The High Calling/Chapter 11

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The High Calling by Charles Monroe Sheldon
Chapter 11

WALTER was trembling with sympathy and the sudden shock from the unexpected revelation of Bauer's physical condition. He was so overwhelmed with this that the loss of the money seemed comparatively trivial.

"Why did you not tell me the condition you were in? I ought to have known about it. It does not seem possible."

"It's not as serious as it seems. You remember Gardner, class of 1909? He's out in New Mexico with a U. S. surveying party and he's all right. A year or two out there will put me right."

Walter looked at him doubtfully.

"What a chump I must have been all this winter not to see. I wouldn't have believed it if I read it in a book."

Bauer smiled again.

"You couldn't do anything if you had known. Nobody could. The change of climate will fix me all right. Lucky that money is coming in just now. Lots of fellows don't have my good luck."

"Good luck?"

"Yes. I might be sick here without a cent, and be dependent like Franklin out at the day camp. I felt awfully sorry for him at the time, didn't you?"

"Yes, tell me! but no! it hurts you to talk?"

Bauer nodded. "I don't have any pain to-day. Just weakness. It's only one lung, the doc says. It might be my knee joints or my mucous or a dozen other places worse than lungs. If you're going to have tuberculosis have it when it will raise the most sympathy. If I only had a heart-rending cough to go with the hemorrhages I could get some church or tuberculosis society to send me out to Arizona free of charge."

Walter was so upset by the whole thing and so disturbed by the inevitable revelation that was bound to come that he sat miserably silent, while Bauer rambled on in a disconnected manner to all outward appearances quite unterrified by his trouble, or at any rate making a brave and successful attempt at deceiving his friend. But at last he unexpectedly gave Walter an opportunity to lead up to the article in the paper.

"Seems a little queer I don't hear from him. I understood Halstead and Burns were going to pay at once. Would you mind going down after the three o'clock mail? I feel a little uneasy about it. Never had so much money before. Probably never will again."

"Did you have any reason to distrust your father?" asked Walter.

"No, I told you his faults were of another sort."

"What would you do if he should try to cheat you out of the money?"

"How could he do that?"

"Didn't you give him power of attorney to act for you?"

"Yes."

"Well, what would hinder his having the check from Halstead drawn in his name instead of yours?"

"Nothing, only------"

"Only what?"

"Why, just sheer humanity."

Bauer was sitting up on the couch, his hands doubled up and his eyes fixed on Walter.

"What is it?" he said at last quietly enough. "Are you keeping something from me? I would rather have it from you than from anyone else."

"Poor old man!" Walter could not hold back a groan as his eye travelled to the paper on the floor.

Bauer saw his glance. "What is it? Read it for me."

Walter put his hands over his face and muttered.

"Oh, I can't, Felix, it's too cruel."

"Nothing's too cruel if you're used to it." He started to get up from the couch, but Walter prevented him.

"Lie down there. I'll read it to you if I must, simply because someone will have to do it sometime. But I would rather be hanged than do it."

He hardly ventured to look at Bauer when he had finished the newspaper account. When he did look at him, he saw him sitting up on the couch, his hands clasped over his knees, a slight increase of colour on his face but no mark of any unusual anger or feeling.

"How could he do it! How could he!" Bauer whispered to himself, looking off into the distance as if Walter were not present. His whole attitude affected Walter more deeply than if he had given way to a violent passion.

"It's an outrage! There ought to be some way to get the money. You could have him arrested when he------"

"Arrest my father? On the charge of being a thief? Would you do that to your------"

Walter choked. "Arrest my father? I should think not. But------"

"He may be all you think, but I will never lift a finger against him. Let God punish him, as he has already."

"And meanwhile, if Halstead & Co. are informed how matters are, they might------"

"It isn't likely. They have paid the money once. Certainly they won't do it again. I never heard of any such philanthropists doing business in Washington."

"But how will you be able to go out to Arizona?" Walter blurted before he thought, and then wanted to bite his tongue off as Bauer turned his face towards him, a faint smile lighting it.

