That Printer of Udell's by Harold Bell Wright
When Amy Goodrich went to her room after the scene with her brutal father, wounded pride, anger at his injustice, and reckless defiance filled her heart. Mrs. Goodrich had heard the harsh words and quietly followed her daughter, but the door was locked. When she called softly for admittance, Amy only answered between her sobs, "No, no, mamma; please go away. I want to be alone." But the girl did not spend much time in weeping. With a look of determination upon her tear-stained face, she caught up a daily paper that was lying where she had dropped it that morning, and carefully studied time-cards. Then removing as far as possible the evidence of her grief, she changed her dress for a more simple and serviceable gown, and gathering together a few necessary articles, packed them, with her jewelry, in a small satchel. She had finished her simple preparations and was just writing the last word of her brief farewell message, when Mrs. Goodrich came quietly to the door again.
Amy started to her feet in alarm when she heard the low knock, and then as she listened to her mother's voice softly calling her name, the hot tears filled her eyes once more, and she moved as though to destroy the note in her hand. But as she hesitated, her father's words came back: "You may have your tramp, but don't call me father. You are no daughter of mine," and a cruel something seemed to arrest her better impulse and force her to remain silent.
Mrs. Goodrich, when she received no answer to her call, thought that her daughter was sleeping, and with a sigh of relief, went to her own room. A little later, the father came upstairs and retired. Then Frank returned home, and the trembling listener heard the servants locking up the house. When all was still, and her watch told her that it was a few minutes past midnight, she carefully opened the door, and with her satchel in her hand, stole cautiously down the stairs and out of the house. Hurrying as fast as she could to Broadway, she found a cab, and was driven to the depot on the east side.
As Amy stepped from the vehicle beneath the electric light and paused a moment to give the driver his fare, a man came out of a saloon on the corner near by. It was Mr. Whitley. He recognized the girl instantly, and springing to one side, drew back into the shadow of the building, where he waited until she went to the ticket office. Then going quickly to the open window of the waiting room, he heard her ask for a ticket to Jonesville. After the train had pulled in and he had watched her aboard, he entered the cab that had brought her to the station, and was driven to his hotel.
The next morning Whitley was the first to learn from Frank Goodrich, of Amy's quarrel with her father, and the reason. Without a word of what he had seen, he made hurried preparation and followed her on the next train.
At Jonesville, he easily made the rounds of the hotels and carefully examined the registers, but Amy's name was on none of them. Concluding that she must be at the home of some friend, he had placed his own name on the last book he examined, and seated himself to think over the situation, when he heard a bell-boy say: "That girl in number sixteen wants a 'Frisco' time-table."
Whitley lounged carelessly up to the counter and again glanced over the register. Number sixteen was occupied by a Miss Anderson. Catching the eye of the clerk, he placed his finger on the name and winked. "When did she get in?" he asked, in a low tone, at the same time slipping a gold-piece beneath the open page.
"On the one-thirty from the west, last night," the fellow replied, in the same cautious manner, as he whirled the book toward him and deftly transferred the coin to his own pocket, without attracting the attention of the landlord who stood near by.
"I believe I'll go to my room and clean up," said Whitley, a moment later.
"Show this gentleman to number fifteen," promptly called the clerk, and Whitley followed the boy who had answered Miss Anderson's call upstairs.
When he had placed the heavy grip on the floor, the boy turned to see Whitley holding out a dollar bill.
"Did you get a look at the lady in number sixteen, when you went up with that time-card?"
"Course I did."
"Can you describe her?"
"You bet, mister; she's a daisy too." And as he folded the bill and carefully placed it in his vest pocket, he gave an accurate description of Amy.
Whitley, dismissed the boy and seated himself to watch through the half-closed door, the room across the hall. He had not long to wait. Amy stepped out into the corridor and started toward the stairway. In an instant Whitley was by her side. The girl gave a start of surprise and uttered a frightened exclamation.
"Don't be frightened, Miss Goodrich, I have very important news for you from home. Step into the parlor please."
Too bewildered to do other than obey, she followed him.
"I have been searching for you all day," he said, as he conducted her to a seat in the far corner of the empty room.
Amy tried to look indignant and started to reply when he interrupted her.
"Wait a moment, please, Miss Goodrich, and hear me, before you condemn. When your father discovered this morning, that you had left home, he came at once to me and told me the whole story. I tried to explain to him that it was I, and not Falkner, who had been with you, but he would not listen; and in spite of my pleading, declared that you should never enter his home again. I am sorry, but he is very angry and I fear will keep his word, for a time at least. He even accused me of telling falsehoods to shield you, and insisted that I should forget you forever and never mention your name in his hearing again. I learned at the depot that you had purchased a ticket to this city, and took the first train, hoping to find and offer you any assistance that might be in my power to give. A girl in your position needs a friend, for you cannot go home just now."
In spite of herself, Amy was touched by the words spoken with such seeming truth and earnestness, but her heart was filled with anger at her father, and her face was hard and set as she replied coldly: "I thank you, but you might have saved yourself the trouble. I have no wish to go home."
