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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 18
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 18 Post by :tomfra Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :2370

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 18

BOOK I CHAPTER XVIII

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 of iron on wood was occurring at intervals. Then it managed to turn its head, and it saw a big, beautiful man sitting on the end of an old soapbox and smoking a pipe. Then it was seized with a wrenching sickness, and the big man came quickly and held its head and was very good to it, and it felt better and went to sleep. After a while it descended into the Red Sea, with the avowed intention of calling Neptune Red Renard to his face, and when it got to the bottom, which was of red brick sprinkled with white door-knobs that people kept diving for, it became frightened and ran and ran until it came to the bottom of an iceberg, that had roots like a hyacinth bulb and was looking for a place to plant itself, and it climbed up to the top of the iceberg, which was all bulrushes, and said, "I beg your pardon, but I forgot; I must go back and make my apologies." Then it woke up and spoke in a weak voice.

"Peter Manners," said Aladdin, "come here."

Manners came and sat on the floor beside him.

"Feel better now?" he said.

"Tell me--" said Aladdin.

"Oh, stuff!" said Manners.

"Manners," said Aladdin, "you don't look as if you hated me any more."

"You sleep," said Manners. "That's what you need."

Aladdin thought for a long time and tried to remember what he wanted to say, and shutting his eyes, to think better, fell asleep.

For the third time he awoke. Manners was back on the soap-box, still as a sphinx, and smoking his pipe.

"Please come and talk some more," said Aladdin.

Again Manners came.

"Tell me about it," said Aladdin.

"You be good and go to sleep," said Manners.

"What time is it?"

"Nearly morning."

"Still storming?"

"No; stars out and warmer."

Aladdin thought a moment.

"Manners," he said, "please talk to me. How did you find me?"

"Simply enough," said Manners. "I took the senator's cutter out for a little drive, and got lost. Then I heard somebody laughing, and I stumbled over you and your horse; that's all. How the devil did you manage to lose your saddle and bridle?"

"It was a dead horse," said Aladdin, and he shivered at the recollection.

"Quite so," said Manners.

"It was the funniest thing," said Aladdin, and again he shuddered with a kind of reminiscent revolt. "I pushed it, and it fell over frozen to death." He was conscious of talking nonsense.

"Wait a minute, Manners," he said. "I'll be sensible in a minute."

Presently he told Manners about the horse.

"I saw alight just then," he said, "and I thought it was an angel."

"It was I," said Manners, naively.

"Yes, Manners, it was you," said Aladdin.

He thought about an angel turning out to be Manners for a long time. Then a terrible recollection came to him, and, in a voice shaking with remorse and self-incrimination, he cried:

"God help me, Manners, I would have let you freeze."

Manners pulled at his pipe.

"Manners," said Aladdin, "it's true I know it's true, because, for all I knew, I was dying when I said it."

Manners shook his head.

"Oh, no," said Manners.

"Make me think that," said Aladdin, with a quaver. "Please make me think that if you can, for, God help me, I think I would have let you freeze."

"When I found you," said Manners, "I--I was sorry that the Lord hadn't sent somebody else to you, and me to somebody else. That was because you always hated me with no very good reason, and a man hates to be hated, and so, to be quite honest, I hated you back."

"Right," said Aladdin, "right."

Light began to come in through the windows, whose broken panes Manners had stopped with crumpled wall-paper.

"But when I got you here," said Manners, "and began to work over you, you stopped being Aladdin O'Brien, and were just a man in trouble."

"Yes," said Aladdin, "it must be like that. It's got to be like that."

"At first," said Manners, "I worked because it seemed the proper thing to do, and then I got interested, and then it became terrible to think that you might die."

"Yes," said Aladdin. His face was ghastly in the pre-sunrise light.

"You wouldn't get warm for hours," said Manners, "and I got so tired that I couldn't rub any more, and so I stripped and got into the blankets with you, and tried to keep you as warm as I could that way."

He paused to relight his pipe.

Aladdin stared up at the tattered ceiling with wide, wondering eyes.

"When you got warm," said Manners, "I gave you all the rest of the whisky, and I'm sorry it made you sick, and now you're as fit as a fiddle."

"Fit-as-a-fiddle," said Aladdin, slowly, as the wonder grew. And then he began to cry like a little child. Manners waited till he had done, and then wiped his face for him.

"So you see," said Manners, simply, though with difficulty,--for he was a man shy, to terror, of discussing his own feelings,--"I can't help liking you now, and--and I hope you won't feel so hard toward me any more."

"I feel hard toward you!" said Aladdin. "Oh, Manners!" he cried. "I thought all along that you were just a man that knew about horses and dogs, but I see, I see; and I'm not going to worship anybody any more except you and God, I'm not!"

Then he had another great long, hot cry. Manners waited patiently till it was over.

"Manners," said Aladdin, in a choky, hoarse voice, "I think you're different from what you used to be. You look as if--as if you 'd got the love of mankind in you."

Manners did not answer. He appeared to be thinking of something wonderful.

"Do you think that's it?" cried Aladdin.

Manners did not answer.

"Can't I get it, too?" Aladdin cried. "Have I got to be little and mean always? So help me, Manners, I don't love any one but you and her."

"You 're not fit to talk," said Manners, with great gentleness. "You go to sleep." He arose, and going to the door of the house, opened it a little way and looked out.

"It's warm as toast out, Aladdin," he called. "There's going to be a big thaw." He closed the door and went into the next room, and Aladdin could hear him talking to the horse. After a little he came back.

"Greener says that she never was better stalled," he said.

"Manners," said Aladdin, "have I been raving?"

"Not been riding quite straight," said Manners.

"How soon are we going to start?" said Aladdin.

"We've got to wait till the snow's pretty well melted," said Manners. "About noon, I think."

Then, because he was very tired and sick and weak, and perhaps a trifle delirious, Aladdin asked Manners if he would mind holding his hand. Manners took the hand in his, and a thrill ran up Aladdin's arm and all over him, till it settled deliciously about his heart, and he slept.

The sun rose, and dazzling beams of light filled the room.

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BOOK I CHAPTER XVThe weather turned suddenly gusty and cold, and that afternoon it began to snow, and it kept on snowing. All night fine dry flakes fell in unexampled profusion, and by morning the face of the land was many inches deep. Nor did the snow then cease. All the morning it continued to fall with vigor. The train by which Aladdin was to go to the St. Johns' left at two-thirty, arriving there two hours later; and it was with numb feet and stinging ears that he entered the car reserved for smokers, and, bundling in a somewhat threadbare
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