Chapter XVII
 

The day following Amy's adventure with her drunken escort, and her rescue by Dick Falkner, Frank Goodrich had a long interview with his father, which resulted in Adam's calling his daughter into his library that evening. Without any preface whatever, he began, in an angry tone: "I understand, Miss, that you have disobeyed my express commands in regard to that tramp printer, and that you have been with him again; and that too, late at night. Now I have simply to tell you that you must choose between him and your home. I will not have a child of mine keeping such company. You must either give him up or go."

"But father, you do not know the circumstances or you would not talk so."

"No circumstances can excuse your conduct; I know you were with him and that is enough."

"Indeed I have not disobeyed you; father, you do not understand; I was in Mr. Falkner's company only by accident, and--"

"Stop. Don't add a falsehood to your conduct. I understand quite enough. Your own brother saw you bidding him an affectionate good-night at one o'clock, on my doorstep. Such things do not happen by accident. I wonder that you dare look me in the face after roaming the streets at that time of night with such a disreputable character."

"Father, I tell you you are mistaken. Won't you please let me explain?" said Amy, almost in tears.

But the angry man only replied, "No explanation can be made. Frank saw you himself and that's enough; no excuse can justify such conduct. I have only to repeat that I will not own you as my daughter if you persist in keeping such company."

Amy tried again to speak, but he interrupted her. "Silence, I don't want to hear a word from you. Go to your room."

Then the woman asserted herself and there were no tears this time, as she said respectfully, but firmly, "Father, you shall hear me. I am not guilty of that of which you accuse me. I was in other company, company of your own choosing, and to save myself from insult I was forced to appeal to Mr. Falkner, who brought me safely home. He is far more a gentleman than the men I was with, even though they are welcome at this home; and he is not. I--"

Adam turned fairly green with rage. "You ungrateful, disobedient girl. How dare you say that this miserable vagabond is a fit associate for you, and more worthy than the guests of my house? You must not think you can deceive me and clear yourself by any trumped-up lie of his teaching. You may have your tramp, but don't call me father. You are no daughter of mine." And he left the room.

It is astonishing how little the proud man knew of the real nature of his child; a nature which rightfully understood and influenced, was capable of any sacrifice, any hardship, for the one she loved; but misunderstood or falsely condemned, was just as capable of reckless folly or despair. A nature that would never prove false to a trust, but if unjustly suspected, would turn to the very thing of which it stood accused.

The next morning Amy did not appear at breakfast and the mother went to her room; while Mr. Goodrich, impatient at the delay, stood with angry eyes awaiting their appearance.

Frank came in. "Good morning, father," he said, glancing about with an assumed expression of surprise. "Where is Amy and mother? I thought I heard the bell."

Adam grunted some reply and the son picked up a week-old daily and pretended to be deeply interested. Suddenly a piercing scream reached their ears, and a sound as of someone falling. With an exclamation of alarm, Mr. Goodrich, followed by his son, hurried from the dining-room and ran upstairs. The door of Amy's apartment was open, and just inside prone upon the floor, lay Mrs. Goodrich, holding in her hand a piece of paper. Adam, with the help of his son, lifted his wife and laid her upon the bed, which they noticed had not been occupied. For an instant the two stood looking into each other's face without a word, and then the older man said, "We must take care of mother first. Call Dr. Gleason."

Under the advice of the physician, who soon came in answer to Frank's telephone call, Mrs. Goodrich was removed to her own room, and in a short time regained consciousness, but fell to moaning and sobbing, "Oh, Amy--Amy--my poor child--my baby girl--what have you done? I never thought that you would do a thing like this. Oh, my beautiful girl--come back--come back--" And then when she became calmer, told them what they already knew; that she had found her daughter's room undisturbed, with a note addressed to herself on the toilet table, containing only a simple farewell message.

"There, there, wife, she's gone," said Adam, clumsily trying to soothe the mother's anguish, but finding that a tongue long accustomed to expressions of haughty pride and bigotry, could but poorly lend itself to softer words of comfort. "There, there, don't cry, let her go. That scoundrel printer is at the bottom of it all. Somehow the girl does not seem to take after the Goodrich's. Madam, please try to control your feelings. You must not make yourself ill over this matter."

Mrs. Goodrich, accustomed to obey, with a great effort, ceased the open expression of her grief.

"There can be no doubt but that she has gone with that tramp," continued Adam. "I shall do what I can to find her and give her one more chance. If she acknowledges her fault and promises to do better she may come home. If not, she shall never darken these doors again."

"Oh, Mr. Goodrich, don't say that," cried the mother. "Think of that poor child on the streets all alone. Perhaps you are mistaken."

"What? Am I to understand that you take her part against me?"

"No, no," murmured the frightened woman.

"I tell you, there can be no mistake. You saw them did you not, Frank?"

