With his blue eyes still cautiously upon his nurse’s shadow he raised himself very softly, his fat hand pressed against the wall, his mouth tightly closed, and from between his teeth there issued the most distant relation of that sound that the traditional ostler makes when he is cleaning down a horse. His knees quivered, straightened; he was up. Far away in the long, long distance were piled the toys that yesterday’s birthday had given him. They did not, as yet, mean anything to him at all. One day, perhaps when he had torn the dolls limb from limb, twisted the railways until they stood end upon end in sheer horror, disembowelled the bears and golliwogs so that they screamed again, he might have some personal feeling for them. At present there they lay in shining impersonal newness, and there for Ernest Henry they might lie for ever.
For an instant, his hand against the wall, he was straight and motionless; then he took his hand away, and his journey began. At the first movement a strange, an amazing glory filled him. From the instant, two years ago, of his first arrival he had been disturbed by an irritating sense of inadequacy; he had been sent, it seemed, into this new and tiresome condition of things without any fitting provisions for his real needs. Demands were always made upon him that were, in the absurd lack of ways and means, impossible of fulfilment. But now, at last, he was using the world as it should be used.... He was fine, he was free, he was absolutely master. His legs might shake, his body lurch from side to side, his breath come in agitating gasps and whistles; the wall was now far behind him, the screen most wonderfully near, the rocking-chair almost within his grasp. Great and mighty is Ernest Henry Wilberforce, dazzling and again dazzling the lighted avenues opening now before him; there is nothing, nothing, from the rendings of the toys to the deliberate defiance of his nurse and all those in authority over him, that he shall not now perform.... With a cry, with a wild wave of the arms, with a sickening foretaste of the bump with which the gay brown carpet would mark him, he was down, the Fates were upon him—the disturbance, the disrobing, the darkness. Nevertheless, even as he was carried, sobbing, into the farther room, there went with him a consciousness that life would never again be quite the dull, purposeless, monotonous thing that it had hitherto been.
After a long time he was alone. About him the room, save for the yellow night-light above his head, was dark, humped with shadows, with grey pools of light near the windows, and a golden bar that some lamp beyond the house flung upon the wall. Ernest Henry lay and, now and again, cautiously felt the bump on his forehead; there was butter on the bump, and an interesting confusion and pain and importance round and about it. Ernest Henry’s eyes sought the golden bar, and then, lingering there, looked back upon the recent adventure. He had walked; yes, he had walked. This would, indeed, be something to tell his Friend.