That Printer of Udell's by Harold Bell Wright
George was busy in the stock room getting out some paper for a lot of circulars that Dick had just finished setting up, when the door opened and Amy Goodrich entered. "Good Morning, Mr. Falkner," as Dick left his work and went forward to greet her. "I must have some new calling cards. Can you get them ready for me by two o'clock this afternoon? Mamma and I had planned to make some calls and I only discovered last night that I was out of cards. You have the plate here in the office, I believe."
"Yes," said Dick, "the plate is here. I guess we can have them ready for you by that time."
"And Mr. Falkner," said the girl, "I want to tell you how glad I was when you took the stand you did Sunday night."
Dick's face flushed and he looked at her keenly. "I have thought for a long time, that you would become a Christian, and have often wondered why you waited. The church needs young men and you can do so much good."
"You are very kind." said Dick, politely. "I am sure that your interest will be a great inspiration to me, and I shall need all the help I can get. In fact, we all do, I guess."
A shadow crossed the lovely face, and a mist dimmed the brightness of the brown eyes for a moment before she replied. "Yes, we do need help; all of us; and I am sure you will aid many. Will you enter the ministry?"
"Enter the ministry," replied Dick, forgetting his studied coolness of manner. "What in the world suggested that? Do I look like a preacher?"
They both laughed heartily.
"Well no, I can't say that you do. At least I wouldn't advise you to go into the pulpit with that apron and that cap on; and the spot of ink on the end of your nose is not very dignified."
Dick hastily applied his handkerchief to the spot, while Amy, like a true woman, stood laughing at his confusion. "But seriously," she added, after a moment, "I was not joking. I do think you could do grand work if you were to enter the field. Somehow, I have always felt that you exerted a powerful influence over all with whom you came in touch. Let me make a prophecy; you will yet be a preacher of the Gospel."
"I'm sure," said Dick, "that if I truly came to believe it to be my work, I would not refuse. But that is a question which time alone can answer. Do you remember the first time we met?"
"Indeed I do," the girl replied, laughing again. "It was right here, and you met with an accident at the same time."
Dick's face grew red again. "I should say I did," he muttered. "I acted like a frightened fool."
"Oh, but you redeemed yourself beautifully though. I have one of those little books yet. I shall always keep it; and when you get to be a famous preacher, I'll exhibit my treasure, and tell how the Rev. Mr. Richard Falkner sat up late one night to design the cover for me, when he was only a poor printer."
"Yes," retorted Dick, "and I'll tell the world how I went to my first church social, and what a charming young lady I met, who told me how much I reminded her of someone she knew."
It was Amy's time to blush now, and she did so very prettily as she hurriedly said, "Let's change the subject. I ought not to be keeping you from your work. Mr. Udell will be asking me to stay away from the office."
"Oh, we're not rushed today," said Dick, hastily, "and I'll make up all lost time."
"So you consider this lost time, do you?" with a quick little bow. "Thank you, then it's surely time for me to go;" and she turned to leave the room, but Dick checked her.
"Oh, Miss Goodrich, you know I did not mean that." Something in his voice made her eyes drop as he added, "You don't know how much I enjoy talking with you; not that I have had many such pleasures though, but just a word helps me more than I can say." He stopped, because he dare not go farther, and wondered at himself that he had said even so much.
"Do you really mean, Mr. Falkner, that you care at all for my friendship?"
"More than the friendship of any one in the world," he replied, earnestly.
Dick was startled and turned away his head lest his eyes reveal too much. "Because," he said slowly, "your friendship is good for me and makes me want to do great things."
"And yet, if I were not a member of the church you would not think that way."
"I would think that way, no matter what you were," said Dick.
"You would still value my friendship if I should do some awful wicked thing?" she asked. "Suppose I should leave the church, or run away, or steal, or kill somebody, or do something real terrible?"
Dick smiled and shook his head. "Nothing you could ever do would make me change. But tell me," he added; "you're not thinking of giving up your church work, are you?"
"Why do you ask?" said she quickly.
"You'll pardon me won't you, if I tell you. I can't help noticing that you are not so much at the meetings of the Society as you were; and that--well--you don't seem--somehow--to take the interest you did. And you have given up your class at the South Broadway Mission."
"How do you know that?"
"I asked Brother Cameron if there was any place for me out there, and he said, yes, that your class was without a teacher now."
"So you are to have my boys at the Mission. Oh, I am so glad." And her eyes filled. "Don't let them forget me altogether, Mr. Falkner."
"But won't you come back and teach them yourself?"
"No, no; you do not understand; I must give it up. But you'll do better than I anyway, because you can get closer to them. You understand that life so well."
"Yes," he said, very soberly. "I do understand that life very well indeed."
"Oh, forgive me, I didn't mean to pain you." She laid her hand timidly on his arm. "I admire you so much for what you have overcome, and that's what makes me say that you can do a great deal, now that you are through with it. You must forget those things that are behind, you know."
"Yes," murmured Dick, "those things are behind, and I can do all things through Him; but may I also have the help of thinking of you as my friend?"
Amy blushed again. "Please notice," said Dick, quietly, "I said of thinking of you as my friend."
The girl put out her hand. "Mr. Falkner, just as long as you wish, you may think of me as your friend. But I want you to pray for me, that I may be worthy your friendship, for I too, have my battles to fight." And she smiled. "Good-bye. You were so funny when you fell off the stool that day, but I like you better as you are now." Then suddenly the room grew dark and close, and as Dick turned again to his work, he heard a voice within whispering, "Only in your thoughts can she be your friend."
Adam Goodrich was just coming out of the express office, which was in the same block as the printing establishment, when he saw his daughter leave the building and cross the street. All that day the incident persisted in forcing itself upon his mind, and that night, after the younger members of the family had retired, and he and Mrs Goodrich were alone, he laid aside his evening paper and asked, "What was Amy doing at Udell's place today?"
"She went to have some calling cards printed. Why, what made you ask?"
"Oh nothing. I saw her coming from the building, and I wondered what she was doing there, that's all." He picked up his paper again, but in a moment laid it down once more. "That fellow Falkner joined the church last Sunday night."
"So Frank told me," answered Mrs. Goodrich. "I do wish Rev. Cameron would be more careful. He gets so many such characters into the church. Why can't he keep them out at the Mission where they belong, and not force us to associate with them?"
Mr. Goodrich spoke again. "I suppose he will be active in the Young People's Society now. Does Amy still take as much interest there as she did?"
"Oh no, not nearly as much as she used to. I have tried to show her that it was not her place to mix in that kind of work, and she's beginning to understand her position, and to see that she can't afford to lower herself and us, by running after such people. I don't understand where she gets such low tastes."
"She don't get them from the Goodrich's, I'm sure," answered Adam. "You know our family was never guilty of anything that could compromise their standing in society."
"Well, she will outgrow it all in time, I am sure. I have been as careful in her training as I could, Mr. Goodrich. It is a hard task to raise girls, and make them understand their position when they're Amy's age; but she's taking up her social duties again now. We are to make some calls tomorrow, and Thursday night, she has accepted an invitation to the card party at Mrs. Lansdown's; and Mr. Whitley has called frequently of late. I have great hopes, for she seems to be quite interested in him."
"Yes," agreed Adam. "Whitley is worth while; he is of a good family, and without doubt, the richest man in Boyd City. It would be a great thing for us. It's time he was thinking about a wife too. He must be well on toward forty."
"Oh dear no; he can't be more than thirty-five; he was quite young when he went abroad, and you remember that was only five years ago."
"Well, well, it's no matter; he's young enough. But does she see much of that printer of Udell's?"
"Why, of course not; what a question. She would have nothing to do with him."
"But she has met him at the socials and in the Society. He would naturally pose as a sort of hero, for he was the one who suggested that fool plan that Cameron is working on; and now that he has joined the church, she must see more or less of him. I tell you, he's a sharp fellow. Look how he has been quietly worming himself into decent society since he got hold of that reading room. There is no knowing what such a man will do, and Amy naturally would be a good mark for him."
"I'm sure I am doing the best I can," faltered Mrs. Goodrich; "but you'd better talk to her yourself; with Mr. Whitley so interested, we must be careful. I do wish she would be more like Frank. He has never given us a moment's trouble."
"Yes," said the father, with no little pride manifest in his voice and manner. "Frank is a Goodrich through and through. Amy seems to take more after your people."
Mrs. Goodrich sighed. "I'm sorry, but I don't see how I can help it."
The next day, after dinner, Mr. Goodrich found his daughter alone in the library, where she had gone with a bit of fancy work, which girls manage to have always about them. "Frank tells me that Mr. Falkner has united with the church," he remarked, carelessly.
"Yes," said Amy, "I am so glad. The church needs such young men, I think."
"He is quite a shrewd fellow, isn't he?" continued her father."
"He's very intelligent, I'm sure. You know it was he who proposed the plan for our new institution, and Mr. Wicks and Brother Cameron think it is very fine."
"Does he use good language in his conversation?"
"Oh yes sir, indeed. He is a very interesting talker. He has traveled so much, and read almost everything. I tell him I think he ought to preach."
"Hum. And will he, do you think?"
"He said he would if he were convinced it was his work."
"Where did he live before he came here?"
"Oh, he has lived in nearly all the big cities. He was in Kansas City last."
"And what did his father do?"
"His mother died when he was a little boy, and his father drank himself to death, or something. He won't talk about his family much. He did say though, that his father was a mechanic. I believe that he tells Mr. Udell more about his past than anyone."
"And did Udell tell you all this?"
"No," answered Amy, who suddenly saw what was coming.
"How do you know so much about him then?"
"He told me."
"Indeed. You seem to be on very good terms with this hero. How long were you at the printing office yesterday? I saw you leaving the building."
Amy was silent, but her burning cheeks convinced her father that he had cause to be alarmed.
"Did you talk with him when you were there?"
"Yes sir; he waited on me."
"And do you think it is a credit to your family to be so intimate with a tramp who was kicked out of my place of business?"
"Oh father, that is not true--I mean, sir, that you do not understand--Mr. Falkner is not a tramp. He was out of work and applied to you for a place. Surely that is not dishonest. And that he wanted to work for you ought not to be used against him. He has never in any way shown himself anything but a gentleman, and is much more modest and intelligent than many of the young men in Boyd City who have fine homes. I am sure we ought not to blame him because he has to fight his own way in the world, instead of always having things brought to him. If you knew him better, you wouldn't talk so." She spoke rapidly in her excitement.
"You seem to know him very well when you champion him so strongly that you call your own father a liar," replied Adam, harshly.
"Oh papa," said Amy, now in tears. "I did not mean to say that. I only meant that you were mistaken because you did not know. I cannot help talking to Mr. Falkner when I meet him in the Young People's Society. I have not been anywhere in his company, and only just speak a few words when we do meet. You wouldn't have me refuse to recognize him in the church, would you? Surely, father, Christ wants us to be helpful, doesn't he?"
"Christ has nothing to do with this case," said Adam. "I simply will not have my daughter associating with such characters; and another thing, you must give up that Mission business. I believe that's where you get these strange ideas."
"I have already given up my work there," said Amy, sadly. "Mr. Falkner has taken my class."
"Which is just the place for him. But don't you go there again. And if you have any printing that must be done at Udell's, send it by Frank, or someone. You understand, I forbid you to have any conversation whatever with that man. I'll see if such fellows are going to work themselves into my family."
Amy's face grew crimson again. "You must learn," went on the angry parent, "that the church is a place for you to listen to a sermon, and that it's the preacher's business to look after all these other details; that's what we hire him for. Let him get people from the lower classes to do his dirty work; he shan't have my daughter. Christianity is all right, and I trust I'm as good a Christian as anyone; but a man need not make a fool of himself to get to Heaven, and I'm only looking out for my own family's interest. If you wish to please me you will drop this Young People's foolishness altogether, and go more into society. I wish you would follow Frank's example. He is a good church member but he don't let it interfere with his best interests. He has plenty of friends and chooses his associates among the first families in the city. He don't think it necessary to take up with every vagabond Cameron chooses to drag into the church. Remember, it must stop." And the careful father took his hat and left for the place on Broadway, where on the shelves and behind the counters of his hardware store he kept the God he really worshipped.