“Doesn’t it look like a place to live in—and to have a nice time in?” Ken asked.
“Oh,” Felicia said, “it almost does!”
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEDGE
The civilized-looking hedge had been long since investigated. The plot of land it enclosed—reached, for the Sturgises, through a breach in the hedge—was very different from the wild country which surrounded it. The place had once been a very beautiful garden, but years and neglect had made of it a half-formal wilderness, fascinating in its over-grown beauty and its hint of earlier glory. For Kirk, it was an enchanted land of close-pressing leafy alleys, pungent with the smell of box; of brick-paved paths chanced on unexpectedly—followed cautiously to the rim of empty, stone-coped pools. He and Felicia, or he and Ken, went there when cookery or carpentry left an elder free. For when they had discovered that the tall old house, though by no means so neglected as the garden, was as empty, they ventured often into the place. Kirk invented endless tales of enchanted castles, and peopled the still lawns and deserted alleys with every hero he had ever read or heard of. Who could tell? They might indeed lurk in the silent tangle—invisible to him only as all else was invisible. So he liked to think, and wandered, rapt, up and down the grass-grown paths of this enchanting play-ground.
It was not far to the hedge—over the rail fence, across the stubbly meadow. Kirk had been privately amassing landmarks. He had enough, he considered, to venture forth alone to the garden of mystery. Felicia was in the kitchen—not eating bread and honey, but reading a cook-book and making think-lines in her forehead. Ken was in Asquam. Kirk stepped off the door-stone; sharp to the right, along the wall of the house, then a stretch in the open to the well, over the fence—and then nothing but certain queer stones and the bare feel of the faint path that had already been worn in the meadow.
Kirk won the breach in the hedge and squeezed through. Then he was alone in the warm, green-smelling stillness of the trees. He found his way from the moss velvet under the pines to the paved path, and followed it, unhesitating, to the terrace before the house. On the shallow, sun-warmed steps he sat playing with fir-cones, fingering their scaly curves and sniffing their dry, brown fragrance. He swept a handful of them out of his lap and stood up, preparatory to questing further up the stone steps, to the house itself. But suddenly he stood quite still, for he knew that he was not alone in the garden. He knew, also, that it was neither Ken nor Felicia who stood looking at him. Had one of the fairy-tale heroes materialized, after all, and slipped out of magic coverts to walk with him? Rather uncertainly, he said, “Is somebody there?”
His voice sounded very small in the outdoor silence. Suppose no one were there at all! How silly it would sound to be addressing a tree! There was a moment of stillness, and then a rather old voice said: