He was in the middle of a broad field. He went on slowly and soon fell of weakness and lay for a time with his eyes closed. He could hear the dull thunder of approaching hoofs; then he felt a silky muzzle touching his cheek and the tickle of a horse’s mane. He looked up at the animal, feeling her face and neck. “You feel like Phyllis, but you are not Phyllis—you are all white,” said the young man, as he patted her muzzle. He could hear other horses coming, and quickly she, that was bending over him, reared with an open mouth and drove them away. She returned again, her long mane falling on his face. “Don’t step on me,” he entreated. “’Remember in the day o’ judgment God’ll mind the look o’ yer master.’” He took hold of those long, soft threads, and the horse lifted him gently to his feet, and they walked, his arm about her neck, his face in the ravelled silk of her mane. “I don’t know whose horse you are, even, or where you are taking me,” he said. They went down a long lane and came at length to a bar-way, and Trove crawled through.
He saw near him a great white house—one he had never seen before—and a beautiful lady in the doorway. He turned toward her, and it seemed a long journey to the door, although he knew it was only a few paces. He fell heavily on the steps, and the woman gave a little cry of alarm. She came quickly and bent over him. His clothes were torn, his face pale and haggard, his eyes closed.
“I am sick,” he whispered faintly.
“Theron! Theron! come here! Sidney is sick,” he heard her calling.
“Is it you, mother?” the boy whispered, feeling her face. “I thought it was a great, white mansion here, and that you—that you were an angel.”
A Man Greater than his Trouble
For a month the young man lay burning with fever, his brain boiled in hot blood until things hideous and terrible were swarming out of it, as if it were being baned of dragons. Two months had passed before he was able to leave his bed. He remembered only the glow of an Indian summer morning on wood and field, but when he rose they were all white with snow. For weeks he had listened to the howl of the fir trees and had seen the frost gathering on his window, but knew not how swiftly the days had gone, so that when he looked out of doors and saw the midwinter he was filled with astonishment.
“I must go,” said he.
“Not yet, my boy,” said Mary Allen. “You, are not strong enough.”
“Darrel has taken my trouble on him, and I must go.”
“I have heard you say it often since you fell on the doorstep,” said she, stroking his hand. “There is a letter from him;” and she brought the letter and put it in his hands. Trove opened it eagerly and read as follows:—