Again the young man turned to the window, and, raising the sash, he secured it by the little button used for the purpose, and leaned out into the snow-storm. The flakes fell and melted upon his face, and caught in his bushy beard, and rested lightly upon his twisted hair. They flew into his eyes, and made little drifts upon the collar of his coat and in the folds of his sleeves. He gazed up toward the dull, gray cloud whence they came, and presently, out of the confusion, and carelessness, and morbid impatience of his heart, he put forth a prayer that some awfully stirring event might come to pass; let a sword pass through his life! let him be smitten down and trampled upon! let his mind be continually occupied with the extreme of active, living suffering! let there be no cessation till the end! He could accept it and exult in it; but to live on as he was living now was to walk open-eyed into insanity. Rather than that, he would commit some capital crime, and subject himself to the penalty. Let God take at least so much pity upon him, and grant him physical agony!
It is not often that our prayers are answered, nor, when they are, does the answer come in the form our expectations shaped. Occasionally, however—and then, perhaps, with a promptness and completeness that force us to a realization of how extravagant and senseless our desires are—does fulfillment come upon us.
As Bressant’s strange petition went up through the storm, a sleigh came along from the direction of the railway-station. It was nothing but a cart on runners, and painted a dingy, grayish blue; it was loaded with a dozen tin milk-cans much defaced by hard usage, each one stopped with an enormous cork. The driver was clad in an overcoat which once had been dark brown or black, but had worn to a greenish yellow, except where the collar turned up around the throat, and showed the original color. His head and most of his face were enveloped in a knit woolen comforter, and mittens of the same make and material protected his hands. His legs were wrapped up in a gray horse-blanket. He was whitened here and there with snow, and snow was packed between the necks of the milk-cans. He drove directly toward the boarding-house, and he and Bressant caught sight of one another at the same moment.
“Hallo!” called the stranger; “you’re Bressant, I guess, ain’t you? I’ve got something for you.” Here he drew up beneath the window. “You see, I was down to the depot getting some milk aboard the up-train, and Davis, the telegraph-man, came up and asked me, ’Bill Reynolds, are you going up to Abbie’s? ‘cause,’ says he, ’here’s a telegraph has come for the student up there—him that’s going to marry Sophie Valeyon—and our boy he’s down with the influenza,’ says he. ‘I’m you’re man!’ says I, ’let’s have it!’ and here ’tis,” added Mr. Reynolds, producing a yellow envelope from the bottom of his overcoat pocket.