“Oh, oh! This fiery height! Oh, oh! My feet of fire! My burning feet of fire ...!” then died away, into untold space and silence.
Dr. Cathcart—suddenly master of himself, and therefore of the others—was just able to seize Hank violently by the arm as he tried to dash headlong into the Bush.
“But I want ter know,—you!” shrieked the guide. “I want ter see! That ain’t him at all, but some—devil that’s shunted into his place ...!”
Somehow or other—he admits he never quite knew how he accomplished it—he managed to keep him in the tent and pacify him. The doctor, apparently, had reached the stage where reaction had set in and allowed his own innate force to conquer. Certainly he “managed” Hank admirably. It was his nephew, however, hitherto so wonderfully controlled, who gave him most cause for anxiety, for the cumulative strain had now produced a condition of lachrymose hysteria which made it necessary to isolate him upon a bed of boughs and blankets as far removed from Hank as was possible under the circumstances.
And there he lay, as the watches of that haunted night passed over the lonely camp, crying startled sentences, and fragments of sentences, into the folds of his blanket. A quantity of gibberish about speed and height and fire mingled oddly with biblical memories of the classroom. “People with broken faces all on fire are coming at a most awful, awful, pace towards the camp!” he would moan one minute; and the next would sit up and stare into the woods, intently listening, and whisper, “How terrible in the wilderness are—are the feet of them that—” until his uncle came across the change the direction of his thoughts and comfort him.
The hysteria, fortunately, proved but temporary. Sleep cured him, just as it cured Hank.
Till the first signs of daylight came, soon after five o’clock, Dr. Cathcart kept his vigil. His face was the color of chalk, and there were strange flushes beneath the eyes. An appalling terror of the soul battled with his will all through those silent hours. These were some of the outer signs ...
At dawn he lit the fire himself, made breakfast, and woke the others, and by seven they were well on their way back to the home camp—three perplexed and afflicted men, but each in his own way having reduced his inner turmoil to a condition of more or less systematized order again.