George Bedillion, Knight: A Story in Two Parts. Part Ii


BACK in his shop-window, sitting hour after hour, picking at some minute flaws in a watch-spring, whistling bits of “Wind yer horn.” The usual half-dozen cronies dropped in and out on their way to the post-office ; looked over the yellow pages of the “Tarrytown News,” which had lain on the counter for a week, and which they had read every day. David Aikens, the gray-haired, half-witted town-lounger, sat in the sunshine outside, on a chair tilted back, smoking pipe after pipe, until the old brown clock inside struck the hour of noon, when he sauntered off for dinner. They did not talk much : it was not the habit of Tarrytown gossips. “ Lennard ” was the subject whenever anything was said, or else “ G’arge at Orleens.” The good genius of the little drama loomed a gigantic and fascinating mystery to the townsfolk ; a man who threw real, tangible fortunes about — so many acres of river-bottom, and so many shares of bank-stock — was something marvellous beyond Aladdin. Leonard, passing through the loungers on his way up stairs, nodded with an abstracted face. His dark eyes to-day were full of a dreamy, brilliant light,—the future opened so real and sweet and fair! The shade of deference which the people threw into their manner gave him, somehow, a certain solid footing on the earth ; then there was Hetty, whose little face, full of all domestic comfort and love, he had seen in the garden through the nodding dahlias and hollyhocks a moment ago. He felt himself towering into a manhood somewhat akin to that of this unseen brother ; although around George there was a glamour which no one else could borrow, — an atmosphere of romance and mystery with which his Southern home and Len’s vague notions of orange-groves and tropical heat and black troops of slaves had much to do.

Sim’s lightish eyes stared unwinkingly at his watch-spring all day as he worked, stopping only to rub his sandy face with the red handkerchief lying beside him. Nobody heeded Sim’s silence when he had a job in hand, or noticed the restless, serious look in his eyes when he did raise them to stare out of the window at the cornfields.

When they were all gone, in the afternoon, he put by his tools and turned uneasily to the three green - bound books which were the delight and recreation of his life ; one a register of the births and deaths in Tarrytown ; the next a record of the weather; and the last — in which Sim had allowed himself to become, moderately, an author—an account expanding into detail of the extraordinary events of the neighborhood, — of the calf with two heads born on Barker’s place, — of the rise in Sloan Creek above the floodmark three years ago, — and the like. Sim turned over the leaves of the last book, a gleam of satisfied pride coming out on his face. One thing, at least, he had done in life,— done well. But in a little while he put even these away with a sigh, and opened a little closet in which were ranged phials of exactly the same size, labelled “Eye-Wash.” He took his pen, touching the labels here and there, examined the corks, viewed and reviewed them. There was no such cure for weak eyes, he knew, since the days of miracles. It was old Aunty Griffith’s famous recipe which, dying, she had bequeathed to Sim, on condition that he should dispense it without money so long as he lived. It is an old habit in the West to hand down secret prescriptions in this manner. The moment a price is asked and given for them, virtue leaves them ; and, whatever may be the efficacy of the remedies, it is curious to observe that they are found almost invariably in the keeping of single-minded, pure-hearted men and women, in accordance, it may be, with some old tradition of those to whom was bestowed the gift of healing. In his secret soul Sim cherished an awe of the power thus intrusted to his hands. It had cost him already no little anxiety to decide whom this charge should descend to when he died.

He soon shut the cupboard and sat down, staring into the fire. He was contented with his lot. He had a good freehold in the world ; there was no warmer, friendlier, better home than Tarry town ; and he had plenty of work and honor, glancing back at the shop, the books, and the phials. Nobody had such chances of making friends. When he died, there would be a funeral such as Tarrytown had not seen for many a day. He often thought of that.

And yet, the Judge's words had sowed nettles in his thoughts. Was there nothing more ? “ Home, wife, and children.” Sim was a man, after all, with the passions and wants of a man. For the first time, the shop, the register, the thousand neighborly acts that kept him busy, palled ; the days to come yawned miserably vacant.

Every one is some time tempted of the Devil; and usually the temptation begins with the consciousness that one is in the wilderness and alone. It dawned on the little barber that he had made a great sacrifice, and that he never should be thanked for it. He had given up money, name, identity even, for this boy, Len, whom he loved as his heart’s blood ; and now “the sorest rod in pickle for the boy’s back” would be to know him as his brother. He thought of a certain busy little body, with quick, soft hands, and honest, sunshiny face. For years the girl had been dear to him. If he had come to her, not as poor Sim Wicks the cowdoctor, but George Bedillion, with better blood and more power than all of these farmers by whose patronage she lived, it might be that she would have come into his outer life, as he had hidden her already in his heart.

