Sometimes they shot at him, as peasants do at aeronauts, thinking him mad and dangerous. Thus his clothes were much shredded by bullets and his person grievously lacerated. But he bore it all patiently.
In the beginning of his pilgrimage he used often to say, "Ah, if I could but hear the 'Sweet By-and-by'!" But toward the end of it he used to shed tears of anguish and say, "Ah, if I could but hear something else!"
Thus a month and three weeks drifted by, and at last some humane people seized him and confined him in a private mad-house in New York. He made no moan, for his strength was all gone, and with it all heart and all hope. The superintendent, in pity, gave up his own comfortable parlor and bedchamber to him and nursed him with affectionate devotion.
At the end of a week the patient was able to leave his bed for the first time. He was lying, comfortably pillowed, on a sofa, listening to the plaintive Miserere of the bleak March winds and the muffled sound of tramping feet in the street below for it was about six in the evening, and New York was going home from work. He had a bright fire and the added cheer of a couple of student-lamps. So it was warm and snug within, though bleak and raw without; it was light and bright within, though outside it was as dark and dreary as if the world had been lit with Hartford gas. Alonzo smiled feebly to think how his loving vagaries had made him a maniac in the eyes of the world, and was proceeding to pursue his line of thought further, when a faint, sweet strain, the very ghost of sound, so remote and attenuated it seemed, struck upon his ear. His pulses stood still; he listened with parted lips and bated breath. The song flowed on he waiting, listening, rising slowly and unconsciously from his recumbent position. At last he exclaimed:
"It is! it is she! Oh, the divine hated notes!"
He dragged himself eagerly to the corner whence the sounds proceeded, tore aside a curtain, and discovered a telephone. He bent over, and as the last note died away he burst forthwith the exclamation:
"Oh, thank Heaven, found at last! Speak tome, Rosannah, dearest! The cruel mystery has been unraveled; it was the villain Burley who mimicked my voice and wounded you with insolent speech!"
There was a breathless pause, a waiting age to Alonzo; then a faint sound came, framing itself into language:
"Oh, say those precious words again, Alonzo!"
"They are the truth, the veritable truth, my Rosannah, and you shall have the proof, ample and abundant proof!"
"Oh; Alonzo, stay by me! Leave me not for a moment! Let me feel that you are near me! Tell me we shall never be parted more! Oh, this happy hour, this blessed hour, this memorable hour!"
"We will make record of it, my Rosannah; every year, as this dear hour chimes from the clock, we will celebrate it with thanksgivings, all the years of our life."
"We will, we will, Alonzo!"
"Four minutes after six, in the evening, my Rosannah, shall henceforth--"
"Twenty-three minutes after twelve, afternoon shall--"
"Why; Rosannah, darling, where are you?"
"In Honolulu, Sandwich Islands. And where are you? Stay by me; do not leave me for a moment. I cannot bear it. Are you at home?"
"No, dear, I am in New York--a patient in the doctor's hands."
An agonizing shriek came buzzing to Alonzo's ear, like the sharp buzzing of a hurt gnat; it lost power in traveling five thousand miles. Alonzo hastened to say:
"Calm--yourself, my child. It is nothing. Already I am getting well under the sweet healing of your presence. Rosannah?"
"Yes, Alonzo? Oh, how you terrified me! Say on."
"Name the happy day, Rosannah!"
There was a little pause. Then a diffident small voice replied, "I blush--but it is with pleasure, it is with happiness. Would--would you like to have it soon?"
"This very night, Rosannah! Oh, let us risk no more delays. Let it be now!--this very night, this very moment!"
"Oh, you impatient creature! I have nobody here but my good old uncle, a missionary for a generation, and now retired from service--nobody but him and his wife.