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      He had made an excursion into fairy landthat was how he framed the matter to himself. There had been The Cedars and work for him before, there would be work and The Cedars for him afterwards. Those who have drunk of the metheglin never perhaps afterwards are wholly free from the reminiscence of the sweet draught brewed magically from the heather and the honey, but they go back after their sojourn among the little people, and behave like ordinary mortals again, and eat the home-brewed bread, and move about their appointed ways. But the nights and days they have spent in the secret places of the earth will, till they die, be more vivid to them than all the actual experiences that they go through afterwards and went through before they penetrated the enchanted glen; the remembrance will colour their idle moments with the ensanguined hue of dream; that baseless fabric, that vision of hidden doors thrown open and the things that lurk within, is more rich, just because to them it is more real than the sober tonelessness of their profession or{328} pursuit. Therefore if they are wise, the best thing they can do is, like Prospero, to drown the magic book beneath the waters of absorbing employment. Often it will float up again to the surface, and each time it must be prodded back with averted eyes. So, for Keeling, a love that could not be realised once crowned the hill-tops of his nature; now that citadel and the very hill-tops themselves had been shaken down and strewn over the plains. He had now one paramount needthat of forgetting, and, since he could not forget, the need resolved itself into the effort to remember as little as possible, to use up in other ways the energy which was his, and the leisure that he could command if he chose.There was now scarcely light to distinguish external objects, when a sudden rush was heard from the town, and, in an instant, a dozen persons surrounded the peddling merchant, and seizing him violently, while uttering threats and imprecations, dragged the dusty-foot to the court of Pie-powder.[1] As they were hauling him along, the crowd increased, the fair was forsaken, all pressing eagerly forward to learn the fate of the unlucky pedlar. The galleyman seemed perfectly to comprehend the nature of his dangernot by the changing colour of his cheek, for that exhibited still the same glowing brownbut by the restless flash of his full black eyes, glancing before and around, as if looking for some chance of escape.

      The clock ticked on into the silence, the fire spluttered, and a cat licked itself before it. He sat hunched miserably, hearing nothing, seeing nothing. In his breast, where his heart had used to be, was a heavy dead thing that knew neither joy nor sorrow. Reuben was feeling old again."Oh yes, but you did;don't you remember one Robin Wells, a stout rosy boy with curly hair, that made you a wreath of holly and ivyone All-hallows dayand put it on your head, and called you a little queen? You were ten years old that day, and it is just ten years and three days since then. Don't you remember it?"

      "Yes,but Holgrave entered and"

      "Please you, my lord," said Wells, nothing daunted, "did not John Oakley get Stephen Holgrave from the forest of Dean?"And how about the repayment of the loan itself? asked Keeling. How will that be guaranteed? The hospital is working at a loss. I dont mind that so much: appeals can be made to wipe off small deficits on working expenses. But an institution that is working at a loss cant get a further loan from a public body without giving some security for its repayment. At least, if I was on that public body, I would resign my place rather than consent to it. What sort of balance sheet would we have to show the taxpayers? No, my lord, thats quite out of the question.

      "And I will tell you, John Leicester, that if it is my will which is to decide, we will have no king but one; and that one shall be Richard. And that all lawyers and escheators, shall lose their headsaye, by St. Nicholas! and that before four days are gone, the laws shall proceed from my mouth!" interrupted the smith, rising from his stool and striking the table violently with his clenched fist.

      One evening, about the eighth day after the birth of his infant, fatigued in body, and troubled in spirit (for Calverley had that day exercised to the full the commanding power with which he was invested), he entered the cottage, and found Margaret weeping over the little babe.

      A few small incidents during dinner rather surprised her; once Lady Inverbroom, in helping herself to some hot sauce let a drop of it fall on the fingers of the footman who handed it to her. Instantly she turned round in her chair and said in a voice of real concern (just as if the man had not been a piece of furniture), I beg your pardon; I hope I didnt burn you! After dinner again, when cigarettes came round, she was rather astonished at being offered one, and holding her head very high, turned abruptly away. No doubt it was a mistake, but there would have been words{166} at the Cedars next morning, if the parlour-maid had offered a cigarette to any lady. Indeed she was rather astonished that Lord Inverbroom lit his without first asking her if she minded the perfume.


      If you think it best, I will, she said. Whatever we do, dont let us waste time here.


      He was sorry she was going, but made no attempt to detain her, and presently she was walking back along the still sunny road with her brother.


      He learned to love the moving shadows of clouds[Pg 414] travelling over a sunlit viewto love ridged distances fading from dark bice, through blue, to misty grey. He used to watch for the sparkle of light on far cottage windows, the white sheen of farmhouse walls and the capped turrets of oasts. But he loved best of all to feel the earth under his cheek when he cast himself down, the smell of her teeming sap, the sensation that he lay on a kind breast, generous and faithful. It was strange that the result of all his battles should be this sense of perfect union, this comfort in his loneliness. Reuben was not ashamed at eighty years old to lie full length in some sun-hazed field, and stretch his body over the grass, the better to feel that fertile quietness and moist freshness which is the comfort of those who make the ground their bed.He dropped the paper, and stood up by the fireplace.