He got up, stretching out his arms, a curious smile almost transforming his homely face and figure. With a flash came a thousand pictures of Hetty in his home, — making it the home of all the world ; of Hetty, busy in her tidy, deft little fashion over the breakfasttable ; of Hetty, sewing by the cosey shop-fire in the evening, walking gravely to church with Thad between them ; of Hetty as wife, mother. The baldheaded little man turned gravely to the window, looking up to the quiet sky with tears in his eyes. The young girl that he loved had not a more clean or guileless heart than beat in the fidgety little body at which she so often laughed.

Presently Thad came in, as he did every day, and, climbing up on the counter, began scribbling with the pens he found there. Sim put a sheet of paper before him, and stood motionless. He remembered how often he had played with the child, detaining him until Leonard could finish his talk with Hetty over the briers by the gate. He remembered when he first saw that there was something else which he must give up to Leonard beside name and money ; — remembered when he first noted the pink flush creep over the girl’s cheek and neck when Len’s bright eyes and curly hair were thrust in at the half-open door; the flowers he brought her, the verses which she had brought, shy and laughing, to show to Sim ; " for she allays was fond of me — as an uncle, or an old, bald-headed brother.” But most he remembered the summer evenings when they had gone, arm in arm, strolling down the ravine by moonlight, and he, having sung Thad to sleep, had stolen after, like a miserable, cowardly wretch, slinking behind hawbushes and gum-trees, only to see the black curly hair and the bright chestnut near together, one head bent over the other drooping one ; while he, mad with passion and pain, waited there — alone and forgotten — into the night.

Lately, they had never gone out together, —had been silent and pale when forced into contact. There seemed to be a secret between them, the nature of which Sim easily guessed. When Leonard’s future was assured, he would share it with the girl he had chosen in poverty. He had fancied, too, that Hetty had shown a new tenderness in her manner to him lately, as if trying to console him for something he had lost.

Before poor Sim had reached this end to his thoughts, the selfish bitterness had disappeared from them, — outgrown, as a poison bee-sting by a wholesome peach. He thought he would go to Hetty and satisfy himself that he was right in his conjectures : to that, at least, he had a right. So, taking Thad by the hand, he went out of the back door of the shop into the garden. Len, just then, ran down the stairs, and out of the front door, taking the cigar from his mouth, and swinging his cap up with a boyish grace that became him well.

“God bless the boy! It’s all right as it is.” Sim’s face flushed, as his heart swelled with self-condemnation. He went on, with his head down. Little Het, watching him from the back door of her house, where she sat sewing, (they had but one garden between them,) saw that trouble had been brewing somewhere for poor Sim. In spite of his sandy complexion, and surprisedlooking snub nose, and lean red whiskers, Sim’s face was capable of a smile curiously sweet and fine ; and just now there was a pain lurking in it which the girl saw in an instant. She went out to meet him, but pretended to be adjusting the pieces of dyed cloth which had hung all day drying on the clothes-line, flapping in the wind. They were yellow and purple, clear, bright colors, and caught the sun finely as she threw the dried pieces in a heap on the grass. They were in keeping with the chrysanthemums, and wall-flowers, and other hot autumnal flowers, thrusting their heads out of the green bushes, and holding all the heat of the summer in them.

The pleasant evening light fell over the fragrant garden, — over Het’s little porch where she had been sitting, with hop-vines trailed up its sides, and her pile of white sewing on the step, — over the apple and peach orchards, with their juicy fruit bending over the garden fence, — over Thad’s flaxen hair, under the bushes, where he had crawled to find the ripest berries. But the centre and life of it all, to his eyes, was little freckle-faced Hetty as she worked with her cloths, — her trim little figure, in its close-fitting blue dress, with a dainty white apron setting it off,— her brown eyes dark and moist as she nodded, smiling, to him, poising herself in a dozen pretty ways in a minute.

Sim took up a corner of the cloth. “The color hes struck in well. There never was sech an expert little dyer, Hetty, I do believe.”

She nodded briskly. “ That’s Mrs. Carr’s blue merino. Eight parts logwood, three copperas, one alum.”

Sim listened admiringly. “ The question is, how did ye pick it up ? I mind the day ye chose yer perfession, as one might say,— the day after we put her away.”

