Chapter XXV
 

John Barton and his wife, Anna, with whom Amy was to make her home for a while, could fully sympathize with the girl in her sad position, though one would never dream that the quiet, reserved John knew more of life than of his pigs and cattle, or that his jolly-faced, motherly companion had ever been beyond the quiet fields that surrounded her simple dwelling. Years before, they had been rescued from the world in which Amy had so nearly perished, by the same kind hand that had been stretched out to her, the Salvation Army; and now well on in middle life, happy and prosperous, they showed scarce a trace of the trouble that had driven them to labor on a farm. As hired help, they had gained their experience, and by ceaseless industry and careful economy, had at last come to own the place where they now lived. With no child of her own, Mrs. Barton took a mother's place in Amy's life from the first, and was very patient with the girl who had never been taught to do the simplest household task. Amy returned the loving kindness full measure, and, determined to be a help to those who so much helped her, advanced rapidly in the knowledge of her homely duties. Dressed in the plain working garb of a farm girl, with arms bare and face flushed by the heat of the kitchen, one would scarcely have recognized in her the beautiful young woman who moved with Boyd City's society leaders, or the brilliant novice who stood hesitating at the entrance to a life of sin in Madam's wine-rooms; and certainly, one would never have classed the bright eyes, plump cheeks, and well-rounded figure, with the frightened, starving, haggard thing that roamed about the streets of Cleveland a few short months before.

But great as was the change in Amy's outward appearance, the change within was even greater. She was no longer the thoughtless, proud, pleasure-loving belle that her parents had trained; nor was she the hard, reckless, hopeless creature that the world had made. But she was a woman now, with a true woman's interest and purpose in life. The shallow brilliance of the society girl had given place to thoughtful earnestness, and the dreary sadness of the outcast had changed to bright hopefulness.

One warm day in June, Mrs. Barton laid the last neatly ironed garment on the big pile of clothes nearby, and noisily pushing her irons to the back of the stove, cried, "Thank goodness, that's the last of that for this week." And "Thank goodness, that's the last of that," exclaimed Amy, mimicking the voice of her friend as she threw out the dishwater and hung the empty pan in its place.

Anna wiped the perspiration from her steaming face. "Come on; let's get out of this Inferno for a while and do our patching in the shade. I shall melt if I stay here a minute longer." And the two were soon seated in their low chairs on the cool porch, with a big basket of mending between them.

"Hello, there's our man back from town already," suddenly exclaimed Anna a few minutes later, as her husband drove into the barnyard; then with a mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes, she called, "Hurry up, John, Amy wants her letter." John smiled in his quiet way as he came up to the porch and handed the girl an envelope with the Boyd City postmark. Then the old people both laughed at the other's pretty confusion when Anna, rising, said in her teasing voice, "Come on hubby, I'll fix your dinner. We've kept it warm. Can't you see the selfish thing wants to be alone with her treasure?"

But when Mrs. Barton returned to her mending, after a long talk with her husband, her jolly face wore an expression of seriousness that was unusual, and she failed to notice that Amy's hands were idle and her work was lying untouched in her lap as she sat looking wistfully far away across the sunlit meadows and pastures.

Both took up their tasks in silence and plied their needles with energy, while their thoughts were far away; but one thought of a great city in the far-away east; the other of a bustling mining town in the nearer west.

At last Anna spoke with a little sigh: "Amy dear, I suppose you will be leaving us one of these days before long."

The girl answered with a loving smile: "Are you so tired of me that you are going to send me out into the world again?"

"No, no, dear. You have a home with John and me as long as you live. Surely you know that, don't you, Amy dear?" There was a wistful note in the kind voice, and dropping the stocking she was darning, Anna leaned forward and placed her hand on the arm of Amy's chair.

A rush of tears was her answer, as the girl caught the toil-stained hand and carried it passionately to her lips. "Of course I know. Mother forgive me; I was only 'funnin' as little Jimmie Clark says."

"But I am not 'funnin,'" replied the other. "I'm awfully in earnest."

There seemed to be a hidden meaning in her words and Amy looked at her anxiously. "I do not understand why you think that I should leave you," she said earnestly.

"Because--because--I--this life must be so degrading to you. You could live so differently at home. You must feel this keenly."

Amy looked at her steadily. "That is not your reason, Mother," she said gently. "You know that a woman degrades herself when she does nothing useful, and that I count my present place and work, far above my old life at home. Why just think"--with a quiet smile--"John said last night that he couldn't tell my biscuits from yours. And wasn't the dinner all right to-day? And isn't that a beautiful patch?" She held up her work for inspection.

The other shook her head, while she smiled in answer. "I know, dear girl, you do beautifully; but that's not it. There is your father and mother and brother; you know you can't stay away from them always."

