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TIME PASSES 161his dinner on the bricks, and the tramp slept withhis coat round him to ward off the cold. Then theroof would have fallen; briars and hemlocks wouldhave blotted out path, step, and window; would havegrown, unequally but lustily over the mound, untilsome trespasser, losing his way, could have told onlyby a red-hot poker among the nettles, or a scrap ofchina in the hemlock, that here once someone hadlived; there had been a house.

If the feather had fallen, if it had tipped the scaledownwards, the whole house would have plunged tothe depths to lie upon the sands of oblivion. Butthere was a force working; something not highlyconscious; something that leered, something thatlurched; something not inspired to go about itswork with dignified ritual or solemn chanting. MrsMcNab groaned; Mrs Bast creaked. They were old;they were stiff; their legs ached. They came withtheir brooms and pails at last; they got to work. Allof a sudden, would Mrs McNab see that the house

was ready? one of the young ladies wrote: would sheget this done?; would she get that done?; all in ahurry. They might be coming for the summer; hadleft everything to the last; expected to find things asthey had left them. Slowly and painfully, withbroom and pail, mopping, scouring, Mrs McNab, MrsBast stayed the corruption and the rot; rescued fromthe pool of Time that was fast closing over them nowa basin, now a cupboard; fetched up from oblivionall the Waverley novels and a tea-set one morning;in the afternoon restored to sun and air a brassfender and a set of steel fire-irons. George, MrsBast's son, caught the rats, and cut the grass. They