Infomotions, Inc.A Prisoner in Fairyland / Blackwood, Algernon, 1869-1951



Author: Blackwood, Algernon, 1869-1951
Title: A Prisoner in Fairyland
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jimbo; minks; rogers; daddy; monkey; jane anne; miss waghorn
Contributor(s): Howitt, Mary (Mary Botham), 1799-1888 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Identifier: etext6021
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Title: A Prisoner in Fairyland

Author: Algernon Blackwood

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A PRISONER IN FAIRYLAND

(THE BOOK THAT 'UNCLE PAUL' WROTE)

BY

ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

Author of 'Jimbo,' 'John Silence,'
'The Centaur,' 'Education of Uncle Paul,' Etc.

1913



TO

M. S.-K.

'LITTLE MOUSE THAT, LOST IN WONDER,
FLICKS ITS WHISKERS AT THE THUNDER!'




"Les Pensees!
O leurs essors fougueux, leurs flammes dispersees,
Leur rouge acharnement ou leur accord vermeil!
Comme la-haut les etoiles criblaient la nue,
Elles se constellaient sur la plaine inconnue;
Elles roulaient dans l'espace, telles des feux,
Gravissaient la montagne, illuminaient la fleuve
Et jetaient leur parure universelle et neuve
De mer en mer, sur les pays silencieux."

Le Monde, EMILE VERHAEREN




CHAPTER I


    Man is his own star; and the soul that can
    Render an honest and a perfect man
    Commands all light, all influence, all fate,
    Nothing to him falls early, or too late.
    Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,

    Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.
                           BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.

Minks--Herbert Montmorency--was now something more than secretary,
even than private secretary: he was confidential-private-secretary,
adviser, friend; and this, more because he was a safe receptacle for
his employer's enthusiasms than because his advice or judgment had any
exceptional value. So many men need an audience. Herbert Minks was a
fine audience, attentive, delicately responsive, sympathetic,
understanding, and above all--silent. He did not leak. Also, his
applause was wise without being noisy. Another rare quality he
possessed was that he was honest as the sun. To prevaricate, even by
gesture, or by saying nothing, which is the commonest form of untruth,
was impossible to his transparent nature. He might hedge, but he could
never lie. And he was 'friend,' so far as this was possible between
employer and employed, because a pleasant relationship of years'
standing had established a bond of mutual respect under conditions of
business intimacy which often tend to destroy it.

Just now he was very important into the bargain, for he had a secret
from his wife that he meant to divulge only at the proper moment. He
had known it himself but a few hours. The leap from being secretary in
one of Henry Rogers's companies to being that prominent gentleman's
confidential private secretary was, of course, a very big one. He
hugged it secretly at first alone. On the journey back from the City
to the suburb where he lived, Minks made a sonnet on it. For his
emotions invariably sought the safety valve of verse. It was a wiser
safety valve for high spirits than horse-racing or betting on the
football results, because he always stood to win, and never to lose.
Occasionally he sold these bits of joy for half a guinea, his wife
pasting the results neatly in a big press album from which he often
read aloud on Sunday nights when the children were in bed. They were
signed 'Montmorency Minks'; and bore evidence of occasional pencil
corrections on the margin with a view to publication later in a
volume. And sometimes there were little lyrical fragments too, in a
wild, original metre, influenced by Shelley and yet entirely his own.
These had special pages to themselves at the end of the big book. But
usually he preferred the sonnet form; it was more sober, more
dignified. And just now the bumping of the Tube train shaped his
emotion into something that began with

   Success that poisons many a baser mind
   With thoughts of self, may lift--

but stopped there because, when he changed into another train, the
jerkier movement altered the rhythm into something more lyrical, and
he got somewhat confused between the two and ended by losing both.

He walked up the hill towards his tiny villa, hugging his secret and
anticipating with endless detail how he would break it to his wife. He
felt very proud and very happy. The half-mile trudge seemed like a few
yards.

He was a slim, rather insignificant figure of a man, neatly dressed,
the City clerk stamped plainly over all his person. He envied his
employer's burly six-foot stature, but comforted himself always with
the thought that he possessed in its place a certain delicacy that was
more becoming to a man of letters whom an adverse fate prevented from
being a regular minor poet. There was that touch of melancholy in his
fastidious appearance that suggested the atmosphere of frustrated
dreams. Only the firmness of his character and judgment decreed
against the luxury of longish hair; and he prided himself upon
remembering that although a poet at heart, he was outwardly a City
clerk and, as a strong man, must permit no foolish compromise.

His face on the whole was pleasing, and rather soft, yet, owing to
this warring of opposing inner forces, it was at the same time
curiously deceptive. Out of that dreamy, vague expression shot, when
least expected, the hard and practical judgment of the City--or vice
versa. But the whole was gentle--admirable quality for an audience,
since it invited confession and assured a gentle hearing. No harshness
lay there. Herbert Minks might have been a fine, successful mother
perhaps. The one drawback to the physiognomy was that the mild blue
eyes were never quite united in their frank gaze. He squinted
pleasantly, though his wife told him it was a fascinating cast rather
than an actual squint. The chin, too, ran away a little from the
mouth, and the lips were usually parted. There was, at any rate, this
air of incompatibility of temperament between the features which, made
all claim to good looks out of the question.

That runaway chin, however, was again deceptive. It did, indeed run
off, but the want of decision it gave to the countenance seemed
contradicted by the prominent forehead and straight eyebrows, heavily
marked. Minks knew his mind. If sometimes evasive rather than
outspoken, he could on occasion be surprisingly firm. He saw life very
clearly. He could certainly claim the good judgment stupid people
sometimes have, due perhaps to their inability to see alternatives--
just as some men's claim to greatness is born of an audacity due to
their total lack of humour.

Minks was one of those rare beings who may be counted on--a quality
better than mere brains, being of the heart. And Henry Rogers
understood him and read him like an open book. Preferring the steady
devotion to the brilliance a high salary may buy, he had watched him
for many years in every sort of circumstance. He had, by degrees, here
and there, shown an interest in his life. He had chosen his private
secretary well. With Herbert Minks at his side he might accomplish
many things his heart was set upon. And while Minks bumped down in his
third-class crowded carriage to Sydenham, hunting his evasive sonnet,
Henry Rogers glided swiftly in a taxi-cab to his rooms in St. James's
Street, hard on the trail of another dream that seemed, equally, to
keep just beyond his actual reach.

It would certainly seem that thought can travel across space between
minds sympathetically in tune, for just as the secretary put his
latch-key into his shiny blue door the idea flashed through him, 'I
wonder what Mr. Rogers will do, now that he's got his leisure, with a
fortune and--me!' And at the same moment Rogers, in his deep arm-chair
before the fire, was saying to himself, 'I'm glad Minks has come to
me; he's just the man I want for my big Scheme!' And then--'Pity he's
such a lugubrious looking fellow, and wears those dreadful fancy
waistcoats. But he's very open to suggestion. We can change all that.
I must look after Minks a bit. He's rather sacrificed his career for
me, I fancy. He's got high aims. Poor little Minks!'

'I'll stand by him whatever happens,' was the thought the slamming of
the blue door interrupted. 'To be secretary to such a man is already
success.' And again he hugged his secret and himself.

As already said, the new-fledged secretary was married and wrote
poetry on the sly. He had four children. He would make an ideal
helpmate, worshipping his employer with that rare quality of being
interested in his ideas and aims beyond the mere earning of a salary;
seeing, too, in that employer more than he, the latter, supposed. For,
while he wrote verses on the sly, 'my chief,' as he now preferred to
call him, lived poetry in his life.

'He's got it, you know, my dear,' he announced to his wife, as he
kissed her and arranged his tie in the gilt mirror over the plush
mantelpiece in the 'parlour'; 'he's got the divine thing in him right
enough; got it, too, as strong as hunger or any other natural
instinct. It's almost functional with him, if I may say so'--which
meant 'if you can understand me'--'only, he's deliberately smothered
it all these years. He thinks it wouldn't go down with other business
men. And he's been in business, you see, from the word go. He meant to
make money, and he couldn't do both exactly. Just like myself---'

Minks wandered on. His wife noticed the new enthusiasm in his manner,
and was puzzled by it. Something was up, she divined.

'Do you think he'll raise your salary again soon?' she asked
practically, helping him draw off the paper cuffs that protected his
shirt from ink stains, and throwing them in the fire. 'That seems to
be the real point.'

But Herbert evaded the immediate issue. It was so delightful to watch
her and keep his secret a little longer.

'And you _do_ deserve success, dear,' she added; 'you've been as
faithful as a horse.' She came closer, and stroked his thick, light
hair a moment.

He turned quickly. Had he betrayed himself already? Had she read it
from his eyes or manner?

'That's nothing,' he answered lightly. 'Duty is duty.'

'Of course, dear,' and she brought him his slippers. He would not let
her put them on for him. It was not gallant to permit menial services
to a woman.

'Success,' he murmured, 'that poisons many a baser mind---' and then
stopped short. 'I've got a new sonnet,' he told her quickly,
determined to prolong his pleasure, 'got it in the train coming home.
Wait a moment, and I'll give you the rest. It's a beauty, with real
passion in it, only I want to keep it cold and splendid if I can.
Don't interrupt a moment.' He put the slippers on the wrong feet and
stared hard into the fire.

Then Mrs. Minks knew for a certainty that something had happened. He
had not even asked after the children.

'Herbert,' she said, with a growing excitement, 'why are you so full
of poetry to-night? And what's this about success and poison all of a
sudden?' She knew he never drank. 'I believe Mr. Rogers has raised
your salary, or done one of those fine things you always say he's
going to do. Tell me, dear, please tell me.' There were new, unpaid
bills in her pocket, and she almost felt tempted to show them. She
poked the fire fussily.

'Albinia,' he answered importantly, with an expression that brought
the chin up closer to the lips, and made the eyebrows almost stern,
'Mr. Rogers will do the right thing always--when the right time comes.
As a matter of fact'--here he reverted to the former train of thought
--'both he and I are misfits in a practical, sordid age. We should
have been born in Greece---'

'I simply love your poems, Herbert,' she interrupted gently, wondering
how she managed to conceal her growing impatience so well, 'but
there's not the money in them that there ought to be, and they don't
pay for coals or for Ronald's flannels---'

'Albinia,' he put in softly, 'they relieve the heart, and so make me a
happier and a better man. But--I should say he would,' he added,
answering her distant question about the salary.

The secret was almost out. It hung on the edge of his lips. A moment
longer he hugged it deliciously. He loved these little conversations
with his wife. Never a shade of asperity entered into them. And this
one in particular afforded him a peculiar delight.

'Both of us are made for higher things than mere money-making,' he
went on, lighting his calabash pipe and puffing the smoke carefully
above her head from one corner of his mouth, 'and that's what first
attracted us to each other, as I have often mentioned to you. But
now'--his bursting heart breaking through all control--'that he has
sold his interests to a company and retired into private life--er--my
own existence should be easier and less exacting. I shall have less
routine, be more my own master, and also, I trust, find time perhaps
for---'

'Then something _has_ happened!' cried Mrs. Minks, springing to her
feet.

'It has, my dear,' he answered with forced calmness, though his voice
was near the trembling point.

She stood in front of him, waiting. But he himself did not rise, nor
show more feeling than he could help. His poems were full of scenes
like this in which the men--strong, silent fellows--were fine and
quiet. Yet his instinct was to act quite otherwise. One eye certainly
betrayed it.

'It has,' he repeated, full of delicious emotion.

'Oh, but Herbert---!'

'And I am no longer that impersonal factor in City life, mere
secretary to the Board of a company---'

'Oh, Bertie, dear!'

'But private secretary to Mr. Henry Rogers--private and confidential
secretary at---'

'Bert, darling---!'

'At 300 pounds a year, paid quarterly, with expenses extra,
and long, regular holidays,' he concluded with admirable dignity and
self-possession.

There was a moment's silence.

'You splendour!' She gave a little gasp of admiration that went
straight to his heart, and set big fires alight there. 'Your reward
has come at last! My hero!'

This was as it should be. The beginning of an epic poem flashed with
tumult through his blood. Yet outwardly he kept his admirable calm.

'My dear, we must take success, like disaster, quietly.' He said it
gently, as when he played with the children. It was mostly put on, of
course, this false grandiloquence of the prig. His eyes already
twinkled more than he could quite disguise.

'Then we can manage the other school, perhaps, for Frank?' she cried,
and was about to open various flood-gates when he stopped her with a
look of proud happiness that broke down all barriers of further
pretended secrecy.

'Mr. Rogers,' was the low reply, 'has offered to do that for us--as a
start.' The words were leisurely spoken between great puffs of smoke.
'That's what I meant just now by saying that he lived poetry in his
life, you see. Another time you will allow judgment to wait on
knowledge---'

'You dear old humbug,' she cried, cutting short the sentence that
neither of them quite understood, 'I believe you've known this for
weeks---'

'Two hours ago exactly,' he corrected her, and would willingly have
prolonged the scene indefinitely had not his practical better half
prevented him. For she came over, dropped upon her knees beside his
chair, and, putting both arms about his neck, she kissed his foolish
sentences away with all the pride and tenderness that filled her to
the brim. And it pleased Minks hugely. It made him feel, for the
moment at any rate, that he was the hero, not Mr. Henry Rogers.

But he did not show his emotion much. He did not even take his pipe
out. It slipped down sideways into another corner of his wandering
lips. And, while he returned the kiss with equal tenderness and
pleasure, one mild blue eye looked down upon her soft brown hair, and
the other glanced sideways, without a trace of meaning in it, at the
oleograph of Napoleon on Elba that hung upon the wall. ...

Soon afterwards the little Sydenham villa was barred and shuttered,
the four children were sound asleep, Herbert and Albinia Minks both
lost in the world of happy dreams that sometimes visit honest, simple
folk whose consciences are clean and whose aims in life are
commonplace but worthy.




CHAPTER II


When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first
splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang 'Oh, the
picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!'

But one cried of a sudden--'It seems that somewhere there is a break
in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.'

The golden string of their harp snapped, their song stopped, and they
cried in dismay--'Yes, that lost star was the best, she was the glory
of all heavens!'

From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes on
from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one joy!

Only in the deepest silence of night the stars smile and whisper among
themselves--'Vain is this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!'

RABINDRANATH TAGORE. (Prose translation by Author from his original
Bengali.)

It was April 30th and Henry Rogers sat in his rooms after breakfast,
listening to the rumble of the traffic down St. James's Street, and
found the morning dull. A pile of letters lay unopened upon the table,
waiting the arrival of the discriminating Mr. Minks with his shorthand
note-book and his mild blue eyes. It was half-past nine, and the
secretary was due at ten o'clock.

He smiled as he thought of this excellent fellow's first morning in
the promoted capacity of private secretary. He would come in very
softly, one eye looking more intelligent than the other; the air of
the City clerk discarded, and in its place the bearing that belonged
to new robes of office worn for the first time. He would bow, say
'Good morning, Mr. Rogers,' glance round with one eye on his employer
and another on a possible chair, seat himself with a sigh that meant
'I have written a new poem in the night, and would love to read it to
you if I dared,' then flatten out his oblong note-book and look up,
expectant and receptive. Rogers would say 'Good morning, Mr. Minks.
We've got a busy day before us. Now, let me see---' and would meet his
glance with welcome. He would look quickly from one eye to the other-
to this day he did not know which one was right to meet-and would
wonder for the thousandth time how such an insignificant face could go
with such an honest, capable mind. Then he smiled again as he
remembered Frank, the little boy whose schooling he was paying for,
and realised that Minks would bring a message of gratitude from Mrs.
Minks, perhaps would hand him, with a gesture combining dignity and
humbleness, a little note of thanks in a long narrow envelope of pale
mauve, bearing a flourishing monogram on its back.

And Rogers scowled a little as he thought of the air of gruffness he
would assume while accepting it, saying as pleasantly as he could
manage, 'Oh, Mr. Minks, that's nothing at all; I'm only too delighted
to be of service to the lad.' For he abhorred the expression of
emotion, and his delicate sense of tact would make pretence of helping
the boy himself, rather than the struggling parents.

Au fond he had a genuine admiration for Minks, and there was something
lofty in the queer personality that he both envied and respected. It
made him rely upon his judgment in certain ways he could not quite
define. Minks seemed devoid of personal ambition in a sense that was
not weakness. He was not insensible to the importance of money, nor
neglectful of chances that enabled him to do well by his wife and
family, but--he was after other things as well, if not chiefly. With a
childlike sense of honesty he had once refused a position in a company
that was not all it should have been, and the high pay thus rejected
pointed to a scrupulous nicety of view that the City, of course,
deemed foolishness. And Rogers, aware of this, had taken to him,
seeking as it were to make this loss good to him in legitimate ways.
Also the fellow belonged to leagues and armies and 'things,' quixotic
some of them, that tried to lift humanity. That is, he gave of his
spare time, as also of his spare money, to help. His Saturday
evenings, sometimes a whole bank holiday, he devoted to the welfare of
others, even though the devotion Rogers thought misdirected.

For Minks hung upon the fringe of that very modern, new-fashioned, but
almost freakish army that worships old, old ideals, yet insists upon
new-fangled names for them. Christ, doubtless, was his model, but it
must be a Christ properly and freshly labelled; his Christianity must
somewhere include the prefix 'neo,' and the word 'scientific' must
also be dragged in if possible before he was satisfied. Minks, indeed,
took so long explaining to himself the wonderful title that he was
sometimes in danger of forgetting the brilliant truths it so vulgarly
concealed. Yet never quite concealed. He must be up-to-date, that was
all. His attitude to the world scraped acquaintance with nobility
somewhere. His gift was a rare one. Out of so little, he gave his
mite, and gave it simply, unaware that he was doing anything unusual.

This attitude of mind had made him valuable, even endeared him, to the
successful business man, and in his secret heart Rogers had once or
twice felt ashamed of himself. Minks, as it were, knew actual
achievement because he was, forcedly, content with little, whereas he,
Rogers, dreamed of so much, yet took twenty years to come within reach
of what he dreamed. He was always waiting for the right moment to
begin.

His reflections were interrupted by the sunlight, which, pouring in a
flood across the opposite roof, just then dropped a patch of soft
April glory upon the black and yellow check of his carpet slippers.
Rogers got up and, opening the window wider than before, put out his
head. The sunshine caught him full in the face. He tasted the fresh
morning air. Tinged with the sharp sweetness of the north it had a
fragrance as of fields and gardens. Even St. James's Street could not
smother its vitality and perfume. He drew it with delight into his
lungs, making such a to-do about it that a passer-by looked up to see
what was the matter, and noticing the hanging tassel of a flamboyant
dressing-gown, at once modestly lowered his eyes again.

But Henry Rogers did not see the passer-by in whose delicate mind a
point of taste had thus vanquished curiosity, for his thoughts had
flown far across the pale-blue sky, behind the cannon-ball clouds, up
into that scented space and distance where summer was already winging
her radiant way towards the earth. Visions of June obscured his sight,
and something in the morning splendour brought back his youth and
boyhood. He saw a new world spread about him--a world of sunlight,
butterflies, and flowers, of smooth soft lawns and shaded gravel
paths, and of children playing round a pond where rushes whispered in
a wind of long ago. He saw hayfields, orchards, tea-things spread upon
a bank of flowers underneath a hedge, and a collie dog leaping and
tumbling shoulder high among the standing grass.... It was all
curiously vivid, and with a sense of something about it unfading and
delightfully eternal. It could never pass, for instance, whereas....

'Ain't yer forgotten the nightcap?' sang out a shrill voice from
below, as a boy with a basket on his arm went down the street. He drew
back from the window, realising that he was a sight for all admirers.
Tossing the end of his cigarette in the direction of the cheeky
urchin, he settled himself again in the arm-chair before the glowing
grate-fire.

But the fresh world he had tasted came back with him. For Henry Rogers
stood this fine spring morning upon the edge of a new life. A long
chapter had just closed behind him. He was on the threshold of
another. The time to begin had come. And the thrill of his freedom now
at hand was very stimulating to his imagination. He was forty, and a
rich man. Twenty years of incessant and intelligent labour had brought
him worldly success. He admitted he had been lucky, where so many toil
on and on till the gates of death stand up and block their way,
fortunate if they have earned a competency through years where hope
and disappointment wage their incessant weary battle. But he, for some
reason known only to the silent Fates, had crested the difficult hill
and now stood firm upon the top to see the sunrise, the dreadful gates
not even yet in sight. At yesterday's Board meeting, Minks had handed
him the papers for his signature; the patents had been transferred to
the new company; the cheque had been paid over; and he was now a
gentleman of leisure with a handsome fortune lying in his bank to
await investment. He was a director in the parent, as well as the
subsidiary companies, with fees that in themselves alone were more
than sufficient for his simple needs.

For all his tastes _were_ simple, and he had no expensive hobbies or
desires; he preferred two rooms and a bath to any house that he had
ever seen; pictures he liked best in galleries; horses he could hire
without the trouble of owning; the few books worth reading would go
into a couple of shelves; motors afflicted, even confused him--he was
old-fashioned enough to love country and walk through it slowly on two
vigorous legs; marriage had been put aside with a searing
disappointment years ago, not forgotten, but accepted; and of travel
he had enjoyed enough to realise now that its pleasures could be found
reasonably near home and for very moderate expenditure indeed. And the
very idea of servants was to him an affliction; he loathed their
prying closeness to his intimate life and habits, destroying the
privacy he loved. Confirmed old bachelor his friends might call him if
they chose; he knew what he wanted. Now at last he had it. The
ambition of his life was within reach.

For, from boyhood up, a single big ambition had ever thundered through
his being--the desire to be of use to others. To help his fellow-kind
was to be his profession and career. It had burned and glowed in him
ever since he could remember, and what first revealed it in him was
the sight--common enough, alas--of a boy with one leg hobbling along
on crutches down the village street. Some deep power in his youthful
heart, akin to the wondrous sympathy of women, had been touched. Like
a shock of fire it came home to him. He, too, might lose his dearest
possession thus, and be unable to climb trees, jump ditches, risk his
neck along the edge of the haystack or the roof. '_That might happen
to me too!_' was the terrible thing he realised, and had burst into
tears....

Crutches at twelve! And the family hungry, as he later learned!
Something in the world was wrong; he thought every one had enough to
eat, at least, and only the old used crutches. 'The Poor was a sort of
composite wretch, half criminal, who deserved to be dirty, suffering,
punished; but this boy belonged to a family that worked and did its
best. Something in the world-machinery had surely broken loose and
caused violent disorder. For no one cared particularly. The
''thorities,' he heard, looked after the Poor--''thorities in law,' as
he used to call the mysterious Person he never actually saw, stern,
but kindly in a grave impersonal way; and asked once if some relation-
in-law or other, who was mentioned often but never seen, had,
therefore, anything to do with the poor.

Dropping into his heart from who knows what far, happy star, this
passion had grown instead of faded: to give himself for others, to
help afflicted folk, to make the world go round a little more easily.
And he had never forgotten the deep thrill with which he heard his
father tell him of some wealthy man who during his lifetime had given
away a million pounds--anonymously. ... His own pocket-money just then
was five shillings a week, and his expectations just exactly--nothing.

But before his dreams could know accomplishment, he must have means.
To be of use to anybody at all he must make himself effective. The
process must be reversed, for no man could fight without weapons, and
weapons were only to be had as the result of steady, concentrated
effort--selfish effort. A man must fashion himself before he can be
effective for others. Self-effacement, he learned, was rather a futile
virtue after all.

As the years passed he saw his chances. He cut short a promising
University career and entered business. His talents lay that way, as
his friends declared, and unquestionably he had a certain genius for
invention; for, while scores of futile processes he first discovered
remained mere clever solutions of interesting problems, he at length
devised improvements in the greater industries, and, patenting them
wisely, made his way to practical results.

But the process had been a dangerous one, and during the long business
experience the iron had entered his soul, and he had witnessed at
close quarters the degrading influence of the lust of acquisition. The
self-advertising humbug of most philanthropy had clouded something in
him that he felt could never again grow clear and limpid as before,
and a portion of his original zest had faded. For the City hardly
encouraged it. One bit of gilt after another had been knocked off his
brilliant dream, one jet of flame upon another quenched. The single
eye that fills the body full of light was a thing so rare that its
possession woke suspicion. Even of money generously given, so little
reached its object; gaping pockets and grasping fingers everywhere
lined the way of safe delivery. It sickened him. So few, moreover,
were willing to give without acknowledgment in at least one morning
paper. 'Bring back the receipt' was the first maxim even of the
office-boys; and between the right hand and the left of every one were
special 'private wires' that flashed the news as quickly as possible
about the entire world.

Yet, while inevitable disillusion had dulled his youthful dreams, its
glory was never quite destroyed. It still glowed within. At times,
indeed, it ran into flame, and knew something of its original
splendour. Women, in particular, had helped to keep it alive, fanning
its embers bravely. For many women, he found, dreamed his own dream,
and dreamed it far more sweetly. They were closer to essential
realities than men were. While men bothered with fuss and fury about
empires, tariffs, street-cars, and marvellous engines for destroying
one another, women, keeping close to the sources of life, knew, like
children, more of its sweet, mysterious secrets--the things of value
no one yet has ever put completely into words. He wondered, a little
sadly, to see them battling now to scuffle with the men in managing
the gross machinery, cleaning the pens and regulating ink-pots. Did
they really think that by helping to decide whether rates should rise
or fall, or how many buttons a factory-inspector should wear upon his
uniform, they more nobly helped the world go round? Did they never
pause to reflect who would fill the places they thus vacated? With
something like melancholy he saw them stepping down from their thrones
of high authority, for it seemed to him a prostitution of their sweet
prerogatives that damaged the entire sex.

'Old-fashioned bachelor, no doubt, I am,' he smiled quietly to
himself, coming back to the first reflection whence his thoughts had
travelled so far--the reflection, namely, that now at last he
possessed the freedom he had longed and toiled for.

And then he paused and looked about him, confronted with a difficulty.
To him it seemed unusual, but really it was very common.

For, having it, he knew not at first what use to make of it. This
dawned upon him suddenly when the sunlight splashed his tawdry
slippers with its gold. The movement to the open window was really
instinctive beginning of a search, as though in the free, wonderful
spaces out of doors he would find the thing he sought to do. Now,
settled back in the deep arm-chair, he realised that he had not found
it. The memories of childhood had flashed into him instead. He renewed
the search before the dying fire, waiting for the sound of Minks'
ascending footsteps on the stairs. ...

And this revival of the childhood mood was curious, he felt, almost
significant, for it was symbolical of so much that he had
deliberately, yet with difficulty, suppressed and put aside. During
these years of concentrated toil for money, his strong will had
neglected of set purpose the call of a robust imagination. He had
stifled poetry just as he had stifled play. Yet really that
imagination had merely gone into other channels--scientific invention.
It was a higher form, married at least with action that produced
poetry in steel and stone instead of in verse. Invention has ever
imagination and poetry at its heart.

The acquirement of wealth demanded his entire strength, and all
lighter considerations he had consistently refused to recognise, until
he thought them dead. This sudden flaming mood rushed up and showed
him otherwise. He reflected on it, but clumsily, as with a mind too
long trained in the rigid values of stocks and shares, buying and
selling, hard figures that knew not elasticity. This softer subject
led him to no conclusion, leaving him stranded among misty woods and
fields of flowers that had no outlet. He realised, however, clearly
that this side of him was not atrophied as he thought. Its unused
powers had merely been accumulating--underground.

He got no further than that just now. He poked the fire and lit
another cigarette. Then, glancing idly at the paper, his eye fell upon
the list of births, and by merest chance picked out the name of
Crayfield. Some nonentity had been 'safely delivered of a son' at
Crayfield, the village where he had passed his youth and childhood. He
saw the Manor House where he was born, the bars across the night-
nursery windows, the cedars on the lawn, the haystacks just beyond the
stables, and the fields where the rabbits sometimes fell asleep as
they sat after enormous meals too stuffed to move. He saw the old
gravel-pit that led, the gardener told him, to the centre of the
earth. A whiff of perfume from the laurustinus in the drive came back,
the scent of hay, and with it the sound of the mowing-machine going
over the lawn. He saw the pony in loose flat leather shoes. The bees
were humming in the lime trees. The rooks were cawing. A blackbird
whistled from the shrubberies where he once passed an entire day in
hiding, after emptying an ink-bottle down the German governess's
dress. He heard the old family butler in his wheezy voice calling in
vain for 'Mr. 'Enery' to come in. The tone was respectful, seductive
as the man could make it, yet reproachful. He remembered throwing a
little stone that caught him just where the Newgate fringe met the
black collar of his coat, so that his cry of delight betrayed his
hiding-place. The whacking that followed he remembered too, and how
his brother emerged suddenly from behind the curtain with, 'Father,
may I have it instead of Henry, please?' That spontaneous offer of
sacrifice, of willingness to suffer for another, had remained in his
mind for a long time as a fiery, incomprehensible picture.

More dimly, then, somewhere in mist behind, he saw other figures
moving--the Dustman and the Lamplighter, the Demon Chimneysweep in
black, the Woman of the Haystack--outposts and sentries of a larger
fascinating host that gathered waiting in the shadows just beyond. The
creations of his boy's imagination swarmed up from their temporary
graves, and made him smile and wonder. After twenty years of strenuous
business life, how pale and thin they seemed. Yet at the same time how
extraordinarily alive and active! He saw, too, the huge Net of Stars
he once had made to catch them with from that night-nursery window,
fastened by long golden nails made out of meteors to the tops of the
cedars. ... There had been, too, a train--the Starlight Express. It
almost seemed as if _they_ knew, too, that a new chapter had begun,
and that they called him to come back and play again. ...

Then, with a violent jump, his thoughts flew to other things, and he
considered one by one the various philanthropic schemes he had
cherished against the day when he could realise them. That day had
come. But the schemes seemed one and all wild now, impracticable,
already accomplished by others better than he could hope to accomplish
them, and none of them fulfilling the first essential his practical
mind demanded--knowing his money spent precisely as he wished. Dreams,
long cherished, seemed to collapse one by one before him just when he
at last came up with them. He thought of the woman who was to have
helped him, now married to another who had money without working for
it. He put the thought back firmly in its place. He knew now a greater
love than that--the love for many. ...

He was embarking upon other novel schemes when there was a ring at the
bell, and the charwoman, who passed with him for servant, ushered in
his private secretary, Mr. Minks. Quickly readjusting the machinery of
his mind, Rogers came back to the present,

'Good morning, Mr. Rogers. I trust I am punctual.'

'Good morning, Minks; yes, on the stroke of ten. We've got a busy day.
Let's see now. How are you, by the by?' he added, as an afterthought,
catching first one eye, then the other, and looking finally between
the two.

'Very well, indeed, thank you, Mr. Rogers.' He was dressed in a black
tail-coat, with a green tie neatly knotted into a spotless turn-down
collar. He glanced round him for a chair, one hand already in his
pocket for the note-book.

'Good,' said Rogers, indicating where he might seat himself, and
reaching for the heap of letters.

The other sighed a little and began to look expectant and receptive.

'If I might give you this first, please, Mr. Rogers,' he said,
suddenly pretending to remember something in his breast-pocket and
handing across the table, with a slight flush upon his cheeks, a long,
narrow, mauve envelope with a flourishing address. 'It was a red-
letter day for Mrs. Minks when I told her of your kindness. She wished
to thank you in person, but--I thought a note--I knew,' he stammered,
'you would prefer a letter. It is a tremendous help to both of us, if
I may say so again.'

'Yes, yes, quite so,' said Rogers, quickly; 'and I'm glad to be of
service to the lad. You must let me know from time to time how he's
getting on.'

Minks subsided, flattening out his oblong notebook and examining the
points of his pencil sharpened at both ends as though the fate of
Empires depended on it. They attacked the pile of correspondence
heartily, while the sun, watching them through the open window, danced
gorgeously upon the walls and secretly put the fire out.

In this way several hours passed, for besides letters to be dictated,
there were careful instructions to be given about many things. Minks
was kept very busy. He was now not merely shorthand clerk, and he had
to be initiated into the inner history of various enterprises in which
his chief was interested. All Mr. Rogers's London interests, indeed,
were to be in his charge, and, obviously aware of this, he bore
himself proudly with an air of importance that had no connection with
a common office. To watch him, you would never have dreamed that
Herbert Minks had ever contemplated City life, much less known ten
years of drudgery in its least poetic stages. For him, too, as for his
employer, anew chapter of existence had begun--'commenced' he would
have phrased it--and, as confidential adviser to a man of fortune
whose character he admired almost to the point of worship, he was now
a person whose importance it was right the world should recognise. And
he meant the world to take this attitude without delay. He dressed
accordingly, knowing that of every ten people nine judge value from
clothes, and hat, and boots--especially boots. His patent leather,
buttoned boots were dazzling, with upper parts of soft grey leather.
And his shiny 'topper' wore a band of black. Minks, so far as he knew,
was not actually in mourning, but somebody for whom he ought to be in
mourning might die any day, and meanwhile, he felt, the band conveyed
distinction. It suited a man of letters. It also protected the hat.

'Thank'ee,' said his chief as luncheon time drew near; 'and now, if
you'll get those letters typed, you might leave 'em here for me on
your way home to sign. That's all we have to-day, isn't it?'

'You wanted, I think, to draft your Scheme for Disabled---' began the
secretary, when the other cut him short.

'Yes, yes, but that must wait. I haven't got it clear yet in my own
mind. You might think it out a bit yourself, perhaps, meanwhile, and
give me your ideas, eh? Look up what others have done in the same
line, for instance, and tell me where they failed. What the weakness
of their schemes was, you know--and--er--so forth.'

A faint smile, that held the merest ghost of merriment, passed across
the face of Minks, leaping, unobserved by his chief, from one eye to
the other. There was pity and admiration in it; a hint of pathos
visited those wayward lips. For the suggestion revealed the weakness
the secretary had long ago divined--that the practical root of the
matter did not really lie in him at all, and Henry Rogers forever
dreamed of 'Schemes' he was utterly unable and unsuited to carry out.
Improvements in a silk machine was one thing, but improvements in
humanity was another. Like the poetry in his soul they could never
know fulfilment. He had inspiration, but no constructive talent. For
the thousandth time Minks wondered, glancing at his employer's face,
how such calm and gentle features, such dreamy eyes and a Vandyke
beard so neatly trimmed, could go with ambitions so lofty and so
unusual. This sentence he had heard before, and was destined often to
hear again, while achievement came no nearer.

'I will do so at the first opportunity.' He put the oblong note-book
carefully in his pocket, and stood by the table in an attitude of 'any
further instructions, please?' while one eye wandered to the unopened
letter that was signed 'Albinia Minks, with heartfelt gratitude.'

'And, by the by, Minks,' said his master, turning as though a new idea
had suddenly struck him and he had formed a hasty plan, 'you might
kindly look up an afternoon train to Crayfield. Loop line from Charing
Cross, you know. Somewhere about two o'clock or so. I have to--er--I
think I'll run down that way after luncheon.'

Whereupon, having done this last commission, and written it down upon
a sheet of paper which he placed with care against the clock, beside
the unopened letter, the session closed, and Minks, in his mourning
hat and lavender gloves, walked up St. James's Street apparently
_en route_ for the Ritz, but suddenly, as with careless
unconsciousness, turning into an A.B.C. Depot for luncheon, well
pleased with himself and with the world, but especially with his
considerate employer.

Ten minutes later Mr. Rogers followed him on his way to the club, and
just when Minks was reflecting with pride of the well-turned phrases
he had dictated to his wife for her letter of thanks, it passed across
the mind of its recipient that he had forgotten to read it altogether.
And, truth to tell, he never yet has read it; for, returning late that
evening from his sentimental journey down to Crayfield, it stood no
longer where he had left it beside the clock, and nothing occurred to
remind him of its existence. Apart from its joint composers, no one
can ever know its contents but the charwoman, who, noticing the
feminine writing, took it back to Lambeth and pored over it with a
candle for full half an hour, greatly disappointed. 'Things like
that,' she grumbled to her husband, whose appearance suggested that he
went for bigger game, 'ain't worth the trouble of taking at all,
whichever way you looks at it.' And probably she was right.




CHAPTER III


    And what if All of animated nature
    Be but as Instruments diversely framed
    That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
    One infinite and intellectual Breeze,
    At once the Soul of each, and God of all?
                  _The AEolian Harp_, S. T. COLERIDGE.

In the train, even before St. John's was passed, a touch of inevitable
reaction had set in, and Rogers asked himself why he was going. For a
sentimental journey was hardly in his line, it seemed. But no
satisfactory answer was forthcoming--none, at least, that a Board or a
Shareholders' Meeting would have considered satisfactory.

There was an answer in him somewhere, but he couldn't quite get down
to it. The spring glory had enticed him back to childhood. The journey
was symbolical of escape. That was the truth. But the part of him that
knew it had lain so long in abeyance that only a whisper flitted
across his mind as he sat looking out of the carriage window at the
fields round Lee and Eltham. The landscape seemed hauntingly familiar,
but what surprised him was the number of known faces that rose and
smiled at him. A kind of dream confusion blurred his outer sight;

At Bexley, as he hurried past, he caught dimly a glimpse of an old
nurse whom he remembered trying to break into bits with a hop-pole he
could barely lift; and, most singular thing, on the Sidcup platform, a
group of noisy schoolboys, with smudged faces and ridiculously small
caps stuck on the back of their heads, had scrambled viciously to get
into his compartment. They carried brown canvas satchels full of
crumpled books and papers, and though the names had mostly escaped
him, he remembered every single face. There was Barlow--big, bony chap
who stammered, bringing his words out with a kind of whistling sneeze.
Barlow had given him his first thrashing for copying his stammer.
There was young Watson, who funked at football and sneaked to a master
about a midnight supper. He stole pocket-money, too, and was expelled.
Then he caught a glimpse of another fellow with sly face and laughing
eyes; the name had vanished, but he was the boy who put jalap in the
music-master's coffee, and received a penny from five or six others
who thus escaped a lesson. All waved their hands to him as the train
hurried away, and the last thing he saw was the station lamp where he
had lit the cigar that made three of them, himself included, deadly
sick. Familiar woods and a little blue-eyed stream then hid the vision
... and a moment later he was standing on the platform of his
childhood's station, giving up his first-class ticket (secretly
ashamed that it was not third) to a station-master-ticket-collector
person who simply was not real at all.

For he had no beard. He was small, too, and insignificant. The way he
had dwindled, with the enormous station that used to be a mile or so
in length, was severely disappointing. That STATION-MASTER with the
beard ought to have lived for ever. His niche in the Temple of Fame
was sure. One evening he had called in full uniform at the house and
asked to see Master Henry Rogers, the boy who had got out 'WHILE-THE-
TRAIN-WAS-STILL-IN-MOTION,' and had lectured him gravely with a face
like death. Never again had he left a train 'whilestillinmotion,'
though it was years before he discovered how his father had engineered
that awful, salutary visit.

He asked casually, in a voice that hardly seemed his own, about the
service back to town, and received the answer with a kind of wonder.
It was so respectful. The porters had not found him out yet; but the
moment they did so, he would have to run. He did not run, however. He
walked slowly down the Station Road, swinging the silver-knobbed cane
the office clerks had given him when he left the City. Leisurely,
without a touch of fear, he passed the Water Works, where the huge
iron crank of the shaft rose and fell with ominous thunder against the
sky. It had once been part of that awful hidden Engine which moved the
world. To go near it was instant death, and he always crossed the road
to avoid it; but this afternoon he went down the cinder pathway so
close that he could touch it with his stick. It was incredible that so
terrible a thing could dwindle in a few years to the dimensions of a
motor piston. The crank that moved up and down like a bending,
gigantic knee looked almost flimsy now. ...

Then the village street came into view and he suddenly smelt the
fields and gardens that topped the hill beyond. The world turned gold
and amber, shining beneath a turquoise sky. There was a rush of
flaming sunsets, one upon another, followed by great green moons, and
hosts of stars that came twinkling across barred windows to his very
bedside ... that grand old Net of Stars he made so cunningly. Cornhill
and Lombard Street flashed back upon him for a second, then dived away
and hid their faces for ever, as he passed the low grey wall beside
the church where first he had seen the lame boy hobbling, and had
realised that the whole world suffered.

A moment he stood here, thinking. He heard the wind sighing in the yew
trees beside the dark brown porch. Rooks were cawing among the elms
across the churchyard, and pigeons wheeled and fluttered about the
grey square tower. The wind, the tower, the weather-stained old porch
--these had not changed. This sunshine and this turquoise sky were
still the same.

The village stopped at the churchyard--significant boundary. No single
building ventured farther; the houses ran the other way instead,
pouring down the steep hill in a cataract of bricks and roofs towards
the station. The hill, once topped, and the churchyard left behind, he
entered the world of fields and little copses. It was just like going
through a gateway. It was a Gateway. The road sloped gently down for
half-a-mile towards the pair of big iron gates that barred the drive
up to the square grey house upon whose lawns he once had chased
butterflies, but from whose upper windows he once had netted--stars.

The spell came over him very strongly then as he went slowly down that
road. The altered scale of distance confused him; the road had
telescoped absurdly; the hayfields were so small. At the turn lay the
pond with yellow duckweed and a bent iron railing that divided it to
keep the cows from crossing. Formerly, of course, that railing had
been put to prevent children drowning in its bottomless depths; all
ponds had been bottomless then, and the weeds had spread to entice the
children to a watery death. But now he could have jumped across it,
weed and railing too, without a run, and he looked in vain for the
shores that once had been so seductively far away. They were mere
dirty, muddy edges.

This general shrinkage in space was very curious. But a similar
contraction, he realised, had taken place in time as well, for,
looking back upon his forty years, they seemed such a little thing
compared to the enormous stretch they offered when he had stood beside
this very pond and looked ahead. He wondered vaguely which was the
reality and which the dream. But his effort was not particularly
successful, and he came to no conclusion. Those years of strenuous
business life were like a few weeks, yet their golden results were in
his pockets. Those years of childhood had condensed into a jumble of
sunny hours, yet their golden harvest was equally in his heart. Time
and space were mere bits of elastic that could stretch or shrink as
thought directed, feeling chose. And now both thought and feeling
chose emphatically. He stepped back swiftly. His mind seemed filled
with stars and butterflies and childhood's figures of wonder.
Childhood took him prisoner.

It was curious at first, though, how the acquired nature made a
struggle to assert itself, and the practical side of him, developed in
the busy markets of the world, protested. It was automatic rather, and
at best not very persistent; it soon died away. But, seeing the gravel
everywhere, he wondered if there might not be valuable clay about,
what labour cost, and what the nearest stations were for haulage; and,
seeing the hop-poles, he caught himself speculating what wood they
were made of, and what varnish would best prevent their buried points
from going rotten in this particular soil. There was a surge of
practical considerations, but quickly fading. The last one was stirred
by the dust of a leisurely butcher's cart. He had visions of a paste
for motor-roads, or something to lay dust ... but, before the dust had
settled again through the sunshine about his feet, or the rumble of
the cart died away into distance, the thought vanished like a
nightmare in the dawn. It ran away over the switchback of the years,
uphill to Midsummer, downhill to Christmas, jumping a ditch at Easter,
and a hedge at that terrible thing known as ''Clipse of the Moon.' The
leaves of the elm trees whispered overhead. He was moving through an
avenue that led towards big iron gates beside a little porter's lodge.
He saw the hollies, and smelt the laurustinus. There lay the triangle
of uncut grass at the cross-roads, the long, grey, wooden palings
built upon moss-grown bricks; and against the sky he just caught a
glimpse of the feathery, velvet cedar crests, crests that once held
nails of golden meteors for his Net of Stars.

Determined to enjoy his cake and eat it at the same time as long as
possible, he walked down the road a little distance, eyeing the lawns
and windows of the house through narrow gaps between the boarding of
the fence. He prolonged the pleasures of anticipation thus, and,
besides, he wished to see if the place was occupied or empty. It
looked unkempt rather, the gardens somewhat neglected, and yet there
hung an air of occupancy about it all. He had heard the house had
changed hands several times. But it was difficult to see clearly; the
sunshine dazzled; the lilac and laburnum scattered sheets of colour
through which the shadows wove themselves an obscuring veil, He kept
seeing butterflies and chasing them with his sight.

'Can you tell me if this house is occupied?' he asked abruptly of an
old gentleman who coughed suddenly behind him.

It was an explanation as well as a question, for the passer-by had
surprised him in a remarkable attitude. He was standing on tiptoe upon
the parapet of brick, pulling himself up above the fence by his hands,
and his hat had fallen into the road.

'The shrubberies are so dense I can't see through them,' he added,
landing upon his feet with a jump, a little breathless. He felt rather
foolish. He was glad the stranger was not Minks or one of his fellow
directors. 'The fact is I lived here as a boy. I'm not a burglar.'

But the old gentleman--a clergyman apparently--stood there smiling
without a word as he handed him the fallen hat. He was staring rather
intently into his eyes.

'Ahem!' coughed Mr. Rogers, to fill an awkward gap. 'You're very kind,
sir,' and he took the hat and brushed the dust off. Something brushed
off his sight and memory at the same time.

'Ahem' coughed the other, still staring. 'Please do not mention it---'
adding after a second's pause, to the complete amazement of his
listener, 'Mr. Rogers.'

And then it dawned upon him. Something in the charming, peace-lit face
was strangely familiar.

'I say,' he exclaimed eagerly, 'this is a pleasure,' and then repeated
with even greater emphasis, 'but this is a pleasure, indeed. Who ever
would have thought it?' he added with delicious ambiguity. He seized
the outstretched hand and shook it warmly--the hand of the old vicar
who had once been his tutor too.

'You've come back to your boyhood, then. Is that it? And to see the
old place and--your old friends?' asked the other with his beautiful,
kindly smile that even false quantities had never been able to spoil.
'We've not forgotten you as you've forgotten us, you see,' he added;
'and the place, though empty now for years, has not forgotten you
either, I'll be bound.'

They stood there in the sunshine on the dusty road talking of a
hundred half-forgotten things, as the haze of memory lifted, and
scenes and pictures, names and faces, details of fun and mischief
rained upon him like flowers in a sudden wind of spring. The voice and
face of his old tutor bridged the years like magic. Time had stood
still here in this fair Kentish garden. The little man in black who
came every Saturday morning with his dingy bag had forgotten to wind
the clocks, perhaps. ...

'But you will like to go inside and see it all for yourself--alone,'
the Vicar said at length. 'My housekeeper has the keys. I'll send a
boy with them to the lodge. It won't take five minutes. And then you
must come up to the Vicarage for tea--or dinner if you're kept--and
stay the night. My married daughter-you remember Joan and May, of
course?--is with us just now; she'll be so very glad to see you. You
know the way.'

And he moved off down the country road, still vigorous at seventy,
with his black straw hat and big square-toed boots, his shoulders
hardly more bent than when his mischievous pupil had called every
morning with Vergil and Todhunter underneath one arm, and in his heart
a lust to hurry after sleepy rabbits in the field.

'My married daughter--you remember May?'

The blue-eyed girl of his boyhood passion flitted beside his
disappearing figure. He remembered the last time he saw her--refusing
to help her from a place of danger in the cedar branches--when he put
his love into a single eloquent phrase: 'You silly ass!' then cast her
adrift for ever because she said 'Thanks awfully,' and gave him a
great wet kiss. But he thought a lot of her all the same, and the
thoughts had continued until the uproar in the City drowned them.

Thoughts crowded thick and fast.

How vital thinking was after all! Nothing seemed able to kill its
eternal pictures. The coincidence of meeting his old tutor again was
like a story-book, though in reality likely enough; for his own face
was not so greatly altered by the close brown beard perhaps; and the
Vicar had grown smaller, that was all. Like everything else, he had
shrunk, of course-like road and station-master and water-works. He had
almost said, 'You, too, have shrunk'--but otherwise was the same old
fluffy personality that no doubt still got sadly muddled in his
sermons, gave out wrong hymns, and spent his entire worldly substance
on his scattered parish. His voice was softer too. It rang in his ears
still, as though there had been no break of over two decades. The hum
of bees and scythes was in it just as when it came through the open
study window while he construed the _Georgics_. ... But, most clearly
of all, he heard two sentences--

'You have come back to your boyhood,' and 'The empty place has not
forgotten you, I'll be bound.' Both seemed significant. They hummed
and murmured through his mind. That old net of starlight somehow
caught them in its golden meshes.




CHAPTER IV


     A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
     Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the
        Milky Way:
     Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and
        cease.
                                 Tomlinson, R. KIPLING.

The boy presently came up in a cloud of dust with the key, and ran off
again with a shilling in his pocket, while Henry Rogers, budding
philanthropist and re-awakening dreamer, went down the hill of
memories at high speed that a doctor would have said was dangerous, a
philosopher morbid, and the City decreed unanimously as waste of time.

He went over the house from cellar to ceiling...

And finally he passed through a back door in the scullery and came out
upon the lawn. With a shock he realised that a long time had
intervened. The dusk was falling. The rustle of its wings was already
in the shrubberies. He had missed the tea hour altogether. And, as he
walked there, so softly that he hardly disturbed the thrushes that
busily tapped the dewy grass for supper, he knew suddenly that he was
not alone, but that shadowy figures hid everywhere, watching, waiting,
wondering like himself. They trooped after him, invisible and silent,
as he went about the old familiar garden, finding nothing changed.
They were so real that once he stopped beneath the lime trees, where
afternoon tea was served in summer, and where the Long Walk began its
haunted, shadowy existence--stood still a moment and called to them--

'Is any one there? Come out and show yourselves....!'

And though his voice fell dead among the foliage, winning echoes from
spots whence no echoes possibly could come, and rushing back upon him
like a boomerang, he got the curious impression that it had penetrated
into certain corners of the shrubberies where it had been heard and
understood. Answers did not come. They were no more audible than the
tapping of the thrushes, or the little feet of darkness that ran
towards him from the eastern sky. But they were there. The troop of
Presences drew closer. They had been creeping on all fours. They now
stood up. The entire garden was inhabited and alive.

_'He has come back!'_

It ran in a muted whisper like a hush of wind. The thrill of it passed
across the lawn in the dusk. The dark tunnel of the Long Walk filled
suddenly to the brim. The thrushes raised their heads, peeping
sideways to listen, on their guard. Then the leaves opened a little
and the troop ventured nearer. The doors and windows of the silent,
staring house had also opened. From the high nursery windows
especially, queer shapes of shadow flitted down to join the others.
For the sun was far away behind the cedars now, and that Net of
Starlight dropped downwards through the air. So carefully had he woven
it years ago that hardly a mesh was torn....

_'He has come back again...!'_ the whisper ran a second time, and he
looked about him for a place where he could hide.

But there was no place. Escape from the golden net was now
impossible....

Then suddenly, looming against the field that held the Gravel-Pit and
the sleeping rabbits, he saw the outline of the Third Class Railway
Carriage his father bought as a Christmas present, still standing on
the stone supports that were borrowed from a haystack.

That Railway Carriage had filled whole years with joy and wonder. They
had called it the Starlight Express. It had four doors, real lamps in
the roof, windows that opened and shut, and big round buffers. It
started without warning. It went at full speed in a moment. It was
never really still. The footboards were endless and very dangerous.

He saw the carriage with its four compartments still standing there in
the hay field. It looked mysterious, old, and enormous as ever. There
it still stood as in his boyhood days, but stood neglected and unused.

The memory of the thrilling journeys he had made in this Starlight
Express completed his recapture, for he knew now who the troop of
Presences all about him really were. The passengers, still waiting
after twenty years' delay, thinking perhaps the train would never
start again, were now impatient. They had caught their engine-driver
again at last. Steam was up. Already the blackbirds whistled. And
something utterly wild and reckless in him passionately broke its
bonds with a flood of longings that no amount of years or 'Cities'
could ever subdue again. He stepped out from the dozing lime trees and
held his hat up like a flag.

'Take your seats,' he cried as of old, 'for the Starlight Express.
Take your seats! No luggage allowed! Animals free! Passengers with
special tickets may drive the engine in their turn! First stop the
Milky Way for hot refreshments! Take your seats, or stay at home for
ever!'

It was the old cry, still remembered accurately; and the response was
immediate. The rush of travellers from the Long Walk nearly took him
off his feet. From the house came streams of silent figures, families
from the shrubberies, tourists from the laurels by the scullery
windows, and throngs of breathless oddities from the kitchen-garden.
The lawn was littered with discarded luggage; umbrellas dropped on
flower-beds, where they instantly took root and grew; animals ran
scuttling among them--birds, ponies, dogs, kittens, donkeys, and white
mice in trailing swarms. There was not a minute to spare. One big
Newfoundland brought several Persian kittens on his back, their tails
behind them in the air like signals; a dignified black retriever held
a baby in his mouth; and fat children by the score, with unfastened
clothes and smudged faces, many of them in their nightclothes, poured
along in hurrying, silent crowds, softer than clouds that hide a
crescent moon in summer.

'But this is impossible,' he cried to himself. 'The multiplication
tables have gone wrong. The City has driven me mad. No shareholder
would stand such a thing for a minute!'

While, at the same time, that other voice in him kept shouting, ever
more loudly--

'Take your seats! Take your seats! The Starlight Express is off to
Fairyland! Show your tickets! Show your tickets!'

He laughed with happiness.

The throng and rush were at first so great that he recognised hardly
any of the passengers; but, the first press over, he saw several
bringing up the rear who were as familiar as of yesterday. They nodded
kindly to him as they passed, no sign of reproach for the long delay
in their friendly eyes. He had left his place beside the lime trees,
and now stood at the carriage door, taking careful note of each one as
he showed his ticket to the Guard. And the Guard was the blue-eyed
girl. She did not clip the tickets, but merely looked at them. She
looked, first at the ticket, then into the face of the passenger. The
glance of the blue eyes was the passport. Of course, he remembered
now--both guard and engine-driver were obliged to have blue eyes. Blue
eyes furnished the motor-power and scenery and everything. It was the
spell that managed the whole business--the Spell of the Big Blue eyes
--blue, the colour of youth and distance, of sky and summer flowers,
of
childhood.

He watched these last passengers come up one by one, and as they filed
past him he exchanged a word with each. How pleased they were to see
him! But how ashamed he felt for having been so long away. Not one,
however, reminded him of it, and--what touched him most of all--not
one suspected he had nearly gone for good. All knew he would come
back.

What looked like a rag-and-bone man blundered up first, his face a
perfect tangle of beard and hair, and the eyebrows like bits of tow
stuck on with sealing-wax. It was The Tramp--Traveller of the World,
the Eternal Wanderer, homeless as the wind; his vivid personality had
haunted all the lanes of childhood. And, as Rogers nodded kindly to
him, the figure waited for something more.

'Ain't forgot the rhyme, 'ave yer?' he asked in a husky voice that
seemed to issue from the ground beneath his broken boots. 'The rhyme
we used to sing together in the Noight-Nursery when I put my faice
agin' the bars, after climbin' along 'arf a mile of slippery slaites
to git there.'

And Rogers, smiling, found himself saying it, while the pretty Guard
fixed her blue eyes on his face and waited patiently:--

     I travel far and wide,
     But in my own inside!
     Such places
     And queer races!
     I never go to them, you see,
     _Because they always come to me!_

'Take your seat, please,' cried the Guard. 'No luggage, you know!' She
pushed him in sideways, first making him drop his dirty bundle.

With a quick, light step a very thin man hurried up. He had no
luggage, but carried on his shoulder a long stick with a point of gold
at its tip.

'Light the lamps,' said the Guard impatiently, 'and then sit on the
back buffers and hold your pole out to warn the shooting stars.'

He hopped in, though not before Rogers had passed the time of night
with him first:--

     I stand behind the sky, and light the stars,--
     Except on cloudy nights;
     And then my head
     Remains in bed,
     And takes along the ceiling--easier flights!

Others followed quickly then, too quickly for complete recognition.
Besides, the Guard was getting more and more impatient.

'You've clean forgotten _me_,' said one who had an awful air of
darkness about him; 'and no wonder, because you never saw me properly.
On Sundays, when I was nicely washed up you couldn't 'ardly reckernise
me. Nachural 'nuff, too!'

He shot by like a shadow, then pulled up a window with a rattle,
popped his dirty head out, and called back thickly as if his mouth was
full of smoke or pudding:--

     The darkness suits _me_ best,
     For my old face
     Is out of place,
     Except in chimney stacks!
     Upon my crown
     The soot comes down
     Filling my eyes with blacks.
     Don't light the fire,
     Or I'd--.

'Stop it!' cried the Guard, shutting the window with a snap, so that
Rogers never knew whether the missing word used to be 'expire' or
'perspire'; 'and go on to your proper place on the tender.' Then she
turned quickly to fix her big blue eyes upon the next comer. And how
they did come, to be sure! There was the Gypsy, the Creature of the
Gravel-Pit, the long-legged, long-armed thing from the Long Walk--she
could make her arm stretch the whole length like elastic--the enormous
Woman of the Haystack, who lived beneath the huge tarpaulin cover, the
owner of the Big Cedar, and the owner of the Little Cedar, all
treading fast upon one another's heels.

From the Blue Summer-house came the Laugher. Rogers remembered
pretending once that he was going to faint. He had thrown himself upon
the summer-house floor and kicked, and the blue-eyed girl, instead of
being thrilled as both anticipated, had laughed abominably.

'Painters don't kick!' she had said with scorn, while he had answered,
though without conviction, 'Men-fainters do--kick dreadfully.' And she
had simply laughed till her sides ached, while he lay there kicking
till his muscles were sore, in the vain hope of winning her belief.

He exchanged a glance with her now, as the Laugher slipped in past
them. The eyes of the Guard were very soft. He was found out and
forgiven at the same time.

Then came the very mysterious figure of authority--the Head Gardener,
a composite being who included all the lesser under-gardeners as well.
His sunburned face presented a resume of them all. He was the man who
burned the hills of dead leaves in autumn.

'Give me of your fire, please,' whispered Rogers, something between
joy and sadness in his heart, 'for there are hills of leaves that I
would burn up quickly--' but the man hurried on, tossing his trowel
over the Guard's head, and nearly hitting another passenger who
followed too close. This was the Woman of the Haystack, an enormous,
spreading traveller who utterly refused to be hurried, and only
squeezed through the door because Rogers, the Guard, and several
others pushed behind with all their might, while the Sweep, the Tramp,
and those already in tugged breathlessly at the same time....

Last of all, just as the train was starting, came a hurrying shadowy
thing with dreamy eyes, long hair like waving grass, and open hands
that he spread like wings, as though he were sowing something through
the air. And he was singing softly as he came fumbling along the
byeways of the dusk.

'Oh, but I know _you_ well,' cried Rogers, watching him come with a
thrill of secret wonder, 'and I love you better than all the rest
together.'

The face was hidden as he wafted silently past them. A delicious odour
followed him. And something, fine as star-dust, as he scattered it all
about him, sifted down before the other's sight. The Dustman entered
like a ghost.

'Oh, give me of your dust!' cried Rogers again, 'for there are eyes
that I would blind with it--eyes in the world that I would blind with
it--your dust of dreams and beauty...!'

The man waved a shadowy hand towards him, and his own eyes filled. He
closed the lids a moment; and when he opened them again he saw two
monster meteors in the sky. They crossed in two big lines of glory
above the house, dropping towards the cedars. The Net of Stars was
being fastened. He remembered then his old Star Cave--cave where lost
starlight was stored up by these sprites for future use.

He just had time to seize the little hand the Guard held out, and to
drop into a seat beside her, when the train began to move. It rose
soundlessly with lightning speed. It shot up to a tremendous height,
then paused, hovering in the night.

The Guard turned her big blue eyes upon him.

'Where to?' she whispered. And he suddenly remembered that it was
always he who decided the destination, and that this time he was at a
loss what to say.

'The Star Cave, of course,' he cried, 'the cave where the lost
starlight gathers.'

'Which direction?' she asked, with the yellow whistle to her lips
ready to signal the driver.

'Oh, out there--to the north-west,' he answered, 'to the mountains of
--across the Channel.'

But this was not precise enough. Formerly he had always given very
precise directions.

'Name, please,' she urged, 'but quickly. The Interfering Sun, you
know--there's no time to lose. We shall be meeting the Morning Spiders
soon.'

The Morning Spiders! How it all came back! The Morning Spiders that
fly over the fields in the dawn upon their private threads of gossamer
and fairy cotton.

He remembered that, as children, they had never actually found this
Star Cave, for the Interfering Sun had always come too soon and spoilt
it all.

'Name, please, and do hurry up. We can't hover here all night,' rang
in his ears.

And he made a plunge. He suddenly thought of Bourcelles, the little
village in the Jura mountains, where he and his cousin had spent a
year learning French. The idea flashed into him probably because it
contained mountains, caves, and children. His cousin lived there now
to educate his children and write his books. Only that morning he had
got a letter from him.

'Bourcelles, of course, Bourcelles!' he cried, 'and steer for the
slopes of Boudry where the forests dip towards the precipices of the
Areuse. I'll send word to the children to meet us.'

'Splendid!' cried the Guard, and kissed him with delight. The whistle
shrieked, the train turned swiftly in a tremendous sweeping curve, and
vanished along the intricate star-rails into space, humming and
booming as it went. It flew a mane of stars behind it through the sky.




CHAPTER V


     Oh! thou art fairer than the evening air
     Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.
                   Doctor Famtus, CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE.

The plop of a water-rat in the pond that occupied the rock-garden in
the middle of the lawn brought him back to earth, and the Vicar's
invitation to tea flashed across his mind.

'Stock Exchange and typewriters!' he exclaimed, 'how rude he'll think
me!' And he rubbed something out of his eyes. He gave one long,
yearning glance at the spangled sky where an inquisitive bat darted
zigzag several times between himself and the Pleiades, that bunch of
star-babies as yet unborn, as the blue-eyed guard used to call them.

'And I shall miss my supper and bed into the bargain!'

He turned reluctantly from his place beside the lime trees, and
crossed the lawn now wet with dew. The whole house seemed to turn its
hooded head and watch him go, staring with amusement in its many
lidless eyes. On the front lawn there was more light, for it faced the
dying sunset. The Big and Little Cedar rose from their pools of
shadow, beautifully poised. Like stately dowagers in voluminous skirts
of velvet they seemed to curtsey to him as he passed. Stars like
clusters of sprinkled blossoms hung upon their dignified old heads.
The whole place seemed aware of him. Glancing a moment at the upper
nursery windows, he could just distinguish the bars through which his
little hands once netted stars, and as he did so a meteor shot across
the sky its flashing light of wonder. Behind the Little Cedar it dived
into the sunset afterglow. And, hardly had it dipped away, when
another, coming crosswise from the south, drove its length of molten,
shining wire straight against the shoulder of the Big Cedar.

The whole performance seemed arranged expressly for his benefit. The
Net was loosed--this Net of Stars and Thoughts--perhaps to go
elsewhere. For this was taking out the golden nails, surely. It would
hardly have surprised him next to see the Starlight Express he had
been dreaming about dart across the heavens overhead. That cool air
stealing towards him from the kitchen-garden might well have been the
wind of its going. He could almost hear the distant rush and murmur of
its flying mass.

'How extraordinarily vivid it all was!' he thought to himself, as he
hurried down the drive. 'What detail! What a sense of reality! How
carefully I must have _thought_ these creatures as a boy! How
thoroughly! And what a good idea to go out and see Jack's children at
Bourcelles. They've never known these English sprites. I'll introduce
'em!'

He thought it out in detail, very vividly indeed. His imagination
lingered over it and gave it singular reality.

Up the road he fairly ran. For Henry Rogers was a punctual man; these
last twenty years he had never once been late for anything. It had
been part of the exact training he had schooled himself with, and the
Vicar's invitation was not one he desired to trifle with. He made his
peace, indeed, easily enough, although the excuses sounded a little
thin. It was something of a shock, too, to find that the married
daughter after all was not the blue-eyed girl of his boyhood's
passion. For it was Joan, not May, who came down the gravel path
between the roses to greet him.

On the way up he had felt puzzled. Yet 'bemused,' perhaps, is the word
that Herbert Minks would have chosen for one of his poems, to describe
a state of mind he, however, had never experienced himself. And he
would have chosen it instinctively--for onomatopoeic reasons--because
it hums and drones and murmurs dreamily. 'Puzzled' was too sharp a
word.

Yet Henry Rogers, who felt it, said 'puzzled' without more ado,
although mind, imagination, memory all hummed and buzzed pleasantly
about his ears even while he did so.

