The question of lions came up, but Charlotte wanted none of it. “No, thank you,” she said, firmly; “you’ll be chained up till I’m quite close to you, and then you’ll be loose, and you’ll tear me in pieces. I know your lions!” “No, I won’t; I swear I won’t,” protested Edward. “I’ll be quite a new lion this time, – something you can’t even imagine. . . .” * Imagine The Wind in the Willows with real children in place of Kenneth Grahame’s storybook animals, and you’ll get a picture of this book, Grahame’s The Golden Age (1895). It is a story of children in late Victorian England – a marvel that views the world in ways that would confound the adults around them. Grahame’s elegant writing make The Golden Age a joy to read and reread. He had a wonderful knack for presenting the child’s view of the world, and this book brings it to full flower.
The masterful wind was up and out, shouting and chasing, the lord of the morning. Poplars swayed and tossed with a roaring swish; dead leaves sprang aloft, and whirled into space; and all the clear–swept heaven seemed to thrill with sound like a great harp.
It was one of the first awakenings of the year. The earth stretched herself, smiling in her sleep; and everything leapt and pulsed to the stir of the giant’s movement. With us it was a whole holiday; the occasion a birthday—it matters not whose. Some one of us had had presents, and pretty conventional speeches, and had glowed with that sense of heroism which is no less sweet that nothing has been done to deserve it. But the holiday was for all, the rapture of awakening Nature for all, the various outdoor joys of puddles and sun and hedge–breaking for all. Colt–like I ran through the meadows, frisking happy heels in the face of Nature laughing responsive. Above, the sky was bluest of the blue; wide pools left by the winter’s floods flashed the colour back, true and brilliant; and the soft air thrilled with the germinating touch that seemed to kindle something in my own small person as well as in the rash primrose already lurking in sheltered haunts. Out into the brimming sun–bathed world I sped, free of lessons, free of discipline and correction, for one day at least. My legs ran of themselves, and though I heard my name called faint and shrill behind, there was no stopping for me. It was only Harold, I concluded, and his legs, though shorter than mine, were good for a longer spurt than this. Then I heard it called again, but this time more faintly, with a pathetic break in the middle; and I pulled up short, recognising Charlotte’s plaintive note.
She panted up anon, and dropped on the turf beside me. Neither had any desire for talk; the glow and the glory of existing on this perfect morning were satisfaction full and sufficient.