A Tale of the Submerged
Bertram Williams, a homeless labourer of 21, fell, it is reported, into the Thames. In a moment of aberration of mind he got out again. An idea smote him, perhaps because it was a raw December night. He thought he would try and find somewhere to dry his clothes. He went to two police stations, where he was referred to the casual ward. There they would not admit him because he had no “order”.
There was one other place he could apply at in Christian England, overflowing with the traditional “peace and goodwill” of Christmastide. To the Salvation Army Shelter! Ah! yes, a good idea. “Knock and it shall be opened.” “Do unto others –.” “For He doth mark th’ sparrow’s fall.” Excellent! B. Williams would go unto the Good Samaritan.
He found the G.S. on duty even at that early hour (4 o’c in the morning), which is not surprising, for thee Salvationist watch as well as bray. It is a habit they acquire through watching the financial aspect of their “prayer skirmishes.” When Williams preferred his request to be allowed to dry his clothes, he was told to call again at 5, because their rules did not allow them to admit anyone before that hour. You see, though it is true that the bridegroom cometh, the S.A. are so firmly convinced of his respectability that they make no provision for his reception before 5 o’c in the morning.
Of course, the wisest course for B. Williams to have followed at least, from the moral point of view, would have been to get back into the river for an hour or two. Such Christian meekness would probably have met with its promised reward. He would have inherited the earth, or at least, six feet by two of it.
But there, we can all be wise after the event. Williams smashed the S.A. shelter window.
Oh dear! That’s a crime against private property, you know. So they hauled him off to the police-station, where he was received with open arms. They didn’t refer him to the casual ward now – he had smashed a window.
In the fullness of time Bertram appeared before the magistrate, to whom it was explained by the Good Samaritan that the Commissioner of the S.A. took a very serious view of the offence. That is only to be expected. It is a much more serious affair, smashing a window, than sowing the seeds consumption in a homeless young labourer. But what a wonderfully convenient thing the prison is to those who preach the gospel of turning the other cheek to the smiter.
A. E. Jacomb.