'A dream is a dream,' he reflected as he raced along the familiar
dusty road in the twilight, 'and a reverie is a reverie; but that, I'd
swear, went a bit further than either one or t'other. It puzzles me.
Does vivid thinking, I wonder, make pictures everywhere?... And--can
they last?'

For the detailed reality of the experience had been remarkable, and
the actuality of those childhood's creations scarcely belonged to
dream or reverie. They were certainly quite as real as the sleek
Directors who sat round the long Board Room table, fidgeting with fat
quill pens and pewter ink-pots; more alive even than the Leading
Shareholder who rose so pompously at Annual Meetings to second the
resolution that the 'Report and Balance Sheet be adopted without
criticism.'

And he was conscious that in himself rose, too, a deep, passionate
willingness to accept the whole experience, also 'without criticism.'
Those picturesque passengers in the Starlight Express he knew so
intimately, so affectionately, that he actually missed them. He felt
that he had said good-bye to genuine people. He regretted their
departure, and was keenly sorry he had not gone off with them--such a
merry, wild, adventurous crew! He must find them again, whatever
happened. There was a yearning in him to travel with that blue-eyed
guard among the star-fields. He would go out to Bourcelles and tell
the story to the children. He thought very hard indeed about it all.

And now, in the Vicarage drawing-room after dinner, his bemusement
increased rather than grew less. His mind had already confused a face
and name. The blue-eyed May was not, after all, the girl of his
boyhood's dream. His memory had been accurate enough with the
passengers in the train. There was no confusion there. But this gentle
married woman, who sang to her own accompaniment at her father's
request, was not the mischievous, wilful creature who had teased and
tortured his heart in years gone by, and had helped him construct the
sprites and train and star-trips. It was, surely, the other daughter
who had played that delicious role. Yet, either his memory was at
fault, or the Vicar had mixed the names up. The years had played this
little unimportant trick upon him anyhow. And that was clear.

But if with so-called real people such an error was possible, how
could he be sure of anything? Which after all, he asked himself, was
real? It was the Vicar's mistake, he learned later, for May was now a
teacher in London; but the trivial incident served to point this
confusion in his mind between an outer and an inner world--to the
disadvantage, if anything, of the former.

And over the glass of port together, while they talked pleasantly of
vanished days, Rogers was conscious that a queer, secret amusement
sheltered in his heart, due to some faint, superior knowledge that
this Past they spoke of had not moved away at all, but listened with
fun and laughter just behind his shoulder, watching them. The old
gentleman seemed never tired of remembering his escapades. He told
them one after another, like some affectionate nurse or mother, Rogers
thought, whose children were--to her--unique and wonderful. For he had
really loved this good-for-nothing pupil, loved him the more, as
mothers and nurses do, because of the trouble he had given, and
because of his busy and fertile imagination. It made Rogers feel
ridiculously young again as he listened. He could almost have played a
trick upon him then and there, merely to justify the tales. And once
or twice he actually called him 'Sir.' So that even the conversation
helped to deepen this bemusement that gathered somewhat tenderly about
his mind. He cracked his walnuts and watched the genial, peace-lit
eyes across the table. He chuckled. Both chuckled. They spoke of his
worldly success too--it seemed unimportant somehow now, although he
was conscious that something in him expected, nay demanded tribute--
but the former tutor kept reverting to the earlier days before
achievement.

'You were indeed a boy of mischief, wonder, and mystery,' he said, his
eyes twinkling and his tone almost affectionate; 'you made the whole
place alive with those creatures of your imagination. How Joan helped
you too--or was it May? I used to wonder sometimes--' he glanced up
rather searchingly at his companion a moment--' whether the people who
took the Manor House after your family left did not encounter them
sometimes upon the lawn or among the shrubberies in the dusk--those
sprites of yours. Eh?' He passed a neatly pared walnut across the
table to his guest. 'These ghosts that people nowadays explain
scientifically--what are they but thoughts visualised by vivid
thinking such as yours was--creative thinking? They may be just
pictures created in moments of strong passionate feeling that persist
for centuries and reach other minds direct They're not seen with the
outer eye; that's certain, for no two people ever see them together.
But I'm sure these pictures flame up through the mind sometimes just
as clearly as some folk see Grey Ladies and the rest flit down the
stairs at midnight.'

They munched their walnuts a moment in silence. Rogers listened very
keenly. How curious, he reflected, that the talk should lie this way.
But he said nothing, hoping that the other would go on.

'And if you really believed in your things,' the older man continued
presently, 'as I am sure you did believe, then your old Dustman and
Sweep and Lamplighter, your Woman of the Haystack and your Net of
Stars and Star Train--all these, for instance, must still be living,
where you left them, waiting perhaps for your return to lead their
fresh adventures.'

Rogers stared at him, choking a little over a nut he had swallowed too
hurriedly.

'Yet,' mused on the other, 'it's hardly likely the family that
succeeded you met them. There were no children!'

'Ah,' exclaimed the pupil impulsively, 'that's significant, yes--no
children.' He looked up quickly, questioningly.

'Very, I admit.'

'Besides, the chief Magician had gone away into the City. They
wouldn't answer to anybody's call, you know.'

'True again. But the Magician never forgot them quite, I'll be bound,'
he added. 'They're only in hiding till his return, perhaps!' And his
bright eyes twinkled knowingly.

'But, Vicar, really, you know, that is an extraordinary idea you have
there-a wonderful idea. Do you really think--?'

'I only mean,' the other replied more gravely, 'that what a man
thinks, and makes with thinking, is the real thing. It's in the heart
that sin is first real. The act is the least important end of it--
grave only because it is the inevitable result of the thinking. Action
is merely delayed thinking, after all. Don't think ghosts and bogeys,
I always say to children, or you'll surely see them.'

'Ah, in _that_ sense--!'

'In any sense your mind and intuition can grasp. The thought that
leaves your brain, provided it be a real thought strongly fashioned,
goes all over the world, and may reach any other brain tuned to its
acceptance. _You_ should understand that!' he laughed significantly.

'I do,' said Rogers hastily, as though he felt ashamed of himself or
were acknowledging a fault in his construing of Homer. 'I understand
it perfectly. Only I put all those things--imaginative things--aside
when I went into business. I had to concentrate my energies upon
making money.'

'You did, yes. Ah!' was the rejoinder, as though he would fain have
added, 'And was that wise?'

'And I made it, Vicar; you see, I've made it.' He was not exactly
nettled, but he wanted a word of recognition for his success. 'But you
know why, don't you?' he added, ashamed the same moment. There was a
pause, during which both looked closely at their broken nuts. From one
of the men came a sigh.

'Yes,' resumed the older man presently, 'I remember your great dream
perfectly well, and a noble one it was too. Its fulfilment now, I
suppose, lies well within your reach? You have the means to carry it
out, eh? You have indeed been truly blessed.' He eyed him again with
uncommon keenness, though a smile ran from the eyes and mouth even up
to the forehead and silvery hair. 'The world, I see, has not yet
poisoned you. To carry it out as you once explained it to me would be
indeed success. If I remember rightly,' he added, 'it was a--er--a
Scheme for Disabled--'

Rogers interrupted him quickly. 'And I am full of the same big dream
still,' he repeated almost shyly. 'The money I have made I regard as
lent to me for investment. I wish to use it, to give it away as one
gives flowers. I feel sure--'

He stopped abruptly, caught by the glow of enthusiasm that had leaped
into the other's face with a strangely beautiful expression.

'You never did anything by halves, I remember,' the Vicar said,
looking at him proudly. 'You were always in earnest, even in your
play, and I don't mind telling you that I've often prayed for
something of that zeal of yours--that zeal for others. It's a
remarkable gift. You will never bury it, will you?' He spoke eagerly,
passionately, leaning forward a little across the table. 'Few have it
nowadays; it grows rarer with the luxury and self-seeking of the age.
It struck me so in you as a boy, that even your sprites worked not for
themselves but for others--your Dustman, your Sweep, your absurd
Lamplighter, all were busy doing wonderful things to help their
neighbours, all, too, without reward.'

Rogers flushed like a boy. But he felt the thrill of his dream course
through him like great fires. Wherein was any single thing in the
world worth doing, any object of life worth following, unless as means
to an end, and that end helping some one else. One's own little
personal dreams became exhausted in a few years, endeavours for self
smothered beneath the rain of disappointments; but others, and work
for others, this was endless and inexhaustible.

'I've sometimes thought,' he heard the older man going on, 'that in
the dusk I saw'--his voice lowered and he glanced towards the windows
where the rose trees stood like little figures, cloaked and bonneted
with beauty beneath the stars--'that I saw your Dustman scattering his
golden powder as he came softly up the path, and that some of it
reached my own eyes, too; or that your swift Lamplighter lent me a
moment his gold-tipped rod of office so that I might light fires of
hope in suffering hearts here in this tiny world of my own parish.
Your dreadful Head Gardener, too! And your Song of the Blue-Eyes
Fairy,' he added slyly, almost mischievously, 'you remember that, I
wonder?'

'H'm--a little, yes--something,' replied Rogers confusedly. 'It was a
dreadful doggerel. But I've got a secretary now,' he continued
hurriedly and in rather a louder voice,' a fellow named Minks, a jewel
really of a secretary he is--and he, I believe, can write real--'

'It was charming enough for us all to have remembered it, anyhow,' the
Vicar stopped him, smiling at his blushes,' and for May--or was it
Joan? dear me, how I do forget names!--to have set it to music. She
had a little gift that way, you may remember; and, before she took up
teaching she wrote one or two little things like that.'

'Ah, did she really?' murmured the other. He scarcely knew what he was
saying, for a mist of blue had risen before his eyes, and in it he was
seeing pictures. 'The Spell of Blue, wasn't it, or something like
that?' he said a moment later, 'blue, the colour of beauty in flowers,
sea, sky, distance--the childhood colour par excellence?'

'But chiefly in the eyes of children, yes,' the Vicar helped him,
rising at the same time from the table. 'It was the spell, the
passport, the open sesame to most of your adventures. Come now, if you
won't have another glass of port, and we'll go into the drawing-room,
and Joan, May I mean--no, Joan, of course, shall sing it to you. For
this is a very special occasion for us, you know,' he added as they
passed across the threshold side by side. 'To see you is to go back
with you to Fairyland.'

The piano was being idly strummed as they went in, and the player was
easily persuaded to sing the little song. It floated through the open
windows and across the lawn as the two men in their corners listened.
She knew it by heart, as though she often played it. The candles were
not lit. Dusk caught the sound and muted it enchantingly. And somehow
the simple melody helped to conceal the meagreness of the childish
words. Everywhere, from sky and lawn and solemn trees, the Past came
softly in and listened too.

    There's a Fairy that hides in the beautiful eyes
    Of children who treat her well;
    In the little round hole where the eyeball lies
    She weaves her magical spell.

    Oh, tell it to me,
    Oh, how can it be,
    This Spell of the Blue-Eyes Fairy.

    Well,--the eyes must be blue,
    And the heart must be true,
    And the child must be _better_ than gold;
    And then, if you'll let her,
    The quicker the better,
    She'll make you forget that you're old,
    That you're heavy and stupid, and--old!

    So, if such a child you should chance to see,
    Or with such a child to play,
    No matter how weary and dull you be,
    Nor how many tons you weigh;
    You will suddenly find that you're young again,
    And your movements are light and airy,
    And you'll try to be solemn and stiff in vain--
    It's the Spell of the Blue-Eyes Fairy!

    Now I've told it to you,
    And you _know_ it is true--
    It's the Spell of the Blue-Eyes Fairy!

'And it's the same spell,' said the old man in his corner as the last
notes died away, and they sat on some minutes longer in the fragrant
darkness, 'that you cast about us as a boy, Henry Rogers, when you
made that wonderful Net of Stars and fastened it with your comets'
nails to the big and little cedars. The one catches your heart, you
see, while the other gets your feet and head and arms till you're a
hopeless prisoner--a prisoner in Fairyland.'

'Only the world to-day no longer believes in Fairyland,' was the
reply, 'and even the children have become scientific. Perhaps it's
only buried though. The two ought to run in harness really--opposite
interpretations of the universe. One might revive it--here and there
perhaps. Without it, all the tenderness seems leaking out of life--'

Joan presently said good-night, but the other two waited on a little
longer; and before going to bed they took a turn outside among the
flower-beds and fruit-trees that formed the tangled Vicarage garden at
the back. It was uncommonly warm for a night in early spring. The
lilacs were in bud, and the air most exquisitely scented.

Rogers felt himself swept back wonderfully among his early years. It
seemed almost naughty to be out at such an hour instead of asleep in
bed. It was quite ridiculous--but he loved the feeling and let himself
go with happy willingness. The story of 'Vice Versa,' where a man
really became a boy again, passed through his mind and made him laugh.

And the old Vicar kept on feeding the semi-serious mood with what
seemed almost intentional sly digs. Yet the digs were not intentional,
really; it was merely that his listener, already prepared by his
experience with the Starlight Express, read into them these searching
meanings of his own. Something in him was deeply moved.

'You might make a great teacher, you know,' suggested his companion,
stooping to sniff a lilac branch as they paused a moment. 'I thought
so years ago; I think so still. You've kept yourself so simple.'

'How not to do most things,' laughed the other, glad of the darkness.

'How to do the big and simple things,' was the rejoinder; 'and do them
well, without applause. You have Belief.'

'Too much, perhaps. I simply can't get rid of it.'

'Don't try to. It's belief that moves the world; people want teachers
--that's my experience in the pulpit and the parish; a world in
miniature, after all--but they won't listen to a teacher who hasn't
got it. There are no great poets to-day, only great discoverers. The
poets, the interpreters of discovery, are gone--starved out of life by
ridicule, and by questions to which exact answers are impossible. With
your imagination and belief you might help a world far larger than
this parish of mine at any rate. I envy you.'

Goodness! how the kind eyes searched his own in this darkness. Though
little susceptible to flattery, he was aware of something huge the
words stirred in the depths of him, something far bigger than he yet
had dreamed of even in his boyhood, something that made his cherished
Scheme seem a little pale and faded.

'Take the whole world with you into fairyland,' he heard the low voice
come murmuring in his ear across the lilacs. And there was starlight
in it--that gentle, steady brilliance that steals into people while
they sleep and dream, tracing patterns of glory they may recognise
when they wake, yet marvelling whence it came. 'The world wants its
fairyland back again, and won't be happy till it gets it.'

A bird listening to them in the stillness sang a little burst of song,
then paused again to listen.

'Once give them of your magic, and each may shape his fairyland as he
chooses...' the musical voice ran on.

The flowers seemed alive and walking. This was a voice of beauty. Some
lilac bud was singing in its sleep. Sirius had dropped a ray across
its lips of blue and coaxed it out to dance. There was a murmur and a
stir among the fruit-trees too. The apple blossoms painted the
darkness with their tiny fluttering dresses, while old Aldebaran
trimmed them silently with gold, and partners from the Milky Way swept
rustling down to lead the violets out. Oh, there was revelry to-night,
and the fairy spell of the blue-eyed Spring was irresistible....

'But the world will never dance,' he whispered sadly, half to himself
perhaps; 'it's far too weary.'

'It will follow a leader,' came the soft reply, 'who dances well and
pipes the true old music so that it can hear. Belief inspires it
always. And that Belief you have.' There was a curious vibration in
his voice; he spoke from his heart, and his heart was evidently moved.

'I wonder when it came to me, then, and how?'

The Vicar turned and faced him where they stood beneath the lime
trees. Their scent was pouring out as from phials uncorked by the
stars.

'It came,' he caught the answer that thrilled with earnestness, 'when
you saw the lame boy on the village hill and cried. As long ago as
that it came.'

His mind, as he listened, became a plot of fresh-turned earth the Head
Gardener filled with flowers. A mass of covering stuff the years had
laid ever thicker and thicker was being shovelled away. The flowers he
saw being planted there were very tiny ones. But they would grow. A
leaf from some far-off rocky mount of olive trees dropped fluttering
through the air and marvellously took root and grew. He felt for a
moment the breath of night air that has been tamed by an eastern sun.
He saw a group of men, bare-headed, standing on the slopes, and in
front of them a figure of glory teaching little, simple things they
found it hard to understand....

'You have the big and simple things alive in you,' the voice carried
on his pictured thought among the flowers. 'In your heart they lie all
waiting to be used. Nothing can smother them. Only-you must give them
out.'

'If only I knew how--!'

'Keep close to the children,' sifted the strange answer through the
fruit-trees; 'the world is a big child. And catch it when it lies
asleep--not thinking of itself,' he whispered.

'The time is so short--'

'At forty you stand upon the threshold of life, with values learned
and rubbish cleared away. So many by that time are already dead--in
heart. I envy your opportunities ahead. You have learned already one
foundation truth--the grandeur of toil and the insignificance of
acquisition. The other foundation thing is even simpler--you have a
neighbour. Now, with your money to give as flowers, and your Belief to
steer you straight, you have the world before you. And--keep close to
the children.'

'Before there are none left,' added Rogers under his breath. But the
other heard the words and instantly corrected him--

'Children of any age, and wherever you may find them.'

And they turned slowly and made their way in silence across the
soaking lawn, entering the house by the drawing-room window.

'Good-night,' the old man said, as he lit his candle and led him to
his room; 'and pleasant, happy, inspiring dreams.'

He seemed to say it with some curious, heartfelt meaning in the common
words. He disappeared slowly down the passage, shading the candle with
one hand to pick his way, and Rogers watched him out of sight, then
turned and entered his own room, closing the door as softly as
possible behind him.

It had been an astonishing conversation. All his old enthusiasm was
stirred. Embers leaped to flame. No woman ever had done as much. This
old fellow, once merely respected tutor, had given him back his first
original fire and zeal, yet somehow cleansed and purified. And it
humbled him at the same time. Dead leaves, dropped year by year in his
City life, were cleared away as though a mighty wind had swept him.
The Gardener was burning up dead leaves; the Sweep was cleaning out
the flues; the Lamplighter waving his golden signal in the sky--far
ahead, it is true, but gleaming like a torch and beacon. The Starlight
Express was travelling at top speed among the constellations. He stood
at the beginning of the important part of life....

And now, as he lay in bed and heard the owls hooting in the woods, and
smelt the flowers through the open window, his thoughts followed
strongly after that old Star Train that he used to drive about the
sky. He was both engine-driver and passenger. He fell asleep to dream
of it.

And all the vital and enchanting thoughts of his boyhood flowed back
upon him with a rush, as though they had never been laid aside. He
remembered particularly one singular thing about them--that they had
never seemed quite his own, but that he had either read or heard them
somewhere else. As a child the feeling was always strong that these
'jolly thoughts,' as he called them, were put into him by some one
else--some one who whispered to him--some one who lived close behind
his ears. He had to listen very hard to catch them. It was _not_
dreams, yet all night long, especially when he slept tightly, as he
phrased it, this fairy whispering continued, and in the daytime he
remembered what he could and made up his stories accordingly. He stole
these ideas about a Star Net and a Starlight Express. One day he would
be caught and punished for it. It was trespassing upon the preserves
of some one else.

Yet he could never discover who this some one else was, except that it
was a 'she' and lived among the stars, only coming out at night. He
imagined she hid behind that little dusty constellation called the
Pleiades, and that was why the Pleiades wore a veil and were so dim--
lest he should find her out. And once, behind the blue gaze of the
guard-girl, who was out of his heart by this time, he had known a
moment of thrilling wonder that was close to awe. He saw another pair
of eyes gazing out at him They were ambery eyes, as he called them--
just what was to be expected from a star. And, so great was the shock,
that at first he stood dead still and gasped, then dashed up suddenly
close to her and stared into her face, frightening her so much that
she fell backwards, and the amber eyes vanished instantly. It was the
'some one else' who whispered fairy stories to him and lived behind
his ear. For a second she had been marvellously close. And he had lost
her!

From that moment, however, his belief in her increased enormously, and
he never saw a pair of brown-ambery eyes without feeling sure that she
was somewhere close about him. The lame boy, for instance, had the
same delicate tint in his sad, long, questioning gaze. His own collie
had it too! For years it was an obsession with him, haunting and
wonderful--the knowledge that some one who watched close beside him,
filling his mind with fairy thoughts, might any moment gaze into his
face through a pair of ordinary familiar eyes. And he was certain that
all his star-imagination about the Net, the Starlight Express, and the
Cave of Lost Starlight came first into him from this hidden 'some one
else' who brought the Milky Way down into his boy's world of fantasy.

'If ever I meet her in real life,' he used to say, 'I'm done for. She
is my Star Princess!'

And now, as he fell asleep, the old atmosphere of that Kentish garden
drew thickly over him, shaking out clusters of stars about his bed.
Dreams usually are determined by something more remote than the talk
that has just preceded going to bed, but to-night it was otherwise.
And two things the old Vicar had let fall--two things sufficiently
singular, it seemed, when he came to think about them--influenced his
night adventures. 'Catch the world when it's asleep,' and 'Keep close
to the children'--these somehow indicated the route his dream should
follow. For he headed the great engine straight for the village in the
Jura pine woods where his cousin's children lived. He did not know
these children, and had seen his cousin but rarely in recent years;
yet, it seemed, they came to meet the train up among the mountain
forests somewhere. For in this village, where he had gone to study
French, the moods of his own childhood had somehow known continuation
and development. The place had once been very dear to him, and he had
known delightful adventures there, many of them with this cousin. Now
he took all his own childhood's sprites out in this Starlight Express
and introduced them to these transplanted children who had never made
acquaintance with the English breed. They had surprising, wild
adventures all together, yet in the morning he could remember very
little of it all. The interfering sun melted them all down in dew. The
adventures had some object, however; that was clear; though what the
object was, except that it did good somewhere to. some one, was gone,
lost in the deeps of sleep behind him. They scurried about the world.
The sprites were very active indeed--quite fussily energetic. And his
Scheme for Disabled Something-or other was not anywhere discoverable
in these escapades. That seemed forgotten rather, as though they found
bigger, more important things to do, and nearer home too. Perhaps the
Vicar's hint about the 'Neighbour' was responsible for that. Anyhow,
the dream was very vivid, even though the morning sun melted it away
so quickly and completely. It seemed continuous too. It filled the
entire night.

Yet the thing that Rogers took off with him to town next morning was,
more than any other detail, the memory of what the old tutor had said
about the living reality and persistence of figures that passionate
thinking has created--that, and the value of Belief.




CHAPTER VI


     Be thou my star, and thou in me be seen
     To show what source divine is, and prevails.
     I mark thee planting joy in constant fire.
                   _To Sirius_, G. MEREDITH.

And he rather astonished the imperturbable Minks next day by the
announcement that he was thinking of going abroad for a little
holiday. 'When I return, it will be time enough to take up the Scheme
in earnest,' he said. For Minks had brought a sheaf of notes embodying
the results of many hours' labour, showing what others had already
done in that particular line of philanthropy.

'Very good indeed, Minks, very good. I'll take 'em with me and make a
careful study of the lot. I shall be only gone a week or so,' he
added, noticing the other's disappointment. For the secretary had
hoped to expound these notes himself at length. 'Take a week's holiday
yourself,' he added. 'Mrs. Minks might like to get to the sea,
perhaps. There'll only be my letters to forward. I'll give you a
little cheque.' And he explained briefly that he was going out to
Bourcelles to enjoy a few days' rest before they attacked great
problems together. After so many years of application to business he
had earned it. Crayfield, it seemed, had given him a taste for
sentimental journeys. But the fact was, too, the Tramp, the Dustman,
the Lamplighter, and the Starlight Express were all in his thoughts
still.

And it was spring. He felt this sudden desire to see his cousin again,
and make the acquaintance of his cousin's children. He remembered how
the two of them had tramped the Jura forests as boys. They had met in
London at intervals since. He dictated a letter to him then and there
--Minks taking it down like lightning--and added a postscript in his
own handwriting:--

'I feel a longing,' he wrote, 'to come out and see the little haven of
rest you have chosen, and to know your children. Our ways have gone
very far apart--too far--since the old days when we climbed out of the
windows of _la cure_ with a sheet, and tramped the mountains all night
long. Do you remember? I've had my nose on the grindstone ever since,
and you've worked hard too, judging by your name in publishers' lists.
I hope your books are a great success. I'm ashamed I've never any time
to read now. But I'm "retired" from business at last and hope to do
great things. I'll tell you about a great Scheme I have in hand when
we meet. I should like your advice too.

'Any room will do--sunny aspect if possible. And please give my love
to your children in advance. Tell them I shall come out in the
Starlight Express. Let me have a line to say if it's all right.'

In due course the line--a warm-hearted one--arrived. Minks came to
Charing Cross to see him off, the gleam of the sea already in his
pale-blue eyes.

'The Weather Report says "calm," Mr. Rogers,' he kept repeating.
'You'll have a good crossing, I hope and trust. I'm taking Mrs. Minks
myself---'

'Yes, yes, that's good,' was the quick reply. 'Capital. And--let me
see-I've got your notes with me, haven't I? I'll draft out a general
plan and send it to you as soon as I get a moment. You think over it
too, will you, while I'm away. And enjoy yourself at the same time.
Put your children in the sea--nothing like the sea for children--sea
and sun and sand and all that sort of thing.'

'Thank you very much, Mr. Rogers, and I trust---'

Somebody bumped against him, cutting short a carefully balanced
sentence that was intended to be one-third good wishes, one-third
weather remark, and the last third Mrs. Minks. Her letter of thanks
had never been referred to. It rankled, though very slightly.

'What an absurd-looking person!' exclaimed the secretary to himself,
following the aggressor with one eye, and trying to recapture the lost
sentence at the same time. 'They really should not allow such people
in a railway terminus,' he added aloud. The man was ragged and unkempt
to the last degree--a sort of tramp; and as he bought a ticket at the
third-class wicket, just beyond, he kept looking up slyly at Minks and
his companion. 'The way he knocked against me almost seemed
intentional,' Minks thought. The idea of pickpockets and cleverly
disguised detectives ran confusedly in his mind. He felt a little
flustered for some reason.

'I beg your pardon,' Mr. Rogers was saying to a man who tried to push
in front of him. 'But we _must_ each take our turn, you know.' The
throng of people was considerable. This man looked like a dustman.
He, too, was eagerly buying a ticket, but had evidently mistaken the
window. 'Third-class is lower down I think,' Mr. Rogers suggested with
a touch of authority.

'What a lot of foreigners there are about,' remarked Minks. 'These
stations are full of suspicious characters.' The notice about
loitering flashed across him.

He took the ticket Mr. Rogers handed to him, and went off to register
the luggage, and when later he joined his chief at the carriage door
he saw him talking to a couple of strangers who seemed anxious to get
in.

'I took _this_ corner seat for you, Mr. Rogers,' he explained, both to
prove his careful forethought and to let the strangers know that his
master was a person of some importance. They were such an
extraordinary couple too! Had there been hop-pickers about he could
have understood it. They were almost figures of masquerade; for while
one resembled more than anything else a chimney-sweep who had
forgotten to wash his face below the level of the eyes, the other
carried a dirty sack across his shoulders, which apparently he had
just been trying to squeeze into the rack.

They moved off when they saw Minks, but the man with the sack made a
gesture with one hand, as though he scattered something into the
carriage through the open door.

The secretary threw a reproachful look at a passing guard, but there
was nothing he could do. People with tickets had a right to travel.
Still, he resented these crowding, pushing folk. 'I'm sorry, Mr.
Rogers,' he said, as though he had chosen a poor train for his
honoured chief; 'there must be an excursion somewhere. There's a big
fete of Vegetarians, I know, at Surbiton to-day, but I can hardly
think these people---'

'Don't wait, Minks,' said the other, who had taken his seat. 'I'll let
you hear from me, you know, about the Scheme and--other things. Don't
wait.' He seemed curiously unobservant of these strange folk, almost
absent-minded.

The guard was whistling. Minks shut the door and gave the travelling-
rug a last tuck-in about his feet. He felt as though he were packing
off a child. The mother in him became active. Mr. Rogers needed
looking after. Another minute and he would have patted him and told
him what to eat and wear. But instead he raised his hat and smiled.
The train moved slowly out, making a deep purring sound like flowing
water. The platform had magically thinned. Officials stood lonely
among the scattered wavers of hats and handkerchiefs. As he stepped
backwards to keep the carriage window in sight until the last possible
moment, Minks was nearly knocked over by a man who hurried along the
platform as if he still had hopes of catching the train.

'Really, sir!' gasped the secretary, stooping to pick up his newspaper
and lavender glove--he wore one glove and carried the other--the
collision had sent flying. But the man was already far beyond the
reach of his voice. 'He must be an escaped lamplighter, or something,'
he laughed good-naturedly, as he saw the long legs vanish down the
platform. He leaped on to the line. Evidently he was a railway
employe. He seemed to be vainly trying to catch the departing buffers.
An absurd and reckless fellow, thought Minks.

But what caught the secretary's attention last, and made him wonder a
little if anything unusual was happening to the world, was the curious
fact that, as the last carriage glided smoothly past, he recognised
four figures seated comfortably inside. Their feet were on the
cushions--disgracefully. They were talking together, heads forward,
laughing, even--singing. And he could have sworn that they were the
two men who had watched himself and Mr. Rogers at the ticket window,
and the strangers who had tried to force their way into Mr. Rogers's
carriage when he came up just in time to interfere.

'They got in somehow after all, then,' he said to himself. 'Of course,
I had forgotten. The Company runs third-class carriages on the
continental trains now. Odd!' He mentally rubbed his eyes.

The train swept round the corner out of sight, leaving a streaming
cloud of smoke and sparks behind it. It went out with a kind of rush
of delight, glad to be off, and conscious of its passengers' pleasure.

'Odd.' This was the word that filled his mind as he walked home.
'Perhaps--our minds are in such intimate sympathy together--perhaps he
was thinking of--of that kind of thing--er--and some of his thoughts
got into my own imagination. Odd, though, very, _very_ odd.'

He had once read somewhere in one of his new-fangled books that
'thoughts are things.' It had made a great impression on him. He had
read about Marconi too. Later he made a more thorough study of this
'thinking business.'

And soon afterwards, having put his chief's papers in order at the
flat, he went home to Mrs. Minks and the children with this other
thought--that he had possibly been overworking himself, and that it
was a good thing he was going to have a holiday by the sea.

He liked to picture himself as an original thinker, not afraid of new
ideas, but in reality he preferred his world sober, ordinary, logical.
It was merely big-sounding names he liked. And this little incident
was somewhere out of joint. It was--odd.

     Success that poisons many a baser mind
     May lift---

But the sonnet had never known completion. In the space it had
occupied in his mind another one abruptly sprouted. The first subject
after all was banal. A better one had come to him--

     Strong thoughts that rise in a creative mind
     May flash about the world, and carry joy---

Then it stuck. He changed 'may' to 'shall,' but a moment later decided
that 'do' was better, truer than either. After that inspiration failed
him. He retired gracefully upon prose again.

'Odd,' he thought, 'very odd!'

And he relieved his mind by writing a letter to a newspaper. He did
not send it in the end, for his better judgment prevented, but he had
to do something by way of protest, and the only alternative was to
tell his wife about it, when she would look half puzzled, half pained,
and probably reply with some remark about the general cost of living.
So he wrote the letter instead.

For Herbert Minks regarded himself as a man with the larger view of
citizenship, a critic of public affairs, and, in a measure, therefore,
an item of that public opinion which moulded governments. Hence he had
a finger, though but a little finger, in the destiny of nations and in
the polity--a grand word that!--of national councils. He wrote
frequent letters, thus, to the lesser weekly journals; these letters
were sometimes printed; occasionally--oh, joy!--they were answered by
others like himself, who referred to him as 'your esteemed
correspondent.' As yet, however, his following letter had never got
into print, nor had he experienced the importance of that editorial
decision, appended between square brackets: 'This correspondence must
now cease'--so vital, that is, that the editor and the entire office
staff might change their opinions unless it _did_ cease.

Having drafted his letter, therefore, and carried it about with him
for several hours in his breast pocket, he finally decided not to send
it after all, for the explanation of his 'odd' experience, he well
knew, was hardly one that a newspaper office could supply, or that
public correspondence could illuminate. His better judgment always won
the day in the end. Thinking _was_ creative, after all.




CHAPTER VII


              ... The sun,
     Closing his benediction,
     Sinks, and the darkening air
     Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night-
     Night with her train of stars
     And her great gift of sleep.
                     W. E. HENLEY.

In a southern-facing room on the first floor of La Citadelle the
English family sat after tea. The father, a spare, mild-eyed man, his
thatch of brown hair well sprinkled with grey above the temples, was
lighting his pipe for the tenth time-the tenth match, but the same
pipeful of tobacco; and his wife, an ample, motherly woman, slightly
younger than himself, was knitting on the other side of the open
fireplace, in which still glowed a mass of peat ashes. From time to
time she stirred them with a rickety pair of tongs, or with her foot
kicked into the grate the matches he invariably threw short upon the
floor. But these were adventures ill-suited to her. Knitting was her
natural talent. She was always knitting.

By the open window stood two children, a boy and a girl of ten and
twelve respectively, gazing out into the sunshine. It was the end of
April, and though the sun was already hot, there was a sharpness in
the air that told of snow still lying on the mountain heights behind
the village. Across vineyard slopes and patches of agricultural land,
the Lake of Neuchatel lay blue as a southern sea, while beyond it, in
a line of white that the sunset soon would turn to pink and gold,
stretched the whole range of Alps, from Mont Blanc to where the Eiger
and the Weisshorn signalled in the east. They filled the entire
horizon, already cloud-like in the haze of coming summer.

The door into the corridor opened, and a taller child came in. A mass
of dark hair, caught by a big red bow, tumbled untidily down her back.
She was sixteen and very earnest, but her eyes, brown like her
father's, held a curious puzzled look, as though life still confused
her so much that while she did her duties bravely she did not quite
understand why it should be so.

'Excuse me, Mother, shall I wash up?' she said at once. She always did
wash up. And 'excuse me' usually prefaced her questions.

'Please, Jane Anne,' said Mother. The entire family called her Jane
Anne, although her baptismal names were rather fine. Sometimes she
answered, too, to Jinny, but when it was a question of household
duties it was Jane Anne, or even 'Ria.'

She set about her duties promptly, though not with any special
deftness. And first she stooped and picked up the last match her
father had dropped upon the strip of carpet that covered the linoleum.

'Daddy,' she said reprovingly, 'you do make such a mess.' She brushed
tobacco ashes from his coat. Mother, without looking up, went on
talking to him about the bills-washing, school-books, boots, blouses,
oil, and peat. And as she did so a puzzled expression was visible in
his eyes akin to the expression in Jane Anne's. Both enjoyed a similar
mental confusion sometimes as to words and meanings and the import of
practical life generally.

'We shan't want any more now, thank goodness,' he said vaguely,
referring to the peat, though Mother was already far ahead, wading
among boots and shirts and blouses.

'But if we get a load in now, you see, it's _cheaper_,' she said with
emphasis on every alternate word, slowing up the pace to suit him.

'Mother, where _did_ you put the washing-up rag?' came the voice of
Jinny in plaintive accents from the tiny kitchen that lay beyond the
adjoining bedroom. 'I can't find it anywhere,' she added, poking her
head round the door suddenly.

'Pet lamb,' was Mother's answer, still bending over her knitting-she
was prodigal of terms like this and applied them indiscriminately, for
Jane Anne resembled the animal in question even less than did her
father--'I saw it last on the geranium shelf--you know, where the
fuchsias and the-' She hesitated, she was not sure herself. 'I'll get
it, my duckie, for you,' she added, and began to rise. She was a
voluminous, very stately woman. The operation took time.

'Let me,' said Daddy, drawing his mind with difficulty from the peat,
and rising too. They rose together.

'It's all right, I've got it,' cried the child, who had disappeared
again. 'It was in the sink. That's Jimbo; he washed up yesterday.'

'Pas vrai!' piped a little voice beside the open window, overhearing
his name, 'because I only dried. It was Monkey who washed up.' They
talked French and English all mixed up together.

But Monkey was too busy looking at the Alps through an old pair of
opera-glasses, relic of her father's London days that served for
telescope, to think reply worth while. Her baptismal names were also
rather wonderful, though neither of her parents could have supplied
them without a moment's reflection first. There was commotion by that
window for a moment but it soon subsided again, for things that Jinny
said never provoked dissension, and Jimbo and Monkey just then were
busy with a Magic Horse who had wings of snow, and was making fearful
leaps from the peaks of the Dent du Midi across the Blumlisalp to the
Jungfrau.

'Will you please carry the samovar for me?' exclaimed Jane Anne,
addressing both her parents, as though uncertain which of them would
help her. 'You filled it so awfully full to-day, I can't lift it. I
advertise for help.'

Her father slowly rose. 'I'll do it, child,' he said kindly, but with
a patience, almost resignation, in his tone suggesting that it was
absurd to expect such a thing of him. 'Then do exactly as you think
best,' he let fall to his wife as he went, referring to the chaos of
expenses she had been discussing with him. 'That'll be all right.' For
his mind had not yet sorted the jumble of peat, oil, boots, school-
books, and the rest. 'We can manage THAT at any rate; you see it's
francs, not shillings,' he added, as Jane Anne pulled him by the
sleeve towards the steaming samovar. He held the strings of an ever
empty purse.

'Daddy, but you've _always_ got a crumb in your beard,' she was
saying, 'and if it isn't a crumb, it's ashes on your coat or a match
on the floor.' She brushed the crumb away. He gave her a kiss. And
between them they nearly upset the old nickel-plated samovar that was
a present from a Tiflis Armenian to whom the mother once taught
English. They looked round anxiously as though afraid of a scolding;
but Mother had not noticed. And she was accustomed to the noise and
laughter. The scene then finished, as it usually did, by the mother
washing up, Jane Anne drying, and Daddy hovering to and fro in the
background making remarks in his beard about the geraniums, the China
tea, the indigestible new bread, the outrageous cost of the
necessaries of life, or the book he was at work on at the moment. He
often enough gave his uncertain assistance in the little menial duties
connected with the preparation or removal of the tea-things, and had
even been known to dry. Only washing-up he never did. Somehow his
vocation rendered him immune from that. He might bring the peat in,
fill the lamps, arrange and dust the scanty furniture, but washing-up
was not a possibility even. As an author it was considered beneath his
dignity altogether, almost improper--it would have shocked the
children. Mother could do anything; it was right and natural that she
should---poor soul I But Daddy's profession set him in an enclosure
apart, and there were certain things in this servantless menage he
could not have done without disgracing the entire family. Washing-up
was one; carrying back the empty basket of tea-things to the Pension
was another. Daddy wrote books. As Jane Anne put it forcibly and
finally once, 'Shakespeare never washed up or carried a tea-basket in
the street!'--which the others accepted as a conclusive statement of
authority.

And, meantime, the two younger children, who knew how to amuse each
other for hours together unaided, had left the Magic Horse in its
stables for the night--an enormous snow-drift--and were sitting side
by side upon the sofa conning a number of _Punch_ some English aunt
had sent them. The girl read out the jokes, and her brother pointed
with a very dirty finger to the pictures. None of the jokes were
seized by either, but Jimbo announced each one with, 'Oh! I say!' and
their faces were grave and sometimes awed; and when Jimbo asked, 'But
what does THAT mean?' his sister would answer, 'Don't you see, I
suppose the cabman meant--' finishing with some explanation very far
from truth, whereupon Jimbo, accepting it doubtfully, said nothing,
and they turned another page with keen anticipation. They never
appealed for outside aid, but enjoyed it in their own dark, mysterious
way. And, presently, when the washing-up was finished, and the dusk
began to dim the landscape and conceal the ghostly-looking Alps, they
retired to the inner bedroom--for this was Saturday and there were no
school tasks to be prepared--and there, seated on the big bed in the
corner, they opened a book of _cantiques_ used in school, and sang one
hymn and song after another, interrupting one another with jokes and
laughter and French and English sentences oddly mixed together. Jimbo
sang the tune, and Monkey the alto. It was by no means unpleasant to
listen to. And, upon the whole, it was a very grave business
altogether, graver even than their attitude to "Punch." Jane Anne
considered it a foolish waste of time, but she never actually said so.
She smiled her grave smile and went her own puzzled way alone.

Usually at this hour the Den presented a very different appearance,
the children, with slates and _cahiers_, working laboriously round the
table, Jane Anne and mother knitting or mending furiously, Mere
Riquette, the old cat, asleep before the fire, and a general
schoolroom air pervading the place. The father, too, tea once
finished, would depart for the little room he slept in and used as
work-place over at the carpenter's house among the vineyards. He kept
his books there, his rows of pipes and towering little heap of half-
filled match-boxes, and there he wrote his clever studies that yet
were unproductive of much gold and brought him little more than
pleasant notices and occasional letters from enthusiastic strangers.
It seemed very unremunerative labour indeed, and the family had done
well to migrate from Essex into Switzerland, where, besides the
excellent schools which cost barely two pounds annually per head, the
children learned the language and enjoyed the air of forest and
mountain into the bargain. Life, for all that, was a severe problem to
them, and the difficulty of making both ends come in sight of each
other, let alone meeting, was an ever-present one. That they jogged
along so well was due more than the others realised to the untiring
and selfless zeal of the Irish mother, a plucky, practical woman, and
a noble one if ever such existed on this earth. The way she contrived
would fill a book; her economies, so clever they hardly betrayed
themselves, would supply a comic annual with material for years,
though their comedy involved a pathos of self-denial and sleepless
nights that only those similarly placed could have divined. Herself a
silent, even inarticulate, woman, she never spoke of them, least of
all to her husband, whose mind it was her brave desire to keep free
from unnecessary worries for his work. His studies she did not
understand, but his stories she read aloud with patient resignation to
the children. She marked the place when the reading was interrupted
with a crimson paper-knife, and often Jimbo would move it several
pages farther on without any of them discovering the gap. Jane Anne,
however, who made no pretence of listening to 'Daddy's muddle-
stories,' was beginning to realise what went on in Mother's mind
underground. She hardly seized the pathos, but she saw and understood
enough to help. And she was in many ways a little second edition--a
phrase the muddle-stories never knew, alas!--of her mother, with the
same unselfishness that held a touch of grandeur, the same clever
domestic instinct for contrivance, and the same careful ways that yet
sat ill upon a boundless generosity of heart beneath. She loved to be
thought older than she was, and she used the longest, biggest,
grandest words she could possibly invent or find.

And the village life suited them all in all respects, for, while there
was no degrading poverty anywhere, all the inhabitants, from the
pasteur to the carpenter, knew the exact value of a centime; there was
no question of keeping up impossible appearances, but a general
frankness with regard to the fundamental values of clothing, food, and
education that all shared alike and made no pretence about. Any
faintest sign of snobbery, for instance, would have been drummed out
of the little mountain hamlet at once by Gygi, the gendarme, who spent
more time in his fields and vineyards than in his uniform. And, while
every one knew that a title and large estates were a not impossible
future for the famille anglaise, it made no slightest difference in
the treatment of them, and indeed hardly lent them the flavour of a
faintest cachet. They were the English family in La Citadelle, and
that was all there was about it.

The peasants, however, rather pitied the hard-working author who 'had
to write all those books,' than paid him honourable tribute for his
work. It seemed so unnecessary. Vineyards produced wine a man could
drink and pay for, but books---! Well, results spoke for themselves,
and no one who lived in La Citadelle was millionaire.

Yet the reputation of John Frederic Campden stood high enough, for all
his meagre earnings, and he was an ineffective author chiefly,
perhaps, because he missed his audience. Somewhere, somehow, he fell
between two stools. And his chagrin was undeniable; for though the
poet's heart in him kept all its splendid fires alight, his failure
chilled a little the intellect that should fashion them along
effective moulds. Now, with advancing years, the increasing cost of
the children's growing-up, and the failing of his wife's health a
little, the burdens of life were heavier than he cared to think about.

But this evening, as the group sat round the wide peat fire, cheerful
and jolly in the lamplight, there was certainly no sign of sadness.
They were like a party of children in which the grave humour of the
ever-knitting mother kept the balance true between fun and
foolishness.

'Please, Daddy, a story at once,' Jane Anne demanded, 'but a told one,
not a read-aloud one. I like a romantic effort best.'

He fumbled in his pocket for a light, and Jimbo gravely produced a box
he had secretly filled with matches already used, collected
laboriously from the floor during the week. Then Monkey, full of
mischief, came over from the window where she had been watching them
with gasps of astonishment no one had heeded through the small end of
the opera-glasses. There was a dancing brilliance in her movements,
and her eyes, brown like her mother's, sparkled with fun and
wickedness. Taking the knee Jimbo left unoccupied, and waiting till
the diversion caused by the match-box had subsided, she solemnly
placed a bread-crumb in his rather tangled beard.

'Now you're full-dress,' she said, falling instantly so close against
him that he could not tickle her, while Mother glanced up a second
uncertain whether to criticise the impertinence or let it pass. She
let it pass. None of the children had the faintest idea what it meant
to be afraid of their father.

'People who waste bread,' he began, 'end by getting so thin themselves
that they double up like paper and disappear.'

'But _how_ thin, Daddy?' asked Jane Anne, ever literal to the death.
'And is it romantic or just silly?'

He was puzzled for a moment what to reply.

'He doesn't know. He's making up,' piped Jimbo.

'I _do_ know,' came the belated explanation, as he put the crumb into
the bowl of his extinguished pipe with a solemnity that delighted
them, but puzzled Jane Anne, who suggested it would taste 'like toast
smelt.' 'People who take bread that doesn't belong to them end by
having no dinner---'

'But that isn't anything about thinness,' interrupted Jinny, still
uncomforted. Some one wasted by love was in her mind perhaps.

'It is, child, because they get so frightfully thin,' he went on,
'that they end by getting thinner than the thin end of a wedge.'

The eyes of Mother twinkled, but the children still stared, waiting.
They had never heard of this phrase about the wedge. Indeed Jane Anne
shared with Jimbo total ignorance of the word at all. Like the
audience who read his books, or rather ought to have read them, they
expected something different, yet still hoped.

'It's a rhyme, and not a story though,' he added, anticipating perhaps
their possible disappointment. For the recent talk about expenses had
chilled his imagination too much for an instantaneous story, whereas
rhymes came ever to him easily.

'All right! Let's have it anyhow,' came the verdict in sentences of
French and English. And in the breathless pause that followed, even
Mother looking up expectantly from her busy fingers, was heard this
strange fate of the Thin Child who stole another's bread-crumb:--

     He then grew thinner than the thin,
     The thin end of the wedge;
     He grew so pitifully thin
     It set his teeth on edge;
     But the edge it set his teeth upon
     Was worse than getting thinner,
     For it was the edge of appetite,
     And his teeth were in no dinner!

There was a deep silence. Mother looked as though she expected more,--
the good part yet to come. The rhyme fell flat as a pancake, for of
course the children did not understand it. Its nonsense, clever
enough, escaped them. True nonsense is for grown-ups only. Jane Anne
stared steadily at him with a puzzled frown. Her face wore an
expression like a moth.

'Thank you, Daddy, _very_ much,' she said, certain as ever that the
fault if any was her own, since all that Daddy said and did was simply
splendid. Whereupon the others fairly screamed with delight, turning
attention thereby from the dismal failure.

'She doesn't understand it, but she's always so polite!' cried Monkey.

Her mother quickly intervened. 'Never mind, Jane Anne,' she soothed
her, lest her feelings should be ruffled; 'you shall never want a
dinner, lovey; and when all Monkey's teeth are gone you'll still be
able to munch away at something.'

But Jinny's feelings were never ruffled exactly, only confused and
puzzled. She was puzzled now. Her confidence in her father's splendour
was unshakable.

'And, anyhow, Mother, you'll never be a thin wedge,' she answered,
meaning to show her gratitude by a compliment. She joined herself as
loudly as anybody in the roar that followed this sally. Obviously, she
had said a clever and amusing thing, though it was not clear to her
why it was so. Her flushed face was very happy; it even wore a touch
of proud superiority. Her talents were domestic rather than
intellectual.

'Excuse me, Daddy,' she said gravely, in a pause that followed
presently. 'But what is a wedge, exactly? And I think I'd like to copy
that poetry in my book, please.' For she kept a book in which his
efforts were neatly inscribed in a round copy-book handwriting, and
called by Monkey 'The Muddle Book.' There his unappreciated doggerels
found fame, though misunderstood most of all by the affectionate child
who copied them so proudly.

The book was brought at once. Her father wrote out the nonsense verse
on his knee and made a funny little illustration in the margin. 'Oh, I
say!' said Jimbo, watching him, while Monkey, lapsing into French,
contributed with her usual impudence, 'Pas tant mal!' They all loved
the illustrations.

The general interest, then, as the way is with children, puppies, and
other young Inconsistencies, centred upon the contents of the book.
They eagerly turned the pages, as though they did not know its
contents by heart already. They praised for the hundredth time the
drawing of the Muddle Animal who

     Hung its hopes upon a nail
     Or laid them on the shelf;
     Then pricked its conscience with its tail,
     And sat upon itself.

They looked also with considerable approval upon the drawings and
descriptions of the Muddle Man whose manners towards the rest of the
world were cool; because

     He saw things with his naked eye,
     That's why his glance was chilly.

But the explanation of the disasters he caused everywhere by his
disagreeable sharpness of speech and behaviour did _not_ amuse them.
They observed as usual that it was 'too impossible'; the drawings,
moreover, did not quite convince:--

     So cutting was his speaking tone
     Each phrase snipped off a button,
     So sharp his words, they have been known
     To carve a leg of mutton;
     He shaved himself with sentences,
     And when he went to dances,
     He made--Oh shocking tendencies!-
     Deep holes with piercing glances.

But on the last page the Muddle Man behaved so badly, was so
positively indecent in his conduct, that he was persuaded to disappear
altogether; and his manner of extinguishing himself in the
illustration delighted the children far more than the verse whose fun
again escaped them:--

     They observed he was indecent,
     But he said it wasn't true,
     For _he_ pronounced it 'in descent'--
     Then disappeared from view!

Mother's alleged 'second sight' was also attributed to the fact that
she 'looked twice before she leaped'--and the drawing of that leap
never failed to produce high spirits. For her calm and steady way of
walking--sailing--had earned her the name of the frigate--and this was
also illustrated, with various winds, all coloured, driving her along.

The time passed happily; some one turned the lamp out, and Daddy,
regardless of expense--he had been grumbling about it ten minutes
before--heaped on the bricks of peat. Riquette, a bit of movable
furniture without which the room seemed incomplete, deftly slipped in
between the circle of legs and feet, and curled up upon Jinny's lap.
Her snoring, a wheezy noise that made Jimbo wonder 'why it didn't
scrape her,' was as familiar as the ticking of the clock. Old Mere
Riquette knew her rights. And she exacted them. Jinny's lap was one of
these. She had a face like an old peasant woman, with a curious snub
nose and irregular whiskers that betrayed recklessly the advance of
age. Her snores and gentle purring filled the room now. A hush came
over the whole party. At seven o'clock they must all troop over to the
Pension des Glycines for supper, but there was still an hour left. And
it was a magic hour. Sighs were audible here and there, as the
exhausted children settled deeper into their chairs.

A change came over the atmosphere. Would nothing exciting ever happen?

'The stars are out,' said Jimbo in his soft, gentle little voice,
turning his head towards the windows. The others looked too--all
except Mother, whose attitude suggested suspiciously that she slept,
and Riquette, who most certainly did sleep. Above the rampart of the
darkened Alps swung up the army of the stars. The brighter ones were
reflected in the lake. The sky was crowded. Tiny, golden pathways slid
down the purple walls of the night. 'Some one in heaven is letting
down the star-ladders...' he whispered.

Jimbo's sentence had marked the change of key. Enchantment was abroad
--the Saturday evening spell was in the room.

And suddenly a new enormous thing stirred in their father's heart.
Whence it came, or why, he knew not. Like a fire it rose in him deep
down, from very far away, delightful. Was it an inspiration coming, he
wondered? And why did Jimbo use that phrase of beauty about star-
ladders? How did it come into the mind of a little boy? The phrase
opened a new channel in the very depths of him, thence climbing up and
outwards, towards the brain.... And, with a thrill of curious high
wonder, he let it come. It was large and very splendid. It came with a
rush--as of numerous whispering voices that flocked about him, urging
some exquisite, distant sweetness in him to unaccustomed delivery. A
softness of ten thousand stars trooped down into his blood. Some
constellation like the Pleiades had flung their fiery tackle across
the dusk upon his mind. His thought turned golden....


CHAPTER VIII

    We are the stars which sing.
    We sing with our light.
    We are the birds of fire.
    We fly across the heaven.
    Our light is a star.
    We make a road for Spirits,
    A road for the Great Spirit.
    Among us are three hunters
    Who chase a bear:
    There never was a time
    When they were not hunting;
    We look down on the mountains.
    This is the Song of the Mountains.

    _Red Indian_ (_Algonquin_) _Lyric_.
        Translator, J. D. PRINCE.

'A star-story, please,' the boy repeated, cuddling up. They all drew,
where possible, nearer. Their belief in their father's powers, rarely
justified, was pathetic. Each time they felt sure he would make the
adventures seem real, yet somehow he never quite did. They were aware
that it was invention only. These things he told about he had not
experienced himself. For they badly needed a leader, these children;
and Daddy just missed filling the position. He was too 'clever,' his
imagination neither wild nor silly enough, for children. And he felt
it. He threw off rhymes and stories for them in a spirit of bravado
rather--an expression of disappointment. Yet there was passion in them
too--concealed. The public missed the heart he showed them in his
books in the same way.

'The stars are listening....' Jimbo's voice sounded far away, almost
outside the window. Mother now snored audibly. Daddy took his courage
in both hands and made the plunge.

'You know about the Star Cavern, I suppose--?' he began. It was the
sudden idea that had shot into him, he knew not whence.

'No.'

'Never heard of it.'

'Where is it, please?'

'Don't interrupt. That wasn't a _real_ question. Stories always begin
like that.' It was Jane Anne who thus finally commanded order.

'It's not a story exactly, but a sort of adventure,' he continued,
hesitating yet undaunted. 'Star Caverns are places where the unused
starlight gathers. There are numbers of them about the world, and one
I know of is up here in our mountains,' he pointed through the north
wall towards the pine-clad Jura, 'not far from the slopes of Boudry
where the forests dip towards the precipices of the Areuse--' The
phrase ran oddly through him like an inspiration, or the beginning of
a song he once had heard somewhere.

'Ah, beyond le Vallon Vert? I know,' whispered Jimbo, his blue eyes
big already with wonder.

'Towards the precipices on the farther side,' came the explanation,
'where there are those little open spaces among the trees.'

'Tell us more exactly, please.'

'Star-rays, you see,' he evaded them, 'are visible in the sky on their
way to us, but once they touch the earth they disappear and go out
like a candle. Unless a chance puddle, or a pair of eyes happens to be
about to catch them, you can't tell where they've gone to. They go
really into these Star Caverns.'

'But in a puddle or a pair of eyes they'd be lost just the same,' came
the objection.

'On the contrary,' he said; 'changed a little--increased by
reflection--but not lost.'

There was a pause; the children stared, expectantly. Here was mystery.

'See how they mirror themselves whenever possible,' he went on,
'doubling their light and beauty by giving themselves away! What is a
puddle worth until a Star's wee golden face shines out of it? And
then--what gold can buy it? And what are your eyes worth until a star
has flitted in and made a nest there?'

'Oh, like that, you mean--!' exclaimed Jane Anne, remembering that the
wonderful women in the newspaper stories always had 'starry eyes.'

'Like that, yes.' Daddy continued. 'Their light puts sympathy in you,
and only sympathy makes you lovely and--and--'

He stopped abruptly. He hesitated a moment. He was again most suddenly
aware that this strange idea that was born in him came from somewhere
else, almost from _some one_ else. It was not his own idea, nor had he
captured it completely yet. Like a wandering little inspiration from
another mind it seemed passing through him on uncertain, feathery
feet. He had suddenly lost it again. Thought wandered. He stared at
Jimbo, for Jimbo somehow seemed the channel.

The children waited, then talked among themselves. Daddy so often got
muddled and inattentive in this way. They were accustomed to it,
expected it even.

'I always love being out at night,' said Monkey, her eyes very bright;
'it sort of excites and makes me soft and happy.'

'Excuse me, Daddy, but have you been inside one? What's it like? The
Cave, I mean?' Jinny stuck to the point. She had not yet travelled
beyond it.

'It all collects in there and rises to the top like cream,' he went
on, 'and has a little tiny perfume like wild violets, and by walking
through it you get clothed and covered with it, and come out again all
soft-shiny--'

'What's soft-shiny, please?'

'Something half-primrose and half-moon. You're like a star--'

'But how--like a star?'

'Why,' he explained gently, yet a little disappointed that his
adventure was not instantly accepted, 'you shine, and your eyes
twinkle, and everybody likes you and thinks you beautiful--'

'Even if you're not?' inquired Jinny.

'But you _are_--'

'Couldn't we go there now? Mother's fast asleep!' suggested Jimbo in a
mysterious whisper. He felt a curious excitement. This, he felt, was
more real than usual. He glanced at Monkey's eyes a moment.

'Another time,' said Daddy, already half believing in the truth of his
adventure, yet not quite sure of himself. 'It collects, and collects,
and collects. Sometimes, here and there, a little escapes and creeps
out into yellow flowers like dandelions and buttercups. A little, too,
slips below the ground and fills up empty cracks between the rocks.
Then it hardens, gets dirty, and men dig it out again and call it
gold. And some slips out by the roof--though very, very little--and
you see it flashing back to find the star it belongs to, and people
with telescopes call it a shooting star, and--' It came pouring
through him again.

'But when you're in it--in the Cavern,' asked Monkey impatiently;
'what happens then?'

'Well,' he answered with conviction, 'it sticks to you. It sticks to
the eyes most, but a little also to the hair and voice, and nobody
loves you unless you've got a bit of it somewhere on you. A girl,
before any one falls in love with her, has always been there, and
people who write stories and music and things--all have got some on
their fingers or else nobody cares for what they write--'

'Oh, Daddy, then why don't you go there and get sticky all over with
it?' Jinny burst out with sudden eagerness, ever thinking of others
before herself. 'I'll go and get some for you--lots and lots.'

'I _have_ been there,' he answered slowly, 'once long, long ago. But
it didn't stick very well with me. It wipes off so quickly in the day-
time. The sunlight kills it.'

'But you got _some_!' the child insisted. 'And you've got it still, I
mean?'

'A little, perhaps, a very little.'

All felt the sadness in his voice without understanding it. There was
a moment's pause. Then the three of them spoke in a single breath--

'Please show it to us--_now_,' they cried.

'I'll try,' he said, after a slight hesitation, 'but--er--it's only a
rhyme, you see'; and then began to murmur very low for fear of waking
Mother: he almost sang it to them. The flock of tiny voices whispered
it to his blood. He merely uttered what he heard:--

     Starlight
     Runs along my mind
     And rolls into a ball of golden silk--
     A little skein
     Of tangled glory;
     And when I want to get it out again
     To weave the pattern of a verse or story,
     It must unwind.

     It then gets knotted, looped, and all up-jumbled,
     And long before I get it straight again, unwumbled,
     To make my verse or story,
     The interfering sun has risen
     And burst with passion through my silky prison
     To melt it down in dew,
     Like so much spider-gossamer or fairy-cotton.
     Don't you?
     _I_ call it rotten!

A hushed silence followed. Eyes sought the fire. No one spoke for
several minutes. There was a faint laughter, quickly over, but
containing sighs. Only Jinny stared straight into her father's face,
expecting more, though prepared at any stage to explode with unfeigned
admiration.

'But that "don't you" comes in the wrong place,' she objected
anxiously. 'It ought to come after "I call it rotten"---' She was
determined to make it seem all right.

'No, Jinny,' he answered gravely, 'you must always put others before
yourself. It's the first rule in life and literature.'

She dropped her eyes to the fire like the others. 'Ah,' she said, 'I
see; of course.' The long word blocked her mind like an avalanche,
even while she loved it.

'_I_ call it rotten,' murmured Monkey under her breath. Jimbo made no
audible remark. He crossed his little legs and folded his arms. He was
not going to express an opinion until he understood better what it was
all about. He began to whisper to his sister. Another longish pause
intervened. It was Jinny again who broke it.

'And "wumbled,"' she asked solemnly as though the future of everybody
depended on it, 'what _is_ wumbled, really? There's no such thing, is
there?--In life, I mean?' She meant to add 'and literature,' but the
word stopped her like a hedge.

'It's what happens to a verse or story I lose in that way,' he
explained, while Jimbo and Monkey whispered more busily still among
themselves about something else. 'The bit of starlight that gets lost
and doesn't stick, you see--ineffective.'

'But there _is_ no such word, really,' she urged, determined to clear
up all she could. 'It rhymes--that's all.'

'And there _is_ no verse or story,' he replied with a sigh. 'There
_was_--that's all.'

There was another pause. Jimbo and Monkey looked round suspiciously.
They ceased their mysterious whispering. They clearly did not wish the
others to know what their confabulation was about.

'That's why your books are wumbled, is it?' she inquired, proud of an
explanation that excused him, yet left his glory somehow unimpaired.
Her face was a map of puzzled wrinkles.

'Precisely, Jinny. You see, the starlight never gets through properly
into my mind. It lies there in a knot. My plot is wumbled. I can't
disentangle it quite, though the beauty lies there right enough---'

'Oh, yes,' she interrupted, 'the beauty lies there still.' She got up
suddenly and gave him a kiss.

'Never mind, Daddy,' she whispered. 'I'll get it straight for you one
day. I'll unwumble it. I'll do it like a company promoter, I will.'
She used words culled from newspapers.

'Thank you, child,' he smiled, returning her kiss; 'I'm sure you will.
Only, you'd better let me know when you're coming. It might be
dangerous to my health otherwise.'

She took it with perfect seriousness. 'Oh, but, excuse me, I'll come
when you're asleep,' she told him, so low that the others could not
hear. 'I'll come to you when I'm dreaming. I dream all night like a
busy Highlander.'

'That's right,' he whispered, giving her a hug. 'Come when I'm asleep
and all the stars are out; and bring a comb and a pair of scissors---'

'And a hay-rake,' added Monkey, overhearing.

Everybody laughed. The children cuddled up closer to him. They pitied
him. He had failed again, though his failure was as much a pleasure as
his complete success. They sat on his knees and played with him to
make up for it, repeating bits of the rhyme they could remember. Then
Mother and Riquette woke up together, and the spell was broken. The
party scattered. Only Jimbo and his younger sister, retiring into a
corner by themselves, continued their mysterious confabulation. Their
faces were flushed with excitement. There was a curious animation in
their eyes--though this may have been borrowed from the embers of the
peat. Or, it may have been the stars, for they were close to the open
window. Both seemed soft-shiny somehow. _They_, certainly, were not
wumbled.

And several hours later, when they had returned from supper at the
Pension and lay in bed, exchanging their last mysterious whispers
across the darkness, Monkey said in French--

'Jimbo, I'm going to find that Cavern where the star stuff lies,' and
Jimbo answered audaciously, 'I've already been there.'

'Will you show me the way, then?' she asked eagerly, and rather
humbly.

'Perhaps,' he answered from beneath the bedclothes, then added, 'Of
course I will.' He merely wished to emphasise the fact that he was
leader.

'Sleep quickly, then, and join me--over there.' It was their game to
believe they joined in one another's dreams.

They slept. And the last thing that reached them from the outer world
was their mother's voice calling to them her customary warning: that
the _ramoneur_ was already in the chimney and that unless they were
asleep in five minutes he would come and catch them by the tail. For
the Sweep they looked upon with genuine awe. His visits to the
village--once in the autumn and once in the spring--were times of
shivery excitement.

Presently Mother rose and sailed on tiptoe round the door to peep. And
a smile spread softly over her face as she noted the characteristic
evidences of the children beside each bed. Monkey's clothes lay in a
scattered heap of confusion, half upon the floor, but Jimbo's garments
were folded in a precise, neat pile upon the chair. They looked ready
to be packed into a parcel. His habits were so orderly. His school
blouse hung on the back, the knickerbockers were carefully folded, and
the black belt lay coiled in a circle on his coat and what he termed
his 'westkit.' Beneath the chair the little pair of very dirty boots
stood side by side. Mother stooped and kissed the round plush-covered
head that just emerged from below the mountainous _duvet_. He looked
like a tiny radish lying in a big ploughed field.

Then, hunting for a full five minutes before she discovered the shoes
of Monkey, one beneath the bed and the other inside her petticoat, she
passed on into the little kitchen where she cleaned and polished both
pairs, and then replaced them by their respective owners. This done,
she laid the table in the outer room for their breakfast at half-past
six, saw that their school-books and satchels were in order, gave them
each a little more unnecessary tucking-up and a kiss so soft it could
not have waked a butterfly, and then returned to her chair before the
fire where she resumed the mending of a pile of socks and shirts,
blouses and stockings, to say nothing of other indescribable garments,
that lay in a formidable heap upon the big round table.

This was her nightly routine. Sometimes her husband joined her. Then
they talked the children over until midnight, discussed expenses that
threatened to swamp them, yet turned out each month 'just manageable
somehow' and finally made a cup of cocoa before retiring, she to her
self-made bed upon the sofa, and he to his room in the carpenter's
house outside the village. But sometimes he did not come. He remained
in the Pension to smoke and chat with the Russian and Armenian
students, who attended daily lectures in the town, or else went over
to his own quarters to work at the book he was engaged on at the
moment. To-night he did not come. A light in an attic window, just
visible above the vineyards, showed that he was working.

The room was very still; only the click of the knitting needles or the
soft noise of the collapsing peat ashes broke the stillness. Riquette
snored before the fire less noisily than usual.

'He's working very late to-night,' thought Mother, noticing the
lighted window. She sighed audibly; mentally she shrugged her
shoulders. Daddy had long ago left that inner preserve of her heart
where she completely understood him. Sympathy between them, in the
true sense of the word, had worn rather thin.

'I hope he won't overtire himself,' she added, but this was the habit
of perfunctory sympathy. She might equally have said, 'I wish he would
do something to bring in a little money instead of earning next to
nothing and always complaining about the expenses.'

Outside the stars shone brightly through the fresh spring night, where
April turned in her sleep, dreaming that May was on the way to wake
her.




CHAPTER IX


     Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,
                 Star-inwrought!
      Blind with thine hair the eyes of Day;
      Kiss her until she be wearied out,
      Then wander o'er city, and sea, and land,
      Touching all with thine opiate wand-
                 Come, long sought!
                            To _Night_, SHELLEY.

Now, cats are curious creatures, and not without reason, perhaps, are
they adored by some, yet regarded with suspicious aversion by others.
They know so much they never dare to tell, while affecting that they
know nothing and are innocent. For it is beyond question that several
hours later, when the village and the Citadelle were lost in slumber,
Mere Riquette stirred stealthily where she lay upon the hearth, opened
her big green eyes, and--began to wash.

But this toilette was pretence in case any one was watching. Really,
she looked about her all the time. Her sleep also had been that sham
sleep of cats behind which various plots and plans mature--a
questionable business altogether. The washing, as soon as she made
certain no one saw her, gave place to another manoeuvre. She stretched
as though her bones were of the very best elastic. Gathering herself
together, she arched her round body till it resembled a toy balloon
straining to rise against the pull of four thin ropes that held it
tightly to the ground. Then, unable to float off through the air, as
she had expected, she slowly again subsided. The balloon deflated. She
licked her chops, twitched her whiskers, curled her tail neatly round
her two front paws--and grinned complacently. She waited before that
extinguished fire of peat as though she had never harboured a single
evil purpose in all her days. 'A saucer of milk,' she gave the world
to understand, c is the only thing _I_ care about.' Her smile of
innocence and her attitude of meek simplicity proclaimed this to the
universe at large. 'That's me,' she told the darkness, 'and I don't
care a bit who knows it.' She looked so sleek and modest that a mouse
need not have feared her. But she did not add, 'That's what I mean the
world to think,' for this belonged to the secret life cats never talk
about. Those among humans might divine it who could, and welcome. They
would be admitted. But the rest of the world were regarded with mere
tolerant disdain. They bored.

Then, satisfied that she was unobserved, Mere Riquette abandoned all
further pretence, and stalked silently about the room. The starlight
just made visible her gliding shadow, as first she visited the made-up
sofa-bed where the exhausted mother snored mildly beneath the book-
shelves, and then, after a moment's keen inspection, turned back and
went at a quicker pace into the bedroom where the children slept.
There the night-light made her movements easily visible. The cat was
excited. Something bigger than any mouse was coming into her life just
now.

Riquette then witnessed a wonderful and beautiful thing, yet witnessed
it obviously not for the first time. Her manner suggested no surprise.
'It's like a mouse, only bigger,' her expression said. And by this she
meant that it was natural. She accepted it as right and proper.

For Monkey got out of herself as out of a case. She slipped from her
body as a sword slips from its sheath, yet the body went on breathing
in the bed just as before; the turned-up nose with the little platform
at its tip did not cease from snoring, and the lids remained fastened
tightly over the brilliant brown eyes, buttoned down so securely for
the night. Two plaits of hair lay on the pillow; another rose and fell
with the regular breathing of her little bosom. But Monkey herself
stood softly shining on the floor within a paw's length.

Riquette blinked her eyes and smiled complacently. Jimbo was close
behind her, even brighter than his sister, with eyes like stars.

The visions of cats are curious things, no doubt, and few may guess
their furry, silent pathways as they go winding along their length of
inconsequent development. For, softer than any mouse, the children
glided swiftly into the next room where Mother slept beneath the book-
shelves--two shining little radiant figures, hand in hand. They tried
for a moment to pull out Mother too, but found her difficult to move.
Somewhere on the way she stuck. They gave it up.

Turning towards the window that stood open beyond the head of the
sofa-bed, they rose up lightly and floated through it out into the
starry night. Riquette leaped like a silent shadow after them, but
before she reached the roof of red-brown tiles that sloped down to the
yard, Jimbo and Monkey were already far away. She strained her big
green eyes in vain, seeing nothing but the tops of the plane trees,
thick with tiny coming leaves, the sweep of vines and sky, and the
tender, mothering night beyond. She pattered softly back again, gave a
contemptuous glance at Mother in passing, and jumped up at once into
the warm nest of sheets that gaped invitingly between the shoulder of
Jimbo's body and the pillow. She shaped the opening to her taste,
kneading it with both front paws, turned three times round, and then
lay down. Curled in a ball, her nose buried between her back feet, she
was asleep in a single moment. Her whiskers ceased to quiver.

The children were tugging at Daddy now over in the carpenter's house.
His bed was short, and his body lay in a kind of knot. On the chair
beside it were books and papers, and a candle that had burnt itself
out. A pencil poked its nose out among the sheets, and it was clear he
had fallen asleep while working.

'Wumbled!' sighed Jimbo, pointing to the scribbled notes. But Monkey
was busy pulling him out, and did not answer. Then Jimbo helped her.
And Daddy came out magnificently--as far as the head--then stuck like
Mother. They pulled in vain. Something in his head prevented complete
release.

'En voila un!' laughed Monkey. 'Quel homme!' It was her natural
speech, the way she talked at school. 'It's a pity,' said Jimbo with a
little sigh. They gave it up, watching him slide slowly back again.
The moment he was all in they turned towards the open window. Hand in
hand they sailed out over the sleeping village. And from almost every
house they heard a sound of weeping. There were sighs and prayers and
pleadings. All slept and dreamed--dreamed of their difficulties and
daily troubles. Released in sleep, their longings rose to heaven
unconsciously, automatically as it were. Even the cheerful and the
happy yearned a little, even the well-to-do whom the world judged so
secure--these, too, had their burdens that found release, and so
perhaps relief in sleep.

'Come, and we'll help them,' Jimbo said eagerly. 'We can change all
that a little. Oh, I say, what a lot we've got to do to-night.'

'Je crois bien,' laughed Monkey, turning somersaults for joy as she
followed him. Her tendency to somersaults in this condition was
irresistible, and a source of worry to Jimbo, who classed it among the
foolish habits of what he called 'womans and things like that!'

And the sound came loudest from the huddled little building by the
Church, the Pension where they had their meals, and where Jinny had
her bedroom. But Jinny, they found, was already out, off upon
adventures of her own. A solitary child, she always went her
independent way in everything. They dived down into the first floor,
and there, in a narrow bedroom whose windows stood open upon the
wistaria branches, they found Madame Jequier--'Tante Jeanne,' as they
knew the sympathetic, generous creature best, sister-in-law of the
Postmaster--not sleeping like the others, but wide awake and praying
vehemently in a wicker-chair that creaked with every nervous movement
that she made. All about her were bits of paper covered with figures,
bills, calculations, and the rest.

'We can't get at her,' said Monkey, her laughter hushed for a moment.
'There's too much sadness. Come on! Let's go somewhere else.'

But Jimbo held her tight. 'Let's have a try. Listen, you silly, can't
you!'

They stood for several minutes, listening together, while the
brightness of their near approach seemed to change the woman's face a
little. She looked up and listened as though aware of something near
her.

'She's praying for others as well as herself,' explained Jimbo.

'Ca vaut la peine alors,' said Monkey. And they drew cautiously
nearer.... But, soon desisting, the children were far away, hovering
about the mountains. They had no steadiness as yet.

'Starlight,' Jimbo was singing to himself, 'runs along my mind.'

'You're all up-jumbled,' Monkey interrupted him with a laugh, turning
repeated somersaults till she looked like a catherine wheel of
brightness.

'... the pattern of my verse or story...' continued Jimbo half aloud,
'... a little ball of tangled glory....'

'You must unwind!' cried Monkey. 'Look out, it's the sun! It'll melt
us into dew!'

But it was not the sun. Out there beyond them, towards the purple
woods still sleeping, appeared a draught of starbeams like a broad,
deep river of gold. The rays, coming from all corners of the sky, wove
a pattern like a network.

'Jimbo!' gasped the girl, 'it's like a fishing-net. We've never
noticed it before.'

'It _is_ a net,' he answered, standing still as a stone, though he had
not thought of it himself until she said so. He instantly dressed
himself, as he always translated _il se dressait_ in his funny Franco-
English. _Deja_ and _comme ca_, too, appeared everywhere. 'It is a net
like that. I saw it already before, once.'

'Monkey,' he added, 'do you know what it really is? Oh, I say!'

'Of course I do.' She waited nevertheless for him to tell her, and he
was too gallant just then in his proud excitement for personal
exultation.

'It's the Star Cave--it's Daddy's Star Cave. He said it was up here
"where the Boudry forests dip below the cliffs towards the Areuse."
...' He remembered the very words.

His sister forgot to turn her usual somersaults. Wonder caught them
both. 'A pair of eyes, then, or a puddle! Quick!' she cried in a
delighted whisper. She looked about her everywhere at once, making
confused and rushing little movements of helplessness. 'Quick, quick!'

'No,' said Jimbo, with a man's calm decision, 'it's when they
_can't_ find eyes or puddles that they go in there. Don't interfere.'

She admitted her mistake. This was no time to press a petty advantage.

'I'll shut my eyes while you sponge up the puddles with a wedge of
moss,' she began. But her brother cut her short. He was very sure of
himself. He was leader beyond all question.

'You follow me,' he commanded firmly, 'and you'll get in somehow.
We'll get all sticky with it. Then we'll come out again and help those
crying people like Tante Jeanne and....' A list of names poured out.
'They'll think us wonderful---'

'We shall be wonderful,' whispered Monkey, obeying, yet peeping with
one big brown eye.

The cataract of starbeams rushed past them in a flood of gold.

They moved towards an opening in the trees where the limestone cliffs
ran into rugged shapes with pinnacles and towers. They found the
entrance in the rocks. Water dripped over it, making little splashes.
The lime had run into hanging pillars and a fringe of pointed fingers.
Past this the river of starlight poured its brilliant golden stream.
Its soft brightness shone yellow as a shower of primrose dust.

'Look out! The Interfering Sun!' gasped Monkey again, awed and
confused with wonder. 'We shall melt in dew or fairy cotton. Don't
you? ... I call it rotten ...!'

'You'll unwind all right,' he told her, trying hard to keep his head
and justify his leadership. He, too, remembered phrases here and
there. 'I'm a bit knotted, looped, and all up-jumbled too, inside. But
the sun is miles away still. We're both soft-shiny still.'

They stooped to enter, plunging their bodies to the neck in the silent
flood of sparkling amber.

Then happened a strange thing. For how could they know, these two
adventurous, dreaming children, that Thought makes images which,
regardless of space, may flash about the world, and reach minds
anywhere that are sweetly tuned to their acceptance?

'What's that? Look out! _Gare!_ Hold tight!' In his sudden excitement
Jimbo mixed questions with commands. He had caught her by the hand.
There was a new sound in the heavens above them--a roaring, rushing
sound. Like the thunder of a train, it swept headlong through the sky.
Voices were audible too.

'There's something enormous caught in the star-net,' he whispered.

'It's Mother, then,' said Monkey.

They both looked up, trembling with anticipation. They saw a big, dark
body like a thundercloud hovering above their heads. It had a line of
brilliant eyes. From one end issued a column of white smoke. It
settled slowly downwards, moving softly yet with a great air of bustle
and importance. Was this the arrival of a dragon, or Mother coming
after them? The blood thumped in their ears, their hands felt icy. The
thing dipped slowly through the trees. It settled, stopped, began to
purr.

'It's a railway train,' announced Jimbo finally with authority that
only just disguised amazement. 'And the passengers are getting out.'
With a sigh of immense relief he said it. 'You're not in any danger,
Monkey,' he added.

He drew his sister back quickly a dozen steps, and they hid behind a
giant spruce to watch. The scene that followed was like the holiday
spectacle in a London Terminus, except that the passengers had no
luggage. The other difference was that they seemed intent upon some
purpose not wholly for their own advantage. It seemed, too, they had
expected somebody to meet them, and were accordingly rather confused
and disappointed. They looked about them anxiously.

'Last stop; all get out here!' a Guard was crying in a kind of
pleasant singing voice. 'Return journey begins five minutes before the
Interfering Sun has risen.'

Jimbo pinched his sister's arm till she nearly screamed. 'Hear that?'
he whispered. But Monkey was too absorbed in the doings of the busy
passengers to listen or reply. For the first passenger that hurried
past her was no less a person than--Jane Anne! Her face was not
puzzled now. It was like a little sun. She looked utterly happy and
contented, as though she had found the place and duties that belonged
to her.

'Jinny!' whispered the two in chorus. But Jane Anne did not so much as
turn her head. She slipped past them like a shaft of light. Her hair
fell loose to her waist. She went towards the entrance. The flood rose
to her neck.

'Oh! there she is!' cried a voice. 'She travelled with us instead of
coming to meet us.' Monkey smiled. She knew her sister's alien,
unaccountable ways only too well.

The train had settled down comfortably enough between the trees, and
lay there breathing out a peaceable column of white smoke, panting a
little as it did so. The Guard went down the length of it, turning out
the lamps; and from the line of open doors descended the stream of
passengers, all hurrying to the entrance of the cave. Each one stopped
a moment in front of the Guard, as though to get a ticket clipped, but
instead of producing a piece of pasteboard, or the Guard a punching
instrument, they seemed to exchange a look together. Each one stared
into his face, nodded, and passed on.

'What blue eyes they've got,' thought Monkey to herself, as she peered
into each separate face as closely as she dared. 'I wish mine were
like that!' The wind, sighing through the tree-tops, sent a shower of
dew about their feet. The children started. 'What a lovely row!' Jimbo
whispered. It was like footsteps of a multitude on the needles. The
fact that it was so clearly audible showed how softly all these
passengers moved about their business.

The Guard, they noticed then, called out the names of some of them;
perhaps of all, only in the first excitement they did not catch them
properly. And each one went on at once towards the entrance of the
cave and disappeared in the pouring river of gold.

The light-footed way they moved, their swiftness as of shadows, the
way they tossed their heads and flung their arms about--all this made
the children think it was a dance. Monkey felt her own legs twitch to
join them, but her little brother's will restrained her.

'If you turn a somersault here,' he said solemnly, 'we're simply
lost.' He said it in French; the long word had not yet dawned upon his
English consciousness. They watched with growing wonder then, and
something like terror seized them as they saw a man go past them with
a very familiar look about him. He went in a cloud of sparkling, black
dust that turned instantly into shining gold when it reached the
yellow river from the stars. His face was very dirty.

'It's _not_ the _ramoneur_,' whispered Jimbo, uncertain whether the
shiver he felt was his sister's or his own. 'He's much too springy.'
Sweeps always had a limp.

For the figure shot along with a running, dancing leap as though he
moved on wires. He carried long things over his shoulders. He flashed
into the stream like a shadow swallowed by a flame. And as he went,
they caught such merry words, half sung, half chanted:--,

'I'll mix their smoke with hope and mystery till they see dreams and
faces in their fires---' and he was gone.

Behind him came a couple arm in arm, their movements equally light and
springy, but the one behind dragging a little, as though lazily. They
wore rags and torn old hats and had no collars to their shirts. The
lazy one had broken boots through which his toes showed plainly. The
other who dragged him had a swarthy face like the gypsies who once had
camped near their house in Essex long, oh, ever so long ago.

'I'll get some too,' the slow one sang huskily as he stumbled along
with difficulty 'but there's never any hurry. I'll fill their journeys
with desire and make adventure call to them with love---'

'And I,' the first one answered, 'will sprinkle all their days with
the sweetness of the moors and open fields, till houses choke their
lungs and they come out to learn the stars by name. Ho, ho!'

They dipped, with a flying leap, into the rushing flood. Their rags
and filthy slouched hats flashed radiant as they went, all bathed and
cleaned in glory.

Others came after them in a continuous stream, some too outlandish to
be named or recognised, others half familiar, very quick and earnest,
but merry at the same time, and all intent upon bringing back
something for the world. It was not for themselves alone, or for their
own enjoyment that they hurried in so eagerly.

'How splendid! What a crew!' gasped Monkey. '_Quel spectacle_!' And
she began a somersault.

'Be quiet, will you?' was the rejoinder, as a figure who seemed to
have a number of lesser faces within his own big one of sunburned
brown, tumbled by them somewhat heavily and left a smell of earth and
leaves and potting-sheds about the trees behind him. 'Won't my flowers
just shine and dazzle 'em? And won't the dead leaves crackle as I burn
'em up!' he chuckled as he disappeared from view. There was a rush of
light as an eddy of the star-stream caught him, and something
certainly went up in flame. A faint odour reached the children that
was like the odour of burning leaves.

Then, with a rush, came a woman whose immensely long thin arms reached
out in front of her and vanished through the entrance a whole minute
before the rest of her. But they could not see the face. Some one with
high ringing laughter followed, though they could not see the outline
at all. It went so fast, they only heard the patter of light footsteps
on the moss and needles. Jimbo and Monkey felt slightly uncomfortable
as they watched and listened, and the feeling became positive
uneasiness the next minute as a sound of cries and banging reached
them from the woods behind. There was a great commotion going on
somewhere in the train.

'I can't get out, I can't get out!' called a voice unhappily. 'And if
I do, how shall I ever get in again? The entrance is so ridiculously
small. I shall only stick and fill it up. Why did I ever come? Oh, why
did I come at all?'

'Better stay where you are, lady,' the Guard was saying. 'You're good
ballast. You can keep the train down. That's something. Steady
thinking's always best, you know.'

Turning, the children saw a group of figures pushing and tugging at a
dark mass that appeared to have stuck halfway in the carriage door.
The pressure of many willing hands gave it a different outline every
minute. It was like a thing of india-rubber or elastic. The roof
strained outwards with ominous cracking sounds; the windows threatened
to smash; the foot-board, supporting the part of her that had emerged,
groaned with the weight already.

'Oh, what's the good of _me_?' cried the queer deep voice with
petulance. 'You couldn't get a wisp of hay in there, much less all of
me. I should block the whole cave up!'

'Come out a bit!' a voice cried.

'I can't.'

'Go back then!' suggested the Guard.

'But I can't. Besides I'm upside down!'

'You haven't got any upside down,' was the answer; 'so that's
impossible.'

'Well, anyhow, I'm in a mess and muddle like this,' came the smothered
voice, as the figures pulled and pushed with increasing energy.' And
my tarpaulin skirt is all askew. The winds are at it as usual.'

'Nothing short of a gale can help you now,' was somebody's verdict,
while Monkey whispered beneath her breath to Jimbo. 'She's even bigger
than Mother. Quelle masse!'

Then came a thing of mystery and wonder from the sky. A flying figure,
scattering points of light through the darkness like grains of shining
sand, swooped down and stood beside the group.

'Oh, Dustman,' cried the guard, 'give her of your dust and put her to
sleep, please. She's making noise enough to bring the Interfering Sun
above the horizon before his time.'

Without a word the new arrival passed one hand above the part of her
that presumably was the face. Something sifted downwards. There was a
sound of gentle sprinkling through the air; a noise followed that was
half a groan and half a sigh. Her struggles grew gradually less, then
ceased. They pushed the bulk of her backwards through the door. Spread
over many seats the Woman of the Haystack slept.

'Thank you,' said several voices with relief. 'She'll dream she's been
in. That's just as good.'

'Every bit,' the others answered, resuming their interrupted journey
towards the cavern's mouth.

'And when I come out she shall have some more,' answered the Dustman
in a soft, thick voice; 'as much as ever she can use.'

He flitted in his turn towards the stream of gold. His feet were
already in it when he paused a moment to shift from one shoulder to
the other a great sack he carried. And in that moment was heard a low
voice singing dreamily the Dustman's curious little song. It seemed to
come from the direction of the train where the Guard stood talking to
a man the children had not noticed before. Presumably he was the
engine-driver, since all the passengers were out now. But it may have
been the old Dustman himself who sang it. They could not tell exactly.
The voice made them quite drowsy as they listened:--

     The busy Dustman flutters down the lanes,
     He's off to gather star-dust for our dreams.

     He dusts the Constellations for his sack,
     Finding it thickest on the Zodiac,
     But sweetest in the careless meteor's track;
        _That_ he keeps only
        For the old and lonely,
        (And is very strict about it!)
    Who sleep so little that they need the best;
        The rest,--
        The common stuff,--
        Is good enough

     For Fraulein, or for Baby, or for Mother,
              Or any other
              Who likes a bit of dust,
              But yet can do without it
              If they _must_!

     The busy Dustman hurries through the sky
     The kind old Dustman's coming to _your_ eye!

By the time the song was over he had disappeared through the opening.

'I'll show 'em the real stuff!' came back a voice--this time certainly
his own--far inside now.

'I simply love that man,' exclaimed Monkey. 'Songs are usually such
twiddly things, but that was real.' She looked as though a somersault
were imminent. 'If only Daddy knew him, he'd learn how to write
unwumbled stories. Oh! we _must_ get Daddy out.'

'It's only the head that sticks,' was her brother's reply. 'We'll
grease it.'

They remained silent a moment, not knowing what to do next, when they
became aware that the big man who had been talking to the Guard was
coming towards them.

'They've seen us!' she whispered in alarm. '_He's_ seen us.' An
inexplicable thrill ran over her.

'They saw us long ago,' her brother added contemptuously. His voice
quavered.

Jimbo turned to face them, getting in front of his sister for
protection, although she towered above him by a head at least. The
Guard, who led the way, they saw now, was a girl--a girl not much
older than Monkey, with big blue eyes. 'There they are,' the Guard
said loudly, pointing; and the big man, looking about him as though he
did not see very clearly, stretched out his hands towards him. 'But
you must be very quick,' she added, 'the Interfering Sun---'

'I'm glad you came to meet us. I hoped you might. Jane Anne's gone in
ages ago. Now we'll all go in together,' he said in a deep voice, 'and
gather star-dust for our dreams...' He groped to find them. His hands
grew shadowy. He felt the empty air.

His voice died away even as he said it, and the difficulty he had in
seeing seemed to affect their own eyes as well. A mist rose. It turned
to darkness. The river of starlight faded. The net had suddenly big
holes in it. They were slipping through. Wind whispered in the trees.
There was a sharp, odd sound like the plop of a water-rat in a
pond....

'We must be quick,' his voice came faintly from far away. They just
had time to see his smile, and noticed the gleam of two gold teeth....
Then the darkness rushed up and covered them. The stream of tangled,
pouring beams became a narrow line, so far away it was almost like the
streak of a meteor in the sky.... Night hid the world and everything
in it....

Two radiant little forms slipped past Riquette and slid feet first
into the sleeping bodies on the beds.

There came soon after a curious sound from the outer room, as Mother
turned upon her sofa-bed and woke. The sun was high above the
Blumlisalp, spreading a sheet of gold and silver on the lake. Birds
were singing in the plane trees. The roof below the open windows shone
with dew, and draughts of morning air, sweet and fresh, poured into
the room. With it came the scent of flowers and forests, of fields and
peaty smoke from cottage chimneys....

But there was another perfume too. Far down the sky swept some fleet
and sparkling thing that made the world look different. It was
delicate and many-tinted, soft as a swallow's wing, and full of
butterflies and tiny winds.

For, with the last stroke of midnight from the old church tower, May
had waked April; and April had run off into the mountains with the
dawn. Her final shower of tears still shone upon the ground. Already
May was busy drying them.


That afternoon, when school was over, Monkey and Jimbo found
themselves in the attics underneath the roof together. They had
abstracted their father's opera-glasses from the case that hung upon
the door, and were using them as a telescope.

'What can you see?' asked Jimbo, waiting for his turn, as they looked
towards the hazy mountains behind the village.

'Nothing.'

'That must be the opening, then,' he suggested, 'just air.'

His sister lowered the glasses and stared at him. 'But it can't be a
real place?' she said, the doubt in her tone making her words a
question. 'Daddy's never been there himself, I'm sure--from the way he
told it. You only dreamed it.' 'Well, anyhow,' was the reply with
conviction, 'it's there, so there must be _somebody_ who believes in
it.' And he was evidently going to add that he had been there, when
Mother's voice was heard calling from the yard below, 'Come down from
that draughty place. It's dirty, and there are dead rats in it. Come
out and play in the sunshine. Try and be sensible like Jinny.'

They smuggled the glasses into their case again, and went off to the
woods to play. Though their union seemed based on disagreements
chiefly they were always quite happy together like this, living in a
world entirely their own. Jinny went her own way apart always--ever
busy with pots and pans and sewing. She was far too practical and
domestic for their tastes to amalgamate; yet, though they looked down
upon her a little, no one in their presence could say a word against
her. For they recognised the child's unusual selflessness, and rather
stood in awe of it.

And this afternoon in the woods they kept coming across places that
seemed oddly familiar, although they had never visited them before.
They had one of their curious conversations about the matter--queer
talks they indulged in sometimes when quite alone. Mother would have
squelched such talk, and Daddy muddled them with long words, while
Jane Anne would have looked puzzled to the point of tears.

'I'm _sure_ I've been here before,' said Monkey, looking across the
trees to a place where the limestone cliffs dropped in fantastic
shapes of pointed rock. 'Have you got that feeling too?'

Jimbo, with his hands in the pockets of his blue reefer overcoat and
his feet stuck wide apart, stared hard at her a moment. His little
mind was searching too.

'It's natural enough, I suppose,' he answered, too honest to pretend,
too proud, though, to admit he had not got it.

They were rather breathless with their climb, and sat down on a
boulder in the shade.

'I know all this awfully well,' Monkey presently resumed, looking
about her. 'But certainly we've never come as far as this. I think my
underneath escapes and comes to places by itself. I feel like that.
Does yours?'

He looked up from a bundle of moss he was fingering. This was rather
beyond him.

'Oh, I feel all right,' he said, 'just ordinary.' He would have given
his ten francs in the savings bank, the collection of a year, to have
answered otherwise. 'You're always getting tummy-aches and things,' he
added kindly. 'Girls do.' It was pride that made the sharp addition.
But Monkey was not hurt; she did not even notice what he said. The
insult thus ignored might seem almost a compliment Jimbo thought with
quick penitence.

'Then, perhaps,' she continued, more than a little thrilled by her own
audacity, 'it's somebody else's thinking. Thinking skips about the
world like anything, you know. I read it once in one of Daddy's
books.'

'Oh, yes--like that---'

'Thinking hard _does_ make things true, of course,' she insisted.

'But you can't exactly see them,' he put in, to explain his own
inexperience. He felt jealous of these privileges she claimed. 'They
can't last, I mean.' 'But they can't be wiped out either,' she said
decidedly. 'I'm sure of that.'

Presently they scrambled higher and found among the rocks an opening
to a new cave. The Jura mountains are riddled with caves which the
stalactites turn into palaces and castles. The entrance was rather
small, and they made no attempt to crawl in, for they knew that coming
out again was often very difficult. But there was great excitement
about it, and while Monkey kept repeating that she knew it already, or
else had seen a picture of it somewhere, Jimbo went so far as to admit
that they had certainly found it _very_ easily, while suggesting that
the rare good fortune was due rather to his own leadership and skill.

But when they came home to tea, full of the glory of their discovery,
they found that a new excitement made the announcement fall a little
flat. For in the Den, Daddy read a telegram he had just received from
England to say that Cousin Henry was coming out to visit them for a
bit. His room had already been engaged at the carpenter's house. He
would arrive at the end of the week.

It was the first of May!




CHAPTER X


One of the great facts of the world I hold to be the registration in
the Universe of every past scene and thought.
                                        F. W. M.

No place worth knowing yields itself at sight, and those the least
inviting on first view may leave the most haunting pictures upon the
walls of memory.

This little village, that Henry Rogers was thus to revisit after so
long an interval, can boast no particular outstanding beauty to lure
the common traveller. Its single street winds below the pine forest;
its tiny church gathers close a few brown-roofed houses; orchards
guard it round about; the music of many fountains tinkle summer and
winter through its cobbled yards; and its feet are washed by a
tumbling stream that paints the fields with the radiance of countless
wild-flowers in the spring. But tourists never come to see them. There
is no hotel, for one thing, and ticket agents, even at the railway
stations, look puzzled a moment before they realise where this place
with the twinkling name can hide.... Some consult books. Yet, once you
get there, it is not easy to get away again. Something catches the
feet and ears and eyes. People have been known to go with all their
luggage on Gygi's handcart to the station--then turn aside at the last
moment, caught back by the purple woods.

A traveller, glancing up at the little three-storey house with 'Poste
et Telegraphe' above the door, could never guess how busy the world
that came and went beneath its red-tiled roof. In spring the wistaria
tree (whence the Pension borrowed its brave name, Les Glycines) hangs
its blossoms between 'Poste' and 'Telegraphe,' and the perfume of
invisible lilacs drenches the street from the garden at the back.
Beyond, the road dips past the bee-hives of _la cure_; and Boudry
towers with his five thousand feet of blue pine woods over the
horizon. The tinkling of several big stone fountains fills the street.

But the traveller would not linger, unless he chanced to pass at
twelve o'clock and caught the stream of people going into their mid-
day dinner at the Pension. And even then he probably would not see the
presiding genius, Madame Jequier, for as often as not she would be in
her garden, busy with eternal bulbs, and so strangely garbed that if
she showed herself at all, it would be with a shrill, plaintive
explanation--'Mais il ne faut pas me regarder. Je suis invisible!'
Whereupon, consistently, she would not speak again, but flit in
silence to and fro, as though she were one of those spirits she so
firmly believed in, and sometimes talked to by means of an old
Planchette.

And on this particular morning the Widow Jequier was 'invisible' in
her garden clothes as Gygi, the gendarme, came down the street to ring
the _midi_ bell. Her mind was black with anxiety. She was not thinking
of the troop that came to _dejeuner_, their principal meal of the day,
paying a franc for it, but rather of the violent scenes with unpaid
tradesmen that had filled the morning-tradesmen who were friends as
well (which made it doubly awkward) and often dropped in socially for
an evening's music and conversation. Her pain darkened the sunshine,
and she found relief in the garden which was her passion. For in three
weeks the interest on the mortgages was due, and she had nothing saved
to meet it. The official notice had come that morning from the Bank.
Her mind was black with confused pictures of bulbs, departed
_pensionnaires_, hostile bankers, and--the ghastly _charite de la
Commune_ which awaited her. Yet her husband, before he went into the
wine-business so disastrously, had been pasteur here. He had preached
from this very church whose bells now rang out the mid-day hour. The
spirit of her daughter, she firmly believed, still haunted the garden,
the narrow passages, and the dilapidated little salon where the ivy
trailed along the ceiling.

Twelve o'clock, striking from the church-tower clock, and the voice of
her sister from the kitchen window, then brought the Widow Jequier
down the garden in a flying rush. The table was laid and the soup was
almost ready. The people were coming in. She was late as usual; there
was no time to change. She flung her garden hat aside and scrambled
into more presentable garments, while footsteps already sounded on the
wooden stairs that led up from the village street.

One by one the retired governesses entered, hung their cloaks upon the
pegs in the small, dark hallway, and took their places at the table.
They began talking among themselves, exchanging the little gossip of
the village, speaking of their books and clothes and sewing, of the
rooms in which they lived, scattered down the street, of the heating,
of barking dogs that disturbed their sleep, the behaviour of the
postman, the fine spring weather, and the views from their respective
windows across the lake and distant Alps. Each extolled her own
position: one had a garden; another a balcony; a third was on the top
floor and so had no noisy tenant overhead; a fourth was on the ground,
and had no stairs to climb. Each had her secret romance, and her
secret method of cheap feeding at home. There were five or six of
them, and this was their principal meal in the day; they meant to make
the most of it; they always did; they went home to light suppers of
tea and coffee, made in their own _appartements_. Invitations were
issued and accepted. There were some who would not speak to each
other. Cliques, divisions, _societes a part_, existed in the little
band. And they talked many languages, learned in many lands--Russian,
German, Italian, even Armenian--for all had laboured far from their
country, spending the best of their years teaching children of foreign
families, many of them in important houses. They lived upon their
savings. Two, at least, had less than thirty pounds a year between
them and starvation, and all were of necessity careful of every
centime. They wore the same dresses from one year's end to another.
They had come home to die.

The Postmaster entered with the cash-box underneath one arm. He bowed
gravely to the assembled ladies, and silently took his seat at the
table. He never spoke; at meals his sole remarks were statements: 'Je
n'ai pas de pain,' 'Il me manque une serviette,' and the like, while
his black eyes glared resentfully at every one as though they had done
him an injury. But his fierceness was only in the eyes. He was a meek
and solemn fellow really. Nature had dressed him in black, and he
respected her taste by repeating it in his clothes. Even his
expression was funereal, though his black eyes twinkled.

The servant-girl at once brought in his plate of soup, and he tucked
the napkin beneath his chin and began to eat. From twelve to two the
post was closed; his recreation time was precious, and no minute must
be lost. After dinner he took his coat off and did the heavy work of
the garden, under the merciless oversight of the Widow Jequier, his
sister-in-law, the cash-box ever by his side. He chatted with his tame
_corbeau_, but he never smiled. In the winter he did fretwork. On the
stroke of two he went downstairs again and disappeared into the
cramped and stuffy bureau, whose window on the street was framed by
the hanging wistaria blossoms; and at eight o'clock his day of labour
ended. He carried the cash-box up to bed at 8.15. At 8.30 his wife
followed him. From nine to five he slept.

Alone of all the little household the Widow Jequier scorned routine.
She came and went with the uncertainty of wind. Her entrances and
exits, too, were like the wind. With a scattering rush she scurried
through the years--noisy, ineffective, yet somewhere fine. Her brother
had finished his plate of soup, wiped his black moustaches
elaborately, and turned his head towards the kitchen door with the
solemn statement 'Je n'ai pas de viande,' when she descended upon the
scene like a shrill-voiced little tempest.

'Bonjour Mesdames, bonjour Mademoiselle, bonjour, bonjour,' she bowed
and smiled, washing her hands in the air; 'et comment allez-vous ce
matin?' as the little band of hungry governesses rose with one accord
and moved to take their places. Some smiled in answer; others merely
bowed. She made enemies as well as friends, the Widow Jequier. With
only one of them she shook hands warmly-the one whose payments were
long overdue. But Madame Jequier never asked for her money; she knew
the old body's tiny income; she would pay her when she could. Only
last week she had sent her food and clothing under the guise of a
belated little Easter present. Her heart was bigger than her body.

'La famille Anglaise n'est pas encore ici,' announced the Postmaster
as though it were a funeral to come. He did not even look up. His
protests passed ever unobserved.

'But I hear them coming,' said a governess, swallowing her soup with a
sound of many waters. And, true enough, they came. There was a thunder
on the stairs, the door into the hall flew open, voices and laughter
filled the place, and Jimbo and Monkey raced in to take their places,
breathless, rosy, voluble, and very hungry. Jane Anne followed
sedately, bowing to every one in turn. She had a little sentence for
all who cared for one. Smiles appeared on every face. Mother, like a
frigate coming to anchor with a favourable wind, sailed into her
chair; and behind her stumbled Daddy, looking absent-minded and pre-
occupied. Money was uncommonly scarce just then--the usual Bourcelles
complaint.

Conversation in many tongues, unmusically high-pitched, then at once
broke loose, led ever by _la patronne_ at the head of the table. The
big dishes of meat and vegetables were handed round; plates were piled
and smothered; knives and forks were laid between mouthfuls upon
plate-edges, forming a kind of frieze all round the cloth; the gossip
of the village was retailed with harmless gusto. _Dejeuner_ at Les
Glycines was in full swing. When the apples and oranges came round,
most of the governesses took two apiece, slipping one or other into
little black velvet bags they carried on their laps below the table.

Some, it was whispered, put bread there too to keep them company. But
this was probably a libel. Madame Jequier, at any rate, never saw it
done. She looked the other way. 'We all must live,' was her invariable
answer to such foolish stories. 'One cannot sleep if one's supper is
too light.' Like her body, her soul was a bit untidy--careless, that
is, with loose ends. Who would have guessed, for instance, the anxiety
that just now gnawed her very entrails? She was a mixture of shameless
egotism, and of burning zeal for others. There was a touch of grandeur
in her.

At the end of the table, just where the ivy leaves dropped rather low
from their trailing journey across the ceiling, sat Miss Waghorn, her
vigorous old face wrapped, apparently, in many apple skins. She was
well past seventy, thin, erect, and active, with restless eyes, and
hooked nose, the poor old hands knotted with rheumatism, yet the voice
somehow retaining the energy of forty. Her manners were charming and
old-fashioned, and she came of Quaker stock. Seven years before she
arrived at the Pension for the summer, and had forgotten to leave. For
she forgot most things within ten minutes of their happening. Her
memory was gone; she remembered a face, as most other things as well,
about twenty minutes; introductions had to be repeated every day, and
sometimes at supper she would say with her gentle smile, 'We haven't
met before, I think,' to some one she had held daily intercourse with
for many months. 'I was born in '37,' she loved to add, 'the year of
Queen Victoria's accession'; and five minutes later you might hear her
ask, 'Now, guess how old I am; I don't mind a bit.' She was as proud
of her load of years as an old gentleman of his thick hair. 'Say
exactly what you think. And don't guess too low, mind.' Her numerous
stories were self-repeaters.

Miss Waghorn's memory was a source of worry and anxiety to all except
the children, who mercilessly teased her. She loved the teasing,
though but half aware of it. It was their evil game to extract as many
of her familiar stories as possible, one after another. They knew all
the clues. There was the Cornishman--she came from Cornwall--who had
seen a fairy; his adventure never failed to thrill them, though she
used the same words every time and they knew precisely what was
coming. She was particularly strong on family reminiscences:--her
father was bald at thirty, her brother's beard was so long that he
tied it round his neck when playing cricket; her sister 'had the
shortest arms you ever saw.' Always of youth she spoke; it was
pathetic, so determined was she to be young at seventy. Her family
seemed distinguished in this matter of extremes.

But the superiority of Cornish over Devonshire cream was her _piece
de resistance_. Monkey need merely whisper--Miss Waghorn's acuteness
of hearing was positively uncanny--'Devonshire cream is what _I_
like,' to produce a spurt of explanation and defence that lasted a
good ten minutes and must be listened to until the bitter end.

Jimbo would gravely inquire in a pause--of a stranger, if possible, if
not, of the table in general--

'Have you ever seen a fairy?'

'No, but I've eaten Cornish cream--it's poison, you know,' Monkey
would reply. And up would shoot the keen old face, preened for the
fray.

'We haven't been introduced, I think'--forgetting the formal
introduction of ten minutes ago--'but I overheard, if you'll forgive
my interrupting, and I can tell you all about Cornish cream. I was
born in '37'--with her eager smile--'and for years it was on our
table. I have made quantities of it. The art was brought first by the
Phoenicians----'

'Venetians,' said Monkey.

'No, Phoenicians, dear, when they came to Cornwall for tin----'

'To put the cream in,' from the same source.

'No, you silly child, to get tin from the mines, of course, and----'

Then Mother or Daddy, noting the drift of things, would interfere, and
the youngsters would be obliterated--until next time. Miss Waghorn
would finish her recital for the hundredth time, firmly believing it
to be the first. She was a favourite with everybody, in spite of the
anxiety she caused. She would go into town to pay her bill at the
bootmaker's, and order another pair of boots instead, forgetting why
she came. Her income was sixty pounds a year. She forgot in the
afternoon the money she had received in the morning, till at last the
Widow Jequier seized it for her the moment it arrived. And at night
she would doze in her chair over the paper novel she had been "at"
for a year and more, beginning it every night afresh, and rarely
getting beyond the opening chapter. For it was ever new. All were
anxious, though, what she would do next. She was so full of battle.

Everybody talked at once, but forced conversation did not flourish.
Bourcelles was not fashionable; no one ever had appendicitis there.
Yet ailments of a milder order were the staple, inexhaustible subjects
at meals. Instead of the weather, _mon estomac_ was the inexhaustible
tale. The girl brought in the little Cantonal newspaper, and the widow
read out selections in a high, shrill voice, regardless who listened.
Misfortunes and accidents were her preference. _Grand ciel_ and
_quelle horreur_ punctuated the selections. 'There's Tante Jeanne
grand-cieling as usual,' Mother would say to her husband, who, being a
little deaf, would answer, 'What?' and Tante Jeanne, overhearing him,
would re-read the accident for his especial benefit, while the
governesses recounted personal experiences among themselves, and Miss
Waghorn made eager efforts to take part in it all, or tell her little
tales of fairies and Cornish cream....

One by one the governesses rose to leave; each made a comprehensive
bow that included the entire company. Daddy lit a cigarette or let
Jimbo light it for him, too wumbled with his thoughts of afternoon
work to notice the puff stolen surreptitiously on the way. Jane Anne
folded her napkin carefully, talking with Mother in a low voice about
the packing of the basket with provisions for tea. Tea was included in
the Pension terms; in a small clothes-basket she carried bread, milk,
sugar, and butter daily across to La Citadelle, except on Sundays when
she wore gloves and left the duty to the younger children who were
less particular.

The governesses, charged with life for another twenty-four hours at
least, flocked down the creaking stairs. They nodded as they passed
the Bureau window where the Postmaster pored over his collection of
stamps, or examined a fretwork pattern of a boy on a bicycle--there
was no heavy garden work that day--and went out into the street. They
stood in knots a moment, discussing unfavourably the food just eaten,
and declaring they would stand it no longer. 'Only where else can we
go?' said one, feeling automatically at her velvet bag to make sure
the orange was safely in it. Upstairs, at the open window, Madame
Jequier overheard them as she filled the walnut shells with butter for
the birds. She only smiled.

'I wish we could help her,' Mother was saying to her husband, as they
watched her from the sofa in the room behind. 'A more generous
creature never lived.' It was a daily statement that lacked force
owing to repetition, yet the emotion prompting it was ever new and
real.

'Or a more feckless,' was his reply. 'But if we ever come into our
estates, we will. It shall be the first thing.' His mind always
hovered after those distant estates when it was perplexed by immediate
financial difficulty, and just now he was thinking of various bills
and payments falling due. It was his own sympathetic link with the
widow--ways and means, and the remorseless nature of sheets of paper
with columns of figures underneath the horrible word _doit._

'So Monsieur 'Enry Rogairs is coming,' she said excitedly, turning to
them a moment on her way to the garden. 'And after all these years! He
will find the house the same, and the garden better--oh, wonderfully
improved. But us, _helas!_ he will find old, oh, how old!' She did not
really mean herself, however.

She began a long 'reminiscent' chapter, full of details of the days
when he and Daddy had been boys together, but in the middle of it
Daddy just got up and walked out, saying, 'I must get over to my work,
you know.' There was no artificiality of manners at Bourcelles. Mother
followed him, with a trifle more ceremony. 'Ah, c'est partir a
l'anglaise!' sighed the widow, watching them go. She was accustomed to
it. She went out into her garden, full of excitement at the prospect
of the new arrival. Every arrival for her meant a possible chance of
help. She was as young as her latest bulb really. Courage, hope, and
generosity invariably go together.




CHAPTER XI


      Take him and cut him out in little stars,
      And he will make the face of heaven so fine
      That all the world will be in love with night
      And pay no worship to the garish sun!
                        Romeo and Juliet.

The announcement of Henry Rogers's coming was received--variously, for
any new arrival into the Den circle was subjected to rigorous
criticism. This criticism was not intentional; it was the instinctive
judgment that children pass upon everything, object or person, likely
to affect themselves. And there is no severer bar of judgment in the
world.

'Who _is_ Cousinenry? What a name! Is he stiff, I wonder?' came from
Monkey, almost before the announcement had left her father's lips.
'What will he think of Tante Jeanne?' Her little torrent of questions
that prejudged him thus never called for accurate answers as a rule,
but this time she meant to have an answer. 'What is he exaccurately?'
she added, using her own invention made up of 'exact' and 'accurate.'

Mother looked up from the typewritten letter to reply, but before she
could say, 'He's your father's cousin, dear; they were here as boys
twenty years ago to learn French,' Jinny burst in with an explosive
interrogation. She had been reading _La Bonne Menagere_ in a corner.
Her eyes, dark with conjecture, searched the faces of both parents
alternately. 'Excuse me, Mother, but is he a clergyman?' she asked
with a touch of alarm.

'Whatever makes you think that, child?'

'Clergymen are always called the reverundhenry. He'll wear black and
have socks that want mending.'

'He shouldn't punt his letters,' declared Monkey. 'He's not an author,
is he?'

Jimbo, busy over school tasks, with a huge slate-pencil his crumpled
fingers held like a walking-stick, watched and listened in silence. He
was ever fearful, perhaps, lest his superior man's knowledge might be
called upon and found wanting. Questions poured and crackled like
grapeshot, while the truth slowly emerged from the explanations the
parents were occasionally permitted to interject. The personality of
Cousin Henry Rogers grew into life about them--gradually. The result
was a curious one that Minks would certainly have resented with
indignation. For Cousinenry was, apparently, a business man with
pockets full of sovereigns; stern, clever, and important; the sort of
man that gets into Governments and things, yet somewhere with the
flavour of the clergyman about him. This clerical touch was Jane
Anne's contribution to the picture; and she was certain that he wore
silk socks of the most expensive description--a detail she had read
probably in some chance fragments of a newspaper. For Jinny selected
phrases in this way from anywhere, and repeated them on all occasions
without the slightest relevancy. She practised them. She had a way of
giving abrupt information and making startling statements _a propos_
of nothing at all. Certain phrases stuck in her mind, it seemed, for
no comprehensible reason. When excited she picked out the one that
first presented itself and fired it off like a gun, the more inapt the
better. And 'busy' was her favourite adjective always.

'It's like a communication from a company,' Mother was saying, as she
handed back the typewritten letter.

'Is he a company promoter then?' asked Jinny like a flash, certainly
ignorant what that article of modern life could mean.

'Oh, I say!' came reproachfully from Jimbo, thus committing himself
for the first time to speech. He glanced up into several faces round
him, and then continued the picture of Cousin Henry he was drawing on
his slate. He listened all the time. Occasionally he cocked an eye or
ear up. He took in everything, saying little. His opinions matured
slowly. The talk continued for a long time, questions and answers.

'I think he's nice,' he announced at length in French. For intimate
things, he always used that language; his English, being uncertain,
was kept for matters of unimportance. 'A gentle man.'

And it was Jimbo's verdict that the children then finally adopted.
Cousin Henry was _gentil._ They laughed loudly at him, yet agreed. His
influence on their little conclaves, though never volubly expressed--
because of that very fact, perhaps--was usually accepted. Jimbo was so
decided. And he never committed himself to impulsive judgments that
later had to be revised. He listened in silence to the end, then went
plump for one side or the other. 'I think he'll be a nice man,' was
the label, therefore, then and there attached to Mr. Henry Rogers in
advance of delivery. Further than that, however, they would not go. It
would have been childish to commit themselves more deeply till they
saw him.

The conversation then slipped beyond their comprehension, or rather
their parents used long words and circumventing phrases that made it
difficult to follow. Owing to lack of space, matters of importance
often had to be discussed in this way under the children's eyes,
unless at night, when all were safe in bed; for French, of course, was
of no avail for purposes of concealment. Long words were then made use
of, dark, wumbled sentences spoken very quickly, with suggestive
gestures and expressions of the eyes labelled by Monkey with, 'Look,
Mother and Daddy are making faces--something's up!'

But, none the less, all listened, and Monkey, whose intuitive
intelligence soaked up hidden meanings like a sponge, certainly caught
the trend of what was said. She detailed it later to the others, when
Jinny checked her exposition with a puzzled 'but Mother could never
have said _that_,' while Jimbo looked wise and grave, as though he had
understood it all along, and was even in his parents' councils.

On this occasion, however, there was nothing very vital to retail.
Cousin Henry was to arrive to-morrow by the express from Paris. He was
a little younger than Daddy, and would have the room above him in the
carpenter's house. His meals he would take at the Pension just as they
did, and for tea he would always come over to the Den. And this latter
fact implied that he was to be admitted into intimacy at once, for
only intimates used the Den regularly for tea, of course.

It was serious. It involved a change in all their lives. Jinny
wondered if it 'would cost Daddy any more money,' or whether
'Cousinenry would bring a lot of things with him,' though not
explaining whether by 'things' she meant food or presents or clothes.
He was not married, so he couldn't be very old; and Monkey, suggesting
that he might 'get to love' one of the retired governesses who came to
the Pension for their mid-day dinner, was squelched by Jimbo with 'old
governesses _never_ marry; they come back to settle, and then they
just die off.'

Thus was Henry Rogers predigested. But at any rate he was accepted.
And this was fortunate; for a new arrival whom the children did not
'pass' had been known to have a time that may best be described as not
conducive to repose of body, mind, or spirit.

The arrival of Mr. Henry Rogers in the village--in La Citadelle, that
is--was a red-letter day. This, however, seems a thin description of
its glory. For a more adequate description a well-worn phrase must be
borrowed from the poems of Montmorency Minks--a 'Day of Festival,' for
which 'coronal' invariably lay in waiting for rhyming purposes a
little further down the sonnet.

Monkey that afternoon managed to get home earlier than usual from
Neuchatel, a somewhat suspicious explanation as her passport. Her eyes
were popping. Jimbo was always out of the village school at three. He
carried a time-table in his pocket; but it was mere pretence, since he
was a little walking Bradshaw, and knew every train by heart--the
Geneva Express, the Paris Rapide, the 'omnibus' trains, and the
mountain ones that climbed the forest heights towards La Chaux de
Fonds and Le Locle. Of these latter only the white puffing smoke was
visible from the village, but he knew with accuracy their times of
departure, their arrival, and the names of every station where they
stopped. In the omnibus trains he even knew some of the guards
personally, the engine-drivers too. He might be seen any day after
school standing in the field beside the station, waiting for them to
pass; _mecanicien_ and _conducteur_ were the commonest words in his
whole vocabulary. When possible he passed the time of day with both of
these important personages, or from the field he waved his hand and
took his cap off. All engines, moreover, were 'powerful locomotives.'
The phrase was stolen from his father--a magnificent sound it had,
taking several seconds to pronounce. No day was wholly lived in vain
which enabled him to turn to some one with, 'There's the Paris Rapide;
it's five minutes late'; or 'That's the Geneva omnibus. You see, it
has to have a very'--here a deep breath--'powerful locomotive.'

So upon this day of festival it was quite useless to talk of common
things, and even the holidays acquired a very remote importance.
Everybody in the village knew it. From Gygi, the solitary gendarme, to
Henri Beguin, who mended boots, but had the greater distinction that
he was the only man Gygi ever arrested, for periodical wild behaviour
--all knew that 'Cousin Henry, father's cousin, you know,' was
expected to arrive in the evening, that he was an important person in
the life of London, and that he was not exactly a _pasteur_, yet
shared something of a clergyman's grave splendour. Clothed in a
sacerdotal atmosphere he certainly was, though it was the gravity of
Jane Anne's negative description that fastened this wild
ecclesiastical idea upon him.

'He's not _exactly_ a clergyman,' she told the dressmaker, who for two
francs every Monday afternoon sat in the kitchen and helped with the
pile of indiscriminate mending,' because he has to do with rather big
companies and things. But he is a serious man all the same--and most
fearfully busy always.'

'We're going to meet him in the town,' said Jimbo carelessly. 'You
see, the Paris Rapide doesn't stop here. We shall come back with him
by the 6.20. It gets here at 6.50, so he'll be in time for supper, if
it's punctual. It usually is.'

And accordingly they went to Neuchatel and met the Paris train. They
met their Cousin Henry, too. Powerful locomotives and everything else
were instantly forgotten when they saw their father go up to a tall
thin man who jumped--yes, jumped--down the high steps on to the level
platform and at once began to laugh. He had a beard like their father.
'How _will_ they know which is which?' thought Jinny. They stood in
everybody's way and stared. He was so tall. Daddy looked no bigger
than little Beguin beside him. He had a large, hooked nose, brown
skin, and keen blue eyes that took in everything at a single glance.
They twinkled absurdly for so big a man. He wore rough brown tweeds
and a soft felt travelling hat. He wore also square-toed English
boots. He carried in one hand a shiny brown leather bag with his
initials on it like a member of the Government.

The clergyman idea was destroyed in a fraction of a second, never to
revive. The company promoter followed suit. Jinny experienced an
entirely new sensation in her life--something none but herself had
ever felt before--something romantic. 'He's like a soldier--a
General,' she said to anybody who cared to listen, and she said it so
loudly that many did listen. But she did not care. She stood apart
from the others, staring as though it were a railway accident. This
tall figure of a cousin she could fit nowhere as yet into her limited
scheme of life. She admired him intensely. Yet Daddy laughed and
chatted with him as if he were nothing at all! She kept outside the
circle, wondering about his socks and underclothes. His beard was much
neater and better trimmed than her father's. At least no crumb or bit
of cotton was in it.

But Jimbo felt no awe. After a moment's hesitation, during which the
passers-by butted him this way and that, he marched straight up and
looked him in the face. He reached to his watch-chain only.

'I'll be your sekrity, too,' he announced, interrupting Daddy's
foolishness about 'this is my youngest lad, Rogers.' Youngest lad
indeed!

And Henry Rogers then stooped and kissed the lot of them. One after
the other he put his big arms round them and gave them a hug that was
like the hug of a bear standing on its hind legs. They took it, each
in his own way, differently. Jimbo proudly; Monkey, with a smacking
return kiss that somehow conveyed the note of her personality--
impudence; but Jane Anne, with a grave and outraged dignity, as though
in a public railway station this kind of behaviour was slightly
inappropriate. She wondered for days afterwards whether she had been
quite correct. He was a cousin, but still he was--a man. And she
wondered what she ought to call him. 'Mr. Rogers' was not quite right,
yet 'Mr. Cousin Henry' was equally ill-chosen. She decided upon a
combination of her own, a kind of code-word that was affectionate yet
distant: 'Cousinenry.' And she used it with an explosive directness
that was almost challenge--he could accept which half he chose.

But all accepted him at once without fear. They felt, moreover, a
secret and very tender thing; there was something in this big,
important man that made them know he would love them for themselves;
and more--that something in him had need of them. Here lay the
explanation of their instant confidence and acceptance.

'What a jolly bunch you are, to be sure!' he exclaimed. 'And you're to
be my secretary, are you?' he added, taking Jimbo by the shoulders.
'How splendid!'

'_I'm_ not,' said Monkey, with a rush of laughter already too long
restrained. Her manner suggested a somersault, only prevented by
engines and officials.

But Jimbo was a little shocked. This sort of thing disgraced them.

'Oh, I say!' he exclaimed reproachfully.

'Daddy, isn't she awful?' added Jane Anne under her breath, a sentence
of disapproval in daily use. Her life seemed made up of apologising
for her impudent sister.

'The 6.20 starts at 6.20, you know,' Jimbo announced. 'The Lausanne
Express has gone. Are your "baggages" registered?' And the party moved
off in a scattered and uncertain manner to buy tickets and register
the luggage. They went back second class--for the first time in their
lives. It was Cousin Henry who paid the difference. That sealed his
position finally in their eyes. He was a millionaire. All London
people went first or second class.

But Jimbo and his younger sister had noticed something else about the
new arrival besides his nose and eyes and length. Even his luxurious
habit of travelling second class did not impress them half as much as
this other detail in his appearance. They referred to it in a
whispered talk behind the shelter of the _conducteur's_ back while
tickets were being punched.

'You know,' whispered Monkey, her eyes popping, 'I've seen Cousin
Henry before somewhere. I'm certain.' She gave a little gasp.

Jimbo stared, only half believing, yet undeniably moved. Even his
friend, the Guard, was temporarily neglected. 'Where?' he asked; 'do
you mean in a picture?'

'No,' she answered with decision, 'out here, I think. In the woods or
somewhere.' She seemed vague. But her very vagueness helped him to
believe. She was not inventing; he was sure of that.

The _conducteur_ at that moment passed away along the train, and
Cousin Henry looked straight at the pair of them. Through the open
window dusk fluttered down the sky with spots of gold already on its
wings.

'What jolly stars you've got here,' he said, pointing. 'They're like
diamonds. Look, it's a perfect network far above the Alps. By gum--
what beauties!'

And as he said it he smiled. Monkey gave her brother a nudge that
nearly made him cry out. He wondered what she meant, but all the same
he returned the nudge significantly. For Cousin Henry, when he smiled,
had plainly shown--two teeth of gold.

The children had never seen gold-capped teeth.

'I'd like one for my collection,' thought Jimbo, meaning a drawer that
included all his loose possessions of small size. But another thing
stirred in him too, vague, indefinite, far away, something he had, as
it were, forgotten.



CHAPTER XII


     O star benignant and serene,
       I take the good to-morrow,
     That fills from verge to verge my dream,
       With all its joy and sorrow!
     The old sweet spell is unforgot
       That turns to June December;
     And, though the world remember not,
       Love, we would remember.
                    _Life and Death_, W. E. HENLEY.

And Rogers went over to unpack. It was soon done. He sat at his window
in the carpenter's house and enjoyed the peace. The spell of evening
stole down from the woods. London and all his strenuous life seemed
very far away. Bourcelles drew up beside him, opened her robe, let
down her forest hair, and whispered to him with her voice of many
fountains....

She lies just now within the fringe of an enormous shadow, for the sun
has dipped behind the blue-domed mountains that keep back France.
Small hands of scattered mist creep from the forest, fingering the
vineyards that troop down towards the lake. A dog barks. Gygi, the
gendarme, leaves the fields and goes home to take his uniform from its
peg. Pere Langel walks among his beehives. There is a distant tinkling
of cow-bells from the heights, where isolated pastures gleam like a
patchwork quilt between the spread of forest; and farther down a train
from Paris or Geneva, booming softly, leaves a trail of smoke against
the background of the Alps where still the sunshine lingers.

But trains, somehow, do not touch the village; they merely pass it.
Busy with vines, washed by its hill-fed stream, swept by the mountain
winds, it lies unchallenged by the noisy world, remote, un-noticed,
half forgotten. And on its outskirts stands the giant poplar that
guards it--_la sentinelle_ the peasants call it, because its lofty
crest, rising to every wind, sends down the street first warning of
any coming change. They see it bend or hear the rattle of its leaves.
The _coup de Joran_, most sudden and devastating of mountain winds, is
on the way from the precipice of the Creux du Van. It comes howling
like artillery down the deep Gorges de l'Areuse. They run to fasten
windows, collect the washing from roof and garden, drive the cattle
into shelter, and close the big doors of the barns. The children clap
their hands and cry to Gygi, 'Plus vite! Plus vite!' The lake turns
dark. Ten minutes later it is raging with an army of white horses like
the sea.

Darkness drapes the village. It comes from the whole long line of
Jura, riding its troop of purple shadows--slowly curtaining out the
world. For the carpenter's house stands by itself, apart. Perched upon
a knoll beside his little patch of vineyard, it commands perspective.
From his upper window Rogers saw and remembered....

High up against the fading sky ridges of limestone cliff shine out
here and there, and upon the vast slopes of Boudry--_l'immense geant
de Boudry_--lies a flung cloak of forest that knows no single seam.
The smoke from _bucheron_ fires, joining the scarves of mist, weaves
across its shoulder a veil of lace-like pattern, and at its feet, like
some great fastening button, hides the village of the same name, where
Marat passed his brooding youth. Its evening lights are already
twinkling. They signal across the vines to the towers of Colombier,
rising with its columns of smoke and its poplars against the sheet of
darkening water--Colombier, in whose castle _milord marechal Keith_
had his headquarters as Governor of the Principality of Neuchatel
under the King of Prussia. And, higher up, upon the flank of wooded
mountains, is just visible still the great red-roofed farm of
Cotendard, built by his friend Lord Wemyss, another Jacobite refugee,
who had strange parties there and entertained Jean Jacques Rousseau in
his exile. La Citadelle in the village was the wing of another castle
he began to build, but left unfinished.

White in the gathering dusk, Rogers saw the strip of roadway where
passed the gorgeous coach--_cette fameuse diligence du milord marshal
Keith_--or more recent, but grimmer memory, where General Bourbaki's
division of the French army, 80,000 strong, trailed in unspeakable
anguish, hurrying from the Prussians. At Les Verrieres, upon the
frontier, they laid down their arms, and for three consecutive days
and nights the pitiful destitute procession passed down that strip of
mountain road in the terrible winter of 1870-71.

Some among the peasants still hear that awful tramping in their sleep:
the kindly old _vigneron_ who stood in front of his chalet from dawn
to sunset, giving each man bread and wine; and the woman who nursed
three soldiers through black small-pox, while neighbours left food
upon the wall before the house.... Memories of his boyhood crowded
thick and fast. The spell of the place deepened about him with the
darkness. He recalled the village postman--fragment of another
romance, though a tattered and discredited one. For this postman was
the descendant of that audacious pale-frenier who married Lord Wemyss'
daughter, to live the life of peasants with her in a yet tinier hamlet
higher up the slopes. If you asked him, he would proudly tell you,
with his bullet-shaped, close-cropped head cocked impertinently on one
side, how his brother, now assistant in a Paris shop, still owned the
title of baron by means of which his reconciliated lordship sought
eventually to cover up the unfortunate escapade. He would hand you
English letters--and Scotch ones too!--with an air of covert insolence
that was the joy of half the village. And on Sundays he was to be
seen, garbed in knickerbockers, gaudy stockings, and sometimes high,
yellowish spats, walking with his peasant girl along the very road his
more spirited forbear covered in his runaway match....

The night stepped down more quickly every minute from the heights.
Deep-noted bells floated upwards to him from Colombier, bringing upon
the evening wind some fragrance of these faded boyhood memories. The
stars began to peep above the peaks and ridges, and the mountains of
the Past moved nearer. A veil of gossamer rose above the tree-tops,
hiding more and more of the landscape; he just could see the slim new
moon dip down to drink from her own silver cup within the darkening
lake. Workmen, in twos and threes, came past the little house from
their toil among the vines, and fragments of the Dalcroze songs rose
to his ear--songs that the children loved, and that he had not heard
for nearly a quarter of a century. Their haunting refrains completed
then the spell, for all genuine spells are set to some peculiar music
of their own. These Dalcroze melodies were exactly right.... The
figures melted away into the single shadow of the village street. The
houses swallowed them, voices, footsteps, and all.

And his eye, wandering down among the lights that twinkled against the
wall of mountains, picked out the little ancient house, nestling so
close beside the church that they shared a wall in common. Twenty-five
years had passed since first he bowed his head beneath the wistaria
that still crowned the Pension doorway. He remembered bounding up the
creaking stairs. He felt he could still bound as swiftly and with as
sure a step, only--he would expect less at the top now. More truly
put, perhaps, he would expect less for himself. That ambition of his
life was over and done with. It was for others now that his desires
flowed so strongly. Mere personal aims lay behind him in a faded heap,
their seductiveness exhausted.... He was a man with a Big Scheme now--
a Scheme to help the world....

