The High Calling/Chapter 17
"WHAT does your son want to say to my daughter?" asked Esther. The thought of a dramatic interview between them was exceedingly distasteful to her.
"I don't know," said Mrs. Van Shaw guardedly. "He has been begging me to come and see you. Oh, he is very ill!" and at that the mother in her, mistaken and distorted though it were, in her training of the boy, broke down and she began to sob.
Esther was moved at the sight, and after a moment she said gently, "We are all so sorry for you, Mrs. Van Shaw. The shock of it all must have been terrible for you."
"I am just about prostrated by it. Mr. Van Shaw is expected to-day. He was in New York when the news reached him. But it surely is not asking anything improper to ask Miss Douglas to see my boy before you leave. We shall be obliged to remain here in this dreadful place until the doctor says Ross can be moved."
"Will you see him?" asked Esther, turning to Helen, and speaking quietly.
"Yes, I am willing to go," replied Helen in a very low voice. She dreaded and at the same time courted the interview. It had just the tinge of dramatic setting in it that appealed to her highly romantic imagination. She did not know what he wanted to say to her and she was not in the least prepared for the interview. But it seemed to her that it would be a piece of foolish affectation to refuse his request and especially since she would in all probability not have any occasion to meet him again.
Esther went out of the tent and in a few words told Paul of Mrs. Van Shaw's visit and its object. Helen would have to be carried over to the government farmer's house. Clifford called up two of the Indians and with their help, he and Paul carried Helen over. Bauer, who was hardly yet fit to sit up, but had already climbed into his place in one of the chuck wagons, saw the whole thing from where he sat, and again his mind went into a whirl with jealousy and anger. If Helen's mother had told her of Van Shaw's character, how could the girl, in spite of all that, go and see him now? It seemed to him like an indication of something coarse and low in Helen's nature, something which contradicted his pure thought of her. He could not understand it, and being ignorant of the fact that Helen was going in response to Mrs. Van Shaw's request, he brooded miserably over the whole affair and sat there gazing gloomily at the little stone house into which the group with Helen had gone.
Paul and Clifford and the Indians soon came out and went on completing their preparations for the departure.
Meanwhile, in the little room where Ross Van Shaw lay, tortured in mind and body, a remarkable scene was being enacted.
There was just room close by the door for the cot on which Helen was sitting, and the moment she was placed there, she was aware of Van Shaw's face staring at her. The sight of it shocked her almost to the verge of hysterics. She instantly controlled herself as she quickly noted the fact that both her mother and Mrs. Van Shaw were watching her.
"I wanted to see you before you went away," Van Shaw was saying, and his voice sounded very weak and a long ways off to Helen as she saw the tremble of his hands and the uncertain glance he cast at her, so sharply different from his previous bold and positive attitude towards her.
"We are so sorry for you," said Helen. "It was a miracle you were not killed."
"Yes. Thanks to Mr. Clifford, mother tells me. I want to thank him before he goes. Mother, won't you ask him to come in?"
"Yes, Ross. But do you think you can bear all this excitement? I am afraid it will be too much for you." The government farmer's wife, who was acting as nurse, added a word of objection.
"No, it won't," he said irritably. "I want to see him. Didn't you tell me he saved my life? I ought at least to thank him for it."
"I'll tell him, yes I will!" Mrs. Van Shaw spoke in the hurried, anxious tone of one who feared a scene if she refused his request.
"Tell him now, then mother. Ask him to come in now."
"I will. I will." Mrs. Van Shaw rose and went out of the room, leaving Mrs. Douglas and Helen staring at Van Shaw and wondering how he had not heard the news of his rescue by Bauer.
Van Shaw turned his look again towards Helen. And she saw then, even in her agitation, that he was moved by the excitement of his fever. As a matter of fact, the doctor, when he came the next day, was in a towering rage with Mrs. Van Shaw over what he called her insane yielding to the request of a delirious patient.
"I wanted to see you, Miss Douglas, before you went and warn you about that German fellow Bauer. He's been telling you stories about me, and trying to butt into my affairs and I just won't stand for it. You ought to know that his father and mother are in disgrace over a great scandal------"
Esther could not bear any more. She stood up and started to speak, just as Mrs. Van Shaw came hurrying in with Elijah Clifford. Helen was looking at Van Shaw with a different look from that which she had given him when she entered. It seemed as if a veil had been suddenly torn away from the girl's face and she was seeing something clearly which she had seen only dimly heretofore.
Before Esther could say what was on her lips, Van Shaw had gone on. But it was evident to all of them now that he was becoming delirious.
"Bauer hasn't any business to butt into my affairs. He's a sneaking cur. I won't stand for it. I'll get even with him. I'll tell Miss Douglas about his family. She'll never look at him again after that. I'll cook his job."
Mrs. Van Shaw looked uncertainly from one face to another.
"Here's Mr. Clifford, Ross. You wanted to see him."
"Clifford! Clifford!" Van Shaw turned his burning eyes on Clifford, who stood at the end of the bed gravely looking at him, and for a moment the delirium cleared and he spoke quietly.
"Oh! I wanted to thank you for pulling me up that cliff. It was a mighty brave thing to do and I won't forget it."
