The Calling Of Dan Matthews
by Harold Bell Wright
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse








With Illustrations by























































The Calling of Dan Matthews



"And because the town of this story is what it is, there came to dwell in it a Spirit—a strange, mysterious power—playful, vicious, deadly; a Something to be at once feared and courted; to be denied—yet confessed in the denial; a deadly enemy, a welcome friend, an all-powerful Ally."

This story began in the Ozark Mountains. It follows the trail that is nobody knows how old. But mostly this story happened in Corinth, a town of the middle class in a Middle Western state.

There is nothing peculiar about Corinth. The story might have happened just as well in any other place, for the only distinguishing feature about this town is its utter lack of any distinguishing feature whatever. In all the essential elements of its life, so far as this story goes, Corinth is exactly like every other village, town or city in the land. This, indeed, is why the story happened in this particular place.

Years ago, when the railroad first climbed the backbone of the Ozarks, it found Corinth already located on the summit. Even before the war, this county-seat town was a place of no little importance, and many a good tale might be told of those exciting days when the woods were full of guerrillas and bushwhackers, and the village was raided first by one side, then by the other. Many a good tale is told, indeed; for the fathers and mothers of Corinth love to talk of the war times, and to point out in Old Town the bullet-marked buildings and the scenes of many thrilling events.

But the sons and daughters of the passing generation, with their sons and daughters, like better to talk of the great things that are going to be—when the proposed shoe-factory comes, the talked-of mills are established, the dreamed-of electric line is built out from the city, or the Capitalist from Somewhere-else arrives to invest in vacant lots, thereon to build new hotels and business blocks.

The Doctor says that in the whole history of Corinth there are only two events. The first was the coming of the railroad; the second was the death of the Doctor's good friend, the Statesman.

The railroad did not actually enter Corinth. It stopped at the front gate. But with Judge Strong's assistance the fathers and mothers recognized their "golden opportunity" and took the step which the eloquent Judge assured them would result in a "glorious future." They left the beautiful, well-drained site chosen by those who cleared the wilderness, and stretched themselves out along the mud-flat on either side of the sacred right-of-way—that same mud-flat being, incidentally, the property of the patriotic Judge.

Thus Corinth took the railroad to her heart, literally. The depot, the yards, the red section-house and the water-tank are all in the very center of the town. Every train while stopping for water (and they all stop) blocks two of the three principal streets. And when, after waiting in the rain or snow until his patience is nearly exhausted, the humble Corinthian goes to the only remaining crossing, he always gets there just in time to meet a long freight backing onto the siding. Nowhere in the whole place can one escape the screaming whistle, clanging bell, and crashing drawbar. Day and night the rumble of the heavy trains jars and disturbs the peacefulness of the little village.

But the railroad did something for Corinth; not too much, but something. It did more for Judge Strong. For a time the town grew rapidly. Fulfillment of the Judge's prophecies seemed immediate and certain. Then, as mysteriously as they had come, the boom days departed. The mills, factories and shops that were going to be, established themselves elsewhere. The sound of the builder's hammer was no longer heard. The Doctor says that Judge Strong had come to believe in his own prediction, or at least, fearing that his prophecy might prove true, refused to part with more land except at prices that would be justified only in a great metropolis.

Neighboring towns that were born when Corinth was middle-aged, flourished and have become cities of importance. The country round about has grown rich and prosperous. Each year more and heavier trains thunder past on their way to and from the great city by the distant river, stopping only to take water. But in this swiftly moving stream of life Corinth is caught in an eddy. Her small world has come to swing in a very small circle—it can scarcely be said to swing at all. The very children stop growing when they become men and women, and are content to dream the dreams their fathers' fathers dreamed, even as they live in the houses the fathers of their fathers built. Only the trees that line the unpaved streets have grown—grown and grown until overhead their great tops touch to shut out the sky with an arch of green, and their mighty trunks crowd contemptuously aside the old sidewalks, with their decayed and broken boards.

Old Town, a mile away, is given over to the negroes. The few buildings that remain are fallen into ruin, save as they are patched up by their dusky tenants. And on the hill, the old Academy with its broken windows, crumbling walls, and fallen chimneys, stands a pitiful witness of an honor and dignity that is gone.

Poor Corinth! So are gone the days of her true glory—the glory of her usefulness, while the days of her promised honor and power are not yet fulfilled.

And because the town of this story is what it is, there came to dwell in it a Spirit—a strange, mysterious power—playful, vicious, deadly; a Something to be at once feared and courted; to be denied—yet confessed in the denial; a dreaded enemy, a welcome friend, an all-powerful Ally.

But, for Corinth, the humiliation of her material failure is forgotten in her pride of a finer success. The shame of commercial and civic obscurity is lost in the light of national recognition. And that self-respect and pride of place, without which neither man nor town can look the world in the face, is saved to her by the Statesman.

Born in Corinth, a graduate of the old Academy, town clerk, mayor, county clerk, state senator, congressman, his zeal in advocating a much discussed issue of his day, won for him national notice, and for his town everlasting fame.

In this man unusual talents were combined with rare integrity of purpose and purity of life. Politics to him meant a way whereby he might serve his fellows. However much men differed as to the value of the measures for which he fought, no one ever doubted his belief in them or questioned his reasons for fighting. It was not at all strange that such a man should have won the respect and friendship of the truly great. But with all the honors that came to him, the Statesman's heart never turned from the little Ozark town, and it was here among those who knew him best that his influence for good was greatest and that he was most loved and honored. Thus all that the railroad failed to do for Corinth the Statesman did in a larger, finer way.

Then the Statesman died.

It was the Old Town Corinth of the brick Academy days that inspired the erection of a monument to his memory. But it was the Corinth of the newer railroad days that made this monument of cast-iron; and under the cast-iron, life-sized, portrait figure of the dead statesman, this newer Corinth placed in cast-iron letters a quotation from one of his famous speeches upon an issue of his day.

The Doctor argues in language most vigorous that the broken sidewalks, the permitted insolence of the railroad, the presence and power of that Spirit, the Ally, and many other things and conditions in Corinth, with the lack of as many other things and conditions, are all due to the influence of what he calls "that hideous, cast-iron monstrosity." By this it will be seen that the Doctor is something of a philosopher.

The monument stands on the corner where Holmes Street ends in Strong Avenue. On the opposite corner the Doctor lives with Martha, his wife. It is a modest home for there are no children and the Doctor is not rich. The house is white with old-fashioned green shutters, and over the porch climbs a mass of vines. The steps are worn very thin and the ends of the floor-boards are rotted badly by the moisture of the growing vines. But the Doctor says he'll "be damned" if he'll pull down such a fine old vine to put in new boards, and that those will last anyway longer than either he or Martha. By this it will be seen that the Doctor is something of a poet.

On the rear of the lot is the wood-shed and stable; and on the east, along the fence in front, and down the Holmes Street side, are the Doctor's roses—the admiration and despair of every flower-growing housewife in town.

Full fifty years of the Doctor's professional life have been spent in active practice in Corinth and in the country round about. He declares himself worn out now and good for nothing, save to meddle in the affairs of his neighbors, to cultivate his roses, and—when the days are bright—to go fishing. For the rest, he sits in his chair on the porch and watches the world go by.

"Old Doctors and old dogs," he growls, "how equally useless we are, and yet how much—how much we could tell if only we dared speak!"

He is big, is the Doctor—big and fat and old. He knows every soul in Corinth, particularly the children; indeed he helped most of them to come to Corinth. He is acquainted as well with every dog and cat, and horse and cow, knowing their every trick and habit, from the old brindle milker that unlatches his front gate to feed on the lawn, to the bull pup that pinches his legs when he calls on old Granny Brown. For miles around, every road, lane, by-path, shortcut and trail, is a familiar way to him. His practice, he declares, has well-nigh ruined him financially, and totally wrecked his temper. He can curse a man and cry over a baby; and he would go as far and work as hard for the illiterate and penniless backwoodsman in his cabin home as for the president of the Bank of Corinth or even Judge Strong himself.

No one ever thinks of the Doctor as loving anyone or anything, and that is because he is so big and rough on the outside: but every one in trouble goes to him, and that is because he is so big and kind on the inside. It is a common saying that in cases of trying illness or serious accident a patient would rather "hear the Doctor cuss, than listen to the parson pray." Other physicians there are in Corinth, but every one understands when his neighbor says: "The Doctor." Nor does anyone ever, ever call him "Doc"!

After all, who knows the people of a community so well as the physician who lives among them? To the world the Doctor's patients were laborers, bankers, dressmakers, scrub-women, farmers, servants, teachers, preachers; to the Doctor they were men and women. Others knew their occupations—he knew their lives. The preachers knew what they professed—he knew what they practiced. Society saw them dressed up—he saw them—in bed. Why, the Doctor has spent more hours in the homes of his neighbors than ever he passed under his own roof, and there is not a skeleton closet in the whole town to which he has not the key.

On Strong Avenue, across from the monument, is a tiny four-roomed cottage. In the time of this story it wanted paint badly, and was not in the best of repair. But the place was neat and clean, with a big lilac bush just inside the gate, giving it an air of home-like privacy; and on the side directly opposite the Doctor's a fair-sized, well-kept garden, giving it an air of honest thrift. Here the widow Mulhall lived with her crippled son, Denny. Denny was to have been educated for the priesthood, but the accident that left him such a hopeless cripple shattered that dream; and after the death of his father, who was killed while discharging his duties as the town marshal, there was no money to buy even a book.

When there was anything for her to do, Deborah worked out by the day. Denny, in spite of his poor, misshapen body, tended the garden, raising such vegetables as no one else in all Corinth could—or would, raise. From early morning until late evening the lad dragged himself about among the growing things, and the only objects to mar the beauty of his garden, were Denny himself, and the great rock that crops out in the very center of the little field.

"It is altogether too bad that the rock should be there," the neighbors would say as they occasionally stopped to look over the fence or to order their vegetables for dinner. And Denny would answer with his knowing smile, "Oh, I don't know! It would be bad, I'll own, if it should ever take to rollin' 'round like. But it lays quiet enough. And do you see, I've planted them vines around it to make it a bit soft lookin'. And there's a nice little niche on yon side, that does very well for a seat now and then, when I have to rest."

Sometimes, when the Doctor looks at the monument—the cast-iron image of his old friend, in its cast-iron attitude, forever delivering that speech on an issue as dead today as an edict of one of the Pharaohs—he laughs, and sometimes, even as he laughs, he curses.

But when, in the days of the story, the Doctor would look across the street to where Denny, with his poor, twisted body, useless, swinging arm, and dragging leg, worked away so cheerily in his garden, the old physician, philosopher, and poet, declared that he felt like singing hymns of praise.

And it all began with a fishing trip.



"And because of these things, to the keen old physician and student of life, the boy was a revelation of that best part of himself—that best part of the race."

It happened on the Doctor's first trip to the Ozarks.

Martha says that everything with the Doctor begins and ends with fishing. Martha has a way of saying such things as that. In this case she is more than half right for the Doctor does so begin and end most things.

Whenever there were grave cases to think out, knotty problems to solve, or important decisions to make, it was his habit to steal away to a shady nook by the side of some quiet, familiar stream. And he confidently asserts that to this practice more than to anything else he owes his professional success, and his reputation for sound, thoughtful judgment on all matters of moment.

"And why not?" he will argue when in the mood. "It is your impulsive, erratic, thoughtless fellow who goes smashing, trashing and banging about the field and woods with dogs and gun. Your true thinker slips quietly away with rod and line, and while his hook is down in the deep, still waters, or his fly is dancing over the foaming rapids and swiftly swirling eddies, his mind searches the true depths of the matter and every possible phase of the question passes before him."

For years the Doctor had heard much of the fishing to be had in the more unsettled parts of the Ozarks, but with his growing practice he could find leisure for no more than an occasional visit to nearby streams. But about the time that Martha began telling him that he was too old to stay out all day on the wet bank of a river, and Dr. Harry had come to relieve him of the heavier and more burdensome part of his practice, a railroad pushed its way across the mountain wilderness. The first season after the road was finished the Doctor went to cast his hook in new waters.

In all these after years those days so full of mystic beauty have lived in the old man's memory, the brightest days of all his life. For it was there he met the Boy—there in the Ozark hills, with their great ridges clothed from base to crest with trees all quivering and nodding in the summer breeze, with their quiet valleys, their cool hollows and lovely glades, and their deep and solemn woods. And the streams! Those Ozark streams! The Doctor wonders often if there can flow anywhere else such waters as run through that land of dreams.

The Doctor left the train at a little station where the railroad crosses White River, and two days later he was fishing near the mouth of Fall Creek. It was late in the afternoon. The Boy was passing on his way home from a point farther up the stream. Not more than twelve, but tall and strong for his age, he came along the rough path at the foot of the bluff with the easy movement and grace of a young deer. He checked a moment when he saw the Doctor, as a creature of the forest would pause at first sight of a human being. Then he came on again, his manner and bearing showing frank interest, and the clear, sunny face of him flushing a bit at the presence of a stranger.

"Hello," said the Doctor, with gruff kindness, "any luck?"

The boy's quick smile showed a set of teeth—the most perfect the physician had ever seen, and his young voice was tuned to the music of the woods, as he answered, "I have caught no fish, sir."

By these words and the light in his brown eyes the philosopher knew him instantly for a true fisherman. He noted wonderingly that the lad's speech was not the rude dialect of the backwoods, while he marveled at the depth of wisdom in one so young. How incidental after all is the catching of fish, to the one who fishes with true understanding. The boy's answer was both an explanation and a question. It explained that he did not go fishing for fish alone; and it asked of the stranger a declaration of his standing—why did he go fishing? What did he mean by fisherman's luck?

The Doctor deliberated over his reply, while slowly drawing in his line to examine the bait. Meanwhile the boy stood quietly by regarding him with a wide, questioning look. The man realized that much depended upon his next word.

Then the lad's youth betrayed him into eagerness. "Have you been farther up the river just around the bend, where the giant cottonwoods are, and the bluffs with the pines above, and the willows along the shore? Oh, but it's fine there! Much better than this."

He had given the stranger his chance. If the Doctor was to be admitted into this boy's world he must now prove his right to citizenship. Looking straight into the boy's brown eyes, the older fisherman asked, "A better place to catch fish?"

He laughed aloud—a clear, clean, boyish laugh of understanding, and throwing himself to the ground with the easy air of one entirely at home, returned, "No, sir, a better place to fish." So it was settled, each understanding the other.

An hour later when the shadow of the mountain came over the water, the boy sprang to his feet with an exclamation, "It's time that I was going, mother likes for me to be home for supper. I can just make it."

But the Doctor was loth to let him go. "Where do you live?" he asked. "Is it far?"

"Oh, no, only about six miles, but the trail is rough until you strike the top of Wolf Ridge."

"Humph! You can't walk six miles before dark."

"My horse is only a little way up the creek," he answered, "or at least he should be." Putting his fingers to his lips he blew a shrill whistle, which echoed and re-echoed from shore to shore along the river, and was answered by a loud neigh from somewhere in the ravine through which Fall Creek reaches the larger stream. Again the boy whistled, and a black pony came trotting out of the brush, the bridle hanging from the saddle horn. "Tramp and I can make it all right, can't we old fellow?" said the boy, patting the glossy neck, as the little horse rubbed a soft muzzle against his young master's shoulder.

While his companion was making ready for his ride the Doctor selected four of the largest of his catch—black bass they were—beauties. "Here," he said, when the lad was mounted, "take these along."

He accepted graciously without hesitation, and by this the Doctor knew that their fellowship was firmly established. "Oh, thank you! Mother is so fond of bass, and so are father and all of us. This is plenty for a good meal." Then, with another smile, "Mother likes to fish, too; she taught me."

The Doctor looked at him wistfully as he gathered up the reins, then burst forth eagerly with, "Look here, why can't you come back tomorrow? We'll have a bully time. What do you say?"

He lowered his hand. "Oh, I would like to." Then for a moment he considered, gravely, saying at last, "I think I can meet you here day after tomorrow. I am quite sure father and mother will be glad for me to come when I tell them about you."

Was ever a fat old Doctor so flattered? It was not so much the boy's words as his gracious manner and the meaning he unconsciously put into his exquisitely toned voice.

He had turned his pony's head when the old man shouted after him once more. "Hold on, wait a moment, you have not told me your name. I am Dr. Oldham from Corinth. I am staying at the Thompson's down the river."

"My name is Daniel Howitt Matthews," he answered. "My home is the old Matthews place on the ridge above Mutton Hollow."

Then he rode away up the winding Fall Creek trail.

The Doctor spent the whole of the next day near the spot where he had met the boy, fearing lest the lad might come again and not find him. He even went a mile or so up the little creek half expecting to meet his young friend, wondering at himself the while, that he could not break the spell the lad had cast over him. Who was he? He had told the Doctor his name, but that did not satisfy. Nor, indeed, did the question itself ask what the old man really wished to know. The words persistently shaped themselves—What is he? To this the physician's brain made answer clearly enough—a boy, a backwoods boy, with unusual beauty and strength of body, and uncommon fineness of mind; yet with all this, a boy.

But that something that sits in judgment upon the findings of our brain, and, in lofty disregard of us, accepts or rejects our most profound conclusions, refused this answer. It was too superficial. It was not, in short, an answer. It did not in any way explain the strange power that this lad had exerted over the Doctor.

"Me," he said to himself, "a hard old man calloused by years of professional contact with mankind and consequent knowledge of their general cussedness! Huh! I have helped too many hundreds of children into this world, and have carried too many of them through the measles, whooping-cough, chicken-pox and the like to be so moved by a mere boy."

The Thompsons could have told him about the lad and his people, but the Doctor instinctively shrank from asking them. He felt that he did not care to be told about the boy—that in truth no one could tell him about the boy, because he already knew the lad as well as he knew himself. Indeed the feeling that he already knew the boy was what troubled the Doctor; more, that he had always lived with him; but that he had never before met him face to face. He felt as a blind man might feel if, after living all his life in closest intimacy with someone, he were suddenly to receive his sight and, for the first time, actually look upon his companion's face.

