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- That Printer of Udell's - 3/49 -


dictating a letter to the young lady seated at the typewriter, "What do you want?"

"I came in answer to your ad in this morning's Whistler," answered Dick.

"Umph--Where did you work last?"

"At Kansas City. I'm a printer by trade, but willing to do anything until I get a start."

"Why aren't you working at your trade?"

"I was thrown out by the strike and have been unable to find anything since."

A look of anger and scorn swept over the merchant's face. "So you're one of that lot, are you? Why don't you fellows learn to take what you can get? Look there." He pointed to a pile of pamphlets lying on the table. "Just came in to-day; they cost me fifty per cent more than I ever paid before, just because you cattle can't be satisfied; and now you want me to give you a place. If I had my way, I'd give you, and such as you, work on the rock pile." And he wheeled his chair toward his desk again.

"But," said Dick, "I'm hungry--I must do something--I'm not a beggar--I'll earn every cent you pay me."

"I tell you no," shouted the other. "I won't have men about me who look above their position," and he picked up his pen.

"But, Sir," said Dick again, "what am I to do?"

"I don't care what you do," returned the other. "There is a stone-yard here for such as you."

"Sir," answered Dick, standing very straight, his face as pale as death. "Sir, you will yet learn that it does matter very much what such fellows as I do, and some day you will be glad to apologize for your words this morning. I am no more worthy to work on the rock pile than yourself. As a man, I am every bit your equal, and will live to prove it. Good morning, Sir." And he marched out of the office like a soldier on parade, leaving the young lady at the typewriter motionless with amazement, and her employer dumb with rage.

What induced him to utter such words Dick could not say; he only knew that they were true, and they seemed somehow to be forced from him; though in spite of his just anger he laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation before he was fairly away from the building.

The factory whistles blew for dinner, but there was no dinner for Dick; they blew again for work at one o'clock, but still there was nothing for Dick to do. All that afternoon he continued his search with the same result--We don't need you. Some, it is true, were kind in their answers. One old gentleman, a real estate man, Dick felt sure was about to help him, but he was called away on business, and the poor fellow went on his weary search again.

Then the whistles blew for six o'clock, and the workmen, their faces stained with the marks of toil, hurried along the streets toward home; clerks and business men crowded the restaurants and lunch counters, the street cars were filled with shoppers going to their evening meal. Through hungry eyes, Dick watched the throng, wondering what each worked at during the day and what they would have for supper.

The sun went behind a bank of dull, lead-colored clouds and the wind sprang up again, so sharp and cold that the citizens turned up the collars of their coats and drew their wraps about them, while Dick sought shelter from the chilly blast in an open hallway. Suddenly a policeman appeared before him.

"What are you doing here?"

"Nothing," answered Dick.

"Wal, ye'd better be doing something. I've had my eye on you all the afternoon. I'll run ye in if I ketch ye hanging round any more. Get a move on now." And Dick stepped out on the sidewalk once more to face the bitter wind.

Walking as rapidly as possible, he made his way north on Broadway, past the big hotel, all aglow with light and warmth, past the vacant lots and the bicycle factory, until he reached the ruins of an old smelter just beyond the Missouri Pacific tracks. He had noticed the place earlier in the day as he passed it on his way to the brickyard. Groping about over the fallen walls of the furnace, stumbling over scraps of iron and broken timbers in the dusk, he searched for a corner that would in some measure protect him from the wind. It grew dark very fast, and soon he tripped and fell against an old boiler lying upturned in the ruin. Throwing out his hand to save himself, by chance, he caught the door of the firebox, and in a moment more was inside, crouching in the accumulated dirt, iron rust and ashes. At least the wind could not get at him here; and leaning his back against the iron wall of his strange bed-room, tired and hungry, he fell asleep.

CHAPTER II

The next morning Dick crawled from his rude lodging place stiff and sore, and after making his toilet as best he could, started again on his search for employment. It was nearly noon when he met a man who in answer to his inquiry said: "I'm out of a job myself, stranger, but I've got a little money left; you look hungry."

Dick admitted that he had had no breakfast.

