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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #81

    In the passage Winkle bypassed the lavatory and went into the broom cupboard next door.  There was a housemaid's box on the floor and she sat down upon it with much satisfaction.  She had a naturally cheerful disposition and could be happy anywhere, but in school hours she was happiest inside the weeping willow on Mrs. Belling's lawn or inside the broom cupboard.  It was the peace and privacy that she liked in these retreats.  No one bothered her and she could escape to her country without fear of being seized and dragged back again before she had even had time to knock on the door.  Sitting with her fat hands folded in her lap she looked with affection at the whitewashed wall opposite her, and wished the sun would move upon it in the way she liked.  But it was a grey day today.  She turned toward the small square high window and saw it framing the branch of a plum tree with its blossom white against the grey sky.  A ring-dove alighted on the branch and swung there.   She sighed with contentment and her eyes did not leave the flowering branch or the blue-gray wonder of the bird.       "Please," she said softly, "could I go there now?"      She had a moment of anxiety, wondering if she would be able to go.  When she had been very small she had never wondered, the mere flash of a bird's wing, a snowflake looking in at the window or the scent of a flower had been enough to send her back.  Lying in her cot, rolling about on a rung on the lawn, sitting in her high chair eating her bread and milk, she had gone back with ease to that other place.  And she had not exactly gone back, she had been lifted back by the small lovely sights and sounds and scents as though it were easier for her to be there than here.  But now she was five years old it was easier to be here than there.  She could not go back without first secluding herself in some hiding place such as the apple tree at home, the rosemary tree in the manor house garden or the willow tree here, without climbing the steps to the door with the least suspicion of an effort, and that little pang of anxiety lest today she might not be able to make the effort.  And always at the back or her mind nowadays there was the fear that the day might come when not only would she be unable to make the effort, but that she would not want to go back.  Even now, at home, she did not find herself wanting to go back very often, because it was nice at home.  It was here at school that the longing to go back came upon her so overwhelmingly, though not so overwhelmingly as it used to do.  Perhaps one day she would have forgotten that she ever had gone back.  Nothing would remain of her returns but a vague longing.       But that time was a long way off yet, and meanwhile with relief and unspeakable joy she found herself making the effort and climbing the steps.  They were silvery steps and might have been made of light, and they led to the low small door in the rock that had a knocker on it, just like the knocker on the door of the doll's house where Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb had such adventures in the Tale of Two Bad Mice.  When Winkle knocked with the knocker the door was opened from the inside.  A year ago the door had opened at once but now she sometimes had to wait a little, and just occasionally felt worried lest this time it should not open.  A year ago she had been small enough to pass through the door without bending her head, but now she had to stoop.  if she got much bigger even stooping would not get her through for it was an exceedingly small door.       She knocked, waited a moment, the door opened and she stepped through into the branch of swaying blossoms.  Beside her was the dove and they swung there together in the still grey peace.   Elizabeth Goudge, The Rosemary Tree (1956), pp. 56-58.

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