THE LIGHTHOUSEother’s presence, which they had almost forgotten.Macalister’s fishing line went plumb down into thesea. But Mr. Ramsay went on reading with his legscurled under him.

He was reading a little shiny book with coversmottled like a plover’s egg. Now and again, as theyhung about in that horrid calm, he turned a page.And James felt that each page was turned with apeculiar gesture aimed at him: now assertively, nowcommandingly; now with the intention of makingpeople pity him; and all the time, as his father readand turned one after another of those little pages,James kept dreading the moment when he wouldlook up and speak sharply to him about somethingor other. Why were they lagging about here? hewould demand, or something quite unreasonable likethat. And if he does, James thought, then I shalltake a knife and strike him to the heart.

He had always kept this old symbol of taking aknife and striking his father to the heart. Only now,as he grew older, and sat staring at his father in animpotent rage, it was not him, that old man reading,whom he wanted to kill, but it was the thing thatdescended on him—without his knowing it perhaps:that fierce sudden black-winged harpy, with itstalons and its beak all cold and hard, that struckand struck at you (he could feel the beak on his273

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