And, you know, those little girls would not talk. Why?
I lived in the Convent, you know, a long time. I don't care if I was two miles under the Convent, way back there, we were working back there. And we'd whisper. The next day I'd have to suffer because the convents are wired. And the Mother Superior can hear every voice. Every whisper. And then somebody tells. And you're in some serious trouble.
And those Nuns had been there long enough. What had they done? I don't know. But those Nuns supposed to have cracked up mentally. And so they have to put them in those chains. And when they die, they can't fall down to the floor. They'll just drop in those chains and slump. When they go in there they don't give them any more food. --- that's a slow death.
And so, as I saw all of that, I became so sick from the terrible stench, because many of them are already dead. Now I don't know how long they'd been dead.
I came out of there and walked up back to this room where the Mother Superior was. And she was lying there sleeping. And I watched her carefully and she slept 'til the next day. Oh, long, long hours and didn't awaken. And when she did, she said, "I had a long sleep." And I said, "Yes." They let me take care of her for three days. And, you know, the third day... I don't know.
You say, "Did she ever find out you done that?" Well, not yet. I hoped she
didn't while I was there.
HOPE OF ESCAPE
But anyway, in three days they put me out in the kitchen. In other words, when we go to the kitchen, six of us go for a six week period. And this particular time they put me out in the kitchen with five other little Nuns. What am I there for? I'm doing the kitchen work. I'm going to do all the cooking that's done out there, and take care of the work in the kitchen.
And so when I went out in the kitchen, we have a long table back here. And it's a work table. And our vegetables will be prepared for the soup. And that's what we were doing - all six of us.
And something happened.
Our kitchen is a very large room. And a very long room. Not as wide as it is long. And over at one end of it, you'll find over here the stair steps leading - about four - leading down into the landing right there. Over there is a big heavy outside door. But here, there's a landing. Our garbage cans sit there. And right here is a stairway - cement one - leading down one story under the ground. Now, I'm up on first floor in this kitchen.
Alright, as I'm in there, and we're there working, something happened. Somebody touched a garbage can. You know, all my Convent life we are taught never to break silence. We don't dare to make noises in the Convent. We are punished for them. And when something touched the garbage can, that's a noise. Who in the world... six others, and we're all together... who's touching the garbage can?
I reeled around, and they reeled around. And we saw a man.
And, you know, that man was picking up the full can, and leaving an empty one. I'd never seen that before. I've been in that Convent for years in the kitchen, but I never saw anything like that happen.
I believe God had His hands on me. With all my heart I believe it.
And you say, "What happened?"
Well, we turned around quickly because, to us, it's a mortal sin to look upon a man other than a Roman Catholic priest. Now, I mean, we turned around quick and went to our work.
But, you know, I thought, "If that man comes back again to get another full can, I'm going to give him a note and I'm going to ask him if I can run out with him."
But, I didn't do that. But, you know what I did? When we run out of something in the kitchen there's a pencil hanging up there on a chain. And, bless your heart, I have to, or whoever it is runs out, you have to write it on a tab. And of course I stole a piece of paper off of a sack. And I thought, "I'll carry that little piece of paper in my skirt pocket. And every time I can get a'hold of that pencil, I'm going to write a word or two on the note. And that's what I did. It took quite a while to do it.
But, oh, I watched that garbage can. Every time I could take the garbage down there I did. And, you know, when it was just about full, and I thought, "The next evening it'll be full when we put all the garbage in it." And so that afternoon, I broke my Crucifix, and I laid it up on a shelf. And I had a hard time doing it, because they're watching me. But I did it. And I laid it up on the shelf. And I did that to have a way to get back to that room, of course.
And when our dinner work is over, our supper dishes, everybody has to go out at the same time. And we march by the Mother Superior. And, you know, when I march by I stopped and said, "Please, may I speak to you?"
And I did. And I said, "Mother Superior, I broke my crucifix and I left it in the kitchen. May I go for it?"
And, of course, no Nun goes without her crucifix. And she said, "How did you break it?"
I lied to her. Everything she asked me, I lied to her. You say, "Why did you lie?" She lies to us. And we're all sinners, so we all lie. And it doesn't make any difference in there.
And so we lied. And I lied, too. Finally she said, "You go get the crucifix and come right back."
And that's all I wanted anyway. I have to have a reason. You can't go back into the kitchen after you left it.
And so I didn't go for the crucifix. But she thought I did, and run for this tin can. Why? That night when I put my garbage in there, I put a note right on top of that garbage and left the lid off, which I was not supposed to do.
And, you know, I said on the note to the garbage man, "If you get this, won't you please help me out? Won't you do something to help the little Nuns out?"