In the years that have passed since that day the Doctor has learned that the lad was to him, not so much a mystery as a revelation—the revelation of an unspoken ideal, of a truth that he had always known but never fully confessed even to himself, and that lies at last too deeply buried beneath the accumulated rubbish of his life to be of any use to him or to others. In the boy he met this hidden, secret, unacknowledged part of himself, that he knows to be the truest, most precious and most sacred part, and that he has always persistently ignored even while always conscious that he can no more escape it than he can escape his own life. In short, Dan Matthews is to the Doctor that which the old man feels he ought to have been; that which he might have been, but never now can be.

It was still early in the forenoon of the following day when the Doctor heard a cheery hail, and the boy came riding out of the brush of the little ravine to meet his friend who was waiting on the river bank. As the lad sprang lightly to the ground, and, with quick fingers, took some things from the saddle, loosed the girths and removed the pony's bridle, the physician watched him with a slight feeling of—was it envy or regret? "You are early," he said.

The boy laughed. "I would have come earlier if I could," Then, dismissing the little horse, he turned eagerly, "Have you been there yet—to that place up the river?"

"Indeed I have not," said the Doctor, "I have been waiting for you to show me."

He was delighted at this, and very soon was leading the way along the foot of the bluff to his favorite fishing ground.

It is too much to attempt the telling of that day: how they lay on the ground beneath the giant-limbed cottonwoods, and listened to the waters going past; how they talked of the wild woodland life about them, of flower and tree, and moss and vine, and the creatures that nested and denned and lived therein; how they caught a goodly catch of bass and perch, and the Doctor, pulling off his boots, waded in the water like another boy, while the hills echoed with their laughter; and how, when they had their lunch on a great rock, an eagle watched hungrily from his perch on a dead pine, high up on the top of the bluff.

When the shadow of the mountain was come once more and in answer to the boy's whistle the black pony had trotted from the brush to be made ready for the evening ride, the Doctor again watched his young companion wistfully.

When he was ready, the boy said, "Father and mother asked me to tell you, sir, that they—that we would be glad to have you come to see us before you leave the hills." Seeing the surprise and hesitation of the Doctor, he continued with fine tact, "You see I told them all about you, and they would like to know you too. Won't you come? I'm sure you would like my father and mother, and we would be so glad to have you. I'll drive over after you tomorrow if you'll come."

Would he go! Why the Doctor would have gone to China, or Africa, or where would he not have gone, if the boy had asked him.

That visit to the Matthews' place was the beginning of a friendship that has never been broken. Every year since, the Doctor has gone to them for several weeks and always with increasing delight. Among the many households that, in his professional career, he has been privileged to know intimately, this home stands like a beautiful temple in a world of shacks and hovels. But it was not until the philosopher had heard from Mrs. Matthews the story of Dad Howitt that he understood the reason. In the characters of Young Matt and Sammy, in their home life and in their children, the physician found the teaching of the old Shepherd of the Hills bearing its legitimate fruit. Most clearly did he find it in Dan—the first born of this true mating of a man and woman who had never been touched by those forces in our civilization which so dwarf and cripple the race, but who had been taught to find in their natural environment those things that alone have the power to truly refine and glorify life.

Understanding this, the Doctor understood Dan. The boy was well born; he was natural. He was what a man-child ought to be. He did not carry the handicap that most of us stagger under so early in the race. And because of these things, to the keen old physician and student of life, the boy was a revelation of that best part of himself—that best part of the race. With the years this feeling of the Doctor's toward the boy has grown even as their fellowship. But Dan has never understood; how indeed could he?

It was always Dan who met the Doctor at the little wilderness station, and who said the last good-bye when the visit was over. Always they were together, roaming about the hills, on fishing trips to the river, exploring the country for new delights, or revisiting their familiar haunts. Dan seemed, in his quiet way, to claim his old friend by right of discovery and the others laughingly yielded, giving the Doctor—as Young Matt, the father, put it—"a third interest in the boy."

And so, with the companionship of the yearly visits, and frequent letters in the intervening months, the Doctor watched the development of his young friend, and dreamed of the part that Dan would play in life when he became a man. And often as he watched the boy there was, on the face of the old physician, that look of half envy, half regret.

In addition to his training at the little country school, Dan's mother was his constant teacher, passing on to her son as only a mother could, the truths she had received from her old master, the Shepherd. But when the time came for more advanced intellectual training the choice of a college was left to their friend. The Doctor hesitated. He shrank from sending the lad out into the world. He foolishly could not bear the thought of that splendid nature coming in touch with the filth of life as he knew it. "You can see," he argued gruffly, "what it has done for me."

But Sammy answered, "Why, Doctor, what is the boy for?" And Young Matt, looking away over Garber where an express train thundered over the trestles and around the curves, said in his slow way, "The brush is about all cleared, Doctor. The wilderness is going fast. The boy must live in his own age and do his own work." When their friend urged that they develop or sell the mine in the cave on Dewey Bald, and go with the boy, they both shook their heads emphatically, saying, "No, Doctor, we belong to the hills."

When the boy finally left his mountain home for a school in the distant city, he had grown to be a man to fill the heart of every lover of his race with pride. With his father's powerful frame and close-knit muscles, and the healthy life of the woods and hills leaping in his veins, his splendid body and physical strength were refined and dominated by the mind and spirit of his mother. His shaggy, red-brown hair was like his father's but his eyes were his mother's eyes, with that same trick of expression, that wide questioning gaze, that seemed to demand every vital truth in whatever came under his consideration. He had, too, his mother's quick way of grasping your thoughts almost before you yourself were fully conscious of them, with that same saving sense of humor that made Sammy Lane the life and sunshine of the countryside.

"Big Dan," the people of the hills had come to call him and "Big Dan" they called him in the school. For, in the young life of the schools, as in the country, there is a spirit that names men with names that fit.

Secretly the Doctor had hoped that Dan would choose the profession so dear to him. What an ideal physician he would make, with that clean, powerful, well balanced nature; and above all with that love for his race, and his passion to serve mankind that was the dominant note in his character. The boy would be the kind of a physician that the old Doctor had hoped to be. So he planned and dreamed for Dan as he had planned and dreamed for himself, thinking to see the dreams that he had failed to live, realized in the boy.

It was a severe shock to the Doctor when that letter came telling him of Dan's choice of a profession. For the first time the boy had disappointed him, disappointed him bitterly.

Seizing his fishing tackle the old man fled to the nearest stream. And there gazing into the deep, still waters, where he had cast his hook, he came to understand. It was that same dominant note in the boy's life, that inborn passion to serve, that fixed principle in his character that his life must be of the greatest possible worth to the world, that had led him to make his choice. With that instinct born in him, coming from the influence of the old Shepherd upon his father and mother, the boy could no more escape it than he could change the color of his brown eyes.

"But," said the Doctor to his cork, that floated on the surface in a patch of shadow, "what does he know about it, what does he really know? He's been reading history—that's what's the matter with him. He sees things as they were, not as they are. He should have come to me, I could have—" Just then the cork went under. The Doctor had a bite. "I could have told him," repeated the fisherman softly, "I—" The cork bobbed up again—it was only a nibble. "He'll find out the truth of course. He's that kind. But when he finds it!" The cork bobbed again—"He'll need me, he'll need me bad!" The cork went under for good this time. Zip—and the Doctor had a big one!

With fresh bait and his hook once more well down toward the bottom the Doctor saw the whole thing clearly, and so planned a way by which, as he put it, he might, when Dan needed him, "stand by."



"'Talk of the responsibilities of age; humph! They are nothing compared to the responsibilities of youth. There's Dan, now—'"

Corinth was in the midst of a street fair. The neighboring city held a street fair that year, therefore Corinth. All that the city does Corinth imitates, thereby with a beautiful rural simplicity thinking herself metropolitan, just as those who take their styles from the metropolis feel themselves well dressed. The very Corinthian clerks and grocery boys, lounging behind their counters and in the doorways, the lawyer's understudy with his feet on the window sill, the mechanic's apprentice, the high school youths and the local sporting fraternity—all imitated their city kind and talked smartly about the country "rubes" who came to town; never once dreaming that they themselves, when they "go to town," are as much a mark for the like wit of their city brothers. So Corinth was in the midst of a street fair.

On every vacant lot in the down town section were pens, and stalls, and cages, wherein grunted, squealed, neighed, bellowed, bleated, cackled and crowed, exhibits from the neighboring farms. In the town hall or opera house (it was both) there were long tables covered with almost everything that grows on a farm, or is canned, baked, preserved, pickled or stitched by farmers' wives. The "Art Exhibit," product mainly of Corinth, had its place on the stage. Upon either side of the main street were booths containing the exhibits of the local merchants; farm machinery, buggies, wagons, harness and the like being most conspicuous. The chief distinction between the town and country exhibits were that the farmer displayed his goods to be looked at, the merchant his to be sold. It was the merchants who promoted the fair.

