He gazed up at the great black blasted pine, its waist the height of a tall tree, and its two lonely lightning-scathed and white arms stretched out like a malediction; and for a moment he had to take himself in hand. After a little he mastered the fear that had seized him.
“It’s only a poor old lonely vegetable out in the cold,” he said. “And it shows us exactly where we are and exactly which way we have to go.”
He set himself right, and, with head lowered and hands clenched, again started on. But he was beginning to be very much bored, and sensible that his legs were not accustomed to being used so hard. Furthermore, there was a little difficulty—not by any means an insurmountable one—in steering straight, because of the constantly varying point of the compass in which the wind blew. He went on for a long time . . . .
He began to look for the high ground to decline, as it should, about now, if it was the high ground he took it for. “I ought to be getting somewhere,” he said.
And, God help him! tired out, half frozen and very foot-sore, he was getting somewhere, for, glancing up, he again beheld the gigantic and demoniac shape of the blasted pine.
It is on prairies and among mountains, far from the habitations of men, that man is most readily terrified before nature, and not on the three-mile primrose way from a railway accident to a house-party. But for a moment cold terror struck at Aladdin like a serpent, and the marrow in his bones froze. Before he could succeed in reducing this awful feeling to one of acute anxiety alone, he had to talk to himself and explain things as to a child.
“Then it is true, Troubles, old man,” he said, “about a person’s tendency to go to the left. That’s interesting, isn’t it? But what do we care? Being gifted with a certain (flighty, it is true) intelligence, we will simply take pains, and every step pull a little to the right; and that will make us go straight. Come now-keep thinking about it-every step!”
As the end of the day approached, a lull came in the gale, and the snow fell less freely. The consequently widened horizon of vision was eminently comforting, and Aladdin’s unpleasant feeling of anxiety almost disappeared.
Suddenly he was aware of a red horse.
It was standing almost leg-clear, in an angle of what seemed a drifted-over snake-fence. Its ugly, Roman-nosed head was thrown up and out, as if about to neigh.
“Poor beastie,” said Aladdin, after a start. “You must be direfful cold, but we’ll ride you, and that will make you warm, and us cold, and we’ll all get along faster.”
Drawing near, he began to gentle the horse and call it pet names. It was a huge brute, over seventeen hands high, and Aladdin, aided only by a rickety fence, and a pair of legs that would hardly support him, was appalled by the idea of having to climb to that lofty eminence, its back. Without doubt he was dreadfully tired.