Though Aladdin stopped making talk in his head, the talk kept going on by itself; and he suddenly shouted aloud for it to stop. Then he began to whimper and shiver, for he thought that his mind was going.
Presently he shook himself.
“Troubles,” he said, “we’ve only a little farther to go—just as far as our feet will carry us, and no farther. That’s the proper way to finish. And for God’s sake keep sane. We won’t give her up yet!”
Ten steps and years passed.
“Troubles,” said Aladdin, “we’re going to call for help, and if it don’t come, which it won’t, we’re going to try and be calm. It seems simplest and looks best to be calm.”
Aladdin stood there crying aloud for the help of man, but it did not come. And then he cried for the help of God. And he stood there waiting—waiting for it to come.
“We must help ourselves, Troubles,” he said, with a desperate effort to be calm. “We’ve got ten steps left in us. Now, then, one—two—”
During the taking of those ten steps the snow ceased entirely to fall, and black night enveloped the earth.
Aladdin was all numb, and he wished to sleep, but he made the ten steps into eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, before his limbs refused to act, and he fell forward in the snow. He managed to raise himself and crawl a little way. He saw a light afar off, and guessing that it must be an angel, held out his hands to it—and one of them encountered a something in the dark.
Even through his thick mitten it felt round and smooth and colder than his fingers, like a ball of ice. Then Aladdin laughed aloud, for he knew that his last walk upon earth had been in the form of a silly circle. He had returned to the dead horse, and his gloved hand was resting upon its frozen eye. He shrieked with laughter and became heavy with a desire to sleep.
He sank deliciously down, and began to see showers of roses, when it flashed upon him that this was not sleep, but death.
It was like lifting prodigious dumb-bells to get his eyes to open, and a return to consciousness was like the stabbing of knives. But he opened his eyes and roused himself.
“I won’t give her up yet,” he cried.
And then, by the help of God Almighty, he crawled the whole length of the horse.
And fell asleep.
It was a miserable, undressed thing wrapped in a horse-blanket and a buffalo-robe that woke up in front of a red-hot stove and remembered that it used to be Aladdin O’Brien. It had a dreadful headache, and could smell whisky and feel warm, and that for a long time was about all. Then it noticed that the wall opposite was ragged with loosened wall-paper and in places stripped of plaster, so that the lathing showed through, and that in its own head—no, in the room beyond the wall—an impatient stamping noise