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Pride Humbled PDF Print E-mail

The following incident is told, as a part of the unwritten or traditional history of Elder John Leland:

During the latter part of his life Mr. Leland traveled much over the country on preaching tours on foot. On one occasion he had been warmly solicited, in writing, by a widow lady, to visit the part of old Virginia in which she lived and preach, telling him to set his time and her house was at his service, both as a place of abode and also as a place to hold his meetings. Mr. Leland replied to her by setting a day that he would preach at her residence at 10 o'clock a.m. The lady was a wealthy planter in Appomattox Valley. She regarded herself as one of the most pious and exemplary persons to be found anywhere. She had been raised in the high circle of life, and knew nothing about poverty nor had ever associated with la, boring classes. She was at this time about thirty-five years of age and had been a widow two years, but knew nothing of the privations commonly attending the life of a widowed mother. She took much pains to appear pious, and her chief object in inviting Mr. Leland to preach at her house was that she might make a display of wealth, and thus have the applause of all her associates; not only to show her wealth but her piety as well; so she went to a great trouble and expense in preparing for the meeting. The appointment had been spread far and near; pressing solicitations had been sent to numerous friends to attend the meeting; no expense or pains had been spared, not only to have the best and the finest of everything, but to have everything in the best style. 

On the evening preceding the meeting several carriages had already arrived to be in good time and enjoy the hospitality of the hostess. About sunset Mr. Leland came up to the mansion on foot. The day was quite warm and dusty when he made his appearance. The walk had caused a free perspiration, which ran down his cheeks making roads in the dust which had settled on his face during his day's walk. He walked up to the door of the large stone mansion, and his rap was answered by a black servant, of whom he inquired for the landlady; the servant ran down the broad carpeted hall to a door, from which proceeded the sound of talking and laughing. In a very short time a lady, very richly attired, made her appearance, walking briskly and lightly toward the door where Mr. Leland was standing. He had a fair view of her person, and at once read in her physiognomy and deportment something of her leading traits of character. 

His intention had been to introduce himself, but before he had time to speak, or before she was near enough for him to address her she spoke, in rather a harsh tone: "Old man, what do you want here? I have nothing for beggars". Mr. Leland, in a very soft and unassuming tone said, "Please excuse me, madam, I do not wish to beg for money, but I am very tired from a long walk, and called to know if you would do me the kindness to allow me to stay under your roof during the night". Viewing him hastily from head to foot, she very positively answered: "No, I have company now, and tomorrow the Rev. Mr. Leland is to preach at my house; so I can't take in poor stragglers". "Well", said Mr. Leland, "I am too much fatigued to travel further tonight, will you allow me to stay in one of those cabins?" pointing to a row of Negro houses just outside the mansion yard. After a moment or two of reflection she said, "Yes, you may stay there with the Negroes if you want to".  

He bowed a very polite thank you, and turned toward the row of huts. He proceeded to the farthest one from the mansion before he found any one to whom he could speak to ask permission to stay, but came at last to the smallest but nearest of all the huts, where he found seated at the door an old negress, who was fanning herself with the wing of a fowl. He spoke to her very gently: "Good evening, aunty". His greeting was answered with, "Good evin' masta". "Well, aunty" said he, "I have come to ask a very uncommon favor of you". "Bless de Lord, masta, what can dat be, fo please God I'se got nufiin to give any one?" "I am very tired from walking all day. I called at the house of  your mistress, but she says she has no room for me in her great house. I am too much fatigued to go further, and so I have come to see if you can allow me to shelter in your house".  

"Bless de Lord, masta, I got no 'commodation for any one; but 'fore a fello mortal shall stay out does, I let 'em stay in my cabin sho' ef you can put up wid my plain hut. Uncle Ben be in dreckly, den he can keep you company while I fixes you sufpen to eat, for you looks las do you had not eat a morsel for a long time", at the same time pointing to a three legged stool by the side of the door, saying, Set down dar and rest yourself, for you looks' worn out" 

Mr. L. took the seat as directed saying at the same time, "I am sorry that I am compelled to put you to so much trouble, as I have no money to pay you". 

Please God, masta, Aunt Dilsey never charges anyone yit for such commodations as I could giv 'em for God knows it's poor enuff at best. You say, masta, you call on missues at de house dar and she can't take you in." Well, you must 'cuse her for she's lookin' for a mighty heep o' company tomorrow; dar'sa great man to be dar tomorrow what's gwine to preach in her house, and a good many folks done come already, an' heap 'mo comin' tomorrow, so missus is mighty busy fixin' for 'em. But here's Uncle Ben", she continued as an old gray-headed negro came around the corner of the cabin, muttering to himself about the carelessness of some of the other negroes. 