"Indeed, I do not see how you can feel differently under the circumstances," admitted the other with apparent reluctance; "but have you thought of the future? What can you do? You have never been dependent upon yourself. You know nothing of the world."
Amy's face grew white. Seeing his advantage, Whitley continued, drawing a dark picture of a young woman without friends or means of support. At last, as he talked, Amy began to cry. Then his voice grew tender. "Miss Goodrich--Amy--come to me. Be my wife. I have long loved you. I will teach you to love me. Let me comfort and protect you."
The girl lifted her head. "You dare ask that after what happened the other night?"
"God knows how I regret that awful mistake," he replied earnestly. "But you know I was not myself. I am no worse than other men, and--" He hesitated--"you must remember that it was through you that I drank too much. I could not refuse when you gave me the glass. I never was intoxicated before. Won't you forgive me this once and let me devote my life to righting the wrong?"
Amy's eyes fell. The seeming justice and truth of his words impressed her.
Again the man saw his advantage and talked to her of the life his wealth would help her to live. She would be free from every care. They would travel abroad until her father had forgotten his wrath, and could she doubt that all would be well when she returned as his wife?
Amy hesitated, and again he pointed out the awful danger of her trying to live alone. As he talked, the girl's utter helplessness overcame her, and rising to her feet she faltered, "Give me time to think; I will come to you here in an hour."
When she returned she said: "Mr. Whitley, I will marry you; but my people must not know until later."
Whitley started toward her eagerly, but she stepped back. "Not now. Wait. We will go east on the evening train and will take every precaution to hide our course. We will travel in separate cars as strangers, and while stopping at hotels will register under assumed names, and will not even recognize each other. When we reach New York, I will become your wife."
Whitley could scarcely conceal his triumph; that she should so fully play into his hand was to him the greatest good luck. With every expression of love he agreed to everything; but when he would embrace her she put him away--"Not until we are married;" and lie was compelled to be satisfied.
For a while longer they talked, completing their plans. Then drawing out his pocket-book he said: "By-the-way, you will need money." But she shook her head: "Not until I have the right. Here are my jewels; sell them for me."
He protested and laughed at her scruples. But she insisted. And at last, he took the valuables and left the hotel. Going to a bank where he was known, he drew a large sum of money, and returning, placed a roll of bills in her hand. Thinking that it was the price of her rings, she accepted it without the slightest question.
That night, he bought a ticket for Chicago, over the Wabash from St. Louis, taking a chair car, while she purchased one for a little town on the Alton, and traveled in a sleeper. But at St. Louis, they remained two days, stopping at a hotel agreed upon, but as strangers. Then they again took tickets for different stations, over another road, but stopped at Detroit. It was here that Amy's suspicions were aroused.
She was sitting at dinner, when Whitley entered the dining room with two traveling men who seemed to be well acquainted with him. The trio, laughing and talking boisterously, seated themselves at a table behind her. Recognizing Whitley's voice, she lifted her eyes to a mirror opposite, and to her horror, distinctly saw him point her out to his friends.
Amy's dinner remained untasted, and hiding her confusion as best she could, she rose to leave the room. As she passed the table where Whitley and the men were eating, the two drummers looked at her in such a way that the color rushed to her pale cheeks in a crimson flame. Later, at the depot, she saw them again, and was sure, from Whitley's manner, that he had been drinking.
Once more aboard the train, the girl gave herself up to troubled thought. Worn out by the long journey under such trying circumstances, and the lonely hours among strangers at the hotels, and now thoroughly frightened at the possible outcome when they reached New York, the poor child worried herself into such a state that when they left the cars at Buffalo, Whitley became frightened, and in spite of her. protests, registered at the hotel as her brother and called in a physician.
The doctor at once insisted that she be removed to a boarding place, where she could have perfect rest and quiet, and with his help, such a place was found; Whitley, as her brother, making all arrangements.
For three weeks the poor girl lay between life and death, and strangely enough, in her delirium, called not once for father or mother or brother, but always for Dick, and always begged him to save her from some great danger. Whitley was at the house every day, and procured her every attention that money could buy. But when at last she began to mend, something in her eyes as she looked at him, made him curse beneath his breath.
Day after day she put him off when he urged marriage, saying "When we get to New York." But at last the time came when she could offer no excuse for longer delay, and in a few firm words she told him that she could not keep her promise, telling him why and begging his forgiveness if she wronged him.
Then the man's true nature showed itself and he cursed her for being a fool; taunted her with using his money, and swore that he would force her to come to him.
That afternoon, the landlady came to her room, and placing a letter in her hand, asked, "Will you please be kind enough to explain that?"
Amy read the note, which informed the lady of the house that her boarder was a woman of questionable character, and that the man who was paying her bills was not her brother. With a sinking heart, Amy saw that the writing was Jim Whitley's. Her face flushed painfully. "I did not know that he was paying my bills," she said, slowly.
"Then it is true," exclaimed the woman. "He is not your brother?"
Amy was silent. She could find no words to explain.
