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I first came to the house in the spring. It was the springtime of a year long ago. I had wanted to come in the winter, at Christmas, but that had not been possible. How I had longed that Christmas to see Cella! How I had wanted to be with her, find some uplifting and restoration in her smile, her voice. Her laugh.
Oh, her laugh was peerless and irresistible!
But it had not been possible at Christmas, the price demanded by parents and sisters had seemed too high in my weary and discouraged state, so I first saw the house in the spring.
It was an old house, even then.
And Cella kept it warm with her heart and her spirit and her endeavors even when the wood was low.
In spring the old boards creaked each day while gathering warmth. Snapped, they did, and soundly at times. Made us jump when we were reading quietly together, Nessa and I, and the others. The wood smelled so wonderful. Old wood does, you know, as though it gathered the scents of all its years and then offered that sachet up to us.
As though we were worth it.
As though we could distinguish it.

It was always the worst on market day. I could never figure out why but it always happened that things were misplaced, things were broken, the cats quarrelsome, the great lumps of birds squalling into a viciousness of petty demands. Cella would laugh, shrug, sweep her skirts in a discounting gesture.
That was the way of it, she seemed to say.
The thing to do, she'd decided, was to make something bright of it. Something like no other thing. That was how I used to see Christmas ornaments and songs when I was little. That was how Cella made me feel. So I came to stay with her.
I wanted it to be that way forever.

The old house was a relief after Italy. What more can I say.
Pigeons and sand, candles, violins, sheep loose everywhere in the streets, blackberries and currants and vineyards. It's all very nice and the mountains are a vision of wonder but:
the old house was a relief.
There it was, in its open place. A meadow, maybe, a field, a valley, a place, anyway, which suited it far better than any situated castle or keep or mansion at the culmination of a lane of poplars or elms or brooched by the stately oaks. They are always stately oaks. Do very young oaks feel the weight of that I wonder? It was a thing I could have asked Cella. And probably I did.
So I found the house, arriving in my first automobile, red as my cheeks and smoking, and dusty and I was full of excitement for my new beginning and my fulfillment.
There was the house, with its roof slates shining in the morning sun.
I loved that old house.
I loved it because that was where Cella lived.
And she let us live. She let us breathe again.

By that summer I was very tired. Then I met Cella and she said that I must come to her.
She had a house. She'd had it forever, she said, laughing, as though it were attached to her in some strange way like a vagrant child or stray dog, at times an embarrassment but richly rewarding all the same. I never really knew how she came to be there, or to live as she did; it was the sort of thing one assumed: Cella was there; she belonged there and there belonged to her and that was that.
It was a comfortable house, warm, embracing. I once heard it had been built and kept ever after by generations of a family who treasured it. I don't know if this was true.
But Cella made it seem that way.
That was the way she was.
So that summer when I was so tired I took her at her word though I had never ever done anything like that before and I went to see her. I stayed there at the house all summer and the days seemed to fly by.
I stayed into the autumn. It was easy to do.

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