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- That Printer of Udell's - 10/49 -
and hogs, and tradin' in castor-oil beans and managed to get hold of some land here when the town was small. To-be-sure, I aint rich yet, though I've got enough to keep me I reckon. I handle a little real estate, get some rent from my buildin's, and loan a little money now and then. But you bet I've worked for every cent I've got, and I didn't fool none of it away either, 'cept what went up in smoke."
The old gentleman's voice sank lower and lower as he recalled the years that had flown. And as Dick looked at the kindly face, seamed and furrowed by the cares of life, and the hair just whitened by the frost of time, now half hidden in a halo of smoke, he felt his heart warm with sympathy, which he knew was returned full measure by the boy who had left his Ohio home to battle with life alone in that strange western country.
"But what I wanted to tell ye," said Uncle Bobbie, coming suddenly back to the present and speaking in his usual abrupt manner, "you'll find out, same as I have, that it don't much matter how the other feller dabbles in the dirt, you've got to keep your hands clean anyhow. An' taint the question whether the other feller's mean or not, but am I livin' square? I know that Christ is the Saviour of men, but he can't save 'em 'less they want him to, no more'n I can catch a jack-rabbit a-foot. Christianity's all right, but it aint a goin' to do no good 'less people live it, and there's a heap more living it too than we think. What such fellers as you want to do is to listen to what Christ says and not look at what some little two by four church member does. They aint worth that;" and he tossed his cigar stub to keep company with Dick's pipe.
Dick said nothing, because he could find no words to express himself, and the older man, seeing how it was, rose to his feet.
"Well, I must be goin'. Wife'll think I've clean gone back on her. Come up to the house and see me sometime. I reckon you know you're welcome after what I've been sayin'." And then as the young man gave him a lift with his coat; "keep a stiff upper lip; you'll strike pay dirt after a while; just keep a hangin' on, like a puppy to a root. Good-night," and Dick was alone again.
"Wife," said Mr. Wicks next morning, just before getting up to build the fire; "wife, I made a discovery last night."
"You were out late enough to discover something," returned Mrs. Wicks, with a laugh; "what is it?"
And Uncle Bobbie replied slowly as he arose and began dressing, "There's some fellers go to the devil just because they aint got nowheres else to go."
Later, the old gentleman sat at his desk in his office, tilted back in his revolving chair, his feet among the papers where his hands should have been. No one came in to disturb his revery for it was still early in the morning, and the only sound was the clicking of a typewriter in the next room. Suddenly the feet came down to their proper place with a bang, and leaning forward, he wrote rapidly for a few moments, then called, "Charlie." The noise of the typewriter stopped and a young man entered the room. "Charlie, I've been gettin' out a little advertisin' stuff here, and I wish you'd take it over to George Udell's an' wait until they fix it up, so you can bring me back the proof. You can let them letters rest a spell."
The young man took his hat and umbrella, for it was still raining, and started on his errand, but his employer stopped him. "Wait a bit, Charlie. Do you remember that young feller what called here for a job week before last, the time I sold that Johnson property, you know?"
"Said he was a printer from Kansas City?" asked Charlie.
The other nodded.
"Yes, sir, I remember him."
"Well, he's got a job with Udell. I was there last night and had a talk with him. He aint got no friends and stays in the office nights alone. I just thought I'd tell you. He's shy of Christians though, and proud as an old turkey gobbler in the spring. But he needs somebody to talk to more'n anything else, that's all." And the old man turned back to his papers.
This was the beginning. The end is easily foreseen; for, given a young man of Dick's temperament, longing for companionship, and another young man of Charlie's make-up, with a legitimate business to bring the two together, and only a friendship of the David and Jonathan order could result.
Dick was distant at first, but Charlie was too wise to force himself upon him, and as Mr. Wicks found many excuses for sending his young assistant to the printing office, the two slowly grew better acquainted. Then came a time when Charlie dared to ask Dick what he did evenings, and Dick answered in his proud way, "Smoke and play solitaire. Couldn't Charlie come up and chat with him sometimes? He couldn't play cards and didn't care to smoke, but he did like to talk. Yes, Charlie could if he chose, but he would find it a dull place to spend an evening."
