It is the intermediate stage that tests the mettle of the man. It is the long, fatiguing trudge out of sight of both starting-point and destination that puts the heaviest strain on heart and brain….
Two cases come to mind. I know a man whose whole delight was in his boy—a little fellow of six or so. Then, suddenly, like lamps blown out by a sudden gust, the lad's eyes failed him, and he was blind. The father was the recipient of scores of touchingly sympathetic letters. All sorts of people called. Kindly references were made in press and pulpit. The man had no idea until that moment that he had so many friends. All the world seemed to be paying homage to his sorrow. That was the beginning.
After many years the boy had been taught to interpret the world again by means of his remaining senses. There was nothing he could not do. He earned his own living, and his sightlessness seemed no real hindrance to him. That was the end.
But the father told me that the strain of it all came between these two. There came a time when the postman brought no cheering letters. Friends uttered no heartening words. The world had transferred his boy's blindness into the realm of the normal and the commonplace. Nobody noticed. But in the home the little fellow staggered about, and his parents' hearts ached for him. What was to become of him? It was during those intervening years lying between the first crushing blow and the final relief that the real strain came. That was by far the worst stretch of the road.
I knew a woman. Without a moment's warning she was plunged into widowhood, and left to battle for her five little children and herself. There was an extraordinary outburst of affectionate sympathy on the part of all who knew her. Then came the funeral. After that the world went on its way again as though nothing had happened. That was the beginning. After the years, the battle had been well fought and well won. The children had been clothed, educated, and placed in positions of usefulness and honour. That was the end.
But my widowed friend told me that she did not forget when the world forgot. Every morning her grief woke up with her. And every night it followed her to her rest. Every day, as she struggled for her little ones, the haunting question tortured her: What would become of them if sickness or death seized upon her? That was the killing time. That intermediate stretch was the worst part of the desolate way.
As it is with individuals, so it is with great causes. A crusade is launched amidst vituperation, derision, and execration. And there is enough fight in most of us to lend a certain enjoyment to the very bitterness of antagonism. And at last the self-same movement is crowned with triumph. But the real inwardness of the struggle lies midway.
William Wilberforce used to say that he was less dismayed by the storm that broke upon him when first he pleaded the cause of the slave than by the 'long lull' that followed when the country accepted his principles, but did nothing to hasten their realization.
F W Boreham, ‘The Tireless Trudge’, The Luggage of Life (London: Charles H Kelly, 1912), 73-75.