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The Extra Day

16.
Time Halts
He looked at his watch a second time, and found that it was later than he had
supposed--eleven o'clock. In the act of winding it, however, he paused; something he
had forgotten came back to him, and a curious smile broke over his face. He stroked his
beard, glanced at the ceiling where the moths still banged and buzzed, then strolled
over to the open window, and said "Hm!" He put his head and shoulders out into the air.
And then he again said "Hm--m--m"--only longer than the first time. It seemed as if
some one answered him. That "Hm" floated off to some one who was listening for it.
Perhaps it was an echo that came floating back. Perhaps it wasn't.
But any grown-up person who hesitates in an empty room of a country house at eleven
o'clock at night and murmurs "Hm" into the open air is not in an ordinary state of mind.
The normal thing is to put the lights out and go up more or less briskly to bed. Uncle
Felix was no exception to this rule. His emotions, evidently, were not quite normal.
He listened. The night was very still. The stars, like a shower of golden rain arrested in
full flight, paused in a flock and looked at him, but in so deliberate a way that he was
conscious of being looked at. It was rather a delightful sensation, he thought; never
before had they seemed so intimate, so interested in his life. He was aware that a
friendly relationship existed between him and those far, bright, twinkling eyes. "Hm" he
murmured softly once again, then heard a sound of wings rush whirring past his face,
and next a chattering of birds somewhere overhead among the heavy eaves. "So I'm
not the only one awake," he thought, and, for some odd reason, felt rather pleased
about it. "Sounds like swallows. I wonder!"
But he saw no movement anywhere; no wind stirred the ivy on the wall, the limes were
motionless, the earth asleep. Even the stream beyond the laurel shrubberies ran
silently. Dimly he made out the garden lying at attention, the flower-beds like folded
hands upon its breast; and further off, the big untidy elms in pools of deeper shadow,
their outlines blurred as dreams blur the mind. Yet, though he could detect no slightest
movement, he was keenly aware that other things beside the stars were looking at him.
The night was full of carefully- screened eyes, all fixed upon him. Framed in the lighted
window, he was so easily visible. Night herself, calm and majestic, gazed down upon
him through wide-open lids that filled the entire sky. He felt the intentness of her
steadfast gaze, and paused. He stopped. It seemed that everything stopped too. So
striking, indeed, was the sensation, that he gave expression to it half aloud:
"It's slowing up," he murmured, "stopping!... I do believe! Hm!..."
 
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