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"No, — I know, Madam." •

Even that did not hurt him. Hls face kindled slowly, — still turned to the fire, as if it were telling him some old story: looking to her at last, steadfast and manly, like a man who has healthy commonsense dominant in his head, and an unselfish love at work in his heart. Such a one is not far from the kingdom of eaven.

"It seems to me as if there might be a chance — yet. It's a long time. But Martha loved me, Madam. You don't

know I think I 'll go, John. It 's

close here, 's I said. I 'll meet you at the far bridge by dawn, and let you know."

"It is your only chance," said Sould, roughly, as he followed him to the door.

He was a ruined man, if he were balked in this.

"Yon do not know how the world meets a returned felon, Stephen; you"

"Let me go," feebly, putting his hand np to his chin in the old fashion.

"I think I know that. I — I 've thought of that a good deal. But it seemed to me as if there might be a chance"; and so, without a word of farewell, went stumbling down the stairs.

He had {riven a wistful look at the fire, as he turned away. Perhaps that would comfort him. God surely has "many voices in the world, and none of them is without its signification."

An hour before dawn, Yarrow found the place in which he had appointed to meet his brother. The night had been dark, hailing at intervals; he had gone tramping up and down the hills and stubble - fields, through snow and half-frozen mudjjrullies, hardly conscious of what he did. The night seemed long to him now, looking back. He found a burnt sycamore - stump and got up on it, shivered awhile, felt his shirt, which was wet to the skin, then took off his shoes and cleared the lumps of slush out of them. There was something horrible to him in this unbroken silence and dark and wet cold: he had been in his hot cell so long, the frost stung

him differently from other men, the icy thaw was wetter. It was a narrow cut in the hills where he was, a bridle-road leading back and running zigzag for some miles until it returned lo the railroad-track. A lonely, unfrequented place: Frazier would take this by-path; Soule had chosen it well to meet him. There was a rickety bridge crossing a hill-stream a few rods beyond. Yarrow pushed the dripping cap off hi» forehead, and looked around. No light nor life on any side: even in the heavens yawned that breathless, uncolored silence that precedes a winter's dawn. He could see the Ohio through the gully: why, it used to be a broad, fullbreasted river, glancing all over with light, loaded with steamers and rafts going down to the Mississippi. He had gone down once, rafting, with lumber, and a jolly three weeks' float they had of it. Now it was a solid, shapeless mass of blocks of ice and mud. Winter? yes, but the; world was altered somehow, the very river seemed struck with death. His teeth chattered; he began to try to rub some warmth into his rheumatic legs and arms; tried to bring back the fancy of last night about Martha and the fire. But that was a long way off: there were all these years' mastering memories to fade it out, yon know, and besides, a diseased habit of desponding. The world was wide to him, cowering out from a cell: where were Martha and the little chaps lost in it? John said they were dead. Where should he turn now? There was an aguish pajn in his spine that blinded him: since yesterday he had eaten nothing, — he had no money to buy a meal; he was a felon, — who would give him work? "There 's some things certain in the world," he muttered.

"That was silly last night, — silly. And yet, — if there could have been a chance!"

He looked up steadily into the sickly, discolored sky: nothing there but the fog from these swamps. He had not wished so much that he could hear of Martha and the children, when he looked op, as of something else that he needed more. Even the foulest and most careless soul that God ever made has some moments when it grows homesick, conscious of the awful vacuum below its life, the Eternal Arm not being there. Yarrow was neither foul nor careless. All his life, most in those years in the prison, he had been hungry for Something to rest on, to own him. Sometimes, when his evil behavior had seemed vilest to him, he had felt himself trembling on the verge of a great forgiveness. But he could see so little of the sky in the cell there, — only that three-cornered patch: he had a fancy, that, if once he were out in the world that He made, — in the free air, — that, if there were a God, he would find Him out. He had not found Him.

ii. sat on the stump awhile, his hands over his eyes, then got down slowly, buttoning his soggy waistcoat and coat.