The village seemed a dull enough place in those days, for the big Alps
beckoned beyond, and day and night he longed to climb them instead of
reading dull French grammar. But now all was different. It dislocated
his sense of time to find the place so curiously unchanged. The years
had played some trick upon him. While he himself had altered,
developed, and the rest, this village had remained identically the
same, till it seemed as if no progress of the outer world need ever
change it. The very people were so little altered--hair grown a little
whiter, shoulders more rounded, steps here and there a trifle slower,
but one and all following the old routine he knew so well as a boy.

Tante Jeanne, in particular, but for wrinkles that looked as though a
night of good sound sleep would smooth them all away, was the same
brave woman, still 'running' that Wistaria Pension against the burden
of inherited debts and mortgages. 'We're still alive,' she had said to
him, after greetings delayed a quarter of a century, 'and if we
haven't got ahead much, at least we haven't gone back!' There was no
more hint of complaint than this. It stirred in him a very poignant
sense of admiration for the high courage that drove the ageing fighter
forward still with hope and faith. No doubt she still turned the
kitchen saucer that did duty for planchette, unconsciously pushing its
blunted pencil towards the letters that should spell out coming help.
No doubt she still wore that marvellous tea-gown garment that did duty
for so many different toilettes, even wearing it when she went with
goloshes and umbrella to practise Sunday's hymns every Saturday night
on the wheezy church harmonium. And most likely she still made
underskirts from the silk of discarded umbrellas because she loved the
sound of frou-frou thus obtained, while the shape of the silk exactly
adapted itself to the garment mentioned. And doubtless, too, she still
gave away a whole week's profits at the slightest call of sickness in
the village, and then wondered how it was the Pension did not pay...!

A voice from below interrupted his long reverie.

'Ready for supper, Henry?' cried his cousin up the stairs. 'It's past
seven. The children have already left the Citadelle.'

And as the two middle-aged dreamers made their way along the winding
street of darkness through the vines, one of them noticed that the
stars drew down their grand old network, fastening it to the heights
of Boudry and La Tourne. He did not mention it to his companion, who
was wumbling away in his beard about some difficult details of his
book, but the thought slipped through his mind like the trail of a
flying comet: 'I'd like to stay a long time in this village and get
the people straight a bit,'--which, had he known it, was another
thought carefully paraphrased so that he should not notice it and feel
alarm: 'It will be difficult to get away from here. My feet are in
that net of stars. It's catching about my heart.'

Low in the sky a pale, witched moon of yellow watched them go....

'The Starlight Express is making this way, I do believe,' he thought.
But perhaps he spoke the words aloud instead of thinking them.

'Eh! What's that you said, Henry?' asked the other, taking it for a
comment of value upon the plot of a story he had referred to.

'Oh, nothing particular,' was the reply. 'But just look at those stars
above La Tourne. They shine like beacons burning on the trees.' Minks
would have called them 'braziers.'

'They are rather bright, yes,' said the other, disappointed. 'The air
here is so very clear.' And they went up the creaking wooden stairs to
supper in the Wistaria Pension as naturally as though the years had
lifted them behind the mountains of the past in a single bound--
twenty-five years ago.




CHAPTER XIII


    Near where yonder evening star
      Makes a glory in the air,
    Lies a land dream--found and far
      Where it is light always.
    There those lovely ghosts repair
      Who in sleep's enchantment are,
    In Cockayne dwell all things fair--
      (But it is far away).
                               Cockayne Country, Agnes Duclaux.

The first stage in Cousinenry's introduction took place, as has been
seen, at a railway station; but further stages were accomplished
later. For real introductions are not completed by merely repeating
names and shaking hands, still less by a hurried kiss. The ceremony
had many branches too--departments, as it were. It spread itself, with
various degrees, over many days as opportunity offered, and included
Gygi, the gendarme, as well as the little troop of retired governesses
who came to the Pension for their mid-day dinner. Before two days were
passed he could not go down the village street without lifting his cap
at least a dozen times. Bourcelles was so very friendly; no room for
strangers there; a new-comer might remain a mystery, but he could not
be unknown. Rogers found his halting French becoming rapidly fluent
again. And every one knew so much about him--more almost than he knew
himself.

At the Den next day, on the occasion of their first tea together, he
realised fully that introduction--to the children at any rate--
involved a kind of initiation.

It seemed to him that the room was full of children, crowds of them,
an intricate and ever shifting maze. For years he had known no
dealings with the breed, and their movements now were so light and
rapid that it rather bewildered him. They were in and out between the
kitchen, corridor, and bedroom like bits of a fluid puzzle. One moment
a child was beside him, and the next, just as he had a suitable
sentence ready to discharge at it, the place was vacant. A minute
later 'it' appeared through another door, carrying the samovar, or was
on the roof outside struggling with Riquette.

'Oh, there you are!' he exclaimed. 'How you do dart about, to be
sure!'

And the answer, if any, was invariably of the cheeky order--

'One can't keep still here; there's not room enough.'

Or, worse still--

'I must get past you somehow!' This, needless to say, from Monkey, who
first made sure her parents were out of earshot.

But he liked it, for he recognised this proof that he was accepted and
made one of the circle. These were tentative invitations to play. It
made him feel quite larky, though at first he found his machinery of
larking rather stiff. The wheels required oiling. And his first
attempt to chase Miss Impudence resulted in a collision with Jane Anne
carrying a great brown pot of home-made jam for the table. There was a
dreadful sound. He had stepped on the cat at the same time.

His introduction to the cat was the immediate result, performed
solemnly by Jimbo, and watched by Jinny, still balancing the jar of
jam, with an expression of countenance that was half amazement and
half shock. Collisions with creatures of his size and splendour were a
new event to her.

'I must advertise for help if it occurs again!' she exclaimed.

'That's Mere Riquette, you know,' announced Jimbo formally to his
cousin, standing between them in his village school blouse, hands
tucked into his belt.

'I heard her, yes.' From a distance the cat favoured him with a single
comprehensive glance, then turned away and disappeared beneath the
sofa. She, of course, reserved her opinion.

'It didn't REALLY hurt her. She always squeals like that.'

'Perhaps she likes it,' suggested Rogers.

'She likes better tickling behind the ear,' Jimbo thought, anxious to
make him feel all right, and then plunged into a description of her
general habits--how she jumped at the door handles when she wanted to
come in, slept on his bed at night, and looked for a saucer in a
particular corner of the kitchen floor. This last detail was a
compliment. He meant to imply that Cousin Henry might like to see to
it himself sometimes, although it had always been his own special
prerogative hitherto.

'I shall know in future, then,' said Rogers earnestly, showing, by
taking the information seriously, that he possessed the correct
instinct.

'Oh yes, it's quite easy. You'll soon learn it,' spoken with feet wide
apart and an expression of careless importance, as who should say,
'What a sensible man you are! Still, these _are_ little things one has
to be careful about, you know.'

Mother poured out tea, somewhat laboriously, as though the exact
proportions of milk, hot water, and sugar each child took were
difficult to remember. Each had a special cup, moreover. Her mind,
ever crammed with a thousand domestic details which she seemed to
carry all at once upon the surface, ready for any sudden question,
found it difficult to concentrate upon the teapot. Her mind was ever
worrying over these. Her husband was too vague to be of practical
help. When any one spoke to her, she would pause in the middle of the
operation, balancing a cup in one hand and a milk jug in the other,
until the question was properly answered, every t crossed and every i
dotted. There was no mistaking what Mother meant--provided you had the
time to listen. She had that careful thoroughness which was no friend
of speed. The result was that hands were stretched out for second cups
long before she had completed the first round. Her own tea began
usually when everybody else had finished--and lasted--well, some time.

'Here's a letter I got,' announced Jimbo, pulling a very dirty scrap
of paper from a pocket hidden beneath many folds of blouse. 'You'd
like to see it.' He handed it across the round table, and Rogers took
it politely. 'Thank you very much; it came by this morning's post, did
it?'

'Oh, no,' was the reply, as though a big correspondence made the date
of little importance. 'Not by _that_ post.' But Monkey blurted out
with the jolly laughter that was her characteristic sound, 'It came
ages ago. He's had it in his pocket for weeks.'

Jimbo, ignoring the foolish interruption, watched his cousin's face,
while Jinny gave her sister a secret nudge that every one could see.

'Darling Jimbo,' was what Rogers read, 'I have been to school, and did
strokes and prickings and marched round. I am like you now. A fat kiss
and a hug, your loving---' The signature was illegible, lost amid
several scratchy lines in a blot that looked as if a beetle had
expired after violent efforts in a pool of ink.

'Very nice indeed, very well put,' said Rogers, handing it gravely
back again, while some one explained that the writer, aged five, had
just gone to a kindergarten school in Geneva. 'And have you answered
it?'

'Oh, yes. I answered it the same day, you see.' It was, perhaps, a
foolish letter for a man to have in his pocket. Still--it was a
letter.

'Good! What a capital secretary you'll make me.' And the boy's flush
of pleasure almost made the dish of butter rosy.

'Oh, take another; take a lot, please,' Jimbo said, handing the cakes
that Rogers divined were a special purchase in his honour; and while
he did so, managed to slip one later on to the plates of Monkey and
her sister, who sat on either side of him. The former gobbled it up at
once, barely keeping back her laughter, but Jinny, with a little bow,
put hers carefully aside on the edge of her plate, not knowing quite
the 'nice' thing to do with it. Something in the transaction seemed a
trifle too familiar perhaps. She stole a glance at mother, but mother
was filling the cups and did not notice. Daddy could have helped her,
only he would say 'What?' in a loud voice, and she would have to
repeat her question for all to hear. Later, she ate the cake in very
small morsels, a little uncomfortably.

It was a jolly, merry, cosy tea, as teas in the Den always were. Daddy
wumbled a number of things in his beard to which no one need reply
unless they felt like it. The usual sentences were not heard to-day:
'Monkey, what a mouthful! You _must_ not shovel in your food like
that!' or, 'Don't _gurgle_ your tea down; swallow it quietly, like a
little lady'; or, 'How often have you been told _not_ to drink with
your mouth full; this is not the servants' hall, remember!' There were
no signs of contretemps of any kind, nothing was upset or broken, and
the cakes went easily round, though not a crumb was left over.

But the entire time Mr. Rogers was subjected to the keenest scrutiny
imaginable. Nothing he did escaped two pairs of eyes at least. Signals
were flashed below as well as above the table. These signals were of
the kind birds know perhaps--others might be aware of their existence
if they listened very attentively, yet might not interpret them. No
Comanche ever sent more deft communications unobserved to his brother
across a camp fire.

Yet nothing was done visibly; no crumb was flicked; and the table hid
the pressure of the toe which, fortunately, no one intercepted.
Monkey, at any rate, had eyes in both her feet, and Jimbo knew how to
keep his counsel without betrayal. But inflections of the voice did
most of the work--this, with flashes of brown and blue lights,
conveyed the swift despatches.

'My underneath goes out to him,' Monkey telegraphed to her brother
while she asked innocently for 'jam, please, Jimbo'; and he replied,
'Oh, he's all right, I think, but better not go too fast,' as he wiped
the same article from his chin and caught her big brown eye upon him.
'He'll be our Leader,' she conveyed later by the way she stirred her
cup of tea-hot-water-milk, 'when once we've got him "out" and taught
him'; and Jimbo offered and accepted his own resignation of the
coveted, long-held post by the way he let his eyelid twiddle in answer
to her well-directed toe-nudge out of sight.

This, in a brief resume, was the purport of the give and take of
numerous despatches between them during tea, while outwardly Mother--
and Father, too, when he thought about it--were delighted with their
perfect company manners.

Jane Anne, outside all this flummery, went her own way upon an even
keel. She watched him closely too, but not covertly. She stared him in
the face, and imitated his delicate way of eating. Once or twice she
called him 'Mr. Rogers,' for this had a grown-up flavour about it that
appealed to her, and 'Cousin Henry' did not come easily to her at
first. She could not forget that she had left the _ecole secondaire_
and was on her way to a Geneva Pension where she would attend an
_ecole menagere_. And the bursts of laughter that greeted her polite
'Mr. Rogers, did you have a nice journey, and do you like
Bourcelles?'--in a sudden pause that caught Mother balancing cup and
teapot in mid-air--puzzled her a good deal. She liked his quiet answer
though--'Thank you, Miss Campden, I think both quite charming.' He did
not laugh. He understood, whatever the others might think. She had
wished to correct the levity of the younger brother and sister, and he
evidently appreciated her intentions. He seemed a nice man, a very
nice man.

Tea once over, she carried off the loaded tray to the kitchen to do
the washing-up. Jimbo and Monkey had disappeared. They always vanished
about this time, but once the unenvied operation was safely under way,
they emerged from their hiding-places again. No one ever saw them go.
They were gone before the order, 'Now, children, help your sister take
the things away,' was even issued. By the time they re-appeared Jinny
was halfway through it and did not want to be disturbed.

'Never mind, Mother,' she said, 'they're chronic. They're only little
busy Highlanders!' For 'chronic' was another catch-word at the moment,
and sometimes by chance she used it appropriately. The source of 'busy
Highlanders' was a mystery known only to herself. And resentment, like
jealousy, was a human passion she never felt and did not understand.
Jane Anne was the spirit of unselfishness incarnate. It was to her
honour, but made her ineffective as a personality.

Daddy lit his big old meerschaum--the 'squelcher' Jinny called it,
because of its noise--and mooned about the room, making remarks on
literature or politics, while Mother picked a work-basket cleverly
from a dangerously overloaded shelf, and prepared to mend and sew. The
windows were wide open, and framed the picture of snowy Alps, now
turning many-tinted in the slanting sunshine. (Riquette, gorged with
milk, appeared from the scullery and inspected knees and chairs and
cushions that seemed available, selecting finally the best arm-chair
and curling up to sleep. Rogers smoked a cigarette, pleased and
satisfied like the cat.) A hush fell on the room. It was the hour of
peace between tea and the noisy Pension supper that later broke the
spell. So quiet was it that the mouse began to nibble in the bedroom
walls, and even peeped through the cracks it knew between the boards.
It came out, flicked its whiskers, and then darted in again like
lightning. Jane Anne, rinsing out the big teapot in the scullery,
frightened it. Presently she came in softly, put the lamp ready for
her mother's needle, in case of need later, gave a shy queer look at
'Mr. Rogers' and her father, both of whom nodded absent-mindedly to
her, and then went on tip-toe out of the room. She was bound for the
village shop to buy methylated spirits, sugar, blotting-paper, and--a
'plaque' of Suchard chocolate for her Cousinenry. The forty centimes
for this latter was a large item in her savings; but she gave no
thought to that. What sorely perplexed her as she hurried down the
street was whether he would like it 'milk' or 'plain.' In the end she
bought both.

Down the dark corridor of the Citadelle, before she left, she did not
hear the muffled laughter among the shadows, nor see the movement of
two figures that emerged together from the farther end.

'He'll be on the sofa by now. Shall we go for him?' It was the voice
of Monkey.

'Leave it to me.' Jimbo still meant to be leader so far as these two
were concerned at any rate. Let come later what might.

'Better get Mother out of the way first, though.'

'Mother's nothing. She's sewing and things,' was the reply. He
understood the conditions thoroughly. He needed no foolish advice.

'He's awfully easy. You saw the two gold teeth. It's him, I'm sure.'

'Of course he's easy, only a person doesn't want to be pulled about
after tea,' in the tone of a man who meant to feel his way a bit.

Clearly they had talked together more than once since the arrival at
the station. Jimbo made up for ignorance by decision and sublime self-
confidence. He answered no silly questions, but listened, made up his
mind, and acted. He was primed to the brim--a born leader.

'Better tell him that we'll come for him to-night,' the girl insisted.
'He'll be less astonished then. You can tell he dreams a lot by his
manner. Even now he's only half awake.'

The conversation was in French--school and village French. Her brother
ignored the question with 'va te cacher!' He had no doubts himself.

'Just wait a moment while I tighten my belt,' he observed. 'You can
tell it by his eyes,' he added, as Monkey urged him forward to the
door. 'I know a good dreamer when I see one.'

Then fate helped them. The door against their noses opened and Daddy
came out, followed by his cousin. All four collided.

'Oh, is the washing-up finished?' asked Monkey innocently, quick as a
flash.

'How you startled me!' exclaimed Daddy. 'You really must try to be
less impetuous. You'd better ask Mother about the washing,' he
repeated, 'she's in there sewing.' His thoughts, it seemed, were just
a trifle confused. Plates and linen both meant washing, and sometimes
hair and other stuff as well.

'There's no light, you see, yet,' whispered Jimbo. A small lamp
usually hung upon the wall. Jane Anne at that moment came out carrying
it and asking for a match.

'No starlight, either,' added Monkey quickly, giving her cousin a
little nudge. 'It's all upwumbled, or whatever Daddy calls it.'

The look he gave her might well have suppressed a grown-up person--
'grande personne,' as Jimbo termed it, translating literally--but on
Monkey it had only slight effect. Her irrepressible little spirit
concealed springs few could regulate. Even avoir-dupois increased
their resiliency the moment it was removed. But Jimbo checked her
better than most. She did look a trifle ashamed--for a second.

'Can't you wait?' he whispered. 'Daddy'll spoil it if you begin it
here. How you do fidget!'

They passed all together out into the yard, the men in front, the two
children just behind, walking warily.

Then came the separation, yet none could say exactly how it was
accomplished. For separations are curious things at the best of times,
the forces that effect them as mysterious as wind that blows a pair of
butterflies across a field. Something equally delicate was at work.
One minute all four stood together by the fountain, and the next Daddy
was walking downhill towards the carpenter's house alone, while the
other three were already twenty metres up the street that led to the
belt of forest.

Jimbo, perhaps, was responsible for the deft manoeuvring. At any rate,
he walked beside his big cousin with the air of a successful aide-de-
camp. But Monkey, too, seemed flushed with victory, rolling along--her
rotundity ever suggested rolling rather than the taking of actual
steps--as if she led a prisoner.

'Don't bother your cousin, children,' their father's voice was heard
again faintly in the distance. Then the big shoulder of La Citadelle
hid him from view and hearing.

And so the sight was seen of these three, arm in arm, passing along
the village street in the twilight. Gygi saw them go and raised his
blue, peaked cap; and so did Henri Favre, standing in the doorway of
his little shop, as he weighed the possible value of the new customer
for matches, chocolate, and string--the articles English chiefly
bought; and likewise Alfred Sandoz, looking a moment through the
window of his cabaret, the Guillaume Tell, saw them go past like
shadows towards the woods, and observed to his carter friend across
the table, 'They choose queer times for expeditions, these English,
_ouah!_'

'It's their climate makes them like that,' put in his wife, a touch of
pity in her voice. Her daughter swept the Den and lit the
_fourneau_ for _la famille anglaise_ in the mornings, and the mother,
knowing a little English, spelt out the weather reports in the _Daily
Surprise_ she sometimes brought.

Meanwhile the three travellers had crossed the railway line, where
Jimbo detained them for a moment's general explanation, and passed the
shadow of the sentinel poplar. The cluster of spring leaves rustled
faintly on its crest. The village lay behind them now. They turned a
moment to look back upon the stretch of vines and fields that spread
towards the lake. From the pool of shadow where the houses nestled
rose the spire of the church, a strong dark line against the fading
sunset. Thin columns of smoke tried to draw it after them. Lights
already twinkled on the farther shore, five miles across, and beyond
these rose dim white forms of the tremendous ghostly Alps. Dusk slowly
brought on darkness.

Jimbo began to hum the song of the village he had learned in school--

      P'tit Bourcelles sur sa colline
      De partout a gentille mine;
      On y pratique avec success
      L'exploitation du francais,

and the moment it was over, his sister burst out with the question
that had been buzzing inside her head the whole time--

'How long are you going to stay?' she said, as they climbed higher
along the dusty road.

'Oh, about a week,' he told her, giving the answer already used a
dozen times. 'I've just come out for a holiday--first holiday I've had
for twenty years. Fancy that! Pretty long time, eh?'

They simply didn't believe that; they let it pass--politely.

'London's stuffy, you know, just now,' he added, aware that he was
convicted of exaggeration. 'Besides, it's spring.'

'There are millions of flowers here,' Jimbo covered his mistake
kindly, 'millions and millions. Aren't there, Monkey?'

'Oh, billions.'

'Of course,' he agreed.

'And more than anywhere else in the whole world.'

'It looks like that,' said Cousin Henry, as proudly as they said it
themselves. And they told him how they picked clothes-baskets full of
the wild lily of the valley that grew upon the Boudry slopes,
hepaticas, periwinkles, jonquils, blue and white violets, as well as
countless anemones, and later, the big yellow marguerites.

'Then how long are you going to stay--_really_?' inquired Monkey once
again, as though the polite interlude were over. It was a delicate way
of suggesting that he had told an untruth. She looked up straight into
his face. And, meeting her big brown eyes, he wondered a little--for
the first time--how he should reply.

'Daddy came here meaning to stay only six months--first.'

'When I was littler,' Jimbo put in.

'----and stayed here all this time--four years.'

'I hope to stay a week or so--just a little holiday, you know,' he
said at length, giving the answer purposely. But he said it without
conviction, haltingly. He felt that they divined the doubt in him.
They guessed his thought along the hands upon his arm, as a horse
finds out its rider from the touch upon the reins. On either side big
eyes watched and judged him; but the brown ones put a positive
enchantment in his blood. They shone so wonderfully in the dusk.

'Longer than that, I think,' she told him, her own mind quite made up.
'It's not so easy to get away from.'

'You mean it?' he asked seriously. 'It makes one quite nervous.'

'There's such a lot to do here,' she said, still keeping her eyes
fixed upon his face till he felt the wonder in him become a little
unmanageable. 'You'll never get finished in a week.'

'My secretary,' he stammered, 'will help me,' and Jimbo nodded,
fastening both hands upon his arm, while Monkey indulged in a little
gust of curious laughter, as who should say 'He who laughs last,
laughs best.'

They entered the edge of the forest. Hepaticas watched them with their
eyes of blue. Violets marked their tread. The frontiers of the
daylight softly closed behind them. A thousand trees opened a way to
let them pass, and moss twelve inches thick took their footsteps
silently as birds. They came presently to a little clearing where the
pines stood in a circle and let in a space of sky. Looking up, all
three saw the first small stars in it. A wild faint scent of coming
rain was in the air--those warm spring rains that wash the way for
summer. And a signal flashed unseen from the blue eyes to the brown.

'This way,' said Jimbo firmly. 'There's an armchair rock where you can
rest and get your wind a bit,' and, though Rogers had not lost his
wind, he let himself be led, and took the great grey boulder for his
chair. Instantly, before he had arranged his weight among the points
and angles, both his knees were occupied.

'By Jove,' flashed through his mind. 'They've brought me here on
purpose. I'm caught!'

A tiny pause followed.

'Now, look here, you little Schemers, I want to know what----'

But the sentence was never finished. The hand of Monkey was already
pointing upwards to the space of sky. He saw the fringe of pine tops
fencing it about with their feathery, crested ring, and in the centre
shone faint, scattered stars. Over the fence of mystery that surrounds
common objects wonder peeped with one eye like a star.

'Cousinenry,' he heard close to his ear, so soft it almost might have
been those tree-tops whispering to the night, 'do you know anything
about a Star Cave--a place where the starlight goes when there are no
eyes or puddles about to catch it?'

A Star Cave! How odd! His own boyhood's idea. He must have mentioned
it to his cousin perhaps, and _he_ had told the children. And all that
was in him of nonsense, poetry, love rose at a bound as he heard it.
He felt them settle themselves more comfortably upon his knees. He
forgot to think about the points and angles. Here surely a gateway was
opening before his very feet, a gateway into that world of fairyland
the old clergyman had spoken about. A great wave of tenderness swept
him--a flood strong and deep, as he had felt it long ago upon the hill
of that Kentish village. The golden boyhood's mood rushed over him
once more with all its original splendour. It took a slightly
different form, however. He knew better how to direct it for one
thing. He pressed the children closer to his side.

'A what?' he asked, speaking low as they did. 'Do I know a what?'

'A cave where lost starlight collects,' Monkey repeated, 'a Star
Cave.'

And Jimbo said aloud the verses he had already learned by heart. While
his small voice gave the words, more than a little mixed, a bird high
up among the boughs woke from its beauty sleep and sang. The two
sounds mingled. But the singing of the bird brought back the scenery
of the Vicarage garden, and with it the strange, passionate things the
old clergyman had said. The two scenes met in his mind, passed in and
out of one another like rings of smoke, interchanged, and finally
formed a new picture all their own, where flowers danced upon a carpet
of star-dust that glittered in mid-air.

He knew some sudden, deep enchantment of the spirit. The Fairyland the
world had lost spread all about him, and--he had the children close.
The imaginative faculty that for years had invented ingenious patents,
woke in force, and ran headlong down far sweeter channels--channels
that fastened mind, heart, and soul together in a single intricate
network of soft belief. He remembered the dusk upon the Crayfield
lawns.

'Of course I know a Star Cave,' he said at length, when Jimbo had
finished his recitation, and Monkey had added the details their father
had told them. 'I know the very one your Daddy spoke about. It's not
far from where we're sitting. It's over there.' He pointed up to the
mountain heights behind them, but Jimbo guided his hand in the right
direction--towards the Boudry slopes where the forests dip upon the
precipices of the Areuse.

'Yes, that's it--exactly,' he said, accepting the correction
instantly; 'only _I_ go to the top of the mountains first so as to
slide down with the river of starlight.'

'We go straight,' they told him in one breath.

'Because you've got more star-stuff in your eyes than I have, and find
the way better,' he explained.

That touched their sense of pity. 'But you can have ours,' they cried,
'we'll share it.'

'No,' he answered softly, 'better keep your own. I can get plenty now.
Indeed, to tell the truth--though it's a secret between ourselves,
remember--that's the real reason I've come out here. I want to get a
fresh supply to take back to London with me. One needs a fearful lot
in London----'

'But there's no sun in London to melt it,' objected Monkey instantly.

'There's fog though, and it gets lost in fog like ink in blotting-
paper. There's never enough to go round. I've got to collect an awful
lot before I go back.'

'That'll take more than a week,' she said triumphantly.

They fastened themselves closer against him, like limpets on a rock.

'I told you there was lots to do here,' whispered Monkey again.
'You'll never get it done in a week.'

'And how will you take it back?' asked Jimbo in the same breath. The
answer went straight to the boy's heart.

'In a train, of course. I've got an express train here on purpose----'

'The "Rapide"?' he interrupted, his blue eyes starting like flowers
from the earth.

'Quicker far than that. I've got----'

They stared so hard and so expectantly, it was almost like an
interruption. The bird paused in its rushing song to listen too.

'----a Starlight Express,' he finished, caught now in the full tide of
fairyland. 'It came here several nights ago. It's being loaded up as
full as ever it can carry. I'm to drive it back again when once it's
ready.'

'Where is it now?'

'Who's loading it?'

'How fast does it go? Are there accidents and collisions?'

'How do you find the way?'

'May I drive it with you?'

'Tell us exactly everything in the world about it--at once!'

Questions poured in a flood about him, and his imagination leaped to
their answering. Above them the curtain of the Night shook out her
million stars while they lay there talking with bated breath together.
On every single point he satisfied them, and himself as well. He told
them all--his visit to the Manor House, the sprites he found there
still alive and waiting as he had made them in his boyhood, their
songs and characters, the Dustman, Sweep, and Lamplighter, the
Laugher, and the Woman of the Haystack, the blue-eyed Guard----

'But now her eyes are brown, aren't they?' Monkey asked, peering very
close into his face. At the same moment she took his heart and hid it
deep away among her tumbling hair.

'I was coming to that. They're brown now, of course, because in this
different atmosphere brown eyes see better than blue in the dark. The
colours of signals vary in different countries.

'And I'm the _mecanicien_,' cried Jimbo. 'I drive the engine.'

'And I'm your stoker,' he agreed, 'because here we burn wood instead
of coal, and I'm director in a wood-paving company and so know all
about it.'

They did not pause to dissect his logic--but just tore about full
speed with busy plans and questionings. He began to wonder how in the
world he would satisfy them--and satisfy himself as well!--when the
time should come to introduce them to Express and Cave and Passengers.
For if he failed in that, the reality of the entire business must fall
to the ground. Yet the direct question did not come. He wondered more
and more. Neither child luckily insisted on immediate tangible
acquaintance. They did not even hint about it. So far the whole thing
had gone splendidly and easily, like floating a new company with the
rosiest prospectus in the world; but the moment must arrive when
profits and dividends would have to justify mere talk. Concrete
results would be demanded. If not forthcoming, where would his
position be?

Yet, still the flood of questions, answers, explanations flowed on
without the critical sentence making its appearance. He had led them
well--so far. How in the world, though, was he to keep it up, and
provide definite result at the end?

Then suddenly the truth dawned upon him. It was not he who led after
all; it was they. He was being led. They knew. They understood. The
reins of management lay in their small capable hands, and he had never
really held them at all. Most cleverly, with utmost delicacy, they had
concealed from him his real position. They were Directors, he the
merest shareholder, useful only for 'calls.' The awkward question that
he feared would never come, but instead he would receive instructions.
'Keep close to the children; they will guide you.' The words flashed
back. He was a helpless prisoner; but had only just discovered the
fact. He supplied the funds; they did the construction. Their plans
and schemes netted his feet in fairyland just as surely as the weight
of their little warm, soft bodies fastened him to the boulder where he
sat. He could not move. He could not go further without their will and
leadership.

But his captivity was utterly delightful to him....

The sound of a deep bell from the Colombier towers floated in to them
between the trees. The children sprang from his knees. He rose slowly,
a little cramped and stiff.

'Half-past six,' said Jimbo. 'We must go back for supper.'

He stood there a moment, stretching, while the others waited, staring
up at him as though he were a tree. And he felt like a big tree; they
were two wild-flowers his great roots sheltered down below.

And at that moment, in the little pause before they linked up arms and
started home again, the Question of Importance came, though not in the
way he had expected it would come.

'Cousinenry, do you sleep very tightly at night, please?' Monkey asked
it, but Jimbo stepped up nearer to watch the reply.

'Like a top,' he said, wondering.

Signals he tried vainly to intercept flashed between the pair of them.

'Why do you ask?' as nothing further seemed forthcoming.

'Oh, just to know,' she explained. 'It's all right.'

'Yes, it's quite all right like that,' added Jimbo. And without more
ado they took his arms and pulled him out of the forest.

And Henry Rogers heard something deep, deep down within himself echo
the verdict.

'I think it is all right.'

On the way home there were no puddles, but there were three pairs of
eyes--and the stars were uncommonly thick overhead. The children asked
him almost as many questions as there were clusters of them between
the summits of Boudry and La Tourne. All three went floundering in
that giant Net. It was so different, too, from anything they had been
accustomed to. Their father's stories, answers, explanations, and the
like, were ineffective because they always felt he did not quite
believe them himself even while he gave them. He did not think he
believed them, that is. But Cousin Henry talked of stars and star-
stuff as though he had some in his pocket at the moment. And, of
course, he had. For otherwise they would not have listened. He could
not have held their attention.

They especially liked the huge, ridiculous words he used, because such
words concealed great mysteries that pulsed with wonder and
exquisitely wound them up. Daddy made things too clear. The bones of
impossibility were visible. They saw thin nakedness behind the
explanations, till the sense of wonder faded. They were not babies to
be fed with a string of one-syllable words!

Jimbo kept silence mostly, his instinct ever being to conceal his
ignorance; but Monkey talked fifteen to the dozen, filling the pauses
with long 'ohs' and bursts of laughter and impudent observations. Yet
her cheeky insolence never crossed the frontier where it could be
resented. Her audacity stopped short of impertinence.

'There's a point beyond which--' her cousin would say gravely, when
she grew more daring than usual; and, while answering 'It'll stick
into you, then, not into me,' she yet withdrew from the borders of
impertinence at once.

'What is star-stuff really then?' she asked.

'The primordial substance of the universe,' he answered solemnly, no
whit ashamed of his inaccuracy.

'Ah yes!' piped Jimbo, quietly. _Ecole primaire_ he understood. This
must be something similar.

'But what does it do, I mean, and why is it good for people to have it
in them--on them--whatever it is?' she inquired.

'It gives sympathy and insight; it's so awfully subtle and delicate,'
he answered. 'A little of it travels down on every ray and soaks down
into you. It makes you feel inclined to stick to other people and
understand them. That's sympathy.'

'_Sympathie_,' said Jimbo for his sister's benefit apparently, but in
reality because he himself was barely treading water.

'But sympathy,' the other went on, 'is no good without insight--which
means seeing things as others see them--from inside. That's insight---
'

'Inside sight,' she corrected him.

'That's it. You see, the first stuff that existed in the universe was
this star-stuff--nebulae. Having nothing else to stick to, it stuck to
itself, and so got thicker. It whirled in vortices. It grew together
in sympathy, for sympathy brings together. It whirled and twirled
round itself till it got at last into solid round bodies--worlds--
stars. It passed, that is, from mere dreaming into action. And when
the rays soak into you, they change your dreaming into action. You
feel the desire to do things--for others.'

'Ah! yes,' repeated Jimbo, 'like that.'

'You must be full of vorty seas, then, because you're so long,' said
Monkey, 'but you'll never grow into a solid round body----'

He took a handful of her hair and smothered the remainder of the
sentence.

'The instant a sweet thought is born in your mind,' he continued, 'the
heavenly stables send their starry messengers to harness it for use. A
ray, perhaps, from mighty Sirius picks it out of your heart at birth.'

'Serious!' exclaimed Jimbo, as though the sun were listening.

'Sirius--another sun, that is, far bigger than our own--a perfect
giant, yet so far away you hardly notice him.'

The boy clasped his dirty fingers and stared hard. The sun _was_
listening.

'Then what I _think_ is known--like that--all over the place?' he
asked. He held himself very straight indeed.

'Everywhere,' replied Cousinenry gravely. 'The stars flash your
thoughts over the whole universe. None are ever lost. Sooner or later
they appear in visible shape. Some one, for instance, must have
thought this flower long ago'--he stooped and picked a blue hepatica
at their feet--'or it couldn't be growing here now.'

Jimbo accepted the statement with his usual gravity.

'Then I shall always think enormous and tremendous things--powerful
locomotives, like that and--and----'

'The best is to think kind little sweet things about other people,'
suggested the other. 'You see the results quicker then.'

'Mais oui,' was the reply, 'je pourrai faire ca au meme temps, n'est-
ce pas?'

'Parfaitemong,' agreed his big cousin.

'There's no room in her for inside sight,' observed Monkey as a portly
dame rolled by into the darkness. 'You can't tell her front from her
back.' It was one of the governesses.

'We'll get her into the cave and change all that,' her cousin said
reprovingly. 'You must never judge by outside alone. Puddings should
teach you that.'

But no one could reprove Monkey without running a certain risk.

'We don't have puddings here,' she said, 'we have dessert--sour
oranges and apples.'

She flew from his side and vanished down the street and into the
Citadelle courtyard before he could think of anything to say. A
shooting star flashed at the same moment behind the church tower,
vanishing into the gulf of Boudry's shadow. They seemed to go at the
same pace together.

'Oh, I say!' said Jimbo sedately, 'you must punish her for that, you
know. Shall I come with you to the carpenter's?' he added, as they
stood a moment by the fountain. 'There's just ten minutes to wash and
brush your hair for supper.'

'I think I can find my way alone,' he answered, 'thank you all the
same.'

'It's nothing,' he said, lifting his cap as the village fashion was,
and watching his cousin's lengthy figure vanish down the street.

'We'll meet at the Pension later,' the voice came back, 'and in the
morning I shall have a lot of correspondence to attend to. Bring your
shorthand book and lots of pencils, mind.'

'How many?'

'Oh, half a dozen will do.'

The boy turned in and hurried after his sister. But he was so busy
collecting all the pencils and paper he could find that he forgot to
brush his hair, and consequently appeared at the supper table with a
head like a tangled blackberry bush. His eyes were bright as stars.




CHAPTER XIV


     O pure one, take thy seat in the barque of the Sun,
       And sail thou over the sky.
         Sail thou with the imperishable stars,
           Sail thou with the unwearied stars.
               _Pyramid Texts, Dynasty VI._

But Henry Rogers ran the whole two hundred yards to his lodgings in
the carpenter's house. He ran as though the entire field of brilliant
stars were at his heels. There was bewilderment, happiness,
exhilaration in his blood. He had never felt so light-hearted in his
life. He felt exactly fifteen years of age--and a half. The half was
added to ensure a good, safe margin over the other two.

But he was late for supper too--later than the children, for first he
jotted down some notes upon the back of an envelope. He wrote them at
high speed, meaning to correct them later, but the corrections were
never made. Later, when he came to bed, the envelope had been tidied
away by the careful housewife into the dustbin. And he was ashamed to
ask for them. The carpenter's wife read English.

'Pity,' he said to himself. 'I don't believe Minks could have done it
better!'

The energy that went to the making of those 'notes' would have run
down different channels a few years ago. It would have gone into some
ingenious patent. The patent, however, might equally have gone into
the dustbin. There is an enormous quantity of misdirected energy
pouring loose about the world!

The notes had run something like this--

     O children, open your arms to me,
     Let your hair fall over my eyes;
     Let me sleep a moment--and then awake
     In your Gardens of sweet Surprise!
     For the grown-up folk
     Are a wearisome folk,
     And they laugh my fancies to scorn,
     My fun and my fancies to scorn.

     O children, open your hearts to me,
     And tell me your wonder-thoughts;
     Who lives in the palace inside your brain?
     Who plays in its outer courts?
     Who hides in the hours To-morrow holds?
     Who sleeps in your yesterdays?
     Who tiptoes along past the curtained folds
     Of the shadow that twilight lays?

     O children, open your eyes to me,
     And tell me your visions too;
     Who squeezes the sponge when the salt tears flow
     To dim their magical blue?
     Who draws up their blinds when the sun peeps in?
     Who fastens them down at night?
     Who brushes the fringe of their lace-veined lids?
     Who trims their innocent light?

     Then, children, I beg you, sing low to me,
     And cover my eyes with your hands;
     O kiss me again till I sleep and dream
     That I'm lost in your fairylands;
     For the grown-up folk
     Are a troublesome folk,
     And the book of their childhood is torn,
     Is blotted, and crumpled, and torn!

Supper at the Pension dissipated effectively the odd sense of
enchantment to which he had fallen a victim, but it revived again with
a sudden rush when Jimbo and his sister came up at half-past eight to
say good-night. It began when the little fellow climbed up to plant a
resounding kiss upon his lips, and it caught him fullest when Monkey's
arms were round his neck, and he heard her whisper in his ear--

'Sleep as tightly as you can, remember, and don't resist. We'll come
later to find you.' Her brown eyes were straight in front of his own.
Goodness, how they shone! Old Sirius and Aldebaran had certainly left
a ray in each.

'Hope you don't get any longer when you're asleep!' she added, giving
him a sly dig in the ribs--then was gone before he could return it, or
ask her what she meant by 'we'll find you later.'

'And don't say a word to Mother,' was the last thing he heard as she
vanished down the stairs.

Slightly confused, he glanced down at the aged pumps he happened to
have on, and noticed that one bow was all awry and loose. He stooped
to fidget with it, and Mother caught him in the act.

'I'll stitch it on for you,' she said at once. 'It won't take a
minute. One of the children can fetch it in the morning.'

But he was ashamed to add to her endless sewing. Like some female
Sisyphus, she seemed always pushing an enormous needle through a
mountain of clothes that grew higher each time she reached the top.

'I always wear it like that,' he assured her gravely, his thoughts
still busy with two other phrases--' find you' and 'sleep tightly.'
What in the world could they mean? Did the children really intend to
visit him at night? They seemed so earnest about it. Of course it was
all nonsense. And yet----!

'You mustn't let them bother you too much,' he heard their mother
saying, her voice sounding a long way off. 'They're so wildly happy to
have some one to play with.'

'That's how I like them,' he answered vaguely, referring half to the
pumps and half to the children. 'They're no trouble at all, believe
me.'

'I'm afraid we've spoilt them rather----'

'But--not at all,' he murmured, still confused. 'They're only a little
loose--er--lively, I mean. That's how they should be.'

And outside all heard their laughing voices dying down the street as
they raced along to the Citadelle for bed. It was Monkey's duty to see
her brother safely in. Ten minutes later Mother would follow to tell
them tuck-up stories and hear their prayers.

'Excuse me! Have you got a hot-water bottle?' asked a sudden jerky
voice, and he turned with a start to see Jane Anne towering beside
him.

'I'm sorry,' he answered, 'but I don't carry such things about with
me.' He imagined she was joking, then saw that it was very serious.

She looked puzzled a moment. 'I meant--would you like one? Everybody
uses them here.' She thought all grown-ups used hot-water bottles.

He hesitated a second. The child looked as though she would produce
one from her blouse like any conjurer. As yet, however, the article in
question had not entered his scheme of life. He declined it with many
thanks.

'I can get you a big one,' she urged. But even that did not tempt him.

'Will you have a cold-water bandage then--for your head--or anything?'

She seemed so afflicted with a desire to do something for him that he
almost said 'Yes'; only the fear that she might offer next a beehive
or a gramophone restrained him.

'Thank you _so_ much, but really I can manage without it--to-night.'

Jane Anne made no attempt to conceal her disappointment. What a man he
was, to be sure! And what a funny place the world was!

'It's Jinny's panacea,' said Mother, helping herself with reckless
uncertainty to a long word. 'She's never happy unless she's doing for
somebody,' she added ambiguously. 'It's her _metier_ in life.'

'Mother, what _are_ you saying?' said the child's expression. Then she
made one last attempt. She remembered, perhaps, the admiring way he
had watched her brother and sister's antics in the Den before. She was
not clever on her feet, but at least she could try.

'Shall I turn head over heels for you, then?'

He caught her mother's grave expression just in time to keep his
laughter back. The offer of gymnastics clearly involved sacrifice
somewhere.

'To-morrow,' he answered quickly. 'Always put off till to-morrow what
you're too old to do to-day.'

'Of course; I see--yes.' She was more perplexed than ever, as he meant
that she should be. His words were meaningless, but they helped the
poignant situation neatly. She could not understand why all her offers
were refused like this. There must be something wrong with her
selection, perhaps. She would think of better ones in future. But, oh,
what a funny place the world was!

'Good-night, then, Mr.--Cousin Rogers,' she said jerkily with
resignation. 'Perhaps to-morrow--when I'm older----'

'If it comes.' He gravely shook the hand she held out primly, keeping
a certain distance from him lest he should attempt to kiss her.

'It always comes; it's a chronic monster,' she laughed, saying the
first thing that came into her queer head. They all laughed. Jane Anne
went out, feeling happier. At least, she had amused him. She marched
off with the air of a grenadier going to some stern and difficult
duty. From the door she flung back at him a look of speechless
admiration, then broke into a run, afraid she might have been immodest
or too forward. They heard her thumping overhead.

And presently he followed her example. The Pension sitting-room
emptied. Unless there was something special on hand--a dance, a romp,
a game, or some neighbours who dropped in for talk and music--it was
rarely occupied after nine o'clock. Daddy had already slipped home--he
had this mysterious way of disappearing when no one saw him go. At
this moment, doubtless, a wumbled book absorbed him over at the
carpenter's. Old Miss Waghorn sat in a corner nodding over her novel,
and the Pension cat, Borelle, was curled up in her sloping, inadequate
lap.

The big, worn velvet sofa in the opposite corner was also empty. On
romping nights it was the _train de Moscou_, where Jimbo sold tickets
to crowded passengers for any part of the world. To-night it was a
mere dead sofa, uninviting, dull.

He went across the darkened room, his head scraping acquaintance with
the ivy leaves that trailed across the ceiling. He slipped through the
little hall. In the kitchen he heard the shrill voice of Mme. Jequier
talking very loudly about a dozen things at once to the servant-girl,
or to any one else who was near enough to listen. Luckily she did not
see him. Otherwise he would never have escaped without another offer
of a hot-water bottle, a pot of home-made marmalade, or a rug and
pillow for his bed. He made his way downstairs into the street
unnoticed; but just as he reached the bottom his thundering tread
betrayed him. The door flew open at the top.

'Bon soir, bonne nuit,' screamed the voice; 'wait a moment and I'll
get the lamp. You'll break your neck. Is there anything you want--a
hot-water bottle, or a box of matches, or some of my marmalade for
your breakfast? Wait, and I'll get it in a moment----' She would have
given the blouse off her back had he needed, or could have used it.

She flew back to the kitchen to search and shout. It sounded like a
quarrel; but, pretending not to hear, he made good his escape and
passed out into the street. The heavy door of the Post Office banged
behind him, cutting short a stream of excited sentences. The peace and
quiet of the night closed instantly about his steps.

By the fountain opposite the Citadelle he paused to drink from the
pipe of gushing mountain water. The open courtyard looked inviting,
but he did not go in, for, truth to tell, there was a curious
excitement in him--an urgent, keen desire to get to sleep as soon as
possible. Not that he felt sleepy--quite the reverse in fact, but that
he looked forward to his bed and to 'sleeping tightly.'

The village was already lost in slumber. No lights showed in any
houses. Yet it was barely half-past nine. Everywhere was peace and
stillness. Far across the lake he saw the twinkling villages. Behind
him dreamed the forests. A deep calm brooded over the mountains; but
within the calm, and just below the surface in himself, hid the
excitement as of some lively anticipation. He expected something.
Something was going to happen. And it was connected with the children.
Jimbo and Monkey were at the bottom of it. They had said they would
come for him--to 'find him later.' He wondered--quite absurdly he
wondered.

He passed his cousin's room on tiptoe, and noticed a light beneath the
door. But, before getting into bed, he stood a moment at the open
window and drew in deep draughts of the fresh night air. The world of
forest swayed across his sight. The outline of the Citadelle merged
into it. A point of light showed the window where the children already
slept. But, far beyond, the moon was loading stars upon the trees, and
a rising wind drove them in glittering flocks along the heights....

Blowing out the candle, he turned over on his side to sleep, his mind
charged to the brim with wonder and curious under-thrills of this
anticipation. He half expected--what? Reality lay somewhere in the
whole strange business; it was not merely imaginative nonsense.
Fairyland was close.

And the moment he slept and began to dream, the thing took a lively
and dramatic shape. A thousand tiny fingers, soft and invisible, drew
him away into the heart of fairyland. There was a terror in him lest
he should--stick. But he came out beautifully and smoothly, like a
thread of summer grass from its covering sheath.

'I _am_ slippery after all, then--slippery enough,' he remembered
saying with surprised delight, and then----




CHAPTER XV


                         Look how the floor of heaven
      Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.
      There's not the smallest orb which thou beholdest
      But in his motion like an angel sings,
      Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubims.
                              _Merchant of Venice_.

----there came to him a vivid impression of sudden light in the room,
and he knew that something very familiar was happening to him, yet
something that had not happened consciously for thirty years and more
--since his early childhood in the night-nursery with the bars across
the windows.

He was both asleep and awake at the same time. Some part of him,
rather, that never slept was disengaging itself--with difficulty. He
was getting free. Stimulated by his intercourse with the children,
this part of him that in boyhood used to be so easily detached, light
as air, was getting loose. The years had fastened it in very tightly.
Jimbo and Monkey had got at it. And Jimbo and Monkey were in the room
at this moment. They were pulling him out.

It was very wonderful; a glory of youth and careless joy rushed
through him like a river. Some sheath or vesture melted off. It seemed
to tear him loose. How in the world could he ever have forgotten it--
let it go out of his life? What on earth could have seemed good enough
to take its place? He felt like an eagle some wizard spell had
imprisoned in a stone, now released and shaking out its crumpled
wings. A mightier spell had set him free. The children stood beside
his bed!

'I can manage it alone,' he said firmly. 'You needn't try to help me.'

No sound was audible, but they instantly desisted. This thought, that
took a dozen words to express ordinarily, shot from him into them the
instant it was born. A gentle pulsing, like the flicker of a flame,
ran over their shining little forms of radiance as they received it.
They shifted to one side silently to give him room. Thus had he seen a
searchlight pass like lightning from point to point across the sea.

Yet, at first, there was difficulty; here and there, in places, he
could not get quite loose and free.

'He sticks like Daddy,' he heard them think. 'In the head it seems,
too.'

There was no pain in the sensation, but a certain straining as of
unaccustomed muscles being stretched. He felt uncomfortable, then
embarrassed, then--exhilarated. But there were other exquisite
sensations too. Happiness, as of flooding summer sunshine, poured
through him.

'He'll come with a rush. Look out!' felt Jimbo--'felt' expressing
'thought' and 'said' together, for no single word can convey the
double operation thus combined in ordinary life.

The reality of it caught him by the throat.

'This,' he exclaimed, 'is real and actual. It is happening to me now!'

He looked from the pile of clothes taken off two hours ago--goodness,
what a mass!--to the children's figures in the middle of the room. And
one was as real as the other. The moods of the day and evening, their
play and nonsense, had all passed away. He had crossed a gulf that
stood between this moment and those good-nights in the Pension. This
was as real as anything in life; more real than death. Reality--he
caught the obvious thought pass thickly through the body on the bed--
is what has been experienced. Death, for that reason, is not real, not
realised; dinner is. And this was real because he had been through it,
though long forgotten it. Jimbo stood aside and 'felt' directions.

'Don't push,' he said.

'Just think and wish,' added Monkey with a laugh.

It was her laugh, and perhaps the beauty of her big brown eyes as
well, that got him finally loose. For the laughter urged some queer,
deep yearning in him towards a rush of exquisite accomplishment. He
began to slip more easily and freely. The brain upon the bed, oddly
enough, remembered a tradition of old Egypt--that Thoth created the
world by bursting into seven peals of laughter. It touched forgotten
springs of imagination and belief. In some tenuous, racy vehicle his
thought flashed forth. With a gliding spring, like a swooping bird
across a valley, he was suddenly--out.

'I'm out!' he cried.

'All out!' echoed the answering voices.

And then he understood that first vivid impression of light. It was
everywhere, an evenly distributed light. He saw the darkness of the
night as well, the deep old shadows that draped the village, woods,
and mountains. But in themselves was light, a light that somehow
enabled them to see everything quite clearly. Solid things were all
transparent.

 Light even radiated from objects in the room. Two much-loved books
upon the table shone beautifully--his Bible and a volume of poems;
and, fairer still, more delicate than either, there was a lustre on
the table that had so brilliant a halo it almost corruscated. The
sparkle in it was like the sparkle in the children's eyes. It came
from the bunch of violets, gentians, and hepaticas, already faded,
that Mother had placed there days ago on his arrival. And overhead,
through plaster, tiles, and rafters he saw--the stars.

'We've already been for Jinny,' Jimbo informed him; 'but she's gone as
usual. She goes the moment she falls asleep. We never can catch her up
or find her.'

'Come on,' cried Monkey. 'How slow you both are! We shan't get
anywhere at this rate.' And she made a wheel of coloured fire in the
air. 'I'm ready,' he answered, happier than either. 'Let's be off at
once.'

Through his mind flashed this explanation of their elder sister's day-
expression--that expression of a moth she had, puzzled, distressed,
only half there, as the saying is. For if she went out so easily at
night in this way, some part of her probably stayed out altogether.
She never wholly came back. She was always dreaming. The entire
instinct of the child, he remembered, was for others, and she thought
of herself as little as did the sun--old tireless star that shines for
all.

'She's soaked in starlight,' he cried, as they went off headlong. 'We
shall find her in the Cave. Come on, you pair of lazy meteors.'

He was already far beyond the village, and the murmur of the woods
rose up to them. They entered the meshes of the Star Net that spun its
golden threads everywhere about them, linking up the Universe with
their very hearts.

'There are no eyes or puddles to-night. Everybody sleeps. Hooray,
hooray!' they cried together.

There were cross-currents, though. The main, broad, shining stream
poured downwards in front of them towards the opening of the Cave, a
mile or two beyond, where the forests dipped down among the precipices
of the Areuse; but from behind--from some house in the slumbering
village--came a golden tributary too, that had a peculiar and
astonishing brightness of its own. It came, so far as they could make
out, from the humped outline of La Citadelle, and from a particular
room there, as though some one in that building had a special source
of supply. Moreover, it scattered itself over the village in separate
swift rivulets that dived and dipped towards particular houses here
and there. There seemed a constant coming and going, one stream
driving straight into the Cave, and another pouring out again, yet
neither mingling. One stream brought supplies, while the other
directed their distribution. Some one, asleep or awake--they could not
tell--was thinking golden thoughts of love and sympathy for the world.

'It's Mlle. Lemaire,' said Jimbo. 'She's been in bed for thirty
years---' His voice was very soft.

'The Spine, you know,' exclaimed Monkey, a little in the rear.

'----and even in the daytime she looks white and shiny,' added the
boy. 'I often go and talk with her and tell her things.' He said it
proudly. 'She understands everything--better even than Mother.' Jimbo
had told most. It was all right. His leadership was maintained and
justified. They entered the main stream and plunged downwards with it
towards the earth--three flitting figures dipped in this store of
golden brilliance.

A delicious and wonderful thing then happened. All three remembered.

'This was where we met you first,' they told him, settling down among
the trees together side by side. 'We saw your teeth of gold. You came
in that train----'

'I was thinking about it--in England,' he exclaimed, 'and about coming
out to find you here.'

'The Starlight Express,' put in Jimbo.

'----and you were just coming up to speak to us when we woke, or you
woke, or somebody woke--and it all went,' said Monkey.

'That was when I stopped thinking about it,' he explained.

'It all vanished anyhow. And the next time was'--she paused a moment--
'you--we saw your two gold teeth again somewhere, and half recognised
you----'

It was the daylight world that seemed vague and dreamlike now, hard to
remember clearly.

'In another train--' Jimbo helped her, 'the Geneva omnibus that starts
at--at----' But even Jimbo could not recall further details.

'You're wumbled,' said Rogers, helping himself and the others at the
same time. 'You want some starlight to put you in touch again. Come
on; let's go in. We shall find all the others inside, I suspect, hard
at it.'

'At what?' asked two breathless voices.

'Collecting, of course--for others. Did you think they ate the stuff,
just to amuse themselves?'

'They glided towards the opening, cutting through the little tributary
stream that was pouring out on its way down the sky to that room in La
Citadelle. It was brighter than the main river, they saw, and shone
with a peculiar brilliance of its own, whiter and swifter than the
rest. Designs, moreover, like crystals floated on the crest of every
wave.

'That's the best quality,' he told them, as their faces shone a moment
in its glory. 'The person who deserves it must live entirely for
others. That he keeps only for the sad and lonely. The rest, the
common stuff, is good enough for Fraulein or for baby, or for mother,
or any other----' The words rose in him like flowers that he knew.

'Look out, _mon vieux_! 'It was Monkey's voice. They just had time to
stand aside as a figure shot past them and disappeared into the
darkness above the trees. A big bundle, dripping golden dust, hung
down his back.

'The Dustman!' they cried with excitement, easily recognising his
energetic yet stooping figure; and Jimbo added, 'the dear old
Dustman!' while Monkey somersaulted after him, returning breathless a
minute later with, 'He's gone; I couldn't get near him. He went
straight to La Citadelle----'

And then collided violently with the Lamplighter, whose pole of office
caught her fairly in the middle and sent her spinning like a
conjurer's plate till they feared she would never stop. She kept on
laughing the whole time she spun--like a catherine wheel that laughs
instead of splutters. The place where the pole caught her, however--it
was its lighted end--shines and glows to this day: the centre of her
little heart.

'Do let's be careful,' pleaded Jimbo, hardly approving of these wild
gyrations. He really did prefer his world a trifle more dignified. He
was ever the grave little gentleman.

They stooped to enter by the narrow opening, but were stopped again--
this time by some one pushing rudely past them to get in. From the
three points of the compass to which the impact scattered them, they
saw a shape of darkness squeeze itself, sack and all, to enter. An
ordinary man would have broken every bone in his body, judging by the
portion that projected into the air behind. But he managed it somehow,
though the discomfort must have been intolerable, they all thought.
The darkness dropped off behind him in flakes like discarded clothing;
he turned to gold as he went in; and the contents of his sack--he
poured it out like water--shone as though he squeezed a sponge just
dipped in the Milky Way.

'What a lot he's collected,' cried Rogers from his point of vantage
where he could see inside. 'It all gets purified and clean in there.
Wait a moment. He's coming out again--off to make another collection.'

And then they knew the man for what he was. He shot past them into the
night, carrying this time a flat and emptied sack, and singing like a
blackbird as he went:--

    Sweeping chimneys and cleaning flues,
    That is the work I love;
    Brushing away the blacks and the blues,
    And letting in light from above!
    I twirl my broom in your tired brain
    When you're tight in sleep up-curled,
    Then scatter the stuff in a soot-like rain
    Over the edge of the world.

The voice grew fainter and fainter in the distance--

    For I'm a tremendously busy Sweep,
    Catching the folk when they're all asleep,
    And tossing the blacks on the Rubbish Heap
    Over the edge of the world...!

The voice died away into the wind among the high branches, and they
heard it no more.

'There's a Sweep worth knowing,' murmured Rogers, strong yearning in
him.

'There are no blacks or blues in _my_ brain,' exclaimed Monkey, 'but
Jimbo's always got some on his face.'

The impudence passed ignored. Jimbo took his cousin's hand and led him
to the opening. The 'men' went in first together; the other sex might
follow as best it could. Yet somehow or other Monkey slipped between
their legs and got in before them. They stood up side by side in the
most wonderful place they had ever dreamed of.

And the first thing they saw was--Jane Anne.

'I'm collecting for Mother. Her needles want such a chronic lot, you
see.' Her face seemed full of stars; there was no puzzled expression
in the eyes now. She looked beautiful. And the younger children stared
in sheer amazement and admiration.

'I have no time to waste,' she said, moving past them with a load in
her spread apron that was like molten gold; 'I have to be up and awake
at six to make your porridge before you go to school. I'm a busy
monster, I can tell you!' She went by them like a flash, and out into
the night.

Monkey felt tears in her somewhere, but they did not fall. Something
in her turned ashamed--for a moment. Jimbo stared in silence. 'What a
girl!' he thought. 'I'd like to be like that!' Already the light was
sticking to him.

'So this is where she always comes,' said Monkey, soon recovering from
the temporary attack of emotion. 'She's better out than in; she's
safest when asleep! No wonder she's so funny in the daytime.'

Then they turned to look about them, breathing low as wild-flowers
that watch a rising moon.

The place was so big for one thing--far bigger than they had expected.
The storage of lost starlight must be a serious affair indeed if it
required all this space to hold it. The entire mountain range was
surely hollow. Another thing that struck them was the comparative
dimness of this huge interior compared with the brilliance of the
river outside. But, of course, lost things are ever dim, and those
worth looking for dare not be too easily found.

A million tiny lines of light, they saw, wove living, moving patterns,
very intricate and very exquisite. These lines and patterns the three
drew in with their very breath. They swallowed light--the tenderest
light the world can know. A scent of flowers--something between a
violet and a wild rose--floated over all. And they understood these
patterns while they breathed them in. They read them. Patterns in
Nature, of course, are fairy script. Here lay all their secrets
sweetly explained in golden writing, all mysteries made clear. The
three understood beyond their years; and inside-sight, instead of
glimmering, shone. For, somehow or other, the needs of other people
blazed everywhere, obliterating their own. It was most singular.

Monkey ceased from somersaulting and stared at Jimbo.

'You've got two stars in your face instead of eyes. They'll never
set!' she whispered. 'I love you because I understand every bit of
you.'

'And you,' he replied, as though he were a grande personne, 'have got
hair like a mist of fire. It will never go out!'

'Every one will love me now,' she cried, 'my underneath is gold.'

But her brother reproved her neatly:--

'Let's get a lot--simply an awful lot'--he made a grimace to signify
quantity--'and pour it over Daddy's head till it runs from his eyes
and beard. He'll write real fairy stories then and make a fortune.'

And Cousin Henry moved past them like a burning torch. They held their
breath to see him. Jane Anne, their busy sister, alone excelled him in
brightness. Her perfume, too, was sweeter.

'He's an old hand at this game,' Monkey said in French.

'But Jinny's never done anything else since she was born,' replied her
brother proudly.

And they all three fell to collecting, for it seemed the law of the
place, a kind of gravity none could disobey. They stooped--three semi-
circles of tender brilliance. Each lost the least desire to gather for
himself; the needs of others drove them, filled them, made them eager
and energetic.

'Riquette would like a bit,' cried Jimbo, almost balancing on his head
in his efforts to get it all at once, while Monkey's shining fingers
stuffed her blouse and skirts with sheaves of golden gossamer that
later she meant to spread in a sheet upon the pillow of Mademoiselle
Lemaire.

'She sleeps so little that she needs the best,' she sang, realising
for once that her own amusement was not the end of life. 'I'll make
her nights all wonder.'

Cousinenry, meanwhile, worked steadily like a man who knows his time
is short. He piled the stuff in heaps and pyramids, and then
compressed it into what seemed solid blocks that made his pockets
bulge like small balloons. Already a load was on his back that bent
him double.

'Such a tiny bit is useful,' he explained, 'if you know exactly how
and where to put it. This compression is my own patent.'

'Of course,' they echoed, trying in vain to pack it up as cleverly as
he did.

Nor were these three the only gatherers. The place was full of
movement. Jane Anne was always coming back for more, deigning no
explanations. She never told where she had spent her former loads. She
gathered an apron full, sped off to spend and scatter it in places she
knew of, and then came bustling in again for more. And they always
knew her whereabouts because of the whiter glory that she radiated
into the dim yellow world about them.

And other figures, hosts of them, were everywhere--stooping, picking,
loading one another's backs and shoulders. To and fro they shot and
glided, like Leonids in autumn round the Earth. All were collecting,
though the supply seemed never to grow less. An inexhaustible stream
poured in through the narrow opening, and scattered itself at once in
all directions as though driven by a wind. How could the world let so
much escape it, when it was what the world most needed every day. It
ran naturally into patterns, patterns that could be folded and rolled
up like silken tablecloths. In silence, too. There was no sound of
drops falling. Sparks fly on noiseless feet. Sympathy makes no bustle.

'Even on the thickest nights it falls,' a voice issued from a robust
patch of light beside them that stooped with huge brown hands all
knotted into muscles; 'and it's a mistake to think different.' His
voice rolled on into a ridiculous bit of singing:--

     It comes down with the rain drops,
     It comes down with the dew,
     There's always 'eaps for every one--
     For 'im and me and you.

They recognised his big face, bronzed by the sun, and his great neck
where lines drove into the skin like the rivers they drew with blunt
pencils on their tedious maps of Europe. It was several faces in one.
The Head Gardener was no stranger to their imaginations, for they
remembered him of old somewhere, though not quite sure exactly where.
He worked incessantly for others, though these 'others' were only
flowers and cabbages and fruit-trees. He did his share in the world,
he and his army of queer assistants, the under-gardeners.

Peals of laughter, too, sounded from time to time in a far away corner
of the cavern, and the laughter sent all the stuff it reached into
very delicate, embroidered patterns. For it was merry and infectious
laughter, joy somewhere in it like a lamp. It bordered upon singing;
another touch would send it rippling into song. And to that far
corner, attracted by the sound, ran numberless rivulets of light,
weaving a lustrous atmosphere about the Laugher that, even while it
glowed, concealed the actual gatherer from sight. The children only
saw that the patterns were even more sweet and dainty than their own.
And they understood. Inside-sight explained the funny little mystery.
Laughter is magical--brings light and help and courage. They laughed
themselves then, and instantly saw their own patterns wave and tremble
into tiny outlines that they could squeeze later even into the
darkest, thickest head.

Cousinenry, meanwhile, they saw, stopped for nothing. He was singing
all the time as he bent over his long, outstretched arms. And it was
the singing after all that made the best patterns--better even than
the laughing. He knew all the best tricks of this Star Cave. He
remained their leader.

And the stuff no hands picked up ran on and on, seeking a way of
escape for itself. Some sank into the ground to sweeten the body of
the old labouring earth, colouring the roots of myriad flowers; some
soaked into the rocky walls, tinting the raw materials of hills and
woods and mountain tops. Some escaped into the air in tiny drops that,
meeting in moonlight or in sunshine, instantly formed wings. And
people saw a brimstone butterfly--all wings and hardly any body. All
went somewhere for some useful purpose. It was not in the nature of
star-stuff to keep still. Like water that must go down-hill, the law
of its tender being forced it to find a place where it could fasten on
and shine. It never could get wholly lost; though, if the place it
settled on was poor, it might lose something of its radiance. But
human beings were obviously what most attracted it. Sympathy must find
an outlet; thoughts are bound to settle somewhere.

And the gatherers all sang softly--'Collect for others, never mind
yourself!'

Some of it, too, shot out by secret ways in the enormous roof. The
children recognised the exit of the separate brilliant stream they had
encountered in the sky--the one especially that went to the room of
pain and sickness in La Citadelle. Again they understood. That
unselfish thinker of golden thoughts knew special sources of supply.
No wonder that her atmosphere radiated sweetness and uplifting
influence. Her patience, smiles, and courage were explained. Passing
through the furnace of her pain, the light was cleansed and purified.
Hence the delicate, invariable radiation from her presence, voice, and
eyes. From the bed of suffering she had not left for thirty years she
helped the world go round more sweetly and more easily, though few
divined those sudden moments of beauty they caught flashing from her
halting words, nor guessed their source of strength.

'Of course,' thought Jimbo, laughing, 'I see now why I like to go and
tell her everything. She understands all before I've said it. She's
simply stuffed with starlight--bursting with inside-sight.'

'That's sympathy,' his cousin added, hearing the vivid thought. And he
worked away like an entire ant-heap. But he was growing rather
breathless now. 'There's too much for me,' he laughed as though his
mouth were full. 'I can't manage it all!' He was wading to the waist,
and his coat and trousers streamed with runnels of orange-coloured
light.

'Swallow it then!' cried Monkey, her hair so soaked that she kept
squeezing it like a sponge, both eyes dripping too.

It was their first real experience of the joy of helping others, and
they hardly knew where to begin or end. They romped and played in the
stuff like children in sand or snow--diving, smothering themselves,
plunging, choking, turning somersaults, upsetting each other's
carefully reared loads, and leaping over little pyramids of gold.
Then, in a flash, their laughter turned the destroyed heaps into
wonderful new patterns again; and once more they turned sober and
began to work.

But their cousin was more practical. 'I've got all I can carry
comfortably,' he sang out at length. 'Let's go out now and sow it
among the sleepers. Come on!'

A field of stars seemed to follow him from the roof as he moved with
difficulty towards the opening of the cave.

Some one shot out just in front of him. 'My last trip!' The words
reached them from outside. His bulging figure squeezed somehow through
the hole, layers of light scraping off against the sides. The children
followed him. But no one stuck. All were beautifully elastic; the
starlight oiled and greased their daring, subtle star-bodies. Laden to
the eyes, they sped across the woods that still slept heavily. The
tips of the pines, however, were already opening a million eyes. There
was a faint red glimmer in the east. Hours had passed while they were
collecting.

'The Interfering Sun is on the way. Look out!' cried some one,
shooting past them like an unleashed star. 'I must get just a little
more--my seventeenth journey to-night!' And Jane Anne, the puzzled
look already come back a little into her face, darted down towards the
opening. The waking of the body was approaching.

'What a girl!' thought Jimbo again, as they hurried after their grown-
up cousin towards the village.

And here, but for the leadership of Cousin Henry, they must have gone
astray and wasted half their stores in ineffective fashion. Besides,
the east was growing brighter, and there was a touch of confusion in
their little star-bodies as sleep grew lighter and the moment of the
body's waking drew nearer.

Ah! the exquisite adjustment that exists between the night and day
bodies of children! It is little wonder that with the process of
growing-up there comes a coarsening that congeals the fluid passages
of exit, and finally seals the memory centres too. Only in a few can
this delicate adjustment be preserved, and the sources of inspiration
known to children be kept available and sweet--in the poets, dreamers,
and artists of this practical, steel-girdled age.

'This way,' called Cousinenry. 'Follow me.' They settled down in a
group among Madame Jequier's lilacs. 'We'll begin with the Pension des
Glycines. Jinny is already busy with La Citadelle.'

They perched among the opening blossoms. Overhead flashed by the
Sweep, the Dustman, and the Laugher, bound for distant ports, perhaps
as far as England. The Head Gardener lumbered heavily after them to
find his flowers and trees. Starlight, they grasped, could be no
separate thing. The rays started, indeed, from separate points, but
all met later in the sky to weave this enormous fairy network in which
the currents and cross-currents and criss-cross-currents were so
utterly bewildering. Alone, the children certainly must have got lost
in the first five minutes.

Their cousin gathered up the threads from Monkey's hair and Jimbo's
eyes, and held them in one hand like reins. He sang to them a moment
while they recovered their breath and forces:--


     The stars in their courses
     Are runaway horses
     That gallop with Thoughts from the Earth;
     They collect them, and race
     Back through wireless space,
     Bringing word of the tiniest birth;
     Past old Saturn and Mars,
     And the hosts of big stars,
     Who strain at their leashes for joy.
     Kind thoughts, like fine weather,
       Bind sweetly together
       God's suns--with the heart of a boy.

    So, beware what you think;
    It is written in ink
    That is golden, and read by His Stars!

'Hadn't we better get on?' cried Monkey, pulling impatiently at the
reins he held.

'Yes,' echoed Jimbo. 'Look at the sky. The "rapide" from Paris comes
past at six o'clock.'




CHAPTER XVI


    Aus den Himmelsaugen droben
    Fallen zitternd goldne Funken
    Durch die Nacht, und meine Seele
    Dehnt sich liebeweit und weiter.

    O ihr Himmelsaugen droben,
    Weint euch aus in meine Seele,
    Dass von lichten Sternentranen
    Uberfliesset meine Seele!
                        Heine.


They rose, fluttered a moment above the lilac bushes, and then shot
forward like the curve of a rainbow into the sleeping house. The next
second they stood beside the bed of the Widow Jequier.

She lay there, so like a bundle of untidy sticks that, but for the
sadness upon the weary face, they could have burst out laughing. The
perfume of the wistaria outside the open window came in sweetly, yet
could not lighten the air of heavy gloom that clothed her like a
garment. Her atmosphere was dull, all streaked with greys and black,
for her mind, steeped in anxiety even while she slept, gave forth
cloudy vapours of depression and disquietude that made impossible the
approach of--light. Starlight, certainly, could not force an entrance,
and even sunlight would spill half its radiance before it reached her
heart. The help she needed she thus deliberately shut out. Before
going to bed her mood had been one of anxious care and searching
worry. It continued, of course, in sleep.

'Now,' thought their leader briskly, 'we must deal with this at once';
and the children, understanding his unspoken message, approached
closer to the bed. How brilliant their little figures were--Jimbo, a
soft, pure blue, and Monkey tinged faintly here and there with
delicate clear orange. Thus do the little clouds of sunset gather
round to see the sun get into bed. And in utter silence; all their
intercourse was silent--thought, felt, but never spoken.

For a moment there was hesitation. Cousinenry was uncertain exactly
how to begin. Tante Jeanne's atmosphere was so very thick he hardly
knew the best way to penetrate it. Her mood had been so utterly black
and rayless. But his hesitation operated like a call for help that
flew instantly about the world and was communicated to the golden
threads that patterned the outside sky. They quivered, flashed the
message automatically; the enormous network repeated it as far as
England, and the answer came. For thought is instantaneous, and desire
is prayer. Quick as lightning came the telegram. Beside them stood a
burly figure of gleaming gold.

'I'll do it,' said the earthy voice. 'I'll show you 'ow. For she loves
'er garden. Her sympathy with trees and flowers lets me in. Always
send for _me_ when she's in a mess, or needs a bit of trimmin' and
cleanin' up.'

The Head Gardener pushed past them with his odour of soil and burning
leaves, his great sunburned face and his browned, stained hands. These
muscular, big hands he spread above her troubled face; he touched her
heart; he blew his windy breath of flowers upon her untidy hair; he
called the names of lilac, wistaria, roses, and laburnum....

The room filled with the little rushing music of wind in leaves; and,
as he said 'laburnum,' there came at last a sudden opening channel
through the fog that covered her so thickly. Starlight, that was like
a rivulet of laburnum blossoms melted into running dew, flowed down
it. The Widow Jequier stirred in her sleep and smiled. Other channels
opened. Light trickled down these, too, drawn in and absorbed from the
store the Gardener carried. Then, with a rush of scattering fire, he
was gone again. Out into the enormous sky he flew, trailing golden
flame behind him. They heard him singing as he dived into the Network
--singing of buttercups and cowslips, of primroses and marigolds and
dandelions, all yellow flowers that have stored up starlight.

And the atmosphere of Tante Jeanne first glowed, then shone; it
changed slowly from gloom to glory. Golden channels opened everywhere,
making a miniature network of their own. Light flashed and corruscated
through it, passing from the children and their leader along the tiny
pipes of sympathy the Gardener had cleared of rubbish and decay. Along
the very lines of her face ran tiny shining rivers; flooding across
her weary eyelids, gilding her untidy hair, and pouring down into her
heavy heart. She ceased fidgeting; she smiled in her sleep; peace
settled on her face; her fingers on the coverlet lost their touch of
strain. Finally she turned over, stretched her old fighting body into
a more comfortable position, sighed a moment, then settled down into a
deep and restful slumber. Her atmosphere was everywhere 'soft-shiny'
when they left her to shoot next into the attic chamber above, where
Miss Waghorn lay among her fragments of broken memory, and the litter
of disordered images that passed with her for 'thinking.'

And here, again, although their task was easier, they needed help to
show the right way to begin. Before they reached the room Jimbo had
wondered how they would 'get at' her. That wonder summoned help. The
tall, thin figure was already operating beside the bed as they
entered. His length seemed everywhere at once, and his slender pole, a
star hanging from the end, was busy touching articles on walls and
floor and furniture. The disorder everywhere was the expression of her
dishevelled mind, and though he could not build the ruins up again, at
least he could trace the outlines of an ordered plan that she might
use when she left her body finally and escaped from the rebellious
instrument in death. And now that escape was not so very far away.
Obviously she was already loose. She was breaking up, as the world
expresses it.

And the children, watching with happy delight, soon understood his
method. Each object that he touched emitted a tiny light. In her mind
he touched the jumble of wandering images as well. On waking she would
find both one and the other better assorted. Some of the lost things
her memory ever groped for she would find more readily. She would see
the starlight on them.

'See,' said their leader softly, as the long thin figure of the
Lamplighter shot away into the night, 'she sleeps so lightly because
she is so old--fastened so delicately to the brain and heart. The
fastenings are worn and loose now. Already she is partly out!'

'That's why she's so muddled in the daytime,' explained Jimbo, for his
sister's benefit.

'Exaccurately, I knew it already!' was the reply, turning a somersault
like a wheel of twirling meteors close to the old lady's nose.

'Carefully, now!' said their leader. 'And hurry up! There's not much
we can do here, and there's heaps to do elsewhere. We must remember
Mother and Daddy--before the Interfering Sun is up, you know.'

They flashed about the attic chamber, tipping everything with light,
from the bundle of clothes that strewed the floor to the confused
interior of the black basket-trunk where she kept her money and
papers. There were no shelves in this attic chamber; no room for
cupboards either; it was the cheapest room in the house. And the old
woman in the bed sometimes opened her eyes and peered curiously,
expectantly, about her. Even in her sleep she looked for things.
Almost, they felt, she seemed aware of their presence near her, she
knew that they were there; she smiled.

A moment later they were in mid-air on their way to the Citadelle,
singing as they went:--

    He keeps that only
    For the old and lonely,
    Who sleep so little that they need the best.
      The rest--
      The common stuff--
      Is good enough
    For Fraulein, or for baby, or for mother,
      Or any other
      Who likes a bit of dust,
      And yet can do without it--
         If they must...

Already something of the Dawn's faint magic painting lay upon the
world. Roofs shone with dew. The woods were singing, and the flowers
were awake. Birds piped and whistled shrilly from the orchards. They
heard the Mer Dasson murmuring along her rocky bed. The rampart of the
Alps stood out more clearly against the sky.

'We must be _very_ quick,' Cousin Henry flashed across to them,
'quicker than an express train.'

'That's impossible,' cried Jimbo, who already felt the call of waking
into his daily world. 'Hark! There's whistling already....'

The next second, in a twinkling, he was gone. He had left them. His
body had been waked up by the birds that sang and whistled so loudly
in the plane tree outside his window. Monkey and her guide raced on
alone into the very room where he now sat up and rubbed his eyes in
the Citadelle. He was telling his mother that he had just been
'dreaming extraordinary.' But Mother, sleeping like a fossil monster
in the Tertiary strata, heard him not.

'He often goes like that,' whispered Monkey in a tone of proud
superiority. 'He's only a little boy really, you see.'

But the sight they then witnessed was not what they expected.

For Mademoiselle Lemaire herself was working over Mother like an
engine, and Mother was still sleeping like the dead. The radiance that
emanated from the night-body of this suffering woman, compared to
their own, was as sunlight is to candle-light. Its soft glory was
indescribable, its purity quite unearthly, and the patterns that it
wove lovely beyond all telling. Here they surprised her in the act,
busy with her ceaseless activities for others, working for the world
by _thinking_ beauty. While her pain-racked body lay asleep in the bed
it had not left for thirty years, nor would ever leave again this side
of death, she found her real life in loving sympathy for the pain of
others everywhere. For thought is prayer, and prayer is the only true
effective action that leaves no detail incomplete. She _thought_ light
and glory into others. Was it any wonder that she drew a special,
brilliant supply from the Starlight Cavern, when she had so much to
give? For giving-out involved drawing-in to fill the emptied spaces.
Her pure and endless sources of supply were all explained.

'I've been working on her for years,' she said gently, looking round
at their approach, 'for her life is so thickly overlaid with care, and
the care she never quite knows how to interpret. We were friends, you
see, in childhood.... You'd better hurry on to the carpenter's house.
You'll find Jinny there doing something for her father.' She did not
cease her working while she said it, this practical mind so familiar
with the methods of useful thinking, this loving heart so versed in
prayer while her broken body, deemed useless by the world, lay in the
bed that was its earthly prison-house. '_He_ can give me all the help
I need,' she added.

She pointed, and they saw the figure of the Sweep standing in the
corner of the room among a pile of brimming sacks. His dirty face was
beaming. They heard him singing quietly to himself under his breath,
while his feet and sooty hands marked time with a gesture of quaintest
dancing:--

     _Such_ a tremendously busy Sweep,
     Catching the world when it's all asleep,
     And tossing the blacks on the Rubbish Heap
       Over the edge of the world!

'Come,' whispered Cousin Henry, catching at Monkey's hair, 'we can do
something, but we can't do _that_. She needs no help from us!'

They sped across to the carpenter's house among the vineyards.

'What a splendour!' gasped the child as they went. 'My starlight seems
quite dim beside hers.'

'She's an old hand at the game,' he replied, noticing the tinge of
disappointment in her thought. 'With practice, you know----'

'And Mummy must be pretty tough,' she interrupted with a laugh, her
elastic nature recovering instantly.

'----with practice, I was going to say, your atmosphere will get
whiter too until it simply shines. That's why the saints have halos.'

But Monkey did not hear this last remark, she was already in her
father's bedroom, helping Jinny.

Here there were no complications, no need for assistance from a Sweep,
or Gardener, or Lamplighter. It was a case for pulling, pure and
simple. Daddy was wumbled, nothing more. Body, mind, and heart were
all up-jumbled. In making up the verse about the starlight he had
merely told the truth--about himself. The poem was instinctive and
inspirational confession. His atmosphere, as he lay there, gently
snoring in his beauty sleep, was clear and sweet and bright, no
darkness in it of grey or ugliness; but its pattern was a muddle, or
rather there were several patterns that scrambled among each other for
supremacy. Lovely patterns hovered just outside him, but none of them
got really in. And the result was chaos. Daddy was not clear-headed;
there was no concentration. Something of the perplexed confusion that
afflicted his elder daughter in the daytime mixed up the patterns
inextricably. There was no main pathway through his inner world.

And the picture proved it. It explained why Jinny pulled in vain. His
night-body came out easily as far as the head, then stuck hopelessly.
He looked like a knotted skein of coloured wools. Upon the paper where
he had been making notes before going to sleep--for personal
atmosphere is communicated to all its owner touches--lay the same
confusion. Scraps of muddle, odds and ends of different patterns,
hovered in thick blots of colour over the paragraphs and sentences.
His own uncertainty was thus imparted to what he wrote, and his
stories brought no conviction to his readers. He was too much the
Dreamer, or too much the Thinker, which of the two was not quite
clear. Harmony was lacking.

'That's probably what I'M like, too,' thought his friend, but so
softly that the children did not hear it. That Scheme of his passed
vaguely through his mind.

Then he cried louder--a definite thought:--

'There's no good tugging like that, my dears. Let him slip in again.
You'll only make him restless, and give him distorted dreams.'

'I've tugged like this every night for months,' said Jinny, 'but the
moment I let go he flies back like elastic.'

'Of course. We must first untie the knots and weave the patterns into
one. Let go!'

Daddy's night-body flashed back like a sword into its sheath. They
stood and watched him. He turned a little in his sleep, while above
him the lines twined and wriggled like phosphorus on moving water, yet
never shaped themselves into anything complete. They saw suggestions
of pure beauty in them here and there that yet never joined together
into a single outline; it was like watching the foam against a
steamer's sides in moonlight--just failing of coherent form.

'They want combing out,' declared Jane Anne with a brilliant touch of
truth. 'A rake would be best.'

'Assorting, sifting, separating,' added Cousinenry, 'but it's not
easy.' He thought deeply for a moment. 'Suppose you two attend to the
other things,' he said presently, 'while I take charge of the combing-
out.'

They knew at once his meaning; it was begun as soon as thought, only
they could never have thought of it alone; none but a leader with real
sympathy in his heart could have discovered the way.

Like Fairies, lit internally with shining lanterns, they flew about
their business. Monkey picked up his pencils and dipped their points
into her store of starlight, while Jinny drew the cork out of his ink-
pot and blew in soft-shiny radiance of her own. They soaked his books
in it, and smoothed his paper out with their fingers of clean gold.
His note-books, chair, and slippers, his smoking-coat and pipes and
tobacco-tins, his sponge, his tooth-brush and his soap--everything
from dressing-gown to dictionary, they spread thickly with their
starlight, and continued until the various objects had drunk in enough
to make them shine alone.

Then they attacked the walls and floor and ceiling, sheets and bed-
clothes. They filled the tin-bath full to the very brim, painted as
well the windows, door-handles, and the wicker chair in which they
knew he dozed after dejeuner. But with the pencils, pens, and ink-pots
they took most trouble, doing them very thoroughly indeed. And his
enormous mountain-boots received generous treatment too, for in these
he went for his long lonely walks when he thought out his stories
among the woods and valleys, coming home with joy upon his face--'I
got a splendid idea to-day--a magnificent story--if only I can get it
on to paper before it's gone...!' They understood his difficulty now:
the 'idea' was wumbled before he could fashion it. He could not get
the pattern through complete.

And his older friend, working among the disjointed patterns, saw his
trouble clearly too. It was not that he lacked this sympathy that
starlight brings, but that he applied it without discernment. The
receiving instrument was out of order, some parts moving faster than
others. Reason and imagination were not exaccurately adjusted. He
gathered plenty in, but no clear stream issued forth again; there was
confusion in delivery. The rays were twisted, the golden lines caught
into knots and tangles. Yet, ever just outside him, waiting to be
taken in, hovered these patterns of loveliness that might bring joy to
thousands. They floated in beauty round the edges of his atmosphere,
but the moment they sank in to reach his mind, there began the
distortion that tore their exquisite proportions and made designs mere
disarrangement. Inspiration, without steady thought to fashion it, was
of no value.

He worked with infinite pains to disentangle the mass of complicated
lines, and one knot after another yielded and slipped off into
rivulets of gold, all pouring inwards to reach heart and brain. It was
exhilarating, yet disappointing labour. New knots formed themselves so
easily, yet in the end much surely had been accomplished. Channels had
been cleared; repetition would at length establish habit.

But the line of light along the eastern horizon had been swiftly
growing broader meanwhile. It was brightening into delicate crimson.
Already the room was clearer, and the radiance of their bodies fading
into a paler glory. Jane Anne grew clumsier, tumbling over things, and
butting against her more agile sister. Her thoughts became more
muddled. She said things from time to time that showed it--hints that
waking was not far away.

'Daddy's a wumbled Laplander, you know, after all. Hurry up!' The
foolish daylight speech came closer.

'Give his ink-pot one more blow,' cried Monkey. Her body always slept
at least an hour longer than the others. She had more time for work.

Jane Anne bumped into the washhand-stand. She no longer saw quite
clearly.

'I'm a plenipotentiary, that's what I am. I'm afraid of nothing. But
the porridge has to be made. I must get back....'

She vanished like a flash, just as her brother had vanished half an
hour before.

'We'll go on with it to-morrow night,' signalled Cousin Henry to his
last remaining helper. 'Meet me here, remember, when...the moon...is
high enough to...cast...a...shadow....'

The opening and shutting of a door sounded through his sleep. He
turned over heavily. Surely it was not time to get up yet. That could
not be hot water coming! He had only just fallen asleep. He plunged
back again into slumber.

But Monkey had disappeared.

'What a spanking dream I've had...!' Her eyes opened, and she saw her
school-books on the chair beside the bed. Mother was gently shaking
her out of sleep. 'Six o'clock, darling. The bath is ready, and
Jinny's nearly got the porridge done. It's a lovely morning!'

'Oh, Mummy, I----'

But Mummy lifted her bodily out of bed, kissed her sleepy eyes awake,
and half carried her over to the bath. 'You can tell me all about that
later,' she said with practical decision; 'when the cold water's
cleared your head. You're always fuzzy when you wake.'

Another day had begun. The sun was blazing high above the Blumlisalp.
The birds sang in chorus. Dew shone still on the fields, but the men
were already busy in the vineyards.

And presently Cousin Henry woke too and stared lazily about his room.
He looked at his watch.

'By Jove,' he murmured. 'How one does sleep in this place! And what a
dream to be sure--I who never dream!'

He remembered nothing more. From the moment he closed his eyes, eight
hours before, until this second, all was a delicious blank. He felt
refreshed and wondrously light-hearted, at peace with all the world.
There was music in his head. He began to whistle as he lay among the
blankets for half an hour longer. And later, while he breakfasted
alone downstairs, he remembered that he ought to write to Minks. He
owed Minks a letter. And before going out into the woods he wrote it.
'I'm staying on a bit,' he mentioned at the end. 'I find so much to do
here, and it's such a rest. Meanwhile I can leave everything safely in
your hands. But as soon as I get a leisure moment I'll send you the
promised draft of my Scheme for Disabled, etc., etc.'

But the Scheme got no further somehow. New objections, for one thing,
kept cropping up in his mind. It would take so long to build the
place, and find the site, satisfy County Councils, and all the rest.
The Disabled, moreover, were everywhere; it was invidious to select
one group and leave the others out. Help the world, yes--but what was
'the world'? There were so many worlds. He touched a new one every day
and every hour. Which needed his help most? Bourcelles was quite as
important, quite as big and hungry as any of the others. 'That old
Vicar knew a thing or two,' he reflected later in the forest, while he
gathered a bunch of hepaticas and anemones to take to Mlle. Lemaire.
'There are "neighbours" everywhere, the world's simply chock full of
'em. But what a pity that we die just when we're getting fit and ready
to begin. Perhaps we go on afterwards, though. I wonder...!'




CHAPTER XVII


    The stars ran loose about the sky,
    Wasting their beauty recklessly,
      Singing and dancing,
      Shooting and prancing,
    Until the Pole Star took command,
    Changing each wild, disordered band
    Into a lamp to guide the land--
         A constellation.

    And so, about my mind and yours,
    Thought dances, shoots, and wastes its powers,
      Coming and going,
      Aimlessly flowing,
    Until the Pole Star of the Will
    Captains them wisely, strong, and still,
    Some dream for others to fulfil
         With consecration.
                 Selected Poems, Montmorency Minke.

There was a certain air of unreality somewhere in the life at
Bourcelles that ministered to fantasy. Rogers had felt it steal over
him from the beginning. It was like watching a children's play in
which the scenes were laid alternately in the Den, the Pension, and
the Forest. Side by side with the grim stern facts of existence ran
the coloured spell of fairy make-believe. It was the way they mingled,
perhaps, that ministered to this spirit of fantasy.

There were several heroines for instance--Tante Jeanne, Mademoiselle
Lemaire, and Mother; each played her role quite admirably. There were
the worthy sterling men who did their duty dumbly, regardless of
consequences--Daddy, the Postmaster, and the picturesque old clergyman
with failing powers. There was the dark, uncertain male character, who
might be villain, yet who might prove extra hero--the strutting
postman of baronial ancestry; there was the role of quaint pathetic
humour Miss Waghorn so excellently filled, and there were the honest
rough-and-tumble comedians--half mischievous, half malicious--the
retired governesses. Behind them all, brought on chiefly in scenes of
dusk and moonlight, were the Forest Elves who, led by Puck, were
responsible for the temporary confusion that threatened disaster, yet
was bound to have a happy ending--the children. It was all a
children's play set in the lovely scenery of mountain, forest, lake,
and old-world garden.

Numerous other characters also flitted in and out. There was the cat,
the bird, the donkey as in pantomime; goblin caves and haunted valleys
and talking flowers; and the queer shadowy folk who came to the
Pension in the summer months, then vanished into space again. Links
with the outside world were by no means lacking. As in the theatre,
one caught now and again the rumble of street traffic and the roar of
everyday concerns. But these fell in by chance during quiet intervals,
and served to heighten contrast only.

And so many of the principal roles were almost obviously assumed,
interchangeable almost; any day the players might drop their wigs, rub
off the paint, and appear otherwise, as they were in private life. The
Widow Jequier's husband, for instance, had been a _pasteur_ who had
gone later into the business of a wine-merchant. She herself was not
really the keeper of a Pension for Jeune Filles, but had drifted into
it owing to her husband's disastrous descent from pulpit into cellar--
understudy for some one who had forgotten to come on. The Postmaster,
too, had originally been a photographer, whose funereal aspect had
sealed his failure in that line. His customers could never smile and
look pleasant. The postman, again, was a baron in disguise--in private
life he had a castle and retainers; and even Gygi, the gendarme, was a
make-believe official who behind the scenes was a _vigneron_ and
farmer in a very humble way. Daddy, too, seemed sometimes but a tinsel
author dressed up for the occasion, and absurdly busy over books that
no one ever saw on railway bookstalls. While Mademoiselle Lemaire was
not in fact and verity a suffering, patient, bed-ridden lady, but a
princess who escaped from her disguise at night into glory and great
beneficent splendour.

Mother alone was more real than the other players. There was no make-
believe about Mother. She thundered across the stage and stood before
the footlights, interrupting many a performance with her stubborn
common-sense and her grip upon difficult grave issues. 'This
performance will finish at such and such an hour,' was her cry. 'Get
your wraps ready. It will be cold when you go out. And see that you
have money handy for your 'bus fares home!' Yes, Mother was real. She
knew some facts of life at least. She knitted the children's stockings
and did the family mending.

Yet Rogers felt, even with her, that she was merely waiting. She knew
the cast was not complete as yet. She waited. They all waited--for
some one. These were rehearsals; Rogers himself had dropped in also
merely as an understudy. Another role was vacant, and it was the
principal role. There was no one in the company who could play it,
none who could understudy it even. Neither Rogers nor Daddy could
learn the lines or do the 'business.' The part was a very important
one, calling for a touch of genius to be filled adequately. And it was
a feminine role. For here was a Fairy Play without a Fairy Queen.
There was not even a Fairy Princess!

This idea of a representation, all prepared specially for himself,
induced a very happy state of mind; he felt restful, calm, at peace
with all the world. He had only to sit in his stall and enjoy. But it
brought, too, this sense of delicate bewilderment that was continually
propounding questions to which he found no immediate answer. With the
rest of the village, he stood still while Time flowed past him. Later,
with Minks, he would run after it and catch it up again. Minks would
pick out the lost clues. Minks stood on the banks--in London--noting
the questions floating by and landing them sometimes with a rod and
net. His master would deal with them by and by; but just now he could
well afford to wait and enjoy himself. It was a holiday; there was no
hurry; Minks held the fort meanwhile and sent in reports at intervals.

And the sweet spring weather continued; days were bright and warm; the
nights were thick with stars. Rogers postponed departure on the
flimsiest reasons. It was no easy thing to leave Bourcelles. 'Next
week the muguet will be over in the vallon vert. We must pick it
quickly together for Tante Anna.' Jinny brought every spring flower to
Mademoiselle Lemaire in this way the moment they appeared. Her room
was a record of their sequence from week to week. And Jimbo knew
exactly where to find them first; his mind was a time-table of flowers
as well as of trains, dates of arrival, and stations where they grew.
He knew it all exaccurately. This kind of fact with him was never
wumbled. 'Soon the sabot de Venus will be in flower at the Creux du
Van, but it takes time to find it. It's most awfully rare, you see.
You'll have to climb beyond the fontaine froide. That's past the Ferme
Robert, between Champ du Moulin and Noiraigue. The snow ought to be
gone by now. We'll go and hunt for it. I'll take you in--oh, in about
deux semaines--comme ca.' Alone, those dangerous cliffs were out of
bounds for him, but if he went with Cousinenry, permission could not
be refused. Jimbo knew what he was about. And he took for granted that
his employer would never leave Bourcelles again. 'Thursday and
Saturday would be the best days,' he added. They were his half-
holidays, but he did not say so. Secretaries, he knew, did not have
half-holidays comme ca. 'Je suis son vrai secretaire,' he had told
Mademoiselle Lemaire, who had confirmed it with a grave mais oui. No
one but Mother heard the puzzled question one night when he was being
tucked into bed; it was asked with just a hint of shame upon a very
puckered little face--'But, Mummy, what really _is_ a sekrity?'

And so Rogers, from day to day, stayed on, enjoying himself and
resting. The City would have called it loafing, but in the City the
schedule of values was a different one. Meanwhile the bewilderment he
felt at first gradually disappeared. He no longer realised it, that
is. While still outside, attacked by it, he had realised the soft
entanglement. Now he was in it, caught utterly, a prisoner. He was no
longer mere observer. He was part and parcel of it. 'What does a few
weeks matter out of a whole strenuous life?' he argued. 'It's all to
the good, this holiday. I'm storing up strength and energy for future
use. My Scheme can wait a little. I'm thinking things out meanwhile.'

He often went into the forest alone to think his things out, and
'things' always meant his Scheme ... but the more he thought about it
the more distant and impracticable seemed that wondrous Scheme. He had
the means, the love, the yearning, all in good condition, waiting to
be put to practical account. In his mind, littered more and more now
with details that Minks not infrequently sent in, this great Scheme by
which he had meant to help the world ran into the confusion of new
issues that were continually cropping up. Most of these were caused by
the difficulty of knowing his money spent exactly as he wished, not
wasted, no pound of it used for adornment, whether salaries, uniforms,
fancy stationery, or unnecessary appearances, whatever they might be.
Whichever way he faced it, and no matter how carefully thought out
were the plans that Minks devised, these leakages cropped up and
mocked him. Among a dozen propositions his original clear idea went
lost, and floundered. It came perilously near to wumbling itself away
altogether.

For one thing, there were rivals on the scene--his cousin's family,
the education of these growing children, the difficulties of the Widow
Jequier, some kind of security he might ensure to old Miss Waghorn,
the best expert medical attendance for Mademoiselle Lemaire ... and
his fortune was after all a small one as fortunes go. Only his simple
scale of personal living could make these things possible at all. Yet
here, at least, he would know that every penny went exaccurately where
it was meant to go, and accomplished the precise purpose it was
intended to accomplish.

And the more he thought about it, the more insistent grew the claims
of little Bourcelles, and the more that portentous Scheme for Disabled
Thingumabobs faded into dimness. The old Vicar's words kept singing in
his head: 'The world is full of Neighbours. Bring them all back to
Fairyland.' He thought things out in his own way and at his leisure.
He loved to wander alone among the mountains... thinking in this way.
His thoughts turned to his cousin's family, their expenses, their
difficulties, the curious want of harmony somewhere. For the
conditions in which the _famille anglaise_ existed, he had soon
discovered, were those of muddle pure and simple, yet of muddle on so
large a scale that it was fascinating and even exhilarating. It must
be lovely, he reflected, to live so carelessly. They drifted. Chance
forces blew them hither and thither as gusts of wind blow autumn
leaves. Five years in a place and then--a gust that blew them
elsewhere. Thus they had lived five years in a London suburb, thinking
it permanent; five years in a lonely Essex farm, certain they would
never abandon country life; and five years, finally, in the Jura
forests.

Neither parent, though each was estimable, worthy, and entirely of
good repute, had the smallest faculty for seeing life whole; each
studied closely a small fragment of it, the fragment limited by the
Monday and the Saturday of next week, or, in moments of optimistic
health, the fragment that lies between the first and thirty-first of a
single month. Of what lay beyond, they talked; oh, yes, they talked
voluminously and with detail that sounded impressive to a listener,
but somehow in circles that carried them no further than the starting-
point, or in spirals that rose higher with each sentence and finally
lifted them bodily above the solid ground. It was merely talk--
ineffective--yet the kind that makes one feel it has accomplished
something and so brings the false security of carelessness again.
Neither one nor other was head of the house. They took it in turns,
each slipping by chance into that onerous position, supported but
uncoveted by the other. Mother fed the children, mended everything,
sent them to the dentist when their teeth ached badly, but never
before as a preventative, and--trusted to luck.

'Daddy,' she would say in her slow gentle way, 'I do wish we could be
more practical sometimes. Life is such a business, isn't it?' And they
would examine in detail the grain of the stable door now that the
horse had escaped, then close it very carefully.

'I really must keep books,' he would answer, 'so that we can see
exactly how we stand,' having discovered at the end of laborious
calculation concerning the cost of the proposed Geneva schooling for
Jinny that they had reckoned in shillings instead of francs. And then,
with heads together, they selected for their eldest boy a profession
utterly unsuited to his capacities, with coaching expenses far beyond
their purses, and with the comforting consideration that 'there's a
pension attached to it, you see, for when he's old.'

Similarly, having planned minutely, and with personal sacrifice, to
save five francs in one direction, they would spend that amount
unnecessarily in another. They felt they had it to spend, as though it
had been just earned and already jingled in their pockets. Daddy would
announce he was walking into Neuchatel to buy tobacco. 'Better take
the tram,' suggested Mother, 'it's going to rain. You save shoe
leather, too,' she added laughingly. 'Will you be back to tea?' He
thought not; he would get a cup of tea in town. 'May I come, too?'
from Jimbo. 'Why not?' thought Mother. 'Take him with you, he'll enjoy
the trip.' Monkey and Jane Ann, of course, went too. They _all_ had
tea in a shop, and bought chocolate into the bargain. The  five francs
melted into--nothing, for tea at home was included in their Pension
terms. Saving is in the mind. There was no system in their life.

'It would be jolly, yes, if you could earn a little something regular
besides your work,' agreed Mother, when he thought of learning a
typewriter to copy his own books, and taking in work to copy for
others too.

'I'll do it,' he decided with enthusiasm that was forgotten before he
left the room ten minutes later.

It was the same with the suggestion of teaching English. He had much
spare time, and could easily have earned a pound a week by giving
lessons, and a pound a week is fifty pounds a year--enough to dress
the younger children easily. The plan was elaborated laboriously. 'Of
course,' agreed Daddy, with genuine interest. 'It's easily done. I
wonder we never thought of it before.' Every few months they talked
about it, but it never grew an inch nearer to accomplishment. They
drifted along, ever in difficulty, each secretly blaming the other,
yet never putting their thoughts into speech. They did not quite
understand each other's point of view.

'Mother really might have foreseen _that_!' when Jimbo, growing like a
fairy beanstalk, rendered his recent clothes entirely useless. 'Boys
must grow. Why didn't she buy the things a size or two larger?'

'It's rather thoughtless, almost selfish, of Daddy to go on writing
these books that bring in praise without money. He could write
anything if he chose. At least, he might put his shoulder to the wheel
and teach, or something!'

And so, not outwardly in spoken words or quarrels, but inwardly, owing
to that deadliest of cancers, want of sympathy, these two excellent
grown-up children had moved with the years further and further apart.
Love had not died, but want of understanding, not attended to in time,
had frayed the edges so that they no longer fitted well together. They
have blown in here, thought Rogers as he watched them, like seeds the
wind has brought. They have taken root and grown a bit. They think
they're here for ever, but presently a wind will rise and blow them
off again elsewhere. And thinking it is their own act, they will look
wisely at each other, as children do, and say, 'Yes, it _is_ time now
to make a move. The children are getting big. Our health, too, needs a
change.' He wondered, smiling a little, in what vale or mountain top
the wind would let them down. And a big decision blazed up in his
heart. 'I'm not very strong in the domestic line,' he exclaimed, 'but
I think I can help them a bit. They're neighbours at any rate. They're
all children too. Daddy's no older than Jimbo, or Mother than Jane
Anne!'

* * *

In the spaces of the forest there was moss and sunshine. It was very
still. The primroses and anemones had followed the hepaticas and
periwinkles. Patches of lily of the valley filled the air with
fragrance. Through openings of the trees he caught glimpses of the
lake, deep as the Italian blue of the sky above his head. White Alps
hung in the air beyond its farther shore line. Below him, already far
away, the village followed slowly, bringing its fields and vineyards
with it, until the tired old church called halt. And then it lay back,
nestling down to sleep, very small, very cosy, mere handful of brown
roofs among the orchards. Only the blue smoke of occasional peat fires
moved here and there, betraying human occupation.

The peace and beauty sank into his heart, as he wandered higher across
Mont Racine's velvet shoulder. And the contrast stirred memories of
his recent London life. He thought of the scurrying busy-bodies in the
'City,' and he thought of the Widow Jequier attacking life so
restlessly in her garden at that very minute. That other sentence of
the old Vicar floated though his mind: 'the grandeur of toil and the
insignificance of acquisition.'... Far overhead two giant buzzards
circled quietly, ceaselessly watching from the blue. A brimstone
butterfly danced in random flight before his face. Two cuckoos
answered one another in the denser forest somewhere above him. Bells
from distant village churches boomed softly through the air, voices
from a world forgotten.

And the contrast brought back London. He thought of the long busy
chapter of his life just finished. The transition had been so abrupt.
As a rule periods fade into one another gradually in life, easily,
divisions blurred; it is difficult on looking back to say where the
change began. One is well into the new before the old is realised as
left behind. 'How did I come to this?' the mind asks itself. 'I don't
remember any definite decision. Where was the boundary crossed?' It
has been imperceptibly accomplished.

But here the change had been sudden and complete, no shading anywhere.
He had leaped a wall. Turmoil and confusion lay on that side; on this
lay peace, rest and beauty. Strain and ugliness were left behind, and
with them so much that now seemed false, unnecessary, vain. The
grandeur of toil, and the insignificance of acquisition--the phrase
ran through his mind with the sighing of the pine trees; it was like
the first line of a song. The Vicar knew the song complete. Even
Minks, perhaps, could pipe it too. Rogers was learning it. 'I must
help them somehow,' he thought again. 'It's not a question of money
merely. It's that they want welding together more--more harmony--more
sympathy. They're separate bits of a puzzle now, whereas they might be
a rather big and lovely pattern. ...'

He lay down upon the moss and flung his hat away. He felt that Life
stood still within him, watching, waiting, asking beautiful, deep,
searching questions. It made him slightly uncomfortable. Henry Rogers,
late of Threadneedle Street, took stock of himself, not of set
intention, yet somehow deliberately. He reviewed another Henry Rogers
who had been unable to leap that wall. The two peered at one another
gravely.

The review, however, took no definite form; precise language hardly
came to help with definite orders. A vague procession of feelings,
half sad, half pleasurable, floated past his closing eyes. ... Perhaps
he slept a moment in the sunshine upon that bed of moss and pine
needles. ...

Such curious thoughts flowed up and out and round about, dancing like
the brimstone butterflies out of reach before he could seize them,
calling with voices like the cuckoos, themselves all the time just out
of sight. Who ever saw a cuckoo when it's talking? Who ever foretold
the instant when a butterfly would shoot upwards and away? Such
darting, fragile thoughts they were, like hints, suggestions. Still,
they _were_ thoughts.

Minks, dragging behind him an enormous Scheme, emerged from the dark
vaults of a Bank where gold lay piled in heaps. Minks was looking for
him, yet smiling a little, almost pityingly, as he strained beneath
the load. It was like a comic opera. Minks was going down the noisy,
crowded Strand. Then, suddenly, he paused, uncertain of the way. From
an upper window a shining face popped out and issued clear directions
--as from a pulpit. 'That way--towards the river,' sang the voice--and
far down the narrow side street flashed a gleam of flowing water with
orchards on the farther bank. Minks instantly turned and went down it
with his load so fast that the scenery changed before the heavy
traffic could get out of the way. Everything got muddled up with
fields and fruit-trees; the Scheme changed into a mass of wild-
flowers; a lame boy knocked it over with his crutch; gold fell in a
brilliant, singing shower, and where each sovereign fell there sprang
up a buttercup or dandelion. Rogers rubbed his eyes ... and realised
that the sun was rather hot upon his face. A dragon fly was perched
upon his hat three feet away. ...

The tea hour at the Den was close, and Jimbo, no doubt, was already
looking for him at the carpenter's house. Rogers hurried home among
the silent forest ways that were sweet with running shadows and
slanting sunshine. Oh, how fragrant was the evening air! And how the
lily of the valley laughed up in his face! Normally, at this time, he
would be sitting in a taxi, hurrying noisily towards his Club,
thoughts full of figures, politics, philanthropy cut to line and
measure--a big Scheme standing in squares across the avenue of the
future. Now, moss and flowers and little children took up all the
available space. ... How curiously out of the world Bourcelles was, to
be sure. Newspapers had no meaning any longer. Picture-papers and
smart weekly Reviews, so necessary and important in St. James's
Street, here seemed vulgar, almost impertinent--ridiculous even. Big
books, yes; but not pert, topical comments issued with an absurd
omnipotence upon things merely ephemeral. How the mind accumulated
rubbish in a city! It seemed incredible. He surely had climbed a wall
and dropped down into a world far bigger, though a world the 'city'
would deem insignificant and trivial. Yet only because it had less
detail probably! A loved verse flashed to him across the years:--

  'O to dream, O to awake and wander
   There, and with delight to take and render,
       Through the trance of silence,
          Quiet breath!

   Lo! for there among the flowers and grasses,
   Only the mightier movement sounds and passes;
      Only winds and rivers,
         Life and death.'

Bourcelles was important as London, yes, while simple as the nursery.
The same big questions of life and death, of battle, duty, love, ruled
the peaceful inhabitants. Only the noisy shouting, the clatter of
superfluous chattering and feverish striving had dropped away. Hearts
and minds wore fewer clothes among these woods and vineyards. There
was no nakedness though ... there were flowers and moss, blue sky and
peace and beauty. ... Thought ran into confused, vague pictures. He
could not give them coherence, shape, form. ...

He crossed the meadows and entered the village through the Pension
garden. The Widow Jequier gave him a spray of her Persian lilac on the
way. 'It's been growing twenty-five years for you,' she said, 'only do
not look at _me_. I'm in my garden things--invisible.' He remembered
with a smile Jane Anne's description--that 'the front part of the
house was all at the back.'

Tumbling down the wooden stairs, he crossed the street and made for
the Citadelle, where the children opened the door for him even before
he rang. Jimbo and Monkey, just home from school, pulled him by both
arms towards the tea-table. They had watched for his coming.

'The samovar's just boiling,' Mother welcomed him. Daddy was on the
sofa by the open window, reading manuscript over to himself in a
mumbling voice; and Jane Anne, apron on, sleeves tucked up, face
flushed, poked her head in from the kitchen:

'Excuse me, Mother, the cupboard's all in distress. I can't find the
marmalade anywhere.'

'But it's already on the table, child.'

She saw her Cousin and popped swiftly back again from view. One heard
fragments of her sentences--'wumbled ... chronic ... busy monster. ...
'And two minutes later _la famille anglaise_ was seriously at tea.




CHAPTER XVIII


   What art thou, then? I cannot guess;
     But tho' I seem in star and flower
     To feel thee some diffusive power,
   I do not therefore love thee less.
                           _Love and Death,_ TENNYSON.

In the act of waking up on the morning of the Star Cave experience,
Henry Rogers caught the face of a vivid dream close against his own--
but in rapid motion, already passing. He tried to seize it. There was
a happy, delightful atmosphere about it. Examination, however, was
impossible; the effort to recover the haunting dream dispersed it. He
saw the tip, like an express train flying round a corner; it flashed
and disappeared, fading into dimness. Only the delightful atmosphere
remained and the sense that he had been somewhere far away in very
happy conditions. People he knew quite well, had been there with him;
Jimbo and Monkey; Daddy too, as he had known him in his boyhood. More
than this was mere vague surmise; he could not recover details. Others
had been also of the merry company, familiar yet unrecognisable. Who
in the world were they? It all seemed oddly real.

'How I do dream in this place, to be sure,' he thought; 'I, who
normally dream so little! It was like a scene of my childhood--
Crayfield or somewhere.' And he reflected how easily one might be
persuaded that the spirit escaped in sleep and knew another order of
experience. The sense of actuality was so vivid.

He lay half dozing for a little longer, hoping to recover the
adventures. The flying train showed itself once or twice again, but
smaller, and much, much farther away. It curved off into the distance.
A deep cutting quickly swallowed it. It emerged for the last time,
tiny as a snake upon a chess-board of far-off fields. Then it dipped
into mist; the snake shot into its hole. It was gone. He sighed. It
had been so lovely. Why must it vanish so entirely? Once or twice
during the day it returned, touched him swiftly on the heart and was
gone again. But the waking impression of a dream is never the dream
itself. Sunshine destroys the sense of enormous wonder.

'I believe I've been dreaming all night long, and going through all
kinds of wild adventures.'

He dressed leisurely, still hunting subconsciously for fragments of
that happy dreamland. Its aroma still clung about him. The sunshine
poured into the room. He went out on to the balcony and looked at the
Alps through his Zeiss field-glasses. The brilliant snow upon the
Diablerets danced and sang into his blood; across the broken teeth of
the Dent du Midi trailed thin strips of early cloud. Behind him rose
great Boudry's massive shoulders, a pyramid of incredible deep blue.
And the limestone precipices of La Tourne stood dazzlingly white,
catching the morning sunlight full in their face.

The air had the freshness of the sea. Men were singing at their work
among the vineyards. The tinkle of cow-bells floated to him from the
upper pastures upon Mont Racine. Little sails like sea-gulls dipped
across the lake. Goodness, how happy the world was at Bourcelles!
Singing, radiant, careless of pain and death. And, goodness, how he
longed to make it happier still!

Every day now this morning mood had been the same. Desire to do
something for others ran races with little practical schemes for
carrying it out. Selfish considerations seemed to have taken flight,
all washed away while he slept. Moreover, the thought of his Scheme
had begun to oppress him; a touch of shame came with it, almost as
though an unworthy personal motive were somewhere in it. Perhaps after
all--he wondered more and more now--there had been an admixture of
personal ambition in the plan. The idea that it would bring him honour
in the eyes of the world had possibly lain there hidden all along. If
so, he had not realised it; the depravity had been unconscious. Before
the Bourcelles standard of simplicity, artificial elements dropped off
automatically, ashamed. ... And a profound truth, fished somehow out
of that vanished dreamland, spun its trail of glory through his heart.
Kindness that is thanked-for surely brings degradation--a degradation
almost as mean as the subscription acknowledged in a newspaper, or the
anonymous contribution kept secret temporarily in order that its later
advertisement may excite the more applause. Out flashed this blazing
truth: kind acts must be instinctive, natural, thoughtless. One hand
must be in absolute ignorance of the other's high adventures. ... And
when the carpenter's wife brought up his breakfast tray, with the
bunch of forest flowers standing in a tumbler of water, she caught him
pondering over another boyhood's memory--that friend of his father's
who had given away a million anonymously.

... In his heart plans shaped themselves with soft, shy eyes and
hidden faces.... He longed to get _la famille anglaise_ straight
... for one thing. ...

It was an hour later, while he still sat dreaming in the sunshine by
the open window, that a gentle tap came at the door, and Daddy
entered. The visit was a surprise. Usually, until time for _dejeuner_,
he kept his room, busily unwumbling stories. This was unusual. And
something had happened to him; he looked different. What was it that
had changed? Some veil had cleared away; his eyes were shining. They
greeted one another, and Rogers fell shyly to commonplaces, while
wondering what the change exactly was.

But the other was not to be put off. He was bursting with something.
Rogers had never seen him like this before.

'You've stopped work earlier than usual,' he said, providing the
opening. He understood his diffidence, his shyness in speaking of
himself. Long disappointments lay so thinly screened behind his
unfulfilled enthusiasm.

But this time the enthusiasm swept diffidence to the winds. It had
been vitally stirred.

'Early indeed,' he cried. 'I've been working four hours without a
break, man. Why, what do you think?--I woke at sunrise, a thing I
never do, with--with a brilliant idea in my head. Brilliant, I tell
you. By Jove, if only I can carry it out as I see it----!'

'You've begun it already?'

'Been at it since six o'clock, I tell you. It was in me when I woke--
idea, treatment, everything complete, all in a perfect pattern of
Beauty.'

There was a glow upon his face, his hair was untidy; a white muffler
with blue spots was round his neck instead of collar. One end stuck up
against his chin. The safety pin was open.

'By Jove! I am delighted!' Rogers had seen him excited before over a
'brilliant idea,' but the telling of it always left him cold. It
touched the intellect, yet not the heart. It was merely clever. This
time, however, there was a new thing in his manner. 'How did you get
it?' he repeated. Methods of literary production beyond his own
doggerels were a mystery to him. 'Sort of inspiration, eh?'

'Woke with it, I tell you,' continued his cousin, twisting the muffler
so that it tickled his ear now instead of his chin. 'It must have come
to me in sleep----' 'In sleep,' exclaimed the other; 'you dreamt it,
then?'

'Kind of inspiration business. I've heard of that sort of thing, but
never experienced it----' The author paused for breath.

'What is it? Tell me.' He remembered how ingenious details of his
patents had sometimes found themselves cleared up in the morning after
refreshing slumber. This might be something similar. 'Let's hear it,'
he added; 'I'm interested.'

His cousin's recitals usually ended in sad confusion, so that all he
could answer by way of praise was--' You ought to make something good
out of that. I shall like to read it when you've finished it.' But
this time, he felt, there was distinctly a difference. There were new
conditions.

The older man leaned closer, his face alight, his manner shyly,
eagerly confidential. The morning sunshine blazed upon his untidy
hair. A bread crumb from breakfast still balanced in his beard.

'It's difficult to tell in a few words, you see,' he began, the
enthusiasm of a boy in his manner, 'but--I woke with the odd idea that
this little village might be an epitome of the world. All the emotions
of London, you see, are here in essence--the courage and cowardice,
the fear and hope, the greed and sacrifice, the love and hate and
passion--everything. It's the big world in miniature. Only--with one
difference.'

'That's good,' said Rogers, trying to remember when it was he had told
his cousin this very thing. Or had he only _thought_ it? 'And what
_is_ the difference?'

'The difference,' continued the other, eyes sparkling, face alight,
'that here the woods, the mountains and the stars are close. They pour
themselves in upon the village life from every side--above, below, all
round. Flowers surround it; it dances to the mountain winds; at night
it lies entangled in the starlight. Along a thousand imperceptible
channels an ideal simplicity from Nature pours down into it, modifying
the human passions, chastening, purifying, uplifting. Don't you see?
And these sweet, viewless channels--who keeps them clean and open?
Why, God bless you----. The children! _My_ children!'

'By Jingo, yes; _your_ children.'

Rogers said it with emphasis. But there was a sudden catch at his
heart; he was conscious of a queer sensation he could not name. This
was exactly what he had felt himself--with the difference that his own
thought had been, perhaps, emotion rather than a reasoned-out idea.
His cousin put it into words and gave it form. A picture--had he seen
it in a book perhaps?--flashed across his mind. A child, suspiciously
like Monkey, held a pen and dipped it into something bright and
flowing. A little boy with big blue eyes gathered this shining stuff
in both hands and poured it in a golden cataract upon the eyelids of a
sleeping figure. And the figure had a beard. It was a man ...
familiar. ... A touch of odd excitement trembled through his undermind
... thrilled ... vanished. ...

All dived out of sight again with the swiftness of a darting swallow.
His cousin was talking at high speed. Rogers had lost a great deal of
what he had been saying.

'... it may, of course, have come from something you said the other
night as we walked up the hill to supper--you remember?--something
about the brilliance of our stars here and how they formed a shining
network that hung from Boudry and La Tourne. It's impossible to say.
The germ of a true inspiration is never discoverable. Only, I
remember, it struck me as an odd thing for _you_ to say. I was telling
you about my idea of the scientist who married--no, no, it wasn't
that, it was my story of the materialist doctor whom circumstances
compelled to accept a position in the Community of Shakers, and how
the contrast produced an effect upon his mind of--of--you remember,
perhaps? It was one or the other; I forget exactly,'--then suddenly--
'No, no, I've got it--it was the analysis of the father's mind when he
found----'

'Yes, yes,' interrupted Rogers. 'We were just passing the Citadelle
fountain. I saw the big star upon the top of Boudry, and made a remark
about it.' His cousin was getting sadly wumbled. He tried to put
severity and concentration into his voice.

'That's it,' the other cried, head on one side and holding up a
finger, 'because I remember that my own thought wandered for a moment
--thought will, you know, in spite of one's best effort sometimes--and
you said a thing that sent a little shiver of pleasure through me for
an instant--something about a Starlight Train--and made me wonder
where you got the idea. That's it. I do believe you've hit the nail on
the head. Isn't it curious sometimes how a practical mind may suggest
valuable material to the artist? I remember, several years ago----'

'Starlight Express, wasn't it?' said his friend with decision in his
voice. He thumped the table vigorously with one fist. 'Keep to the
point, old man. Follow it out. Your idea is splendid.'

'Yes, I do believe it is.' Something in his voice trembled.

One sentence in particular Rogers heard, for it seemed plucked out of
the talk he had with the children in the forest that day two weeks
ago.

'You see, all light meets somewhere. It's all one, I mean. And so with
minds. They all have a common meeting-place. Sympathy is the name for
that place--that state--they feel with each other, see flash-like from
the same point of view for a moment. And children are the conduits.
They do not think things out. They feel them, eh?' He paused an
instant.

'For you see, along these little channels that the children--my
children, as I think I mentioned--keep sweet and open, there might
troop back into the village--Fairyland. Not merely a foolish fairyland
of make-believe and dragons and princesses imprisoned in animals, but
a fairyland the whole world needs--the sympathy of sweet endeavour,
love, gentleness and sacrifice for others. The stars would bring it--
starlight don't you see? One might weave starlight in and out
everywhere--use it as the symbol of sympathy--and--er--so on---'

Rogers again lost the clue. Another strangely familiar picture, and
then another, flashed gorgeously before his inner vision; his mind
raced after them, yet never caught them up. They were most curiously
familiar. Then, suddenly, he came back and heard his cousin still
talking. It was like a subtle plagiarism. Too subtle altogether,
indeed, it was for him. He could only stare and listen in amazement.

But the recital grew more and more involved. Perhaps, alone in his
work-room, Daddy could unwumble it consistently. He certainly could
not tell it. The thread went lost among a dozen other things. The
interfering sun had melted it all down in dew and spider gossamer and
fairy cotton. ...

'I must go down and work,' he said at length, rising and fumbling with
the door handle. He seemed disappointed a little. He had given out his
ideas so freely, perhaps too freely. Rogers divined he had not
sympathised enough. His manner had been shamefully absent-minded. The
absent-mindedness was really the highest possible praise, but the
author did not seem to realise it.

'It's glorious, my dear fellow, glorious,' Rogers added emphatically.
'You've got a big idea, and you can write it too. You will.' He said
it with conviction. 'You touch my heart as you tell it. I congratulate
you. Really I do.'

There was no mistaking the sincerity of his words and tone. The other
came back a step into the room again. He stroked his beard and felt
the crisp, hard crumb. He picked it out, examining it without
surprise. It was no unfamiliar thing, perhaps; at any rate, it was an
excuse to lower his eyes. Shyness returned upon him.

'Thank you,' he said gently; 'I'm glad you think so. You see, I
sometimes feel--perhaps--my work has rather suffered from--been a
little deficient in--the human touch. One must reach people's hearts
if one wants big sales. So few have brains. Not that I care for money,
or could ever write for money, for that brings its own punishment in
loss of inspiration. But of course, with a family to support. ... I
_have_ a family, you see.' He raised his eyes and looked out into the
sunshine. 'Well, anyhow, I've begun this thing. I shall send it in
short form to the _X. Review_. It may attract attention there. And
later I can expand it into a volume.' He hesitated, examined the crumb
closely again, tossed it away, and looked up at his cousin suddenly
full in the face. The high enthusiasm flamed back into his eyes again.
'Bring the world back to Fairyland, you see!' he concluded with
vehemence, 'eh?'

'Glorious!' Surely thought ran about the world like coloured flame, if
this was true.

The author turned towards the door. He opened it, then stopped on the
threshold and looked round like a person who has lost his way.

'I forgot,' he added, 'I forgot another thing, one of the chief
almost. It's this: there must be a Leader--who shall bring it back.
Without the Guide, Interpreter, Pioneer, how shall the world listen or
understand, even the little world of Bourcelles?'

'Of course, yes--some big figure--like a priest or prophet, you mean?
A sort of Chairman, President, eh?'

'Yes,' was the reply, while the eyes flashed fires that almost
recaptured forgotten dreams, 'but hardly in the way you mean, perhaps.
A very simple figure, _I_ mean, unconscious of its mighty role. Some
one with endless stores of love and sympathy and compassion that have
never found an outlet yet, but gone on accumulating and accumulating
unexpressed.'

'I see, yes.' Though he really did not 'see' a bit. 'But who is there
like that here? You'll have to invent him.' He remembered his own
thought that some principal role was vacant in his Children's Fairy
Play. How queer it all was! He stared. 'Who is there?' he repeated.

'No one--now. I shall bring her, though.'

'_Her_!' exclaimed Rogers with surprise. 'You mean a woman?'

'A childless woman,' came the soft reply. 'A woman with a million
children--all unborn.' But Rogers did not see the expression of the
face. His cousin was on the landing. The door closed softly on the
words. The steps went fumbling down the stairs, and presently he heard
the door below close too. The key was turned in it.

'A childless woman!' The phrase rang on long after he had gone. What
an extraordinary idea! 'Bring her here' indeed! Could his cousin mean
that some such woman might read his story and come to claim the
position, play the vacant role? No, nothing so literal surely. The
idea was preposterous. He had heard it said that imaginative folk,
writers, painters, musicians, all had a touch of lunacy in them
somewhere. He shrugged his shoulders. And what a job it must be, too,
the writing of a book! He had never realised it before. A real book,
then, meant putting one's heart into sentences, telling one's inmost
secrets, confessing one's own ideals with fire and lust and passion.
That was the difference perhaps between literature and mere facile
invention. His cousin had never dared do this before; shyness
prevented; his intellect wove pretty patterns that had no heat of life
in them. But now he had discovered a big idea, true as the sun, and
able, like the sun, to warm thousands of readers, all ready for it
without knowing it. ...

Rogers sat on thinking in the bright spring sunshine, smoking one
cigarette after another. For the idea his cousin had wumbled over so
fubsily had touched his heart, and for a long time he was puzzled to
find the reason. But at length he found it. In that startling phrase
'a childless woman' lay the clue. A childless woman was like a vessel
with a cargo of exquisite flowers that could never make a port.
Sweetening every wind, she yet never comes to land. No harbour
welcomes her. She sails endless seas, charged with her freight of
undelivered beauty; the waves devour her glory, her pain, her lovely
secret all unconfessed. To bring such a woman into port, even
imaginatively in a story, or subconsciously in an inner life, was
fulfilment of a big, fine, wholesome yearning, sacred in a way, too.

'By George!' he said aloud. He felt strange, great life pour through
him. He had made a discovery ... in his heart ... deep, deep down.

Something in himself, so long buried it was scarcely recognisable,
stirred out of sight and tried to rise. Some flower of his youth that
time had hardened, dried, yet never killed, moved gently towards
blossoming. It shone. It was still hard a little, like a crystal,
glistening down there among shadows that had gathered with the years.
And then it suddenly melted, running in a tiny thread of gold among
his thoughts into that quiet sea which so rarely in a man may dare the
relief of tears. It was a tiny yellow flower, like a daisy that had
forgotten to close at night, so that some stray starbeam changed its
whiteness into gold.

Forgotten passion, and yearning long denied, stirred in him with that
phrase. His cousin's children doubtless had prepared the way. A faded
Dream peered softly into his eyes across the barriers of the years.
For every woman in the world was a mother, and a childless woman was
the grandest, biggest mother of them all. And he had longed for
children of his own; he, too, had remained a childless father. A
vanished face gazed up into his own. Two vessels, making the same fair
harbour, had lost their way, yet still sailed, perhaps, the empty
seas. Yet the face he did not quite recognise. The eyes, instead of
blue, were amber. ...

And did this explain a little the spell that caught him in this Jura
village, perhaps? Were these children, weaving a network so cunningly
about his feet, merely scouts and pilots? Was his love for the world
of suffering folk, after all, but his love for a wife and children of
his own transmuted into wider channels? Denied the little garden he
once had planned for it, did it seek to turn the whole big world into
a garden? Suppression was impossible; like murder, it must out. A bit
of it had even flamed a passage into work and patents and 'City' life.
For love is life, and life is ever and everywhere one. He thought and
thought and thought. A man begins by loving himself; then, losing
himself, he loves a woman; next, that love spreads itself over a still
bigger field, and he loves his family, his wife and children, and
their families again in turn. But, that expression denied, his love
inevitably, irrepressibly seeking an outlet, finds it in a Cause, a
Race, a Nation, perhaps in the entire world. The world becomes his
'neighbour.' It was a great Fairy Story. ...

Again his thoughts returned to that one singular sentence ... and he
realised what his cousin meant. Only a childless Mother, some woman
charged to the brim with this power of loving to which ordinary
expression had been denied, could fill the vacant role in his great
Children's Play. No man could do it. He and his cousin were mere
'supers' on this stage. His cousin would invent her for his story. He
would make her come. His passion would create her. That was what he
meant.

Rogers smiled to himself, moving away from the window where the
sunshine grew too fierce for comfort. What a funny business it all
was, to be sure! And how curiously every one's thinking had
intermingled! The children had somehow divined his own imaginings in
that Crayfield garden; their father had stolen the lot for his story.
It was most extraordinary. And then he remembered Minks, and all his
lunatic theories about thought and thought-pictures. The garden scene
at Crayfield came back vividly, the one at Charing Cross, in the
orchard, too, with the old Vicar, when they had talked beneath the
stars. Who among them all was the original sponsor? And which of them
had set the ball a-rolling? It was stranger than the story of
creation. ... It _was_ the story of creation.

Yet he did not puzzle very long. Actors in a play are never puzzled;
it is the bewildered audience who ask questions. And Henry Rogers was
on the stage. The gauzy curtain hung between him and the outside point
of view. He was already deeply involved in Fairyland. ... His feet
were in the Net of Stars. ... He was a prisoner.

And that woman he had once dreamed might mother his own children--
where was she? Until a few years ago he had still expected, hoped to
meet her. One day they would come together. She waited somewhere. It
was only recently he had let the dream slip finally from him,
abandoned with many another personal ambition.

Idly he picked up a pencil, and before he was aware of it the words
ran into lines. It seemed as though his cousin's mood, thought,
inspiration, worked through him.

    Upon what flowering shore,
    'Neath what blue skies
    She stands and waits,
    It is not mine to know;
    Only I know that shore is fair,
    Those skies are blue.

    Her voice I may not hear,
    Nor see her eyes,
    Yet there are times
    When in the wind she speaks.
    When stars and flowers
    Tell me of her eyes.
    When rivers chant her name.

    If ever signs were sure,
    I know she waits;
    If not, what means this sweetness in the wind,
    The singing in the rain, the love in flowers?
    What mean these whispers in the air,
    This calling from the hills and from the sea?
    These tendernesses of the Day and Night?
    Unless she waits!

What in the world was this absurd sweetness running in his veins?

He laughed a little. A slight flush, too, came and went its way. The
tip of the pencil snapped as he pressed too heavily on it. He had
drawn it through the doggerel with impatience, for he suddenly
realised that he had told a deep, deep secret to the paper. It had
stammered its way out before he was aware of it. This was youth and
boyhood strong upon him, the moods of Crayfield that he had set long
ago on one side--deliberately. The mood that wrote the Song of the
Blue Eyes had returned, waking after a sleep of a quarter of a
century.

