Corinne True made one of her nine pilgrimages to the Bahá’í Holy Places in Palestine ‘during the time of the Second Commission of Investigation by the Turks, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had again been confined as a prisoner to ‘Akka by order of the Sultan of Turkey. On this visit Mrs True took a petition to the Master asking permission for the American Bahá’ís to begin planning for the erection of a “House of Worship”. This petition was in the form of a parchment containing the signatures of over a thousand American believers. She tells the story of putting the parchment behind her on the divan and first presenting the little gifts sent by the loving friends. But the Master strode across the room, reached behind her and grasped the parchment, holding it high in the air. “This,” He exclaimed, “this is what gives me great joy.”
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 121)
At one meeting, Ella was very taken with Ruth White. Seeing this, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called Ella over and asked what her new friend saying, then strongly cautioned, saying, “Be very careful”. Though Ella did not understand, she heeded the warning – Ruth White later attacked the Faith and became a Covenant-Breaker.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 149)
A visitor, to her great relief, reached the doors of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house only two days before He left Paris. She had travelled post-haste from the United States, and had a remarkable story to relate. At home her little daughter had asked her what she would do should the Lord Jesus return to the world. She would rush to seek Him, she had said, only to be told that the Lord Jesus was here. How did she know, the mother had enquired. The child replied that the Lord Jesus had told her Himself. Some days later the mother was reproached for not doing what she had said she would do. Twice the Lord Jesus had told her that He was here, the little girl insisted. But she did not know where to look, the mother told her child. And the child was certain that they would discover where to go, where to look. That afternoon, on a walk, the little girl suddenly stopped and, excited and ecstatic, pointed to a shop where magazines were displayed. Prominent there was the photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. There, there, the child shouted, was the Lord Jesus. The magazine which contained the photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá led the way to Paris, and the American lady, taking the first available boat to cross the Atlantic, sailed that very night.
(H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 168)
Cobb wrote that Shoghi Effendi said that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had the power of intuition, the power of the soul, available in its totality. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would commonly end the conversation by saying that there wasn’t time for a fuller answer, but if the listener would meditate, the truth would come.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 150)
The day before He was to leave, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá decided He would like to present the president of the Conference with a choice Persian rug which was, unfortunately, in His flat in New York. Dr. Diya Baghdadi performed the seemingly impossible task of fetching the rug all that distance in one night and arrived just as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was ’shaking hands with Mr. Smiley‘, preparing to leave. Albert Smiley must have been astonished for he said, ‘Why, this is just what I have been seeking for many years! You see, we had a Persian rug just like this one, but it was burned in a fire and ever since my wife has been broken-hearted over it. This will surely make her very happy.’ As far as the author is aware, the rug is still in use in Mountain House.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 71)
At the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s second visit to Newark, He spoke in my Father’s Brotherhood Church in Jersey City. My father had begged Him to do this, and at once Abdu’1-Bahá had consented, but He would set no date. Father was eager and anxious that a date be definitely set, partly because the Master was to leave New York again - this time for California, and partly because he knew from experience that to have a successful meeting required publicity and announcements and invitations, all of which took time. So he began pressing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the date. Each time the Master would smile gently, pause a moment (to consult some inner knowledge?) then, shaking His head, would murmur “It is not yet known.” Father, a not-too-patient man, urged
in every way he could but he got nothing more. And the date of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s departure was approaching. Suddenly, early in one week, He announced He would speak the following Sunday. Father was frantic. Only four or five days to publicize such an important event. But, to his astonishment, there was plenty of time. Doors opened swiftly, one after the other, and when that Sunday evening came the large hall that Father had rented for his Brotherhood Church was completely filled with the overflow standing along the back.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 37)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá one day went to Schenectady, New York, where He visited the General Electric’s Works along with Stanwood Cobb and Rev. Moore. His guide was Charles Steinmetz, known as the “Wizard of Electricity” because of his development of alternating current. Cobb noticed that the Wizard of Electricity was eagerly absorbing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s elucidation of electricity. Rev. Moore said that “Steinmetz’s jaw seemed to drop open as he drank in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk. Stanwood Cobb reported that Edward (Saffa) Kinney once asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if He knew everything. The Master responded by saying, “No, I do not know everything but when I need to know something, it is pictured before Me.”
