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Chapter 28 As a Dream when One Awaketh

  • As the morning sun arose over the snowy summits of the Great Divide, th_leeper on the rocks stirred restlessly; then gradually awoke t_onsciousness—a delightful consciousness of renewed life and vigor, a subtl_ense of revivification of body and mind. The racking pain, the burning fever,
  • the legions of torturing phantoms, all were gone; his pulse was calm, hi_lood cool, his brain clear.
  • With a sigh of deep content he opened his eyes; then suddenly rose to _itting posture and gazed about him in utter bewilderment; above him only th_oundless dome of heaven, around him only endless mountain ranges! Dazed b_he strangeness, the isolation of the scene, he began for an instant to doub_is sanity; was this a reality or a chimera of his own imagination? But onl_or an instant, for with his first movement a large collie had bounded to hi_ide and now began licking his hands and face with the most joyfu_emonstrations. There was something soothing and reassuring in th_ompanionship even of the dumb brute, and he caressed the noble creature,
  • confident that he would soon find some sign of human life in that strang_egion; but the dog, reading no look of recognition in the face beside him,
  • drew back and began whining piteously.
  • Perplexed, but with his faculties thoroughly aroused and active, the young ma_prang to his feet, and, looking eagerly about him, discovered at a littl_istance the cabin against the mountain ledge. Hastening thither he found th_oor open, and, after vainly waiting for any response to his knocking,
  • entered.
  • The furnishings were mostly hand-made, but fashioned with considerabl_rtistic skill, and contributed to give the interior a most attractiv_ppearance, while etchings, books and papers, pages of written manuscript, an_ violin indicated its occupants to be a man of refined tastes and studiou_abits. The dog had accompanied him, sometimes following closely, sometime_oing on in advance as though to lead the way. Once within the cabin he le_im to the store-room in the rock where was an abundance of food, which th_atter proceeded to divide between himself and his dumb guide.
  • Having satisfied his hunger, the young man took a newspaper from the table,
  • and, going outside the cabin, seated himself to await the return of hi_nknown host. Sitting there, he discovered for the first time the railwa_inding around the sides of the lofty mountain opposite. The sight filled hi_ith delight, for those slender rails, gleaming in the morning sunlight,
  • seemed to connect him with the world which he remembered, but from which h_ppeared so strangely isolated.
  • Unfolding the newspaper his attention was attracted by the date, at which h_azed in consternation, his eyes riveted to the page. For a moment his hea_wam, he was unable to believe his own senses. Dropping the sheet and bowin_is head upon his hands he went carefully over the past as he now remembere_t,—the business on which he had been commissioned to come west; his journe_estward; the tragedy in the sleeping-car—he shuddered as the memory of th_urderer's face flashed before him with terrible distinctness; his receptio_t The Pines,—all was as clear as though it had happened but yesterday; it wa_n August, and this was August, but two years later! Great God! had two year_ropped out of his life? Again he recalled his illness, the long agony, th_inal sinking into oblivion, the strange awakening in perfect health; yes,
  • surely there must be a missing link; but how? where?
  • He rose to re-enter the cabin, and, passing the window, caught a glimpse o_is face reflected there; a face like, and yet unlike, his own, and crowne_ith snow-white hair! In doubt and bewilderment he paced up and down withi_he cabin, vainly striving to connect these fragmentary parts, to reconcil_he present with the past. As he passed and repassed the table covered wit_anuscript his attention was attracted by an odd-looking volume bound i_lexible morocco and containing several hundred pages of written matter. I_ay partly open in a conspicuous place, and upon the fly-leaf was written, i_arge, bold characters,—
  • > "To my Other Self, should he awaken."
  • He could not banish the words from his mind; they drew him with irresistibl_agnetism. Again and again he read them, until, impelled by some power h_ould not explain, he seized the volume and, seating himself in the doorway o_he cabin, proceeded to examine it. Lifting the fly-leaf, he read th_ollowing inscription:
  • > "To one from the outer world, whose identity is hidden among the secrets o_he past: "With the hope that when the veil is lifted, these pages may assis_im in uniting into one perfect whole the strangely disjointed portions of hi_ife, they are inscribed by
  • > "John Darrell."
  • He smiled as he read the name and recalled the circumstances under which h_ad taken it, but he no longer felt any hesitation regarding the volume in hi_ands, and he began to read. It was written as a communication from on_tranger to another, from the mountain recluse to one of whose life he had no_he slightest knowledge; but he knew without doubt that it was addressed t_imself, yet written by himself,—that writer and reader were one and the same.
  • For more than two hours he read on and on, deeply absorbed in the tale of tha_olitary life, his own heart responding to each note of joy or sorrow, of hop_r despair, and vibrating to the undertone of loneliness and longing runnin_hrough it all.
  • He strove vainly to recall the characters in the strange drama in which he ha_layed his part but of which he had now no distinct recollection; dimly the_assed before his vision like the shadowy phantoms of a dream from which on_as just awakened. He started at the first mention of John Britton's name,
  • eagerly following each outline of that noble character, his heart kindlin_ith affection as he read his words of loving, helpful counsel. His face gre_ender and his eyes filled at the love-story, so pathetically brief,
  • faithfully transcribed on those pages, but of Kate Underwood he could onl_ecall a slender girl with golden-brown hair and wistful, appealing brow_yes; he wondered at the strength of character shown by her speech an_onduct, and his heart went out to this unknown love, notwithstanding tha_emory now showed him the picture of another and earlier love in the far East.
  • But it was the story of John Britton's life which moved him most. Wit_trained, eager eyes and bated breath he read that sad recital, and at it_ermination, buried his face in his hands and sobbed like a child.
  • When he had grown calm he sat for some time reviewing the past and formin_lans for future action. While thus absorbed in thought he heard a step, and,
  • looking up, saw standing before him a man of apparently sixty years, wit_ronzed face and grizzled hair, whose small, piercing eyes regarded himsel_ith keen scrutiny. In response to the younger man's greeting he only bowe_ilently.
  • "You must be Peter, the hermit," the young man exclaimed; "but whoever yo_re, you are welcome; I am glad to see a human face."
  • "And you," replied the other, slowly, "you are not the same man that you wer_esterday; you have awakened, as he said you would some day."
  • "As who said?" the young man questioned.
  • "John Britton," the other replied.
  • "Yes, I have awakened, and my life here is like a dream. Sit down, Peter; _ant to ask you some questions."
  • For half an hour they sat together, the younger man asking questions, th_ther answering in as few words as possible, his keen eyes never leaving th_ace of his interlocutor.
  • "Where is this John Britton?" the young man finally inquired.
  • "In Ophir—at a place called The Pines."
  • "I know the place; I remember it. How far is it from here?"
  • "Fifteen miles by rail from the station at the foot of the mountain."
  • "I must go to him at once; you will show me the way. How soon can we get awa_rom here?"
  • Peter glanced at the sun. "We cannot get down the trail in season for to-day'_rain. We will start to-morrow morning."
  • Without further speech he then went into the cabin and busied himself with hi_ccustomed duties. When he reappeared he again stood silently regarding th_ounger man with his fixed, penetrating gaze.
  • "What awakened you?" he asked, at length.
  • The abruptness of the question, as well as its tenor, startled the other; tha_as a phase of the mystery surrounding himself of which he had not eve_hought.
  • "I do not know," he replied, slowly; "that question had not occurred to m_efore. What do you think? Might it not have come about in the ordinar_equence of events?"
  • Peter shook his head. "Not likely," he muttered; "there must have been a shoc_f some kind."
  • The young man smiled brightly. "Well, I cannot answer for yesterday's events,"
  • he said, "having neither record nor recollection of the day; but I certainl_ustained a shock this morning on awaking on the bare rocks at such a_ltitude as this and with no trace of a human being visible!"
  • "On the rocks!" Peter repeated; "where?"
  • "Yonder," said the young man, indicating the direction; "come, I will show yo_he exact spot."
  • He led the way to his rocky bed, near one end of the plateau, then watched hi_ompanion's movements as he knelt down and carefully inspected the rock, then,
  • rising to his feet, looked searchingly in every direction with his ferret-lik_lance.
  • "Ah!" the latter suddenly exclaimed, with emphasis, at the same time pointin_o a rock almost overhanging their heads.
  • Following the direction indicated, the young man saw a pine-tree on the edg_f the overhanging rock, the entire length of its trunk split open, it_ranches shrivelled and blackened as though by fire.
  • Peter, notwithstanding his age, sprang up the rocks with the agility of _anther, the younger man following more slowly. As he came up Peter turne_rom an examination of the dead tree and looked at him significantly.
  • "An electric shock!" he said; "that was a living tree yesterday. There was a_lectric storm last night, the worst in years; it brought death to the tree,
  • but life to you."
  • To the younger man the words of the old hermit seemed incredible, but tha_ight brought him a strange confirmation of their truth. Upon disrobing fo_he night, what was his astonishment to discover upon his right shoulder an_xtending downward diagonally across the right breast a long, blue mark o_rregular, zigzag form, while running parallel with it its entire length,
  • perfect as though done in India ink with an artist's pen, was the outline o_he very scene surrounding him where he lay that morning—cliff and crag an_ountain peak—traced indelibly upon the living flesh, an indubitable evidenc_f the power which had finally aroused his dormant faculties and a souvenir o_he lost years which he would carry with him to his dying day.