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- That Printer of Udell's - 20/49 -
with a handful of bills. "You can put that money back in the safe before morning and keep your mouth shut." And then when Frank attempted to grasp his hand, while stammering words of gratitude, he said, "No thanks," and put his own hands behind his back in a gesture that there was no mistaking. "Be a good boy, Frankie. Listen with more care to your pastor's sermons; keep your Young People's Society pledge; read your Bible and pray every day, and take part in all the meetings, and when I marry your sister I'll make you a present of these papers. But Oh Lord," he added, with a groan, "you'll make a healthy brother-in-law, you will."
"How much did you say?"
Frank muttered the amount he had stolen.
Jim quickly counted it out and threw the bills on the table. "There you are. And now you better go quickly before you slop over again and I kick you." And turning his back he poured himself another glass of liquor while Frank, with the money in his hand, sneaked from the room like a well-whipped cur. And over his head, as he crept stealthily down the street toward his father's store, the stars shone clear and cold in their pure, calm beauty, while the last of the storm-cloud on the far horizon covered the face of the bright new moon.
The committee appointed by the Society called on Mr. Wicks at his office, and found him deep in a letter to an old lady, whose small business affairs he was trying to straighten out. He dropped the matter at once when they entered, and, after shaking hands, as though he had not seen them for years, said: "Now tell me all about it. To-be-sure, Charlie here has had some talk with me, but I want to get your ide's."
"Our brightest idea, I think," said the leader, with a smile, "is to get your help."
Uncle Bobbie laughed heartily. "I reckoned you'd be around," he said. "I'm generally kept posted by the young folks when there's anything to do. To-be-sure, I aint got much education, 'cept in money matters an' real estate, but I don't know--I reckon education is only the trimmings anyhow. It's the hoss sense what counts. I've seen some college fellers that was just like the pies a stingy old landlady of mine used t' make; they was all outside--To-be-sure, they looked mighty nice though. Now tell me what ye want."
When the young people had detailed to him Dick's plan, and he had questioned them on some points, the old gentleman leaned back in his chair and thoughtfully stroked his face. Then--"Now I tell ye what ye do. Mebbe I can handle the property end of this a little the best. To-be-sure, folks would talk with me when they might not listen to you; 'cause they'd be watchin' fer a chance to get me into a deal, you see; fer business is a sort of ketch-as-ketch-can anyhow you fix it. So jes' let me work that end an' ye get Charlie here and some more to help, and drum up the store-keepers to find out if they'll let ye have their barrels and boxes. An' then go fer the citizens and see how many will buy kindlin'-wood. Tell 'em about what it will cost--say ten cents a week fer one stove. To-be-sure, some will use more'n others, but give 'em an ide'. Then we'll all come together again and swap reports, an' see what we've got."
For the next few days, the young people went from store to store, and house to house, telling their plan, and asking the citizens to support it by their patronage. Some turned them away with rudeness; some listened and smiled at their childish folly; some said they couldn't afford it; and some gave them encouragement by entering heartily into the scheme. With but few exceptions, the merchants promised the greater part of their boxes and barrels, and one man even gave them the ruins of an old cow shed, which he said he would be glad to have cleared away.
Meanwhile, Uncle Bobbie interviewed the business men, members of the church, and those who were not Christians. He argued, threatened and plead, studied plans, consulted architects and contractors, figured and schemed, and, when besieged by the young people for results, only shook his head. "Jes' hold your hosses and wait till the meetin'. It don't pay to fire a gun before ye load it." And none but Charlie Bowen noticed that the old gentleman's face grew grim whenever the subject was introduced, and the young man guessed that the outlook was not so promising as Uncle Bobbie would like. Then one Wednesday night, the Society met again in the church. The weather was cold and stormy, but, as at the previous meeting, nearly every member was present. When the committee had made their report and it was known that the merchants and citizens would support the movement by their patronage and contributions, a wave of enthusiasm swept over the room while the call for Mr. Wicks was enforced by loud applause.
Uncle Bobbie, who had been sitting by Rev. Cameron's side, arose and came slowly forward. Turning, he faced the little company and his honest old eyes were wet as he said in a trembling voice: "I didn't want to come here tonight, young folks; I jes' tell ye I was ashamed to come; but I knew I ought to; and now I am ashamed that I didn't want to. I might have known better. Fer I can see right now as I look into your faces, that Brother Cameron is right, and that what I have to tell won't make no difference." An ominous hush fell upon the company. "To-be-sure, we may have to wait a bit, but God will show a way, and we'll conquer this old devil of indifference yet." He paused and drew a long breath. "Well, I found a big house that is for sale; jes' the thing we need; and it could be bought and fixed up in first-class shape fer about nine hundred dollars. I sold the property myself to Mr. Udell, fer fifteen hundred, 'bout a year ago; an' I want to tell you young folks, right now, that whether he's a Christian er not, George Udell is the whitest man in this city, and the fellow what says anythin' again him's got me to whip." The old gentleman paused and glared about him, without a thought of how his words sounded; but the young people, who knew him well, only answered with a clapping of hands, which was a tribute to Uncle Bobbie's heart and character, rather than to his unconscious recklessness of speech or love for the man whom he championed. But when he went on to say that of all the men he had interviewed, church members and all, only Udell had met him half way, and had agreed to give the lot if they would raise the money to pay for the house, they applauded with a vim, the generosity of the printer.
