Two new titles every week when you join Gateway to the Classics
"THE TOMBS ANGEL"
 EARLY in the morning of the 22d of February, 1902, a fire
occurred in one of the large hotels of New York. The
flames broke out so suddenly, and spread so swiftly,
that many of the guests were unable to escape. Among
those who perished was a woman whose life for many
years had been given to the doing of golden deeds.
Men knew this woman as the Tombs Angel. The name was a
title of honor which queens might well covet. It was a
strange epithet, but it described in two words the work
and character of her to whom it was applied. It was in
itself, as one of her friends most aptly said, a patent
How had she earned that title?
By her good works.
There is in the city of New York a famous prison known
the world over as The Tombs. Massive, gloomy, and
strong, it is a place of sorrow and tears and dread
 Men and women who have been accused of crime are
confined there to await their trial by due process of
law. The most of them will go out to suffer in the
penitentiaries and workhouses the punishment that is
due for their wrongdoings. A few may be found innocent
of crime and permitted to return to freedom, disgraced,
perhaps, for life by the fact of having been confined
within prison walls.
Here many of the world's most famous criminals have
spent days and months behind the bars. Here also have
been confined hundreds of unfortunates, men and women,
whom want or evil companionship or momentary weakness
has driven into crime. If you have never visited a
prison, you cannot imagine the woe, the misery, the
hopelessness of such a place.
It was here that Rebecca Salome Foster labored
unselfishly and unceasingly for many years, cheering
the downhearted, comforting the distressed, and sowing
good seeds even in the hearts of the most depraved.
Her bright face, her comforting words, her cheerful
manner, carried sunshine into the gloomiest cells, gave
hope to the despairing, and uplifted the most
 Is it any wonder that these poor creatures gave her the
noble title of the Tombs Angel?
"For many years," said District Attorney Jerome, "she
came and went among us with but a single purpose—
" 'That men might rise on stepping stones
Of their dead selves to higher things!'
"There is a word which is seldom used. It is the word
'holy.' To us who are daily brought into contact with
the misfortunes and sins of humanity, it seems almost a
lost word. Yet in all that that word means to
English-speaking peoples, it seems to me that it could
be applied to her. She was, indeed, a 'holy woman.' "
In winter and in summer, on stormy days as well as on
fair, Mrs. Foster was always at her post of duty. She
served without the hope of reward, and solely for the
good that she could do.
Numberless were the hearts which she cheered;
numberless were the weary ones whose burdens she
lightened; and numberless, too, were the erring men and
women whom her sweet influences brought back to paths
of virtue and right doing.
Not only was she loved by the prisoners, but she
 was esteemed and venerated by the keepers of the jail
and especially by the judges and officers of the city
courts. And many kind-hearted people, hearing of her
good works, lent her a helping hand. Every year a
certain charitable society placed in her hands several
thousand dollars to be expended in her work in such
ways as she thought best.
Often the money which she received from others was not
enough, and then she drew freely from her own means,
never expecting any return. To help a poor outcast to
a fresh start in life, to give relief to the innocent
family of some convicted criminal, to put in the way of
some unfortunate man or woman the means of earning an
honest living—to do these and a thousand other
services she was always ready.
Many are the stories that are told of her golden deeds.
Perhaps none show more clearly her self-sacrificing
spirit than the following: —
One day a poor woman, the wretchedest of the wretched,
was brought to the prison guilty of a crime to which
her weakness and her extreme want had driven her. She
was cold, she was staring, she was in tatters and rags.
 Here surely was work for a ministering angel.
Mrs. Foster hastened to give her such immediate comfort
as she could. She removed the poor wretch's bedraggled
dress, and gave her her own warm overskirt, instead.
Was there ever a nobler example of Christian charity?
We are reminded of Sir Philip Sidney on the field of
Zutphen and his gift to the dying soldier, "Thy
necessity is greater than mine."
And so, untiringly and without a thought of self, the
Tombs Angel went on with her work, little thinking what
men would say, dreaming nothing of honor or fame,
caring only to lighten the burdens of the heavy-laden.
Then, suddenly and with but little warning, she was
called to pass out through fire into the kingdom
prepared for those who love their Lord.
Who would not sorrow for such a woman?
Even the officers whose duty is was to prosecute the
prisoners in the Tombs wept when her death was
announced. The eyes of the judges were filled with
tears. The city courts adjourned for the day in honor
of the memory of the Tombs
 Angel. And on the following Sunday, in more than one
church, a well-known parable was read with a meaning
that was new and strangely forcible to those who
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,
'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For
I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty,
and ye gave me bring. I was a stranger, and ye took me
in; naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick and ye
visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me.'
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 'Lord,
when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty,
and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and
took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw
we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?'
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, 'Verily,
I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto