Hope is tenacious. It goes on living and working when science has dealt it what should be its deathblow.
In the close room at the top of the old tenement house little Lucy lay wasting away with a relentless disease. The doctor had said at the beginning of the winter that she could not live. Now he said that he could do no more for her except to ease the few days that remained for the child.
But Martha Benson would not believe him. She was confident that doctors were not infallible. Anyhow, this one wasn’t, for she saw life and health ahead for her little one.
Did not the preacher at the Mission Home say: “Ask, and ye shall receive?” and had she not asked and asked again the life of her child, her last and only one, at the hands of Him whom she worshipped?
No, Lucy was not going to die. What she needed was country air and a place to run about in. She had been housed up too much; these long Northern winters were too severe for her, and that was what made her so pinched and thin and weak. She must have air, and she should have it.
“Po’ little lammie,” she said to the child, “Mammy’s little gal boun’ to git well. Mammy gwine sen’ huh out in de country when the spring comes, whaih she kin roll in de grass an’ pick flowers an’ git good an’ strong. Don’ baby want to go to de country? Don’ baby want to see de sun shine?” And the child had looked up at her with wide, bright eyes, tossed her thin arms and moaned for reply.
“Nemmine, we gwine fool dat doctah. Some day we’ll th’ow all his nassy medicine ‘way, an’ he come in an’ say: ‘Whaih’s all my medicine?’ Den we answeh up sma’t like: ‘We done th’owed it out. We don’ need no nassy medicine.’ Den he look ‘roun’ an’ say: ‘Who dat I see runnin’ roun’ de flo’ hyeah, a-lookin’ so fat?’ an’ you up an’ say: ‘Hit’s me, dat’s who ’tis, mistah doctor man!’ Den he go out an’ slam de do’ behin’ him. Ain’ dat fine?”
But the child had closed her eyes, too weak even to listen. So her mother kissed her little thin forehead and tiptoed out, sending in a child from across the hall to take care of Lucy while she was at work, for sick as the little one was she could not stay at home and nurse her.
Hope grasps at a straw, and it was quite in keeping with the condition of Martha’s mind that she should open her ears and her heart when they told her of the wonderful works of the faith-cure man. People had gone to him on crutches, and he had touched or rubbed them and they had come away whole. He had gone to the homes of the bed-ridden, and they had risen up to bless him. It was so easy for her to believe it all. The only religion she had ever known, the wild, emotional religion of most of her race, put her credulity to stronger tests than that. Her only question was, would such a man come to her humble room. But she put away even this thought. He must come. She would make him. Already she saw Lucy strong, and running about like a mouse, the joy of her heart and the light of her eyes.
As soon as she could get time she went humbly to see the faith doctor, and laid her case before him, hoping, fearing, trembling.
Yes, he would come. Her heart leaped for joy.
“There is no place,” said the faith curist, “too humble for the messenger of heaven to enter. I am following One who went among the humblest and the lowliest, and was not ashamed to be found among publicans and sinners. I will come to your child, madam, and put her again under the law. The law of life is health, and no one who will accept the law need be sick. I am not a physician. I do not claim to be. I only claim to teach people how not to be sick. My fee is five dollars, merely to defray my expenses, that’s all. You know the servant is worthy of his hire. And in this little bottle here I have an elixir which has never been known to fail in any of the things claimed for it. Since the world has got used to taking medicine we must make some concessions to its prejudices. But this in reality is not a medicine at all. It is only a symbol. It is really liquefied prayer and faith.”