Elijah Clifford was not a cultured man as the word is ordinarily used, but he was more than that. He "sensed" things. He knew what to do in awkward situations. He did not know what had been said before he came but he saw in one swift glance that matters were in a delicate and critical state. He also saw in a moment what Van Shaw's condition was. He was not in a mental attitude to be reasoned with. So Clifford walked quietly up to the bedside, put one of his strong, firm hands on Van Shaw's trembling fingers as he had clasped them together and said:
"If I had anything to do with helping to save your life, I am very thankful the good God used me. But your mother will tell you when you get well enough to hear it that you owe your life, not to me, but to a braver man, Felix Bauer. I can't help hoping--" Elijah said it with an indescribable accent of tenderness--"that when you get well again, you will make the most of your life to the glory of God!"
For a moment Van Shaw looked up at Clifford in a bewildered manner, but as if he partly understood. Then he turned his head towards Helen and his glance wandered uncertainly about the room. Then he burst into a delirious laugh.
"Bauer saved me! That sneaking cur! Why, he pushed me over the cliff! I'll get even with him! Butting into my affairs! I won't stand for it. His father and mother------"
But Helen could not bear any more. She had cowered down when Van Shaw spoke the first word. Now she whispered to her mother, "Take me out, mother, I cannot bear it."
Clifford simply said to Mrs. Van Shaw:
"We had better go, Mrs. Van Shaw. If you and the nurse need any help, call us."
He took hold of one end of the litter and Mrs. Douglas took the other and they carried Helen out. Before they were out of hearing, Van Shaw was cursing and swearing in a torrent of words that made Helen cover her ears as she lay back on the cot sobbing from the nervous strain she had been bearing.
Clifford and Paul and the Indians finished the work of breaking up camp and in half an hour the party was ready to leave Oraibi. Esther had asked Clifford to wait until she went over to enquire if she could do any more for Mrs. Van Shaw, when she met her coming out of the house.
"No, there is nothing you can do," she said, in answer to Mrs. Douglas's inquiry. "Ross was always that violent whenever he had a fever. Ever since he was little, he has been the same. It is dreadful what words he will use when he is out of his head. But I cannot let Mr. Clifford go until I know the truth about the German, Bauer. If he saved Ross, Mr. Van Shaw would not forgive me if--if we didn't do something for him. But I have been so confused during all this dreadful affair that I haven't really known how it all happened. I want to see Mr. Bauer, if you can wait a little."
Mrs. Van Shaw was agitated and tearful. Esther could easily see in her a naturally good natured, kind hearted woman, with a superficial education, who had ruined her children by unlimited indulgence of all their selfish habits, A woman who had been brought up to believe that the greatest of all things in the world is success in getting money and ingenuity in spending it. With all the rest she was a woman of some direct force of character which, in times of crisis as at the present moment, asserted itself with considerable positiveness.
She came up to the wagons and spoke to Clifford first.
"Mr. Clifford, before you go, I want to know the truth about the rescue of Ross from that fall. I know you told me about Mr. Bauer, but I wasn't clear about it. Mr. Van Shaw would never forgive me if I didn't get the thing straight. He is very particular. And of course, I naturally am deeply interested in knowing what occurred."
"There is Mr. Bauer, madam," said Clifford gravely. "You had better ask him about it."
Bauer was in the same wagon with Mr. and Mrs. Douglas and Helen. On the return trip, in the absence of Mr. Masters, Paul was driving the chuck wagon which had been reloaded so as to allow room for Helen's cot in the rear end of it.
Mrs. Van Shaw went over to the wagon and began to ask Bauer questions.
"Is it true that you went down after my son before Mr. Clifford came?"
"In the dark?"
"There are no lights on the edge of the rock."
"Did you see him lying there below?"
"I saw something that looked like a body."
"How far below was it?"
"I don't know. I hadn't time to measure."
"Mr. Clifford said something to me about finding you clinging to Ross's arm. Why were you doing that if he was lying on the ledge?"
"He had turned over and was rolling off."
"Then you were holding his arm------"
"Until help came. Then Mr. Clifford pulled him back over the edge."
Mrs. Van Shaw paused. Then she said abruptly:
"My son says you pushed him over the cliff."
"How dreadful!" a voice broke in and there was Helen, Her cheeks on fire, sitting up confronting Mrs. Van Shaw.
"I know, Miss Douglas, he spoke in his delirium. But what were you doing out there together? Why should you and Ross be there?" she said, turning again to Bauer, who, when confronted with Van Shaw's charge, had turned pale and clenched his fingers deep into his palms.
"I cannot tell you why we were there. I did not push him over the cliff. The edge of it where he stood, crumbled and he went down."
"Why were you there with him? Can't you tell me that?"
"I would rather not."
Mrs. Van Shaw looked uncertainly from one to another. There was a mystery here. She was too much of a woman of the world not to know, and indeed, her son had plainly told her that he was infatuated with Miss Douglas, but what had this obscure German invalid to do with it? In the midst of all her questions, Helen broke in.
"Mrs. Van Shaw, do you realise that Mr. Bauer risked his life to save your son? What he said about being pushed over the cliff is a fearful thing to say even in delirium. Surely you can't believe that, after knowing that Mr. Bauer went down the cliff to save him."
She spoke with a passionate eagerness that was an expression of one of the splendid traits of her personality,--a genuine love of justice. Poor Bauer hardly realised that she was defending him, but he said to himself even then that he had never seen her beauty flame out so magnificently. And then before Mrs. Van Shaw could reply to Helen, he said to the astonishment of all in the breathless group:
"I ought to confess to you, Mrs. Van Shaw, that just before your son fell over the cliff, I had a feeling of hatred for him so strong that I--I--think I had murder in my heart. I don't pretend to deny that I came the nearest that night to being a murderer in feeling that I ever came. But I was at least six feet away. I never put my hands on him. His fall was a pure accident. May I add that the moment he fell, my hatred seemed to leave me, and I had no thought except to try to save him."
