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Philip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 online

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the distance surely there were cacti. He knew that if he could hold out
a little longer, he could lay his burden in some sort of shade.

With halting steps, with eyes inflamed and strength all but gone, he
finally laid Gloria in the shadow of a giant prickly pear bush, and fell
beside her. He fumbled for his knife and clumsily scraped the needles
from a leaf of the cactus and sliced it in two. The heavy sticky liquid
ran over his hand as he placed the cut side of the leaf to Gloria's
lips. The juice of the plant together with the shade, partially revived
her. Philip, too, sucked the leaf until his parched tongue and throat
became a little more pliable.

"What happened?" demanded Gloria. "Oh! yes, now I remember. I am sorry I
gave out, Philip. I am not acclimated yet. What time is it?"

After pillowing her head more comfortably upon his riding coat, Philip
looked at his watch. "I - I can't just make it out, Gloria," he said. "My
eyes seem blurred. This awful glare seems to have affected them. They'll
be all right in a little while."

Gloria looked at the dial and found that the hands pointed to four
o'clock. They had been lost for six hours, but after their experiences,
it seemed more like as many days. They rested a little while longer
talking but little.

"You carried me," said Gloria once. "I'm ashamed of myself for letting
the heat get the best of me. You shouldn't have carried me, Philip, but
you know I understand and appreciate. How are your eyes now?"

"Oh, they'll be all right," he reiterated, but when he took his hand
from them to look at her, and the light beat upon the inflamed lids, he
winced.

After eating some of the fruit of the prickly pear, which they found too
hot and sweet to be palatable, Philip suggested at half after five that
they should move on. They arose, and the young officer started to lead
the way, peeping from beneath his hand. First he stumbled over a
mesquite bush directly in his path, and next he collided with a giant
cactus standing full in front of him.

"It's no use, Gloria," he said at last. "I can't see the way. You must
lead."

"All right, Philip, I will do the best I can."

For answer, he merely took her hand, and together they started to
retrace their steps. Over the trackless waste of alkali and sagebrush
they trudged. They spoke but little but when they did, their husky,
dust-parched voices made a mockery of their hopeful words.

Though the horizon seemed bounded by a low range of hills, the girl
instinctively turned her steps westward, and entered a draw. She
rounded one of the hills, and just as the sun was sinking, came upon the
valley in which their horses were peacefully grazing.

They mounted and followed the dim trail along which they had ridden that
morning, reaching the hacienda about dark. With many shakings of the
hand, voluble protestations of joy at their delivery from the desert,
and callings on God to witness that the girl had performed a miracle,
the haciendado gave them food and cooling drinks, and with gentle
insistence, had his servants, wife and daughters show them to their
rooms. A poultice of Mexican herbs was laid across Philip's eyes, but
exhausted as he was he could not sleep because of the pain they caused
him.

In the morning, Gloria was almost her usual self, but Philip could see
but faintly. As early as was possible they started for Fort Magruder.
His eyes were bandaged, and Gloria held the bridle of his horse and led
him along the dusty trail. A vaquero from the ranch went with them to
show the way.

Then came days of anxiety, for the surgeon at the Post saw serious
trouble ahead for Philip. He would make no definite statement, but
admitted that the brilliant young officer's eyesight was seriously
menaced.

Gloria read to him and wrote for him, and in many ways was his hands and
eyes. He in turn talked to her of the things that filled his mind. The
betterment of man was an ever-present theme with them. It pleased him to
trace for her the world's history from its early beginning when all was
misty tradition, down through the uncertain centuries of early
civilization to the present time.

He talked with her of the untrustworthiness of the so-called history of
to-day, although we had every facility for recording facts, and he
pointed out how utterly unreliable it was when tradition was the only
means of transmission. Mediocrity, he felt sure, had oftentimes been
exalted into genius, and brilliant and patriotic exclamations attributed
to great men, were never uttered by them, neither was it easy he
thought, to get a true historic picture of the human intellectual giant.
As a rule they were quite human, but people insisted upon idealizing
them, consequently they became not themselves but what the popular mind
wanted them to be.

