Over and over again did he have to tell the marvellous story of how he had found Mark standing up to his neck in water, at the bottom of a natural well, nearly dead, but still alive; how he had knotted the rope around him and sent him to the top, while he himself stayed down there until the rope could again be lowered; how Mark had fainted, and now lay like dead in a farm-house— before the parents could realize that their son, whom they were a moment before mourning as dead, was still alive.
Then the mules were hitched to the farm-wagon, a feather-bed and many blankets were thrown in, Mr. and Mrs. Elmer, Ruth, and Frank climbed in, and away they went. John Gilpin’s ride was tame as compared to the way that wagon flew over the eight miles of rough country between Wakulla and the house in which Mark lay, slowly regaining consciousness.
The meeting between the parents and the son whom they had deemed lost to them was not demonstrative; but none of them, nor of those who saw it, will ever forget the scene.
A solemn “Thank God!” and “My boy! my darling boy!” were all that was heard; and then Mark was lifted gently into the wagon, and it was driven slowly and carefully home.
An hour after he was tucked into his own bed Mark was in a raging fever, and screaming, “The star! the star! Please let me see it a little longer.” And it was many a day before he again left the house, and again breathed the fresh air out-of-doors.
Two letters and A journey.
It was late in April before Mark rose from the bed on which for weeks he had tossed and raved in the delirium of fever. He had raved of the horrible darkness and the cold water, and begged that the star should not be taken away. One evening he woke from a heavy, death-like sleep in which he had lain for hours, and in a voice so weak that it was almost a whisper, called “Mother.”
“Here I am, dear”; and the figure which had been almost constantly beside him during the long struggle, bent over and kissed him gently.
“I ain’t dead, am I, mother?” he whispered.
“No, dear, you are alive, and with God’s help are going to get well and strong again. But don’t try to talk now; wait until you are stronger.”
For several days the boy lay sleeping, or with eyes wide open watching those about him, but feeling so weak and tired that even to think was an effort. Still, the fever had left him, and from the day he called “Mother” he gradually grew stronger, until finally he could sit up in bed. Next he was moved to a rocking-chair by the window, and at last he was carried into the sitting-room and laid on the lounge—the same lounge on which Frank had lain, months before, when he told them what a wicked boy he had been.