wilhelmsdorf 
would in time be self-supporting. Be it remembered 
the land in question has first to be reclaimed ; surely 
this is no small measure of success, if along with such 
soil-reclaiming one can feed a hundred labourers, and yet 
see one's way to being self-supporting ! But Wilhelmsdorf 
in the winter, when work is slack, has been feeding three 
and four hundred men at times, finding occupation for 
them purely for their own sake. These numbers, however, 
have lessened, as other colonies rose to do their part. 
Two hundred to two hundred and fifty inmates is the 
normal winter figure now. The whole capital sunk in 
the Senne, including Rehoboth and several other 
stations, is about fifteen thousand pounds, and 
Wilhelmsdorf has a yearly subsidy of fifteen hundred — 
at most two thousand pounds. These are modest figures, 
considering it means " saving " six hundred men year by 
year and reclaiming land which year by year gains in 
value ! And the province is not out of pocket by making 
these grants, but very much to the contrary. In all 
these colonies a certain number of the submerged get 
sufficiently reclaimed to be put into positions of trust on 
the working-staff ; some in the offices, others supplying 

1 68 A Colony of Mercy 

the machinery of the household. In fact, these colonies 
do answer, and in a very real sense they pay. 

A further development of the system is the Heimath 
Colonie near Bremerhaven, which purposes to receive 
selected cases from all the other colonies — men who by 
industry and good behaviour have proved their claim to 
further help. These are to be settled at that " Own Home 
Colony " on little plots of land, having to work their way 
into possession, something after the fashion of "Work- 
man's Home " (of which anon) ; except that their own 
labour is the purchase money. A certain Pastor Crone- 
meyer is the mover of this extension scheme ; but it is 
just a development of Pastor von Bodelschwingh's own 
grand idea of a " hearth and threshold of his own " for 
every deserving man, as the truest means of salvation in 
earthly things. It is too soon to judge of this further 
project ; but as to its principle — who could question its 
wisdom in these days of social democracy ? And, there- 
fore, there is little doubt but that it will be worked out 
aright, and that its own measure of success presently 
will speak for it. 

We will conclude this chapter with a Christmas scene 
in one of the colonies, reported by a chance visitor. 

There are good voices among the colonists — why 
should there not be ? — and for weeks, encouraged by the 
house-father, there is much practising of the carols and 
Christmas hymns, which even these outcasts remember 
from the days of their childhood when they had mothers 
to teach them, or at any rate attended a school. What 
silent chords these carols and hymns may touch ! what 
memories of brighter, purer days ! And through the long 

The Labour Colony 169 

December evenings these songs ring out into the wintry 
night. And day after day the postman never failing, 
brings parcel upon parcel ; friends of the friendless far 
and near remembering these strangers. All sorts of useful 
things are sent, and even pretty things, little fingers here 
and there filling the pockets of the Christkind for the 
cheering of the homeless colonists. There is much 
poetry in the Fatherland about Christmas time, and the 
Christ Child is busy. And they of the colony, life- 
hardened, aye sin-hardened though they be, feel some- 
thing of the breath blowing about them. Even they 
look for Christmas : who does not, though his world 
seem all empty of love ? 

And on Christmas Eve they are busy from an early 
hour in the day ; evergreens and fir branches have been 
brought in by the cartload, and the whole house is hung 
with garlands. And then the colonists, like children, 
are turned out of the room ; the Christmas tree, as tall 
as the room will hold, is brought in for the house-father 
and house-mother to decorate. And when the doors 
open at nightfall upon this family there is a sea of light : 
the message of a German Christmas tree is all light — 
the Light that came into the world. 

They had put up a picture at the foot of that 
tree, transparent and illumined from behind — Ludwig 
Richter's beautiful picture representing the stable and 
the manger and the kneeling shepherds before the 
Child. And silence fell on these men, these colonists — 
they in the background, and the house-father's little 
children in front beneath the tree. And the children's 
voices sang the children's hymn of the angels, and 

i jo A Colony of Mercy 

shepherds, and the flocks by night. The house-father 
thereupon, turning to the second chapter of St. Luke, 
read the old old story, yet ever new — new to these men 
that night. And then they had their presents, each man 
what love had provided — a love he knew not, and yet it 
remembered him — an earthly friend's love, to tell him of 
a Love beyond. 

And so, even at a labour colony, there is Christmas 
Eve ; the more solemn strain changing into merriment 
and laughter and nut-cracking, and rejoicings over the 
unexpected gifts. 

The visitor present asked that house-father was there a 
true blessing ? Foolish question : when eyes grow bright 
or shine with the hidden tear, when the touch of love 
quivers through the soul, when rough men stand in holy 
silence because the hush of Eternity is upon them, will 
you want to see the blessing with your earth-bound 
eyes ? 


" Compel them to come in." 

THE labour colonies throughout Germany, though 
each an independent institution, act hand-in- 
hand, forming a moral leverage of growing power. It 
is by Pastor von Bodelschwingh's indefatigable efforts 
that this united action has come about ; he knows that 
union is strength, and to him it is mainly due that a 
central committee, to which each local committee sends 
a representative, is now in full working order, with head- 
quarters in Berlin. Count Zieten-Schwerin is President, 
and there are regular sessions to consider the weal and 
woe of the unemployed, investigating and comparing 
the experiences and results of the several colonies 
established for their benefit, and being ever on the look- 
out for improvement. They issue a monthly magazine 
called The Labour Colony (now in its eighth year), 
and publish the reports and balance-sheets of all the 
colonies. Thus, what by mercy and charity is done 
in a corner, is proclaimed on the housetop for the 
nation at large to watch and to know. Every penny 
is accounted for, and whoever cares may know exactly 
what is being done. 

These labour colonies are semi-private undertakings, 


172 A Colony of Mercy 

invariably set on foot by private action ; there is always 
a grant by the province or country to start them, and 
subsidies are continued to them according to the 
need they set themselves to combat, but a great deal 
is done by voluntary effort and free-will contribution 
locally. Each colony is a provincial institution, yet 
they render the most public account of themselves 
year by year. This is one reason why they prosper ; 
they are to all intents and purposes a public organisa- 
tion for the good of the people, benefiting not only 
the unemployed, but the country itself. 

And it is a powerful organisation, quietly spreading 
a net over the land — over Darkest Germany at least ; 
it has a hold upon the vagabonds. A man's antecedents 
are tolerably known at the colonies ; for on first pre- 
senting himself, although his own deposition is taken, it 
is not implicitly relied on. Wilhelmsdorf, for instance, 
employs a special secretary, himself a saved character, 
whose business it is to identify any applicant with his 
past. This is possible in a country like Germany : you 
have but to send a letter of inquiry to that man's 
Heimath — his home-parish. A man's " home " in the 
eye of the law, firstly, is the place of his birth and 
early upbringing, but, secondly, any place where he was 
domiciled for two years and upwards. Also any town 
or village where he has been at work will have registered 
him and his doings for the time being. A man can 
be traced in Germany, and the labour colonies generally 
surprise their inmates after two or three weeks by 
knowing all about them, especially if there are things 
a man would prefer to hide, such as having been in 

Darkest Germany Tramping 173 

prison. This may be a curious revelation to the free- 
born Briton, but it is not altogether amiss, for if the 
country has a hold of you, you also have a hold of 
the country ; and if you are an honest man in trouble, 
your home-parish, even of two years' residence only,* has 
certain duties towards you ; meanwhile you certainly 
are under control. A man here is known to the police 
only if he misbehaves himself; in Germany he cannot 
be long in any place without being duly registered. 
It is the paternal government. 

But to return to the colony. A man on leaving is 
not altogether allowed to drift. He may leave any 
day, even if in no wise a saved character, the duration 
of his stay at the colony being quite voluntary, except 
for the conditions of the contract he has signed ; but on 
leaving he carries with him a W cinder schein (vagrancy 
certificate) to which more explicit reference will be made, 
further on,f and by means of which, if he chooses to 
avail himself of assistance by the way, his intermediate 
life can be followed up. Also, if he misbehaves himself 
at one colony, or if he leaves feloniously with clothes 
unpaid for, this is made known to all the other colonies ; 
he is entered in the " black book," as even the vagrants 
call it. This black book, a sort of outside conscience, 
acts as a wholesome restraint. 

* The labour colonies, for instance, never keep a man longer 
than one year and eleven months, after which he is sent away 
with permission to return. If they kept him over two years 
they would be bound to provide for him — he would become 
heimaths-berechtigt, entitled to claim his "home" in the 
colony ; not that many do stay to that length of time. 

t Vide p. 177. 

1 74 A Colony of Me7'cy 

It is indeed a fact that a net of guardian helpfulness, 
quietly but steadily, is spreading over Darkest Germany, 
gathering in the vagabonds, of which net the labour 
colonies only form a part. The colonies, so to speak, 
are the lowest rung of the ladder by which the un- 
employed may climb back to the hopeful life ; they 
are for men who have sunk, who are submerged. But 
what if one could prevent their sinking? what if one 
could carry the labour-seeking population along the 
high roads, helped and cheered — helping them to food, 
keeping them from drink, assisting them to work 
thus cheering them ? Then they need not sink. And 
is prevention not better than cure ? It is being done. 

Natural-verpflegungs-station, even with hyphens, is 
a dreadful word, and quite untranslatable ; it means 
an open door for the unemployed tramp, where he 
will find relief in kind. These stations — we will call 
them relief stations for short — form the great network 
we have spoken of; they are organised all over 
Germany, an essential part of the whole system for 
aiding the unemployed. That German name, long as 
it is, does not fully describe them, leaving out the im- 
portant fact that these stations do not treat the vagrant 
as a pauper simply ; he is expected to work for the 
relief provided, and, if he is an honest labour-seeker, his 
search is assisted. These stations operate in connection 
with the labour colonies. The English reader will 
scarcely believe it, but there are close upon two thousand 
of them in Germany — to be correct, they number at 
this moment 1967, being added to continually — open 
to any labour-seeking, moneyless individual, and costing 

Darkest Germany Tramping 175 

the country the nowise heavy sum, considering, of a 
million and a half of marks yearly (£75,000). 

The relief stations are a creation of the last ten or 
twelve years only. They have their origin in a law of 
the State, then introduced, which provides that every 
German subject in distress may at least claim one 
night's lodging and one day's food at the hands of the 
parish within whose boundaries he may happen to be. 
(Of that " home-parish " above-mentioned he may claim 
more under certain conditions.) Says Pastor von. 
Bodelschwingh, " Who, then, is in distress, if not the man 
driven to beg because there is no one to employ him ? " 

Now, these stations, first thought of in Wurtemberg, 
South Germany, to combat house-to-house begging, 
have passed through various phases : they were ap- 
proved and disapproved by public opinion, and they 
were not at first in every instance what true charity 
would have them be. But there was a power at work 
to shape them, to draw them into a system, and though 
they are still in some respects in a transition state, 
they are fast becoming a high-road along which 
" Darkest Germany " is passing with increasing benefit. 

It was Pastor von Bodelschwingh who, at a home 
mission congress in 1884, moved "the organic unity 
of all labour colonies and relief stations throughout 
the Empire " ; it was in answer to this appeal that the 
Central Committee at Berlin, already spoken of, was 
formed, and has ever since been working for that end. 
He pleaded : " The labour colonies are the provision 
of charity for the sunken, but it is truer charity to prevent 
a man from sinking, and the colonies will be simply 

176 A Colony of Mercy 

swamped if there is not a systematic effort throughout 
the country for assisting the honest unemployed in 
search of work. A man shall not beg ; he can give 
half a day's work for a day's food and a night's 
lodging, and he shall be driven to seek the labour 
colony only when his clothes are in rags. To be a 
true relief station every such station must be a labour 
agency. The unemployed will tramp the country ; 
hold your hand over them, help them to be honest 
tramps, keep them from the public-house, assist their 
search for work. Put them under a certain discipline 
for the benefit they receive, and the results in time 
will be marvellous." 

This, then, is the present state of affairs concerning 
the unemployed in Germany. Along the great high 
roads — north, south, east, and west — there are Natural- 
verpflegungs-stationeii) at a distance one from another 
of half a day's march. The unemployed scarcely 
can help tramping : let them tramp in stages ; they 
will fall in with the plan if they know dinner is 
awaiting them and a night's rest. The morning is 
for tramping, the afternoon for work as a rule, though 
the season of the year and other circumstances may 
modify the arrangement. The work shall not be 
considered dishonouring, and though it be stone- 
breaking, a man is not a pauper for that ; but at 
most stations they provide the more welcome labour 
of wood-chopping. These unemployed largely make 
the firewood for the Fatherland. A man arrives by mid- 
day, has his dinner — most plain, of course, but whole- 
some and sufficient — and then he must do his required 

Darkest Germany Tramping 177 

amount of work ; then he has supper, a social evening 
with brethren in distress ; no drink, and a decent bed 
in the dormitory. Next morning he has breakfast, 
and go he must ; his dinner is at the next station. 
Only over Sunday two nights are allowed, and on 
Sunday of course the vagrant is a guest, free of work. 

A beautiful arrangement, says the English reader, 
but how do you prevent this from becoming a gigantic 
system of abuse, pampering the out-of-work instead 
of really aiding him, furthering vagrancy instead of 
suppressing it ? Well, in this way : a man may not 
tramp as he likes ; he must tramp in strict order 
from station to station — that is why the stations are 
planned to be within an able man's walking distance, 
and there is no turning aside, no doubling back 
upon your road. A man, setting out, say, from 
Cologne to Berlin, under pretence of seeking labour, 
is received at the first station — indeed, at any station 
— be he an honest labour-seeker or not, for who can 
tell ? But on leaving the first station the WanderscJiein 
is handed him, the vagrancy certificate : a little book, 
paged and ruled into squares, a sort of blank diary. 
In the first blank square, the first station which gave 
him relief enters its stamped signature and date ; 
the second square must be filled by the next station 
in the order of the road, and so forth ; and if your 
tramp turns aside from his appointed, indeed self- 
appointed, way, the next station will not receive him 
— this is his discipline : and if he arrives at the last 
stage as unhelped as when he started, that is without 
having found regular employment (every station being 


178 A Colony of Mercy 

a labour agency) he is likely to be a man who will 
not work, and the house of correction may receive him 
in the end. For at the stations any employer of the 
district makes known his want of hands, and a man 
who can and will work need not tramp for ever. The 
W under schein^ also, is valid for two or three months 
only, after which it has to be renewed ; and it would 
not be renewed without inquiring into a prolonged 
want of employment. The inveterate out-of-work is 
thus brought to book. 

These stations partly keep themselves by the men's 
labour, the deficiency being borne by the respective 
districts, at a great saving to the public purse, always 
remembering it is cheaper to aid your beggar than 
let him beg. And it is a wondrously merciful arrange- 
ment : an unemployed man in Germany positively, by 
means of these stations, can travel through the length 
and breadth of the empire without having one penny 
in his pocket. He is fed and taken in for the night 
in return for the work he gives. His clothes are not 
replenished ; if he tramps himself into rags, his next 
stage is the colony. 

These relief stations (nearly two thousand of them, 
as we have said) in the course of the year thus 
receive for a night's lodging and a day's food 
thousands upon thousands of labour-seeking vagrants, 
making them work for their absolute necessities, keep- 
ing them from the need of begging, and largely from 
the public-house, till regular work is found. The night's 
lodgings given last year amounted to about three million ; 
or, in other words, some eight thousand vagrants, on 

Darkest Germany Tramping i 79 

an average, are in these refuges daily. And although 
such a gigantic system of regulated helpfulness cannot 
be free from abuse, yet the use is greater than the 
abuse — the men are at least under discipline. 

But Pastor von Bodelschwingh and other friends of 
the movement are not fully satisfied with the existing 
state of things. They want to see these stations lifted to 
a higher level, bringing Christian influence to bear as 
much as possible ; they want to unite the relief stations 
with another organisation for labour-seeking wanderers 
— to see them work in connection with the Herbergen 
zur Heimath. 

What are these ? 

Again we fail to translate the designation. A 
Herberge is a place for a traveller to put up at — an 
inn, if you like, only not just an inn. If you take a 
wayfarer to your fireside you are giving him herberge — 
" harbouring " him. There is a touch of poetry about 
this word, a touch of welcome home ; it is an old- 
world German word, before inns were public-houses. 
And Heimath means just " home " ; the whole appellation, 
therefore, meeting the wanderer's eye on a signboard, 
says to him : " Put up here ; we will try and make it 
a home." And for whom this home ? For wandernde 
Handiverks-burschen, — journeymen artisans travelling 
for work. If the stations just spoken of are the second 
rung of the ladder, the Herbergen are the third, a step 
higher still ; for there a man, though taken in by 
Christian helpfulness, is not just taken in by charity. 
He pays his honest penny, and can therefore stay at 
will, that is, till the employment he seeks is found. 

1 8o A Colony of Mercy 

Homc-lovcrs as the Germans are, there is a migratory 
impulse in the people ; and ever since the Middle Ages 
the young artisan, having served his apprenticeship, 
took stick and knapsack and went anf die Wanderschaft 
— a travelling — on foot of course, now stopping here with 
a master of the craft, now there, thus gaining skill and 
experience. Indeed, by the guild rules a man could 
not himself aspire to be a master, establishing a work- 
shop of his own, until he had had at least three years 
of this itinerant practice of the craft. He was now a 
Geselle, a " fellow." There was much that was beautiful 
about this life in the good old times : it was the young 
man's first experience of the larger life, the wider 
horizon. What though he tore himself away from an 
affectionate father, from a loving mother, the world was 
bright, he was uncorrupt and could pass along the high- 
ways uncorrupted. Not that temptation was wanting ; 
temptation might be part of his training, but temptation 
did not stalk the highways hand in hand with starvation. 
The world was not so crowded as it now is, and if 
there was no work to be had in one village, there was 
the more chance of finding it in the next, the mediaeval 
town and city being the high school where the Geselle 
graduated. The Geselle was not, like his modern repre- 
sentative, merely the paid workman, who gives his day's 
work for the day's wage, no one caring two straws for 
his human needs, or having a kindly interest in his 
off-hours. The Geselle in those days was an inmate of 
the master's family, — the master might have half a 
dozen of them sitting at his table and sleeping beneath 
his roof, and the master's wife, the Fran Meisterin, was 

Darkest Germany Tramping 1 8 1 

a good mother to them, mending their clothes too ; and 
sometimes the master had a pretty child, a growing 
daughter for the Geselle to win. These were the good 
old days, the days of poetry and of warmth ; nowadays 
we have grown colder, the day's wage is all one expects, 
and the journeyman's chances of his share of the home 
life are poor. 

But though the heart has died out of this old 
institution, the habit has survived, and wandernde 
Handwerks-burschen — journeying artisans — to any num- 
ber are within the memory of the present generation. 
A portion of them might be honest and keep honest, 
but the century of railroads and of machinery, of over- 
stocking and consequent dearth of labour, has sadly 
demoralised the Handiverks-burscJi. He, even, in these 
days of railroad and steam, departed from the old 
appellation, calling himself a Reisender, a traveller ; and 
presently he was an " armer" Reisender, a " poor" traveller, 
accosting you as such, an awful vision of rags and 
unkemptness at every turn. They no longer wandered 
for labour, they tramped for beggar's pence, and had 
them largely. In such numbers they trod the country, 
streaming along the highways, that the word Stromer 
came into use for them. They grew desperate, and 
people, in villages at least and in lonely country places, 
were much afraid of them. The " streamers " were the 
pest of the land till within a dozen years ago ; half 
the crimes committed of highway robbery, of murder, 
of violence, were by the hand of some Stromer. They 
were starving, to be sure. At first they got no work, 
and then they would not work. They had their own 

182 A Colony of Mercy 

experience of the battle of life ; fechten (to fight) 
was their slang for begging, and thus " fighting" they 
throve—- throve sufficiently at least to lead a terrible 
life from gin shop to gin shop, the publican in his 
turn, like a vampire, thriving on the Stromer. And 
if there was an honest Handwerks-bursch among them, 
he soon got corrupted in these places of drink, and 
worse things, by day and by night. Where were such 
to go for a bed? The owners of the low lodging- 
houses were their masters in wickedness, and kept 
them to it for their own gain. It was there they 
obtained a list of all the houses in the neighbour- 
hood where a good-natured wife or a careless and 
frightened servant might be expected to give — give 
money, or food and clothes, the food and clothes being 
money too, and saleable for drink. This was the life. 

The following pen-and-ink portrait, as graphic as 
pitiful, is from the pen of a well-known German writer, 
and the Englishman abroad before 1880 will readily 
recognise the likeness ; he will have seen similar figures 
at every turn in his travels. Says our author : " The 
vagabond's face is a study — a mixture of sadness, 
of hopelessness, of peevish discontent, with a glare of 
hatred sometimes and of bitter sarcasm about his 
mouth. Of whom his hatred, — of himself, or his neigh- 
bour who has a home? Is it regret eating away at 
his heart, repentance? is it good intentions — those never 
kept intentions with which he is paving his road to 
hell ? Yet I pity the man — he is so wretched, so 
forlorn. I would like to say a word to him, comfort 
him, whisper a word of advice. I scarcely dare. ' Poor 

Darkest Germany Tramping 183 

fellow, are you unwell ? ' I venture at last ; ' can I 
help you in any way ? ' He fails to comprehend ; he 
stares at me ; there is wonder, there is distrust in his 
gaze — why should I want to help him ? I meet his 
gaze, hoping for a chance of reading this riddle of a 
soul, of understanding something of this walking misery. 
But no ! the man has sunk too deep even for sympathy ! 
It is beyond his comprehension that another human 
being might want to enter into his feelings, beyond 
his comprehension that he might ease his own heart by 
unburdening it. One thing he does comprehend. Rising 
heavily from the stone seat on which I found him, he 
lifts his tattered hat, and his wretched lips mutter 
the well-worn sentence : * Sir, have you a copper to 
spare ? ' In other words, ' The only relationship between 
you and me/ he says, ' is the penny you may give me 
for a dram, and I will forget that I am a hungry and 
homeless wretch.' " 

The late Professor Perthes, of Bonn University, was 
the first to direct Charity towards her duty by these 
rovers. The first Herberge zur HeimatJi — "journey- 
man's home " we may call it — was set up at Bonn in 
1854. Of these Herbergen y or "home inns," there are 
now about four hundred in Germany, with some thirteen 
thousand beds, and always well filled ; so well, indeed, 
that it is only to meet the demand, should those interested 
in the movement plead for more of these homes. The 
journeymen artisans passing through them may be out 
of work, but they are not the habitual " out-of-work " 
they are not ragged, they are not the demoralised unem- 
ployed. The Herberge is to keep the Handwerks-bursch 

184 A Colony of Mercy 

from becoming a Stromer \ it is for the respectable 
journeyman passing from one town to another in search 
of work. Such a one pays for his board as you would 
pay at an inn, but the charges are the lowest possible 
— ninepence to a shilling a day for bed and food, 
eighteenpence if a man have a room to himself. 

The characteristic difference between the relief 
stations and these " homes " is this : the former are a 
development of parish relief, the latter an expression 
of brotherly love ; the relief stations are merely secular, 
and based on a poor-tax which a given district has 
agreed to levy within its borders for the suppression of 
indiscriminate charity to street beggars (which in Ger- 
many includes the beggar's knocking at your own door), 
whereas the Herberge is established and kept going by 
a committee of home missions. The relief stations in 
certain respects may be compared to the casual wards 
in this country, while the Herberge has a look of the 
Young Men's Christian Association about it, — which, 
indeed, often is connected with these homes, these being 
of a strictly Christian character. The relief station is 
managed by an overseer, the Herberge by a house- 
father, a brother (deacon) provided by Nazareth and 
similar institutions. 

The English traveller can scarcely move through any 
German town, even of moderate size, without coming upon 
a comfortable-looking, substantial house bearing the in- 
scription over the lower row of windows, Herberge zar 
Heimath. Let him enter. He will find a spacious guest- 
chamber, set with tables and wooden benches, simple and 
solid, the red-chequered table-linen, and the geraniums or 

Darkest Germany Tramping 185 

carnations in the window, lending warmth to the severe 
simplicity. Everything is tidy and clean. A few pictures 
on the wall, along with an ordnance map of the district 
showing the roads, and, more important still, lists giving 
the names of local employers in search of hands, complete 
the furniture. This apartment joins another, fitted as a 
reading-room. Here a man may write his letter, may 
rest and read ; here also the house-father gathers any 
who will be gathered to morning and evening prayers. 
The house is open to any respectable artisan, no matter 
of what creed, or no creed ; the house is a Christian 
house, meaning this at once in the narrowest and in 
the broadest sense ; its doors stand wide, but no man 
entering is asked about his religion. He is received ; 
the good influence of the place is ready to do its best by 
him ; not urging this " best " on him, but making him 
feel, " it is good to be here." The truer our Christianity, 
the more widehearted its charity. The house-father is 
an evangelist, but an unobtrusive one, and the house is 
a Christian " public "-house. A man may order his glass 
of beer, but not more than his glass ; spirits are forbidden, 
and getting drunk elsewhere means dismissal. The 
evenings are social : no card-playing, but other amuse- 
ments, and story-telling and laughter ; there is singing, 
and, of course, the inevitable pipe. A German would 
not thank you for any religion precluding that : he will 
smoke himself into paradise or stay out — most of them, 
at least. But, if plenty of merriment, there is order and 
discipline. At 9.30 to 10 p.m. this " family " breaks up, 
and the house-father then invites them to prayers. If 
he has understood how to make the evening pleasant to 

1 86 A Colony of Mercy 

them, gaining their confidence by entering into their 
joys and sorrows, their hopes and anxieties concerning 
earthly things, he will find it the easier to draw them 
after him into the room set apart, there to sing a hymn, 
have a Bible reading, and join in prayer. And if you 
take these men aright, you will find that most of them, 
far from " religious " though they may be, have signs 
of a hunger somewhere about them — that hunger, 
though all unconscious sometimes, which God alone 
can still. And when they go their way, the atmosphere 
of the house goes with them ; they know the difference 
between a Christian Herberge and a public-house, and they 
seek the Herberge again when the next need comes 
round. What though to many it be the difference to 
their purse only and the helpfulness gained, is it 
nothing that about two hundred thousand working 
men pass through these homes yearly ? Who knows 
how many, by their quiet influence, are saved from 
drink — saved too from Socialism,* and helped to lead 
steady lives? It is the first step in the upward growth. 
They may stop there, yet it is a step. 

The Herberge homes, then, primarily are open doors 
for the respectable unemployed, the journeymen artisans 
passing through a town ; but they are open also, where 
there is sufficient accommodation at least, to the young 
men of the place, the working men in employment. 
There is a room set apart for these, a sort of Young 
Men's Christian Association room, with books and all 
that, well warmed and lighted, so that any young 
artisan — joiner, shoemaker, or tailor — his day's work 
* Socialism in Germany, for the most part, is simply anarchical. 

Darkest Germany Tramping 187 

done, may know where to go. It is his public-house 
minus his usual temptations. It is often the want 
of a cheerful home, of a welcome somewhere, which 
drives the young men in our cities into the places 
where their feet cannot stand. In the Herberge no 
religious expectation of any kind is put forward to 
these visitors ; they may come of a Sunday, read their 
book, write their letter home ; there is a kindly word 
from the house-father, and they feel welcome. By 
degrees they are likely to stay for the evening gathering, 
and hear a word that may stick. 

At Bielefeld there is a beautiful Herberge, to which the 
relief station, with its wood-chopping premises, is joined 
— that is to say, they are under one roof and managed 
by the same house-father — the former a child of the 
local home-mission, the latter a provision of the town, 
the house-father being the uniting link. The religious 
influence is dealt out to all alike, the inmates of the 
Herberge and the vagabond strangers otherwise, of 
course, not being treated on a par. It is a large house, 
with splendid accommodation — with large public rooms, 
too, to gather in the working men round about ; and 
they are gathered in ! The very air of the house tells 
of " Social Christianity " combating Socialism. 

All the Herbergen throughout Germany now form an 
association known as the Deutsche Herbergs- Verein, 
which has its headquarters at Bethel. How numerous 
are the threads running together in Pastor von Bodel- 
schwingh's little study ! But it is the fourth of his 
coadjutors, Pastor Morchen, who, as general secretary 
of the Deutsche Herbergs- Verein, has a hold of this 

1 88 A Colony of Mercy 

special thread by which the labour-seeking artisans are 
being led. He is a man wide awake to every improve- 
ment on their behalf, and has the welfare of his 
" itinerant parishioners," as he calls them, warmly at 

This, then, is the triple alliance — the Labour Colony, 
the Relief Station, the Herberge — which is spreading its 
net quietly, but surely, over all Germany. As a united 
effort, it has been in working order a few years only, 
passing from growth to growth, from improvement to 
improvement ; but it has gathered in the vagabonds, 
aiding the orderly among them, and making the dis- 
orderly, if they will tramp, at least tramp decently and 
in order. You hardly ever see the Strom er now ; both 
his unkemptness and his desperation have disappeared 
from the highways. There is method in everything in the 
Fatherland ; and the State has not been slow in recog- 
nising, even in working hand in hand with, these efforts 
of Christian charity. The State has stepped in to say 
more sternly, and justly too : " If a man is now found 
starving and ragged, begging and loafing, it must be 
his own fault, for there is the relief station and there is 
the colony " ; any loafer, therefore, now has to answer 
for himself to policeman or gendarme, and the in- 
veterate vagabond finds himself landed without much 
ado in the house of correction, there to consider his 
ways. The house of correction thus, to retain Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh's fable, is the bunch of hay in which 
the incorrigible flea eventually is drowned. Many of 
the " incorrigibles," of course, turning up their noses at 
the work-providing Fatherland, have simply left the 

Darkest Germany Tramping 189 

country, seeking their begging fortunes under more 
lenient skies. Constantinople and other Eastern haunts 
appear to be the present El Dorado of trampdom. We 
should not wonder, however, if a fair proportion of the 
" inveterates " were walking the streets of London at 
this moment, since Britain, too, is a harbour of refuge, 
asking no questions ! Thus, in plain language, some of 
the " fleas " got rid of by Germany are no doubt feeding 
upon England now. Well, let England follow the 
example — let her start her own colonies in self-defence. 
We have shown how Germany has been rid of the 

Not that there is not much misery left in Germany, 
especially in the great cities. Germany is the home of 
Socialism ; but Socialism, in one direction at least, is 
being taken in hand with a merciful grip. Thus much 
seems proved, that out-of-workdom can be grappled with ; 
and if you set about it aright you will have something 
to show for your effort — enough certainly, greatly to 
encourage you to proceed. And the thing to note is, 
that all this is being done in Germany at a marked 
saving to the public purse, that is, the combined capital 
of the country. In the first place, indiscriminate charity 
is suppressed ; in the second place, and on principles 
of political economy, it is cheaper to address yourself 
systematically to the whole lump of misery called social 
distress than to let each starving beggar go fishing for 
himself in its turbid waters, or to leave him to the 
spasmodic efforts of private benevolence. Now, no one 
would have believed this before Pastor von Bodelschwinp'h 
worked out his figures, and put it all on paper for folk 

190 A Colony of Mercy 

to consider as a simple lesson in arithmetic, showing 
that the rescue of the submerged is not only a duty of 
Christian charity, but also a bit of ciphering productive 
of actual gain. He did not go to the country saying, 
" We must come out handsomely with a hundred thou- 
sand pounds for these starving beggars." No ; he said, 
" I will show you how to save them mercifully and 
kindly, and save our own purses to boot. Charity, of 
course, appeals to our purses, but it will cost us much 
less to do it thus and thus ! " Now, folk are apt to be 
charmed with proposals for the public benefit which go 
upon lines of saving, of political economy that is — doing 
charity wisely and well. 

