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- The Extra Day - 53/57 -
Then, in this chorus, came a pause; the thousand voices hushed a moment; the robin ceased its passionate solo in the shrubbery. All listened--listened to another and far sweeter song that stirred with the morning wind among the rose trees. It was very soft and tender, it died away and returned with a faint, mysterious murmur, it rose and fell so gently that it may have been only the rustling of their thousand leaves that guard the opening blossoms.
Yet it ran with power across the entire waking earth:
My secret's in the wind and open sky, There is no longer any Time--to lose; The world is young with laughter; we can fly Among the imprisoned hours as we choose. The rushing minutes pause; an unused day Breaks into dawn and cheats the tired sun. The birds are singing: Hark! Come out and play! There is no hurry; life has just begun.
And as it died away the sun itself came up and shouted it aloud as with a million golden trumpets.
TIME GOES ON AGAIN---
Hardly had Judy closed her eyes for the second time, however, than the globular object she had noticed in the corner stirred. It turned, but turned all over, as though it were a ball. It made a sideways movement too, a movement best described as budging. And, accompanying the movements, was a comfortable, contented, satisfied sound that some people call deep breathing, and others call a sigh.
The globular outline then grew slightly longer; one portion of it left the central mass, but left it slowly. The lower part prolonged itself. Slight cracks were audible like sharp reports, muffled but quite distinct. Next, the other end of the ball extended itself, twisted in a leisurely fashion sideways, rose above the general surface and plainly showed itself. It, too, was round. It emerged. Upon its surface shone two small pools of blue. It was a face. Even in the grey, uncertain light this was beyond dispute. It was Maria's face.
Maria awoke. She looked about her calmly. Her mind, ever unclouded because it thought of one thing only, took in the situation at a glance. It was dawn, she was in bed and sleepy, it was not time to get up. Dawn, sleep, bed and time belonged to her. There certainly was no hurry.
The pools of blue then disappeared together, the smaller ball sank down into the pillow to join the larger one, the lower portion that had stretched itself drew in again, and a peaceful sigh informed the universe that Maria intended to resume her interrupted slumbers. She became once more a mere globular outline, self-contained, at rest.
But, in accepting life as it really was by lying down again, the lesser ball had imperceptibly occupied a new position. Maria's head had shifted. Her ear now pressed against another portion of the pillow. And this pressure, communicating itself to an object that lay beneath the pillow, touched a small brass handle, jerked it forward, released a bit of quivering wire connected with a set of wheels, and set in motion the entire insides of this hidden object. There was a sound of grating. This hard, metallic sound rose through the feathers, a clicking, thudding noise that reached her brain. It was--she knew instantly--the stopped alarum clock. It had been overwound. The weight of her head had started it again.
Maria, as usual, by doing nothing in particular, had accomplished much. By yielding herself to her surroundings, she united her insignificant personal forces with the gigantic purposes of Life. She swung contentedly in rhythm with the universe. Maria had set the clock going again!
There was excitement in her then, but certainly no hurry. Disturbing herself as little as possible, she pushed one hand beneath the pillow, drew out the ticking clock, looked at it quietly, remembered sleepily that it had stopped at dawn--Uncle Felix had said so--put it on the chair beside her bed, and promptly retired again into her eternal centre.
"Tim's clock," she realised, "but I've got it." There was no expression on her face whatever. Another child might have taken the trouble--felt interested, at any rate--to try and see what time it was. But Maria, aware that the dim light would make this a difficult and tedious operation, did nothing of the sort. It could make no difference anyhow to any one, anywhere! She was content to know that it was some time or other, and that the clock was going again. Her plan of life was: interfere with nothing. She did not know, therefore, that the hands pointed with accuracy to 4 A. M., because she merely did not care to know. But, not caring to know placed her on a loftier platform of intelligence than the rest of the world--certainly above that of her sister, Judy, who was snoring softly among the shadows just across the room. Maria didn't know that she didn't know. No one could rebuke her with "You might have known," much less "You didn't know,"--because she didn't know she didn't know! It was the biggest kind of knowledge in the world. Maria had it.
