General’s Motoring Pilgrimage
Progress Amid Crowds of Well-Wishers,
Hearty Welcomes Given in Midland Towns.
By Commissioner Nicol
General Booth's motor crusade is developing into a huge and continuous demonstration of the classes and the masses. When we set out I expected a falling-off in interest. A fourth turn at motoring would lead one naturally to look for less demonstrativeness and enthusiasm on the part of the people. But this morning's, run from Bedford to Wellingborough gave pause for thought.
The receptions staggered even the famous traveller himself. Between the negotiation of Rushden and the departure from Higham Ferrers, a distance of two miles, 20,000 people at least must have occupied the highwaysa long vision of happy faces and ecstasy.
For once the urban council, who were officially informed of the visit, missed it. They voted against a reception as unnecessary. The people, through the ordinary channels, dissented, and the final effect was the closing of schools, factories, and shops for two hours and a demonstration of frantic enthusiasm. I have seen nothing with which to compare it, except the 8,000 Japanese Tokio students who strained their throats "banzaing" General Booth.
Parents sent hundreds of children in their Sunday best to smile and hooray the man in the white car. The General wept as a hundred toddlers wagged their hands at him. Twice the crowd was so dense as to bring the cars to a standstill.
The men shouted, mounted walls, climbed trees, lamp-posts, and everything of that sort that was available. Women waved their aprons and handkerchiefs, and threw kisses to the old man; and when at length under the shade of the old parish church and a clump of trees the white car stopped, they screamed their delight. To complete the somersault in the attitude of Rushden to the Army chief, the urban council chairman was pushed through the mass to the white car, and quite handsomely did he declare the renown of the town in a rattling speech.
Of course, the General also spoke, his keynote being, "Look after your temporal and spiritual interests. Don't speculate on futures without being positively sure that you will finish up with a good conscience and the favour of God."
Welcemed Like a Potentate
Higham Ferrers welcomed General Booth like a potentate. On an extemporised platform stood the mayor in his robes, surrounded by his civic colleagues and faced with the mace. Five thousand people were jammed in. the small square, and gave three cheers for the grand old man. Again he thumped out his gospel of individual regeneration, as the highway to a collective paradise.
The sun, broiled those on the platform, but General Booth, protected by his sun-shade, which he held himself, went on and told story after story, the latest being about a West-end ex-gaol, bird who joined the Army one night recently, and went home and kissed his wife. "What's up?" she cried in horror. She had been a stranger to a kiss for years. "I've gone and done it" he replied, "I've joined the Army." Then the dear soul wept for joy.
"If you want," cried the General to the wives assembled, "your husbands to kiss you, join the colours," and the mayor and mayoress laughed the heartiest.
The General and Parliament
At Wellingborough there was an equally enthusiastic receptionin the streets a civic greeting and a mass gathering in the big Congregational Church.
There was a good five minutes' entertainment, at the Kettering meeting later on. The chairman of the urban district council said he believed that if the General would put up for Parliament both Liberals and Conservatives would vote for him, at which the chairman, Sir Arthur De Brooke, Conservative candidate for its district, nodded assent.
"But we would vote the General an address in our capacity as a council. We are jealous of the ratepayers' money"at which there was a slump in the tone of the meeting"but," continued the speaker, "we had a collection at the close of the council last night(loud laughter)and this is the resulta cheque for ten guineas (loud applause)which I have pleasure in handing to General Booth."
The General rose and said: "If I do become a candidate for Kettering be it understood this is accepted without prejudice." (Laughter and applause)
Sir Arthur de Brooke afterwards not inaptly quoted Tennyson's tribute to Hugo: "Victor of Drama, Victor of Romance," and added, "the Salvation Army is both." He further maintained that General Booth, by his tour, was breaking down ecclesiastical differences.
On the way to Peterborough the town of Thrapston, with its band, seemed to have deserted business and habitation for the streets, where they coerced the General who, I admit, is a ready subjectinto giving an address. With "We're marching on to war," the band played the hero on his way to the ancient town of Oundle.
Here the vicar, the Rev. Smalley Law, with the lads belonging to the school of the Grocers' Company, and 2,000 people from the town, and district, surrounded a hustings decked with flags of many nations, and welcomed the General. The vicar extolled his personality, and referred humorously to the action of his (Oxford) University in conferring the degree of D.C.L. on the visitor. Ordinary aspirants had to supplicate when General Booth was supplicated.
At Peterborough it is computed ten thousand people were in the streets. In the gayest of spirits General Booth gave his eighth address for the day, and yet he had the hardihood to explain that he owed his increasing vitality to a reduction in the weight of food he is taking. To-morrow we steer towards Grantham. To-day is enough, however, to set the mind wondering how all this enthusiasm can be harnessed on to something tangible and permanent. There can be no mistaking the indirect good to the cause of humanity, but that is not quite sufficient for a Salvationsist’s ideas.