“Dave begged me to stay. Mr. Seymour came down to speak to me, but I’d done what I came to do, and I had got out quick—from Heaven to Hell, from my Christian pal to my pal in crime at the card-table.
“I’ve never been converted. If I was I’d go like my pal Ranney out in the world and tell how God saved me, and not let the ministers do all the talking. At present all I can say is, ’God bless my pal! and some of these days perhaps I’ll be with him on the platform telling what God did for me. God speed the day!’”
I had been sexton for over five years, and had been greatly blessed, when my wife became ill. Things did not always run smoothly, for there are ups and downs even in a sexton’s life, and I had mine. When Mary and I took up again I determined to do all in my power to make amends for my former treatment of her, to make life as pleasant for her as I could, and I did. When she was first taken sick I sent her and the boy over to Ireland to visit her parents, thinking the change would do her good. She was better for a little while, but on the 14th of March, 1902, she died. My boy and I were at her bedside and promised to meet her on the other side, and with the help of God we are going to keep our word.
You know there are always “knockers,” and I knew quite a few. In every church and society there they are with their little hatchets ready to trim and knock any one that goes ahead of them. Some of these people said of me, “Oh, Ranney is under Christian influences. He is sexton. He is afraid. Wait until he runs up against a lot of trouble, then he will go back to the Bowery again and drink worse than ever.” I do think some of those people would have liked to see it happen. I’ve seen one of them in a sanitarium to be treated for drink who was my worst knocker, and I told him I would pray for him. I’m not talking of the good Christian people. They don’t know how to “knock,” and I thank God for all such. I had a thousand friends for every “knocker,” and they were ready to help me with kind words, money, or in any other way when I was in trouble.
Just as an illustration of this take the act of the poor fellows of the Midnight Mission in Chinatown when my wife died. They wanted to show their sympathy and their love, and a delegation of them came in a body and placed a wreath on Mary’s coffin. I learned afterwards how they all chipped in for the collection—some a few cents, some a nickel. Don’t think for a moment that the Bowery down-and-out has no heart, for it isn’t so. Many a tough-looking fellow with a jumper instead of a shirt has one of the truest hearts that beats. I only wish I could help them more than I do.
When God took Mary away I thought it was hard, and I was sore and ready to do anything, I didn’t care what. There was a lady, Miss Brown, a trained nurse, who had been with Mary all through her illness, whose cheering words did me a wonderful lot of good. One thing she said was, “Trust.” God bless her!