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 149-150)
Many years ago, Mable Rice-Wray Ives lived in Baltimore. It was in the far away days of streetcars, and in order to reach the down-town shopping district, Mable had to ride the streetcar for a long way from the residential part of the city where she lived. Part of this journey was down a very long hill that, treeless and drab, was lined with small shops and poor houses. For years, as a growing girl, Mable had been taking this trip and then, one Spring, she began to be aware of a strange impulse to get off the trolley car when it was half way down the long hill. This was, of course, ridiculous. Why would she want to get off the car? There were no cross-streets; she knew no one in the neighborhood, why would she get off and what would she do if she did get off? So - trip after trip she reasoned with herself, talking herself out of it and feeling really very foolish. The feeling persisted - she should stop the car half way down the hill and get off. Finally, after this had been going on for many weeks, she lost patience. All right - she would stop the car and get off! So, the next time she had occasion to go shopping she did just that. And, as she stood on the curb watching the trolley car slide down the rest of the hill out of sight, she felt very silly. So now what she supposed to do? She turned from the curb and found herself facing a small shop that sold newspapers and magazines and stationary with, maybe, penny candy. Mable, not knowing what else to do, went over to the shop and walked in. Behind the counter, there was an older woman with a gentle face and beautiful eyes. She asked Mable if she might help her. Mable said, helplessly, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I came for” - and then she found herself telling the woman all about the curious experience she‘d had for so long as she
came down the hill on a trolley car. When Mable had finished the woman smiled “I can tell you what you came for,” she said. “Come into my sitting room with me, and I‘ll tell you the whole wonderful story.” And that was how Mable Ives received the first word she‘d ever heard of the wonderful Cause to which, for so many years and with such selfless courage, she gave her life.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 13)
The day after His move to the Hotel Windsor, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went for a walk and got lost. He had been very tired after His last talk and went out alone to walk and refresh himself. After a while, He boarded a tram which went out of the city. Finally when He decided to return to the hotel, He took a taxi. The driver asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which hotel to go to, but the Master didn’t remember. He simply told the driver to go straight ahead and very soon they arrived at the hotel. With His hair disheveled and His smiling face, He told us how He had gotten lost.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 185-186)
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in San Francisco, His hostess arranged an interview with the Mayor of Berkeley. Many dignitaries and university people were to gather at a reception. ‘As the appointed hour for departure approached the hostess went upstairs to warn ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that the time was near. He smiled and waved her away, saying, “Very soon! Very soon!” ‘She left him with some impatience, for there was no evidence of preparation for the trip. After some time she went up again, for the automobile was honking at the door, and it looked as if the Mayor of Berkeley would be kept waiting. But she met only a smile, and “Very soon! Very soon!” from the important guest. At last her patience was quite exhausted for she knew that they could not possibly arrive at the reception in time. Suddenly there was a ring at the door bell. Immediately ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s step was on the stair, and when the door opened he was beside the maid, pulling over the threshold a dusty and disheveled man whom no one had ever heard of, but whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá embraced like a long lost friend.’ He had read of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the newspapers and felt he must see Him, but as he did not have enough money for the car fare, he walked the fifteen miles into San Francisco. Had ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left on time, they would have missed each other—but the Master had ‘felt his approach’ and would not leave until His guest was seated at the table with tea and sandwiches. Only then could the Master say, ‘Now I must go, but when you have finished, wait for Me in My room upstairs, until I return, and then we will have a great talk.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 56)
It was a short time after Grace told me this story that she went on the teaching trip through the nearsouthern states that I mentioned above. The teaching trip ended in time for her to reach Wilmette and attend the Convention in the spring of 1938. It was a very radiant Convention and the report Grace gave of her teaching trip was one of the high points of it because Grace herself was so radiant and filled with the glory of the great
privilege of teaching. She stood there, before the crowded hall in the foundation of the temple, filled with the great glory that shone from her and, closing her report, she uttered a tremendous clarion call for pioneers and for teachers. Then she walked down to resume her seat amongst the delegates. But on her way she paused beside
Harlan, who had just been reelected to our National Spiritual Assembly. “I want to congratulate you now” she whispered, “I may not have time later", They smiled at each other with the perfect understanding that had always existed between them. Then Grace slipped into her own seat. As she sat down her head drooped slightly and those glancing at her assumed she was lost in prayer. But when she made no movement for many moments someone touched her someone realized something was wrong Edris Rice-Wray and Katherine True both moved forward - and Grace was gone - gone through her Open Door - gone on her beautiful journey to the arms of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 22)
Two days before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Paris, a woman came anxiously into a gathering at the Avenue de Camoens. Breathlessly, the woman said: ‘Oh, how glad I am to be in time! I must tell you the amazing reason of my hurried journey from America. One day, my little girl astonished me by saying: ‘Mummy, if dear Lord Jesus was in the world now, what would you do?’ ‘Darling baby, I would feel like getting on the first train and going to him as fast as I could.’ ‘Well, Mummy, He is in the world.’ I felt a sudden great awe come over me as my tiny one spoke. ‘What do you mean my precious? How do you know?‘, I said. ‘He told me Himself, so of course He is in the world.’ Full of wonder, I thought: ‘Is this the sacred message which is being given to me out of the mouth of my babe?’ And I prayed that it might be made clear to me. The next day she said, insistently, and as though she could not understand: ‘Mummy darlin’, why isn’t you gone to see Lord Jesus? He’s told me two times that He’s really here, in the world.’ ‘Tiny love, Mummy doesn’t know where He is. How could she find him?’ ‘We see Mummy, we see.’ I was naturally perturbed. The same afternoon, being out for a walk with my child, she suddenly stood still and cried out, ‘There He is! There He is! She was trembling with excitement and pointed at the window of a magazine store where there was a picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I bought the paper, found this address, caught a boat the same night, and here I am.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 48-49)
A number of people suggested that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sail to England and cross the Atlantic to America aboard the brand-new ship Titanic instead of the much older, slower Cedric. Later in America, when He was asked why He didn’t, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, after a long pause, during which He looked reflectively out of the window, ‘I was asked to sail upon the Titanic, but my heart did not prompt me to do so.’ When asked the same question at a later date, he responded with, ‘God sends a feeling of misgiving into man’s heart.’
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 52)
Kanichi Yamamoto had become a Bahá’í in Hawaii in 1902 and wanted to write ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of his acceptance, but with only rudimentary English, he struggled to compose his letter. Finally, at the suggestion of his Bahá’í teacher, Elizabeth Muther, he wrote his letter in Japanese. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s reply answered all his questions. Moto wrote several letters to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, all in Japanese, and received replies to each. In 1904, one of Moto’s letters reach the Master via Helen Goodall and He showed it to Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, one of his secretaries: the Master mused, “Well now, you do not know Japanese.” “No Beloved", I volunteered. “I hardly know English”. “So what are we to do with this letter?” He remarked smiling. I bowed, and in my heart proposed, “The same thing you do with other letters”. “Very well then", He said, “We will rely on the Blessed Beauty and will write him a reply.” (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 216)
The following day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been invited by the Mayor of Berkeley to give the public address in that city. Many dignitaries and University people were to gather. As the appointed hour for departure approached, the hostess went upstairs to warn ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He smiled and waved her away, saying “Very soon! Very soon!” She left Him with some impatience. After some time she went Up again, for the automobile was honking at the door. At last her patience was quite exhausted for she knew that they could not possibly arrive in time. Suddenly there was a ring at the door bell. Immediately ‘Abdu’l-Bahá step was on the stair, and when the door was opened He was beside the maid, pulling over the threshold a dusty and disheveled man whom no one had ever heard of, but whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá embraced like a long lost friend. He had read of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the newspapers and felt he must see Him, but as he did not have enough money for the car fare, he walked the 15 miles into San Francisco.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 221-222)
