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Fugitive






Part of: MY ASSOCIATION WITH THE WONDER
From: The Wonder

Meanwhile a child of five--all unconscious that his quiet refusal to
participate in the making and breaking of reputations was temporarily a
matter of considerable annoyance to a Fellow of the Royal Society--ran
through a well-kept index of the books in the library of Challis
Court--an index written clearly on cards that occupied a great nest of
accessible drawers; two cards with a full description to each book,
alphabetically arranged, one card under the title of the work and one
under the author's name.

The child made no notes as he studied--he never wrote a single line in
all his life; but when a drawer of that delightful index had been
searched, he would walk here and there among the three rooms at his
disposal, and by the aid of the flight of framed steps that ran smoothly
on rubber-tyred wheels, he would take down now and again some book or
another until, returning to the table at last to read, he sat in an
enceinte of piled volumes that had been collected round him.

Sometimes he read a book from beginning to end, more often he glanced
through it, turning a dozen pages at a time, and then pushed it on one
side with a gesture displaying the contempt that was not shown by any
change of expression.

On many afternoons the sombrely clad figure of a tall, gaunt woman would
stand at the open casement of a window in the larger room, and keep a
mystic vigil that sometimes lasted for hours. She kept her gaze fixed on
that strange little figure whenever it roved up and down the suite of
rooms or clambered the pyramid of brown steps that might have made such
a glorious plaything for any other child. And even when her son was
hidden behind the wall of volumes he had built, the woman would still
stare in his direction, but then her eyes seemed to look inwards; at
such times she appeared to be wrapped in an introspective devotion.

Very rarely, the heavy-shouldered figure of a man would come to the
doorway of the larger room, and also keep a silent vigil--a man who
would stand for some minutes with thoughtful eyes and bent brows and
then sigh, shake his head and move away, gently closing the door behind
him.

There were few other interruptions to the silence of that chapel-like
library. Half a dozen times in the first few months a fair-haired,
rather supercilious young man came and fetched away a few volumes; but
even he evidenced an inclination to walk on tiptoe, a tendency that
mastered him whenever he forgot for a moment his self-imposed role of
scorn....

Outside, over the swelling undulations of rich grass the sheep came back
with close-cropped, ungainly bodies to a land that was yellow with
buttercups. But when one looked again, their wool hung about them, and
they were snatching at short turf that was covered at the woodside by a
sprinkle of brown leaves. Then the sheep have gone, and the wood is
black with February rain. And, again, the unfolding of the year is about
us; a thickening of high twigs in the wood, a glint of green on the
blackthorn....

Nearly three cycles of death and birth have run their course, and then
the strange little figure comes no more to the library at Challis
Court.





Next: How I Went To Pym To Write A Book

Previous: His Interview With Herr Grossmann



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