Amy's face grew troubled, while her hand nervously sought the letter hidden in her bosom. "You do not understand, mother," she replied slowly; "My people do not want me to come home. My father said I should not, until--until--" she hesitated.

"But your father has surely forgotten his anger by this time, and when he sees you he will be glad to forgive and take you back."

The brown eyes looked at her in startled surprise. "When he sees me?" But the other continued hurriedly, "And there are the letters you know."

Amy's face grew rosy. "Why the letters?" she murmured in a low voice.

"Because he loves you, dear, don't you see?"

"He has never told me so."

"Not in words perhaps."

Amy was silent.

"He will come for you one of these days and then you will go with him."

The girl sadly shook her head, and turning her face, looked away across the fields again, where silent, patient John sturdily followed his team.

The shadow of the big sycamore was stretching across the barn lot almost to the gate, where the cows stood watching for the boy to come and let them in; a troop of droning bees were paying their last visit for the day to the peach-tree, that flung its wealth of passionate blossoms almost within reach of the porch, and over the blue distant woods the last of the feathery banks of mist hung lazily, as though tangled in the budding branches, reluctant to say good-night.

Suddenly leaving her chair, Amy threw herself on the floor and burying her face in the older woman's lap, burst into tears. Anna's own eyes were wet as she softly smoothed the brown hair of the girl she had taken to her mother's heart. "You do love him, don't you dear?"

And Amy answered, between her sobs, "Because I love him so, I must never see him again. He--he--is so strong and good and true --he must not care for one who would only bring reproach upon his name."

"I know, dear girl, and that is why you must go home; take your own place in the world again and then the way is clear."

Amy lifted her head. "Oh, if I only could--but you do not know--my going home would only widen the distance between us. My father--" She paused again, her quivering lips could not form the words.

"Amy, I am sure you are mistaken; you must be. When you meet your father it will all come right, I know."

Again there seemed to be a hidden meaning in her words. "When I meet my father?" Amy repeated slowly.

Anna grew confused. "Yes--I--we--you know John has been trying to sell for a long time; we want to go back to Cleveland; and to-day he learned that a buyer was coming from Boyd City to--"

Amy's face grew white as she rose, trembling, to her feet. "My father," she gasped--"coming here?"

Anna took the frightened girl in her arms--"There, there, dear, don't be afraid. All will be for the best, I am sure. John and I will stand by you and you shall go with us if you wish. But I am sure your father will be glad to take you home with him; and you ought to go; you know you ought; not for your family's sake alone, but for his, you know."

And so they talked as the shadows grew, until in the twilight John came from the field with his tired team, when they went into the house to prepare the evening meal.

       *       *        *       *        *

Adam Goodrich had by no means forgiven his beautiful daughter for the blow dealt his pride, though one would not easily detect from his manner that there was anything but supreme self-satisfaction in the life of this worthy member of the Jerusalem Church. Mrs. Goodrich's health was broken, but she still remained the same society-loving, fashion-worshipping woman, who by her influence and teaching had ruined her child. It never occurred to the mother that Amy's conduct was the legitimate outcome of her training or associates, but she looked at it always as a weakness in the girl; and Frank, true son of his father, never mentioned his sister but with a curl of his lip, and lived his life as though she had never existed. The family still attended church once each week, still contributed the same amount to the cause, and still found fault with Cameron for his low tastes and new-fangled methods; while they laughed at the new Association as a dream of fools and misguided enthusiasts.

Adam had long wanted to add a good farm to his possessions, and after some correspondence with the agent who had advertised the Barton property, he boarded the train one bright day, to pay a visit of inspection to his contemplated purchase. Reaching the little city of Zanesville in the evening, he spent the night at a hotel. In the morning he called upon the agent, and the two were soon whirling along the road behind a pair of wiry little ponies.

The drive of eight or ten miles passed very pleasantly between the real estate man and his prospective customer in such conversation as gentlemen whose lives are spent in the whirl of the money world indulge in between moments of activity.

At last they neared the farm, and bringing the ponies to a walk, the agent began pointing out the most desirable features of the property: the big barn, the fine timber land in the distance, the rich soil of a field near by, the magnificent crop of corn, the stream of water where cattle stood knee-deep lazily fighting the flies, and the fine young orchard just across the road from the house.

"Yes, the building is old"--as they drove up in front of the big gate; "but it is good yet, and with just a little expense, can be converted into a model of modern convenience and beauty."

As they drove into the yard and got out to hitch the ponies, Mrs. Barton came to the door.

"Just come right in, Mr. Richards, John is over in the north field; I'll go for him."