He also dwelt on the part the demagogue and the incompetents play in
retarding the advancement of the human race. Some leaders were honest,
some were wise and some were selfish, but it was seldom that the people
would be led by wise, honest and unselfish men.

"There is always the demagogue to poison the mind of the people against
such a man," he said, "and it is easily done because wisdom means
moderation and honesty means truth. To be moderate and to tell the truth
at all times and about all matters seldom pleases the masses."

Many a long day was spent thus in purely impersonal discussions of
affairs, and though he himself did not realize it, Gloria saw that
Philip was ever at his best when viewing the large questions of State,
rather than the narrower ones within the scope of the military power.

The weeks passed swiftly, for the girl knew well how to ease the young
Officer's chafing at uncertainty and inaction. At times, as they droned
away the long hot summer afternoons under the heavily leafed fig trees
in the little garden of the Strawn bungalow, he would become impatient
at his enforced idleness. Finally one day, after making a pitiful
attempt to read, Philip broke out, "I have been patient under this as
long as I can. The restraint is too much. Something must be done."

Somewhat to his surprise, Gloria did not try to take his mind off the
situation this time, but suggested asking the surgeon for a definite
report on his condition.

The interview with the surgeon was unsatisfactory, but his report to his
superior officers bore fruit, for in a short time Philip was told that
he should apply for an indefinite leave of absence, as it would be
months, perhaps years, before his eyes would allow him to carry on his
duties.

He seemed dazed at the news, and for a long time would not talk of it
even with Gloria. After a long silence one afternoon she softly asked,
"What are you going to do, Philip?"

Jack Strawn, who was sitting near by, broke out - "Do! why there's no
question about what he is going to do. Once an Army man always an Army
man. He's going to live on the best the U.S.A. provides until his eyes
are right. In the meantime Philip is going to take indefinite sick
leave."

The girl only smiled at her brother's military point of view, and asked
another question. "How will you occupy your time, Philip?"

Philip sat as if he had not heard them.

"Occupy his time!" exclaimed Jack, "getting well of course. Without
having to obey orders or do anything but draw his checks, he can have
the time of his life, there will be nothing to worry about."

"That's just it," slowly said Philip. "No work, nothing to think about."

"Exactly," said Gloria.

"What are you driving at, Sister. You talk as if it was something to be
deplored. I call it a lark. Cheer the fellow up a bit, can't you?"

"No, never mind," replied Philip. "There's nothing to cheer me up about.
The question is simply this: Can I stand a period of several years'
enforced inactivity as a mere pensioner?"

"Yes!" quickly said Gloria, "as a pensioner, and then, if all goes well,
you return to this." "What do you mean, Gloria? Don't you like Army Post
life?" asked Jack.

"I like it as well as you do, Jack. You just haven't come to realize
that Philip is cut out for a bigger sphere than - that." She pointed out
across the parade ground where a drill was going on. "You know as well
as I do that this is not the age for a military career."

Jack was so disgusted with this, that with an exclamation of impatience,
he abruptly strode off to the parade ground.

"You are right, Gloria," said Philip. "I cannot live on a pension
indefinitely. I cannot bring myself to believe that it is honest to
become a mendicant upon the bounty of the country. If I had been injured
in the performance of duty, I would have no scruples in accepting
support during an enforced idleness, but this disability arose from no
fault of the Government, and the thought of accepting aid under such
circumstances is too repugnant."

"Of course," said Gloria.

"The Government means no more to me than an individual," continued
Philip, "and it is to be as fairly dealt with. I never could understand
how men with self-respect could accept undeserving pensions from the
Nation. To do so is not alone dishonest, but is unfair to those who need
help and have a righteous claim to support. If the unworthy were
refused, the deserving would be able to obtain that to which they are
entitled."

Their talk went on thus for hours, the girl ever trying more
particularly to make him see a military career as she did, and he more
concerned with the ethical side of the situation.

"Do not worry over it, Philip," cried Gloria, "I feel sure that your
place is in the larger world of affairs, and you will some day be glad
that this misfortune came to you, and that you were forced to go into
another field of endeavor.

