Ernest Thompson Seton.

The preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country online

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will the speakers kindly announce their names?"

The woman made a gesture of impatience - evidently every one should know
_her_ name: "I am Dr. Mary Mudd, M. D., of Rush College, unmarried,
Resident Physician of the Mudd Maternity Home and the winner of the Mudd
medal for an essay on misapplied medicine. There! Now I want to know are
women eligible for office in this club?"

To which Hopkins replied: "Since women are admitted to membership and
pay dues, they are eligible for all offices."

"Well, now, I'm with you," said Dr. Mudd; and she sat down.

Now arose a thin, dark man with a wild shock of hair, a black beard, a
red tie and a general appearance of having _-ski_ at the end of his
name. "I vant to know do you hev to be religious your vay in dis cloob?"

"Kindly give your name," said the Chair.

"Veil, I'm Isaac Skystein; I'm a renovator of chentlemen's deteriorated
vearing apparel, and I vant to know of dis is a missionary trick, or do
it be a cloob vere von can talk de freedom of speech?"

"You do not have to belong to any Church," announced the Chairman.

"Vell; is it to be de religious talk?"

"Once a week, or maybe once a month, there will be a debate in this
hall, at which entire freedom of speech will be allowed."

"Dat mean I can get up an' say I doan take no stock in your dern
religion? I vant de freedom of de speeches, Ya!"

"It means that, at the proper time, each will have a chance to get up
and say exactly what he thinks within the decencies of debate."

"Vell, I tink I'll join for a vhile, anyvay."

Then a red-faced man introduced himself. "I'm Jack Hinks, teamster, and
I want to know if any drinks will be sold on the premises."

"No, sir; nothing intoxicating."

"I mean on the sly."

"No, sir: nothing, absolutely nothing."

"Well, Mike Shay tipped me off that it was to be 'wet' on the quiet."

"He made a mistake; this is to be a strictly teetotal club."

"That settles it. What's the good of a club where you can't have no fun?
Good night!" and out he went.

A lanky youth with unhealthy rings around his eyes and brown stains on
his thumb asked if there were to be boxing lessons and would Mr.
Hartigan tell them about the scrap between himself and Mike Shay.
Mothers asked if a baby corral would be instituted, to set the mothers
free for a few hours each day. A tall, pale young man with a Southern
coo, asked "whether Negroes were to be admitted." The Chair dodged by
saying: "That will be decided by the vote of the majority."

A male person, with a beard and a tremulous voice, asked what the club's
attitude would be toward the Salvation Army. Before the Chair could
reply, little Skystein jumped up and shouted: "Mr. Chairman, ve don't
vant 'em; dey's all feelin's an' no brains. You don't see no Chews in de
Salvation Army - it's too many emotions; de Chews got too much
intellects, ve don't vant - - "

"I rule you out of order!" shouted the Chair. "Sit down! Now for your
question: The club will welcome the Salvationists as individual members.
It does not recognize them as a body."

A fat, unsuccessful-looking man, asked if it held out any chance for a
job; and a red-headed masculine person of foreign design rose to inquire
whether the bathing would be compulsory. A preliminary vote was
overwhelmingly in favour of the five-dollar dues, though a small
minority thought it should be free; a group of four persons believed
they should draw compensation for coming.

The meeting answered every expectation; it fully introduced the club and
its leaders; it demonstrated the views of the possible members, and gave
the Board of Deacons a new light on human nature. All the business of
definite organization was deferred to the next meeting, to take place
one week later.




CHAPTER LIV

The Formation of the Club


Foundation Sunday came, and with it a respectable crowd at the House.
There were some who had brought babies - which was unfortunate, but
unavoidable - and there were one or two men too hilarious for good
manners; but the crowd was, on the whole, good-natured and desirable.

Mike Shay was not there, although Jim had tried to get him; but Mike had
a curious diffidence about appearing in public. All his power was
underground, and all his methods behind the scenes. Squeaks was there to
keep an eye on things, and his little bleary, ferret eyes watched each
person and detail with cunning, if not with discernment.

It was made perfectly clear that only members in good standing had
votes.

"Vell, vot dot mean, dot good at stannin'? Don't ve vote settin' down?"
demanded Skystein.