"Oh No, Mrs. Barton, I'll go. This is Mr. Goodrich, who wishes to look at the farm. Mr. Goodrich, just wait here in the shade and I'll go after Mr. Barton."

"I believe," said Adam, "if you don't mind, I'll walk through the orchard until you return."

"Certainly, certainly," said both the agent and the farmer's wife; and the woman added, nervously, "just make yourself at home, Mr. Goodrich; you'll find the girl out there somewhere. Dinner will be ready in about an hour."

Leisurely crossing the road, Adam paused at the orchard gate, to watch some fine young shoats that were running about with their mother nearby. From the pigs, his gaze wandered about the farm buildings, the fields, and the garden. Turning at last to enter the orchard, he saw a young woman, clad in the homely every-day dress of a country girl; her face hidden beneath a large sun-bonnet of blue gingham. She was gathering apple blossoms. Something in her manner or figure struck him as being familiar, and with his hand on the gate, he paused again. As he stood watching her all unconscious of his presence, she sprang lightly from the ground in an effort to reach a tempting spray of blossoms, and at her violent movement the sun-bonnet dropped from her head, while a wealth of brown hair fell in a rippling mass to her waist. Then as she half turned, he saw her face distinctly, and with a start of surprise and astonishment, knew her as his daughter.

Under the first impulse of a father's love at seeing his child again, Adam stepped forward; but with the gate half open, he checked himself and then drew back, while the old haughty pride, that dominant key in his character, hardened his heart again; and when he at last pushed open the gate once more, his love was fairly hidden.

When Amy first caught sight of her father advancing slowly toward her beneath the blossom-laden trees she forgot everything and started quickly toward him, her face lighted with eager welcome, ready to throw herself in his arms and there pour out her whole tearful story and beg his love and forgiveness. But when she saw his face, she dared not, and stood with downcast eyes, trembling and afraid.

"So this is where you hide yourself, while your family faces your shame at home," began Adam, coldly. "Tell me who brought you here and who pays these people to keep you."

The girl lifted her head proudly. "No one pays them sir; I am supporting myself."

The man looked at her in amazement. "Do you mean that your position here is that of a common servant?"

"There are worse positions," she replied sadly. "The people here are very kind to me."

"But think of your family; you are a disgrace to us all. What can I tell them when I go back and say that I have seen you?"

"Tell them that I am well, and as happy as I ever expect to be." She pressed her hand to her bosom where a letter was hidden.

"But what will people say when they know that my daughter is working on a farm for a living?"

"They need never know unless you tell them."

Then the man lost all control of himself; that this girl who had always yielded to his every wish, without so much as daring to have a thought of her own, should so calmly, but firmly, face him in this manner, enraged him beyond measure. He could not understand. He knew nothing of her life since that night he had refused to listen to her explanation, and in his anger taunted her with being the plaything of Dick Falkner, and then, because her face flushed, thought that he had hit on the truth and grew almost abusive in his language.

But Amy only answered, "Sir, you are mistaken now, as you were when you drove me from home; Mr. Falkner had nothing to do with my leaving Boyd City."

"You are my daughter still," stormed Adam, "and I will force you to leave this low position and come home to us. You cannot deceive me with your clever lie about supporting yourself. What do you know about a servant's work? That cursed tramp printer is at the bottom of all this, and I'll make him suffer for it as I live. I will force you to come home."

Amy's face grew pale, but she replied quietly, "Oh no, father, you will not do that, because that would make public my position you know. I have no fear of your proclaiming from the housetops that your daughter is a hired girl on a farm."

"But father," she said, in softer voice, as Adam stood speechless with rage; "Father, forgive me for this, for I know that I am right. Let me stay here and prove that I am not useless to the world, and then perhaps I will go to you. In the meantime, keep my secret and no one shall know that your claim on society has teen lessened because your daughter is learning to do a woman's work."

Just a shade of bitter sarcasm crept into her voice, but Adam did not notice, for he saw the agent and the farmer coming. "Very well," he said hurriedly, "you have chosen your path and must walk in it. But you cannot expect me to acknowledge a servant as my daughter." And turning his back, he went to meet the men, while Amy slipped off to the house with her blossoms.

Mrs. Barton needed no word to tell her of the result of the interview from which she had expected so much, and with a kiss and a loving word, permitted the girl to go upstairs, where she remained until Mr. Goodrich had left the place.

After completing the purchase of the farm, Adam wrote his daughter from the office of the agent in Zanesville: "The place where you are living now belongs to me, and the Bartons must give possession at once. If you will promise never to speak to that man Falkner again, you may come home and be received into your old place, but on no other terms will I acknowledge you as my daughter. Refuse and you are thrown on the charity of the world, for you cannot remain where you are."

Amy carried the letter to her friends, together with her reply, and they, by every argument of love, tried to induce her to go with them back to Cleveland; but she refused in tears. And when she would not be persuaded, they were compelled to leave her. With many expressions of love, they said good-bye, and departed for their old home in the eastern city; but before going, they arranged with a kind neighbor to give her a place in their already crowded home until she could find means of support.

Upon Dick's return from his Cleveland trip, he had thrown himself into his work with feverish energy, while in his heart the struggle between love and prejudice continued. But as the weeks went by and Amy's letters had come, telling of her life on the farm, and how she was learning to be of use in the world; and as he had read between the lines, of her new ideas and changed views of life, his love had grown stronger and had almost won the fight. Then a letter came, bidding him good-bye, and telling him that she was going away again, and that for her sake, he must not try to find her; that she was deeply grateful for all that he had done, but it was best that he forget that he had ever known her.

Dick was hurt and dismayed. It seemed to him that she had given up, and the devil, Doubt, ever ready to place a wrong construction upon the words and deeds of mortals, sent him into the black depths of despair again.

"I never saw such a man," declared George Udell to Clara Wilson, one evening, as they caught a glimpse of him bending over a desk in Mr. Wicks' office, "he works like a fiend."

"Like an angel, you'd better say," replied Clara. "Didn't I tell you that he was no common tramp?"

"Yes, dear, of course; and you never made a mistake in your life; that is, never but once."

"When was that?" asked Clara curiously.

"When you said 'No' to me night before last. Won't you reconsider it, and--"

"Where do you suppose Amy Goodrich is now?" interrupted the young lady. "Do you know, I have fancied at times, that Mr. Falkner learned something on his trip last fall, that he has not told us?"

George opened his eyes. "What makes you think that?"

"Oh, because; somehow he seems so different since he returned."

But George shook his head. "I thought so too for a while," he replied; "but I talked with him just the other day, and I'm afraid he's given up all hope. He works to hide the hurt. But I'll tell you one thing, girlie, if anything could make a Christian of me, it would be Dick's life. There's something more than human in the way he stands up against this thing."

Then Dick received another letter, from a post office in Texas.

"Dere Dikkie: I take my pen in hand to let u no that Ime wel an hoape u ar the same. Jim Whitly is ded he don tried to nife me an i fixed him. he wanted to hire me to kil u fer some papers an we was in you ol caben kross the river from the still. He said ter tel u thet he lied to u an that Amy is pure. I don't no what he means but thot u ort ter no. I skipped--burn this. your daddys pard.

"JAKE THOMPSON."

The Association building was finished at last, and the pastor of the Jerusalem Church sat in his little den looking over the morning mail. There were the usual number of magazines, papers, and sample copies of religious periodicals, with catalogues and circulars from publishing houses; an appeal to help a poor church in Nebraska whose place of worship had been struck by lightning; a letter from a sister in Missouri, asking for advice about a divorce case; one from a tinware man in Arkansas, who inquired about the town with a view of locating; and one that bore the mark of the Association, which informed him, over the signature of the Secretary, that he had been unanimously called to take charge of the new work. Cameron carried the letter, in triumph, to the kitchen.

"Well," said the little woman; "didn't I tell you that one preacher would have a hand in whatever work was started here? Of course you'll accept?"

"I don't know," Cameron answered. "We must think about it."

A day later he called for a consultation with Elder Wicks, and Uncle Bobbie said:

"To-be-sure, it's mighty hard for me to advise you in a thing like this; for as a member of the church, I'm bound to say stay; and as a member of the Association, I say, accept. I jing! I don't know what to do." And for a few moments, the old gentleman thoughtfully stroked his face; then suddenly grasping the arms of the chair fiercely, he shouted: "As a Christian, I say, accept, an' I reckon that settles it."

And so Cameron became the manager of the new work; and his first recommendation to the directors was that they send their Secretary away for a vacation. And indeed Dick, poor fellow, needed it, though at first he flatly refused to go. But Dr. Jordan came down on him with the cheerful information that he would die if he didn't, and Uncle Bobbie finished matters by declaring that he had no more right to kill himself by over work, than he had to take Rough on Eats, or blow his head off with a gun; "and besides," added the old gentleman, "you aint paid me that hundred dollars yet. To-be-sure, the note aint due for sometime; but a fellow has got to look after his own interest, aint he?"

The first address delivered by Cameron in the auditorium of the Association building, was from the text, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The audience room was crowded, and the young minister had never appeared to better advantage, or declared the teaching of his Master with greater freedom, earnestness and vigor; and to the astonishment of the people, who should come forward at the close of the service, to declare his belief in, and acceptance of Christ as the Son of God, but the so-called infidel printer, George Udell.