THE CALLING OF DAN MATTHEWS
HAROLD BELL WRIGHT
"THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS"
"THAT PRINTER OF UDELL'S"
_With Illustrations by_
ARTHUR I. KELLER
WILLIAM WILLIAMS, M.D.
I. THE HOME OF THE ALLY
II. A REVELATION
III. A GREAT DAY IN CORINTH
IV. WHO ARE THEY?
V. HOPE FARWELL'S MINISTRY
VI. THE CALLING OF DAN MATTHEWS
VII. FROM DEBORAH'S PORCH
VIII. THE WORK OF THE ALLY
IX. THE EDGE OF THE BATTLEFIELD
X. A MATTER OF OPINION
XII. THE NURSE FORGETS
XIII. DR. HARRY'S CASE
XIV. THAT GIRL OF CONNER'S
XV. THE MINISTER'S OPPORTUNITY
XVI. DAN SEES THE OTHER SIDE
XVII. THE TRAGEDY
XVIII. TO SAVE A LIFE
XIX. ON FISHING
XX. COMMON GROUND
XXI. THE WARNING
XXII. AS DR. HARRY SEES IT
XXIII. A PARABLE
XXIV. THE WAY OUT
XXV. A LABORER AND HIS HIRE
XXVI. THE WINTER PASSES
XXVII. DEBORAH'S TROUBLE
XXVIII. A FISHERMAN
XXIX. A MATTER OF BUSINESS
XXX. THE DAUGHTER OF THE CHURCH
XXXI. THE REALITY
XXXII. THE BARRIER
XXXIII. HEART'S TRAGEDIES
XXXV. THE TIE THAT BINDS
XXXVIII. A HANDFUL OF GOLD
XXXIX. THE VICTORY OF THE ALLY
XL. THE DOCTOR'S GLASSES
XLI. THE FINAL WORD
XLIII. THE HOME COMING
XLIV. THE OLD TRAIL
ARTHUR I. KELLER
WITH THE DOCTOR THE TWO STRANGERS IN CORINTH TOOK DENNY TO HIS HOME
"--YOU MUST BE IN LIFE A FISHERMAN"
A GOOD-BYE CARESS
DAN PLEADED WITH HIM
The Calling of Dan Matthews
THE HOME OF THE ALLY
"And because the town of this story is what it is, there came to dwell
in it a Spirit--a strange, mysterious
power--playful, vicious, deadly; a
Something to be at once feared and courted; to be denied--yet confessed
in the denial; a deadly
enemy, a welcome
friend, an all-powerful Ally."
This story began in the Ozark Mountains. It follows the trail that is
nobody knows how old. But mostly
this story happened in Corinth, a town
of the middle class in a Middle Western state.
There is nothing peculiar
about Corinth. The story might have happened
just as well in any other place, for the only distinguishing feature
about this town is its utter lack of any distinguishing feature whatever.
In all the essential
elements of its life, so far as this story goes,
Corinth is exactly like every other village, town or city in the land.
This, indeed, is why the story happened in this particular place.
Years ago, when the railroad first climbed the backbone
of the Ozarks, it
found Corinth already located on the summit. Even before the war, this
county-seat town was a place of no little importance, and many a good
tale might be told of those exciting days when the woods were full of
guerrillas and bushwhackers, and the village was raided first by one
side, then by the other. Many a good tale is told, indeed; for the
fathers and mothers of Corinth love to talk of the war times, and to
point out in Old Town the bullet-marked buildings and the scenes of many
But the sons and daughters of the passing generation, with their sons
and daughters, like better to talk of the great things that are going to
be--when the proposed shoe-factory comes, the talked-of mills are
established, the dreamed-of electric line is built out from the city, or
the Capitalist from Somewhere-else arrives to invest
thereon to build new hotels and business blocks.
The Doctor says that in the whole history of Corinth there are only two
events. The first was the coming of the railroad; the second was the
death of the Doctor's good friend, the Statesman.
