It is difficult to conceive of the enthusiasm that Dr. Talmage aroused everywhere the immense crowds that gathered to see and hear him. During our stay in London this time, after a preaching service in a church in Piccadilly, the wheels of our carriage were seized and we were like a small island in a black sea of restless men and women. The driver couldn’t move. The Doctor took it with great delight and stood up in the carriage, making an address. From where he was standing he could not see the police charging the crowd to scatter them. When he did, he realised that he was aiding in obstructing the best regulated thoroughfare in London. Stopping his address, he said, “We must recognise the authority of the law,” and sat down. It was said that Dr. Talmage was the only man who had ever stopped the traffic in Piccadilly.
From London Dr. Talmage and I went together for a short visit to the Isle of Wight, and later to Swansea where he preached; we left the girls with Lady Lyle, at Sir John Lyle’s house in London.
It had become customary whenever the Doctor made an address to ask me to sit on the platform, and in this way I became equal to looking a big audience in the face, but one day the Doctor over-estimated my talents. He came in with more than his usual whir, and said to me:
“Eleanor, I have been asked if you won’t dedicate a new building at the Wood Green Wesleyan Church in North London. I said I thought you would, and accepted for you. Won’t you please do this for me?”
There was no denying him, and I consented, provided he would help me with the address. He did, and on the appointed day when we drove out to the place I had the notes of my speech held tightly crumpled in my glove. There was the usual crowd that had turned out to hear Dr. Talmage who was to preach afterwards, and I was genuinely frightened. I remember as we climbed the steps to the speaker’s platform, the Doctor whispered to me, “Courage, Eleanor, what other women have done you can do.” I almost lost my equilibrium when I was presented with a silver trowel as a souvenir of the event. There was nothing about a silver trowel in my notes. However, the event passed off without any calamity but it was my first and last appearance in public.
As the time approached for us to return to America the Doctor looked forward to the day of sailing. It had all been a wonderful experience even to him who had for so many years been in the glare of public life. He had reached the highest mark of public favour as a man, and as a preacher was the most celebrated of his time. I wonder now, as I realise the strain of work he was under, that he gave me so little cause for anxiety considering his years. He was a marvel of health and strength. There may have been days when his genius burned more dimly than others, and often I would ask him if the zest of his work was as great if he was a bit tired, hoping that he would yield a little to the trend of the years, but he was as strong and buoyant in his energies as if each day were a new beginning. His enjoyment of life was inspiring, his hold upon the beauty of it never relaxed.