The High Calling/Chapter 7
"YOU see, Senator," said the Hon. Maxwell, "that the party is not agreed on these bills you are preparing. Take for example that bill, I understand you are the author of it, on public health. As we understand the matter, it is going to work great hardship on the retail dealer, and besides, pardon me, it is so full of fads and absurdities that it will make the party the laughing stock of the state. And there is that bill on public lands and investigating old entries. That will stir up an unnecessary lot of trouble and help to disrupt the party. You must remember, Senator, that while you call yourself independent in politics, you allowed your nomination to be made by the party, and you are one of us and have no right to split the party into factions. More than half these bills you are advocating in the _News_ are of questionable value and all of them, it seems to us, are calculated to make enemies in our own ranks. The thing for you to do, it seems to us, is to stand pat. Wages are good and the people are generally contented. Prosperity is beginning to come back and it is poor policy to stir up matters. I've been through a lot of campaigns and I want to say to you, Senator, that I know the people pretty well, sir, and the people are beginning to feel sore over all this reform business. They are beginning to feel that they can't turn around or do a thing without someone claiming the right to pass a law telling 'em how to do it. The effect of the reform measures you are advocating will be to disrupt the party."
The Hon. Maxwell paused and his two friends nodded assent after his somewhat lengthy talk. Paul's first impulse was to get tremendously mad and tell the visitors to get out, as politely as it could be done in a hurry. Then his sense of humour and of right proportion came to save him.
Maxwell he knew fairly well to be one of the most narrow minded type of politicians, honest enough so far as that went, but without a shred of real patriotism or any faintest glimmer of sense on matters of public welfare. His little soul revolved in a jerky and contracted orbit about the party. This orbit never took him out of sight of the "party." Under good men and bad in office, under defeat and under victory, under the varying vicissitudes of fortune that his meagre political life had known for forty years, he had never gone back on the party. He had held one or two minor offices in the course of his career and was deeply grateful to the party for recognising his right to an office. But when the party ignored him and put in some other creature, Maxwell never complained. To change the figure from the satellite and the orbit to a living organism, Maxwell was like Bill Syke's dog; no matter how the party treated him, he licked its hand just the same and showed the same loyalty and affection for the party when it kicked him down stairs as when it fed him at the pie counter. In forty years Maxwell had not learned a new idea or grown an inch in political stature. He was a party man and was proud of it. His one great virtue was that he was honest. He voted regularly for all sorts of thieves and boodlers and scoundrels nominated by the party, but he had in some marvelous fashion known only to his Maker, kept himself clear of all personal bribery and political trickery.
All this Paul knew quite well, and he was not able to despise Maxwell on account of his one redeeming factor. But the slavery that had tied Maxwell body and soul all his life was so foreign to Paul's whole makeup that he could not understand it and he had to repress his natural desire to explode over Maxwell's talk. But he did manage to say quite calmly:
"Mr. Maxwell, I appreciate your plea for the party, but I don't see things as you do. While I accepted the nomination, as you say, at the hands of the party, I distinctly outlined my views at the time and made no pledges that bind me either to the party or to measures, if these measures conflict with my own sense of what is for the best interests of the people. I think the people who elected me understand that I am free to act in that way. And, frankly, that is the way I intend to act. There may be some mistakes in some of these bills. It would be strange if there wasn't. But I believe they are for the good of all the people or, of course, I would not urge them."
Maxwell shook his head doubtfully.
"This reform business has gone too far. My friends here know that. Judge Livingston can tell you how the people out his way feel."
"Yes, sir," said Livingston in a dry, machine-made manner; "Senator, the people in our district are growing restive over the reform business. They want to be let alone. We have too many laws now, laws that interfere with our personal liberty." (The judge grew eloquent.) "Laws that attempt to dictate to us what we shall eat and drink and where to go, and I for one say for my district that these continual efforts to legislate on personal matters will not only disrupt the party, but lead to a counter revolution that will surprise the so-called reform bosses of the state."
Paul looked at the judge steadily. If he could have looked at him with an X-ray eye he would have seen a small sample whisky bottle in the judge's coat pocket, one of the adjuncts of "personal liberty" the judge was defending. Not seeing that, Paul did size up the man for about what he was and answered him accordingly.
