She looked anxiously, mother-like, at Colin, and persuaded him to lie down and rest awhile in her little parlour, and, while he rested, she and I talked and she told me how she had come by her blind eye—an odd, harmless-sounding cause. She had been looking up into one of her apple-trees, one day, a few weeks ago, and an apple had fallen and struck her in the eye. Such innocent means does Nature sometimes use for her cruel accidents of disease and death! Just an apple falling from a tree,—and you are blind! A fly stings you, on a Summer day, and you die.
Colin, rested and refreshed, we once more started on our way, but, bravely as he strode on, there was no disguising it—my blithe, happy-hearted companion was ill. Of course we both assured the other that it could be nothing, but privately our hearts sank with a vague fear we did not speak. At length, after a weary four miles, we reached Towanda.
“I’m afraid,” said poor Colin, “I can walk no more to-day. Perhaps a good night’s rest will make me all right.” We found an inn, and while Colin threw himself, wearied, on his bed, I went out, not telling him, and sought a doctor.
“And you’ve been walking with this temperature?” said the learned man, when he had seated himself at Colin’s bedside and felt his wrist. “Have you been drinking much water as you went along? ... H’m—it’s been a very dry Summer, you know.”
And the words of our friend in the buggy came back to us with sickening emphasis. O those innocent-looking fairy wells and magic mirrors by the road-side! And I thought, too, of the poor old blinded woman and the falling apple. Was Nature really like that?
And then the wise man’s verdict fell on our ears like a doom.
“Take my advice, and don’t walk any more, but catch the night train for New York.”
Poor Colin! But there was no appeal.
The end of our trip had come, suddenly, unreasonably, stupidly, like this.
“So we’ve got to be shot into New York like a package through a tube, after all!” said Colin. “No lordly gates of the Hudson for us! What a fool I feel, to be the one to spoil our trip like this!”
And the tears glistened in our eyes, as we pressed each other’s hand in that dreary inn bedroom, with the shadow of we knew not what for Colin over us—for our comradeship had been very good, day by day, together on the open road.
Our train did not go till midnight, so we had a long melancholy evening before us; but the doctor had given Colin some mysterious potion containing rest, and presently, as I sat by his side in the gray twilight, he fell into a deep sleep—a sleep, alas! of fire and wandering talk. It was pitiful to hear him, poor fellow—living over again in dreams the road we had travelled, or making pictures of the road he still dreamed ahead of us. Never before had I realized how entirely his soul was the soul of a painter—all pictures and colour.