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News from Nowhere by William Morris

Part 5 out of 5

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and she DID seem to recognise me for an instant; but her bright face
turned sad directly, and she shook her head with a mournful look, and
the next moment all consciousness of my presence had faded from her
face.

I felt lonely and sick at heart past the power of words to describe.
I hung about a minute longer, and then turned and went out of the
porch again and through the lime-avenue into the road, while the
blackbirds sang their strongest from the bushes about me in the hot
June evening.

Once more without any conscious effort of will I set my face toward
the old house by the ford, but as I turned round the corner which led
to the remains of the village cross, I came upon a figure strangely
contrasting with the joyous, beautiful people I had left behind in
the church. It was a man who looked old, but whom I knew from habit,
now half forgotten, was really not much more than fifty. His face
was rugged, and grimed rather than dirty; his eyes dull and bleared;
his body bent, his calves thin and spindly, his feet dragging and
limping. His clothing was a mixture of dirt and rags long over-
familiar to me. As I passed him he touched his hat with some real
goodwill and courtesy, and much servility.

Inexpressibly shocked, I hurried past him and hastened along the road
that led to the river and the lower end of the village; but suddenly
I saw as it were a black cloud rolling along to meet me, like a
nightmare of my childish days; and for a while I was conscious of
nothing else than being in the dark, and whether I was walking, or
sitting, or lying down, I could not tell.

* * *

I lay in my bed in my house at dingy Hammersmith thinking about it
all; and trying to consider if I was overwhelmed with despair at
finding I had been dreaming a dream; and strange to say, I found that
I was not so despairing.

Or indeed WAS it a dream? If so, why was I so conscious all along
that I was really seeing all that new life from the outside, still
wrapped up in the prejudices, the anxieties, the distrust of this
time of doubt and struggle?

All along, though those friends were so real to me, I had been
feeling as if I had no business amongst them: as though the time
would come when they would reject me, and say, as Ellen's last
mournful look seemed to say, "No, it will not do; you cannot be of
us; you belong so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our
happiness even would weary you. Go back again, now you have seen us,
and your outward eyes have learned that in spite of all the
infallible maxims of your day there is yet a time of rest in store
for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship--but not
before. Go back again, then, and while you live you will see all
round you people engaged in making others live lives which are not
their own, while they themselves care nothing for their own real
lives--men who hate life though they fear death. Go back and be the
happier for having seen us, for having added a little hope to your
struggle. Go on living while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain
and labour needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of
fellowship, and rest, and happiness."

Yes, surely! and if others can see it as I have seen it, then it may
be called a vision rather than a dream.

Footnotes:

{1} "Elegant," I mean, as a Persian pattern is elegant; not like a
rich "elegant" lady out for a morning call. I should rather call
that genteel.

{2} I should have said that all along the Thames there were
abundance of mills used for various purposes; none of which were in
any degree unsightly, and many strikingly beautiful; and the gardens
about them marvels of loveliness.

{3} Cirencester and Burford he must have meant.

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