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- Queen Lucia - 6/46 -


Mrs Quantock, for instance, would never look from the rising ground at the end of her garden into Georgie's dining-room or, if she did she would never tell anyone how many places were laid at table on that particular day when she had asked if he could give her lunch, and he had replied that to his great regret his table was full. But nobody could help seeing into gardens from back windows: the "view" belonged to everybody.

Georgie had had wonderful views.

"That very day," he said, "soon after lunch, I was looking for a letter I thought I had left in my bedroom, and happening to glance out, I saw the Indian sitting under Mrs Quantock's pear-tree. He was swaying a little backwards and forwards."

"The brandy!" said Lucia excitedly. "He has his meals in his own room."

"No, _amica_, it was not the brandy. In fact I don't suppose the brandy had gone to Mrs Quantock's then, for he did not take it from Rush's, but asked that it should be sent...." He paused a moment--"Or did he take it away? I declare I can't remember. But anyhow when he swayed backwards and forwards, he wasn't drunk, for presently he stood on one leg, and crooked the other behind it, and remained there with his hands up, as if he was praying, for quite a long time without swaying at all. So he couldn't have been tipsy. And then he sat down again, and took off his slippers, and held his toes with one hand, while his legs were quite straight out, and put his other hand round behind his head, and grasped his other ear with it. I tried to do it on my bedroom floor, but I couldn't get near it. Then he sat up again and called 'Chela! Chela!' and Mrs Quantock came running out."

"Why did he say 'Chela'?" asked Lucia.

"I wondered too. But I knew I had some clue to it, so I looked through some books by Rudyard Kipling, and found that Chela meant 'Disciple.' What you have told me just now about 'Guru' being 'teacher,' seems to piece the whole thing together."

"And what did Daisy do?" asked Mrs Lucas breathlessly.

"She sat down too, and put her legs out straight in front of her like the Guru, and tried to hold the toe of her shoe in her fingers, and naturally she couldn't get within yards of it. I got nearer than she did. And he said, 'Beloved lady, not too far at first.'"

"So you could hear too," said Lucia.

"Naturally, for my window was open, and as you know Mrs Quantock's pear-tree is quite close to the house. And then he told her to stop up one nostril with her finger and inhale through the other, and then hold her breath, while he counted six. Then she breathed it all out again, and started with the other side. She repeated that several times and he was very much pleased with her. Then she said, 'It is quite wonderful; I feel so light and vigorous.'"

"It would be very wonderful indeed if dear Daisy felt light," remarked Lucia. "What next?"

"Then they sat and swayed backwards and forwards again and muttered something that sounded like Pom!"

"That would be 'Om', and then?"

"I couldn't wait any longer for I had some letters to write."

She smiled at him.

"I shall give you another cup of tea to reward you for your report," she said. "It has all been most interesting. Tell me again about the breathing in and holding your breath."

Georgie did so, and illustrated in his own person what had happened. Next moment Lucia was imitating him, and Peppino came round in order to get a better view of what Georgie was doing. Then they all sat, inhaling through one nostril, holding their breath, and then expelling it again.

"Very interesting," said Lucia at the end. "Upon my word, it does give one a sort of feeling of vigour and lightness. I wonder if there is something in it."

Chapter THREE

Though "The Hurst" was, as befitted its Chatelaine, the most Elizabethanly complete abode in Riseholme, the rest of the village in its due degree, fell very little short of perfection. It had but its one street some half mile in length but that street was a gem of mediaeval domestic architecture. For the most part the houses that lined it were blocks of contiguous cottages, which had been converted either singly or by twos and threes into dwellings containing the comforts demanded by the twentieth century, but externally they preserved the antiquity which, though it might be restored or supplemented by bathrooms or other conveniences, presented a truly Elizabethan appearance. There were, of course, accretions such as old inn signs above front-doors and old bell-pulls at their sides, but the doors were uniformly of inconveniently low stature, roofs were of stone slabs or old brick, in which a suspiciously abundant crop of antirrhinums and stone crops had anchored themselves, and there was hardly a garden that did not contain a path of old paving-stones, a mulberry-tree and some yews cut into shape.

Nothing in the place was more blatantly mediaeval than the village green, across which Georgie took his tripping steps after leaving the presence of his queen. Round it stood a row of great elms, and in its centre was the ducking-pond, according to Riseholme tradition, though perhaps in less classical villages it might have passed merely for a duck-pond. But in Riseholme it would have been rank heresy to dream, even in the most pessimistic moments, of its being anything but a ducking-pond. Close by it stood a pair of stocks, about which there was no doubt whatever, for Mr Lucas had purchased them from a neighbouring iconoclastic village, where they were going to be broken up, and, after having them repaired, had presented them to the village-green, and chosen their site close to the ducking pond. Round the green were grouped the shops of the village, slightly apart from the residential street, and at the far end of it was that undoubtedly Elizabethan hostelry, the Ambermere Arms, full to overflowing of ancient tables and bible-boxes, and fire-dogs and fire-backs, and bottles and chests and settles. These were purchased in large quantities by the American tourists who swarmed there during the summer months, at a high profit to the nimble proprietor, who thereupon purchased fresh antiquities to take their places. The Ambermere Arms in fact was the antique furniture shop of the place, and did a thriving trade, for it was much more interesting to buy objects out of a real old Elizabethan inn, than out of a shop.

Georgie had put his smart military cape over his arm for his walk, and at intervals applied his slim forefinger to one nostril, while he breathed in through the other, continuing the practice which he had observed going on in Mrs Quantock's garden. Though it made him a little dizzy, it certainly produced a sort of lightness, but soon he remembered the letter from Mrs Quantock which Lucia had read out, warning her that these exercises ought to be taken under instruction, and so desisted. He was going to deliver Lucia's answer at Mrs Quantock's house, and with a view to possibly meeting the Guru, and being introduced to him, he said over to himself "Guru, Guru, Guru" instead of doing deep breathing, in order to accustom himself to the unusual syllables.

It would, of course, have been very strange and un-Riseholme-like to have gone to a friend's door, even though the errand was so impersonal a one as bearing somebody else's note, without enquiring whether the friend was in, and being instantly admitted if she was, and as a matter of fact, Georgie caught a glimpse, when the knocker was answered (Mrs Quantock did not have a bell at all), through the open door of the hall, of Mrs Quantock standing in the middle of the lawn on one leg. Naturally, therefore, he ran out into the garden without any further formality. She looked like a little round fat stork, whose legs had not grown, but who preserved the habits of her kind.

"Dear lady, I've brought a note for you," he said, "it's from Lucia."

The other leg went down, and she turned on him the wide firm smile that she had learned in the vanished days of Christian Science.

"Om," said Mrs Quantock, expelling the remainder of her breath. "Thank you, my dear Georgie. It's extraordinary what Yoga has done for me already. Cold quite gone. If ever you feel out of sorts, or depressed or cross you can cure yourself at once. I've got a visitor staying with me."

"Have you indeed?" asked Georgie, without alluding to the thrilling excitements which had trodden so close on each other's heels since yesterday morning when he had seen the Guru in Rush's shop.

"Yes; and as you've just come from dear Lucia's perhaps she may have said something to you about him, for I wrote to her about him. He's a Guru of extraordinary sanctity from Benares, and he's teaching me the Way. You shall see him too, unless he's meditating. I will call to him; if he's meditating he won't hear me, so we shan't be interrupting him. He wouldn't hear a railway accident if he was meditating."

She turned round towards the house.

"Guru, dear!" she called.

There was a moment's pause, and the Indian's face appeared at a window.

"Beloved lady!" he said.

"Guru dear, I want to introduce a friend of mine to you," she said. "This is Mr Pillson, and when you know him a little better you will call him Georgie."

"Beloved lady, I know him very well indeed. I see into his clear white soul. Peace be unto you, my friend."

"Isn't he marvellous? Fancy!" said Mrs Quantock, in an aside.

Georgie raised his hat very politely.

"How do you do?" he said. (After his quiet practice he would have said "How do you do Guru?" but it rhymed in a ridiculous manner and his red lips could not frame the word.)

"I am always well," said the Guru, "I am always young and well because I follow the Way."


Queen Lucia - 6/46

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