General Fiction posted November 17, 2023 Chapters:  ...68 69 -70- 71... 

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One day at a time

A chapter in the book One Man's Calling

One Man's Calling, ch 70

by Wayne Fowler

In the last part Ben and Beth escape unscathed from Hank Larabee’s rifle fire. They make it to Fortuna, falling in love with the area. Local Pastor Williams convinces them to stay and to gather documentation of his exoneration.


Ben wrote a letter to Henry Halleck in San Francisco.

Dear Henry,

I am truly sorry that I have not written sooner. You deserve better than that from me. Truth was that I suffered a little depression for a while.

Congratulations on your election to mayor.

I was shown the news of my exoneration months after the escape. I had no idea all the time that I was in torment.

I was carried out of the prison unconscious. Rest assured, I had no part in the planning, or conduct of the escape. I was preaching. I realize that sounds lame, but it’s God’s truth.

Listen to this! God gave me a wife. She’s beautiful and loves me almost as much as I love her. She accepts my ‘calling’ and is even a blessing to it.

I am now at 211 Church Street Slide, California. Write it In Care Of: Adam Williams. He is a pastor friend. I will use his address because I don’t know where we will be when your letter comes.

There is a concern that local law authorities wherever we go might arrest me – over and over. In that regard, I write. Would it be possible to get a hold of documentation proving my case and that there are no charges pending over me? I completely understand if that is not possible, or if it would be too much trouble. I know how busy you must be.

I can barely wait until I can bring Beth to meet you. I know you will love her.

Thank you for all you have done. I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated our friendship.

Respectfully yours, Ben Persons

“How long do you think it will take, honey?” Beth asked.

Ben shrugged his shoulders. “A few days to get the letter to his law office. Then a day, maybe two to get it to his mayor’s office…”

“Why didn’t you send it there, to his mayor’s office?”

“He more than likely has a secretary, or assistant opening his mail. I’d just as soon not have this all out to the public. You just never know. That person might be of the other persuasion as far as office politics goes. Henry has a lot of house cleaning to do in there.”

Beth nodded.

“Anyway, it might take a few days to research and get copies of the court, the judge’s signature, and then I have no idea what it would take to prove I wasn’t wanted for prison break. It’s not like there’s a list of all the people not charged with a crime.”

“Wow. It might be weeks?”


“What will you do? Could you street preach?”

“I don’t feel that. Did you catch when Williams talked about the ships of would-be prospectors that come in? There’s sailors. The miners and sailors. I could minister to both groups. Do it right there on the docks. And fishermen’re down there, too.”

“Sounds to me like you’ve talked yourself into it.”


Ben and Beth were in their hotel room waiting to go to their evening meal. “You know, Ben, this hotel is nice enough. The bed is fine.” She winked at him. “But it’s not really comfortable enough to spend a few weeks in. Do you think we could rent a room, or even an apartment by the week?”

Ben thought a moment. “That’s really a good idea. I was thinking about the horses, too. Between stable fees and us… I feel like we’re, I don’t know, wasting our … what I consider, our wedding money. I was thinking what if I hired out to the livery a half day, say four or five half days a week?”

And suppose if I offered to work for the hotel restaurant baking pies and biscuits? Everything else is good, but…”

“But you could really help them.”

Beth smiled.

The next day the positions were secured and they’d found a small, two room apartment. It had no kitchen, but did have its own bathroom. They figured that their lifestyle accommodated a light breakfast, a large restaurant lunch, and a light supper. But in fact, it was only a couple days and their landlord accepted Beth’s help, asking the couple to share supper with her, though they continued to eat light.


“Men,” Ben said in a near shout in order to be heard throughout the crowd of about sixty men who preferred to be spaced out. “I know what it’s like to be locked in the hold, and in the brig. I know what it’s like to be in the crow’s nest all night, what it’s like to be up there with the ship swaying so hard you’re looking down on an angry sea. I know what it’s like to be tied to the mast and whipped bloody and then doctored with salty sea water. I know what it’s like to be tossed at sea, wondering if you were gonna be the next one overboard. Shanghaied on board the Superbia, a three masted barque schooner. I know these things.

“Listen to Beth say the words of John Newton after working on a slaver a hundred years ago, and then I’ll tell you the answer to those things I mentioned.”

Beth’s delivery was as inspired as when she first dramatized it. Ben noticed the ones to the back edged themselves forward.

“Men. You need a savior. You need one who bore your stripes.” Ben spoke a few minutes on Jesus’s arrest and humiliation and abuse. And then of his death. He let the pause last a few seconds before describing a triumphant rising from the dead, “Where he has defeated the devil and now stands as one qualified to redeem his children, them. That we fear not death. We fear not prison. We fear not abuse. That is all fleeting, nothing compared to the glory that waits for us in the ever after.” Ben’s crescendo-ing voice, building up to the climax was heart-felt and persuasive. Men, you who want what I have, a savior that you can depend on. Come. Walk up here and be saved.”

At first a few moved as if to rise up from sitting on the dock, finally one did, then a few more until nearly half of them stood before Ben.

Without the slightest reservation, Ben asked them to repeat the sinner’s prayer, speaking it a phrase at a time. Then he prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing over them. He told them not to hesitate to yell to him any time they saw him at the docks and he would talk with them about their salvation, about their savior.

Beth was moved.

Ben perfectly well knew that many of them would be either in a saloon or a brothel in a matter of hours, but satisfied himself that a few would value what had just happened. And some of them would remember enough to be convicted and return, whether to him or another preacher, Ben didn’t care. More dockside services were to follow.

Ben Persons: a young man following God's calling
Beth Persons: Ben's wife
Henry Halleck: San Francisco lawyer friend of Ben, elected mayor
Pastor Williams and his wife Dorothy: pastors in Fortuna, CA
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