'What rubbish!' he exclaimed; 'I shall be an author next!' He tore it
up and, rolling the pieces into a ball, played catch with it. 'What
waste of energy! Six months ago that energy would have gone into
something useful, a patent--perhaps an improvement in the mechanism
of--of--' he hesitated, then finished the sentence with a sigh of
yearning and another passing flush--'a perambulator!'

He tossed it out of the window and, laughing, leaned out to watch it
fall. It bounced upon a head of tousled hair beneath, then flew off
sideways in the wind and rattled away faintly among the vines. The
head was his cousin's.

'What are you up to?' cried the author, looking up. 'I'm not a waste-
paper basket.' There was a cigarette ash in his beard.

'Sending you ideas, he answered. 'I'm coming myself now. Look out!' He
was in high spirits again. He believed in that Fairy Princess.

'All right; I've put you in already. Everybody will wonder who
Cousinenry is. ...' The untidy head of hair popped in again.

'Hark!' cried Rogers, trying to look round the corner of the house. He
edged himself out at a dangerous angle. His ears had caught another
sound. There was music in the air.




CHAPTER XIX


The sweet spring winds came laughing down the street, bearing a voice
that mingled with their music.

_Daddy! Daddy! vite; il y a un paquet!'_ sounded in a child's excited
cry. 'It arrives this afternoon. It's got the Edinburgh postmark. Here
is the notice. _C'est enorme!'_

The figure of Jimbo shot round the corner, dancing into view. He waved
a bit of yellow paper in his hand. A curious pang tore its way into
the big man's heart as he saw him--a curious, deep, searching pain
that yet left joy all along its trail. Positively moisture dimmed his
eyes a second.

But Jimbo belonged to some one else.

Daddy's wumbled head projected instantly again from the window
beneath.

'A box?' he asked, equally excited. 'A box from Scotland? Why, we had
one only last month. Bless their hearts! How little they know what
help and happiness. ... 'The rest of the sentence disappeared with the
head; and a moment later Jimbo was heard scampering up the stairs.
Both men went out to meet him.

The little boy was breathless with excitement, yet the spirit of the
man of affairs worked strongly in him. He deliberately suppressed
hysterics. He spoke calmly as might be, both hands in his trouser-
pockets beneath the blouse of blue cotton that stuck out like a ballet
skirt all round. The belt had slipped down. His eyes were never still.
He pulled one hand out, holding the crumpled paper up for inspection.

'It's a _paquet_,' he said, '_comme ca._' He used French and English
mixed, putting the latter in for his cousin's benefit. He had little
considerate ways like that. It's coming from Scotland, _et puis ca
pese soixante-quinze kilos_. Oh, it's big. It's enormous. The last one
weighed,' he hesitated, forgetful, 'much, much less,' he finished. He
paused, looking like a man who has solved a problem by stating it.

'One hundred and fifty pounds,' exclaimed his father, just as eager as
the boy. 'Let me look,' and he held his hand out for the advice from
the railway. 'What _can_ be in it?'

'Something for everybody,' said Jimbo decidedly. 'All the village
knows it. It will come by the two o'clock train from Bale, you know.'
He gave up the paper unwillingly. It was his badge of office. 'That's
the paper about it,' he added again.

Daddy read out slowly the advice of consignment, with dates and
weights and address of sender and recipient, while Jimbo corrected the
least mistake. He knew it absolutely by heart.

'There'll be dresses and boots for the girls this time,' he announced,
'and something big enough for Mother to wear, too. You can tell---'

'How can you tell?' asked Daddy, laughing slyly, immensely pleased
about it all.

'Oh, by the weight of the _paquet, comme ca_,' was the reply. 'It
weighs 75 kilos. That means there must be something for Mummy in it.'

The author turned towards his cousin, hiding his smile. 'It's a box of
clothes,' he explained, 'from my cousins in Scotland, Lady X you know,
and her family. Things they give away--usually to their maids and
what-not. Awfully good of them, isn't it? They pay the carriage too,'
he added. It was an immense relief to him.

'Things they can't wear,' put in Jimbo, 'but _very_ good things--
suits, blouses, shirts, collars, boots, gloves, and--oh, _toute sorte
de choses comme ca_.'

'Isn't it nice of 'em,' repeated Daddy. It made life easier for him--
ever so much easier. 'A family like that has such heaps of things. And
they always pay the freight. It saves me a pretty penny I can tell
you. Why, I haven't bought the girls a dress for two years or more.
And Edward's dressed like a lord, I tell you,' referring to his eldest
boy now at an expensive tutor's. 'You can understand the excitement
when a box arrives. We call it the Magic Box.'

Rogers understood. It had puzzled him before why the children's
clothes, Daddy's and Mummy's as well for that matter, were such an
incongruous assortment of village or peasant wear, and smart, well-cut
garments that bore so obviously the London mark.

'They're very rich indeed,' said Jimbo. 'They have a motor car. These
are the only things that don't fit them. There's not much for me
usually; I'm too little yet. But there's lots for the girls and the
others.' And 'the others,' it appeared, included the Widow Jequier,
the Postmaster and his wife, the carpenter's family, and more than one
household in the village who knew the use and value of every
centimetre of ribbon. Even the retired governesses got their share. No
shred or patch was ever thrown away as useless. The assortment of
cast-off clothing furnished Sunday Bests to half the village for weeks
to come. A consignment of bullion could not have given half the
pleasure and delight that the arrival of a box produced.

But _midi_ was ringing, and _dejeuner_ had to be eaten first. Like a
meal upon the stage, no one ate sincerely; they made a brave pretence,
but the excitement was too great for hunger. Every one was in the
secret--the Postmaster (he might get another hat out of it for
himself) had let it out with a characteristic phrase: 'Il y a un
paquet pour la famille anglaise!' Yet all feigned ignorance. The
children exchanged mysterious glances, and afterwards the governesses
hung about the Post Office, simulating the purchase of stamps at two
o'clock. But every one watched Daddy's movements, for he it was who
would say the significant words.

And at length he said them. 'Now, we had better go down to the
station,' he observed casually, 'and see if there is anything for us.'
His tone conveyed the impression that things often arrived in this
way; it was an everyday affair. If there was nothing, it didn't matter
much. His position demanded calmness.

'Very well,' said Jimbo. 'I'll come with you.' He strutted off,
leading the way.

'And I, and I,' cried Monkey and Jane Anne, for it was a half-holiday
and all were free. Jimbo would not have appeared to hurry for a
kingdom.

'I think I'll join you, too,' remarked Mother, biting her lips, 'only
please go slowly.' There were hills to negotiate.

They went off together in a party, and the governesses watched them
go. The Widow Jequier put her head out of the window, pretending she
was feeding the birds. Her sister popped out opportunely to post a
letter. The Postmaster opened his _guichet_ window and threw a bit of
string into the gutter; and old Miss Waghorn, just then appearing for
her daily fifteen minutes' constitutional, saw the procession and
asked him, 'Who in the world all those people were?' She had
completely forgotten them. 'Le barometre a monte,' he replied, knowing
no word of English, and thinking it was her usual question about the
weather. He reported daily the state of the barometer. 'Vous n'aurez
pas besoin d'un parapluie.' 'Mercy,' she said, meaning _merci_.

The train arrived, and with it came the box. They brought it up
themselves upon the little hand-cart--_le char_. It might have weighed
a ton and contained priceless jewels, the way they tugged and pushed,
and the care they lavished on it. Mother puffed behind, hoping there
would be something to fit Jimbo this time.

'Shall we rest a moment?' came at intervals on the hill, till at last
Monkey said, 'Sit on the top, Mummy, and we'll pull you too.' And
during the rests they examined the exterior, smelt it, tapped it,
tried to see between the cracks, and ventured endless and confused
conjectures as to its probable contents.

They dragged the hand-cart over the cobbles of the courtyard, and
heaved the box up the long stone staircase. It was planted at length
on the floor beside the bed of Mlle. Lemaire, that she might witness
the scene from her prison windows. Daddy had the greatest difficulty
in keeping order, for tempers grow short when excitement is too long
protracted. The furniture was moved about to make room. Orders flew
about like grape-shot. Everybody got in everybody else's way. But
finally the unwieldy packing-case was in position, and a silence fell
upon the company.

'My gum, we've put it upside down,' said Daddy, red in the face with
his exertions. It was the merest chance that there was no wisp of
straw yet in his beard.

'Then the clothes will all be inside out,' cried Monkey, 'and we shall
have to stand on our heads.'

'You silly,' Jane Anne rebuked her, yet half believing it was true,
while Jimbo, holding hammer and chisel ready, looked unutterable
contempt. 'Can't you be serious for a moment?' said his staring blue
eyes.

The giant chest was laboriously turned over, the two men straining
every muscle in the attempt. Then, after a moment's close inspection
again to make quite sure, Daddy spoke gravely. Goodness, how calm he
was!

'Jimbo, boy, pass me the hammer and the chisel, will you?'

In breathless silence the lid was slowly forced open and the
splintered pieces gingerly removed. Sheets of dirty brown paper and
bundles of odorous sacking came into view.

'Perhaps that's all there is,' suggested Jinny.

'Ugh! What a whiff!' said Monkey.

'Fold them up carefully and put them in a corner,' ordered Mother.
Jane Anne religiously obeyed. Oh dear, how slow she was about it!

Then everybody came up very close, heads bent over, hands began to
stretch and poke. You heard breathing--nothing more.

'Now, wait your turn,' commanded Mother in a dreadful voice, 'and let
your Father try on everything first.' And a roar of laughter made the
room echo while Daddy extracted wonder after wonder that were packed
in endless layers one upon another.

Perhaps what would have struck an observer most of all would have been
the strange seriousness against which the comedy was set. The laughter
was incessant, but it was a weighty matter for all that. The bed-
ridden woman, who was sole audience, understood that; the parents
understood it too. Every article of clothing that could be worn meant
a saving, and the economy of a franc was of real importance. The
struggles of _la famille anglaise_ to clothe and feed and educate
themselves were no light affair. The eldest boy, now studying for the
consular service, absorbed a third of their entire income. The
sacrifices involved for his sake affected each one in countless ways.
And for two years now these magic boxes had supplied all his suits and
shirts and boots. The Scotch cousins luckily included a boy of his own
size who had extravagant taste in clothes. A box sometimes held as
many as four excellent suits. Daddy contented himself with one a year
--ordered ready-made from the place they called
Chasbakerinhighholborn.' Mother's clothes were 'wropp in mystery'
ever. No one ever discovered where they came from or how she made
them. She did. It seemed always the same black dress and velvet
blouse.

Gravity and laughter, therefore, mingled in Daddy's face as he drew
out one paper parcel after another, opened it, tried the article on
himself, and handed it next to be tried on similarly by every one in
turn.

And the first extraction from the magic box was a curious looking
thing that no one recognised. Daddy unfolded it and placed it solemnly
on his head. He longed for things for himself, but rarely found them.
He tried on everything, hoping it might 'just do,' but in the end
yielded it with pleasure to the others. He rarely got more than a pair
of gloves or a couple of neckties for himself. The coveted suits just
missed his size.

Grave as a judge he balanced the erection on his head. It made a
towering heap. Every one was puzzled. 'It's a motor cap,' ventured
some one at length in a moment of intuition.

'It's several!' cried Monkey. She snatched the bundle and handed it to
Mother. There were four motor caps, neatly packed together. Mother put
on each in turn. They were in shades of grey. They became her well.

'You look like a duchess,' said Daddy proudly. 'You'd better keep them
all.'

'I think perhaps they'll do,' she said, moving to the glass, 'if no
one else can wear them.' She flushed a little and looked self-
conscious.

'They want long pins,' suggested Jinny. 'They'll keep the rain off
too, like an umbrella.' She laughed and clapped her hands. Mother
pinned one on and left it there for the remainder of the afternoon.
The unpacking of the case continued.

The next discovery was gloves. The lid of the box looked like a
counter in a glove shop. There were gloves of leather and chamois,
gauntlets, driving-gloves, and gloves of suede, yellow, brown, and
grey. All had been used a little, but all were good. 'They'll wash,'
said Jane Anne. They were set aside in a little heap apart. No one
coveted them. It was not worth while. In the forests of Bourcelles
gloves were at a discount, and driving a pleasure yet unknown. Jinny,
however a little later put on a pair of ladies' suede that caught her
fancy, and wore them faithfully to the end of the performance, just to
keep her mother's motor cap in countenance.

The main contents of the box were as yet unbroached, however, and when
next an overcoat appeared, with velvet collar and smart, turned-up
cuffs, Daddy beamed like a boy and was into it before any one could
prevent. He went behind a screen. The coat obviously did not fit him,
but he tugged and pulled and wriggled his shoulders with an air of
'things that won't fit must be made to fit.'

'You'll bust the seams! You'll split the buttons! See what's in the
pockets!' cried several voices, while he shifted to and fro like a man
about to fight.

'It may stretch,' he said hopefully. 'I think I can use it. It's just
what I want.' He glanced up at his wife whose face, however, was
relentless.

'Maybe,' replied the practical mother, 'but it's more Edward's build,
perhaps.' He looked fearfully disappointed, but kept it on. Edward got
the best of every box. He went on with the unpacking, giving the coat
sly twitches from time to time, as he pulled out blouses, skirts,
belts, queer female garments, boots, soft felt hats--the green Homburg
he put on at once, as who should dare to take it from him--black and
brown Trilbys, shooting-caps, gaiters, flannel shirts, pyjamas, and
heaven knows what else besides.

The excitement was prodigious, and the floor looked like a bargain
sale. Everybody talked at once; there was no more pretence of keeping
order Mlle. Lemaire lay propped against her pillows, watching the
scene with feelings between tears and laughter. Each member of the
family tried on everything in turn, but yielded the treasures
instantly at a word from Mother--'That will do for so and so; this
will fit Monkey; Jimbo, you take this,' and so on.

The door into the adjoining bedroom was for ever opening and shutting,
as the children disappeared with armfuls and reappeared five minutes
later, marvellously apparelled. There was no attempt at sorting yet.
Blouses and flannel trousers lay upon the floor with boots and motor
veils. Every one had something, and the pile set aside for Edward grew
apace. Only Jimbo was disconsolate. He was too small for everything;
even the ladies' boots were too narrow and too pointed for his little
feet. From time to time he rummaged with the hammer and chisel (still
held _very_ tightly) among the mass of paper at the bottom. But, as
usual, there was nothing but gaudy neckties that he could use. And
these he did not care about. He said no word, but stood there watching
the others and trying to laugh, only keeping the tears back with the
greatest difficulty.

From his position in the background Rogers took it all in. He moved up
and slipped a ten-franc piece into the boy's hand. 'Secretaries don't
wear clothes like this,' he whispered. 'We'll go into town to-morrow
and get the sort of thing you want.'

Jimbo looked up and stared. He stood on tip-toe to kiss him. 'Oh,
thank you so much,' he said, fearful lest the others should see; and
tucked the coin away into a pocket underneath his cotton blouse. A
moment later he came back from the corner where he had hid himself to
examine it. 'But, Cousin Henry,' he whispered, utterly astonished,
'it's gold.' He had thought the coin was a ten-centime piece such as
Daddy sometimes gave him. He could not believe it. He had never seen
gold before. He ran up and told his parents. His sisters were too
excited to be told just then. After that he vanished into the passage
without being noticed, and when he returned five minutes later his
eyes were suspiciously red. But no one heard him say a word about
getting nothing out of the box. He stood aside, with a superior manner
and looked quietly on. 'It's very nice for the girls,' his expression
said. His  interest in the box had grown decidedly less. He could buy
an entire shop for himself now.

'Mother, Daddy, everybody,' cried an excited voice, 'will you look at
me a minute, please! It all fits me perfectly,' and Jinny emerged from
the bedroom door. She had been trying on. A rough brown dress of
Harris tweed became her well; she wore a motor veil about her head,
and another was tied round her neck; a white silk blouse, at least one
size too large for her, bulged voluminously from beneath the neat
tweed jacket. She wore her suede gloves still. 'And there's an outside
pocket in the skirt, you see.' She pulled it up and showed a very
pointed pair of brown boots; they were much too long; they looked
ridiculous after her square village boots. 'I can waggle my toes in
them,' she explained, strutting to and fro to be admired. 'I'm a
fashionable monster now!'

But she only held the centre of the stage a minute, for Monkey entered
at her heels, bursting with delight in a long green macintosh thrown
over another tweed skirt that hid her feet and even trailed behind. A
pair of yellow spats were visible sometimes that spread fan-shaped
over her boots and climbed half-way up the fat legs.

'It all fits me exaccurately,' was her opinion. The sisters went arm
in arm about the room, dancing and laughing.

'We're busy blackmailers,' cried Jinny, using her latest acquisition
which she practised on all possible occasions. 'We're in Piccadilly,
going to see the Queen for tea.'

They tripped over Monkey's train and one of the spats came off in the
struggle for recovery. Daddy, in his Homburg hat, looked round and
told them sternly to make less noise. Behind a screen he was getting
surreptitiously into a suit that Mother had put aside for Edward. He
tried on several in this way, hopeful to the last.

'I think this will fit me all right,' he said presently, emerging with
a grave expression on his puckered face. He seemed uncertain about it.
He was solemn as a judge. 'You could alter the buttons here and there,
you know,' and he looked anxiously at his wife. The coat ran up
behind, the waistcoat creased badly owing to the strain, and the
trousers were as tight as those of a cavalry officer. Anywhere, and
any moment, he might burst out into unexpected revelation. 'A little
alteration,' he suggested hopefully, 'and it would be all right--don't
you think?' And then he added 'perhaps.'

He turned and showed himself. Even the roar of laughter that greeted
his appearance did not quite convince him. He looked like a fat,
impoverished bookmaker.

'I think it will fit Edward better,' said Mother again without pity,
for she did not like to see her husband look foolish before the
children. He disappeared behind the screen, but repeated the
performance with two other suits. 'This striped one seems a little
looser,' he said; or, 'If you'd let out the trousers at the bottom, I
think they would do.' But in the end all he got from the box was two
pairs of pink silk pyjamas, the Homburg hat, several pairs of gloves,
spats, and gaiters, and half a dozen neckties that no one else would
wear. He made his heap carefully in the corner of the room, and later,
when the mess was all cleared up and everybody went off with their
respective treasures, he entirely forgot them in his pleasure and
admiration of the others. He left them lying in the corner. Riquette
slept on them that night, and next morning Jimbo brought them over for
him to the carpenter's house. And Edward later magnanimously yielded
up two flannel shirts because he had so many left over from the
previous box. Also a pair of pumps.

'I've not done so badly after all,' was his final matured opinion.
'Poor mother! She got nothing but motor caps.' Jimbo, however, had
made a final discovery of value for himself--of some value, at least.
When the empty case was overturned as a last hope, he rummaged among
the paper with his hammer and chisel, and found four pairs of golf
stockings! The legs fitted him admirably, but the feet were much too
big. There was some discussion as to whether they had belonged to a
very thin-legged boy with big feet or to a girl who had no calves.
Luckily, the former was decided upon, for otherwise they would have
given no pleasure to Jimbo. Even as it was, he adopted them chiefly
because it pleased his parents. Mother cut off the feet and knitted
new ones a little smaller. But there was no mystery about those
stockings. No special joy went with them. He had watched Mother
knitting too often for that; she could make stockings half asleep.

Two hours later, while Jane Ann and Mother prepared the tea in the
Den, Daddy, Jimbo, and Cousin Henry went in a procession to the
carpenter's house carrying the piles of clothing in their arms to the
astonishment of half the village. They were to be re-sorted there in
privacy by the 'men,' where the 'children' could not interfere. The
things they could not use were distributed later among the
governesses; the Pension and the village also, got their share. And
the Postmaster got his hat--a black Trilby. He loved its hue.

And for days afterwards the children hoarded their treasures with
unholy joy. What delighted them as much as anything, perhaps, were the
coronets upon the pyjamas and the shirts. They thought it was a London
or Edinburgh laundry mark. But Jimbo told them otherwise: 'It means
that Daddy's Cousin is a Lord-and-Waiting, and goes to see the King.'
This explanation was generally accepted.

The relief to the parents, however, as they sat up in the Den that
night and discussed how much this opportune Magic Box had saved them,
may be better imagined than described. The sum ran into many, many
francs. Edward had suits now for at least two years. 'He's stopped
growing,' said his mother; 'thank goodness,' said his father.

And to the long list he prayed for twice a day Jimbo added of his
accord, 'Ceux qui ont envoye la grosse caisse.'




CHAPTER XX


     Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
     Thro' all yon starlight keen,
     Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
     In raiment white and clean.

     He lifts me to the golden doors;
     The flashes come and go;
     All heaven bursts her starry floors,
     And strews her lights below.
           _St. Agnes' Eve, Tennyson_.

Miss Waghorn, of late, had been unusually trying, and especially full
of complaints. Her poor old memory seemed broken beyond repair. She
offered Madame Jequier her weekly payment twice within ten minutes,
and was quite snappy about it when the widow declined the second
tender.

'But you had the receipt in your hand wizin ten minutes ago, Mees
Wag'orn. You took it upstairs. The ink can hardly be now already yet
dry.' But nothing would satisfy her that she had paid until they went
up to her room together and found it after much searching between her
Bible and her eternal novel on the writing-table.

'Forgive me, Madame, but you do forget sometimes, don't you?' she
declared with amusing audacity. 'I like to make quite sure---
especially where money is concerned.' On entering the room she had
entirely forgotten why they came there. She began complaining,
instead, about the bed, which had not yet been made. A standing source
of grumbling, this; for the old lady would come down to breakfast many
a morning, and then go up again before she had it, thinking it was
already late in the day. She worried the _pensionnaires_ to death,
too. It was their duty to keep the salon tidy, and Miss Waghorn would
flutter into the room as early as eight o'clock, find the furniture
still unarranged, and at once dart out again to scold the girls. These
interviews were amusing before they became monotonous, for the old
lady's French was little more than 'nong pas' attached to an
infinitive verb, and the girls' Swiss-German explanations of the
alleged neglect of duty only confused her. 'Nong pas faire la
chambre,' she would say, stamping her foot with vexation. 'You haven't
done the room, though it's nearly dejooner time!' Or else--'Ten
minutes ago it was tidy. Look at it now!' while she dragged them in
and forced them to put things straight, until some one in authority
came and explained gently her mistake. 'Oh, excuse me, Madame,' she
would say then, 'but they do forget _so_ often.' Every one was very
patient with her as a rule.

And of late she had been peculiarly meddlesome, putting chairs
straight, moving vases, altering the lie of table-cloths and the angle
of sofas, opening windows because it was 'so stuffy,' and closing them
a minute later with complaints about the draught, forcing occupants of
arm-chairs to get up because the carpet was caught, fiddling with
pictures because they were crooked either with floor or ceiling, and
never realising that in the old house these latter were nowhere
parallel. But her chief occupation was to prevent the children
crossing their legs when they sat down, or pulling their dresses
lower, with a whispered, 'You _must_ not cross your legs like that; it
isn't ladylike, dear.'

She had been very exasperating and interfering. Tempers had grown
short. Twice running she had complained about the dreadful noise the
_pensionnaires_ made at seven o'clock in the morning. 'Nong pas creer
comme ca!' she called, running down the passage in her dressing-gown
and bursting angrily into their rooms without knocking--to find them
empty. The girls had left the day before.

But to-day (the morning after the Star Cave adventure) the old lady
was calmer, almost soothed, and at supper she was composed and gentle.
Sleep, for some reason, had marvellously refreshed her. Attacks that
opened as usual about Cornish Cream or a Man with a long Beard, she
repelled easily and quietly. 'I've told you that story before, my
dear; I know I have.' It seemed her mind and memory were more orderly
somehow. And the Widow Jequier explained how sweet and good-natured
she had been all day--better than for years. 'When I took her drops
upstairs at eleven o'clock I found her tidying her room; she was
sorting her bills and papers. She read me a letter she had written to
her nephew to come out and take her home--well written and quite
coherent. I've not known her mind so clear for months. Her memory,
too. She said she had slept so well. If only it would last,
_helas_!'

'There _are_ days like that,' she added presently, 'days when
everything goes right and easily. One wakes up happy in the morning
and sees only the bright side of things. Hope is active, and one has
new courage somehow.' She spoke with feeling, her face was brighter,
clearer, her mind less anxious. She had planned a visit to the Bank
Manager about the mortgages. It had come as an inspiration. It might
be fruitless, but she was hopeful, and so knew a little peace. 'I
wonder why it is,' she added, 'and what brings these changes into the
heart so suddenly.'

'Good sleep and sound digestion,' Mrs. Campden thought. She expressed
her views deliberately like this in order to counteract any growth of
fantasy in the children.

'But it is strange,' her husband said, remembering his new story; 'it
may be much deeper than that. While the body sleeps the spirit may get
into touch with helpful forces----' His French failed him. He wumbled
painfully.

'Thought-forces possibly from braver minds,' put in Rogers. 'Who
knows? Sleep and dreaming have never really been explained.' He
recalled a theory of Minks.

'_I_ dream a great deal,' Miss Waghorn observed, eager to take part.
'It's delightful, dreaming--if only one could remember!' She looked
round the table with challenge in her eager old eyes. But no one took
her up. It involved such endless repetition of well-known stories. The
Postmaster might have said a word--he looked prepared--but, not
understanding English, he went on with his salad instead.

'Life is a dream,' observed Monkey, while Jinny seemed uncertain
whether she should laugh or take it seriously.

The Widow Jequier overheard her. There was little she did not
overhear.

'Coquine!' she said, then quoted with a sentimental sigh:--

     La vie est breve,
     Un peu d'amour.
     Un peu de rive
     Et puis--bonjour!

She hung her head sideways a moment for effect. There was a pause all
down the long table.

'I'm sure dreams have significance,' she went on. 'There's more in
dreaming than one thinks. They come as warnings or encouragement. All
the saints had dreams. I always pay attention to mine.'

'Madame, _I_ dream a great deal,' repeated Miss Waghorn, anxious not
to be left out of a conversation in which she understood at least the
key-word _reve_; 'a very great deal, I may say.'

Several looked up, ready to tell nightmares of their own at the least
sign of encouragement. The Postmaster faced the table, laying down his
knife and fork. He took a deep breath. This time he meant to have his
say. But his deliberation always lost him openings.

_I_ don't,' exclaimed Jinny, bluntly, five minutes behind the others.
'When I'm in bed, I sleep.' The statement brought laughter that
confused her a little. She loved to define her position. She had
defined it. And the Postmaster had lost his chance. Mlle. Sandoz, a
governess who was invited to supper as payment for a music lesson
given to his boy, seized the opening.

'Last night I dreamed that a bull chased me. Now what did _that_ mean,
I wonder?'

'That there was no danger since it was only a dream!' said the
Postmaster sharply, vexed that he had not told his own.

But no one applauded, for it was the fashion to ignore his
observations, unless they had to do with stamps and weights of
letters, parcels, and the like. A clatter of voices rose, as others,
taking courage, decided to tell experiences of their own; but it was
the Postmaster's wife in the hall who won. She had her meals outside
with the kitchen maid and her niece, who helped in the Post Office,
and she always tried to take part in the conversation from a distance
thus. She plunged into a wordy description of a lengthy dream that had
to do with clouds, three ravens, and a mysterious face. All listened,
most of them in mere politeness, for as cook she was a very important
personage who could furnish special dishes on occasion--but her sister
listened as to an oracle. She nodded her head and made approving
gestures, and said, 'Aha, you see,' or 'Ah, voila!' as though that
helped to prove the importance of the dream, if not its actual truth.
And the sister came to the doorway so that no one could escape. She
stood there in her apron, her face hot and flushed still from the
kitchen.

At length it came to an end, and she looked round her, hoping for a
little sympathetic admiration, or at least for expressions of wonder
and interest. All waited for some one else to speak. Into the pause
came her husband's voice, 'Je n'ai pas de sel.'

There was no resentment. It was an everyday experience. The spell was
broken instantly. The cook retired to her table and told the dream all
over again with emphatic additions to her young companions. The
Postmaster got his salt and continued eating busily as though dreams
were only fit for women and children to talk about. And the English
group began whispering excitedly of their Magic Box and all it had
contained. They were tired of dreams and dreaming.

Tante Jeanne made a brave effort to bring the conversation back to the
key of sentiment and mystery she loved, but it was not a success.

'At any rate I'm certain one's mood on going to bed decides the kind
of dream that comes,' she said into the air. 'The last thought before
going to sleep is very important. It influences the adventures of the
soul when it leaves the body every night.'

For this was a tenet of her faith, although she always forgot to act
upon it. Only Miss Waghorn continued the train of ideas this started,
with a coherence that surprised even herself. Somehow the jabber about
dreams, though in a language that only enabled her to catch its
general drift, had interested her uncommonly. She seemed on the verge
of remembering something. She had listened with patience, a look of
peace upon her anxious old face that was noticed even by Jane Anne.
'It smoothed her out,' was her verdict afterwards, given only to
herself though. 'Everything is a sort of long unfinished dream to her,
I suppose, at _that_ age.'

While the _famille anglaise_ renewed noisily their excitement of the
Magic Box, and while the talk in the hall went on and on, re-hashing
the details of the cook's marvellous experience, and assuming entirely
new proportions, Miss Waghorn glanced about her seeking whom she might
devour--and her eye caught Henry Rogers, listening as usual in
silence.

'Ah,' she said to him, 'but _I_ look forward to sleep. I might say I
long for it.' She sighed very audibly. It was both a sigh for release
and a faint remembrance that last night her sleep had been somehow
deep and happy, strangely comforting.

'It is welcome sometimes, isn't it?' he answered, always polite and
rather gentle with her.

'Sleep unravels, yes,' she said, vaguely as to context, yet with a
querulous intensity. It was as if she caught at the enthusiasm of a
connected thought somewhere. 'I might even say it unties,' she added,
encouraged by his nod, 'unties knots--if you follow me.'

'It does, Miss Waghorn. Indeed, it does.' Was this a precursor of the
Brother with the Beard, he wondered? 'Untied knots' would inevitably
start her off. He made up his mind to listen to the tale with interest
for the twentieth time if it came. But it didn't come.

'I am very old and lonely, and _I_ need the best,' she went on
happily, half saying it to herself.

Instantly he took her up--without surprise too. It was like a dream.

'Quite so. The rest, the common stuff----'

'Is good enough----' she chimed in quickly--

'For Fraulein, or for baby, or for mother,' he laughed.

'Or any other,' chuckled Miss Waghorn.

'Who needs a bit of sleep----'

'But yet can do without it----' she carried it on.

Then both together, after a second's pause--

'If they must----' and burst out laughing.

Goodness, how did _she_ know the rhyme? Was it everywhere? Was thought
running loose like wireless messages to be picked up by all who were
in tune for acceptance?

'Well, I never!' he heard her exclaim, 'if that's not a nursery rhyme
of my childhood that I've not heard for sixty years and more! I
declare,' she added with innocent effrontery, 'I've not heard it since
I was ten years old. And I was born in '37--the year----'

'Just fancy!' he tried to stop her.

'Queen Victoria came to the throne.'

'Strange,' he said more to himself than to any one else. She did not
contradict him.

'You or me?' asked Monkey, who overheard.

'All of us,' he answered. 'We all think the same things. It's a dream,
I believe; the whole thing is a dream.'

'It's a fact though,' said Miss Waghorn with decision, 'and now I must
go and write my letters, and then finish a bit of lace I'm doing. You
will excuse me?' She rose, made a little bow, and left the table.

Mother watched her go. 'What _has_ come over the old lady?' she
thought. 'She seems to be getting back her mind and memory too. How
very odd!'


In the afternoon Henry Rogers had been into Neuchatel. It seemed he
had some business there of a rather private nature. He was very
mysterious about it, evading several offers to accompany him, and
after supper he retired early to his own room in the carpenter's
house. And, since he now was the principal attraction, a sort of
magnet that drew the train of younger folk into his neighbourhood, the
Pension emptied, and the English family, deprived of their leader,
went over to the Den.

'Partir a l'anglaise,' laughed the Widow Jequier, as she saw them file
away downstairs; and then she sighed. Some day, when the children were
older and needed a different education, they would all go finally.
Down these very stairs they would go into the street. She loved them
for themselves, but, also, the English family was a permanent source
of income to her, and the chief. They stayed on in the winter, when
boarders were few and yet living expenses doubled. She sighed, and
fluttered into her tiny room to take her finery off, finery that had
once been worn in Scotland and had reached her by way of Cook and
_la petite vitesse_ in the Magic Box.

And presently she fluttered out again and summoned her sister. The
Postmaster had gone to bed; the kitchen girl was washing up the last
dishes; Miss Waghorn would hardly come down again. The salon was
deserted.

'Come, Anita,' she cried, yet with a hush of excitement in her voice,
'we will have an evening of it. Bring the _soucoupe_ with you, while I
prepare the little table.' In her greasy kitchen apron Anita came.
Zizi, her boy, came with her. Madame Jequier, with her flowing garment
that was tea-gown, garden-dress, and dressing-gown all in one, looked
really like a witch, her dark hair all askew and her eyes shining with
mysterious anticipation. 'We'll ask the spirits for help and
guidance,' she said to herself, lest the boy should overhear. For Zizi
often helped them with their amateur planchette, only they told him it
was electricity: _le magnetisme_, _le fluide_, was the term they
generally made use of. Its vagueness covered all possible explanations
with just the needed touch of confusion and suggestion in it.

They settled down in a corner of the room, where the ivy from the
ceiling nearly touched their heads. The small round table was
produced; the saucer, with an arrow pencilled on its edge, was
carefully placed upon the big sheet of paper which bore the letters of
the alphabet and the words _oui_ and _non_ in the corners. The light
behind them was half veiled by ivy; the rest of the old room lay in
comparative darkness; through the half-opened door a lamp shone upon
the oil-cloth in the hall, showing the stains and the worn, streaked
patches where the boards peeped through. The house was very still.

They began with a little prayer--to _ceux qui ecoutent_,--and then
each of them placed a finger on the rim of the upturned saucer,
waiting in silence. They were a study in darkness, those three
pointing fingers.

'Zizi, tu as beaucoup de fluide ce soir, oui?' whispered the widow
after a considerable interval.

'Oh, comme d'habitude,' he shrugged his shoulders. He loved these
mysterious experiments, but he never claimed much _fluide_ until the
saucer moved, jealous of losing his reputation as a storehouse of
this strange, human electricity.

Yet behind this solemn ritual, that opened with prayer and invariably
concluded with hope renewed and courage strengthened, ran the tragic
element that no degree of comedy could kill. In the hearts of the two
old women, ever fighting their uphill battle with adversity, burned
the essence of big faith, the faith that plays with mountains. Hidden
behind the curtain, an indulgent onlooker might have smiled, but tears
would have wet his eyes before the smile could have broadened into
laughter. Tante Jeanne, indeed, _had_ heard that the subconscious mind
was held to account for the apparent intelligence that occasionally
betrayed itself in the laboriously spelled replies; she even made use
of the word from time to time to baffle Zizi's too importunate
inquiries. But after _le subconscient_ she always tacked on _fluide_,
_magnetisme_, or _electricite_ lest he should be frightened, or she
should lose her way. And of course she held to her belief that spirits
produced the phenomena. A subconscious mind was a cold and comfortless
idea.

And, as usual, the saucer told them exactly what they had desired to
know, suggested ways and means that hid already in the mind of one or
other, yet in stammered sentences that included just enough surprise
or turn of phrase to confirm their faith and save their self-respect.
It was their form of prayer, and with whole hearts they prayed.
Moreover, they acted on what was told them. Had they discovered that
it was merely the content of their subconscious mind revealing thus
its little hopes and fears, they would have lost their chief support
in life. God and religion would have suffered a damaging eclipse. Big
scaffolding in their lives would have collapsed.

Doubtless, Tante Jeanne did not knowingly push the saucer, neither did
the weighty index finger of the concentrated cook deliberately exert
muscular pressure. Nor, similarly, was Zizi aware that the weight of
his entire hand helped to urge the dirty saucer across the slippery
surface of the paper in whatever direction his elders thus indicated.
But one and all knew 'subconsciously' the exact situation of
consonants and vowels--that _oui_ lay in the right-hand corner and
_non_ in the left. And neither Zizi nor his mother dared hint to their
leader not to push, because she herself monopolised that phrase,
saying repeatedly to them both, 'mais il ne faut _pas_ pousser!
Legerement avec les doigts, toujours tres legerement! Sans ca il n'y a
pas de valeur, tu comprends!' Zizi inserted an occasional electrical
question. It was discreetly ignored always.

They asked about the Bank payments, the mortgages, the future of their
much-loved old house, and of themselves; and the answers, so vague
concerning any detailed things to come, were very positive indeed
about the Bank. They were to go and interview the Manager three days
from now. They had already meant to go, only the date was undecided;
the corroboration of the spirits was required to confirm it. This
settled it. Three days from to-night!

'Tu vois!' whispered Tante Jeanne, glancing mysteriously across the
table at her sister. 'Three days from now! That explains your dream
about the three birds. Aha, tu vois!' She leaned back, supremely
satisfied. And the sister gravely bowed her head, while Zizi looked up
and listened intently, without comprehension. He felt a little alarm,
perhaps, to-night.

For this night there _was_ indeed something new in the worn old
ritual. There was a strange, uncalculated element in it all,
unexpected, and fearfully thrilling to all three. Zizi for the first
time had his doubts about its being merely electricity.

'C'est d'une puissance extraordinaire,' was the widow's whispered,
eager verdict.

'C'est que j'ai enormement de fluide ce soir,' declared Zizi, with
pride and confidence, yet mystified. The other two exchanged frequent
glances of surprise, of wonder, of keen expectancy and anticipation.
There was certainly a new 'influence' at work to-night. They even felt
a touch of faint dread. The widow, her ruling passion strong even
before the altar, looked down anxiously once or twice at her
disreputable attire. It was vivid as that--this acute sense of another
presence that pervaded the room, not merely hung about the little
table. She could be 'invisible' to the Pension by the magic of old-
established habit, but she could not be so to the true Invisibles. And
they saw her in this unbecoming costume. She forgot, too, the need of
keeping Zizi in the dark. He must know some day. What did it matter
when?

She tidied back her wandering hair with her free hand, and drew the
faded garment more closely round her neck.

'Are you cold?' asked her sister with a hush in her voice; 'you feel
the cold air--all of a sudden?'

'I do, _maman_,' Zizi answered. 'It's blowing like a wind across my
hand. What is it?' He was shivering. He looked over his shoulder
nervously.

There was a heavy step in the hall, and a figure darkened the doorway.
All three gave a start.

'J'ai sommeil,' announced the deep voice of the Postmaster. This meant
that the boy must come to bed. It was the sepulchral tone that made
them jump perhaps. Zizi got up without a murmur; he was glad to go,
really. He slept in the room with his parents. His father, an overcoat
thrown over his night things, led him away without another word. And
the two women resumed their seance. The saucer moved more easily and
swiftly now that Zizi had gone. 'C'est done _toi_ qui as le fluide,'
each said to the other.

But in the excitement caused by this queer, new element in the
proceedings, the familiar old routine was forgotten. Napoleon and
Marie Antoinette were brushed aside to make room for this important
personage who suddenly descended upon the saucer from an unknown star
with the statement--it took half an hour to spell--'Je viens d'une
etoile tres eloignee qui n'a pas encore de nom.'

'There _is_ a starry light in the room. It was above your head just
now,' whispered the widow, enormously excited. 'I saw it plainly.' She
was trembling.

'That explains the clouds in my dream,' was the tense reply, as they
both peered round them into the shadows with a touch of awe. 'Now,
give all your attention. This has an importance, but, you know, an
importance--' She could not get the degree of importance into any
words. She looked it instead, leaving the sentence eloquently
incomplete.

For, certainly, into the quaint ritual of these two honest, troubled
old women there crept then a hint of something that was uncommon and
uplifting. That it came through themselves is as sure as that it spelt
out detailed phrases of encouragement and guidance with regard to
their coming visit to the Bank. That they both were carried away by it
into joy and the happiness of sincere relief of mind is equally a
fact. That their receptive mood attuned them to overhear
subconsciously messages of thought that flashed across the night from
another mind in sympathy with their troubles--a mind hard at work that
very moment in the carpenter's house--was not known to them; nor would
it have brought the least explanatory comfort even if they had been
told of it. They picked up these starry telegrams of unselfish
thinking that flamed towards them through the midnight sky from an
eager mind elsewhere busily making plans for their benefit. And,
reaching them subconsciously, their deep subconsciousness urged the
dirty saucer to the spelling of them, word by word and letter by
letter. The flavour of their own interpretation, of course, crept in
to mar, and sometimes to obliterate. The instruments were gravely
imperfect. But the messages came through. And with them came the great
feeling that the Christian calls answered prayer. They had such
absolute faith. They had belief.

'Go to the Bank. Help awaits you there. And I shall go with you to
direct and guide.' This was the gist of that message from 'une etoile
tres eloignee.'

They copied it out in violet ink with a pen that scratched like the
point of a pin. And when they stole upstairs to bed, long after
midnight, there was great joy and certainty in their fighting old
hearts. There was a perfume of flowers, of lilacs and wistaria in the
air, as if the whole garden had slipped in by the back door and was
unable to find its way out again. They dreamed of stars and starlight.




CHAPTER XXI


    La vie est un combat qu'ils ont change en fete.
                    _Lei Elus_, E. VERHAIREN.

The excitement a few days later spread through the village like a
flame. People came out of their way to steal a glance at the Pension
that now, for the first time in their--memory, was free of debt. Gygi,
tolling the bell at _midi_, forgot to stop, as he peered through the
narrow window in the church tower and watched the Widow Jequier
planting and digging recklessly in her garden. Several came running
down the street, thinking it was a warning of fire.

But the secret was well kept; no one discovered who had worked the
miracle. Pride sealed the lips of the beneficiaries themselves, while
the inhabitants of the Citadelle, who alone shared the knowledge, kept
the facts secret, as in honour bound. Every one wondered, however, for
every one knew the sum ran into several thousand francs; and a
thousand francs was a fortune; the rich man in the corner house, who
owned so many vineyards, and was reputed to enjoy an income of ten
thousand francs a year, was always referred to as 'le million naire.'
And so the story spread that Madame Jequier had inherited a fortune,
none knew whence. The tradespeople treated her thereafter with a
degree of respect that sweetened her days till the end of life.

She had come back from the Bank in a fainting condition, the sudden
joy too much for her altogether. A remote and inaccessible air
pervaded her, for all the red of her inflamed eyes and tears. She was
aloof from the world, freed at last from the ceaseless, gnawing
anxiety that for years had eaten her life out. The spirits had
justified themselves, and faith and worship had their just reward. But
this was only the first, immediate effect: it left her greater than it
found her, this unexpected, huge relief--brimming with new sympathy
for others. She doubled her gifts. She planned a wonderful new garden.
That very night she ordered such a quantity of bulbs and seedlings
that to this day they never have been planted.

Her interview with Henry Rogers, when she called at the carpenter's
house in all her finery, cannot properly be told, for it lay beyond
his powers of description. Her sister accompanied her; the Postmaster,
too, snatched fifteen minutes from his duties to attend. The ancient
tall hat, worn only at funerals as a rule, was replaced by the black
Trilby that had been his portion from the Magic Box, as he followed
the excited ladies at a reasonable distance. 'You had better show
yourself,' his wife suggested; 'Monsieur Rogairs would like to see you
with us--to know that you are there.' Which meant that he was not to
interfere with the actual thanksgiving, but to countenance the
occasion with his solemn presence. And, indeed, he did not go
upstairs. He paced the road beneath the windows during the interview,
looking exactly like a professional mourner waiting for the arrival of
the hearse.

'My dear old friend--friends, I mean,' said Rogers in his fluent and
very dreadful French, 'if you only knew what a pleasure it is to
_me_--It is _I_ who should thank you for giving me the opportunity,
not you who should thank me.' The sentence broke loose utterly,
wandering among intricacies of grammar and subjunctive moods that took
his breath away as he poured it out. 'I was only afraid you would
think it unwarrantable interference. I am delighted that you let me do
it. It's such a little thing to do.'

Both ladies instantly wept. The Widow came closer with a little rush.
Whether Rogers was actually embraced, or no, it is not stated
officially.

'It is a loan, of course, it is a loan,' cried the Widow.

'It is a present,' he said firmly, loathing the scene.

'It's a part repayment for all the kindness you showed me here as a
boy years and years ago.' Then, remembering that the sister was not
known to him in those far-away days, he added clumsily, 'and since--I
came back.... And now let's say no more, but just keep the little
secret to ourselves. It is nobody's business but our own.'

'A present!' gasped both ladies to one another, utterly overcome; and
finding nothing else to embrace, they flung their arms about each
other's necks and praised the Lord and wept more copiously than
ever.... 'Grand ciel' was heard so frequently, and so loudly, that
Madame Michaud, the carpenter's wife, listening on the stairs, made up
her mind it was a quarrel, and wondered if she ought to knock at the
door and interfere.

'I see your husband in the road,' said Rogers, tapping at the window.
'I think he seems waiting for you. Or perhaps he has a telegram for
me, do you think?' He bowed and waved his hand, smiling as the
Postmaster looked up in answer to the tapping and gravely raised his
Trilby hat.

'There now, he's calling for you. Do not keep him waiting--I'm sure--'
he didn't know what to say or how else to get them out. He opened the
door. The farewells took some time, though they would meet an hour
later at _dejeuner_ as usual.

'At least you shall pay us no more _pension_,' was the final sentence
as they flounced downstairs, so happy and excited that they nearly
tumbled over each other, and sharing one handkerchief to dry their
tears.

'Then I shall buy my own food and cook it here,' he laughed, and
somehow managed to close his door upon the retreating storm. Out of
the window he saw the procession go back, the sombre figure of the
Postmaster twenty yards behind the other two.

And then, with joy in his heart, though a sigh of relief upon his
lips--there may have been traces of a lump somewhere in his throat as
well, but if so, he did not acknowledge it--he turned to his letters,
and found among them a communication from Herbert Montmorency Minks,
announcing that he had found an ideal site, and that it cost so and so
much per acre--also that the County Council had made no difficulties.
There was a hint, moreover--a general flavour of resentment and
neglect at his master's prolonged absence--that it would not be a bad
thing for the great Scheme if Mr. Rogers could see his way to return
to London 'before very long.'

'Bother the fellow!' thought he; 'what a nuisance he is, to be sure!'

And he answered him at once. 'Do not trouble
 about a site just yet,' he wrote; 'there is no hurry for the moment.'
He made a rapid calculation in his head. He had paid those mortgages
out of capital, and the sum represented just about the cost of the
site Minks mentioned. But results were immediate. There was no loss,
no waste in fees and permits and taxes. Each penny did its work.

'There's the site gone, anyhow,' he laughed to himself. 'The
foundation will go next, then the walls. But, at any rate, they needed
it. The Commune Charity would have had 'em at the end of the month.
They're my neighbours after all. And I must find out from them who
else in the village needs a leg up. For these people are worth
helping, and I can see exactly where every penny goes.'

Bit by bit, as it would seem, the great Scheme for Disabled
Thingumagigs was being undermined.




CHAPTER XXII


    And those who were good shall be happy.
      They shall sit in a golden chair;
    They shall splash at a ten-league canvas
      With brushes of comets' hair.
    They shall have real saints to paint from--
      Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
    They shall work for an age at a sitting
      And never get tired at all.

    And only the Master shall praise them,
      And only the Master shall blame;
    And no one shall work for money,
      And no one shall work for fame;
    But each for the joy of the working,
      And each in his separate star,
    Shall draw the thing as he sees it
      For the God of things as they are,
                             R. KIPLING.

And meanwhile, as May ran laughing to meet June, an air of coloured
wonder spread itself about the entire village. Rogers had brought it
with him from that old Kentish garden somehow. His journey there had
opened doors into a region of imagination and belief whence fairyland
poured back upon his inner world, transfiguring common things. And
this transfiguration he unwittingly put into others too. Through this
very ordinary man swept powers that usually are left behind with
childhood. The childhood aspect of the world invaded all who came in
contact with him, enormous, radiant, sparkling, charged with questions
of wonder and enchantment. And every one felt it according to their
ability of reconstruction. Yet he himself had not the least idea that
he did it all. It was a reformation, very tender, soft, and true.

For wonder, of course, is the basis of all inquiry. Interpretation
varies, facts remain the same; and to interpret is to recreate. Wonder
leads to worship. It insists upon recreation, prerogative of all young
life. The Starlight Express ran regularly every night, Jimbo having
constructed a perfect time-table that answered all requirements, and
was sufficiently elastic to fit instantly any scale that time and
space demanded. Rogers and the children talked of little else, and
their adventures in the daytime seemed curiously fed by details of
information gleaned elsewhere.

But where? The details welled up in one and all, though whence they
came remained a mystery. 'I believe we dream a lot of it,' said Jimbo.
'It's a lot of dreams we have at night, comme fa.' He had made a
complete map of railway lines, with stations everywhere, in forests,
sky, and mountains. He carried stations in his pocket, and just
dropped one out of the carriage window whenever a passenger shouted,
'Let's stop here.' But Monkey, more intellectual, declared it was 'all
Cousinenry's invention and make-up,' although she asked more questions
than all the others put together. Jinny, her sister, stared and
listened with her puzzled, moth-like expression, while Mother watched
and marvelled cautiously from a distance. In one and all, however, the
famished sense of wonder interpreted life anew. It named the world
afresh--the world of common things. It subdued the earth unto itself.
What a mind creates it understands. Through the familiar these
adventurers trace lines of discovery into the unfamiliar. They
understood. They were up to their waists in wonder. There was still
disorder, of course, in their great reconstruction, but that was where
the exciting fun came in; for disorder involves surprise. Any moment
out might pop the unexpected--event or person.

Cousin Henry was easily leader now. While Daddy remained absorbed with
his marvellous new story, enthusiastic and invisible, they ran about
the world at the heels of this 'busy engineer,' as Jane Ann entitled
him. He had long ago told them, with infinite and exaccurate detail,
of his journey to the garden and his rediscovery of the sprites,
forgotten during his twenty years of business life. And these sprites
were as familiar to them now as those of their own childhood. They
little knew that at night they met and talked with them. Daddy had put
them all into the Wumble Book, achieving mediocre success with the
rhymes, but amply atoning with the illustrations. The Woman of the
Haystack was evidently a monster pure and simple, till Jinny announced
that she merely had 'elephantitis,' and thus explained her
satisfactorily. The Lamplighter, with shining feet, taking enormous
strides from Neuchatel to a London slum, putting fire into eyes and
hearts _en route_, thrilled them by his radiant speed and ubiquitous
activity, while his doggerel left them coldly questioning. For the
rhymes did _not_ commend themselves to their sense of what was proper
in the use of words. His natural history left them unconvinced, though
the anatomy of the drawing fascinated them.

     He walked upon his toes
     As softly as a saying does,
     For so the saying goes.

That he 'walked upon his toes' was all right, but that he 'walked
softly as a saying' meant nothing, even when explained that 'thus the
saying goes.'

'Poor old Daddy,' was Jinny's judgment; 'he's got to write something.
You see, he is an author. Some day he'll get his testimonial.'

It was Cousin Henry who led them with a surer, truer touch. He always
had an adventure up his sleeve--something their imaginations could
accept and recreate. Each in their own way, they supplied
interpretations as they were able.

Every walk they took together furnished the germ of an adventure.

'But I'm not exciting to-day,' he would object thirsting for a
convincing compliment that should  persuade him to take them out. Only
the compliment never came quite as he hoped.

'Everybody's exciting somewhere,' said Monkey, leading the way and
knowing he would follow. 'We'll go to the Wind Wood.'

Jimbo took his hand then, and they went. Corners of the forest had
names now, born of stories and adventures he had placed there--the
Wind Wood, the Cuckoo Wood, where Daddy could not sleep because 'the
beastly cuckoo made such a noise'; the Wood where Mother Fell, and so
on. No walk was wholly unproductive.

And so, one evening after supper, they escaped by the garden, crossed
the field where the standing hay came to their waists, and climbed by
forest paths towards the Wind Wood. It was a spot where giant pines
stood thinly, allowing a view across the lake towards the Alps. The
moss was thick and deep. Great boulders, covered with lichen, lay
about, and there were fallen trees to rest the back against. Here he
had told them once his vision of seeing the wind, and the name had
stuck; for the story had been very vivid, and every time they felt the
wind or heard it stirring in the tree-tops, they expected to see it
too. There were blue winds, black winds, and winds--violent these--of
purple and flaming scarlet.

They lay down, and Cousinenry made a fire. The smoke went up in thin
straight lines of blue, melting into the sky. The sun had set half an
hour before, and the flush of gold and pink was fading into twilight.
The glamour of Bourcelles dropped down upon all three. They ought to
have been in bed--hence the particular enjoyment.

'Are you getting excited now?' asked Monkey, nestling in against him.

'Hush!' he said, 'can't you hear it coming?'

'The excitement?' she inquired under her breath.

'No, the Night. Keep soft and silent--if you can.'

'Tell us, please, at once,' both children begged him instantly, for
the beauty of the place and hour demanded explanation, and
explanation, of course, must be in story or adventure form. The fire
crackled faintly; the smell crept out like incense; the lines of smoke
coiled upwards, and seemed to draw the tree-stems with them. Indeed
they formed a pattern together, big thick trunks marking the uprights
at the corners, and wavy smoke lines weaving a delicate structure in
between them. It was a kind of growing, moving scaffolding. Saying
nothing, Cousin Henry pointed to it with his finger. He traced its
general pattern for them in the air.

'That's the Scaffolding of the Night beginning,' he whispered
presently, feeling adventure press upon him.

'Oh, I say,' said Jimbo, sitting up, and pretending as usual more
comprehension than he actually possessed. But his sister instantly
asked, 'What is it--the Scaffolding of the Night? A sort of cathedral,
you mean?'

How she divined his thought, and snatched it from his mind always,
this nimble-witted child! His germ developed with a bound at once.

'More a palace than a cathedral,' he whispered. 'Night is a palace,
and has to be built afresh each time. Twilight rears the scaffolding
first, then hangs the Night upon it. Otherwise the darkness would
simply fall in lumps, and lie about in pools and blocks, unfinished--a
ruin instead of a building. Everything must have a scaffolding first.
Look how beautifully it's coming now,' he added, pointing, 'each
shadow in its place, and all the lines of grey and black fitting
exaccurately together like a skeleton. Have you never noticed it
before?'

Jimbo, of course, _had_ noticed it, his manner gave them to
understand, but had not thought it worth while mentioning until his
leader drew attention to it.

'Just as trains must have rails to run on,' he explained across
Cousinenry's intervening body to Monkey, 'or else there'd be accidents
and things all the time.'

'And night would be a horrid darkness like a plague in Egypt,' she
supposed, adroitly defending herself and helping her cousin at the
same time. 'Wouldn't it?' she added, as the shadows drew magically
nearer from the forest and made the fire gradually grow brighter. The
children snuggled closer to their cousin's comforting bulk, shivering
a little. The woods went whispering together. Night shook her velvet
skirts out.

'Yes, everything has its pattern,' he answered, 'from the skeleton of
a child or a universe to the outline of a thought. Even a dream must
have its scaffolding,' he added, feeling their shudder and leading it
towards fun and beauty. 'Insects, birds, and animals all make little
scaffoldings with their wee emotions, especially kittens and
butterflies. Engine-drivers too,' for he felt Jimbo's hand steal into
his own and go to sleep there, 'but particularly little beasties that
live in holes under stones and in fields.

     When a little mouse in wonder
     Flicks its whiskers at the thunder,

it makes a tiny scaffolding behind which it hides in safety,
shuddering. Same with Daddy's stories. Thinking and feeling does the
trick. Then imagination comes and builds it up solidly with bricks and
wall-papers....'

He told them a great deal more, but it cannot be certain that they
heard it all, for there were other Excitements about besides their
cousin--the fire, the time, the place, and above all, this marvellous
coming of the darkness. They caught words here and there, but Thought
went its own independent way with each little eager mind. He had
started the machinery going, that was all. Interpretation varied;
facts remained the same. And meanwhile twilight brought the
Scaffolding of Night before their eyes.

'You can see the lines already,' he murmured sleepily, 'like veins
against the sunset.... Look!'

All saw the shadowy slim rafters slip across the paling sky, mapping
its emptiness with intricate design. Like an enormous spider's web of
fine dark silk it bulged before the wind. The trellis-work, slung from
the sky, hung loose. It moved slowly, steadily, from east to west,
trailing grey sheets of dusk that hung from every filament. The maze
of lines bewildered sight. In all directions shot the threads of
coming darkness, spun from the huge body of Night that still hid
invisible below the horizon.

'They're fastening on to everything ... look!' whispered Cousin Henry,
kicking up a shower of sparks with his foot. 'The Pattern's being made
before your eyes! Don't you see the guy ropes?'

And they saw it actually happen. From the summits of the distant Alps
ran filmy lines of ebony that knotted themselves on to the crests of
the pines beside them. There were so many no eye could follow them.
They flew and darted everywhere, dropping like needles from the sky
itself, sewing the tent of darkness on to the main supports, and
threading the starlight as they came. Night slowly brought her beauty
and her mystery upon the world. The filmy pattern opened. There was a
tautness in the lines that made one feel they would twang with
delicate music if the wind swept its hand more rapidly across them.
And now and again all vibrated, each line making an ellipse between
its fastened ends, then gradually settling back to its thin, almost
invisible bed. Cables of thick, elastic darkness steadied them.

How much of it all the children realised themselves, or how much
flashed into them from their cousin's mind, is of course a thing not
even a bat can tell.

'Is that why bats fly in such a muddle? Like a puzzle?'

'Of course,' he said. The bats were at last explained.

They built their little pictures for themselves. No living being can
lie on the edge of a big pine forest when twilight brings the darkness
without the feeling that everything becomes too wonderful for words.
The children as ever fed his fantasy, while he thought he did it all
himself. Dusk wore a shroud to entangle the too eager stars, and make
them stay.

'I never noticed it before,' murmured Monkey against his coat sleeve.
'Does it happen every night like this?'

'You only see it if you look very closely,' was the low reply. 'You
must think hard, very hard. The more you think, the more you'll see.'

'But really,' asked Jimbo, 'it's only--_crepuscule, comme ca,_ isn't
it?' And his fingers tightened on his leader's hand.

'Dusk, yes,' answered Cousin Henry softly, 'only dusk. But people
everywhere are watching it like ourselves, and thinking feather
thoughts. You can see the froth of stars flung up over the crest of
Night. People are watching it from windows and fields and country
roads everywhere, wondering what makes it so beautiful. It brings
yearnings and long, long desires. Only a few like ourselves can see
the lines of scaffolding, but everybody who thinks about it, and loves
it, makes it more real for others to see, too. Daddy's probably
watching it too from his window.'

'I wonder if Jinny ever sees it,' Monkey asked herself.

But Jimbo knew. 'She's in it,' he decided. 'She's always in places
like that; that's where she lives.'

The children went on talking to each other under their breath, and
while they did so Cousin Henry entered their little wondering minds.
Or, perhaps, they entered his. It is difficult to say. Not even an
owl, who is awfully wise about everything to do with night and
darkness, could have told for certain. But, anyhow, they all three saw
more or less the same thing. The way they talked about it afterwards
proves that. Their minds apparently merged, or else there was one big
mirror and two minor side-reflections of it. It was their cousin's
interpretation, at any rate, that they remembered later. They brought
the material for his fashioning.

'Look!' cried Monkey, sitting up, 'there are millions and millions
now--lines everywhere--pillars and squares and towers. It's like a
city. I can see lamps in every street----'

'That's stars,' interrupted Jimbo. The stars indeed were peeping here
and there already. 'I feel up there,' he added, 'my inside, I mean--up
among the stars and lines and sky-things.'

'That's the mind wandering,' explained the eldest child of the three.
'Always follow a wandering mind. It's quite safe. Mine's going
presently too. We'll all go off together.'

Several little winds, released by darkness, passed them just then on
their way out of the forest. They gathered half a dozen sparks from
the fire to light them on their way, and brought cool odours with them
from the deepest recesses of the trees--perfumes no sunlight ever
finds. And just behind them came a big white moth, booming and
whirring softly. It darted to and fro to find the trail, then
vanished, so swiftly that no one saw it go.

'He's pushing it along,' said Jimbo.

'Or fastening the lines,' his sister thought, 'you see he hovers in
one place, then darts over to another.'

'That's fastening the knots,' added Jimbo.

'No; he's either an Inspector or a Pathfinder,' whispered Cousin
Henry, 'I don't know exactly which. They show the way the scaffolding
goes. Moths, bats, and owls divide the work between them somehow.' He
sat up suddenly to listen, and the children sat up with him. 'Hark!'
he added, 'do you hear that?'

Sighings and flutterings rose everywhere about them, and overhead the
fluffy spires of the tree-tops all bent one way as the winds went
foraging across the night. Majestically the scaffolding reared up and
towered through the air, while sheets of darkness hung from every
line, and trailed across the earth like gigantic sails from some
invisible vessel. Loose and enormous they gradually unfolded, then
suddenly swung free and dropped with a silent dip and rush. Night
swooped down upon the leagues of Jura forest. She spread her tent
across the entire range.

The threads were fastened everywhere now, and the uprights all in
place. Moths were busy in all directions, showing the way, while bats
by the dozen darted like black lightning from corner to corner, making
sure that every spar and beam was fixed and steady. So exquisitely
woven was the structure that it moved past them overhead without the
faintest sound, yet so frail and so elastic that the whirring of the
moths sent ripples of quivering movement through the entire framework.

'Hush!' murmured Rogers, 'we're properly inside it now. Don't think of
anything in particular. Just follow your wandering minds and wait.'
The children lay very close against him. He felt their warmth and the
breathing of their little bosoms. All three moved sympathetically
within the rhythm of the dusk. The 'inside' of each went floating up
into the darkening sky.

The general plan of the scaffolding they clearly made out as they
passed among its myriad, mile-long rafters, but the completed temple,
of course, they never saw. Black darkness hides that ever. Night's
secret mystery lies veiled finally in its innermost chamber, whence it
steals forth to enchant the mind of men with its strange bewilderment.
But the Twilight Scaffolding they saw clearly enough to make a map of
it. For Daddy afterwards drew it from their description, and gave it
an entire page in the Wumble Book, Monkey ladling on the colour with
her camel's-hair brush as well as she could remember.

It was a page to take the breath away, the big conception blundering
clumsily behind the crude reconstruction. Great winds formed the base,
winds of brown and blue and purple, piled mountainously upon each
other in motionless coils, and so soft that the upright columns of the
structure plunged easily and deeply into them. Thus the framework
could bend and curve and sway, moving with steady glide across the
landscape, yet never collapsing nor losing its exquisite proportions.
The forests shored it up, its stays and bastions were the Jura
precipices; it rested on the shoulders of the hills. From vineyard,
field, and lake vast droves of thick grey shadows trooped in to
curtain the lower halls of the colossal edifice, as chamber after
chamber disappeared from view and Night clothed the structure from the
ground-floors upwards. And far overhead a million tiny scarves, half
sunset and half dusk, wove into little ropes that lashed the topmost
spars together, dovetailing them neatly, and fastening them at last
with whole clusters of bright thin stars.

'Ohhhhh!' breathed Jimbo with a delicious shudder of giddiness. 'Let's
climb to the very tip and see all the trains and railway stations in
the world!'

'Wait till the moon comes up and puts the silver rivets in,' the
leader whispered. 'It'll be safer then. My weight, you know--'

'There she is!' interrupted Monkey with a start, 'and there's no such
thing as weight--'

For the moon that instant came up, it seemed with a rush, and the line
of distant Alps moved forward, blocked vividly against the silvery
curtain that she brought. Her sight ran instantly about the world.
Between the trees shot balls of yellowish white, unfolding like ribbon
as they rolled. They splashed the rocks and put shining pools in the
hollows among the moss. Spangles shone on Monkey's hair and eyes;
skins and faces all turned faintly radiant. The lake, like a huge
reflector, flashed its light up into the heavens. The moon laid a
coating of her ancient and transfiguring paint upon the enormous
structure, festooning the entire sky. 'She's put the silver rivets
in,' said Jimbo.

'Now we can go,' whispered Rogers, 'only, remember, it's a giddy
business, rather.'