"Just think," said Uncle Bobbie, "that among all the church members in this city, I couldn't raise two hundred dollars fer such a cause. One of 'em said no, because he'd jes' bought a new span of carriage hosses. Huh! I told him he might ride to Hell behind fine bosses but he'd not feel any better when he got there. 'Nother said he'd jes' put five hundred dollars into the new lodge temple, and that he couldn't spend any more. I asked him if Jesus was a member of his lodge, and he said he reckoned not. I said, Well, we want to build a home for Christ, and you say you can't. Seems to me if I was you I wouldn't call Christ my redeemer in prayer meeting so much. 'Nother had just fixed his home. 'Nother had just put in a new stock of goods; and so with 'em all. They all had some excuse handy, and I don't know what to do. I'm up a stump this time fer sure. We've got the material to work up; we've got the people to buy the goods; we've got the lot; and there we're stuck, fer we can't get the house. _I_ can't anyway. We're jes' like the feller that went fishin'; had a big basket to carry home his fish; a nice new jointed pole with a reel and fixin's, a good strong linen line, an' a nice bait box full of big fat worms, an' when he got to the river he didn't have no hook, and the fish just swum 'round under his nose an' laughed at him 'cause he couldn't touch 'em--and still I believe that God will show us the way yet, 'though mebbe not. Perhaps taint fer the best fer us to do this; to-be-sure though I thought it was, and so did Brother Cameron; and so did you. But I don't know--" And the old man took his seat.
After a long silence, one or two offered suggestions but could not help matters. Rev. Cameron was called for and tried to speak encouragingly, but it was hard work, and it seemed that the plans were coming to an inglorious end, when Clara Wilson sprang to her feet.
"I'm not a bit surprised at this," she said, while the young people, forgetting the praise they had just bestowed upon George Udell, thought that her rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes were caused by her excitement. "I don't wonder that the business men won't go into such a scheme. They haven't any faith in it. It isn't so much that they've not got the money or don't want to help, but it's because they don't trust the church. They have seen so many things started, and have supported so many, and still no real good comes of it, that they're all afraid. They put money into their lodges because they see the results there. I believe there has been more wealth put into the churches than has ever been put into lodges; but all we've got to show for it is fine organs, fine windows, and fine talk, while the lodges do practical work. We can't expect folks to take hold of our plan until we show what we are going to do. We are starting at the wrong end. We haven't done anything ourselves yet. I wish I was a man, I'd show you," with a snap of her black eyes.
"Yo're a pretty good feller if you ain't a man," chuckled Uncle Bobbie. This raised a laugh and made them all feel better.
"That's all right; you can laugh if you want to," said Clara, "but I tell you we can do it if we have a mind to. Why, there is enough jewelry here tonight to raise more than half the amount. Let's not give up now that we've gone so far. Let's have a big meeting of the Society, and have speeches, and tell what has been done, and see what we can raise. Just make the people believe we are going to have this thing anyway. Mr. President, I move you that we have an open meeting of the Society one week from next Sunday, and that a special committee be appointed to work up a good program."
Cameron jumped to his feet. "With all my heart, I second that motion." And before the president could speak, a storm of Ayes was followed by prolonged applause. Clara was promptly named chairman of the committee, and in a few minutes they were trooping from the building, out into the storm, but with warm hearts and merry voices.
George Udell had not been to call on Miss Wilson since the night he found the man frozen in the streets. Indeed, he had not even spoken to her since the funeral. He had seen her though, once when she had met him on the street with several friends, and several times when he had glanced up from his work by the window as she had passed the office. All this was strange to Clara. What could be the matter? George had never acted so before. She wanted to talk to him about the incident of that stormy night when they had parted so abruptly. She wanted him to know how proud she was that he had proven so kind in the matter of the funeral. "What a warm heart he has beneath all his harsh speeches," she thought; and could not help but contrast him, much to his credit, with many professed Christians she knew. And then, Mr. Wicks had spoken, in the business meeting, of his generosity, and had talked so strongly of his goodness; no wonder her cheeks burned with pride, while her heart whispered strange things.
When the young woman had said Good-night to her companions, after the
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