"I don't see as there 's a chance," he said, dully. "I was a fool to think there was any better Gori than the one that" digging his toe into the frozen pools. "It's all ruled. I 'm not one of the elect."

That was all. After that, he stood waiting for his brother.

"I 'll help him. He's the best I know."

Even the faint sigh choked before it rose to his lips,—both manhood and hope were so dead with inanition; yet a life's failure went in it.

While he stood waiting, Martha Yarrow sat by her kitchen-fire crying to God to help him; but He knew what things were needed before she asked Him.

Sonic', with his gun and game-bag, had been coursing over the hills three miles back, since four o'clock. He had bagged a squirrel or two, enough to suffice for his morning's work, and now, his piece unloaded, came stealthily towards the place of rendezvous. He had little hope that Stephen would help him: be had made up his mind to go through the affair alone. If he did it, that in

volved Pah! what was in a word?

Men died every day. He had quite resolved: Judith and he had talked the matter over all night. But if Frazier were a younger man, and could fight for it! Perhaps he was armed: Soule's face flashed: he stooped and broke the trigger of his gun, and then went on with a much less heavy step. They would be more even now. He wanted to reach the bridge by dawn, and meet his brother. If he refused to help him, he would send him away, and wait for Frazier alone. About nine o'clock he might expect him.

Frazier, however, had changed his plan. He told Starr the night before, that, as M. Soule' would not breakfast with him, he had concluded to rise early, and be off by dawn. "If there 's nothing to be done about the Miami shares, there is no use wasting time here," he thought. So, while Stephen Yarrow waited near the bridge, the smoke waa curling out of the kitchen-chimney where the cook was making ready the cashier's beefsteak, and the old man was crawling out of bed. He could hear Starr's chil. dren in the room overhead making ail uproar over their stockings. "Chrisfcruas morning, by the way! I must take sonic knick-knack back to Totty." (A» if his trunk were not always filled with things for Totty, and his shirts crammed into the lid, when he came home!) "Something for mother, too," as he pulled on his socks. "Gloves, now, hey? A dozen pair. I wish I had asked Madame Soule what size she wore, last night. Their hands are about the sanu* size. Mother always had a tidy little paw. So will Totty, eh?" And so finished dressing, thinking Soule had a neat little wife, but insipid.

So Christmas morning came to all of them, the day when, a long time ago. One who had made a good happy world came back to find and save that which was lost in it . In these few hundred years had He forgotten the way of finding?

Stephen Yarrow had fcJlen into an uneasy doze by the road-side. He had done with thinking, when he said, "I 'll go with John." The way through life seemed to open clear, exactly the same as it had been before. There was an end of it. There might have been a chance, but there was none. He drowsed off into a brutish slumber. Something like a kiss woke him. It was only the morning air. A clear, sweet-breathed dawn, as we said, that seemed somehow to have caught a scent of far-off harvestfarms, in lands where it was not winter. Warm brown clouds yonder with a glow like wine in them, the splendor of the coming day hinting of itself through.

"I must have slept," said Yarrow, taking off his cap to shake it dry.

There were a thousand shining points on the dingy fur. He rubbed his heavy eyes and looked about him. The misty rime of the night had frozen on hills and woods and river, — frosted the whole earth in one glittering, delicate sheath. The first level bar of sunlight put into tin- nostrils of the dead world of the night before the breath of life. Once in a lifetime, maybe, the sight meets a man's eyes which Yarrow saw that morning. The very clear blue of the air thrilled with electric vigor; from tie rounded rose-colored summits of the western hills to the tiniest ice-cased grass-spear at his feet, the land flashed back unnumbered soft and splendid dyes to heaven; the hemlock - forests near had grouped themselves into glittering temples, mnsques, churches, whatever form in which men have tried to please God by worshipping Him; the smoke from the distant village floated up in a constant silver and violet vapor like an incense-breath. Neither was it a dead morning. The far-off tinkle of cowbells reached him now and then, the cheery crow from one farm-yard to another, even children's voices calling, and at last a slow, sweet chime of churchielU

"They told me it was Christmas mornIng," he said, pulling off the old cap again.