"As to legislation that affects personal liberty, these bills you say you have come to see me about deprive no man of any liberty he has a right to possess. But I am ready to confess they do deprive some persons of the liberty to steal the people's land and water power. They do aim to take away the liberty of certain food makers to poison the people, and of certain other food sellers to give the people short weight. Some of these acts are also designed to take from certain persons the liberty to demoralise youth, as for example the measure a number of us hope to get through the legislature regulating bill boards and indecent posters. For years a little company of men has insulted all the people with these public monstrosities. I am frank to say I have no scruples in depriving them of the liberty to do so any more. And as to dictating to the people what they should eat and drink, don't you think the saloon and the patent medicine men and the adulterated food makers and the dirty food sellers have been dictating to the people centuries enough, to give us some excuse for depriving them of their long monopoly to deal out sickness and death at wholesale? When you talk of 'personal liberty,' it is well to remember the fact that no man has any right to a personal liberty which results in evil to his neighbour or to society."
The judge turned very red, and was on the point of replying. But Maxwell broke in.
"This is aside from the question, Senator. The main fact you ignore. The main fact is that what you are planning to do will split the party."
Paul lost his temper.
"Let it split, then! I don't worship the party! What is the party by the side of the people?"
Maxwell looked shocked. I think he really felt as he looked. Paul could not have said anything more treasonable.
"Senator, you will regret those words. Mark me. You will regret it. One of the things I was going to say was------" Maxwell lowered his voice and looked around. "I was going to say that you have it in your power so to shape your own future that the governorship would come to you in two years, or the national senatorship. The party would be willing to reward a man like you------"
Paul exploded again. "Governorship! Senatorship!" he almost shouted while Maxwell looked apprehensively at the open door.
"Do you think I care about them as reward for political slavery?" Then he suddenly realised how useless it was to let a man like Maxwell understand.
"Gentlemen," he said good naturedly, "excuse me. The occasion does not call for excitement. I understand your purpose in coming to see me. It will save your time and mine to say that I shall not change my plans to press these bills even if the result is to disrupt the party. And you are as free to say that as I expect to be in my editorial this evening."
Maxwell nervously interrupted.
"You are committing political suicide, Mr. Douglas."
"That's better than hari kari, eh?" said Douglas with a smile.
Maxwell stared. He had heard of hari kari perhaps, but did not know whether it was the name of a new type of airship or a health food. He went away with his two friends, firmly convinced, however, that the editor of the _News_ was on the road to political destruction.
After Paul had written his editorial for the _News_ he was not certain himself that he had not really done what Maxwell predicted. He had certainly never spoken so plainly and even bluntly on the issues of the campaign, and he knew perfectly well that the Maxwell political type dominated thousands of voters, men who resent any act in politics which threatens to disarrange the smooth running of the machine. In politics it is almost as easy to raise a howl against reform as it is to raise a cry for it. There are thousands of party men in this republic who as long as they can make their bread and butter out of machine politics don't care what price the people have to pay for their bread and butter.
When Paul went home that night he did what he had done for twenty-one years. The minute he was in the hall, he said, "Esther?" with an interrogation point after the name.
Esther was upstairs in the upper hall. She replied in a subdued tone, "Yes, here I am," and Paul ran up three steps at a time to greet her. Marriage may be a failure with some people, but it certainly was not with Paul and Esther who had remained lovers all these years, simply because they had made their married life a joyful, sacred and deeply Christian compact, a genuine union of heart and head and soul. Paul wrote love letters to his wife, sent her flowers and in general courted her in much the same fashion Esther had known when Paul was a struggling reporter. And Esther kept herself bonny for his sake, entered in whole-souled fashion into his ambitions and was not afraid to debate politics with him and keep womanly. One great secret of their joyful married life was found in the perfect frankness each showed the other, and also in the blessed fact that each of them had almost a perfect physical constitution, not frayed nor tortured with nerves and sensitiveness.
The minute Paul saw Esther he knew some unusual event had occurred. Paul was quick to detect the presence of any new thing because Esther's expressive face could never hide a great secret. Paul was on the point of asking what it was when his eye was attracted by a commotion going on behind the door of a cedar linen closet at the end of the hall. There was a sudden wrenching and tearing of cloth, then a great Jovian sized laugh, the door burst open and a huge figure stepped out into the hall where Esther stood laughing hard.
"George Randall!" cried Paul, and the next minute he and his old pupil were in each other's arms.
"As big as ever," cried Paul, as he stepped back to look at his unexpected visitor.