"With my ignorance and idle curiosity, I led you on and on, over first
one hill and then another, until you lost your way in that awful desert
over there, but yet perhaps there was a destiny in that. When I was
leading you out of the desert, a blind man, it may be that I was leading
you out of the barrenness of military life, into the fruitful field of
labor for humanity."

After a long silence, Philip Dru arose and took Gloria's hand.

"Yes! I will resign. You have already reconciled me to my fate."



CHAPTER IV

THE SUPREMACY OF MIND


Officers and friends urged Philip to reconsider his determination of
resigning, but once decided, he could not be swerved from his purpose.
Gloria persuaded him to go to New York with her in order to consult one
of the leading oculists, and arrangements were made immediately. On the
last day but one, as they sat under their favorite fig tree, they talked
much of Philip's future. Gloria had also been reading aloud Sir Oliver
Lodge's "Science and Immortality," and closing the book upon the final
chapter, asked Philip what he thought of it.

"Although the book was written many years ago, even then the truth had
begun to dawn upon the poets, seers and scientific dreamers. The
dominion of mind, but faintly seen at that time, but more clearly now,
will finally come into full vision. The materialists under the
leadership of Darwin, Huxley and Wallace, went far in the right
direction, but in trying to go to the very fountainhead of life, they
came to a door which they could not open and which no materialistic key
will ever open."

"So, Mr. Preacher, you're at it again," laughed Gloria. "You belong to
the pulpit of real life, not the Army. Go on, I am interested."

"Well," went on Dru, "then came a reaction, and the best thought of the
scientific world swung back to the theory of mind or spirit, and the
truth began to unfold itself. Now, man is at last about to enter into
that splendid kingdom, the promise of which Christ gave us when he said,
'My Father and I are one,' and again, 'When you have seen me you have
seen the Father.' He was but telling them that all life was a part of
the One Life - individualized, but yet of and a part of the whole.

"We are just learning our power and dominion over ourselves. When in the
future children are trained from infancy that they can measurably
conquer their troubles by the force of mind, a new era will have come
to man."

"There," said Gloria, with an earnestness that Philip had rarely heard
in her, "is perhaps the source of the true redemption of the world."

She checked herself quickly, "But you were preaching to me, not I to
you. Go on."

"No, but I want to hear what you were going to say."

"You see I am greatly interested in this movement which is seeking to
find how far mind controls matter, and to what extent our lives are
spiritual rather than material," she answered, "but it's hard to talk
about it to most people, so I have kept it to myself. Go on, Philip, I
will not interrupt again."

"When fear, hate, greed and the purely material conception of Life
passes out," said Philip, "as it some day may, and only wholesome
thoughts will have a place in human minds, mental ills will take flight
along with most of our bodily ills, and the miracle of the world's
redemption will have been largely wrought."

"Mental ills will take flight along with bodily ills. We should be
trained, too, not to dwell upon anticipated troubles, but to use our
minds and bodies in an earnest, honest endeavor to avert threatened
disaster. We should not brood over possible failure, for in the great
realm of the supremacy of mind or spirit the thought of failure should
not enter."

"Yes, I know, Philip."

"Fear, causes perhaps more unhappiness than any one thing that we have
let take possession of us. Some are never free from it. They awake in
the morning with a vague, indefinite sense of it, and at night a
foreboding of disaster hands over the to-morrow. Life would have for us
a different meaning if we would resolve, and keep the resolution, to do
the best we could under all conditions, and never fear the result. Then,
too, we should be trained not to have such an unreasonable fear of
death. The Eastern peoples are far wiser in this respect than we. They
have learned to look upon death as a happy transition to something
better. And they are right, for that is the true philosophy of it. At
the very worst, can it mean more than a long and dreamless sleep? Does
not the soul either go back to the one source from which it sprung, and
become a part of the whole, or does it not throw off its material
environment and continue with individual consciousness to work out its
final destiny?

"If that be true, there is no death as we have conceived it. It would
mean to us merely the beginning of a more splendid day, and we should be
taught that every emotion, every effort here that is unselfish and soul
uplifting, will better fit us for that spiritual existence that is to
come."