In a vacant store room the Memorial Church was holding its annual bazaar. On different corners other churches were serving chicken dinners, or ice cream, or in sundry ways were actively engaged for the conversion of the erring farmer's cash to the coffers of the village sanctuaries. In this way the promoters of the fair were encouraged by the churches. From every window, door, arch, pole, post, corner, gable, peak, cupola—fluttered, streamed and waved, decorations—banners mostly, bearing advertisements of the enterprising merchants and of the equally enterprising churches.

Afternoons there would be a baseball game between town and country teams, foot races, horseback riding, a greased pig to catch, a greased pole to climb and other entertainments too exciting to think about, too attractive to be resisted.

From the far backwoods districts, from the hills, from the creek bottoms and the river, the people came to crowd about the pens, and stalls and tables; to admire their own and their neighbors' products and possessions, that they had seen many times before in their neighbors' homes and fields. They visited on the street corners. They tramped up and down past the booths. They yelled themselves hoarse at the games and entertainments, and in the intoxication of their pleasures bought ice cream, chicken dinners and various other things of the churches, and much goods of the merchants who promoted the fair.

The Doctor was up that day at least a full hour before his regular time. At breakfast Martha looked him over suspiciously, and when he folded his napkin after eating only half his customary meal she remarked dryly, "It's three hours yet till train time, Doctor."

Without answer the Doctor went out on the porch.

Already the country people, dressed in their holiday garb, bright-faced, eager for the long looked for pleasures, were coming in for the fair. Many of them catching sight of the physician hailed him gaily, shouting good natured remarks in addition to their salutations, and laughing loudly at whatever he replied.

It may be that the good Lord had made days as fine as that day, but the Doctor could not remember them. His roses so filled the air with fragrance, the grass in the front yard was so fresh and clean, the flowers along the walk so bright and dainty, and the great maples, that make a green arch of the street, so cool and mysterious in their leafy depths, that his old heart fairly ached with the beauty of it. The Doctor was all poet that day. Dan was coming!

It had worked out just as the Doctor had planned it on that fishing trip some three months before. At first Martha was suspicious when he broached the subject. Mostly Martha is suspicious when her husband offers suggestions touching certain matters, but the wise old philosopher knew what strings to pull, and so it all came out as he had planned. Sammy had written him expressing her gladness, that her boy in the beginning of his work was to be with the friend whose counsel and advice they valued so highly. The Doctor had growled over the letter, promising himself that he would "stand by" when the boy needed him, but that was all he or an angel from heaven could do now. And the Doctor had written Dan at length about Corinth, but never a word about his thoughts regarding the boy's choice, or his fears for the outcome.

"There are some things," he reflected, "that every man must find out for himself. To some kinds of people the finding out doesn't matter much. To other kinds, it is well for them if there are those who love them to stand by." Dan was the kind to whom the finding out would mean a great deal, so the Doctor would "stand by."

There on his vine covered porch that morning, the old man's thoughts went back to that day when the boy first came to him on the river bank, and to all the bright days of Dan's boyhood and youth that he had passed with the lad in the hills. "His life—" said he, talking to himself, as he has a way of doing—"His life is like this day, fresh and clean and—". He looked across the street to the monument that stood a cold, lifeless mask in a world of living joy and beauty; from the monument he turned to Denny's garden. "And," he finished, "full of possibilities."

"Whatever are you muttering about now?" said Martha, who had followed him out after finishing her breakfast.

"I was wishing," said the Doctor, "that I—that it would be always morning, that there was no such thing as afternoon, and evening and night."

His wife replied sweetly, "For a man of your age, you do say the most idiotic things! Won't you ever get old enough to think seriously?"

"But what could be more serious, my dear? If it were morning I would always be beginning my life work, and never giving it up. I would be always looking forward to the success of my dreams, and never back to the failures of my poor attempts."

"You haven't failed in everything, John," protested Martha in softer tones.

"If it were morning," the philosopher continued, with a smile, "I would be always making love to the best and prettiest girl in the state."

Martha tossed her head and the ghost of an old blush crept into her wrinkled cheeks. "There's no fool like an old fool," she quoted with a spark of her girlhood fire.

"But a young fool gets so much more out of his foolishness," the man retorted. "Talk of the responsibilities of age; humph! They are nothing compared to the responsibilities of youth. There's Dan now—" He looked again toward the monument.

"My goodness me, yes!" ejaculated Martha. "And I've got a week's work to do before I even begin to get dinner. You go right off this minute and kill three of those young roosters—three, mind you."

"But, my dear, he will only be here for dinner."

"Never you mind, the dinner's my business. Kill three, I tell you. I've cooked for preachers before. I hope to the Lord he'll start you to thinking of your eternal future, 'stead of mooning about the past." She bustled away to turn the little home upside down and to prepare dinner sufficient for six.

When the Doctor had killed the three roosters, and had fussed about until his wife ordered him out of the kitchen, he took his hat and stick and started down town, though it was still a good hour until train time. As he opened the front gate Denny called a cheery greeting from his garden across the street, and the old man went over for a word with the crippled boy.

"It's mighty fine you're lookin' this mornin', Doctor," said Denny pausing in his work, and seating himself on the big rock. "Is it the ten-forty he's comin' on?"

The Doctor tried to appear unconcerned. He looked at his watch with elaborately assumed carelessness as he answered: "I believe it's ten-forty; and how are you feeling this morning, Denny?"

The lad lifted his helpless left arm across his lap. "Oh I'm fine, thank you kindly, Doctor. Mother's fine too, and my garden's doing pretty good for me." He glanced about. "The early things are all gone, of course, but the others are doing well. Oh, we'll get along; I told mother this morning the Blessed Virgin hadn't forgotten us yet. I'll bet them potatoes grew an inch some nights this summer. And look what a day it is for the fair, and the preacher a comin' too."

The Doctor looked at his watch again, and Denny continued: "We're all so pleased at his comin'. People haven't talked of anything else for a month now, that and the fair of course. Things in this town will liven up now, sure. Seems to me I can feel it—yes sir, I can. Something's goin' to happen, sure."

"Humph," grunted the Doctor, "I rather feel that way myself." Then, "I expect you two will be great friends, Denny."

The poor little fellow nearly twisted himself off the rock. "Oh Doctor, really why I—the minister'll have no time for the likes of me. And is he really goin' to live at Mrs. Morgan's there?" He nodded his head toward the house next to his garden.

"That's his room," the other answered, pointing to the corner window. "He'll be right handy to us both."

Denny gazed at the window with the look of a worshiper. "Oh now, isn't that fine, isn't it grand! That's such a nice room, Doctor, it has such a fine view of the monument."

"Yes," the Doctor interrupted, "the monument and your garden." And then he left abruptly lest he should foolishly try to explain to the bewildered and embarrassed Denny what he meant.

It seemed to the Doctor that nearly every one he met on the well-filled street that morning, had a smile for him, while many stopped to pass a word about the coming of Dan. When he reached the depot the agent hailed him with, "Good morning, Doctor; looking for your preacher?"

"My preacher!" The old physician glared at the man in the cap, and turned his back with a few energetic remarks, while two or three loafers joined in the laugh, and a couple of traveling men who were pacing the platform with bored expressions on their faces, turned to stare at him curiously. At the other end of the platform was a group of women, active members of the Memorial Ladies' Aid who had left their posts of duty at the bazaar, to have a first look at the new pastor. The old Elder, Nathan Jordan, with Charity, his daughter, was just coming up.

"Good morning, good morning, Doctor," said Nathan grasping his friend's hand as if he had not seen him for years. "Well I see we're all here." He turned proudly about as the group of women came forward, with an air of importance, the Doctor thought, as though the occasion required their presence. "Reckon our boy'll be here all right," Nathan continued.

"Our boy!" The Doctor caught a naughty word between his teeth—a feat he rarely accomplished.

The ladies all looked sweetly interested. One of them putting her arm lovingly about Charity cooed: "So nice of you to come, dear." She had remarked to another a moment before, "that a fire wouldn't keep the girl away from the depot that morning."

The Doctor felt distinctly the subtle, invisible presence of the Ally, and it was well that someone just then saw the smoke from the coming train two or three miles away, around the curve beyond the pumping station.

The negro porter from the hotel opposite the depot, came bumping across the rails, with the grips belonging to the two traveling men, in his little cart; the local expressman rattled up with a trunk in his shaky old wagon; and the sweet-faced daughter of the division track superintendent hurried out of the red section-house with a bundle of big envelopes in her hand. The platform was crowded with all kinds of people, carrying a great variety of bundles, baskets and handbags, asking all manner of questions, going to and from all sorts of places. The train drew rapidly nearer.

The Doctor's old heart was thumping painfully. He forgot the people, he forgot Corinth, he forgot everything but the boy who had come to him that day on the river bank.

Swiftly the long train with clanging bell and snorting engine came up to the depot. The conductor swung easily to the platform, and, watch in hand, walked quickly to the office. Porters and trainmen tumbled off, and with a long hiss of escaping air and a steady puff-puff, the train stopped.

