Well, no doubt they were now being married, He and She, just as always happened. And then, of course, they were going to live happily ever after; and that was the part I wanted to get to. Storybooks were so stupid, always stopping at the point where they became really nice; but this picture-story was only in its first chapters, and at last I was to have a chance of knowing how people lived happily ever after. We would all go home together, He and She, and the angels, and I; and the armour-man would be invited to come and stay. And then the story would really begin, at the point where those other ones always left off. I turned the page, and found myself free of the dim and splendid church and once more in the open country.
This was all right; this was just as it should be. The sky was a fleckless blue^ the flags danced in the breeze, and our merry bridal party, with jest and laughter, jogged down to the water-side. I was through the town by this time, and out on the other side of the hill, where I had always wanted to be; and, sure enough, there was the harbour, all thick with curly ships. Most of them were piled high with wedding-presents - bales of silk, and gold and silver plate, and comfortable-looking bags suggesting bullion; and the gayest ship of all lay close up to the carpeted landing-stage. Already the bride was stepping daintily down the gangway, her ladies following primly, one by one; a few minutes more and we should all be aboard, the hawsers would splash in the water, the sails would fill and strain. From the deck I should see the little walled town recede and sink and grow dim, while every plunge of our bows brought us nearer to the happy island - it was an island we were bound for, I knew well! Already I could see the island-people waving hands on the crowded quay, whence the little houses ran up the hill to the castle, crowning all with its towers and battlements. Once more we should ride together, a merry procession, clattering up the steep street and through the grim gateway; and then we should have arrived, then we should all dine together, then we should have reached home ! And then - Ow! Ow! Ow!
Bitter it is to stumble out of an opalescent dream into the cold daylight; cruel to lose in a second a sea-voyage, an island, and a castle that was to be practically your own; but cruellest and bitterest of all to know, in addition to your loss, that the fingers of an angry aunt have you tight by the scruff of your neck. My beautiful book was gone too - ravished from my grasp by the dressy lady, who joined in the outburst of denunciation as heartily as if she had been a relative - and naught was left me but to blubber dismally, awakened of a sudden to the harshness of real things and the unnumbered hostilities of the actual world. I cared little for their reproaches, their abuse; but I sorrowed heartily for my lost ship, my vanished island, my uneaten dinner, and for the knowledge that, if I wanted any angels to play with, I must henceforth put up with the anaemic, night-gowned nonentities that hovered over the bed of the Sunday-school child in the pages of the Sabbath Improver.
I was led ignominiously out of the house, in a pulpy, watery state, while the butler handled his swing doors with a stony, in passive countenance, intended for the de-ception of the very elect, though it did not deceive me. I knew well enough th next time he was off duty, and strolled around our way, we should meet in our kitchen as man to man, and I would punch him and ask him riddles, and he would teach me tricks with corks and bits string. So his unsympathetic manner did not add to my depression.
I maintained a diplomatic blubber loud after we had been packed into our pon carriage and the lodge-gate had clicked behind us, because it served as a sort armour-plating against heckling and argu-ment and abuse, and I was thinking hard and wanted to be let alone. And the thoughts that I was thinking were two.
First I thought, " I 've got ahead Charlotte this time! "
And next I thought, " When I Ve grown up big, and have money of my own, and a full-sized walking-stick, I will set out early one morning, and never stop till I get to that little, walled town." There ought to be no real difficulty in the task. It only meant asking here and asking there, and people were very obliging, and I could describe every stick and stone of it.
As for the island which I had never even seen, that was not so easy. Yet I felt confident that somehow, at some time, sooner or later, I was destined to arrive.