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Title: Higgins - A Man's Christian
Author: Duncan, Norman, 1871-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: F. E. Higgins, The Sky Pilot]



HIGGINS

A MAN'S CHRISTIAN

BY

NORMAN DUNCAN

HARPER & BROTHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

M--C--M--I--X



BOOKS BY NORMAN DUNCAN

  DR. GRENFELL'S PARISH: A Tract in Description
  of the Deep Sea Mission Work

  GOING DOWN PROM JERUSALEM: The Narrative of a Journey     Net $1.50

  EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF: A Book of Short Stories                 1.50

  THE CRUISE OF THE 'SHINING LIGHT': A Novel of the Sea          1.50

  DOCTOR LUKE OF THE 'LABRADOR': A Novel

  THE SUITABLE CHILD: A Christmas Story

  THE MOTHER: A Short Novel

  THE ADVENTURES OF BILLY TOPSAIL: A Story for Boys

  THE WAY OF THE SEA: A Book of Short Stories

  THE SOUL OF THE STREET: A Book of Short Stories

  HIGGINS--A MAN'S CHRISTIAN                                      .50

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, N. Y.

Copyright, 1909, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.

Published November, 1909.



CONTENTS

  Chapter                                                     Page
       I. HELL BENT                                              1
      II. THE PILOT OF SOULS                                     4
     III. IN THE SNAKE-ROOM                                      8
      IV. THE CLOTH IN QUEER PLACES                             11
       V. JACK IN CAMP                                          20
      VI. "TO THE TALL TIMBER!"                                 25
     VII. ROBBING THE BLIND                                     32
    VIII. TOUCHING PITCH                                        43
      IX. IN SPITE OF LAUGHTER                                  54
       X. THE VOICE OF THE LORD                                 57
      XI. FIST-PLAY                                             65
     XII. MAKING THE GRADE                                      72
    XIII. STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER                            78
     XIV. THE SHOE ON THE OTHER FOOT                            85
      XV. CAUSE AND EFFECT                                      97
     XVI. THE WAGES OF SACRIFICE                               109



TO THE READER

What this book contains was learned by the writer in the course of two
visits with Mr. Higgins in the Minnesota woods--one in the lumber-camps
and lumber-towns at midwinter, and again at the time of the drive. Upon
both occasions Mr. Higgins was accompanied by his devoted and admirable
friend, the Rev. Thomas D. Whittles, to whose suggestions and leading
he responded with many a tale of his experiences, some of which are
here related. Mr. Whittles was at the same time good enough to permit
the writer to draw whatever information might seem necessary from a more
extended description of Mr. Higgins's work, called _The Lumber-jack's
Sky Pilot_, which he had written.



HIGGINS

A MAN'S CHRISTIAN



HIGGINS--A MAN'S CHRISTIAN



I

HELL BENT


Twenty thousand of the thirty thousand lumber-jacks and river-pigs of
the Minnesota woods are hilariously in pursuit of their own ruin for lack
of something better to do in town. They are not nice, enlightened men,
of course; the debauch is the traditional diversion--the theme of all
the brave tales to which the youngsters of the bunk-houses listen in
the lantern-light and dwell upon after dark. The lumber-jacks proceed
thus--being fellows of big strength in every physical way--to the
uttermost of filth and savagery and fellowship with every abomination. It
is done with shouting and laughter and that large good-humor which is
bedfellow with the bloodiest brawling, and it has for a bit, no doubt,
its amiable aspect; but the merry shouters are presently become like
Jimmie the Beast, that low, notorious brute, who, emerging drunk and
hungry from a Deer River saloon, robbed a bulldog of his bone and
gnawed it himself--or like Damned Soul Jenkins, who goes moaning into
the forest, after the spree in town, conceiving himself condemned to
roast forever in hell, without hope, nor even the ease which his
mother's prayers might win from a compassionate God.

They can't help themselves, it seems. Not all of them, of course; but
most.



II

THE PILOT OF SOULS


A big, clean, rosy-cheeked man in a Mackinaw coat and rubber
boots--hardly distinguishable from the lumber-jack crew except for
his quick step and high glance and fine resolute way--went swiftly
through a Deer River saloon toward the snake-room in search of a lad
from Toronto who had in the camps besought to be preserved from the
vicissitudes of the town.

"There goes the Pilot," said a lumber-jack at the bar. "Hello, Pilot!"

"'Lo, Tom!"

"Ain't ye goin' t' preach no more at Camp Six?"

"Sure, Tom!"

"Well--when the hell?"

"Week from Thursday, Tom," the vanishing man called back; "tell the
boys I'm coming."

"Know the Pilot?" the lumber-jack asked.

I nodded.

"Higgins's job," said he, earnestly, "is keepin' us boys out o'
hell; an' he's the only man on the job."

Of this I had been informed.

"I want t' tell ye, friend," the lumber-jack added, with honest
reverence, "that he's a damned good Christian, if ever there was
one. Ain't that right, Billy?"

"Higgins," the bartender agreed, "is a square man."

The lumber-jack reverted to the previous interest. All at once he forgot
about the Pilot.

"Hey, Billy!" he cried, severely, "where'd ye put that bottle?"

Higgins was then in the snake-room of the place--a foul compartment
into which the stupefied and delirious are thrown when they are
penniless--searching the pockets of the drunken boy from Toronto for
some leavings of his wages. "Not a cent!" said he, bitterly. "They
haven't left him a cent! They've got every penny of three months'
wages! Don't blame the boy," he pursued, in pain and infinite
sympathy, easing the lad's head on the floor; "it isn't all his
fault. He came out of the camps without telling me--and some cursed
tin-horn gambler met him, I suppose--and he's only a boy--and they
didn't give him a show--and, oh, the pity of it! he's been here only
two days!"

The boy was in a stupor of intoxication, but presently revived a little,
and turned very sick.

"That you, Pilot?" he said.

"Yes, Jimmie."

"A' right."

"Feel a bit better now?"

"Uh-huh."

The boy sighed and collapsed unconscious: Higgins remained in the
weltering filth of the room to ease and care for him. "Don't wait for
me, old man," said he, looking up from the task. "I'll be busy for a
while."



III

IN THE SNAKE-ROOM


Frank necessity invented the snake-room of the lumber-town saloon.
There are times of gigantic debauchery--the seasons of paying off. A
logger then once counted one hundred and fifty men drunk in a single
hotel of a town of twelve hundred inhabitants where fourteen other
bar-rooms heartily flourished. They overflowed the snake-rooms--they lay
snoring on the bar-room floor--they littered the office--they were
doubled up on the stair-landings and stretched out in the corridors.
Drunken men stumbled over drunken men and fell helpless beside them; and
still, in the bar-room (said he)--beyond the men who slept or writhed
on the floor and had been kicked out of the way--the lumber-jacks were
clamoring three deep for whiskey at the bar. Hence the snake-room: one
may not eject drunken men into bitter weather and leave them to freeze.
Bartenders and their helpers carry them off to the snake-room when
they drop; others stagger in of their own notion and fall upon their
reeking fellows. There is no arrangement of the bodies--but a squirming
heap of them, from which legs and arms protrude, wherein open-mouthed
bearded faces appear in a tangle of contorted limbs. Men moan and
laugh and sob and snore; and some cough with early pneumonia, some
curse, some sing, some horribly grunt; and some, delirious, pick at
spiders in the air, and talk to monkeys, and scream out to be saved
from dogs and snakes. Men reel in yelling groups from the bar to
watch the spectacle of which they will themselves presently be a part.



IV

THE CLOTH IN QUEER PLACES


This is the simple and veracious narrative of the singular ministerial
activities of the Rev. Francis Edmund Higgins, a Presbyterian, who
regularly ministers, without a church, acting under the Board of Home
Missions, to the lumber-jacks of the remoter Minnesota woods. Singular
ministerial activities these are, truly, appealing alike to those who
believe in God and to such as may deny Him. They are particularly robust.
When we walked from Camp Two to Camp Four of a midwinter day, with
the snow crackling underfoot and the last sunset light glowing like
heavenly fire beyond the great green pines--

"Boys," said Higgins, gravely, "there's just one thing that I regret;
and if I had to prepare for the ministry over again, I wouldn't make
the same mistake: I ought to have taken boxing lessons."

