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- The Extra Day - 54/57 -


to refer to it, least of all, to clamour for fulfilment. It was quite another motive that kept them silent, and that, even when Uncle Felix handed back the watches, prevented them saying anything more than "Thank you, Uncle," then hanging them on to belt and waistcoat.

Expectation--an eternal Expectation--was established in them.

But there was also this sense of elusive strangeness in their hearts, the certainty that an enormous interval had passed, almost the conviction that an Extra Day--had been. Somewhere, somehow, they had experienced its fulfilment: It was now inside them. A strange familiarity hung about this Sunday morning.

Yet there were still a million things to do and endless time in which to do them. Expectation was stronger than ever before, but the sense of Interval brought a happy feeling of completion too. There was no hurry. They felt something of what Maria felt, living at the centre of a circle that turned unceasingly but never finished. It was Maria's particular adventure, and Maria had shared it with them. Wonder and expectation made them feel more than usually--alive.

They talked normally while eating and drinking. If things were said that skirted a mystery, no one tried to find its name or label it. It was just hiding. Let it hide! To find it was to lose the mystery, and life without mystery was unthinkable.

"That's bells," said Tim, "it's church this morning"; but he did not sigh, there was no sinking of the heart, it seemed. He spoke as if it was an adventure he looked forward to. "I've decided what I'm going to be," he went on--"an engineer, but a mining engineer. Finding things in the earth, valuable things like coal and gold." Why he said it was not clear exactly; it had no apparent connection with church bells. He just thought of life as a whole, perhaps, and what he meant to do with it. He looked forward across the years to come. He distinctly knew himself alive.

"I shall put sixpence in, I think," observed Judy presently. "It's a lot. And I shall wear my blue hat with the pheasant's feather--"

"Pheasants feather," repeated Tim in a single word, amused as usual by a curious sound.

"And a wild rose _here_," she added, pointing to the place on her dress, though nobody felt interested enough to look. Her remark about the Collection was more vital than the other. Collections in church were made, they believed, to "feed the clergyman." And Sunday was the clergyman's day.

"I've got sixpence," Tim hastened to remind everybody. "I've got a threepenny bit as well."

"It's sixpence to-day, I think," Judy decided almost tenderly. Behind her thought was a caring, generous impulse; the motherly instinct sent her mind to the collection for the clergyman's comfort. But romance stirred too; she wanted to look her best. Her two main tendencies seemed very much alive this Sunday morning. The hat and the sixpence-- both were real.

Maria, as usual, had little or nothing to say. She spoke once, however.

"I dreamed," she informed the company. She did not look up, keeping her head bent over the bread and marmalade upon her plate; her blue eyes rolled round the table once, then dropped again. No one asked for details of her dream, she had no desire to supply them. She announced her position comfortably, as it were, set herself right with life, and quietly went on with the business of the moment, which was bread and marmalade.

Uncle Felix looked up, however, as she said it.

"That reminds me," he observed, "I dreamed too. I dreamed that you dreamed."

"Yes," Maria replied briefly, moving her eyes in his direction, but not her head. No other remarks were made; the statement was too muddled to stimulate interest particularly.

When breakfast was over they went to the open window and threw crumbs to a robin that was obviously expecting to be fed. They all leaned out with their heads in the sunlight, watching it. It hopped from a twig on to the ground, its body already tight to bursting. It looked like a toy balloon--as though it wore a dress of red elastic stretched to such a point that the merest pinprick must explode it with a sharp report; and it hopped as though springs were in its feet. The earth, like a taut sheet, made it bounce. Tim aimed missiles of bread rolled into pellets at its head, but never hit it.

"It's a lovely morning," remarked Uncle Felix, looking across the garden to the yellow fields beyond. "A perfect day. We'll walk to church." He brushed the breakfast crumbs from the waistcoat of his neat blue suit, lit his pipe, sniffed the air contentedly, and had an air generally of a sailor on shore-leave.

Judy sprang up. "There's button-holes to get," she mentioned, and flew out of the room like a flash of sunlight or a bird.

Tim raced after her. "Wallflower for me!" he cried, while Judy's answer floated back from halfway down the passage: "I'll have a wild rosebud--it'll match my hat!"

Uncle Felix and Maria were left alone, gazing out of the window side by side upon the "lovely morning." She was just high enough to see above the edge, and her two hands lay sprawled, fingers extended, upon the shining sill.

"Yes," she mentioned quietly, as to herself, "and I'll have a forget- me-not." Her eyes rolled up sideways, meeting those of her uncle as he turned and noticed her.

For quite suddenly he "noticed" her, became aware that she was there, discovered her. He stared a moment, as though reflecting. That "yes" had a queer, familiar sound about it, surely.

"Maria," he said, "I believe you will. Everything comes to you of its own accord somehow."

She nodded.

"And there's another thing. You've got a secret--haven't you?" It occurred to him that Maria was rather wonderful.

"I expect so," she answered, after a moment's pause. She looked wiser than an owl, he thought.

"What is it? What _is_ your secret? Can't you tell me?"

For it came over him that Maria, for all her inactivity, was really more truly alive than both the other children put together. Their tireless, incessant energy was nothing compared to some deep well of life Maria's outer calm concealed.

He continued to stare at her, reflecting while he did so. Through her globular exterior, standing here beside him, rose this quiet tide whose profound and inexhaustible source was nothing less than the entire universe. Finding himself thus alone with her, he knew his imagination singularly stirred. The full stream of this imagination-- usually turned into sea--and history-stories--poured now into Maria. It was the way she had delivered herself of the monosyllable, "Yes," that first enflamed him.

The child, obviously, was quite innocent that her uncle's imagination clothed her in such wonder; she was entirely unselfconscious, and remained so; but, as she kept silent as well, there was nothing to interrupt the natural process of his thought. "You're a circle, a mystery, a globe of wonder," his mind addressed her, gazing downwards half in play and half in earnest. "You're always going it. Though you seem so still--you're turning furiously like a little planet!"

For this abruptly struck him, flashing the symbol into his imagination--that Maria lived so close to the universe that her life and movements were akin to those of the heavenly bodies. He saw her as an epitome of the earth. Fat, peaceful, little, calm, rotund Maria--a miniature earth! She had no call to hurry nor rush after things. Like the earth she contained all things within herself. It made him smile; he smiled as he looked down into her face; she smiled as she rolled her blue eyes upwards into his.

Yet her calm was not the calm of sloth. In that mysterious centre where she lived he felt her as tremendously alive.

For the earth, apparently so calm and steady, knows no pause. She moves round her axis without stopping. She rushes with immense rapidity round the sun. Simultaneously with these two movements she combines a third; the sun, carrying her and all his other planets with him, hurries at a prodigious rate through interstellar space, adventuring new regions never seen before. Calm outwardly, and without apparent motion, the earth--at this very moment, as he leaned across the window-sill--was making these three gigantic, endless movements. This peaceful summer morning, like any other peaceful summer morning, she was actually spinning, rushing, rising. And in Maria--it came to him--in Maria, outwardly so calm, something also--spun--rushed--rose! This amazing life that brimmed her full to bursting, even as it brimmed the robin and the earth, overflowed and dripped out of her very eyes in shining blue. There was no need for her to dash about. She, like the earth, was--carried.

All this flashed upon him while the alarum clock ticked off a second merely, for imagination telescopes time, of course, and knows things all at once.

"What _is_ your secret, Maria?" he asked again. "I believe it's about that Extra Day we meant to steal. Is that it?"

Her eyes gazed straight before her across the lawn where Tim and Judy were now visible, searching busily for button-holes.

"It was to be your particular adventure, wasn't it?"

"Yes," she told him at length, without changing her expression of serene contentment.

His imagination warned him he was getting "at her" gradually. He possibly read into her a thousand things that were not there. Certainly, Maria was not aware of them. But, though Uncle Felix knew this perfectly well, he persisted, hoping for a sudden disclosure that would justify his search--even expecting it, perhaps.

"And what sort of a day would it be, then, this Extra Day of yours?" he went on. "It would never end, of course, for one thing, would it?


The Extra Day - 54/57

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