"Tell you what I'll do," said the other. "I ain't got much, but we can go to a joint I know of where they set up a big free lunch. I'll pay for the beer and you can wade into the lunch."

Poor Dick, weak from hunger, chilled with the March winds, tired and discouraged, he forgot his resolve of the day before and followed his would-be benefactor. It was not far and they soon stood in a well-warmed saloon. The grateful heat, the polished furniture, the rows of bottles and glasses, the clean-looking, white-jacketed and aproned bar-tender, and the merry air of those whom he served, were all wonderfully attractive to the poor shivering wanderer from out in the cold. And then there was the long table well loaded with strong, hot food. The starving fellow started toward it eagerly, with outstretched hand. "Two beers here," cried his companion.

Then Dick remembered his purpose. The hand reaching out to grasp the food was withdrawn; his pale face grew more haggard. "My God!" he thought, "what can I do. I must have food."

He saw the bartender take two large glasses from the shelf. His whole physical being plead with him, demanding food and drink, and shaking like a leaf he gazed about him with the air of a hunted thing.

He saw one of the glasses in the hand of the man in the white jacket and apron filling with the amber liquid. A moment more and--"Stop!" he cried, rushing toward the one who held the glasses. "Stop! it's a mistake. I don't drink."

The man paused and looked around with an evil leer, one glass still unfilled in his hand. Then with a brutal oath, "What are ye in here for then?"

Dick trembled. "I--I--was cold and hungry--" his eyes sought the food on the table--"and--and--this gentleman asked me to come. He's not to blame; he thought I wanted a drink."

His new-found friend looked at him with a puzzled expression. "Oh take a glass, stranger. You need it; and then help yourself to the lunch."

Dick shook his head; he could not speak.

"Look here!" broke in the bartender, with another string of vile language, as he quickly filled the empty glass and set it on the counter before Dick. "You drink this er git out. That there lunch is fer our customers and we aint got no room fer temperance cranks er bums. Which'll it be? Talk quick."

Dick's eyes went from the food to the liquor; then to the saloon man's hard face, while a strange hush fell over those who witnessed the scene. Slowly the stranger swept the room with a pleading glance, but met only curious indifference on every side. Again he turned to the food and liquor, and put out his hand. A light of triumph flashed in the eyes of the man behind the bar, but the hand was withdrawn and Dick backed slowly toward the door. "I won't," he said, between his clenched teeth, then to his would-be friend, "Thank you for your good intention."

The silence in the room was broken by a shout of harsh laughter as the bartender raised the glass of beer he had drawn for Dick and mockingly drank him good luck as the poor fellow stepped through the doorway leaving warmth and food behind.

All that day Dick continued his search for work. Night came on again and he found himself wandering, half dazed, in the more aristocratic portion of the city. He was too tired to go to the old smelter again. He could not think clearly and muttered and mumbled to himself as he stumbled aimlessly along.

The door of a cottage opened, letting out a flood of light, and a woman's voice called, "Dick, Oh Dick, come home now; supper is waiting." And a lad of ten, playing in the neighboring yard with his young companion, answered with a shout as he bounded across the lawn. Through the windows our Dick caught a glimpse of the cosy home: father, mother, two sisters, bright pictures, books, and a table set with snowy linen, shining silver and sparkling glass.

Later, strange voices seemed to call him, and several times he paused to listen. Then someone in the distance seemed to say, "Move on; Move on." The words echoed and re-echoed through his tired brain. "Move on; Move on," the weary, monotonous strain continued as he dragged his heavy feet along the pavement. "Move on; Move on;" the words seemed repeated just ahead. Who was it? What did they want, and why couldn't they let him rest? He drew near a large building with beautiful stained glass windows, through which the light streamed brilliantly. In the center was a picture of the Christ, holding in his arms a lamb, and beneath, the inscription, "I came to seek and to save that which was lost."

"Move on; Move on;" the words seemed shrieked in his ears now, and looking up he saw a steeple in the form of a giant hand, pointing toward the stormy sky. "Why of course,"--he laughed with mirthless


That Printer of Udell's - 3/49

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