The Prospector by Ralph Connor
XIX. The Regions Beyond
The visit of the Superintendent to a mission field varied according to the nature of the field and the character of the work done, between an inquisitorial process and a triumphal march. Nothing escaped his keen eye. It needed no questioning on his part to become possessed of almost all the facts necessary to his full information about the field, the work, the financial condition, and the general efficiency of the missionary. One or two points he was sure to make inquiry about. One of these was the care the missionary had taken of the outlying points. He had the eye of an explorer, which always rests on the horizon. The results of his investigations could easily be read in his joy or his grief, his hope or his disappointment, his genuine pride in his missionary or his blazing, scorching rebuke. The one consideration with the Superintendent was the progress of the work. The work first, the work last, the work always.
The announcement to Shock through his Convener, that the Superintendent purposed making a visit in the spring, filled him with more or less anxiety. He remembered only too well his failure at the Fort; he thought of that postscript in the Superintendent's letter to his Convener; he knew that even in Loon Lake and in the Pass his church organization was not anything to boast of; and altogether he considered that the results he had to show for his year's labour were few and meagre.
The winter had been long and severe. In the Pass there had been a great deal of sickness, both among the miners and among the lumbermen. The terrible sufferings these men had to endure from the cold and exposure, for which they were all too inadequately prepared, brought not only physical evils upon them, but reacted in orgies unspeakably degrading.
The hospital was full. Nell had been retained by The Don as nurse, and although for a time this meant constant humiliation and trial to her, she bore herself with such gentle humility, and did her work with such sweet and untiring patience, that the men began to regard her with that entire respect and courteous consideration that men of their class never fail to give to pure and high-minded women.
The Don was full of work. He visited the camps, treated the sick and wounded there, and brought down to the hospital such as needed to be moved thither, and gradually won his way into the confidence of all who came into touch with him. Even Ike, after long hesitation and somewhat careful observation, gave him once more his respect and his friendship.
The doctor was kept busy by an epidemic of diphtheric croup that had broken out among the children of the Loon Lake district, and began to take once more pride in his work, and to regain his self-respect and self-control. He took especial pride and joy in the work of The Don at the Pass, and did all he could to make the hospital and the club room accomplish all the good that Shock had hoped for them.
But though the hospital and club room had done much for the men of the Pass, there was still the ancient warfare between the forces that make for manhood and those that make for its destruction. Hickey still ran his saloon, and his gang still aided him in all his nefarious work. Men were still "run" into the saloon or the red- light houses, there to be "rolled," and thence to be kicked out, fit candidates for the hospital. The hospital door was ever open for them, and whatever the history, the physical or moral condition of the patient, he was received, and with gentle, loving ministration tended back to health, and sent out again to camp or mine, often only to return for another plunge into the abyss of lust and consequent misery; sometimes, however, to set his feet upon the upward trail that led to pure and noble manhood. For The Don, while he never preached, took pains to make clear to all who came under his charge the results of their folly and their sin to body and to mind, as well as to soul, and he had the trick of forcing them to take upon themselves the full responsibility for their destiny, whether it was to be strength, soundness of mind, happiness, heaven, or disease, insanity, misery, hell. It was heart-breaking work, for the disappointments were many and bitter, but with now and then an achievement of such splendid victory as gave hope and courage to keep up the fight.
At Loon Lake during the winter Shock had devoted himself to the perfecting of his church organization A Communion Roll had been formed and on it names entered of men and women whose last church connection reached back for ten or fifteen or twenty years, and along with those the names of some who had never before had a place in that mystic order of the saints of God. And, indeed, with some of these Shock had had his own difficulty, not in persuading them to offer themselves as candidates, but in persuading himself to assume the responsibility of accepting them. To Shock with his Highland training it was a terribly solemn step to "come forward." The responsibility assumed, bulked so largely in the opinion of those whom Shock had always regarded as peculiarly men of God, that it almost, if not altogether, obliterated the privilege gained.
When a man like Sinclair, whose reputable character and steady life seemed to harmonize with such a step, he had little difficulty; and had the Kid, with his quick intelligence, his fineness of spirit and his winning disposition, applied for admission, Shock would have had no hesitation in receiving him. But the Kid, although a regular attendant on the services, and though he took especial delight in the Sabbath evening gatherings after service, had not applied, and Shock would not think of bringing him under pressure; and all the more because he had not failed to observe that the Kid's interest seemed to be more pronounced and more steadfast in those meetings in which Marion's singing was the feature. True, this peculiarity the Kid shared with many others of the young men in the district, to Shock's very considerable embarrassment, though to the girl's innocent and frank delight; and it is fair to say that the young men, whom Shock had put upon their honor in regard to one who was but a child, never by word or look failed in that manly and considerate courtesy that marks the noble nature in dealing with the weak and unprotected.
The truth about the Kid was that that gay young prince of broncho busters, with his devil-may-care manner and his debonair appearance, was so greatly sought after, so flattered and so feted by the riotous and reckless company at the Fort, of which the Inspector and his wife were the moving spirits, that he was torn between the two sets of influences that played upon him, and he had not yet come to the point of final decision as to which kingdom he should seek.
It was with Ike and men like Ike, however, that Shock had his greatest difficulty, for when the earnest appeal was made for men to identify themselves with the cause that stood for all that was noblest in the history of the race, and to swear allegiance to Him who was at once the ideal and the Saviour of men, Ike without any sort of hesitation came forward and to Shock's amazement, and, indeed, to his dismay, offered himself. For Ike was regarded through all that south country as the most daringly reckless of all the cattle-men, and never had he been known to weaken either in "takin' his pizen," in "playin' the limit" in poker, or in "standin' up agin any man that thought he could dust his pants." Of course he was "white." Everyone acknowledged that. But just how far this quality of whiteness fitted him as a candidate for the communion table Shock was at a loss to say.
He resolved to deal with Ike seriously, but the initial difficulty in this was that Ike seemed to be quite unperplexed about the whole matter, and entirely unafraid. Shock's difficulty and distress were sensibly increased when on taking Ike over the "marks" of the regenerate man, as he had heard them so fully and searchingly set forth in the "Question Meetings" in the congregation of his childhood, he discovered that Ike was apparently ignorant of all the deeper marks, and what was worse, seemed to be quite undisturbed by their absence.
While Shock was proceeding with his examination he was exceedingly anxious lest he should reveal to Ike any suspicion as to his unfitness for the step he proposed to take. At the same time, he was filled with anxiety lest through any unfaithfulness of his on account of friendship a mistake in so solemn a matter should be made. It was only when he observed that Ike was beginning to grow uneasy under his somewhat searching examination, and even offered to withdraw his name, that Shock decided to cast to the winds all his preconceived notions of what constituted fitness for enrollment in the Church of the living God, and proceeded to ask Ike some plain, common sense questions.
"You are sure you want to join this church, Ike?"
"That's what," said Ike.
"Why do you want to join?"
"Well, you gave us a clear invite, didn't you?"
"But I mean, is it for my sake? Because I asked you?"
"Why, sure. I want to stand at your back"
Shock was puzzled. He tried another line of approach.
"Do you know, Ike, what you are joining?"
"Well, it's your church, you said."
"Supposing I was not here at all, would you join?"
"Can't say. Guess not."
Shock felt himself blocked again.
"Ike, do you think you are really fit to do this?"
"Fit? Well, you didn't say anything about bein' fit. You said if anyone was willin' to take it up, to stay with the game, to come on."
"Yes, yes, I know, Ike. I did say that, and I meant that," said Shock. "But, Ike, you know that the Apostle calls those who belong to the church 'saints of God.'"
"Saints, eh? Well, I aint no saint, I can tell you that. Guess I'm out of this combination. No, sir, I aint no paradox--paragon, I mean." Ike remembered the Kid's correction.
