THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 41: THE INTERDICT
But I didn't know it, all the same. I hadn't an idea in the
world; but it would have been cruel to confess it and spoil her
pretty game; so I never let on, but said:
"Yes, I know, sweetheart--how dear and good it is of you, too!
But I want to hear these lips of yours, which are also mine, utter
it first--then its music will be perfect."
Pleased to the marrow, she murmured:
I didn't laugh--I am always thankful for that--but the strain
ruptured every cartilage in me, and for weeks afterward I could
hear my bones clack when I walked. She never found out her mistake.
The first time she heard that form of salute used at the telephone
she was surprised, and not pleased; but I told her I had given
order for it: that henceforth and forever the telephone must
always be invoked with that reverent formality, in perpetual honor
and remembrance of my lost friend and her small namesake. This
was not true. But it answered.
Well, during two weeks and a half we watched by the crib, and in
our deep solicitude we were unconscious of any world outside of
that sick-room. Then our reward came: the center of the universe
turned the corner and began to mend. Grateful? It isn't the term.
There isn't any term for it. You know that yourself, if you've
watched your child through the Valley of the Shadow and seen it
come back to life and sweep night out of the earth with one
all-illuminating smile that you could cover with your hand.
Why, we were back in this world in one instant! Then we looked
the same startled thought into each other's eyes at the same
moment; more than two weeks gone, and that ship not back yet!
In another minute I appeared in the presence of my train. They
had been steeped in troubled bodings all this time--their faces
showed it. I called an escort and we galloped five miles to a
hilltop overlooking the sea. Where was my great commerce that
so lately had made these glistening expanses populous and beautiful
with its white-winged flocks? Vanished, every one! Not a sail,
from verge to verge, not a smoke-bank--just a dead and empty
solitude, in place of all that brisk and breezy life.