No other minister of the gospel, possibly, could with perfect propriety,
in the sight of the unrighteous, who are the most severe critics of
propriety in this respect, lean easily over a bar (his right foot having
of long habit found the rail), and in terms of soundest common sense
reasonably urge upon the man behind the wet mahogany the shame of his
situation and the virtue of abandoning it; nor could any other whom I
know truculently crowd into the howling, brawling, drunken throng of
lumber-jacks, all gone mad of adulterated liquor, and with any confident
show of authority command the departure of some weakling who had followed
the debauch of his mates far beyond his little strength.

"Come out o' this!" says Higgins.

"Ah, go chase yerself, Pilot!" is the indulgent response, most amiably
delivered, with a loose, kind smile.

"Come on!" says Higgins, in wrath.

"Ah, Pilot," the youngster pleads, "I'm on'y havin' a little fun.
You go chase yerself, Pilot," says he, affectionately, with no offence
whatsoever, "an' le' me alone."

The Rev. Francis Edmund Higgins, in the midst of an unholy up-roar--the
visible manifestation, this environment and behavior, it seems to me,
of the noise and smell and very abandonment of hell--is privileged to
seize the youngster by the throat and in no unnecessarily gentle way
to jerk him into the clean, frosty air of the winter night. In these
days of his ministry, nobody--the situation being an ordinary one--would
interfere. If, however, it seemed unwise to proceed in this way, Higgins
would at least strip the boy of his savings.

"Hand over!" says he.

The boy hands over every cent he possesses. If Higgins suspects, he will
turn out the pockets. And later--late in the night--with the wintry
dawn breaking, it may be--the sleepless Pilot carries the boy off on his
back to such saving care as he may be able to exercise. To a gentle
care--a soft, tender solicitude, all separate from the wild doings of the
bar-room, and all under cover, even as between the boy and the Pilot.
I have been secretly told that the good Pilot is at such times like a
brooding mother to the lusty, wayward youngsters of the camps, who,
in their prodigality, do but manfully emulate the most manly behavior
of which they are aware.

                    *       *       *       *       *

To confuse Higgins with cranks and freaks would be most injuriously
to wrong him. He is not an eccentric; his hair is cropped, his finger
nails are clean, there is a commanding achievement behind him, he
has manners, a mind variously interested, as the polite world demands.
Nor is he a fanatic; he would spit cant from his mouth in disgust if
ever it chanced within. He is a reasonable and highly efficient
worker--a man dealing with active problems in an intelligent and
thoroughly practical way; and he is as self-respecting and respected in
his peculiar field as any pulpit parson of the cities--and as sane as an
engineer. He is a big, jovial, rotund, rosy-cheeked Irish-Canadian
(pugnacious upon occasion), with a boy's smile and eyes and laugh,
with a hearty voice and way, with a head held high, with a man's
clean, confident soul gazing frankly from unwavering eyes: five foot
nine and two hundred pounds to him (which allows for a little rippling
fat). He is big of body and heart and faith and outlook and charity and
inspiration and belief in the work of his hands; and his life is
lived joyously--notwithstanding the dirty work of it--though deprived of
the common delights of life. He has no church: he straps a pack on
his back and tramps the logging-roads from camp to camp, whatever the
weather--twelve miles in a blizzard at forty below--and preaches every
day--and twice and three times a day--in the bunk-houses; and he buries
the boys--and marries them to the kind of women they know--and scolds
and beseeches and thrashes them, and banks for them.

God knows what they would do without Higgins! He is as necessary to
them now--as much sought in trouble and as heartily regarded--as a
Presbyterian minister of the old school; he is as close and helpful and
dogmatic in intimate affairs.

"Pilot," said Ol' Man Johnson, "take this here stuff away from me!"

The Sky Pilot rose astounded. Ol' Man Johnson, in the beginnings of
his spree in town--half a dozen potations--was frantically emptying his
pockets of gold (some hundreds of dollars) on the preacher's bed in
the room above the saloon; and he blubbered like a baby while he threw
the coins from him.

"Keep it away from me!" Ol' Man Johnson wept, drawing back from the
money with a gesture of terror. "For Christ's sake, Pilot!----keep it
away from me!"

The Pilot understood.

"If you don't," cried Ol' Man Johnson, "it'll kill me!"

Higgins sent a draft for the money to Ol' Man Johnson when Ol' Man
Johnson got safely home to his wife in Wisconsin. Another spree in town
would surely have killed Ol' Man Johnson.



V

JACK IN CAMP


The lumber-jack in camp can, in his walk and conversation, easily be
distinguished from the angels; but at least he is industrious and no
wild brawler. He is up and heartily breakfasted and off to the woods,
with a saw or an axe, at break of day; and when he returns in the
frosty dusk he is worn out with a man's labor, and presently ready
to turn in for sound sleep. They are all in the pink of condition
then--big and healthy and clear-eyed, and wholly able for the day's
work. A stout, hearty, kindly, generous crew, of almost every race
under the sun--in behavior like a pack of boys. It is the Saturday in
town--and the occasional spree--and the final debauch (which is all the
town will give them for their money) that litters the bar-room floor
with the wrecks of these masterful bodies.

                    *       *       *       *       *

Walking in from Deer River of a still, cold afternoon--with the sun low
and the frost crackling under foot and all round about--we encountered a
strapping young fellow bound out to town afoot.

"Look here, boy!" said Higgins; "where _you_ going?"

"Deer River, sir."

"What for?"

There was some reply to this. It was a childish evasion; the boy had no
honest business out of camp, with the weather good and the work pressing,
and he knew that Higgins understood. Meanwhile, he kicked at the snow,
with a sheepish grin, and would not look the Pilot in the eye.

"You're from Three, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"I _thought_ I saw you there in the fall," said the Pilot. "Well,
boy," he continued, putting a strong hand on the other's shoulder,
"look me in the eye."

The boy looked up.

"God help you!" said the Pilot, from his heart; "nobody else 'll give
you a show in Deer River."

We walked on, Higgins in advance, downcast. I turned, presently, and
discovered that the young lumber-jack was running.

"Can't get there fast enough," said Higgins. "I saw that his tongue
was hanging out."

"He seeks his pleasure," I observed.

"True," Higgins replied; "and the only pleasure the men of Deer River
will let him have is what he'll buy and pay for over a bar, until his
last red cent is gone. It isn't right, I tell you," he exploded; "the
boy hasn't a show, and it isn't right!"

It was twelve miles from Camp Three to Deer River. We met other men
on the road to town--men with wages in their pockets, trudging blithely
toward the lights and liquor and drunken hilarity of the place. It
was Saturday; and on Monday, ejected from the saloons, they would
inevitably stagger back to the camps. I have heard of one kindly logger
who dispatches a team to the nearest town every Monday morning to
gather up his stupefied lumber-jacks from the bar-room floors and
snake-rooms and haul them into the woods.



VI

"TO THE TALL TIMBER!"


It is "back to the tall timber" for the penniless lumber-jack.
Perhaps the familiar slang is derived from the necessity. I recall an
intelligent Cornishman--a cook with a kitchen kept sweet and clean--who
with a laugh contemplated the catastrophe of the snake-room, and the
nervous collapse, and the bedraggled return to the woods.

"Of course," said he, "that's where I'll land in the spring!"

It amazed me.

"Can't help it," said he. "That's where my stake 'll go. Jake Boore
'll get the most of it; and among the lot of them they'll get every
cent. I'll blow four hundred dollars in two weeks--if I'm lucky enough
to make it go that far."

"When you know that they rob you?"

"Certainly they will rob me; everybody knows _that_! But every year
for nine years, now, I've tried to get out of the woods with my stake,
and haven't done it. I intend to this year; but I know I won't. I'll
strike for Deer River when I get my money; and I'll have a drink at
Jake Boore's saloon, and when I get that drink down I'll be on my way.
It isn't because I want to; it's because I have to."

"But why?"

"They won't let you do anything else," said the cook. "I've tried
it for nine years. Every winter I've said to myself that I'll get out
of the woods in the spring, and every spring I've been kicked out of
a saloon dead broke. It's always been back to the tall timber for me."

"What you need, Jones," said Higgins, who stood by, "is the grace of
God in your heart."

Jones laughed.

"You hear me, Jones?" the Pilot repeated. "What you need is the grace
of God in your heart."

"The Pilot's mad," the cook laughed, but not unkindly. "The Pilot
and I don't agree about religion," he explained; "and now he's mad
because I won't go to church."

This banter did not disturb the Pilot in the least.

"I'm not mad, Jones," said he. "All I'm saying," he repeated,
earnestly, fetching the cook's flour-board a thwack with his fist,
"is that what you need is the grace of God in your heart."

Again Jones laughed.