The railroad did not actually
enter Corinth. It stopped at the front
gate. But with Judge Strong's assistance
the fathers and mothers
recognized their "golden opportunity" and took the step which the
eloquent Judge assured
them would result in a "glorious future." They
left the beautiful, well-drained site chosen by those who cleared the
wilderness, and stretched themselves out along the mud-flat on either
side of the sacred
right-of-way--that same mud-flat being, incidentally,
the property of the patriotic
Thus Corinth took the railroad to her heart, literally. The depot, the
yards, the red section-house and the water-tank are all in the very
center of the town. Every train while stopping for water (and they all
stop) blocks two of the three principal
streets. And when, after waiting
in the rain or snow until his patience
is nearly exhausted, the humble
Corinthian goes to the only remaining crossing, he always gets there just
in time to meet a long freight
backing onto the siding. Nowhere in the
whole place can one escape the screaming whistle, clanging bell, and
crashing drawbar. Day and night the rumble
of the heavy trains jars and
disturbs the peacefulness of the little village.
But the railroad did something for Corinth; not too much, but something.
It did more for Judge Strong. For a time the town grew rapidly.
Fulfillment of the Judge's prophecies seemed immediate and certain. Then,
as they had come, the boom days departed. The mills,
factories and shops that were going to be, established themselves
elsewhere. The sound of the builder's hammer
was no longer heard. The
Doctor says that Judge Strong had come to believe in his own prediction,
or at least, fearing that his prophecy
might prove true, refused to part
with more land except at prices that would be justified only in a great
Neighboring towns that were born when Corinth was middle-aged, flourished
and have become cities of importance. The country round about has grown
rich and prosperous. Each year more and heavier trains thunder
their way to and from the great city by the distant river, stopping only
to take water. But in this swiftly
of life Corinth is
caught in an eddy. Her small world has come to swing in a very small
circle--it can scarcely be said to swing at all. The very children stop
growing when they become men and women, and are content to dream the
dreams their fathers' fathers dreamed, even as they live in the houses
the fathers of their fathers built. Only the trees that line the unpaved
streets have grown--grown and grown until overhead
their great tops touch
to shut out the sky with an arch of green, and their mighty
contemptuously aside the old sidewalks, with their decayed and broken
Old Town, a mile away, is given over to the negroes. The few buildings
that remain are fallen into ruin, save as they are patched up by their
dusky tenants. And on the hill, the old Academy with its broken windows,
crumbling walls, and fallen chimneys, stands a pitifulwitness
honor and dignity
that is gone.
Poor Corinth! So are gone the days of her true glory--the glory of her
usefulness, while the days of her promised honor and power are not yet
And because the town of this story is what it is, there came to dwell in
it a Spirit--a strange, mysterious
power--playful, vicious, deadly; a
Something to be at once feared and courted; to be denied--yet confessed
in the denial; a dreaded enemy, a welcome
friend, an all-powerful Ally.
But, for Corinth, the humiliation
of her material failure
in her pride of a finer success. The shame of commercial
obscurity is lost in the light of national recognition. And that
self-respect and pride of place, without which neither man nor town can
look the world in the face, is saved to her by the Statesman.
Born in Corinth, a graduate of the old Academy, town clerk, mayor, county
clerk, state senator, congressman, his zeal in advocating a much
discussed issue of his day, won for him national notice, and for his
In this man unusual
talents were combined with rare integrity
of life. Politics to him meant a way whereby
he might serve
his fellows. However much men differed as to the value of the measures
for which he fought, no one ever doubted his belief
in them or questioned
his reasons for fighting. It was not at all strange that such a man
should have won the respect and friendship of the truly great. But with
all the honors that came to him, the Statesman's heart never turned from
the little Ozark town, and it was here among those who knew him best that
his influence for good was greatest and that he was most loved and
honored. Thus all that the railroad failed to do for Corinth the
Statesman did in a larger, finer way.
Then the Statesman died.
It was the Old Town Corinth of the brick Academy days that inspired
of a monument
to his memory. But it was the Corinth of the
newer railroad days that made this monument
of cast-iron; and under the
cast-iron, life-sized, portrait
figure of the dead statesman, this newer
Corinth placed in cast-iron letters a quotation
from one of his famous
speeches upon an issue of his day.
The Doctor argues in language most vigorous
that the broken sidewalks,
the permitted insolence
of the railroad, the presence and power of that
Spirit, the Ally, and many other things and conditions in Corinth, with
the lack of as many other things and conditions, are all due to the
influence of what he calls "that hideous, cast-iron monstrosity." By
this it will be seen that the Doctor is something of a philosopher.
stands on the corner where Holmes Street ends in Strong
Avenue. On the opposite corner the Doctor lives with Martha, his wife.
It is a modest
home for there are no children and the Doctor is not rich.
The house is white with old-fashioned
green shutters, and over the porch
climbs a mass of vines. The steps are worn very thin and the ends of the
floor-boards are rotted badly by the moisture
of the growing vines. But
the Doctor says he'll "be damned" if he'll pull down such a fine old vine
to put in new boards, and that those will last anyway longer than either
he or Martha. By this it will be seen that the Doctor is something of a
On the rear of the lot is the wood-shed and stable; and on the east,
along the fence in front, and down the Holmes Street side, are the
Doctor's roses--the admiration
of every flower-growing
housewife in town.
Full fifty years of the Doctor's professional
life have been spent in
active practice in Corinth and in the country round about. He declares
himself worn out now and good for nothing, save to meddle
in the affairs
of his neighbors, to cultivate
his roses, and--when the days are
bright--to go fishing. For the rest, he sits in his chair on the porch
and watches the world go by.
"Old Doctors and old dogs," he growls, "how equallyuseless
we are, and
yet how much--how much we could tell if only we dared speak!"
He is big, is the Doctor--big and fat and old. He knows every soul in
Corinth, particularly the children; indeed he helped most of them to
come to Corinth. He is acquainted as well with every dog and cat, and
horse and cow, knowing
their every trick and habit, from the old brindle
milker that unlatches his front gate to feed on the lawn, to the bull
pup that pinches his legs when he calls on old Granny Brown. For miles
around, every road, lane, by-path, shortcut and trail, is a familiar way
to him. His practice, he declares, has well-nigh ruined him financially,
wrecked his temper. He can curse a man and cry over a baby;
and he would go as far and work as hard for the illiterate
backwoodsman in his cabin home as for the president of the Bank of
Corinth or even Judge Strong himself.
No one ever thinks of the Doctor as loving
anyone or anything, and that
is because he is so big and rough on the outside: but every one in
trouble goes to him, and that is because he is so big and kind on the
inside. It is a common saying
that in cases of tryingillness
accident a patient would rather "hear the Doctor cuss, than listen to
pray." Other physicians there are in Corinth, but every one
understands when his neighbor says: "The Doctor." Nor does anyone ever,
ever call him "Doc"!
After all, who knows the people of a community
so well as the physician
who lives among them? To the world the Doctor's patients were laborers,
bankers, dressmakers, scrub-women, farmers, servants, teachers,
preachers; to the Doctor they were men and women. Others knew their
occupations--he knew their lives. The preachers knew what they
professed--he knew what they practiced. Society saw them dressed up--he
saw them--in bed. Why, the Doctor has spent more hours in the homes of
his neighbors than ever he passed under his own roof, and there is not a
in the whole town to which he has not the key.
On Strong Avenue, across from the monument, is a tiny four-roomed
cottage. In the time of this story it wanted paint badly, and was not in
the best of repair. But the place was neat and clean, with a big lilac
bush just inside the gate, giving it an air of home-like privacy; and on
the side directly opposite the Doctor's a fair-sized, well-kept garden,
giving it an air of honest thrift. Here the widow Mulhall lived with her
crippled son, Denny. Denny was to have been educated for the priesthood,
but the accident that left him such a hopelesscripple
dream; and after the death of his father, who was killed while
discharging his duties as the town marshal, there was no money to buy
even a book.
When there was anything for her to do, Deborah worked out by the day.
Denny, in spite of his poor, misshapen body, tended the garden, raising
such vegetables as no one else in all Corinth could--or would, raise.