The child seemed almost comfortable-certainly not suffering like himself, bruised and strained, with sharp twinges rending his damaged foot; his limbs cramped, and sensible of the acute misery of the cold, and the full horror of their position; but as long as he could shake even an unconscious murmur from his brother, it seemed like happiness compared with the utter desolation after the last whisper had died away, and he was left intolerably alone under the solid impenetrable shroud that enveloped him, and the senseless form he held on his breast. And if he tried to follow on by that clue which Armine had left him, whirlwinds of dismay seemed to sweep away all hope and trust, while he thought of wilfulness, recklessness, defiance, irreverence, and all the yet darker shades of a self-indulgent and audacious school-boy life!
It was a little lighter, as if dawn might be coming, but the cold was bitterer, and benumbing more than paining him. His clothes were stiff, his eyelashes white with frost, he did not feel equal to looking at his watch, he would not see Armine’s face, he found the fog depositing itself in snow, but he heeded it no longer. Fear and hope had alike faded out of his mind, his ankle seemed to belong to some one else far away, he had left off wishing to see his mother, he wanted nothing but to be let alone!
He did not hear when Chico, finding no comfort, no sign of life in his masters, stood upon them as they lay clasped together in the drift of fine small snow, and in the climax of misery he lifted up the long and wretched wailing howlings of utter dog-wretchedness.
CHAPTER XX. A RACE.
Speed, Melise, speed! such cause of haste
Thine active sinews never braced,
Bend ’gainst the steepy hill thy breast,
Burst down like torrent from its crest.
The guides and the one other traveller, a Mr. Graham, who had been at the inn, were gathered at the border of the Daubensee, entreating, almost ready to use force to get the poor mother home before the snow should efface the tracks, and render the return to Schwarenbach dangerous.
Ever since the alarm had been given there had been a going about with lights, a shouting and seeking, all along the road where she had parted with her sons. It was impossible in the fog to leave the beaten track, and the traveller told her that rewards would be but temptations to suicide.
Johnny had fortunately been so tired out that he had gone to bed soon after coming in, and had not been wakened by the alarm till eleven o’clock. Then, startled by the noises and lights, he had risen and made his way to his aunt. Substantial help he could not give-even his German was halting, but he was her stay and help, and she would- as she knew afterwards-have been infinitely more desolate without him. And now, when all were persuading her to wait, as they said, till more aid could be sent for to Kandersteg, he knew as well as she did that it was but a kindly ruse to cover their despair, and was striving to insist that another effort in daylight should be made.