"Bigger," said George, grinning. "Mrs. Douglas, if you'll get a needle and thread I'll mend my coat. You see, I just stepped in there to surprise you a minute and I backed up against a hook and it caught right under my collar and tore half of it off. What makes you make your closets so small?"
While Paul was overwhelming Randall with greetings and questions, and Mrs. Douglas was sewing on the medical missionary's coat collar, Randall was explaining his unexpected appearance in Milton.
"You see I've been transferred to Feu Chou Fu, the new hospital there. I've been called home by the board to help raise funds for the plant. I left so sudden I didn't have time to write you and I wasn't certain either that I would come here. But my father! Do you know about what's happened to him?"
"No," said Paul. "I knew he'd been travelling with your mother for her health, but I haven't seen either of them for two years since they went abroad the last time."
"My father is going to be a Christian! He and mother never took kindly to my going as a medical missionary, but last year they stopped to see me at Shaowu. I didn't know it at the time, but father was tremendously impressed with the missionary situation. Then over at Ponasang, father was taken ill, and what should happen to him providentially but he had to go to our hospital there. Dr. Wilder fixed up his body, and what is more he reached his soul, and father wrote me just before I left Feu Chou Fu that he had found the light after living in the dark all his life, and at the close of his letter said he and mother were on their way home to Milton and wanting to know how he could best serve the cause of Christ. I hardly slept all the way over to Vancouver for the joy of lying awake thinking of it. A cable from father reached me this morning from San Francisco, saying they would be at Milton next week. They sailed by way of Auckland and Honolulu. So I thought I might as well come and board with Mrs. Douglas and you until they arrived. You can open a can of something, and that will do for me, and I can hang myself up in the closet if you are short of beds.
"But won't father and I have a jolly time when he gets back? I won't ask him for more than half a million to start with to put into the surgical department. Poor old pater! He has never had any fun with his old money. I'm going to help him have the time of his life now spending it for Christ and the Kingdom. My! But won't we have a jolly lot of fun with that money now?"
That evening at the supper table George Randall simply fascinated the whole company with his stories of Chinese life and the victories of the gospel. Esther invited in her brothers, Walter and Louis. Felix Bauer had never seen anyone like Randall, and he sat the whole evening absorbed, listening to the recital of as marvellous a story of conquest as any to be found in the chapters of Caesar, Frederick the Great or Napoleon. And what a conquest! Not war and pillage and pitiful man's ambition for power, but conquest of that great territory called the human heart.
"My, but I wish you folks could have seen what I saw there months ago at Shantung; five thousand people stood up in a public square in front of one of the old temples, no one knows how old, and threw thousands of idols into a heap on the ground and burned them, and then sang in their own language to our tune, 'Anywhere With Jesus I Can Safely Go.' For five days, much of the time through a pouring rain, more than five thousand people met to listen to the gospel of light and life and healing. We rigged up a sort of field hospital, using part of the temple for a clinic, and Walter and Rice and Colfax and I cut off legs and arms and heads of no end of diseased folks and operated for compound cataract and every known and unknown disease, and the Lord was with us. We didn't lose a case, and you never saw or heard such sights in prosaic money-loving America. Why, those people are born again! That whole district is simply awake out of several centuries' sleep. I have the consent of the high powers in that district to negotiate over here for a lot of machinery and stuff for agricultural purposes. And those people are putting up a church at Angfu that will beat any church in Milton for work and worship. Think of that, beloved! In a country that has stood still for twenty-five centuries, worshipping the past and bowing down to nineteen thousand filthy gods, you can hear 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee' and 'All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name' sung by congregations so big that they have to meet out doors. And yet I understand from reading one or two high-browed religious magazines printed in this country that the old gospel has lost its power and that the world must have a new brand of religion of the hermetically canned variety suited to the elevated culture and new thought of the times. But the old gospel seems to do the work in China all right. At any rate it makes real men and women out of animals, and changes sinners into saints. I don't know any test of a religion bigger than that, do you?"
Paul asked one or two questions and started Randall off on an account of a missionary tour into the unexplored parts of west China. Then he spoke of the contemptuous criticism offered by a certain type of globe trotters he had met on his way home. In telling about this his great form seemed to tower up and his great head with its mild blue eyes looked sternly gigantic with righteous indignation.
"There was a bunch of naval officers coming over on the _Zarina_ with us, and some of them were quite fine fellows. But there was one officer who used to get out with the author of a book on the Eastern situation, and they would spend hours criticising the missionaries and laying the blame on them for all the Boxer troubles and the hatred of foreigners generally.
"I didn't know until later on that the reason for the distinguished author's feelings against missionaries was because some of his own personal immoralities had been rebuked by a missionary in Pao Ting Fu and he had been mad ever since.
"His friend, the naval officer (and I was thankful he didn't belong to our country), took great pride in describing his conquests with the fair sex in the different quarters of the globe where he had been on his war vessel.
"Think of that, dearly beloved! Here was a man who when he touched at a foreign port had no more exact knowledge of the work done by missionaries than the knowledge he gained from going to a high-priced ball or champagne supper held a few feet from the shore, expressing the most emphatic opinions concerning the value of a foreign missionary's life and influence! He changed his costume several times a day. And I learned from a midshipman who volunteered the information that the following comprises the regular and compulsory list of clothes a naval officer in this Christian age is obliged to possess and solemnly wear on the proper occasions. Want to hear it?"
Louis, who had of late been begging his father to let him try for a place in a naval academy, eagerly said, "Yes, tell us, Mr. Randall."
"Well, here is a list of this human being's clothes that he must, according to the naval rules, lug around the world with him:
"A double-breasted frock coat of dark navy blue cloth with a sleeve stripe of gold lace a quarter of an inch wide and a gold star, which indicates the line officer. 'Service coat of blue cloth and with the same sleeve lace and a gold foul anchor on the collar.' 'White service coat with gold shoulder marks indicating the rank.' 'Evening dress coat of blue cloth with gilt buttons and sleeve lace.' 'Blue evening dress waistcoat with gilt buttons.' 'Whiteevening dress coat.' 'White mess jacket.' 'Full dress trousers of blue cloth and gold lace a quarter-inch wide.' 'Undress blue trousers, plain.' 'White trousers and many of them.' 'Service overcoat of heavy blue cloth.' 'Cloak of blue cloth.' 'A black mackintosh.' 'Blue uniform cap.' 'White uniform cap.' 'Cork or pith helmet.' 'Sword with sword knot.' 'Leggings.' 'A suit of rain clothes.' 'Black satin or silk, four-in-hand tie.' 'Plain black tie for evening dress uniform.' 'White gloves.' 'Black shoes.' 'White shoes.'"
In the pause that followed this reading, Louis looked disappointed.
"Would I have to get all these and take care of them if I went into the navy?"
"That's right, my boy, and not only get 'em but wear 'em at the proper times. My! Think of how you would have to hustle yourself out of one suit into another in order not to break some rule of naval etiquette."
"And think of Louis," said Helen, "who can't find his clothes in the morning when he has only one suit to look after, keeping track of all that. Why, that is enough to give a girl nervous prostration, to say nothing of a boy."
"I guess I don't want to enter the navy," said Louis in disgust.
Everybody roared, and then Randall said gravely:
"Do you know, beloved, that while I pray the Lord every day to keep me from judging my fellow men, I just couldn't for the life of me help passing judgment on a civilised custom which keeps alive all this war fuss and feathers and asking men made in God's image to strut around in all this gilt and lace toggery when immortal creatures are starving to death by the million for the bread of life. And I just couldn't keep still when day after day I heard on deck this naval fashion plate girding at men and women whose plain shoes he wasn't worthy to black. One day I up and gave him some real information about missionaries. He had to listen, and when I got through, to my great joy, a plainly dressed gentleman corroborated what I said and went me several better, saying that the real awakening of China and Turkey and Japan and India was due to the great work done by the missionaries. During his talk it turned out he was the British Consul at Hong Kong, quietly travelling home by way of America. I haven't had anything do me more good in years than that little incident."
The Douglas family stayed up late that night and two nights following. Then Randall went to his father's, to the great regret of all.
Two weeks after that Felix Bauer, who was getting more out of this visit at his friend's than he had ever experienced before, went into the library and sat down by the long table. The family was scattered, Paul at his office, Esther in the kitchen, Walter visiting some old friends out at the college, Louis not yet home from his uncle's. Felix picked up a magazine and began to read. He was fairly started in a story when Helen came in. Bauer instantly arose and bowed in his slow but pleasant manner. Helen went over to a favourite seat of hers in the corner of the library and sat down, looking at Bauer earnestly.