"You must leave this house instantly. If it were not for the publicity I would hand you over to the police."
She went to a cheap, but respectable hotel, and the next morning, Whitley, who had not lost sight of her, managed to force an interview.
"Will you come to me now?" he asked. "You see what you may expect from the world."
Her only reply was, "I will take my own life before I would trust it in your hands." And he, knowing that she spoke the truth, left her to return to Boyd City.
A few days later, when Dick Falkner stepped from the cars at Buffalo, and hurried through the depot toward the hack that bore the name of the hotel where Whitley had left Amy, he did not notice that the girl he had come so far to find, was standing at the window of the ticket office, and while the proprietor of the hotel was explaining why Miss Wheeler had left his house, the west-bound train was carrying Amy toward Cleveland.
Whitley had written a letter to the landlord, explaining the character of the woman calling herself Miss Wheeler, and had just dropped it in the box, when Dick met him in the post office on the day of Jim's arrival home.
With the aid of the Buffalo police, Dick searched long and carefully for the missing girl, but with no results, and at last, his small savings nearly exhausted, he was forced to return to Boyd City, where he arrived just in time to take an active part in the new movement inaugurated by Rev. Cameron and the Young People's Union.
In Cleveland, Amy sought out a cheap lodging house, for she realized that her means were limited, and began a weary search for employment.
Day after day she went from place to place answering advertisements for positions which she thought she could fill. Walking all she could she took a car only when her strength failed, but always met with the same result; a cold dismissal because she could give no references; not a kind look; not an encouraging word; not a helpful smile. As the days went by, her face grew hard and her eyes had a hopeless, defiant look, that still lessened her chances of success, and gave some cause for the suspicious glances she encountered on every hand, though her features showed that under better circumstances she would be beautiful.
One evening as she stood on the street corner, tired out, shivering in the sharp wind, confused by the rush and roar of the city, and in doubt as to the car she should take, a tall, beautifully dressed woman stopped by her side, waiting also for a car.
Amy, trembling, asked if she would direct her. The lady looked at her keenly as she gave the needed information, and then added kindly, "You are evidently not acquainted in Cleveland."
Amy admitted that she was a stranger.
"And where is your home?"
"I have none," was the sad reply.
"You are stopping with friends, I suppose?"
Amy shook her head and faltered, "No, I know no one in the city."
The woman grew very kind. "You poor child," she said, "you look as though you were in distress. Can't I help you?"
Tears filled the brown eyes that were lifted pleadingly to the face of the questioner, and a dry sob was the only answer.
"Come with me, dear," said the woman, taking her kindly by the arm. "This is my car. Come and let me help you."
They boarded the car, and after a long ride, entered a finely furnished house in a part of the city far from Amy's boarding place. The woman took Amy to her own apartments, and after giving her a clean bath and a warm supper, sat with her before the fire, while the girl poured out her story to the only sympathetic listener she had met.
When she had finished, the woman said, "You have not told me your name."
"You may call me Amy. I have no other name."
Again the woman spoke slowly: "You cannot find work. No one will receive you. But why should you care? You are beautiful."
Amy looked at her in wonder, and the woman explained how she had many girls in her home, who with fine dresses and jewels, lived a life of ease and luxury.
At last the girl understood and with a shudder, rose to her feet. "Madam, I thank you for your kindness; for you have been kind; but I cannot stop here." She started toward the door, but the woman stopped her.
"My dear child; you cannot go out at this time of night again, and you could never find your way back to your lodging place. Stay here. You need not leave this room, and you may bolt the door on this side. Tomorrow you may go if you will."
Amy could do nothing but stay. As she laid her tired head on the clean pillow that night, and nestling in the warm blankets watched the firelight as the flames leaped and played, she heard the sound of music and merry voices, and thought of the cold, poorly-furnished bed-room, with coarse sheets and soiled pillows, at her lodging place, and of the weary tramp about the streets, and the unkind faces that refused her a chance for life. What would the end be when her money was gone, she wondered; and after all, why not this?
The next morning, when she awoke, she could not for a moment, remember where she was; then it all came back, just as a knock sounded on the door.
"Who is it?" she called.
"Your coffee, miss," came the answer, and she unlocked the door, admitting an old negro woman with a neat tray, on which was set a dainty breakfast.
Later, when she was dressed, Madam came. "And do you still feel that you must go?" she asked.
"Yes, yes, I must. Don't tempt me."
The woman handed her a card with her name and address. "Well, go, my dear; and when you are driven to the street, because you have no money and are cold and hungry, come to me if you will, and earn food and clothing, warmth and ease, by the only means open to you." Then she went with her to the street and saw that she took the right car.
As Amy said good-bye, the tears filled her eyes again, and oh, how lonely and desolate the poor girl felt, as she shivered in the sharp air, and how hopelessly she again took up her fight against the awful odds.
But the end came at last as Madam had said it would. Without money, Amy was turned from her boarding place. One awful night she spent on the street, and the next day she found her way, half frozen, and weak from hunger, to Madam's place.