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The Son's Return

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Simeón Brown stood in the doorway of his father's kitchen, in the early dawn of a fair May moruing ; his face shorn of all its wonted joyoumess, like an autumnal forest, when the leaves have gone down behind the bleak, giay hills. Tve got to go, mother,' he said, at last, addressing a middle-aged woinan who stood folding a small parcel, before the cleanly-scoured áresaer, 'and I may as well go at once. Come, say good bve!' 'Yes, you've got to go, an' it'll break your old mother's heart, Siineon, an bring down her gray hairs iu sorrow to the grave,' she answesed, in a petulant grieving voice, as she put down the parcel, and came and stood before him. 'No, mother, no- don't talk sa,' he said, soothingly. 'You know l'n obliged to go -it'll be the best f or u all-we can't get on if we stay here.' 'Yes, we oan, Simeón - yes, we cae But you've got above your old home an' your old mother, an' now - ' 'Lisbethl' The voice of her husband silencec her querulous complaining, but she pu her apron to her eyes, and rockec herself to and fro' in the abandonmen of utter despair. I shan't be gone long,' continuec Simeón, his voice trembling in spite o all his efforts to steady it, 'not mor than two years atthefarthest, andthen we'll all go, and have a nice little hom together, and you siull cali your las days your hest ones.' Her face brightened up a little, bu she asked, half in hope, half in fear: - But if you fail, Simeón- if you fail whatthen?' A sudden shadow dashed out th sunlight from his brave, young face but it returned again in an instant.anc hls broad chest expanded, and the mus cular cord in his bronzed wrist3 workec visibly as he replied: - 'I shall not fail, mother!' His strong f aith somewbat reassurec her, and she looked up almost cheei fully. 'Well, maybe you won't, Simeón - hope so, at any rate - you always was good boy, an' I trust the Lord'll hel you.' 'I trust so, raother; the sun'smost up I must be on; take care of yourael while I'm gone; good-byel' 'Good-bye, Simeón, good-bye, m good boy - that never gave his oh mother a ross word, or caused her moment's trouble in his life - Gud bles youl' He held her in his anus for a mo ment, and then turned to his father. Good-bye, father; do the best you ca until I return.' 'Good-bye, my son - God's Messing g with youl' 'Here, Simeón, stop a moment!' cali ed his mother, as he turned toward th door, 'I'd most forgot 'em, an' I mad 'em on purpose for you - some o' th seed cakes you always liked so well think of your old mother when you ea 'em.' Simeón dropped the little packag into his pocket, drew his hat over hi eyes and stepped out. Faith Hunter, his foster-sistev, wa awaiting him in the yard. 'I'm going down a little piece wit you, Simeón,' she said, 'so you needn't bid me good-bye.' He drew her hand through his arm, and they walked on side by side, down the winding pathway, the dewy pastures and browsing kine around tiiem, and overhead, the crystal heavens emblazoned with the saffron dawn tints of the opeaing day; she, waiting for him to speak flrst, and he irresoluto as to what he should say. There was, in his heart, a great tide of feeling, which had been steadily deepening and gaining strength, ever since a winter night sixteeu years before. when his mother carne home from the deatli-bed of a friendless widow, bringiug with her a littie, helpless babe, and told him that she was to be, from henceforth and forever, bis sister. And she had been, and even more than a sister, perhaps, if such a thing be possible. Side by side they trod the flowery paths of childhood, sharing every pleasure and pain, and joy and sorrow, altnost the Battie existence; hand-inhand they entered apon an untried road of youthfulanticipation; but now they were about to separate, and the mighty love.which had grown up in the youth's heart, and strengthene-d with his trengta, was struggling flercely for escapa, but he resolutely kept it back. No matter if that tiuaid littie gir) at nis side was nearer to him than all the rest of the world, than his own life, even, he must not speak. it to her then. She was othg but a child. and he had no nome, no inducement - nothing but his strong halada and brave young heart to offer her. Yet, f-nuld ib leave her, how couldhe go away, without some slight assurance that he would not be quite forgotten ? His love was great and strong, and entwined itself about lts object with an unyielding claap that could not be torn away without almost uprooting life itself; he knew and feit it, and trembled at the bare possibility of beIng forgotten. 