"I won't go. 'Wir mussen alie einmal sterben?'"

"But you'll have to go. We'll have to find a way."

"Where there's a will there's a way? Also even more necessary, the money. Now I've will enough. But it won't pay for a ticket nor buy the necessary canned goods to go with the sand of the desert when I get there. I'll set up my incubators here at Burrton and raise chickens enough to bury me decently. 'Wir mussen alie einmal sterben.'"

"Yes, but we don't have to die before our time. There must be some way out."

"I don't know of any." said Bauer gravely but not with any bitterness. "But don't let it worry you. I don't want to have you worried with it."

Nevertheless Walter did worry over it tremendously. He had never known anything in all his experience that affected him so profoundly. And in his next letter home, without hinting to Bauer of his intention, he sounded his father as to ways and means for helping Bauer at this crisis in his life.

"Isn't there some one in Milton who would be interested enough in Bauer to help send him out to Arizona? The doctor says it's his only chance. And he's pretty hard hit. Think of losing $4,500 at one fell swoop, and by his own father too. And I advised the business relation between them. Of course we had no idea that the matter would turn out as it has but that doesn't change the fact. As near as I can figure, it will cost at least three hundred dollars to get Bauer out to Arizona, pay for his board and room and keep him there a year. He isn't a member of any church and Dr. Howard of the Congregational Church here in Burrton said a few Sundays ago that his people must make a special effort to raise the money to care for several needed cases of their own, so I don't feel like going to him with Bauer's story right now. And besides, I don't believe Bauer would take church help. He's awfully proud and while he doesn't say much about his trouble and pretends to take it easy, I can see he is pretty hard hit. And who wouldn't be, to lose $4,500 at one clip and at the same time realise that he's got consumption. I tell you it strikes me as pretty hard lines for poor Bauer. The worst of it is this mess about his father. That seems awful. And there isn't anyone more affectionate and dependent than Bauer. That's the reason he took up with me, because he had to have someone. He doesn't know I'm writing this sort of a letter about him, if he did he'd object, but I feel as if something ought to be done. Perhaps you and mother can think out some plan to help him. If I could see some way to cut down my expenses here I would do it and put in my little to help. But I'm living as close to the line as I can. The school is expensive and I don't know what I can do until I get out and begin to make instead of mar dollars."

Paul took this letter to Esther. And it happened that while he was reading it to her, Helen came in. Paul stopped reading and looked at Esther.

"It's all right. Let Helen hear it. I'm sure Walter meant it for a family letter."

They were all shocked at the news. And Helen seemed even more moved by the letter than her father and mother, though she made no remark of any kind until Esther began to look at her with some concern. Paul said, after a moment of sober thought:

"I believe Masters can do something for him out there at Tolchaco. There is the old Council Hogan out there in the cottonwoods past the 'dobe flats. Bauer could sleep there. It's about the same as outdoors. And he could do something perhaps at the trading post to help pay for his board. I'll write to Masters at once and see what he says. And--I have another idea that I think will do something. We can't let a fellow like Bauer go down without doing something and if he objects to being helped, why, we'll just box him up and ship him out there f. o. b."

After Paul had gone down to the office Mrs. Douglas and Helen continued the discussion over Walter's letter.

"What other idea does father have to help Mr. Bauer?" asked Helen.

"I don't know unless he is thinking of that precious book of his!" Mrs. Douglas laughed and Helen joined her.

It had come to be a good natured joke in the Douglas household that Paul's book was such a great failure that publishers had it listed among the "six worst sellers" if anyone ever had the courage to print it. He had put in a tremendous amount of hard work on the volume which was a bold treatment in original form of the Race Question in America. The manuscript had been sent to eight different publishers and had been returned, in three instances with scathing comments.

Paul doggedly clung to his first estimate of the book. Each rejection by the last publisher only served to increase his faith in what he had written.

"I tell you, Esther, the publishers don't know a thing. Half the time their office readers can't spell. They don't know gold from mica schist. Half the books the publishers put out are dead failures. They don't know anything more about it than a native of Ponape knows about making an igloo."