But before she actually regained her absolute centre, and long before she lost sight of herself within its depths, dim thoughts came floating through her mind like pictures that moonlight paints upon high summer clouds. She saw these pictures; that is, she looked at them and recognised their existence; but she asked no questions. They reached her through the ticking of the busy clock beside the bed; the ticking brought them; but it brought them back. Maria remembered things. And chief among them were the following: That Uncle Felix had promised everybody an Extra Day, that he had stopped all the clocks to let it come, that this Extra Day was to be her own particular adventure, that last night was Saturday, and that this was, therefore, Sunday morning, very early.
And the instant she remembered these things, they were real--for her. She accepted them, one and all, even the contradictions in them. If this was actually an Extra Day it could not be Sunday morning too, and _vice versa_. But yet she knew it was. Both were. The confusion was a confusion of words only. There were too many words about.
"Why not?" expressed her attitude. The clock might tick itself to death for all she cared. The Extra Day was her adventure and she claimed it. But she did not bother about it.
Above all, she asked no questions. Nothing really meant anything in particular, because everything meant everything. To ask questions, even of herself, involved hearing a lot of answers and listening to them. But answers were explanations, and explanations muddled and obscured. Explanations were a new set of questions merely. People who didn't know asked questions, and people who didn't understand gave explanations. Aunt Emily explained--because she didn't understand. Also, because she didn't understand, she didn't know. To ask a question was the same thing as to explain it. Everything was one thing. She, Maria, both knew and understood.
She did not say all this, she did not think it even; she just felt it all: it was her feeling. Believing in her particular adventure of an Extra Day, she had already experienced it. She had shared it with the others too. It was _her_ Extra Day, so she could do with it what she pleased. "They can have it," she gave the clock to understand. "I'm going to sleep again." All life was an extra day to her.
She went to sleep; sleep, rather, came to her. Happy dreams amused and comforted her. And, while she dreamed, the dawn slid higher up the sky, ushering in--Sunday Morning.
Consciousness was first--unconsciousness; the biggest changes are unconscious before they are conscious. They have been long preparing. They fall with a clap; and people call them sudden and exclaim, "How strange!" But it is only the discovery and recognition that are sudden. It all has happened already long ago--happened before. The faint sense of familiarity betrays it. It is there the strangeness lies.
And it was this delicate fragrance of an uncommunicable strangeness that floated in the air when Uncle Felix and the children came down to breakfast that Sunday morning and heard the sound of bells in the wind across the fields. They came down punctually for a wonder, too; Maria, last but not actually late, brought the alarum clock with her. "It's going," she stated quietly, and handed it to her brother.
Tim took it without a word, looked at it, shook it, listened to its ticking against his ear, then set it on the mantelpiece where it belonged. He seemed pleased to have it in his possession again, yet something puzzled him. An expression of wonder flitted across his face; the eyes turned upwards; he frowned; there was an effort in him --to remember something. He turned to Maria who was already deep in porridge.
"Did _you_ wind it up?" he asked. "I thought it'd stopped--last night."
"It's going," she said, thinking of her porridge chiefly.
"It wasn't, though," insisted Tim. He reflected a moment, evidently perplexed. "I wound it and forgot," he added to himself, "or else it wound itself." He went to his place and began his breakfast.
"Wound itself," mentioned Maria, and then the subject dropped.
It was Sunday morning, and everybody was dressed in Sunday things. The excitement of the evening before, the promise of an Extra Day, the detailed preparation--all this had disappeared. Being of yesterday, it was no longer vital: certainly there was no necessity to consult it. They looked forward rather than backward; the mystery of life lay ever just in front of them, what lay behind was already done with. They had lived it, lived it out. It was in their possession therefore, part of themselves.
No one of the four devouring porridge round that breakfast table had forgotten about the promise, any more than they had forgotten giving up their time-pieces, the conversation, and all the rest of it. It was not forgetfulness. It was not loss of interest either that led no one
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