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The High Calling/Chapter 13

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IT was an hour before sunrise at Tolchaco and Bauer had awakened from a restful sleep and from the place where he lay in the Council Hogan he noted with pure enjoyment the splendid colour of the sky framed in the opening, the exquisite blending from the pearly grey into the unpaintable, soft moving colours that he had looked at with growing awe during many wonderful mornings in July. He could not remove the impression that it was God's hand that moved over the sky, painting with an art that man's cheap imitation could never approach even in the faintest degree.

It was the morning of the day they were all to start for Oraibi to see the snake dance which was to be given in three or four days according to announcements sent out by the runners. The Douglases had come as they had planned and had been visiting at the mission now for two weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Douglas were delighted with what they saw and heard of the mission work. Walter had made a horseback trip to the Grand Canyon through the solemn dry pine forest from Flagstaff and had returned to Tolchaco in time to join the party for Oraibi. Helen had been received at once as a favourite by all the mission people, had renewed her acquaintance with Miss Gray, and had shown herself friendly, yet not too friendly, with Bauer, who had steadily gained in strength and was looking forward with great anticipation, as they all were, to the Oraibi trip.

He lay there contentedly musing in his deliberate way, for he mused as slowly as he spoke, when he was roused by a voice that came with clear accents across the 'dobe flats. He had heard it often in the early morning, but the sound of it never ceased to create in him a wondering awe and more or less bewilderment to reconcile his first thought of Elijah Clifford with other impressions that came on later. For it was Clifford's voice quietly speaking, yet in such distinct fashion that, although he was kneeling out on the edge of the 'dobe flats, what he said was plainly heard by Bauer where he lay and unless he had covered his ears he could not avoid catching the words.

"O Thou Dayspring from on high, what a glorious world we live in! Forgive us that we shut our eyes to its beauty and close our ears to its music. I thank you, God, for a good night's sleep and a good morning's wakening. Help all of us to make it a good day for one another. We think so much of ourselves, of our body's comfort, and what we shall eat and drink and be clothed withal that sometimes a whole day has gone and we no nearer the Kingdom. We've lost our way in the desert and the water all gone. We are going to start out to-day to see these poor creatures of yours go through their ancient prayer for rain. Forgive them, good God. How should they know any better. No one ever told them of a better way. And there's old Touchiniteel, poor old savage. I would give anything, most anything, to see him brought into the fold. Is he too old to be saved, Lord Jesus? Can't you save him? It's not easy, I know, but we aren't asking you to do easy things out here. Most of them are hard, but don't you like to do hard things? Isn't that what being God means? And Peshlekietsetti--he's another, I want to see him saved. And old Begwoettin. You know how the old man never told a lie in his life. And he loves his grandchildren. Why, he would die in a minute for Ansa and Riba. He can't be so very bad. Somehow I can't think of his being lost. He isn't half so bad as Jake Rambeau, the trader. And Jake's had a high school education and calls himself civilised.

"We are all in need of the Spirit's presence to-day. I want more of the presence. My heart longs to walk with the Master to-day. If the Master will be gentle with me as he was with Peter two or three times when he didn't deserve it, I would be glad. O Master, tell me your will. I need you so much, so much------"

And then the sound of the voice trailed off into a murmur indistinguishable to Bauer from where he lay. But he knew that Elijah Clifford had thrown himself full length on the ground and was pleading in his own way for the Divine presence, for victory over himself and triumph for the Kingdom in that desert, for once in the dawn when he had heard his voice, Bauer had poked a hole through the dirt over the wall of the hogan and for one moment, during which he felt almost ashamed for looking, he had seen Clifford prostrate himself thus and lie there outstretched for how long, he did not know. It did not seem right to him to look for more than a minute.

After a silence of about half an hour, during which Bauer had risen, Clifford appeared in the doorway of the hogan with his usual cheerful "Good-morning; Sehr gut?"

"Ja, sehr gut," replied Bauer. "When do we start?"

"Right after breakfast."

"How long will it take us to make the trip to Oraibi?"

"Oh, it depends on how often we lose the way. May take two days, may take three."

"Have you been there before?"

"Seen the snake dance five times."

"Is it as wonderful as they say?"

"Is it? I am just as much interested in it now as I was the first time. But the poor devils! Half of 'em don't know what their rigamarole means. And Mr. Masters thinks the government ought to put an end to it. Last time there were over a hundred tourists came up from all over the country and turned Oraibi into a sort of bargain day. The dance confirms 'em in their superstitions. But no mistake it's a wonderful sight to be going on in the U. S."