Esther smiled.

"You are naturally a little prejudiced, don't you think? But I don't blame you. It's lucky for us though, that we don't depend on book sales for a living. Let's see, how much has the book cost you so far?"

"Well, in typewriting, and postage on returned manuscript it has cost me about one hundred and fifty dollars," said Paul good naturedly. "But I'll send it to every publisher in America before I'll give up. I've written a good book and I know it. And I've made up my mind to one thing, Esther. When it comes to making terms I'll sell the manuscript outright for cash and give the money away to the most needy cause I can find."

"Better have the stipulation with the publishers stereotyped, father," said Helen, who was present when this conversation was held. "It will save you time and money."

"Very well, Miss," replied her father. "But don't you dare ask for any of this extra when my ship does come in. Not a cent of it does this ungrateful, unappreciative family get. It is my book and the 'child of my heart' and if it brings me anything I will spend it in riotous living on the other fellow."

Esther and Helen laughed and Paul went down to the office and courageously expressed the manuscript to one of the eastern publishers who had not yet seen it.

All this had occurred several months before Walter's letter about Bauer and when Paul went down to the office after getting the news his heart and mind were burdened with plans for Bauer's relief. He began to open his mail and a letter from the eastern publisher specially interested him. After reading it, he looked at the check accompanying the letter and chuckled in anticipation of meeting Esther and Helen at lunch when he came home.

The mother and daughter were continuing their talk about Walter's letter.

"Can Mr. Bauer get well out there? Walter did not say very clearly?" Helen asked.

"Many cases like this do recover," said Esther. "But he ought to go at once. If he is having severe hemorrhages that will be his only hope."

Helen was silent for some moments.

"How much did Walter say it would cost to keep him out there a year?"

"He said three hundred dollars."

"It seems like a very small sum, doesn't it?"

"It certainly does. But you remember in some of Mr. Masters's letters to your father about the mission expenses at Tolchaco how ridiculous the amounts seemed to us? You remember one year the entire mission force including seven persons lived on less than fifteen dollars a month for each? I suppose Walter had something like that in mind. And you remember how often in his letters Walter has spoken of Bauer's horror of the luxurious habits of one of the students at Burrton as if it were a great wrong?"

"It was Van Shaw," said Helen with a short laugh. "Walter spoke last Christmas about the solid silver dog collars Mr. Van Shaw purchased for his kennel. Fancy Mr. Bauer buying solid silver dog collars! Fancy him even buying a dog!"

"Unless it was to prevent someone from abusing it. I never met a young man with such a kind heart as Bauer."

Helen did not answer. She sat with her hands clasped over her knees, looking off through the window. At last she rose and went into her room, and returned almost immediately.

"Mother," she said, with a note of hesitation that was new to her, "would it be all right for me to help Mr. Bauer out of my allowance? If the rest of the family is going to help I'd like to give twenty-five dollars."

She put the money into her mother's lap and sat down in front of her.

Mrs. Douglas was startled at the girl's perfectly transparent act. She thought she knew Helen, but for a moment she questioned her own insight. Then she did what she had always done in the intimacy she had encouraged between herself and her children.

"Why do you want to do this, Helen?"

"Because--because I can't help feeling------"

"Well?"

"I don't love him, mother,--no,--I am sure of myself. But it seems dreadful to think of him dying, just because of the need of a little money. I have never been sick. I wonder how I should feel to face such a fate. I believe it would drive me crazy."

"But how do you think Mr. Bauer will understand your gift? If he is so sensitive as Walter says------"

Over Helen's face the warm colour swept.

"Why does he need to know? We are all going to help, aren't we? But we don't need to tell him. I would not have him know for the world."

"Wait till father comes home. We will talk it over with him," said Esther after a pause. "I don't question your sincerity. It is a terrible loss to lose the physical strength and face death at a sure distance. Poor Bauer! And all that family trouble, too. He never hinted at that when he was here."