For many years during the Master’s late life there occurred a constant ‘flow of pilgrims’ who ‘transmitted the verbal messages and special instructions of a vigilant Master‘. World War I brought a rude halt to these heavenly journeys. ‘A remarkable instance of the foresight of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was supplied during the months immediately preceding the war. During peace times there was usually a large number of pilgrims at Haifa, from Persia and other regions of the globe. About six months before the outbreak of war one of the old Bahá’ís living a Haifa presented a request from several believers of Persia for permission to visit the Master. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not grant the permission, and from that time onwards gradually dismissed the pilgrims who were at Haifa, so that by the end of July, 1914, none remained. When, in the first days of August, the sudden outbreak of the Great War startled the world, the wisdom of His precaution became apparent.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 123)
Maria Ioas longed to be the recipient of a flower from Abdu-l-Bahá. She hade been tempted to ask pilgrims going to ‘Akka to bring one to her, if at all possible. Yet, somehow, she felt she would receive one if the Master so desired. When He came to Chicago, she took one of her children and headed towards the Plaza Hotel on His first day there. He was away, so they waited the entire afternoon. As He stepped out of the elevator, He saw them and greeted them kindly. He then headed for His room and bade them follow. She hesitated and He again urged, ‘Come, come.’ Then they felt free to accompany Him into His reception room. Shortly after, He emerged from His private room carrying roses and graciously handed one to her.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 55)
Before the fall of Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was discussing the British campaign with a few of His followers in His garden one day. He then predicted that, contrary to the general expectation, the taking of Haifa and the walled town of ‘Akka would come about almost without bloodshed. This prediction was verified by the facts. He also stated that the Turks would surrender ‘Akká (supposed to be impregnable) to two unarmed British soldiers. The resultant facts so far as I was able to gather them were as follows:--
Subsequent to the entry of our troops into Haifa, the front line was pushed forward half-way across the Bay of ‘Akká, and outposts were placed in position on the sands of the Bay some four miles from ‘Akká itself. Akká, as a fortified and walled town, was believed to be filled with Turkish troops at this time. Very early one morning two British Army Service soldiers, who had lost their bearings in the night, found themselves at the gates of ‘Akká, believing erroneously that the town was already in British hands. However, the Turkish rearguard troops had been secretly evacuated only eight hours earlier, and the Mayor of the town, seeing British soldiers outside the gates, came down and presented them with the keys of the town in token of surrender! It is credibly stated that the dismayed Tommies, being unarmed, dropped the keys and made post haste for the British lines!
(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)
Mary Ravel of Philadelphia attended the dedication meeting and secretly hope to kiss the hem of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s robe, something a Bahá’í in Iran had written and asked her to do. Unfortunately, the Master was on the far side of the crowd until, suddenly, He walked directly over to Mary and stood in front of her just long enough for her to accomplish her great desire.
(Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 115)
At the time my father was invited by the Guardian to come and live with us in the Holy Land, after my mother’s unexpected death in Argentina in March 1940, Shoghi Effendi decided, for reasons of his own, to go to England. For those who were not in the Middle East-European theatre of war, it is almost impossible to convey any picture of the infinite difficulties involved in such a move at such a moment in history. In spite of the prestige and influence of the Guardian, the fact remained that no visa for England could be granted by the authorities in Palestine and our application was therefore forwarded to London. Shoghi Effendi appealed to his old friend Lord Lamington and requested him to use his good offices in ensuring a visa was granted, but by the time it became imperative for us to leave at once for England if we were ever to reach there, no answer had yet been received by the Palestine authorities and Lord Lamington’s reply was long delayed in reaching us.
