The Extra Day HTML version

9. A Priest Of Wonder
He was a grey and nameless creature of shadowy outline and vague appearance. The
eye focused him with difficulty. He had an air of a broken tombstone about him, with
moss and lichen in wayward patches, for his face was split and cracked, and his beard
seemed a continuation of his hair; but he had soft blue eyes that had got lost in the
general tangle and seemed to stray about the place and peep out unexpectedly like
flowers hiding in a thick-set hedge. The face might be anywhere; he might move
suddenly in any direction; he was prepared, as it were, to move forward, sideways, or
backwards according as the wind decided or the road appeared--a sort of universal
scarecrow of a being altogether.
Yet, for all his forlorn and scattered attitude, there hung about his rags an air of
something noble and protective, something strangely inviting that welcomed without
criticism all the day might bring. Homeless himself, and with no place to lay his
extraordinary body, the birds might have built their nests in him without alarm, or the
furry creatures of fields and woods have burrowed among his voluminous misfit-clothing
to shelter themselves from rain and cold. He would gladly have carried them all with
him, safely hidden from guns or traps or policemen, glad to be useful, and careless of
himself. That, at any rate, was the mixed impression that he gave.
"Thank you," he said in a comfortable sort of voice that sounded like wind among
telegraph wires on a high road: then added "kindly all."
And instantly the children felt delighted with him; their sympathy was gained; fear
vanished; the Policeman, like a scape-goat, took all their sins away. They did not
actually move closer to the Tramp but their eyes went nestling in and out among his
tattered figure. Judy, however, it was noticeable, looked at him as though spell-bound.
To her he was, perhaps, as her Uncle said, the Great Adventurer, the type of romantic
Wanderer for ever on the quest of perilous things--a Knight.
It was Uncle Felix who first broke the pause.
"You've come a long way," he suggested.
"Oh, about the same as usual," replied the Tramp, as though all distances and localities
were one to him.
"Which means--?"
"From nowhere, and from everywhere."
"And you are going on to--?"