About this time Margaret began to cry and Aladdin to comfort her, and they stumbled about in the woods trying to find —anything. After awhile they happened into a grassy glade between two steep rocks, and there agreeing to rest, scrunched into a depression of the rock on the right. And Margaret, her nose very red, her hat at an angle, and her head on Aladdin’s shoulder, sobbed herself to sleep. And then, because being trusted is next to being God, and the most moving and gentlest condition possible, Aladdin, for the first time, felt the full measure of his crime in leading Margaret from the straight way home, and he pressed her close to him and stroked her draggled hair with his cold little hands and cried. Whenever she moved in sleep, his heart went out to her, and before the night was old he loved her forever.
Sleep did not come to Aladdin, who had suddenly become a father and a mother and a nurse and a brother and a lover and a man who must not be afraid. His coat was wrapped about Margaret, and his arms were wrapped about his coat, and the body of him shivered against the damp, cold shirt, which would come open in front because there was a button gone. The fog came in thicker and colder, and night with her strange noises moved slower and slower. There was an old loon out on the river, who would suddenly throw back his head and laugh for no reason at all. And once a great strange bird went rushing past, squeaking like a mouse; and once two bright eyes came, flashing out of the night and swung this way and that like signal-lanterns and disappeared. Aladdin gave himself up for lost and would have screamed if he had been alone.
Presently his throat began to tickle, then the base of his nose, then the bridge thereof, and then he felt for a handkerchief and found none. For a little while he maintained the proprieties by a gentle sniffling, finally by one great agonized snuff. It seemed after that as if he were to be left in peace. But no. His lips parted, his chin went up a little, his eyes closed, the tickling gave place to a sudden imperative ultimatum, and, when all was over, Margaret had waked.
They talked for a long time, for she could not go to sleep again, and Aladdin told her many things and kept her from crying, but he did not tell her about the awful bird or the more awful eyes. He told her about his little brother, and the yellow cat they had, and about the great city where he had once lived, and why he was called Aladdin. And when the real began to grow dim, he told her stories out of strange books that he had read, as he remembered them—first the story of Aladdin and then others.
“Once,” began Aladdin, though his teeth were knocking together and his arms aching and his nose running—“once there was a man named Ali Baba, and he had forty thieves—”