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- The Extra Day - 50/57 -
"An' you shouting to me to come this last 'arf hour and more!" cried Mrs. Horton. She, too, apparently, was in a "state."
"You are mistaken, Bridget, I have been singing, as I often do when attending to the silver, but as for--"
"You can do without a hat," she interrupted. "Come on! I want to go and look for--for--" She broke off, taking his arm as though they were going down the Strand or Oxford Street. Her red face beamed. She looked very proud and happy. She wanted to look for something too, but she could not believe the moment had really come. She had put it away so long--like a special dish in a cupboard.
"I don't know what's come over me," she went on very confidentially, as she moved beside him through the scullery door, "but--but I don't feel satisfied--not satisfied with meself as I used to be."
"No, Bridget?" It was in his best "7:30" manner. There was a struggle in him.
"No," said Mrs. Horton, with decision. "I give satisfaction--that I know--"
"We both do that," said Thompson proudly. "And no one can do a suet pudding to a turn as you can. Only the other day I heard Sir William a-speaking of it--"
She held his arm more tightly. They were on the lawn by now. The flood of sunlight caught them, showed up the worn and shabby places in his suit of broadcloth, gleamed on her bursting shoes she "fancied" for her kitchen work. They heard the birds, they smelt the flowers, the air bathed them all over like a sea.
"And the silver, Alfred," she said in a lower tone. "Who in the world can make it look as you do? But what I've been feeling lately--since this morning, that is to say--and feeling for the first time in me life, so to speak--"
"Bridget, dear, you've got it!" he interrupted with excitement, "I've felt it too. Felt it this morning first, when I woke up and remembered that nobody wanted hot-water nor early tea, and I said to myself, 'There's more than that in it. I'm not doing all this just only for a salary. I'm doing it for something else. What is it?'"
He spoke very rapidly for a butler. He looked down at her red and smiling face.
"What is it?" he repeated, curiously moved.
She looked up at him without a word.
"It's something 'idden," he said, after a pause. "That's what it is."
"That's it," agreed Mrs. Horton. "Like a recipe."
There was another pause. The butler broke it. They stood together in the middle of the field, flowers and birds and sunshine all about them.
"A mystery--inside of us," he said, "I think--"
"Yes, Alfred," the cook murmured softly.
"_I_ think," he continued, "it's a song and dance we want. A little life." He broke off abruptly, noticing the sudden movement of her bursting shoes. She took a long step forwards, then sideways. She opened her arms to the air and sun. She almost pirouetted.
"Life!" she cried, "'ot and fiery. Life! That's it. Hark, Alfred, d'ye hear that singing far away?" She felt the Irish break out of her. "Listen!" she cried, trying to drag him faster. "Listen, will ye? It makes me wild entirely! Give me yer hand! Come on and dance wid me! It's in me hearrt I feel it, in me blood. To the devil with me suet puddings and shepherd-poies--that singing's real, that's loife, that's lovely as a dhream! It's what I've been looking for iver since I can remember. I've got it!"
And Thompson felt himself spinning through the air. Old families were forgotten. The world was young with laughter. They could fly. They did.
The silver was beautifully cleaned. He had earned his holiday.
"That singing!" he gasped, feeling his heart grow big. He followed her across the flowered world. "I believe it is a bird! It would not surprise me to be told--"
"A birrd!" cried Mrs. Horton, turning him round and round. "It's a birrd from Heaven then! I've heard it all the morning. It's been singing in me heart for ages. Now it's out! Come follow it wid me! We'll go to the end of the wurrld to foinde it."
Her kitchen energy--some called it temper--had discovered a greater scope than puddings.
"There is no hurry," the butler panted, moving along with her, and trying hard to keep his balance. "We'll look together. We'll find it!" And as they raced across the field among the flowers after the line of disappearing figures, the Tramp looked back at them and waved his hand.