Another point to note — and this brings us to actual 
results — is this : that not only have the vagabonds 
largely disappeared, but public crime also has diminished, 
some of the reports say by about 30 per cent. ! Even 
the houses of correction, working, so to speak, hand 
in hand with the colonies, are less needed. There 
are about twenty of these about the country. In 1885 
they counted twenty-three thousand inmates; in 1890 
thirteen thousand. This is progress ! this is saving ! and 
in a double sense — men, are saved from despair and con- 
sequent crime, and the public purse is saved, for crime is 
costly. No wonder, then, that Pastor von Bodelschwingh 
is believed in for his lessons in arithmetic. He always 
gets the money he wants, for people know it bears good 
interest. He is the son of a minister of finance, but he 
is something else. He is the simplest and most modest 
of Christians ; and if you talk to him about these things 
and the secret of success, he will say, with a beautiful 

Darkest Germany Tramping 191 

light in his eye, " Love is the great propeller ; we only 
need enough of it, and to set to work humbly." 

Chanty, it will be seen, is thus fast becoming a science 
in Germany, if science means system and method and 
thoroughness. Mere sentiment is a weak prop to phil- 
anthropy : even pitiful action alone is ; but combine 
method with both, and you have a system — you have a 


" Am I my brother's keeper ? " 

DRINK, of course, is the road by which many of the 
unemployed eventually find themselves in the 
labour colony. Either it was drink which in the first 
instance threw them out of work, or, being out of work, 
drink was their miserable solace ; and the habitual 
drunkard, by the nature of him, continues unemployed. 

They come to the colony to be aided, starving as they 
are, all other doors being closed to them save the house 
of correction ; but one cannot really aid them without 
going to the root of their woes. How is it to be done ? 
Walking about the colony for three or four months with 
the blue ribbon fastened to your coat, figuratively — for, 
of course, there is no drink there, save water and your 
cup of coffee twice a day — and though you work while 
there, or are made to work ever so diligently, this is no 
certain cure. What, then, is to be done ? 

Speaking of the colonies as a whole, it is perhaps too 

early for them to face the question to the full extent of 

action ; but Wilhelmsdorf, their pattern from the first, 

has taken the lead in this also. Wilhelmsdorf found it 

had a very special mission to the unemployed drunkard. 


The Spiritually Epileptic 193 

As we have abundantly seen, things are never directly 
planned in that domain of charity. They arise out of 
the necessities of the work. It is only that an ever- 
watchful eye is present seeing the necessity, and an ever- 
ready hand finding a way. But the seeing and the 
finding in this instance also has its own story. 

At Kinderheim y in Bethel, where the sick babes are 
nursed, there is a free bed, the legacy of a poor 
drunkard. Many beds are free at Kinderheim — indeed, 
the fifty are free, if need be ; but this one is set 
apart, and the dying infants passing through it — a 
growing family they — will stand in glory one day, and 
will they not say to that drunkard, " We were forsaken 
orphans ; we were consumptive, rickety, helpless little 
things, the children of drunkards ; but thou didst take 
us in ? 

That drunkard finished his earthly course in his twenty- 
seventh year. He had early fallen among thieves, and been 
a vagabond on the highway. The public-house and low 
lodging-house keepers, and the ill companions gathering 
at those places, did their work by him — the work through 
which so many, who but for their terrible surroundings 
would perhaps not fall so grievously, are ruined body 
and soul, and brought to an early grave. The Good 
Shepherd went seeking that youth. He was picked up 
one night in a quarry into which he had fallen, and with 
fractured ribs and broken limbs was taken to Sarepta. 
He was drunk when he met with his accident, and as he 
lay for three months, nursed by the sisters, he resolved 
to drink no more. But before the year was out another 
infirmary had the nursing of him for a similar reason. 


1 94 ^ Colony of Mercy 

He had again been drinking, and got into a street brawl at 
night ; had again a limb broken. He did think he could 
stand now, for twice he had been punished ; but two 
years later, from a distant prison, a letter came to Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh, written b}' the prison chaplain, 
saying they had a poor convict, fast dying of consump- 
tion, who was anxiously entreating for leave to die at 
Sarepta. It was that youth. Drink had brought him 
the criminal's reward, and now he lay dying. Sarepta, 
of course, had a bed for him. 

Now, what brought him ? He was not a Christian, 
but he knew he was dying. What brought him ? He 
came to find peace at Bethel. A stranger's grave in the 
little cemetery there was given him, and they put these 
words for an inscription : " Christ Jesus came into the 
world to save sinners." Before he died he bequeathed 
his humble patrimony for the purpose above named. 
Often enough in the beech wood behind Sarepta, where 
the invalids breathe the strengthening air, would he have 
seen the little cots carried out by the sisters. He had 
been left fatherless, and he pitied the orphan children of 
drunkards. He was just upon seven-and-twenty, and 
his little patrimony had not been touched, his mother 
having left it to be held in trust for him till he should 
have passed his twenty-eighth birthday, hoping, perhaps, 
that her prodigal by that time might be " coming home." 
And so he' was. And this is how a vagabond, a convict, 
and a dying drunkard made his will. 

His soul was saved, but for this life he paid the 
penalty ; and those who stood by his dying bed learned 
from this that a few months of even the truest guardian- 

The Spiritually Epileptic 


ship will not suffice to wean a drunkard from his 
temptation without fear of relapse. Such a one requires 
to be nursed body and soul, and time only, combined 
with wisest care, can hope to effect a cure. For that 
young man was not the only slave of intemperance who 
has found his grave in the little sleeping-ground where 
epileptics rest from their affliction, the labour colony 


always numbering some dying ones, dying from drink, 
among her outcast flock ; and, one by one, such were 
coming to the sick wards of Sarepta. Nor was this 
all ; for many a one, though coming to die, like that 
first one of the number, yet came to find life. The 
sadness was rather for those who also might be said to be 
dying ones, who stayed awhile at the colony, and had 
to be dismissed because they would not submit to the 

196 A Colony of Mercy 

wholesome restraints put upon them there. Drink is 
forbidden, but a man, if he so wills, cannot be kept from 
attempts to procure it ; and dismissal is the only punish- 
ment for breaking the rules of the place. Such, of 
course, only leave to sink the deeper. They might be 
good labourers, they might have done well at the colony 
in this respect, even finding employment on leaving ; 
but they are like him whose chamber was swept and 
garnished for a time, and whose last state is worse than 
the first. And even with those who stand well at the 
colony the danger of relapse is very great when the 
temptations of the unguarded life once more beset them. 
Nevertheless, it is not wholly right to say : It is their 
own fault ; we have tried to help them, we have done our 
best ; the colony took them in, but they are irreclaim- 
able. Truly they are sinning, but society also — -you and 
you — has sinned against them. You met the poor un- 
employed in rags and tatters, you pitied his starving 
face, you listened to his tales of woe, you gave him 
your coppers and walked away. You either should 
have done more for him or less, says the " Greatest 
Thing " ! The coppers alone may be his ruin. It is 
largely through your ill-considered charity that man has 
become what he is ! And with the tenth part of the 
money given in the streets of our great cities shelters 
and work-stations could be erected all over the country 
to take in the unemployed before they sink, making 
them work fo their keep till regular employment is 
found. Prevention is not only better, it is also easier, 
than cure ! And the cure need hardly ever be required 
if we al knew and did our duty towards preventing. 

The Spirihially Epileptic 197 

Ask yourself, honest reader, are you quite sure you could 
withstand the temptation on a raw November day, in the 
streets — no work, no home, but pennies to be had for 
the asking? Then for God's and your poor brother's 
sake do not give your pennies any longer, but go and do 
some preventing, if only by joining pennies together in 
the right direction ; they will make a stronger hand 
than yours for the upholding of your brother. 

There is another class — the crippled or half-crippled 
beggars : surely we may 'pity them ! They cannot 
do much work. They beg, they drink, they perish. 
Even the labour colony is not for such ; for they would 
need to be there more permanently, and thus would 
keep out others. Yet, is it right to let them perish ? 
They are drunkards, they are unemployed : what is 
to be done with them ? 

It is for these among her flock — for the drunkards, 
hale or crippled — that Wilhelmsdorf went further afield, 
founding another little colony at a little distance, and 
naming it Friedrichs-Hiitte. It is a labour colony 
also, for labour here also is the medicine prescribed ; 
but it is for inebriates solely. Those who are admitted 
are supposed to stay at least one year — two or three 
if thought advisable ; indeed, they pledge themselves 
on entering this refuge not to leave it again of their 
own choice. It is expected that their friends, or the 
parish, should pay a yearly sum for their maintenance 
over and above their own wages, which, after the manner 
of Wilhelmsdorf, are never handed over to them in cash. 
They receive wages on the condition only, that such are 
forfeited if a man breaks his abstinence pledge. 

igS A Colony of Mercy 

But whence the name Friedrichs-Hiitte — " Frederick's 
Cot " ? We have seen that the late Emperor, then 
Crown Prince of the Empire, was Protector of Wil- 
helmsdorf. On the occasion of his silver wedding 
in 1883 a collection of silver pieces — crowns and half- 
crowns and other coin, the gift of the country, had 
resulted in a handsome present in cash to their Im- 
perial Highnesses ; and they made the noblest use of 
it, furthering the scheme then started for rescuing the 
unemployed. This Home for Inebriates was opened 
in 1888, just after the royal sufferer had laid down 
his earthly crown. It will be remembered from an 
earlier chapter that in their youth he and Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh had been playfellows ; what more 
natural than that the Prince in after years followed with 
warmest sympathy the pastor's endeavours, and what 
more natural than that the pastor in his latest effort 
should commemorate the Prince's name ? Friedrich 
in German means rich in peace ; and at Friedrichs-Hiitte 
the poor drunkards, perhaps for the first time in their 
lives, may gain a perception of peace — " liberty to the 
captive, the opening of the prison to them that are 

It is such a peaceful spot, a farmhouse to which 
another building has been added, shaded by sparsely 
planted trees, through which you have a beautiful 
view over the spreading fields of the Senne to the 
blue hills beyond. It was a lovely summer evening 
when we stood there, the golden sunbeams slanting in 
and steeping the place in a flood of amber. The 
" patients " had returned from work, and were saunter- 

The Spiritually Epileptic 199 

ing about or sitting in groups here and there ; some 
were foddering the cattle. They are doing real hard 
work during the day, field labour mostly ; we had 
watched them making trenches and digging up the 
subsoil. There is a garden, too, well kept by them. 
Some few are occupied indoors — the endeavour ever 
being to employ a man according to his fitness. For 
instance, there was one who had been a cigar manu- 
facturer, a spare little man, whose limbs ached all over 
on the fields. He implored those in authority to let him 
go back to his own trade. Well, and he did go back : 
these patients are permitted smoking, and they may 
as well smoke home produce. Friedrichs-Hiitte has 
some thirty to forty inmates, and a Wilhelms-HUtte, a 
second refuge, is already springing up, a couple of 
miles distant. If an " Own Home " colony, such as 
the one spoken of on a former page, is the extension 
of the whole scheme at the upper end, colonies like 
Friedrich's and Wilhelm's-Hutte are the much-needed 
provision at the lower ; in the former, men really " worth 
saving " can be stablished in the worthier life they are 
trying for, in the latter, those who have sunk too low for 
strength of will of their own, can at least be controlled 
and kept from their great temptation, if so be that the 
educating hand in the end, after all, may set them free. 

Many of these patients are of respectable antecedents 
— a son of a clergyman, a son of an officer high in the 
army, a man of good family who had been a wine- 
grower in Portugal, another whose father is Pasha 
Somebody in the Sultan's service, are among the 
number. All these have arrived in the labour colony 

200 A Colony of Mercy 

"submerged" through drink. Sometimes also a good- 
for-nothing youngster is sent there by parents in despair 
of managing him. There was such a youthful prodigal 
newly arrived, and turning up his nose superbly at 
the idea of work. He looked sadly helpless, poor 
boy, in rather a fine, if dilapidated suit of clothes, 
having but just come to the place ; a pickaxe was 
lying on one side, a copy of Moliere on the other side 
of him, as he stood in one of the trenches, — " As if / 
could do such work," he said. " You will soon do it," 
the Pasha's offspring said consolingly — " it's the one 
thing here " ; and he certainly set him a good example. 
There is a house-father of thorough peasant stock, who 
looks after all their needs — their spiritual needs too — 
and the pastor (the Senne has its own chaplain set 
over this flock by Bodelschwingh) is in personal touch 
with each of them. After a year or more, a trial is 
given these patients at Bethel itself — and how Bethel 
employs these rescued sheep the next chapter will tell. 

The Crown Prince one day inspected this sandy 
waste fast turning into a garden — salvation colonies 
truly, and bearing the royal names. At 5.30 one 
summer morning he arrived at Bielefeld, coming straight 
from Potsdam, and drove out to the Senne. At a 
village halfway two thousand school-children, gathered 
from all the neighbourhood, stood awaiting His Im- 
perial Highness. He graciously reviewed the youthful 
parade, and listened to their singing. For weeks these 
children had prepared for the Crown Prince, and as his 
eagle eye scanned the bright-faced rows, he spied a 
little girl, poorly clad, and with a nosegay of wild- 

The Spiritually Epileptic 201 

flowers. The little maiden kept in the background, 
for she was barefoot ; but he went up to her with 
his most winning smile : " I know, those pretty flowers 
have been gathered for me," he said ; he took them at 
the hands of the blushing child, stroking her upturned 
face, and she, the poorest of them all — she who was 
last, was first. 

As you go about the Senne — a walk around, in 
truth, is quite a transformation scene — passing through 
a growing plantation, the work of Wilhelmsdorf, you 
suddenly come upon what appears a castle in the wood. 
You have entered a little oak forest of fine old trees ; 
it is the one spot in the neighbourhood where there is a 
break in that ferruginous stratum, an oasis of good soil, 
of fertile growth therefore in the sandy waste. So 
oak-trees grew and spread their branches. They spread 
them all around a little glade, and here your castle 
rises — a sylvan retreat of perfect charm ; you fall in 
love with it at first sight. It is the Eichhof—Ozk 

If you look about, you soon discover this too was 
originally a farmhouse, one of the regular Westphalian 
peasant glories, for the very entrance hall is but the 
former threshing-floor swept and garnished. The hand 
which transformed this place into what it now is, was 
gifted with the touch of art ; the rooms — drawing- 
room, dining-room, the little bedrooms, each with a 
look-out into the deep green — having an old-world 
style about them which is perfectly enchanting : quaint 
furniture, high wainscoting, windows lozenge-paned and 

202 A Colony of Mercy ' 

set deep in the mullions ; you fancy yourself in some 
mediaeval forest haunt ; you picture some high-born 
dame ruling her thrifty maidens and providing the 
home comforts for the absent men. You cannot help 
weaving garlands about this homestead swept by the 
broad breath of nature ; you would fain build taber- 
nacles here, stay here for ever, and let the world roll 
on without you. Goodness and purity seem to have 
stood sponsors to this Oak Court. 

Yet what is it we have come out to see ? It calls 
itself, with innocent euphemism, " Pension for gentlemen 
in search of temporary quiet." It is a refuge for prodigals 
of high degree. You stop a couple of days at the 
Eichhofy and as you join the family circle — at meals, for 
instance — you feel sure they are perfect gentlemen ; so 
they are, of outward graces, in breeding and in manners, 
and not, it seems, unhappy in their voluntary or involun- 
tary retreat. They, too, have come the road of trans- 
gressors — at least the road of selfish enjoyment,- where a 
man's will is his paradise, doing as he pleases, working 
his own ruin and that of others. Not all were drunkards — 
a proportion of them were — there is other intemperance ; 
there is gambling, there are the fashionable vices which 
the world condones.. Happy they for whom such a place 
is waiting to take them in when they have come to the 

The pensionnaires, so far from being of the submerged, 
are of the upper ten — counts and barons and all that 
— who when nothing was left but to cut their own 
throats, were glad to seize the hand good Pastor von 
Bodelschwingh was holding out to them. They have 

The Spiritually Epileptic 203 

mostly been in the army till even the army could no 
longer keep them. They are of all ages between five- 
and-twenty and forty or so. They are pensionnaires — that 
is, they are kept in every way like gentlemen ; they, or 
their friends for them, pay their £%o or £100 a year, but 
they must work. There is a large kitchen garden, and 
these high-born gardeners do then regular eight hours 
a day. There is a tale that they once complained to the 
Pastor, — they pay well, why should they work as well. 
Said he, " You pay not for your keep only, you pay for 
the luxury of work provided for you : you never knew 
that luxury before, and it is so good for you ! " And 
they own it is good, the health of the place enveloping 

The wonder is not so much that they come, but that 
they stay. There must be invisible cords, and strong ones, 
which hold them ! We happened to witness the first 
meeting between Pastor von Bodelschwingh and the latest 
comer — a young Freiherr of about eight-and-twenty, a 
handsome good-natured sort of fellow, with not the 
faintest look of debauchery about him ; he had run 
through his fortune, and here he was. He had come 
into Bethel on the Jubilee day with two or three others. 
Said the pastor to him, " And who are you, mein Lieberl " 
The baron's name was given in due form and with a bow. 
But the pastor drew him close, putting his arm about 
him, and repeating his " mein Lieber " as only Bodel- 
schwingh can. " Let love be among you," he said, " and 
peace abide." He had laid the young man's cheek 
against his own, who blushed violently. English folk 
despise men kissing, deeming it unmanly ; but this was 

204 A Colony of Mercy 

the kiss we read of in Luke xv. 20. And if there were any 
salvation for that young man, it was coming to him even 
with a father's kiss — it was strong Love putting out her 
hand saying, " I am thy keeper." A few days after, this 
same young baron was watching his first attempts in the 
Eichhof garden — he had sown a row of lobelias, and was 
very anxious they should be no discredit to him. There 
was promise here : if you are faithful over your lobelias, 
there is hope you will be faithful presently over greater 
things. A man need not be hopelessly bad for being at 
the Eichhof: it is a young man's upbringing often, the 
want of a firm hand in time, which lets him slip and fall. 
The Eichhof, then, is a blessed place for such. 

The rules of the house are strict. No one, having given 
himself in charge there, may leave the precincts of this 
oasis without permission, and if he gets leave to go to 
town (Bielefeld — some seven miles distant), he is under 
pledge not to enter any place of refreshment save the 
" hospice " at Bethel. They do not seem to suffer from 
dulness at the Eichhof : their eight hours done, they have 
their smoking-room to enjoy a cigarette after meals, or 
a game of chess, or other amusement. They do not 
exactly work the flesh off their bones, yet a fair amount 
of labour is got through. Meadows have been put under 
irrigation, and the natural oak wood has been turned 
into a park by these high-born workmen ; they have 
made paths intersecting the wood ; they have put up a 
pleasant " Rest and be thankful " here, a rustic arbour 
there ; they have made ponds and stocked them with 
gold-fish. And as you wander through that lovely 
greenery you once more are enchanted with the charms 

The Spiritually Epileptic 205 

of the place ; it is a fairy haunt ; you almost look for the 
Sleeping Beauty, for a Prince to wake her — the sleeping 
soul of these men. And there is an awaking in some 
cases, a breaking through the thorny hedge, an opening 
of the prison to them that are bound. Fruit is ever 
slow in growth, but fruit there is in some cases at least. 
And if most of these men go back to the world and 
youk now not for what good they have been with you, 
yet surely a blessing goes with them — a memory, a 
haunting sense of a goodness they have seen. Who 
shall say it is in vain ? They take away a seed with 
them, and who shall say it will not grow after many days ? 
Will the reader stop and consider the wonderful good- 
ness which planned this home? Homes of charity for 
the poor we are used to, but here is a home — a charity 
in truest sense — for the nobly born " poor," poor because 
they have not the riches of grace to stand before the 
temptations of the world. And how beautifully it is 
done, just meeting their need, their weakness ! There is 
nothing of the charity institution about it. But wisdom 
knows these men arrive at a point when they look about 
them despairingly, like a drowning man for a plank. This 
is the moment to say to them, " Come here — rest here — be 
here a while at peace ! " They are physically down, meet 
them on that level ; take them, Rousseau-fashion, back to 
Nature, to the kitchen garden, to the oak wood ; and then, 
Christ-fashion, draw them close as Bodelschwingh did ; 
for even your man of the world, your prodigal of 
manner thrice-guarded, has a hole in the armour for 
simple love to creep in. It is by love only, love taking 
us at our level, that any of us ever are saved. 

206 A Colony of Mercy 

The Eichhof is an ideal, a " working model " in itself. 
There are hundreds of young men like that Freiherr, 
fashionable, good-natured, not just very wicked, but no- 
wise " good," scions of noble families, with no particular 
object in life — hundreds of them everywhere. Who is 
holding out a hand to such in this country ? Who says 
to those who are fast slipping down the incline, You are 
aweary, come and rest here ? Who provides a resting- 
place for such in pleasant England, with her secluded 
parks, her highland wilds — a place so original in its 
planning, that men would come for the very novelty of 
the thing, come to taste the luxury of work so ingeni- 
ously rendered inviting, with companions of their kind? 
a place of which they would say, despite themselves, It is 
good for us to be here, and thus stay ? For at the Eichhof 
a man is quite free to come and go — this is the marvel. 

Perhaps there is something in this feeling of being 
among their kind — their " kind " not only in the " upper- 
ten " sense. They have all known the husks. But 
the chaplain resident in the house gives his testimony, 
that good breeding comes out strongly ; a man's previous 
history though known, in part at least, to those who 
admit him to that refuge, is never subject of talk among 
themselves ; they readily fall in with the tone of the 
house, which is that of cultured company. A man is 
apt to feel as he is treated, and the wisdom of rescuing 
love shows most in little things. These men are treated 
as gentlemen. Nor are accomplishments forgotten ; if a 
man has a leaning towards literature he may follow his 
bent — there are books, there is music ; so dulness is not a 
feature of the place. 

The Spiritually Epileptic 207 

The resident chaplain is pastor of all the Senne flock ; 
before God, and in that humble place of worship, there 
is no difference. There " all have sinned and come 
short." There is a little chapel newly built for the out- 
of-work, for the prodigals of high and low degree, for 
the convalescent epileptics of Rehoboth, also, to meet 
together on a Sunday. There is one point for the eye 
to rest on in this chapel, a picture — " The Prodigal's 
Return " — at least a Prodigal's return — for the picture 
represents Christ Himself receiving the returning one, 
and the thought embodied in that picture is rest, is 
peace. It is an illustration of — 

" Lay down, thou weary one, lay down 
Thy head upon My breast." 

The original is the work of an artist of no mean skill 
for putting truth upon canvas ; the copy in the chapel 
has been made by a lady, who, herself tasting a season 
of unrest, thought there could be no better use for 
it than to give it a place in that chapel, through which 
hundreds of prodigals ever are passing, some of them 
returning, some of them on their way home. 

There is a collection of autobiographical sketches 
written by men who have gone through Wilhelmsdorf — 
men who came there lost and undone, and who, through 
the labour colony, found the upward way ; it was 
especially during the earlier years of the colony that 
Pastor von Bodelschwingh encouraged the inmates, those 
who could, to write down their life-history, showing 
the road by which they had come. Some of these 
accounts are simply heart-rending, all are touching, 
leaving a feeling with the reader, " Who art thou, that 

208 A Colony of Mercy 

God has kept thee from this ? Who art thou, to throw 
a stone at thy brothers ? " These manuscripts, of course, 
are not for the public eye. No two of them are alike — 
they are such different ways by which these men had 
sunk to the level of the unemployed, the vagabond, 
the starving outcast. But one keynote runs through 
them all — now more veiled, now frankly confessing — 
this is the one cry, " I have sinned ! " If a few 
only could add, " I will arise and go to my Father," 
yet the depth through which they had passed had 
brought them to say, " I have sinned ! " and if truly so, 
this depth already is a rising. It is so easy to look at 
an unfortunate man with the Pharisee's " Thank God, I 
am not like him ! " We may not be like these Senne 
folk, never doing a thing men can blame us for ; yet 
some of these outcasts of society, prodigals though they 
were, may one day be first when some of us are 
last. There is nothing more soul-destroying than mere 
respectability. It will be true of Wilhelmsdorf, as it must 
be true of any collection of men, that many are called 
and few chosen. Maybe that but few who pass through 
its blessings of seclusion, its saving influences, will really 
be saved — saved with their soul's salvation in the end. 
But of some it may be said — it can be seen in these 
biographies, and House-father Meyer bears witness, 
having their grateful letters — that they take with them 
one of the greatest blessings to be won in the valley 
of humiliation, the meek and chastened spirit, the 
Prodigal's crown. 

A drive through the Senne on a summer evening 
leaves with you one feeling only — beauty for ashes! 

The Spiritually Epileptic 209 

How wretched were their lives : they had sinned, they 
had strayed, they were unsuccessful, and ashes only 
were left. Nothing left to make life worth having, not 
even work. They came here. The Senne itself is 
rising out of nature's ashes, being fast clothed in the 
fair garments of beauty honestly won. The hand of 
industry guided by brotherly love has done it. The 
ripening fields, the verdant meadows, the hills and the 
brooks, the plantations and the heather of the yet un- 
claimed wastes, the little church rising in the midst — 
what a picture of peace ! And as the sun goes down, 
and the purple shadows creep over the hills, you know, 
for you have seen it that day, that the gospel of Christ 
is not for them that never knew hunger ; it is for the 
suffering, the sinning, for them that are bound, opening 
their prison and proclaiming to them the acceptable year 
of the Lord. A man must have known something of 
ashes to be ready for Christ's beauty, and the true oil 
of joy is for the mourners first of all. Do we not know 
that Christ never had many messages for the rich, the 
well-behaved orderly folk of society ; but that His tender- 
ness was for the poor, the sinning, the outcast — the 
" submerged," in fact, of those days ! Why is this ? Is it 
because each of us is a brother's, a sister's keeper, but 
we keep them not ? we know their temptations, yet we 
do not even outwardly " keep " them — helping them to 
purer surroundings ; we have our two coats, our 
abundance of the easier life, and we say we are thankful 
we have ! Is it because we have so very little to spare 
for these brothers, not even the steadying hand — that 
therefore Christ, the merciful, has to make up to these 


210 A Colony of Mercy 

poor ones for our coldness ? and He does ! Jesus of 
Nazareth, first of all, is the friend of the poor ! Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh says there is not more distress in the 
world than is good for us— for us who are not distressed 
— that there is only just enough to keep love going. 
For every hungry one there is another who has enough 
and to spare, for every one in tatters there is one with 
two coats — is not Christ's meaning obvious ? Thus even 
squalid poverty becomes transfigured : it is Christ's 
training ground not only for the poor, but for the not- 
poor to learn a great lesson ! Am I my brother's 
keeper ? 

What if there were not more distress in England, 
not more drunkenness born of ill-housed poverty, not 
more unemployed, ill-fed misery, than is good to bring 
wealthy England to Christ ? Why should there not be 
a Senne in this country also ? 


" And every one in distress, and every one in debt, and every one 
discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain 
over them." 

THIS is literally true! Pastor von Bodelschwingh 
has a way of his own of proclaiming liberty to 
the captives, of opening the prison of them that are 
bound. He trusts a man ; even if a man has been 
to prison, he finds ways and means of trusting him 
yet. He saves him by trusting him! And it pays ! 

One of the wonderful things about Bethel is the art 
it has developed of " making room." It is a favourite 
expression there " Enlarge the tent ! " and with singular 
ease they pull out the pegs of even the fully-stretched 
tent, enlarging it yet again. It is so elastic, this tent of 
theirs — so adaptable, too ! It has gathered the poor 
and the maimed and the blind, and yet there is 

Has a man lost his footing in the world, from what- 
ever cause ? is he in trouble ? is he in despair of any kind 
— honest despair that would be helped? let him go to 
Bethel. A hand is sure to be wanted about the offices 
that very day : most fortunate you have come ; these 

212 A Colony of Mercy 

books want revising ; that clerk is overburdened ; some 
important copying work has got to be done ; just stay 
and help us ! And the man stays ; and he feels wanted 
— one of the finest moral pulleys in this world of sink- 
ing folk. He picks up courage directly, he picks up 
self-respect, he looks an inch taller before the week is 
out. A noble pride has risen to repay such trust. 
The observant eye marvels at this unwritten page of 
Bethel's history. Even here we must not do more than 
just touch upon it. One is at a loss what more to admire, 
the trust given or the trust repaid. For it answers — in 
a wonderful way it answers ; it stands proved and tried. 

A great staff of subalterns, of course, is required about 
such a colony — men outside the actual circle of labour 
of love, men who work for a living : clerks, book- 
keepers, cashiers, secretaries, copyists — nearly all these 
at Bethel are shipwrecked mariners ; and Bethel not 
only is the lifeboat to carry them ashore, it also is 
the terra firma on which they eventually may stand. 
Or, more properly speaking, in many an instance Bethel 
is lifeboat and nothing more — taking a man in for a 
time and piloting him back to the world whence he 
has slipped ; but in many another instance the ship- 
wrecked stranger remains and develops into a useful 
worker. He was helped — he stays to help. 

This has come about quite naturally, as things are 
apt to come about at Bethel. Among the " submerged " 
passing through Wilhelmsdorf, among the victims of 
intemperance finding refuge at Friedrichs-Htitte, there 
are many concerning whom true charity says, " Give 
that man another chance." They are of the educated 

The Cave of Adullam 2 1 


classes. They have had a fall. Their friends have 
disowned them ; or, if friends would condone, they 
cannot easily find the employment they are fit for. 
They stand discredited. Yet the man may be worth 
saving, worth trusting. We might have fallen, in his 
environment. We are our brother's keeper, says Bodel- 
schwingh ; we must put out the hand of love to steady 
him, and he may stand. 

There is a curious house at Bethel, called " Ephratah." 
You may spend weeks about the place and take no 
notice whatever of this house ; it is not talked about. 
If you do take note of it, you are told a retired mis- 
sionary required a post of usefulness, and he found it 
in that house, there being an ever increasing number 
of clerks and others employed at Bethel, and it is 
kind to gather them into a family. This missionary 
is their house-father. He is answerable for some five- 
and-twenty of these mariners. They do not now look 
shipwrecked, but they still need piloting, and they 
know they do. 

A typical case : The son of respectable parents was 
articled as a clerk, and got an appointment in Berlin. 
He had a good salary ; but, after the ways of young 
men in the great capital, the day's earnings barely 
sufficed for the evening's dissipation. He got into 
difficulties. A friend advising him " change of air," to 
go and see something of the world, he came to London ; 
but his Berlin experiences had ill fitted him for the 
greater struggle in the English metropolis. He fell a 
prey, all too easily, to companions worse than himself ; 
and, waking one morning to the fact that he was 

214 A Colony of Mercy 

hopelessly ruined, he procured a revolver, and that 
night in Hyde Park attempted his life. He was 
picked up insensible by a fellow-countryman, who took 
him to a hospital, and who, when the hospital dis- 
charged him, paid for his ticket back to the Fatherland. 
He arrived on German soil, but only to begin the 
vagabond's life ; for who now would employ him — trust 
him ? Tramping the country hopeless and penniless, 
yet with a spark of promise somewhere in his soul, he 
one day heard of the labour colony, Wilhelmsdorf, 
and " I will arise " quivered through him, fanning that 
spark to a flame. He arose and went. 

But men at the labour colony are not all treated 
alike. The helpful hand held out there to each and 
all alike is ruled by singular judgment ; it discrimin- 
ates ; it watches a man ; it says, " This man, though 
he has fallen among thieves, is yet not altogether a 
thief, and it singles him out for different treatment. 
That man is now at Ephratah, has been there for 
eighteen months. He is in one of the offices, a useful 
hand in the bookkeeping department, filling his post 
faithfully and endeavouring to work his way back to 
the level whence he has fallen. When he shall have 
served his two years, Bethel will stand surety for him 
to any situation he may apply for ; the past will be 
forgotten, and he may once more begin his way in 
life with an experience which perhaps with all its 
humiliating recollections is none too dearly bought. 
Is he a " Christian " ? He at any rate has learned two 
things — to distrust himself, and to be faithful. For the 
present he is never missed from his place in Zion Church. 

