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- The Extra Day - 30/57 -


"I think," he went on enormously, "it's come!"

An entire minute passed without a sound.

"We can fill it with anything we like?" asked Judy, overawed a little.

"Anything we like," came the sublime reply.

"And do things over and over again--sort of double--and no hurry?" Tim whispered.

"Anything, anywhere, anyhow, and no end to it all," he answered gloriously. "No hurry either!" It was too much to think about all at once, too big to realise. They all sat down again beside Maria, who had not moved an inch in any direction at all. She was a picture of sublime repose.

"We have only got to find it, then climb into it, then sail away," murmured Uncle Felix, with a strange catch in his breath they readily understood.

"When will it begin?" both children asked in the same breath.

"At dawn," he said.

"To-morrow morning?"

"At dawn to-morrow morning."

"But to-morrow's Sunday," they objected.

"To-morrow's--an Extra Day," he said amazingly.

They hesitated a moment, stared, frowned, smiled, then opened their eyes and mouths still wider than before.

"Oh, like that!" they exclaimed.

"Like that, yes," he said finally. "It means getting in behind Time, you see. There's no Time in an Extra Day because it's never been recorded by calendar or clock. And that means getting behind the great hurrying humbug of a thing that blinds and confuses everybody all the world over--it means getting closer to the big Reality that--"

He broke off sharply, aware that his own emotion was carrying him out of his depth, and out of their depth likewise. He changed the sentence: "We shall be in Eternity," he whispered very softly, so softly that it was scarcely audible perhaps.

And it was then that Maria, still seated solidly upon the lawn, looked up and asked another baffling and unexpected question. For this was _her_ private and particular adventure: and, living ever at the centre of the circle, Maria claimed even Eternity as especially her own. Her question was gigantic. It was infinitely bigger than her original question, "Why?" It was the greatest question in the universe, because it answered itself adequately at once. It was the question the undying gods have flung about the listening cosmos since Time first began its tricky cheating of delight--and still fling into the echoing hearts of men and children everywhere. The stars and insects, the animals and birds, even the stones and flowers, all keep the glorious echo flying.

"Why not?" she asked.

It was unanswerable.

CHAPTER XV

"A DAY WILL COME"

They went into the house as though wafted--thus does a shining heart deduct bodily weight from life's obstructions; they had their tea; after tea they played games as usual, quite ordinary games; and in due course they went to bed. That is, they followed a customary routine, feeling it was safer. To do anything unusual just then might attract attention to their infinite Discovery and so disturb its delicate equilibrium. Its balance was precarious. Once an Authority got wind of anything, the Extra Day might change its course and sail into another port. Aunt Emily, even from a distance...! In any case, they behaved with this intuitive sagacity which obviated every risk--by taking none.

Yet everything was different. Behind the routine lay the potent emphasis of some strange new factor, as though a lofty hope, a brave ideal, had the power of transmuting common duties into gold and crystal. This new factor pushed softly behind each little customary act, urging what was commonplace over the edge into the marvellous. The habitual became wonderful. It felt like Christmas Eve, like the last night of the Old Year, like the day before the family moved for the holidays to the sea--only more so. Even To-morrow-will-be-Sunday had entirely disappeared. A thrill of mysterious anticipation gilded everything with wonder and beauty that were impossible, yet true. Some Day, _the_ Thing that Nobody could Understand--Somebody--was coming at last.

Uncle Felix was in an extraordinary state; his acts were normal enough, but his speech betrayed him shamefully; they had to warn him more than once about it. He seemed unable to talk ordinary prose, saying that "Everything _ought_ to rhyme, At such a time," and, instead of walking like other people, his feet tried to keep in time with his language. "But you don't understand," he replied to Tim's grave warnings; "you don't understand what a gigantic discovery it is. Why, the whole world will thank us! The whole world will get its breath back! The one thing it's always dreaded more than anything else--being too late--will come to an end! We ought to dance and sing--"

"Oh, please hush!" warned Judy. "Aunt Emily, you know--" Even at Tunbridge Wells Aunt Emily might hear and send a telegram with No in it.

"Has it lost its breath?" Tim asked, however. But, though it was in the middle of tea, Uncle Felix could not restrain himself, and burst into one of his ridiculous singing fits, instead of answering in a whisper as he should have done. "Burst" described it accurately. And his feet kept time beneath the table. It was the proper place for Time, he explained.

The clocks are stopped, the calendars are wrong, Time holds gigantic finger-hands Before his guilty face. Listen a moment! I can hear the song That no one understands--

"It's the blue dragon-fly," interrupted Tim, remembering the story of long ago.

"It's the Night-Wind--out by day," cried Judy.

"It's both and neither," sang the man, "This song I hear. It first began Before the hurrying race Of ticking, and of tearing pages Deafened the breathless ages: It is the happy singing Of wind among the rigging Of our Extra Day!"

"It's something anyhow," decided Judy, rather impressed by her uncle's fit of bursting.

And, somehow, Dawn was the password and Tomorrow the key. No one knew more than that. It had to do with Time, for Uncle Felix had taken the stopped clock to his room and hidden it there lest somebody like Jackman or Thompson should wind it up. Later, however, he gave it for safer keeping to Maria, because she moved so rarely and did so little that was unnecessary that she seemed the best repository of all. Also, this was _her_ particular adventure, and what risk there was belonged properly to her. But beyond this they knew nothing, and they didn't want to know. In the immediate future, just before the gateway of To- morrow's dawn, a great gap lay waiting, a gap they had discovered alone of all the world. The scientists had made a mistake, the Government had been afraid to deal with it, the rest of the world lay in ignorance of its very existence even. It satisfied all the conditions of real adventure, since it was unique, impossible, and had never happened to any one before. They, with Uncle Felix, had discovered it. It belonged to them entirely--the most marvellous secret that anybody could possibly imagine. Maria, they took for granted, would share it with them. A hole in Time lay waiting to receive them. A _Day Will Come_ at last was actually coming.

"We'd better pack up," said Judy after tea. She said it calmly, but the voice had a whisper of intense expectancy in it.

"Pack up nothing," Uncle Felix reproved her quickly. "The important thing is--don't wind up. Just go on as usual. It will be best," he added significantly, "if you all hand over your timepieces to me at once." And, without a word, they recognised his wisdom and put their treasures into his waistcoat pockets--watches of silver, tin, and gunmetal. His use of the strange word "timepieces" was convincing. The unusual was in the air.

"There's Thompson's and Jackman's and Mrs. Horton's," Judy reminded him, her eyes shining like polished door-knobs.

"Too wrong to matter," decided Uncle Felix. "They're always slow or fast."

"Then there's the kitchen clock," Tim mentioned; "the grandfather thing."

Uncle Felix reflected a moment. His reply was satisfactory and conclusive:

"I'll go down to-night," he explained in a low voice, "when the servants are in bed. I'll take the weights off."

Judy and Tim appreciated the seriousness of the occasion more than ever.

"Into Mrs. Horton's kitchen?" they whispered.

"Into Mrs. Horton's kitchen," he agreed, beneath his breath.

Maria, meanwhile, said nothing. Her eyes kept open very wide, but no audible remark got past her lips. She paid no attention to the singing nor to the whispered conversation; she ate an enormous tea, finishing up all the cakes that the others neglected in their excitement and preoccupation; but she appeared as calm and unconcerned as the tea- cosy that concealed the heated, stimulating teapot beneath it. She


The Extra Day - 30/57

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