Sim stopped. The girl said nothing ; but she pulled and straightened her cloth, with her head sinking on her heaving breast, and her hands unsteady. Once, when Sim stooped, the big brown eyes, full of tears, were turned suddenly to the church-yard where her mother had been “ put away,” and then rested on the bald head and bent back of the man who had nursed the dying woman tenderly as another woman might, and had carried Hetty in his arms from the grave. Sim did not see her look.

“ They was boldin’ a committee of ways and means, like, to see what was to be done with you and Thaddy here. You was handy enough in any house. It was Thad that was the rub. When Squire Barker was hemming and hawing, you raised up your little head from the bed. ‘I 'll keep the boy,’ you spoke out, loud and clear. ‘We want nobody’s bread. I ’ll keep Thaddy from want,’ — an’ then you broke down. An’ here ’s the end of it,” with a backward wave of his hand to the house, his face glowing. “ Thad comes to the shop botherin’ me with stories of kings’ sons pickin’ their way over stones, in fairy-land; but I says to him, ‘Go home and see yer sister pickin’ bread from day to day. That’s a tale worth tellin’.’ ”

Little Het’s tears dried, and she glanced askance at him, shyly smiling.

“Sometimes, I think,” he said, seating himself on the end of the well-curb, “the place is like a toy place, what with your wee house and your little Kerry cow and bantam chicks. And you ’re but a mite yourself. When you ’re gone, I ’ll keep the place just the same, for old time’s sake. But I ken’t keep you.”

“ When I ’m gone ? ” But her freckled cheeks flamed, and she bent over the cloth-heap again.

Sim shut his lips tight for a moment. Then he went on. “ Yes. Married an’ gone. When him you ’ve waited for comes, as he allays does, in Thad’s stories, and kerries you off to be a lady.”

Little Het looked him straight in the face, with a clear spark of light in her eye. She had a clean-cut, firm mouth too, and it had an obstinate pucker in it now.

“ I hope he will come,” she said, quite clear and distinctly. “ I ’d be sorry if he never came. But he’s a workingman. As for my being a lady, I never was meant for that. I was born to work, and I like it. Feel my wrists, the muscles in them,— they’re like steel springs. I ’m ashamed of you, Simeon Wicks.”

Sim liked usually to tease her. It was as if a cricket chirped defiance. But now, as he touched the tiny wrist, his face grew unsmiling and white ; the man’s whole body shivered, and his eye fell before hers. She saw It, and drew from him with a quick, startled breath.

“ What sort of a fine lady would you make of me ? ” said the little body, balancing herself before him. “ Can I sing? Can I dance ? Books always put me to sleep. I ’m only fit for work, and I like it. It suits me to manage the toy place, as you call it, — Thad’s and mine, — and to come out clear with my accounts at the end of the year. Nobody shall buy me with money, to make a doll of me and tyrannize over Thad. Nobody shall tyrannize over Thad ! ” growing hotter with every word. “He ’s my child,— mine and yours,” with a sudden, shy gentleness. “You’ve been very good to us, Simeon.” She hastily took the child’s hand and held it out towards him. A hot thrill passed over the poor little silversmith. What if he had been wrong from the beginning, -—if she were still unwon ?

“ Do you mean that you never will give up the place ? that you never will marry ? ”

“I —I did not say that.”

Her head sank again, and her face turned from him. Her dress fluttered in the wind near him. He put his hand out, with a mad gesture of passion and pain, and touched it. Then a guilty sense rushed over him, like a flood : he was tampering with the love of his brother’s wife. He left her, going up and down the alleys between the peachtrees. Little Het followed him, with wide, impatient eyes. He had cooled and mastered himself enough at last. He would cut down this hope himself,— root it out now, in his own eyes and in hers, that it never should grow again.

“ Don’t be independent in that fashion, Hetty. It’s not wholesome nor good for a woman. There ’s one, I know, that ’u’d be glad to take you into his house, an’ his life too. He’d be mighty kind to little Thad here. You ’ve lain near into his heart this many a year.” He stopped ; it was not an easy task for him to picture Len and his love. “ Do you know it, Hetty ? ”

She put her little brown hands over her burning face. “ I have known it a long time,” she said; and, after a moment, took them down, and looked at him, with a quiet, happy light shining in her still eyes.

“ A long time.” It was real then, — an old matter to them. All summer long they had sunned and feasted in each other’s love; while he had hungered and whined for crumbs, like a fool, thankful for a kind word from either of them, while they had held the secret close. What was Sim Wicks, the cow-doctor, that they should have made a confidant of him ?

“ It ’s good news you tell me,” he said at last. “ Leonard will make a warm and loving home for you and Thad here.” Cold and mean he felt the words to be as he uttered them; but it was all that nature could do.

“ Leonard ? ” she cried. “ Did Leonard bid you talk to me of this ? ”

“ He told me nothing. You were all I had, — you two ; and now you ’re grown to each other. I am outside,— outside. That’s all right. You are rich : you have beauty, an’ sense, an’ love ; — I am outside. You told me nothing.”

The girl looked up and down the long tan-bark path, with a pale countenance. The grave face before her looked down with the power and dignity of some intense feeling which would not utter itself. Yet the words hurried from his lips. It seemed to him that the foundations of his life were broken up and the hidden depths oozing to the light.

“ It’s bitter to think you’ve made a great mistake of your life. I don’t know ef I have. Sometimes I think ef I ’d made more of myself I ’d hev had better luck: when I see how I’m wrung, wrung, like a dry sponge, an’ nobody gives to me. Sometimes, I think ef I ’d let others alone and scrambled for my own footing, — ef I’d polished and rubbed at what sense I had, and come to you as something else than poor Sim Wicks, — for I loved you, Hetty—”

Her head was turned away ; it did not stir an atom ; but the red blood dyed her neck, her very hands.

“ I want you to know it. Maybe it may make your home warmer to know there was one without who held you dear when you and Leonard was children together, fighting and squabbling. I set you apart even then. You were somethin’ holy to me,— like one of the children in the Bible, Hetty. Since you were a woman — ”

He took a step nearer. A bee, droning heavily through the warm evening air, suddenly darted towards a white flower fastened in the coil of her hair. She turned and looked in his eyes with her own,—dark, moist, a spark of light in their depths.

Quick change of feeling swept over the lovely face, like a cloud, as he spoke.

“Since you were a woman, you have not been like a holy child to me. I’ve loved you with every drop of my blood and every nerve in my flesh, Hetty. There has not been an hour when I have not thirsted for you. You ’ve been mine, mine, — my wife.”

The bee hummed drowsily away. For a moment all was silent; then she heard him say: “Some day I will be glad that you have married Leonard. It is only common sense that I should give him up what is his right. It ’s duty, — duty. But I ’m not strong enough to do it now. I ’m glad Len an’ you will be happy. I — I think I will go away from Tarrytown.”

She neither spoke nor moved. She felt him stand close by her. After a moment, he put his hand on her sleeve and touched it, — that was all. Then there was no living thing beside her, but Thad lying on the grass, and the bees hurrying into their hives for the night.

She listened to a footstep going down the grassy path outside into the street, —listened until it was gone quite out of hearing ; then she laughed, sobbed out “ Poor old Sim ! ” shrilly, and cried as if her heart would break.

The evening was cool and starlit. Generally, after nightfall, with the exception of a dog barking at the moon, or the plash of the creek over its stony bottom, no sound ever broke the silence in Tarrytown. But to-night there was a hurrying to and fro,—steps on the street, women’s faces peering out of lower windows. Squire Barker’s supper in honor of the stranger and Len was a matter in which the village justifiably concerned itself. In one sense it belonged to the public, though only three or four of the chief town magnates were invited. The thing, if done at all, must be done in a manner which would be remembered by Judge Atwater. Half a dozen of the best housekeepers in the neighborhood had been in daily consultation with Mrs. Barker. Mrs. Blenker, indeed, had undertaken the black cake herself, and Miss Sharpley, who had a regular city recipe for boning turkeys, had been staying at the Squire’s for two or three days. Late in the afternoon, too, came three bottles of ten-year-old blackberry-bounce from Mrs. Vance, which she had been saving for her funeral. But the old lady had a proper pride in Tarrytown.

About dusk the lights were seen to glimmer through Squire Barker’s dining-room shutters, and all Tarrytown knew that the hour had come.

Sim Wicks had closed his shop-windows at an early hour. He sat staring vacantly at the flaring lamp on his toolstand, until he heard the Judge and Leonard coming down the outer stairs, when he took up his file and began to work.

The Judge came in, a roll of paper in his hand. “Haveyou decided, Bedleon ? ”

Sim turned sharply. “ How ? What ? ”

“ You have not forgotten, I presume. Do you mean to cut yourself out of this Kearns property for your brother?” holding out the paper. “You have had time to see the folly of it.”

