THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 1: CAMELOT
"Camelot--Camelot," said I to myself. "I don't seem to remember
hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely."
It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream,
and as lonesome as Sunday. The air was full of the smell of
flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds,
and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life,
nothing going on. The road was mainly a winding path with hoof-prints
in it, and now and then a faint trace of wheels on either side in
the grass--wheels that apparently had a tire as broad as one's hand.
Presently a fair slip of a girl, about ten years old, with a cataract
of golden hair streaming down over her shoulders, came along.
Around her head she wore a hoop of flame-red poppies. It was as
sweet an outfit as ever I saw, what there was of it. She walked
indolently along, with a mind at rest, its peace reflected in her
innocent face. The circus man paid no attention to her; didn't
even seem to see her. And she--she was no more startled at his
fantastic make-up than if she was used to his like every day of
her life. She was going by as indifferently as she might have gone
by a couple of cows; but when she happened to notice me, then
there was a change! Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone;
her mouth dropped open, her eyes stared wide and timorously, she
was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear. And
there she stood gazing, in a sort of stupefied fascination, till
we turned a corner of the wood and were lost to her view. That
she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too
many for me; I couldn't make head or tail of it. And that she
should seem to consider me a spectacle, and totally overlook her
own merits in that respect, was another puzzling thing, and a
display of magnanimity, too, that was surprising in one so young.
There was food for thought here. I moved along as one in a dream.