"Mr. Masters said several parties were going to come this year from Pittsburgh and New York."

"Yes. The Van Shaws are among them. I understood Miss Douglas to tell Miss Gray that one of these Van Shaws was in the same school with her brother and you. Do you know him?"

"Yes--I know who he is," said Bauer, slower than usual. He could not forget the incident that occurred in Walter's room when Van Shaw had started to relate an objectionable story and Walter had prevented him from telling it. Van Shaw's general reputation for fast and questionable habits corresponded with this incident and Bauer felt annoyed at the possibility of a chance meeting with his party.

But in the bustle of preparation for the journey, everything else was soon forgotten except the immediate interest. Bauer was not expected to do anything except get his own few travelling necessities together. But he quietly helped Mrs. Masters in a number of ways and she afterwards told Clifford that the laconic German student was the most remarkable young man she ever knew to anticipate a want and do a thing right the first time.

"Just the opposite of me," said Clifford. "I have to do a thing twice anyway to make sure, like the doctor in our old town in Vermont, who used to say that if he didn't kill with the first operation he was dead sure to cure with the next."

When the chuck wagons were all ready Bauer found to his pleasure that he was assigned to the light platform spring wagon in which Esther and Helen, together with Clifford and Mrs. Masters, were going. Mr. Masters, Miss Gray, Walter and Miss Clifford were assigned to one of the chuck wagons and Peshlekietsetti with two of the older pupils in the school and one of the younger Indians had charge of a third wagon containing the tents and the water.

The party was on the way shortly after sunrise and reached the place of the ford in about an hour. The river was very low and as the wagons went over on the rock ledge, only a few inches of water were trickling through the wheels.

"You wouldn't believe, would you, Miss Douglas, that Mr. Bauer and I had a good swim right about here a few weeks ago?"

"Oh, tell me about that," cried Helen, who with all the rest of the visitors had of course heard of Bauer's rescue, and in her heart was envious of Miss Gray for her physical prowess. But she had never been able to prevail on her to give any but the most unsatisfactory account of the rescue.

So Clifford launched into a glowing account of the affair, obliterating himself entirely and making it seem that Miss Gray was the only person present, so that Bauer had to give Helen the full account as near as he could of Clifford's part in the rescue.

"It's a wonderful land! I wish such things would happen in Milton! And, oh, look at those colours! Was anything ever like them!" Helen exclaimed as the wagons came up out of the river bed and in full view of the painted desert as it stretched out in its weird, fascinating beauty. "Oh, I just can't contain it all!"

"You remind me," said Clifford who was driving, and now gave the horses a free rein on a hard 'dobe stretch, "of a young lady who was writing letters home from her first trip abroad for the use of the county paper. She said, when she was in Venice, 'Last night I lay in a gondola in the Grand Canal, drinking it all in, and life never seemed so full before.'" Clifford winked at Bauer who was on the front seat with him, and Helen, who was not yet used to Elijah Clifford's ways, at first turned red and looked vexed, but afterwards laughed with the rest.

"Well, if your young lady was here she would have to say the same thing about all this. I never had any thought that a desert was like this. I supposed it was just nothing but sand spread out on a flat surface. But look at those flowers! Did you ever see anything more delicate for colour and form?"

"Most people think that way about the desert," said Clifford. "There are more than sixty distinct varieties of vegetation this side of the river between here and Red Stone Tank. Mr. Bauer can tell you the names of some of 'em. He has begun to make a collection."

Bauer modestly replied in answer to a question from Helen that he had classified only a few distinct species that he had found in his short strolls from the Mission. He had the book with his things at Tolchaco and would show it to her when they came back.

"I didn't know you cared for Botany," said Helen a little flippantly. "I supposed you were all absorbed in your inventions."

Bauer's face changed colour slightly.

"I have always enjoyed God's earth," he said. "Anything that grows is always more wonderful than anything that has to be made."

"I should think this would be a good place to try your incubator, it's so hot," said Helen, feeling that she had made a foolish remark, but letting it go rather than try to apologise to Bauer for her poor judgment of him.

"Oh, say, tell us about that incubator," said Clifford. "Must be a lot of money in a thing like that. I believe we could use some of 'em out here to good advantage and make something for the Mission. There's a great demand for broilers at Flagstaff, and the Harvey eating houses would give us big money for any quantity of either eggs or young chickens. If we could only educate 'em to live on sand and cactus. Trouble is, feed is so high and we're so used to eating up everything, that there ain't anything left over from meals, to give to chickens. I suppose there ain't any way to fatten chickens without feeding 'em."

When Clifford spoke of Bauer's invention as a money maker, Helen was reminded again of what she had almost forgotten, that Bauer had lost the largest part of his profits from the sale of the patent rights.

Walter had written home about Bauer's father returning a part of what he had stolen, and of Bauer's quiet acceptance of the event. Helen, as she caught the look on his face whenever he partly turned about to speak to those on the seat behind, could not help feeling a real interest in him----if only he were not so plain looking, and so serious and above all, so poor, and so destined to remain poor. No; she shut her eyes, opened them again, looked at Bauer pensively, shook her head as if in answer to a question, and then with a feeling of determination turned her attention to the remarkable land through which the party was travelling.

The sky was cloudless. The heat was dry and penetrating, and as the forenoon wore away everyone grew thirsty. The cloth covered canteens were called for often. At noon the wagons drew together and camped for dinner. Two of the wagons were driven up side by side about ten feet apart and the horses unhitched and hobbled. A spare canvas was drawn over the tops of the two wagons to make shade for the dinner party. Clifford, who acted as cook on camping out occasions, dug a hole in the sand, filled it with dowegie roots and started his fire and in what seemed an incredibly short time to the visitors from Milton a hearty meal was ready. The Indians and their helpers squatted around on rugs within the circle, Mr. Masters asked grace in a delightful tone of genuine thanksgiving and added a few words in Navajo in which Peshlekietsetti and the young Indians joined.

"This what I call the real thing," said Paul, as he helped himself to his fourth sandwich and passed his cup for the third time for coffee.

"Yes, these are real sandwiches all right," said Clifford as he turned over some pancakes which were cooking on a flat stone. "Anyone else want a hot one made by the slab artist?"

Walter expressed a desire for one and politely handed it over to Miss Gray. Clifford looked at him a moment and then at Miss Gray, who was smiling her thanks.

"How's the batter?" he said to Walter.

"Good," said Walter who seemed in unusual spirits. "It's equal to a home run with the bases all full."

"Do you think it needs to be any thicker?"

"No. It's thick enough," said Walter with his eyes on Miss Gray.

"Yes, what did I tell you," muttered Clifford to Bauer when an hour later he and the German student were alone and out of ear shot from the rest of the campers. Bauer had offered to help Clifford wash the dishes at a water hole some hundred yards from the camp. "What did I tell you? It's just as I said. Miss Gray has 'em all going. Cowboys, Indian traders, missionaries, visitors, everybody. Now it's your friend Douglas. He's a goner so soon. You watch when the wagons load up if he don't manage to sit with Miss Gray. He's lost and there's no use sending out an expedition to find him. He doesn't want to be found. And the mystery of it is Miss Gray never tries. She just simply looks at you and it's all over."

Bauer was amused and perplexed at Clifford's absolutely frank confidence. There was nothing flippant about it either. It was the simple expression of a nature that had nothing to conceal. There was not even a hint of gossip about it, nor of ill nature. In a land where there were no newspapers, telegraphs, telephones, railroads, or neighbours, it seemed like the expression of a confidence which had in it neither malice nor impertinent coarseness. And yet Bauer was puzzled to know what Clifford's real feeling was towards Miss Gray even after Clifford's own open statement made to him that day while they were sitting on the old cottonwood by the river.

When the party started on again after a two hours' rest, Clifford nudged Bauer to call attention to the fact that Walter and Miss Gray were in the back seat of the chuck wagon in front of them. But he never mentioned the matter again during the day, and until they reached the night camping place he was alive with stories and information about the desert, the Indians, the habits of the horses, the work of the Mission and the coming snake dance.

The place chosen for the first night's camp was the Red Stone Tanks. This consisted of a pool of tepid water and a few rocks, from the crevices of which a straggling fringe of desert cedars was trying to grow.

Camp was made here by pitching one of the big tents for the women. A big fire of roots was started after the supper had been eaten, and when they were all seated in the circle about the fire, Mr. Masters began a story.

Gradually as he went on with the old, old story of the lost sheep, figures stole up around the fire. Paul, who with Esther and all the rest was simply fascinated with the entire surroundings, although he did not understand a word Masters was speaking, was startled as he looked around and saw a dozen dark faces of young men and boys. They had risen out of the desert barrenness and gloom, the sudden twilight, and silently appeared. When the camp was chosen there was not a hogan or a living creature anywhere in sight. But all of these quiet visitors knew that the mission party was on the way to Oraibi and some of them had been riding all day to meet Mr. and Mrs. Masters at this point.

