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That Printer of Udell's   By: (1872-1944)

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[Frontispice illustration: "Come on, Smoke, we've gotter go now."]

THAT PRINTER OF UDELL'S

A STORY OF THE MIDDLE WEST

BY HAROLD BELL WRIGHT

DEDICATION

TO THAT FRIEND WHOSE LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME MANY BEAUTIFUL TRUTHS; WHOSE WORDS HAVE STRENGTHENED AND ENCOURAGED ME TO LIVE MORE TRUE TO MY GOD, MY FELLOWS AND MYSELF; WHO HOPED FOR ME WHEN OTHERS LOST HOPE; WHO BELIEVED IN ME WHEN OTHERS COULD NOT; WHO SAW GOOD WHEN OTHERS LOOKED FOR EVIL; TO THAT FRIEND, WHOEVER HE IS, WHEREVER HE MAY BE, I AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATE THIS STORY.

H. B. W.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me."

CHAPTER I

"O God, take ker' o' Dick! He'll sure have a tough time when I'm gone, an' I'm er' goin' mighty fast I reckon. I know I aint done much ter brag on, Lord, but I aint had nary show. I allus 'low'd ter do ye better, but hit's jes' kept me scratchin' ter do fer me an' Dick, an' somehow I aint had time ter sarve ye like I ought. An' my man he's most ways no 'count an' triflin', Lord, 'cepten when he likers up, an' then, you know how he uses me an' Dick. But Dick, he aint no ways ter blame fer what his dad an' mammy is, an' I ax ye fair, o Lord, take ker o' him fer Jesus' sake Amen."

"Dick! O Dick, whar are ye honey?"

A hollow cheeked wisp of a boy arose from the dark corner where he had been crouching like a frightened animal, and with cautious steps drew near the bed. Timidly he touched the wasted hand that lay upon the dirty coverlid.

"What ye want, maw?"

The woman hushed her moaning and turned her face, upon which the shadow was already fallen, toward the boy. "I'm er goin' mighty fast, Dicky," she said, in a voice that was scarcely audible. "Whar's yer paw?"

Bending closer to the face upon the pillow, the lad pointed with trembling finger toward the other end of the cabin and whispered, while his eyes grew big with fear, "Sh , he's full ergin. Bin down ter th' stillhouse all evenin' Don't stir him, maw, er we'll git licked some more. Tell me what ye want."

But his only answer was that broken prayer as the sufferer turned to the wail again. "O Lord, take ker o' "

A stick of wood in the fire place burned in two and fell with a soft thud on the ashes; a lean hound crept stealthily to the boy's side and thrust a cold muzzle against his ragged jacket; in the cupboard a mouse rustled over the rude dishes and among the scanty handful of provisions.

Then, cursing foully in his sleep, the drunkard stirred uneasily and the dog slunk beneath the bed, while the boy stood shaking with fear until all was still again. Reaching out, he touched once more that clammy hand upon the dirty coverlid. No movement answered to his touch. Reaching farther, he cautiously laid his fingers upon the ashy colored temple, awkwardly brushing back a thin lock of the tangled hair. The face, like the hand, was cold. With a look of awe and horror in his eyes, the child caught his parent by the shoulder and shook the lifeless form while he tried again and again to make her hear his whispered words.

"Maw! Maw! Wake up; hit'l be day purty soon an' we can go and git some greens; an' I'll take the gig an' kill some fish fer you; the's a big channel cat in the hole jes' above the riffles; I seed 'im ter day when I crost in the john boat. Say Maw, I done set a dead fall yester'd', d' reckon I'll ketch anythin'? Wish't it 'ud be a coon, don't you? Maw! O Maw, the meal's most gone. I only made a little pone las' night; thar's some left fer you. Shant I fix ye some 'fore dad wakes up?"

But there was no answer to his pleading, and, ceasing his efforts, the lad sank on his knees by the rude bed, not daring even to give open expression to his grief lest he arouse the drunken sleeper by the fireplace... Continue reading book >>




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