Yarrow's chin had sunk on his breast, as his eager eyes drank all this morning in. He breathed short and quick, like a child before whom some incredible picasure flashes open.

"Well," with a long breath, putting on his cap, "I did n't think of aught like this, yonder. God help us!"

He did n't know why he smiled or rubbed his hands cheerfully. His sleep had refreshed him, maybe. But it seemed as if the great beauty and tenderness of the world were for him, this morning, — as if some great Power stretched out its arms to him, and spoke through it.

"I 'M not be silly again," straightening himself, and buttoning his coat; but before the words were spoken, his head had snnk again, and he stood quiet .

Something in all this brought Martha and the little chaps before him, he did not know why, but his heart ached with a sharper pain thau ever, that made his eyes wet with tears.

"If there should be a chance! "—lifting his bauds to the deep of blue iu the east. «.

This was the free air in which he used to think he could find God.

"What if it were true that He was there, — loving, not hating, taking care of Martha, and"

He stopped, catching the word.

"No. I 've slipped. I don't forget."

He did forget . He did not remember that he was a thief, standing there. Whatever substance had been in him at his birth trustworthy rose up now to meet the voice of God that called to him aloud. His lank jaws grew red, his eyes a deeper blue, a look in them which his mother may have seen the like of years and years ago; he beat with his knuckles on his breast nervously.

•' If there could be a chance!" he said, unceasingly; "if I might try again I"

There was a crackling in the snowladen bushes upon the hill: he looked back, and saw his brother coming from the other side, his game-bag over his shoulder, stooping to avoid notice, his eyes fixed intently on some object on the road beyond. It was an old man on horseback, jogging slowly up the path, whistling as he came. Yarrow shuddered with a sudden horror.

"He means murder! That is Frazier. You could not do it to-day, John I Today!" as if Soule could hear him.

He was betweeu his brother and his victim. The old man came slower, the hill being steep, looking at the frosted trees, and seeing neither Yarrow nor the burly figure crouching, tiger-like, among the bushes. One moment, and he would have passed the bend of the hill, —Soule could reach him.

"God help me!" whispered Yarrow, and threw himself forward, pushing the horse back on his haunches. "Go back! Ten steps farther, and it 'b too late! Back, I say!"

The old man gasped.

"Why I what! a slip? an' waterg«By?"

"No matter," leading the horse, trembling from head to foot.

Up on the hill there was a sharp break, a heavy footstep on a dead root. Would John go back or come on? he was rtmng enough to master both. Yarrow's throat choked, but he led the horse steadily down the path, deaf to Frazier's questions.

"Do not draw rein until you reach the station," giving, him the bridle at h*.

The old man looked back: he had •een the figure dimly.

"If there 's danger, I 'll not leave you to meet it alone, my friend," fumbling in his breast tor a weapon.

Yarrow stamped impatiently.

"Put spurs to your horse !"—wiping Us mouth; "it will be yet too late!"

Frarier gave a glance at his face, and obeyed him. A moment more, and he was out of sight. Yarrow watched him, and then slowly turned, and raised his head. Soule had come down, and was standing close beside him, leaning on his gun. It was the last time the brothers ever faced each other, and their nmtnres, as God made them, came

out bare in that look: Yarrow's, trader all, was the tougher-fibred of the two. John's eyes fell.

"Stephen, this will hurt me. I"

"I thought it was well done," — hk hand going uncertainly to his month.

"Well, well! you have chosen,"— after a pause.

"Good bye."

"Good bye, boy."

They hold each other's hands for a minute; then Soule turned off, and strode down the hill. He loosened his cravat as he went, and took a long breath of relief.

"It was a vile job! But" his

face much troubled. But his wife heard the story without a word, nor ever alluded to it afterwards. She was human, like the rest of us.

A moment after he wa» gone, a curious change took place in the convict, a reaction,—the excitement being gone. The pain and exposure and hunger had room to tell now on body and soul. He stretched himself out on a drift of snow, drunken with sleep, yet every nerve quivering and conscious, trying to catch another echo of Soule's step. He was his brother, he was all he had; it was terrible to be thus alone in the world: going back to the time when they worked in the shop together. Hi- raised his head even, and called him, — " Jack !" — once or twice, as he used to then. It was too late. Such a generous, bull-headed fellow he was then, taking his own way, and being led at last . He was gone now, and forever. He was all he had.

The day was out broadly now, — a thorough winter's day, cold and clear, the frosty air sending a glow through your blood. It sent none into Yarrow's thinned veins: he was too far gone with all these many years. The place, as I said, was a lonely one, niched between hills, yet near enough main roads far him to hear sounds from them: people calling to each other, about Christmas often; carriages rolling by; great Conestoga wagons, with their dozens of tinkling bells, and the driver singing; Jogs and children chasing each other through the anow. The big world was awake and busy and glad, but it passed him by.

"For this mau that might have been it has as much use as for a bit of cold victuals thrown into the street. And the worst is," with a bitter smile, "I know it, to my heart's core."

Tho morning passed by, as he lay there, growing colder, his brain duller.

"I did not think this coat was so thin," he would mutter, as he tried to pull it over him.

If he got up, where should he go? What use, eh? It was warmer in the snow lhan walking about. Conscious at last only of a metallic taste in his mouth, a weakness creeping closer to his heart every moment, and a dull wonder if there could yet be a chance. It seemed very far away now. And Martha and the little chaps Oh, well I *

Some hours may have passed as he lay there, and sleep came; for I fancy it was a dream that brought the final sharp thought into his brain. He dragged himself up on one elbow, the old queer smile on his lips.

"I will try," he said.

It took him some time to make his way out into the main road, but he did it at last, straightening his wet hair under the old cap.

"It 's so like a dog to die that way! I 11 try, just once, how the world looks when I face it."

He sat down outside of a blacksmith's forge, the only building in sight, on the pump-trough, and looked wearily about. His head fell now and then on his breast from weakness.

"It won't be a very long trial. I 'll not beg for food, and I 'm not equal to much work just now," — with the same grim half-smile.

No one was in sight but the blacksmith and some crony, looking over a newspaper, inside. They nodded, when they saw him, and said, —


"Hillo!" said Yarrow.

Then they went on with their paper. That was the only sound for a long time. Some farmers passed after a while, giving him good-morning, in country-fashion. A trifle, but it was warm, heartsome: he had put the world on trial, you know, and he was not very far from death. Men more soured than Yarrow have been surprised to find it was God's world, with God's own heart, warm and kindly, speaking through every human heart in it, if they touched them right . About noon, the blacksmith's children brought him his dinner in a tin bucket, leaving it inside. When they came out, one freckled baby-girl came i^p to Yarrow.

"Tie my shoe," she said, putting up one foot, peremptorily. "Are you hungry ?" looking at him curiously, after he had done it, at the same time holding nl) a warm seed-cake she was eating to his mouth. He was ashamed that the spicy smile tempted him to take it. He put it away, and seated her on his foot.

"Let me ride you plough-boy fashion," he said, trotting her gently for a minute.

Her father passed them.

"You must pardon me," said Yarrow, with a bow. "I used to ride my boy so, and " -^—

"Eh? Yes. Sudy 'a a good girL You 've lost your little boy, now ?" looking in Yarrow's face.

"Yes, I 've lost him."

The blacksmith stood silent a moment, then went in. Soon after a tall man rodo up on a gray horse; it had cast a shoo, and while the smith went to work within, the rider sat down by Yarrow on tho trough, and began to talk of the weather, polities, etc., in a quiet, pleasant way, making a joke now and then. He had a thin face, with a scraggy fringe of yellow hair and whisker about it, and a gray, penetrating eye. The shoe was on presently, and mounting, with a touch of his hat to Yarrow, he rode .off. The convict hesitated a moment, then called to him.

"I have a word to say to you," coming up, and putting his hand on tho horse'*

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