Dick was pulling away at his corn-cob pipe the first time Charlie came, but moved to hide it from sight as the latter entered the room. Then thinking better of it, with a proud lifting of his chin, he stuck the pipe in his mouth again. However, Charlie noticed that the smoke soon ceased to come from his companion's lips, and guessed that the tobacco was not burning well. This was the last time that he ever saw Dick smoking. Indeed, it was the last time that Dick ever used tobacco in any form. "For," said he to himself, "I can't afford to do anything that robs babies and mothers, and makes me disagreeable to my friends."
The ice once broken, Charlie's calls grew more and more frequent, until the two met and talked like old friends, and often left the office to walk about the city, arm in arm, after dark.
"Mr. Udell," said Dick, one Saturday night, as the latter handed him his wages for the week, "Where's the best place to go for clothing?"
And George, with a pleased look on his face, which Dick could not help but notice, directed him to a clothing store on the corner of Fourth and Broadway.
The quiet of a Sunday morning in early May was over the city. Stores and business houses were closed, save here and there a meat market, which opened for careless citizens who had neglected to lay in their supply the night before. A group of negro loafers sat on the stone steps of the National Bank, and lounged about the entrance of the Opera House. A little farther up the street a company of idle whites sat in front of a restaurant; and farther on, in the doorway of a saloon, a drunkard was sleeping in the sun. Old Dr. Watkins, in his buggy, came clattering down the street and stopped in front of the Boyd City Drug Store, and a man with his arm in a sling followed him into the building. Then the church bells rang out their cheery invitation, and the children, neat and clean in their Sunday clothes, trooped along the street to the Sunday Schools. An hour later the voices of the bells again floated over the silent city, and men and women were seen making their way to the various places of worship.
In the throng which passed through the door of the Jerusalem Church was a gentleman dressed in gray. It was not difficult to guess from his manner, as he stood in the vestibule as though waiting for someone, that he was a stranger in the place. His figure was tall, nearly if not quite six feet, well formed, but lithe rather than heavy, giving one the impression not only of strength, but of grace as well; the well-set head and clear-cut features; the dark hair and brows, overshadowing, deep-set, keen gray eyes; the mouth and chin, clean-shaven and finely turned; all combined to carry still farther the impression of power. Even the most careless observer would know that he would be both swift and sure in action, while a closer student would say, "Here is one who rules himself, as he leads others; who is strong in spirit as well as body; who is as kind as he is powerful; as loving as he is ambitious; this is indeed a man whom one would love as a friend and be forced to respect as an enemy."
Charlie Bowen, one of the ushers, came hurrying up and caught the stranger by the hand. "Good," he whispered, looking him over admiringly; "Glad to see you, old man. Whew, but you do look swell. Folks will think you're a Congressman sure, in that outfit."
"Do I take my hat off when I go in?" whispered Dick, who already had his hat in his hand, "Or do I wait till after prayers?"
"You come along and do as the Romans do, of course," replied Charlie.
"Didn't know I was getting into a Catholic church," retorted the other. "Say, don't rush me way up in front, will you?"
"Never you mind that. Come on." And before Dick could say more the usher was half way up the aisle.
"Who is that stranger Charlie Bowen is seating?" said old Mrs. Gadsby in a low voice, to her neighbor. The neighbor shook her head. "Isn't he handsome?" whispered a young school teacher to her chum. "Some distinguished strangers here to-day," thought the pastor as he glanced over his congregation. And Adam Goodrich turned his head just in time to look into the face of the tramp printer, who was being seated in the pew behind him. Miss Goodrich was with her father and Dick heard nothing of the opening part of the service, only coming to himself when Cameron was well started in his discourse. The preacher's theme was, "The Sermon on the Mount," and the first words that caught the young man's ear were, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." He glanced around at the congregation. Mrs. Gadsby was inspecting the diamonds in the ears of the lady by her side, who was resting her powdered and painted face on the back of the pew in front, as though in devotion.
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted," read the minister. Dick thought of the widows and orphans in the city, and of the luxurious homes of the people he saw about him. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Dick looked straight at Adam Goodrich, the very back of whose head showed haughty arrogance and pride. "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Dick lifted up his eyes and looked at four members of the choir who were whispering and giggling behind their books, and noted the beautiful frescoed ceiling, the costly stained-glass windows, the soft carpets and carved furniture on the rostrum, and the comfortable, well-cushioned pews. "Is all this righteousness?" he asked himself. And he thought of the boys and girls on the street, of the hungry, shivering, starving, sin-stained creatures he had seen and known, who would not dare present themselves at the
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