In the bustle and confusion of crowding passengers getting on and off, tearful good-byes and joyful greetings, banging trunks, rattling trucks, hissing steam, the doctor watched. Then he saw him, his handsome head towering above the pushing, jostling crowd. The Doctor could not get to him, and with difficulty restrained a shout. But Dan with his back to them all pushed his way to an open window of the car he had just left, where a woman's face turned to him in earnest conversation.

"There he is," said the Doctor, "that tall fellow by the window there."

At his words the physician heard an exclamation, and, glancing back, saw the women staring eagerly, while Charity's face wore a look of painful doubt and disappointment. The Elder's countenance was stern and frowning.

"Seems mightily interested," said one, suggestively.

"What a pretty face," added another, also suggestively.

The Doctor spoke quickly, "Why that's—" Then he stopped with an expression on his face that came very near being a malicious grin.

The conductor, watch again in hand, shouted, the porters stepped aboard, the bell rang, the engineer, with his long oil-can, swung to his cab, slowly the heavy train began to gather headway. As it went Dan walked along the platform beside that open window, until he could no longer keep pace with the moving car. Then with a final wave of his hand he stood looking after the train, seemingly unconscious of everything but that one who was being carried so quickly beyond his sight.

He was standing so when his old friend grasped his arm. He turned with a start. "Doctor!"

What a handsome fellow he was, with his father's great body, powerful limbs and shaggy red-brown hair; and his mother's eyes and mouth, and her spirit ruling within him, making you feel that he was clean through and through. It was no wonder people stood around looking at him. The Doctor felt again that old, mysterious spell, that feeling that the boy was a revelation to him of something he had always known, the living embodiment of a truth never acknowledged. And his heart swelled with pride as he turned to lead Dan up to Elder Jordan and his company.

The church ladies, old in experience with preachers, seemed strangely embarrassed. This one was somehow so different from those they had known before, but their eyes were full of admiration. Charity's voice trembled as she bade him welcome. Nathaniel's manner was that of a judge. Dan himself, was as calm and self possessed as if he and the Doctor were alone on the bank of some river, far from church and church people. But the Doctor thought that the boy flinched a bit when he introduced him as Reverend Matthews. Perhaps, though, it was merely the Doctor's fancy. The old man felt too, even as he presented Dan to his people, that there had come between himself and the boy a something that was never there before, and it troubled him not a little. But perhaps this, too, was but a fancy.

At any rate the old man must have been somewhat excited for when the introductions were over, and the company was leaving the depot, he managed to steer Dan into collision with a young woman who was standing nearby. She was carrying a small grip, having evidently arrived on the same train that brought the minister. It was no joke for anyone into whom Big Dan bumped, and a look of indignation flashed on the girl's face. But the indignant look vanished quickly in a smile as the big fellow stood, hat in hand, offering the most abject apology for what he called his rudeness.

The Doctor noted a fine face, a strong graceful figure, and an air of wholesomeness and health that was most refreshing. But he thought that Dan took more time than was necessary for his apology.

When she had assured the young fellow several times that it was nothing, she asked: "Can you tell me, please, the way to Dr. Abbott's office?"

Dr. Abbott! The Doctor's own office—Dr. Harry's and his now. He looked the young woman over curiously, while Dan was saying: "I'm sorry, but I cannot. I am a stranger here, but my friend—"

The older man interrupted gruffly with the necessary directions and the information that Dr. Abbott was out of town, and would not be back until four o'clock. "Will you then direct me to a hotel?" she asked. The Doctor pointed across the track. Then he got Dan away.

The church ladies, with Charity and her father, were already on their way back to the place where the bazaar was doing business. Half way down the block the Doctor and Dan were checked by a crowd. There seemed to be some excitement ahead. But in the pause, Dan turned to look back toward the young woman who had arrived in Corinth on the same train that had brought him. She was coming slowly down the street toward them.

Again the thought flashed through the Doctor's mind that the boy had taken more time than was necessary for his apology.



"And the old man pointed out to Dan his room across the way—the room that looked out upon the garden and the monument."

Jud Hardy, who lives at Windy Cove on the river some eighteen miles "back" from Corinth, had been looking forward to Fair time for months. Not that Jud had either things to exhibit or money to buy things exhibited. For while Jud professed to own, and ostensibly to cultivate a forty, he gained his living mostly by occasional "spells of work" on the farms of his neighbors. In lieu of products of his hand or fields for exhibition at the annual fair, Jud invariably makes an exhibition of himself, never failing thus to contribute his full share to the "other amusements," announced on the circulars and in the Daily Corinthian, as "too numerous to mention."

The citizens of the Windy Cove country have a saying that when Jud is sober and in a good humor and has money, he is a fairly good fellow, if he is not crossed in any way. The meat of which saying is in the well known fact, that Jud is never in a good humor when he is not sober, that he is never sober when he has money; and that with the exception of three or four kindred spirits, whose admiration for the bad man is equalled only by their fear of him, no one has ever been able to devise a way to avoid crossing him when he is in his normal condition.

With three of the kindred spirits, Jud arrived in Corinth that day, with the earliest of the visitors, and the quartette proceeded, at once, to warm up after their long ride. By ten o'clock they were well warmed. Just as the ten-forty train was slowing up at the depot, Jud began his exhibition. It took place at the post office where the crowd was greatest, because of the incoming mail. Stationing himself near the door, the man from Windy Cove blocked the way for everyone who wanted to pass either in or out of the building. For the women and young girls he stepped aside with elaborate, drunken politeness and maudlin, complimentary remarks. For the men who brushed him he had a scowling curse and a muttered threat. Meanwhile, his followers nearby looked on in tipsy admiration and "'lowed that there was bound to be somethin' doin', for Jud was sure a-huntin' trouble."

Then came one who politely asked Jud to move. He was an inoffensive little man, with a big star on his breast, and a big walking stick in his hand—the town marshal. Jud saw an opportunity to give an exhibition worth while. There were a few opening remarks—mostly profane—and then the representative of the law lay in a huddled heap on the floor, while the man from the river rushed from the building into the street.

The passing crowd stopped instantly. Scattered individuals from every side came running to push their way into the mass of men and women, until for a block on either side of the thoroughfare there was a solid wall of breathless humanity. Between these walls strolled Jud, roaring his opinion and defiance of every one in general, and the citizens of Corinth in particular.

It could not last long, of course. There were many men in the crowd who did not fear to challenge Jud, but there was that inevitable hesitation, while each man was muttering to his neighbor that this thing ought to be stopped, and they were waiting to see if someone else would not start first to stop it.

Nearly the length of the block, Jud made his triumphant way; then, at the corner where the crowd was not so dense, he saw a figure starting across the street.

"Hey there," he roared, "get back there where you belong! What th' hell do you mean? Don't you see the procession's a comin'?"

It was Denny. He had left his garden to go to the butcher's for a bit of meat for dinner. The crippled lad had just rounded the corner, and, forced to give all his attention to his own halting steps, did not grasp the situation but continued his dragging way across the path of the drunken and enraged bully. The ruffian, seeing the lad ignore his loud commands, strode heavily forward with menacing fists, heaping foul epithets upon the head of the helpless Irish boy.

The crowd gasped.

"Oh, why does someone not do something!" moaned a woman. A girl screamed.

Several men started, but before they could force their way through the press, the people saw a stranger, a well-dressed young giant, spring from the sidewalk, and run toward the two figures in the middle of the street. But Dan had not arrived upon the scene soon enough. Almost as he left the pavement the blow fell, and Denny lay still—a crumpled, pitiful heap in the dirt.

Jud, flushed with this second triumph, turned to face the approaching stranger.

"Come on, you pink-eyed dude! I've got some fer you too. Come git your medicine, you—"

Dan was coming—coming so quickly that Jud's curses had not left his lips when the big fellow reached him. With one clean, swinging blow the man from Windy Cove was lifted fairly off the ground to fall several feet away from his senseless victim.

There was an excited yell from the crowd. But Jud, lean, loose-jointed and hard of sinew, had the physical toughness of his kind. Almost instantly he was on his feet again, reaching for his hip pocket with a familiar movement. And there was a wild scramble as those in front sought cover in the rear.

"Look out! Look out!"—came from the crowd.

But the mountain bred Dan needed no warning. With a leap, cat-like in its quickness, he was again upon the other. There was a short struggle, a sharp report, a wrenching twist, a smashing blow, and Jud was down once more, this time senseless. The weapon lay in the dust. The bullet had gone wide.

The crowd yelled their approval, and, even while they applauded, the people were asking each of his neighbor: "Who is he? Who is he?"

Several men rushed in, and Dan, seeing the bully safe in as many hands as could lay hold of him, turned to discover the young woman whom he had met at the depot kneeling in the street over the still unconscious Denny. With her handkerchief she was wiping the blood and dirt from the boy's forehead. Dan had only time to wonder at the calmness of her face and manner when the crowd closed in about them.

Then the Doctor pushed his way through the throng, and the people, at sight of the familiar figure, obeyed his energetic orders and drew aside. A carriage was brought and Dan lifted the unconscious lad in his arms. The Doctor spoke shortly to the young woman, "You come too." And with the Doctor the two strangers in Corinth took Denny to his home.

