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Silent Snow, Secret Snow
by [?]

The red hydrant, with a little green-painted chain attached to the brass screw-cap.

The willow tree, with the great gray wound in the bark, kidney-shaped, into which he always put his hand-to feel the cold but living wood. The injury, he had been sure, was due to the gnaw-ings of a tethered horse. But now it deserved only a passing palm, a merely tolerant eye. There were more important things. Miracles. Beyond the thoughts of trees, mere willows. Beyond the thoughts of sidewalks, mere stone, mere brick, mere cement. Beyond the thoughts even of his own shoes, which trod these sidewalks obediently, bearing a burden-far above-of elaborate mystery. He watched them. They were not polished; he had neglected them, for a very good reason: they were one of the many parts of the increasing difficulty of the daily return to daily life, the morning struggle. To get up, having at last opened one’s eyes, to go to the window, and discover no snow, to wash, to dress, to descend the curving stairs to breakfast-

At whatever pain to others, nevertheless, one must persevere in severance, since the incommunicability of the experience demanded it. It was desireable of course to be kind to Mother and Father, especially as they seemed to be worried, but it was also desirable to be resolute. If they should decide-as appeared likely-to consult the doctor, Doctor Roberts, and have David inspected, his heart listened to through a kind of dictaphone, his lungs, his stomach-well, that was all right. He would go through with it. He would give them answer for question, too-perhaps such answers as they hadn’t expected? No. That would never do. For the secret world must, at all costs, be preserved.

The bird-house in the apple-tree was empty-it was the wrong time of year for wrens. The little round black door had lost its pleasure. The wrens were enjoying other houses, other nests, remoter trees. But this too was a notion which he only vaguely and grazingly entertained-as if, for the moment, he merely touched an edge of it; there was something further on, which was already assuming a sharper importance; something which already teased at the corners of his eyes, teasing also at the corner of his mind. It was funny to think that he so wanted this, so awaited it-and yet found himself enjoying this momentary dalliance with the bird-house, as if for a quite deliberate postponement and enhancement of the approaching pleasure. He was aware of his delay, of his smiling and detached and now almost uncomprehending gaze at the little bird-house; he knew what he was going to look at next: it was his own little cobbled hill-street, his own house, the little river at the bottom of the hill, the grocer’s shop with the cardboard man in the window-and now, thinking of all this, he turned his head, still smiling, and looking quickly right and left through the snow-laden sunlight.

And the mist of snow, as he had foreseen, was still on it- a ghost of snow falling in the bright sunlight, softly and steadily floating and turning and pausing, soundlessly meeting the snow that covered, as with a transparent mirage, the bare bright cobbles. He loved it-he stood still and loved it. Its beauty was paralyzing-beyond all words, all experience, all dream. No fairy-story he had ever read could be compared with it-none had ever given him this extraordinary combination of ethereal loveliness with something else, unnameable, which was just faintly and deliciously terrifying. What was this thing? As he thought of it, he looked upward toward his own bedroom window, which was open-and it was as if he looked straight into the room and saw himself lying half awake in his bed. There he was-at this very instant he was still perhaps actually- more truly there than standing here at the edge of the cobbled hill-street, with one hand lifted to shade his eyes against the snow-sun. Had he indeed ever left his room, in all this time? since that very first morning? Was the whole progress still being enacted there, was it still the same morning, and himself not yet wholly awake? And even now, had the postman not yet come round the corner?…