I told him about those nineteen cells down there, and those nineteen Nuns in them. I told him about some of the babies that had been killed. I told him some other little Nuns that are locked up in the dungeons and they're bound with chains. I told him a 'plenty. And I said, "Won't you help us? And if you will, please leave a note under the empty can."
That's what I went back for. And when I lifted up the can and found a note, you don't know how I felt. I froze to the floor. I was so scared I didn't know what to do.
I picked that piece of paper up and I read. And this is what that man said:
"I'm leaving that door unlocked, and I'll leave the big iron gate unlocked. You
OUTSIDE THE CONVENT
Oh, let me tell you, that's almost more than you'd ever... Why, I never dreamed I'd get out of the Convent. I never thought of ever getting out. I wanted out. But you say.. Oh, yes, I, when I collect myself, I reached over and turned the knob. And, do you know, it was open? I walked out of that Convent, and I slammed it to. I was sure the lock was on it. And I got out to the big iron gate. But, oh, he had me trapped.
That iron gate was just as locked as it was ever locked. You don't know what it done to me to stand there looking at the iron gate. And locked out of the Convent! I have no right out there! You can't imagine!
I don't know if I groaned right there. I don't know. I know I suffered enough, because I'm scared half to death. And what do I do if I go back and pound on that door? What will they do with me?
And, oh, the fear that grips your heart. And you say, "What did you do?"
I didn't have any shoes and stockings on. I'd worn those out years ago.
When I think of the Roman Catholic being the richest church in the world, and they let those little Nuns go winter and summer without any shoes and they're without any hose - living in crucial poverty - I wonder how they can do it. Hungry as we are. Your priests are all nice and fat. But little Nuns are so hungry. I wonder how they do it sometimes.
You say, "What did you do, Charlotte?" Well, I'll tell you I just took a hold of that big old iron gate and I tried to climb it. That's all there was for me to do. And up, about a foot and a half from the top, is a ledge about six inches wide. I thought if I could get high enough to get my knee on the ledge, I'm safe. And I did. I got one knee on the ledge, but by this time I don't have any strength left either. And, you know, I thought, "What'll I do? I'll put one foot over. Then I'll get the other over." Then I realized, you know, I had three skirts on. My skirts are gathered on a belt and they're clear down to my ankles. My veil, of course, is down to my knees in front and that long in the back. How will I ever get over those sharp points?
And I thought, "I can't go down. I don't have strength enough." So, I'll have to jump. And if I jump, I'll break every bone because I was broken in body, of course. And you know I thought of what I'll do. Well, I pulled all my clothing up around my body. And held them with one hand. And then I thought, "Ill have to jump."
And, you know, they have a buzzer in the convent. And when a little Nun tried to escape, and they catch her, they put a buzzer on. And, oh, the priests tell you they don't come to the convent. I would you could see the priests then. You'll find a good many of them there. And they are immediately are after that Nun. They don't want her out. If she comes out of that convent, she's going to give a testimony someday. And it'll pull the cloak off of convents. And I'll assure you they don't intend for us to get out.
And so as I let loose of the top of that gate and I made that jump, I just didn't make it. My clothing caught on top of those points and I hung there. But I'd let loose. And I often say, you know, I don't know what I looked like. I didn't know I had grey hairs. But I've often said, "Maybe my hair turned grey there." Maybe you'll never know what I'd suffered hanging there on top of that gate, knowing that buzzer can go on any minute. And then what would they do to me?
I was scared. So I thought I'd try to wiggle my body and swing it. If I could get back far enough to grab that gate with one hand, maybe I can help myself. And I did. And then with the other hand I tried to pry the snappers loose on my skirt. And they'd let me fall between them.
Do you know what happened to me? I hit the ground. I was out. I was
unconscious for a while. I don't know how long. We have no way to tell. But
when I came to, I had a shoulder broken, and my arm was broken right in here.
The flesh - the bone had snapped right through my flesh because I didn't have
any meat on me. I thought, "What'll I do?" And I realized I'm on the outside. "Where am I going?" Where do you think you'd go?
I'm not in the United States. I'm in another country. And I don't know a thing about that country. When they took me over there, I was so heavily veiled. And they took me from that particular cart or train to the convent. I was so heavily veiled I couldn't see anything. And I don't know where I am. I don't know where to go. I didn't know if I had any people. I didn't know if I had anybody in the world. And I'm a pauper. I don't have any money. And I'm hungry. And my body's broken. And I'm hurt now.
Where do you think you'd go? I tell you it's something to think about. I just started away to get away from the convent. And I did. And I started moving away. And all the leaves were falling, and they made so much noise. And I was scared. And I kept on moving. And finally dark overtook me - or rather - there's no twilight in that part of the country - it just drops off into darkness.