All three went fluttering after it, floating, rising, falling, like
fish that explore a sunken vessel in their own transparent medium. The
elastic structure bore them easily as it swung along. Its enormous
rhythm lulled their senses with a deep and drowsy peace, and as they
climbed from storey to storey it is doubtful if the children caught
their leader's words at all. There were no echoes--the spaces were too
vast for that--and they swung away from spar to spar, and from rafter
to rafter, as easily as acrobats on huge trapezes. Jimbo and Monkey
shot upwards into space.

'I shall explore the lower storeys first,' he called after them, his
words fluttering in feathers of sound far up the vault. 'Keep the fire
in sight to guide you home again ...' and he moved slowly towards the
vast ground-floor chambers of the Night. Each went his independent way
along the paths of reverie and dream. He found himself alone.

For he could not soar and float as they did; he kept closer to the
earth, wandering through the under chambers of the travelling building
that swung its way over vineyards, woods, and village roofs. He kept
more in touch with earth than they did. The upper sections where the
children climbed went faster than those lower halls and galleries, so
that the entire framework bent over, breaking ever into a crest of
foaming stars. But in these under halls where he stood and watched
there was far less movement. From century to century these remained
the same. Between the bases of the mighty columns he watched the wave
of darkness drown the world, leading it with a rush of silence towards
sleep. For the children Night meant play and mischief; for himself it
meant graver reverie....

These were the chambers, clearly, of ancestral sleep and dream: they
seemed so familiar and well known. Behind him blinked the little
friendly fire in the forest, link with the outer world he must not
lose. He would find the children there when he went back, lively from
their scamper among the stars; and, meanwhile, he was quite content to
wander down these corridors in the floor of Night and taste their deep
repose. For years he had not visited or known them. The children had
led him back, although he did not realise it. He believed, on the
contrary, that it was he who led and they who followed. For true
leadership is ever inspired, making each follower feel that he goes
first and of his own free will....

'Jimbo, you flickery sprite, where are you now?' he called, suddenly
noticing how faint the little fire had grown with distance.

A lonely wind flew down upon him with a tiny shout:

'Up here, at the very top, with Daddy. He's making notes in a tower-
room all by himself!'

Rogers could not believe his ears. Daddy indeed!

'Is Monkey with you? And is she safe?'

'She's helping Daddy balance. The walls aren't finished, and he's on a
fearful ledge. He's after something or other for his story, he says.'

It seemed impossible. Daddy skylarking on the roof of Night, and
making notes! Yet with a moment's reflection the impossibility
vanished; surprise went after it; it became natural, right, and true.
Daddy, of course, sitting by his window in the carpenter's house, had
seen the Twilight Scaffolding sweep past and had climbed into it. Its
beauty had rapt him out and away. In the darkness his mind wandered,
too, gathering notes subconsciously for his wonderful new story.

'Come down here to me,' he cried, as a man cries in his sleep, making
no audible sound. 'There's less risk among the foundations.' And down
came Daddy with an immediate rush. He arrived in a bundle, then
straightened up. The two men stood side by side in these subterraneans
of the night.

'You!' whispered Rogers, trying to seize his hand, while the other
evaded him, hiding behind a shadow.

'Don't touch me,' he murmured breathlessly. 'You'll scatter my train
of thought. Think of something else at once, please....' He moved into
thicker shadows, half disappearing. 'I'm after something that suddenly
occurred to me for my story.'

'What is it? I'll think it with you,' his cousin called after him.
'You'll see it better if I do. Tell me.'

'A train that carries Thought, as this darkness carries stars--a
starlight express,' was the quick reply, 'and a cavern where lost
starlight gathers till it's wanted-sort of terminus of the railway.
They belong to the story somewhere if only I can find them and fit
them in. Starlight binds all together as thought and sympathy bind
minds....'

Rogers thought hard about them. Instantly his cousin vanished.

'Thank you,' ran a faint whisper among the pillars; 'I'm on their
trail again now. I must go up again. I can see better from the top,'
and the voice grew fainter and higher and further off with each word
till it died away completely into silence. Daddy went chasing his
inspiration through the scaffolding of reverie and dream.

'We did something for him the other night after all, then,' thought
Rogers with delight.

'Of course,' dropped down a wee, faint answer from above, as the
author heard him thinking; 'you did a lot. I'm partly out at last.
This is where all the Patterns hide. Awake, I only get their dim
reflections, broken and distorted. This is reality, not that. Ha, ha!
If only I can get it through, my lovely, beautiful pattern--'

'You will, you will,' cried the other, as the voice went fluttering
through space. 'Ask the children. Jimbo and Monkey are up there
somewhere. They're the safest guides.'

Rogers gave a gulp and found that he was coughing. His feet were cold.
A shudder ran across the feathery structure, making it tremble from
the foundations to the forest of spires overhead. Jimbo came sliding
down a pole of gleaming ebony. In a hammock of beams and rafters,
swinging like a network of trapezes, Monkey swooped down after him,
head first as usual. For the moon that moment passed behind a cloud,
and the silver rivets started from their shadowy sockets. Clusters of
star nails followed suit. The palace bent and tottered like a falling
wave. Its pillars turned into trunks of pine trees; its corridors were
spaces through the clouds; its chambers were great dips between the
mountain summits.

'It's going too fast for sight,' thought Rogers; 'I can't keep up with
it. Even the children have toppled off.' But he still heard Daddy's
laughter echoing down the lanes of darkness as he chased his pattern
with yearning and enthusiasm.

The huge structure with its towers and walls and platforms slid softly
out of sight. The moonlight sponged its outlines from the sky. The
scaffolding melted into darkness, moving further westwards as night
advanced. Already it was over France and Italy, sweeping grandly
across the sea, bewildering the vessels in its net of glamour, and
filling with wonder the eyes of the look-out men at the mast heads.

'The fire's going out,' a voice was saying. Rogers heard it through a
moment's wild confusion as he fell swiftly among a forest of rafters,
beams, and shifting uprights.

'I'll get more wood.'

The words seemed underground. A mountain wind rose up and brought the
solid world about him. He felt chilly, shivered, and opened his eyes.
There stood the solemn pine trees, thick and close; moonlight flooded
the spaces between them and lit their crests with silver.

'This is the Wind Wood,' he remarked aloud to reassure himself.

Jimbo was bending over the fire, heaping on wood. Flame leaped up with
a shower of sparks. He saw Monkey rubbing her eyes beside him.

'I've had a dream of falling,' she was saying, as she snuggled down
closer into his side.

'_I_ didn't,' Jimbo said. 'I dreamed of a railway accident, and
everybody was killed except one passenger, who was Daddy. It fell off
a high bridge. We found Daddy in the _fourgon_ with the baggages,
writing a story and laughing--making an awful row.'

'What did _you_ dream, Cousinenry?' asked Monkey, peering into his
eyes in the firelight.

'That my feet were cold, because the fire had gone out,' he answered,
trying in vain to remember whether he had dreamed anything at all.
'And--that it's time to go home. I hear the curfew ringing.'

Some one whistled softly. They ought to have been in bed an hour ago.

It was ten o'clock, and Gygi was sounding the _couvre feu_ from the
old church tower. They put the fire out and walked home arm in arm,
separating with hushed good-nights in the courtyard of the Citadelle.
But Rogers did not hear the scolding Mother gave them when they
appeared at the Den door, for he went on at once to his own room in
the carpenter's house, with the feeling that he had lived always in
Bourcelles, and would never leave it again. His Scheme had moved
bodily from London to the forest.

And on the way upstairs he peeped a moment into his cousin's room,
seeing a light beneath the door. The author was sitting beside the
open window with the lamp behind him and a note-book on his knees.
Moonlight fell upon his face. He was sound asleep.

'I won't wake him,' thought his cousin, going out softly again. 'He's
dreaming--dreaming of his wonderful new story probably.'




CHAPTER XXII


     Even as a luminous haze links star to star,
     I would supply all chasms with music, breathing
     Mysterious motions of the soul, no way
     To be defined save in strange melodies.
                  _Paracelsus_, R. BROWNING.

Daddy's story, meanwhile, continued to develop itself with wonder and
enthusiasm. It was unlike anything he had ever written. His other
studies had the brilliance of dead precious stones, perhaps, but this
thing moved along with a rushing life of its own. It grew, fed by
sources he was not aware of. It developed of itself--changed and lived
and flashed. Some creative fairy hand had touched him while he slept
perhaps. The starry sympathy poured through him, and he thought with
his feelings as well as with his mind.

At first he was half ashamed of it; the process was so new and
strange; he even attempted to conceal his method, because he could not
explain or understand it. 'This is emotional, not intellectual,' he
sighed to himself; 'it must be second childhood. I'm old. They'll call
it decadent!' Presently, however, he resigned himself to the delicious
flow of inspiration, and let it pour out till it flowed over into his
daily life as well. Through his heart it welled up and bubbled forth,
a thing of children, starlight, woods, and fairies.

Yet he was shy about it. He would talk about the story, but would not
read it out. 'It's a new _genre_ for me,' he explained shyly, 'an
attempt merely. We'll see what comes of it. My original idea, you see,
has grown out of hand rather. I wake every morning with something
fresh, as though'--he hesitated a moment, glancing towards his wife--
'as if it came to me in sleep,' he concluded. He felt her common sense
might rather despise him for it.

'Perhaps it does,' said Rogers.

'Why not?' said Mother, knitting on the sofa that was her bed at
night.

She had put her needles down and was staring at her husband; he stared
at Rogers; all three stared at each other. Something each wished to
conceal moved towards utterance and revelation. Yet no one of them
wished to be the first to mention it. A great change had come of late
upon Bourcelles. It no longer seemed isolated from the big world
outside as before; something had linked it up with the whole
surrounding universe, and bigger, deeper currents of life flowed
through it. And with the individual life of each it was the same. All
dreamed the same enormous, splendid dream, yet dared not tell it--yet.

Both parents realised vaguely that it was something their visitor had
brought, but what could it be exactly? It was in his atmosphere, he
himself least of all aware of it; it was in his thought, his attitude
to life, yet he himself so utterly unconscious of it. It brought out
all the best in everybody, made them feel hopeful, brighter, more
courageous. Yes, certainly, _he,_ brought it. He believed in them, in
the best of them--they lived up to it or tried to. Was that it? Was it
belief and vision that he brought into their lives, though
unconsciously, because these qualities lay so strongly in himself?
Belief is constructive. It is what people _are_ rather than what they
preach that affects others. Two strangers meet and bow and separate
without a word, yet each has changed; neither leaves the other quite
as he was before. In the society of children, moreover, one believes
everything in the world--for the moment. Belief is constructive and
creative; it is doubt and cynicism that destroy. In the presence of a
child these latter are impossible. Was this the explanation of the
effect he produced upon their little circle--the belief and wonder and
joy of Fairyland?

For a moment something of this flashed through Daddy's mind. Mother,
in her way, was aware of something similar. But neither of them spoke
it. The triangular staring was its only evidence. Mother resumed her
knitting. She was not given to impulsive utterance. Her husband once
described her as a solid piece of furniture. She was.

'You see,' said Daddy bravely, as the moment's tension passed, 'my
original idea was simply to treat Bourcelles as an epitome, a
miniature, so to speak, of the big world, while showing how Nature
sweetened and kept it pure as by a kind of alchemy. But that idea has
grown. I have the feeling now that the Bourcelles we know is a mere
shadowy projection cast by a more real Bourcelles behind. It is only
the dream village we know in our waking life. The real one--er--we
know only in sleep.' There!--it was partly out!

Mother turned with a little start. 'You mean when we sleep?' she
asked. She knitted vigorously again at once, as though ashamed of this
sudden betrayal into fantasy. 'Why not?' she added, falling back upon
her customary non-committal phrase. Yet this was not the superior
attitude he had dreaded; she was interested. There was something she
wanted to confess, if she only dared. Mother, too, had grown softer in
some corner of her being. Something shone through her with a tiny
golden radiance.

'But this idea is not my own,' continued Daddy, dangerously near to
wumbling. 'It comes _through_ me only. It develops, apparently, when
I'm asleep,' he repeated. He sat up and leaned forward. 'And, I
believe,' he added, as on sudden reckless impulse, 'it comes from you,
Henry. Your mind, I feel, has brought this cargo of new suggestion and
discharged it into me--into every one--into the whole blessed village.
Man, I think you've bewitched us all!'

Mother dropped a stitch, so keenly was she listening. A moment later
she dropped a needle too, and the two men picked it up, and handed it
back together as though it weighed several pounds.

'Well,' said Rogers slowly, 'I suppose all minds pour into one another
somewhere--in and out of one another, rather--and that there's a
common stock or pool all draw upon according to their needs and power
to assimilate. But I'm not conscious, old man, of driving anything
deliberately into you--'

'Only you think and feel these things vividly enough for me to get
them too,' said Daddy. Luckily 'thought transference' was not actually
mentioned, or Mother might have left the room, or at least have
betrayed an uneasiness that must have chilled them.

'As a boy I imagined pretty strongly,' in a tone of apology, 'but
never since. I was in the City, remember, twenty years--'

'It's the childhood things, then,' Daddy interrupted eagerly. 'You've
brought the great childhood imagination with you--the sort of
gorgeous, huge, and endless power that goes on fashioning of its own
accord just as dreams do--'

'I _did,_ indulge in that sort of thing as a boy, yes,' was the half-
guilty reply; 'but that was years and years ago, wasn't it?'

'They have survived, then,' said Daddy with decision. 'The sweetness
of this place has stimulated them afresh. The children'--he glanced
suspiciously at his wife for a moment--'have appropriated them too.
It's a powerful combination. After a pause he added, 'I might develop
that idea in my story--that you've brought back the sweet creations of
childhood with you and captured us all--a sort of starry army.'

'Why not?' interpolated Mother, as who should say there was no harm in
_that_. 'They certainly have been full of mischief lately.'

'Creation _is_ mischievous,' murmured her husband. 'But since you have
come,' he continued aloud,--'how can I express it exactly?--the days
have seemed larger, fuller, deeper, the forest richer and more
mysterious, the sky much closer, and the stars more soft and intimate.
I dream of them, and they all bring me messages that help my story. Do
you know what I mean? There were days formerly, when life seemed
empty, thin, peaked, impoverished, its scale of values horribly
reduced, whereas now--since you've been up to your nonsense with the
children--some tide stands at the full, and things are always
happening.'

'Well, really, Daddy!' said the expression on Mother's face and hands
and knitting-needles, 'you _are_ splendid to-day'; but aloud she only
repeated her little hold-all phrase, 'Why not?'

Yet somehow he recognised that she understood him better than usual.
Her language had not changed--things in Mother worked slowly, from
within outwards as became her solid personality--but it held new
meaning. He felt for the first time that he could make her understand,
and more--that she was ready to understand. That is, he felt new
sympathy with her. It was very delightful, stimulating; he instantly
loved her more, and felt himself increased at the same time.

'I believe a story like that might even sell,' he observed, with a
hint of reckless optimism. 'People might recognise a touch of their
own childhood in it, eh?'

He longed for her to encourage him and pat him on the back.

'True,' said Mother, smiling at him, 'for every one likes to keep in
touch with their childhood--if they can. It makes one feel young and
hopeful--jolly; doesn't it? Why not?'

Their eyes met. Something, long put aside and buried under a burden of
exaggerated care, flashed deliciously between them. Rogers caught it
flying and felt happy. Bridges were being repaired, if not newly
built.

'Nature, you see, is always young really,' he said; 'it's full of
children. The very meaning of the word, eh, John?' turning to his
cousin as who should say, 'We knew our grammar once.'

'_Natura_, yes--something about to produce.' They laughed in their
superior knowledge of a Latin word, but Mother, stirred deeply though
she hardly knew why, was not to be left out. Would the bridge bear
her, was perhaps her thought.

'And of the feminine gender,' she added slyly, with a touch of pride.
The bridge creaked, but did not give way. She said it very quickly.
She had suddenly an air of bouncing on her sofa.

'Bravo, Mother,' said her husband, looking at her, and there was a
fondness in his voice that warmed and blessed and melted down into
her. She had missed it so long that it almost startled her. 'There's
the eternal old magic, Mother; you're right. And if I had more of you
in me--more of the creative feminine--I should do better work, I'm
sure. You must give it to me.'

She kept her eyes upon her needles. The others, being unobservant
'mere men,' did not notice that the stitches she made must have
produced queer kind of stockings if continued. 'We'll be
collaborators,' Daddy added, in the tone of a boy building on the
sands at Margate.

'I will,' she said in a low voice, 'if only I know how.'

'Well,' he answered enthusiastically, looking from one to the other,
delighted to find an audience to whom he could talk of his new dream,
'you see, this is really a great jolly fairy-tale I'm trying to write.
I'm blessed if I know where the ideas come from, or how they pour into
me like this, but--anyhow it's a new experience, and I want to make
the most of it. I've never done imaginative work before, and--though
it is a bit fantastical, mean to keep in touch with reality and show
great truths that emerge from the commonest facts of life. The
critics, of course, will blame me for not giving 'em the banal thing
they expect from me, but what of that?' He was dreadfully reckless.

'I see,' said Mother, gazing open-mindedly into his face; 'but where
does _my_ help come in, please?'

She leaned back, half-sighing, half-smiling. 'Here's my life'--she
held up her needles--'and that's the soul of prosaic dulness, isn't
it?'

'On the contrary,' he answered eagerly, 'it's reality. It's courage,
patience, heroism. You're a spring-board for my fairy-tale, though I'd
never realised it before. I shall put you in, just as you are. You'll
be one of the earlier chapters.'

'Every one'll skip me, then, I'm afraid.'

'Not a bit,' he laughed gaily; 'they'll feel you all through the book.
Their minds will rest on you. You'll be a foundation. "Mother's
there," they'll say, "so it's all right. This isn't nonsense. We'll
read on." And they will read on.'

'I'm all through it, then?'

'Like the binding that mothers the whole book, you see,' put in
Rogers, delighted to see them getting on so well, yet amazed to hear
his cousin talk so openly with her of his idea.

Daddy continued, unabashed and radiant. Hitherto, he knew, his wife's
attitude, though never spoken, had been very different. She almost
resented his intense preoccupation with stories that brought in so
little cash. It would have been better if he taught English or gave
lessons in literature for a small but regular income. He gave too much
attention to these unremunerative studies of types she never met in
actual life. She was proud of the reviews, and pasted them neatly in a
big book, but his help and advice on the practical details of the
children's clothing and education were so scanty. Hers seemed ever the
main burden.

Now, for the first time, though she distrusted fantasy and deemed it
destructive of action, she felt something real. She listened with a
kind of believing sympathy. She noticed, moreover, with keen pleasure,
that her attitude fed him. He talked so freely, happily about it all.
Already her sympathy, crudely enough expressed, brought fuel to his
fires. Some one had put starlight into her.

'He's been hungry for this all along,' she reflected; 'I never
realised it. I've thought only of myself without knowing it.'

'Yes, I'll put you in, old Mother,' he went on, 'and Rogers and the
children too. In fact, you're in it already,' he chuckled, 'if you
want to know. Each of you plays his part all day long without knowing
it.' He changed his seat, going over to the window-sill, and staring
down upon them as he talked on eagerly. 'Don't you feel,' he said,
enthusiasm growing and streaming from him, 'how all this village life
is a kind of dream we act out against the background of the sunshine,
while our truer, deeper life is hidden somewhere far below in half
unconsciousness? Our daily doings are but the little bits that emerge,
tips of acts and speech that poke up and out, masquerading as
complete? In that vaster sea of life we lead below the surface lies my
big story, my fairy-tale--when we sleep.' He paused and looked down
questioningly upon them. 'When we sleep,' he repeated impressively,
struggling with his own thought. 'You, Mother, while you knit and sew,
slip down into that enormous under-sea and get a glimpse of the
coloured pictures that pass eternally behind the veil. I do the same
when I watch the twilight from my window in reverie. Sunshine
obliterates them, but they go just the same. _You_ call it day-
dreaming. Our waking hours are the clothes we dress the spirit in
after its nightly journeys and activities. Imagination does not create
so much as remember. Then, by transforming, it reveals.'

Mother sat staring blankly before her, utterly lost, while her husband
flung these lumps of the raw material of his story at her--of its
atmosphere, rather. Even Rogers felt puzzled, and hardly followed what
he heard. The intricacies of an artistic mind were indeed bewildering.
How in the world would these wild fragments weave together into any
intelligible pattern?

'You mean that we travel when we sleep,' he ventured, remembering a
phrase that Minks had somewhere used, 'and that our real life is out
of the body?' His cousin was taking his thought---or was it originally
Minks's?--wholesale.

Mother looked up gratefully. 'I often dream I'm flying,' she put in
solemnly. 'Lately, in particular, I've dreamed of stars and funny
things like that a lot.'

Daddy beamed his pleasure. 'In my fairy-tale we shall all see stars,'
he laughed, 'and we shall all get "out." For our thoughts will
determine the kind of experience and adventure we have when the spirit
is free and unhampered. And contrariwise, the kind of things we do at
night--in sleep, in dream--will determine our behaviour during the
day. There's the importance of thinking rightly, you see. Out of the
body is eternal, and thinking is more than doing--it's more complete.
The waking days are brief intervals of test that betray the character
of our hidden deeper life. We are judged in sleep. We last for ever
and ever. In the day, awake, we stand before the easel on which our
adventures of the night have painted those patterns which are the very
structure of our outer life's behaviour. When we sleep again we re-
enter the main stream of our spirit's activity. In the day we forget,
of course--as a rule, and most of us--but we follow the pattern just
the same, unwittingly, because we can't help it. It's the mould we've
made.'

'Then your story,' Rogers interrupted, 'will show the effect in the
daytime of what we do at night? Is that it?' It amazed him to hear his
cousin borrowing thus the entire content of his own mind, sucking it
out whole like a ripe plum from its skin.

'Of course,' he answered; 'and won't it be a lark? We'll all get out
in sleep and go about the village together in a bunch, helping,
soothing, cleaning up, and putting everybody straight, so that when
they wake up they'll wonder why in the world they feel so hopeful,
strong, and happy all of a sudden. We'll put thoughts of beauty into
them--beauty, you remember, which "is a promise of happiness."'

'Ah!' said Mother, seizing at his comprehensible scrap with energy.
'That _is_ a story.'

'If I don't get it wumbled in the writing down,' her husband
continued, fairly bubbling over. 'You must keep me straight, remember,
with your needles--your practical aspirations, that is. I'll read it
out to you bit by bit, and you'll tell me where I've dropped a stitch
or used the wrong wool, eh?'

'Mood?' she asked.

'No, wool,' he said, louder.

There was a pause.

'But you see my main idea, don't you--that the sources of our life lie
hid with beauty very very far away, and that our real, big, continuous
life is spiritual--out of the body, as I shall call it. The waking-day
life uses what it can bring over from this enormous under-running sea
of universal consciousness where we're all together, splendid, free,
untamed, and where thinking is creation and we feel and know each
other face to face? See? Sympathy the great solvent? All linked
together by thought as stars are by their rays. Ah! You get my idea--
the great Network?'

He looked straight into his wife's eyes. They were opened very wide.
Her mouth had opened a little, too. She understood vaguely that he was
using a kind of shorthand really. These cryptic sentences expressed in
emotional stenography mere odds and ends that later would drop into
their proper places, translated into the sequence of acts that are the
scaffolding of a definite story. This she firmly grasped--but no more.

'It's grand-a wonderful job,' she answered, sitting back upon the sofa
with a sigh of relief, and again bouncing a little in the process, so
that Rogers had a horrible temptation to giggle. The tension of
listening had been considerable. 'People, you mean, will realise how
important thinking is, and that sympathy---er---' and she hesitated,
floundering.

'Is the great way to grow,' Rogers quickly helped her, 'because by
feeling with another person you add his mind to yours and so get
bigger. And '--turning to his cousin--' you're taking starlight as the
symbol of sympathy? You told me that the other day, I remember.' But
the author did not hear or did not answer; his thought was far away in
his dream again.

The situation was saved. All the bridges had borne well. Daddy, having
relieved his overcharged mind, seemed to have come to a full stop. The
Den was full of sunlight. A delightful feeling of intimacy wove the
three humans together. Mother caught herself thinking of the far-off
courtship days when their love ran strong and clear. She felt at one
with her husband, and remembered him as lover. She felt in touch with
him all over. And Rogers was such a comfortable sort of person. Tact
was indeed well named--sympathy so delicately adjusted that it
involved feeling-with to the point of actual touch.

Daddy came down from his perch upon the window-sill, stretched his
arms, and drew a great happy sigh.

'Mother,' he added, rising to go out, 'you shall help me, dearie.
We'll write this great fairy-tale of mine together, eh?' He stooped
and kissed her, feeling love and tenderness and sympathy in his heart.

'You brave old Mother!' he laughed; 'we'll send Eddie to Oxford yet,
see if we don't. A book like that might earn 100 pounds or even 200
pounds.'

Another time she would have answered, though not bitterly, 'Meanwhile
I'll go on knitting stockings,' or 'Why not? we shall see what we
shall see'--something, at any rate, corrective and rather sober,
quenching. But this time she said nothing. She returned the kiss
instead, without looking up from her needles, and a great big thing
like an unborn child moved near her heart. He had not called her
'dearie' for so long a time, it took her back to their earliest days
together at a single, disconcerting bound. She merely stroked his
shoulder as he straightened up and left the room. Her eyes then
followed him out, and he turned at the door and waved his hand.
Rogers, to her relief, saw him to the end of the passage, and her
handkerchief was out of sight again before he returned. As he came in
she realised even more clearly than before that he somehow was the
cause of the changing relationship. He it was who brought this
something that bridged the years--made old bridges safe to use again.
And her love went out to him. He was a man she could open her heart to
even.

Patterns of starry beauty had found their way in and were working out
in all of them. But Mother, of course, knew nothing of this. There was
a tenderness in him that won her confidence. That was all she felt.
'Oh, dear,' she thought in her odd way, 'what a grand thing a man is
to be sure, when he's got that!' It was like one of Jane Anne's
remarks.

As he came in she had laid the stocking aside and was threading a
needle for darning and buttons, and the like.

'"Threading the eye of a yellow star," eh?' he laughed, 'and always at
it. You've stirred old Daddy up this time. He's gone off to his story,
simply crammed full. What a help and stimulus you must be to him!'

'I,' she said, quite flabbergasted; 'I only wish it were true--again.'
The last word slipped out by accident; she had not meant it.

But Rogers ignored it, even if he noticed it.

'I never can help him in his work. I don't understand it enough. I
don't understand it at all.' She was ashamed to hedge with this man.
She looked him straight in the eye.

'But he feels your sympathy,' was his reply. 'It's not always
necessary to understand. That might only muddle him. You help by
wishing, feeling, sympathising--believing.'

'You really think so?' she asked simply. 'What wonderful thoughts you
have I One has read, of course, of wives who inspired their husbands'
work; but it seemed to belong to books rather than to actual life.'

Rogers looked at her thoughtful, passionate face a moment before he
answered. He realised that his words would count with her. They
approached delicate ground. She had an absurd idea of his importance
in their lives; she exaggerated his influence; if he said a wrong
thing its effect upon her would be difficult to correct.

'Well,' he said, feeling mischief in him, 'I don't mind telling _you_
that I should never have understood that confused idea of his story
but for one thing.'

'What was that?' she asked, relieved to feel more solid ground at
last.

'That I saw the thing from his own point of view,' he replied;
'because I have had similar thoughts all my life. I mean that he's
bagged it all unconsciously out of my own mind; though, of course,' he
hastened to add, 'I could never, never have made use of it as he will.
I could never give it shape and form.'

Mother began to laugh too. He caught the twinkle in her eyes. She
bounced again a little on the springy sofa as she turned towards him,
confession on her lips at last.

'And I do believe you've felt it too, haven't you?' he asked quickly,
before she could change her mind.

'I've felt something--yes,' she assented; 'odd, unsettled; new things
rushing everywhere about us; the children mysterious and up to all
sorts of games and wickedness; and bright light over everything, like-
like a scene in a theatre, somehow. It's exhilarating, but I can't
quite make it out. It can't be right to feel so frivolous and jumpy-
about at my age, can it?'

'You feel lighter, eh?

She burst out laughing. Mother was a prosaic person; that is, she had
strong common-sense; yet through her sober personality there ran like
a streak of light some hint of fairy lightness, derived probably from
her Celtic origin. Now, as Rogers watched her, he caught a flash of
that raciness and swift mobility, that fluid, protean elasticity of
temperament which belonged to the fairy kingdom. The humour and pathos
in her had been smothered by too much care. She accepted old age
before her time. He saw her, under other conditions, dancing, singing,
full of Ariel tricks and mischief--instead of eternally mending
stockings and saving centimes for peat and oil and washerwomen. He
even saw her feeding fantasy--poetry--to Daddy like a baby with a
spoon. The contrast made him laugh out loud.

'You've lived here five years,' he went on, 'but lived too heavily.
Care has swamped imagination. I did the same-in the City-for twenty
years. It's all wrong. One has to learn to live carelessly as well as
carefully. When I came here I felt all astray at first, but now I see
more clearly. The peace and beauty have soaked into me.' He hesitated
an instant, then continued. Even if she didn't grasp his meaning now
with her brains, it would sink down into her and come through later.

'The important things of life are very few really. They stand out
vividly here. You've both vegetated, fossilised, atrophied a bit. I
discovered it in my own case when I went back to Crayfield and--'

He told her about his sentimental journey, and how he found all the
creations of his childhood's imagination still so alive and kicking in
a forgotten backwater of his mind that they all hopped out and took
objective form--the sprites, the starlight express, the boundless
world of laughter, fun and beauty.

'And, without exactly knowing it, I suppose I've brought them all out
here,' he continued, seeing that she drank it in thirstily, 'and--
somehow or other--you all have felt it and responded. It's not my
doing, of course,' he added; 'it's simply that I'm the channel as it
were, and Daddy, with his somewhat starved artist's hunger of mind,
was the first to fill up. It's pouring through him now in a story,
don't you see; but we're all in it--'

'In a way, yes, that's what I've felt,' Mother interrupted. 'It's all
a kind of dream here, and I've just waked up. The unchanging village,
the forests, the Pension with its queer people, the Magic Box--'

'Like a play in a theatre,' he interrupted, 'isn't it?'

'Exactly,' she laughed, yet half-seriously.

'While your husband is the dramatist that writes it down in acts and
scenes. You see, his idea is, perhaps, that life as we know it is
never a genuine story, complete and leading to a climax. It's all in
disconnected fragments apparently. It goes backwards and forwards, up
and down, in and out in a wumbled muddle, just anyhow, as it were. The
fragments seem out of their proper place, the first ones often last,
and _vice versa_. It seems inconsequential, because we only see the
scraps that break through from below, from the true inner, deeper life
that flows on steadily and dramatically out of sight. That's what he
means by "out of the body" and "sleep" and "dreaming." The great
pattern is too big and hidden for us to see it whole, just as when you
knit I only see the stitches as you make them, although the entire
pattern is in your mind complete. Our daily, external acts are the
stitches we show to others and that everybody sees. A spiritual person
sees the whole.'

'Ah!' Mother interrupted, 'I understand now. To know the whole pattern
in my mind you'd have to get in sympathy with my thought below. Is
that it?'

'Sometimes we look over the fence of mystery, yes, and see inside--see
the entire stage as it were.'

'It _is_ like a great play, isn't it?' she repeated, grasping again at
the analogy with relief. 'We give one another cues, and so on---'

'While each must know the whole play complete in order to act his part
properly--be in sympathy, that is, with all the others. The tiniest
details so important, too,' he added, glancing significantly at the
needles on her lap. 'To act your own part faithfully you must carry
all the others in your mind, or else--er--get your own part out of
proportion.'

'It will be a wonderful story, won't it?' she said, after a pause in
which her eyes travelled across the sunshine towards the carpenter's
house where her husband, seen now in a high new light, laboured
steadily.

There was a clatter in the corridor before he could reply, and Jimbo
and Monkey flew in with a rush of wings and voices from school. They
were upon him in an instant, smelling of childhood, copy-books, ink,
and rampagious with hunger. Their skins and hair were warm with
sunlight. 'After tea we'll go out,' they cried, 'and show you
something in the forest---oh, an enormous and wonderful thing that
nobody knows of but me and Jimbo, and comes over every night from
France and hides inside a cave, and goes back just before sunrise with
a sack full of thinkings---'

'Thoughts,' corrected Jimbo.

'---that haven't reached the people they were meant for, and then---'

'Go into the next room, wash yourselves and tidy up,' said Mother
sternly, 'and then lay the table for tea. Jinny isn't in yet. Put the
charcoal in the samovar. I'll come and light it in a moment.'

They disappeared obediently, though once behind the door there were
sounds that resembled a pillow-fight rather than tidying-up; and when
Mother presently went after them to superintend, Rogers sat by the
window and stared across the vineyards and blue expanse of lake at the
distant Alps. It was curious. This vague, disconnected, rambling talk
with Mother had helped to clear his own mind as well. In trying to
explain to her something he hardly understood himself, his own
thinking had clarified. All these trivial scenes were little bits of
rehearsal. The Company was still waiting for the arrival of the Star
Player who should announce the beginning of the real performance. It
was a woman's role, yet Mother certainly could not play it. To get the
family really straight was equally beyond his powers. 'I really must
have more common-sense,' he reflected uneasily; 'I am getting out of
touch with reality somewhere. I'll write to Minks again.'

Minks, at the moment, was the only definite, positive object in the
outer world he could recall. 'I'll write to him about---' His thought
went wumbling. He quite forgot what it was he had to say to him--'Oh,
about lots of things,' he concluded, 'his wife and children and--and
his own future and so on.'

The Scheme had melted into air, it seemed. People lost in Fairyland,
they say, always forget the outer world of unimportant happenings.
They live too close to the source of things to recognise their
clownish reflections in the distorted mirrors of the week-day level.

Yes, it was curious, very curious. Did Thought, then, issue primarily
from some single source and pass thence along the channels of men's
minds, each receiving and interpreting according to his needs and
powers? Was the Message--the Prophet's Vision---merely the more
receipt of it than most? Had, perhaps, this whole wonderful story his
cousin wrote originated, not in his, Rogers's mind, nor in that of
Minks, but in another's altogether--the mind of her who was destined
for the principal role? Thrills of absurd, electric anticipation
rushed through him--very boyish, wildly impossible, yet utterly
delicious.

Two doors opened suddenly--one from the kitchen, admitting Monkey with
a tray of cups and saucers, steam from the hissing samovar wrapping
her in a cloud, the other from the corridor, letting in
 Jane Anne, her arms full of packages. She had been shopping for the
family in Neuchatel, and was arrayed in garments from the latest Magic
Box. She was eager and excited.

'Cousinenry,' she cried, dropping half the parcels in her fluster,
'I've had a letter!' It was in her hand, whereas the parcels had been
merely under her arms. 'The postman gave it me himself as I came up
the steps. I'm a great correspondencer, you know.' And she darted
through the steam to tell her mother. Jimbo passed her, carrying the
tea-pot, the sugar-basin dangerously balanced upon spoons and knives
and butter-dish. He said nothing, but glanced at his younger sister
significantly. Rogers saw the entire picture through the cloud of
steam, shot through with sunlight from the window. It was like a
picture in the clouds. But he intercepted that glance and knew then
the writer of the letter.

'But did you get the mauve ribbon, child?' asked Mother.

Instead of answer, the letter was torn noisily open. Jinny never had
letters. It was far more important than ribbons.

'And how much change have you left out of the five francs? Daddy will
want to know.'

Jimbo and Monkey were listening carefully, while pretending to lay the
table. Mother's silence betrayed that she was reading the letter with
interest and curiosity equal to those of its recipient. 'Who wrote it?
Who's it from? I must answer it at once,' Jinny was saying with great
importance. 'What time does the post go, I wonder? I mustn't miss it.'

'The post-mark,' announced Mother, 'is Bourcelles. It's very
mysterious.' She tapped the letter with one hand, like the villain in
the theatre. Rogers heard her and easily imagined the accompanying
stage gesture. 'The handwriting on the envelope is like Tante Anna,'
he heard, 'but the letter itself is different. It's all capitals, and
wrongly spelt.' Mlle. Lemaire was certainly not the writer.

Jimbo and Monkey were busy hanging the towel out of the window, signal
to Daddy that tea was ready. But as Daddy was already coming down the
street at a great pace, apparently excited too, they waved it instead.
Rogers suddenly remembered that Jimbo that morning had asked him for a
two-centime stamp. He made no remark, however, merely wondering what
was in the letter itself.

'It's a joke, of course,' Mother was heard to say in an odd voice.

'Oh no, Mother, for how could anybody know? It's what I've been
dreaming about for nights and nights. It's so aromantic, isn't it?'

The louder hissing of the samovar buried the next words, and at that
moment Daddy came into the room. He was smiling and his eyes were
bright. He glanced at the table and sat down by his cousin on the
sofa.

'I've done a lot of work since you saw me,' he said happily, patting
him on the knee, 'although in so short a time. And I want my cup of
tea. It came so easily and fluently for a wonder; I don't believe I
shall have to change a word--though usually I distrust this sort of
rapid composition.'

'Where are you at now?' asked Rogers. 'We're all "out,"' was the
reply, 'and the Starlight Express is just about to start and--Mother,
let me carry that for you,' he exclaimed, turning round as his wife
appeared in the doorway with more tea-things. He got up quickly, but
before he could reach her side Jinny flew into his arms and kissed
him.

'Did you get my tobacco, Jinny?' he asked. She thrust the letter under
his nose. What was tobacco, indeed, compared to an important letter!
'You can keep the change for yourself.'

He read it slowly with a puzzled expression, while Mother and the
children watched him. Riquette jumped down from her chair and rubbed
herself against his leg while he scratched himself with his boot,
thinking it was the rough stocking that tickled him.

'Eh? This is very queer,' he muttered, slapping the open sheet just as
his wife had done, and reading it again at arm's-length. 'Somebody'--
he looked suspiciously round the room--'has been reading my notes or
picking out my thoughts while I'm asleep, eh?'

'But it's a real letter,' objected Jinny; 'it's correspondence, isn't
it, Daddy?'

'It is certainly a correspondence,' he comforted her, and then,
reading it aloud, he proceeded to pin it on the wall above the
mantelpiece:--

'The Starlight Xpress starts to-night, Be reddy and punctuel. Sleep
titely and get out.'

That was all. But everybody exchanged glances.

'Odd,' thought Mother, again remembering her dreams.

Jimbo upset the milk-jug. Usually there would have been a rumpus over
this. To-day it seemed like something happening far away--something
that had not really happened at all.

'We must all be ready then,' said Rogers, noticing vaguely that
Mother's sleeve had smeared the butter as she mopped up the mess.

Daddy was making a note on his shirt sleeve:--

    The Sweep, the Laugher and the Tramp,
    The running man who lights the lamp,
    The Woman of the Haystack, too,
    The Gardener and Man of Dust
    Are passengers because they must
    Follow the Guard with eyes of blue.
    Over the forests and into the Cave
    That is the way we must all behave---

'Please, Daddy, will you move? It's dripping on to your boot.'

They all looked down; the milk had splashed from the cloth and fallen
upon the toe of his big mountain boots. It made a pretty, white star.
Riquette was daintily lapping it up with her long pink Tongue. Ray by
ray the star set in her mysterious interior.

'Riquette must come too,' said Rogers gravely. 'She's full of white
starlight now.'

And Jimbo left his chair and went seriously over to the book-shelf
above Mother's sofa-bed to arrange the signals. For between the
tightly-wedged books he had inserted all the available paper-knives
and book-markers he could find to represent railway-signals. They
stuck out at different angles. He altered several, putting some up,
some down, and some at right angles.

'The line's all clear for to-night,' he announced to Daddy with a
covert significance he hardly grasped himself, then coming back to
home-made jam and crusty village bread.

Jane Anne caught her father's answering glance-mysterious, full of
unguessed meanings. 'Oh, excuse me, Mother,' she said, feeling the
same thing in herself and a little frightened; 'but I do believe
they're conspiring, aren't they?'

And Mother gave a sudden start, whose cause she equally failed to
analyse. 'Hush, dear,' she said. 'Don't criticise your elders, and
when you do, don't use long words you cannot possibly understand.'

And everybody understood something none of them understood-while tea
went on as usual to the chatter of daily details of external life.




CHAPTER XXIV


    All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist;
    Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power
    Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the melodist
    When eternity affirms the conception of an hour.
    The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard,
    The passion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky,
    Are music sent up to God by the lover and the bard;
    Enough that he heard it once: we shall hear it by and by.
                          _Abt Vogler_, R. BROWNING.

Some hours later, as Rogers undressed for bed in his room beneath the
roof, he realised abruptly that the time had come for him to leave.
The weeks had flown; Minks and the Scheme required him; other matters
needed attention too. What brought him to the sudden decision was the
fact that he had done for the moment all he could find to do,
beginning with the Pension mortgages and ending with little Edouard
Tissot, the _vigneron's_ boy who had curvature of the spine and could
not afford proper treatment. It was a long list. He was far from
satisfied with results, yet he had done his best, in spite of many
clumsy mistakes. In the autumn he might return and have a further try.
Finances were getting muddled, too, and he realised how small his
capital actually was when the needs of others made claims upon it.
Neighbours were as plentiful as insects.

He had made all manner of schemes for his cousin's family as well, yet
seemed to have accomplished little. Their muddled life defied
disentanglement, their difficulties were inextricable. With one son at
a costly tutor, another girl in a Geneva school, the younger children
just outgrowing the local education, the family's mode of living so
scattered, meals in one place, rooms in several others,--it was all
too unmethodical and dispersed to be covered by their small uncertain
income. Concentration was badly needed. The endless talks and
confabulations, which have not been reported here because their
confusion was interminable and unreportable, landed every one in a
mass of complicated jumbles. The solution lay beyond his power, as
equally beyond the powers of the obfuscated parents. He would return
to England, settle his own affairs, concoct some practical scheme with
the aid of Minks, and return later to discuss its working out. The
time had come for him to leave.

And, oddly enough, what made him see it were things the children had
said that very evening when he kissed them all good-night. England had
been mentioned.

'You're here for always now,' whispered Monkey, 'because you love me
and can't get away. I've tied you with my hair, you know.'

'You'll have no sekrity in London,' said Jimbo. 'Who'll stick your
stamps on?'

'The place will seem quite empty if you go,' Jane Anne contributed,
not wishing to make her contribution too personal, lest she should
appear immodest. 'You've made a memorandum of agreement.' This meant
he had promised rashly once to stay for ever. The phrase lent an
official tone besides.

He fell asleep, devising wonderful plans, as usual, for the entire
world, not merely a tiny section of it. The saviour spirit was ever in
his heart. It failed to realise itself because the mind was unequal to
the strain of wise construction; but it was there, as the old vicar
had divined. He had that indestructible pity to which no living thing
is outcast.

But to-night he fell asleep so slowly, gradually, that he almost
watched the dissolving of consciousness in himself. He hovered a long
time about the strange, soft frontiers. He saw the barriers lower
themselves into the great dim plains. Inch by inch the outer world
became remote, obscure, lit dubiously by some forgotten sun, and inch
by inch the profound recesses of nightly adventure coaxed him down. He
realised that he swung in space between the two. The room and house
were a speck in the universe above him, his brain the mere outlet of a
tunnel up which he climbed every morning to put his horns out like a
snail, and sniff the outer world. Here, in the depths, was the
workroom where his life was fashioned. Here glowed the mighty, hidden
furnaces that shaped his tools. Drifting, glimmering figures streamed
up round him from the vast under-world of sleep, called unconscious.
'I _am_ a spirit,' he heard, not said or thought, 'and no spirit can
be unconscious for eight hours out of every twenty-four...!'

Slowly the sea of dreamless sleep, so-called, flowed in upon him,
down, round, and over; it submerged the senses one by one, beginning
with hearing and ending with sight. But, as each physical sense was
closed, its spiritual counterpart--the power that exists apart from
its limited organ-opened into clear, divine activity, free as life
itself....

How ceaseless was this movement of Dreams, never still, always
changing and on the dance, incessantly renewing itself in
kaleidoscopic patterns. There was perpetual metamorphosis and rich
transformation; many became one, one many; the universe was a single
thing, charged with stimulating emotional shocks as each scrap of
interpretation passed in and across the mind....

He was falling into deeper and deeper sleep, into that eternal region
where he no longer thought, but knew... Immense processions of
shifting imagery absorbed him into themselves, spontaneous,
unfamiliar, self-multiplying, and as exquisitely baffling as God and
all His angels....

The subsidence of the external world seemed suddenly complete.

So deeply was he sunk that he reached that common pool of fluid
essence upon which all minds draw according to their needs and powers.
Relations were established, wires everywhere connected. The central
switchboard clicked all round him; brains linked with brains, asleep
or not asleep. He was so deep within himself that, as the children and
the Story phrased it, he was 'out.' The air grew light and radiant.

'Hooray! I'm out!' and he instantly thought of his cousin.

'So am I!' That wumbled author shot immediately into connection with
him. 'And so is Mother--for the first time. Come on: we'll all go
together.'

It was unnecessary to specify where, for that same second they found
themselves in the room of Mlle. Lemaire. At this hour of the night it
was usually dark, except for the glimmer of the low-turned lamp the
sufferer never quite extinguished.

From dusk till dawn her windows in La Citadelle shone faintly for all
to see who chanced to pass along the village street. 'There she lies,
poor aching soul, as she has lain for twenty years, thinking good of
some one, or maybe praying!' For the glimmer was visible from very
far, and familiar as a lighthouse to wandering ships at sea. But, had
they known her inner happiness, they would not have said 'poor soul!'
They would have marvelled. In a Catholic canton, perhaps, they would
have crossed themselves and prayed. Just now they certainly would have
known a singular, exalted joy. Caught in fairyland, they would have
wondered and felt happy.

For the room was crowded to the doors. Walls, windows, ceiling, had
melted into transparency to let in the light of stars; and, caught
like gold-fish in the great network of the rays, shone familiar
outlines everywhere--Jimbo, Monkey, Jinny, the Sweep, the Tramp, the
Gypsy, the Laugher up against the cupboard, the Gardener by the window
where the flower-pots stood, the Woman of the Haystack in the
corridor, too extensive to slip across the threshold, and, in the
middle of the room, motionless with pleasure-Mother!

'Like gorgeous southern butterflies in a net, I do declare!' gasped
Daddy, as he swept in silently with his companion, their colours
mingling harmoniously at once with the rest.

And Mother turned.

'You're out, old girl, at last!' he cried.

'God bless my soul, I am!' she answered. Their sentences came both
together, and their blues and yellows swam into each other and made a
lovely green. 'It's what I've been trying to do all these years
without knowing it. What a glory! I understand now--understand myself
and you. I see life clearly as a whole. Hooray, hooray!' She glided
nearer to him, her face was beaming.

'Mother's going to explode,' said Monkey in a whisper. But, of course,
everybody 'heard' it; for the faintest whisper of thought sent a
ripple through that sea of delicate colour. The Laugher bent behind
the cupboard to hide her face, and the Gardener by the window stooped
to examine his flower-pots. The Woman of the Haystack drew back a
little into the corridor again, preparatory to another effort to
squeeze through. But Mother, regardless of them all, swam on towards
her husband, wrapped in joy and light as in a garment. Hitherto, in
her body, the nearest she had come to coruscating was once when she
had taken a course of sulphur baths. This was a very different matter.
She fairly glittered.

'We'll never go apart again,' Daddy was telling her. 'This inner
sympathy will last, you know. _He_ did it. It's him we have to thank,'
and he pointed at his cousin. 'It's starlight, of course, he has
brought down into us.'

But Rogers missed the compliment, being busy in a corner with Monkey
and Jimbo, playing at mixing colours with startling results. Mother
swam across to her old friend, Mile. Lemaire. For a quarter of a
century these two had understood one another, though never consciously
been 'out' together. She moved like a frigate still, gliding and
stately, but a frigate that has snapped its hawsers and meant to sail
the skies.

'Our poor, stupid, sleeping old bodies,' she smiled.

But the radiant form of the other turned to her motionless cage upon
the bed behind her. 'Don't despise them,' she replied, looking down
upon the worn-out prison-house, while a little dazzle of brilliance
flashed through her atmosphere. 'They are our means of spreading this
starlight about the world and giving it to others. Our brains transmit
it cunningly; it flashes from our eyes, and the touch of our fingers
passes it on. We gather it here, when we are "out," but we can
communicate it best to others when we are "in."'

There was sound of confusion and uproar in the room behind as some one
came tumbling in with a rush, scattering the figures in all directions
as when a gust of wind descends upon a bed of flowers.

'In at last!' cried a muffled voice that sounded as though a tarpaulin
smothered it, and the Woman of the Haystack swept into the room with a
kind of clumsy majesty. The Tramp and Gypsy, whose efforts had at
length dislodged her awkward bulk, came rolling after. They had been
pushing steadily from behind all this time, though no one had noticed
them slip out.

'_We_ can do more than the smaller folk,' she said proudly, sailing up
to Mother. 'We can't be overlooked, for one thing'; and arm-in-arm,
like a pair of frigates then, they sailed about the room, magnificent
as whales that swim in a phosphorescent sea. The Laugher straightened
up to watch them, the Gardener turned his head, and Rogers and the
children paused a moment in their artificial mixing, to stare with
wonder.

'I'm in!' said the Woman.

'I'm out!' said Mother.

And the children felt a trifle envious. Instantly their brilliance
dimmed a little. The entire room was aware of it.

'Think always of the world in gold and silver,' shot from Mile.
Lemaire. The dimness passed as she said it.

'It was my doing,' laughed Monkey, turning round to acknowledge her
wickedness lest some one else should do it for her and thus increase
her shame.

'Sweep! Sweep!' cried Rogers.

But this thought-created sprite was there before the message flashed.
With his sack wide open, he stood by Monkey, full of importance. A
moment he examined her. Then, his long black fingers darting like a
shuttle, he discovered the false colouring that envy had caused,
picked it neatly out--a thread of dirty grey--and, winding it into a
tiny ball, tossed it with contempt into his sack.

    'Over the edge of the world you go,
     With the mud and the leaves and the dirty snow!'

he sang, skipping off towards the door. The child's star-body glowed
and shone again, pulsing all over with a shimmering, dancing light
that was like moonshine upon running water.

'Isn't it time to start now?' inquired Jinny; and as she said it all
turned instinctively towards the corner of the room where they were
assembled. They gathered round Mlle. Lemaire. It was quite clear who
was leader now. The crystal brilliance of her whiteness shone like a
little oval sun. So sparkling was her atmosphere, that its purity
scarcely knew a hint of colour even. Her stream of thought seemed
undiluted, emitting rays in all directions till it resembled a wheel
of sheer white fire. The others fluttered round her as lustrous moths
about an electric light.

'Start where?' asked Mother, new to this great adventure.

Her old friend looked at her, so that she caught a darting ray full in
the face, and instantly understood.

'First to the Cave to load up,' flashed the answer; 'and then over the
sleeping world to mix the light with everybody's dreams. Then back
again before the morning spiders are abroad with the interfering sun.'

She floated out into the corridor, and all the others fell into line
as she went. The draught of her going drew Mother into place
immediately behind her. Daddy followed close, their respective colours
making it inevitable, and Jinny swept in after him, bright and eager
as a little angel. She tripped on the edge of something he held
tightly in one hand, a woven maze of tiny glittering lines,
exquisitely inter-threaded--a skeleton of beauty, waiting to be filled
in and clothed, yet already alive with spontaneous fire of its own. It
was the Pattern of his story he had been busy with in the corner.

'I won't step on it, Daddy,' she said gravely.

'It doesn't matter if you do. You're in it,' he answered, yet lifted
it higher so that it flew behind him like a banner in the night.

The procession was formed now. Rogers and the younger children came
after their sister at a little distance, and then, flitting to and fro
in darker shades, like a fringe of rich embroidery that framed the
moving picture, came the figures of the sprites, born by Imagination
out of Love in an old Kentish garden years and years ago. They rose
from the tangle of the ancient building. Climbing the shoulder of a
big, blue wind, they were off and away!

It was a jolly night, a windy night, a night without clouds, when all
the lanes of the sky were smooth and swept, and the interstellar
spaces seemed close down upon the earth.

    'Kind thoughts, like fine weather,
     Link sweetly together God's stars
     With the heart of a boy,'

sang Rogers, following swiftly with Jimbo and his sister. For all
moved along as easily as light across the surfaces of polished glass.
And the sound of Rogers's voice seemed to bring singing from every
side, as the gay procession swept onwards. Every one contributed lines
of their own, it seemed, though there was a tiny little distant voice,
soft and silvery, that intruded from time to time and made all wonder
where it came from. No one could see the singer. At first very far
away, it came nearer and nearer.

DADDY.             'The Interfering Sun has set!
GARDENER.           Now Sirius flings down the Net!
LAMPLIGHTER.           See, the meshes flash and quiver,
                       As the golden, silent river

SWEEP.              Clears the dark world's troubled dream.
DUSTMAN.              Takes it sleeping,
                      Gilds its weeping
                    With a star's mysterious beam.
Tiny, distant Voice.  Oh, think Beauty!
                      It's your duty!
                    In the Cave you work for others,
                    All the stars are little brothers;

ROGERS.               Think their splendour,

                      Strong and tender;
DADDY.                Think their glory
                      In the Story
MOTHER.             Of each day your nights redeem?
Voice (nearer).     Every loving, gentle thought
                        Of this fairy brilliance wrought,
JANE ANNE.           Every wish that you surrender,
MONKEY.              Every little impulse tender,
JIMBO.               Every service that you render
TANTE ANNA.         Brings its tributary stream!
TRAMP AND GYFSY.     In the fretwork
                            Of the network
                        Hearts lie patterned and a-gleam!

WOMAN OF THE         Think with passion
      HAYSTACK.      That shall fashion
                        Life's entire design well-planned;
Voice (still nearer). While the busy Pleiades,
ROGERS.               Sisters to the Hyades,
Voice (quite close).  Seven by seven,
                             Across the heaven,
ROGERS.               Light desire
                             With their fire!
Voice (in his ear). Working cunningly together in a soft and
                                tireless band,
                             Sweetly linking
                             All our thinking,
                       In the Net of Sympathy that brings back
                              Fairyland!'

Mother kept close to her husband; she felt a little bewildered, and
uncertain in her movements; it was her first conscious experience of
being out. She wanted to go in every direction at once; for she knew
everybody in the village, knew all their troubles and perplexities,
and felt the call from every house.

'Steady,' he told her; 'one thing at a time, you know.' Her thoughts,
he saw, had turned across the sea to Ireland where her strongest ties
were. Ireland seemed close, and quite as accessible as the village.
Her friend of the Haystack, on the other hand, seemed a long way off
by comparison.

'That's because Henry never realised her personality very clearly,'
said Daddy, seeing by her colour that she needed explanation. 'When
creating all these Garden Sprites, he didn't _think_ her sharply,
vividly enough to make her effective. He just felt that a haystack
suggested the elderly spread of a bulky and untidy old woman whose
frame had settled beneath too many clothes, till she had collapsed
into a field and stuck there. But he left her where he found her. He
assigned no duties to her. She's only half alive. As a rule, she
merely sits--just "stays put"--until some one moves her.'

Mother turned and saw her far in the rear, settling down comfortably
upon a flat roof near the church. She rather envied her amiable
disposition. It seemed so safe. Every one else was alive with such
dangerous activity.

'Are we going _much_ further--?' she began, when Monkey rushed by,
caught up the sentence, and discharged herself with impudence into
Daddy.

'Which is right, "further" or "farther"?' she asked with a flash of
light.

'Further, of course,' said unsuspecting Mother.

'But "further" sounds "farther," she cried, with a burst of laughter
that died away with her passage of meteoric brilliance--into the body
of the woods beyond.

'But the other Sprites, you see, are real and active,' continued
Daddy, ignoring the interruption as though accustomed to it, because
he thought out clearly every detail. 'They're alive enough to haunt a
house or garden till sensitive people become aware of them and declare
they've seen a ghost.'

'And _we_?' she asked. 'Who thought us out so wonderfully?'

'That's more than I can tell,' he answered after a little pause. 'God
knows that, for He thought out the entire universe to which we belong.
I only know that we're real, and all part of the same huge, single
thing.' He shone with increased brightness as he said it. 'There's no
question about _our_ personalities and duties and the rest. Don't you
feel it too?'

He looked at her as he spoke. Her outline had grown more definite. As
she began to understand, and her bewilderment lessened, he noted that
her flashing lines burned more steadily, falling into a more regular,
harmonious pattern. They combined, moreover, with his own, and with
the starlight too, in some exquisite fashion he could not describe.
She put a hand out, catching at the flying banner of his Story that he
trailed behind him in the air. They formed a single design, all three.
His happiness became enormous.

'I feel joined on to everything,' she replied, half singing it in her
joy. 'I feel tucked into the universe everywhere, and into you, dear.
These rays of starlight have sewn us together.' She began to tremble,
but it was the trembling of pure joy and not of alarm....

'Yes,' he said, 'I'm learning it too. The moment thought gets away
from self it lets in starlight and makes room for happiness. To think
with sympathy of others is to grow: you take in their experience and
add it to your own--development; the heart gets soft and deep and wide
till you feel the entire universe buttoning its jacket round you. To
think of self means friction and hence reduction.'

'And your Story,' she added, glancing up proudly at the banner that
they trailed. 'I have helped a little, haven't I?'

'It's nearly finished,' he flashed back; 'you've been its inspiration
and its climax. All these years, when we thought ourselves apart,
you've been helping really underground--that's true collaboration.'

'Our little separation was but a _reculer pour mieux sauter_. See how
we've rushed together again!'

A strange soft singing, like the wind in firs, or like shallow water
flowing over pebbles, interrupted them. The sweetness of it turned the
night alive.

'Come on, old Mother. Our Leader is calling to us. We must work.'

They slid from the blue wind into a current of paler air that happened
to slip swiftly past them, and went towards the forest where Mlle.
Lemaire waited for them. Mother waved her hand to her friend, settled
comfortably upon the flat roof in the village in their rear. 'We'll
come back to lean upon you when we're tired,' she signalled. But she
felt no envy now. In future she would certainly never 'stay put.' Work
beckoned to her--and such endless, glorious work: the whole Universe.

'What life! What a rush of splendour!' she exclaimed as they reached
the great woods and heard them shouting below in the winds. 'I see now
why the forest always comforted me. There's strength here I can take
back into my body with me when I go.'

'The trees, yes, express visibly only a portion of their life,' he
told her. 'There is an overflow we can appropriate.'

Yet their conversation was never audibly uttered. It flashed
instantaneously from one to the other. All they had exchanged since
leaving La Citadelle had taken place at once, it seemed. They were
awake in the region of naked thought and feeling. The dictum of the
materialists that thought and feeling cannot exist apart from matter
did not trouble them. Matter, they saw, was everywhere, though too
tenuous for any measuring instrument man's brain had yet invented.

'Come on!' he repeated; 'the Starlight Express is waiting. It will
take you anywhere you please--Ireland if you like!'

They found the others waiting on the smooth layer of soft purple air
that spread just below the level of the tree-tops. The crests
themselves tossed wildly in the wind, but at a depth of a few feet
there was peace and stillness, and upon this platform the band was
grouped. 'The stars are caught in the branches to-night,' a sensitive
walker on the ground might have exclaimed. The spires rose about them
like little garden trees of a few years' growth, and between them ran
lanes and intricate, winding thoroughfares Mother saw long, dark
things like thick bodies of snakes converging down these passage-ways,
filling them, all running towards the centre where the group had
established itself. There were lines of dotted lights along them. They
did not move with the waving of the tree-tops. They looked uncommonly
familiar.

'The trains,' Jimbo was crying. He darted to and fro, superintending
the embarking of the passengers.

All the sidings of the sky were full of Starlight Expresses.

The loading-up was so quickly accomplished that Mother hardly realised
what was happening. Everybody carried sacks overflowing with dripping
gold and bursting at the seams. As each train filled, it shot away
across the starry heavens; for everyone had been to the Cave and
gathered their material even before she reached the scene of action.
And with every train went a _mecanicien_ and a _conducteur_ created by
Jimbo's vivid and believing thought; a Sweep, a Lamplighter, and a
Head Gardener went, too, for the children's thinking multiplied these,
too, according to their needs. They realised the meaning of these
Sprites so clearly now--their duties, appearance, laws of behaviour,
and the rest-that their awakened imaginations thought them instantly
into existence, as many as were necessary. Train after train, each
with its full complement of passengers, flashed forth across that
summer sky, till the people in the Observatories must have thought
they had miscalculated strangely and the Earth was passing amid the
showering Leonids before her appointed time.

'Where would you like to go first?' Mother heard her friend ask
softly. 'It's not possible to follow all the trains at once, you
know.'

'So I see,' she gasped. 'I'll just sit still a moment, and think.'

The size and freedom of existence, as she now saw it, suddenly
overwhelmed her. Accustomed too long to narrow channels, she found
space without railings and notice-boards bewildering. She had never
dreamed before that thinking can open the gates to heaven and bring
the Milky Way down into the heart. She had merely knitted stockings.
She had been practical. At last the key to her husband's being was in
her hand. That key at the same time opened a door through him, into
her own. Hitherto she had merely criticised. Oh dear! Criticism, when
she might have created!

She turned to seek him. But only her old friend was there, floating
beside her in a brilliant mist of gold and white that turned the tree-
tops into rows of Burning Bushes.

'Where is he?' she asked quickly.

'Hush!' was the instant reply; 'don't disturb him. Don't think, or
you'll bring him back. He's filling his sack in the Star Cave. Men
have to gather it,--the little store they possess is soon crystallised
into hardness by Reason,--but women have enough in themselves usually
to last a lifetime. They are born with it.'

'Mine crystallised long ago, I fear.'

'Care and anxiety did that. You neglected it a little. But your
husband's cousin has cleaned the channels out. He does it
unconsciously, but he does it. He has belief and vision like a child,
and therefore turns instinctively to children because they keep it
alive in him, though he hardly knows why he seeks them. The world,
too, is a great big child that is crying for its Fairyland....'

'But the practical--' objected Mother, true to her type of mind-an
echo rather than an effort.

'--is important, yes, only it has been exaggerated out of all sane
proportion in most people's lives. So little is needed, though that
little of fine quality, and ever fed by starlight. Obeyed exclusively,
it destroys life. It bricks you up alive. But now tell me,' she added,
'where would you like to go first? Whom will you help? There is time
enough to cover .the world if you want to, before the interfering sun
gets up.'

'_You_!' cried Mother, impulsively, then realised instantly that her
friend was already developed far beyond any help that she could give.
It was the light streaming from the older, suffering woman that was
stimulating her own sympathies so vehemently. For years the process
had gone on. It was at last effective.

'There are others, perhaps, who need it more than I,' flashed forth a
lovely ray.

'But I would repay,' Mother cried eagerly, 'I would repay.' Gratitude
for life rushed through her, and her friend must share it.

'Pass it on to others,' was the shining answer. 'That's the best
repayment after all.' The stars themselves turned brighter as the
thought flashed from her.

Then Ireland vanished utterly, for it had been mixed, Mother now
perceived, with personal longings that were at bottom selfish. There
were indeed many there, in the scenes of her home and childhood, whose
lives she might ease and glorify by letting in the starlight while
they slept; but her motive, she discerned, was not wholly pure. There
was a trace in it, almost a little stain, of personal gratification--
she could not analyse it quite--that dimmed the picture in her
thought. The brilliance of her companion made it stand out clearly.
Nearer home was a less heroic object, a more difficult case, some one
less likely to reward her efforts with results. And she turned instead
to this.

'You're right,' smiled the other, following her thought; 'and you
couldn't begin with a better bit of work than that. Your old mother
has cut herself off so long from giving sympathy to her kind that now
she cannot accept it from others without feeling suspicion and
distrust. Ease and soften her outlook if you can. Pour through her
gloom the sympathy of stars. And remember,' she added, as Mother rose
softly out of the trees and hovered a moment overhead, 'that if you
need the Sweep or the Lamplighter, or the Gardener to burn away her
dead leaves, you have only to summon them. Think hard, and they'll be
instantly beside you.'

Upon an eddy of glowing wind Mother drifted across the fields to the
corner of the village where her mother occupied a large single room in
solitude upon the top floor, a solitude self-imposed and rigorously
enforced.

'Use the finest quality,' she heard her friend thinking far behind
her, 'for you have plenty of it. The Dustman gave it to you when you
were not looking, gathered from the entire Zodiac... and from the
careless meteor's track....'

The words died off into the forest.

