The hopelessness of this thought brought with it a feeling of bitterness. Once he dreamed she had kissed him. It was all so real to him in his dream—they were a long way off in the woods somewhere together, back of Big Shanty, near a pond which he had never seen; he was leading her down to its edge through some rough timber, when she sighed, “I am so tired, Billy,” and sank down in a little heap half fainting from exhaustion. He took her into his arms and carried her—she cuddled her head against his throat. Then she kissed him twice, and he awoke.
For a long time he sat wondering on the edge of his cot—the light from a waning moon streaking across the cabin floor. He tried to go to sleep, in the hope that his dream might continue, but he dreamed of horses breaking through the ice. He wakened again at the first glimmer of dawn—dressed and went out in the crisp air for a tramp, still thinking of his dream and the memory of her dear lips against his cheek.
The day at last arrived when Sperry must return to New York. His mail during the last few days compelled his immediate presence. Although he gauged the contents of several letters as false alarms there were three that left no room for refusal: one meant an operation that he dared not leave to his assistant’s hands; the other two meant money. He had begun to notice, too, a little coldness on the part of his host; Holcomb’s manner toward him had also set him to thinking. Upon one occasion Thayor’s strained silence, when he was alone with him smoking in his den and Alice had retired, had thrown Sperry into a state of positive alarm and kept his heart thumping the while, until a yawn of his host and a cheerful good-night relieved him of his fear. The doctor, like others of his ilk, was innately a coward.