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Pagan Papers

by Kenneth Grahame

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Book Description
Moments there are, it is true, when this traitor spirit tricks you: when some subtle scent, some broken notes of an old song, nay, even some touch of a fresher air on your cheeks at night -- a breath of ``le vent qui vient à travers la montagne'' -- have power to ravish, to catch you back to the blissful days when you trod the one authentic Paradise. Moments only, alas!

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Among the many places of magic visited by Pantagruel and his company during the progress of their famous voyage, few surpass that island whose roads did literally ``go'' to places - ``ou les chemins cheminent, comme animaulx'': and would-be travellers, having inquired of the road as to its destination, and received satisfactory reply, ``se guindans'' (as the old book hath it - hoisting themselves up on) ``au chemin opportun, sans aultrement se poiner ou fatiguer, se trouvoyent au lieu destiné.

Excerpted from Pagan Papers by Kenneth Grahame. Copyright © 2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
For myself, I probably stand alone in owning to a sentimental weakness for the night-piercing whistle -- judiciously remote, as some men love the skirl of the pipes. In the days when streets were less wearily familiar than now, or ever the golden cord was quite loosed that led back to relinquished fields and wider skies, I have lain awake on stifling summer nights, thinking of luckier friends by moor and stream, and listening for the whistles from certain railway stations, veritable ``horns of Elf-land, faintly blowing.'' Then, a ghostly passenger, I have taken my seat in a phantom train, and sped up, up, through the map, rehearsing the journey bit by bit: through the furnace-lit Midlands, and on till the grey glimmer of dawn showed stone walls in place of hedges, and masses looming up on either side; till the bright sun shone upon brown leaping streams and purple heather, and the clear, sharp northern air streamed in through the windows... ``We are only the children who might have been,'' murmured Lamb's dream babes to him; and for the sake of those dream-journeys, the journeys that might have been, I still hail with a certain affection the call of the engine in the night...

-- The Romance of the Rail

No man -- no human, masculine, natural man -- ever sells a book. Men have been known in moments of thoughtlessness, or compelled by temporary necessity, to rob, to equivocate, to do murder, to commit what they should not, to ``wince and relent and refrain'' from what they should: these things, howbeit regrettable, are common to humanity, and may happen to any of us. But amateur bookselling is foul and unnatural; and it is noteworthy that our language, so capable of particularity, contains no distinctive name for the crime. Fortunately it is hardly known to exist: the face of the public being set against it as a flint -- and the trade giving such wretched prices.

-- Non Libri Sed Liberi

In later years it is stifled and gagged -- buried deep, a green turf at the head of it, and on its heart a stone; but it lives, it breathes, it lurks, it will up and out when 'tis looked for least. That stockbroker, some brief summers gone, who was missed from his wonted place one settling-day! a goodly portly man, i' faith: and had a villa and a steam launch at Surbiton: and was versed in the esoteric humours of the House. Who could have thought that the Hunter lay hid in him? Yet, after many weeks, they found him in a wild nook of Hampshire. Ragged, sun-burnt, the nocturnal haystack calling aloud from his frayed and weather-stained duds, his trousers tucked, he was tickling trout with godless native urchins; and when they would have won him to himself with honied whispers of American Rails, he answered but with babble of green fields. He is back in his wonted corner now: quite cured, apparently, and tractable. And yet -- let the sun shine too wantonly in Throgmorton Street, let an errant zephyr, quick with the warm South, fan but his cheek too wooingly on his way to the station; and will he not once more snap his chain and away? Ay, truly: and next time he will not be caught.

-- Orion



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