Mrs. Van Shaw stared at Bauer in astonishment. She had never met anyone in her circle of acquaintances who possessed such transparent honesty. But she was a woman who, with all her faults, had some rugged sense of honour and was more than an ordinary judge of character. She came up to Bauer closer and put out her hand.
"Mr. Bauer," she said frankly, "I believe what you say. And I can't let you leave without expressing my great thanks for your brave act. Ross must have been talking in his delirium. But you know--I remember one German proverb in my schoolgirl exercises--'Jeder Mutter Kind ist schon?' 'Every mother thinks her own child beautiful.' And I couldn't understand how Ross could make such a statement. But why should you have such a hatred for my poor boy?"
The question was one Bauer could not very well answer, and he did not even speak a word. Mrs. Van Shaw looked at Mrs. Douglas and Helen. Helen's cheeks burned. Mrs. Van Shaw was a woman of the world and she thought she understood some of the reason for Bauer's silence and Helen's confusion. But she was also convinced that something more than a jealous rivalry between two young men must account for the depth of feeling on the German student's part.
She did not ask her question again but gravely said to Bauer as she turned to go, "Mr. Van Shaw will want to express his thanks to you. What will your address be?"
"I suppose I shall be at Tolchaco this fall and winter. I would rather not have you or Mr. Van Shaw feel under any obligation to me at all. Mr. Clifford certainly did much more than I did. If he had not gone down there, your son would not be living."
"We shall thank Mr. Clifford also. And we shall not forget either of you."
She went back into the little stone house and a few minutes later, Clifford and Paul had the horses headed down by the Oraibi Wash, bound for Tolchaco.
All through that day's drive Helen Douglas hardly said a word, even to her mother. She was going over the strange experiences which had become a part of her life since she had come into this desert land. The scenes at Oraibi would never become dim in her memory, and especially those which had occurred during the last two days.
Her probing of her feelings in the analysis she was somewhat fond of making of herself resulted in a complete reversion of her attitude towards Ross Van Shaw. She said to herself she dated that change of thought from his words and actions that morning, and especially on account of his brutal attempt to "get even," as he said, with Bauer. Even allowing a great deal for his action as due to his mental and physical condition, the whole thing, Helen now felt sure, was an indication of his general character. He had been caught for a little while off his guard, and in that time, Helen had seen him as he was. And the vision she had caught of his perverted heart and mind was not a pleasant vision. She even shuddered at herself as, with burning face, she recalled how near she had come, on such brief and slight acquaintance, to giving herself to such a life, lured in great part by the glamour of that golden mirage into which so many of earth's brave and beautiful souls have hastened, only to find its sparkling waters to be nothing but dust and its promise of luscious delights of the senses, nothing but the dead sea fruit of bitter disappointment.
It should be said in all honest judgment of Helen's experiences at this time, that the girl's final rejection of all thought of Van Shaw (who, before she had reached Milton, passed out of her history), was due to more than the revulsion she felt over his words in the little stone house at Oraibi. It was due as much to her mother's counsel, and in fact, to the entire atmosphere of a healthy, happy home life which she had always known, and in which Esther had trusted for the final outcome of Helen's choices. So that what seemed to her at that time to be a sudden act due to an accidental revelation of character, was, as a matter of fact, due to a life long training in a home which had established in the fibre of its whole system, underlying principles of right thinking and pure living.
When, a few days later, word came to Tolchaco that Ross Van Shaw had recovered sufficiently to be taken home and that he would probably suffer no permanent crippling from his fall, Helen found herself simply in a mild way glad to know the fact, but that was all, and Van Shaw faded out of her mind even more quickly than he had blossomed into it.
All through this first day's travel towards the mission, Felix Bauer was also going through some tumult of feeling over the events that had made history since the party had left the mission.
He was sore at heart over much that had taken place and could not reconstruct his former image of Helen as at heart a maidenly, dignified girl, worthy of the most exalted worship. He said to himself that even after she must have known from her mother what Van Shaw was, she had gone to see him, to say good-bye, to encourage him, to--his mind could find no excuse for her and do what he would, he felt himself growing more and more distressed over it.
Mrs. Douglas was a very wise woman and Bauer's trouble did not escape her notice. She understood the reason for it, but it was only at the close of the day, during the preparations for the night camp, that she found an opportunity to speak to Bauer alone.
"Felix," she said, using his first name as she had begun to do of late, to Bauer's quiet pleasure, "I know what is troubling you now. But Helen did not go over to see Van Shaw of her own wish. She went because his mother came over and brought a request from him to see Helen. No, I don't think you need to know what was said there in our presence. It ought to be enough for you to know that I am quite sure Helen has passed the place of her infatuation, if indeed she has gone so far as to yield to such a feeling. I could not let you imagine that Helen was really lacking in real maidenly conduct."
Bauer's face shone with delight. "Oh, thank you, Mrs. Douglas! I have been doing her injustice all day. You have no idea how relieved I feel. And I have been sitting in judgment on everybody. Oh, if I were a monk now, like one of my ancestors, I would lash myself bloody. What a fool I must be to think I have a right to judge others as I have. And I have let hatred and malice and revenge creep into my soul at the thought of Van Shaw. I don't see how God can forgive me."
"He has forgiven a good many worse men than you, Felix," said Mrs. Douglas, smiling at him. "Don't lose any sleep over that."
