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"I must go to Chicago, father," said I, one evening, after we had been discussing our domestic relations with more than usual earnestness. "Why go to Chicago, Philip? What put that idea into your head?" replied my father, with a kind of deprecatory smile. "I don't feel as though I could live any longer in this state of doubt and uncertainty." "Really, Philip, I don't think you need worry yourself to that extent." "I can't help it. I want to know whether my mother is alive or dead. She may have been in her grave for a year for aught we know."
All this New-year's Day of 1850 the sun shone cloudless but wrought no thaw. Even the landscapes of frost on the window-panes did not melt a flower, and the little trees still keep their silvery boughs arched high above the jeweled avenues. During the afternoon a lean hare limped twice across the lawn, and there was not a creature stirring to chase it. Now the night is bitter cold, with no sounds outside but the cracking of the porches as they freeze tighter. Even the north wind seems grown too numb to move. I had determined to convert its coarse, big noise into something sweet-as may often be done by a little art with the things of this life-and so stretched a horse-hair above the opening between the window sashes; but the soul of my harp has departed. I hear but the comfortable roar and snap of hickory logs, at long intervals a deeper breath from the dog stretched on his side at my feet, and the crickets under the hearth-stones. They have to thank me for that nook. One chill afternoon I came upon a whole company of them on the western slope of a woodland mound, so lethargic that I thumped them repeatedly before they could so much as get their senses. There was a branch near by, and the smell of mint in the air, so that had they been young Kentuckians one might have had a clew to the situation. With an ear for winter minstrelsy, I brought two home in a handkerchief, and assigned them an elegant suite of apartments under a loose brick.
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