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A Strange Hostess
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"When you know me, call me by the name that seems to you to fit me," she replied: "that will tell me what sort you are. People do not often give me the right one. It is well when they do."
"I suppose, madam, you live in the cottage I saw in the heart of the moon?"
"I do. I live there alone, except when I have visitors. It is a poor place, but I do what I can for my guests, and sometimes their sleep is sweet to them."
Her voice entered into me, and made me feel strangely still.
"I will go with you, madam," I said, rising.
She rose at once, and without a glance behind her led the way. I could see her just well enough to follow. She was taller than myself, but not so tall as I had thought her. That she never turned her face to me made me curious--nowise apprehensive, her voice rang so true. But how was I to fit her with a name who could not see her? I strove to get alongside of her, but failed: when I quickened my pace she quickened hers, and kept easily ahead of me. At length I did begin to grow a little afraid. Why was she so careful not to be seen? Extraordinary ugliness would account for it: she might fear terrifying me! Horror of an inconceivable monstrosity began to assail me: was I following through the dark an unheard of hideousness? Almost I repented of having accepted her hospitality.
Neither spoke, and the silence grew unbearable. I MUST break it!
"I want to find my way," I said, "to a place I have heard of, but whose name I have not yet learned. Perhaps you can tell it me!"
"Describe it, then, and I will direct you. The stupid Bags know nothing, and the careless little Lovers forget almost everything."
"Where do those live?"
"You are just come from them!"
"I never heard those names before!"
"You would not hear them. Neither people knows its own name!"
"Perhaps so! but hardly any one anywhere knows his own name! It would make many a fine gentleman stare to hear himself addressed by what is really his name!"
I held my peace, beginning to wonder what my name might be.
"What now do you fancy yours?" she went on, as if aware of my thought. "But, pardon me, it is a matter of no consequence."
I had actually opened my mouth to answer her, when I discovered that my name was gone from me. I could not even recall the first letter of it! This was the second time I had been asked my name and could not tell it!
"Never mind," she said; "it is not wanted. Your real name, indeed, is written on your forehead, but at present it whirls about so irregularly that nobody can read it. I will do my part to steady it. Soon it will go slower, and, I hope, settle at last."
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