ON THE UPWARD WAY
“Almost eight years,” thought Harold, “eight years, almost to a day, since I left here on the ‘Yokohama’ for Melbourne!” The “Tenyo Maru” had just slipped her cables, and was gliding out onto San Francisco Bay, on her long journey to Japan.
“How well I remember that May morning of eight years ago, when, a drunkard, a criminal, a hardened and unhappy wretch, I went to sea to escape justice, and to rid myself of mother’s pleadings!
“How well I remember the something that made me want to go back to home and mother, that something which I fought off until I cared for nothing but drink, profanity, and evil company!
“And how vividly I recall the day of the fire, when I found Captain Mann praying, asking God to deliver us from explosion and death!
“Yes, and I remember all too well that hateful minute when I threw my Bible overboard. O God, help me! Why did I do it? I wish I could forget it.
“Now I am starting on another trip, not because I wish, but because I must. I am compelled to leave America, to remain away until I have demonstrated that I am a man worth trusting. But I have no mother; and no friends, I guess.
“No friends? Yes, I have one — I have that Bible. It seems like mother to me. I just feel, somehow, that it is going to help me to be a better man.
“That old man at the pier was a good man. He seemed to understand me. When he prayed, something gripped my heart; and when he told me I could take the Bible with me, I made up my mind really to try to be decent. I really thought I could be.
“But he certainly did say some funny things. I never heard anything like them before. Yes, yes, I did. I remember that mother used to tell me that we ought to keep the Ten Commandments, all of them. And she said she didn’t understand why it was that Christian people kept Sunday when the commandments say we should observe the seventh day. But that old gentleman actually keeps the day mother thought people ought to keep.
“The queer thing about this whole business is the Bible he gave me. In the first place, it looks like the one I threw away; and besides, it is marked almost the same — the same texts, the same kind of ink, explanations in the margin, and a message written on the flyleaf. But — “What’s that!” He now spoke aloud.
From the thoughts of his important duties (he had been assigned a position on the main deck, forward), and from the reflections regarding his past life, he had suddenly been aroused by a voice, which seemed like a ghost of times long since gone. He glanced back, but, seeing no one, concluded he must have been mistaken.
But again he heard it! And this time, he looked toward the bridge. There stood Captain Mann!
Captain Mann Warns Harold
Yes, it was the same old captain, the hero of the “Yokohama,” and now in command of the great transpacific passenger liner. Harold Wilson was almost overcome with emotion. His heart palpitated with joy. Deep in his heart there was something which seemed to tell him that during this journey across the sea, he was to learn the secret of a better life, and that the man of prayer on the bridge had been given to aid him.
It was several days before the opportunity came to the young man to meet and greet the man he had so much revered. But duty finally brought them into contact, and Harold fairly rushed to grasp the captain’s hand.
“Captain Mann! Thank God for the chance to sail with you again!”
The captain’s big, whole-hearted hand gladly grasped Harold’s, reciprocating fully the spirit of good will evinced; but his face wore a puzzled look.
“My young man, why do you thank God? When I knew you, you had no regard for God.”
“Yes, captain; but I have fought long enough what I know is right. I want to find God, and know Him just as you did that day the fire broke out on the ‘Yokohama.’ I want to know and serve Him just as my mother did. Do you remember the talk you gave us about the Bible and its promises?”
“Yes, young man, I recall the whole experience. But I have no memory that you got any good from it.”
“That is true, captain; for that very day, I went and hatefully threw into the sea the Bible my dear mother gave me. And she had marked it for me, too. Do you know, she had marked in it that very verse that you said saved us from the fire!
“But, Captain Mann, I have another Bible, and one that is marked. That verse in the Psalms is marked, the Ten Commandments are marked, yes, and a great number of other texts!”
“Where did you find such a Bible, my boy?” the captain kindly inquired.
Then Harold told the sad story of his mother’s death, his abandonment to sin, his arrest, his sentence, and the discovery of the Bible, and the meeting of the old gentleman at the Oakland pier.
“Oh, yes,” said the captain, “I know of that gentleman. He belongs to a very peculiar people, who keep Saturday instead of Sunday; and he has placed in the reading room of this vessel a large number of papers and leaflets for the benefit of our passengers and crew.”
“Well, captain, he found me reading the Bible at the pier; and when he saw that I was longing for it, he let me bring it with me. I tell you, he was the best man I ever met. He understood me. And when I told him how far down I had gone, he had a little tear for me, and prayed that I might find deliverance from all my wrong habits, and have rest in Christ. What he said to me seemed to open up the whole plan of right living, and I made up my mind to try to be a better man. And I want you to help me, captain.”
“I certainly will do my best to aid you to become a Christian; but I fear I shall not be able to help you to believe as that old gentleman believes, for I think he is wrong about the keeping of Saturday. There are a number of his people aboard the vessel, though — missionaries to China; and they will help you. But look out, my boy, and don’t go wild.”
With these few words, the captain passed on, while the subject of this story continued his duties. But many queries began to arise in his mind. “What did he mean by saying they are wrong? How are they peculiar? And how could I get ‘wild’ by meeting them and having them help me? I don’t believe that old gentleman would ever make anybody wild.”
Thus Harold reasoned to himself.