"It means members whose dues are fully paid, and who are not under
indictment for serious breach of rules."

"I want to pay one year's dues for myself and Mr. Michael Shay," said
Squeaks; and he walked to the secretary and paid ten dollars. This
indorsement by the boss produced immediate results.

"I'll take a year's membership," said a big, coarse, red-faced man. And
he rolled up the aisle to deposit his five dollars, giving his name as
Bud Towler. Jim remembered him as the third person in the back room the
day he met Michael Shay. He had not seen him since.

So many more came up now, mostly to pay a month's dues, which was the
minimum, that Belle was worked hard and other business was stopped.

Then, when all who wished to pay and register had done so, the voice of
Squeaks was heard: "I have here a list of names that I want to propose
for charter membership," and he read off a list of twenty-five men, none
of them present. Bud Towler got up and seconded the lot; the Chair was
asked to put the names to immediate vote, as it was a charter meeting;
all were carried, and Squeaks came forward and paid twenty-five dollars
dues for the lot to cover the next ten weeks, that is, to the end of a
year.

Belle whispered to Hopkins as Squeaks retired. The Chair nodded, rose
and explained. "In drawing up our constitution, we deemed it best, in
the interests of democracy, to do all voting by ballot and to exclude
all proxies."

"Dot's right, dot's all right!" shouted Skystein.

"Mr. Chairman, I protest," came the wire-like voice of Squeaks; this
measure, would, naturally, mean the disfranchisement of every man whose
business happened to keep him away at election time. How much more
reasonable it would be for him to empower some trusted friend to
represent him and his views, etc., etc.

On the matter of the ballot he was not so strong, but he did think "that
the manly, straightforward way was for a voter to announce his vote and
not be ashamed of his principles. Of course, he was aware that there was
much to be said on the other side, but he was in favour of proxies and
open voting."

"So am I," shouted Towler. "We ain't got no right to rob a man of his
vote because he happens to be a night watchman."

"Ah, vat's de matter mit ye?" said Skystein. "Effery-body knows you an'
Squeaks is in cahoots to run de hull push cart."

There was a good chance of a row; but Hopkins explained that voting by
mail was a different thing from voting by proxy, and every member in
good standing would get the chance to vote by mail on important matters,
when he could not be present.

No one could long have been in that meeting without realizing that it
was a veritable microcosm - a little world in which were all the
struggling, rival elements, the good and evil forces of the big world.
Not a problem that was tormenting the country but was represented in
vital strength in that club group. It was full of lessons and grave
responsibilities.

They were now ready for the elections. Squeaks rose and said: "Since the
owners of the lease are to nominate two of the four governors, it would
clear things up if their nominations were made first and the club
elections afterward."

This at once confronted Hopkins with a problem. He had a free hand, but
he was puzzled, because while it was understood that he was to be
president and Hartigan the active governor on the spot, they had not
secured a third man who, as governor, could be counted on for a
continued whole-souled support. It was Dr. Mary Mudd that let the
daylight into this problem by rising to say:

"Mr. Chairman, I understand we are free to elect a woman to the board of
governors as well as to any other office."

Hopkins had not thought of that, but the broad principle had been
established and he replied "Yes."

"Very good," said Dr. Mudd, "now there's a chance for common sense as
well as decency."

In a flash, Hopkins got the answer to his own problem. Belle Hartigan
had steadily been winning his appreciation. His admiration for her
clear-headedness and business training was increased at each meeting. He
knew now pretty well how often her brain was behind Jim's actions. In
any event, the trial would be for only two and one-half months, when
elections were to take place for the new year. He bent toward her: "Will
you be one of the appointed governors for the rest of the year?"

"Yes."

Hopkins rose and announced that the owners of the lease appointed Mr.
and Mrs. Hartigan as the two governors to represent them.

This was warmly applauded, especially by the women - led by Dr. Mudd.
There followed some sharp electioneering and the members elected Squeaks
and Skystein to represent them. Dr. Mudd, who had been nominated,
demanded a recount of the votes, but the election was sustained. The
four governors then met and within five minutes agreed on Hopkins for
president. So the board was formed and for good or ill, the club was
launched - in the slum, of the slum, and for the slum - but with a long,
strong arm from the other world; an outside thing, but meant in kindly
help.




