It was snowing and very cold outside, and the Mission was packed with men and a few women. These poor creatures had no place to go, no home; they were outcasts, there through various sins, but mostly through love of rum. I hoped some visitor would come in and I would get him to lead, but no one came, and it was up to me to give the boys a talk. I had never forgotten my first sermon at the church, so, asking God to help me, I went on the platform. I read the story of the Prodigal Son. That was easy; the hard part was to come later on. I asked if some one would play the piano, and a young fellow came up that looked as though he hadn’t had a meal or slept in a bed in a month, but when he touched the keys I knew he was a master. I found out later that he was a prodigal, had left home, spent all, and was on the Bowery living on the husks.
We began by singing a hymn, after which I got up and began to talk to the men. I gave my testimony, how God had saved me from a life of crookedness and crime, and that I was no better than the worst man on the Bowery, except by the grace of God. There was one big fellow sitting in the front row who was trying to guy me. While I was talking he would make all sorts of remarks, such as, “Oh, what do you know about it? Go away back and sit down,” etc. I asked him to keep still or he would have to get out. I went on trying to talk, but that man would always answer back with some foolish remark. He was trying to stop the meeting—so he told me afterwards.
There I was. I could not go on if he did, and I told him that when I got through I would give him a chance to talk. Now there were over four hundred men looking at me, wondering what I would do. Some of my old pals shouted, “Put him out, Danny!” and the meeting was in an uproar. I knew if I did not run that meeting, or if I showed the “white feather,” I was done as a leader or anything else connected with that place. I said to him, “My friend, if you don’t keep still I’ll make an example of you.” I could have called the police and had him locked up, but I didn’t want any one to go behind bars and know that I had him put there. I had been there and that was enough. I’ve never had one of these poor men arrested in my life. I used kindness.
I began to talk again, and he started in again, but before he got many words out of his mouth I gave him a swinging upper cut which landed on the point of his jaw, lifting him about two feet, and down he went on his back. My old pals came up to help, but I said, “Sit down, men; I can handle two like that fellow.” I called out a hymn; then I told him to get up, and if he thought he could behave himself he might sit down, if not, he could get out. Well, he sat down and was as good as could be.
That was the making of me. The men all saw it. They knew that I was one of them, they saw that I could handle myself, and I never had any trouble after that. And the man I hit is to-day one of my best friends.