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He Isn't Knocking Tonight!
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This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,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

I was a young Lieutenant at the time, and full of youthful zeal in the cause, - not more so than now, I hope, - and the sight of Jack Earnshaw in his accustomed back seat under the gallery filled me with something akin to awe.

The night was terrifically hot, and the Hall was crowded far beyond its usual capacity for the Harvest Festival.  The meeting had been full of thrills and of the Holy Spirit’s influence.  I recall how moved I had been in my singing of the then quite new soli, ‘Hark, hear the Saviour knocking!’.  I remember the volume of sound filling the old theatre as the congregation sang, “Will you let Him in tonight?” 

I had hoped so much that he would yield; it was high time that he should do so; high time he should seek the Lord.  If ever a mortal man had had warnings, he had had them by the hundred; all his recent days had been full of indication of approaching death; nothing could stay the coming end.  Stricken with a fatal (in those days) disease born of his employment, he knew had not much longer to live. 

And I knew it too.  It was this which moved me to speak to him once more – the thought of his danger filled me with dread, almost as if it had been myself, - and so, leaving my place on the platform, I pushed my way through the departing crowd, and halted him.

“Jack,” I said, “He’s been knocking at your heart tonight.  Won’t you let Him in?  You may not have many more chances.”

“No, Leff,” said he.  “Not tonight.  I Must get off home now, but I promise you I’ll come tomorrow night, I really will.”

“There won’t be much of a chance then,” I said, somewhat sorrowfully, remembering that it would be the Harvest Sale, and not much of what we call a ‘Salvation Meeting’. 

“Oh,” said Earnshaw, “The Captain’ll be sure to give me a chance to get saved if he sees me; don’t worry, lad.  I’ll be here.”

With that I had to be content, and he left the Hall.

The next night, Monday, I looked around the Hall, but Jack’s usually place was empty.  I guessed he had had one of his recurring bad attacks, and put that down as the reason for his absence.  There was a lot of pleasantry about the meeting, but I was not very much ‘in it’; I was thinking about Earnshaw’s broken promise.  Some of my old lady friends tried to rally my poor spirits; but I couldn’t get over my feeling of disquiet.

We closed the meeting and the subsequent tidying up at a very late hour, and it was quite late when we gave each other good-night and went to our rooms.  I was the last to take the stairs, and just as I was halfway up, there was a knock at the door.

Opening the front door I saw a little girl whom I at once recognized as Jack Earnshaw’s child- he had a family of seven, including baby twins; the messenger was the eldest.

“Father’s ill again,” she said, “and the Captain’s to come quick.  He’s ever so bad, and Mum is crying, and grand-dad is drunk.”

Giving up all thought of bed, the Captain and I made ready to answer this insistent call.  We went up the High Street the Town Hall Clock struck the hour of 1am like a death-knell.

The Earnshaw Cottage was one of a row of small dwellings at the rear of the Town Hall, and here, in the tiny house-place, - a heated atmosphere and squalor, indeed, - and here we found a company of excited, gossipy neighbours; a horde of crowded children, the nagging of a distressed wife, and the snores of a drunken old man lying on the settle, and the curses of Jack Earnshaw.  And nigh enough reason for his curses.

Dear fellow!  What language he was using, and how he was abusing his wife!  Poor soul, she had little idea of family management at the best of times, and less still at such a time.  Thinking to bring peace out of the riot, the neighbours were told to withdraw – which they very unwillingly did – and the children and the old man were, somehow or other, reduced to a temporary silence.  Then the Captain said, “Go on, Lieutenant, you pray!”

The surroundings were certainly not such as I would have chosen for a prayer-place, and in my youthful nervousness it was with some reluctance I began to pray.  Very stumbling sentences they were.  Jack sat in his arm-chair by the fireside – he was unable to lie down – his wife was at the other side, with the twins on her lap.  “Oh, Jack,” she sobbed, “don’t go on so; the lad’s going to pray!”

Suddenly my prayer broke off short, for with a cry that was almost a scream, Earnshaw clutched at his heart, and fell from his chair prostrate in front of the fire, just missing me as he dropped.

My prayer sopped, and stooping over him, I helped the Captain to turn him over on his back, and held his head in my hands while the Captain sought to place a pillow under him.  Then Jack opened his eyes. 

(the memory of that moment almost stays my fingers as I write.  I feel once more the cold chill down my spine which even the heated room could not check.  I could scarce keep my hold on his head, my fingers trembled so much.  I saw a change coming over his face, which even my ignorance could not fail to recognize as death.  The hoarseness of his voice filled my dreams for many a night)

“Leff!  Leff!  Is that you?

And a pause.

“Leff!  Leff!” and his voice fell to a gasping whisper.  Leff!  He was knocking at my heart last night, and I wouldn’t let Him in, and He isn’t knocking tonight!”

Then, with a groan which rattled ahead of the hours, his head sank back on the pillow, and he entered into Eternity!








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