The Highgrader (Prelude, page 1 of 5)


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A young idealist, at four, was selling stars to put in the sky. She had cut them with her own scissors out of red tissue paper, so that she was able to give a guarantee.

"But you'll have to get the ladder out of our bedroom to put 'em up wiv," she told purchasers honestly.

The child was a wild dark creature, slim and elfish, with a queer little smile that flashed sudden as an April sun.

It was evening, on the promenade deck of an ocean liner. The sea was like glass and the swell hardly perceptible. Land was in sight, a vague uneven line rising mist-like on the horizon. Before morning the Victorian would be running up the St. Lawrence. Even for the most squeamish the discomforts of the voyage lay behind. A pleasant good fellowship was in the air. In some it took the form of an idle contentment, a vague regret that ties newly formed must so soon be broken. In others it found an expression more buoyant. Merry voices of shuffleboard players drifted forward. Young couples paced the deck and leaned over the rail to watch the phosphorescent glow. The open windows of the smoking-room gave forth the tinkle of glasses and the low rattle of chips. All sounds blended into a mellow harmony.

"What's your price on a whole constellation with a lovers' moon thrown in?" inquired a young man lounging in a deck chair.

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