Impelled by the forces which so mysteriously animated all his decisions, the Guardian decided to proceed to Italy, for which country we had obtained a visa. We left Haifa on 15 May in a small and smelly Italian aquaplane, with the water sloshing around under the boards our feet rested on as if we were in an old row-boat. A few days later we arrived in Rome and I went to Genoa to meet my father who arrived on the last sailing the S.S. Rex ever made as a passenger ship. As soon as we returned, the Guardian sent my father and me to the British Consul to inquire if our visa had by any chance been transferred from Palestine. But there was no news and the Consul said he was absolutely powerless to give us a visa as all authorizations had to come from London and he was no longer in a position to contact his government! We returned with this heart-breaking news to the Guardian.
He sent us back again. Of course we obeyed him implicitly because he was the Guardian, but neither my father nor I could see what more there was we could possibly do than we had already done. Nevertheless we found ourselves again seated opposite the Consul and saying very much the same things all over again, with the exception that I said he was the Head of the Bahá’í Faith and so on. The Consul looked at me and said “I remember ‘Abdu’l-Bahá...” and went on to recount some contact he had had with the Master. He was obviously deeply touched by this memory. He took our passport, stamped a visa for England in it and said he had no right whatsoever to do so and that it was not worth the paper it was stamped on, but it was all he could do; and that if we wished to try to enter England with it, that must be our own decision and we risked being refused. With this we immediately left Italy for France, passing through Menton on 25 May and proceeding to Marseilles. Within a few days Italy entered the war against the Allies.
It is hard to describe the period that followed. The whole episode was like a brilliantly lit nightmare - a personal nightmare for us and a giant nightmare in which the whole of Europe was involved. As our train made its way to Paris every station was crowded with thousands of refugees fleeing before the rapidly crumbling Allied front in the North. There was no way of getting any accurate information, chaos was descending. In Paris we discovered to our dismay that all ports to England were closed and the last hope of reaching that country - a hope diminishing hourly - was to go down to the little port of St Malo and see if we could still get a boat from there. We, and hundreds of other people trying to get home to England, had to wait a week before at last two boats succeeded in calling at St Malo.
I never saw the Guardian in the condition he was during those days. From morning to night he would mostly sit quite still, immobile as a stone image, and I had the impression he was being consumed with suffering, like a candle burning itself away. Twice a day he would send my father and me to the boat company in the port to inquire if there was any news of a ship and twice a day we had to come back and say “no news”. It may seem strange to others that he should have been terribly concerned, but a mind like his was so infinitely better equipped to understand the danger to the Cause of our situation than we were - and God knows I was ill with worry too.
Both my father and I were still feeling the great shock of my mother’s sudden death from a heart attack and this, combined with everything else, made him, at least, almost numb. Not so the Guardian, who realized that if he fell into the hands of the Nazis, who had already banned the Cause in their own country and were closely associated with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem - who was actively engaged in Arab politics and the avowed enemy of the Guardian - he would very likely be imprisoned, if not worse, and the Cause itself be left with no leader and no one to encourage and guide the Bahá’í world at such a time of world chaos.
It seems to me the situation was very similar to those days in ‘Akká when the Master had been in danger of being taken off to a new place of exile and when He too had waited for news of a ship.
At last we embarked on the first of the two boats that came during the night of 2 June to evacuate the people stranded in St Malo and we sailed in total darkness for Southampton, where we arrived on the following morning. It was the day after we left, as I remember, that the Germans marched into St Malo.
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, pp. 177-178)
Harry Randall, once he had leaped the hurdle and become a Bahá’í was a very enthusiastic one. When Harlan told him about ‘guidance’ - what a mystery it was, and how earnestly Harlan himself was trying to understand and live under it Harry, too, began to try to apply it. One afternoon he started out to take a walk and, in an effort to understand this guidance that Harlan talked about, Harry paused at each cross street and corner praying that he might be urged in whatever direction it might be that God wished him to take. He walked and walked, the city streets gave way to country roads and still he walked. At some corners he was moved to turn; at some he went straight ahead. But he felt no urge to stop he felt strongly that he should keep going. Finally, at the end of the afternoon, he came to a small white house surrounded by a picket fence - and here, with his hand on the gate, he knew this was the house he had been led to; this was the end of his walk. So he opened the gate, went up the short path and knocked at the door. A woman opened the door and, giving him one look, called back over her shoulder, ‘John, John he’s come!’ It seems that the night before, this woman had had a dream in which she had gone to open her door to one who knocked - a man who had come into her house and told her something that was so exciting and wonderful that when she woke up - though she couldn’t remember what the exciting and wonderful thing had been - she was still so excited she‘d told her husband about it. And then Harry had knocked - Harry had come into her house and Harry had told her about Bahá’u’lláh and given her the wonderful Message for the New Day.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 24)
I think this is the first story I heard from Inez Greeven, at her home in Carmel , California , around 1980. Please feel free to share it in any way you wish to...