The silversmith opened the roll and scratched his name. “I don’t make Injun gifts, to give and snatch back agin, Judge,” he said, rubbing his ear with his pen, with a dreary laugh.

“ You know your business best. But it is my business to tell the young puppy to-night where he can find his brother.”

Sim’s mouth tightened itself. “It don’t matter,” he said, quietly.

Len came in, a slightly pompous smile on his handsome face. It was natural for the boy to be conscious that he was the hero of the night. The Judge scanned him with a brief, contemptuous glance. He could not forget that the broadcloth suit he wore, the very gold cable chain stretched conspicuously across his waistcoat, were bought and chosen by Sim Wicks. Sim, looking at him, saw neither clothes nor chain, only the man that Hetty loved and whose rival he had been. His passion of an hour before seemed to him now not only futile, but a baseness at the remembrance of which he writhed. As the Judge and Len went out, the boy felt a sort of patronizing pity for the fellow who was so jolly a companion on ordinary times, but was exiled to-night on account of the strict social rules which it was quite proper to enforce. He hung back a little. He did not know anything more comforting to offer than a little confidence about himself.

“ I think my position would gratify my brother, if he could see me to-night, Sim, eh ? This foolish town seems bent on making a hero of me. I am sure,” he added, with a flush of real feeling on his face, “ if I have made myself worth anything, it is because I have had him for a model.”

Sim gave a meaningless laugh, driving in a pivot.

“Well, good night, old fellow.”

“ Good night.”

There were two or three taps at the door during the evening, — some of Sim’s chums coming to gossip over the event of the day. He looked up listlessly when he heard them, and took no further heed. The little steel file and silver wire lay where he had dropped them ; the fire smouldered, in a bed of white ashes, on the lower bars ; the old brown clock ticked on past the hours of nine, ten, eleven, and still the little man sat motionless, his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees, staring down on the brick hearth and listening.

He knew, as if he had had a clairvoyant’s eye, how this evening crept on at Squire Barker’s supper-table, until the moment came when his secret was to be made known. When the wine was brought on and Len’s health was given, and he, rising with his flushed face and boyish awkwardness, proposed the health of the brother so dear to him, so ennobled in all of their eyes, whom he had never seen,—that would be the time when Atwater would tell the truth.

As the moment approached, the color left the poor silversmith’s face. His jaws worked mechanically ; his lingers beat his knees, like an hysterical woman’s. He did not once think of the others, or how they would listen to this story.

It was Leonard — when he found himself the brother of the barber, — the cow-doctor. “ He will curse the hour I was born,” were the only words that Sim spoke even to himself.

At last the sound came he had waited for,—the shuffling of feet and clapping of hands from the lighted windows of the square brick house across the way. Then a dead silence. Atwater was up, speaking. He could hear the cracked, rasping voice even here, so strained was his hearing.

There followed a long pause. Sim got up. Surely Leonard would come, — barber or cow-doctor though he might be. He was his brother, bone and flesh the same, — he was his brother. After all — but how could the boy know how he had loved him ?

The door of Squire Barker’s house opened and closed ; there was a lingering, uncertain step coming across the street; then the shop door fell back suddenly, and Leonard stood in the entrance. He had thrust back his carefully curled hair roughly; his face was pinched and livid, his cravat untied as if for breath. The two men faced each other a moment in absolute silence.

“ If this damnable story be true, why don't you claim me for your brother ? ” broke from the younger man.

There was no answer.

Len looked at the low, awkward, square figure, made up of Nature’s odds and ends, at the commonplace red face with its ragged edge of light hair, at the worn brown clothes, — down into this had his ideal brother gone ! He,— Leonard Bedillion, — who had struggled all his life to separate himself from the boors about him, had been living on the charity of one of the meanest of them all! He took up a glass of water and gulped it down.

“ I’m not ungrateful, — I know what you have done, Sim — George—” He grew more colorless at the word, and stood silent.

“ I do not claim that name,” said Sim, in a low voice. “ You need not call me by the name of Bedleon. Let that pass.”

“ I loved him. I loved George Bedillion as no brother ever loved another, and now — ”

The little man put out his hand deprecatingly. “ I ’ve been mighty fond of you, Leonard,” he said in a low voice.

Leonard did not hear. “ Now George Bedillion is dead,” he gasped. “ He never was.”

The old clock filled up the silence with its slow ticking. The first chill of the shock over, the manhood in Sim began to rise slowly, quietly asserting itself.

