I woke in a terror, and cried out so loudly that Duncan came running into my room to see what was the matter.
‘Nothing, Duncan,’ I said, ’I was only dreaming; I thought I had gone over a precipice.’
‘No, thank God, you’re all safe, sir,’ he said. ’Shall I open your window a bit? Maybe the room’s close; is it?’
‘Thank you, Duncan,’ I answered; ’I shall be all right now. I’m so sorry I have waked you.’
’You haven’t done that, sir; me and Polly have been up all night with the little lad. He’s sort of funny, too, sir, burning hot, and yet he shivers like, and he clings to his daddy; so I’ve been walking a mile or two with him up and down our chamber floor, and I heard you skriking out, and says Polly, “Run and see what ails him.” So you haven’t disturbed me, sir, not one little bit, you haven’t.’
He left me then, and I tried to sleep, but sleep seemed far from me. I could hear Duncan’s footsteps pacing up and down in the next room; I could hear little John’s fretful cry; I could hear the rain beating against the casement; I could hear the soughing and whistling of the wind; I could hear Polly’s old eight-day clock striking the hours and the half-hours of that long, dismal night; but through it all, and above it all, I could hear the preacher’s question, ’What are the depths, the fearful depths, to which you are being drawn?’
I found it impossible to close my eyes again, so I drew up the blind, and, as morning began to dawn, I watched the pitiless rain and longed for day. The footsteps in the next room ceased as the light came on, and I concluded that the weary child was at last asleep. I wished that I was asleep too. I thought how often my mother, when I was a child, must have walked up and down through long weary nights with me. I wondered whether, as she did so, she spent the slow, tedious hours in praying for her boy, and then I wondered how she would have felt, and how she would have borne it, had she known that the child in her arms would grow up to manhood, living for this world and not for the Christ she loved. I wondered if she did know this now, in the far-off land where she dwelt with God.
I think I must have dozed a little after this, for I was suddenly roused by Polly’s cheery voice, cheery in spite of her bad night,—
’Have a cup of tea, sir, it’ll do you good. You’ve not slept over well, Duncan says. I’ll put it down by your door.’
I jumped out of bed and brought it in, feeling very grateful to Polly, and I drank it before I dressed. That’s just like a Yorkshire woman, I thought. My mother came from Yorkshire.
‘I think it must have been nightmare I had last night, Polly,’ I said as I finished my breakfast, and began to put all in order for my morning’s work.
OVER THE LINE