“Considering that you are looking straight at me, that seems a somewhat foolish question.”
So there was some one! Kirk said:
“I can’t see you, because I can’t see anything.”
After a pause, the voice said, “Forgive me.” But indeed, at first glance, the grave shadowed beauty of Kirk’s eyes did not betray their blindness.
“Are you one of the enchanted things, or a person?” Kirk inquired.
“I might say, now, that I am enchanted,” said the voice, drily.
“I don’t think I quite know what you mean,” Kirk said. “You sound like a Puck of Pook’s Hill sort of person.”
“Nothing so exciting. Though Oak and Ash and Thorn do grow in my garden.”
“Do they? I haven’t found them. I knew it was a different place, ever so different from anything near—different from the other side of the hedge.”
“I am not so young as you,” said the voice, “to stand about hatless on an April afternoon. Let us come in and sit on either side of the chimney-corner.”
And a long, dry, firm hand took Kirk’s, and Kirk followed unhesitatingly where it led.
The smoothness of old polished floors, a sense of height, absolute silence, a dry, aromatic smell—this was Kirk’s impression as he crossed the threshold, walking carefully and softly, that he might not break the spellbound stillness of the house. Then came the familiar crackle of an open fire, and Kirk was piloted into the delicious cozy depths of a big chair beside the hearth. Creakings, as of another chair being pulled up, then a contented sigh, indicated that his host had sat down opposite him.
“May I now ask your name?” the voice inquired.
“I’m Kirkleigh Sturgis, at Applegate Farm,” said Kirk.
“’ ... I s’pose you know, Miss Jean, That I’m Young Richard o’ Taunton Dean....’”
murmured the old gentleman.
Kirk pricked up his ears instantly. “Phil sings that,” he said delightedly. “I’m glad you know it. But you would.”
“Who’d have thought you would know it?” said the voice. “I am fond of Young Richard. Is Phil your brother?”
“She’s my sister—but I have a brother. He’s sixteen, and he’s almost as high as the doorways at Applegate Farm.”
“I seem not to know where Applegate Farm is,” the old gentleman mused.
“It’s quite next door to you,” said Kirk.
“They call it the Baldwin place, really. But Ken happened to think that Baldwin’s a kind of apple, and there is an orchard and a gate, so we called it that.”
“The old farm-house across the meadow!” There was a shade of perplexity in the voice. “You live there?”
“It’s the most beautiful place in the world,” said Kirk, with conviction, “except your garden.”
“Beautiful—to you! Why?”
“Oh, everything!” Kirk said, frowning, and trying to put into words what was really joy in life and spring and the love of his brother and sister. “Everything—the wind in the trees, and in the chimney at night, and the little toads that sing,—do you ever hear them?—and the fire, and, and—everything!”