CHAPTER V

THE TRAGEDY OF THE TURNERS


The trip north from Fort Magruder was a most trying experience for
Philip Dru, for although he had as traveling companions Gloria and Jack
Strawn, who was taking a leave of absence, the young Kentuckian felt his
departure from Texas and the Army as a portentous turning point in his
career. In spite of Gloria's philosophy, and in spite of Jack's
reassurances, Philip was assailed by doubts as to the ultimate
improvement of his eyesight, and at the same time with the feeling that
perhaps after all, he was playing the part of a deserter.

"It's all nonsense to feel cut up over it, you know, Philip," insisted
Jack. "You can take my word for it that you have the wrong idea in
wanting to quit when you can be taken care of by the Government. You
have every right to it."

"No, Jack, I have no right to it," answered Dru, "but certain as I am
that I am doing the only thing I could do, under the circumstances, it's
a hard wrench to leave the Army, even though I had come to think that I
can find my place in the world out of the service."

The depression was not shaken off until after they had reached New York,
and Philip had been told by the great specialist that his eyesight
probably never again would pass the Army tests. Once convinced that an
Army career was impossible, he resigned, and began to reconstruct his
life with new hope and with a new enthusiasm. While he was ordered to
give his eyes complete rest for at least six months and remain a part
of every day in a darkened room, he was promised that after several
months, he probably would be able to read and write a little.

As he had no relatives in New York, Philip, after some hesitation,
accepted Jack Strawn's insistent invitation to visit him for a time, at
least. Through the long days and weeks that followed, the former young
officer and Gloria were thrown much together.

One afternoon as they were sitting in a park, a pallid child of ten
asked to "shine" their shoes. In sympathy they allowed him to do it. The
little fellow had a gaunt and hungry look and his movements were very
sluggish. He said his name was Peter Turner and he gave some squalid
east side tenement district as his home. He said that his father was
dead, his mother was bedridden, and he, the oldest of three children,
was the only support of the family. He got up at five and prepared their
simple meal, and did what he could towards making his mother comfortable
for the day. By six he left the one room that sheltered them, and
walked more than two miles to where he now was. Midday meal he had none,
and in the late afternoon he walked home and arranged their supper of
bread, potatoes, or whatever else he considered he could afford to buy.
Philip questioned him as to his earnings and was told that they varied
with the weather and other conditions, the maximum had been a dollar and
fifteen cents for one day, the minimum twenty cents. The average seemed
around fifty cents, and this was to shelter, clothe and feed a family of
four.

Already Gloria's eyes were dimmed with tears. Philip asked if they might
go home with him then. The child consented and led the way.

They had not gone far, when Philip, noticing how frail Peter was, hailed
a car, and they rode to Grand Street, changed there and went east.
Midway between the Bowery and the river, they got out and walked south
for a few blocks, turned into a side street that was hardly more than an
alley, and came to the tenement where Peter lived.

It had been a hot day even in the wide, clean portions of the city.
Here the heat was almost unbearable, and the stench, incident to a
congested population, made matters worse.

Ragged and dirty children were playing in the street. Lack of food and
pure air, together with unsanitary surroundings, had set its mark upon
them. The deathly pallor that was in Peter's face was characteristic of
most of the faces around them.

The visitors climbed four flights of stairs, and went down a long, dark,
narrow hall reeking with disagreeable odors, and finally entered
ten-year-old Peter Turner's "home."

"What a travesty on the word 'home,'" murmured Dru, as he saw for the
first time the interior of an East Side tenement. Mrs. Turner lay
propped in bed, a ghost of what was once a comely woman. She was barely
thirty, yet poverty, disease and the city had drawn their cruel lines
across her face. Gloria went to her bedside and gently pressed the
fragile hand. She dared not trust herself to speak. And this, she
thought, is within the shadow of my home, and I never knew. "Oh, God,"
she silently prayed, "forgive us for our neglect of such as these."

Gloria and Philip did all that was possible for the Turners, but their
helping hands came too late to do more than to give the mother a measure
of peace during the last days of her life. The promise of help for the
children lifted a heavy load from her heart. Poor stricken soul, Zelda
Turner deserved a better fate. When she married Len Turner, life seemed
full of joy. He was employed in the office of a large manufacturing
concern, at what seemed to them a munificent salary, seventy-five
dollars a month.

Those were happy days. How they saved and planned for the future! The
castle that they built in Spain was a little home on a small farm near a
city large enough to be a profitable market for their produce. Some
place where the children could get fresh air, wholesome food and a place
in which to grow up. Two thousand dollars saved, would, they thought, be
enough to make the start. With this, a farm costing four thousand
dollars could be bought by mortgaging it for half. Twenty-five dollars a
month saved for six years, would, with interest, bring them to their
goal.

Already more than half the sum was theirs. Then came disaster. One
Sunday they were out for their usual walk. It had been sleeting and the
pavements here and there were still icy. In front of them some children
were playing, and a little girl of eight darted into the street to avoid
being caught by a companion. She slipped and fell. A heavy motor was
almost upon her, when Len rushed to snatch her from the on-rushing car.
He caught the child, but slipped himself, succeeding however in pushing
her beyond danger before the cruel wheels crushed out his life. The
dreary days and nights that followed need not be recited here. The cost
of the funeral and other expenses incident thereto bit deep into their
savings, therefore as soon as she could pull herself together, Mrs.
Turner sought employment and got it in a large dressmaking establishment
at the inadequate wage of seven dollars a week. She was skillful with
her needle but had no aptitude for design, therefore she was ever to be
among the plodders. One night in the busy season of overwork before the
Christmas holidays, she started to walk the ten blocks to her little
home, for car-fare was a tax beyond her purse, and losing her weary
footing, she fell heavily to the ground. By the aid of a kindly
policeman she was able to reach home, in great suffering, only to faint
when she finally reached her room. Peter, who was then about seven years
old, was badly frightened. He ran for their next door neighbor, a kindly
German woman. She lifted Zelda into bed and sent for a physician, and
although he could find no other injury than a badly bruised spine, she
never left her bed until she was borne to her grave.

The pitiful little sum that was saved soon went, and Peter with his
blacking box became the sole support of the family.

When they had buried Zelda, and Gloria was kneeling by her grave softly
weeping, Philip touched her shoulder and said, "Let us go, she needs us
no longer, but there are those who do. This experience has been my
lesson, and from now it is my purpose to consecrate my life towards the
betterment of such as these. Our thoughts, our habits, our morals, our
civilization itself is wrong, else it would not be possible for just
this sort of suffering to exist."

"But you will let me help you, Philip?" said Gloria.

"It will mean much to me, Gloria, if you will. In this instance Len
Turner died a hero's death, and when Mrs. Turner became incapacitated,
society, the state, call it what you will, should have stepped in and
thrown its protecting arms around her. It was never intended that she
should lie there day after day month after month, suffering, starving,
and in an agony of soul for her children's future. She had the right to
expect succor from the rich and the strong."

"Yes," said Gloria, "I have heard successful men and women say that they
cannot help the poor, that if you gave them all you had, they would soon
be poor again, and that your giving would never cease." "I know," Philip
replied, "that is ever the cry of the selfish. They believe that they
merit all the blessings of health, distinction and wealth that may come
to them, and they condemn their less fortunate brother as one deserving
his fate. The poor, the weak and the impractical did not themselves
bring about their condition. Who knows how large a part the mystery of
birth and heredity play in one's life and what environment and
opportunity, or lack of it, means to us? Health, ability, energy,
favorable environment and opportunity are the ingredients of success.
Success is graduated by the lack of one or all of these. If the powerful
use their strength merely to further their own selfish desires, in what
way save in degree do they differ from the lower animals of creation?
And how can man under such a moral code justify his dominion over land
and sea?

"Until recently this question has never squarely faced the human race,
but it does face it now and to its glory and honor it is going to be
answered right. The strong will help the weak, the rich will share with
the poor, and it will not be called charity, but it will be known as


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Online LibraryEdward Mandell HousePhilip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 → online text (page 2 of 14)