In the excitement no one thought of introductions, while the people seeing their hero driving in the carriage with a young woman, also a stranger, changed their question from, "Who is he?" to "Who are they?"

When Denny had regained consciousness, and everything possible for his comfort and for the assistance of his distracted mother, had been done; and the physician had assured them that the lad would be as good as ever in a day or two, the men crossed the street to the little white house.

"Well," ejaculated Martha when Dan had been presented, and the incident on the street briefly related, "I'm mighty glad I cooked them three roosters."

Dan laughed his big, hearty laugh, "I'm glad, too," he said. "Doctor used to drive me wild out in the woods with tales of your cooking."

The Doctor could see that Martha was pleased at this by the way she fussed with her apron.

"We always hoped that he would bring you with him on some of his trips," continued Dan, "we all wanted so much to meet you."

To the Doctor's astonishment, Martha stammered, "I—maybe I will go some day." Then her manner underwent a change as if she had suddenly remembered something. "You'll excuse me now while I put the dinner on," she said stiffly. "Just make yourself to home; preachers always do in this house, even if Doctor don't belong." She hurried away, and Dan looked at his host with his mother's questioning eyes. The Doctor knew what it was. Dan had felt it even in the house of his dearest friend. It was the preacher Martha had welcomed, welcomed him professionally because he was a preacher. And the Doctor felt again that something that had come between him and the lad.

"Martha doesn't care for fishing," he said gently.

Then they went out on the porch, and the old man pointed out to Dan his room across the way—the room that looked out upon the garden and the monument.

"Several of your congregation wanted to have you in their homes," he explained. "But I felt—I thought you might like to be—it was near me you see—and handy to the church." He pointed to the building up the street.

"Yes," Dan answered, looking at his old friend curiously—such broken speech was not natural to the Doctor—"You are quite right. It was very kind of you; you know how I will like it to be near you." Then looking at the monument he asked whose it was.

The Doctor hesitated again. Dan faced him waiting for an answer.

"That—oh, that's our statesman. You will need time to fully appreciate that work of art, and what it means to Corinth. It will grow on you. It's been growing on me for several years."

The young man was about to ask another question regarding the monument, when he paused. The girl who had gone to Denny in the street was coming from the little cottage. As she walked away under the great trees that lined the sidewalk, the two men stood watching her. Dan's question about the monument was forgotten.

"I wonder who she is," he said in a low voice.

The Doctor recalled the meeting at the depot and chuckled, and just then Martha called to dinner.

And the people on the street corners, at the ladies' bazaar, in the stores, the church booths and in the homes, were talking; talking of the exhibition of the man from Windy Cove, and asking each of his neighbor: "Who are they?"



"Useful hands they were, made for real service."

After dinner was over and they had visited awhile, the Doctor introduced Dan to his landlady across the way and, making some trivial excuse about business, left the boy in his room. The fact is that the Doctor wished to be alone. If he could have done it decently, he would have gone off somewhere with his fishing tackle. As he could not go fishing, he did the next best thing. He went to his office.

The streets were not so crowded now, for the people were at the ball game, and the Doctor made his way down town without interruption. As he went he tried to think out what it was that had come between him and the boy whom he had known so intimately for so many years. Stopping at the post office, he found a letter in his care addressed to "Rev. Daniel H. Matthews." In his abstraction he was about to hand the letter in at the window with the explanation that he knew no such person, when a voice at his elbow said: "Is Brother Matthews fully rested from his tiresome journey, Doctor?"

The Doctor's abstraction vanished instantly, he jammed that letter into his pocket and faced the speaker.

"Yes," he growled, "I think Brother Matthews is fully rested. As he is a grown man of unusual strength, and in perfect health of body at least, and the tiresome journey was a trip of only four hours, in a comfortable railway coach, I think I may say that he is fully recovered."

Then the Doctor slipped away. But he had discovered what it was that had come between the boy and himself. The man, Dan Matthews, was no longer the Doctor's boy. He was "Reverend," "Brother," the preacher. All the morning it had been making itself felt, that something that sets preachers apart. The Doctor wondered how his young hill-bred giant would stand being coddled and petted and loved by the wives and mothers of men who, for their daily bread, met the world bare-handed, and whose hardships were accepted by them and by these same mothers and wives as a matter of course.

By this time the Doctor had reached his office, and the sight of the familiar old rooms that had been the scene of so many revelations of real tragedies and genuine hardships, known only to the sufferer and to him professionally, forced him to continue his thought.

"There was Dr. Harry, for instance. Who, beside his old negro housekeeper, ever petted and coddled him? Who ever thought of setting him apart? Whoever asked if he were rested from his tiresome journey—journeys made not in comfortable coaches on the railroad, but in his buggy over all kinds of roads, at all times of day or night, in all sorts of weather winter and summer, rain and sleet and snow? Whoever 'Reverended' or 'Brothered' him? Oh no, he was only a man, a physician. It was his business to kill himself trying to keep other people alive."

Dr. Harry Abbott had been first, the Doctor's assistant, then his partner, and now at last his successor. Of a fine old Southern family, his people had lost everything in the war when Harry was only a lad. The father was killed in battle and the mother died a year later, leaving the boy alone in the world. Thrown upon his own resources for the necessities of life, he had managed somehow to live and to educate himself, besides working his way through both preparatory and medical schools, choosing his profession for love of it. He came to Dr. Oldham from school, when the Doctor was beginning to feel the burden of his large practice too heavily, and it was while he was the old physician's assistant that the people learned to call him Dr. Harry. And Dr. Harry he is to this day. How that boy has worked! His profession and his church (for he is a member, a deacon now, in the Memorial Church) have occupied every working minute of his life, and many hours beside that he should have given to sleep.

As the months passed Dr. Oldham placed more and more responsibilities upon him, and at the end of the second year took him into full partnership. It was about this time that Dr. Harry bought the old Wilson Carter place, and brought from his boyhood home two former slaves of his father to keep house for him, Old Uncle George and his wife Mam Liz.

Every year the younger man took more and more of the load from his partner's shoulders, until the older physician retired from active practice; and never has there been a word but of confidence and friendship between them. Their only difference is, that Harry will go to prayer meeting, when the Doctor declares he should go to bed; and that he will not go fishing. Always he has been the same courteous, kindly gentleman, intent only upon his profession, keeping abreast of the new things pertaining to his work, but ever considerate of the old Doctor's whims and fancies. Even now that Dr. Oldham has stepped down and out Harry insists that he leave his old desk in its place, and still talks over his cases with him.

The Doctor was sitting in his dilapidated office chair thinking over all this, when he heard his brother physician's step on the stairs. Harry came in, dusty and worn, from a long ride in the country on an all-night case. His tired face lit up when he saw his friend.

"Hello, Doctor! Glad to see you. Has he come? How is he?" While he was speaking the physician dropped his case, slipped out of his coat, and was in the lavatory burying his face in cold water by the time the other was ready to answer. That was Harry, he was never in a hurry, never seemed to move fast, but people never ceased to wonder at his quickness.

"He's all right," the Doctor muttered, his mind slipping back into the channel that had started him off to thinking of his fellow physician. "Got in on the ten-forty. But you look fagged enough. Why the devil don't you rest, Harry?"

Standing in the doorway rubbing his face, neck, and chest, with a coarse towel the young man laughed, "Rest, what would I do with a vacation? I'll be all right, when I get outside of one of Mam Liz's dinners. It was that baby of Jensen's that kept me. Poor little chap. I thought, two or three times he was going to make a die of it sure, but I guess he'll pull through now."

Dr. Oldham knew the Jensens well, eighteen miles over the worst roads in the country. He growled hoarsely: "It'll be more years than there are miles between here and Jensen's before you get a cent out of that case. You're a fool for making the trip; why don't you let 'em get that old bushwhacker at Salem, he's only three miles away?"

Harry pulled on his coat and dropped into his chair with a grin. "What'll you give me to collect some of your old accounts, Doctor? The Jensens say that the reason they have me is because you have always been their physician."

Then the Doctor in characteristic language expressed his opinion of the whole Jensen tribe, while Harry calmly glanced through some letters on his desk.

"See here, Doctor," he exclaimed, wheeling around in his chair and interrupting the old man's eloquent discourse. "Here is a letter from Dr. Miles—says he is sending a nurse; just what we want." He tossed the letter to the other. "There'll be the deuce to pay at Judge Strong's when she arrives. Whew! I guess I better trot over home and get a bite and forty winks. A Jensen breakfast, as you may remember, isn't just the most staying thing for a civilized stomach, and I need to be fit when I call at the Strong mansion. Wonder when the nurse will get here."

"She's here now," said the old Doctor, and he then told him about the meeting at the depot and the fight on the street. "But go on and get your nap," he finished. "I'll look after her."

Harry had just taken his hat when there came a knock on the door leading into the little waiting room. He hung his hat back in the closet, and dropped into his chair again with a comical expression of resignation on his face. But his voice was cheerful, when he said: "Come in."