'Faith,' he said, at last making an effort to steady his voice, 'do you know that I am sorrier to leave you than any one etee, not even mother excepted V' 'Are you, Simeón?' she asked innocently, uplifting her trastful eyes to his face. 'Yes, I am Faith, and I want to know if you'll quite f orget me vhen I'm gone away ?' 'Why, how could I Simeón, when you've been so good and kind to me? No, indeed, 1 shall never forget you!' 'And you will beglad to seenie when I come back, Faith r 'Why, to be sure, Simeonjwhatmukes you ask?' 'Because I want to know - you're sure you'll begladï" "Very sure, Simeón.' ■Very well, I shall be back in a year r so, and I shall expect you to keep our promise.' 'I shall keep it- and you'vo given me o much, little things, that I want to give you sometking. and l've nothing lse but this- it's my little Bible-I vant you to take it, Simeón, and tblnk f me when you read it.' Ilis strong hand trembled as he unolded the little paekage. It was a pietty, delicate Uring, daintily bouud in uorocco, wit.h a silver elasp, iuscribed with the simple woid, 'Faith.' His eyes filled up with tears as he looked at t, 'I don't know liow to tbank you for his, Faith - why, it almost seems like cairyiug you with me, since ii's got ycur name on it, l'll read it every day, ind always keep ithere, Faith,' he said, retnuously, dropping it in his breast pocket, and b'uttoning Up bis eoiv, as if he wanted it close to his heait. By this time they had reached the gate - the old red gate upon whioh they had swung together a thousand times in their iiappy chiMliood. 'I must go back now, Simeón,' said Faith, struggling hard tokeep back her tears. 'Aunt Lisbeth will want me to help her about the milking. Goodbye.' 'Good-bye, Faith. Take care of yourself and motber. He tore his hand i'iom her lingering cías, threw hi3 knapsack across his shoulders, the old red gate, closing with a ringing clang, and Faith turned tearfully homoward. ' A chili November wind toased aud wlrirled the dry elmleaves on the common in front oL Ileuben Brown's cottage, and blew the thin gray locks about his forelmd, as he stood in the yard harneasing np the old-fashioned bonnet topped buggy. 'Hadu't you better have jour yarn mittens, ltèuben?' ealled his wife trom the doorway ; 'the air's bitin' cold now, au' we'll have snow before night; I can teil by the way the wind blows.' 'Maybe I had, wife,' he replied, gathering up the reins, and. mounting the creakingseat. 'Bun, Faith, for Iieuben's yarn mittens; Ihey're under the lounge in the back room - hurry, child!' Faith ran out, her pretty curls blown all about. her face, and climbingup on the whee), held the reins nntil the old mau drew the mittens on.' 'Hiirry back, Ileuben,' ealled Lisbeth. 'I doa't want my Thanksgiving dinner to spile with waitin..' 'Aye, aye, ïrife!' Old Dobbiu pricked up his enra aud started for wart!; the old-fashioned buggy went creaking down the lnne, and was soon lost to sight behind the swaying elm boughs. 'ÏTow, Faith,' said Lisbetb, tucking up liKr sleeves, and tying on her ampie Unen apron, 'if ever we were spry in our lives, leL's be tlüsmormng. ïhey'll be home by two o'e!ock, .ad it's most ten now ; an' there's tbs beef to roa3t, au' the turkey, au' the minee pies to bake - an' goodness me, I wonder if the bread's riz! Yes, indeed, just as liglit asa feather! U's iust the nicest thing in the world for Simeón to get home on ïhanksgiving d;iy, ain't it, Faith?' Faith said, 'Yes, ma'am,' very quietly; and the happy woman went on: - 'Foor Simmie, it's been many a day since his oíd mother ccoked a dirmer for him - an' lie always liked my eookin'. 'Mother,' he used to say, 'I never saw any one cook things as nice as you do.' How lucky it was, Faith, that yoa made that raisin cake yesterday. He always liked i t, I remember, when he was almost a baby. I can see him now, with his brown curls all a dancin' round his rosy face. He used to catch hold of my dress an' say - 'Mother, won't you have raisin cake' day?' Bless his dear heart! The best boy that ever lived! Never gave his old mother a cross word, or;caused her a rnoment's trouble in his ïifel I know he'll enjoy his diui'er. Ghop up tliem apples, Faith, au' we'll havo the pies on in no time.' Faith did as she was bidden, tripping round with a deft and quiet handiness that made her sweet face all tho more attractive; and by twelve o'clock the huge turkey and the great round of beef were nicely browning, and the minee pies and the mammoth loaf of bread were fairly done. 