On August 20th there arrived at Green Acre a young man, dishevelled, tremulous. His name was Fred Mortensen. Let him tell his story in his own words. He wrote it for the magazine, The Star of the West:
In my youth my environment was not of the best and being around boys of hard character I guess I determined to be as tough as any, which I very easily did, though inwardly I always had a feeling to be above it all. Still I always felt that I should do in Rome as the Romans do. So I violated any law I saw fit, man's or God's. Strange as it seems to me at times, it was through coming into contact with these laws that I received the opportunity to be guided into this most wonderful Revelation.
'My dear mother had done everything in her power to make me a good boy. I have but the deepest love for her and my heart has often been sad when thinking how she must have worried for my safety as well as for my future well-being. Through it all and in a most wonderful way, with a god-like patience, she hoped and prayed that her boy would find the road which leadeth to righteousness and happiness. But environment proved a great barrier to her aspirations and every day in every way I became tougher and tougher. Fighting was a real pleasure, as welcome as a meal, and breaking a grocer's window to steal his fruit or what-not was, as I thought, a great joke.
'It happened that one night the "gang" was strolling along, just doing nothing in particular (looking for trouble I guess), when one of the gang said, "Oh look at the swell bunch of bananas." "Gee, I wisht I had some," another said. "Do you?" said I. About this time I heard a dog barking inside the store, and looking in, I saw a large bulldog. That seemed to aggravate me and, to show my contempt for the watch-dog, I guess, I broke the window, took the bananas, passed them around and we merrily strolled up the street . . . I plainly remember that it cost me sixteen dollars to pay for broken windows, to keep out of jail.
' . . . I was a fugitive for four years, having walked out of jail while awaiting trial. Then -- a young fellow was being arrested and I, of course, tried to take him away from the policeman. While this was going on a couple of detectives happened along and in my haste to get away from them I leaped over a thirty-five foot wall, breaking my leg, to escape the bullets whizzing around about -- and wound up in the "garden at the feet of the Beloved" as Bahá’u’lláh has so beautifully written it in the Seven Valleys.
'At this time I was defended by our departed, but illustrious Bahá’í brother, Albert Hall, to whom I owe many thanks and my everlasting good will for helping to free me from the prison of men and of self. It was he who brought me from out the dark prison house; it was he who told me, hour after hour, about the great love of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for all his children and that he was here to help us show that love for our fellowmen. Honestly, I often wondered then what Mr. Hall meant when he talked so much about love, God's love, Bahá’u’lláh's love, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's love, love for the Covenant . . . I was bewildered. Still, I returned, to become more bewildered, so I thought; and I wondered why. . . Thus the Word of God gave me a new birth . . .
'Again through the attraction of the Holy Spirit I was urged, so it seemed to me, to go to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He was at Green Acre, Maine, at this time, and when I heard the rumor that he might go back to his home (Palestine) and not come west, I immediately determined to go and see him I wasn't going to miss meeting
‘Abdu’l-Bahá after waiting so long to see him.
'So I left home, going to Cleveland, where I attended a convention of printers for a few days. But I became so restless I could not stay for adjournment. How often I have thought about that trip of mine from Cleveland to Green Acre I The night before leaving Cleveland I had a dream that I was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's guest, that I sat at a long table, and many others were there, too, and of how he walked up and down telling stories, emphasizing with his hand. This later, was fulfilled and he looked just as I saw him in Cleveland.
'As my finances were low I of necessity must hobo my way to Green Acre. The Nickel Plate Railway was my choice, for conveyance to Buffalo, New York. From Buffalo I again rode the rods to Boston, a long ride from around midnight until nine next morning. The Boston and Maine Railway was the last link between ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the outside world so it seemed to me, and when I crawled off from the top of one of its passenger trains at Portsmouth New Hampshire, I was exceedingly happy. A boat ride, a street car ride, and there I was, at the gate of Paradise. My heart beating double time, I stepped onto the soil of that to-be-famous center, tired, dirty, and wondering, but happy.
'I had a letter of introduction from Mr. Hall to Mr. Lunt, and in searching for him I met Mrs. Edward Kinney, who dear soul, was kind enough to offer me a bed. She awakened me next morning about six o'clock, saying I'd have to hurry if I wished to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
'Arriving at the hotel I found quite a number of people there, on the same mission, to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Being one of the last arrivals, I was looking around, to make myself comfortable, when someone exclaimed, "Here he comes, now". Ahmad Sohrab did the introducing and interpreting. When Ahmad introduced me to him, to my astonishment he looked at me and only said, "Ugh! Ugh!" not offering to shake hands with me. Coming as I had, and feeling as I did, I was very much embarrassed. After greeting several others and when about to go to his room, he suddenly turned to me and said in a gruff voice (at least I thought so), "Sit down," and pointed to a chair -- which I didn't care to do, as elderly ladies were standing. But what was I to do! I meekly obeyed, feeling rebellious over what had happened. Such a welcome, after making that difficult trip! My mind sure was in a whirl.
'The first man to receive an interview with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a doctor; he had written a book on love. It seemed but a minute until Ahmad came down and said," ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wishes to see Mr. Mortensen." Why, I nearly wilted. I wasn't ready. I hadn't expected to be called until the very last thing. I had to go, and it was with a strange feeling in my heart and wondering, wondering what would happen next. He welcomed me with a smile and a warm hand-clasp, telling me to be seated, he sitting before me. His first words were, "Welcome! Welcome! You are very welcome, -- then, "Are you happy?" -- which was repeated three times. I thought, why do you ask me that so many times? Of course I am happy; didn't I tell you so the first time?
'Then, "Where did you come from?"
'Answer: "From Minneapolis."
'Question: "Do you know Mr. Hall?"
'Answer: "Yes, he told me about the Cause."
'Question: "Did you have a pleasant journey?'
'Of all the questions I wished to avoid this was the one! I dropped my gaze to the floor -- and again he put the question. I lifted my eyes to his and his were as two black, sparkling jewels, which seemed to look into my very depths I knew he knew and I must tell, and as I answered I wondered what Ahmad thought -- if I was a little unbalanced.
'I answered: "I did not come as people generally do, who come to see you.
'Question: "How did you come?"
'Answer: "Riding under and on top of the railway trains."
'Question: "Explain how."
'Now as I looked into the eyes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá I saw they had changed and a wondrous light seemed to pour out. It was the light of love and I felt relieved and very much happier. I explained to him how I rode on the trains, after which he kissed both my cheeks, gave me much fruit, and kissed the dirty hat I wore, which had become soiled on my trip to see him.