The door opened. The young lady of the depot entered. The old physician took a good look at her this time. He saw a girl of fine, strong form and good height, with clear skin, showing perfect health, large, gray eyes—serious enough, but with a laugh back of all their seriousness, brown hair, firm, rounded chin and a generous sensitive mouth. Particularly he noticed her hands—beautifully modeled, useful hands they were, made for real service. Altogether she gave him the impression of being very much alive, and very much a woman.

"Is this Dr. Abbott?" she asked, looking at Harry, who had risen from his chair. When she spoke the old man again noted her voice, it was low and clear.

"I am Dr. Abbott," replied Harry.

"I am Hope Farwell," she answered. "Dr. Miles, you know, asked me to come. You wanted a nurse for a special case, I believe."

"Oh, yes," exclaimed Harry, "we have the letter here. We were just speaking of you, Miss Farwell. This is Dr. Oldham; perhaps Dr. Miles told you of him."

She turned with a smile, "Yes indeed, Dr. Miles told me. I believe we have met before, Doctor."

The girl broke into a merry laugh, when the old man answered, gruffly: "I should think we had. I was just telling Harry there when you came in."

Then the younger physician asked, "How soon can you be ready to go on this case, Nurse?"

She looked at him with a faint expression of surprise. "Why I'm ready now, Doctor."

And the old Doctor broke in so savagely that they both looked at him in astonishment as he said: "But this is a hard case. You'll be up most of the night. You're tired out from your trip."

"Why, Doctor," said the young woman, "it is my business to be ready at any time. Being up nights is part of my profession. Surely you know that. Besides, that trip was really a good rest, the first good rest I've had for a long time."

"I know, of course," he answered. "I was thinking of something else. You must pardon me, Miss. Harry there will explain that I am subject to these little attacks."

"Oh, I know already," she returned smiling. "Dr. Miles told me all about you." And there was something in her laughing gray eyes that made the rough old man wonder just what it was that his friend Miles had told her.

"All right, get back to business you two," he growled. "I'll not interrupt again. Tell her about the case, Harry."

The young woman's face was serious in a moment, and she gave the physician the most careful attention as he explained the case for which he had written Dr. Miles to send a trained nurse of certain qualifications.

The Judge Strong of this story is an only son of the old Judge who moved Corinth. He is a large man—physically, as large as the Doctor, but where the Doctor is fat the Judge is lean. He inherited, not only his father's title (a purely honorary one) but his father's property, his position as an Elder in the church, and his general disposition; together with his taste and skill in collecting mortgages and acquiring real estate. The old Judge had but the one child. The Judge of this story, though just passing middle age, has no children at all. Seemingly there is no room in his heart for more than his church and his properties—his mind being thus wholly occupied with titles to heaven and to earth. With Sapphira, his wife, he lives in a big house on Strong Avenue, beyond the Strong Memorial Church, with never so much as a pet dog or cat to roughen the well-kept lawn or romp, perchance, in the garden. The patient whom Miss Farwell had come to nurse, was Sapphira's sister, a widow with neither child nor home. The Judge had been forced by his fear of public sentiment to give her shelter, and he had been compelled by Dr. Oldham and Dr. Harry to employ a nurse. The case would not be a pleasant one; Miss Farwell would need all that abundant stock of tact and patience which Dr. Miles had declared she possessed.

All this Dr. Harry explained to her, and when he had finished she asked in the most matter-of-fact tone: "And what are your instructions, Doctor?"

That caught Harry. It caught the old Doctor, too. Not even a comment on the disagreeable position she knew she would have in the Strong household, for Harry had not slighted the hard facts! She understood clearly what she was going into.

A light came into the young physician's eyes that his old friend liked to see. "I guess Miles knew what he was talking about in his letter," said the old Doctor. And the young woman's face flushed warmly at his words and look.

Then in his professional tones Dr. Harry instructed her more fully as to the patient's condition—a nervous trouble greatly aggravated by the Judge's disposition.

"Nice job, isn't it, Miss Farwell?" Harry finished.

She smiled. "When do I go on, Doctor?"

Harry stepped to the telephone and called up the Strong mansion. "This you, Judge?" he said into the instrument. "The nurse from Chicago is here; came today. We want her to go on the case at once. Can you send your man to the depot for her trunk?"

By the look on his face the old Doctor knew what Harry was getting. The younger physician's jaw was set and his eyes were blazing, but his voice was calm and easy. "But Judge, you remember the agreement. Dr. Oldham is here now if you wish to speak to him. We shall hold you to the exact letter of your bargain, Judge. I am very sorry but—. Very well sir. I will be at your home with the nurse in a few moments. Please have a room ready. And by the way, Judge, I must tell you again that my patient is in a serious condition. I warn you that we will hold you responsible if anything happens to interfere with our arrangements for her treatment. Good-bye."

He turned to the nurse with a wry face. "It's pretty bad, Miss Farwell."

Then, ringing up the village drayman, he arranged to have the young woman's trunk taken to the house. When the man had called for the checks Harry said: "Now, Nurse, my buggy is here, and if you are ready I guess we had better follow your trunk pretty closely."

From the window the old Doctor watched them get into the buggy, and drive off down the street. Mechanically he opened the letter from Dr. Miles, which he still held in his hand. "An ideal nurse, who has taken up the work for love of it,—have known the family for years—thoroughbreds—just the kind to send a Kentuckian like you—I warn you look out,—I want her back again."

The Doctor chuckled when he remembered Harry's look as he talked to the young woman. "If ever a man needed a wife Harry does," he thought. "Who knows what might happen?"

Who knows, indeed?

Then the Doctor went home to Dan. He found him in Denny's garden, with Denny enthroned on the big rock—listening to his fun, while Deborah, from the house, looked on, unable to believe that it was "the parson sure enough out there wid Denny,"—Denny who was to have been a priest himself one day, but who would never now be good for much of anything.



"'In the battle of life we cannot hire a substitute; whatever work one volunteers to make his own he must look upon as his ministry to the race.'"

Dan, with the Doctor and Mrs. Oldham were to take supper and spend the evening at Elder Jordan's. Martha went over early in the afternoon, leaving the two men to follow.

As they were passing the monument, Dan stopped. "Did you know him?" he asked curiously, when he had read the inscription. It was not like Dan to be curious.

The Doctor answered briefly: "I was there when he was born and was his family physician all his life, and I was with him when he died."

Something in the doctor's voice made Dan look at him intently for a moment, then in a low tone: "He was a good man?"

"One of the best I ever knew, too good for this town. Look at that thing. They say that expressed their appreciation of him—and it does," he finished grimly.

"But," said Dan, in a puzzled way, turning once more to the monument, "this inscription—" he read again the sentence from the statesman's speech on the forgotten issue of his passing day.

The Doctor said nothing.

Then gazing up at the cast-iron figure posed stiffly with outstretched arm in the attitude of a public speaker, Dan asked: "Is that like him?"

"Like him! It's like nothing but the people who conceived it," growled the Doctor indignantly. "If that man were living he would not be always talking about issues that have no meaning at this day. He would be giving himself to the problems that trouble us now. This thing," he rapped the monument with his stick until it gave forth a dull, hollow sound, "this thing is not a memorial to the life and character of my friend. It memorializes the dead issue to which he gave himself at one passing moment of his life, and which, had he lived, he would have forgotten, as the changing times brought new issues to be met as he met this old one. He was too great, too brave, to ever stand still and let the world go by. He was always on the firing line. This thing—" he rapped the hollow iron shaft again contemptuously, and the hollow sound seemed to add emphasis to his words—"this is a dead monument to a dead issue. Instead of speaking of his life, it cries aloud in hideous emphasis that he is dead."

They stood silently for a moment then Dan said, quietly: "After all, Doctor, they meant well."

"And that," retorted the old man grimly, "is what we doctors say when we see our mistakes go by in the hearse."

They went on up the street until they reached the church. Here Dan stopped again. He read the inscription cut large in the stone over the door, "The Strong Memorial Church." Again Dan turned to his friend inquiringly.

"Judge Strong, the old Judge," explained the Doctor. "That's his picture in the big stained-glass window there."

In all his intentions Nathaniel Jordan was one of the best of men. Surely, if in the hereafter, any man receives credit for always doing what his conscience dictates, Nathan will. He was one of those characters who give up living ten years before they die. Nathan stayed on for the church's good.

Miss Charity, the Elder's only child is—well, she was born, raised and educated for a parson's wife. The Doctor says that she didn't even cry like other babies. At three she had taken a prize in Sunday school for committing Golden texts, at seven she was baptized, and knew the reason why, at twelve she played the organ in Christian Endeavor. At fourteen she was teaching a class, leading prayer meeting, attending conventions, was president of the Local Union, and pointed with pride to the fact that she was on more committees than any other single individual in the Memorial Church. The walls of her room were literally covered with badges, medals, tokens, prizes and emblems, with the picture of every conspicuous church worker and leader of her denomination. Between times the girl studied the early history of her church, read the religious papers and in other ways fitted herself for her life work. Poor Charity! She was so cursed with a holy ambition, that to her men were not men, they simply were or were not preachers.