And, you know, I saw this little building beside the road. I thought I'd crawl in it. It was a doghouse or maybe a chicken-coop or something. But it's dirty. And I crawled in there because I was shaking and scared. And I laid in there for a little while to get a hold of myself. And then I thought, "I'll have to travel. It's dark. And it's safer for me."
So I got out and traveled that night. And the next day I hid behind pieces of board and tin that was piled up against an old building. And all day long, imagine, hiding in that hot place. And hungry as I was with broken bones. Do you realize what it's all about? No. You'll never know. But I do.
And then, you know, when night came again I have to go, because I'm going to
get away from the convent. I'm afraid to rap on somebody's door. Remember, I'm
scared. I don't know, I might rap on a Roman Catholic's door. They will
immediately notify the priest and I'll be taken back to the Convent. And I'd
rather they killed me than take me back. And so I didn't.
RESCUED BY A LOVING COUPLE
But I went on and on and on. And then the next night, or next day I hid out in an old straw stack. And then that afternoon on the third day, I was scared then, because this arm was swollen as tight as it could swell, and I was having to carry it in the other hand. And all my fingers began to turn blue. And I realized gangrene poisoning set in. And, you know, nobody to do anything for you. And I realized I'm going to die just like a rat beside the road. That's a terrible feeling. And I thought, "What'll I do? I'll just get out and go a little sooner. Maybe I'll have to rap on somebody's door."
That's what I did. I remember as I walked out, I don't know how far, I saw this lamp. It was an old-fashioned lamp burning. Very poor house. No paint on it. Now, I knew those were poor people. So I walked up to the screen door and I rapped on it. And a tall man came to the door. He was rather old. And I said, "Please may I have a drink of water?"
And do you know that old man didn't answer me. But he walked back into the house and he called his wife. And, God bless her heart, she's like most old-fashioned mothers. She came to the door, and she didn't say, "Who are you?" Or, "What do you want?" Thank God, there are a lot of good people in this world.
That dear little woman just pushed that door open and said, "Won't you come in and sit down?" Do you know that's the most beautiful music I'd ever heard in my life? I should say I'll come in and sit down!
And she pulled out a chair. And I sat down on it. I was glad to sit down. And, you know, their house was poor. There was no rugs on the floor of any type. A table cloth. Red-checkered table cloth on the table. A little old stove over there in the corner and there was a fire in it. And that woman put some milk in a pan and heated it and brought it over to me.
And, you know, I'm hungry. I don't have any manners. I forgot how to act. I forgot a lot of things in twenty-two years.
And I grabbed that glass of milk before she ever set it down. And I gobbled it down. I'm so hungry. I felt like I'm going stark mad. And I took it instantly. And the moment it touched my stomach, of course, I couldn't retain it. I lost it. I haven't had any whole milk in twenty-two years. You can understand why I couldn't take it.
And she knew what to do. She went out into the kitchen and she heated some water - or rather over to the stove - and heated some water. And, bless her heart, she put sugar in that water and brought it over to me. And she sat down and gave it to me from a spoon.
I took every bit of it. Oh, it was good. It was nourishing. And then the daddy walked over by me and he said, "Now tell us who you are and where you come from."
I began to cry. I was scared then. I said, "I run away from the convent and I'm not going back."
And he said, "What happened to you?" My hand was laying up on the table.
And I said, "Well, I tried to get over the gate and I fell and I'm hurt."
And, you know, he said, "We'll have to call a doctor."
And, bless your sweet life, then I really became hysterical. I got up from the table. I was going to run back outside and they wouldn't let me.
He said, "Wait a minute. We're not going to hurt you. You're hurt. You'll have to have help.
I said, "I don't have any money and I don't have any people. And I can't pay a doctor bill."
Of course, I was just in a terrible mess, if you want to know it. And that
man said to me, "I'm going after a doctor." He said, "And he's not a Roman
Catholic. Neither am I."
TO THE HOSPITAL
And that dear man didn't have a car, but he hitched up a horse and buggy. And he drove nine miles to get a doctor. The doctor came out in his car. And when he got out to the place - he got there ahead of the man. And when the doctor walked in and walked around me. He just kept walking around and he was swearing. Maybe he didn't realize it was a terrible effect on me.
When he stopped and looked at me... of course he was mad. He was mad. Why was he mad? He was mad because he was looking at something that was supposed to be a human being. And I didn't even look up to him, being I was in such a horrible condition.
So finally he calmed down and he came over to me and said, "I'll have to take you over to the Hospital tonight."