"That's all right, Jones!" cried the indignant preacher. "But I tell
you that what you need is the grace of God in your heart. _And you know
it!_ And when I get you in the snake-room of Jake Boore's saloon in Deer
River next spring," he continued, in righteous anger, "_I'll rub it
into you!_ Understand me, Jones? When I haul you out of the snake-room,
and wash you, and get you sobered up, I'll rub it into you that what you
need is the grace of God in your heart to give you the first splinter of
a man's backbone."

"I'll be humble--then," said Jones.

"You'll have to be a good deal more than humble, friend," Higgins
retorted, "before there'll be a man in the skin that _you_ wear."

"I don't doubt it, Pilot."

"Huh!" the preacher sniffed, in fine scorn.

                    *       *       *       *       *

The story fortunately has an outcome. I doubt that the cook took the
Pilot's prescription; but, at any rate, he had wisdom sufficient to
warn the Pilot when his time was out, and his money was in his pocket,
and he was bound out of the woods in another attempt to get through Deer
River. It was midwinter when the Pilot prescribed the grace of God; it
was late in the spring when the cook secretly warned him to stand by
the forlorn essay; and it was later still--the drive was on--when, one
night, as we watched the sluicing, I inquired.

"Jones?" the Pilot replied, puzzled. "What Jones?"

"The cook who couldn't get through."

"Oh," said the Pilot, "you mean Jonesy. Well," he added, with
satisfaction, "Jonesy got through this time."

I asked for the tale of it.

"You'd hardly believe it," said the Pilot, "but we cashed that big
check right in Jake Boore's saloon. I wouldn't have it any other
way, and neither would Jonesy. In we went, boys, brave as lions; and when
Jake Boore passed over the money Jonesy put it in his pocket. Drink? Not
he! Not a drop would he take. They tried all the tricks they knew, but
Jonesy wouldn't fall to them. They even put liquor under his nose;
and Jonesy let it stay there, and just laughed. I tell you boys, it was
fine! It was _great_! Jonesy and I stuck it out night and day together
for two days; and then I put Jonesy aboard train, and Jonesy swore
he'd never set foot in Deer River again. He was going South, somewhere,
to see--somebody."

It was doubtless the grace of God, after all, that got the cook through:
if not the grace of God in the cook's heart, then in the Pilot's.



VII

ROBBING THE BLIND


It it a perfectly simple situation. There are thirty thousand men-more
or less of them, according to the season--making the wages of men in the
woods. Most of them accumulate a hot desire to wring some enjoyment from
life in return for the labor they do. They have no care about money when
they have it. They fling it in gold over the bars (and any sober man may
rob their very pockets); they waste in a night what they earn in a
winter--and then crawl back to the woods. Naturally the lumber-towns
are crowded with parasites upon their lusts and prodigality--with
gamblers and saloon-keepers and purveyors of low passion. Some larger
capitalists, more acute and more acquisitive, of a greed less nice
-profess the three occupations at once. They are the men of real
power in the remoter communities, makers of mayors and chiefs of
police and magistrates--or were until Higgins came along to dispute
them. And their operations have been simple and enormously profitable--so
easy, so free from any fear of the law, that I should think they
would (in their own phrase) be ashamed to take the money. It seems
to be no trouble at all to abstract a drunken lumber-jack's wages.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It takes a big man to oppose these forces--a big heart and a big body,
and a store of hope and courage not easily depleted. It takes, too, a
good minister; it takes a loving heart and a fist quick to find the point
of the jaw to preach the gospel after the manner of Higgins. And Higgins
conceives it to be one of his sacred ministerial duties to protect his
parishioners in town. Behind the bunk-houses, in the twilight, they
say to him: "When you goin' t' be in Deer River, Pilot? Friday? All
right. I'm goin' home. See me through, won't you?" Having committed
themselves in this way, nothing can save them from Higgins--neither
their own drunken will (if they escape him for an interval) nor the
antagonism of the keepers of places. This is perilous and unscholarly
work; systematic theology has nothing to do with escorting through a
Minnesota lumber-town a weak-kneed boy who wants to take his money home
to his mother in Michigan.

Once the Pilot discovered such a boy in the bar-room of a Bemidji saloon.

"Where's your money?" he demanded.

"'N my pocket."

"Hand it over," said the Pilot.

"Ain't going to."

"Yes, you are; and you're going to do it quick. Come out of this!"

Cowed by these large words, the boy yielded to the grip of Higgins's big
hand, and was led away a little. Then the bartender leaned over the bar.
A gambler or two lounged toward the group. There was a pregnant pause.

"Look here, Higgins," said the bartender, "what business is this of
yours, anyhow?"

"What business--of _mine?_" asked the astounded Pilot.

"Yes; what you buttin' in for?"

"This," said Higgins, "_is my job!_"

The Pilot was leaning wrathfully over the bar, his face thrust
belligerently forward, alert for whatever might happen. The bartender
struck at him. Higgins had withdrawn. The bartender came over the bar at
a bound. The preacher caught him on the jaw in mid-air with a stiff
blow, and he fell headlong and unconscious. They made friends next
day--the boy being then safely out of town. It is not hard for
Higgins to make friends with bartenders. They seem to like it;
Higgins really does.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It was in some saloon of the woods that the watchful Higgins observed an
Irish lumber-jack empty his pockets on the bar and, in a great outburst
of joy, order drinks for the crowd. The men lined up; and the Pilot, too,
leaned over the bar, close to the lumber-jack. The bartender presently
whisked a few coins from the little heap of gold and silver. Higgins
edged nearer. In a moment, as he knew--just as soon as the lumber-jack
would for an instant turn his back--the rest of the money would be
deftly swept away.

The thing was about to happen, when Higgins's big hand shot out and
covered the heap.

"Pat," said he, quietly, "I'll not take a drink. This," he added,
as he put the money in his pocket, "is my treat."

The Pilot stood them all off--the hangers on, the runners, the gamblers,
the bartender (with a gun), and the Irish lumber-jack himself. To the
bartender he remarked (while he gazed contemptuously into the muzzle of
the gun) that should ever the fellow grow into the heavy-weight class
he would be glad to "take him on." As it was, he was really not worth
considering in any serious way, and had better go get a reputation. It
was a pity--for the Pilot (said he) was fit and able--but the thrashing
must be postponed for the time.

There was no shooting.

                    *       *       *       *       *

Further to illustrate the ease with which the lumber-jack may be robbed,
I must relate that last midwinter, in the office of a Deer River hotel,
the Pilot was greeted with hilarious affection by a boy of twenty or
thereabouts who had a moment before staggered out from the bar-room.
The youngster was having an immensely good time, it seemed; he was
full of laughter and wit and song--not yet quite full of liquor. It was
snowing outside, I recall, and a bitter wind was blowing from the
north; but it was warm and light in the office--bright, and cosy,
and companionable: very different, indeed, from the low, stifling,
crowded, ill-lit bunk-houses of the camps, nor was his elation like
the weariness of those places. There were six men lying drunk on the
office floor-in grotesque attitudes, very drunk, stretched out and
snoring where they had fallen.

"Boy," demanded the Pilot, "where's your money?"

The young lumber-jack said that it was in the safe-keeping of the
bartender.

"How much you got left?"

"Oh, I got lots yet," was the happy reply.

Presently the boy went away, and presently he reeled back again, and put
a hand on the Pilot's shoulder.

"Near all in?" asked the Pilot.

"I came here yesterday morning with a hundred and twenty-three
dollars," said the boy, very drunkenly, "and I give it to the
bartender to keep for me, and I'm told I got two-thirty left."

He was quite content; but Higgins knew that the money of which they were
robbing him was needed at his home, a day's journey to the east of Deer
River.

                    *       *       *       *       *

There is no pleasure thereabout (they say) but the spree, and the end of
the spree is the snake-room for by far the most of the merry-makers--r a
penniless condition for all--pneumonia for many--and for the survivors
a beggared, reeling return to the hard work of the woods.

Higgins is used to picking over the bodies of drunken men in the
snake-room heaps--of entering sadly, but never reluctantly (he said),
in search of men who have been sorely wounded in brawls, or are taken
with pneumonia, or in whom there remains hope of regeneration. He
carries them off on his back to lodgings--or he wheels them away in a
barrow--and he washes them and puts them to bed and (sometimes angrily)
restrains them until their normal minds return. It has never occurred
to him, probably, that this is an amazing exhibition of primitive
Christian feeling and practice. He may have thought of it, however,
as a glorious opportunity for service, for which he should devoutly and
humbly give thanks to Almighty God.