The Cave of Adullam 215 

Church- going is not exactly compulsory for these 
gathered-in sheep ; they know, however, that it is 
expected of them. But some have been through all the 
teachings of Socialism, and their ideas about religion are 
much awry. Some years ago a little band of them would 
absent themselves. They were not driven, but they were 
watched; possibly they were all the more earnestly prayed 
for. One Saturday evening, in the gloaming, one of 
them, as spokesman for the rest, appeared in the pastor's 
study — it was one of Bodelschwingh's coadjutors — as he 
was preparing his sermon, and with much confusion 
confessed his utter inability to believe this and that the 
Church would have him believe, and " his companions 
were of one mind with him." They did not wish to be 
humbugs — they did not " feel good." But they were 
willing to come to the pastor of an evening once or 
twice a week. Would he try to explain things to them ? 
Only they would rather not let it bs known. The pastor 
willingly agreed to this Nicodemus request, and the 
secret disciples, who could not believe, and who would 
not be " humbugs," but who did ask to be taught, had a 
little service all to themselves, as they had begged for. 
The results are with Him who weighs men in His balance, 
and who judges them with a judgment all His own. 

Most of these men are a credit to the trust placed 
in them. Some continue black sheep — black in heart, 
though outwardly submitting to restraint ; but for most 
it can be said that Wilhelmsdorf, and after that Ephratah, 
has been the turning-point. 

For all the restraint put upon them — they may not 
leave the precincts of the colony without the house- 

2 1 6 A Colony of Mercy 

father's permission, and they have signed an agreement 
that if they visit any public-house or other place of 
low company they forfeit every right to return to their 
haven of refuge — for all their past history, which is more 
or less minutely known, they are not treated as men 
lost to honour. On the contrary, they are put on their 
honour, and it generally answers. They are among the 
officials of the place. They are paid for their work at 
the rate of sixpence to ninepence a day, besides their 
full keep. This money is not given them — at least, not at 
first. The house-father keeps it for them, and by degrees 
only, beginning with small sums, they are entrusted with 
money. They know they are under treatment for the 
breaking of fetters which bound them, under treatment 
to give them strength for weakness ; and, like a sick man, 
they submit to a physician wiser than themselves. Two 
years is considered a full course of treatment, and after 
that they are helped back into situations corresponding 
to their capacities. On the whole, they are a credit to 
the treatment undergone ; and their grateful letters show 
they have learned a lesson. 

Ephratah is the first stage. Some get beyond its 
leading-strings, taking up their life for good at the place 
which has saved them. These are on the regular staff of 
officials. Indeed, there is hardly a man employed in the 
offices who has not come to Bethel with a more or less 
troubled history ; yet not every shipwrecked man has 
been wrecked criminally. 

The great Rothschild, it is said, once was asked con- 
cerning the secret of his success. " I never employ a 
man who has been unfortunate." Well, it depends upon 

The Cave of Adullam 217 

what is meant by success ; but Pastor von Bodelschwingh, 
though by preference he employs " unfortunates," does so 
with singular success. He has surrounded himself with 
a staff of workers who have all come to him out of 
troubled waters, and who are now "his friends." He 
always addresses them as " Lieber Freund" his spiritual 
co-workers, of course, being " Lieber Bruder." It is some- 
thing to be called friend by such a man, and these men 
have earned it. 

It is with reluctance one singles out a few of the most 
remarkable cases : one feels it a breach of confidence 
almost, a treading on sacred ground ; yet this is written 
for English readers, as a working model, as a bright 
example ; and if a German eye, even if the eye of those 
concerned, should meet this, they will know it is to the 
glory of true charity, it is to the honour of the Pastor 
who has been the good Samaritan — yea, a friend to them, 
it is to their own honour and encouragement these lines 
are written. 

Pace any man of Rothschild's way of thinking, will 
the English reader deem it very strange that two of the 
staff, in places of exceptional responsibility, who have 
thousands passing through their hands, are men who 
once barely escaped the arm of the law for dishonourable 
bankruptcy? They have been for a number of years 
in their present position of trust, and fill it honourably. 
They have had a house of their own given them. 
Bodelschwingh has a great idea of people having houses 
of their own, he is always making homes and building 
houses. One of the confidential clerks actually is an 
ex-convict. He had appropriated trust money, not with 

2 1 8 A Colony of Mercy 

evil intent, but meaning to replace it. He served his 
term. He then came to Bodelschwingh, was put on trial, 
and found worthy of trust. He has been for some 
years now at Bethel, and is doing well. 

There is quite a number of such men who have come 
to Bethel, utterly discredited by their darkened past, who 
have been tried and trusted, and who have stood the 
test. These things are barely known at the colony ; 
they are known only to those who needs must know, and 
are not talked about. There is a beautiful freemasonry 
of trust and of humility, which says, " We all have 
sinned, and come short of the glory." You go about 
Bethel trying, perhaps, to read the inner history ; you 
may want to know as much as possible about things 
there, desirous perchance of telling the story, as a 
working model, as a bright and shining example. You 
talk to one of the staff- workers ; he has given you much 
valuable information ; you find him especially interested 
in the labour colony and kindred institutions for saving 
the submerged — in fact, he is doing much useful work on 
their behalf; you express your admiration to him of 
much you have seen and heard, and you actually tell 
him something like this : That one of the loveliest things 
about this colony of mercy is this rescue work among 
its very officials, this putting of ex-convicts even into 
positions of trust. Like a thoughtless innocent, you have 
rushed in where angels would fear to tread. You arc 
aware of it suddenly, noticing a slight blush overspread- 
ing the man's features. He is a man of middle age and of 
most sober appearance ; but here he is blushing, and you 
feel your own cheeks mantling at the sudden revelation. 

The Cave of Adullam 219 

Well, he too is an " unfortunate " ; a faithful worker now 
for the very men who might all end their days in prison 
but for the helping hands stretched out to them. All 
honour to that man ! 

Pastor von Bodelschwingh's own private secretary, 
his right hand, and trusted with all his correspondence, 
with much private knowledge too, is a young man saved 
from " prison " also ; not in this instance the prison of 
stone and mortar, but a worse prison, an unprincipled 
relation of his, a doctor, having taught him the abuse of 
morphia. He was a slave to it, his prospects in life were 
ruined when he landed at Wilhelmsdorf ; but his fetters 
have been broken. He is one of the most capable and 
faithful men now about Bethel. He won the affections of 
a Bielefeld girl last winter, and Bodelschwingh himself 
went surety for him to the girl's parents. 

Is this prudent of the Pastor ? Let the question be 
answered by an example to hand. They tell you at 
Wilhelmsdorf how one of their flock, who had done well 
at the labour colony, found his way back to the world 
of blameless living. He was a gentleman, and a man 
need not be a reprobate for having been to Wilhelmsdorf. 
He was fortunate in getting a good situation, and for a 
while nothing but good was heard of him. He was 
making friends, and presently he too was engaged to a 
young lady — her people knowing nothing of his unfor- 
tunate antecedents. One day, out walking with the girl 
and her parents, an ordinary workman accosted him with 
an offhand, " How d'ye do, Charley ?— got back to the top 
I see ! " A natural inquiry followed. How did he come 
to be chum with a mere working man ? "I knew him 

220 A Colony of Mercy 

at Wilhelmsdorf," was the simple confession. That was 
enough for these respectable people : the match was broken 
off — little blame to them perhaps, and yet ! The poor 
fellow in utter despair left the neighbourhood which now 
looked askance at him, and a despairing man is not likely 
to be fortunate ; he took to drink, and the second stage 
of that man was worse than the first ; yet this second 
stage need never have been ! It is the difference between 
Rothschild's wisdom and Bodelschwingh's charity : the 
former may drive a man back to the mire, the latter may 
be his staff to uphold him. It is by being believed in 
that a man often is saved ! 

Several of these rescued ones thus are settled at 
Bethel, having their own fireside. It is beautiful, this 
setting up of houses, clusters of home-life about the 
colony. Says one : " But this is an expensive way of 
doing it ! Secretaries can be had by the score at 
secretaries' pay, and here you pay a man and give him 
a house besides, with something very like a tacit promise 
even, to have a care for his family." Well, there are 
two ways of looking at this, and Bodelschwingh may 
be quite sure that his way is winning him helpers 
who will go through fire and water for him. This is 
worth paying for : there is something in faithful service 
coming from the heart of gratitude. But Bodelschwingh 
never considers money when he has men to consider. 
" I care not one jot what it costs," you may hear him say ; 
" I care about the human beings in question." 

Is not this a Christlike way of doing things ? Christ's 
companion who went with him into Paradise had been a 
thief! Some of Bodelschwingh's "companions" in his 

The Cave of Adullam 2 2 1 

great work of mercy, his staff of helpers, and now his 
" friends," have, some of them, been thieves, some of 
them convicts, all of them men who were " unfortunate," 
men whom the successful Rothschild would not have 
employed. It might not answer with a great banker ; 
it does answer at Bethel, it answers admirably, even 
as a matter of worldly wisdom ! For although Bodel- 
schwingh might sometimes get a secretary, a cashier, 
" cheaper " than he does, he yet gets much extra work 
done by means of this general rescue agency. It is 
charity repaid. 

There are other " unfortunates " gathering about this 
captain. The first evening we spent with Pastor 
Sturmer we found him reading a letter just received. It 
was from a prison chaplain, telling a strange story of a 
girl in trouble. A fortnight later that girl quietly arrived 
at Bethel, and was placed as " help " in one of the houses, 
no one asking where she had come from, no one being 
told. It is one of the silent streams of healing flowing 
at Bethel that such girls are taken in. No one knows 
what has become of them, save a friend or two ; they 
have disappeared from their former surroundings, and 
Bethel is their home for a while. " You would scarcely 
think it," said Pastor Sturmer, " but we have girls here at 
times, quiet and helpful, coming to us from the strangest 
antecedents. Where should they go ? " Such are not 
always best placed in a penitentiary, for the stain of that 
would cling to them. Bethel is not a penitentiary, yet 
it is a haven of refuge, a bridge to many, leading to a 
better, purer future, One may well ask what form of 
human trouble is not taken in at Bethel ? But then the 

222 A Colony of Mercy 

great text of Bethel is, " to comfort all that mourn " — all ! 
Is a man, is a woman in trouble ? have they appealed to 
us? that suffices — we can but try and comfort them. 
Yes, it is Christlike. 

Even minor troubles find a hearing there. At the 
epileptic carpenters', below the general workshop in the 
engine room, there is a noisy steam-saw, — surely an epi- 
leptic patient is not entrusted with it ? " Oh no, and you 
see it is so noisy, quite a trial to ordinary mortals ; but 
we have picked up a deaf-and-dumb artisan, he manages 
this part of the engine room."* Several deaf-and-dumb 
in fact, are employed about Bethel. Of two men applying 
for a post at the colony, both equally fitted for the work 
they would do, and equally trustworthy, he who can 
plead he is in trouble is sure to have the preference. 
They have an office boy with a painfully disfigured face ; 
he was born with this affliction, and though otherwise 
hale and capable no one would employ him. He found 
his niche at Bethel ; he is but a youth, he may live to 
prove a grateful worker. 

It is curious also how many pastors you meet at 
Bethel ; you come upon them at every turn, — men 

* This machinery, primarily for joinery purposes, is utilised also 
for the production of electric light, at present for the joiners' 
benefit only ; but there is talk of introducing it into some of the 
other houses. This little world in many ways is quite up to date. 
The pastor's study, for instance, is connected by telephone not 
only with the more important Homes about Bethel, but with the 
labour colony at Wilhelmsdorf (and with the Eichhof) seven 
miles distant ; the telephone connecting the colony also with the 
telephone and telegraph of Bielefeld. As a matter of fact, there- 
fore, Bethel is in speaking connection with all the civilised 

The Cave of Adullam 223 

overworked, men broken down, men maybe in spiritual 
trouble, who formerly would have fled to the cloister ; 
they gather to this captain, to the wholesome Christian 
life of this colony, — this, too, is Cave of Adullam. 
They throw themselves into the work, and presently 
they return to the harvest-fields of the world taking a 
new life with them. Let any man, let any woman, go 
to Bethel who, for whatever reason, may feel worsted in 
the battle to be fought ; no one will set up to teach 
them, but they will learn a lesson there — they will be 
shown how to buckle on the armour afresh, and be 
different men, different women, thereafter. 

It has happened sometimes that the good comfort 
dealt out so freely at Bethel is wasted on a man un- 
worthy ; there are those on whom salvation's trust is 
lost. It does happen occasionally that a man runs 
away with a few hundred marks — there have been no 
more serious defalcations — but this leaves Bodelschwingh 
quite unconcerned. " The money is nothing," he says, 
" when we are trying for men," and he will just go on 
with his trust policy. He has one painful recollection. 

A nobly born "unfortunate" once presented himself 
in his study, imploring to be saved. Well, what could he 
put his hand to ? Nothing much : he had frittered away 
his youth ; he knew about postage stamps — the mania 
for stamp-collecting then being at its height. Well, then, 
he should start a stamp collection. It would occupy 
him, if it did not pay. But things are always done 
with a will at Bethel, —that is, thoroughly. The colony 
is in communication with missionaries and consuls all 
the world over, and before long everybody was sending 

224 A Colony of Mercy 

used postage stamps — it was the beginning of a Postage 
Stamp Bazaar^ which now requires a house of its own, 
occupying a score of patients, and carrying on a 
vigorous sale by post. You can order rare and valuable 
stamps from Bethel, and more still are they pleased if 
you send them any ; for it is business now, though it 
began in an act of charity/'' 

But this unfortunate nobleman did not prove himself 
trustworthy. With rare patience the Pastor tried for 
that man's soul, and tried again, he all the while cheat- 
ing his benefactor and selling the more valuable stamps 
for his own purposes, going his own evil ways eventually 
and dying in prison. He had been for a couple of years 
at Bethel, an amiable good-for-nothing. They knew it, 

* Stamps may be sent to " Markenhaus, Bethel, Bielefeld, 
Germany," and English collectors of these valuables may find it 
worth while to write there for stamp assortments, little books all 
ready for postal transmission, each stamp marked and priced. 
Hundreds of letters go and come daily, and while we were in the 
office the other day an eager stamp-lover even ordered by tele- 
gram one of these coveted bits of paper — some ancient twopenny 
stamp, fancy value five pounds. Bethel, of course, does not fix 
the five-pound price ; the Stamp Exchange does. Some of our 
readers may feel inclined to send their duplicates to Bethel ; if 
they want to sell them, Bethel gives fair value and no cheating ; 
but sending them as a present might leave a happier feeling, for 
it is helping a great work. The " Markenhaus," though in its 
enlarged form it is but a few months old, turns a monthly capital 
of ^150 to ^"200, gaining perhaps ^50, the primary object and 
gain in this instance also being the employment procured for 
epileptic patients. The "Markenhaus" is worth a visit, even 
if you have no hankerings after used postage stamps ; it is under 
the efficient management of a man who for years has been in the 
merchant service of the Basle Missionary Society, who is a pro- 
ficient in stamp-lore, and knows a forgery at half a glance. 

The Cave of Adullam 225 

and yet they tried. He lived at their expense, but his 
soul was worth more to the pastor than the money 
wasted on him and by him. Nevertheless, Bethel has 
not in the end been out of pocket by even this act of 
charity. That stamp bazaar, which had so curious a 
beginning, now is a paying concern on a firm business 
footing. And the solicitude bestowed on this stray 
sheep, though wasted on him, was yet not wasted, but 
rather bore fruit in showing a way for the gathering in 
of other sheep ; the house " Ephratah," spoken of at 
the beginning of this chapter, has developed out of this 
first endeavour. Bodelschwingh sees a man much need- 
ing to be rescued, — he tries, he fails ; but he remembers 
there are others like him, and this is how a work begins. 
One day a man, overcome with admiration at this 
wealth of Christian charity, this power of comforting 
all that mourn, came to Bodelschwingh. " I just want 
to see your face," he said. " Nay," said the pastor, 
" there is One Face to look into, even that of the Man 
of Sorrows, and you will not be able then to let any 
sorrow pass your door unhelped." 




"Beauty for Ashes." 

THOSE only who never had a home of their own 
can appreciate the full force, even the kindness of 
our Lord's promise to His troubled disciples — " In My 
Father's house are many mansions — / go to prepare a 
place for you!' They were about to be homeless ; for 
home does not mean chairs and tables, it does not 
mean hearth-room only, it means heart-room, and He 
was the friend to whom their love had gathered even 
in an earthly sense. " Many mansions " is not the 
happiest rendering, for we are not to understand heaven 
to be all palaces : there will be degrees even there ; if 
palaces, no doubt then cottages also, whatever they be, 
with this difference only, that one and all quite equally 
will be dwelling-places of content, for the former things, 
the sorrow, the pain, the strugglings and longings 
wilL have passed away. " In My Father's house 
are many dwelling-places, I go to prepare your place, 
and yours, and yours " — an abiding-place for each 
homeless, home-coming wanderer — this rather is the 
meaning, taking into account each personal need to 

be met there in His own way. Human friends often 


Workman s Home 227 

are very dense, but the One Friend understands, and 
at this solemn time of His going to the death for them, 
Sin-bearer for them all, He did not say, I go to 
mediate for you at the right hand of Glory ; no, He 
left them with the far simpler promise of dwelling-places, 
a place for them. " Heaven will be the warmer to those 
who had but little covering here," says David Elginbrod ; 
and Christ's promises are fullest of meaning to those 
who have not — to them that hunger. How can they 
who have " many mansions " here, long with an equal 
longing for Christ's mansions with those who have not ? 
Yes, they can, by His first cutting the strings which tie 
them to the " mansions " below — often a painful process. 
And even a poor man may be tied to his wheelbarrow. 
But to these others, His homeless ones, to them is the 
promise. " I had not where to lay My head," He says ; 
" I know your want." 

But there is a state of homelessness in modern life 
which should not be — homes which are no homes, 
human dwelling-places in which it is next to impossible 
for a man to grow fit for heaven ; in which want of 
cleanliness is the soil for impurity, where men and 
women grow drunkards in despair. A German judge 
the other day summed up his experience in the curious 
sentence : " Social crimes are in exact proportion to 
the surface of friction in our dwellings " — in plain 
English : want of elbow-room is the mother of half our 
wickedness. It is concerning this want of elbow-room 
among the working-classes we now have a word to say, 
for Bethel, that large-hearted comforter, has set herself 
to combat this also, seeking redress for this glaring want. 

228 A Colony of Mercy 

Bielefeld, in the outskirts of which our colony is 
situated, a manufacturing place of some importance, 
enjoys the reputation of being an advance-guard of 
Socialism ; there are large sewing-machine works in that 
city, and linen manufactories employing their thousands 
of hands. The year 1885 brought troubled times to 
Bielefeld, culminating in a general strike, quiet being 
eventually restored only by military interference. 
Peaceful Bethel was involved in an unexpected way. 

Some travelling locksmiths and other iron-workers 
happened to be at the Herberge when the strike broke out, 
and this gave rise to the altogether unfounded assertion 
that Wilhelmsdorf was coming to the rescue of the 
forsaken manufacturers. The strikers sought revenge, 
and took the nearest at hand. Twice that spring the red 
flames shot up in the dead of night in the midst of 
the colony — the work of incendiaries. The most cruel of 
these deeds of wickedness was the setting fire to Eben- 
Ezer, the home of the male imbeciles. No lives were 
lost, for Bethel has her own brigade, her deacons training 
for this also, and the brothers more than once have 
proved themselves efficient firemen. The scene never- 
theless was terrible ; the poor imbecile epileptics, not 
understanding why in the night time they were dragged 
by main force out of their beds, but seeing flames, set up 
their shrieks and yells, fighting against their rescuers 
as for very life. But more terrible than this, and more 
heartrending, was the fact that scores of men stood by 
watching the ghastly scene, never lifting a finger; and 
not strong-armed men only, but women lost to all 
tenderness, gloated over the disaster. " Serve you 

Workman s Home 229 

right," they cried, " you pious sinners, for having turned 
honest folk out of house and home to make room for 
these wretches ! " And mutterings went round, " See if 
we don't set fire to the lot of you." 

Now, there was a grain of truth in this accusation. 
Farms had been bought up, but only when they were in 
the market, and in most cases the owners actually had 
come to Bodelschwingh offering to sell. But these de- 
caying farm properties sometimes comprised sublet- 
tings, and these tenants could not be consulted when 
the property changed hands. "It is true," said Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh, " some twenty or thirty families of 
dependent folk in the course of these twenty years have 
thus lost their little cots. It was not their property, 
yet they looked upon it as such, having rented it for 
years. Against their will they were driven to seek 
quarters in the overcrowded city, where a plot of garden 
was an impossible luxury for such as they. There is 
therefore some truth in the charge, and it becometh us in 
this also to fulfil all righteousness" And from that day 
the good pastor, over and above the many efforts up- 
borne by his strong shoulders, made it his business to 
see to the housing of the poor. An association was 
formed, called " Workman's Home," the roots of which 
are struck in Bethel, where all the planning is done and 
furthering aid given to this work of mercy also. 

But Pastor von Bodelschwingh is a man who goes to 
the bottom of things ; — mere chance charity, mere senti- 
mentalism at any vision of distress, though it may yield 
momentary aid, is not what satisfies him. He went to 
the bottom of this also, and there found that much of 

230 A Colony of Mercy 

the Socialism, so rampant in Germany, and threatening 
to sap the very foundations of society, has its root in 
the ill-housing of the working population. He made 
himself the champion of this grievance. 

In a public lecture, delivered before the Social Con- 
gress in Berlin, he recounted how, as a young boy, fifty 
years ago, he already had opportunity of studying the 
social problem, having his own childish thoughts then 
how it might be met. His sisters and their companions 
had a sewing class for the poor, but they were not them- 
selves allowed to enter the homes of misery, the boy's 
tutor — a future pastor — being delegated to inquire into 
the people's needs, and he would take young Frederick 
with him. Here the boy had his first vivid impressions 
of the hunger, the cold, the cruel sufferings of the poor, 
and especially was he moved with what seemed to him the 
unjust portioning out of earthly goods between rich and 
poor : the rich might do with somewhat less, the poor 
need not be so very poor, the boy thought. One day 
there had been a state dinner in the Minister's palace, 
the boy watching the great preparations, and noticing 
the splendour. Simple as his parents were, his mother 
especially, on such a day they suited their station. A 
day or two after, being allowed to accompany his father 
out walking, he poured out his heart ; and the father 
explained to him how that these things must be, and 
that, bad as they seemed, they were not without a re- 
deeming point, since by the very luxuries of the rich 
many of the poor find a living. The boy was old 
enough to understand this, but still he insisted that 
the rich and great need not feast and dress quite so 

Workman s Home 231 

sumptuously, while so many went starving, and scarcely 
had a sufficiency of rags to keep out the cold. Especially 
would he grieve at the long suite of state rooms, stand- 
ing empty and with blinds down, for the most part ; and 
he would compare their gorgeous emptiness with the 
miserable garrets in which whole families were huddled 
together. He remembered having been taken by his 
tutor to see a poor widow, who, with seven children, 
lived in such a garret ; there was not even a fireplace, 
and only one bed in the room, which was somewhat 
enlarged at night by the only other piece of furniture 
excepting a table, a wooden bench pushed alongside. 
On this bench the mother slept, leaving the bed proper 
to the seven children ; there was not room for a second 
bed in the garret, even if the poor woman had had 
another. And the boy went to his own bed that night 
stung with shame at the comfort provided for him, 
his own spacious chamber where three or four other 
beds could have stood ; his boyish charity would have 
taken in that widow and her seven children if only 
he could have done so. But these childish impressions 
were not lost ; and the child is father of the man. 
The man is fast finding homes now for the struggling 

Bodelschwingh's idea is this : settle the working 
classes, each family in their own little house, with their 
own garden — their own acquired plot of land — and 
you nip all Socialism, all Nihilism, in the bud. This 
may sound Utopian in English ears ; for where in this 
country of landlords are " own plots " for the people so 
easily to be had — their real own ? We are, however, 

232 A Colony of Mercy 

describing a working model, and it will be for thoughtful 
readers to draw their own inferences. 

It is chiefly from the ranks of the embittered working 
classes of great cities that social democracy draws its 
recruits — draws them in ever-increasing numbers. And 
why are they embittered ? For one reason, might not 
there be here also some want of elbow-room ? Have you 
ever considered, you, who shut up your town house 
when the hot summer makes it unpleasant to you, what 
thoughts must rise in the mind of some factory-worker 
slaving away in the same hot city ? What is he likely to 
think, and feel, on passing these empty houses, visions to 
him of comfort and coolness, on his way from the stifling 
factory to the scarce less stifling tenement he calls his 
home ? But Home is too beautiful a word. Is it wonder 
if his heart fills with envy at these empty palaces? 
Is it wonder if he thinks : Why are we so much worse off 
than they ? That man would be satisfied with the tenth 
part of the house you calmly leave with blinds down for 
weeks and months. Bodelschwingh says he is ashamed 
to look such a man in the face ; yet his is a modest little 
manse, and he leaves it but for the scantiest holiday. 
But then his sympathy enters into such a man's feelings ; 
he does not approve of his levelling ideas, but he under- 
stands them : he understands how easy a prey such a 
man's mind is to the teachings of Socialism. Put that 
man in ever so humble a home, a real home, away from 
the stifling city ; give him air, give him sunlight, give him 
a garden to move in, and his Socialism will be blown to 
the winds. There is no solving of the social problem 
except by putting ourselves alongside of such a man's 

Workman s Home 233 

feelings — then we shall understand him. Perhaps we 
ourselves would turn Socialists in that man's place. 

The thing to try for, is : to lead that man to a sense 
of content ; and it is astonishing how easily, according to 
Bodelschwingh, this is done. It is possible to give that 
man beauty for ashes — contentment for bitterness — a 
home to satisfy his humble need, even a beautiful and 
healthful home, for the fever-breeding, sin-and-misery- 
waking hole in which he now sits, cursing you and his 
own cheerless fate. And, mind you, for that hole, in 
proportion, he pays treble the rent you pay for your 
palace ! Is it to be wondered at, if he is embittered ? 

He is more than embittered, he is hopeless, for he sees 
no way out ; and there is another hopeless one beside 
him — the poor wife, working, perchance, in a factory too, 
or charing, or straw-plaiting, or anything ; yet they scarce 
can keep body and soul together. Partly their own 
fault this, to be sure, since the public-house is their great 
comforter — what good to save your pennies when you 
see no way out ? Without an aim, without some bright 
and shining star beckoning us onward, none of us would 
do much. But even fair Hope for these people sits in 
ashes, averting her face ; they see no star, nothing to work 
for ; they spend their little in drink, or, at best, in sheer 
improvidence ; and their children grow up to this misery, 
continuing the same weary round. 

But help that man, or rather show him how to help 
himself; for this recipe "beauty for ashes,". this little 
home of his own, in his own garden, his own plot of 
land, is not a charity to be given him ; he is to buy it, 
to acquire it honestly ; and he can. The principle laid 

234 A Colony of Mercy 

down is this : Help the working classes by making them 
help themselves. 

Now for the working model : 

They have an architect and a house-building office at 
Bethel, needing both for their own ever-enlarging tent. 
And among the epileptic patients there is an increasing 
number of men fit for office work, book-keepers, draughts- 
men, men of this and that kind of technical proficiency 
for whom occupation is wanted. Here was a new opening 
for them ; these all were brought into requisition. They 
set to work examining what had been done in any 
country for the housing of the poor, they made calcula- 
tions, drew plans, worked out proposals what might be 
done for their own neighbourhood, the working classes of 
Bielefeld. And presently the pastor from his own study 
window spied some plots of land on the hillside over 
against the colony. They were for sale. " I should like 
to buy that land," he said, " and settle some of these 
discontented workmen there with their families. I have 
an idea it would answer admirably, and no doubt they 
would pay me back in good time." He did buy that 
land. And then more of the epileptics, men who 
could only push wheelbarrows or work with the spade, 
some twenty or thirty of them, might be seen day after 
day busy on that hillside, digging and levelling. And 
away at Hebron the bricks were made for this vision to 
be realised : Workman's own little home on its own plot 
of land. "And so," says Bodelschwingh, "our poor epi- 
leptics at the very outset made up for the accusation 
brought against them ; their own hands actually raising 
c he groundwork on which these new homes should stand." 

Workman s Home 237 

Thus once more from this colony of stricken ones 
streams of healing began to flow, and Bethel, the mother 
of Wilhelmsdorf, becomes the mother of Workman's 
Home. Where anywhere on the face of the earth is there 
a colony of human misery so prolific of helpfulness, so 
successful in alleviating misery ? " Our own sick ones 
have turned the first clod of earth for this and this new 
effort," says the pastor with a noble pride, for he loves 
these sick ones. They do not cumber the ground, they 
are the Master's helpers even in their trouble, and instru- 
ments of His mercy. 

But the plan evolving was this : The great obstacle in 
the poor man's way is want of capital ; if you can find the 
needful capital for him at a reasonable rate of interest, 
and if you turn that capital into a sinking fund he can 
pay it back by yearly payments ; and it will not take 
more of his earnings, but considerably less, than he now 
pays in mere rent. He now rents a wretched tenement ; 
put him into a new, clean house, built specially for him, 
and tell him, if he sets to work thriftily, he may, in ten 
years or so, be owner of that house, soil and all. He may 
do this in even less than ten years, for it has been proved 
— a man entering into rights of ownership on the Bethel 
plan after one-third of the capital is paid up. Tell him, 
show him, how to set about it, and see if he will not ! 
Why, you at once lift that man half a dozen pegs above 
his present level, even supposing he has all along been 
an honest working man ! He feels he has attained the 
position of an honourable man of business, to whom 
capital is lent because he enjoys credit. What cannot 
be made of a man if he feels trusted and believed 

238 A Colony of Mercy 

in ? Above all, you have filled that man's heart with 

But here is the difficulty : who is going to believe in 
him — even the most honest, the most thrifty working 
man — if it is a question of lending him capital at 3J 
per cent. ? He undertakes to pay you back, but where 
is your security ? Says Bethel, I will be security ; I 
will be trustee for him, and the legal owner of the 
house until he has paid back one-third of the loan ; I 
reserve to myself the right to buy him out if at any 
time he fail in his yearly payments, and I reserve pre- 
emption at the original price, if at any time he should 
propose to sell — this in kindness to him, to protect him 
from speculators. 

Bethel is a corporation which enjoys credit ; and people 
are willing enough to invest sums in any undertaking 
for which Bethel goes bail, for Bethel is as safe as the 
Bank of England, and has security to offer in her own 
landed property. So Bethel, as a first step, borrowed 
capital at 3 \ per cent., for which the "acquirers" of the 
little houses she undertook to build were to pay interest 
{i.e. house rent), 3 \ per cent., besides paying back the 
capital in easy stages. A working man usually pays 10 
and 12 per cent, in rent, so there is room for paying 
back capital over and above the 3 J per cent, on the 
capital raised on his behalf. 

For instance, the cost of one of these " Workmen's 
Homes" at Bielefeld averages £325, including the 
plot of land, and road expenses. The annual rent 
on this capital, at 3 \ per cent, comes to £11 ys. 6d. ; 
the top story is sub-let to another family at £y ys. 6d., 

Workman s Home 239 

leaving to the " acquirer " the bottom story at £4 — each 
story having, as a rule, three good-sized cheerful rooms 
and a kitchen ; the cellar, containing washhouse and 
storing-places, the garden, accommodation for a pig or 
goat, etc., being shared. The " acquirer," over and above 
the interest or rent, is pledged to pay back the capital at 
the rate of 2 per cent., burdening his yearly budget with 
another £6 10s. ; he may do more, if able — this is the 
minimum ; and this " paying back," of course, is simply 
paying his way into ownership. Altogether, the reader 
will see, here are two families worthily housed — a gain 
in every direction on tenements. What speculative 
owner would let to a working man three rooms and 
a kitchen and his share of the garden at seven guineas 
a year — three shillings a week ? It can be done : will 
any one try in this country — even if, on account of higher 
wages, the seven guineas must be called ten ? 