This old couple, Uncle Ben and Aunt Dilsey, as they were familiarly called by all who knew them, both black and white, were an old couple, who from age, had for a long time lived in a small but snug cabin at the far end of the row of huts occupied by the younger and more active slaves. Although Uncle Ben was not required to do any labor yet he voluntarily took a kind of supervision over the farm, stock, etc. When he saw Mr. L. he stopped short and gave him a scrutinizing look, when Aunt Dilsey spoke, saying, "Uncle Ben, don't stare your eyes out at de stranger; dis ole gentleman was out travelin' and come to stay in our cabin, kase missus she can't let him stay dar as she's got a heap o' company now". 

Well," said Uncle Ben, "We's commanded dat if a stranger comes along we's got to take him in an' give him such as we have to set before him". 

While Aunt Dilsey was preparing supper Mr. L. learned much about the lady of the mansion from Uncle Ben; he learned with other things they were a very religious family, but the hostess had been raised in the city of Richmond and had imbibed all the fashionable ideas of religion, with but very little of its true principles and none of its humility. Soon after Mr. L. had finished a very good coarse supper he told his host that he was very much fatigued from a long day's walk, and would wish to retire for the night and that he felt like he wished to return thanks to his Creator for the blessings of the day and invoke His protection through the night; that if it would annoy them he would retire to some place out of doors. 

"Bless God", said both the old folks at the same time, "we allers likes prayin' in our home 'and never goes to bed 'thout one of us try to pray". 

Mr. L. then took an old well worn Bible out of his little bundle and read in a very solemn tone the one hundred and second Psalm. During the reading the two old blacks often said in a low voice. "Amen, bless de Lord". When the Psalm was ended Mr. L. fell upon his knees and poured out his feeling in such an outburst of reverential eloquence as was seldom ever equaled and never surpassed by mortal lips. His host and hostess were so affected by his reading and prayer that they could do nor say no more than fix their eyes on their guest as though they felt that he was something more than a mortal man. He retired to a clean little pallet in one corner of the cabin where he soon fell asleep. When morning came he was up early; Aunt Dilsey soon had him a good, plain repast, after which he seated himself to read, telling his hostess that he felt too much fatigued to travel, and if she was willing he would rest there until afternoon any way and then if he felt better he would go his way. 

Aunt Dilsey said, "Yes, masta, stay jist as long as you want to, we glad to have you stay with us a fortnight if you can put up with our far". Mr. L. seated himself under a shady tree in the cabin yard with his Bible, waiting to see what the finality would be.

About nine o'clock every thing was in a bustle at the stone mansion; all the servants were called in to dress in their very best. Carriages began to arrive by the dozens until the hall and every part of the large and elegant building was crowded to overflowing, but to their dismay no preacher made his appearance for the last carriage that came in sight had been scanned to get a glimpse of the minister. No one in the large congregation had ever seen him. So every one was full of anxious expectations, supposing that when he came he would be drawn by two or four fine horses, driven by a servant in livery.

Ten o'clock past, half past ten, eleven o'clock was announced by the clock on the wall, and no minister. 

The company had by this time become restless, and were about to disperse, when Aunt Dilsey went to her mistress and said: "'Bless de Lord, missus, why don't you git dat ole man who stayed in our cabin last night to come here to de door and pray, 'fore de folks all go home; be prayed in our cabin las' night and dis morning, and afore God, in all my born days I nebbet heard sich prayin' afore. He's settin' right now, under de tall pine tree; an' as de preacher's not come, if you'll let him pray, I'll go right now and fetch him down".

The lady consulted with some of the company, the matter was talked of among the congregation when it was agreed to have that old straggler, as they called him, come and pray before the congregation broke up. So Aunt Dilsey went to where Mr. Leland was sitting and said, "Masta, de folks all dispinted 'bout de preacher comin'; he am not cum): and da want you to go down an' pray for 'em, 'fore, da all breaks up, Mosts, I wants you to pray jis' like you did las' night".

Mr. L. walked down to the front door, and standing on the steps, repeated a short hymn by memory, sang, and then engaged in prayer; by the time his prayer was ended all eyes were fixed upon him with amazement. He then remarked that as there seemed to be a disappointment, that if it would not be assuming too much, he would talk to them a few minutes; and as a foundation, or starting-point he would read a short passage from the word of truth, which they would find by reference to the 13th chapter, 2nd verse of Hebrews: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares". When he had spoken for twenty or thirty minutes the hostess, who had refused him the hospitalities of her house the evening before, became so deeply affected that she ran and prostrated herself at the feet of Mr. L., and would, had he allowed her to have done so, have washed his feet with her tears. It was said that she was so overcome and affected that from that time forward she was a changed and different woman, so much so that she threw off all her finery and ornamental dressing and became an humble and plain Christian. Though she was a professor before, her whole deportment underwent a complete change. Her house became a place of divine worship, where she delighted in making all, no matter how plain or how poor, as happy as kind attention could make them; in fact, it was said that if preference had to be given to any, it was always in favor of the poor and needy.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 September 2006 )
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