A very simple incident came to my notice recently. It took place a couple of years ago just outside of Washington. An express train was pulling out of the station of Alexandria, in Virginia. Just as it pulled out, an old negro, black as night, hurried up to the station, and on to the train at the very last moment. The negro got on the steps just at the last moment, pulled himself on, a big man, and black as a man’s hat.
You could see he was evidently very tired. He entered the car. He shambled his weary way up the aisle to the top end of the car and stood, looking down for a seat. But there was none that he might take unless it were offered him. He shifted his weight on his feet, and dropped his shoulders, and looked the picture of weariness.
By and by a young fellow sitting near beckoned him, and said, “Uncle, sit down here.” The old man came, and said, “Thank you, sir,” and sat down. And the young fellow guessed something about the old black man, and as a newsboy came through the car, he stopped him and bought some sandwiches, and gave the old man a few. He said, “Thank you, sir; haven't had anything to eat today. Been walking since four o’clock this morning to catch this train, and I was rather reckoning to fill up when I got down to Georgia.”
Then he rambled on with his story. The old home was down in Georgia, and after the war he had come up to Virginia with “Marse” Henry to take care of him, his old master. “Now,” he said, “Marse Henry’s dying, and I am going back to Georgia.” And his eyes gleamed at the thought of going home, and he patted the seat cushion lovingly as though it were his Georgia home. “I bought a ticket and I’m going back to Georgia.” You would have thought Georgia was heaven to hear him talk.
By and by the conductor came through the car for the tickets. But the old man could not find his. “Dear me,” he said, “where did I put that ticket? It costs a mighty lot to buy a ticket for Georgia. I have been saving up for that ticket for years.” At last he found it pinned to the lining of his old hat.
While he was hunting, the conductor walked on to a woman in the next seat, a pale-faced woman sitting with her babe in her arms at her breast.
“I haven’t any,” she said.
“Have to get off, Madam!”
And she started half up and said, “Don’t put me off. My husband is down south. He had to go down for his health. The doctor said if he didn’t go down to a warmer climate he must die, and we sold everything we had to pay the bills and send him off. We haven’t anything; and now the doctor’s word has come saying he can’t live, and I must go to him, and I haven’t any money.”
“Sorry, Madam, have to get off.”
“Don’t put me off.”
And then, losing control, she said, “Oh, my God, if you put me off !”
And the guard said, “I am sorry, but of course I will lose my position if I don’t. I have only one thing to do. I must do my duty.”
And he turned back to get the negro’s ticket, while the woman sank back in her seat with her babe, with eyes big and face white, staring hopelessly, helplessly out of the window.
And the old black man said, “Guess you have to put me off, sah. You don’t expect an old negro like me to have enough money to buy a ticket all the way to Georgia, do you ?”
And the conductor did not swear, but almost. He spoke roughly, and said, “Bah; there’s some excuse for this woman here, but you!—if we were not so near the station I would stop and put you off right here!” And he passed on, calling “Tickets!”
The old man pulled himself up to his full height and turned round to the woman. He said, “Here’s your ticket.” She was going to Georgia, where he was bound, and the ticket would carry her there. “Here’s your ticket; I do hope you’ll find your husband better than you ’s afeard; hope so.”
She turned around and stared, with her distended eyes, not taking in what he was doing.
Then the train slowed up, and the old man, with a smile in his eyes for the woman and her baby, shambled wearily to the door and down the steps, and the train pulled off, and the last they saw of the old man he was patiently trudging along the road walking “down to Georgia.”
And as the story was told, there was no mention of Christ, but as I know the old slaves of the south, I know that man was a Christian. For I know those old slaves well, and I know it was the Christ spirit in his heart.
Now you may think this is a very simple story. You see nothing in the old black man walking to Georgia. Ah! Suppose you start to walk to Georgia! Then you will know what the story means. Let me ask you, please, have you ever walked to Georgia? That is what “Follow Me” means.