His disappointment and perplexity were quite evident. After hearing Shock's invitation from the pulpit it had seemed so plain, so simple.
His answer rendered Shock desperate.
"Look here, Ike, I am going to be plain with you. You won't mind that?"
"Wade right in."
"Well, you sometimes swear, don't you?"
"Yes, that's so. But I've pretty much quit, unless there's some extraordinary occasion."
"Well, you drink, don't you?"
"Why, sure. When I can git it, and git it good, which aint easy in this country now."
"And you sometimes fight?"
"Well," in a tone almost of disappointment, "there aint nobody wantin' to experiment with me in these parts any longer."
"And you gamble? Play poker for money, I mean?"
"Oh, well, I don't profess to be the real thing," replied Ike modestly, as if disclaiming an excellence he could hardly hope to attain, "but I ginerally kin stay some with the game."
"Now, Ike, listen to me. I'm going to give it to you straight."
Ike faced his minister squarely, looking him fair in the eyes.
"You have been doing pretty much as you like all along. Now, if you join the church you are swearing solemnly to do only what Jesus Christ likes. You give your word you will do only what you think He wants. You see? He is to be your Master."
"Yes," said Ike. "Yes, that's so. That's right."
"In everything, remember."
"Why, sure." That seemed quite simple to Ike.
"Swearing, drinking, fighting, gambling," Shock continued.
"Why, you don't suppose He would mind a little thing like a smile with the boys now and then, or a quiet game of poker, do you?"
"What I say, Ike, is this--if you thought He did mind, would you quit?"
"Why, sure. You just bet! I said so."
"Well, Ike, supposing some--one of those chaps from the Pass, say Hickey, should walk up and hit you right the face, what would you do?"
"What? Proceed to eddicate him. Preject him into next week. That is, if there was anything left."
Shock opened his Bible and read, "'But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also.' That is what Jesus Christ says, Ike."
"He does, eh? Does it mean just that?" Ike felt that this was a serious difficulty.
"Yes, it means just that."
"Are all you fellers like that?"
This wrought in Shock sudden confusion.
"Well, Ike, I am afraid not, but we ought to be, and we aim to be."
"Well," said Ike slowly, "I guess I aint made that way."
Then Shock turned the leaves of his Bible, and read the story of the cruel bruising of the Son of Man, and on to the words, "Father, forgive them." Ike had heard this story before, but he had never seen its bearing upon practical life.
"I say," he said, with reverent admiration in his voice, "He did it, didn't He? That's what I call pretty high jumpin', aint it? Well," he continued, "I can't make no promises, but I tell you what, I'll aim at it. I will, honest. And when you see me weaken, you'll jack me up, won't you? You'll have to stay with me, for it's a mighty hard proposition."
Then Shock took his hands. "Ike, you are a better man than I am, but I promise you I will stay all I can with you. But there will be days when you will be all alone except that He will be with you. Now listen," and Shock, turning over the leaves of his Bible, read, "Lo, I am with you always," and a little further over and read again, "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me."
"That is His solemn promise, Ike. He has promised to save us from our sins. Do you think you can trust Him to do that?"
"Why, sure," said Ike, as if nothing else was possible. "That's His game, aint it? I guess He'll stay with it. He said so, didn't He?"
"Yes," said Shock, with a sudden exaltation of faith, "He said so, and He will stay with it. Don't you be afraid, Ike. He will see you through."
The Communion Roll when it was completed numbered some eighteen names, and of these eighteen none were more sorely pressed to the wall in God's battle than Ike, and none more loyally than he stayed with the game.
Owing to miscarriage in arrangements, when the Superintendent arrived at the Fort he was surprised to find no one to meet him. This had an appearance of carelessness or mismanagement that unfavorably impressed the Superintendent as to the business capacity of his missionary. He was too experienced a traveller, however, in the remote and unformed districts of the West, to be at all disconcerted at almost any misadventure.
