At the bottom, as arranged, Dan is waiting for us. He's grown tall since I last saw himand that's over a year ago, I realize. He used to come to the Abbey every day, but now he seems to avoid the placeif there's a reason for this, I, as usual, have not been told. Even so, he and Finn remain close. She's been to Dan's house before, many times, but for Julia and me, this will be unknown territorywe've never got past the gate; Dan has always forestalled us and barred the way. We walk through the village. It's silent in the afternoon heat. Thirteen hens peck on the verge.
Nothing's changed here for centuries; I like that. Julia claims it's a bore. The ancient crooked cottage in which Dan lives is the last house on the left, facing south, exactly four hundred paces beyond the duck pond. The front entrance is never used, so we troop round to the back, where it's shady and the door stands open.
It's an old, low doorway. Dan, Finn, and Julia have to bow their heads as they enter. I follow, and after the dazzle of the daylight, I'm blinded, in the dark.
Copyright © 2005 by Sally Beauman
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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