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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 18. John Sees Something
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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 18. John Sees Something Post by :Rich_Holder Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2308

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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 18. John Sees Something


As we rode, I told him everything. It did not seem in the least strange that I should be so close to one of whom a few days before I had never heard; it seemed as if all my life I had been waiting for him, and now he was come, and everything was only as it should be! We were very quiet in our gladness. Some slight anxiety about my uncle's decision, and the certain foreboding of trouble on the part of his mother, stilled us both, sending the delight of having found each other a little deeper and out of the way of the practical and reasoning.

We did not urge our horses to their speed, but I felt that, for my uncle's sake, I must not prolong the journey, forcing the last farthing of bliss from his generosity, while yet he was uncertain of his duty. The moon was rising just as we reached my home, and I was glad: John would have to walk miles to reach his, for he absolutely refused to take Death on, saying he did not know what might happen to him. As we stopped at the gate I bethought myself that neither of us had eaten since we left in the afternoon. I dismounted, and leaving him with the horses, got what I could find for him, and then roused Dick, who was asleep. John confessed that, now I had made him think of it, he was hungry enough to eat anything less than an ox. We parted merrily, but when next we met, each confessed it had not been without a presentiment of impending danger. For my part, notwithstanding the position I had presumed to take with John when first he spoke of his mother, I was now as distrustful as he, and more afraid of her.

Much the nearest way between the two houses lay across the heath. John walked along, eating the supper I had given him, and now and then casting a glance round the horizon. He had got about half-way, when, looking up, he thought he saw, dim in the ghosty light of the moon, a speck upon the track before him. He said to himself it could hardly be any one on the moor at such a time of the night, and went on with his supper. Looking up again after an interval, he saw that the object was much larger, but hardly less vague, because of a light fog which had in the meantime risen. By and by, however, as they drew nearer to each other, a strange thrill of recognition went through him: on the way before him, which was little better than a footpath, and slowly approaching, came what certainly could be neither the horse that had carried him that day, nor his double, but what was so like him in colour, size, and bone, while so unlike him in muscle and bearing, that he might have been he, worn but for his skin to a skeleton. Straight down upon John he came, spectral through the fog, as if he were asleep, and saw nothing in his way. John stepped aside to let him pass, and then first looked in the face of his rider: with a shock of fear that struck him in the middle of the body, making him gasp and choke, he saw before him--so plainly that, but for the impossibility, he could have sworn to him in any court of justice--the man whom he knew to be at that moment confined to his bed, twenty miles away, with a broken arm. Sole other human being within sight or sound in that still moonlight, on that desolate moor, the horseman never lifted his head, never raised his eyes to look at him. John stood stunned. He hardly doubted he saw an apparition. When at length he roused himself, and looked in the direction in which it went, it had all but vanished in the thickening white mist.

He found the rest of his way home almost mechanically, and went straight to bed, but for a long time could not sleep.

For what might not the apparition portend? Mr. Whichcote lay hurt by a fall from his horse, and he had met his very image on the back of just such a horse, only turned to a skeleton! Was he bearing him away to the tomb?

Then he remembered that the horse's name was Death.

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CHAPTER XVII. THE SUMMONSNext morning the post brought me the following letter from my uncle. Whoever of my readers may care to enter into my feelings as I read, must imagine them for herself: I will not attempt to describe them. The letter was not easy to read, as it was written in bed, and with his left hand."My little one,--I think I know more than you imagine. I think the secret flew into your heart of itself; you did not take it up and put it there. I think you tried to drive it out, and it would not go: