JAC Online

The 'Fraud' Who Became Free
by Colonel Edward H. Joy

This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
'Our Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The Salvation Army

This is the story of a man who went to prison to get a clear conscience.  In the early days of The Army in Norway, there was a man who for years who had kept a bogus labour bureau in Oslo (then called Christiania).  His plan of campaign was to concoct an advertisement of a splendid situation, which would tempt the impecunious clerk, stenographer, or whatever worker it would fit.  Thirty or forty would flock for it, paying an entrance fee which was to be refunded if they did not, within a reasonable period, secure a suitable situation through his agency.

Usually, before the end of the time they tired of waiting, having been told again and again that the situation was not yet actually vacant, or retreated in disgust on being told that it had been given to another man who had applied just before them.  Many never came back for their money.  He always took care to have a second grand and attractive proposition on hand by the time their claims would fall due, so that a fresh crop of dues would meet all claims.  Long experience, however, had taught him that the creditors who never back would always be numerous to afford him a comfortable margin of profit. 

The sort of thing went on for years without his being discovered as the fraud he was.  Then one day he went to a Salvation Army meeting, and became converted.  He could obtain no clear peace of soul, however, until he knew he had either made recompense to those whom he had defrauded, or atonement in some other fashion, - he must give satisfaction to outraged law and justice. 

He told his wife what he intended to do.  “I will kill myself and you, too, rather than submit to such a disgrace,” said she.  But he informed against himself.

The police professed to believe that his confession was a fabrication; it seemed difficult to do otherwise in face of the reputation he had so carefully manufactured.

“Some one must charge you,” they said.  “We cannot take your mere confession as evidence.”  So he hunted up as many people as he could find whom he had defrauded, and told them why they were required.

Incredible as it may seem, nearly thirty prosecuted him.  (was he not a vile Salvationist?  Nothing was too mean to be done to those wretched people!)  The magistrates before whom he appeared shared the common hatred against The Army, and was as severe as possible with him, apparently oblivious to the fact that his desire to live an honest life had made him a prisoner.  Thirty days on bread-and-water, considered the equivalent to six months hard labour, was his sentence.

He served his time and came out of gaol tranquil and glad, at peace with God and man.  His reparation did not stay there, for he took upon himself the task o refunding his ill-gotten gains to all who had any claim upon him, so far as he could obtain information about them.  When he returned from prison his fellow Salvationists gave him a public Welcome Home, and praised the Lord that he had set himself right with God and man.

At the time when we heard the story he was still one of the happiest, freest men in all Norway.








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