JAC Online

A Night In The Woods
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This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,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

There was once an Army girl, not yet out of her ‘teens, who, in the early years of our history, was sent to take charge of a village Corps in East Anglia.  Here her fearless denunciation of sin brought down upon her the wrath of some of the ‘men of the baser sort’, and they planned how they ‘could get even with her’.  It seems to some of them that she laid bare the innermost secrets of their sinful hearts, so plainly did she speak.

One night, ‘round about the first hour of the morning, a message was brought to her quarters that a certain woman had been taken seriously ill and was asking for her.  The woman in question lives three miles or more outside the village, and the way thither was across a lonely common and then through some thick woods.

As the Captain sped on her way the loneliness of the path was accentuated by the darkness of the hour, but full of the purpose of her errand she held her fears in check and hasted on.

Suddenly, as she was traversing that part of the road leading through the woods, a group of men stepped out of the bushes and caught her by the arms.  To make the horror of her capture all the more intense each of the men had their faces covered by scarves – it was quite impossible for her to recognize any, even if her fright would have allowed it.  Piteously she begged to be permitted to proceed on her way, but they told her the message had been nothing but a trick, and ruthlessly they dragged her within the wood.  Here they tied her arms and legs, bound her to a tree, and – went away and left her.  She heard their feering laughter as they made their way back to the village.

She struggled and struggled, but the ropes were too tightly bound to allow her to escape, and there was nothing for her to do but to pray that her strength would hold out until someone passed on the road and heard her cries.  She called and called as loudly as she could, but nobody heard her.  All around her nothing but the strange night sounds of the solitary wood. 

The hours dragged on; she had much ado to fight off the faintness creeping over her; then she heard the rattling of cart-wheels along the near-by road.  Again she called, but this time with a voice weakened by exhaustion and cold.  She prayed that she might be heard.  She was.  The passer-by was a woodman who was taking a load of faggots to town on his rickety cart.  He soon made room for her thereon, wrapping her up in his ragged, but warm great-coat, and eventually brought her to her Quarters. 

Needless to say, the dastardly deed made a great stir in the village, and the hitherto opposition began to turn to sympathy.  None of the fellows who had plotted the affair, however, disclosed their identity until something happened of which I will tell you in a moment.  I little though, when I heard the lassie telling the story, in that cosy back-room where so many other yarns had been told, that I should speak with one of the perpetrators.  The brave girl never recovered from the experiences of that night, even when she was telling us, she was suffering from the effect.  Only a year or so afterwards she succumbed to the disease they had brought on.  She way, indeed, a martyr for the faith.

Here is the sequel.  Years afterwards I was the Divisional Officer of that Corps and became friendly with a prominent Local Officer there.  I told him the story and asked him if he remembered it.  “Only too well,” he said.  “You’re the first one who has ever asked me, but for many a long year it has been a black spot on my conscience; I can’t get away from it.  I was the chap that took the message, though, thank God, I had no hand in tying her up.  I’ve asked God, again and again, to forgive me.  Do you think He will?”

We knelt side by side in his office that morning, and I prayed that his long years of atoning might end in his receiving the full peace of God.  I think our prayer was answered – I believe it was. 

He, too, has gone from us now, or I would not have told the story.








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