“ There is no need for you to distress yourself, Leonard. It was not of my wish that I was known as yer brother. I giv’ up the name of Bedleon years ago. I’ll not trouble you long. It’ll soon pass out of the minds of people that Sim Wicks was any kin to you. I'm goin’ to leave Tarrytown.”

" I cannot comprehend,” with a long, bewildered stare, "that you are Knapp Bedillion’s son. My father was — ”

" Was a gentleman. Go on, Leonard. I missed my chance from the beginnin. I’ve had no edication, nor opportunity to make a clean tiling of myself. I don’t know as my birth need count to anybody, — I kin give that up,” — an intense twinge of pain passing over his face. “ The first few days of a man’s life don’t matter : it’s the years afterwards that makes him. They’ve made me Sim Wicks, — nothin’ but that,—an’you, Leonard Bedleon.” He held out his hand. “ Let us forget all that has been to-night, an’ go back to the old ways ag’in.”

Leonard took the hand sullenly and let it fall. “ You cannot give me back my brother, and there’s nothing you can give that will atone for that As for the Kearns property, that is cursed folly. I will accept my due share and not a dollar more. As if, now that I know you — ”

“ You would take it from me ? Give it to the almshouse, then. I ’ll have none of it. I wash my hands of all that belongs to the name of Bedleon to-night. Forever. I’ve been a fool, — fool! Leave me now, boy. I want to be alone.”

When he was alone, — the flaring kerosene lamp throwing strange shadows over the little shop, the fire burnt out dead In the grate,— he sat like a dumb brute, only' conscious of the slow tick, tick of the old brown clock above him.

His head throbbed with a full, hot pain; the throbbing mixed with the sound of the clock ; and after a long while it seemed to him a voice speaking.

“ Go away,” it said. “ Go away from here. You have given all away, and what have you gained ? Where are the people you have served, the brother you sacrificed your life for, the woman you loved ? They' turn away from you, they live for themselves alone. There is no such thing as love in life. Self is the only true god.”

He went, walking feebly across the shop, and looked at the phials. To how many he had helped to give God’s good light again ? He did not know of one in this night of doubt and bitterness who would not laugh at his trouble.

He opened the old green books. Once, there was not a name of the old friends and neighbors, or a line written there, which had not seemed to him a link binding him to the living and the dead in one great loving family. Now, the brother who had lain in the same mother’s arms, had suckled the same breast, cast him off—because he was poor and ignorant.

He staggered towards the clock; it tolled out its old words : “ Live for yourself. Love yourself.”

“ My God! " cried the poor little man. “ I will live alone ! I can live alone!” — and, falling forward, his weight struck the floor heavily.


A FIRE burning cheerfully in a wide pleasant room. Leonard’s room,—he knew that at a glance. A green baizecovered table piled with books beside him ; two beds side by side at the other end of the room. He got up ; his knees tottered under him ; his hand, when he laid it on the table to support himself, was wasted and bloodless ; his face, as he saw it in the mantel-glass, was haggard and white, with sad, anxious gray eyes looking out from under the sunken brows. Without, the hills and valley, covered with the winter’s snow, were darkening in the twilight; Sloan Creek lay icebound below.

He stood trembling and irresolute. Had he been dead and come to life again ? An actual heaviness oppressed his head. These were real books about him, — Leonard’s room, Leonard’s dressing-gown that he wore, Leonard’s embroidered slippers on his feet.

The door opened and Leonard himself came in, followed by the village doctor, old William Akers. Sim saw the startled glance of both, and how the boy turned pale, and stopped. Doctor Akers came up quickly, and took his hand, smiling and looking keenly in his eye.

" it is winter,” said the silversmith. His voice had gone from him ; the whisper that was left frightened him.

" Never mind,” and the old man dexterously interposed his broad shoulders before him and the window. “ I dropped in to chat awhile over our pipes. Light yours, Wicks.”

He complied without question. All energy had so left him that he would have obeyed the bidding of a child. As they smoked, they talked in a drowsy, desultory way, till Akers, taking out his pipe, said : “ That is the first meerschaum I ever saw. I’ve kept that pipe well. John Ridgway gave it to me, in ’37.

“ That cannot be,” said Sim, eagerly, starting up. “John Ridgway died in December, ’36. It was the year of the great pumpkin flood. I ’ll get my green book in an instant and convince you.”

But the old man laid down his pipe and looked at him gravely. “No matter ; I only tested your memory, sir. You ought to thank God, Mr. Bedleon,” not without emotion in his voice. “He has brought you to-day out of a great danger.”