Inez’ sister India Haggarty was a pioneer living in a hotel in Paris in 1931. This was 10 years after the passing of the Master, and 20 years after His visit to that city. There was another pioneer in Paris at that time, and I‘ll call her “Mrs. S”.
One night in 1931 India had a vision of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He appeared to her and told her that He wanted her to go, right then, to her Bahá’í sister Mrs. S. “Bring her flowers, and bring her money,” He said.
India got up out of bed and immediately prepared herself to leave her hotel. As she was fixing her hair in the mirror, her face was still radiant from the vision of the Master. She called down to the hotel clerk to summon a taxi for her.
She gathered up all of her money. She set aside the money she needed for her personal expenses, and put all the rest of her cash into a small purse.
She went downstairs and asked the clerk, “Where is the nearest florist shop?” The clerk answered that there was one quite close by, but as it was just 5 o‘clock in the morning, it was of course closed. India said thank-you, and waited for the taxi. When it arrived she said to please take her to that florist shop. The driver said all right, but it’s closed. She said, knowing that the Master had a way for her to get flowers, that he should take her there anyway. They arrived, and the windows were all dark. “I told you it was closed,” the driver said. India said to take her to the next florist shop, and it, too, was closed.
As they drove through the city, they came upon the farmer’s market area, where all of the local growers brought in their vegetables and flowers to sell to the local stores. There was a wagon filled with flowers, and India got out of the taxi and went over to the driver. She came back with an armful of red tulips, and got into the taxi.
She handed the driver a slip of paper with the address of Mrs. S. on it, and they drove across Paris in the early morning darkness.
[At this point in the story, Inez said to me, “Now imagine. A conservative American woman is going across Paris at 5 in the morning to bring flowers and money to another conservative American woman."]
The taxi dropped India off at Mrs. S’s front door, and she stood there, with her arms full of red tulips. She knocked at the door. She heard a rustling, and the door opened. Mrs. S. was standing inside, wearing a heavy black coat, and it was obvious that she had been crying. Her face showed great distress. Mrs. S looked at India, and at the red tulips, and cried out, “OH! ABDU‘L-BAHA!” and burst into tears.
She sobbed and sobbed. She and India went into her home and sat down, and India tried to comfort her friend. After she was composed, Mrs. S asked India , “Why have you come here?"
India answered that the Master had come to her in a vision, and that He had told her to bring flowers, and money. She handed the purse to Mrs. S. Mrs. S. was astounded. When she could speak, she said, “You think I am rich. Everyone does. And I did have money, but I ran out, and I was ashamed to tell anyone. There isn’t one speck of food in this house. As you can tell, the house is cold; I cannot afford to heat it. I have been suffering, and I could no longer bear it. I decided last night, to end my life. I awoke this morning, and I went and put on my coat. I decided to cast myself into the Seine , and drown myself. I went to the front door, and was just putting my hand on the doorknob to go out, when suddenly, you knocked. I opened the door, and you were standing there. I could not believe my eyes.
Twenty years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to my house, in this city. And when I opened the door to receive Him, He was standing on my front porch — with an armful of red tulips. And to see you standing there with these tulips, and bringing this money, I could not believe it."
Now THAT’s a true story, because I heard it from Inez Greeven, and she showed me the postcard.