"It's a lovely morning," he said, as they came up with the rest of the party. "So you're looking too?"
Too much out of breath to answer, they just nodded, and the group accepted them without more to-do. Their object evidently was the same. Aunt Emily glanced up from her ferns, nodded and said, "Good morning, it's a lovely day"--and resumed her digging again. It was like shaking hands! They all went forward happily, eagerly, across the wide, wide world together.
The absence of surprise the children knew had now become a characteristic everybody shared. All were in the same state together. The whole day flowed, there were no limitations or conditions, least of all surprise. Even WEEDEN had forgotten hedges and artificial boundaries. No one, therefore, ejaculated nor exclaimed when they ran across the Policeman. He, too, was looking for some one, but, having mislaid his notebook and pencil stub, was unable to mention any names, and was easily persuaded to join the body of eager seekers. Being a policeman, he was naturally a seeker by profession; he was always looking for somebody somewhere--somebody who was going in the wrong direction.
"That's just it," he said, the moment he saw the Tramp, taking his helmet off as though an odd respect was in him. "That's just what I've always felt," he went on vaguely. "I'm looking for some one wot's a'looking for something else--only looking wrong."
"In the wrong places," suggested Stumper, remembering his Indian scouting days.
"In the wrong way," put in Uncle Felix, full of experience by now.
The Policeman listened attentively, as though by rights he ought to enter these sentences laboriously in his notebook.
"That's it, per'aps," he stated. "It takes 'em longer, but they finds out in the end. If I was to show 'em the right way of looking instead of arresting 'em--I'd be _reel_!" And then he added, as if he were giving evidence in a Court of Justice and before a County Magistrate, "There's no good looking for anything where it ain't, now is there?"
"Precisely," agreed Colonel Stumper, remembering happily that his pockets were full of snail-shells. He knew _his_ sign.
Thompson, Mrs. Horton, Weeden, and the Policeman glanced at him gratefully. But it was the last mentioned who replied:
"Because every one," he said with conviction at last, "has his own way of looking, and even the burgular is only looking wrong." He, too, it seemed, had found himself.
Their search, their endless hunt, their conversation and adventures thus might be reported endlessly, if only the book-shelves of the world were built more stoutly, and everybody could find an Extra Day lying about in which to read it all. Each seeker held true to his or her first love, obeying an infallible instinct. The adventure and romance that hid in Tim and Judy, respectively, sent them headlong after anything that offered signs of these two common but seductive qualities. Judy lived literally in the air, her feet, her heart, her eyes all off the ground; Tim, filled with an equally insatiable curiosity, found adorable danger in every rabbit-run, and rescued things innumerable. Off the ground he felt unsafe, unsure, and lost himself. Stumper, faithful to his scouting passion, disappeared into all kinds of undesirable places no one else would have dreamed of looking in, yet invariably--came back; and while Uncle Felix tried a little of everything and found "copy" in a puddle or a dandelion, Weeden carried his empty sack without a murmur, knowing it would be filled with truffles at the end. Aunt Emily, exceedingly particular, but no longer interfering with the others, was equally sure of herself. A touch of fluid youth ran in her veins again, and in her heart grew a fern that presently she would find everywhere outside as well--a maiden-hair.
Each, however, in some marvellous way, shared the adventures of the others, as though the Tramp merged all seven of them into one single being, unified them, at any rate, into this one harmonious, common purpose with himself. For, while everybody had a different way of looking, everybody's way--for that particular individual--was exactly right.
"Smell, then follow," was the secret. "Find your own sign and stick to it," the clue. Each sign, though by different routes, led straight towards the marvellous hiding-place. To urge one's own sign upon another was merely to delay that other; but to point out better signs of his own particular kind was to send him on faster than before. Thus there was harmony among them all, for every seeker, knowing this, had --found himself.
But, while there was no hurry, no passing, and, most certainly of all, no passing away, there was a sense of enormous interval. There were
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