BOOK V

THE CALL OF THE MOUNTAIN




CHAPTER LV

In the Absence of Belle


Every citizen of South Chicago remembers the work of the Cedar Mountain
House; how it grew and prospered, and how the old building became too
small and an annex across the street was called for. How its greatest
strength lay in the monthly free discussion of _any subject_ approved in
advance by the governors. How the rival parties of Skystein and Squeaks
alternately pulled and pushed each other about. How musical genius was
discovered in abundance and an orchestra formed as well as a monthly
minstrel show. How pool tables were introduced and a restaurant started.
How the movement to introduce beer was defeated by a small majority.
How, after due discussion, they adopted some seemingly hard policies,
such as the exclusion of all Negroes and Chinamen. How Squeaks led an
abortive attempt to disqualify all Jews. How the gymnasium became the
focal centre of all the boys in the neighbourhood. How they organized a
strong-arm squad of a dozen club members who acted as police, and
without offense, because they were of themselves. At the end of the
first six months, the House had more than justified its existence. It
had nearly four hundred members and was doing work that in a higher
state of civilization would be the proper care of the government.

It would have been hard to say who was the chief. Belle had been the
planner and executor and now was not only a governor, but secretary and
head of the women's department, on a fair business basis. But the growth
of power in Jim was obvious. It had all been very new to his ways of
thinking and, after all, Links and Chicago have little in common. Belle
had a business training that was essential, and her quick judgment
helped at every turn for it is a fact that second-class judgment right
now is better than first-class judgment to-morrow. The full measure of
her helpfulness in bearing the burdens was made transparently clear by a
sudden crisis in their affairs. A telegram from Cedar Mountain arrived
for Belle.

Mother very ill. Come at once - FATHER.

It was impossible for both to go, so Belle set off alone for Cedar
Mountain, leaving Jim in charge of the flock at the Mountain House.
Alone - he didn't think it possible to feel alone in such a crowd. His
work was doubled in the absence of Belle, although Dr. Mary Mudd gave
not a little help in the mothers' department. It was a good thing for
Jim to find out just how much he owed to his wife. There was a
continuous stream of callers at the office with requests or complaints.
These had all been met by Belle. She had an even poise, a gentle
consideration for all, and certain helpful rules that reduced the
strain, such as exact hours for work, one call at a time, and written
complaints only. Jim's anxiety to placate and smooth out led him to
undertake too much, and the result was a deluge of small matters of
which he had previously known nothing. The exasperating accumulation of
annoyances and attacks, in spite of all his best and kindest endeavours,
invoked a new light.

"Oh, if Belle were only here!" was his repeated thought. "I don't know
how she manages, but she does. It's mighty strange how few of these
annoyances came up when she was in the office." He began to realize more
and more her ability. "She has more judgment, more tact than any of us;
she has been meeting these things all along, and saving me from them by
settling them without me. Yes, she's wiser than I am in such matters."

So he wrote her of his troubles. He detailed many cases in point and
added: "We miss you awfully; every one in the House complains. I haven't
got your cleverness and tact. It seems as if I made enemies every time I
tried to make friends. Come back as soon as you can." And if the truth
must be told there was a little flush of pleasure and triumph in her
soul. "Now he knows what I have known so long." And who shall blame her
for gloating a little over the deacons who, in the beginning, were
unwilling to recognize her? But she had to send a discouraging reply.
For the angel of destiny said: "No, it is now time for him to walk
alone" and the telegram ran:

Cannot come; Mother is very low.

After the first shock of disappointment he braced up, and, like a man
who has been retreating and who knows in his heart that he never meant
to make a stand as long as some one else could be depended on, he
upbraided himself and turned to face the fight. "There is a way of doing
it all, and I can do it." And in the resolve to win he found new
strength. In many small, but puzzling matters, he got guidance in the
practical sayings of men like Lincoln and Grant: "Be sure you are right,
then go ahead"; "Every one has some rights"; "In case of doubt, go the
gentle way"; "Never hunt for trouble." These were samples of the homely
wisdom that helped him and proved that the old proverbs are old wisdom
in shape for new use.

One man came to complain that a member had been drunk and disorderly at
a certain other place the night before. A year ago, Jim would have said
that it was a disgrace and that he would make a thorough investigation,
which would have meant assuming a special guardianship of each and every
member all the time. Wiser now, he said, "Since it was not on our
premises, we have no knowledge of the matter." On the other hand, it was
a serious affair when a member brought in a bottle of strong drink and
treated a number of weak friends until there was a wild orgy going on in
one of the rooms, in spite of official protests from those in charge.
This was clearly high treason; and repressing a disposition to gloss it
over, Hartigan expelled the principal and suspended the seconds for long
periods.

During a boyish contest in the gymnasium, a man somewhat in liquor,
shouted out a string of oaths at the youngsters. Jim rebuked him quietly
for using such language there, whereupon the man turned upon him with a
coarse insult and, misunderstanding the Preacher's gentleness, struck
him a vicious blow, which Jim only partly warded off. "If you do that
again, we may have to put you out," said Jim, inwardly boiling under the
double insult. Fortunately, the man's friends interfered now and got the
fellow away. For this Jim was most thankful. Afterward, he rejoiced
still more that he had restrained himself; and he knew Belle would flush
with pride at this victory over self, this proof of a growing
self-control.

Another week went by and again came word that Belle could not return for
perhaps ten days at the earliest. A dozen broils that Jim had been
postponing for Belle to arbitrate had now to be considered. Dr. Mary
Mudd was the leader of an indignant party of women to complain that
though the men were not more in numbers than the women they had
appropriated sixty out of the one hundred coat hangers.

Rippe, the tailor, was there to complain that Dr. Mary Mudd always
walked up the middle of the stairs, unlawfully delaying the traffic,
instead of keeping the proper right side. With his outstretched arms, he
illustrated the formidable nature of the barrier. Dr. Mudd retorted that
said Rippe had repeatedly smoked in the ladies' room, etc., etc. But
these were small matters easily adjusted. Two, much more serious, came
on him in one day.

First, he yielded to the temptation of having a beautiful banner hung on
the wall, because it was contributed and very decorative. It bore a
legend, "No popery." This was much in line with his private views, but
it made a great stir and cost them a score of members, as well as
incurring the dislike of Father O'Hara, hitherto friendly. His second
blunder was to allow the cook in the restaurant to put scraps of pork in
the soup, thereby raising a veritable storm among the many keen debaters
of the kosher kind, and causing the resignation of Skystein from the
board - temporarily at least.

It would have been much to Jim's taste to have an open war with Father
O'Hara and his flock. His Ulster blood was ready for just such a row.
And in his heart he believed pork and beans quite the best of foods. But
his opinions were not law; he had been learning many things. Others had
rights; and he won the disaffected back, one by one, by recognizing the
justice of their claims and by making kindly personal calls on each of
them.

Thus Jim Hartigan got a new knowledge of his own endowment and
discovered unsuspected powers. He had held his peace and triumphed in a
number of trying situations that two or three years before would have
ended in an unprofitable brawl. He had controlled his temper, that was a
step forward and he was learning to control those about him as well as
manage an organization. He had begun to realize his _prejudices_ and to
learn to respect the beliefs of others even when he thought them wrong.
The memory of Father Cyprian and the Sioux boy had helped him to deal
kindly and respectfully with Skystein and Father O'Hara.

Strange to say, it was a travelling Hindu who supplied him with the
biggest, broadest thought of all. This swarthy scholar was deeply imbued
with the New Buddhism of Rammohan Roy and, when asked for his opinion of
some Romanist practices, he remarked softly, but evasively, "My religion
teaches me that if any man do anything sincerely, believing that thereby
he is worshipping God, he _is_ worshipping God and his action must be
treated with respect, so long as he is not infringing the rights of
others."

Jim took a long walk by the lake that day and turned over and over that
saying of the Hindu in the library. The thing had surprised him - first,
because of the perfect English in the mouth of a foreigner, and
secondly, because of the breadth and tolerance of the thought. He
wondered how he could ever have believed himself open-minded or fair
when he had been so miserably narrow in all his ideas. Where was he
headed? All his early days he had been taught to waste effort on
scorning the ceremonials great and small of Jews, Catholics, yes, of
Baptists even; and now the heathen - to whom he had once thought of going
as a missionary - had come to Chicago and shown him the true faith.

Striding at top speed, he passed a great pile of lumber and sawdust. The
fresh smell of the wet wood brought back Links - and his mother, and a
sense of happiness, for he had given up "trying to reason it all out."
He was no longer sure, as he once was, that he had omniscience for his
guide. Indeed he was sure only of this, that the kindest way is the only
way that is safe.

There was daylight dawning in his heart, and yet, across that dawn there
was a cloud which grew momentarily more black, more threatening.
Paradoxical as it seemed, Jim was intensely unhappy over the abandonment
of the ministerial career. The enduring force of his word as a man was
only another evidence of the authentic character of that deep emotional
outburst which had pledged him openly to the service of Christ. The work
at the Cedar Mountain House for a while satisfied the evangelical hunger
of his ardent soul. It was good, it was successful, it was increasing in
scope; but of its nature it could never be more than secular; it was
social work in its best form - that was all. The work of which he
dreamed, and to which he had consecrated his life was the preaching of
the Gospel, and, as the months passed, an unrest - the like of which he
had hardly known - took possession of him. These last weeks of Belle's
absence had brought on one of his periodic soul-searchings and the gloom
of it was as thick as a fog when the mail brought word of Belle's
return. As he sat with her letter in his hand his mind went back to the
hills and the free days and he longed to go back - to get away from the
ponderous stolidity of this pavement world.

He met her at the station and her joyousness was as a shock to him. And
yet, how hungry he was for every least word of that lost life.

"Oh, Jim, it was glorious to ride again, to smell the leather and the
sagebrush. I just loved the alkali and the very ticks on the sagebrush.
I didn't know how they could stir one's heart."

His eye glowed, his breath came fast, his nostrils dilated and, as Belle
looked, it seemed to her that her simple words had struck far deeper
than she meant.

"And the horses, which did you ride?" he queried. "How is Blazing Star?
Are they going to race at Fort Ryan this year? And the Bylow boys, and
the Mountain? Thank God, men may come and go, but Cedar Mountain will
stand forever." He talked as one who has long kept still - as one whose
thoughts long pent have dared at length to break forth.

And Belle, as she listened, saw a light. "He is far from forgetting the
life of the Hills," she said to herself as she watched him. "He is
keener than ever. All this steadfast devotion to club work is the
devotion of duty. Now I know the meaning of those long vigils, those
walks by the lake in the rain - of his preoccupation. His heart is in
Cedar Mountain." And she honoured him all the more for that he had never
spoken a word of the secret longing.




CHAPTER LVI

The Defection of Squeaks


Michael Shay had come to the club in person once or twice, but did not
desire to be conspicuous. It was clear now that the club was not to be
the political weapon at first suspected. The boss had another
organization through which to hold and make felt his power; but the fact
that it pleased a number of his voters was enough to insure his support.

Squeaks, however, was quite conspicuous and present on all important
occasions; it was generally supposed that he was there in the interests
of Shay, but that was not clearly proven. It was obvious that the club
was not in any way lined up for or against Shay. It was, however,
believed by Belle that Squeaks was there in the interests of Squeaks and
none other.

This strange, small person had a small, strange history - so far as it
was known. A lawyer, he had been disbarred for disreputable practice,
and was now a hanger-on of the boss, a shrewd person, quite purchasable.
He was convinced that he was destined to be a great boss, and satisfied
that Cedar Mountain House would help his plans - which lay in the
direction of the legislature - hence he sought to identify himself with
it. For the present, also, he stuck to Shay.

The approved boss system of the time rested on a regiment of absolutely
obedient voters, who voted not once, but many times in as many different
wards as needed. They were thoroughly organized, and part of their
purpose was to terrorize independent voters, or even "remove" men who
developed power or courage enough to oppose them; so the "reliable
squad" was important. As their ranks contained many convicts or men
qualified for life terms, they were a dangerous and desperate lot. They
responded at once and cheerfully to any duty call, and one "removal" per
night would have probably been less than average for a boss-ruled city


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Online LibraryErnest Thompson SetonThe preacher of Cedar Mountain; a tale of the open country → online text (page 21 of 24)