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How I Came to know Clare Skymer. It was a day when everything around seemed almost perfect: everything does, now and then, come nearly right for a moment or two, preparatory to coming all right for good at the last. It was the third week in June. The great furnace was glowing and shining in full force, driving the ship of our life at her best speed through the ocean of space. For on deck, and between decks, and aloft, there is so much more going on at one time than at another, that I may well say she was then going at her best speed, for there is quality as well as rate in motion. The trees were all well clothed, most of them in their very best. Their garments were soaking up the light and the heat, and the wind was going about among them, telling now one and now another, that all was well, and getting through an immense amount of comfort-work in a single minute. It said a word or two to myself as often as it passed me, and made me happier than any boy I know just at present, for I was an old man, and ought to be more easily made happy than any mere beginner. I was walking through the thin edge of a little wood of big trees, with a slope of green on my left stretching away into the sunny distance, and the shadows of the trees on my right lying below my feet. The earth and the grass and the trees and the air were together weaving a harmony, and the birds were leading the big orchestra—which was indeed on the largest scale. For the instruments were so different, that some of them only were meant for sound; the part of others was in odour, of others yet in shine, and of still others in motion; while the birds turned it all as nearly into words as they could. Presently, to complete the score, I heard the tones of a man's voice, both strong and sweet. It was talking to some one in a way I could not understand. I do not mean I could not understand the words: I was too far off even to hear them; but I could not understand how the voice came to be so modulated. It was deep, soft, and musical, with something like coaxing in it, and something of tenderness, and the intent of it puzzled me. For I could not conjecture from it the age, or sex, or relation, or kind of the person to whom the words were spoken.

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