“ I have been ill ? ”

“ Not dangerously ill in body. But you left your old self behind you in your sickness. Your reason has been gone for months. This is December. To-morrow will be Christmas-day.”

“ I understand,” said George Bedleon, and he turned and looked into the fire, listening to the ticking of a watch that hung there.

The doctor glanced shrewdly from the one brother to the other. “There is no further danger : there never will be a relapse. I can’t say that you would have recovered in body or in mind without more skilful care than mine. But Leonard gave it to you. He has not left you day or night. He has been as tender with you as a mother with her first-born.”

When he turned laughing to Leonard, they saw that he had gone out of the room. Akers began to draw on his coat. After an embarrassed pause, buttoning the ear-flaps of his fur cap,

— “ I ’ll go now. To-morrow is Christmas-day,” he said, towering over the pale invalid like a red, burly St. Nicholas himself. “I — I ’m a blunt man, Mr. Bedleon, and have n’t words at my command. But I wanted to say to you that we all in Tarry town know this thing that you’ve done all your life, and feel alike about it. I never thought Knapp Bedleon’s name would be raised up again with the honor you’ve done it. I said to my boy, ' You don’t need to go to history or Orleens, or God knows where, for men to copy. There was a real man here in the silversmith’s shop,—copy him.’ Well, good by. Keep hearty, and I ’ll be round to-morrow.”

When he was gone, Leonard came in. The boy was thin and jaded. Somehow the twinkle of conceit had gone out of his eyes. They were earnest and steady, — a man’s, whose soul had gone down into deep waters and come on shore at last. He came up to the table, and stood a moment, looking down at Sim. Then he touched his hand with cold and trembling fingers, — " Brother ? ”

" Boy ! boy ! ” Sim cried, and put his arms about him.

" I think I know myself now, — and you. Will you forgive me ? ”

" I’ve nothing to forgive,” said Sim in his weak whisper. " I’m going from Tarrytown. I 'll be out of your way, dear boy. An’ ther’ ’s things I ’d rather forget.”

" Yes. But to-night you will go to bed. To-morrow you shall go, if you wish it.” The young man helped the other to undress, and in a little while George Bedleon slept as quietly as an infant.

Leonard took him out to drive the next day, when the sun was well up, and the air tempered a little ; but it was still a keen winter’s wind, and swept fiercely down the snow-clogged ravines. Leonard wrapped him snugly in the buffalo-robe and heaped straw on his feet. Sim had hoped some of the neighbors would be out to welcome him, but he was disappointed. The street was deserted ; pale rifts of smoke from slaked fires were creeping out of back chimneys ; even the tavern doors were barred.

“All gone to some Christmas gathering,” Leonard explained.

The sleigh slid swiftly along the silent road, the winter landscape defined sharply and clearly under a gray covered sky. They came to the Kearns place at last, — a snug homestead in the cove of a hill. There were fires within, shining through the windows; the carriage-road was beaten down ; chickens were picking their way over the snow. All the little numberless signs of habitation caught Sim’s eye as they drove within the gates. Leonard slackened the speed of the horse, and walked him slowly up the avenue. He fell, in some way, into the easy gossiping tone which he and Sim used to each other long ago. Both men settled themselves more comfortably in the seat as he did so.

“ I have determined to leave Tarrytown,” he said. “Judge Atwater advised me to go to a large Western city. There is quick practice and prompt pay there. In Tarrytown my mind would grow morbid and unhealthy. I wish that you should consent to let me play the part of the prodigal son, — ‘take the portion of goods that belongs to me and go my way.’ ”

“The portion, Leonard?”

Leonard colored. He turned his frank eyes full on his brother. “ The Kearns property consists of this farm and bank stock, — nearly equal portions. I propose to take the latter, and leave this home as yours.”

“ Leonard ! — ”

“ For God's sake,” broke out the young man, “ do not refuse to take this thing from me. Suffer me to feel like a man again. I want to be able to look you in the face, and then I can go to work.” He dropped the reins, in his eagerness, and leaned forward: — “ Brother ?

Sim’s eyes filled with tears. “It shall be as you wish,” he said.

“It is my Christmas gift,” said Len, and he whipped up the horses and broke into a cheery whistle.

Now before this Sim had kept silence. There was not a vulgar word or accent that escaped his lips which did not drive this new-found love of his brother back from him, he fancied. But looking in Len's face now, the fancy seemed paltry and false. There was a kinship between them with which birth or education had nothing to do.

