A Sequel, by J. Arthur Meacham
The entries in my Journal for August 11 and 12, 1904, are a sequel to the story published in the Church Section of The News … under the title “Leaves from a Life’s Journal,” prepared by my friend Isaac B. Ball from the journal of Elder Gaston L. Braley.
My story runs thus:
Thursday, August 11, 1904. After leaving Mr. Campbell’s this morning we canvassed the houses along our road till about noon when we began asking for something to eat – which we did not get, however, as we are in territory where the elders have, in the past, been rather badly treated. But we continued our tracting, talking to any and all who would grant us that privilege. Late in the afternoon we began asking for entertainment for the night which we were refused many times, by some on flimsy excuses, and by some because, as they emphatically said, “We do not entertain Mormons.”
At 7 o’clock we called at a large plantation house and were asked to come onto the porch out of the rain. The lady then excused herself, saying she would see if she could arrange to keep us for the night. An hour later her son-in-law came and told us they had no place for us to sleep.
The heavy black clouds were settling down almost to the tree-tops and it was pitch dark as we entered the woods half a mile from the spacious white house.
On into the woods we went till it became so dark that we could hardly follow the road. A flash of lightning lighted up our surroundings and I said to Elder Child, “Let’s step over here and pray.” Accordingly we kneeled down and in very few words told the Lord how much we were in need of his help and asked him to guide us by his Holy Spirit to a home where we could obtain shelter for the night.
We had gone only a few rods farther when another flash of lightning revealed to us a foot-path leading into the woods at right angles to the road we were following. “Let’s take this path,” I said, but Elder Child hesitated. Another flash of lightning and the immediate crash of thunder that followed were all the argument needed and we were soon on our way along the path as fast as we were able to travel, depending entirely upon the lightning to show us the way.
Soon we entered a small clearing where by the light fro the hissing streaks of fire among the clouds we could see a house. There were no lights from the windows, but the heavy drops of rain soon drove us onto the porch, and not any too soon, for instantly the storm, with all its pent-up fury, broke.
I rapped on the door and from inside a man called out “Who’s there?” “Two Mormon elders,” I replied, “and we should like shelter for the night.” “My wife is away and I can’t entertain you,” he said. But I had no thought of leaving. “You certainly would not be inhuman enough to turn men out in such a storm as this,” I shouted – the wind and torrents of rain emphasized my shouting, as well as making it necessary. “Wait a minute,” he said, and soon he had the door open for us.
We stood before the blazing logs in the old fireplace while we dried our clothing and ate some peaches, which our host brought from the kitchen, and talked to him and his hired man.
Our friend soon “warmed up” to the occasion and began asking us questions, then insisted that we sing some of our songs. He said he had heard two elders sing some years ago and he thought our songs the finest he had ever heard. We sang and talked till midnight, when our host insisted that we sleep in his bed while he and his man went to an adjoining room and slept on the floor.
Friday, August 12. Although I had agreed last evening that I should take the place of “the wife” in the preparation of breakfast by making the biscuits, we were called soon after daylight and told that breakfast was ready – and so were we, for we had eaten nothing, except a few peaches, since we left Mr. Campbell’s yesterday morning.
After breakfast our friend visited with us, asked questions and insisted that we sing more of our wonderful songs. He watched me hone my razor and said that his razor had not been sharpened, except on a leather strap, since he bought it twenty years ago. When I looked at the razor I could easily believe him – but I could hardly believe it possible for a man to shave with it. Well, I sharpened his razor and furnished the brush and soap for him to shave. He was so pleased that he hitched his horse to a light wagon and brought us nearly to Brother Sam Sloan’s. He told us his name was John Taylor and I complimented him by saying that I hoped he was as good a man as was the John Taylor who was the third president of the Mormon church.
After giving us directions for finding Brother Sloan’s place and insisting that if we or any of our elders ever came that way again we must stop and visit with him, Mr. Taylor wished us God-speed and returned to his home.
On reaching Brother Sloan’s, where we were welcomed as only “Southerners” can welcome, and telling him of our experience that evening, and with whom we had spent the night, he threw up his hands an exclaimed, “Why, do you all know that’s the man who had Elder Braley and Elder Smith put in jail!”
Even though “Judge Taylor,” under the influence of a minister, could be so cruel as to send two innocent elders to jail, he still possessed enough of the higher and nobler elements of character to be appealed to when under more favorable influences, and I believe he has in his veins the blood of Israel, for the Lord, in answer to our prayer, sent us to him. And I hope that before he died – if he is dead – he was baptized. If he was not I should like to have the privilege of doing his work for him.