Oh, I became hysterical. I said, "I don't want to go. Please don't make me go."
And then he sat down carefully and took my hand. And he began to say, "I'm not going to hurt you. You have to have help. And I want to help you."
That doctor took me into the hospital that night and that's how I learned how much I weighed. He weighed me and I weighed exactly eighty-nine pounds. I weigh a hundred and seventy-eight right now.
And then, you know, he took me into surgery. And, of course, they tried to get the swelling and the inflammation out of my hand that they might do something for me. It took about twelve - thirteen - days.
And then, of course, by this time is started to knit, and they had to break it over again and put it in a cast. I did a lot of suffering.
Well, you know, one day, a way was made for me to be released from the hospital. Who did they release me to? I begged to go out with those old people to stay with them. And they let me go, because they'd been good to me and I trusted them.
And the doctor wanted to take me out to his home. I was in that hospital three and a half months. And they took me out there for a period of time. And then one day this same doctor, he wrote a letter and you know what he sent in that letter? He sent a check. He told the people to go and buy me a suitcase and get me some clothing. He was coming for me on a certain day. He had told me, "I'm going to find your people" for me.
You know, that doctor's a stranger to me. But, oh, I thank God that He has
men and women across this world. And those men and women are not so selfish
that they won't use some of the money that God has allowed them to have to help
that one that's less fortunate than they. He spent a lot of money on me. I was
in that hospital three and a half months. And, I mean, there was a lot of money
spent on me, but he paid the bills. I appreciate it.
BACK HOME AGAIN
And, you know, that dear doctor, oh, he took me and bought my clothing for me and bought my suitcase. And everything was ready. And the day came when he come. And, you know, that doctor took me to the train. And he put me on a train in care of somebody, of course. He found my people for me. I was on buses and trains and boats for a long time. And one day, after he had gotten my visa to get back into the United States... And I was always in charge of somebody because they wouldn't trust me to travel alone, because of having lived under the ground so long.
And one day they called the name of a town where I was, and where my mother and daddy lived. And, you know, I knew where mother and daddy lived. And I got off of that train and run down to that home five blocks from that depot. Just a very small town. And when I rang the bell my daddy come to the door and, you know, I looked at his face. I didn't know him. And because I didn't know him, I said, "Do you know where my father lives?"
And he said, "Who are you and what's your name?"
And I said my name. And I didn't give him my church name. I gave him my family name. And that man looked at me, and of course it was his name, and he said, "Hookie is this you?" ["Hookie" was her fathers pet name for Charlotte, pronounced "Hoowkee".]
My father didn't know me, of course, it was my dad. That dear old man opened
that door and invited me in. And I said, "Dad, is mother alive?" Because I
didn't know about her. He took me back in to see her. And there she was.
Seven and a half years she laid there an invalid. A horrible, horrible invalid.
And, of course, she didn't know me and I didn't know her.
WORKING IN THE HOSPITAL
Well, you know, that very night I took violently sick and they put me back in another hospital for another three months. But my father paid all of those bills. He reimbursed the doctor and paid the doctor in the other country and paid the old people. He reimbursed them all.
Oh, that was wonderful! And then, you know, one day, after my body was strong enough to since I'm here in the United States--oh, it took a long time--several years. I'm a nurse and I took the examination to nurse. And you know what God did? He let a woman come into that particular hospital. It was a Roman Catholic hospital. This woman was a Church of God minister. She came in and I thought how strange.
Just across the Mississippi River is two magnificent Protestant Hospitals and she lived in one of those cities. Right there. Two cities joined together. And why in the world would she come over into this Roman Catholic hospital? Why, I believe God has His hand on it all the time.
You know, that woman who came in... and the doctor said, "I want you to take
her case and I went into that room to prepare that woman for the operating
table. And I heard her praying. And I want you to now I became that woman's
private nurse. Her special nurse.
SPECIAL NURSE TO A CHRISTIAN
After she left the hospital, she went home and I became her special nurse in the home. And that woman asked me if I would go to Church with her.
And, you know, I lived in her home long enough to hear her pray. I lived in that home long enough to read the Bible to her, because I am her nurse and I did what she told me to.
I'd never read a Bible before in all of my life. And she'd have to find the Scriptures and then I'd read them to her. And, you know, as I read the Word of God, God began to get a'hold of me. And finally she said, "Won't you go to Church with me." And, you know, I went to Church with that woman. And I sat back there and I heard the Gospel for the first time in my life.
And, you know, I'll tell you I went three or four nights. And it was really
beautiful. I've never heard anything like this. And all the time she was
telling me about the plan of salvation. Telling me about God. And that I
needed God and I needed to be saved. And of course I was believing her.