I have a message for your daughter, said Cale. I am bound to her with cables that not even God can break. One day, if there is a soft breeze on her cheek, it may be my breath; one night, if the cool wind plays with her hair, it may be my shadow passing by. And with this terrible threat he faced forward and the procession started once more. In less than a minute they were gone. In her shady room Arbell Swan-Neck stood white and cold as alabaster.
Outside the window, there slides past that unimaginable and deserted vastness where night is coming on, the sun declining in ghastly blood-streaked splendour like a public execution across, it would seem, half a continent, where live only bears and shooting stars and the wolves who lap congealing ice from water that holds within it the entire sky. All white with snow as if under dustsheets, as if laid away eternally as soon as brought back from the shop, never to be used or touched. Horrors! And, as on a cyclorama, this unnatural spectacle rolls past at twenty-odd miles an hour in a tidy frame of lace curtains only a little the worse for soot and drapes of a heavy velvet of dark, dusty blue.
It is growing cold. Winter is putting footsteps in the meadow. What whiteness boasts that sun that comes into this wood! One would say milk-colored maidens are dancing on the petals of orchids. How coldly burns our sun! One would say its rays of light are shards of snow, one imagines the sun lives upon a snow crested peak on this day. One would say she is a woman who wears a gown of winter frost that blinds the eyes. Helplessness has weakened me. Wandering has wearied my legs.
I was happy in the dream; but when I woke up it was with a feeling that I was falling apart, that I was cracking up from the inside and slowly falling to pieces. My heart was jumping and grating like a cold engine that doesn't want to start. My skin was crawling, and I couldn't manage a single clear thought. It was as if all my thoughts were crushed to bits just as they began to take shape. I didn't get much done that day.
When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.
Morning drew on apace. The air became more sharp and piercing, as its first dull hue: the death of night, rather than the birth of day: glimmered faintly in the sky. The objects which had looked dim and terrible in the darkness, grew more and more defined, and gradually resolved into their familiar shapes. The rain came down, thick and fast; and pattered, noisily, among the leafless bushes.