VIII

TOUCHING PITCH


Not long ago Bemidji was what the Pilot calls "the worst town on the
map." It was indescribably lawless and vicious. An adequate description
would be unprintable. The government--the police and magistrates--was
wholly in the hands of the saloon-keeping element. It was a thoroughly
noisome settlement. The town authorities laughed at the Pilot; the
state authorities gently listened to him and conveniently forgot him,
for political reasons. But he was determined to cleanse the place of
its established and flaunting wickednesses. He organized a W. C. T. U.;
and then--"Boys," said he to the keepers of places, "I'm going to
clean you out. I want to be fair to you--and so I tell you. Don't you
ever come sneaking up to me and say I didn't give you warning!" They
laughed at him when he stripped off his coat and got to work. In the
bar-rooms the toast was, "T' Higgins--and t' hell with Higgins!" and
down went the red liquor. But when the fight was over, when the shutters
were up for good--so had he compelled the respect of these men--they came
to the preacher, saying: "Higgins, you gave us a show; you fought
us fair--and we want to shake hands."

"That's all right, boys," said Higgins.

"Will you shake hands?"

"Sure, I'll shake hands, boys!"

Jack Worth--that notorious gambler and saloon-keeper of Bemidji--quietly
approached Higgins.

"Frank," said he, "you win; but I've no hard feelings."

"That's all right, Jack," said Higgins.

The Pilot remembered that he had sat close to the death-bed of the young
motherless son of this same Jack Worth in the room above the saloon.
They had been good friends--the big Pilot and the boy. And Jack Worth
had loved the boy in a way that only Higgins knew. "Papa," said the
boy, at this time, death being then very near, "I want you to promise me
something." Jack Worth listened. "I want you to promise me, papa,"
the boy went on, "that you'll never drink another drop in all your
life." Jack Worth promised, and kept his promise; and Jack Worth and
the preacher had preserved a queer friendship since that night.

"Jack," said the Pilot, now, "what you going to do?"

"I don't know, Frank."

"Aren't you going to quit this dirty business."

"I ran a square game in my house, and you know it," the gambler replied.

"That's all right, Jack," Higgins said; "but look here, old man,
isn't little Johnnie _ever_ going to pull you out of this?"

"Maybe, Frank," was the reply. "I don't know."

                    *       *       *       *       *

The gamblers, the bartenders, the little pickpockets are as surely the
Pilot's parishioners as anybody else, and they like and respect him.
Nobody is excluded from his ministry. I recall that Higgins was late
one night writing in his little room. There came a knock on the door-a
loud, angry demand--a forewarning of trouble, to one who knows about
knocks (as the Pilot says). Higgins opened, of course, and discovered
a big bartender, new to the town--a bigger man than he, and a man with a
fighting reputation. The object of the quarrelsome visit was perfectly
plain: the preacher braced himself for combat.

"You Higgins?"

"Higgins is my name."

"Did you ever say that if it came to a row between the gamblers of this
town and the lumber-jacks that you'd fight with the lumber-jacks?"

Higgins looked the man over.

"Well," snarled the visitor, "how about it?"

"Well, my friend," replied the Pilot, laying off his coat, "_I guess
you're my man!_" and advanced with guard up.

"I'm no gambler," the visitor hastily explained. "I'm a bartender."

"Don't matter," said Higgins. "You're my man just the same. I meant
bartenders, too."

"Well," said the bartender, "I just come up to ask you a question."

Higgins attended.

"Are men made by conditions," the bartender propounded, "or do
conditions make men?"

There ensued the hottest kind of an argument. It turned out that the
man was a Socialist--a propagandist who had come to Deer River to sow the
seed (he said). I have forgotten what the Pilot's contention was;
but, at any rate, it dodged the general issue and concerned itself
with the specific question of whether or not conditions at Deer River
made saloon-keepers and gamblers and worse and bartenders--the
affirmative of which he held to be an abominable opinion. They
carried the argument to the bar-room, where, one on each side of the
dripping bar, they disputed until daylight, Higgins at times loudly
taunting his opponent with the assertion that a bartender could do
nothing but shame Socialism in the community. It ended in this
amicable agreement: that the bartender was privileged to attempt the
persuasion of Higgins to Socialism, and that Higgins was permitted to
practise upon the bartender without let or hindrance with a view to
his conversion.

"Have a drink?" said the bartender.

"Wh--what!" exclaimed the Pilot.

"Have a little something soft?"

"I wouldn't take a glass of water over your dirty bar," Higgins is
said to have roared, "if I died of thirst!"

The man will not compromise.

                    *       *       *       *       *

To all these men, as well as to the lumber-jacks, the Pilot gives his
help and carries his message: to all the loggers and lumber-jacks and
road-monkeys and cookees and punk-hunters and wood-butchers and
swamp-men and teamsters and bull-cooks and the what-nots of the woods,
and the gamblers and saloon-keepers and panderers and bartenders (and a
host of filthy little runners and pullers-in and small thieves) of the
towns. He has no abode near by, no church; he preaches in bunk-houses,
and sleeps above saloons and in the little back rooms of hotels and
in stables and wherever a blanket may be had in the woods. He ministers
to nobody else: just to men like these. To women, too: not to many,
perhaps, but still to those whom the pale men of the towns find necessary
to their gain. To women like Nellie, in swiftly failing health, who
could not escape (she said) because she had lost the knack of dressing
in any other way. She beckoned him, aboard train, well aware of his
profession; and when Higgins had listened to her ordinary little
story, her threadbare, pathetic little plea to be helped, he carried
her off to some saving Refuge for such as she. To women like little
Liz, too, whose consumptive hand Higgins held while she lay dying
alone in her tousled bed in the shuttered Fifth Red House.

"Am I dyin', Pilot?" she asked.

"Yes, my girl," he answered.

"Dyin'--_now?_"

Higgins said again that she was dying; and little Liz was dreadfully
frightened then--and began to sob for her mother with all her heart.

I conceive with what tenderness the big, kind, clean Higgins comforted
her--how that his big hand was soft and warm enough to serve in that
extremity. It is not known to me, of course; but I fancy that little
Liz of the Fifth Red House died more easily--more hopefully--because
of the proximity of the Pilot's clear, uplifted soul.



IX

IN SPITE OF LAUGHTER


Higgins was born on August 19, 1865, in Toronto, Ontario, the son of a
hotel-keeper. When he was seven years old his father died, and two
years later his mother remarried and went pioneering to Shelburne,
Dufferin County, Ontario, which was then a wilderness. There was no
school; consequently there was no schooling. Higgins went through the
experience of conversion when he was eighteen. Presently, thereafter,
he determined to be a minister; and they laughed at him. Everybody
laughed. Obviously, what he must have was education; but he had no
money, and (as they fancied) less capacity. At any rate, the dogged
Higgins began to preach; he preached--and right vigorously, too, no
doubt--to the stumps on his stepfather's farm; and he kept on preaching
until, one day, laughing faces slowly rose from behind the stumps,
whereupon he took to his heels. At twenty he started to school with
little children in Toronto. It was hard (he was still a laughing-stock);
and there were three years of it--and two more in the high school.
Then off went Higgins as a lay preacher of the Methodist Episcopal
Church to Annandale, Minnesota. Following this came two years at Hamline
University. In 1895 he was appointed to the charge of the little
Presbyterian church at Barnum, Minnesota, a town of four hundred,
where, subsequently, he married Eva L. Lucas, of Rockford, Minnesota.

It was here (says he) that the call came.



X

THE VOICE OF THE LORD


It was on the way between camps, of a Sunday afternoon in midwinter, when
the Pilot related the experience which led to the singular ministerial
activities in which he is engaged. He was wrapped in a thick Mackinaw
coat, with a cloth cap pulled down over his ears; and he wore big
overshoes, which buckled near to his knees. There was a heavy pack on
his pack; it contained a change of socks (for himself), and many
pounds of "readin' matter" (for "the boys"). He had preached in the
morning at one camp, in the afternoon at another, and was now bound to
a third, where (as it turned out) a hearty welcome was waiting. The
day--now drawn far toward evening--was bitterly cold. There was no wind.
It was still and white and frosty on the logging-road.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It seems that once from Barnum the Pilot went vacating into the woods
to see the log-drive.

"You're a preacher," said the boys. "Give us a sermon."

Higgins preached that evening, and the boys liked it. They liked the
sermon; they fancied their own singing of _Rock of Ages_ and _Jesus,
Lover of My Soul_. They asked Higgins to come again. Frequently after
that--and ever oftener--Higgins walked into the woods when the drive was
on, or into the camps in winter, to preach to the boys. They welcomed
him; they were always glad to see him--and with great delight they sang
_Jesus, Lover of My Soul_ and _Throw Out the Life-Line_. Nobody else
preached to them in those days; a great body of men--almost a multitude
in all those woods: the Church had quite forgotten them.

"Boys," said Higgins, "you've always treated me right, here. Come in
to see me when you're in town. The wife 'll be glad to have you."

They took him at his word. Without warning, one day, thirty lumber-jacks
crowded into the little parlor. They were hospitably received.

"Pilot," said the spokesman, all now convinced of Higgins's
genuineness, "here's something for you from the boys."

A piece of paper (a check for fifty-one dollars) was thrust into the
Pilot's hand, and the whole crew decamped on a run, with howls of
bashful laughter, like a pack of half-grown school-boys. And so the
relationship was first established.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It was in winter, Higgins says, that the call came; and the voice of
the Lord, as he says, was clear in direction. Two lumber-jacks came
out of the woods to fetch him to the bedside of a sick homesteader who
had been at work in the lumber-camps. The homesteader was a sick man
(said they), and he had asked for the Pilot. The doctor was first to
the man's mean home. There was no help for him, said he, in a log-cabin
deep in the woods; if he could be taken to the hospital in Duluth there
might be a chance. It was doubtful, of course; but to remain was death.

"All right," said Higgins. "I'll take him to the hospital."

The hospital doctor in Duluth said that the man was dying. The Pilot
so informed the homesteader and bade him prepare. But the man smiled.
He had already prepared. "I heard you preach--that night--in camp--on
the river," said he. It seems that he had been reared in a Christian
home, but had not for twenty years heard the voice of a minister in
exhortation until Higgins chanced that way. And afterward--when the
lights in the wannigan were out and the crew had gone to sleep--he
could not banish the vision of his mother. Life had been sweeter to
him since that night. The Pilot's message (said he) had saved him.

"Mr. Higgins," said he, "go back to the camp and tell the boys about
Jesus."

Higgins wondered if the Lord had spoken.

"Go back to the camps," the dying man repeated, "and tell the boys
about Jesus."

Nobody else was doing it. Why shouldn't Higgins? The boys had no
minister. Why shouldn't Higgins be that minister? Was not this the
very work the Lord had brought him to this far place to do? Had not
the Lord spoken with the tongue of this dying man? "Go back to the
camps and tell the boys about Jesus." The phrase was written on his
heart. "Go back to the camp and tell the boys about Jesus." How it
appealed to the young preacher--the very form of it! All that night,
the homesteader having died, Higgins--not then the beloved Pilot--walked
the hospital corridor. When day broke he had made up his mind. Whatever
dreams of a city pulpit he had cherished were gone. He would go back
to the camps for good and all.

And back he went.

                    *       *       *       *       *

We had now come over the logging-road near to the third camp. The story
of the call was finished at sunset.

"Well," said the Pilot, heartily, with half a smile, "here I am, you
see."

"On the job," laughed one of the company.

"For good and all," Higgins agreed. "It's funny about life," he
added, gravely. "I'm a great big wilful fellow, naturally evil, I
suppose; but it seems to me that all my lifelong the Lord has just led
me by the hand as if I were nothing but a little child. And I didn't
know what was happening to me! Now isn't that funny? Isn't the whole
thing funny?"



XI

FIST-PLAY


It used sometimes to be difficult for Higgins to get a hearing in the
camps; this was before he had fought and preached his way completely
into the trust of the lumber-jacks. There was always a warm welcome for
him in the bunk-houses, to be sure, and for the most part a large
eagerness for the distraction of his discourses after supper; but here
and there in the beginning he encountered an obstreperous fellow (and
does to this day) who interrupted for the fun of the thing. It is
related that upon one occasion a big Frenchman began to grind his axe
of a Sunday evening precisely as Higgins began to preach.

"Some of the boys here," Higgins drawled, "want to hear me preach,
and if the boys would just grind their axes some other time I'd be much
obliged."

The grinding continued.

"I say," Higgins proceeded, his voice rising a little, "that a good
many of the boys have asked me to preach a little sermon to them; but I
can't preach while one of the boys grinds his axe."

No impression was made.

"Now, boys," Higgins went on, "most of you want to hear me preach, and
_I'm going to preach_, all right; but I cant preach if anybody grinds
an axe."

The Frenchman whistled a tune.

"Friend, back there!" Higgins called out, "can't you oblige the boys
by grinding that axe another time?"

There was some tittering in the bunk-house--and the grinding went on--and
the tune came saucily up from the door where the Frenchman stood. Higgins
walked slowly back; having come near, he paused--then put his hand on
the Frenchman's shoulder in a way not easily misunderstood.

"Friend," he began, softly, "if you--"

The Frenchman struck at him.

"Keep back, boys!" an old Irishman yelled, catching up a peavy-pole.
"Give the Pilot a show! Keep out o' this or I'll brain ye!"

The Sky Pilot caught the Frenchman about the waist--flung him against
a door--caught him again on the rebound--put him head foremost in a
barrel of water--and absent-mindedly held him there until the old
Irishman asked, softly, "Say, Pilot, ye ain't goin' t' _drown_ him,
are ye?" It was all over in a flash: Higgins is wisely no man for
half-way measures in an emergency; in a moment the Frenchman lay cast,
dripping and gasping, on the floor, and the bunk-house was in a tumult of
jeering. Then Higgins proceeded with the sermon; and--strangely--he is of
an earnestness and frankly mild and loving disposition so impressive
that this passionate incident had doubtless no destructive effect upon
the solemn service following. It is easy to fancy him passing unruffled
to the upturned cask which served him for a pulpit, readjusting the
blanket which was his altar-cloth, raising his dog-eared little
hymn-book to the smoky light of the lantern overhead, and beginning,
feelingly: "Boys, let's sing Number Fifty-six: '_Jesus, lover of my
soul, let me to thy bosom fly._' You know the tune, boys; everybody
sing--'_While the nearer waters roll and the tempest still is
high._' All ready, now!" A fight in a church would be a seriously
disturbing commotion; but a fight in a bunk-house--well, that is
commonplace. There is more interest in singing _Jesus, Lover of My
Soul_, than in dwelling upon the affair afterward. And the boys sang
heartily, I am sure, as they always do, the Frenchman quite forgotten.

Next day Higgins was roused by the selfsame man; and he jumped out of
his bunk in a hurry (says he), like a man called to fire or battle.

"Well," he thought, as he sighed, "if I am ever to preach in these
camps again, I suppose, this man must be satisfactorily thrashed;
but"--more cheerfully--"he needs a good thrashing, anyhow."

"Pilot," said the Frenchman, "I'm sorry about last night."

Higgins shook hands with him.



XII

MAKING THE GRADE


Fully to describe Higgins's altercations with lumber-jacks and
tin-horn gamblers and the like in pursuit of clean opportunity for
other men would be to pain him. It is a phase of ministry he would
conceal. Perhaps he fears that unknowing folk might mistake him for
a quarrelsome fellow. He is nothing of the sort, however; he is a wise
and efficient minister of the gospel--but fights well, upon good
occasion, notwithstanding his forty-odd years. In the Minnesota woods
fighting is as necessary as praying--just as tender a profession of
Christ. Higgins regrets that he knows little enough of boxing; he
shamefacedly feels that his preparation for the ministry has in this
respect been inadequate. Once, when they examined him before the
Presbytery for ordination, a new-made seminary graduate from the
East, rising, quizzed thus: "Will the candidate not tell us who was
Cæsar of Rome when Paul preached?" It stumped Higgins; but--he told
us on the road from Six to Four--"I was confused, you see. The only
Cæsar I could think of was Julius, and I knew that _that_ wasn't
right. If he'd only said _Emperor_ of Rome, I could have told him, of
_course!_ Anyhow, it didn't matter much." Boxing, according to the
experience of Higgins, was an imperative preparation for preaching in
his field; a little haziness concerning an Emperor of Rome really
didn't matter so very much. At any rate, the boys wouldn't care.

Higgins's ministry, however, knows a gentler service than that which a
strong arm can accomplish in a bar-room. When Alex McKenzie lay dying in
the hospital at Bemidji--a screen around his cot in the ward--the Pilot
sat with him, as he sits with all dying lumber-jacks. It was the Pilot
who told him that the end was near.

"Nearing the landing, Pilot?"

"Almost there, Alex."

"I've a heavy load, Pilot--a heavy load!"

McKenzie was a four-horse teamster, used to hauling logs from the woods
to the landing at the lake--forty thousand pounds of new-cut timber to be
humored over the logging-roads.

"Pilot," he asked, presently, "do you think I can make the grade?"

"With help, Alex."

McKenzie said nothing for a moment. Then he looked up. "You mean,"
said he, "that I need another team of leaders?"

"The Great Leader, Alex."

"Oh, I know what you mean," said McKenzie: "you mean that I need the
help of Jesus Christ."

No need to tell what Higgins said then--what he repeated about repentance
and faith and the infinite love of God and the power of Christ for
salvation. Alex McKenzie had heard it all before--long before, being
Scottish born, and a Highlander--and had not utterly forgotten, prodigal
though he was. It was all recalled to him, now, by a man whose life
and love and uplifted heart were well known to him--his minister.

"Pray for me," said he, like a child.

McKenzie died that night. He had said never a word in the long interval;
but just before his last breath was drawn--while the Pilot still held
his hand and the Sister of Charity numbered her beads near by--he
whispered in the Pilot's ear:

"Tell the boys I made the grade!"

                    *       *       *       *       *

Pat, the old road-monkey--now come to the end of a long career of furious
living--being about to die, sent for Higgins. He was desperately anxious
concerning the soul that was about to depart from his ill-kept and
degraded body; and he was in pain, and turning very weak.

Higgins waited.

"Pilot," Pat whispered, with a knowing little wink, "I want you to
fix it for me."

"To fix it, Pat?"

"Sure, you know what I mean, Pilot," Pat replied. "I want you to fix
it for me."

"Pat," said Higgins, "I _can't_ fix it for you."

"Then," said the dying man, in amazement, "what the hell did you come
here for?"

"To show you," Higgins answered, gently, "how _you_ can fix it."

"_Me_ fix it?"

Higgins explained, then, the scheme of redemption, according to his
creed--the atonement and salvation by faith. The man listened--and nodded
comprehendingly--and listened, still with amazement--all the time nodding
his understanding. "Uh-_huh!_" he muttered, when the preacher had
done, as one who says, I _see!_ He said no other word before he died.
Just, "Uh-_huh!_"--to express enlightenment. And when, later, it
came time for him to die, he still held tight to Higgins's finger,
muttering, now and again, "Uh-_huh!_ Uh-_huh!_"--like a man to whom
has come some great astounding revelation.



XIII

STRAIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER


In the bunk-house, after supper, Higgins preaches. It is a solemn
service: no minister of them all so punctilious as Higgins in respect to
reverent conduct. The preacher is in earnest and single of purpose. The
congregation is compelled to reverence. "Boys," says he, in cunning
appeal, "this bunk-house is our church--the only church we've got."
No need to say more! And a queer church: a low, long hut, stifling and
ill-smelling and unclean and infested, a row of double-decker bunks on
either side, a great glowing stove in the middle, socks and Mackinaws
steaming on the racks, boots put out to dry, and all dim-lit with
lanterns. Half-clad, hairy men, and boys with young beards, lounge
everywhere--stretched out on the benches, peering from the shadows of
the bunks, squatted on the fire-wood, cross-legged on the floor near
the preacher. Higgins rolls out a cask for a pulpit and covers it
with a blanket. Then he takes off his coat and mops his brow.

Presently, hymn-book or Testament in hand, he is sitting on the pulpit.

"Not much light here," says he, "so I won't read to-night; but I'll
_say_ the First Psalm. Are you all ready?"

Everybody is ready.

"All right. '_Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of
the ungodly,_' boys, '_nor standeth in the way of sinners._'"

The door opens and a man awkwardly enters.

"Got any room back there for Bill, boys?" the preacher calls.

There seems to be room.

"I want to see you after service, Bill. You'll find a seat back there
with the boys. '_For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the
way of the ungodly,_' gentlemen, '_shall perish._'"

There is a prayer, restrained, in the way of the preacher's church--a
petition terrible with earnestness. One wonders how a feeling God
could turn a deaf ear to the beseeching eloquence of it! And the
boys sing--lustily, too--led by the stentorian preacher. An amazing
incongruity: these seared, blasphemous barbarians bawling, _What a
Friend I Have in Jesus!_

Enjoy it?

"Pilot," said one of them, in open meeting, once, with no irreverence
whatsoever, "that's a damned fine toon! Why the hell don't they have
toons like that in the shows? Let's sing her again!"

"Sure!" said the preacher, not at all shocked; "let's sing her
again!"

There is a sermon--composed on the forest roads from camp to camp: for on
those long, white, cold, blustering roads Higgins either whistles his
blithe way (like a boy) or fashions his preaching. It is a searching,
eloquent sermon: none other so exactly suited to environment and
congregation--none other so simple and appealing and comprehensible.
There isn't a word of cant in it; there isn't a suggestion of the
familiar evangelistic rant. Higgins has no time for cant (he says)--nor
any faith in ranting. The sermon is all orthodox and significant and
reasonable; it has tender wisdom, and it is sometimes terrible with naked
truth. The phrasing? It is as homely and brutal as the language of the
woods. It has no affectation of slang. The preacher's message is
addressed with wondrous cunning to men in their own tongue: wherefore
it could not be repeated before a polite congregation. Were the preacher
to ejaculate an oath (which he never would do)--were he to exclaim, "By
God! boys, this is the only way of salvation!"--the solemnity of the
occasion would not be disturbed by a single ripple.

"And what did the young man do?" he asked, concerning the Prodigal;
"why, he packed his turkey and went off to blow his stake--_just
like you!_" Afterward, when the poor Prodigal was penniless: "What
about him _then_, boys? _You_ know. _I_ don't need to tell you. You
learned all about it at Deer River. It was the husks and the hogs
for him--_just like it is for you!_ It's up the river for you--and
it's back to the woods for you--when they've cleaned you out at Deer
River!" Once he said, in a great passion of pity: "Boys, you're
out here, floundering to your waists, picking diamonds from the snow
of these forests, to glitter, not in pure places, but on the necks of
the saloon-keepers' wives in Deer River!" There is applause when the
Pilot strikes home. "That's damned true!" they shout. And there is
many a tear shed (as I saw) by the young men in the shadows when,
having spoken long and graciously of home, he asks: "When did you
write to your mother last? You, back there--and you! Ah, boys, don't
forget her!"

There was pause while the preacher leaned earnestly over the blanketed
barrel.

"Write home to-night," he besought them.
"_She's--waiting--for--that--letter!_"

They listened.



XIV

THE SHOE ON THE OTHER FOOT


The Pilot is a fearless preacher--fearless of blame and violence--and
he is the most downright and pugnacious of moral critics. He speaks
in mighty wrath against the sins of the camps and the evil-doers of
the towns--naming the thieves and gamblers by name and violently
characterizing their ways: until it seems he must in the end be done
to death in revenge. "Boys," said he, in a bunk-house denunciation,
"that tin-horn gambler Jim Leach is back in Deer River from the West
with a crooked game--just laying for you. I watched his game, boys, and
I know what I'm talking about; _and you know I know!_" Proceeding:
"You know that saloon-keeper Tom Jenkins? Of _course_ you do! Well,
boys, the wife of Tom Jenkins nodded toward the camps the other day,
and, 'Pshaw!' says she; 'what do I care about expense? My husband has
a thousand men working for him in the woods!' She meant you, boys! A
thousand of you--think of it!--working for the wife of a brute like
Tom Jenkins." Again: "Boys, I'm just out from Deer River. I met ol'
Bill Morgan yesterday. 'Hello, Bill!' says I; 'how's business?'
'Slow, Pilot,' says he; 'but I ain't worryin' none--it'll pick
up when the boys come in with their stake in the spring.' There you
have it! That's what you'll be up against, boys, God help you! when
you go in with your stake--a gang of filthy thieves like Jim Leach and
Tom Jenkins and Bill Morgan!" It takes courage to attack, in this
frank way, the parasites of a lawless community, in which murder may be
accomplished in secret, and perjury is as cheap as a glass of whiskey.

                    *       *       *       *       *

It takes courage, too, to denounce the influential parishioner.

"You grown-up men, here," Higgins complained to his congregation,
"ought to give the young fellows a chance to live decent lives. Shame to
you that you don't! You've lived in filth and blasphemy and whiskey
so long that maybe you don't know any better; but I want to tell
you--every one of you--that these boys don't want that sort of thing.
They remember their mothers and their sisters, and they want what's
_clean!_ Now, you leave 'em alone. Give 'em a show to be decent. And
I'm talking to _you_, Scotch Andrew"--with an angry thump of the
pulpit and a swift belligerent advance--"and to _you_, Gin Thompson,
sneaking back there in your bunk!"

"Oh, hell!" said Gin Thompson.

The Pilot was instantly confronting the lazy-lying man. "Gin," said
he, "you'll take that back!"

Gin laughed.

"Understand me?" the wrathful preacher shouted.

Gin Thompson understood. Very wisely--however unwillingly--he apologized.
"That's all right, Pilot," said he; "you know I didn't mean
nothin'."

"Anyhow," the preacher muttered, returning to his pulpit and his
sermon, "I'd rather preach than fight."

                    *       *       *       *       *

Not by any means all Higgins's sermons are of this nature; most are
conventional enough, perhaps--but always vigorous and serviceable--and
present the ancient Christian philosophy in an appealing and deeply
reverent way. I recall, however, another downright and courageous display
of dealing with the facts without gloves. It was especially fearless
because the Pilot must have the permission of the proprietors before he
may preach in the camps. It is related that a drunken logger--the
proprietor of the camp--staggered into Higgins's service and sat
down on the barrel which served for the pulpit. The preacher was
discoursing on the duties of the employed to the employer. It tickled
the drunken logger.

"Hit 'em again, Pilot!" he applauded. "It'll do 'em good."

Higgins pointed out the wrong worked the owners by the lumber-jacks'
common custom of "jumping camp."

"Give 'em hell!" shouted the logger. "It'll do 'em good."

Higgins proceeded calmly to discuss the several evils of which the
lumber-jacks may be accused in relation to their employers.

"You're all right, Pilot," the logger agreed, clapping the preacher
on the back. "Hit the ---- rascals again! It'll do 'em good."

"And now, boys," Higgins continued, gently, "we come to the other
side of the subject. You owe a lot to your employers, and I've told you
frankly what your minister thinks about it. But what can be expected of
you, anyhow? Who sets you a good example of fair dealing and decent
living? Your employers? Look about you and see! What kind of an example
do your employers set? Is it any wonder," he went on, in a breathless
silence, "that you go wrong? Is it any wonder that you fail to consider
those who fail to consider you? Is it any wonder that you are just
exactly what you are, when the men to whom you ought to be able to
look for better things are themselves filthy and drunken loafers?"

The logger was thunderstruck.

"And how d'ye like _that_, Mister Woods?" the preacher shouted,
turning on the man, and shaking his fist in his face. "How d'ye like
_that_? Does it do _you_ any good?"

The logger wouldn't tell.

"Let us pray!" said the indignant preacher.

Next morning the Pilot was summoned to the office. "You think it was
rough on you, do you, Mr. Woods?" said he. "But I didn't tell the
boys a thing that they didn't know already. And what's more," he
continued, "I didn't tell them a thing that your own son doesn't
know. You know just as well as I do what road _he's_ travelling; and
you know just as well as I do what you are doing to help that boy along."

Higgins continued to preach in those camps.

                    *       *       *       *       *

One inevitably wonders what would happen if some minister of the
cities denounced from his pulpit in these frank and indignantly
righteous terms the flagrant sinners and hypocrites of his congregation.
What polite catastrophe would befall him?--suppose he were convinced
of the wisdom and necessity of the denunciation and had no family
dependent upon him. The outburst leaves Higgins established in the
hearts of his hearers; and it leaves him utterly exhausted. He mingles
with the boys afterward; he encourages and scolds them, he hears
confession, he prays in some quiet place in the snow with those whose
hearts he has touched, he confers with men who have been seeking to
overcome themselves, he writes letters for the illiterate, he visits
the sick, he renews old acquaintanceship, he makes new friends, he yarns
of the "cut" and the "big timber" and the "homesteading" of other
places, and he distributes the "readin' matter," consisting of old
magazines and tracts which he has carried into camp.

At last he quits the bunk-house, worn out and discouraged and downcast.

"I failed to-night," he said, once, at the superintendent's fire.
"It was awfully kind of the boys to listen to me so patiently. Did
you notice how attentive they were? I tell you, the boys are _good_
to me! Maybe I was a little rough on them to-night. But somehow all
this unnecessary and terrible wickedness enrages me. And nobody else
much seems to care about it. And I'm their minister. And I yearn to
have the souls of these boys awakened. I've just _got_ to stand up
and tell them the truth about themselves and give them the same old
Message that I heard when I was a boy. I don't know, but it's kind
of queer about ministers of the gospel," he went on. "We've got two
Creations now, and three Genesises. But take a minister. It wouldn't
matter to me if a brother minister fell from grace. I'd pick him out of
the mud and never think of it again. It wouldn't cost _me_ much to
forgive him. I know that we're all human and liable to sin. But when an
ordained minister gets up in his pulpit and dodges his duty--when he
gets up and dodges the truth--why, bah! _I've got no time for him!_"



XV

CAUSE AND EFFECT


This sort of preaching--this genuine and practical ministry consistently
and unremittingly carried on for love of the men, and without prospect
of gain--wins respect and loyal affection. The dogged and courageous
method will be sufficiently illustrated in the tale of the Big Scotchman
of White Pine--to Higgins almost a forgotten incident of fourteen years'
service. The Big Scotchman was discovered drunk and shivering with
apprehension--he was in the first stage of _delirium tremens_--in a low
saloon of White Pine, some remote and God-forsaken settlement off the
railroad, into which the Pilot had chanced on his rounds. The man was
a homesteader, living alone in a log-cabin on his grant of land, some
miles from the village.

"Well," thought the Pilot, quite familiar with the situation, "first
of all I've got to get him home."

There was only one way of accomplishing this, and the Pilot employed it;
he carried the Big Scotchman.

"Well," thought the Pilot, "what next?"

The next thing was to wrestle with the Big Scotchman, upon whom the
"whiskey sickness" had by that time fallen--to wrestle with him in
the lonely little cabin in the woods, and to get him down, and to hold
him down. There was no congregation to listen to the eloquent sermon
which the Pilot was engaged in preaching; there was no choir, there
was no report in the newspapers. But the sermon went on just the
same. The Pilot got the Big Scotchman down, and kept him down, and
at last got him into his bunk. For two days and nights he sat there
ministering--hearing, all the time, the ravings of a horrible delirium.
There was an interval of relief then, and during this the Pilot gathered
up every shred of the Big Scotchman's clothing and safely hid it. There
was not a garment left in the cabin to cover his nakedness.

The Big Scotchman presently wanted whiskey.

"No," said the Pilot; "you stay right here."

The Big Scotchman got up to dress.

"Nothing to wear," said the Pilot.

Then the fight was on again. It was a long fight--merely a physical thing
in the beginning, but a fight of another kind before the day was done.
And the Pilot won. When the Big Scotchman got up from his knees he took
the Pilot's hand and said that, by God's help, he would live better
than he had lived. Moreover, he was as good as his word. Presently White
Pine knew him no more; but news of his continuance in virtue not long ago
came down to the Pilot from the north. It was what the Pilot calls a
real reformation _and_ conversion. It seems that there is a difference.

                    *       *       *       *       *

We had gone the rounds of the saloons in Deer River, and had returned
late at night to the hotel. The Pilot was very busy--he is always busy,
from early morning until the last sot drops unconscious to the bar-room
floor, when, often, the real day's work begins; he is one of the
hardest workers in any field of endeavor. And he was now heart-sick
because of what he had seen that night; but he was not idle--he was still
shaking hands with his parishioners in the bar-room, still advising,
still inspiring, still scolding and beseeching, still holding private
conversations in the corners, for all the world like a popular and
energetic politician on primary day.

A curious individual approached me.

"Friend of the Pilot's?" said he.

I nodded.

"He's a good man."

I observed that the stranger was timid and slow--a singular fellow, with
a lean face and nervous hands and clear but most unsteady eyes. He was
like an old hulk repainted.

"He done me a lot of good," he added, in a slow, soft drawl, hardly
above a whisper, at the same time slowly smoothing his chin.

It was a pleasant thing to hear.