'Gettin' on finely, Faith,' said Lisbeth, stirring and seasoning a bowl of gravy. 'We shall have dinner in good time. You may set the table now, and then go and dress yourself. What'U you wear? Your new merino gown, won't you?" 'I don't know, ma'am,' said Faith, blushing and avertiog her face. 'I would if I was you. It's the prettiest dress you've got, an Simeón always liked to see us dressed well. I shall put on my brown muslin that Reuben bought rae when he went down to sell his wheat last f all, an' that dovesilk shawl the deacon's wife gave me, and my new cap that Miss Stebbsmade. An' you wear your blue meiino, Faith, and the gold chain that Simeón gave you; I know it'll please him.' Faith did not reply, but a happy light lay in her soft blue eyes a3 she tripped out to set the table. Two o'clock found everything ready -the old walnut table covered with ,he finest linen, and the brightest and xrettiest of everything that the cottage ifforded spread out in the centre of the jest room; the round of beef smoking at one end, the huge turkey at the other; and the mammoth loaf rising, mountain-like, amid a. profusión oí' berry-brown pies and cakes, while the side-board groaned beneath heaps of yellow apples and stone pitchers of spárkling eider. In the doorway, nicely robed in her brown niuslin and dove-silk shawl, her dark hair (just beginning to be streaked with silver) put smoothly back beneath her best lace cap, stood Lisbeth, her face all aglow with anxious expectation. Faith il' tted bither and thither, ahaking out the folds of a curtain or rearranging a braneh of evergreen, looking quite pretty iu her blue merino, the neuk and sleeves edged with a fringeof misty lace, and her auburn curls streamiug over her shoulders like waves of sunshine. It might have been a consciousness of her own fresh loveliness that brought the rose-llush to her cheeks, and made her pause once in a while uei'ore the little oval mirror, to asaure herself that Simeon's gold chain was all right, with the clasp just in front. It might have been something elue; be that as it may, Faith was not to blanae, for that which we often term maiden vanity deserves a f ar holier name. Two o'clock passed, and at last the old corner doek struck three; still they had not come. 'Wiiat can detain 'em so long?' said Lisbeth, giving the flre a vigorous stir, and removing Keuben's coat and slippers a little nearer. 'The dinner'll all be spiled, au' they'll have au awful ride. The show's beginnin' to fall now, an' it'll be a dreadf ui Btorm, I know by the aound o' the wind; it roared jest this way - kiüd o' mournful-like, jest before the great snowstorm, when the henhouse roof feil in and suiashed all my poor ehickens. Dear met how fast it falls! I do wish I'd a' thoujjlit to send to Simeón that yarn tippet; he always was subject to sore throats, and this'll be sure to give him oue. Where's his slippers, Faith - the new one3 you worked for him? Wüy dcu't you put 'em down to warm? He'll want 'em when he gets here.' Faith brought out the slippers.pretty black velvet ones, flowered with golden braid - and put them beneaUi thechair in Simeou's favorite corner. 'Novv, put downsomeapples to roast, and heat 'em a mug o' ctder, an' see that the gravy's warm. Surely they'l) be here soon.' Faith did this also, and theu brought out her little work-ba:ket, and sat down before the glowing hickory fire, making a great effort to appear calm. 15ut it was all in vain; her llngers would tromble and flutter, and her cotton tangle in a most amp.zing manner. Four o'clock came.the snow descended in thick, heavy showers, and a cold easterly wind wbistled round the corners, leaving the frozen ground bare in sorne places, and in others, piling up the white drifts in great freezing masses. The ciiickens sought their nightly roost, the cattle flocked to the bariiyard, and the pony cameup to the bars and whinnied for admittance; stil! thej7 did not come, The Thaiiksgiving dinner grew cold iipon the table, and Lisbeth stood in thedoorway, unül the white flakes lay thickly on her garmeuts. 'Somethin' 's the matter, Faith, she said, uneasily - 'I know there Is; they wouldn't stay thislong iftherewasn'tA 'The boat may Juuebepn delayed?' suggested Faith. 'Yes, or the buggy broken down. Kouben said one of the linch-pins was loose. Dear me! it's tflo bad! - the Thanksgivin' dinner'll be spiled after al) our flxin'.' Another half-hour went by. The wind rose to a shrill blast, and the snow carne down in smothering torrents. The chili, gray gloom of twilight began tosettle down, whendirnly visible to the eyes of the weary watchers appeared the sombre, bonnet-shaped top of the old-fashioned buggy. 'Here they come, Faith ! here thoy coinel' cried Lisbeth, springing down the steps. 'Stir the flre, and let's run down to meet 'em. Foor Simeón, I know he's nearly froze !' Faith sprang up, and in her excited haste oveiturned her work-basket, sending it3 contents in promiscuous flight over the smoothly-waxed Hoor, burned her üngers with the poker, camo well-nigh scorching her new merino diess, and at last, tlushed and tremulous. ran out to join Lisbetb. The oíd buggy carne on with a slow, uncertain motion, and after several tedious moments, paused at the little gate. Lisbeth pressed forward, closely follovved by Faith; but no eager face looked out to welcome them. 'Where's Simeón - where's my boy?' cried the fond mother. -O, Faith, he hasn't come! Keubsn, where's Simeón?' But Beuben did not answer, or even ïnake the slightest niovement. With his face white and stony, his hand3 dangling helplessly beside him, he sat in the rernotest corner, staring out upon them with a vacan., unrneaniog stare. 'Reuben, what's the matter?' almost screamed the frantic woman. 'Are you sick - dead- f rozen ? Oh, for heaven'a sake, speak to me !' Slovvly and almost mechaaically he arose from hi3 seat, and clambered out with feeble, tottering steps. 'Keuben, Reuben - speak tome!' continued Lisbeth, grasping his arm fiercely. 'Where's Simeón - why hasn't he come home?' 'fte's gone! - he'll never come homo any more! never, neverl' said the old man incoherently, groping vith his hands in the pockets of his coat. 'Gone, Simeón gone! - my boy never come home any more! What do you mean, Reuben?' 'fiere it is,' he continued, iuthe same wandering tone; 'here it all is! He'll never come home any more.' Faith grasped the paper frpm his shivering hands, and followihg his pointed flnger, read in the deepening twiïight: 'By telegraph from S . The steamer Ocean Queen, that left this wharf at six o'clock this morning, took flre on the passage. Although prompt and vigorous efforts were made to rescue the passengers, owing to the suddenness of the catastrophe only t wo were saved.' 'Simeón was one of them; he was one of the two,' she said, her face blanching and her lipa growing rigid. 'No, no - I've seen 'em both; he'll never ccme home aDy more!' 'What is it f cried Lisbeth, still unconscious of the dreadful truth, her voice dropping down to a tóie of piteous entreaty, 'where is Simeón - where's my boy ? teil me he's not dead, and I can bear anything else.' But Eeuben did not answer, for tears rolled over his wrinkled face, and it was enough. The storm swelled higher and higher, and towards miduight, raged around the little New England cottage with appaliing f ury. The hiekory lire had burned down to a few flickering embers, vvhich threw a fltful glow over the Thanksgiving table, and over the bowed heads of the three disconsolate mourners hs they sat there in their terrible desolation. This was their Thanksgiving day, begun in hope and joyous auticipation, but ended in the very blackness of uttér despair. 'Oh, I can't stand it,' sobbed Lisbuth ; 'I can't, I cau't; it's cruel - wicked-rwrong. He was all I had - my only child - my darling, precious boy, that never gave his old mother a cross word, or caused her a moment's trouble in his life; my baby, that used to sleep in my bosom and lay his little head against my cheek - an' now he's in the river- in the cold, black water, and we're here, living, thinking.breathing, by the warm fire. Oh, I can't stand it, I can't; I wish I could die and end my misery !' Reuben was too deeply alïected by this sudden outgush of a mother's grief to speak a single word of comfort, and his own heart was too deeply wounded. For a few momeuts the three sat side by side in sorrowf ui silenee; then the old man rose up and taking down the family Bible, opened it and read: 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Precious, life-giving words. We read ttiem night and morning, and hear them Sabbath after Sabbath, from the sacred desk, yet never know their full meaning, their true consolation, until some great calamity sweeps away every earthly prop and stay, and we have nothing else to lean upon. All this was feit In that little New Englan cottage, as the old man's voice rose u like a sighing breeze in the din of th winter tempest, and on the great surgng deep of their hearts feil a sad but )eaceful calm. Still the storm raged on; tho windd ose and feil and whistled round the 5ibl(;si, driving tbe snow before them u great freezuig diif ts. It would soon )e niorning; rose and gold and purple would dapple the eastern horizon, and isperse the storm and darkness; but ver the niglit of their desolation, no morning would ever break. Was that step on the snow or only the voice ol he tempest ? A step surely, for it omes on, crunching through the f reezng drifts, and pauses on tbe step wiih quick, determined sound. And now here is a rap, short, sudden and eager. Reuben rise.s; it is some of the neighbors with tidings of the lost steamer; ïews that the body of bis boy has been ound, perhaps. He opens the door - he wind sweeps in, bringiug with it a utiing shower of sleat, and also a ïappy, hopeful face. 'How are you, father?' The resonant voice rings through the ilent gloom like a peal of sudden joy. The olcl father heara it, and falls forward in his son's embrace; the poor inother heara it, and rushes forward half frantic wiLh deüght; Faith hears it in the solitude of her little chamber, and hastens out, her sweet face alternating between smiles r,d tears. 'Oh, Simeón - oh, my good boy!- they told rne you was dead, drowned, ost In the river; they wanted to break your old mother's hearfc, but you wouldn't let 'em; you've come back, Simeón, never to leave me again.' 'Never to leave you agaiD, mother - God willing.' He held her to his bosom for a, and then went round to where Faith stood. 'Now, father u;d mother,' he said, his voice vibrating with suppressed ernotion, as he took the young girl's hand, 'let me teil you of my deli veranee- for delirerancé it was- from the very iáws of death. It was Grod's providence flrst, and ïiext to that, Faith's little Bible. She gave it to me the rnorning we parted, and I always kept it abou me, and it proved a precious talisman I went on board the Ocean Queen thi morning, with the rest of the poo passengers, but just as she was leavin: the wharf, I found that I had left my overcoat hanging on the railing on tb bridge. I didn't care for the coat, bu Faith's little Bible was in the pocket and I could not part with that, so '. jumped ashore just as the boafc pushec off. And now, father,' he continuec turning to the old man, who sat in hi leathern arm-chair, with clasped hand and streaming tears, 'I will now say with your permission, that which m heart has long feit. I have succeede in my efforts, even beyond my most ai dent expectations; in the far Wrest coinfortablo home awaits us, surrounc ed by fertile acres suflicient to yield u all we need. I love you, I havo a ways loved you, ever sinee that winte night when mother brought you home to foe my little sister. Ba more than sister now- bü roy wife, Faith!' Tho auburn head went down upon lúa shoulder like a Öash of sunlight. Lisbolh fltood n silence, unable to comprehend the scène, but after a while the happy truth burst upon her, and she claspeü her arms about them witü a joyful cry : My own precious children, aud we shall all live together, and. nevev part again, shan't we, Siraeon ?' 'Never part again, ïnother, until death parts us,' said the young man, solemuly. 'Get his new slippers, Faith,' cried the happy moiher. laughing and crying by turns, 'they'll be all the more acceptable now - think a heap of 'em. Simeoa - she most worked her eyes out ever 'em.' Simeón put on the velvet slippers, and sat down in his old place. 'Now, Faith, run for the gravy, whlle L stirup the üre; we'll have our Thanksgiving dinner after all.' 'Thanksüivmg breakfast I should say, mother,' laughed Simeón. Well, it'll do just as well - we've seen a great many in our day, but this'll be the happiest one of all, won't it Reuben V 'The happiest one of all, Lisbeth,' said the old man, smiling through his teara.


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Ann Arbor Democrat