When the story was finished, Miss Gray started a hymn, "The Ninety and Nine." She sang with a low soft voice, almost talking the words, but old Peshlekietsetti sitting by Mr. Clifford bent over his knees gravely watching the singer's face and listening intently for every word, and when she was through, he asked a question of Mr. Masters.

"The old man wants to know," said Masters after one or two more questions had been asked, "how it happened that the sheep got lost and if it was its own fault or the fault of someone who should have been looking after it. That isn't a bad question to come from the old fellow. His theology isn't half so much at fault as that of some theological seminary professors I know, who teach that sin is nothing but a disease and that nobody in particular is to blame for it. If he had to live out here awhile instead of in his little upholstered study at the seminary, he would change his definition."

The evening was spent about the fire with songs and conversation, largely between Paul and Mr. Masters concerning the Navajo characteristics. The last thing Bauer could remember as he lay under his rug looking up at the stars, was the sight of old Peshlekietsetti throwing a handful of dry roots on the fire as he sat bowed over his knees, the fire flame gleaming red on his grave and dignified face.

He wakened early, as he had of late been doing, and sat up, noting the sleeping figures in a circle about the ashes of the fire, and as his look travelled on past them he noted out by the edge of the Black Gorge through which they were to travel that day, a solitary figure sitting on one of the curious rocks that framed a sort of gateway to the diminutive canyon. Even at that distance he could distinguish the form of Elijah Clifford, although he had already noticed that Clifford's rug and rubber blanket, which had been spread out by his own, had been folded up and tied ready for the day's trip.

Before the rest of the sleepers had stirred, Clifford came back to the spot and began with the noiseless rapidity of an Indian to build the fire in the sand preparatory to the breakfast, talking in a soft voice to Bauer, as if Bauer had asked him a question, although Bauer had not said a word except "Good-morning," when Clifford cheerfully greeted him.

"You see, I used to work on a daily paper in Kansas City before I was converted and it seems to me now that I spend most of my time trying to catch up with the day after to-morrow. I never had any leisure, never went to church, never opened a Bible and never talked with myself. Since I came out here I've had the time of my life in not only talking with myself but------" He glanced at Bauer wistfully as he put some stones around the hole and set his coffee pot down on the sand, "but I never saw such a place as a desert to find God. It seems as if this was the place to find him. You know Moses and Elijah and David and Paul and John and lots of men found God in the wilderness. I suppose you could find him while working for a daily paper, but He didn't seem to have much to do with the one I was on. At any rate I never found Him there. That's the reason I like to get up early. There's a time in the morning between four and five out here, when it appears to me God has more time to tend to individuals. Most everybody is asleep soundest about that time and He can pay attention better to the comparatively few folks that don't need so much rest."--Elijah said it as if to apologise for the habits of the rest of the party and Bauer could not help smiling at his note of evident haste not to take too much credit to himself for early rising. "I thought maybe you might kind of wonder at my ways, and think maybe I got up to write poetry or some such stuff. I believe you understand, eh?"

"I believe I do," said Bauer gravely. "And I appreciate your confidence. I know what it means to try to find God in a crowd. I think that is one reason Jesus had to leave the multitude and go out into the desert places."

"Yes," said Clifford, sitting down on the sand and putting his coffee pot on a stone. "I didn't mention Him. I thought you would remember that yourself."

This little glimpse into Elijah Clifford's personality did Bauer a world of good and strengthened a growing liking for him which led in the process of time, as this story goes on, to some very important results in Bauer's life.

The day promised to be unusually hot and it was Masters's plan to get through the Black Gorge canyon early, as it was famous for its stifling heat and dust storms later in the day. So camp was broken immediately after breakfast and the wagons were soon loaded with the bedding and dishes and the journey resumed in the same order, so far as the travellers were concerned, as before. Mr. Masters, who knew the trail at the other end of the gorge better than anyone else, went first with Mrs. Masters, Miss Clifford, Miss Gray and Walter and Clifford with Mr. Douglas, Mrs. Douglas, Helen, and Bauer followed, Peshlekietsetti and the heavy wagon trailing along in the rear.

Just as they were entering the Gorge, Clifford turned and looked back towards the camp. Out across the Red Rock elevation he pointed out three black specks. Looking at them through the mission field glass, a former gift from Mr. Douglas, he announced them to be probably three wagons with tourists from Canyon Diablo bound for the snake dance.