Felix Bauer slept like a child that night and as his habit was he wakened early and as he sat up and saw the figure of Elijah Clifford kneeling out on the sand, the same thought of God's benignant presence occurred to him which the same sight had roused in him before. Clifford rose and came in to make the usual preparations for breakfast.
"I have been praying for Ansa. By this time the folks must have got there if the river is not in flood. We haven't had any runner bring bad news. I don't know what I'd do if Ansa should be taken. It would just about break Miss Gray's heart too. She thinks everything of that child. She says she is going to train her to be a great teacher for her people."
Bauer expressed his sympathy and asked if there was a good doctor to come over to the mission from Flagstaff.
"Yes. Or it's possible Doctor West will be there from Raymond. He sometimes pays us a visit about this time of the year. My! Wouldn't it be providential if he should come along for Ansa. And he could dissect you at the same time and like as not find out that your hemorrhages don't come from your lungs, and that you haven't got consumption any more than I have. The doctors sometimes make mistakes in their diagnoses you know. Would you feel bad to learn that you didn't have tuberculosis after all?"
"I believe I would be able to bear the news if it was broken to me gently."
"But maybe Miss Helen wouldn't pity you so much, eh?"
"I don't want to be pitied."
Clifford looked up from his fire approvingly at Bauer.
"You're right, my son. Pity from a girl when you want something else from her is like apple pie minus the apple. It's pretty dry fodder. But say," Elijah abruptly changed the topic of talk, "What about Walter Douglas? He's a likely fellow, isn't he? Bound to make his mark, isn't he?"
Bauer stared a little, not knowing why Clifford was asking the question.
"Yes, Walter is going to surprise everyone with his talents one of these days."
"And he's a good fellow morally and all that I suppose?"
"He certainly is. I don't know a better. Anyone that has such a mother as Mrs. Douglas can't help being good."
Clifford was silent while he adjusted various utensils around the fire.
"Yes, Mrs. Douglas is an angel. Mr. Douglas will never have to buy an aeroplane for her. She's got her own wings. And some day they'll carry her right up to heaven." Then, after another pause:
"How old is Walter?"
"How old should you take Miss Gray to be?"
Bauer was surprised at the question.
"I don't know. I am a poor hand at guessing."
"I know, because she told me. She is twenty-eight. How old would you take me to be?"
"I have no idea."
"I'm just thirty next Thanksgiving. When I was born in Vermont thirty years ago turkeys were only eight cents a pound. Now they are twenty-six and we can't raise 'em out here at any price on account of the cost of feed. I'd give most anything for a good plateful of turkey with stuffing and fixin's. But there's lots of things in this world we can't have. We must learn to get along on mutton and pancakes and canned ginger bread. Such is life."
It seemed to Bauer that Clifford was a little sober over his philosophy. But during the day he was jolly and high spirited, keeping the whole company at concert pitch with his stories and fun. But through it all ran a thread of sombre hue as the thought of Ansa obtruded.
When the river was reached the party anxiously scanned its muddy stretch to see if it was too high to ford. Big rains had come down from the mountains during their absence from the mission and the banks were pressing full. Elijah, however, thought it safe to make the ford, and after a somewhat exciting and perilous passage they got across and by night of that day were at the Mission where they were joyfully welcomed by the mission workers and the news that Dr. West had come in two days before, and had declared Ansa out of danger and rapidly recovering. After supper Mr. and Mrs. Masters, Miss Clifford, Miss Gray and Elijah, the Douglases and Bauer, and Dr. West met in the school room and held a Thanksgiving service. The last thing that night that Bauer was conscious of was the memory of Elijah Clifford's prayer. He had never heard anything to equal it for tenderness and exaltation of feeling.
The Douglases were to leave for Milton in three days. The last day of their stay at the Mission Helen was sitting on the old cottonwood log by the river when Miss Gray came down and sat by her, going over some of the desert experiences.
After a while Helen said: "We have not had any opportunity to talk over the matter I mentioned at Oraibi. I don't think it's necessary now."
Miss Gray looked very much pleased.
"I am more than relieved to hear you say that. If I had thought there was any danger to you--I would have warned you--I did not realise that there was any------"
"There was, for a little while," Helen said in a low voice, not looking up. "It has passed."
"Anything I could say now would only revive a painful memory. Only, I feel as if out of justice to what your mother may have said to you I ought to confirm it. Helen--if you had come to such an impossible act as becoming the wife of Ross Van Shaw, it would have been the ruin of your life. I must say this--Van Shaw was engaged to my sister during his first year at Burrton. She is remarkably like you in many ways. A great lover of wealth and luxury. Van Shaw broke her heart by his conduct. Let us not say any more. I did not mean to say this much." Miss Gray exhibited an agitation that Helen had never seen in her before. "You need not fear for me any more," Helen said earnestly. "I begin to see more and more the danger I was in. I am thankful to escape."
She began to tell Miss Gray about the meeting between Mrs. Van Shaw and Bauer. That led naturally to enthusiastic comments on the bravery of Bauer and Clifford.
"Your brother Walter said when he left for Milton the day of our arrival here that he would have given anything to have had the courage to do what Bauer did."
"It seems to me that Mr. Clifford was just as brave."
"Yes, only he insists that he had a lantern and that he was greatly helped when he got down on the ledge by having the lantern to brace his feet against. Did you ever see anyone so absurd or so--brave--as Elijah Clifford?"
"No, unless it is yourself."
Miss Gray blushed.
"I am not brave. I am a coward in many ways. Why, I am down here because I delight to do this work. It is no cross for me. And--in other ways I am a coward. And--I am very proud. Tell me, Helen, do you think of Elijah Clifford as--as an illiterate man? Does he seem to you like--like an ignorant person?"
Helen was astonished at the question and could not help noticing her friend's embarrassment.
"No. It has always seemed to me that Mr. Clifford was a remarkably intelligent and refined character for one who had never had a college education. I would never think of him as illiterate or ignorant. He uses beautiful language. I have never heard such English as he uses in his prayers. And he is a good linguist. I heard Mr. Masters say only this morning that he didn't know what he would do without Clifford's help in translation."
Miss Gray looked pleased, but her face glowed in anticipation of what she was about to say.
"Helen, I am going to confide in you. There is no one here at the mission I want to share with me in this and--and--I feel as if I wanted to talk with you about it. Mr. Clifford has asked me two different times to be his wife, and each time I have refused. And each time it was not because I did not respect and admire him, but because I thought I did not love him and most of all because I felt superior to him in education. I have been to college. It seemed to me as if I should be marrying beneath my rank if I were to be his wife. Do you think I should?"
"Should what? Be his wife?"
Lucy Gray blushed and laughed.
"You know what I meant. Should I make a mistake in marrying him or does it seem to you that I should run the risk of being disappointed in him all the time simply because I am college bred and he is not?"
"No," said Helen frankly. "I believe Mr. Clifford is the kind of man to satisfy you in that respect. He is studying all the time. Have you noticed he has learned an astonishing lot of German from Baeur since he came? I believe he can almost read Hermann and Dorothea now." Helen said it with a significant emphasis which made Miss Gray blush again. And then she added--"Lucy, you said you thought you did not love him and that was the reason you said no. Have you changed your mind?"
"Yes. Oh, I can't help myself! Let me tell you. That night at Oraibi when I first knew that Elijah had gone down there to rescue Bauer and Van Shaw I learned how much he meant to me. I believe I would have gone there myself if Mr. Masters and your father had not been quick witted enough to take the rope the workmen had left out there by the great rock cistern, the first one in all Oraibi. When the three men were pulled up you remember Mr. Clifford was the last. I know that I pulled with the others, but I believe I never thought of either Bauer or Van Shaw. All I cared for was Elijah. I blistered my hands, see!" She opened her palms for Helen to look. "But I never told anyone. And even when he was telling that night about it, I seemed to see him slipping, slipping over that horrible ledge and I just couldn't help actually putting out my hand to draw him back. They say that college graduate young women don't know how to fall in love and that they don't get married because young men are afraid of them, they are so prim and intellectual and superior, but, oh, Helen, I am almost ready to propose to Elijah myself. I love him so much. Isn't that dreadful for a schoolma'am and a college graduate, and especially after she has refused him twice? What would he say?"
"I think he would say yes," replied Helen, delighted to be the confidant in this desert romance.
"I didn't mean that. I mean what would he say if he knew what I have been confessing to you? I would lose his respect."
"And gain his love," laughed Helen. "Lucy, I don't believe it is all hopeless. And you don't need to fear that you are too intellectually superior to Mr. Clifford. After you are married you will find that he will go on developing mentally."
"He is my superior now in nearly every true thing," said Miss Gray. The blush was still on her cheek and the love light in her eye. At that moment she was recalled to the mission building by one of the children. As she left Helen she said to her, "I trust you to respect my confidence."
Helen sat on the old cottonwood, her eyes on the river, her thoughts musing over her friend's story. She was so absorbed in it that she did not notice Bauer until he was near the end of the log.
"Oh!" she said a little nervously and then quickly, "Won't you sit down? This seems to be the only seat in the park."
Bauer sat down gravely and Helen asked him politely how he was feeling.
Bauer's face lightened so that for a second he looked almost handsome.
"That is partly what I came down to tell you. Dr. West has given me a very careful examination. He says any hemorrhages are not permanent. There is no reason, he says, why I may not entirely recover, even to the extent of going back to school again."
"Will you go back soon?"
"No, he advises me to stay here this winter. I can help Mr. Masters with the trading, handling the rugs that are sold for profit for the mission work. I begin to feel quite strong again."
He sat there silently watching the thick muddy flow of the stream. His face in repose was almost stern. Helen glanced at it timidly and could hardly realise that she was sitting so near to a real hero, one who had risked his life to save an enemy.
"I haven't ever told you, Mr. Bauer, what admiration I feel for your act that night, I think it was the most courageous thing I ever knew."
Bauer turned his head and looked full at her. His eyes were, as Helen had once said, the most splendid she had ever seen. This time they looked at her with a calm sadness that compelled her own to waver and finally to drop.
"Loben ist nicht lieben," said Bauer firmly. It was the nearest he had ever come to declaring himself, in words. And Helen was the most deficient girl, Walter always said, when it came to languages. She did not know German and did not care to learn. Miss Gray had laughed at her more than once on account of her obtuseness. So Helen now, with some heightened colour, said as she raised her eyes.
"What does that mean?"
"Loben ist nicht Lieben," repeated Bauer.
"Won't you translate it?" asked Helen petulantly. "You know I never understood German."
"I--can't," said Bauer. And to Helen's surprise, he abruptly got up and walked away.
"Loben ist nicht lieben," she softly murmured. "I'll ask Lucy what it means. But he needn't have gone so. He has no manners. I do not think he is nice."
That night after supper she found Miss Gray alone in the school room.
"Lucy, what does this German mean. As near as I can pronounce it, it sounds like this. 'Loben ist nicht lieben'?"
"Say it again."
Helen repeated the sentence.
"Oh! Why, it sounds like 'praising is not loving.' Where did you hear it?"
"Oh, I heard it. I wondered what it meant. You know I don't care for German."
"Nor for _the_ German?" Miss Gray ventured.
"Nor for _the_ German," Helen said after a pause. And that was as near as she came to exchanging confidences with Miss Gray. But was there anything to give in exchange?
She asked the question several times on the way home. Her good-bye to Bauer had been commonplace enough. He had ventured at the last moment after the party was seated in the wagon ready for the drive to Canyon Diablo to hand up a book to Helen.
"Would you accept this to use on your journey? You may find it help pass the time. It's the collection of desert flowers I've been making."
Helen was really pleased and expressed her thanks warmly. But nothing more was said except the regular good-byes as the Douglases waved their farewells to all the mission people on the little knoll.
When she was on the train and started for home Helen found on examination that Bauer's modest volume was in reality composed of a rare collection of desert plants, and in the back leaves of the book were several photographs of desert scenes, including a dozen of Oraibi and the snake dance itself. She found her own person in several of the pictures, and the farther she travelled from Tolchaco the more persistently her mind travelled back to that enchanted land of adventure and heroism and love of humanity. She sighed to think that her own life seemed so commonplace. And always there obtruded on her mind the thought of Bauer as he sat there by the river looking at her out of his great brown eyes and saying, "Loben ist nicht lieben." And always as the days flew by and she resumed her special work in music at home, the figure grew more heroic and dignified the longer she mused upon it, while over all shone the desert sun and the white translucent light, with the San Francisco mountains calmly lifting up their cool blackness against a turquoise sky.
Two months later it was Thanksgiving time at the Mission. Somehow, Elijah Clifford gradually became aware that things were going on that were being kept from him. Bauer made a mysterious trip to Flagstaff and when he came back, Mrs. Masters and Miss Clifford carried several packages into the house which Elijah never had a chance to examine. His Yankee curiosity finally got the better of him.
"What is all this?" he asked Bauer one evening. "Is someone going to get married? They needn't keep it from me. But I would like to be invited."
"You'll be invited all right," said Bauer with his rare smile.
When Thanksgiving Day dawned, Masters succeeded with what seemed like a perfectly natural excuse to get Clifford to take a forenoon trip with him up to Touchiniteel's hogan to see the old man and take him a few luxuries for his dinner. When they returned, the Thanksgiving dinner was all ready.
It was impossible to surprise Elijah Clifford entirely, for before he and Masters had stepped into the house he said, "I smell turkey."
Masters laughed. And as Clifford stepped into the dining room everyone greeted him with a shout of welcome.
There on the table in all its glory was a fourteen pound turkey surrounded by all the "fixin's." Elijah Clifford was simply overcome.
"Evidently," he said when the mission family was all seated and were being served, "Mr. Van Shaw has sold one of his railroads and bought this bird to express his gratitude to Mr. Bauer for his recent trapeze performance. Otherwise I don't see how we can afford such hilarious luxury."
"This is Mr. Bauer's treat to you and us on your birthday," said Mr. Masters. "Felix, I'm going to tell. Your modesty will not save you. It seems that our friend's incubator has begun its sales in fine shape and the first royalties came in to Mr. Bauer a few days ago. What does he do but come to me and tell me what you said the other day about wanting a taste of turkey again. So this is Mr. Bauer's treat. He insisted on getting everything down to the nuts and raisins."
"You have all been so good to me that I couldn't repay it if I bought turkeys for every meal. And I don't forget, of course," he added with a grateful look at Elijah, "that I owe my life to you. I am not trying to pay even with fabulously high priced turkeys."
"Well, of course, I had the advantage over you down there in having a lantern to brace my feet against. You hadn't a thing. Not even Van Shaw. But don't mention it. It was no trouble. 'Don't think of such a thing,' as Miss Gray says. And after all, I don't know what would have happened to all of us down there if the folks at the top hadn't let that rope down just in time."
"Everybody is a hero in this country," said Bauer.
"And the turkey is the biggest of all," said Elijah, who was doing it full justice. "We all hope Mr. Bauer's incubator will continue to head the list of the six best sellers. And say, Bauer, why not get out a special illustrated Thanksgiving edition incubator made to hatch out nothing but turkeys. At the price you must have paid over at Flagstaff for this one, it wouldn't take long before you could make Van Shaw's railroads look like a blind trail through the Grand Canyon."
That Thanksgiving Day dinner was a memorable one at Tolchaco. Everyone was in fine spirits. Clifford kept everyone in a roar with his remarks. Bauer surprised the company by telling two funny stories from the Fliegende Blaetter. Clifford's sister laughed so hard she almost choked on a bone. Mr. and Mrs. Masters grew unusually witty. And Lucy Gray, while not in any way distinguished for any brilliant remarks, glowed with a quiet happiness all through the meal and looked so attractive that Elijah Clifford more than once shot an approving glance at her as she sat by Mrs. Masters and insisted on filling up Clifford's plate whenever a spot on it showed any signs of being uncovered.
After the dishes had been washed by the gentlemen who gallantly offered to do that task, the ladies sauntered up the river to inspect the new site for the new school house which Mr. Douglas thought he could secure for the Mission.
