He it was who uttered the “Hark,” and added, “That is Chico!”
At first the tired, despairing guides did not hear, but going along the road by the lake in the direction from which the sound came, the prolonged wail became more audible.
“It is on the moraine,” the men said, with awe-struck looks at one another.
They would fain not even have taken John with them, but with a resolute look he uttered “Ich komm.”
Mr. Graham, an elderly man, not equal to a moraine in the snow, stayed with the mother. He wanted to take her back to prepare for them, as he said-in reality to lesson any horrors there might be to see.
But she stood like a statue, with clasped hands and white face, the small feathery snow climbing round her feet and on her shoulders.
“O God, spare my boys! Though I don’t deserve it-spare them!” had been her one inarticulate prayer all night.
And now-shouts and yodels reach her ears. They are found! But how found! The cries are soon hushed. There is long waiting-then, through the snow, John flashes forward and takes her hand. He does not speak-only as their eyes meet, his pale lips tremble, and he says, “Don’t fear; they will revive in the inn. Jock is safe, they are sure.”
Safe? What? that stiff, white-faced form, carried between two men, with the arm hanging lifelessly down? One man held the smaller figure of Armine, and kept his face pressed inwards. Kind words of “Liebe Frau,” and assurances that were meant to be cheering passed around her, but she heard them not. Some brandy had, it seemed, been poured into their mouths. They thought Jock had swallowed, Armine had not.
At intervals on the way back a little more was administered, and the experienced guides had no doubt that life was yet in him. When they reached the hotel the guides would not take them near the stove, but carried them up at once by the rough stair to the little wood-partitioned bedrooms. There were two beds in each room, and their mother would have had them both together; but the traveller, and the kindly, helpful young landlady, Fraulein Rosalie, quietly managed otherwise, and when Johnny tried to enforce his aunt’s orders, Mr. Graham, by a sign, made him comprehend why they had thus arranged, filling him with blank dismay.
A doctor? The guides shook their heads. They could hardly make their way to Leukerbad while it was snowing as at present, and if they had done so, no doctor could come back with them. Moreover the restoratives were known to the mountaineers as well as to the doctors themselves, and these were vigorously applied. All the resources of the little way-side house were put in requisition. Mr. Graham and Johnny did their best for Jock, his mother seemed to see and think of nothing but Armine, who lay senseless and cold in spite of all their efforts.
It was soon that Jock began to moan and turn and struggle painfully back to life. When he opened his eyes with a dazed half-consciousness, and something like a word came from between his lips, Mr. Graham sent John to call the mother, saying very low, “Get her away. She will bear it better when she sees this one coming round.”