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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

138               THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

an anxious desire to attain immobility. Whilst they are doing this,
there is truly created a silence which is different from that thought-
lessly called silence. It seems that life gradually vanishes, that the
room by degrees becomes empty, as if there were no longer any-
body in it. Then there is heard the tik-tak of the clock on the
wall; and this tik-tak seems to grow in intensity little by little
as the silence becomes absolute. From the outside, from the
courtyard which had seemed silent, there come various noises—&
bird chirping, a child passing. The children are fascinated by this-
silence, as by a real conquest of their own. " See," I said, " it is
now quite as quiet as if there were no longer any one here."

This stage reached, I darkened the windows and said to the
children, " Now listen for a gentle voice to call you by name."

Then from an adjacent room, situated behind the children,
through a wide-open door, I called in a muted voice but lengthen-
ing out the syllables as one would in calling to someone across the
mountains, and this half-hidden voice seemed to reach the hearts;
of the children and to call upon their souls. Every one I called
rose up silently trying not to move the chair, and walking on the
tips of the toes so silently that one scarcely knew they were
walking; nevertheless the step resounded in the absolute silence
which was never broken whilst all the others remained motionless^
The one called gained the door with a countenance full of joy,
making a little leap into the next room, stifling little outbursts of
laughter; or he laid hold of my dress leaning against me; or he set
himself to watch the companions who were still waiting in silent
expectation. He felt almost as if he had received a privilege, a
gift, a reward, yet he knew that all would be called, beginning with
the most absolutely silent one who was left in the room. In this
way each one tried to deserve by waiting in perfect silence the call
which was sure to come. I once saw a little one of three trying
to check a sneeze and managing to do it; she held back the breath
in her heaving little chest, and resisted, to emerge triumphant.

Such a game fascinates the little ones; their intent faces, their
patk&t immobility, show that they are eager to get the pleasure it