This is the second chapter of the Lindy novel. Those who missed the first chapter can find it posted at Lindy: Chapter One. Also, the novel still lacks a proper title, so those who have suggestions should feel free to offer them.
In Which There is an Odd Incident Involving Mister Hat
It was one of those days very early in the summer when it is warm enough for shorts in the sun but cool enough for a jacket in the shade. There were already leaves on the trees that grew along Mister Hat’s wall, but they were still a light sort of green and still delicate enough that Lindy could see sunlight through them as she looked into Mister Hat’s garden.
Right beneath her there was a wild looking patch of garden, filled mostly with overgrown rose bushes, and different kinds of ivy, and some tall plants that had yellow leaves that looked like flowers, and other sorts of bushes all grown together in a tangle. Just beyond the bushes there was a path of little stones that were almost covered in moss, and there was also a stone bench that needed very badly to be cleaned before anyone could sit on it. On the other side of the path the plants were shorter, almost like grass, and there were little flowers, blue and yellow and white, shooting through the leaves here and there.
All this Lindy could see very easily, but the rest of the garden was mostly hidden by the branches around her, and she could only see further when a particularly strong breeze blew the leaves far enough aside. When the breeze did blow strongly, which happened every few minutes or so, she could also see a stone archway standing in the middle of the grass and flowers, looking like an old church doorway but without the church. The stone of the arch was white and pink, like the colour on the inside of some seashells, and it was taller even than the wall, tall enough for two people to go through, one standing on top of the other.
Behind the arch there was another row of trees, but it was the arch that Lindy liked to see best, or rather, she liked to see the trees too, but mostly because she could see them through the archway. She liked to think that the arch was a kind of picture frame, only its picture was real and moving and alive, full of waving trees and falling sunlight and sometimes animals. She looked each time the wind blew to see how the picture had changed from her last look and from the look before it.
On this particular Saturday, Lindy had been sitting on her wall for most of the morning, leaning against the trunk of the tree, sometimes reading a book, when she heard the breeze begin to rustle the leaves once again. She looked out to see what picture the archway would make, but instead of the trees and flowers that she expected, she saw in the archway what looked like a silvery window or a cloudy mirror, and through the window, she saw the face of a man.
Actually, she could see the whole of the man from head to foot, but it was only his face that she could see clearly, since all the rest of his body was dark somehow, while his face was bright like sunlight. She could not have told you exactly what his face looked like, though she could remember it to herself ever after. She could only say that its colour was like the green of new leaves mixed with the gold of the sun, and that it looked stern in the way that kings are stern in old pictures, not angry, but strong and proud. Indeed, Lindy thought that he might be a king, for there was a sort of crown on his head made from ivy and white flowers that made him look very solemn and kingly and made Lindy feel a little frightened. Then the breeze stopped, and the leaves blocked her view of the archway once more.
Now, I hope that you can forgive Lindy for being frightened at seeing this man standing suddenly in the archway. After all, it is only natural to be frightened by things that are out of the ordinary, and you must admit that it is not at all ordinary for kings to appear without warning in peoples’ gardens, shining and green-gold and wearing crowns of flowers. Neither is it ordinary for doors, even tall stone arches that lead nowhere in particular, to turn suddenly into windows or mirrors or anything else for that matter. Truthfully, I would have been a bit frightened myself, and you probably would have been too if you had been in her place.
To Lindy’s credit, though, she was really only frightened for a minute before she started to feel better again. This was not because she was very brave, though she was certainly one of the braver people I have known. It was because she was very smart, and she quickly came to the reasonable conclusion that her eyes were playing tricks on her and that there really was no silvery window or stern looking king, just the light making the trees look strange or something equally ordinary. So, instead of climbing down the tree and going back to her house, which would have ended our story before it really had a chance to begin, she sat up a little and began crawling along the wall to a place where she could get a better view.
Of course, when she could see the arch again, it was just as she suspected: it looked normal once more, and the picture it held was only the trees behind it waving gently in the breeze, and there also was Mister Hat, pushing a wheelbarrow of dirt toward the path. The mystery, she thought, was explained. There had been no golden king coming through a mirror, only Mister Hat coming through the arch with his wheelbarrow. Her mind must have imagined all the rest.
Mister Hat did not look up to where Lindy was sitting, and she stayed there for a moment, feeling some relief, but also a little disappointment. However frightening it may have been to see a king suddenly appear in Mister Hat’s garden, it was also a little disappointing to discover that she had been right all along, that there really was no silvery mirror or golden king, and that this morning was as plain and ordinary as any other had been or was likely to be.
As Lindy was thinking these things, Mister Hat dumped the dirt from his wheelbarrow along the far side of the path and turned back toward the arch and the house beyond it, as if he was finished his work for the morning and was going home for his lunch. Then, just as Lindy was thinking that she should probably be heading inside too, Mister Hat did something that made the morning very much less plain and ordinary once more. As he stepped through the arch, it turned silvery again, and there was a moment when his head seemed to be golden and crowned with vines, and then he simply disappeared.
Maybe it was the surprise of seeing someone she knew disappear in the middle of his own garden, or maybe it was the shock of having been proven wrong in all her very reasonable conclusions, but Lindy could not afterward say exactly why she did what she did. She did not go home, which would perhaps have been the safer thing to do. Instead, she jumped down into Mister Hat’s garden, right in the middle of the overgrown ivies and rosebushes that grew along the wall. She did not think about being frightened, and she certainly did not think about getting her clothes dirty, because the drop was a big one, and she landed in bushes and thorns and dirt, so that she was soon scratched and muddy all over. In fact, she could never remember thinking anything at all, which is probably why she could do something as brave and silly as jump from such a height into a thicket of thorns and brambles in someone else’s yard.
From where she had landed, there were still several yards of bushes between her and the stone path, so she had gathered a good many more scratches and even some tears in her clothes by the time she was free of them and stood beside the stone bench, seeing the archway from a much nearer distance than she had ever seen it before. Now that she was this close, however, she did have some time to think, and she began to realize how silly a thing it was for her to go any further, especially if someone really had just disappeared not far away. On the other hand, she was curious, and she could not bring herself to go home just yet either, so there she stood, afraid to go further but unwilling to go back.
If you had asked Lindy just then about what exactly she was planning to do, she might have said something like, “I guess I’m waiting for Mister Hat to come back,” but of course you were not there to ask her any such thing, so she never really thought about what it was she was doing, and she just kept standing by the bench, looking into the archway where Mister Hat had disappeared. She waited for what seemed to her a very long time, but Mister Hat did not return, and Lindy began to think that perhaps she had imagined everything after all, though she did not really believe this. Instead, without realizing exactly what she was doing, she found herself walking to the archway and laying her hands on one of its white and pink pillars. As soon as her fingers touched the stone, there was a kind of humming, low and soft, and the arch was suddenly filled again with silver and grey.
When Lindy had watched Mister Hat from the wall, the archway had looked like a cloudy mirror or a silvered window, but now that she was closer, it looked more like thick smoke, blue and grey, swirling about between two panes of glass, and in the smoke there were little flecks of gold that looked like tiny stars, shining out for a moment, then hidden in the smoke, then shining once again.
She felt suddenly as though she had always known about the arch, with its silvery smoke and swirling lights, as if she had always known that she would pass through it some day. It seemed to her that she was remembering all these things from long ago, and just when she thought this, she was drawn forward through the smoke and into something else altogether.