It was a desert day, clear and warm in the sun. Masters and Bauer went out to inspect some pottery recently found near an excavation for a well. Elijah Clifford busied himself at the little barn with some plans for an improved hobble to use on an unusually cunning and inventive pony.
When he stepped out of the barn and looked over to the river bank he saw Miss Gray sitting on the old cottonwood log. The other ladies had gone back to the mission buildings.
Clifford stopped where he was a minute and then slowly walked over to the log and sat down.
"That was a good dinner," he said, a little awkwardly, as he looked first at Miss Gray and then at the river.
"Wasn't it?" said Miss Gray with even more enthusiasm than the subject called for. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Did I? I haven't got over it yet. Somehow I feel as if it would be wrong to eat any canned goods for quite a while. A sort of uncomplimentary reflection on Bauer. I wouldn't have eaten so much only I didn't want to hurt his feelings by appearing not to appreciate his treat. Isn't he a fine fellow?"
"Yes," said Miss Gray. She did not seem very talkative and appeared very nervous for a young woman who had figured as a life saver on various occasions.
"I wish the Douglases had been here, don't you?" asked Clifford. He had his knife out and, Yankee-like, was busy shaving pieces off the old log. It seemed to help him in keeping up what seemed to promise to be a one-sided talk. "Yes. I--I've had a letter from Milton. Would you like to read it?"
"Sure. I always did enjoy Miss Helen's talk. I expect her letters are as interesting."
"This isn't from Helen. It's from her brother," Miss Gray blushed as Clifford quickly looked up at her. "But I would like to have you read it and give me your advice."
Clifford took the letter without a word. He opened it slowly and read it. Then he looked at Miss Gray with a puzzled look.
"The young man seems to want to open a correspondence with you. That is certainly all right. But you don't want my advice about that, do you?"
"Oh! I meant to give you this letter. It is the second one I received." Miss Gray handed Clifford another letter, and he gravely read that through slowly.
"He seems to be making good progress," was Elijah's comment. "In the first letter he wants to know if he can write, and in the second he wants to know if you will be Mrs. Douglas some time. I call that going some. But it's no more than I expected."
Miss Gray was almost crying.
"Isn't it absurd? What do you think I ought to do? What would you say to him?"
Elijah Clifford looked at Lucy Gray strangely. And then he said very, very quietly:
"Miss Gray, do you think you ought to ask me such a question? Answer it out of your own heart. I have no business to advise you in such a matter."
Lucy Gray gave him one searching look, as her face flamed.
"Give me the letter," was all she said.
Elijah handed it to her, and in some way their fingers touched as Lucy took the letter, and then she deliberately tore it into bits and scattered the pieces down upon the top of the log.
A sudden light came into Elijah Clifford's eyes.
"Is that your answer to it?" he said, moving over on the log a little nearer to Lucy.
"Yes," she answered, and it is a historical fact that she did not move back any. But she said afterwards that she was sitting near the end of the log and couldn't have moved far without falling off and that Elijah knew it.
"Then you don't need my advice? What made you ask for it?"
Lucy Gray, prim school ma'am as she had called herself, answered between crying and laughing, "Oh, I don't care for him. Why, he is only twenty-four and I am twenty-eight. And I can never leave these people here. I am so in love with them."
"With all of them?" asked Elijah desperately.
"Yes. But with some more than others."
Again a light came into Clifford's face as he moved up a little nearer. The bits of paper which had been poor Walter's letter began to fall over the sides of the log. But Elijah Clifford was pale as he said:
"Lucy, I don't want to make another mistake. I have not been able to conceal my feeling for you and I realise the great distance between us when it comes to education. I'm not college bred. And no one feels it more than I do. But I'm not too old to learn. I'm only thirty. And I find my brain works pretty well when I have a motive. I can almost read Herrmann und Dorothea. And I've committed no end of Heine. I can say 'Die schonste die Jungfrauen sitszet, Dort oben wunderbar' and a lot more. But--I don't dare ask you again to be my wife unless--unless--I can be sure that the differences between us will not make you unhappy. But, oh, if this happiness could be mine! You cannot love these people more than I do. Or yearn over them more. And we are not so far apart after all."
"I'm sure," said Lucy Gray, looking up at him, tears flowing down her cheeks. "I'm sure, Elijah, that we are not so very far apart in any way. And if you want to be happy I am sure------"
She did not need to say any more. Elijah Clifford saw happiness looking into his eyes out of hers and he would have been very much lacking in education if he had not then and there claimed his own.
They did not hear Mr. and Mrs. Masters approach because sand does not echo under peoples' feet, but they heard Mr. Masters say to his wife:
"I'm sorry we left the kodak up at the house. I've been hoping and praying for this for the last two years. And now my prayers have been answered, I would like to have some record of the fact."
Elijah Clifford and Lucy Gray stood up side by side. They were not embarrassed nor confused. The light of heaven seemed to shine on them out of that Thanksgiving Day glow in the desert sky. Their happiness had a sacred divine atmosphere about it that checked even as joyful a word of congratulation as Mr. Masters was about to speak. Ansa had come running down from the Mission and seeing Miss Gray and Clifford there she had come up and put her little hands one in each of theirs.
"Ah!" cried Masters. "This is the picture we want!" while Lucy and Elijah standing there by Ansa spoke of the years they were now to live together in the sacred union of husband and wife, consecrated heart and mind to the love of a neglected people, their human happiness intensified and purified by the service they were to give as one in answer to that which spoke to them even louder than their own earthly love--the sound of the High Calling.
If, as is easy for the writer and reader, we agree to let a few years slip by, as they have a way of doing whether we wish to let them or not, we shall find ourselves again in Milton at the home of the Douglases.
It is Thanksgiving Day again and Esther seems to have even more than the usual happy look on her face as she says to Helen:
"Isn't it remarkable that Walter coming up from the Isthmus is going to bring Bauer with him from Berlin? The world is getting smaller every day."
"We must learn to say 'Professor' Bauer, mother. You know Walter wrote that he has several honorary degrees conferred on him for his inventions. I understand he is held in high respect at all the universities."
"He will never be anything but plain Felix Bauer to me, Helen. And I hope his honours have not spoiled him. I don't believe they could."
Helen is silent as she sits down by the window which commands a view of the front walk. Time has dealt generously and kindly with her. The girlhood has ripened into the stately strong womanhood. Many suitors have come and gone, among them some noble gentlemen who have received their answers from her with sore hearts, but Helen still has not seen her ideal of the romantic days and her heart is yet--she says to herself--free--at least she has refused both wealth and high character for the vision she has cherished all these years of the nameless one who, so far, she says, has never appeared to her. And all through this testing, refining process of growth, she has developed into a spirit of rare strength and grace, of whom Paul and Esther have been increasingly proud.
Two young men come briskly up the walk. Mrs. Douglas opens the door and rushes out on the porch as Helen rises to tell her they are coming.
Walter laughingly lifts Esther off her feet as he kisses her and then turns to Helen. Evidently he has not broken his heart over that romance in the desert.
First greetings over he announced Bauer just as Paul steps into the front room.
"Professor Felix Bauer, F. R. G. S., F. S. S. K. L. G. X. Y. Z. and others. Isn't he great?"
Esther simply says, "Felix, welcome. I do not know how to say 'professor.'"
Bauer lifts her hands to his lips. Helen looks at him as if she were seeing some new vision at a distance. Felix Bauer smiles in the old way and says:
"Mrs. Douglas, I don't care for these titles. I would gladly give a bushel of them for one kind word from Walter's mother."
He looks at Helen as he speaks and Helen notes his clear, strong accent and the self-control and ease of a man who has met the world and looked it in the face without fear and without shame.
It is only when they are seated at the table that Helen has opportunity to note Bauer's strong face and figure, and wonder at the transformation time and testing have made in him. He still speaks in the slow deliberate fashion of the other days, but he is a full grown man now, conscious of power and Helen has to readjust her picture of him as she last saw him.
As the talk goes on, Paul's probing questions, aided by Walter and his mother, bring out the facts about Bauer which his own modesty would keep in the background.
Sent to Berlin to make special studies of new methods in lighting, he had made the startling discovery of the formula of the fire fly's secret, and revolutionised the entire system of city lighting. He had been careless of wealth. Walter drops a hint of thousands given to pay off old family indebtedness, or charities aided, of new enterprises fostered until Bauer blushingly begs him to stop.
"Really, Mr. Douglas, I am no millionaire as Walter would make out. Only I have been permitted to help some this great tuberculosis movement that has been a great joy to me."
Helen catches the vision of consecrated wealth and looks at Bauer again. Then later when they are seated in front of the old hearth and the lights have been turned on while a heavy snow falls outside, Bauer in his turn receives a surprise from her.
He has referred to the old days and recurred to the many kindnesses shown to him by Esther and Helen and the mission workers at Tolchaco. He is delighted to hear of the marriage of Clifford and Miss Gray, but in all the reminiscent talk he is evidently preoccupied and looks often at Helen as a hungry and thirsty man would eye the full table from which he may be debarred.
The clock strikes a late hour. He makes a feeble excuse to go and mutters something about not having observed the time.
"Die Uhr schlagt keinem Glucklichen?" Helen smilingly observes.
Bauer starts in surprise and leans over towards her.
"You speak German?" he asks with a strange look on his face.
"I have had plenty of time to learn it since you left us."
He looks up and sees that the other members of the family have in some way become much interested in Walter's new plans of electrical dock openers which are spread out on the dining room table.
"You mean since I left you sitting on that log at Tolchaco?"
"Maybe that is what I mean," Helen says, and she is more agitated than she has for years thought she could be.
"Then you know what 'Loben ist nicht Lieben' means now?"
"Yes, I know that and--
"The world has praised me much since that time, but it is an empty thing. I am a lonesome man, sitting alone with honour. 'Loben ist nicht lieben?' Is it not so?"
The tears are in Helen's eyes. This man will win her yet. Bauer mutters again.
"Was vonHerzen kommt, geht zu Herzen," and then forgetting that Helen understands he says as if talking to himself, "'What comes from the heart goes to the heart.' May I come to-morrow or soon and--tell you what is in my heart?"
Helen smiles as she notes the old sign of distrust in himself that used to mark the old young Bauer she used to know. But she says with a new note of life in her own voice: "Yes, come to-morrow."
"There will be much for my heart to tell thine," he says dropping inevitably into the endearing pronoun.
And as he rises and goes away Helen follows his stalwart figure out of the doorway and then goes and sits down by the fire again.
Her mother finds her there.
"Mr. Bauer, Felix, is coming here to-morrow, mother. I know what he is coming to say."
Esther pauses. Helen answers her unspoken question.
"I am going to find my happiness, mother. It is the highest voice I have heard. I am not afraid to answer it."
So with all who have fought and prayed and yearned for the overcoming life in this story, may they all say, "I am not afraid to answer the call when it sounds to me, the sound of 'The High Calling.'"