My lecture was on Gordon and Khartoum. I described our life on the desert and told something of the war-game as I had seen it played. At the close of the lecture, the usual perfunctory vote of thanks was moved, and several prominent men of the town made the seconding of the vote an excuse for a speech. Curiously enough, I had had an experience with one of these men when I was a newsboy, and in my reply to this vote of thanks I told the story:
“One winter’s night when I was selling papers on these streets—I think I was about twelve years of age—I knocked at a man’s door and asked if he wanted a paper. The streets were covered with snow and slush, and I was shoeless and very cold. The man of the house opened the door himself, and something must have disturbed him mentally, for when he saw it was a newsboy, he took me by the collar and threw me into the gutter. My papers were spoiled and my rags soaked with slush and water.
“I picked myself up and came back to the window through which I saw a bright fire on an open hearth, and around it the man’s family. I don’t think I said any bad words, nor do I think I was very angry; but I certainly was sad and I made up my mind at the window that that man would some day be sorry for an unnecessary act of cruelty. I am glad that the gentleman is present to-night”—a deep silence and breathlessness pervaded the audience—“for I am sure that he is sorry. But here are the newsboys of the town. They are my invited guests to-night. I want to say to the townspeople that the only kindly hand ever laid on my head was the Vicar’s. It is too late now to help me—I am beyond your reach: but these boys are here, and they are serving you with papers and earning a few pennies to appease hunger or to clothe their bodies, and I want you to be kind to them.”
After the lecture the man who had thrown me in the gutter came to me. Of course, he had forgotten it. He had not the slightest idea he was the man, but he said:
“What a dastardly shame!”
I gripped him by the hands, and said, “You, my brother, are the man who did it.” I tightened my grip, and said, “And I forgive you as fully and freely as I possibly can. You are sorry, and I am satisfied.”
I studied in the military schools for a first-class military certification of education, and got my promotion; but no sooner had the studies ceased and promotion come than the disgust with military life and its restrictions increased with such force that it became unbearable. So I left the service.
BEGINNINGS IN THE NEW WORLD
I came to the United States in September, 1888. I came as a steerage passenger. My first lodging on American soil was with one of the earth’s saints, a little old Irish woman who lived on East 106th Street, New York City. I had served in Egypt with her son, and I was her guest.