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The Return

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
A quiet knocking aroused him in the long, tranquil bedroom; and Herbert's head was
poked into the room. 'There's a bath behind that door over there,' he whispered, `or if you
like I'm off for a bathe in the Widder. It's a luscious day. Shall I wait? All right,' and the
head was withdrawn. 'Don't put much on,' came the voice at the panel; 'we'll be home
again in twenty minutes.'
The green and brightness of the morning must have been prepared for overnight by
spiders and the dew. Everywhere the gleaming nets were hung, and everywhere there
rose a tiny splendour from the waterdrops, so clear and pure and changeable it seemed
with their fire and colour they shook a tiny crystal music in the air. Herbert led the way
along a clayey downward path beneath hazels tossing softly together their twigs of nuts,
until they came out into a rounded hollow that, mounded with thyme, sloped gently down
to the green banks of the Widder. The water poured like clearest glass beneath a rain of
misty sunbeams.
'My sister always says that this is the very dell Boccaccio had in his mind's eye when he
wrote the "Decameron." There really is something almost classic in those pines. And I'd
sometimes swear with my eyes just out of the water I've seen Dryads half in hiding
peeping between those beeches. Good Lord, Lawford, what a world we wretched
moderns have made, and missed!'
The water was violently cold. It seemed to Lawford, as it swept up over his body, and as
he plunged his night-distorted eyes beneath its blazing surface, that it was charged with
some strange, powerful enchantment to wash away in its icy clearness even the memory
of the dull and tarnished days behind him. If one could but tie up anyhow that stained
bundle of inconsequent memories called life, and fling it into a cupboard remoter even
than Bluebeard's, and lock the door, and drop the quickly-rusting key into these living
waters!
He dressed himself with window thrown open to the blackbirds and thrushes, and the
occasional shrill solitary whistling of a robin. But, like the sour-sweet fragrance of the
brier, its wandering desolate burst of music had power to wake memory, and carried him
instantly back to that first aimless descent into the evening gloom of Widderstone from
which it was in vain to hope ever to climb again. Surely never a more ghoulish face
looked out on its man before than that which confronted him as with borrowed razor he
stood shaving those sunken chaps, that angular chin.
And even now, beneath the lantern of broad daylight, just as within that other face had
lurked the undeniable ghost and presence of himself, so beneath the sunken features
seemed to float, tenuous as smoke, scarcely less elusive than a dream, between eye and
 
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