SO I went on my lonely way, and, on reaching the Hall, I found Lady Muriel standing at the garden-gate waiting for me.
`No need to give you joy, or to wish you joy?' I began.
`None whatever!' she replied, with the joyous laugh of a child. `We give people what they haven't got: we wish for something that is yet to come. For me, it's all here! It's all mine! Dear friend,' she suddenly broke off, `do you think Heaven ever begins on Earth, for any of us?'
`For some,' I said. `For some, perhaps, who are simple and childlike. You know he said "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven".'
Lady Muriel clasped her hands, and gazed up into the cloudless sky, with a look I had often seen in Sylvie's eyes. `I feel as if it had begun for me,' she almost whispered. `I feel as if I were one of the happy children, whom He bid them bring near to Him, though the people would have kept them back. Yes, He has seen me in the throng. He has read the wistful longing in my eyes. He has beckoned me to Him. They have had to make way for me. He has taken me up in His arms. He has put His hands upon me and blessed me!' She paused, breathless in her perfect happiness.
`Yes,' I said. `I think He has!'
`You must come and speak to my father,' she went on, as we stood side by side at the gate, looking down the shady lane. But, even as she said the words, the `eerie' sensation came over me like a flood: I saw the dear old Professor approaching us, and also saw, what was stranger still, that he was visible to Lady Muriel!
What was to be done? Had the fairy-life been merged in the real life? Or was Lady Muriel `eerie' also, and thus able to enter into the fairy-world along with me? The words were on my lips (`I see an old friend of mine in the lane: if you don't know him, may I introduce him to you?') when the strangest thing of all happened: Lady Muriel spoke.
`I see an old friend of mine in the lane,' she said: `if you don't know him, may I introduce him to you?'
I seemed to wake out of a dream: for the `eerie' feeling was still strong upon me, and the figure outside seemed to be changing at every moment, like one of the shapes in a kaleidoscope: now he was the Professor, and now he was somebody else! By the time he had reached the gate, he certainly was somebody else: and I felt that the proper course was for Lady Muriel, not for me, to introduce him. She greeted him kindly, and, opening the gate, admitted the venerable old man--a German, obviously--who looked about him with dazed eyes, as if he, too, had but just awaked from a dream!
No, it was certainly not the Professor! My old friend could not have grown that magnificent beard since last we met: moreover, he would have recognised me, for I was certain that I had not changed much in the time.
As it was, he simply looked at me vaguely, and took off his hat in response to Lady Muriel's words `Let me introduce Mein Herr to you'; while in the words, spoken in a strong German accent, `proud to make your acquaintance, Sir!' I could detect no trace of an idea that we had ever met before.
Lady Muriel led us to the well-known shady nook, where preparations for afternoon-tea had already been made, and, while she went in to look for the Earl, we seated ourselves in two easy-chairs, and `Mein Herr' took up Lady Muriel's work, and examined it through his large spectacles (one of the adjuncts that made him so provokingly like the Professor). `Hemming pocket-handkerchiefs?' he said, musingly. `So that is what the English miladies occupy themselves with, is it?'
`It is the one accomplishment,' I said, `in which Man has never yet rivalled Woman!'
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