When Dan and the Doctor reached the Jordan home they found this daughter of the church at the front gate watching for them, a look of eager hope and expectancy on her face. The Elder himself with his wife and Mrs. Oldham were on the front porch. Martha could scarcely wait for the usual greeting and the introduction of Dan to Mrs. Jordan, before she opened on the Doctor with, "It's a great pity Doctor, that you couldn't bring Brother Matthews here before the last possible minute; supper is ready right now. A body would think you had an important case, if they didn't know that you were too old to do anything any more."

"We did have an important case, my dear," the Doctor replied, "and it was Dan who caused our delay."

"That's it; lay it on to somebody else like you always do. What in the world could poor Brother Matthews be doing to keep him from a good meal?"

"He was studying—let me see, what was it, Dan? Art, Political Economy—or Theology?"

Dan smiled. "I think it might have been the theory and practice of medicine," he returned. At which they both laughed and the others joined in, though for his life the Doctor couldn't see why.

"Well," said the Elder, when he had finished his shrill cackle, "we better go in and discuss supper awhile; that's always a satisfactory subject at least." Which was a pretty good one for Nathaniel.

When the meal was finished, they all went out on the front porch again, where it soon became evident that Nathaniel did not propose to waste more time in light and frivolous conversation. By his familiar and ponderous "Ahem—ahem!" even Dan understood that he was anxious to get down to the real business of the evening, and that he was determined to do his full duty, or—as he would have said—"to keep that which was committed unto him."

"Ahem—ahem!" A hush fell upon the little company, the women turned their chairs expectantly, and the Doctor slipped over to the end of the porch to enjoy his evening cigar. The Elder had the field.

With another and still louder "Ahem!" he began. "I am sorry that Brother Strong is not here this evening. Judge Strong that is, Brother Matthews; he is our other Elder, you understand. I expected him but he has evidently been detained."

The Doctor, thinking of Dr. Harry and the nurse, chuckled, and Nathan turned a look of solemn inquiry in his direction.

"Ahem—ahem,—you did not come to Corinth directly from your home, I understand, Brother Matthews?"

The Doctor could see Dan's face by the light from the open window. He fancied it wore a look of amused understanding.

"No," answered the minister, "I spent yesterday in the city."

"Ahem—ahem," coughed the Elder. "Found an acquaintance on the train coming up, didn't you? We noticed you talking to a young woman at the car window."

Dan paused a moment before answering, and the Doctor could feel the interest of the company. Then the boy said, dryly, "Yes, I may say though, that she is something more than an acquaintance."

Smothered exclamations from the women. "Ah hah," from the Elder. The Doctor grinned to himself in the dark. "The young scamp!"

"Ahem! She had a pretty face, we noticed; are you—that is, have you known her long?"

"Several years, sir; the lady you saw is my mother. I went with her to the city day before yesterday, where she wished to do some shopping, and accompanied her on her way home as far as Corinth."

More exclamations from the women.

"Why, Doctor, you never told us it was his mother," cried Martha, and Nathaniel turned toward the end of the porch with a look of righteous indignation.

"You never asked me," chuckled the Doctor.

After this the two older women drifted into the house. Charity settled herself in an attitude of rapt attention, and the program was continued.

"Ahem. You may not be aware of it Brother Matthews, but I know a great deal about your family, sir."

"Indeed," exclaimed Dan.

"Yes sir. You see I have some mining interests in that district, quite profitable interests I may say. Judge Strong and I together have quite extensive interests. Two or three years ago we made a good many trips into your part of the country, where we heard a great deal of your people. Your mother seems to be a remarkable woman of considerable influence. Too bad she is not a regular member of the church. Our preachers often tell us, and I believe it is true, that people who do so much good out of the church really injure the cause more than anything else."

Dan made no answer to this, but as the Doctor saw his face in the light it wore a mingled expression of astonishment and doubt.

The Elder proceeded, "They used to tell us some great stories about your father, too. Big man, isn't he?"

"Yes sir, fairly good size."

"Yes, I remember some of his fights we used to hear about; and there was another member of the family, they mentioned a good deal. Dad—Dad—"

"Howitt," said Dan softly.

"That's it, Howitt. A kind of a shepherd, wasn't he? Discovered the big mine on your father's place. One of your father's fights was about the old man. Ahem—ahem—I judge you take after your father. I don't know just what to think about your whipping that fellow this morning. Someone had to do something of course, but—ahem, for a minister it was rather unusual. I don't know how the people will take it."

"I'm afraid that I forgot that I was a minister," said Dan uneasily. "I hope, sir, you do not think that I did wrong."

"Ahem—ahem, I can't say that it was wrong exactly, but as I said, we don't know how the people will take it. But there's one thing sure," and the Elder's shrill cackle rang out, "it will bring a big crowd to hear you preach. Well, well, that's off the subject. Ahem—Brother Matthews, why haven't your people opened that big mine in Dewey Bald?"

"I expect it would be better for me to let father or mother explain that to you, sir," answered Dan, as cool and calm as the evening.

"Yes, yes of course, but it's rather strange, rather unusual you know, to find a young man of your make-up and opportunities for wealth, entering the ministry. You could educate a great many preachers, sir, if you would develop that mine."

"Father and mother have always taught us children that in the battle of life one cannot hire a substitute; that whatever work one volunteers to make his own he must look upon as his ministry to the race. I believe that the church is an institution divinely given to serve the world, and that, more than any other, it helps men to the highest possible life. I volunteered for the work I have undertaken, because naturally I wish my life to count for the greatest possible good; and because I feel that I can serve men better in the church than in any other way."

"Whew!" thought the Doctor, "that was something for Nathan to chew on." The lad's face when he spoke made his old friend's nerves tingle. His was a new conception of the ministry, new to the Doctor at least. Forgetting his cigar he awaited the Elder's reply with breathless interest.

"Ahem—ahem, you feel then that you have no special Divine call to the work?"

"I have always been taught at home, sir, that every man is divinely called to his work, if that work is for the good of all men. His faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the call is revealed in the motives that prompt him to choose his field." The boy paused a moment and then added slowly—and no one who heard him could doubt his deep conviction—"Yes sir, I feel that I am divinely called to preach the gospel."

"Ahem—ahem, I trust, Brother Matthews, that you are not taken up with these new fads and fancies that are turning the minds of the people from the true worship of God."

"It is my desire, sir, to lead people to the true worship of God. I believe that nothing will accomplish that end but the simple old Jerusalem gospel."

The Doctor lit his cigar again. They seemed to be getting upon safer ground.

"I am glad to hear that—" said the Elder heartily—"very glad. I feared from the way you spoke, you might be going astray. There is a great work for you here in Corinth—a great work. Our old brother who preceded you was a good man, sound in the faith in every way, but he didn't seem to take somehow. The fact is the other churches—ahem—are getting about all our congregation."

Then for an hour or more, Elder Jordan, for the new minister's benefit, discussed in detail the religious history of Corinth, with the past, present and future of Memorial Church; while Charity, drinking in every word of the oft-heard discussion, grew ever more entranced with the possibilities of the new pastor's ministry, and the Doctor sat alone at the farther end of the porch. The Elder finished with: "Well, well, Brother Matthews, you are young, strong, unmarried, and with your reputation as a college man and an athlete you ought to do great things for Memorial Church. We are counting on you to build us up wonderfully. And let me say too, that we are one of the oldest and best known congregations in our brotherhood here in the state. We have had some great preachers here. You can make a reputation that will put you to the top of your—ah, calling."

Dan was just saying, "I hope I will please you, sir," when the women appeared in the doorway. Martha had her bonnet on.

"Come, come Nathan," said Mrs. Jordan, "you mustn't keep poor Brother Matthews up another minute. He must be nearly worn out with his long journey and all the excitement."

The Doctor thought again of the girl who had made the same journey in the car behind Dan, and who had also shared the excitement. He wondered how the nurse was enjoying her evening and when she would get to bed. "That's so," exclaimed the Doctor, rising to his feet. "We're all a lot of brutes to treat the poor boy so."

Dan whirled on him with a look that set the old man to laughing, "That's all right, sonny," he chuckled. "Come on, I've been asleep for an hour."



"'With nothin' to think of all the time but the Blessed Jesus an' the Holy Mother; an' all the people so respectful, an' lookin' up to you. Sure 'tis a grand thing, Doctor, to be a priest.'"

Nathaniel Jordan's prediction proved true.

In the two days between Dan's arrival and his first Sunday in Corinth, the Ally was actively engaged in making known the identity of the big stranger, who had so skillfully punished the man from Windy Cove. Also the name and profession of the young woman who had gone to Denny's assistance were fully revealed.

The new minister of the Memorial Church was the sensation of the hour. The building could scarcely hold the crowd, while the rival churches were deserted, save only by the few faithful "pillars" who were held in their places by the deep conviction that heaven itself would fall should they fail to support their own particular faith. With the people who had attended the fair, the Ally journeyed far into the country, and the roads being good with promise of a moon to drive home by, the country folk for miles around came to worship God, and, incidentally, to see the preacher who had fought and vanquished the celebrated Jud. Many were there that day who had not been inside a church before for years. The Ally went also, but then the Ally, they say, is a regular attendant at all the services of every church.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse