“But I don’t want to excite you so late at night,” said Peter, “so don’t think any more about it, but go to sleep, if you’ve finished that milk. Does your head ache? Mine does. That’s the worst of weak heads; they always ache just when things are getting interesting. But I don’t care; we’re going to have things—things to like; we’re going to get hold of them somehow, if we die in gaol for it; and that’s worth a headache or two. Someone says something about having nothing and yet possessing all things; it’s one of the things with no meaning that people do say, and that make me so angry. It ought to be having nothing and then possessing all things; because that’s the way it’s going to be with us. Good night, Thomas; you may go to sleep now.”
Thomas did so; and Peter lay on the sofa and gazed at the daffodils in the brown jars that filled the room with light.
THE NEW LIFE
Peter, with Thomas over his shoulder, stepped out of the little station into a radiant April world. Between green, budding hedges, between ditches where blue violets and joyous-eyed primroses peered up out of wet grass, a brown road ran, gleaming with puddles that glinted up at the blue sky and the white clouds that raced before a merry wind.
Peter said, “Do you like it, old man? Do you?” but Thomas’s heart was too full for speech. He was seeing the radiant wonderland he had heard of; it crowded upon him, a vivid, many-splendoured thing, and took his breath away. There were golden ducklings by the grassy roadside, and lambs crying to him from the fields, and cows, eating (one hoped) sweet grass, with their little calves beside them. A glorious scene. The gay wind caught Peter by the throat and brought sudden tears to his eyes, so long used to looking on grey streets.
He climbed over a stile in the hedge and took a field path that ran up to a wood—the wood way, as he remembered, to Astleys. Peter had stayed at Astleys more than once in old days, with Denis. He remembered the keen, damp fragrance of the wood in April; the smooth stems of the beeches, standing up out of the mossy ground, and the way the primroses glimmered, moon-like, among the tangled ground-ivy; and the way the birds made every budding bough rock with their clamorous delight. It was a happy wood, full of small creatures and eager happenings and adventurous quests; a fit road to take questers after happiness to their goal. In itself it seemed almost the goal already, so alive was it and full of joy. Was there need to travel further? Very vividly the impression was borne in on Peter (possibly on Thomas too) that there was no need; that here, perhaps round the next twist of the little brown path, was not the way but the achievement.
And, rounding the next bend, they knew it to be so; for above the path, sitting at a beech-tree’s foot among creeping ivy, with head thrown back against the smooth grey stem, and gathered primroses in either hand, was Lucy.