"Yes, sir."

"You hear that, Mrs. Goodrich? You will oblige me by not mentioning this matter again." And hurriedly leaving the room, Adam went to his own private apartment, where, after he had turned the key in the door, he paced to and fro, the tears streaming down his cheeks. But in a few moments, while he made his preparations for going down the street, thoughts of the curious faces he must meet aroused the old pride and hardened his heart again. So that when he left the building, not a trace of his worthier feelings showed on his cold, proper countenance, except that to the keen observer, he looked a little older perhaps, and a trifle less self-satisfied.

His first visit was to the store, where he spent an hour or two going over his correspondence, interviewing the head clerk and issuing his orders for the day. Then taking his hat and cane, he left for the printing office.

The boy was away on an errand, and George had stepped out for a few moments, so that Dick was alone when Mr. Goodrich entered. Thinking that it was the printer who had returned, he did not look up from his work until he was startled by the angry voice of his visitor.

"Well, sir, I suppose you are satisfied at last. Where is my daughter?"

"Your daughter," said Dick, who had not heard the news, "I'm sure, sir, that I do not know."

"Don't lie to me, you scoundrel," shouted Adam, losing all control of himself. "You were with her last. You have been trying ever since you came here to worm yourself into the society of your betters. Tell me what you have done with her."

"Mr. Goodrich," said Dick, forcing himself to be calm, "you must explain. It is true that I was with your daughter night before last, but--" he hesitated; should he explain how he had found Amy?--"I left her safely at your door and have not seen her since." He finished. "Is she not home?"

Adam only glared at him. "She did not sleep at home last night," he growled.

Dick's voice failed him for a moment. "Then she must be stopping with some friend; surely there is no need for alarm."

"I tell you she's gone," said the other furiously. "She left a letter. You are to blame for this. You I say; and you shall suffer for it." He shook his clenched fist at the young man. "If you have hidden her anywhere I'll have your life; you miserable, low-down vagabond. You have schemed and schemed until you have succeeded in stealing her heart from her home, and disgracing me."

"Adam Goodrich, you lie," said Dick, pale with mingled anxiety for the girl, and angry that her father should thus accuse him. "Do you understand me? I say that you lie. That you are the most contemptible liar that I have ever known. Your whole life is a lie." He spoke in a low tone, but there was something underlying the quiet of his voice and manner that contrasted strangely with the loud bluster of the older man, and made the latter tremble. This was a new experience for him, and something in the manly face of the one who uttered these hard words startled and frightened him.

"You have forced your daughter to drop her church work, and have goaded her into the society of people whose only claim to respectability is their wealth. You value your position in the world more than your daughter's character, and you yourself are to blame for this. I tell you again, sir, that you are a liar. I do not know where your daughter is, but if she is on earth I will find her and bring her back to your home; not for your sake, but for hers. Now go. Get out. The very atmosphere is foul with your rotten hypocrisy."

"Whew!" whistled George a moment later, as he Stepped into the room, having passed Adam on the stairway. "What's the matter with his Royal Highness, Dickie? He looks like he had been in a boiler explosion." But his expression changed when Dick told him of the interview and apologized for driving a good customer from the office. "Good customer!" he shouted; "good customer! A mighty bad customer. I say you'd better apologize for not throwing him into the street. I'll never set up another line for him unless it's an invitation to his funeral."

For many days Dick searched for the missing girl, bringing to bear all his painfully acquired knowledge of life, and the crooked ways of the world. Though unknown to Mr. Goodrich, the detective from Chicago, whom he employed, was an old companion of Dick's, and to the officer only, he confided the full story of Amy's visit to the park. But they, only learned that she had boarded the twelve-forty Kansas City Southern, for Jonesville, and that a woman answering to her description had stopped there until nearly noon the next day, when she was seen in conversation with a man whose face was badly bruised on the under left side of the chin. The two had taken the same train east on the "Frisco." They found also that her companion of that night at the park, James Whitley, had hurriedly left Boyd City on the morning train, over the "Frisco," to Jonesville, and had not returned, nor could his whereabouts be discovered. It was given out in public, among the society items of the Whistler, that he had been called suddenly to the bedside of a sick friend; but Dick and the detective knew better.

Gradually the interest on the part of the citizens subsided, and the detective returned to Chicago to other mysteries, demanding his attention. Adam Goodrich refused to talk of the matter, and gave no sign of his sorrow, save an added sternness in his manner. But the mother's health was broken; while Frank, declaring that he could not stand the disgrace, went for a long visit to a friend in a neighboring city. Finally Dick himself was forced to give up the search; but though baffled for a time, he declared to Udell and his pastor, that he would yet bring Amy home as he had promised her father. And while he went about his work as usual, it was with a heavy heart, and a look on his face that caused his friends who knew him best to pity.