He inquired for Mr. Macfarren, and found him in Simmons' store, redolent of bad tobacco and worse whiskey, but quite master of his mental and physical powers. The Superintendent had business with Mr. Macfarren, and proceeded forthwith to transact it.
After his first salutation he began, "When I saw you last, Mr. Macfarren, you professed yourself keenly desirous of having services established by our church here."
"Why this sudden change, represented by your letter to the Committee, and the petition, which I judge was promoted by yourself? I placed a man here, with every expectation of success. How can you explain this change in you and in the people you represent?"
The Superintendent's bodily presence was anything but weak, and men who could oppose him when at a distance, when confronted with him found it difficult to support their opposition. Macfarren found it so. He began in an apologetic manner, "Well, Doctor, circumstances have changed. Times have been none too good. In fact, we are suffering from financial stringency at present."
"Mr. Macfarren, be specific as to your reasons. Your letter and your petition were instrumental in persuading the Committee to a complete change of policy. This should not be without the very best of reasons."
"Well, as I was saying," answered Macfarren, "finances were--"
"Tut! tut! Mr. Macfarren. You do not all become poor in six months. Your cattle are still here. Your horses have suffered from no plague."
"Well," said Mr. Macfarren, "the people have become alienated."
"Alienated? From the church?"
"Well, yes. They seem to be satisfied with--to prefer, indeed, the Anglican services."
"Mr. Macfarren, do you mean to tell me that the Presbyterians of this country prefer any church to their own? I fear they are a different breed from those I have known, and unworthy to represent the church of their fathers."
"Well, the truth is, Doctor," said Macfarren, considerably nettled at the Superintendent's manner, "the people consider that they were not well treated in the supply you sent them."
"Ah! Now we have it. Well, let us be specific again. Is Mr. Macgregor not a good preacher?"
"No, he is not. He is not such a preacher as many of us have been accustomed to."
"By the way, Mr. Macfarren, what do your people pay toward this man's salary? Five hundred? Three hundred? We only asked you two hundred, and this you found difficult. And yet you expect a two- thousand-dollar preacher."
"Well, his preaching was not his only fault," said Macfarren. "He was totally unsuited to our people. He was a man of no breeding, no manners, and in this town we need a man--"
"Wait a moment, Mr. Macfarren. You can put up with his preaching?"
"Did he visit his people?"
"Yes, goodness knows, he did that enough."
"Was his character good?"
"Then I understand you to say that as a preacher he was passable, as a pastor and as a man all that could be desired?"
"Oh, yes, certainly. But he was--well, if you have met him you must know what I mean. In short, he was uncouth and boorish in his manners."
The Superintendent drew himself up, and his voice began to burr in a way that his friends would have recognized as dangerous.
"Boorish, Mr. Macfarren? Let me tell you, sir, that he is a Highland gentleman, the son of a Highland gentlewoman, and boorishness is impossible to him."
"Well, that may be too strong, Doctor, but you do not understand our society here. We have a large number of people of good family from the old country and from the East, and in order to reach them we require a man who has moved in good society."
"Well, sir," said the Superintendent, "Jesus Christ would not have suited your society here, for He was a man of very humble birth, and moved in very low circles." And without further word he turned from Macfarren to greet Father Mike, who had entered the store.
"Delighted to see you again, Bishop," said Father Mike. "We are always glad to see you even though you are outside the pale."
"Depends upon which pale you mean, Father Mike," said the Superintendent, shaking him warmly by the hand.
"True, sir. And I, for one, refuse to narrow its limits to those of any existing organization."
"Your principles do you credit, sir," said the Superintendent, giving his hand an extra shake. "They are truly Scriptural, truly modern, and truly Western."
"But, Doctor, I want to ask you, if I may without impertinence, why did you do so great an injury to our community as to remove your missionary from us?"
"Ah, you consider that a loss, Father Mike?"
