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PAGE 3

Silent Snow, Secret Snow
by [?]

“But my darling”-she had said at the luncheon table-“what has come over you? You don’t seem to listen when people speak to you. That’s the third time I’ve asked you to pass your plate…”

How was one to explain this to Mother? or to Father? There was, of course, nothing to be done about it: nothing. All one could do was to laugh embarrassedly, pretend to be a little ashamed, apologize, and take a sudden and somewhat disingenuous interest in what was being done or said. The cat had stayed out all night. He had a curious swelling on his left cheek- perhaps somebody had kicked him, or a stone had struck him. Mrs Kensington was or was not coming to tea. The house was going to be cleaned, or “turned out,” on Wednesday instead of Friday. A new lamp was provided for his evening work-perhaps it was eyestrain which accounted for this new and so peculiar vagueness of his-Mother was looking at him with amusement as she said this, but with something else as well. A new lamp? A new lamp. No Mother, Yes Mother. School is going very well. The geometry is very easy. The history is very dull. The geography is very interesting-particularly when it takes one to the North Pole. Why the North Pole? Oh, well, it would be fun to be an explorer. Another Peary or Scott or Shackleton. And then abruptly he found his interest in the talk at an end, stared at the pudding on his plate, listened, waited, and began once more- ah how heavenly, too, the first beginnings-to hear or feel-for could he actually hear it?-the silent snow.

(Miss Robinson was telling them about the search for the Northwest Passage, about Hendrik Hudson.)

This had been, indeed, the only distressing feature of the new experience: the fact that it so increasingly had brought him into a kind of mute misunderstanding, or even conflict, with his father and mother. It was as if he were trying to lead a double life. On the one hand he had to be David Jones, and keep up the appearance of being that person-dress, wash, and answer intelligently when spoken to;- on the other, he had to explore this new world which had been opened to him. Nor could there be the slightest doubt-not the slightest-that the new world was the profounder and more wonderful of the two. It was irresistible. It was miraculous. Its beauty was simply beyond anything-beyond speech as beyond thought- utterly incommunicable. But how then, between the two worlds, of which he was thus constantly aware, was he to keep a balance? One must get up, one must go to breakfast, one must talk with Mother, go to school, do one’s lessons- and, in all this, try not to appear to much a fool. But if all the while one was also trying to extract the full deliciousness of another and quite separate existence, one which could not easily (if at all) be spoken of-how was one to manage? How was one to explain? Would it be safe to explain? Would it be absurd? Would it merely mean that he would get into some obscure kind of trouble?

These thoughts came and went, came and went, as softly and secretly as the snow; they were not precisely a disturbance, perhaps they were even a pleasure; he liked to have them; their presence was something almost palpable, something he could stroke with his hand, without closing his eyes, and without ceasing to see Miss Robinson and the schoolroom and the globe and the freckles on Astrid’s neck; nevertheless he did in a sense cease to see, or to see the obvious external world, and substituted for this vision the vision of snow, the sound of snow, and the slow, almost soundless, approach of the postman. Yesterday, it had been only at the sixth house that the postman had become audible; the snow was much deeper now, it was falling more swiftly and heavily, the sound of its seething was more distinct, more soothing, more persistent. And this morning, it had been-as nearly as he could figure-just above the seventh house-perhaps only a step or two above: at most, he had heard two or three footsteps before the knock had sounded…. And with each such narrowing of the sphere, each nearer approach of the limit at which the postman was first audible, it was odd how sharply was increased the amount of illusion which had to be carried into the ordinary business of daily life. Each day it was harder to get out of bed, to go to the window, to look out at the-as always-perfectly empty and snowless street. Each day it was more difficult to go through the perfunctory motions of greeting Mother and Father at breakfast, to reply to their questions, to put his books together and go to school. And at school, how extraordinarily hard to conduct with success simultaneously the public life and the life that was secret. There were times when he longed-positively ached-to tell everyone about it-to burst out with it-only to be checked almost at once by a far-off feeling as of some faint absurdity which was inherent in it-but was it absurd?-and more importantly by a sense of mysterious power in his very secrecy. Yes: it must be kept secret. That, more and more, became clear. At whatever cost to himself, whatever pain to others-