"May be your friend from Pittsburgh, Van Shaw, is in that outfit," he said to Bauer.

Bauer did not reply. He hoped Van Shaw would not meet Walter or any of their party. There was no reason why he should, but every time he thought of Van Shaw he felt uncomfortable, something in him rose up nearest to a feeling of hate and disgust he had ever known.

Clifford faced around and resumed the driving. He noted as he turned into the opening that Peshlekietsetti had stopped just outside to strap on one of the water barrels more securely, but seeing that he did not ask for any help he drove on into the Gorge.

The Gorge was weirdly irregular and the windings of the road were so many that very soon the wagons were all separated from view of one another.

In this volcanic land one could not account for the fantastic and even monstrous shapes of cliff and ledge and overhanging rock masses without calling up some gigantic upheaval of all nature's vast play of forces; earthquakes, fire, volcano, flood, wind, sand spouts of enormous height and velocity, one after the other all these elemental storms must have rocked and heaved and rent and tortured the earth and after all had passed by, the hurricane of volcanic fire and missiles must have scattered the debris of high mountains twisted into lumps of matter, varying in size from a sky scraper to a comma.

It began and ended abruptly, as if in a freak of the upheaval a tornado had picked up the end of a canyon somewhere, turned it over several times in transit and finally dropped it bottom side up on the desert, breaking it open when it fell and letting the fragments bump around like the pounded rock in a concrete mixer.

In among these boulders Elijah Clifford guided the team, exercising all his skill, for one of the horses was partly mustang, full of unused energy, and Mr. Masters had chosen the trip to Oraibi to give the animal some necessary training, trusting in Clifford's love of horses and his special characteristic of carefulness to avoid any accidents. And all would have gone well if the unforeseen and unavoidable had not occurred.

They were almost out of the gorge and Clifford had started to reply to a question of Paul's concerning the nature of the rocks which were different in colour on one side of the canyon from the other, when the mustang shied in a perfectly excusable manner at a cedar stump which hung out from a ledge so close that it almost scraped the frightened animal. Before Clifford could get the team back into the narrow road the front wheel struck a big stone. The jolt flung the pole with a jerk against the mustang. He reared up and slewed around, unhitching one of his tugs. Even then Clifford might have saved the situation if one of the reins had not broken. But when that snapped it was a hopeless task. Before any of the party knew what to do the now maddened team was thrashing up the gorge. The result was only a question of the law, if there is any, of accidents. Nobody ever knew just what did happen in detail. Paul and Esther said afterwards that they jumped, although they had always said they never would jump out of a runaway wagon. Helen clung terrified to her seat until the hind wheel on her side of the wagon was splintered and the wagon box fell down and she found herself flung up against the bank. Clifford jumped for one of the horse's backs, hoping to stop them by reaching their bridles, but his foot caught on the dashboard and he fell, just missing the wheels as he rolled down the trail. Bauer was the only one to remain in the wagon. Just as Clifford made his unsuccessful leap the tongue snapped. The horses tore themselves loose from the wrecked wagon and swept in a frenzy of fear through the gorge, banging the fragments of tongue, whiffletrees and harness about them, and what was left of the wagon came to a stop between two big boulders, with Bauer clinging to the front seat with white strained face wondering if the rest of them were all killed.

Clifford picked himself up and came limping along to where Paul and Esther were sitting. He was all right himself excepting a few minor bruises and was overjoyed to find that Mr. and Mrs. Douglas had escaped serious injury. But when the three of them came to Helen they found her almost in a swoon.

"I think I sprained my ankle," she said with a faint attempt at a smile.

"Thank God we are not all killed!" exclaimed Esther, but before she could say another word Helen had fainted. Her father and mother were busy over her, Bauer had run up with a water canteen and Clifford was ruefully regarding the wreck of the wagon when the sound of wheels was heard.

"There's Peshlekietsetti," he said. "We'll have to put Miss Helen in the chuck wagon. But how on earth are we going to get to Oraibi now?"

A large wagon turned the bend and the driver pulled up sharply. It was not Peshlekietsetti, but the tourist party from Canyon Diablo. Bauer, as he anxiously stood by Mrs. Douglas trying to restore Helen, was conscious that a group of astonished and interested tourists had climbed down from the wagon and had come up to the scene of the accident. As he looked up he saw Van Shaw and heard him say, "Why, hello, Bauer! Didn't expect to see you here. Had bad accident, haven't you? Anything we can do to help?"