When Elizabeth Cheney finally reached the end of her journey, further disaster awaited her. She had been given letters of introduction to various people political leaders, editors, and so on - who, it was hoped, might be of assistance to her. But, during the course of this delayed journey, there had been a revolution – and all of the men to whom Elizabeth carried her letters were either in prison or in exile or hiding. She met with nothing but shrugs and smiles and closed lips. No doors were open to her; she was blocked at every turn. So, once again, she retired to pray and to meditate. Then, knowing that prayer must be followed by action, she went out to walk the streets, praying as she walked for guidance. Her steps were slow and hesitant in order that, when guidance came, she might not be distracted by her own haste. At last - still with no answer to her prayers that might guide her - she found herself away from the heart of the city and in a broad avenue lined with spacious lawns and gardens surrounding beautiful homes. Here her steps slowed and she became aware of her own sharpened attention as if the time had come for her to listen carefully. And finally her steps stopped completely. There was no further urge to go on. She stood quite still and looked around her. She was standing beside a tall wrought-iron fence, and beyond the fence, beyond a low hedge, there was a man, kneeling beside a bed of flowers. Elizabeth – not knowing what else to do - stood quietly and watched him. She saw him start, as he realized he was being watched, then he stood up, dusted his knees and walked toward her. And in her halting Spanish Elizabeth heard herself mentioning the name of one of the men to whom she‘d been given a letter. The man showed great surprise, but Elizabeth went on talking, telling him why she had come - giving him the Message. Finally, bowing and smiting he left her - and Elizabeth waited. In a few moments the man returned to open the gates and usher her into the house, where the man to whom her letter was addressed was in careful hiding and was waiting to receive her. This was the turning point for Elizabeth - from then on her way was easier and her teaching successful.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 12)
One day Elizabeth Greenleaf said, “Some of the friends were so in awe of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in those early days after His arrival in New York that they hid from Him."
"I can understand that,” I admitted. “I, too, might have done that."
"Well, that is what I did,” said Elizabeth. “After longing for more than fifteen years to meet Him, I could not bear to make myself known to Him. Until one day Grace Ober, tired of arguing with me, opened the door of His audience room, pushed me inside, and shut the door."
There was to be no escape. The Master motioned her to take a seat and continued conversing with His guests. She sat there, red-faced and head bowed, really quaking. Then, at the apex of her embarrassment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did a strange thing. He came over to her seat and, in English, whispered in her ear, “ham and eggs”.
"This was a secret joke between me and Charles. If either of us got upset, the other would say ‘ham and eggs’ and the trouble would end in a laugh. Nobody else in the world knew this, but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did! So I laughed with Him and my fear vanished forever.”
(Doris McKay, Fires in Many Hearts)
Leroy Ioas, a young boy in 1912, was blessed to meet the Master on His visit to Chicago. One day, on the way to the Plaza Hotel to hear ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he decided to buy Him some flowers. Though he had but little money, he managed to find a large bouquet of flowers which he himself especially liked – white carnations! But in approaching the hotel, he had a change of heart: he would not give ‘Abdu’l-Bahá those flowers after all, he told his father. His dad was genuinely perplexed. Why, when the Master so loved flowers? Young Leroy gave his answer: ‘I come to the Master offering Him my heart, and I do not want Him to think I want any favours. He knows what’s in a person’s heart, and that is all I have to offer.’ With that for an answer Leroy’s father went upstairs and presented the flowers to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. How the Master enjoyed them! Their fragrance delighted Him and He buried His face in their midst, as He was inclined to do. During the talk, Leroy sat at the feet of this great Teacher, completely fascinated. Those dynamic, ever-changing eyes! Those ‘majestic movements‘! That charm! After the talk, the Master stood up and shook hands with each guest. To each He gave one white
carnation. Finally only a few remained. Leroy, standing behind ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, thought, ‘Gee, I wish He would turn around and shake hands with me before they are all gone!’ With that thought, the Master turned and saw him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wore a lovely, red rose, which He then pulled from His coat and gave it to the boy. Leroy knew the Master was aware that it was actually he would had brought those carnations.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 98)