Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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And abruptly he got up and walked away.

CHAPTER XXXI

SWAN SONG

The new wine, if it does not break the old bottle, after fierce effervescence seethes and bubbles quietly.

It was so in Mr. Stone’s old bottle, hour by hour and day by day, throughout the month.  A pinker, robuster look came back to his cheeks; his blue eyes, fixed on distance, had in them more light; his knees regained their powers; he bathed, and, all unknown to him, for he only saw the waters he cleaved with his ineffably slow stroke, Hilary and Martin, on alternate weeks, and keeping at a proper distance, for fear he should see them doing him a service, attended at that function in case Mr. Stone should again remain too long seated at the bottom of the Serpentine.  Each morning after his cocoa and porridge he could be heard sweeping out his room with extraordinary vigour, and as ten o’clock came near anyone who listened would remark a sound of air escaping, as he moved up and down on his toes in preparation for the labours of the day.  No letters, of course, nor any newspapers disturbed the supreme and perfect self-containment of this life devoted to Fraternity—­no letters, partly because he lacked a known address, partly because for years he had not answered them; and with regard to newspapers, once a month he went to a Public Library, and could be seen with the last four numbers of two weekly reviews before him, making himself acquainted with the habits of those days, and moving his lips as though in prayer.  At ten each morning anyone in the corridor outside his room was startled by the whirr of an alarum clock; perfect silence followed; then rose a sound of shuffling, whistling, rustling, broken by sharply muttered words; soon from this turbid lake of sound the articulate, thin fluting of an old man’s voice streamed forth.  This, alternating with the squeak of a quill pen, went on till the alarum clock once more went off.  Then he who stood outside could smell that Mr. Stone would shortly eat; if, stimulated by that scent, he entered; he might see the author of the “Book of Universal Brotherhood” with a baked potato in one hand and a cup of hot milk in the other; on the table, too, the ruined forms of eggs, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, figs, prunes, cheese, and honeycomb, which had passed into other forms already, together with a loaf of wholemeal bread.  Mr. Stone would presently emerge in his cottage-woven tweeds, and old hat of green-black felt; or, if wet, in a long coat of yellow gaberdine, and sou’wester cap of the same material; but always with a little osier fruit-bag in his hand.  Thus equipped, he walked down to Rose and Thorn’s, entered, and to the first man he saw handed the osier fruit-bag, some coins, and a little book containing seven leaves, headed “Food:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” and so forth.  He then stood looking through the pickles in some jar or other at things beyond, with

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