Another plan worked out by that pastor of epileptics 
is this : " Of course, even our credit is limited ; we 
could not raise capital ad infinitum, but a loan of 
,£5000 can be obtained to-morrow if a hundred people 
join my building association with a subscription of 
$s. a year — this being the difference of interest between 
3^ and 4 per cent. Now any savings-bank or other 
public fund will lend capital at 4 per cent, and if you 
hundred friends can mulct yourselves each to the 
amount of $s. a year, you enable us to loan out the 
capital thus obtained at 3J per cent, to our honest 
working men who are trying for a house of their own ; 
if you subscribe \os. a year, we can let them have 
it at 3 per cent. : will you do this ? " And a hundred 

240 A Colony of Mercy 

people thus ready to help are actually found, for it 
is a beautiful plan ; and, as we have seen, the ^5000 
thus raised — as they build, not seeking their own in- 
terest — provides about thirty families with house and 
garden, one house, as a rule, for two families, top and 
bottom story ; and, lo and behold ! you have turned 
an embittered, struggling lot into hopeful men and 
women. Is not this worth working for ? 

So they have a building-fund at Bethel, to which is 
added a building savings fund, into which any workman 
wishing to begin saving up towards a house of his own 
puts his sixpences and shillings as he can spare them ; 
he being advised to have some few savings before offer- 
ing for a house. Land is never bought till a number of 
married working men of good character, say a dozen or 
more, are ready to join the association, expressing their 
willingness to become house owners under the conditions 
provided for them. Then only the houses are built ; and 
by a beautiful thoughtfulness, they not only get a house, 
but they get one as they would have it. For this dozen 
or score of houses are not built as building societies run 
up houses in London, one as like the other as a dozen 
matchboxes set on end ; no, these houses are built to be 
a pleasure to the man ; more still, a pleasure to the wife 
who is to keep this home tidy, for one would have them 
love these little houses, and be happy in them. Only 
the perfect love that would do the very best for these 
people could hit on this plan. It means, of course, untold 
extra work for that architect at Bethel — happily a man 
truly interested himself, an architect, in this, for Christ's 
sake — he is brother to one of the pastors ; but this extra 

Workman s Home 241 

work is gladly given, and though they have built nearly 
seventy houses, not two of them are alike. 

When it is a question of drawing the plans, every 
intending owner and his wife come to the office and say 
what they would like ; and according to their needs, 
according to their wishes, even according to their 
fancies, if possible, the plans are drawn, and the little 
house is built. Also they may name the workmen 
they would wish employed, for they may have uncles, 
or cousins, or friends, who are masons, or carpenters, 
or plumbers, and at their desire, these will have the 
benefit. What a wondrous thing true charity is ! 
" Liebe macht erfinderisch" — love is the cleverest of in- 
ventors — says the German proverb, and truly so, for 
love only, perfect brotherly love, can think of all these 
things. Again, what wisdom in this love ! Does it 
not make these people believe in you? do they not 
see how truly you consult their welfare ? Have you 
not won them by the simplest of means, prevailing on 
them to make an effort themselves for the moral gains 
you have in view for them ? Love, truly, is wise as a 

Then, here is another wise thing : The dozen or score 
of intending owners, combining to be housed on a 
certain plot of land, form a sort of community among 
themselves : they actually engage to be eacJi others 
keeper in certain things. For instance, they have all 
undertaken to keep the public-house banished from 
their midst. If any of their number should ever turn 
his house into a public-house — no one could hinder him 
from obtaining a licence for the sale of liquor — but if 


242 A Colony of Mercy 

he does, he forfeits three hundred pounds to that com- 
munity. He has entered into possession under this 
condition, and the rest of the house-owners, with Bethel 
at the head of them, have power to enforce this clause. 
So these little homes, indeed, are " beauty for ashes," 
kept pure from the devastating influences of drink. A 
man dwelling there has some distance to go before he 
finds a public-house ; and the chances are he stays at 
home, if the home is made pleasant. 

One of the great attractions, making these homes 
pleasant, is the principle laid down, and defended by 
Bodelschwingh with all his warmth, that a working man's 
house shall stand in its own garden — a garden large 
enough to provide the two families living in that house 
with potatoes and vegetables ; the working man — he 
should be home from his work at half-past six or seven — 
spending his spring and summer evenings in that garden. 
They even strive to inculcate the principle that a man in 
that garden shall plant his own apple and pear-tree, there 
being a wonderful power, says Bodelschwingh, in the 
trees he has planted for making a man heart-owner of 
his house. He will much less be tempted ever to sell 
that house, if he has stocked its garden with trees of 
his own rearing ; it will be his home, and the home of his 
children after him. There is provision in each house, 
also, for keeping a couple of pigs or goats, which will 
cost the people next to nothing, and bring in a clear 
gain. Bodelschwingh estimates the garden produce of half 
an acre to be worth about five pounds to these people, if 
it is their own property, which is a great deal more than 
ordinary farming yields. And then there is the moral 

Workman s Home 243 

gain already mentioned, which is greater still. " Where 
does your husband spend his evenings ? " asked an in- 
quiring friend of a housewife established in one of these 
little houses. " He used to go to the ' public,' when we 
lived in the town yonder, but since we came here the 
garden keeps him at home." That man was being saved 
by his apple and pear trees, by the produce of the soil, 
the work of his hands. And social democracy will die 
out in such places, for these people have little left to 
grumble at. The idea of two families in one house is 
just this : that, as children grow up, married son or 
daughter may live under the same roof with their 
parents, or a young couple may take in the old people 
as tenants ; also, that the little children in any house 
should never be left uncared for, if the mother has to 
absent herself. And lastly, they can help one another 
in sickness. 

It is about six years since the first house was built, and 
the plan has fully answered. The best proof is this : that 
many of these people are paying up at double the rate 
they are pledged to by contract. The figures are : that 
on forty houses built with a capital of fourteen thousand 
pounds, about four thousand pounds have already been 
paid back, so that quite a number of these thrifty " ac- 
quirers," in the course of a few years, have entered into 
the rights of ownership. What will not even a working 
man do, if you help him to his own little house — his own 
plot of land ? These men have saved and saved, keeping 
every penny from the drink-shop, for the pride of this 
ownership. And are they not likely to continue respect- 
able and thrifty, having proved to themselves, and to 

244 A Colony of Mercy 

others, what may be done with their ordinary wages in 
half a dozen years? Help a man to be respectable, 
to respect himself, will he not thank you, and try and 
be so ? For there is manhood sufficient, even in your 
working man. Much will depend, of course, how you 
help him, and what star of hope you kindle in his heaven. 
At any rate these people are not objects of charity, though 
you have assisted them with a wondrous charity : you 
have made independent men of them. It must of course 
be said, it is the better-class working men who apply for 
the privilege. You have got to begin with those most 
worthy, hoping for the blessing to spread gradually by 
the forces of example and rivalry. 

And are these people really grateful for the great 
thing done for them ? Well, this pastor says, with 
Gordon : " Do good to people as if they were chairs and 
tables " ; that is, not looking for gratitude, lest you be 
disappointed ; but experience shows you find some 
gratitude — at any rate, you see these people in an 
improved condition, and that is what you were mainly 

There are now three such colonies of " Workman's 
Home" round about Bielefeld, numbering seventy houses. 
About a dozen new houses are at present planned for, 
i.e., so many intending " acquirers " are ready to begin 
working their way towards ownership, while over a hun- 
dred are paying into the building savings fund, with 
the hope of making a start before long. All this shows 
how the privilege is appreciated in Socialistic Bielefeld. 

But more, the man who has set this great work going 

Workman s Home 245 

is no provincialist ; his horizon is wide, and his chanty 
large-hearted. The Building Association, started under 
the auspices of Bethel, has subdivided its functions ; it 
is now, firstly, a local society, working as shown above ; 
it is, secondly, a centre for spreading just principles all 
over Germany. 

Something had already been done in Germany by 
great factory owners, men of charitable instincts ; and 
the State also had provided dwellings for the miners 
in its direct employ. But the principle emanating from 
Bethel goes further : it says, Help the working classes 
by making them help themselves. Be their patrons in 
thrift, go surety for them in the raising of capital, 
lend them your intellectual capital, planning for them, 
arranging matters for them ; but let the main thing, 
the object-gaining industry, and above all, its reward, 
be theirs. Let them have all the advantage, all the 
profit of the building schemes you are interested in, let 
them see it is purely and simply for their benefit ; and 
you may educate them to almost anything. Unselfish 
love is the greatest power on earth : it will even help 
you to get rid of a nest of social democrats, and people 
the land with peaceful citizens. 

Bethel is setting the example : she is doing a noble 
work, lending her own great machinery, her willing 
hands, her name, her credit, without burdening the 
undertaking with working expenses ; she is steward 
of its aims, laying out the capital, collecting the re- 
turns and laying them out again — that is all. And 
the example is being copied ; the association Arbeiter- 
Jieim (Workman's Home) is spreading ; and what 

246 A Colony of Mercy 

though it take fifty years or more to realise these great 
hopes for the country at large, yet surely such a be- 
ginning is a hopeful thing. 

Pastor von Bodelschwingh is indefatigable in proving 
to the nation the economic advantages in the interest 
of the nation itself, not only as a negative blessing in 
stamping out or at least in materially lessening, Socialistic 
tendencies, but in very reality a gain. For one thing, 
a more healthy generation than can possibly be looked 
for in overcrowded city dwellings will be the outcome ; 
crime will decrease and the standard of morality be 
raised. The authorities know well enough what they 
owe to these efforts ; the three Emperors have given their 
fullest approval, and shown it by yearly gifts. And thus 
protected, the Association "Workman's Home," planted 
as a mustard seed at Bethel, has every prospect of 
developing into a spreading tree under the branches 
of which a contented working class may dwell. 

But in order to aid these endeavours on a larger scale, 
turning the effort into a national enterprise, the wise- 
headed pastor has hit on a plan worthy of a statesman. 

The English reader — some, at least, for it is strange 
how much indifference and consequent ignorance is to 
be met with in either country concerning each other's 
home affairs, even of vital importance — will be aware 
that public provision has been made in Germany by a 
beneficent law which came into force two years ago for 
the insurance of every working man and working woman 
towards sickness and old age. It is an admirable 
law certainly, as regards the kindliness of its intentions 
How it will work has yet to be proved, for it is on its first 

Workman s Home 247 

trial; but it has resulted already in securing five million 
pounds sterling, the sum total of all these insurance 
pennies ; * it will result in twenty years in five-and- 
twenty millions, in eighty years in fifty millions sterling. 

Now, all this money is collected on behalf of the 
working man, and his own pocket has furnished one- 
half; it is all intended for his good, but he does not as 
yet see this, — he may not see it for years to come. He 
looks upon it as an extra tax, though it is levied but in 
pennies ; and though wise men are strong in approval of 
the enforced provision, yet among the working classes 
for whom these benefits are intended there is a good 
deal of grumbling. But whatever the intention and 
ultimate benefit, here are great sums collected, requir- 
ing to be put out to use. How best to do this for 
some time past has occupied the attention of financiers ; 
but the pastor of Bethel has planned and submitted the 
following scheme to the authorities for consideration. 

His plan in short is this : this capital collected in part 
out of the working man's savings and altogether for his 
eventual benefit, should also in the meantime be em- 
ployed for his benefit and flow back to him in loans — 
in other words, it should be invested in Workmen's Homes 
all over the country. On the strength of the trial made 
at Bielefeld, Bodelschwingh shows in a memorial that 
this capital would be a sort of revolving fund which every 
ten years or so would replenish itself, to be used again 
and again for a purpose than which no truer remedy 
could be found for pacifying the great discontent among 
the working population. Moreover they would thus 

* Vide Appendix. 

248 A Colony of Mercy 

see that this money is indeed intended to benefit them ; 
they would have the advantage of insurance in case 
of sickness and in old age over and above the 
benefit of a house of his own for every thrifty man. 
The pastor pleads that this money should be ob- 
tainable for this purpose in loans at 3J per cent., 
submitting that the working man from a public savings 
bank only gets 2\ per cent, for his deposits, and the 
difference between his getting and giving should not be 
too great * The capital would be quite safe if managed 
on the Bielefeld plan by " Workman's Home " committees 
to be formed throughout the country. These committees 
would act as the working man's patron, even as Bethel 
does, not " patronising " him, but managing for him, 
and going surety for him. Men are to be found, says 
Bodelschwingh, who will be proud to give such honorary 
service for so great and beneficent an object ; and three 
men only are required — an experienced land steward, a 
capable architect, and a revenue official. " As for the 
architect," says the Pastor, " it is a great deal more 
difficult, and altogether a truer art, to build well in the 
interest of poor folk, than to build palaces." \ 

* As we go to press we learn that one province after another, 
there being Home Rule in Germany in such matters, is acquiescing 
in the proposal. So capital will be forthcoming for many a 
Workman's Home. Why should not the funds of the Post Office 
Savings Bank in this country be available for such purpose ? 
These funds also are largely out .of the poor man's pocket, the 
Post Office giving interest 2\ per cent. ; so the Post Office might 
still do business if Workman's Home loans could be forthcoming 
at 3 or 3J per cent ! 

t The "Workman's Home" at Bielefeld should be inspected 
both for costs and pleasing results. 

Workman s Home 249 

A further proposal is that young folk about to marry, 
might apply as intending house acquirers, if, between 
them, they have saved up say twenty-five pounds, the 
man not to be younger than six-and-twenty, the woman 
at least to be out of her teens, and the latter, more- 
over, should be required to give satisfactory proof of 
understanding something about housekeeping — thus to 
counteract thriftless marriages. The house in any case 
should be an incitement to, and a reward of, thrift, 
diligence, and respectable living. 

Also, it would be a marked gain, tending to the 
general well-being of the country, thus to stem the 
ever-growing influx of the working classes into the 
great cities, drafting them back into such colonies 
of " Workman's Home," their own property, at a 
wholesome distance from the centres of industry, the 
railways running special workmen's trains, at a moderate 
rate, morning and night. And the chiefest gain, one 
not to be overestimated, would be this, that the country 
gradually would be pacified, and Socialism would have 
to seek a soil elsewhere. 

The pastor urges that the answer to his memorial 
should not be " Paul, thou art mad " ; he says, he be- 
lieves, on the contrary — for he has already proved it — 
that he is proposing reasonable things. Yet there is time 
to save the country, to elevate the masses, by giving 
them what we simply owe them : more light, more air — 
aye " elbow-room " to live decent lives. 

Is this pastor too sanguine, too much of an enthusiast, 
too Utopian ? It would not seem so, to judge by what 
already has been done ; yet even if his hopes were too 

250 A Colony of Mercy 

great, too ideal, to realise — it being indeed a mighty 
scheme — it is something surely at least to have tried ; to 
be trying at this moment. Hope is strong, and he knows 
there is a strength unconquerable called faith — the faith 
of which One has said it removes mountains. Assuredly 
it is well to try for the removal of this mountain of 
hopelessness oppressing the ill-housed poor. But a 
certain measure of success seems guaranteed, inasmuch 
as the idea has caught in Germany, if one may judge by 
the fact that, from all parts, those interested in the 
question apply at Bethel (i.e., at the office Arbeiterheim 
established there), for estimates, for building plans, for 
the experience collected at that office ; and this office, 
having constituted itself central office for a national 
endeavour, only too gladly meets the demand — indeed, 
they have undertaken to furnish complete building 
plans gratis to any one applying for " Workman's Home " 
purposes. That architect at Bethel is an overworked, 
at any rate a well-worked, individual, but then no one 
at Bethel considers time his own ; and it is curious to 
note that the active secretary of this great scheme is 
that same young man, saved from the morphia " prison," 
in whom Pastor von Bodelschwingh believed sufficiently 
to go bail for him for a wife and a house. These men from 
the Cave of Adullam, at any rate some of them, train 
into fit workers. He is private secretary for the pastor 
in the morning, and " Workman's Home " secretary in the 
afternoon — no sinecure, surely, even with a helper or 

The eye of the German Emperor is on these efforts. 
His Majesty has repeatedly expressed his warm ap- 

Workman s Home 251 

proval, and all well-disposed thoughtful men in the 
country — of course there are enemies, too — all who 
truly wish well by the people, have long learned to 
apply to any effort emanating from Bethel, the Psalmist's 
words : " Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Thus, as 
far as promising circumstances go, the great scheme seems 
not too great to realise. It is on a sound business basis 
— nothing Utopian in this respect ; Bodelschwingh's 
schemes, with all their idealism, always bear that test ! 
The yearly balance sheets of " Workman's Home " may 
be inspected, and will be found models of economy and 

One wonders, could such a scheme ever be thought 
of in England ? All deference to the noble efforts of 
Miss Octavia Hill, to other friends of the poor who strive 
to introduce wholesomeness into the overcrowded tene- 
ments ; all honour to the Peabody model lodging-houses ; 
but that is not " beauty for ashes " in fullest sense ! It 
is not Workman's Own. The garden is wanting, the 
apple and pear tree of his own planting ; the poetry is 
wanting ; the strong moral force residing in the little 
word " own " is wanting ! 

Could there ever be any such poor man's " own " 
in this country, apple trees and all ? Yes, possibly, 
when the slowly moving wheel of progress will have 
somewhat altered the meaning of the land question ! 
Then the time may dawn when a British workman 
too will be considered worthy of an " own." He too 
may then rise six pegs above his present level, and the 
many public-houses diminish. What incitement has he 

252 A Colony of Mercy 

now to be thrifty, to lay by, to be his own helper ? He 
does not as a rule lay by even for the rainy day, and 
when illness overtakes him, or cold weather, he is a 
hopeless out-of-work. But the root of the mischief of 
all social distress, as Bodelschwingh rightly says, is the 
want of a home, a home inalienable, a home worthy to 
be improved by the sweat of your brow, the labour of 
your hands — the want, in fact, of something to live for, 
something to attain by diligent work. The bright and 
shining star called Hope is wanting. Could it not be 
kindled for the working classes in this country also? 
Is not there land enough and to spare? One feels 
inclined to say, with Boy Bodelschwingh, " Could not 
the rich do with a little less, and the poor not be quite 
so poor? " 

Think of the hopelessness, the homelessness, cooped 
up in East London ! What star of hope ever rises on that 
sky? It is a mean thing, says that pastor, our com- 
forting the poor with hopes of a better Beyond : could 
we not first do something for a better Here ? Give them 
something to live for, give them a more decent home, 
a home worthy that name, and half your preaching will 
not be wanted. This is a strong saying for a pastor, and 
such a pastor ; but it is true. We are so ready with 
our tracts, with our city missionaries, our lady visitors ; 
and then we go home to our comfortable drawing-room 
and think we have done the kind thing by the " lower 
classes." It has become the fashion for beneficent people 
who have money to spare to buy up poor people's houses 
— more properly, the abodes of poverty, for they never 
were theirs — whitewash and clean them, and keep a sort 

Workman s Home 253 

of an eye on the tenants by collecting their weekly rents. 
This is doing it after the example set by Miss Octavia 
Hill — not by any means a bad example ; nor yet a bad 
investment, rows of houses which let in tenements paying 
better than gentlefolks' residences. It even is a kind 
thing, but it is not the kindest thing — for one thing it is 
too patronising. Why should the working man's family 
have their house broken into once a week by the in- 
specting lady visitor ? All well and good, if your tenants 
can only be got to walk in leading-strings ; but what if you 
aimed higher, made free men and women of them with 
a wholesome ambition of their own, by giving them a 
home to be truly theirs ? Could not the same beneficent 
people do the still nobler thing, devoting such money 
they now invest in buying up rows of tenements, to 
the formation of a building fund, be satisfied with a 
return of 3, or 3J per cent., and let the capital create 
a true workman's home after the fashion of Bodel- 
schwingh? Is the English working man less worthy 
of this trust, this being lifted to a higher level, than a 
German working man ? Do not believe it. Try, and 
you will soon raise a generation of freeborn Britons 
indeed, even among your working men. That little 
word " own " possesses a wondrous charm : it will lock up 
public-houses, it will educate the people far more quickly 
than any mere patronage of yours ever could hope for. 
It is curious that folk are mostly what we make them. 
Children are what we make them, and the common 
people are exactly what we make them. Now, the 
English working classes for generations have been called 
poor people — an unbearable expression — and consequently 

254 A Colony of Mercy 

they are " poor " — poor of spirit even. Why should you 
call a man " poor " who works for an honest wage, 
however true the epithet "struggling" may be? Let 
him rather know you see he is struggling, and help 
him to struggle — to struggle out of the mire, beyond 
the drink and the filth into the breathing spaces even 
a working man should reach. This is the meaning of 
" beauty for ashes," and the meaning of workman's 

One other aspect. See how the Workman's Home 
dovetails with all other social efforts, the labour colony, and 
the whole chain of provision for the unemployed. These 
will presently not be wanted. For these homes must 
needs stand in an inverse ratio to the need of labour 
colonies ; a generation will rise which will not so readily 
sink to unemployed-dom. The memories of a happy 
home go a long way, even in a working man's life. One 
main idea of Bodelschwingh's " garden " is, that the 
mothers should no longer have cause to go to factory- 
work, but stay at home, attending to that garden, 
attending to house and home, with a chance of bringing 
up the children in a more wholesome way. This would 
be the simple result of your true charity ; these people 
would save presently all they now spend in rent. And 
mothers are mothers the world over ; even the mother 
in humble life, with a home she can take some pride in, 
will be a better mother to her children than if she 
wears out her strength behind some spinning-wheel, or 
passing sheets of paper through a printing press, turning 
into a machine herself. It is this terrible humdrum of 
factory-work, killing the body and killing the heart, 

Workman s Home 255 

which Bodelschwingh, for the women at least, would 
replace by that garden, that home of their own. For 
turn about this little word " own," and it reads won. 
Home-life won ; family-life won ; home-blessings won — 
"Beauty for Ashes." 



" Gather up the fragments." 

SOME little children we knew, growing up in a 
widowed home where things were scanty, had 
contracted a habit, almost as soon as they could speak, 
of meeting any new thing entering that home with their 
cautious misgivings. " Whatever will it cost ? " and 
" Whoever is to pay for it ? " these mites would ask. It 
was a true question with these children, for they had 
often seen their mother's tears. Yet one was sorry for 
them, for it is childhood's privilege never to wonder at 
" What will it cost ? " Bethel, too, is " child " in this ; 
she does her work not influenced by " what it will cost." 
But if the reader of these chapters ask this question, 
that is another matter ; he even has a right to ask, and 
we must endeavour to answer. 

The observant reader will have formed some idea 
already, from the hints strewn about these pages ; but 
we will try and sum up the main points concerning the 
Bethel treasury. We will begin with the latest develop- 
ment, for visitors almost invariably begin there, feeding 
their wonder on the astonishing " fragment collection," 

the realm of the ingenious Brocken-king. Some time 


The Brocken Samnilung 257 

before General Booth propounded his plan of a " Salvage 
Brigade," the " gathering up of fragments " was thought 
of at Bethel. " Sammelt die iibrigen Brocken" is the 
German text, hence the name of Brocken-satnnihing. 
But, first, this also has grown, and grown out of Bethel's 
invariable habit of being the ready comforter of " all who 
mourn " — of all in trouble, coming to her for advice, for 
aid, for comfort. 

We have shown how she trains her officials, first help- 
ing them, and then being helped in her work by them 
— the most perfect, the most Christian, example of reci- 
procity we ever heard of. Some years ago, a gentleman 
sought refuge at Bethel. He was not an " unfortunate " 
in the sense that he had committed any wrong, or even 
in being wanting in those capacities which we name 
collectively self-help ; but he was sorely tired of the 
world. His was a life on which the Great Refiner had 
laid a shadow — no matter of what kind — but the silver 
had grown bright, and the Brocken-konig is one of those 
whose " life is hid," even as Paul's was. He came to 
Bethel seeking rest, seeking Christian fellowship, seek- 
ing a corner where he might do some work for the 
Master. He had been in business, and at first he simply 
was put on the staff — he was accountant for the Sarepta 
treasury. But his trouble returned ; he was laid aside, 
unable to devote himself to any work for months, and 
his place got filled up. When he was well again, the 
pastor was planning another niche for him — he knew by 
that time the simple fidelity of the man, and, what was 
nobler still, his rare humility. There are many walking 
in shadows in this life who will be stars of the kingdom 


258 A Colony of Mercy 

to come. So the pastor was planning a niche ; but 
the man himself had hit upon a corner — a plan of work 
unique. He was, by this time, at home in the colony, 
feeling himself part and parcel of the place ; he had 
entered the commonwealth. Now, in a commonwealth 
— at least, in such a one where the spirit of Christianity 
rules — folk discover their capacities, because they look 
for them, anxious to turn them to use for one another. 
This is how in such a colony so many strokes of genius 
abound — it is the power of invention pertaining to out- 
going love. We have not heard that this man did rare 
business while he was in business, but he does rare 
business now. He had set his heart on making money 
for the colony — for money touched by Love and used 
by Charity is no longer dross. He started a " salvage 
brigade," but in this way : printed slips went forth from 
the Bethel press, inviting their friends all over the 
country to send them anything they "didn't want," 
about their premises, any cast-off articles, any rubbish 
littering their houses. And they were invited to send 
these things, if possible, in ten-pound parcels because 
the Imperial Post carries ten pounds in weight at 
threepence under fifty miles, or sixpence over that dis- 
tance, and no one minds a sixpence by way of getting 
rid of a ten-pound lot of rubbish, the Brocken-sammlung 
thus collecting its stock-in-trade free of expense. The 
Imperial Post, however, has had to start a special branch- 
office in the precincts of the colony, overwhelmed with 
the parcels and letters marked " Bethel." The idea 
appears to have appealed to the thriftiness of the nation, 
and it is simply marvellous to behold what is sent ; 

The Brocken Sammlung 259 

garments, from the valuable gold-embroidered Court 
dress-coat of cabinet ministers, down to the most ridi- 
culous kind of articles from anybody's private wardrobe 
— just anything people do not any longer require, but 
which Bethel, somehow, can turn to use again. Just 
think of gentlemen, or of their female representatives, 
sending their broken braces ! you see them hang up by the 
hundred. What for ? Well, the leather mostly is good, 
new straps are fitted to the button-hole slips — it gives 
employment to some of the patients — and thus, not only 
the male portion of the colony is kept in braces at 
nominal cost, but any poor man in the neighbourhood 
can come and buy a pair for twopence or threepence ; 
for Bethel always thinks of others beside herself. This 
is just an example ; you could write a book on the 
Brocken-sam mlung. 

W T e have said the Brocken-man himself hit upon this 
stroke of genius ; but things in the kingdom of God 
often are the property of several inventors, — possibly by 
some genius divine, lest any man vaunt himself. And 
thus it has to be recorded that a poor widow away on 
the Rhine also took her share of the invention. Never 
having heard of Brocken or salvage brigades or anything 
of the sort, this poor widow, with the love of God in her 
heart, and longing to do something for Bethel, having 
not even any halfpennies to spare, bethought herself of 
widow's mites in kind. She wrote to the pastor that for a 
long time she had collected all the cork stoppers she could 
get hold of in her neighbourhood, and that she had quite 
a garretful of them now. Could they possibly be of any 
use ? In fact, this poor woman's letter coincided with the 

260 A Colony of Mercy 

Brocken-maris early thoughts of the scheme. Her heap 
of old corks was the first instalment of " rubbish " sent ; 
and it is quite true to say that out of her innocent, yet 
love-inspired collection of wine and beer bottle-stoppers 
has grown, what now fills several houses, and yields 
employment for some forty patients and men of the Cave 
of Adullam, and brings in about £2000 clear annual 
gain. At least, this figure has been nearly reached for 
the year just closed. But the Brocken-sammlung^ though 
it fills three houses, is but a baby as yet, a few years 
old : give it time and see what that Brocken-king will 
make of it ! Not in mere flattery has he been called 
— not fragment-gatherer, but fragment-king He is a 
king of inventiveness. He, too, enjoined us not to say 
anything in praise of the colony ; but how can one help 
just telling what one has seen ? He has lately gathered 
his men, such as are not epileptic patients, into a house- 
hold, of which, worn and weary as he is, he has begged to 
be " house-father," that he might seek to serve them, help 
them on the upward way. 

If a " king," he is a humble one ; and certainly not in 
his own estimation, but in his own way he is a genius. 
Here is an example. 

Many of these incoming fragments are large consign- 
ments ; so presently deal-boxes upon deal-boxes began 
to litter the establishment. At first they were used for 
firewood, but the Brocken-king after a while declared : 
This is expensive firewood. And he set his business 
brain to work ; he offered his empties to various whole- 
sale houses, and one, a soap manufacturer, closed with him. 
But the latter would not pay in cash, he pays in soap, 

The Brocken Samnilung 261 

with the result that the Brocken-sammlung has started 
a soap depot ; while quantities of empty little bottles 
coming in — people do send such funny things : fancy 
sending your empty hair-oil flasks ! — put them up to the 
idea of filling them again, which can be done cheaply 
enough, for these sort of things at hairdressers' and 
perfumers' sell at the 250 per cent, profit, and the 
Brocken-sammlung, not being nearly so rapacious, yet 
drives a thriving trade with the neighbourhood. We 
ought to have mentioned above that the cork stoppers 
are sold to a manufacturer who turns them out again as 

And as for rags leaving the Brocken-sammlung — 
woollen stockings, old clothes fit for the unravelling of 
texture only — you should see the towering waggons 
leaving the place, sackfuls by the score, returning 
presently as bales of new goods. 

What do you think your photograph album-covers are 
made of, your handsome leather blotting books, your 
little dress-combs ? Old boots and shoes are sent to 
the Brocken-sammlung in alarming numbers ; what can 
be mended up again is mended up and sold. But many 
are beyond patching ; they are picked to pieces, the 
" uppers " are sent to a manufactory in Alsace, which 
works them down and turns them out as pressed-leather 
articles, the soles by-and-by seeing the light again as 
galvanite combs and things. And did you know that 
half the " Japanese " lacquered wares we buy so cheap 
are made in Alsace of old book-covers and the like? 
The Brocken-sammlung knows all that, turning its " frag- 
ments " to good account. 

262 A Colony of Mercy 

This is very instructive ; it shows there really is nothing 
new under the sun— except what is fresh, of God's own 
making, and even He has made nature a great refuse- 
gatherer, the autumn's decay being the seed-bed of the 
spring's new bloom. It is instructive, though of course in 
itself nothing new ; else wholesale rag-pickers would not 
have been known to become millionaires. But he who 
runs may read : it has seemed to us that Bethel herself 
is a refuse-gatherer, collecting the fragments of sin-worn 
humanity : has not Christ Himself said "gather them up, 
that nothing perish"? meaning the five-loaf fragments 
when He said so, but is it not His holy meaning for each 
and all of the "least of them"? Gather them up — "it is not 
the will of your Father in heaven, that one of these little 
ones should perish ! " Gather them up ! Yes, this book 
will have shown that Bethel in truth is a great Brocken- 
sammlung herself, taking in the " fragments " under the 
purifying hand of the affliction upon them ; taking in the 
" fragments," the sinking, the undone ; gathering them 
in simple obedience to the Master's behest " that nothing 
perish." And who shall say how many by her instru- 
mentality are being clothed with the new garment, are 
entering the new life, leaving old things behind them, 
and becoming new creatures ? A future day only will 
reveal this, when all things are new. 

But to return to the Brocken-sammlung — it not only 
tells of business, it tells of charity. There are quantities 
of old clothes in tolerable condition sent in. Everything 
on arriving is disinfected. Then some of the women 
patients are set to work, to sort the things, to mend 
them, to make them fit for wear again ; and if you enter 

The Brocken S ammlung 263 

the Brocken shop, you see for what use. They are 
sold, quite cheap, to the working population of the 
neighbourhood — quite cheap, for Bethel has a motherly 
heart for the poor, that is, the struggling folk round 
about. She could put double the prices on the things, 
but she does not ; though living by charity herself, she 
is ever ready with her own charity, and she thinks 
it gain sufficient, if over these Brocken some of her 
patients are occupied, the things themselves going at 
nominal prices, to make the meeting of ends a little 
more easy in working men's homes round about. The 
Brocken-king is thoroughly imbued with Bodelschwingh's 
spirit, which is a giving rather than a taking. 

The Fatherland is noted for its smoking propensities, 
and little boys and girls upon a hint from the Brocken- 
king have set themselves to watch for the little conical 
clippings of their father's or elder brother's cigars — you 
see these contributions from smokeland collecting in 
many a German family, and in the B roc kens ammlung 
you may vent your surprise over a giant boxful of them. 
They go back to the cigar manufactory, undergo pre- 
paration, and start afresh as " blend," — quite valuable 
they are, collected in such quantity. Little boys and 
girls, too, collect used postage stamps for Bethel, and 
they have been told to send the envelopes bodily, these 
envelopes yielding a threefold gain : firstly, work for the 
imbecile epileptic children, who can manage to cut out 
the stamps ; secondly, the paper, which goes to the 
paper mills ; thirdly, the stamps themselves, which are 
handed over to the postage stamp bazaar spoken of 
on a former page, and which, originally a branch of the 

264 A Colony of Mercy 

Brocken-sammlung, now does business independently, as 
we have seen, requiring a house of its own. 

Old books too — what is not sent to that wonderful 
place ? A second-hand bookshop is the outcome ; the 
Brocken-king, however, has an eye on this stray litera- 
ture, much of which is simply burned, for books should 
be wholesome food. But the population round about 
can buy good books, and instructive books, of every 
kind, very cheap at the Brocken bookshop. The 
books even are catalogued and business done by post. 
Epileptic patients, educated men, are at work here. It 
was with a queer feeling we found some of our own 
" adopted children," The Greatest Tiring in the World, 
and the rest of them, in German edition, the white- 
robed, gilt-edged things, sold at twopence, alas — 

"Das ist das Los des Schonen auf der Erde ! " 
Well, if at twopence they carry their message a second 
time, bless them and let them go. 

So this is the Brocken-sammlung ; and it illustrates 
the management of the place — frugal, farseeing, thrifty, 
successful ; a growth like everything else there, and 
grown from a seed of brotherly kindness — a man in 
trouble helped, he growing into an army of helpfulness. 
It is the way of the Kingdom. What a wonderful thing 
such a colony is, which, never seeking them, finds such 
workers ! But it is simply a gathering of like to like — 
it is the powerful attraction of spirit-taught things. 

The yearly expenditure of Bethel is about .£60,000 
to £70,000, apart from the labour colony, spoken of 
separately, but including everything else we have 
mentioned ; it means about £20 a year per head of 

The B roc ken Sammlnng 265 

the colony — there being over three thousand souls 
counting the out-stations. Surely this is reasonable 
considering what is done ! Exceptional land invest- 
ments of course are extra, but these figures, besides 
all current expenses, include the ordinary building 
going on, the constant enlarging of the tent, the mani- 
fold charity dispensed, even in far-away Africa. It is 
because of the vastness of the undertaking, and the 
mutual helpfulness, that this is possible. They cannot 
of course keep their patients, or indeed any one, 
on ,£20 a year — this figure too means "reciprocity." 
Union is strength, even as regards the lessening of 
expenses ; everybody there works for everybody else, 
and that is why they can do it at such moderate cost. 
It has to be borne in mind that the great wealth of 
Bethel lies in her unpaid workers ; this is her real 
treasury, without which not the tenth part of that 
work were possible. As for the patients, for the bulk 
of them but nominal sums are paid — no one is refused 
because he cannot pay, if his claim appeal otherwise ; 
and if he does not pay, money is forthcoming from 
some other source. The first-class patients, those 
kept as ladies and gentlemen, pay the usual boarding- 
house prices, ,£50 to ,£80, in some cases even ,£100, 
according to requirements. The charge for poorer 
patients is £20 to ,£25 per annum ; but in many cases 
not half of this is really received, the claims of poverty, 
even of poor parishes, being readily taken into 
account. Altogether about ,£20,000 is coming in for 
the 1400 patients, rich and poor, paying and non- 
paying — in other words, about £14 per head. This is 

266 A Colony of Mercy 

barely one-third of all current expenses ; the remain- 
ing two-thirds, and everything else that is wanted, year 
by year, being found in their own beautiful ways. 

The harvest contributions in kind of those Ravens- 
berger Christians, for instance, are never forgotten — 
these being included in the yearly budget above- 
mentioned ; and since it is a coal-mining country, even 
pit-owners of the neighbourhood remember Bethel, send- 
ing their waggon loads of coal, not expecting to be 
paid. True, not first-class coal generally is sent, but 
Bethel has splendid stove arrangements, and burning 
the "small stuff" keeps everybody well warmed. Could 
not English pit-owners find room for their " small stuff" 
in the Kingdom of Mercy ? 

Then there is the penny collection (p. 83), mostly 
among school-children, which never fails with its annual 
^1500 or so. Bethel, in fact, is sure of her friends and 
is never in a position of alarming the country with 
agonised cries of empty coffers. True, Bodelschwingh 
is a rare beggar, but even his begging is ideal : done 
so calmly — so nobly we had almost said, and with such 
certainty of response. Germany has not by any means 
the wealth of England ; nor — though she has some 
noble givers on her lists — is it the contributions of the 
wealthy by which Bethel is chiefly supported ; but, as 
we have seen, by the self-imposed tithes of a people 
whose riches are of the wealth unseen. 

We have shown how, twice over, thankoffering 
pennies came to the rescue of special effort. A little 
more than a year ago Bethel found her supply of 
water run short. They looked for a spring up in the 

The B roc ken Sammlung 267 

hills, to be brought down by means of an aqueduct, 
the " bringing down " to be done by her own patients ; 
they had found one, but it necessitated the buying of 
a farm through which that water rill took its course, 
£2500 were required, — that is 50,000 shillings. Bodel- 
schwingh's appeal went forth for 50,000 " quarts of water " 
— simply enough, just "water for our patients, they 
need it " — and in the course of three months or so, 
not 50,000 but 60,000 " quarts " had come in — Bodel- 
schwingh somehow always gets the overflowing measure. 
They came from all sorts of people, rich and poor ; 
folk liked the idea, for surely it was the "cup of 
cold water " ; and, as usual, many a pretty message 
graced this giving, many a story of the kind which is 
chronicled by some angel. One evening last winter, as 
we were sitting by the pastor's side at one of the 
weekly gatherings of the sisters, he read them a letter 
just come with a " quart of water " — fourteen sous — 
sent by a German crossing-sweeper or rag-picker in 
Paris, one of the Pastor's own old flock, who years 
ago had been in his Sunday-school, He had done 
extra work for these sous carrying earth loads for 
a gardener for a fortnight. Surely this shows the 
power of attraction of the spirit at work at Bethel ! 
It is because this man and his labour of love are so 
thoroughly believed in, he can put out his appeals ; and 
the response is as certain as the incomings of the Bank 
of England. 

But more ; these 50,000 shillings after all are not 
sunk as a dead investment, bringing that water to 
the colony and nothing more. Some would be satisfied 

268 A Colony of Mercy 

with this, for the water was greatly needed. But money 
doubles and trebles directly in that man's hand, doing 
double and treble work. We have said a farm had to 
be bought because of the water. Not many weeks passed 
before a house-father sallied forth with a band of patients 
to turn that farm into one of their out-stations. So the 
water is got, and the farm is got, and a work is set on 
foot ; and that farm has entered the circle of reciprocity, 
keeping itself going, and helping to keep the colony 
going, looking after some of its patients. If this is not 
financial genius, it is something very much like it. 

Here is another example : Behind Hebron, nestling 
on the hill slope, is a beautiful homestead, with its own 
fields and plantations. It was for sale some six or seven 
years ago, and some one having just mooted the question 
of a "home of rest," where the brothers might recruit 
when worn and in need of a change, it was bought there 
and then, — they never consider long at Bethel, for things 
are sure to " pay." This station, named Pella, is fast re- 
funding itself; it is a lovely retreat for any rest- needing 
brother, and they — that is, the house-father and his staff, 
not the rest-needing brothers — have charge of about a 
dozen pensionnaires, paying patients, pastors and pro- 
fessors and suchlike, who have overdone their brains. It 
is just the place for them ; it does its work for the colony 
as the Pella of the brothers, and it does not cost any- 

Telling our story, we have mentioned the home pro- 
ducts of the colony, the work done by the patients ; this, 
of course, also stands for " funds," and is balanced against 
the expenditure. The work of the patients yields about 

The Brocken Sammlung 269 

£4000 a year ; it has, however, to be borne in mind that, 
for the larger part, their work can scarcely be counted in 
cash, yielding its own substantial evidence in buildings, 
improvements of property, etc. The whole value of the 
Bethel property is put down at £2 50,000, against which 
stands a debt of £75,000 ; this debt including her bor- 
rowings for great schemes, such as, for instance, the 
starting of the Labour Colony, for which a loan of 
£15,000 was obtained. But some of these borrowings, 
be it noted, are free of interest ; given because the work 
is so thoroughly believed in. 

Then the home provinces make yearly grants, about 
£3000 — apart from Wilhelmsdorf — having in return the 
right of sending poor patients both to Sarepta and to 
Bethel. Besides this, Bethel has permission from the 
authorities to go house-to-house collecting in these 
provinces — this instead of sending out letters for sub- 
scriptions, as is done here. £10,000 or so is thus 
collected yearly. It is not begging, it is an authorised 
calling for free-will contributions on behalf of the 
afflicted within such province, their being no poor-rate 
in Germany. 

And Bethel's way of setting about this is very charm- 
ing. Some sixty collectors are employed. Who are 
they? We had almost said, they are the blind and halt 
and maimed of the country round about. But, indeed, 
they are something very much like it. It is, like every- 
thing else, a charity within a charity. Those are made 
collectors who for some reason or other, generally reasons 
of health, are more or less unfit for their real work — an 
asthmatic tailor, for instance, or a consumptive stone- 

270 A Colony of Mercy 

mason ; it will do them good to be sent for change of air 
about the country. They get about four or five shillings 
a day while collecting, for they are on their own keep, 
besides railway expenses, but they only get it while they 
collect, which is three or four times a year, a few weeks 
at a time, returning to their own employment between. 
(At least in most cases ; some few are permanently en- 
gaged and settled in the outskirts of the colony.) Now, 
this is not only a wondrous charity to these men, it is an 
actual saving to the colony, for they do not need to pay the 
bulk of their collectors the whole year round, nor engage 
them at a salary. Is not this financial genius, and yet 
charity of purest kind, even beneficence, for the rare kind- 
liness of the thought? These men carry the colony's 
authorised books, in which everything is entered by the 
subscribers ; the plan is quite safe from abuse. Some of 
these collectors have been in Bethel's service for years. 
As one discovers these things, one no longer wonders 
that the colony works successfully, for kindness must 
repay itself. And you cannot inquire into anything at 
Bethel, but you come upon some such kindness at the 
bottom. Charity vaunt eth not itself ] is not puffed up y but 
Charity is kind I is kind ! They hardly know the beauty 
of their own work at Bethel — it is plain they do not, for 
their humility is genuine ; they do their work, and there 
is an end of it, as far as they are concerned, but the kind- 
ness running through everything, the simple kindness — 
what is it, if not just Christlike ? When we asked the 
pastor why at such a place they do not keep a chronicler, 
so that an unfortunate story-seeker like ourselves could 
draw information from him, he gave us a smile. We felt 

The Brocken Sammlung 271 

almost ashamed of the question. " Oh no," he said, 
" these things are best forgotten." Yet it is for example 
they should be written, engraven on stone even ; and for 
example we have written them. It was not easy to get 
at them, but we felt armed with the key of sympathy ; 
and what we have written, however inadequate, is 

We would warn our readers. We are afraid our writ- 
ing will let loose a swarm of visitors upon the colony ; we 
would beg them to refrain, lest they be disappointed, 
for no one has any time there for mere sightseers. 
When those magistrates had been — they came at an 
unfortunate moment, else they, of course, being a depu- 
tation and on business, would not have needed to have 
recourse to our marshalling — some one said to the 
pastor in our hearing, there really was need for a regular 
appointment — a person knowing all about everything, 
and fit to take charge of visitors. " Oh no," said he 
with that smile of his ; " we are not a bear show." 

Bethel, at the same time, never is without visitors ; 
there is a special " hospice " set apart for them, with an 
amiable hostess at the head of it. Friends of the 
patients are welcome there, and so is any one who has 
any business, any true call for troubling the colony. 
Bielefeld of course has hotels, and people putting up 
there can walk about the colony unhindered. And 
what would they see — a lot of buildings, most of them 
unpretending enough, outward show not being one of 
Bethel's characteristics ; they might even enter some of 
them and see the patients, and they might see some 
brothers and sisters, and they might come away — we 

272 A Colony of Mercy 

promise them — disappointed. For the story of Bethel 
is of the hidden things, and they are not a bear 

But any one into whose heart the seed-sowing of this 
story has fallen, and fallen on good ground, any one 
anxious to "go and do likewise," will be heartily 
welcome there : even in that case no one will have much 
time to devote to him ; but let him go and see for him- 
self and bring away a great impulse, and do something 
in his own country to prove he has not been in vain. 
True friends, in short, are welcome there — friends of the 
afflicted, the hungry, the homeless — and to such the 
story of Bethel will be an open book. 

We have said the good folk there had asked us not to 
" say anything in praise " ; and they did beg of us, since 
we were bent on telling their story, to be sure and " look 
for the Schatten-seiten as well " — the imperfections, the 
shadows ! But now that we have written the book, 
given the picture, we fear we have not put in any 
Schatten-seiten at all ; but, indeed, we honestly have 
looked for them, and we only remember one. Anxious 
to be truthful, we will give it. Some of these houses 
might with advantage be turned out for a thorough 
airing — the ventilation is not up to modern requirement. 
But be it remembered the colony has grown, and grown 
out of farmhouses largely. Moreover, simple charity, 
rather than sanitation, has had the planning. There is 
no denying this is a Schatten-seite, but it is the only 
one we have noticed, and it is being improved. 

But, seriously, no common-sense reader, no one of any 
Christian insight, will think for one moment that at this 

The B roc ken Sammlung 273 

place, though it be a Bethel, and however lovely its work, 
there are no Schatten-seiten — no imperfections. A colony 
of three thousand human beings, however noble its scope, 
will have its shortcomings. But they will be of a kind 
not seen by an outside critic in their just proportion, 
and they will be most keenly felt by the workers them- 
selves. A stay in their midst of a few weeks, even of 
a few months, will scarcely reveal such imperfections ; 
nor was it our business to look for them : it would even 
be unjust to do so ; for the " perfections " are the reality 
outshining them. We have not idealised the story of 
Bethel, though we have set it forth as an ideal, for such 
it is, if by an ' ideal ' you mean a thing great in its own 
high aims, a thing greater in its humility, a thing greatest 
of all in the full measure of success given to such 
humility, a thing, therefore, pure and noble despite what 
of imperfection may cling to it, and fit to stand as 
an example. And Bethel is this. Her imperfections 
will be the human shortcomings of all Christian en- 
deavour, cleaving even to Spirit-born beauty while yet 
in this mortal coil ; the true soul within ever striving 
to overcome these, and overcoming them step by step. 
If Bethel speaks of her Schatten-seiten this is but 
another proof that she is a living growth, that hers is 
the spirit of true Christianity, ever ready to take the 
lowest place, and when she has done her noblest work 
to say, " We are unprofitable servants." We most em- 
phatically say it was not our business to look for any 
Schatten-seiten ; but, having seen her ideal beauty, it was 
our business to set forth in fullest light both the work 
and the working secret of Bethel, that any who run 


274 ^ Colony of Mercy 

may read, and go and do likewise. This, we take it, 
is the meaning of an ideal. 

Bethel has a noble motto ; we will give it in conclu- 
sion : — 

" Pray, and work." 

Not that they write it up anywhere ; but enter any of 
their houses and you see it — the busy life, the simple 
Christianity — the very patients growing up to its whole- 
some meaning. 

In minor respects, the English visitor will notice some 
few things strange to the English eye : for one thing, the 
utter absence of what we should think mere becoming- 
ness, say, in dress, in appearances ; they are homely 
folk, and such adornments as they have are of the 
hidden man. We do not say that the " English eye " 
is all wrong in this, but Bethel is of a different stamp. 
Bethel could never " dress." 

Bethel does not need any dress, any show, she is the 
handmaiden of Him who was meek and lowly in heart, 
who has said, " I am among you as one that serveth." 
Bethel has many missions, but they are all summed up 
in her mission of service. We have heard her pastor 
say, when some one expressed anxiety lest he be over- 
borne by the mighty load resting on his shoulders — his 
one regret was this, we heard him say, he could no longer 
serve, personally serve, some dying babe at Kinderheim. 

What a crown this man will have when the servants 
are where the Master is ! — a crown which yet is within 
the reach of every one of us, if we but thought of it ! 
if we but lived for it ! 



" Go and do likewise." 

A COUPLE of months ago, when this book was first 
thought of, the idea was, to dedicate it as a working 
model to the readers of the booklet whence the present 
writer drew her first inspiration — a vision of the " Pro- 
gramme of Christianity " not on paper only, but translated 
into life ; not an ideal only, but an ideal clothed with 
reality ; a doing, not a thinking only, nor yet an admiring 
only. But now that the story is told — a true story, 
though it read like a fairy-tale of charity — it seems to 
require a larger audience ; and one ventures to address 
all English readers, into whose hands this book may fall ; 
for a serious question has to be answered. This work- 
ing model is a message. 

Why should England, bountiful England, have such a 
working model held up to her from another country? 
For large-hearted endeavour, for splendid results, the 
charities of England indeed rank nobly — no country 
more ready to respond to any tale of woe than this 
country. And yet ! the reader will have asked him- 
self, over and over again, on perusing these pages, why is 
there nothing like this, not anything at all like this, 


276 A Colony of Mercy 

among ourselves ? Why, indeed ! It is not to sing the 
praises of Germany that this is said — Germany is behind 
England in many things. It is said, that English people 
themselves may look for an answer to the question, 
" Why are we so seriously behind, when we are so ready 
to help ? " 

One answer to the question may be : The perfect 
humility which alone can do great things, the perfect 
charisma of service which serves, scarce knowing it is 
serving, the love unbounded which admits of no limit 
anywhere, the faith which removes mountains, nay which 
sees no mountain in its soaring flight, are qualities not 
so easily found united in any one man, and such a man is 
the'gift of God. Bodelschwingh, though he would look 
at you with the smile of childhood and the largest eyes of 
surprise if you told him so, is a man of centuries. Now to 
such a one forces naturally gravitate. The forces are here 
in England, plentiful enough ; the charity is here, the 
educated purse is here — English folk are in advance of 
Germany in general open-handedness — true Christianity 
is here : the one thing wanted, it would seem, is such a 
centre of gravity round which forces may gather, like to 
like, for an equal result. True, there is a difference of 
soil, and that particular soil on which Bethel stands 
strong-rooted and firm — a " Ravensberger Land," with 
a people of the humblest, a peasantry whom no one ever 
called " poor people," though they live by the sweat of 
the brow, a people rich with unseen riches, independent, 
self-respecting, God-fearing, strong-handed because 
strong-hearted, this particular soil — well, we have not 
seen it here. The land laws are against it. But there 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 277 

is other soil in this England, equally rich though dif- 
ferent, with a productive power of its own ; and a harvest 
no less beautiful for completeness might grow on it. 

Completeness — why is English charity lacking in this 
respect, when it is so bountiful, so ready to give ? Might 
it not be because it is too patronising! Everything 
more or less, is done by patronage here ; but Charity, the 
beautiful, the free, should not stoop to that — no, nor seek 
it ! But the same feeling which makes English folk 
say " poor people," seeks to patronise them in their very 
deeds of charity. Is it love of power ? Givers here like 
to have something in return for their sovereigns — some 
influence, something to witness to their having sovereigns. 
Is it not so ? Or why is it that one has to move heaven 
and earth, canvassing for votes, writing hundreds and 
thousands of begging letters to subscribers, taking 
months, in order to put one little cripple, one helpless 
incurable into some of these institutions ? Institutions 
therefore they are, and never anything else — no living 
growths. How should they, dependent as they are on 
" Life Governors," on charity mixed with love of power, 
ever grow to be working models, comforters of all that 
mourn? It is not likely. THE KINGDOM OF MERCY, 

Say you, we have then some charities thus " free " ? 
Granted. They may be free of Life Governors and 
votes, they are not therefore free of patronage. What 
is it but stooping to patronage, if you must stand up in 
Exeter Hall, with a platform of the great and fashionable, 
before you can carry your objects ? The Salvation Army 
is about the only thing free of that — no, not even they, 

278 A Colony of Mercy 

for they took their semi-Jubilee to Exeter Hall for a 
demonstration, a show. It was with a curious im- 
pression one watched Bethel at her Jubilee the other 
day : excepting a few pastors and the like, there were 
scarcely any gentlefolk present. Bethel, though she found 
the friendship of Emperors, has her roots struck in 
humble soil. That Ravensberger country had turned 
out by the thousand, those peasants — true givers they — 
who know how to give themselves and their prayers 
more even than their pennies, and never heard of votes. 
That was their Exeter Hall ; and one could not help 
thinking, this is the difference between charity here and 
charity there. 

And then the outward expression of charity here is a 
" society " — Christian England is choke-full of societies ; 
Bethel is a " colony," a personal human fellowship of 
sufferers and helpers. What constitutes a " society " ? 
Take up any charity reports and you will see ; the most 
staring thing about them invariably is the list of sub- 
scribers. This is the strength a society rests on, else, 
why give it this prominence ? But the strength of a 
" Colony of Mercy " is the personal surrender to a 
Christian ideal of personal service. The one is a money- 
giving, lavish if you like ; the other is a self-giving, a 
personal washing of feet. This is a fundamental dif- 
ference. True, there is only one Bethel in Germany : 
Christianity is in the minority in the Fatherland, sadly so. 
For quantity you have it here — churches and societies 
abounding ; for quality go to Bethel. It takes some- 
thing to be a Christian in Germany — even to attend a 
church regularly — some of the " reproach of Christ " ! 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 279 

Maybe this is another reason, keeping the quality 

But comparisons are unsatisfactory. We did not mean 
to make any, only we are sure the reader himself has 
asked the question, Why are we behindhand? It is 
in perfect faith we say the charities of England, for 
splendid endeavour and far-reaching result, rank nobly. 
But yet ! 

Bethel, speaking to us through her silent work, has a 
message to this country, and it subdivides itself readily 
under three heads : 

The Epileptics, 
The Unemployed, 
The Ill-housed. 

It will not be of much use to turn to statistics or 
census-papers for information, as to how many epileptics 
there might be in this country. Germany never knew 
anything like correct figures till Bethel began her work. 
Doctors did not know, no one knew ; but there are one 
and a half to two per thousand of the population. 
This at an equal rate would mean sixty to eighty 
thousand epileptics in this country. But to be quite 
sure we are not overstepping the mark, let us say 
one per thousand —forty thousand of our English fel- 
low creatures stricken with this affliction. Where are 
they? Could — should not there be a Bethel for them 

It is curious that England, having homes even for 
stray dogs, homes for almost every form of human 

280 A Colony of Mercy 

distress, so far has had no home proper * to take in 
these afflicted ones. But it is a pleasure to record 
that in some hearts the need has found an echo, and 
some hands at this moment are striving to fill the 
gap. Even while this book has been in preparation, 
we have heard of two efforts, independent of each other, 
but both inspired by Bethel. 

Two years ago Lord and Lady Meath, carrying their 
own good work to Germany, the ministering children's 
band, heard of that Colony of Mercy, and naturally 
visited it. They spent a week there ; and the writer 
may be forgiven if, without asking permission, she 
quotes his Lordship's impression of what he then saw, as 
summed-up in this — one of the sayings he left behind 
him. He now understood, he said, and for the first 
time truly felt, what is meant by " Take off thy shoes, 
for this is holy ground ! " So he would have " taken off 
his shoes " as an expression of the simple feelings we 
have endeavoured to put down in these pages. But 
Lord and Lady Meath did not merely express a 
sentiment — people often admire and stop there — they 
went and did something. 

The daily papers have reported that in August 
last a home was opened at Godalming — " The Meath 
Home of Comfort for Epileptics." It was opened with 
the usual show, Royalty and all — things somehow don't 
do in this country without show, and one cannot help 
contrasting the quiet way in which Bethel began. But 

* Excepting a little home at Maghull, near Liverpool, opened 
about three years ago by a parish doctor, who in workhouses had 
come across the terrible need, and who had seen Bethel. 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 281 

the beginning nevertheless is admirable ; here is a fine 
old country house and grounds of about ten acres bought 
by the Countess and presented free, with the hope the 
home may be supported by voluntary gifts. It is for 
females only, with six cots for children, and can take 
about a hundred patients. But before the house was 
opened there were already four hundred applications. 
There will be hundreds upon hundreds before long — 
there will be no difference in this respect from Bethel's 
experience. The new home is put in charge of a 
committee, with the vicar of Godalming at its head. 

We simply quote from the newspapers, struck with 
the coincidence of this opening with the message of 
this book. Would to God this new home might grow 
into a Bethel ! — its name has hit the right thing, " Home 
of Comfort for Epileptics " ; and it is to go on Bethel's 
plan — find work for the patients, give them back some- 
thing of what they have lost. One is very glad of this 
beginning, but the question rises, Where are the fit 
nurses — the ministry of mercy to develop this seedling ? 
If this Home of Comfort has to advertise for them, to 
seek them, to remunerate them, it will, we fear, collapse : 
at any rate, it will never be a Bethel. The reader who 
has followed us through Bethel's history will perhaps 
even join us, if we ask, Could not a twin seedling 
be planted, at Godalming or elsewhere — for mutual 
development it would be best side by side — a seedling 
for raising the true sisters to nurture up that home? 
And if such seedling were to grow into a tree and 
spread branches of healing, like Sarepta with her band 
of six hundred, what a power in the land ! " Homes 

282 A Colony of Mercy 

of Comfort " could take heart then, and do their work. 
These pages have been written in vain if they have 
not shown the strength there is in fellowship, in recipro- 
city, to develop a commonwealth of illimitable growth, 
even a working model of Christ's Programme for the 
comforting of all that mourn. One cannot help looking 
at that Godalming seedling, knowing its origin, without 
asking, What manner of child shall this be ? Will the 
mantle of Elijah fall upon it, even the spirit of him 
whose touch is upon the thought that conceived it ? 

Lady Meath in her opening address referred to 
another effort, — "seeking to make provision for male 
patients chiefly on the lines of this German work." 

A printed appeal of this "other effort" has reached 
us, its present endeavour being to raise £10,000 
with the intention of buying a farm and starting a 
colony like the one from which it has taken the idea- 
Some benevolent folk of this country visited Bethel, 
coming away with the thought that England must no 
longer be behind Germany in this respect. Surely she 
should not ; but this is not the way in which Bethels are 
raised, and the raising of £10,000 alone will never 
give you a Bethel. One is very thankful for any 
such efforts, but it is important they should not miss 
the one right track ; very thankful, for it proves 
that thoughts are moving, and the country perchance is 
coming awake to the epileptics' need. The good people 
supporting this scheme have resolved themselves into a 
committee, calling a meeting at the Mansion House the 
other day to inaugurate their endeavour. The newly- 
born charitable enterprise in due form was christened, to 

The Message of Bethel to Otir selves 28 


be known henceforth as The National Society for the 
Employment of Epileptics. This is a grand name, pledg- 
ing England to the work. The Lord Mayor was in 
the chair, some one even calling him the godfather of 
this babe struggling into life. It was a well-supported 
meeting : the Church, the law, the medical profession 
were represented, the latter predominating ; but we were 
struck with one thing — the only word spoken that after- 
noon which witnessed to this meeting not being a 
collection of " Jews, Turks, and Infidels " was spoken 
by the Lord Mayor — he being a Roman Catholic. One 
of the speakers, referring to the epileptics' need of em- 
ployment, made much of Carlyle's " Gospel of Work " — 
calling it the gospel of the nineteenth century, the 
gospel also of the Mansion House. His Lordship dis- 
claimed this, saying the gospel of the Mansion House 
was Love thy neighbour as thyself. This was a brave word. 
Not Carlyle, then, in the first place, for the epileptic, 
but Christ. Another thing which struck us was that not 
one of the speakers — several of them referred to Bethel, 
having been there — not one of them touched upon the 
moving spring of that Colony of Mercy. They called it 
a " brilliant success," but not one of them with one word 
went to the root of that success, nor faintly hinted at it — 
the service of mercy, the self-surrender, the Christ-taught 
love, on which that commonwealth is based— a "brilliant 
success " because of this. 

England, we have said, is pledged to this new and 
much-needed endeavour, for it is to be a National 
Society. But among the letters read in apology for 
absence was one from the Chief Rabbi, who was 

284 A Colony of Mercy 

" unavoidably prevented from attending." He had been 
asked along with the Lord Chancellor and other great folk. 
Now it is to be a National Society ; and here is Christian 
England, we thought, coming to the rescue of her forty 
thousand epileptics. " Bring him to Me" said Christ ! 

It is not that we preach exclusiveness. Bethel takes 
in Jewish patients, and the Bielefeld rabbi may visit 
them ; Bethel took in the Roman Catholic epileptics of 
the province, till the Romish Church claimed her own 
patients. No, not exclusiveness ; but even " Social 
Christianity," which is but a newly discovered name for 
the philanthropy we long have known, even Social 
Christianity, if it is to be true, if it is to be a living force, 
can only grow on a Christ-stirred soil. 

Speaking subsequently to a friend much interested in 
the object of this meeting, who also had been to Bethel, 
we asked him, " Where are the nurses — the sisters, the 
brothers ? " " Well," he said, " that is a great want here 
— the ' deaconess ' somehow never grew in this country ; 
we must work with what we have got." And he 
thought, something after all could be done with paid 
nurses — he even spoke of paid " house-fathers." But 
our thoughts went back to Bethel, to the Colony of 
Mercy, to the commonwealth for Christ's sake, and a 
hopeless feeling stole over us. This new society, we 
thought, though it call itself " National " will be an institu- 
tion like the rest of them — sending out its yearly cries 
of empty coffers, going to Exeter Hall, very likely, each 
returning May, presenting its yearly reports like the 
rest of them. But there will be no inspiring story 
to tell five-and -twenty years hence — no one would read 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 285 

it if any one wrote it — unless the life yet be infused 
into this effort which alone can result in true growth. 
Who is to be the guiding hand, the Bodelschwingh 
of this National Society, whether a doctor or layman, 
we could not learn. " We have not got to the length 
of that," said one, of whom we inquired ; " but it won't be 
a parson ! " 

These few words set us thinking. This " National " 
Society is going to be undenominational, so undenomina- 
tional that even the Chief Rabbi has to be included. If 
anything in Christian England wants to be " National," 
it must not show its colours. " It won't be a parson " — 
for if we take a Churchman the chapel people stand 
aloof, and if we take a Nonconformist the Church of 
England folk leave us unbefriended ; and we want 
subscriptions all round. It is this desperate need of 
subscriptions. One of the speakers at the Mansion 
House actually said : " We will start this much-needed 
work if you make it possible by giving us the funds ! " 
in other words : this work is going to be done in the 
strength of your sovereigns — and sovereigns to be sure 
are all of one colour. Love is not, faith is not, but 
money is— this desperate need of subscriptions. So we 
invite the Chief Rabbi, we are undenominational, and 
our Bodelschwingh is not to be a parson. 

It is not the " parson " we plead for : we plead for a 
right spirit of this new society. Its promoters have been 
to Bethel ; they did not stay long enough, maybe, to 
read the full story they may now read in these pages, but 
surely they caught some glimpse of the working secret ? 
Ten thousand pounds are nothing if you want a Bethel. 

286 A Colony of Mercy 

The resolution passed at the Mansion House said this 

work should be " as much as possible on the lines of the 

Bielefeld colony." So you do want a Bethel ! Ten 

thousand pounds, then, are nothing — it is a foundation 

of men and of women which is wanted ; you want 

the upholding power of ten thousand hearts. We too 

would be " National " in our pleading for England's 

epileptics : let the Church of Christ arise here also and 

spread her arms about these " falling ones," that church 

of which every one is a member who can do a thing 

for Christ's sake. It is not church or chapel which 

is wanted, but faith and love, and the Christ-spirit of 

service. We have set forth our working model, and 

even that Mansion House meeting declared, England 

should not be behind Germany any longer. In simple 

earnest, then, Is Christian England, having read this 

story, not going to rise for the seeking out of the 

epileptics of this country — the forty thousand, or how 

many of them ? * — that they also may sing the song of 

the bound ones of Zion, the song of a healing whereof 

they may be glad ? Think of them, such as are not 

imbeciles already, hidden away in their silent despair, — 

they may not go to your churches, your chapels ; and 

every object in life is denied them, — will you not gather 

them in a Colony of Mercy, of true helpfulness, round 

about a church of their own where no one shall be 

afraid of them, and where they may learn to be still? 

* It was said at the Mansion House meeting that England 
had eighty thousand epileptics — that is two per thousand of the 
population. We had thought one per thousand terrible enough, 
considering that nothing to speak of has yet been done for 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 287 

" Comfort ye, comfort ye this people," saith He who has 
thus afflicted them, thus bound them, not for their sakes 
only, with cords of mercy wherewith to draw them, but 
for your sake — yours and yours — that you may learn 
the better your own lesson in charity. It is because we 
have seen what is done at Bethel that we put out this 
appeal to Christian England. 

As for the ministry of mercy, is it so hopeless to try 
for it here — for sisters, for brothers ? If that new society 
indeed could start in the right spirit, should it not be 
able to train its own workers ? Hundreds and thousands 
in this country are standing idle in the market-place ; 
what seems wanted is a centre of influence to attract 
them. Only a few days ago we heard of the mistress of a 
large household, who, worn to death by servant worries, 
advertised for ladies to be cook and housemaids in her 
establishment. She was overwhelmed with applications, 
and is now trying the experiment of ladies below stairs 
— one of them a clergyman's daughter. Is it not, then, 
that hundreds and thousands stand idle in the market- 
place? True, these ladies will have applied because 
everything else had failed, and it won't do to be a 
deaconess because everything else is failing ! Still, we 
plead, if the right centre of attraction could be formed, 
the workers might be found, and if the right spirit were 
at work, the right training would follow. "England 
should not be behind Germany in this ! " We endorse this 
resolution passed at the Mansion House on behalf of a 
" National " Society. It is because we have seen what is 
done at Bethel, that we do appeal to Christian England. 

288 A Colony of Mercy 

Again, no one can have read certain chapters in 
this book without thinking of certain " other efforts " for 
the unemployed. Let us begin by adducing the im- 
partial witness of an American. Professor Peabody of 
Harvard University, in the Forum* speaks of the 
German Labour Colonies, notably of Wilhelmsdorf — he 
has visited Bethel — and he says : " When General 
Booth and his advisers first proposed his series of 
' Colonies ' the scheme seemed to most persons quite 
without precedent. How much as a matter of fact it 
was suggested by the German experiment is not even 
now known by the German administrators ; but it is 
certainly most interesting to see the ' Darkest England ' 
plan actually at work, and to learn the lessons which 
these years of experience have to teach," the Professor 
then proceeding to describe Wilhelmsdorf and its kind- 
red institutions. 

Readers will remember how the country two years 
ago resounded with the " Darkest England " scheme, as 
with a novel and original proposal, the General's big 
book, if we remember right, selling a hundred and fifty 
thousand copies within a few months on the strength of 
this novelty — for the country is anxious to be shown a 
true remedy for its cankerworm, the social distress. It is 
to the honour of the country that the " Darkest England " 
book was so eagerly bought ; and much of the displeasure 
recently vented on the Salvation Army is due to a sense 
of this eagerness : people do not like to remember their 
own enthusiasm when results after a while prove it to 
have been a steed leaving its cart far behind. Only, the 

* February 1892. 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 289 

"cart" is of the General, and not of the country, and 
this is the great mistake. Yet it is to the honour of 
General Booth that he put forth this scheme. Will he 
and " his advisers " forgive us, if in the interest of their 
own good effort we venture a question or two ? 

Plagiarism in charity is not only venial, it is even 
enjoined, for we are told to go and do likewise. It is 
even a virtue. So General Booth, in writing his " Darkest 
England," cannot have been guided by any desire of 
coming forward with a novel and original proposal. Yet 
why did he not say, and say emphatically, the startling 
proposal has already stood the test ? Why, to strengthen 
his own hands, did he not refer to Darkest Germany and 
its way out, trodden these ten years ? Why did he not 
thus silence at the outset any opposition that might arise ? 
Would he not, for his own good scheme, have been ten 
times as strong if in the largest print obtainable, he had 
made it plain to the country that so far from being any 
unprecedented Utopianism, the ideal of Darkest England 
already stood realised — that he had not one, but a score 
of working models, nay, shining beacon-lights beckoning 
him on ? For his effort is good. Why did he not thus 
strengthen his hands ? It cannot have been an over- 
sight ; and it was not ignorance, for one of his officers 
was at Bethel, inspecting Wilhelmsdorf, before the 
British public was informed of " Darkest England and 
the Way Out." We repeat, we ask these questions 
for the sake of his own good scheme ; we do not doubt 
that folk may have original ideas though others may 
already have had them, since there is really " nothing 
new under the sun " ; but we persist in asking why did 


290 A Colony of Mercy 

he not fortify his own position by bringing into the field 
his score of models ? Did he forget there is strength in 
union, even though it be a union of spirit ? And does he 
not know, that in order to convince the masses there is 
nothing like the gospel of success, and could he not have 
written a whole book about the successful way out of 
Darkest Germany ? * 

His scheme in itself is so honourable and true, and it 
is so important it should not end in failure, that we may 
be forgiven our questions. We are loth to tread on 
dangerous ground ; but since this book may tend to aid 
his effort, prepare the English public more fully than yet 
has been the case for the way out of social distress by 
means of labour colonies, it is best not to beat about 
the bush ; and General Booth and his advisers, for the 
sake of the submerged they would succour, will perhaps 
review their position, and themselves look for any 
weak point. For Charity seeketh not its own but the 
good it would do — Charity therefore never is offended. 

There has been much writing lately about the " Social 
Scheme." Friends and foes have spent themselves in the 
daily press, attacking and defending. A " Committee of 
Inquiry " had to be called to exonerate the Salvation 

* To show how unostentatiously this great German work has been 
carried on, we again quote from the Forum : " In 1887 two agents 
of the British Government visited Wilhelmsdorf and reported 
briefly on its condition in a 'blue-book ' of March 1888. (German 
Workmen's Colonies.) In October, 1890, the Earl of Meath in- 
spected the colony, and describes his visit in the Nineteenth 
Century for January 1891. An officer of the Salvation Army 
was there in 1890. Beyond these, Wilhelmsdorf could recall 
no foreign visitors." 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 291 

Army, and find for Hadleigh a " certificate of success.'' 
But surely Hadleigh should be its own certificate by its 
own two years' work ! Surely all attacks on the arith- 
metic and wisdom of the colony should slink into a 
corner before the visible fact called Hadleigh ! 

We do not for a moment question the high character 
of the Committee of Inquiry ; but proving the expendi- 
ture to have been correct does not test the working of 
the scheme : it does not prove true results, not even a 
true direction. Nor was this included within the " scope 
of the inquiry." Might not, as the simplest of all tests, 
the homely proverb be laid down here as a measure, 
that the proof of the pudding is in the eating? Should 
not the Darkest England work appeal to the public 
conscience simply by its own true tangible results? 

When Wilhelmsdorf had been at work a little over 
a year, a visiting magistrate could report* that 1200 
unemployed had been admitted, of whom only 42 had 
run away, and 966 found regular employment ; that 
830 of these had actually been placed by means of 
the Labour Committee in connection with the colony. 
In other words, here are nearly one thousand of the 
submerged ' saved ' after one year's work. Such figures 
go a long way to convince a country, convince it even 
of ,£100,000 if need be; and Wilhelmsdorf, moreover, 
was fast proving its claim on the nation's faith by the 
procreative power inherent in life — her children, other 
colonies in other parts of the country, were already 
rising to call her blessed. This, as a " certificate," is 
worth a hundred committees ! 

* Vide p. 145. 

292 A Colony of Mercy 

As for General Booth's much-talked-of £100,000, and 
his deficit of £70,000— well, some folk have a knack of 
spending money. But Wilhelmsdorf and her five-and- 
twenty children together have scarcely exceeded these 
figures. Some folk have a knack of spending money 
well. This is not hinting at misappropriation : we trust 
the General and his advisers in this respect. But spend- 
ing is one thing, and spending effectively is another ; and 
for the sake of the General's own effort, nay, for the sake 
of poor Darkest England itself, ought there not to be 
something more than spending great sums, though it be 
in accordance with the plan laid down? Ought there 
not to be an equivalent — even something like a fair 
prospect of a hundred thousand pounds' worth of good 
results ? It is not surprising if the original supporters of 
the scheme withhold further subsidies till this prospect 
appear on the horizon to do its own pleading ; and it is 
not unfair to measure Hadleigh by its models. 

In Germany they set about their colonies with a 
modest grant — and what is better, in a modest spirit : in 
most cases not the tenth, not the fifteenth part of the 
sum asked for here is required ; every penny, so to speak, 
is accounted for by the work done ; there is success — 
results which make even a Frenchman say, " Let us 
learn of these Germans." Wilhelmsdorf alone, as one 
of the largest colonies, if not the largest, has required 
in all about one-sixth of the General's original sum, 
£15,000 being sunk in land investment and in buildings, 
etc. ; but much is being done in that Senne. General 
Booth has informed the country he will require a yearly 
subsidy of £30,000, once he is fairly afloat ; Wilhelmsdorf 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 293 

is subsidized with as many ' marks ' {i.e., shillings) ; 
£2,000 a year has been the highest figure reached for 
provincial yearly aid to Wilhelmsdorf, even when six 
hundred outcasts passed through its gates. £30,000 a 
year, indeed, subsidizes the whole of the German colonies, 
the twenty-six of them, for they are all in good working 
order, more or less earning their own. True, General 
Booth's aims from the first have claimed grander scope 
than any of these German colonies, but aim and achieve- 
ment do not always hit it off together. It would seem a 
patent lesson, to be learned from these German colonies, 
that beginning humbly, walking surely, and leaving 
room for growth is a wise thing. And Wilhelmsdorf, 
after one year's work, was an achievement beyond any- 
thing Hadleigh has yet reached, or we fear on present 
lines is likely to reach. Should those interested in 
Hadleigh, nay, should the General and his advisers 
themselves, for the sake of their own good effort, not 
endeavour to get at the true bottom of this discrepancy 
between aim and achievement ? 

For one thing — has Hadleigh any such person to guide 
its plough as that house-father Meyer? Wilhelmsdorf 
perhaps would not be what it is but for its splendid 
house-father, that humble Christian, that thorough 
farmer ; nay, we must say, but for him and his wonderful 
little house-mother, as humble as he, as thorough as he. 
The Committee of Inquiry has suggested that Hadleigh 
farm for the future be put under the sole management 
of some thoroughly competent man — the best available, 
whether of the Salvation Army or not ; apparently ex- 
pressing an opinion thereby that hitherto there has been 

294 ^ Colony of Mercy 

no such competent management. But the thorough 
farmer alone won't do ! Remember, education is wanted 
for these submerged ; an education, moreover, they will 
submit to, scarce knowing it for education ! It is a 
lovely stroke of Christian genius which at Wilhelmsdorf 
has set, not a competent manager over these men, but 
which gave them a house-father, a house-mother ! The 
child soul, at bottom, is the truest thing in man ; even 
in the prodigal it vibrates. These men arrive, fallen, 
submerged, hopeless — depraved, perhaps — but hungry ; 
and what do they find ? Not " officers " to command them, 
not "competent men" to set against their own wretched- 
ness, but a house-father, a house-mother. How much in 
this one word to educate these men ! It is taking them at 
the one point where there is hope left they will succumb. 
A tide of love has set in upon their neglected natures — 
the purest, the most natural of all loves — father ! mother ! 
This book repeatedly has spoken of the strength there is 
in the brothers, the house-parents Bethel has trained : 
it has stood its finest test at Wilhelmsdorf. Yet in 
many an instance it is not Bethel, but a Higher Hand, 
that had the preliminary training. The wondrous thing 
ever again is the magnetic power in Bodelschwingh, 
attracting the right forces. They come, obeying the 
Voice calling them. They do his work — not slavishly, 
but as free agents almost, with a liberty all their own, 
only that his spirit is moving in that liberty. It is 
the magnetism of inborn rulership blended with noblest 
humility on his side, it is the response of purest 
devotion on theirs — a yielding, in the first instance, not 
to him, but to the mighty calling of brotherly love. 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 295 

For Bethel is a Christian commonwealth. Will any one 
go to Wilhelmsdorf, have a talk with these house-parents, 
— nay, just watch them, reading their faces a little. 
Perhaps he will then agree with us, that this is what is 
wanted for the hungry " millions " * here — some one to 
be father to them, to be mother to them, to bring them 

The Salvation Army at present seems the only agency, 
on a large scale, willing to grapple with the social 
distress. All honour to them for this willingness ! — for it 
is a noble effort. And they have, for power at any rate, 
an almost perfect machinery ; as far as discipline and 
union among themselves are concerned, they stand as 
one man. What could they not achieve ! Then, in the 
name of the many-headed hydra they have set themselves 
to combat, will they not examine their own two years' 
work by the simple figures to be had from any of the 
six-and-twenty German colonies ; or examine it even by 
that Frenchman's report, and see what may be amiss 
with their one colony here? Even if because of 
differences of national character, because of differences 
of circumstance, social, legislative or any other kind 
they must say with that Frenchman, "// y a beaucoup 
a apprendre chez les Allemands, mais pen a prendre" will 
they nevertheless examine their efforts by the light 
afforded by these working models, and see if they cannot, 
though not " copy," yet learn something to further their 
own good scheme? They owe it to the country, for 
they have money collected in the country; they owe it to 

* This is the estimate of " Darkest England" — the submerged 
tenth— wo figure of speech presumably. 

296 A Colony of Mercy 

themselves, for they have been attacked and accused, and 
committee reports alone are not a sufficient voucher ; and 
most of all, they owe it to the submerged, to the ragged 
and starving millions in sore need of being " saved." 

We ask these questions in the name of these starving 
ones, because we have seen Wilhelmsdorf at work, and 
have seen what can be done. Surely the General is of 
Bodelschwingh's mind, that love is the great propeller ? 
It is a fine thing to man the lifeboats going out into the 
surge, but love means many things ; it means, for one 
thing, losing ourselves entirely in the work we would do. 
The Salvation Army should be a means, and never an 
object, when the hungry millions of England stand 
crying to be saved. 

Another salient point which cannot fail to strike the 
thoughtful reader is this : General Booth is the Pope of 
the Salvation Army ; he is responsible to no one. Now 
such a position is unwholesome for any one short of 
the Archangel Gabriel — mortal man grappling with such 
schemes, and investing such sums, should for his own 
peace of mind be most fully responsible. Having his 
accounts audited does not affect the question. Does 
not the Darkest England Trust vest in the General an 
" absolute discretion " in applying the funds as he may 
" think fit " (applying them for the scheme, of course), 
provided that he publish a duly audited yearly balance- 
sheet ? Is " auditing " anything more than attesting 
correctly rendered figures ? Who framed that trust 
deed ? No other agency of the Kingdom, doing large 
business for the Master, leaves its funds to the " absolute 
discretion " of any one trustee ; not that this one trustee 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 297 

might not be the most angelic steward, but it is unad- 
visable and apt to raise needless controversy. Nor is 
it good to be a pope in mere dictatorship ; it is good for 
a man, even for the most guileless general, to have a 
power over him. He wants people to believe in him for 
the good of the masses he has at heart ; would they not 
believe in him tenfold if they saw him the perfect 
servant, not in any way seeking his own ? Might not 
there be some love of power here also ? 

Are we too hard upon the General? Has not the 
Committee of Inquiry itself suggested, by one of its four 
" conclusions," that the General should join " adequate 
safeguards " to his own sole trusteeship ? and has not the 
General in his subsequent letter to his friends, inviting 
them to subscribe the further £70,000, forthwith dis- 
claimed any such safeguards, confessing frankly they 
might " interfere " with his " discretion " ? What is this, 
if not pope and autocrat combined ? It is unwise ; it 
is unwholesome 

Pastor von Bodelschwingh is nowise a pope, nor is he 
Autocrat of all the Russias ; truly he is chief of all 
that colony, but only because Christ has said, he who 
serveth best is greatest. It is not by any false humility 
that he calls himself the " first " servant of the colony, he 
is so in very deed, and at a touchingly modest salary too,* 

* So modest, the reader would not believe it. Pastor von 
Bodelschwingh has long divested himself, for the Master's sake, 
of all he inherited from his aristocratic parentage — money, coronet, 
and all. He never stands on his "von," though he is a baron 
born ; k and, what is more, people talking to him forget giving 
him his " honours." His wife has some means left, enough to 

298 A Colony of Mercy 

and his committee could depose him to-morrow. He is 
responsible; and he renders account of himself most 
fully. Not that we would suppress the half plaintive, 
half proudly-approving, and altogether amusing way, in 
which some of this pastor's committee tell you : "We are 
just nobodies to that man, he soars in front of any of us, 
and generally asks our leave and permission to things 
when they are done." That committee know their 
pastor, and trust him. All the same, this chief is a 
responsible man ; the yearly reports of his governorship, 
figures and all, are published ; any one can examine 
into his stewardship, and his committee, however fully 
they trust him, " audit " his administration. Is not this 
a wise way of doing things, likely to further and not 
hinder a great work ? 

And then Pastor von Bodelschwingh, though he starts 
the schemes, and most truly is owner of the great 
thoughts he launches, never keeps things in his own 
hands. The guiding threads may meet in his closet of 
moral chieftainship — how can he help being the guiding 
influence ? But the moment any work is started, he 
puts others at the helm. It is so in all little things, 
in every house of the colony, every smallest post of 
trust; and it is so completely in the important schemes. 
The Labour Colony, though the child of his brain and 
heart, from the very first was put under a provincial 
committee ; it is not his colony, it is the colony of the 

educate their sons. All her jewellery and such things he long 
ago found " better" use for. Friends, knowing all this, sometimes 
send cheques for " personal use "; but Bodelschwingh invariably 
endorses these cheques to the Bethel treasury. 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 299 

province. The magistrates can inspect it any day, 
and some of them are on the committee. And it is so 
with all the labour colonies, the twenty-six of them ; 
although they have their own private union among them- 
selves, with their own head-quarters in Berlin. This is 
German thoroughness ; this is method, and also what 
is known historically as Deutsche Treue, that com- 
plete loyalty with which knight of old served his 
country — with which worker true at any time loses 
himself entirely in the work of his heart and hand. It 
is the surrender of service which seeketh not its own. 

And this decentralising may be a reason why Bethel 
is so wondrous a growth ; it may be a reason why these 
labour colonies work successfully ; a reason also why 
they are believed in. 

In conclusion, though one wishes every possible suc- 
cess to this one English labour colony, why should there 
be but one ? A member of the Committee of Inquiry 
is reported to have said, "It would be a national 
disaster if the Darkest England scheme must collapse 
for want of prompt and adequate support." Is not this 
rather tying the nation to General Booth's apron-string ? 
Bodelschwingh did not start the twenty-five other 
colonies, nor did Wilhelmsdorf, except by force of ex- 
ample. The country, beholding that sure and certain 
beginning, the country rose to the need, every province 
standing to its post. Has not England a duty towards 
her unemployed, her starving millions ? Could not, on 
the example shown in these pages, a more complete 
endeavour be set on foot ? Could it not be done 
" scientifically," with thoroughness and method ? Could 

300 A Colony of Mercy 

not a net be spread, as they have done in Germany, a 
hand-in-hand endeavour for the gathering in of Darkest 
England ? Will they not come, if you spread it aright ? 
Should you not even " compel them to come in " ? Let 
the country consider these questions. Let the country 
decide whether Darkest England should not somehow 
follow in the wake of Darkest Germany. A growing 
number of smaller colonies, independent of each other 
and yet united, would work better and have a better 
chance of success than General Booth's one giant 
undertaking. This, at least, seems one of the lessons 
taught by the twenty-six models. Some of these are 
on quite a modest scale (beginning humbly, with room 
for growth, being one of the rules there), but they do 
the work required of them y and are parts of the whole. 
Let Hadleigh take the lead by all means — the lead of 
setting a good example. But more than ever the social 
distress appeals to the conscience of England, and 
having shown our working model, we can but invite this 
country — not to " copy " (for England is not Germany) 
— but to go and do likewise? 

* Should the English reader resent being so persistently 
referred to German example, we give the remark of an English 
coroner — but first its cause : The daily papers of the closing 
year published an East End story of " starving at Christmas," 
telling of a woman, in the pains of childbirth, so poor that 
she was lying on a heap of straw with nothing to cover 
her. There was no food, no furniture, in the house. Little 
wonder that the newborn infant died when only five hours old. 
" There must be something terribly awry with our system of poor 
relief (says the Daily Chronicle) when such things are possible 
in wealthy, Christian England." But this is what the coroner 
said : " According to our floor- law, a man must tumble into 

The Message of Bethel to O terse Ives 301 

We cannot help giving expression here to a thought 
which has struck us : these labour colonies seek the 
saving of men only. What if one thought of women 
to be saved ! Would not a female labour colony in 
God's pure nature be a fine substitute for the washtub 
penitentiary ? We even know of a working model : it 
has been working these ten years — silent, unknown. 
It is not known to this day except to the two or three 
connected with it. It was opened, curiously enough, 
the same month Wilhelmsdorf was opened, but quite 
independently — independent of the thought even.. Nor 
does it call itself a labour colony ; it is one, though ! 
It is of the selfsame inspiration. This to console 
General Booth, showing that inspirations can spring 
up in duplicate as it were, and yet be original thought. 
They have the selfsame root. The great thoughts of the 
Kingdom never are meant to be the property of any 
one servant : they are of the commonwealth of Christ, 
and crop up here, there and everywhere, when wanted. 

But this is the working model : A certain wealthy 
manufacturer in Germany never somehow made a lucky 
hit investing in landed property. Among other unfor- 
tunate ventures he found himself possessed, through 
mortgage and otherwise, of a certain " Hof," a gentleman 
farmer's property, away in the hills, and labouring under 
all sorts of difficulties. A good deal of money was sunk 

the gutter before he can be picked up. In Germany they try 
to prevent a man tumbling into the gutter. It is a question 
whether this is not the cheapest in the end ; it certainly is more 
humane." Thus the coroner, registering the case with the long 
roll of " starved to death," in the foremost city of the world. 

302 A Colony of Mercy 

in it with hopes of improvement ; but the undertaking 
remained obstinately hopeless — so hopeless that the 
owner could not even throw it upon the market. . So he 
made a present of that " Hof " to the kingdom of Mercy. 
Would he have done so if it had not been a dead loss on 
his hands ? Well, anyway, he did so now ; and, curiously, 
Charity among other things is a great refuse gatherer, 
turning all things, even non-paying investments — if only 
they are given her — to her own good use. This manu- 
facturer has a wife, and she hit upon the idea. 

This lady — we will call her Frau Elisabeth, for her 
little labour colony was christened Elisabetlien-Hof- — 
was always interested in penitentiary work. She had a 
" Magdalene " institute near Frankfort, and the difficulty 
often was what to do with these Magdalenes. Now, 
here was this " Hof" of her husband's, of no good to any 
one ; so the thought struck her to devote it to this work. 
A house-father was got, one of those evangelist brothers. 
He, of course, had to be a farmer, with a wife equal to 
the endeavour ; and the fallen ones were taken there 
for wholesome work. They could not do the heavier 
labour — the ploughing and the like — and this was the 
great difficulty ; for these women labourers could not 
be shut up as prisoners, nor always work in gangs. But 
the difficulty has been solved without ill consequence. 
The few men employed on the " Hof " in every instance 
are steady ploughmen, over fifty, married, and of good 
report. Anyway the venture has worked. There is 
much, even of field labour, these women can do ; and 
there is all the dairy work besides. The results, in 
short, are very satisfactory. The "Hof" yields no gain 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 303 

to the owner, but it keeps itself, and it keeps this work 
— surely a great measure of success, considering. As 
for the true " returns," the saving of these women — these 
workers are satisfied to do the beautiful thing, leaving 
the results to be known in the great harvest day. These 
women at any rate are in " saving " surroundings for a 
considerable time, and then places are found for them, 
and some of them are brands plucked from the burning. 
Now, the suggestion which has struck us is this : it is 
almost a cruelty to shut up a penitent street girl in these 
washtub homes ; they are used to the roving life, the 
open air, the freedom of limb. How should they thrive, 
soul and body, cooped up ? But if you could take them 
into the country, right away from all cities, and give 
them nature's freedom ! The chivalrous Briton will not 
have women do field labour ; but might not some of the 
billions of eggs now imported, enriching the foreigner, 
be raised on British soil ? It would be a bit of national 
economy. Why should not there be a penitent female 
labour colony and poultry farm combined ? We almost 
fancy it might pay ! We suggest this thought to some 
of the landed proprietors who now groan with farms on 
their hands ; and we suggest it to the Ellice Hopkins', 
the Mrs. Butlers, and others interested in rescue work. 
It appears to us a fruitful idea. We will give the 
address of that ElisabetJien-Hof to any of these ladies 
who might wish to move for such a labour colony ; for 
Frau Elisabeth is a cousin of ours — we have not asked 
her leave to publish her quiet work. 

Labour colonies will come to be less and less needed 

304 A Colony of Mercy 

when the working classes are worthily housed, when 
they find " beauty for ashes " in their own little homes, 
given them not as a charity but as their simple due. 

We all know the state of the London poor. Travel 
into London by almost any of its railway lines : what 
awful visions as you enter upon the brick-covered area i 
" Is this London ? " asks the wondering stranger. It is 
only the suburbs where the poor live, you tell him, 
trying to explain. And this goes on for miles, only the 
merciful railway whisks you through it quickly. You 
have looked into back yards a few feet square, and into 
windows — the darkness within hiding the squalor ; you 
can only think of ashpits — no beauty for ashes here at 
any rate. It is here the British workman lives, paying 
a pretty penny for rent too, considering. And going 
farther into London, you may visit that chamber of 
horrors, St. Giles's — some of us have been through it, 
though the policeman says a lady shouldn't — and there 
is the East End, where the "bitter cry of outcast London," 
despite everything that has been written, goes up to 
heaven day and night. 

You say the poor themselves are greatly to blame, 
they are so improvident, — so they are ; they find begging 
and lounging about the streets cheaper than work, — so 
they do ; and the misery continues, and children are 
born to that misery ; and though spasmodic efforts are 
made to wage war on that misery, you look on again 
after a while, hopeless to cope with it. It is the over- 
crowded state, you say : London has grown too big : — so 
it has. 

We have begun to take the poor into the country once 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 305 

or twice a year, to give them a whiff of fresh air and show 
them the clean things of God ; but this is almost a 
cruelty, — it is almost telling them, " Look, how nice the 
world is, but not for you ! " for we take them back at 
night to the big city. A little pale-faced London child 
taken into the country once, to stay awhile and get 
strong, sent the message to those she had left behind, 
" Tell father, in the country the sun always shines ! " 
And there is another story of a little City child who, in 
the slum which was her world, loved and tended one 
blade of grass, and how bitterly she cried when rude 
boys, discovering her heart's delight, tore out that one 
blade ! Now, in the name of God and our own common 
sense, ought this to be, when the world is full of green 
grass, and the country sky full of sunshine, room enough 
and to spare for all the thousands of pale-faced mites ? 

The working population of London must be con- 
siderably above one million : why should they continue 
cooped up in that Babylon ? Would it not be possible 
for some of those who have long pitied the condition 
of the poor to put their heads and hands together — no, 
their hearts — and work for an exodus after the pattern 
set down in a former chapter ? It is not charity in the 
sense of almsgiving which is wanted, but that truer 
charity which, feeling with the feelings of the poor, will 
begin to say they are men and women like ourselves, 
and have the same right to God's fair earth as we have. 
There is land enough and to spare within railway access 
of London to house all the poor and give them a garden 
— beauty for ashes — if only the owners of that land could 
see this. Owners after all cannot carry the land with 


306 A Colony of Mercy 

them to heaven, but they could carry with them the 
blessing of many a struggling man and woman, if they 
could sit a little less hard-and-fast by the land they own. 
There is the English Litany praying every Sunday, 
" From hardness of heart, good Lord, deliver us." What 
if once in a while this were paraphrased : " From hearts 
bound up with our lands, good Lord, deliver us?" If 
you went far enough out of London — it should be in 
pretty country — the land would not be so very valuable 
in these days of depreciated farming-land ; possibly it 
might even pay the owner to sell some plots of land for 
a Workmen's Home ; possibly it does not at present yield 
as much as 3 \ per cent, for everybody says farming is 
down nowadays. 

They won't go out of London, say you? Well, try 
them. Try them with the prospect of this little house 
and garden of their own — their real own — and see if they 
will not go ! Tell them, ten years of the money they 
now spend in rent will give them this " own," and even if 
it be fifteen years, see if they will not ! If the English 
working population all gravitates towards London, is it 
not because you have made the country almost impossible 
for them ? If a true peasant stock could thrive in this 
country with land of its own, London would not be the 
one centre of attraction for all English poverty, as it is 
pretty nearly of all English wealth ! The working 
classes are not beyond being educated, if only you take 
them in hand aright, not patronisingly, but helpfully. 
They soon see whether, setting up a building society for 
improved dwellings, you seek your own dividends or 
their well-being. And you could have your dividends, 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 307 

— 3 2 P er cen t. fully secured, which is more than the 
national debt pays, if you invest in English consols. 
And surely it is altogether a more satisfactory investment 
than putting into Argentines, getting your 6 per cent, 
for awhile and then losing capital and dividends together. 
And it is an investment in the bank of Jesus Christ, 
which pays a dividend known to yourself only. 

This to beneficent people who have some money to 

Such working men's villages within fair distance of 
London, on principles of guardian helpfulness like that 
Arbeiterheim, what a boon they might be! How they 
would lessen that " surface of friction " which is the 
mother of half the London crimes ! Would not that be 
a gain to the country, a downright gain in pounds, 
shillings and pence ? Would it not be worth while for 
Government to aid this process ; even if some laws must 
be made for cutting some of the strings now tying hearts 
to lands ? Another generation would grow up, if this 
question of housing the London working classes really 
could be faced along the lines indicated — a generation 
which could only add to the wealth of the country, 
certainly to the happiness, to the content of the country ! 
In the name of common sense, then, is it not worth 
while trying ? 

London is not the only Babylon. Take Edinburgh. 
Could not the Cowgate, the Canongate, be turned out into 
the country ? Would not the poor folk go if you tried 
them ? Edinburgh is one of the most drunken cities in 
the kingdom — perhaps some of us would drink, if we 
lived in the Cowgate. Supposing you try the remedy of 

30& A Colony of Mercy 

blue ' sky by way of blue ribbon : it may answer better 
than you think. 

