About 5 P. M. there drove up to the Mission door a carriage with a man in it who said, “Is this 17 Dover Street, and is your name Mr. Ranney?” I said, “Yes.” He had four large hampers filled with sandwiches, which we carried into the Mission. He said he was the Count’s valet and the Count wished him to make tea for the men. I said, “All right.” I thought it would be a change for the men, although coffee would have been all right.
The tea was made and everything was ready for the feed. I wanted the papers to know about it, so I sent my assistant to the office and told the reporters that a real French Count was going to give a feed that night. They were on hand and the next day the papers all had an account of it.
As soon as the doors opened the men came in and the place was jammed to the limit. The meeting was opened with prayer, then the sandwiches and tea were passed around. The Count, wearing a dress-suit, was sitting on the platform. I introduced him as the “man of the hour” who had given the lay-out to the boys. They thanked him with three cheers.
I asked the men to look him over and see if they had ever seen him before. Now the Bowery men are sharp, and over seventy-five hands went up. They had seen him somewhere, in Mission bread-lines and different places.
The Count spoke for about five minutes and then sat down. He sailed on the following Tuesday and I never met him again. He may be in London for all I know, studying up something else. But I’m sure he enjoyed himself when feeding the men. And I have often thought, no matter who or what he was, he had his heart in the right spot. God wants men of his stamp, for He can use them for His honor and glory.
There isn’t a week passes in my work that there are not some specially interesting happenings. One Wednesday night about six months ago we were having our usual Wednesday night meeting. I found I did not have any one to play the piano; my player had not yet come. I did not worry over that, however, as sometimes we had to go on and have a meeting without music. I generally asked if any one could play, and I did so this night. Presently a man came up the aisle. I asked, “Can you play?” He said, “A little. What number shall I play?” I said, “I guess we will sing my favorite hymn, ‘When the Roll Is Called up Yonder, I’ll Be There.’” He found the hymn and when he began to play I saw that he was a real musician. He made that old piano fairly talk. “Ah,” said I, “here is another ‘volunteer organist.’” I had seen the man and talked with him lots of times before, but always took him for a common drunkard. You can’t tell what an old coat covers.
After the meeting I had a little talk with him and asked him why he was in such a condition. “Oh,” he answered, “it’s the old, old story, Mr. Ranney—the drink habit. I know what you are going to say: why don’t I cut it out? Well, I can’t. I have tried time and again. I’ll go on drinking until I die.” I told him to stop trying and ask God to help him, just to lean on His arm, He wouldn’t let him fall. I left him thinking it over, and I kept track of him, getting in an odd word here and there and giving him food and lodging.