“Does this century believe in fairies? If the spell came to an end, how is it that we are so magic now?”
“This century knows that it doesn’t know everything,” said Richard. “And as for spells—we have started a new spell. That’s the curious part of this War. So gross and so impossible and so unmagic was its cause, that magic, which had been virtually dead, rose again to meet it. The worse a world grows, the greater will magic grow to save it. Magic only dies in a tepid world. I think there is now more magic in the world than ever before. The soil of France is alive with it, and as for Belgium—when Belgium gets back home at last she will find her desecrated house enchanted.... And the same applies to all the thresholds in the world which fighting-men have crossed and will never cross again, except in the dreams of their friends. That sort of austere and secret magic, like a word known by all and spoken by none, is pretty nearly all that is left to keep the world alive now....”
Richard seemed to be becoming less and less of a man and more and more of a wizard the farther he penetrated into the Enchanted Forest. He was saying things that would have embarrassed him very much had they been said in the Piccadilly Restaurant, even after three glasses of champagne. For this reason, although the borders of the Enchanted Forest are said to be widening, it is to be hoped that they will not encroach beyond the confines of the Parish of Faery. What would happen if its trees began to seed themselves in the Strand? Imagine the Stock Exchange under the shadow of an enchanted oak, and the consequent disastrous wearing thin of the metal casing in which all good business men keep their souls.
Sarah Brown thought if rather a curious coincidence that so soon after they had spoken of the dead Keats they should see him alive. They saw him framed in a little pale aisle of the Forest, a faintly defined fragile ghost, crouched against the trunk of a tree, bent awkwardly into an attitude of pain forgotten and ecstatic attention. It was his dearest moment that they saw, a moment without death. For he was a prisoner in a perfect spell; he was utterly entangled in the looped and ensnaring song of a nightingale. The song was like beaten gold wire. Never again in her life did Sarah Brown profane with her poor voice the words that a perfect singer begot in a marriage with a perfect song. But in unhappiness, and in the horrible nights, the song came to her, always....
The travellers were approaching the end of the Green Ride, but that did not matter to Sarah Brown, for there had been nothing lacking all the way.
“Love——,” began Richard in a loud exalted voice, and then suddenly a searchlight glared diagonally across the end of the Ride, over Mitten Island, and quenched the magic of the moment.
“Sorry,” said Richard. “I thought I was talking to my True Love.”
“I’m sorry you weren’t,” said Sarah Brown, as they emerged from the Forest. “I mean, I’m sorry it was only me you were talking to.”