It was the dawn of an autumn day. In the dim light two men were threading their way through a pine forest. On either side the tree trunks rose like pillars and, far above the heads of the passing men, the branches formed a dense green canopy. Under foot a carpet of pine needles deadened the sound of their footsteps.
Tim was short and humpbacked with long, sinewy arms. Notwithstanding his deformity and his tangled dark hair and beard, it was a kindly face which peered up at Raymond.
Raymond who had newly arrived in camp was younger, tall, broad-shouldered and carried himself proudly erect. He had a fair, clear cut face and steel blue eyes.
"Ray, ye've got a lot to be thankful for."
"Yes." And Tim cheerily refused to note the scorn in the other's voice. "I don't jest know what's in the few years behind ye, nor what brought the likes of ye here, but ye've straight and strong, ye know books and ye've had a chance. The boys here are different, but ye've had a chance, Ray."
They had reached an opening in the forest. Tim threw aside his coat, seized an ax and began, with sturdy strokes, to chop down a tall pine. Raymond stood lost in thought. A chance? Yes, he had had that and he had thrown it away.
"It's nobody's business but my own," he said to himself, trying to forget the counsel of his father. "Well, I'm free from the old superstitions, yet I sometimes ask myself if freedom is worth the price I paid for it."
Haskin's Camp was situated in Northern Minnesota. Raymond had arrived but three weeks before. The men were rough and uncultured. Many of them were addicted to drink and oaths and disregard for the Lord's Day were the rules rather than the exception.
Tim had been a member of the crew for many years. Notwithstanding his dullness and physical deformity he was a general favorite. To the surprise of all he seemed attracted to tall Raymond. He expressed his preference in many unobtrusive ways and won a kindly tolerance from the young man.
Thanksgiving Day came. Snow was falling rapidly for winter had already come to that northern land. Raymond and Tim were working with a large party of choppers. Suddenly a monarch of the forest came to the ground with a resounding crash. Above this noise rang out a cry of terror and pain.
It was poor, crippled Tim. He had chanced to stand where the great branches swept him from his feet and pinned him to the earth. Raymond was the first to reach his side. Carefully the men freed him, finding the poor, bent body fearfully mangled.
"I guess it's all over with me, boys," he said, trying hard to keep his voice steady.
"Ray, stay by me. Oh, be careful!"
They carried him to the camp. A man was started on horseback to the nearest village, twenty miles distant, for a doctor. All feared Tim would not live until the doctor arrived and his suffering was great.
When he had been laid on a rude bunk near the great stove, he looked up wistfully into the faces of his companions.
"It's death, boys. Tell me 'bout God - no one ever told me."
A strange silence fell upon the group of men, a silence broken only by the howling of the wind outside. Tim spoke again, "Ray, tell me. It must be ye know, cause ye're different from the rest of us."
All eyes turned toward the young man. He bent lower over Tim asking, "What is it you want to hear?"
"All 'bout Him. You see I don't know much. Can't you tell me about Him? Pray for me."
Raymond Lee's face grew stern and white. His father was a minister. He had himself been a theological student. The influence of a skeptical classmate and the reading of books loaned by him had instilled doubt into Raymond's mind. Dominated by an idea of his own mental superiority, the youth went on, until a day came when he scoffed at the faith of his dead mother and denied God. He resolved to cut himself loose from home ties. He wrote defiantly to his father of his change of views and went out into the world leaving no clue whereby he could be traced.
Dark days followed. He had to learn the emptiness of life without hope in God. He hungered for the sound of his father's voice, but was too proud to return home and beg forgiveness. In a fit of desperation he had hired out to the foreman of Haskin's Lumber Camp.
All those things flashed through his mind in a moment. This dying man was asking him to pray. A groan broke from his lips. "Tim, I cannot. I:" and he paused, unable to say that he did not believe in the God to whom, in the hour of death, even Tim had turned.
"Can't? Why, I 'sposed ye knew Him."
Raymond could bear no more. Turning away, he rushed out into the storm. He strode back and forth through the trackless forest, heeding not the wind and snow. Face to face he met and grappled with the problem of man's relation to his Creator.
Raymond Lee was alone with God. In that hour his boasted skepticism fell from him. The theories of science and law upon which he had rested gave way beneath him. There was but one sure foundation.
Shadows were beginning to gather in the room where Tim lay when the door opened to admit Raymond. With a firm step he crossed to the side of the dying man.
"Tim, I have been with God. He has forgiven me, sinner that I am. Now I have come to tell you of His love."
Simply, tenderly, he told the story of God's love in sending His beloved Son into the world to die for sinners to become the Sin-bearer of all who put their trust in Him as Saviour.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8); "and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7).
Others gathered around the bed. Could they doubt the truth of the words spoken when they saw the light that came into Tim's face? "I see," he gasped.
Raymond knelt down. First one and then another of the rough men dropped upon their knees. Never had Raymond Lee prayed as in that hour. God was with him. Around him were men who, in Tim's own words, had "never had a chance." He prayed with a faith born of absolute belief in God's willingness to save.
"It's all right," Tim murmured. "I'm going to Him Ray, you tell everybody."
"Yes, Tim, I will spend my life telling it."
The dying man said feebly, "I thank Him." A few moments more and all was over.
Raymond faced his fellow workmen. "Tim is gone. Boys, I have gone back to the service I pledged to God many years ago. You heard my promise to Tim. Will you forgive the spirit I have shown toward you, and let me begin by telling you?"
"Yes, we will," was the reply of the leader among the men. "When we come where Tim is, we will wish we had heard." Thus he told the 'Old, Old Story' of Jesus and His love.
Before Raymond slept that night, he wrote a long letter to his father. He would remain where he was until he received an answer to the letter. The next night he held a meeting and began to tell the story of Christ, His death and resurrection.
The third evening came. At the close of Raymond's informal but heartfelt talk, the door opened to admit a stranger-a tall, spare man with snow-white hair. "Father!"
"My son! I came to help you here," and Raymond Lee was clasped in his father's arms.
The work begun at Haskin's Camp went on until seventy souls were brought to know the Lord Jesus as their own Saviour.