"They used to call me Brandy Bill," he continued. He pointed to a
group of drunkards lying on the floor. "I used to be like that,"
said he, looking up like a child who perceives that he is interesting.
After a pause, he went on: "But once when the snakes broke out on me
I made up my mind to quit. And then I went to the Pilot and he stayed
with me for a while, and told me I had to hang on. I thought I could
do it if the boys would leave me alone. So the Pilot told me what to
do. 'Whenever you come into town,' says he, 'you go on to your
sister's and borrow her little girl.' Her little girl was just four
years old then. 'And,' says the Pilot, 'don't you never come down
street without her.' Well, I done what the Pilot said. I never come
down street without that little girl hanging on to my hand; and when she
was with me not one of the boys ever asked me to take a drink. Yes," he
drawled, glancing at the drunkards again, "I used to be like that.
Pretty near time," he added, like a man displaying an experienced
knowledge, "to put them fellows in the snake-room."

Such a ministry as the Pilot's springs from a heart of kindness--from
a pure and understanding love of all mankind. "Boys," said he, once,
in the superintendent's office, after the sermon in the bunk-house,
"I'll never forget a porterhouse steak I saw once. It was in Duluth.
I'd been too busy to have my breakfast, and I was hungry. I'm a big
man, you know, and when I get hungry I'm _hungry_. Anyhow, I wasn't
thinking about that when I saw the steak. It didn't occur to me that I
was hungry until I happened to glance into a restaurant window as I
walked along. And there I saw the steak. You know how they fix those
windows up: a chunk of ice and some lettuce and a steak or two and some
chops. Well, boys, all at once I got so hungry that I ached. I could
hardly wait to get in there.

"But I stopped.

"'Look here, Higgins,' thought I, 'what if you didn't have a cent
in your pocket?'

"Well, that was a puzzler. 'What if you were a dead-broke lumber-jack,
and hungry like this?'

"Boys, it frightened me. I understood just what those poor fellows
suffer. And I couldn't go in the restaurant until I had got square with
them.

"'Look here, Higgins,' I thought, 'the best thing you can do is to
go and find a hungry lumber-jack somewhere and feed him.'

"And I did, too; and I tell you, boys, I enjoyed my dinner."

It is a ministry that wins good friends, and often in unexpected places:
friends like the lumber-jack (once an enemy) who would clear a way for
the Pilot in town, shouting, "I'm road-monkeying for the Pilot!" and
friends like the Blacksmith.

Higgins came one night to a new camp where an irascible boss was in
complete command.

"You won't mind, will you," said he, "if I hold a little service for
the boys in the bunk-house to-night?"

The boss ordered him to clear out.

"All I want to do," Higgins protested, mildly, "is just to hold a
little service for the boys."

Again the boss ordered him to clear out: but Higgins had come prepared
with the authority of the proprietor of the camp.

"I've a pass in my pocket," he suggested.

"Don't matter," said the boss; "you couldn't preach in this camp
if you had a pass from God Almighty!"

To thrash or not to thrash? that was the Pilot's problem; and he
determined not to thrash, for he knew very well that if he thrashed the
boss the lumber-jacks would lose respect for the boss and jump the
camp. The Blacksmith, however, had heard--and had heard much more than
is here written. Next morning he involved himself in a quarrel with the
boss; and having thrashed him soundly, and having thrown him into a
snowbank, he departed, but returned, and, addressing himself to that
portion of the foreman which protruded from the snow, kicked it heartily,
saying: "There's one for the Pilot. And there's another--and another.
I'll learn you to talk to the Pilot like a drunken lumber-jack. There's
another for _him_. Take that--and that--for the Pilot."

Subsequently Higgins preached in those camps.



XVI

THE WAGES OF SACRIFICE


One asks, Why does Higgins do these things? The answer is simple:
Because he loves his neighbor as himself--because he actually _does_,
without self-seeking or any pious pretence. One asks, What does he
get out of it? I do not know what Higgins gets. If you were to ask
him, he would say, innocently, that once, when he preached at Camp Seven
of the Green River Works, the boys fell in love with the singing.
_Jesus, Lover of My Soul_, was the hymn that engaged them. They sang it
again and again; and when they got up in the morning, they said: "Say,
Pilot, let's sing her once more!" They sang it once more--in the
bunk-house at dawn--and the boss opened the door and was much too amazed
to interrupt. They sang it again. "All out!" cried the boss; and
the boys went slowly off to labor in the woods, singing, _Let me to
Thy bosom fly!_ and, _Oh, receive my soul at last!_--diverging here and
there, axes and saws over shoulder, some to the deeper forest, some
making out upon the frozen lake, some pursuing the white roads--all
passing into the snow and green and great trees and silence of the
undefiled forest which the Pilot loves--all singing as they went,
_Other refuge have I none; hangs my helpless soul on Thee_--until
the voices were like sweet and soft-coming echoes from the wilderness.

Poor Higgins put his face to the bunk-house door and wept.

"I tell you, boys," he told us, on the road from Six to Four, "it was
_pay_ for what I've tried to do for the boys."

Later--when the Sky Pilot sat with his stockinged feet extended to a red
fire in the superintendent's log-cabin of that bitterly cold night--he
betrayed himself to the uttermost. "Do you know, boys," said he,
addressing us, the talk having been of the wide world and travel therein,
"I believe you fellows would spend a dollar for a dinner and never
think twice about it!"

We laughed.

"If I spent more than twenty-five cents," said he, accusingly, "I'd
have indigestion."

Again we laughed.

"And if I spent fifty cents for a hotel bed," said he, with a grin,
"I'd have the nightmare."

That is exactly what Higgins gets out of it.

                    *       *       *       *       *

Higgins gets more than that out of it: he gets a clean eye and sound
sleep and a living interest in life. He gets even more: he gets the trust
and affection of almost--almost--every lumber-jack in the Minnesota
woods. He wanders over two hundred square miles of forest, and hardly
a man of the woods but would fight for his Christian reputation at a
word. For example, he had pulled Whitey Mooney out of the filth and
nervous strain of the snake-room, and reestablished him, had paid his
board, had got him a job in a near-by town, had paid his fare, had taken
him to his place; but Whitey Mooney had presently thrown up his job
(being a lazy fellow), and had fallen into the depths again, had asked
Higgins for a quarter of a dollar for a drink or two, and had been
denied. Immediately he took to the woods; and in the camp he came to be
complained that Higgins had "turned him down."

"You're a liar," they told him. "The Pilot never turned a lumber-jack
down. Wait till he comes."

Higgins came.

"Pilot," said a solemn jack, rising, when the sermon was over, as he
had been delegated, "do you know Mooney?"

"Whitey Mooney?"

"Yes. Do you know Whitey Mooney?"

"You bet I do, boys!"

"_Did--you--turn--him--down?_"

"You bet I did, boys!"

"_Why?_"

Higgins informed them.

"Come out o' there, Whitey!" they yelled; and they took Whitey Mooney
from his bunk, and tossed him in a blanket, and drove him out of camp.

Higgins is doing a hard thing--correcting and persuading such men as
these; and he could do infinitely better if he had more money to serve
his ends. They are not all drunkards and savage beasts, of course. It
would wrong them to say so. Many are self-respecting, clean-lived,
intelligent, sober; many have wives and children, to whom they return
with clean hands and mouths when the winter is over. They all--without
any large exception (and this includes the saloon-keepers and gamblers
of the towns)--respect the Pilot. It is related of him that he was once
taken sick in the woods. It was a case of exposure--occurring in cold
weather after months of bitter toil, with a pack on his back and in
deep trouble of spirit. There was a storm of snow blowing, at far below
zero, and Higgins was miles from any camp. He managed, however, after
hours of plodding through the snow, to reach the uncut timber, where he
was somewhat sheltered from the wind. He remembers that he was then
intent upon the sermon for the evening; but beyond--even trudging
through these tempered places--he has forgotten what occurred. The
lumber-jacks found him at last, lying in the snow near the cook-house;
and they carried him to the bunk-house, and put him to bed, and
consulted concerning him. "The Pilot's an almighty sick man," said
one. Another prescribed: "Got any whiskey in camp?" There was no
whiskey--there was no doctor within reach--there was no medicine of any
sort. And the Pilot, whom they had taken from the snow, was a very sick
man. They wondered what could be done for him. It seemed that nobody
knew. There was nothing to be done--nothing but keep him covered up and
warm.

"Boys," a lumber-jack proposed, "how's this for an idea?"

They listened.

"We can pray for the man," said he, "who's always praying for us."

They managed to do it somehow; and when Higgins heard that the boys were
praying for him--_praying_ for him!--he turned his face to the wall, and
covered up his head, and wept like a fevered boy.

THE END





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