The dawn was come when I laid the Manuscript aside. The rain
had almost ceased, the world was gray and sad, the exhausted storm
was sighing and sobbing itself to rest. I went to the stranger's
room, and listened at his door, which was slightly ajar. I could
hear his voice, and so I knocked. There was no answer, but I still
heard the voice. I peeped in. The man lay on his back in bed,
talking brokenly but with spirit, and punctuating with his arms,
which he thrashed about, restlessly, as sick people do in delirium.
I slipped in softly and bent over him. His mutterings and
ejaculations went on. I spoke--merely a word, to call his attention.
His glassy eyes and his ashy face were alight in an instant with
pleasure, gratitude, gladness, welcome:
"Oh, Sandy, you are come at last--how I have longed for you! Sit
by me--do not leave me--never leave me again, Sandy, never again.
Where is your hand?--give it me, dear, let me hold it--there--
now all is well, all is peace, and I am happy again--_we_ are happy
again, isn't it so, Sandy? You are so dim, so vague, you are but
a mist, a cloud, but you are _here_, and that is blessedness sufficient;
and I have your hand; don't take it away--it is for only a little
while, I shall not require it long.... Was that the child?...
Hello-Central!... she doesn't answer. Asleep, perhaps? Bring her
when she wakes, and let me touch her hands, her face, her hair,
and tell her good-bye.... Sandy! Yes, you are there. I lost
myself a moment, and I thought you were gone.... Have I been
sick long? It must be so; it seems months to me. And such dreams!
such strange and awful dreams, Sandy! Dreams that were as real
as reality--delirium, of course, but _so_ real! Why, I thought
the king was dead, I thought you were in Gaul and couldn't get
home, I thought there was a revolution; in the fantastic frenzy
of these dreams, I thought that Clarence and I and a handful of
my cadets fought and exterminated the whole chivalry of England!
But even that was not the strangest. I seemed to be a creature
out of a remote unborn age, centuries hence, and even _that_ was
as real as the rest! Yes, I seemed to have flown back out of that
age into this of ours, and then forward to it again, and was set
down, a stranger and forlorn in that strange England, with an
abyss of thirteen centuries yawning between me and you! between
me and my home and my friends! between me and all that is dear
to me, all that could make life worth the living! It was awful--
awfuler than you can ever imagine, Sandy. Ah, watch by me, Sandy--
stay by me every moment--_don't_ let me go out of my mind again;
death is nothing, let it come, but not with those dreams, not with
the torture of those hideous dreams--I cannot endure _that_ again....
He lay muttering incoherently some little time; then for a time he
lay silent, and apparently sinking away toward death. Presently
his fingers began to pick busily at the coverlet, and by that sign
I knew that his end was at hand with the first suggestion of the
death-rattle in his throat he started up slightly, and seemed
to listen: then he said:
"A bugle?... It is the king! The drawbridge, there! Man the
battlements!--turn out the--"
He was getting up his last "effect"; but he never finished it.