Helen recalled her innocent questioning of Bauer about his people and the silence he had maintained at the time. In the light of what she knew now, the figure of the German student assumed a tragic character, invested with deep pathos, and she had to confess that it was treading on dangerous ground to dwell too long on the picture. Still she asserted stoutly that her feeling was one of simple friendship, and even went so far as to anticipate a possible question again on her mother's part.

"You must not think, Mommy, that I have any other feeling for him. That is not possible. The man I marry must have money. And poor Mr. Bauer has lost all of his. That is the reason I am willing to help him. Money seems so absolutely necessary in this world, mother, isn't it?"

"Not so necessary as a good many other things."

"But in this case, mother, what else can do any good? It is money that Mr. Bauer needs. Not sympathy nor--nor--even friendship, just money. Is there anything else that can save his life?"

"It seems not."

"Then money is the great thing," said Helen with a show of getting the better of her mother in an argument. "I don't pretend to hide my admiration for money. You know, mother, it is the most powerful thing in the world."

"There are other things," said Esther quietly. She did not try to argue with Helen over the subject. They had several times gone over the same ground and each time Esther had realised more deeply and with a growing feeling of pain that Helen had almost a morbid passion for money and the things that money could buy. She was not avaricious. On the contrary, she was remarkably generous and unselfish in the use of her allowance. But there was a deep and far reaching prejudice in the girl's mind for all the brilliant, soft, luxurious, elegant side of wealth and its allurements that made Esther tremble more and more for the girl's future, especially when her marriage was thought of.

All this had its bearing on Esther's thought of Bauer. He had never been to her a possible thought as Helen's lover. All his own and his people's history were against him. But no one had ever come into the Douglas family circle who had won such a feeling of esteem, and Esther had felt drawn towards the truly homeless lad with a compassion that might in time have yielded to him a place as a possible member of the family. Now anything like that relation seemed remote, and Helen's own frank declaration put the matter out of the question. Over all these things Esther Douglas pondered and in her simple straightforward fashion laid them at the feet of her God for the help she could not give herself.

When Paul came home to luncheon both Esther and Helen could see at once that something had happened greatly to please him. Paul was transparent and never made any pretence at any sort of concealment of his feelings.

"Yes, now you people laugh at that," he said as he handed the eastern publisher's letter over to Esther.

Esther read the letter out loud. It was an extended business statement acknowledging the receipt of the book manuscript and Paul's blunt announcement of the terms he was willing to make for it publication; cash down, waiving all royalty rights, the book to be published entirely at the publisher's risk and the plates to be the property of the publishing house, no rights reserved for the author.

The eastern publisher acknowledged the frankness of the author's note, which he said was unusual. Also the terms, which were not generally considered, few manuscripts being purchased outright by the firm. However, the book was more than favourably reported by two of the three principal readers and by the senior member of the house, and they were prepared to make an offer in the shape of the enclosed check which it was hoped would be satisfactory to Mr. Douglas.

"Five hundred," said Esther, reading the amount as she held up the check for Helen to see. "Why, isn't it worth more than that?"

"The way you people have been talking lately," said Paul, pretending great indignation, "it wasn't worth five cents. I'm satisfied. At ten per cent royalty they would have to sell five thousand copies and it would be two or three years before I got the money. No, I prefer the cash, and let them take the risk. Now we can help Bauer. That is, I can. This is all my philanthropy. I'll send one hundred dollars to Masters for the mission work and the balance for Bauer. Walter's estimate of three hundred dollars a year is too small. It won't give the fellow the things he needs. My! But won't it be fine to help him! There's nothing like money, is there, Esther?"

"Just what I keep telling her," said Helen, her eyes sparkling and her lips smiling at the sight of her mother's somewhat grave acceptance of Paul's statement.

"I'm glad he is going to get the benefit of it," said Esther heartily. "And I think we owe you an apology for the way we have treated your little book. I feel proud to think my husband can write a five hundred dollar book. I hope it will be one of the six best sellers."

"If it is, the publishers will make a lot," said Paul. "But I hardly think it. Trashy fiction makes best sellers. My book is written to make people think, not to lose their thoughts. So I've no false ambitions for it."

As a matter of fact, in course of time Paul's volume sold between seven and eight thousand copies and then the sale ceased. But the book had good notices from several thoughtful reviewers and gave him considerable advertising, encouraging him to go on with another volume on popular government.

"Now the problem will be to get Bauer to take the money," said Esther. "It's going to be a delicate matter."

"Do you think so? I hadn't thought of that. Surely Walter can manage it. He will have to take it."

"I think you will find it is not so easy. It seemed to me last winter that Mr. Bauer was about the most stubborn and independent young man I ever saw."

"But what can he do? He can't help himself. He will have to take it."

"Leave it to Walter to manage," said Esther. "He is better acquainted with him than we are."

So Paul wrote Walter, enclosing a check for $400, and asking him to manage the matter with Bauer the best he could, and at the same time he wrote to Masters telling him of Bauer and making inquiry about the climate and especially concerning the possibility of Bauer fitting into any work about the mission.

After Paul had gone away from the table to his office to attend to this matter, Esther took out Helen's money and quietly handed it to her.

"You won't need to offer this now."

"No, not now," said Helen, blushing.

"Nor any time, I hope. If Mr. Bauer gets well there at Tolchaco he will probably be able to secure permanent work and take care of himself."

"Yes," Helen said, after a pause in which she seemed to her mother about to make a confidence. But she did not seem quite certain of herself and finally without any more words went up to her room.

Two days later Walter received his father's letter which he read with a sense of great rejoicing.

"Why, it's just like a story book! Dear old pater! He's the best ever!"

Then he took up the check and began to consider how he would present the matter to Bauer. No one knew better than himself how sensitive Bauer could be on occasion. But he was helpless, and under the circumstances, what else could he do but let his friends come to his assistance? If there was no other way he could probably be prevailed on to take the money as a loan and pay back when his royalties came due on the incubator sales.

He was going over the matter when Bauer came in from his room across the hall.

"How goes it?" asked Walter cheerfully.

"All right," said Bauer gravely. "I don't believe anything ails me. Haven't had another since the last one."

"No? Well, what you want to do is to get right out to the painted desert. Why don't you start?"

"The walking is poor, and I never did enjoy the hot, dusty cars."

"Letters!" said one of the boys who roomed on the next floor. He opened the door as he spoke and threw Walter two letters and seeing Bauer, he said, "One for you!" threw it at him and went on.

Walter opened his letters, which were from his mother and Louis. When he looked up from his reading and glanced at Bauer he saw that something had happened.

"From him," said Bauer briefly.

He handed his letter over to Walter. It was dated and postmarked at Monte Carlo and contained a draft on New York for four hundred dollars.

"I don't ask you to do anything or forgive or anything like that. But as proof that hell is better than this place, I am sending you the last dollar I have after losing the rest of it at the table. Perhaps, even in hell where I am going, there will be some respite granted me for not being totally depraved."

That was all, not even an initial signed.

"It means------" Walter stammered.

"That he has committed suicide--yes--I suppose--"

"But there's been no newspaper account item in the New York journals."

Bauer shook his head. "The cases at Monte Carlo don't get into the newspapers." And then to Walter's embarrassment, Bauer broke down and sobbed as if he would never stop. But after all, his father, in spite of his sins, had really loved the boy, and Bauer was of a very affectionate nature which had never in all his lifetime been satisfied.

Before Walter could offer a word of sympathy Bauer got up and bolted for his room. Walter suspected what was coming and before Bauer could lock his door he had gone in after him. The hemorrhage was severe. When Bauer was through with it and on his couch, Walter rapidly outlined a plan for Bauer. He must get out to the painted desert at once.

"I wanted to wait until you could go, but it isn't fair to ask you before term closes and that won't be for six weeks. Oh, yes, I can make it alone all right. Don't worry over that. And now I've got this money, that settles it."

Walter wondered if he ought to tell him about the money from home. Finally he did tell him frankly and was pleased at the way Bauer took it. When Walter suggested that in case he had to stay out there any length of time, the money would be held in trust for him, Bauer did not object, simply saying that by that time he would either be well or dead.

