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I.1. How the Great Wind Came to Beacon House
A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore
eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold
intoxication of the sea. It a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a
flagon, and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of intricate and
embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion, littering the floor with some
professor's papers till they seemed as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the
candle by which a boy read "Treasure Island" and wrapping him in roaring dark.
But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives, and carried the trump of
crisis across the world. Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked
at a five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small, sick tragedy; it was
as if she had hanged her five children. The wind came, and they were full and
kicking as if five fat imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed
subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her fathers when
the elves still dwelt in the homes of men. Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled
garden had tossed herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture
with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames; and that wind rent the
waving wall of woods and lifted the hammock like a balloon, and showed her
shapes of quaint clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below, as if
she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk or cleric, plodding a
telescopic road of poplars, thought for the hundredth time that they were like the
plumes of a hearse; when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed
them round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings. There was in it
something more inspired and authoritative even than the old wind of the proverb;
for this was the good wind that blows nobody harm.
The flying blast struck London just where it scales the northern heights, terrace
above terrace, as precipitous as Edinburgh. It was round about this place that