When they came to the house, Sim fancied he heard a buzzing sound of voices ; but there was silence a moment after, and they alighted and came into the little living-room next to the parlor. A live room in truth, with the old home born into the new. There was the old brown clock over the mantel - shelf, Sim’s chair before the fire, his knityarn sack on the back, his slippers in front, a cupboard identical with that which held the eye-wash at home, and on the hearth the big earthen pitcher steaming full of apple-toddy. Sim sat down, pulled on the green warn us and the slippers : Leonard had gone out to look after the horse, and he had a mind to humor the boy’s whim of seeing him at home. The clock ticked away furiously ; but what was this it said ? Not the old words surely !

He put out his hand, and it fell on his green book. When he opened it, and his eye ran over the names of old friends and neighbors, living and dead, the old fancy came to him that it was a great family. He wondered if he belonged to it, — if, in their homes on Christmas, anybody thought of old Sim. Why, there was not a man or boy in Tarrytown whom the poor, solitary old fellow had not tried to make a friend of, some time in his life !

There was a low rustle behind him, the stealthy opening of a door, and when he turned there they were ! All of them, — from Squire Barker to Joe the hostler. Tarrytown was but a hamlet, after all; so that they could crowd into Sim’s parlor easily enough ; but there was as much rejoicing and hearty welcome and fun in the faces of these people as a whole cityful could have held. Something else than fun and welcome, — something in their looks made old Sim’s head fall humbly on his breast as he stood up before them, and the words he would have spoken die in his throat. They all crowded about him then. Perhaps the best of it was that the feeling which had brought them there remained unexpressed. They spoke in low voices ; they laughed easily, — the women, as if tears were not far off, — there were so many of them who could remember how the wasted hands they shook had been the last to touch their children who were dead.

They took him here and there through the house ; they joked ; they told him the news ; they brought him, with the touch of their strong hands and friendly faces, out of the valley of the shadow of death and set him fairly in the living world again. Beyond the different name they gave him, no one told him, in words, that they knew the secret of his life ; yet there was not a face turned towards him on which he could not read the memory, never to be forgotten, of some kindness he had done them in old times. They had all brought some little present too ; something towards the furnishing of the house ; something durable, — keepsakes. It was the second great event of the winter: they made a regular house-warming of it. There was a committee of ladies who served up a supper, — which was the wonder of the country-side for months, — and cleared away the remnants afterwards. They buzzed everywhere, like flies. Sim, with little Thad, sat in the little livingroom, a quiet smile on his face. Leonard bustled to and fro, as handsome and thorough-going as ever, they said, only a little pompous when he spoke of “my brother.” Thad sat quite still beside his old friend. Sim pressed his chubby hand now and then ; but the two old-fashioned fellows were gravely silent. Sim saw little Hetty once in the crowd far off. In the evening, when they were all gone but Leonard and Dr. Akers, she came where he sat in front of the fire, and stood before him, looking into his haggard face without speaking."

“You brought me no present, Hetty,” he said. “ Even Thad has knit me a wonderful pair of braces. You gave me nothing.”


The little body moved a step back ; her great brown eyes wandered uneasily over his face. There was a look in them that drove the blood back to his heart. He got up and went out to his brother. When he came to him he put his hand on his shoulder. The wasted lips scarcely moved. “ Leonard,” he said, “ Hetty ? ”

Leonard’s eyes blanched. “ There is nothing of that, Sim, — nothing. Long ago, before Atwater came, I knew it was of no use : she cared no more for me than for a cur at her heels. She 's too old a head for me, — Hetty Barr. There ’s a little girl at Wood Centre that I want to tell you about, who is worth twenty of her. "

He went back to the little room where she stood, still by the window. “ Hetty,” he said, “have you nothing to give me ? — nothing ? ”

There was a long silence. She put her little freckled hand in his, softly "Nothing but what I gave you long ago,” she said.

Later in the evening, while George Bedleon sat by his own home fire, with Hetty near him, the old Doctor talked a long time of life and its uses.

“ Heaven I have never seen,” he said, decisively ; “ but this world I have. And I know that an unselfish life never fails of its fruit ; and it has its recompense here, great and enduring, — a recompense, as surely as God lives, here.

Then Leonard and Hetty looked with one consent at the poor little silversmith. But Sim heard the Doctors words as a general theory, and thought how all the world was one great family, and how glad he was on this day, when their Elder Brother came among them, to be one of them again.