That Printer of Udell's by Harold Bell Wright
"There's only one girl in this world for me," whistled Dick, as he made a form ready for the press. Only in his own mind he rendered it, "There's not one girl in this world for me;" and from Dick's point of view his version was the better one. Thus far in his life there had come no woman's influence; no loving touch of a girlish hand to help in moulding his character; no sweet voice bidding him do right; no soft eyes to look praise or blame. He had only the memory of his mother.
It was less than a week ago that the poor outcast had fainted from lack of food, but he had already become a fixture in the office. George Udell confided to Miss Wilson that he did not know how he could get along without him, and that he was, by long odds, the best hand he had ever had. He was quick and sure in his work, and as George put it, "You don't have to furnish him a map when you tell him to do anything." With three good meals a day and a comfortable cot in the office for the night, with the privilege of spending his evenings by the fire, and the assurance that there was work for him for many weeks ahead, it was no wonder that Dick whistled as he bent over the stone. Locking up the form, he carried it to the press and was fixing the guide pins, when the door opened and a young lady came in.
Dick's whistle stopped instantly and his face flushed like a school girl as he gave her a chair and went to call Udell, who was in the other room trying to convince the boy that the stove needed a bucket of coal.
"Faith," said Dick to himself, as he went back to the press, "If there is one girl in this world for me I hope she looks like that one. What a lovely voice," he added, as he carefully examined the first impression; "and a heavenly smile;" as he finished his work and went back to the composing case; "and what eyes,"--he turned sideways to empty his stick--"And what hair;" trying to read his copy--"a perfect form;" reaching for the type again. "I wonder who--"
"Dick!" shouted Udell. Crash went the overturned stool, and, "Yes Sir," answered the young man, with a very red face, struggling to his feet.
A merry light danced in the brown eyes, though the girlish countenance was serious enough.
Udell looked at his assistant in mingled wonder and amusement. "What's the matter, Dick?" he asked, as the latter came toward him.
"Nothing, Sir--I only--I was--" he looked around in confusion at the overturned stool, and the type on the floor.
"Yes, I see you were," said his employer with a chuckle. "Miss Goodrich, this is Mr. Falkner; perhaps he can help us out of our difficulty. Mr. Falkner is just from Kansas City," he added, "and is up in all the latest things in printing."
"Oh yes," and Amy's eyes showed their interest. "You see, Mr. Falkner, we are trying to select a cover design for this little book. Mr. Udell has suggested several, but we cannot come to any decision as to just the proper one. Which would you choose?"
Dick's embarrassment left him at once when a matter of work was to be considered. "This would be my choice," he said, selecting a design.
"I like that too," said the young lady; "but you see it is not just what I want;" and she looked not a little worried, for above all things, Miss Goodrich liked things just as she liked them; and besides, this was such an important matter.
"I'll tell you what," said Dick. "If you'll let me, and Mr. Udell does not object, I'll set up a cover for you to-night after supper."
"O, indeed, you must not think of it," said Amy.
"But I would enjoy it," he answered.
"You need to rest after your day's work," she replied; "and besides, it would be so much trouble for you to come way down here in the night. No, you need not mind; this will do very well."
"But we often work after hours, and I--I--do not live far from here," said Dick.
"What do you think, Mr. Udell?"
"I am sure, Miss Goodrich, that Mr. Falkner would enjoy the work, for we printers have a good bit of pride in that kind of thing you know, and, as he says, we often work after supper. I think you might let him do it, without too great a feeling of obligation."
After some further talk, the matter was finally settled as he had suggested, and Dick went back to his work; as he picked up his overturned stool, he heard the door close and then Udell stood beside him, with a broad grin on his face.
"Well, I'll be shot," ejaculated the printer, "I've seen fellows take a tumble before, but hang me if I ever saw a man so completely kerflummuxed. Great shade of the immortal Benjamin F--! But you were a sight--must be you're not used to the ladies. Seemed all right though when you got your legs under you and your mouth agoing. What in time ailed you anyway?"
"Who is she?" asked Dick, ignoring the other's laughter, and dodging his question.
"Who is she? Why I introduced you to her, man; her name is Amy Goodrich. Her daddy is that old duffer who keeps the hardware store, and is so eminently respectable that you can't get near him unless you have a pedigree and a bank account. Amy is the only daughter, but she has a brother though who takes after the old man. The girl takes after herself I reckon." Dick made no reply and Udell continued: "The whole family are members of the swellest church in the city, but the girl is the only one who works at it much. She teaches in the Mission Sunday School; leads in the Young People's Society and all that. I don't imagine the old folks like it though; too common you know." And he went off to look after the boy again, who was slowly but painfully running off the bill-heads that Dick had fixed on the press.
"What's the matter with him, George?" asked that individual, leaning wearily against the machine; "Did he faint agin, or was he havin' a fit?"
"You shut up and get that job off sometime this week," answered Udell, as he jerked the lever of the electric motor four notches to the right.
Just before the whistles blew for dinner, he again went back to Dick and stood looking over his shoulder at a bad bit of copy the latter was trying to decipher. "Well, what do you think about it?" he asked.
"She's divine," answered Dick absently, as he carefully placed a capital A upside down.
George threw back his head and roared; "Well, you've got it sure," he said, when he could speak.
"Got what?" asked Dick in wonder.
"Oh, nothing," replied the other, going off with another shout. "But look here;" he said, after a moment; very serious this time; "Let me give you a piece of good advice, my friend; don't you go to thinking about that girl too much."
"What girl? Whose thinking about her? You need have no fears on that score," said Dick, a little sharply.
"Oh, you needn't get mad about it, a fellow can't help but think a chap is hit when he falls down, can he?" And with another laugh, George removed his apron and left for dinner.
"Yes, it did look bad;" said Dick to himself, as he dried his hands on the office towel; "but I never saw such eyes; and she's as good as she looks too; but Adam Goodrich's daughter, Whew--" And he whistled softly to himself as he thought of his first meeting with the wealthy hardware merchant.
That evening while Miss Goodrich was entertaining a few of her friends at her beautiful home on the avenue, and while Udell, with Clara Wilson, was calling on old Mother Gray, whose husband had been injured in the mines, Dick worked alone in the printing office. The little book, as Amy called it, was a pamphlet issued by the literary club of which she was the secretary, and never since the time when he set his first line of type, had Dick been so bothered over a bit of printing. The sweet brown eyes and smiling lips of the young woman were constantly coming between him and his work, and he paused often to carry on an imaginary conversation with her. Sometimes he told her funny incidents from his adventurous past and heard her laugh in keen appreciation. Then they talked of more earnest things and her face grew grave and thoughtful. Again he told her all his plans and ambitions, and saw her eyes light with sympathy as she gladly promised her helpful friendship. Then, inspired by her interest, he grew bolder, and forgetting the task before him altogether, fought life's battles in the light of her smiles, conquering every difficulty, and winning for himself a place and name among men. And then, as he laid his trophies at her feet, her father, the wealthy merchant, appeared, and Dick walked the floor in a blind rage.
But he managed to finish his work at last, and about three o'clock, tumbled on to his cot in the stock room, where he spent the rest of the night trying to rescue Amy from her father, who assumed the shape of a hardware dragon, with gold eyes, and had imprisoned the young lady in a log cabin near the river, beneath a hill upon which grew a pine tree tipped with fire, while a lean hound sat at the water's edge and howled.