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Silent Bill

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I had been lor nearly a year roaming over thu West. In the oourae of my wan derinigs 1 oame upon an emigrant train wliicli was ju-U storting m t'runi "the ' it. The noTi rore niF and I found tht' days fatiguing, the nights and slivji only being desirable, 1 nad beenconsoious ior d.iys of a fovor in my vains, but a soit of savage delight in seeking to do an extra amount ol tolL [twasmy urn to prepare supper for our mess, but once ready I went osas ffiir is I could crawl from the noise of the camp and the cooking.' The laat I remembi r ofthatday dropping duwn by the side of shrubs. Two wci'ks afterward I oponed my oyes apon a different team from tho ouc I d ivitli, and the driver was the largest, mosi iincouth looking man 1 cv. ;■ saw. I wüsr.n a gtww bod, made up on eme aide of the wagon, and in answer to my cali, tho strange man bent over me. I aaked all the que8tins I had strength for, and then waited for the answers Ho told me in the fewest possible words that 1 was mis&ed from Ihe t ain, and he smt back to look for me. That I had "boen dead beat for two weeks, and had 1 keep still and go to sleep it' I could." [ dI eyod 1 ase I could nit Help it. I rcccivi il my food and medicino from tin' hands of my strange-looking friend, but it seemcd imp;s.siblo to vt any iat'ormation from him. My recovery was rapid, and as Boon as 1 made mj appearance ia tin: camp was ly greeted by our oompany and treated to many aa extra di&h by the kind-hearted people. I learned that I had not been missed untilncarlv noonof'the day that 1 was ,:1 ïli" ji tiioy hatted, and"Silent Bill" had volnnteered to look me up, had t'umiil me, and had taken upon lamse'.i' the whole can diuing my Bickness. I could iiml out very little about the man who had thas brought mo back to life. He bad joint d the company, liko myself, at tho last minute, bad given only the onc name, to which the boys added another, until he was called all over tho camp " Bileni Jiill." His team was good, and he waa well supplied with provisions, which ().■ handed out gencrally to asy onc who had need. With my returning strength, I feit a atrong interes! in everything, and would gladly have be n companionable and useiul, out he never called on me to do anything, unless some one needed help, then í he care to me for a time. Jlr was always ready to walk that others mightride; fatigue eeenied unknown to hiro. Eoremost when dangex throatcned was liis gaunt form, and it was ftlways his rifle which brought in the eaxliest game. [tcame abont-thai hc had held tly; gratitude of almost every one in the but loud thaiiks sceincd to offend hini greatly. 1 nivii1 saw him besitate but once ; thi d Home little ehildren, iwo little girig, had been running along with their moth6T and she ;isied him to lift them up into his wagon and give them a ride. as their own team waa tar behind. He went np to ono of tlion, laid his hand upon the arm of one, started back, rubbed his hands togctln r and fiiially oalled to me. " Put them in wil] yon 't " said he. I lií' id ilii'in i} aad gave eaoh a kiss ■:- 1 seated them apon che stmiw. Ho w:is itill looking at his hands. "Whafs the matteri"! I asked, "both of them together wouldn't bc as heavy as the man yon bore in to camp that day, only a few weeks past." 1 ! i said nothing, but held his hands open befóte me. Ihey were brown and hard. " Are they dirty r " I aaked. "Yes," s;iii he emphatioally, and shook them out at arm's length. Then he Btaited up bis team and did not speak agaiu for huuis. All hearts became lighter aswea-cended the Sierras and begon tothink of find ing :■■'. abiding place. When it carne to leave-taking, "Bill" w;is mjaging, the others started on with fcheir teams, and 1 gtaid by his until sundown. Any number of good-byes and kindly mesgages were left with mo for him. And one woman gave me u little age Baying : "He was so kind to Willie when he was siek, and his hand that preeious little grave on the mountuins." I thought, t know the full value of tho gift, Bill should have m ( ,ived it as I did, wet witli the mothor's t. ars. When he camo back we wore .alono upon the hillsidc. He asked "Why didn't you go on with the othi r? " And 1 answered, "Bccause I did not choose to leave you alone, aftor uil you have done for me. 1 shal] go with you, if you will let me ; it does notmake mueh düFerence to me where." He looked at me keenly. 