Two days after this, Paul wrote that Mr. Masters at Tolchaco had written cordially, saying Bauer would be welcome at the mission and could have the old Council Hogan. He thought if his case was like a number of others he had known, that it would be perfectly possible for him in a year or two to be of real service about the mission.

Walter gave out all this information as he helped Bauer pack up. He had misgivings about letting him start alone, but after consulting the doctor, concluded there was no special risk for Bauer and when the day came for him to leave, he was much pleased to note Bauer's good spirits in spite of the shock of his father's act and his own dubious future.

Masters had sent word that Bauer was to go to Canyon Diablo where a wagon would be waiting to drive him the twenty-four miles to Tolchaco. Walter went down and saw him comfortably started and then went back to his room, feeling relieved to know that matters were going so well, after promising Bauer that if possible he would come and see him during the summer. It would depend on the financial outlook.

At Chicago, Bauer changed to a tourist car and found as companions, two other young men, both going to Flagstaff to live in tents at the base of the San Francisco Mountains. Before reaching Albuquerque the three young men had become well acquainted and had good naturedly exchanged joking statements about their "cases," and Bauer, who had suffered from a slight flow just after leaving Kansas city, boasted that he was able to control his lungs by pressing his tongue hard against the roof of his mouth and resting his chest on the back of the car seat in front.

When the train reached Hardy, a few miles north of the Little Colorado, there was a long stop, explained by the conductor as caused by a cloudburst at Winslow. The train made several attempts to start on to Colfax, but finally backed slowly down into Hardy, where it was stalled for the night. In the morning the information slowly reached the passengers that there were fifteen miles of washouts east of Winslow and it would be an indefinite time before repairs could be made.

A few cowboys, Mexicans and Indians were evidently chronic and constant loafers about the little station. Among them was a teamster loading stuff on a wagon. Bauer noticed two boxes marked Tolchaco and asked the man about them.

"I'm taking them over by Mr. Masters's orders. Usually go to Canyon Diablo, but no telling how long it'll be to get there with number two. Mr. Masters wants the stuff bad. Truck for them Injuns at the mission."

"But aren't we on the north side of the river here? How will you get over to the mission? Isn't that on the other side?" asked Bauer.

"Sure. We can ford it there, if the water ain't too fierce."

Bauer thought awhile and then asked if he might go with the teamster. There was room in the wagon for his trunk and bag, and after securing his effects from the train he transferred to the wagon, and bidding a cheery farewell to his travelling companions, who he said might have to stay on the train two or three days, the teamster drove off with Bauer across the shimmering desert.

They reached the river the next day about noon, after a glorious night which Bauer will never forget, as he slept with his face upturned to the diamond stars of that desert expanse, breathing that pure air of God's all out of doors.

The river was high from the recent heavy rains in the mountains but the teamster said he could make the ford all right. This was at a point nearly a mile above the mission which was not visible owing to a bend in the stream.

Bauer, who was totally unfamiliar with the country, the river, the customs, the entire situation, calmly sat in his place as the driver started his team down the shelving bank into the chocolate coloured stream.

The water was a little over the hubs of the wheels at first and it seemed to be of that uniform depth as the horses slowly walked along. But suddenly without warning the off horse sank down clear over his back. The next minute the wagon wheels tipped down as if they had run over the edge of a precipice a mile high.

The driver yelled and swore in several languages, but the nigh horse plunged and then sank over his back. The current caught the entire outfit and turned it completely over, tumbling horses, wagon and stuff over and over like a roller. As Bauer felt the water closing over him he had a momentary glimpse of two figures on the south bank of the river running and gesticulating, one a man, the other a woman. He felt himself struggling in a confused tangle of wagon wheels, floundering horses, yelling driver, boxes and muddy water. Then something struck him on the head. He struggled to help himself, throwing his arms out blindly, was aware that someone had hold of his hair and was striking him in the face, of a great roaring and rushing sound, and then he lost all consciousness as the river bore him and his would-be rescuers down the stream together.