“Suddenly he, my friend, cried out: ’This is one caught in the process of materialization! It is not flesh; my God, no!’
“It seemed, indeed, as if it were as he said. I stopped in my capering and looked down. The tarry hinds standing by grinned and jeered.
“On the instant there came a splintering snap, and the floe rocked and curtsied.
“‘Back!’ yelled the captain. ‘She’s breaking through by the head!’
“He shrieked of the ship. She was clearing herself, had already shaken her prow free of the ice.
“There was a wild scamper for safety. I was carried with the throng. It was not until I was hauled on board once more that I thought of my friend. He still knelt where we had fled from him, a wrapt, strange expression on his face.
“‘Come back!’ I screamed. ‘You will be lost!’
“Now at that he turned his head and looked at me; but he never moved, and his voice came to me quiet and exultant.
“‘Lost!’ he said, ’ay, for forty-three years: and here, here I find myself!’
“We dipped, and the wash of the water came about our bows. The block of ice swerved, made a sluggish half-pirouette and dropped astern.
“‘Come!’ I shrieked again faintly.
“With the echo of my cry he was a phantom, a blot, had vanished in the rearward fog; and thereout a little joyous laugh came to me.
“And that was a queer good-bye for ever, wasn’t it?”
“Sinner, sinner, whence do you come?”
“From the bitter earth they called my home.”
“Sinner, sinner, why do you wait?”
“I fear to knock at the golden gate:
“My crimes were heavy; my doom is sure,
And I dread the anguish I must endure.”
“Had you ever a child down there?”
“One—but it died, and I learnt despair.”
“Here you will find it, behind the gate.”
“God forbid! for it felt my hate—
“Shrunk in the frost of my cruelties.
More than the Judge’s I fear its eyes.”
“Hist! At the keyhole place your ear.
Sinner, what is the sound you hear?
“Is it ten thousand babes at play?
Heaven’s nursery lies that way.
“Through it to judgment all must fare
It was God’s pity placed it there.”
The gate swung open; the sinner past;
Little hands caught and held him fast.
“While you wait the call of the Nameless One,
There’s time for a game at ’Touch-and-Run’!”
He played with them there in that shining place,
With the hot tears scorching his furrowed face—
Played, till the voice rang dread and clear:
“Where is the sinner? I wait him here!”
Then shouting with laughter one and all
They pushed him on to the Judgment Hall;
Stood by him; swarmed to the dais steps,
A jumble of gleeful eyes and lips.