Whether they saw it in the reflections on the running water, or whether the maze of shadow and sunshine in the wooded banks produced it, no one knew exactly. The figures, at any rate, were plainly visible, moving along with singing and dancing through the summery noontide of the brilliant day. No one spoke while they went by, no one except Maria who at intervals murmured "Yes." There was no other audible comment or remark. They afterwards agreed that Weeden was seen clearest, but Thompson and Mrs. Horton were fairly distinct as well, and bringing up the rear was a figure in blue that could only have been the Policeman who lived usually upon the high road to London. They carried flowers in their arms, they moved lightly and quickly--it was uncommonly like dancing--and their voices floated through the woodland s.p.a.ces with a sound that, if it was not singing, was at least an excellent imitation--an attempt to sing!
"They're not lost," said Tim, as they disappeared from view. "They're just looking--for the way."
"The way home," said Judy. "And they're following some one--who knows it."
"Yes," added Maria. For another figure, more like a tree moving in the wind than anything else, and certainly looking differently to each of them--another figure was seen in advance of the group, seen in flashes, as it were, and only glimpses of it discernible among the world of moving green. This other figure was singing too; s.n.a.t.c.hes of wild sweet music floated through the quiet wood--one said the singing of a bird, another, the wind, a third, the rippling murmur of the stream--but, to one and all, an enchanting and enticing sound. And, to one and all, familiar too, with the familiarity of a half-remembered dream.
And a flood of memory rose about them as they watched and listened, a tide that carried them away with it into the heart of something they knew, yet had forgotten. In the few moments' interval an eternity might have pa.s.sed. Their hearts opened curiously, they saw wonder growing like a flower inside--the exquisite wonder of common things. There was something they were looking for, but they had found it. The flower of wonder blossomed there before their very eyes, explaining the world, but not explaining it away, explaining simply that it was wonderful beyond all telling. They all knew suddenly what they didn't know they knew; they understood what n.o.body understands. None knew why it came just at this particular moment, and none knew where it came from either. It was there, so what else mattered. It broke upon them out of the heart of the summer's day, out of this very ordinary Sunday morning, out of the br.i.m.m.i.n.g life all about them that was pa.s.sing but could never pa.s.s away. The familiar figures of the gardener, the butler, the policeman and the cook brought back to them the memory of something they had forgotten, yet brought it back in the form of endless and inexhaustible enticement rather than of complete recovery.
There had been long preparation somewhere, growth, development; but that was past and they gave no thought to it; Expectancy and Wonder rushed them off their feet. The world hid something. Every one was looking for it. _They_ must go on looking, looking, looking too!
_What_ it was they had forgotten--they entirely forgot. Only the marvellous hint remained, and the certainty that it could be found.
For, to each of them it seemed, came this fairy reminder, stealing deliciously upon the senses: somewhere, somehow, they had known an experience that had enriched their lives. It had become part of them.
It had always been in them, but they had found it now. They felt quite positive about it. They believed. To Tim came messages from the solid earth about him, secrets from creatures that lived in it and knew; Judy, catching a thousand kisses from the air upon her cheeks, divined the mystery of all flying life--that brought the stars within her reach; Maria, possessing all within herself, remained steady and calm at the eternal centre of the circle--a clearing-house for messages from everywhere at once. Asking nothing for herself, she merely wanted to give away, give out. She said "Yes" to all that came her way; and all did come her way. To every one of them, to Stumper and Uncle Felix too, came a great conviction that they had pa.s.sed nearer, somehow, to an everlasting joy. There was no hurry, life had just begun--seemed singing everywhere about them. There was Unity.
"It's a lovely day," remarked Uncle Felix presently. "I want my luncheon."
He picked up Maria and moved on across the bridge.
"It's the Extra Day," Maria whispered in his ear. "It's my adventure, but you all can have it."
The others followed with Come-Back Stumper, and in the lane they saw the figures of Weeden, Thompson and Mrs. Horton in front of them, coming home from church. They were walking quietly enough.
"We're not late, then," Tim remarked. "There's lots of time!"
Crossing the field in the direction of the London road a policeman was moving steadily. They saw him stoop and pick a yellow flower as he went. He was off to take charge of the world upon his Sunday beat. He disappeared behind a hedge. The butler and the cook vanished through a side-door into the old Mill House about the same time.
In due course, they also arrived at the porch, and Uncle Felix set his burden down. As they sc.r.a.ped their muddy boots and rubbed them on the mat, their backs were turned to the outside world; but Maria, whose boots required no sc.r.a.ping, happened to face it still. As usual she faced in all directions like a circle.
"Look," she said. "There's some one coming!"
And they saw the figure of a tramp go past the opening of the drive where the London road was just visible. He paused a moment and looked towards the house. He did not come in. He just looked--and waved his hand at them. The next minute he was gone. But not before Maria had returned his wave.
"He'll come back," suggested Stumper, as they went inside.
"Yes," said Maria. "He's mine--but you can have him too."
Ten minutes later, when they all sat down to lunch, the big blue figure of the policeman pa.s.sed the opening of the drive. Being occupied with hot roast beef, they did not see him. He paused a moment, looked towards the house, and then went slowly out of sight again along the London road, following the tramp....
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»