"Undoubtedly, sir. A great and serious loss. He was a high type of a man. I will quote as expressing my opinions, the words of a gentleman whose judgment would, I suppose, be considered in this community as final on all such matters--General Brady, sir. I think you know him. This is what I heard him say. 'He is an able preacher and a Christian gentleman.'"
"Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir," said the Superintendent. "I thank you for your warm appreciation of one whom, after short acquaintance, I regard as you do."
It was Father Mike who drove the Superintendent to Loon Lake next day, only to find Shock away from home.
"We will inquire at the stopping-place," said Father Mike.
"Let us see," said the Superintendent, who never forgot a name or a face, "does Carroll keep that still? He did five years ago."
"Yes, and here he is," said Father Mike. "Hello, Carroll. Can you tell me where your minister is?"
"By japers, it's a search warrant you'll need for him I'm thinkin'. Ask Perault there. Perault, do you know where the preacher is?"
"Oui. He's go 'way for prospect sure."
"Prospecting?" inquired Father Mike.
"Oui," grinned Perault, "dat's heem, one prospector. Every day, every day he's pass on de trial, over de hill, down de coulee, all over."
"He does, eh?" said Father Mike, delighted at the description of his friend. "What is he after? Coal?"
"Coal!" echoed Perault with contempt. "Not mouche. He's go for find de peep. He's dig 'em up on de church, by gar."
"You see, Doctor," said Father Mike, "no one has any chance here with your fellow. There's Carroll, now, and Perault, they are properly Roman Catholic, but now they are good Presbyterians."
"Bon, for sure. Eh, Carroll, mon garcon?"
"Bedad, an' it's thrue for ye," said Carroll.
It was no small tribute to Shock's influence that the ancient feud between these two had been laid to rest.
"Well, do you know when he will be home?" asked Father Mike.
"I go for fin' out," said Perault, running into his house, and returning almost immediately. "Tomorrow for sure. Mebbe to-night."
"Well, Carroll, this is your minister's bishop. I suppose you can look after him till Mr. Macgregor comes home."
"An' that we can, sir. Come right in," said Carroll readily. "Anny friend of the Prospector, as we call him, is welcome to all in me house, an' that he is."
That afternoon and evening the Superintendent spent listening in the pauses of his letter writing to the praises of the missionary, and to a description, with all possible elaboration and ornament, of the saving of little Patsey's life, in which even the doctor's skill played a very subordinate part.
"An' there's Patsey himself, the craythur," said Mrs. Carroll, "an' will he luk at his father or meself when his riverince is by? An' he'll follie him out an' beyant on that little pony of his."
The Superintendent made no remark, but he kept quietly gathering information. In Perault's house it was the same. Perault, Josie, and Marion sang in harmony the praises of Shock.
Late at night Shock returned bringing the doctor with him, both weary and spent with the long, hard day's work. From Perault, who was watching for his return, he heard of the arrival of the Superintendent. He was much surprised and mortified that his Superintendent should have arrived in his absence, and should have found no one to welcome him.
"Tell Josie and Marion," he said to Perault, "to get my room ready," and, weary as he was, he went to greet his chief.
He found him, as men were accustomed to find him, busy with his correspondence. The Superintendent rose up eagerly to meet his missionary.
"How do you do, sir, how do you do? I am very glad to see you," and he gripped Shock's hand with a downward pull that almost threw him off his balance.
"I wish to assure you," said the Superintendent, when the greetings were over, "I wish to assure you," and his voice took its deepest tone, "of my sincere sympathy with you in your great loss. It was my privilege to be present at your mother's funeral, and to say a few words. You have a great and noble heritage in your mother's memory. She was beautiful in her life, and she was beautiful in death."
Poor Shock! The unexpected tender reference to his mother, the brotherly touch, and the vision that he had from the Superintendent's words of his mother, beautiful in death, were more than he could bear. His emotions overwhelmed him. He held the Superintendent's hand tight in his, struggling to subdue the sobs, that heaved up from his labouring breast.
"I suppose," continued the Superintendent, giving him time to recover himself, "my last letter failed to reach you. I had expected to be here two weeks later, but I wrote changing my arrangements so as to arrive here to-day."
"No, sir," said Shock, "no letter making any change reached me. I am very sorry indeed, not to have met you, and I hope you were not much inconvenienced."
"Not at all, sir, not at all. Indeed, I was very glad to have the opportunity of spending a little time at the Fort, and meeting some of your friends. By the way, I met a friend of yours on my journey down, who wished to be remembered to you, Bill Lee of Spruce Creek. You remember him?"
"Oh, perfectly. Bill is a fine fellow," said Shock, enthusiastically.
"Yes, Bill has his points. He has quit whiskey selling, he said, and he wished that you should know that. He said you would know the reason why."
But Shock knew of no reason, and he only replied, "Bill was very kind to me, and I am glad to know of the change in him."
"Yes," continued the Superintendent, "and I spent some time at the Fort meeting with some of the people, but upon inquiries I am more puzzled than ever to find a reason for the withdrawal of our services, and I am still in the dark about it."
Shock's face flushed a deep red.
"I am afraid," he said, in a shamed and hesitating manner, "that I was not the right man for the place. I think I rather failed at the Fort."
"I saw Macfarren," continued the Superintendent, ignoring Shock's remark. "He tried to explain, but seemed to find it difficult." The Superintendent omitted to say that he had heard from Father Mike what might have explained in a measure Macfarren's opposition. But Shock remained silent.
"Well," continued the Superintendent, "now that I am here, what do you wish me to do?"
"First," said Shock, "come over to my house. Come to the manse. Carroll will not mind."
The Superintendent put his papers together, and Shock, shouldering his valise and coat, led the way to the manse.
As they entered the big room the Superintendent paused to observe its proportions, noted the library shelves full of books, the organ in the corner, the pictures adorning the walls, and without much comment passed on upstairs to Shock's own room. But he did not fail to detect a note of pride in Shock's voice as he gave him welcome.
"Come in, come in and sit down. I hope you will be comfortable. It is rather rough."
"Rough, sir," exclaimed the Superintendent. "It is palatial. It is truly magnificent. I was quite unprepared for anything like this. Now tell me how was this accomplished?"
"Oh," said Shock, diffidently, "they all helped, and here it is."
"That is all, eh?"
And that was all Shock would tell. The rest of the story, however, the Superintendent heard from others. And so, throughout his whole visit the Superintendent found it impossible to get his missionary to tell of his own labours, and were it not that he carried an observant and experienced eye, and had a skilful and subtle inquisitorial method, he might have come and gone knowing little of the long, weary days and weeks of toil that lay behind the things that stood accomplished in that field.
It was the same at the Pass. There stood the hospital equipped, almost free from debt, and working in harmony with the camps and the miners. There, too, was the club room and the library.
"And how was all this brought about?" inquired the Superintendent.
"Oh, The Don and the doctor took hold, and the men all helped."
The Superintendent said nothing, but his eyes were alight with a kindly smile as they rested on his big missionary, and he took his arm in a very close grip as they walked from shack to shack.
All this time Shock was pouring into his Superintendent's ear tales of the men who lived in the mountains beyond the Pass. He spoke of their hardships, their sufferings, their temptations, their terrible vices and their steady degradation.
"And have you visited them?" inquired the Superintendent.
He had not been able to visit them as much as he would have liked, but he had obtained information from many of the miners and lumbermen as to their whereabouts, and as to the conditions under which they lived and wrought. Shock was talking to a man of like mind. The Superintendent's eye, like that of his missionary, was ever upon the horizon, and his desires ran far ahead of his vision.
It was from The Don that the Superintendent learned of all Shock's work in the past, and of all that had been done to counteract the terrible evils that were the ruin of the lumbermen and miners. Won by the Superintendent's sympathy, The Don unburdened his heart and told him his own story of how, in his hour of misery and despair, Shock had stood his friend and saved him from shame and ruin.
