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The next installment from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape with Figures:

“Stopped in at the village library to take out a card and browse around a bit. It’s a homey sort of place, no counter, just a small desk for the one librarian. She was sitting at it, giving her serious attention to a little girl of about nine or ten, as I walked in.

I had a quick impression of a plump, middle-aged woman with a small head, which she kept nodding in assent to the child’s questions. That repetitious movement, along with the soft timbre of her voice when she spoke, plus the taupe dress she was wearing, made me think of a mourning dove. And when she got up to help the child find a book, hat ridiculous impression was reinforced by the high heels she was wearing, causing her to pick her way across the floor. I had the feeling that if she were startled, she might fly up onto one of the reading tables with a whistling sound made by her wings.  I was amused and found it hard to imagine her as having anything to do with books.

I began scanning the shelves more or less at random – until I happened with glad surprise upon Peter S. Beagle’s ‘The Last Unicorn.’ I remembered how a review of it, shortly after it was published, had excited my curiosity. I had meant to read it but somehow never got around to it. Now, finally, I have latched onto it. (Digression: I hope that slang phrase eventually becomes Standard English because it expresses a nuance of meaning lacking in any of its synonyms. ‘Fastened onto,’ which comes closest to being an adequate substitute, implies that I seized the book and wouldn’t let go of it, whereas all I did was pick it up and take it to the librarian to be checked out.)

She gave me a cordial smile, held out her hand, and said, ‘You must be a newcomer. Welcome! I’m Frances Tibbets.’

I introduced myself in return, and then as her glance fell on ‘The Last Unicorn,’ she exclaimed, ‘Oh! One of my favorite books!’

And suddenly we were involved in an animated conversation about authors. Instead of laughing at her as I had been inclined to do when I first came in, I was soon laughing with her. I look forward to another talk with her when I return the book.

Walking home it struck me that my life is falling into a more relaxed and flexible pattern – ‘unstructured’ would be the vogue word, I guess. I don’t even try to keep track of the days as if ticking off the dates on the calendar like a clock ticking off the minutes. I recognize the days of the week by certain signs. The rubbish collector calls on Tuesday, for instance. The fruit and vegetable man comes on Thursday. One or two little white sailboats, vanguard of the full summer fleet, racing past the Point means the weekend has arrived. If I were to stay long enough, I suspect my only calendar would become, like that of the birds and the animals, changing of the seasons.”

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