The traveller approaching " Caledonia stern and wild " 
will, after crossing the border, be rudely shaken in his 
dreams of beauty as he is carried through certain 
districts where the iron smelting goes on. Here you 
have workmen's village, if you please, right beneath the 
smoke-belching chimneys. No matter who has run up 
these workmen's homes — possibly the owner of the 
chimneys, anyway a man who did not think of beauty 
for ashes. It is country, but scarcely a tree will grow 
for the heaps of cinder and ore refuse lying about ; the 
sun does shine overhead, but its beams are ever strug- 
gling with a cloud of smoke particles, fixed over these 
hapless dwellings. How do you expect a housewife 
there even to attempt keeping a tidy room, when every 
chair and table in her possession must be covered with 
a constant layer, as with the ashes of Gomorrah ? 
The wonder will be if these people ever think of wash- 
ing ; for they will be all black and smutty again directly. 
This is not written to hurt any one's feelings, not 
knowing who is owner ; but this is the state of 
things as seen from the travelling carriage. These 
working-men's homes — and there is quite a number 
of them in that region of furnaces — are a pitiful sight. 
Little use to think of workmen's gardens there, for 
scarce a flower could grow in that atmosphere, certainly 
not grow in purity ; and yet you expect fairer flowers, 
even the little children of God's planting, to grow up 
in such environment ! How can they grow up to 
physical health, not to say to moral well-being, in such 

The Message of Bethel to Otwselves 309 

surroundings ? for cleanliness is next to godliness, is very 
largely the road to it. 

Are the coal-mining and smelting districts of England 
any better? One can but speak of what one has 
chanced to see. But if they had beauty for ashes, no 
doubt one would have heard of it. 

It has been said of Glasgow, the overcrowded state 
of its working classes " is immoral." What is this but 
in other words the opinion of that German judge that 
half the social crimes are due to the too much " surface 
of friction" in our dwellings? If this is so, who 
then will give elbow-room to the working population 
of Glasgow, just in self-defence and for the prevention 
of crime ? Little wonder if the Glasgow poor chafe 
under the want of elbow-room ; for they, or their fathers 
before them, are very largely of the children of the soil 
turned out from the Highlands for the sake of deer and 
deerstalkers. Say you, the Highlands are poor and 
could not keep them — well, that is a question ! But 
another and more pertinent question is this — who, 
knowing the state of things to be " immoral," will raise 
the cry to have it altered ? A great deal may be done 
in this world if you make enough noise. Is there not 
room enough and to spare round about Glasgow? 
People rave about the beauties of the Clyde and districts 
adjoining ; are they too beautiful to give some corners of 
them to be " beauty for ashes " to the Glasgow workman ? 
Who are the owners of that land ? Will they consider 
this question ? Will they consider that One gone to the 
right hand of Glory will say, " Ye took Me in " ? 

Would it spoil your scenery, interfere with tourists' 

3io A Colony of Mercy 

delight, to find some room there for Workman's 
" Own " ? We happened on the Callander coach last 
summer, going through the Trosachs with a batch of 
tourists. It was a perfect day for the glories of nature. 
A fine group of larches was passed. " Oh, what lovely 
trees ! " Dropped the response from the lips of one of 
these tourists — " I suppose these are the Scotch firs one 
hears about." Such tourist surely could take his know- 
ledge of nature, and consequent enjoyment thereof, as 
well to some other part of the globe. Another of these 
lovers of nature apparently got drowsy, for no sooner 
were we afloat on Katrine than he fell asleep, waking in 
time for a stretch as the boat landed at Stronachlachar. 
No doubt he went home to say he had been on Ellen's 
Loch. Abroad, in Switzerland for instance, the natives 
indulge in a good deal of quiet fun over the average 
British tourist : " they rush through our loveliest scenery 
with eyes buried in their guide-books, as if they didn't 
know what to think of our Rigi till they have seen 
it in print." 

Of course there are tourists and tourists ; but for a 
number of them it can be said that even the most 
struggling working man will prove as good a lover of 
nature as they. Then why should not some of the 
Glasgow poor be housed in its regions of beauty ? Is 
there no one in Glasgow of the spirit of Bodelschwingh 
who would at least try ? * 

* We understand that a commission appointed by the Glasgow 
Presbytery has been busy lately inquiring into the conditions of 
ill-housed Glasgow, working earnestly to improve matters. May 
we invite this committee to consider the Bielefeld plan of 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 3 1 1 

The " Programme of Christianity," the booklet, page 40, 
says much of the power of " beautiful things in haunting 
the mind with higher thoughts and begetting the mood 
which leads to God." It speaks of " the moral effect 
even in a clean table-cloth." What, then, might not be 
the " moral effect " of the beauties of nature ? Do you 
think, really, the working man has no eye for such? 
Beauty of nature alone will not help him, else every High- 
lander were a saint ; but other things given, beauty of 
nature is a " spiritual force." 

Even a tinsel angel, a mere Christmas card, the 
booklet says, once had power to " arrest a drunkard," to 
do something towards transforming his squalid room — 
no, transforming him. We believe this. But the question 
comes up, Perhaps the poor fellow would not have been 
a drunkard, if the room had not been squalid ! Would 
you not at least give that man a chance ? If such be 
the power of a mere Christmas card, should we not 
raise a voice that room for such poor fellow be found 
in the fair realms about Glasgow, right away from the 
city and the drink shop ? What would not a clean house 
and clean surroundings do for such soul, seeing what 
even a Christmas card did ? Always understood a clean 
house marked " own " ! 

Is there a " Programme of Christianity " ? Have we 
admired it ? Should we stop there ? Christ's " beauty for 
ashes," we know, is yet another and different thing — 

''Workman's Own" — made possible in the way above delineated ? 
A whole measure, a radical change, might do far more towards 
raising morality, than working, however earnestly, for the im- 
provement of existing conditions. 

312 A Colony of Mercy 

a thing all of us are in need of — but there is an earthly 
beauty on the way to it, and should not a beginning be 
made, knowing the " squalid room," to let the healing 
streams of such beauty play about the lives of these 
thousands of now hopeless poor ? Surely then the ques- 
tion may be asked, and should it not be answered ? — are 
the regions of the Clyde, some corners of them, not so 
very much would be wanted — are they too beautiful for 
" Workman's Home " — little homes of their own for the 
Glasgow poor? If not, then the next question is, cannot 
an effort be made to give it them ? Glasgow is the 
second largest city of the kingdom, and " the over- 
crowded state of its working classes is immoral!' 

We happen to write this in a Highland cottage. That 
is how our eyes have roamed to Scotch cities ; but the 
Highlands are no less a witness to the ill-housing of 
the poor — nay, we must here say, of the people. You 
cannot go a couple of miles anywhere in these High- 
lands without coming upon ruins — actual ruins ; it might 
be the plain of Nineveh instead of Christian Scotland — 
a few staring walls left of what once, and not so long ago 
either, were cottages, as though the Turks with murder 
and rapine had been scouring the land. It is the one 
altogether miserable sight in this beautiful country. In 
the whole of civilised Europe there is not another such 
spectacle. No wonder the hills look at one with a 
wistful beauty, lonely and desolate, as though they had a 
story to tell. Where are the people who once lived here ? 
Gone. They or their children, if they have not gone 
right abroad, are toiling away in those cities where the 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 


over-crowding is " immoral," where a poor fellow has 
to be saved by a tinsel Christmas angel when all nature 
here could minister to his want. You go up a glen, miles 
long, no human trace anywhere except these tell-tale 
ruins till you get to the top ; and there, in perfect sur- 
roundings of mountain and river and heath-covered brae 
you come upon a house. They call it a shooting-box ; 
very beautiful of course, wild, solitary, enchanting. 

Saith the prophet of old : Woe unto those who join field 
to field till there be no place, that they may be alone in 
the earth ! In plainer English — who join mountain and 
glen till there be no place for the children of the soil, 
that they may shoot the grouse. V/oe unto them, said 
the prophet ! This, in half a dozen words, is the story 
of ruined cottages which send up their silent cry to 
heaven in almost every glen of these wilds. 

Seeing these remnants of a bygone civilisation, one 
naturally endeavours to get at the bottom. One over- 
hauls one's knowledge of Scotch history. The folk who 
build these lovely shooting-boxes must have some kind 
of a right to be there. How did they get that right ? 
Now, the Scotch have a history of their own, different 
from every other nation in Europe. Till within a hun- 
dred and fifty years ago they lived a patriarchal life, 
frugal, blissful, marauding. The clan went to the death 
for the chief, and the chief was loyal to the core to the 
humblest clansman. Every shepherd of Clan Tartan — 
not to mention names — had a right, a veriest birthright, 
to look to TJie Tartan for protection, for assistance, nay, 
almost for keep. The country of that clan, with some 
sense then, belonged to The Tartan, he being owner for 

314 A Colony of Mercy 

all the rest, the clansmen being as proud of and jealous 
for his ownership as he was himself; nay, more so, for he 
was their darling. Lawless, cattle-lifting, fray-seeking 
though they were, there was beauty in this, a charm 
which has not died out of the country, for their great 
poet has fixed it. 

But beautiful things in this rolling planet do not last 
for ever, and Old-Scotland could not last. The Sassenach 
introduced modern life ; and the clan-system, struggling 
nobly to a man almost, bled to death. 

Now, whose was the land by right after that struggle 
when English civilisation, stretching north, had cut the 
strings between chief and clansman. Was it the chiefs 
and chiefs heir by right, the sole property of T/ie 
Tartan by right, to the exclusion of every humbler 
Tartan that might be left ? Is this " for the right " ? Is 
this historic Justice ? It is by right only in the sense 
that possession is right, and that possession is nine- 
tenths of the law. We do know that white-robed Justice 
is trodden underfoot easily in troublous times. Years 
roll on, and possession turns into ownership : this is how 
the demarcation between right and wrong, a borderland 
not at any time easily guarded, gets effaced ; and who in 
after time shall right it ? And this is how, standing by 
these ruined cottages, we read the growth of the landlord 
power in this country. 

And more. The Tartan and his heir often could not 
hold their own ; some chiefs got impoverished, some 
morally impoverished, for families decay ; those lands, 
those old clanlands presently were in the market for any 
moneyed man to buy. And this is how deer-forests 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 3 1 5 

have been made, and shooting-grounds, and the children 
of the soil went to the wall, crowded out by capital. 
The Celt everywhere has gone to the wall. The wheel of 
nations is cruel to those who cannot hold their own ; and 
we are only trying to unravel present ownerships, show- 
ing there is actually a hopeless, miserable sort of right in 
the possessors of these shooting-boxes having "joined 
mountain and glen "— actually a show of right ! For a 
man may do as he pleases with the land he has paid for. 
And yet the prophet says, Woe unto tJiem ! 

The moneyed man having bought a Highland property 
is lord- of it, people and all. The small farmers are his 
tenants ; they never had a chance of buying that bit of 
land ; they have no chance now. We know there is the 
" Crofters' Act," passed a few years ago, for regulating 
the rents of non-leaseholders under thirty acres ; and 
there is the " Small Holdings Act " come into force 
lately. Whether this is more than an Act on paper 
remains to be seen ; we trust it is, for it is not com- 
pulsory. An " Act " is one thing ; the people being in 
the position of availing themselves of it is another. 
But one hails these efforts as promise of better times. 
Rome was not built in a day, and the real Act to help 
these people has yet to be framed. Hitherto the land, 
leaseholdings and all, was the landlord's irredeemably, 
and we fear it is so still. 

We need go back forty to sixty years only, if we 
want to hear about evictions.* Scotland is a poorly 

* See "Highland Clearances," by Alexander Mackenzie, F.S. A. 
Scot., a pamphlet which should never be out of print while 
there is a Scotchman left to blush for his country. 

3 1 6 A Colony of Mercy 

populated country because Highlanders by the shipload 
have been carried to Canada, " carriage-paid " by their 
landlords, after their cottages had been pulled down over 
their heads — actual cold-blooded eviction. The evicting 
landlords, in most cases were descendants of the old 
chiefs — " morally impoverished " chiefs, alias landlords, 
who evicted for avarice ; turning into sheepwalks the 
land which historically was not exclusively theirs. But 
ill-gotten gains never prosper, and these sheepwalks on 
an Australian scale before long were bankrupt. Then 
capital came in, with the deer-forest and the shooting- 
lodge, as we now see them. The landlord of this genera- 
tion is more civilised ; the estate may have come to him 
empty, swept and garnished ; if not — if he chooses to 
turn more of the property into forest or shooting-cover, 
he does not evict his tenants, his own conscience and 
popular public policy forbidding, but he does so little 
for them that it is next to impossible to make a subsist- 
ence. This is the process of squeezing out; the poor 
folk presently go " of their own accord," leaving the 
cottage of their fathers, weeping, behind them. For the 
Celt loves the clod on which he was born. This too is 
" joining field to field," and a good deal of what within 
the memory of man was grazing-land is now grouse 
cover or plantation. Ministers and others assure us 
that twenty years ago these tell-tale ruins were more 
plentiful still, — they do away with them gradually, 
ashamed of the tale. 

You may see empty cottages in this country, not yet 
fallen to pieces, in which remnants of furniture are left, 
even a bedstead now and then, the people having gone 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 3 1 


away, probably just in the clothes they wore, when their 
measure of starvation was full. Any one looking about 
him can see such forsaken cottages — mute witnesses of a 
rotten system ; for a country should hold its people. 

If a Royal Commission would follow us, we could 
show them strange things in cottages not yet forsaken. 
Let the reader take his mental view of some such 
cottage here or there about the Highlands. It might 
be situated in one of the more favoured parts even — on 
a tolerable farm, too, something over thirty acres — but 
the cottage is a disgrace to the country. The tenants 
of this model dwelling, overtaken by sickness — when they 
are well they stand it — take refuge under an umbrella 
in their own cottage when the Highland ' mist ' turns 
into a ' pour.' Then why do they not mend their 
roof? If you have to pay a pound an acre for a 
thirty-acre arable farm at an altitude of about eight 
hundred feet above sea level under these northern 
skies, there is little left to hold body and soul together, 
after the demands of the landlord are satisfied, not to 
say to repair cottages ; even allowing for what extra you 
gain by acting as the Sassenach's gillie. These people, 
after paying their rent, just make enough to find their 
own porridge, literally ; the landlord requiring his pound 
an acre — we had almost said his pound of flesh — through 
fair weather and foul, as though these hard-yielding 
uplands were Ayrshire or the Lothians. A pound an 
acre in these parts in itself is a cruelty ; but our theme 
is the cottage. 

The tenant has put up a piece of zinc roof on the 
tumble-down affair to do away with the umbrella in the 

3 1 B A Colony of Mercy 

little sitting-room at least— the ben en\ in Scotch parlance. 
The real family chamber is the kitchen, and that con- 
tinues a place for landlords to weep over. Indeed, the 
tenant has not yet been able to find the money for this 
bit of repairs, so how should he have covered the whole 
roof? And he a man who does his hardworking best 
with a thirty-acre farm ! 

Why don't they throw up the farm ? Why indeed ! 
What if, apart from the fact that the place to them is 
hallowed by the manes of their forbears — the present 
tenant's great-grandfather was born there — this misera- 
ble abode were the one plank between them and the 
great Unknown ! The man now, however struggling, 
is yet a respected farmer ; if he goes he is a beggar, and 
there may be that of true manhood in a man which 
clings to this shred of a link between him and an 
honoured past. That man is fighting his battle, de- 
fending the soldier's post. For the past was more 
prosperous ; but, one bit after another, the grazing-land 
within these last twenty years has been taken from 
them for plantation and grouse cover ; they cannot keep 
the sheep now they once kept, and but half the cattle. 
Paying rent was comparatively easy then ; now it is 
drawing the blood. Says the landlord, They may leave ; 
I am only keeping them on because my family never 
have evicted, and we will plant the whole then. Does he 
say so ? Then let him be answered : This farm of four 
generations is the home of their hearts ; they cling to 
this shred of their past, having nothing besides ; they 
are suffering for the Highlander's home love, and it is 
draiving the blood ! 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 3 1 9 

Those who speak up for landlords, say the tenant 
could compel his landlord by means of the county 
council. Could he? Perhaps he is too disheartened 
with tenant's hardship to risk that plan ; and should a 
landlord require compelling ? Is he not bound, of his 
" own accord," to give the tenant weather-tight buildings ? 
Such a cottage is a standing offence to the Public 
Health Act. But it could possibly be matched by 
another cottage, not quite a hundred miles distant, in 
which the parish doctor one recent winter is said to 
have waded ankle-deep through water to the bedside 
of a dying patient, — if this were not too much for the 
reader to believe. Yet we could take him to these 
pitiful abodes, in which even an umbrella landlord 
would shrink from leaving his horses or pointers. Then 
why does the sanitary inspector not interfere? We 
know not ; but while the real sufferer submits, there is 
a good deal of condoning on the part of those who 
should cry out on his behalf. Maybe, landlords are of 
the powers that be : one is afraid of them. 

So this tenant has been sitting with an umbrella 
inside his own cottage and by his own fireside. But, 
umbrella and fireside apart, on a drenching day, and 
they are not rare in these parts, you will have difficulty 
in finding a dry spot in that cottage, except where that 
bit of zinc roof now covers : the kitchen floor any rainy 
week is a lake, and the umbrella in requisition with the 
waterworks overhead, the people taking their share of 
the running wet even in their beds ; and the whole 
cottage, every stone and stick of it, is a blot on civilisa- 
tion. Yet these people deserve the cottagers' prize for 


20 A Colony of M\ frercy 

neatness ; that bit of a roomie, th^e ben en', is kept as 
clean and tidy as a doll's house, e l fit for tne Queen to 
step in. The blot upon civilisation, w nes not at tJleir dcor - 
A farmer of any decency elsewl fiiere would not thus 
house his cattle. But then cattle he' are capital, and the 
asthma and rheumatics of these j es people cost the land- 
lord nothing. The cattle ha^itatio ns adjoining threaten 
the lives of poor beasts every ni^e^ht- There is other 
proof of tenants' hardships ; but at tne housing of the 
people is our plea for these page ; ir s * 

We would gladly presume this toboi be a solitary instance, 
at least one of the worst example frs of landlord rule in 
Scotland. But what though there :ou De scores of landlords 
of angelic goodness, and quite asgrf patriarchal to their 
tenants as chief of yore ever was, tnr doing for them all in 
their power, short of letting themk buy their holdings- 
landlords kind, helpful, considerate; \ \ we yet maintain the 
system is wrong \ A people shoiP i la1 not depend on the 
goodness or badness of a landlord for their well-being, 
but there should be laws in a la^ -id under which every 
man may dwell as under his fig-treeo-- 

We have, however, seen other ap cottages, in another 
part of the country, which we did y ^ot enter, for we were 
driving and unable to stop ; cotta£id> es which an innocent 
stranger never took for cottages tilW* coming close, a film 
of smoke was seen rising, not through a chimney even, 
for such badge of civilisation did r!er lot crown these efforts 
at housing the people. Perhaps,-i r earth-hovels as they 
were, they were at least dry. Yer ft these cottages, too, 
will belong to some landlord. If's ° us they appeared 
mere heaps of turf, fit for a resp actable beaver, or at 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 3 2 1 

best for an Esquimaux in heathen Greenland. " But is 
not this Christian and civilised Scotland ? " said we, 
opening our eyes in wonder. 

It is not that we are railing against landlords. It is a 
wise adage which says, " live and let live " ; and even 
a landlord must live. We are roused only at these 
specimens of landlords' rule ; and from what we have 
seen with our own eyes we draw the simple conclusion : 
A system which has no better results to show as regards 
the well-being of the people must be a rotten system, 
and it is time to replace it by another. By the very 
look of the cottages, the system in force hitherto has 
been weighed and is found wanting. In fairness, then, 
let the wheel of progress move a turn forward ; let another 
system be tried. 

Indeed, it would appear that some of the landlords 
themselves are sufferers, hard as some of them are upon 
the tenant ! In that favoured region, at least, where 
half the property and more is covered with plantation, 
a landlord, though he let his shooting, by some strange 
law of circumstance barely makes 2\ per cent. Why, 
he would have done better lending his capital at 3 | 
per cent, for " Workmen's Homes," reaping a people's 
blessing instead of — but we will not speak of curses. 
Do not his own poor returns speak of retribution ? 
Is not this proof sufficient that an unrighteous system 
brings about its own condemnation ? 

It is not Home Rule as Home Rule which has prompted 
these pages, but the condition of the people, pleading 
for a legislation at the hands of either party which shall 
ensure weather-tight cottages. It is not even " beauty 


322 A Colony of Mercy 

for ashes " now, but dry for wet. Possibly English mem- 
bers have enough to do south, and some of them, maybe, 
never have explored these regions ; they cannot be 
expected to be very active, then, about anti-umbrella 
laws. It may take a Scotchman, one who has a heart 
for the people (and a Parliament sitting in Edinburgh in 
that case certainly would be the thing to hope for) in 
order to see in these parts, regarding the land, anything 
like a state of affairs that shall not be a disgrace to 
civilised Europe. We wish no ill to any landlord ; but for 
the sake of a long-suffering people we plead that a Royal 
Commission look into these dwellings ; and if a look 
convince them not, will any representative of the nation 
spend one week in that umbrella cottage? — the people 
gladly would turn out, leaving him lord of the wet he 
surveys for a week. A week ? no ; one drenching day and 
night would suffice, for we would not have him catch his 
death of ague, he not being inured to such measure of 
miserable discomfort. Indeed, would not the landlord him- 
self be a fit commissioner ? What if he were instructed 
by Government to report on that cottage ! He would 
need being shut up in it for twenty-four hours with a 
sufficiency of porridge in order to reflect upon the proper 
use of umbrellas on the one hand, and upon a certain 
old saying of doing unto others as one would be done 
by on the other. We should have some hope of his 
report then ! Let no one say we are unreasonable ; 
he being my lord Somebody, and his tenant only a 
poor Highlander — when it comes to umbrellas ', men are 
equal. It is not, then, that we are a Radical wanting to 
dispossess the landlord ; but if such cottages are the 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 323 

upshot, it is plain landlords' rule has failed of its 
mission, and anti-umbrella laws, whatever they be, will 
be required to set that right. We would not do such 
an unkind thing as to publish this umbrella story 
outside the British Isles ; but the truth is we should 
not be believed, for Britain enjoys the reputation of 
being a God-fearing country. 

Once upon a time the Lord Jehovah made a land law. 
He knew that for all sorts of reasons, even by the 
people's own fault sometimes, the propertyships get 
wrong ; so He provided that every fiftieth year the land, 
no matter what might have happened to it in passing 
hands through Chieftain to Sassenach, should return to 
its true owner — the " children of the soil " of those days 
— every family to its land. For the land was of the 
clan — they called them tribes in those days. Says the 
nineteenth-century landlord, " We aren't Jews, and we 
can't go back to the time of Moses." No, we cannot. 
But this does not do away with the fact, that the only 
land law, of which we know that God in heaven had the 
making, was to this effect. In other words, according to 
His thoughts of right, the land is of the people — some 
may have more of it, some less — but the land shall hold 
its own people. The Highlands, then — at least some parts 
of them — for the Highlanders. 

Now, it is very curious that in Britain this ancient law 
has obtained, with a twist in its application. The 
Jubilee law of course could not be allowed nowadays 
as a guiding measure to benefit the people, but the great 
landlords, in the south anyway, have a hold of it ! It 
appears to us that this Jehovah statute is at the bottom 

324 A Colony of Mercy 

of what we often have been tempted to call an ante- 
diluvian institution, that curious arrangement by which 
soil in London is leased out for ninety-nine years, 
and then returns, house and all, to the owner of the 
soil. But what is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce 
for the gander ; and by that same right then the soil up 
here after ninety-nine years might return to Clan Tartan 
— even with the shooting-boxes upon it ! 

We are no lawyer ; we do not pretend really to pene- 
trate the deep mysteries of these abstruse questions con- 
cerning British soil. We are prepared to listen meekly 
if we shall be chidden for impracticable moonshine. 
Yet we know one thing concerning this British nation : 
we believe in its fairness — a fairness sometimes clouded 
but always shining forth again ; and we are right certain 
it was British equity which made this same proverb 
declare " Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." 
We humbly submit our sole crime after all consists in 
putting in a plea for this poor gander. We cannot help 
it, standing by these deserted cottages and hearing the 
soughing night-winds sing a song of the desolate hills. 

It is with British equity, then, we are pleading — be it 
Jubilee law, be it any other law, it is for this we plead : 
that Equity look into the hard lives of these people, and 
if great wrongs go unrighted, for her own fair sake to try 
and right them. 

We have heard it said, these glens are mere heather- 
grown wastes ; no farm-holdings could pay their way in 
them ; they may as well be used for the sportsman's 
delight. Not pay their way ? That is it ; for it means 
paying their way to the landlord ! Caledonia's soil at 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 325 

best is hard-yielding ; it never was meant by nature to 
pay two owners, both landlord and tenant ! But if some 
of these glens could ever be the property of these hard- 
working people, their real property with that little word 
" own " attached to it, they would make it worth their 
while to put them again under sheep, and they would pay 
their way; not grandly, for there is Australian competition, 
but yet humbly and to their own content. And these 
glens would not lose in beauty ; Nature would still hold 
her own. It makes all the difference if a stretch of land 
is farmed by the avarice of one man, or the industry of 
a dozen families. At present some of the tenants even 
practise the " field-to-field " trick. If a tenant has any 
money at all, he is tempted to do as his betters do, 
to be "alone in the earth." We know a Highland 
farm on which a generation ago there were a dozen 
families — all humble, all content ; now it is one farm, 
because one moneyed tenant offering higher rent to the 
landlord has managed to squeeze out, one after another, 
his poorer neighbours. No wonder there are ruined 
cottages ! But this was a case mostly of turf dwellings, 
which, pulled down and scattered over the fields, make 
a rich top-dressing — manure in fact ! What species of 
government, save landlord-rule, is equal to this — getting 
rid of labouring hands, and turning homes into top- 
dressing ! What became of the poor folk and their 
children ? who cared ? who inquired ? What appeal had 
they, what law in the land to shelter them from the 
blast? The industry of such squeezed-out families is 
lost to the soil ; no wonder the glens are barren ! 

Yet these glens cannot be more unyielding than that 

326 A Colony of Mercy 

Senne was, and has not that Senne been turned into a 
garden — a garden thrice beautiful because of the moral 
beauty enveloping it? Pastor von Bodelschwingh was 
telling us in the summer how he would like a holiday 
in these Highlands. He only thought of the perfect 
quiet, not knowing these goings-on. We cannot help 
thinking what a lesson in arithmetic he would adduce 
from these glens, what a lesson in political economy, 
not to say in common-sense. This country is wasting 
Jier substance I Now every housewife has a duty to see 
that no waste goes on in her kitchen ; and this may be 
another reason why there should be a Scotch Parlia- 
ment for the Scotch to inquire into this tremendous 
waste. These moors are let to the sportsman at a 
guinea per brace of the grouse he is likely to shoot. 
If he sells the birds he kills, he can at best realise three 
shillings per brace — this is guess-work, but we know 
that grouse at the London poulterers' can be had at 
five and six shillings the brace. This is not political 
economy, it is idiotcy. The guineas of course go to 
the owner of the shooting-box — the yieldings to the 
one, instead of to the many — and if he is a Sassenach 
that money is not even spent in the country. If he 
spend it in the country, even this is not national economy, 
for the people themselves ought to have some of the 
spending — or, shall we say, saving ? at first hand, and 
not be beholden for it to the one man, acting as his gillie 
or what not, before they earn their share of the country's 
produce. It is high time, then, that a Scotch Parlia- 
ment sat in Edinburgh and went through a course in 
political economy before it did anything else. It may 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 327 

interest the innocent reader to know that stalking a stag 
costs fifty pounds sterling to the stalker, at least to him 
who rents the shooting-box for the season, for they let 
at such fancy prices. If he may kill fifty stags he pays 
^"2,500 rent for that box of a house for the two or 
three months. That lovely shooting-lodge we have been 
talking about, at the top of a beautiful glen, lets at 
£4,000 or thereabouts for the season, deer and grouse 
combined. Nor is this a solitary instance. And what 
on earth has made the stags the property of such glen- 
owner ? If they walk away over the hills, they belong to 
another man till they come back again. And what 
on earth has made the hills his property ? Mountain 
ranges nowhere under the sun belong to private indi- 
viduals. Fancy the Alps being shut up as the Grampians 
are ! Wouldn't the British tourist with an injured air 
write his letter to the Times ? There are chamois to be 
stalked in the Alps and there is lesser quarry, but the 
mountains the Lord God has made belong to the country 
— that is, to nobody, and therefore to all. Here some of 
the landlords have even tried to shut up tracks over the 
hills ; at least it required a right-of-way society to be set 
up in Edinburgh in order to prevent it. And it required 
Professor Bryce's Bill to open the hills during winter and 
spring ; they are shut up during the sporting season : by 
what right an ignorant person vainly inquires. This is 
joining " hill to hill " till there be no place for ordinary 
mortals to enjoy the glories God has made. And, to 
come back to the great grievance — "till there is no 
place " for the children of the soil. 

A friend of ours, with a leaning to landed proprietors, 

328 A Colony of Mercy 

said to us, " You would not rave like that, if you were 
owner." Well, possibly — " from hardness of heart, good 
Lord, deliver us." When we looked at that shooting- 
box at the top of the glen, wild, solitary, enchanting, 
lover of nature as we are, we said, " What perfect enjoy- 
ment to spend a summer all to oneself in such a glorious 
spot ! We should delight in it." Of course we should, 
and if we were of sporting mind, possibly we might 
enjoy the moors, and we might enjoy overtaking a poor 
stag by the superior intelligence God has given to man. 
Possibly. It is the natural man in us that would thus 
enjoy ; but there is a higher being, at least there ought 
to be, in every one of us — the still, small voice ; and it 
says, This is selfish enjoyment, for others have to pay for 
it, others have to suffer for it ! And since beauty of 
earthly kind ever trails a shadow, these lovely glens with 
the enchanting lodges, the pleasure ground of the rich, 
have their dark side in those who are rendered home- 
less because of this enjoyment. There is a homeless 
and houseless Scotland. There is a Darkest Scotland 

Scarcely a day passes but a dozen of homeless 
creatures come to the door of this cottage. They 
knock, they ask for a " piece," and they get it ; for the 
cottager, little as he has, shares his little with those who 
have less. Not that this is commendable, for it keeps that 
tramping class alive ; but let that pass for the present 
We are told they are tinkers ; we are told they are gipsies. 
Gipsies ? Then there is a curious cast of the Celt about 
very many of them. There are Lowland tramps among 
them, there are even Irish tramps, since there is a 

The Message of Bethel to Ou? selves 329 

homeless Ireland ; but a great proportion of them look 
like simple Highlanders. It seems to us that, likely 
enough, gipsies were not scarce in the land a hundred 
years ago ; every country in Europe, a century ago, 
had its true gipsies. But then that began its work 
for Scotland which has turned so many cottages into 
deserted ruins ; and we imagine that some of the 
people rendered homeless refused to leave the country of 
their love ; they preferred taking to the road, and their 
children and children's children have come to be called 
gipsies, along with what gipsies proper there may be. 

Be this the explanation or not, it is astounding what 
numbers live on the road in this sparsely populated 
country. We are told the tramping population of Scot- 
land is one hundred and fifty thousand. There are as 
many vagrants hereabouts daily as there are cottage 
roofs in all the countryside. A dozen, we said : on 
many a day we have counted them by the score. 
And, be it understood, " Darkest Scotland " in one respect 
is worse than " Darkest Germany " ever was ; we never 
heard that the German tramp carried wife and child 
along with him. Here it is families tramping — a family 
having a horse and cart of their own, otherwise a home- 
less, houseless, floating lump of wretchedness — a wave 
of misery truly, heaving to and fro in the land. Not 
all have cart and horse, but very many of them — the 
" aristocracy " these of unhoused Scotland, they have at 
least a cart for a home ! They do a little business, 
hawking, rag-collecting, tinkering, even horse-dealing 
some of them — beggars besides. 

Only a few days ago we watched such a roving family — 

330 A Colony of Mercy 

they rested by the roadside, giving their horse a graze — 
father, mother, and seven children : a baby's curly head 
peeping out of a rough-and-ready saddlebag, having its 
cradle on the flanks of the horse, a little girl, and five 
boys, ranging between six and thirteen, one would judge, 
barefoot, ragged and unkempt, otherwise thriving enough, 
for they beg their food. Beautiful children too, some of 
them, wild and untamed, with the look on their faces 
Murillo loved. 

Now in the name of Christian Scotland what a state 
of things ! What are these seven children other than 
animal, other than heathen — never inside a school, never 
inside a church ? We spoke to a minister ; we spoke to 
a poor-law officer. " Can nothing be done ? " " Nothing," 
they said, " for there is no law to embrace this class." 
Then it is high time for some such law to be made. 
What chance have these children, growing up to the 
same miserable life — homeless, houseless ? Can nothing 
be done to gather in this homeless Scotland, the hapless 
residue of Clan Tartan ? We have written this book in 
vain if the passion awake not in some hearts to gather 
in these vagrants, to gather in these children. Cannot 
a net be spread, of mercy, of wisdom, of brotherly kind- 
ness, yet of firmness withal, to seek the gathering-in of 
Darkest Scotland ? Will any one give up his stalking, 
his shooting, till this be done ? It is an appalling need. 
The stalking is not wrong, the shooting is not, but these 
things are ! The glass of wine hurts not ; yet some of 
us have turned abstainers because of the terrible abuse. 
Who, enjoying the moors now, not thinking, perhaps not 
knowing, will have it in him to " abstain " as a protest ? 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 331 

for it is time to protest ! It is the true-hearted man 
only who could do this ; yet there are some true-hearted 
among those even who now enjoy the sport. They 
would be fit helpers. 

There ought to be a " giving up " ! Here we have 
talked about a " Programme of Christianity." Can we not 
try and act upon it ? Cannot a PROGRAMME OF CHRIS- 
TIANITY Union be formed to gather in these children — 
nor rest till laws are made to make this possible ? Are 
not some of us these children's keeper — brother to them, 
sister to them ? And here they are, living on the road 
— animal, heathen ! Who is going to try and house this 
homeless Scotland after the example set by this working 
model ? Say you it is impossible ? Do not say so till 
you have tried. Has " beauty for ashes " not been written 
for this people also ? There is beauty abounding in 
Scotland, all about them ; but the vagrant's life is a 
sitting in ashes ; it must end in despair. 

In one thing at least these homeless wanderers are 
like Him who had not where to lay His head. Yet 
shall we not have to answer Him one day why they have 
not where to lay theirs ? Wandering up and down the 
country, room enough and to spare, children of the soil, 
yet soil for a cottage denied them ! Of a truth, God 
will require this one day at the hands of this country ! 

Where do these people spend the nights ? the many 
drenching days ? the cold winter ? About a fortnight 
ago — it was in the latter end of September* there had 

* These observations on ill-housed Scotland being a photo- 
graph from life, we leave the references to the time of year 
when taken. 

33 2 A Colony of Mercy 

been a heavy frost, unusually early, and touching well- 
nigh every sheaf of the yet ungarnered crop, to the hurt 
of the poor tenant only, for it makes no difference to the 
landlord's rent — a vagrant knocked at this cottage door 
for a cup of tea in the early morning, and he had it. He 
was all covered with the hoarfrost, hair, tatters and all. 

" Poor fellow, where have you spent this grim night ? " 

" In the wood!' 

" It's the drink has done this for you," says the wife 
who gives him the cup. 

" Yes, the drink and my own foolish ways. I cannot 
help it now. I shall drink again, when I can earn some 

What an appalling state of things : spending the 
night in the wood — such a night — coming for a cup of 
cottage tea, and going his way again, and knowing he 
has sinned ! 

Who is going to be such a man's keeper, trying 
to house poor sinning, drinking, homeless Scotland ? 
The tinsel Christmas angel will not save this man, for he 
has not even the squalid room to which he could take it. 

We could almost write a book on Scottish tramps, 
from the observation of a few weeks only. Yesterday a 
woman accosted us with a bundle in her arms. It was 
an infant, four days old. " Goodness sake ! and where was 
it born?" " On the road, please : I couldn't get no further." 
A lazy lout of a husband with a pony and a troop of 
children was bringing up the rear. We have not a word 
to say for the work-shirking tramp ; but in the name of 
universal motherhood who could look unmoved at that 
bundle ? The state of the road this week past has been 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 333 

one deluge, an unusual downpour even for Scotland ; and 
here was a woman who had not even an umbrella 
cottage to receive a little stranger in. Here it was, four 
days old, and she already on the tramp again, having 
walked seven miles since the morning. We know she 
spoke truth in this, for the child has been registered in 
the place she named — the law seeing to that much of a 
tramp's life. What could we do but take her, deserving 
or not, to our cottage? We got her story out of her. 
She married at seventeen a fellow of nineteen, and they 
have been on the road ever since, this being the ninth 
of their children. Why did they take to the road ? 
Well, her people had always been tramping, his people 
had been crofters till the cottage fell down about their 
ears — no repairs, no new cottage — and his father dying, 
he took to the road. This is a state of things ! the 
unhoused cottar, then, it would seem, goes towards the 
making of a gipsy in Scotland ! She said they were gipsies, 
and her weatherworn complexion was " gipsy " enough ; 
but she had the clear blue eye of the Highlander — no 
true gipsy from Adam ever has had blue eyes. Did she 
think she was a real gipsy ? But all she understood by 
" gipsy " was " the road." What was her name ? " Both 
the ' man ' (man, she said) and mysel' are Stuarts." 
And she knew about their people on both sides back to 
great-grandfather — all Stuarts — the royal clan actually. 
Then what is this if not the "hapless residue of Clan 
Tartan " ? We are told there is a tribe of so-called 
Stuarts who have always intermarried, always been 
"gipsies" since time out of mind. But that blue eye 
does not hail from the Ganges, nor does the sandy wig, 

334 A Colony of Mercy 

half yellow, half red, of those children. Stuart or not, 
what are they, if not the hapless residue of Old-Scotland ? 
And is this gipsydom to continue ? 

Of course not many hours passed after this tramping 
family had left us before we knew our pitiful soul had 
been sadly duped. The woman had been to the manse 
with her bundle, carefully hiding all trace of the clothing 
and other bounty the good minister's wife had given 
her, before calling for a repetition of the same at our 
hands. And an hour or so later we met her again a 
couple of miles down the road, we protected by water- 
proof and umbrella, she sitting cheerfully in the wet 
with that four-day bundle, having a cottage wife after 
her with sympathy and supplies. She will repeat that 
trick a dozen times tramping along, that infant being 
her stock-in-trade for a while. As we came up to her 
she pointed to some smoke rising fifty yards further : 
" that's the man, getting camp ready, I canna get 
further." Indeed she had done well with nine miles 
that day, considering. We walked on, and getting hold 
of the " man " by himself, we gave him a bit of our mind. 
" You should work instead of dragging about the woman 
and bairn in that condition." " She is awfu' weak," he 
replied. " Yes, but an able-bodied man like you should 
be working." " She is awfu' weak ! " And say what we 
would about his working, " she is awfu' weak," was all 
the response we got. We gave him up in despair.* 

* A couple of days after writing this we actually had a letter 
from this tramp, — he apparently having got some one to act as 
clerk for him — thanking us for our interest, etc. If this, in a 
tramp, is not a trait of clan royal ! He signed himself with his 
own pot-hooks, " Stuart." 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 335 

Getting back to our own temporary fireside, we heard 
from a woman of these parts who had been to that 
parish seven miles off, where this four-day infant first 
saw the light, that this part of the story was true 
enough ; the parish doctor had attended that roadside 
arrival in the gipsy's half-egg-shaped tent, and when 
he came to revisit his patient the second day she was 
on her feet and away to the " public," infant and all, for 
a " drappie," feeling " awfu' weak." This is Darkest 
Scotland tramping. 

There is a screw loose, if there is no law to take in 
this class. That four-day infant was born and registered 

at the parish of . If it should live to be a cripple or 

otherwise disabled, that parish will have the keeping of 
this pauper ; then in common sense this parish now ought 
to have a right to say, " We'll see that child educated, 
brought up to decent work." Here are two able-bodied 
parents, having been on the road these sixteen years 
apparently undisturbed by the country's law ; they may 
be past saving as far as useful membership of society is 
concerned. All they seem good for is to inflict a child 
upon a parish and to walk off on the fourth day with full 
liberty of ruining that child, bringing it up carefully in 
the way it should not go. They are breeding the next 
generation of vagrants — nine infants theirs already ; they 
may enrich the country by fifteen if their luck continue : 
and shall the training of such nine or fifteen be left to 
their mercy? Has the country no duty, even in self- 
defence, to gather in these children ? 

Say you, parental authority must not be interfered 
with, and British liberty is a sacred thing ? Yet there 

3j6 A Colony of Mercy 

is a limit to both : we do not allow a lunatic authority 
over his children, and these parents are morally de- 
mented ; we put a limit upon British liberty when it 
turns into licence. We do not allow a man to drown 
himself if we can help it ; we do not allow him to throw 
himself before a passing railway train, if we can prevent 
it : in short we do not allow him the personal liberty of 
committing suicide. Now, these people are not only 
working their own destruction, body and soul ; they are 
working their children's. At this point parental authority 
and British liberty should find themselves face to face 
with a wholesome law. 

Could not compulsory education be extended to 
vagrants' children, requiring a child's attendance between 
the ages of six and fourteen ? That would kill two birds 
with one shot : it would bring the children to school and 
it might tend to forcing the parents into settled life. 
Such " settling " would require much supervision, much 
helpfulness : it is a difficult question ; but the solving of 
it should not be beyond the wisdom of the country. 

Could it not work hand in hand with a general effort 
for the unemployed — with an effort, possibly, of re- 
peopling some of these glens ? Shall we be laughed at 
for this suggestion ? Tramps' children ! Then we ask, in 
what are they less promising than those who were the 
making of Australia ? Tramp or not, they are Scotia's 
children. A little story went through the papers a few 
years ago. The Prince of Wales was visiting at the 
late Duke of Sutherland's, and the Duke took His Royal 
Highness up a hill whence there was a beautiful outlook 
up and down one of the Sutherland glens. Said the 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 337 

Duke, " There is not a finer stretch of country anywhere 
in Scotland." Said the Prince, "It is beautiful, but to 
me it would be more beautiful still if it were the home of 
a people!' That was a royal speech ! There was not a 
dwelling in sight. Shall bonny Scotland continue a 
beautiful waste? shall one hundred and fifty thousand 
of her children continue homeless, houseless vagrants? 
What a fine opening here for historic justice — yea, for 
atonement ! The present generation can wash its hands 
in innocency, it never evicted — but your fathers did ! 
The residue of Clan Tartan is wandering about, every 
hapless child born to these vagrants is a cry to heaven 
for restitution. Let some of the country return to them 
after ninety-nine years ! Let Scotland open her arms to 
her own children ; she has been stepmother all too long ! 
Sending them off to Canada is not restitution — too 
many have been sent — the desolate country is here. 
'They do better there," say you? They may, but 
Scotland is their mother country, and if things were as 
they should be, some would do well here. When we have 
wronged folk, maybe it is convenient to send them to the 
antipodes, salving our conscience with a " they do better 
there." The depopulated country is here ! Let some 
of the glens, then, go back to the people ; let there be a 
Jubilee to atone for the past. Or shall it be said by 
your grandchildren, Scotland has lived to see the last 
Highlander take her pride to a far country. She is 
fairly on her way to this ! Will any one who has a glen 
to give, will any landowner consider this, yea, and take 
heart for a noble work ? It is a fine thing to take the 
lead in high-minded endeavour, and there is a special 


2,3% A Colony of Mercy 

blessing on those who make homes for others ; they shall 
find a home all ready for them in the Mansions beyond. 
But to come to simple figures — one hundred and 
fifty thousand vagrants in Scotland.* They must live ! 
Take them at five shillings or so a week — they cost the 
community that one way or another — and this is two 
millions sterling, roughly, a year ! a nice sum, most of 
it going in " drappies ! " They beg their food, supporting 
the public-house with their earnings — it comes to the 
same ! As a rule they ask modestly for the " piece." 
But we have known them entering cottage kitchens 
with simple orders — " Gie us a quarter pound o' tea, half 

* We wrote these pages simply from our own observation, and 
from such information as we ourself gathered in the Highlands ; 
but, subsequently, we came across a Glasgow " Report of Com- 
mission on the Housing of the Poor " for 1891, in which we find 
reference to the alarming growth of vagrancy in Scotland, to 
which the Commissioners' attention had been called by a letter 
on the subject from a Glasgow parochial officer, which letter 
was published, and from which we quote the following : — 

"From the statistics given in the report of Her Majesty's 
Inspector of the Constabulary for Scotland for the year 1885 (I 
go back to this year simply to furnish some idea of the increase), 
it appears that the number of vagrants were 59,214 males, 21,513 
females, 10,840 children — total 91,567. In 1886 there were 70,754 
males; 23,015 females; 12,892 children — total, 106,661; while 
for the year 1887 the total return is 138,748 ! Surely these figures 
demand the most serious consideration of every intelligent rate- 

Surely they do ! These Constabulary Reports are annually 
laid upon the table of Parliament, they are printed in blue-books, 
yet the nation at large apparently has no suspicion of even the 
possibility of such figures, as above quoted. It was thought an 
alarming state of things, that Germany, with her fifty millions 
of inhabitants, had about 150,000 vagrants, and here is Scotland 
reaching that figure upon not five millions ! 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 339 

a pound o' sugar, and a joog o' milk ! " and they get it, 
as though they were the clan royal indeed, levying 
contribution. There is quite a superstitious feeling in 
Highland cottages concerning bounty to these tramps — 
much to be blamed of course — but might it not be the un- 
conscious sense of kinship? Nay, there is more — the 
cottager, while present conditions last, never knows but 
that his own children one day may be on the road — it is 
this sorrowful sense of kinship ! Thus these vagrants 
are kept in food, their pennies keeping the public-house. 
Is the country not going to stop that, find provision for 
them at a less cost, even though at the cost of their own 
personal liberty, of which they are no fit keepers ? In 
short, is it not in simple arithmetic a duty to " compel 
them to come in," wisely, kindly, but still compelling, for 
the sake of their children, the future vagrants of Scot- 
land ? For these children live ! " It won't ketch cold," 
said that tramping mother, consolingly ; " it's born out ! " 
There will be a great many more than one hundred and 
fifty thousand, if you let that state of things go on 

We must stop, else this chapter itself will grow into 
a book. The one thing wanted is an anti-umbrella law. 
It will mean a great many things. If the land laws can 
be seen to for Scotland, better times will dawn. 

One word to cheer the heart of the gander. It is 
better to " give than to receive," and it is better to be sat 
upon than to sit upon. We used to wonder where the 
poet got his David Elginbrods and Alec Forbeses ; we 
used to think they must be the children of his own large- 

340 A Colony of Mercy 

hearted imagination, but one knows better, getting to 
know Highland cottagers. It is good for a man to bear 
the yoke, and not only in his youth ; and these Highland- 
men, if they do not go to the bad for very heaviness of 
spirit — that umbrella cottager does not drink, but if he 
did, who could wonder ? — go, very much so, to the good. 
They are a fine race, with roots the firmer for the 
ungenial soil, and, like their own Scotch firs, the better 
for the blast. Men are but in training now, Highlanders 
and all, for a time to come, and in that day much that 
was wrong here will be found right. In that day some 
of these humble cottagers, who now are last, may be first ; 
and, who knows ? may then be saying to some of their 
landlords, " It is you who made us what by the grace of 
God we have grown." It is good for a man to bear 

We know a young farmer on the borders of a northern 
deer-forest who was but two-and-twenty when he took 
over the holding of his father and grandfather, some 
fifty acres ; and not only is he driving a steady plough, 
picking up job work besides, but he is bringing up 
his four brothers, keeping one of them at college 
too. This is fine ! These are the poet's heroes, young 
men of hardy field labour in vacation, and doing well 
during the session at Aberdeen. For, as that young 
farmer says of his younger brothers — " they shall have 
their chance." This, we repeat, is fine ! We should like 
to know where in England, in Germany, in sunny France 
you could easily match this ? Landlord's son, even, if 
he have any, will he at two-and-twenty be equal to 
that, and do it? Will landlord say, Then by your 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 341 

own showing they cannot be so badly off? Does he 
say that ? It is the hard-yielding soil, it is the hard- 
ship borne, — the frugal life, the steady plough, the growth 
of the inner man because of the weight upon him. 

We met a boatman in our Scotch travels, a mere 
common boatman on a loch, and a bit of a crofter. We 
had talk with him twice, thrice, and thought there was 
something in that man. He told us he had not married 
— " I couldn't keep both wife and the old mother/' he 
said. When we bade him good-bye, he asked us, could 
we not send him some German reading ? 

" Why, Jim, do you know German ? " 

" Well, it's this way, I've got a bit bookie, English 
words down one side and German down the other, and 
I compare the two. I can make it out fine, and thus I 
edicate myself." 

" And what sort of reading would you like ? " said we, 

" Oh, most anything you could send. . . . Now, if there 
were such a thing as a German Shakespeare, I think I 
could make him out." 

After that we did send some reading to that wonderful 
Jim ; and of the wintry nights, long and dreary, he 
will be sitting in his humble croft with the old mother 
" edicating " himself with the help of his dictionary.* 
We have seen many countries, but nowhere have we met 
the like of this ! It is the hard-yielding soil, the hardship 

* This boatman is by no means a solitary instance. One of the 
finest British Goethe scholars, we are told, has thus educated 
himself in a Highland cottage. 

34 2 A Colony of Mercy 

Well for a man if he bear the yoke, and not only in 
his youth ! Scotland is blessed in a race like this. Let 
the gander take heart. 

We would fain add a word also to an umbrella 
landlord. Proof of tenants' hardship is rife in that 
region, but this book is not a muckrake. Yet this : the 
tenant of that cottage never by any chance in this fitful 
climate makes a £30 rent of thirty acres. It is a simple 
fact that this man and his family have to do hard 
work off the farm, doing gillie work and other service 
between the seasons, in order to find the landlord's rent. 
If the landlord farmed that bit of land himself, he could 
not make so much as ten shillings an acre, perhaps not 
five with paid labour ; this family, then, slaves away for 
his gain. This were hard enough, if harvest never failed ; 
but it does fail, and half-fail often ! This very year, with 
incessant rains and early frost, it has suffered seriously — 
not a sheaf garnered by the end of October, but snow 
on the ground ! And here they are with their wretched 
cottage, winter once more upon them, suffering in health 
too, the man ill as we write with this week's wet in the 
cottage, yet not daring to appeal to the landlord for 
a reduction of rent lest he show them the door ! Can 
these lords of the soil be forgetting there is a Door, 
before which the children of men one day will stand 
knocking for admittance? Is there any one among 
them who would not have it said of him then : He was 
a landlord in the days of his earthly life, but he was 
faithful? Do they not know that landlords actually 
will be wanted in heaven to be set over five cities, over 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 343 

ten, but only if they were faithful over the one city — the 
property — they held here? Landlords are not singular 
in this : it is true of every one of us, we all one day shall 
stand knocking at that Door. . . . 

Yet it is not so much the landlord as the iniquitous 
system, which is at bottom to blame, and the country is 
answerable for tJie system. Such landlord rule, such 
cottages, should be a recollection of the dark ages. But 
future history will have to chalk up the strange fact that 
a civilised country at the latter end of the nineteenth 
century had returned to the childhood of nations in 
having a nomad people — homeless, houseless tribes, for 
sheer want of cottages. 

And what of the Christian country, sending her 

missionaries to the ends of the earth to convert the 

heathen, the Chinaman, and her own wandering children 

never inside a school, never inside a church — born by 

the roadside, and, for aught we could learn, dying by the 

roadside, animal, heathen ? Who, think you, will have 

to answer for this when Britain, as a nation, one day 

shall stand knocking at that Door ? 

m * * * * 

We expect to be told this is a queer book, beginning 
with epilepsy and ending with land trouble. But we 
could not help it. We only followed upon the track of ■ 
our working model. Bethel, large-hearted and high- 
souled, ever ready to comfort all manner of human 
sorrow coming under her notice, is launching out in 
every direction, and we have caught some of her spirit. 
Beginning these pages, we had not the remotest intention? 
nor faintest suspicion even, we should eventually alight 

344 A Colony of Mercy 

on Scottish home affairs ; it is only that we have hap- 
pened to carry our manuscript to these Highlands, and 
once here we were helpless : our receptivity window 
standing open, impressions have streamed in, till we 
were overpowered : we simply could not help receiving 
them, putting them on paper, and here they are. 

For this is a true tale, and thus it was obtained : The 
writer having had her vision last winter of the " Pro- 
gramme of Christianity " realised, returned to Bethel in 
the summer to pick up the story. She was prevented 
unfortunately, or fortunately, from taking any notes, 
having sprained the wrist of her writing hand. As for 
those in authority, they really were little help ; with Pastor 
von Bodelschwingh she twice got ten minutes, — in the 
winter, when there was no question of book-making, she 
had seen more of him. The other pastors were a little 
more accessible ; but everybody there is far too busy to 
attend to you, even if you want to write their story. 
Statistics they have, plenty, and report papers, a tre- 
mendous collection, which Pastor Sturmer after some 
coaxing handed over. But these, after all, were not what 
one wanted : one wanted talk, one wanted to hear and 
see, one wanted impressions. So all this unfortunate 
writer could do, labouring as she was with her vision, 
the mighty message of Bethel, was to throw open the 
shutters of her soul that impressions might stream in by 
the window of receptivity. She had four weeks of this, 
and often wondered was there enough for a book? 
Some one suggested, in fairness to the colony she ought 
to stay six months. " No," she said, " such a book must 
be written while the ' first love ' is strong." She went 

The Message of Bethel to Ourselves 345 

about with her soul in her ears, in her eyes, watching ; 
and unawares some of the folk were got to talk, little 
hints of the working secret leaked out, little stories 
of the past. One day, towards the end of her stay, 
Pastor Sturmer inquired solicitously, had she transcribed 
a sufficiency of his mountain of report work ? Not a 
word. And then she told him how she rather relied 
on her receptivity window. " That will be a nice muddle 
you have got," he said, looking at her doubtfully. She 
had even told him statistics were no good, and that she 
wanted to catch the ideal spark, to fling as a kindling 
power into English souls. " H'm ! " he said, " that's 
a big mouthful." Pastor Schmidt of Hermon had a 
truer word, as she bade him good-bye — he was seeing 
her a little way through the beech wood, past Zion 
Church. "It will be just like this," he said; "it will 
be as it is with us when we are making a sermon : 
you may have your mind brimful of preparation, but 
after all God has the making of that sermon" And 
so — her window open still — she went to that Highland 
cottage, right away in the solitary wilds, with the one 
hope, that God Himself would have the writing of 
this book. 


There is a science which says " Survival of the Fittest," 
and capital, that awful power, says so too. But Bethel 
says — the spirit of Christianity says : " Salvation of the 



The Imperial Law of Insurance of German working men and 
working women against Permanent Ill-health and Old 
Age, passed June 1889, came into force January 1891. 

This law may well be called the aged Emperor William's legacy 
to his people. It was his darling thought, and the preparation 
for it occupied the waning years of his life. For fully five years 
some of the wisest men of the empire put their heads together 
to work out this provision for the German working man and 
working woman, and the present Emperor did not fail to carry 
out this bequest of his august grandfather, a true gift to the 

Like all insurance, it is based on the principle of mutual 
assistance, with this difference, that those insured — viz., the 
working population, of which there are about twelve millions in 
the empire — do not solely bear the burden of the premium, but 
one-half only, the other half being paid by their respective 
employers. No working expenses attach to this insurance, the 
business part being managed by the Imperial Post Office, so 
that the full benefit of the funds collected may flow back to the 
insured working people. 

It is compulsory. 

Every man-servant and woman-servant, every factory worker 
(male and female), every man and woman working for any 
wage whatsoever — in short, the whole working population of the 
country — is required by law to join this insurance after the com- 
pletion of his or her sixteenth year. Clerks, small tradespeople, 
and others may join whose incomes are not above ^100 a year ; 
such " self- insurers," as they are called, paying the whole pre- 
mium, there being no employers liable on their behalf. 


348 Appendix 

There are four classes of this insurance, according to the 
wages of the individual, viz. (omitting fractions) : — 

Class I. 

on wages of £\% a year and under. 

„ II. 

>> 5J Zj>2* )) )> 

„ III. 

>» J) A>4 5' >> 

„ IV. 

,, ,, above ^42 ,, not exceeding ^100 

The weekly premiums, to be paid equally by every working man 
(woman) and by their employers, are : — 

Class I. 

(seven Pfennige) about \d. 

„ II. 

(ten ,, ) „ id. 

„ III. 

(twelve ,, ) ,, \\d. 

„ iv. 

(fifteen ,, ) „ \\d. 

Thus, be it understood, for every penny paid by the working man, 
the servant, and the factory hand, the employer pays a supple- 
mentary penny ; and the employer is bound to see that both 
pennies are duly paid up every week. Speaking of " pennies," in 
actual value it is tenpence to the shilling. 

Some employers grumble ; for, if a great factory owner employs, 
say five hundred hands, the insurance mulcts him in about £$ 
weekly — about .£250 a year. Yet is it hard on the great employers 
of labour, asking them to assist in making provision against the 
rainy day for their " hands " ? 

This provision for the future is going on in every German 
household. If you have a cook and housemaid, you have to 
see to their being insured by means of their weekly twopence 
and your additional twopence. If you employ a charwoman 
— but to show how well it is regulated : workers by the day, 
of course, also pay their weekly pennies and it is the employer 
who takes the first day of any given week (the Monday em- 
ployer; or, if they stay at home on a Monday, the Tuesday 
employer) who has to supplement the insurance. No one 
grumbles at this ; your charwoman once a week has a right to 
ask for her penny over and above her day's wage. Indeed, if 
one were to inquire in German families, one would find that the 
paterfamilias ', in very many cases, not only pays his penny 
cheerfully, but the cook's and housemaid's penny also. The 
trouble is not the penny, but the despatching of it properly 
and regularly. 

Appendix 349 

For it has to be taken to the Post Office, which gives a certain 
oblong stamp for the penny (or pennies), the weekly stamp being 
affixed on a card, which card has to be kept by the insured person. 
When full, it is exchanged for a fresh card, on which the summed- 
up value of the previous one is duly entered. If you are inex- 
perienced enough to go to a German post-office for your ordinary 
postal affairs on a Saturday — which seems the chosen day for 
most of these insurers, in certain districts at least — you may learn 
a lesson in patience watching the stamp-sticking insurance 
business of your more humble fellow-mortals. Some impatient 
person has nicknamed the insurance the "stick-law" in con- 
sequence, which designation, sad to say, has passed into 

Now, by this " stick-law," which came into force two years 
ago, over five million pounds sterling have already been col- 
lected. Twenty years hence, it is computed, there will be an 
accumulated fund of twenty -five millions, eighty years hence an 
accumulated fund of fifty millions. 

The benefits accruing are that any working man, any working 
woman, thrown permanently out of employment by sickness or 
accident, draws a sick pension, or, living over seventy years of 
age, an old-age pension. The claim to the sick pension is estab- 
lished if less than one-third of the yearly wage has been received; 
if health returns, the pension, of course, is discontinued. These 
pensions are not large, else the weekly premium would have to 
be larger than it is and become a burden. They are intended to 
make the sick one, the aged one, a welcome addition to any house- 
hold of his or her own class, which otherwise might look askance 
at them. 

A man or woman is entitled to the sick pension after having 
paid insurance for five years ; indeed, there is a generous pro- 
vision in this kindly "stick-law" that if any man or woman be 
thrown permanently out of employment even during the first or 
second year of its working, if he or she can prove they have 
been in receipt of an honest wage during the last five years (in 
which case they would have been insured if the law had already 
existed), they are entitled to its beneficent provision forthwith. 
Similarly, some aged pilgrim already near his three-score and 
ten can, after having paid in for one year, draw the old-age 
pension, if he can prove he has earned his livelihood during the 
last three years. This is doing it generously. 

The pensions paid in case of permanent want of employ- 


o Appendix 

ment through sickness or accident (after five years and under) 
are : — 

Class I. (omitting fractions) £$ i<\s. a. year. 

» II. ,, £6 5s. 

,, III. ,, £6 us. „ 

?j i*- >> £7 J? 

These pensions rise proportionately with the years of insurance. 
Thus a man or woman, having paid in for fifty years, would 
receive : — 

Class I. (omitting fractions) £& — a year. 

„ II. ;£l2 ios. „ 

„ HI. -, £16- 

„ IV. „ ^20 1$S. „ 

While any man or woman, irrespective of sickness, having 
passed his or her seventieth year and having paid in for thirty 
years, is entitled to an old-age pension, viz. : — 

Class I. (omitting fractions) £$ 6s. a year. 
„ II- ,, £6 *$s. 

» HI- » £% 3 s. 

„ IV. „ £ 9 us. 

3 } 


Two cases to exemplify the working of this insurance and the 
benefit received : — 

Take the case of a woman aged thirty-seven ; in her twenty- 
fourth year she lost her right arm, through sickness or accident, 
no matter which. If the law now in force had been in force then, 
she would from her sixteenth year have paid into the insurance, 
and so would her employer ; she would have paid (say Class II.) 
in about eight years some 38^., but she would have been drawing 
for the last thirteen years a yearly pension of £6 15J., in all over 
;£8o ; and she will draw her pension as long as she lives. 

Take the case of a man aged forty-nine, who for the last eleven 
years has been permanently unfitted for work in consequence of 
ill-health. If the provision had already been in force, he would 
have been insured for twenty-two years ; he would (say Class III.) 
have paid in all about £6 4^. (his employer paying the same 
amount on his behalf), but for the last eleven years he would 
have drawn a pension of about £10 55". a year ; he would have 
drawn some ^112 in these eleven years, and his pension will 
continue while he lives. Now, supposing this man to have a 
thrifty wife earning a weekly sum on her own account, perhaps 

Appendix 351 

some growing sons and daughters bringing a few shillings each 
to the household, such household, even with a disabled head 
bread-winner, would not be badly off. 

To every pension paid the public purse adds £2 10s. a year, 
which is included in the figures above given. It is a State pro- 
vision, and the State does its part, having the use of the funds 

If servant-girls or other female workers marry, they have the 
option of continuing the insurance — in which case the whole 
premium, of course, falls to their charge — or they may discon- 
tinue it ; receiving in that case the sum standing to their credit — 
not a bad arrangement for a bride in humble life. Also, if a 
man dies without in his own person having drawn the benefit of 
the insurance, his widow or his children, if under fifteen years 
of age, inherit the sum standing to his credit. Likewise, if a 
woman dies in similar circumstances, her children, if fatherless and 
under fifteen, inherit what may be standing to her credit. The law, 
indeed, is rich in sub-paragraphs, witnessing to the true benevo- 
lence which framed it. For instance, if a man or woman entitled 
to the pension be habitual drunkards, the pension is not given 
them in cash, but in kind ! 

These, briefly, are the main features of the compulsory in- 
surance of the German working population, and the great point 
to be noticed is this : the pensions are not a charity, like parish 
relief. These men and women, are e7ttitled to draw this benefit, 
having themselves made it possible, by paying up their pennies. 
They are not fiaufiers, then, when the ills that flesh is heir to 
overtake them. It is a fine thing to keep a man above the pauper, 
and by his own exertion, too, supplemented by your charitable 
foresight. Moreover, it is not every man for himself only, but 
every man for his neighbour ; it is a lifting of the whole working 
population to a higher level. As we said above, the provision 
is on its first trial ; a weak point here, a weak point there, may 
claim modification ; but the same benevolence which framed the 
law will no doubt watch over its workings, and will amend it 
whenever need of improvement may become evident. The spirit 
of the law is admirable, and its aim a truly noble one, ensuring 
not only pensions, but a moral growth of the people — an im- 
perial gift indeed. 

Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury. 

? 7 >±**><Ij/v*j>