"Yes, sir," The Don concluded, "more than I shall ever be able to repay he has done for me, and," he added humbly, "if I have any hope for the future, that too I owe to him."
"You have cause to thank God for your friend, sir," said the Superintendent, "and he has no reason to be ashamed of his friend. You are doing noble work, sir, in this place, noble work."
A visit to the nearest lumber camp and mines, a public meeting in the hospital, and the Superintendent's work at the Pass for the time was done.
As he was leaving the building The Don called him into his private room.
"I wish to introduce you to our nurse," he said. "We think a great deal of her, and we owe much to her," and he left them together.
"I asked to see you," said Nellie, "because I want your advice and help. They need to have more nurses here than one, and no one will come while I am here."
The Superintendent gazed at her, trying to make her out. She tried to proceed with her tale but failed, and, abandoning all reserve, told him with many tears the story of her sin and shame.
"And now," she said, "for the sake of the hospital and the doctor I must go away, and I want to find a place where I can begin again."
As the Superintendent heard her story his eyes began to glisten under his shaggy brows.
"My dear child," he said at length, "you have had a hard life, but the Saviour has been good to you. Come with me, and I will see what can be done. When can you come?"
"When the doctor says," she replied.
"Very well," said the Superintendent, "I shall arrange it with him," and that was the beginning of a new life for poor Nellie.
The last meeting of the Superintendent's visit was at Loon Lake, after the Sunday evening service. The big room was crowded with people gathered from the country far and near, from the Fort to the Pass, to hear the great man. And he was worth while hearing that day. His imagination kindled by his recent sight of the terrible struggle that men were making toward cleanness, and toward heaven and God, and the vision he had had through the eyes of his missionary of the regions beyond, caused his speech to glow and burn.
For an hour and more they listened with hearts attent, while he spoke to them of their West, its resources, its possibilities, and laid upon them their responsibility as those who were determining its future for the multitudes that were to follow. His appeal for men and women to give themselves to the service of God and of their country, left them thrilling with visions, hopes and longings.
In the meeting that always followed the evening service, the people kept crowding about him, refusing to disperse. Then the Superintendent began again.
"Your minister has been telling me much about the men in the mountains. He seems to have these men upon his heart."
"Sure," said Ike. "He's a regular prospector, he is."
"So I have heard, so I have heard," said the Superintendent, smiling, "and so I should judge from what I have seen. Now, what are you going to do about it?"
They all grew quiet.
"You know about these men, no one else does. Are you going to let them go to destruction without an attempt to prevent it?"
The silence deepened.
"Now, listen to me. This will cost money. How much can you give to send a man to look them up? Two hundred and fifty dollars?"
"Count me," said Ike.
"Me, too," echoed Perault. "And me, and me," on all sides. In ten minutes the thing was arranged.
"Now, there is something else," said the Superintendent, and his voice grew deep and solemn. "Can you spare me your man?"
"No, sir!" said the Kid, promptly.
"Not much!" echoed Perault, and in this feeling all emphatically agreed.
"Do you know where we can get such a man?" said the Superintendent, "such a prospector?"
There was no answer. "I do not either. Now, what are you going to do?"
Then Sinclair spoke up.
"Do you mean, Doctor, to remove Mr. Macgregor from us? That would seem to be very hard upon this field."
"Well, perhaps not; but can you spare him for six months, at least?"
For some minutes no one made reply. Then Ike spoke.
"Well, I surmise we got a good deal from our Prospector. In fact, what we aint got from him don't count much. And I rather opine that we can't be mean about this. It's a little like pullin' hair, but I reckon we'd better give him up."
"Thank you, sir," said the Superintendent, who had learned much from Ike throughout the day. "Your words are the best commentary I have ever heard upon a saying of our Lord's, that has inspired men to all unselfish living, 'Freely ye have received, freely give.'"