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From Virginia Woolf's short story "Kew Gardens":

They walked on the past the flower-bed, now walking four abreast, and soon diminished in size among the trees and looked half transparent as the sunlight and shade swam over their backs in large trembling irregular patches.

I am confused; shouldn't it be "they walked on PAST THE FLOWER BED..."? why is there a "the" in front of the word "past"? Is it a typo, or is she being poetic in a stream of conciousness sense?

Btw, it is there in every free copy of Kew Gardens that I found online. I also found it in an ebook on Google Play.

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  • Here's a version which has "They walked on past the flower-bed". Probably someone will be able to track down a scan of the original publication and see how it was written first, whether it was a typo later corrected or a mistake introduced later.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 16 at 12:23

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It’s just a mistake. The Celebration of Women Writers edition that you linked to says:

Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer Steven van Leeuwen.

The implication seems to be that the text was typed in by the volunteer, rather than starting with optical character recognition. (See the instructions that volunteers were given.) Accidental insertion or duplication of a word is a common kind of error in text entry.

Here's a scan from the 1921 publication of the story in the collection Monday or Tuesday, showing that the original text lacked the extra “the”:

Noisy scan of page reading “all my life. Come Caroline, come Hubert. They walked on past the flower-bed, now” with page number 70 visible at the bottom.

Virginia Woolf (1919). ‘Kew Gardens’. In Monday or Tuesday (1921), p. 70. Richmond: Hogarth Press.

The other online editions you found must have been copied from the Celebration of Women Writers edition. Copying is cheap and proof-reading is expensive. But not all online editions have the mistake, for example the Project Gutenberg edition is correct.

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