'You had better not, ' said he, slowly ; "you will wish you hadn't some day." e had started a fire, and I could seo his face by the light of the blazo. I feit di-awn to him, not from any sympathy of feeling, but because I was conviiiced thcro would como a timo when I could in a measuro repay him for his kindness to mo. I ronched out my hand, " We'll stick togethei ;i while, old fellow." He wouldn't take it, but said; "The kettle bous, we might about as well eat our gril) as to waste time talking. I gave him the messages, which were reecivc (1 in silinee, and when I handed the package, he only said, " Layitdown." V e made ready for an early start in the morning, then I rolled up in my blankct, and with my feet to the lire, l.iy down to sleep. When I waked up the blasé had died down, but I could seo Bill at a distnnee, bonding over what proved to be a hole in the ground. After a while he broke off some green boughs, threw them ia, and then hastily throw in the eartb. He carne and sat down by the fire. I watohed him fui mihour or so, but he never moved, mul wlien 1 woke in tho morning, he had not changed his posiWe started off, but I marte an excuso to return, and hurredly opened the ground whore I had seen him woiking in the nijrlit. I 1( not know what I expected (n see, but certaiiily was surprised when I found ander (ho cowring of earth and the little package, wliich had tearrully been entrusted to my caro. I bioke the string and found a small copy ot' " Bunyau's Pilgrim'a Progresa." "I will Kci'p it," I síiid, " nml wlu'ii he needs me most he will nood this too." When we reached the first minera' oamp, Bill waked up and w:is eager enough until he had soanned the face of ivciy man. That day he looked wea'y, and it was tlie time he laid down vï:i ii I (lid for thc night. 1 ii the morning he sold his team, all but two homes; thoso ho paoked with blankets and provisión?, and wo strut k off down thc canon, stopping wherever atiy one wiisií work, :ml going out of our way if we beard of ;i Solitary miner. Afti.T a while lie left off telling me to him, and I (hink the companionshiji made him f'ecl more human. Once 1 stopped a week when I Beemed tired out, luit was reetless and oaeasy, and declared " ano'hor d:iy would kill him." " Teil me," s:iid 1, one day, " why you I will not rest ; this life is wearing upon you ; you canuot endu e half tiie fatigue you could upon the plains. Let's take up a claim and fettle down, or 11 you will io on - let me help yon, oouldn't I P" " X". " he answered, "and I believe you are bolding me back. I have feit it ever since 1 first loolced upon your face when I 'ound you half dead bjr those buslies that day. I wish I had left you to die." He sprang up and confronted me, "1 will have no more of this, I shall go on alone, and don't you dare get between , me and my vork or 111 " Ili.s eyes feil before mine. " Do you think I am afraid of you? you who wouldn't harin even an insect. Haven't I seen you go out of your way rather thuii tread the life oat of a cïawling worm ? Shall all those months of unseltish care forothers go for nothing, and your hasty worde mate me leave your Besides," Said I, " I have a work as well as you " "Shall I teil you what it is? " He sat down by thu lire which lic had lighted. " Keep still," said he, "for one month more, and (Ken yira may have your say." In the inorning when we started out, the air was heavy with smokc. When we led San Francisco, after a day or two, we fouad there had been an extensivo fire. Bill was unwearied in helping bnild tents for the homelcss, and lus money went frcely to fëed the starving hundreds, who were likely to fiad onJy a grave in the land which had prou them so much. I feit that I had never known half of his -genuine goodness of heart until those days, and I loft off watching him as I had done. We wer stopping at one of the places dignifica by the mime of "Hotel," and in those " early times " considerad tnagqificent in tbe way of accoiamodations, qiiHe v.'orth the fabulons prices which were demanded for them. But one parlor was the bar-room, and our "room a bunk, one of a dozen or BO in the saine apart ment. Wc had been staving there perh:i]is three weeks, when one night I was awakened from a sound sleep by the fall of som.' heavy body. I listencd but there w Bno repetition, then I grcipod my way to lïill's bunk. He was not there, though 1 had seen him " turn in " when I did. I took my hal mil passed out through the bar-room into the darkness and nigiit. Dranken men of all nations and tribes were to be nut on tin' muddy sidewalk , then liorrid oaths and obscene jests, muttered or shonted in half broken language, reminded me of a terrible desoription I listened to when a child of the abode of the lust. The gleamiug lights from the drinking saloons and gambling hclls only addeu anothei touoh to the picture. I hurried on, peering into every place where was light or sound, aad I kept up the seaich until tlie first rosy tiuts in the East told of the coming day. When 1 came round to our hotel, I Eöund I had been sent -tor three times, and was to remain there uutil the inesiin. I waited two hours, and then saw thu bar-tender pomting me out toa SjKimard. He beckoned to me, and I tollowed him without a word. We went through lanes and by-paths, until I lost all idea of locality. Finally re carne toa oabin, when he motioned me to come round by the side, then he pointed to me to lonk through a slight apert ure. Two men lay on the Hoor, wliich was d with blood. I saw at a flanee that one was Bill, and the other boro the sanie faoe 1 had oiten seen in my dreanis. 1 thought at tirst that they were both dead, but a low groan carne trom Bill, and I rushed to the door. I knelt down by him and spoke. " I did not do ir," said he " but I moant to." I asked him no question, only if ho was able to be moved. "Yes, but nevcr mind." We made a litter of a door, and by the help of some men the Bpaniard brought, we oarried him to our boarding place. I summoned a physician, who pronounced the wound dangerous, but not nueessarily mortal. I watched over him and savcd him, in sjite of his own desire. He ohose to die, but by my care he came slowly baek and took up his burdeii again. One day, as Í. sat by his bed, I took from my pocket the littlo book I had found buried onder the green boughs. I read two or threo chapters aloud, then put it up without a word. He became interested, and I read on from day to day as ho could bear it, until the book was flnished. Then he ask(-d, " Where did you get it?" " 1 dug it from the ground, ' said I, laeonically. He held out his hand for it, and so it passed into his kecping. When ho became strong enougb we took walks together, which gradually inereased in length until we would spend whole days down by the bay. I knew he would teil me his story when he could bring himself to it. He was two weeks going over it, sometimos giving me a ingle picture, and at another time unrolling whole yeaiB, like a panorama, before me. His first remembranco had been of a hovel where rum luid Left nothing but ruin. He never heard a kind word, or had a kiss left upon his childish face, but he hated the meauness and iiltli whifih surrounded hiin and ran away to sea, when only fourteen years of age. When he came back, grown to manhood, his old home had been swept away by the tide of improvements, and his relations were all gone save one fair-headed sister, who niight have been his idol, but sho vanisked out of his life without one word of farcwell, and lor many years he nevcr heard of her or the man who had lured her away. The year that I met him he bad been through the West ; he couldn't teil what for, exoept. that he had inado money and wantod to spend it. Vice and luxury wcre straJigi-Vs lo him, so his wants wero few and simple. He carne to a pfihin one night, and, as it was late, askod to be allowod to stuw The man consentid, and bade the woman provide sonie supper for the travelor. His host went out, and liis voico could be hcard at some distance from the front i of the house. The woman eyed him closely from a window, thenmotioning to B 1 . led him to a alide window at the rear oi' the cabin, whispered to htm that it was only a niile to the nest house, slipped a pieoe of paper into his hand, -.nul tola him to run for his lift-. Hl said ho could not-toll why, but for Üie tirst and only time, ran from danger. Ho aroused the people, and was givon a place on the floor to slee]). Saying nothingabout hi adventure, he managed to read by the light. of th i the paper which the woman had given him. lm igine his surprise when In: i'oimd that he had snn his long-lost sister, aud that she hud sought to save his lite by gutiing him iiway trom lier husband, wlio mistruated that he had money, and would notheaitate to morder him in ordertoobt:tin it. Hlie said she had witnossod terrible thing8, but beggedhim notto try to meet her, us his liie would be inijiurilèd. The morninghe determined to return aad have an interview with her, and, ifpossible, to persuade her to accompuiiy him. The hou.-e was closed, boards nailed up bef ore the Windows, and no sign of lile npon the prunises. Ho looked for his horse ; that, of course, was gonc, and he was aboutleavint;, wlim he heard mpase, Again he listened, and ti-acod the sound to the window out of wliioh ho had esoaped the previoua night. Ho wrenched oit' the boards, and soon found the sister he sought, but sho was in a dying condition. IShe had been bly beaten by the brutal husband ; upou hor c;un' the full bruut of his dissappointment when he disoovered kis victiin had left. iSlie told of dreadt'ul sufionngs and crime, but death hastily elosod hor recital, and poor Biil held a lifeloss form in his anus. He callod in the only neighbors within several miles, the people where he stayed over night. Together they buried the bruised and mangled body, and over the grave the brother vowed to avongjtho lite wkickkad boen saerificed for hini. He heard of " his man " crossing the pla'iis, and so hnd followed, nursing all the time the deepest hatred in his heart, ni'vt-r doubting that he should find liim, and then the end was plaid. He held up his hands. " I have secn his blood apon thern al] the vv:iy," said he. " That night," he eontinuud, "Icould not sleep, and something whispered that he was not far iVom me. So 1 went out and continued iny seareh. I heard his voice on Ihc sti':d. I should have kurnvn it anywkere. 1 followed him to his cabin and entered close behind him I hnd Bomeihing to say t him, and you kuow I couldn't shoot him down without living him o. chance ; 'twaut in me todo that. "But ho turned upon me quicker than thought, and gave me this shot through my !iij'.i!': right arm ei:1 loss. but 1 sprang uj we ctosed, he gave me a st.i in my sidc ; iiis own pisto!, pointed toward him ■ 1!'. went off, eithcr by accident or design, I shall never kiiiiw whioh, and we föll toge1 ii c on the floor. "That Spaniard came in, attracted by4 tho firing. I had helpcd lis liimily to food ana Bhelter, so I easili i upon him lo go foryou, not bocaugi; I thought you eould do anything for mo, but I did not want you to speud your time huntinji me ap. " The wretch died ; althoagh I didn't kill him, 1 meant to, so X am a mur to you. My work on earth is done, and you had botter leave now. 1 am afraid I shall get to care for j'ou if you stay, and that would b foolish, :-. there hasn t been any love in my life. I shan't troublc you with any more talk. I gueaa 1 have lost my right to the title tho boys garre me." As soon as he was able, wo went back into the country and pitohed our tent among the grand old trees. There oame daya when the hushed stillnesa brought thouglits of rest, puaee and almost beliuv infi_ L'nder the branches where the stray 8unbeama touched us with light andhealiiifi, 1 told the story of Him whose. blood Can wash tho deepest stain from human lii'arts and hands, and into nature's temple came the great, invisible, loving pn sence whioh stands human as ever, though unseen - in our very midst, and whoge coming into any lite will lift it from its mire and defilement into the lost Paradise which liis aboat os everywhere. As I dwelt upon thi' wondroae ltvc and compaseion, hu asked earnustly, " Why has iay life been so dark and loveleS8f ', Ah, how many aching hoarts have asked thaf, is tliey look back over dwarfed and thwarted lives. But there came a time whon his questionings ceased, and he changed his lifelong burden for a cross. And for years, " Silent Bill" was known all through the minea andoamps as "The Big Eider."


Old News
Michigan Argus