     _That_ he keeps only
     For the old and lonely,
     (And is very strict about it)
     Who sleep so little that they need the best--'

The words came floating behind her. She felt herself brimful--charged
with loving sympathy of the sweetest and most understanding quality.
She looked down a moment upon her mother's roof. Then she descended.




CHAPTER XXV


    And also there's a little star--
     So white, a virgin's it must be;--
     Perhaps the lamp my love in heaven
     Hangs out to light the way for me.
             _Song_, THEOPHILE MARZIALS.

In this corner of Bourcelles the houses lie huddled together with an
air of something shamefaced; they dare not look straight at the
mountains or at the lake; they turn their eyes away even from the
orchards at the back. They wear a mysterious and secret look, and
their shoulders have a sly turn, as though they hid their heads in the
daytime and stirred about their business only after dark.

They lie grouped about a cobbled courtyard that has no fountain in it.
The fair white road goes quickly by outside, afraid to look in
frankly; and the entrance to the yard is narrow. Nor does a single
tree grow in it. If Bourcelles could have a slum, this would be it.

Why the old lady had left her cosy quarters in Les Glycines and
settled down in this unpleasant corner of the village was a puzzle to
everybody. With a shrug of the shoulders the problem was generally
left unsolved. Madame Jequier discussed it volubly a year ago when the
move took place, then dismissed it as one of those mysteries of old
people no one can understand. To the son-in-law and the daughter, who
got nearer the truth, it was a source of pain and sadness beyond their
means of relief. Mrs. 'Plume'--it was a play in French upon her real
name,--had been four years in the Pension, induced to come from a
lonely existence in Ireland by her daughter and throw in her lot with
the family, and at first had settled down comfortably enough. She was
over seventy, and possessed 80 pounds a year--a dainty, witty, amusing
Irish lady, with twinkling eyes and a pernicketty strong will, and a
brogue she transferred deliciously into her broken French. She loved
the children, yet did not win their love in return, because they stood
in awe of her sarcastic criticisms. Life had gone hardly with her; she
had lost her fortune and her children, all but this daughter, with
whose marriage she was keenly disappointed. An aristocrat to the
finger-tips, she could not accept the change of circumstances;
distress had soured her; the transplanting hastened her decline; there
was no sweetness left in her. She turned her heart steadily against
the world.

The ostensible cause of this hiding herself away with her sorrow and
disappointment was the presence of Miss Waghorn, with whom she
disagreed, and even quarrelled, from morning till night. They formed a
storm-centre that moved from salon to dining-room, and they squabbled
acutely about everything--the weather, the heating, the opening or
shutting of windows, the details of the food, the arrangement of the
furniture, even the character of the cat. Miss Waghorn loved. The
bickerings were incessant. They only had to meet for hot disagreement
to break out. Mrs. Plume, already bent with age, would strike the
floor with the ebony stick she always carried, and glare at the erect,
defiant spinster--'That horrud, dirrty cat; its always in the room!'
Then Miss Waghorn: 'It's a very nice cat, Madame'--she always called
her Madame--'and when _I_ was a young girl I was taught to be kind to
animals.'--'The drawing-room is _not_ the place for animals,' came the
pricking answer. And then the scuffle began in earnest.

Miss Waghorn, owing to her want of memory, forgot the squabble five
minutes afterwards, and even forgot that she knew her antagonist at
all. She would ask to be introduced, or even come up sweetly and
introduce herself within half an hour of the battle. But Madame Plume
forgot nothing; her memory was keen and accurate. She did not believe
in the other's failing. 'That common old woman!' she exclaimed with
angry scorn to her daughter.

'It's deliberate offensiveness, that's all it is at all!' And she left
the Pension.

But her attitude to the harmless old Quaker lady was really in small
her attitude to humanity at large. She drew away in disgust from a
world that had treated her so badly. Into herself she drew, growing
smaller every day, more sour, more suspicious, and more averse to her
own kind. Within the restricted orbit of her own bitter thoughts she
revolved towards the vanishing point of life which is the total loss
of sympathy. She felt _with_ no one but herself. She belonged to that,
alas, numerous type which, with large expectations unrealised, cannot
accept disillusionment with the gentle laughter it deserves. She
resented the universe. Sympathy was dead.

And she had chosen this unsavoury corner to dwell in because 'the
poor' of the village lived there, and she wished to count herself
among them. It emphasised the spite, the grudge, she felt against
humanity. At first she came into _dejeuner_ and _souper_, but
afterwards her meals were sent over twice a day from the Pension. She
discovered so many reasons for not making the little journey of a
hundred yards. On Sunday the 'common people' were in the streets; on
Saturday it was cleaning-day and the Pension smelt of turpentine;
Monday was for letter-writing, and other days were too hot or too
cold, too windy or too wet. In the end she accomplished her heart's
desire. Madame Cornu, who kept the grocer's shop, and lived on the
floor below with her husband, prepared the two principal meals and
brought them up to her on a tray. She ate them alone. Her breakfast
cup of tea she made herself, Mme. Cornu putting the jug of milk
outside the door. She nursed her bitter grievance against life in
utter solitude. Acidity ate its ugly pattern into her heart.

The children, as in duty bound, made dolorous pilgrimages to that
upper floor from time to time, returning frightened, and Mother went
regularly twice a week, coming home saddened and distressed. Her
husband rarely went at all now, since the time when she told him to
his face he came to taunt her. She spent her time, heaven only knows
how, for she never left the building. According to Mother she was
exceedingly busy doing nothing. She packed, unpacked, and then
repacked all her few belongings. In summer she chased bees in her room
with a wet towel; but with venom, not with humour. The Morning Post
came daily from London. 'I read my paper, write a letter, and the
morning's gone,' she told her daughter, by way of complaint that time
was so scanty. Mme. Cornu often heard her walking up and down the
floor, tapping her ebony stick and talking softly to herself. Yet she
was as sane as any old body living in solitude with evil thinking well
can be. She starved-because she neither gave nor _asked_.

As Mother thought of her, thus finding the way in instantly, the
church clock sounded midnight. She entered a room that was black as
coal and unsweetened as an airless cellar. The fair rays that had been
pouring out of her returned with a little shock upon themselves--
repulsed. She felt herself reduced, and the sensation was so
unpleasant at first that she almost gasped. It was like suffocation.
She felt enclosed with Death. That her own radiance dimmed a moment
was undeniable, but it was for a moment only, for, thinking instantly
of her friend, she drew upon that woman's inexhaustible abundance, and
found her own stores replenished.

Slowly, as a wintry sun pierces the mist in some damp hollow of the
woods, her supply of starlight lit up little pathways all about her,
and she saw the familiar figure standing by the window. The figure was
also black; it stood like an ebony statue in an atmosphere that was
thick with gloom, turgid, sinister, and wholly rayless. It was like a
lantern in a London fog. A few dim lines of sombre grey issued heavily
from it, but got no farther than its outer surface, then doubled back
and plunged in again. They coiled and twisted into ugly knots. Her
mother's atmosphere was opaque, and as dismal as a November fog. There
was a speck of light in the room, however, and it came, the visitor
then perceived, from a single candle that stood beside the bed. The
old lady had been reading; she rarely slept before two o'clock in the
morning.

And at first, so disheartening, so hopeless seemed the task, that
Mother wavered in her mission; a choking, suffocating sensation
blocked all her channels of delivery. The very flowers on the window-
sill, she noted, drooped in a languishing decline; they had a lifeless
air as of flowers that struggle for existence in deep shadow and have
never known the kiss of sunshine. Through the inch of opened window
stole a soft breath of the night air, but it turned black and sluggish
the moment it came in. And just then, as Mother hovered there in
hesitating doubt, the figure turned and moved across to the bed,
supporting herself with the ebony cane she always used. Stiffly she
sank upon her knees. The habit was as strong as putting her shoes
outside the door at night to be cleaned,-those shoes that never knew
the stain of roadway dust-and equally devoid of spiritual
significance. Yet, for a moment, as the embittered mind gabbled
through the string of words that long habit had crystallised into an
empty formula, Mother noticed that the lines of grey grew slightly
clearer; the coil and tangle ceased; they even made an effort to
emerge and leave the muddy cloud that obscured their knotted,
intricate disorder.

The formula Mother recognised; it had hardly changed, indeed, since
she herself had learned it at those very knees when days were
brighter; it began with wholesale and audacious requests for self,
then towards the end passed into vague generalities for the welfare of
others. And just here it was that the lines of grey turned brighter
and tried to struggle out of the murky atmosphere. The sight was
pathetic, yet deeply significant. Mother understood its meaning. There
was hope. Behind the prayer for others still shone at least an echo of
past meaning.

'I believe in you, old, broken, disappointed heart,' flashed through
her own bright atmosphere, 'and, believing, I can help you!'

Her skill, however, was slight, owing to lack of practice and
experience. She moved over to the bed, trying first to force her own
darting rays into the opaque, dull cloud surrounding the other; then
seeking a better way-for this had no results---she slipped somehow
inside the mist, getting behind it, down at the very source. From here
she forced her own light through, mixing her beams of coloured
radiance with the thick grey lines themselves. She tried to feel and
think as her mother felt and thought, moving beside her mind's initial
working, changing the gloom into something brighter as she moved
along. This was the proper way, she felt-to clean the source itself,
rather than merely untie knots at the outer surface. It was a stifling
business, but she persisted. Tiny channels cleared and opened. A
little light shone through. She felt-with her mother, instead of
arguing, as it were...

The old lady presently blew the candle out and composed herself to
sleep. Mother laboured on....

'Oh dear,' she sighed, 'oh dear!' as she emerged from the gloom a
moment to survey her patient and note results. To her amazement she
saw that there was a change indeed, though a very curious one. The
entire outer surface of the cloud seemed in commotion, with here and
there a glimmering lustre as if a tiny lamp was at last alight within.
She felt herself swell with happiness. Instantly, then, the grey lines
shot out, fastening with wee loops and curves among her own. Some
links evidently had been established. She had imparted something.

'She's dreaming! I do believe I've sown some dream of beauty in her!'
she beamed to herself.

Some golden, unaccustomed sleep had fallen over the old lady. Stray
shreds of darkness loosened from the general mass and floated off, yet
did not melt entirely from sight. She was shedding some of her evil
thoughts.

'The Sweep!' thought Mother, and turning, found him beside her in the
room. Her husband, to her astonishment, was also there.

'But I didn't think of _you_!' she exclaimed.

'Not a definite thought,' he answered, 'but you needed me. I felt it.
We're so close together now that we're practically one, you see.' He
trailed his Pattern behind him, clothed now with all manner of rich
new colouring, 'I've collected such heaps of new ideas,' he went on,
'and now I want her too. She's in the Story. I'll transfigure her as
well.' He was bright as paint, and happy as a sand-boy. 'Well done,
old Mother,' he added, 'you've done a lot already. See, she's dreaming
small, soft, tender things of beauty that your efforts have let
through.'

He glided across and poured from his own store of sympathy into that
dry, atrophied soul upon the bed. 'It's a question how much she will
be able to transmit, though,' he said doubtfully. 'The spiritual
machinery is so stiff and out of gear from long disuse. In Miss
Waghorn's case it's only physical--I've just been there--but this is
spiritual blackness. We shall see to-morrow. Something will get
through at any rate, and we must do this every night, you know.'

'Rather!' echoed Mother.

'Her actual self, you see, has dwindled so that one can hardly find
it. It's smaller than a flea, and as hard and black.' They smiled a
little sadly.

The Sweep, rushing out of the window with his heavy sack loaded to the
brim, interrupted their low laughter. He was no talker, but a man of
action. Busily all this time he had been gathering up the loose, stray
fragments that floated off from the cloud, and stuffing them into the
sack. He now flew, singing, into the night, and they barely caught the
last words of his eternal song:--

     '... a tremendously busy Sweep,
      Tossing the blacks in the Rubbish Heap
      Over the edge of the world.'

'Come,' whispered Daddy. 'It's getting late. The interfering sun is on
the way, and you've been hours here already. All the trains are back,
and every one is waiting for us.' Yet it had seemed so short a time
really.

Wrapped together in the beauty of his Pattern, they left the old lady
peacefully asleep, and sped across the roofs towards the forest.

But neither of them noticed, it seemed, the lovely little shining
figure that hovered far in the air above and watched them go. It
followed them all the way, catching even at the skirts of the flying
Pattern as they went. Was it the Spirit of some unknown Star they had
attracted from beyond the Milky Way? Or was it, perhaps, a Thought
from some fair, exquisite heart that had been wakened by the rushing
of the Expresses, and had flashed in to take a place in the wonderful
story Daddy wove?

It had little twinkling feet, and its eyes were of brown flame and
amber.

'No, they did not notice the starry, fluttering figure. It overtook
them none the less, and with a flying leap was into the Pattern of his
story--in the very centre, too!--as quickly as lightning passes
through the foliage of the tree it strikes. Only the lightning stayed.
The figure remained caught. The entire Pattern shivered to its outer
fringes, then began to glow and shine all over. As the high harmonic
crowns the end of a long cadenza on a violin, fulfilling bars of
difficult effort, this point of exquisite beauty flashed life into the
Pattern of the story, consummating the labour of construction with the
true, inevitable climax. There was something of fairy insolence, both
cheeky and delicious, in the proprietary way it chose the principal
place, yet the only place still unoccupied, and sang 'I'm here. I've
come!' It calmly fashioned itself a nest, as it were, curled up and
made itself at home. It _was_ at home. The audacity was justified. The
Pattern seemed at last complete. Beauty and Truth shone at its centre.
And the tiny voice continued singing, though no one seemed to know
exactly whence the sound proceeded:---

    'While the busy Pleiades,
    Sisters to the Hyades,
    Seven by seven,
    Across the heaven,
    Light desire
    With their fire,

    Flung from huge Orion's hand,
    Sweetly linking
    All our thinking
    In the Net of Sympathy that brings back Fairyland!'

No--neither Mother nor Daddy were aware of what had happened thus in
the twinkling of an eye. Certainly neither guessed that another heart,
far distant as the crow flies, had felt the stream of his vital,
creative thinking, and had thus delicately responded and sent out a
sympathetic message of belief. But neither did Adams and Leverrier,
measuring the heavens, and calculating through years of labour the
delicate interstellar forces, know that each had simultaneously caught
Neptune in their net of stars--three thousand million miles away. Had
they been 'out,' these two big, patient astronomers, they might have
realised that they really worked in concert every night. But history
does not relate that they slept well or ill; their biographies make no
mention of what their 'Underneaths' were up to while their brains lay
resting on the pillow; and private confession, if such exists, has
never seen the light of print as yet. In that region, however, where
Thinking runs and plays, thought dancing hand in hand with thought
that is akin to it, the fact must surely have been known and
recognised. They, too, travelled in the Starlight Express.

Mother and Daddy realised it just then as little as children are aware
of the loving thoughts of the parent that hovers protectingly about
them all day long. They merely acknowledged that a prodigious thrill
of happiness pulsed through both of them at once, feeling proud as the
group in the tree-tops praised their increased brightness and admired
the marvellous shining of the completed Pattern they trailed above
their heads. But more than that they did not grasp. Nor have they ever
grasped it perhaps. That the result came through later is proved,
however, by the published story, and by the strange, sweet beauty its
readers felt all over the world. But this belongs to the private
working of inspiration which can never be explained, not even by the
artist it has set on fire. He, indeed, probably understands it least
of all.

'Where are the trains, the Starlight Expresses?' asked Mother.

'Gone!' answered Jimbo. 'Gone to Australia where they're wanted. It's
evening now down there.'

He pointed down, then up. 'Don't you see? We must hurry.' She looked
across the lake where the monstrous wall of Alps was dimly visible.
The sky was brightening behind them. Long strata of thin cloud
glimmered with faintest pink. The stars were rapidly fading. 'What
ages you've been!' he added.

'And where's Tante Anna?' she inquired quickly, looking for her
brilliant friend.

'She's come and gone a dozen times while you've been skylarking
somewhere else,' explained Monkey with her usual exaggeration. 'She's
gone for good now. She sleeps so badly. She's always waking up, you
know.' Mother understood. Only too well she knew that her friend
snatched sleep in briefest intervals, incessantly disturbed by racking
pain.

A stream of light flashed past her, dashing like a meteor towards the
village and disappearing before she could see the figure.

'There goes Jinny,' cried some one, 'always working to the very last.
The interfering sun'll catch her if she doesn't look out!'

There was movement and hurry everywhere. Already the world ran loose
and soft in colour. Birds, just awake, were singing in the trees
below. Several passed swiftly overhead, raking the sky with a whirring
rush of wings. Everybody was asking questions, urging return, yet
lingering as long as possible, each according to his courage. To be
caught 'out' by the sun meant waking with a sudden start that made
getting out of bed very difficult and might even cause a headache.

Rogers alone seemed unperturbed, unhurried, for he was absorbed in a
discovery that made him tremble. Noting the sudden perfection of his
cousin's Pattern, he had gone closer to examine it, and had--seen the
starry figure. Instantly he forgot everything else in the world. It
seemed to him that he had suddenly found all he had ever sought. He
gazed into those gentle eyes of amber and felt that he gazed into the
eyes of the Universe that had taken shape in front of him. Floating up
as near as he could, he spoke--

'Where do you come from--from what star?' he asked softly in an
ecstasy of wonder.

The tiny face looked straight at him and smiled.

'From the Pleiades, of course,--that little group of star-babies as
yet unborn.'

'I've been looking for you for ever,' he answered.

'You've found me,' sang the tiny voice. 'This is our introduction.
Now, don't forget. There was a lost Pleiad, you know. Try to remember
me when you wake.'

'Then why are you here?' He meant in the Pattern.

The star-face rippled with laughter.

'It's yours--your Scheme. He's given it perfect shape for you, that's
all. Don't you recognise it? But it's my Story as well. ...'

A ray with crimson in it shot out just then across the shoulder of the
Blumlisalp, and, falling full upon the tiny face, it faded out; the
Pattern faded with it; Daddy vanished too. On the little azure winds
of dawn they flashed away. Jimbo, Monkey, and certain of the Sprites
alone held on, but the tree-tops to which they clung were growing more
and more slippery every minute. Mother, loth to return, balanced
bravely on the waving spires of a larch. Her sleep that night had been
so deep and splendid, she struggled to prolong it. She hated waking up
too early.

'The Morning Spiders! Look out!' cried a Sprite, as a tiny spider on
its thread of gossamer floated by. It was the Dustman's voice.
Catching the Gypsy with one arm and the Tramp with the other, all
three instantly disappeared.

'But where's my Haystack friend?' called Mother faintly, almost losing
her balance in the attempt to turn round quickly.

'Oh, she's all right,' the Head Gardener answered from a little
distance where he was burning something. 'She just "stays put" and
flirts with every wind that comes near her. She loves the winds. They
know her little ways.' He went on busily burning up dead leaves he had
been collecting all night long--dead, useless thoughts he had found
clogging a hundred hearts and stopping outlets.

'Look sharp!' cried a voice that fell from the sky above them.

    'Here come the Morning Spiders,
     On their gossamer outriders!'

This time it was the Lamplighter flashing to and fro as he put the
stars out one by one. He was in a frantic hurry; he extinguished whole
groups of them at once. The Pleiades were the last to fade.

Rogers heard him and came back into himself. For his ecstasy had
carried him even beyond the region of the freest 'thinking.' He could
give no account or explanation of it at all. Monkey, Jimbo, Mother,
and he raced in a line together for home and safety. Above the fields
they met the spiders everywhere, the spiders that bring the dawn and
ride off into the Star Cave on lost rays and stray thoughts that
careless minds have left scattered about the world.

And the children, as they raced and told their mother to 'please move
a little more easily and slipperily,' sang together in chorus:--

    'We shall meet the Morning Spiders,
     The fairy-cotton riders,
     Each mounted on a star's rejected ray;
     With their tiny nets of feather

     They collect our thoughts together,
     And on strips of windy weather
     Bring the Day. ...'

'That's stolen from you or Daddy,' Mother began to say to Rogers--but
was unable to complete the flash. The thought lay loose behind her in
the air.

A spider instantly mounted it and rode it off.

Something brushed her cheek. Riquette stood rover her, fingering her
face with a soft extended paw.

'But it surely can't be time yet to get up!' she murmured. 'I've only
just fallen asleep, it seems.' She glanced at her watch upon the chair
beside the bed, saw that it was only four o'clock, and then turned
over, making a space for the cat behind her shoulder. A tremendous
host of dreams caught at her sliding mind. She tried to follow them.
They vanished. 'Oh dear!' she sighed, and promptly fell asleep again.
But this time she slept lightly. No more adventures came. She did not
dream. And later, when Riquette woke her a second time because it was
half-past six, she remembered as little of having been 'out' as though
such a thing had never taken place at all.

She lit the fire and put the porridge saucepan on the stove. It was a
glorious July morning. She felt glad to be alive, and full of happy,
singing thoughts. 'I wish I could always sleep like that!' she said.
'But what a pity one has to wake up in the end!'

And then, as she turned her mind toward the coming duties of the day,
another thought came to her. It was a very ordinary, almost a daily
thought, but there seemed more behind it than usual. Her whole heart
was in it this time--

'As soon as the children are off to school I'll pop over to mother,
and see if I can't cheer her up a bit and make her feel more happy. Oh
dear!' she added, 'life is a bag of duties, whichever way one looks at
it!' But she felt a great power in her that she could face them easily
and turn each one into joy. She could take life more bigly,
carelessly, more as a whole somehow. She was aware of some huge
directing power in her 'underneath.' Moreover, the 'underneath' of a
woman like Mother was not a trifle that could be easily ignored. That
great Under Self, resting in the abysses of being, rose and led. The
pettier Upper Self withdrew ashamed, passing over the reins of conduct
into those mighty, shadowy hands.




CHAPTER XXVI


     Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,
       Or loose the bands of Orion?
                          _Book of Job_.

The feeling that something was going to happen--that odd sense of
anticipation--which all had experienced the evening before at tea-time
had entirely vanished, of course, next morning. It was a mood, and it
had passed away. Every one had slept it off. They little realised how
it had justified itself. Jane Anne, tidying the Den soon after seven
o'clock, noticed the slip of paper above the mantelpiece, read it
over--'The Starlight Express will start to-night. Be reddy!'--and tore
it down. 'How could that. have amused us!' she said aloud, as she
tossed it into the waste-paper basket. Yet, even while she did so,
some stray sensation of delight clutched at her funny little heart, a
touch of emotion she could not understand that was wild and very
sweet. She went singing about her work. She felt important and grown-
up, extraordinarily light-hearted too. The things she sang made up
their own words--such odd snatches that came she knew not whence. An
insect clung to her duster, and she shook it out of the window with
the crumbs and bits of cotton gathered from the table-cloth.

    'Get out, you Morning Spider,
     You fairy-cotton rider!'

she sang, and at the same minute Mother opened the bedroom door and
peeped in, astonished at the unaccustomed music. In her voluminous
dressing-gown, her hair caught untidily in a loose net, her face
flushed from stooping over the porridge saucepan, she looked, thought
Jinny, 'like a haystack somehow.' Of course she did not say it. The
draught, flapping at her ample skirts, added the idea of a covering
tarpaulin to the child's mental picture. She went on dusting with a
half-offended air, as though Mother had no right to interrupt her with
a superintending glance like this.

'You won't forget the sweeping too, Jinny?' said Mother, retiring
again majestically with that gliding motion her abundant proportions
achieved so gracefully.

'Of course I won't, Mother,' and the instant the door was closed she
fell into another snatch of song, the words of which flowed
unconsciously into her mind, it seemed--

    'For I'm a tremendously busy Sweep,
     Dusting the room while you're all asleep,
     And shoving you all in the rubbish heap,
     Over the edge of the tiles'

--a little wumbled, it is true, but its source unmistakable.

And all day long, with every one, it was similar, this curious
intrusion of the night into the day, the sub-conscious into the
conscious--a kind of subtle trespassing. The flower of forgotten
dreams rose so softly to the surface of consciousness that they had an
air of sneaking in, anxious to be regarded as an integral part of
normal waking life. Like bubbles in water they rose, discharged their
puff of fragrant air, and disappeared again. Jane Anne, in particular,
was simply radiant all day long, and more than usually clear-headed.
Once or twice she wumbled, but there was big sense in her even then.
It was only the expression that evaded her. Her little brain was a
poor transmitter somehow.

'I feel all endowed to-day,' she informed Rogers, when he
congratulated her later in the day on some cunning act of attention
she bestowed upon him. It was in the courtyard where they all sat
sunning themselves after _dejeuner_, and before the younger children
returned to afternoon school.

'I feel emaciated, you know,' she added, uncertain whether emancipated
was the word she really sought.

'You'll be quite grown-up,' he told her, 'by the time I come back to
little Bourcelles in the autumn.' Little Bourcelles! It sounded, the
caressing way he said it, as if it lay in the palm of his big brown
hand.

'But you'll never come back, because you'll never go,' Monkey chimed
in. 'My hair, remember---'

'_My_ trains won't take you,' said Jimbo gravely.

'Oh, a train may _take_ you,' continued Monkey, 'but you can't leave.
Going away by train isn't leaving.'

'It's only like going to sleep,' explained her brother. You'll come
back every night in a Starlight Express---'

'Because a Starlight Express takes passengers--whether they like it or
not. You take an ordinary train, but a starlight train takes you!'
added Monkey.

Mother heard the words and looked up sharply from her knitting.
Something, it seemed, had caught her attention vividly, though until
now her thoughts had been busy with practical things of quite another
order. She glanced keenly round at the faces, where all sat grouped
upon the stone steps of La Citadelle. Then she smiled curiously, half
to herself. What she said was clearly not what she had first meant to
say.

'Children, you're not sitting on the cold stone, are you?' she
inquired, but a little absent-mindedly.

'We're quite warm; we've got our thick under-neathies on,' was the
reply. They realised that only part of her mind was in the, question,
and that any ordinary answer would satisfy her.

Mother resumed her knitting, apparently satisfied.

But Jinny, meanwhile, had been following her own train of thought,
started by her cousin's description of her as 'grown-up.' The picture
grew big and gracious in her mind.

'I wonder what I shall do when my hair goes up?' she observed,
apparently _a propos de bottes_. It was the day, of course, eagerly,
almost feverishly, looked forward to.

'Hide your head in a bag probably,' laughed her sister. Jinny flushed;
her hair was not abundant. Yet she seemed puzzled rather than
offended.

'Never mind,' Rogers soothed her. 'The day a girl puts up her hair, a
thousand young men are aware of it,--and one among them trembles.' The
idea of romance seemed somehow in the air.

'Oh, Cousinenry!' She was delighted, comforted, impressed; but
perplexity was uppermost. Something in his tone of voice prevented
impudent comment from the others.

'And all the stars grow a little brighter,' he added. 'The entire
universe is glad.'

'I shall be a regular company promoter!' she exclaimed, nearer to wit
than she knew, yet with only the vaguest inkling of what he really
meant.

'And draw up a Memorandum of Agreement with the Milky Way,' he added,
gravely smiling.

He had just been going to say 'with the Pleiades,' when something
checked him. A wave of strange emotion swept him. It rose from the
depths within, then died away as mysteriously as it came. Like
exquisite music heard from very far away, it left its thrill of beauty
and of wonder, then hid behind the breath of wind that brought it.
'The whole world, you see, will know,' he added under his breath to
the delighted child. He looked into her queer, flushed face. The blue
eyes for a moment had, he thought, an amber tinge. It was a mere
effect of light, of course; the sun had passed behind a cloud.
Something that he ought to have known, ought to have remembered,
flashed mockingly before him and was gone. 'One among them trembles,'
he repeated in his mind. He himself was trembling.

'The Morning Spiders,' said some one quietly and softly, 'are standing
at their stable doors, making faces at the hidden sun.'

But he never knew who said it, or if it was not his own voice speaking
below his breath. He glanced at Jimbo. The small grave face wore an
air of man-like preoccupation, as was always the case when he felt a
little out of his depth in general conversation. He assumed it in
self-protection. He never exposed himself by asking questions. The
music of that under-voice ran on:--

    'Sweet thoughts, like fine weather,
     Bind closely together
     God's stars with the heart of a boy.'

But he said it aloud apparently this time, for the others looked up
with surprise. Monkey inquired what in the world he was talking about,
only, not quite knowing himself, he could not answer her. Jimbo then,
silent and preoccupied, found his thoughts still running on marriage.
The talk about his sister's hair going up no doubt had caused it.
 He remembered the young schoolmistress who had her meals at the
Pension, and the Armenian student who had fallen in love with, and
eventually married, her. It was the only courtship he had ever
witnessed. Marriage and courtship seemed everywhere this morning.

'I saw it all with Mlle. Perette,' he informed the party. 'It began
already by his pouring out water for her and passing the salt and
things. It _always_ begins like that. He got shawls even when she was
hot.'

He looked so wise and grave that nobody laughed, and his sisters even
seemed impressed rather. Jinny waited anxiously for more. If Mother
did make an odd grimace, it was not noticed, and anyhow was cleverly
converted into the swallowing of a yawn. There was a moment's silence.
Jimbo, proudly conscious that more was expected of him, provided it in
his solemn little voice.

'But it must be horrid,' he announced, 'to be married--always sticked
to the same woman, like that.' No sentence was complete without the
inevitable 'already' or 'like that,' translated from the language he
was more at home in. He thought in French. 'I shall never marry myself
(_me marier_) he decided, seeing his older sister's eyes upon him
wonderingly. Then, uncertain whether he had said an awfully wise or an
awfully foolish thing, he added no more. Anyhow, it was the way a man
should talk--with decision.

'It's bad enough to be a wife,' put in Monkey, 'but it must be worse
still to have one!'

But Jane Anne seemed shocked. A man, Jimbo reflected, can never be
sure how his wisdom may affect the other sex; women are not meant to
know everything. She rose with dignity and went upstairs towards the
door, and Monkey, rippling with laughter, smacked her as she went.
This only shocked her more.

'That was a slight mistake behind,' she said reprovingly, looking
back; 'you should have more reserve, I think,' then firmly shut the
door.

All of which meant--so far as Jane Anne was concerned--that an
important standard of conduct--grown-up, dignified, stately in a
spiritual sense--was being transferred to her present behaviour, but
transferred ineffectively. Elsewhere Jane Anne lived it, _was_ it. She
knew it, but could not get at the part of her that knew it. The
transmitting machinery was imperfect. Connecting links and switches
were somehow missing. Yearning was strong in her, that yearning which
is common to all the world, though so variously translated. Once out
of the others' sight, she made a curious face. She went into her room
between the kitchen and the Den, flung herself on the bed, and burst
into tears. And the fears brought relief. They oiled the machinery
perhaps. At any rate, she soon felt better.

'I felt so enormous and unsettled,' she informed Mother later, when
the redness of her eyes was noticed and she received breathlessly a
great comforting hug. I never get anything right.'

'But you _are_ right, darling,' Mother soothed her, little guessing
that she told the perfect truth. 'You are all right, only you don't
know it. Everybody's wumbled somewhere.' And she advised her--ah,
Mother was profoundly wise instinctively--not to think so much, but
just go ahead as usual and do her work.

For Mother herself felt a little queer that day, as though something
very big and splendid lay hiding just beyond her reach. It surged up,
vanished, then surged up again, and it came closest when she was not
thinking of it. The least effort of the mind to capture it merely
plunged her into an empty gulf where she could not touch bottom. The
glorious thing ran instantly underground. She never ceased to be aware
of it, but any attempt to focus resulted in confusion. Analysis was
beyond her powers, yet the matter was very simple really, for only
when thought is blank, and when the mind has forgotten to think, can
inspiration come through into the heart. The intellect interprets
afterwards, sets in order, regulates, examines the wonder and beauty
the heart distils alchemically out of the eternal stream in which life
everywhere dips its feet. If Reason interferes too soon, or during
transmission, it only muddles and destroys. And Mother, hitherto, had
always been so proud of being practical, prosaic, reasonable. She had
deliberately suppressed the other. She could not change in a single
day just because she had been 'out' and made discoveries last night.
Oh, how simple it all was really, and yet how utterly most folk
convert the wonder of it into wumbling!

Like Jane Anne, her miniature, she felt splendid all day long, but
puzzled too. It was almost like those religious attacks she had
experienced in early youth. She had no definite creed by which she
could explain it. Though nominally Christian, like her husband, she
could not ascribe her joy to a 'Holy Spirit,' or to a 'God' working in
her. But she was reminded of her early 'religious attacks' because she
now experienced that large sensation of glorious peace and certainty
which usually accompanies the phenomenon in the heart called
'conversion.' She saw life whole. She rested upon some unfailing
central Joy. Come what might, she felt secure and 'saved.' Something
everlasting lay within call, an ever-ready help in trouble; and all
day she was vaguely conscious that her life lay hid with--with what?
She never found the word exactly, for 'Joy' was but one aspect of it.
She fell back upon the teachings of the big religions which are the
police regulations of the world. Yet all creeds shared these, and her
feeling was far deeper than mere moral teachings. And then she gave up
thinking about it. Besides, she had much knitting to do.

'It's come to stay anyhow; I feel in sympathy with everybody,' she
said, and so dismissed vain introspection, keeping the simple
happiness and peace. That was her strength, as it was also Jinny's. A
re-formation had begun.

Jimbo, too, felt something in his microcosmic way, only he said little
and asked no single question. It betrayed itself, however, to his
Mother's widened vision. He was all stirred up. He came back again
from school at three o'clock--for it was Thursday and he did not take
the singing lesson from three to four--put down his books with a very
business-like air, forgot to kiss his Mother--and went out.

'Where are you off to, Jimbo?' She scented mischief. He was so
_affaire_.

He turned obediently at once, the face grave and puckered.

'Going over to the carpenter's house, Mummy.'

'What for, dear? Why don't you stay and play here?' She had the
feeling that her husband was absorbed in his work and would not like
to be disturbed.

The boy's reply was evasive too. 'I want to have a long discuss with
Daddy,' he said.

'Can't you have your long discuss with me instead?' she asked.

He shook his head. 'You see,' he answered solemnly, 'it's about
things.'

'But Daddy's working just now; he'll be over to tea at four. Can't it
wait till then?'

She understood too well to inquire what 'things' might be. The boy
wished to speak with one of his own sex--as one man to another man.

'When a man's at work,' she added, 'he doesn't like to be disturbed.'

'All right,' was the reply. 'We can wait a little,' and he settled
down to other things in a corner by himself. His mind, clearly, was
occupied with grave considerations he could not discuss with anybody,
least of all with women and children. But, of course, busy men must
not be interrupted. For a whole hour in his corner he made no sound,
and hardly any movement.

But Daddy did not come at four o'clock. He was evidently deep in work.
And Mother did not send for him. The carpenter's wife, she knew, would
provide a cup of tea.

He came late to supper, too, at the Pension, nodded to Mother with an
expression which plainly said, 'I've finished the story at last';
winked to his cousin, meaning, 'It came out all right, I'm satisfied,'
and took his seat between Jinny and Mlle. Vuillemot, the governess who
had earned her meal by giving a music lesson that afternoon to a
_pensionnaire_. Jinny looked sideways at him in a spirit of
examination, and picked the inevitable crumb deftly from his beard.

'Reminiscences!' she observed slyly. 'You did have some tea, then.'
Her long word was well chosen for once; her mind unusually logical,
too.

But Daddy made no reply; he went on eating whatever was set before him
with an air of complete detachment; he devoured cold ham and salad
automatically; and the children, accustomed to this absorption,
ignored his presence. He was still in the atmosphere of his work,
abstracted, lost to the outer world. They knew they would only, get
wumbled answers to their questions and remarks, and they did not dare
to tease him. From time to time he lifted his eyes--very bright they
were--and glanced round the table, dimly aware that he was in the
midst of a stream of noisy chatter, but unable to enter it
successfully at any point. Mother, watching him, thought, 'He's
sitting on air, he's wrapped in light, he's very happy'; and ate an
enormous supper, as though an insatiable hunger was in her.

The governess, Mlle. Vuillemot, who stood in awe of the 'author' in
him, seized her opportunity. She loved to exchange a _mot_ with a real
writer, reading all kinds of unintended subtlety into his brief
replies in dreadful French. To-night she asked him the meaning of a
word, title of a Tauchnitz novel she had been reading--Juggernaut;
but, being on his deaf side, he caught 'Huguenot' instead, and gave
her a laboured explanation, strangled by appalling grammar.

The historical allusions dazed her; the explanation ended on a date.
She was sorry she had ventured, for it made her feel so ignorant.

'Shuggairnort,' she repeated bravely. She had a vague idea he had not
properly heard before.

But this time he caught 'Argonaut,' and swamped her then with
classical exposition, during which she never took her eyes off him,
and decided that he was far more wonderful than she had ever dreamed.
He was; but not for the reasons she supposed.

'Thank you,' she said with meek gratitude at the end, 'I thank you.'

'Il n'y a pas de quar,' replied Daddy, bowing; and the adventure came
to an end. The others luckily had not heard it in full swing; they
only caught the final phrase with which he said adieu. But it served
its unwitting purpose admirably. It brought him back to the world
about him. The spell was broken. All turned upon him instantly.

'Snay pas un morsow de bong.' Monkey copied his accent, using a
sentence from a schoolboy's letter in _Punch_. 'It's not a bit of
good.' Mother squelched her with a look, but Daddy, even if he noticed
it, was not offended. Nothing could offend him to-night. Impertinence
turned silvery owing to the way he took it. There was a marvellous
light and sweetness about him. 'He _is_ on air,' decided Mother
finally. 'He's written his great Story--our story. It's finished!'

'I don't know,' he said casually to the others, as they stood talking
a few minutes in the salon before going over to the Den, 'if you'd
like to hear it; but I've got a new creature for the Wumble Book. It
came to me while I was thinking of something else---'

'Thinking of one thing while you were thinking of another!' cried
Monkey. It described exaccurately his state of mind sometimes.

'---and I jotted down the lines on my cuff. So it's not very perfect
yet.'

Mother had him by the arm quickly. Mlle. Vuillemot was hovering in his
neighbourhood, for one thing. It seemed to her they floated over,
almost flew.

'It's a Haystack Woman,' he explained, once they were safely in the
Den grouped about him. 'A Woman of the Haystack who is loved by the
Wind. That is to say, the big Wind loves her, but she prefers the
younger, handsomer little Winds, and---'

He was not allowed to finish. The children laid his cuff back in a
twinkling, drawing up the coat sleeve.

'But surely I know that,' Mother was saying. 'I've heard of her before
somewhere. I wonder where?' Others were saying the same thing. 'It's
not new.'

'Impossible,' said Daddy, 'for the idea only came to me this morning
while I was---'

'Thinking of something else,' Monkey again finished the sentence for
him.

Mother felt that things were rushing about her from another world. She
was vaguely conscious--deliciously, bewilderingly--of having heard
this all before. Imaginative folk have built the certainty of a
previous existence upon evidence as slight; for actual scenery came
with it, and she saw dim forest trees, and figures hovering in the
background, and bright atmosphere, and fields of brilliant stars. She
felt happy and shining, light as a feather, too. It all was just
beyond her reach, though; she could not recover it properly. 'It must
have been a dream _she_ told me,' was her conclusion, referring to
Mlle. Lemaire. Her old friend was in it somewhere or other. She felt
sure of that.

She hardly heard, indeed, the silly lines her husband read aloud to
the children. She liked the sound of his voice, though; it suggested
music she had known far away--in her childhood.

'It's high spirits really,' whispered Rogers, sitting beside her in
the window. 'It's a sort of overflow from his story. He can't do that
kind of rhyme a bit, but it's an indication---'

'You think he's got a fine big story this time?' she asked under her
breath; and Cousin Henry's eyes twinkled keenly as he gave a
significant nod and answered: 'Rather! Can't you feel the splendour
all about him, the strength, the harmony!'


She leaped at the word. Harmony exactly described this huge new thing
that had come into the family, into the village, into the world. The
feeling that they all were separate items, struggling for existence
one against the other, had gone for ever. Life seemed now a single
whole, an enormous pattern. Every one fitted in. There was effort--
wholesome jolly effort, but no longer the struggle or fighting that
were ugly. To 'live carelessly' was possible and right because the
pattern was seen entire. It was to live in the whole.

'Harmony,' she repeated to herself, with a great swelling happiness in
her heart, 'that's the nunculus of the matter.'

'The what?' he asked, overhearing her.

'The nunculus,' she repeated bravely, seeing the word in her mind, yet
unable to get it quite. Rogers did not correct her.

'Rather,' was all he said. 'Of course it is.' What did the
pronunciation of a word matter at such a time? Her version even
sounded better than the original. Mother saw things bigger! Already
she was becoming creative!

'And you're the one who brought it,' she continued, but this time so
low that he did not catch the words. 'It's you, your personality, your
thinking, your atmosphere somehow that have brought this gigantic
sense of peace and calm security which are _au fond_ nothing but the
consciousness of harmony and the power of seeing ugly details in their
proper place--in a single _coup d'oeil_--and understanding them as
parts of a perfect whole.'

It was her thought really running on; she never could have found the
words like that. She thought in French, too, for one thing. And, in
any case, Rogers could not have heard her, for he was listening now to
the uproar of the children as they criticised Daddy's ridiculous
effusion. A haystack, courted in vain by zephyrs, but finally taken
captive by an equinoctial gale, strained nonsense too finely for their
sense of what was right and funny. It was the pictures he now drew in
the book that woke their laughter. He gave the stack a physiognomy
that they recognised.

'But, Mother, he's making it look like you!' cried Monkey--only Mother
was too far away in her magnificent reverie to reply intelligently.

I know her; she's my friend,' she answered vaguely. 'So it's all
right.'

'Majestic Haystack'--it was the voice of the wind addressing her:--

    'Majestic Haystack, Empress of my life,
    Your ample waist
    Just fits the gown I fancy for my wife,
    And suits my taste;
    Yet there you stand, flat-footed, square and deep,
    An unresponsive, elephantine heap,
    Coquetting with the stars while I'm asleep,
    O cruel Stack!

    Coy, silent Monster, Matron of the fields,
    I sing to you;
    And all the fondest love that summer yields
    I bring to you;
    Yet there you squat, immense in your disdain,
    Heedless of all the tears of streaming rain
    My eyes drip over you--your breathless swain;
    O stony Stack!

    Stupendous Maiden, sweetest when oblong,
    Does inner flame
    Now smoulder in thy soul to hear my song
    Repeat thy name?
    Or does thy huge and ponderous heart object
    The advances of my passion, and reject
    My love because it's airy and elect?
    O wily Stack!

    O crested goddess, thatched and top-knotted,
    O reckless Stack!
    Of wives that to the Wind have been allotted
    There is no lack;
    You've spurned my love as though I were a worm;
    But next September when I see thy form,
    I'll woo thee with an equinoctial storm!
    I have that knack!'

'Far less wumbled than usual,' thought Rogers, as the children danced
about the room, making up new ridiculous rhymes, of which 'I'll give
you a whack' seemed the most popular. Only Jane Anne was quiet. A
courtship even so remote and improbable as between the Wind and a
Haystack sent her thoughts inevitably in the dominant direction.

'It must be nice when one is two,' she whispered ambiguously to Mother
with a very anxious face, 'but I'm sure that if a woman can't cook,
love flies out of the window. It's a positive calamity, you know.'

But it was Cousin Henry's last night in Bourcelles, and the spirit of
pandemonium was abroad. Neither parent could say no to anything, and
mere conversation  in corners was out of the question. The door was
opened into the corridor, and while Mother played her only waltz,
Jimbo and Monkey danced on the splintery boards as though it were a
parquet floor, and Rogers pirouetted somewhat solemnly with Jane Anne.
She enjoyed it immensely, yet rested her hand very gingerly upon his
shoulder. 'Please don't hold me _quite_ so tight,' she ventured. 'I've
never danced with a strange man before, you see'; and he no more
laughed at her than he had laughed at Mother's 'nunculus.' Even Jane
Anne, he knew, would settle down comfortably before long into the
great big pattern where a particular nook awaited--aye, needed--her
bizarre, odd brilliance. The most angular fragments would nest softly,
neatly in. A little filing, a little polishing, and all would fit
together. To force would only be to break. Hurry was of the devil. And
later, while Daddy played an ancient tune that was written originally
as a mazurka yet did duty now for a two-step, he danced with Mother
too, and the children paused to watch out of sheer admiration.

'Fancy, Mother dancing!' they exclaimed with glee--except Jinny, who
was just a little offended and went to stand by the piano till it was
over. For Mother danced as lightly as a child for all her pride of
measurement, and no frigate ever skimmed the waves more gracefully
than Mother glided over those uneven boards.

'The Wind and the Haystack' of course, was Monkey's description.

'You'll wind and haystack to bed now,' was the reply, as Mother sat
and fanned herself in the corner. The 'bed-sentence' as the children
called it, was always formed in this way. Whatever the child was
saying when the moment came, Mother adopted as her verb. 'Shall I put
some peat on, Mother?' became 'Peat yourself off to bed-it's nine
o'clock'--and the child was sorry it had spoken.

Good-byes had really been said at intervals all day long, and so to-
night were slight enough; the children, besides, were so 'excitey-
tired,' as Monkey put it, that they possessed no more emotion of any
kind. There were various disagreeable things in the immediate future
of To-morrow--getting up early, school, and so forth; and Cousin
Henry's departure they lumped in generally with the mass, accepted but
unrealised. Jimbo could hardly keep his eyes alight, and Monkey's hair
was like a baby haystack the wind had treated to an equinoctial storm.
Jinny, stiff, perplexed, and solemn with exhaustion, yet dared not
betray it because she was older, in measurable distance of her hair
going up.

'Why don't you play with the others, child?' asked Mother, finding her
upright on a sofa while the romp went on.

'Oh, to-night,' Jinny explained, 'I sit indifferent and look on. I
don't always feel like skedivvying about!'

To skedivvy was to chivvy and skedaddle--its authority not difficult
to guess.

'Good-bye, Cousinenry,' each gasped, as his big arms went round them
and squeezed out the exclamation. 'Oh, thank you most awfully,' came
next, with another kiss, produced by his pressing something hard and
round and yellow into each dirty little hand. 'It's only a bit of
crystallised starlight,' he explained, 'that escaped long ago from the
Cave. And starlight, remember, shines for everybody as well as for
yourselves. You can buy a stamp with it occasionally, too,' he added,
'and write to me.'

'We will. Of course!'

Jimbo straightened up a moment before the final collapse of sleep.

'Your train leaves at 6.23,' he said, with the authority of exclusive
information. 'You must be at the station at six to get the _bagages
enregistrees_. It's a slow train to Pontarlier, but you'll find a
_wagon direct_ for Paris in front, next to the engine. I shall be
at the station to see you off.'

'_I_ shan't,' said Monkey.

Rogers realised with delight the true meaning of these brief and
unemotional good-byes. 'They know I'm coming back; they feel that the
important part of me is not going away at all. My thinking stays here
with them.'

Jinny lingered another ten minutes for appearance's sake. It was long
past her bed-time, too, but dignity forbade her retiring with the
others. Standing by the window she made conversation a moment, feeling
it was the proper, grown-up thing to do. It was even expected of her.

'Look! It's full moon,' she observed gravely, as though suggesting
that she could, if she liked, go out and enjoy the air. 'Isn't it
lovely?'

'No, yesterday was full moon,' Rogers corrected her, joining her and
looking out. 'Two nights ago, to be exact, I think.'

'Oh,' she replied, as solemnly as though politics or finance were
under discussion, 'then it's bigger than full moon now. It goes on,
does it, getting fuller and fuller, till--'

'Now, Jinny dear, it's very late, and you'd better full-moon off to
bed,' Mother interrupted gently.

'Yes, Mother; I'm just saying good-night.' She held her hand out, as
though she was afraid he might kiss her, yet feared he would not.
'Good-bye, Mr. Cousin Henry, and I hope you'll have an exceedingly
happy time in the train and soon come back and visit us again.'

'Thank you,' he said, 'I'm sure I shall.' He gave her a bit of solid
starlight as he said it, then suddenly leaned forward and kissed her
on the cheek. Making a violent movement like an experienced boxer who
dodges an upper cut, Jinny turned and fled precipitately from the
room, forgetting her parents altogether. That kiss, she felt, consumed
her childhood in a flash of fiery flame. In bed she decided that she
must lengthen her skirts the very next day, and put her hair up too.
She must do something that should give her protection and yet freedom.
For a long time she did not sleep. She lay thinking it over. She felt
supremely happy--wild, excited, naughty. 'A man has kissed me; it was
a man; it was Mr. Rogers, Daddy's cousin.... He's not _my_ cousin
exactly, but just "a man."' And she fell asleep, wondering how she
ought to begin her letter to him when she wrote, but, more perplexing
still, how she ought to--end it! That little backward brain sought the
solution of the problem all night long in dreams. She felt a criminal,
a dare-devil caught in the act, awaiting execution. Light had been
flashed cruelly upon her dark, careful secret--the greatest and finest
secret in the world. The child lay under sentence indeed, only it was
a sentence of life, and not of death.



CHAPTER XXVII

_Asia_.                             ... I feel, I see
     Those eyes which burn through smiles that fade in tears,
     Like stars half quenched in mists of silver dew.
                          Prometheus Unbound, SHELLEY.

It was only ten o'clock, really, and the curfew was ringing from every
village on the mountain-side. The sound of the bells, half musical,
half ominous, was borne by the bise across the vineyards, for the
easterly wind that brings fine weather was blowing over lake and
forest, and seemed to drive before it thin sheets of moonlight that
turned the whole world soft. The village lay cosily dreaming beneath
the sky. Once the curfew died away there was only the rustling of the
plane trees in the old courtyard. The great Citadelle loomed above the
smaller houses, half in shadow half in silver, nodding heavily to the
spire of the Church, and well within sight of the sentinelle poplar
that guarded the village from the forest and the mountains. Far away,
these mountains now lowered their enormous shoulders to let night flow
down upon the sleeping world. The Scaffolding that brought it had long
since sailed over France towards the sea....

Mother, still panting from the ritual of fastening the younger
children into bed, had gone a moment down the passage to say good-
night to Mlle. Lemaire, and when she returned, the three of them--
herself, her husband, and Cousin Henry--dropped into chairs beside the
window and watched the silvery world in silence for a time. None felt
inclined to speak. There was drama somehow in that interval of
silence--that drama which lurks everywhere and always behind life's
commonest, most ordinary moments. Actions reveal it--sometimes--but it
mostly lies concealed, and especially in deep silences like this, when
the ticking of a cuckoo clock upon the wall may be the sole hint of
its presence.

It was not the good-byes that made all three realise it so near,
though good-byes are always solemn and momentous things; it was
something that stirred and rose upon them from a far deeper strata of
emotion than that caused by apparent separation. For no pain lay in
it, but a power much more difficult to express in the sounds and
syllables of speech--Joy. A great joy, creative and of big
significance, had known accomplishment. Each felt it, knew it,
realised it. The moonlit night was aware of it. The entire universe
knew it, too. The drama lay in that. There had been creation--of more
light.... The world was richer than it had been. Some one had caught
Beauty in a net, and to catch Beauty is to transform and recreate all
common things. It is revelation.

Through the mind of each of these three flowed the stream of casual
thinking--images, reflections, and the shadowy scaffoldings of many
new emotions--sweeping along between the banks of speech and silence.
And this stream, though in flood, did not overflow into words for a
long time. With eyes turned inwards, each watched the current pass.
Clear and deep, it quietly reflected--stars. Each watched the same
stream, the same calm depths, the same delicate reflections. They were
in harmony with themselves, and therefore with the universe....

Then, suddenly, one of the reflections--it was the Pleiades--rose to
the surface to clasp its lovely original. It was the woman who netted
the golden thought and drew it forth for all to see.

'Couldn't you read it to us, Daddy?' she whispered softly across the
silence.

'If it's not too long for you.' He was so eager, so willing to comply.

'We will listen till the Morning Spiders take us home,' his cousin
said.

'It's only the shorter version,' Daddy agreed shiningly, 'a sketch for
the book which, of course, will take a year to write. I might read
_that_, perhaps.'

'Do,' urged Mother. 'We are all in it, aren't we? It's our story as
well as yours.'

He rose to get the portfolio from the shelf where he had laid it, and
while Rogers lit the lamp, Riquette stole in at the window, picking
her way daintily across the wet tiles. She stood a moment, silhouetted
against the sky; then shaking her feet rapidly each in turn like bits
of quivering wire, she stepped precisely into the room. 'I am in it
too,' she plainly said, curling herself up on the chair Daddy had just
vacated, but resigning herself placidly enough to his scanty lap when
he came back again and began to read. Her deep purring, while he
stroked her absent-mindedly, became an undercurrent in the sound of
his voice, then presently ceased altogether....

On and on he read, while the moon sailed over La Citadelle, bidding
the stars hush to listen too. She put her silvery soft hands across
their eyes that they might hear the better. The blue wind of night
gathered up the meaning and spread it everywhere. The forest caught
the tale from the low laughter in the crest of the poplar, and passed
it on to the leagues of forest that bore it in turn across the
frontiers into France. Thence snowy Altels and the giant Blumlisalp
flashed it south along the crowding peaks and down among the Italian
chestnut woods, who next sent it coursing over the rustling waves of
the Adriatic and mixed it everywhere with the Mediterranean foam. In
the morning the shadows upon bare Grecian hills would whisper it among
the ancient islands, and the East catch echoes of it in the winds of
dawn. The forests of the North would open their great gloomy eyes with
wonder, as though strange new wild-flowers had come among them in the
night. All across the world, indeed, wherever there were gardened
minds tender enough to grow fairy seed, these flakes of thought would
settle down in sleep, and blossom in due season into a crop of magic
beauty.

He read on and on.... The village listened too, the little shadowy
street, the familiar pine woods, the troubled Pension, each, as its
image was evoked in the story, knew its soul discovered, and stirred
in its sleep towards the little room to hear. And the desolate ridges
of La Tourne and Boudry, the clefts where the wild lily of the valley
grew unknown, high nooks and corners where the buzzards nested, these
also knew and answered to the trumpet summons of the Thought that made
them live. A fire of creation ran pulsing from this centre. All were
in the Pattern of the Story.

To the two human listeners it seemed as familiar as a tale read, in
childhood long ago, and only half forgotten. They always knew a little
of what was coming next. Yet it spread so much further than mere
childhood memories, for its golden atmosphere included all countries
and all times. It rose and sang and sparkled, lighting up strange deep
recesses of their unconscious and half-realised life, and almost
revealing the tiny silver links that joined them on to the universe at
large. The golden ladders from the Milky Way were all let down. They
climbed up silvery ropes into the Moon....

'It's not my own idea,' he said; 'I'm convinced of that. It's all
flocked into me from some other mind that thought it long ago, but
could not write it, perhaps. No thought is lost, you see--never can be
lost. Like this, somehow, I feel it:--

    Now sinks to sleep the clamour of the day,
    And, million-footed, from the Milky Way,
    Falls shyly on my heart the world's lost Thought--
    Shower of primrose dust the stars have taught
    To haunt each sleeping mind,
    Till it may find

    A garden in some eager, passionate brain
    That, rich in loving-kindness as in pain,
    Shall harvest it, then scatter forth again
    It's garnered loveliness from heaven caught.

    Oh, every yearning thought that holds a tear,
    Yet finds no mission,
    And lies untold,

    Waits, guarded in that labyrinth of gold,--
    To reappear
    Upon some perfect night,
    Deathless--not old--
    But sweet with time and distance,
    And clothed as in a vision
    Of starry brilliance
    For the world's delight.'

In the pauses, from time to time, they heard the distant thunder of
the Areuse as it churned and tumbled over the Val de Travers boulders.
The Colombier bells, as the hours passed, strung the sentences
together; moonlight wove in and out of every adventure as they
listened; stars threaded little chapters each to each with their
eternal golden fastenings. The words seemed written down in dew, but
the dew crystallised into fairy patterns that instantly flew about the
world upon their mission of deliverance. In this ancient Network of
the Stars the universe lay fluttering; and they lay with it, all
prisoners in Fairyland.

For the key of it all was sympathy, and the' delicate soul of it was
tender human love. Bourcelles, in this magic tale, was the starting-
point whence the Starlight Expresses flashed into all the world, even
unto unvisited, forgotten corners that had known no service hitherto.
It was so adaptable and searching, and knew such tiny, secret ways of
entrance. The thought was so penetrating, true, and simple. Even old
Mother Plume would wake to the recovery of some hitherto forgotten
fragrance in her daily life... just as those Northern forests would
wake to find new wild-flowers. For all fairytales issue first from the
primeval forest, thence undergoing their protean transformation; and
in similar fashion this story, so slight but so tremendous, issued
from the forest of one man's underthinking--one deep, pure mind,
wumbled badly as far as external things were concerned, yet realising
that Bourcelles contained the Universe, and that he, in turn contained
Bourcelles. Another, it is true, had shown it to him, though all
unwittingly, and had cleaned in his atmosphere the channels for the
entrance of the glorious pattern. But the result was the same. In his
brain--perhaps by Chance, perhaps by God--lay the machinery which
enabled him to give it out to others--the power and ability to
transmit. It was a fairy-tale of the world, only the world had
forgotten it. He brought back its fairyland again.

And this fairyland, what and where was it? And how could this tale of
its recovery bring into his listeners' hearts such a sense of peace
and joy that they felt suddenly secure in the world and safe mid all
the confusion of their muddled lives? That there were tears in
Mother's eyes seems beyond question, because the moonlight, reflected
faintly from a wet cobble in the yard below, glistened like a tiny
silver lantern there. They betrayed the fact that something in her had
melted and flowed free. Yet there was no sadness in the fairy-tale to
cause it; they were tears of joy.

Surely it was that this tale of Starlight, Starlight Expresses and
Star Caves, told as simply as running water, revealed the entire
Universe--as One, and that in this mighty, splendid thing each of them
nested safe and comfortable. The world was really _thinking_, and all
lay fluttering in the grand, magnificent old Net of Stars. What people
think, they are. All can think Beauty. And sympathy--to feel with
everything--was the clue; for sympathy is love, and to love a star was
to love a neighbour. To be without sympathy was to feel apart, and to
think apart was to cut oneself off from life, from the Whole, from God
and joy--it was Death. To work at commonplace duties because they were
duties to the Universe at large, this was the way to find courage,
peace, and happiness, because this was genuine and successful work, no
effort lost, and the most distant star aware of it. Thinking was
living, whether material results were visible or not; yearning was
action, even though no accomplishment was apparent; thought and
sympathy, though felt but for a passing moment, sweetened the Pleiades
and flashed along the Milky Way, and so-called tangible results that
could prove it to the senses provided no adequate test of
accomplishment or success. In the knowledge of belonging to this vast
underlying unity was the liberation that brings courage, carelessness,
and joy, and to admit failure in anything, by thinking it, was to
weaken the entire structure which binds together the planets and the
heart of a boy. Thoughts were the fairies that the world believed in
when it was younger, simpler, less involved in separation; and the
golden Fairyland recovered in this story was the Fairyland of lovely
thinking....

In this little lamp-lit room of the Citadelle, the two listeners were
conscious of this giant, delicate network that captured every flying
thought and carried it streaming through the world. God became a
simple thing: He fashioned Rogers's Scheme, even though it never
materialised in bricks and mortar. God was behind Mother, even when
she knitted or lit the fire in the Den. All were prisoners in His
eternal Fairyland....

And the symbolism of the story, the so-called fantasy, they also
easily understood, because they felt it true. To be 'out' of the body
was merely to think and feel away from self. As they listened they
realised themselves in touch with every nation and with every time,
with all possible beliefs and disbeliefs, with every conceivable kind
of thinking, that is, which ever has existed or ever shall exist....

The heat and radiance given out by the clear delivery of this
'inspirational' fairy-tale must have been very strong; far-reaching it
certainly was....

'Ah!' sighed Rogers to himself, 'if only I could be like that!' not
realising that he was so.

'Oh dear!' felt the Woman, 'that's what I've felt sometimes. I only
wish it were true of me!' unaware that it could be, and even by the
fact of her yearning, _was_ so.

'If only I could get up and help the world!' passed like a flame
across the heart of the sufferer who lay on her sleepless bed next
door, listening to the sound of the droning voice that reached her
through the wall, yet curiously ignorant that this very longing was
already majestically effective in the world of definite action.

And even Mother Plume, pacing her airless room at the further end of
the village and tapping her ebony stick upon the floor, turned
suspiciously, as at a passing flash of light that warmed her for a
sudden instant as it went.

'Perhaps, after all, they don't mean all these unkind things they do
to me!' she thought; 'I live so much alone. Possibly I see things less
clearly than I used to do!'

The spell was certainly very potent, though Daddy himself, reading out
the little shining chapters, guessed as little as the rest of them how
strong. So small a part of what he meant to say, it seemed, had been
transferred to the paper. More than he realised, far, far more, lay
between the lines, of course. There was conviction in it, because
there was vision and belief.  Not much was said when he put his roll
of paper down and leaned back in his chair. Riquette opened her eyes
and blinked narrowly, then closed them again and began to purr. The
ticking of the cuckoo clock seemed suddenly very loud and noticeable.

'Thank you,' said Mother quietly in an uncertain kind of voice. 'The
world seems very wonderful now--quite different.'

She moved in her chair--the first movement she had made for over two
hours. Daddy rubbed his eyes, stroked his beard, and lit a cigarette;
it went out almost immediately, but he puffed on at it just the same,
till his cousin struck a match and stood over him to see it properly
alight.

'You have caught Beauty naked in your net of stars,' he murmured; 'but
you have left her as you found her--shining, silvery, unclothed.
Others will see her, too. You have taken us all back into Fairyland,
and I, for one, shall never get out again.'

'Nor I,' breathed some one in the shadows by the window....

The clock struck two. 'Odd,' said Mother, softly, 'but I never heard
it strike once while you were reading!'

'We've all been out,' Rogers laughed significantly, 'just as you make
them get out in the story'; and then, while Riquette yawned and turned
a moment from the window-sill to say thank you for her long, warm
sleep, Mother lit the spirit-lamp and brewed the cups of chocolate.
She tiptoed in next door, and as she entered the sick-room she saw
through the steam rising from the cup she carried a curious thing--an
impression of brilliance about the bed, as though shafts of light
issued from it. Rays pulsed and trembled in the air. There was a
perfume of flowers. It seemed she stepped back into the atmosphere of
the story for an instant.

'Ah, you're not asleep,' she whispered. 'We've brewed some chocolate,
and I thought you might like a cup.'

'No, I'm not asleep,' answered the other woman from the bed she never
would leave until she was carried from it, 'but I have been dreaming.
It seemed the stars came down into my room and sang to me; this bed
became a throne; and some power was in me by which I could send my
thoughts out to help the world. I sent them out as a king sends
messengers--to people everywhere--even to people I've never heard of.
Isn't it wonderful?'

'You've had no pain?' For Mother knew that these sleepless hours at
night brought usually intense suffering. She stared at her, noting how
the eyes shone and glistened with unshed moisture.

'None,' was the answer, 'but only the greatest joy and peace I've ever
known.' The little glass of _calmant_ was untouched; it was not a drug
that had soothed the exhausted nerves. In this room at any rate the
spell was working still. 'I was carried through the air by stars, as
though my ceaseless yearning to get up and work in the world for once
was realised.'

'You can do everything from your bed,' her friend murmured, sitting
down beside her. 'You do. Your thoughts go out so strongly. I've often
felt them myself. Perhaps that's why God put you here in bed like
this,' she added, surprised at the power in herself that made her say
such things--'just to think and pray for the world.'

'I do pray sometimes for others,' the tortured woman answered
modestly, 'but this time I was not conscious of praying at all. It all
swept out of me of its own accord. The force in me seemed so free and
inexhaustible that it overflowed. It was irresistible. I felt able to
save the world.'

'You were out,' said Mother softly, 'out of yourself, I mean,' she
corrected it. 'And your lovely thoughts go everywhere. You do save the
world.'

There fell a long silence then between them.

'You've been reading aloud,' Mlle. Lemaire said presently. 'I heard
the drone of the voice through the wall---'

'Daddy was reading his new story to us,' the other said. 'It didn't
disturb you?'

'On the contrary. I think it was the voice somehow that brought the
vision. I listened vaguely at first, trying to sleep; then, opening my
eyes suddenly, the room, as I told you, was full of stars. Their rays
caught hold of me and drew these forces out of my very heart. I
yielded, giving and giving and giving ... such life flowed from me,
and they carried it away in streams.... Oh, it was really like a
divine sensation.' 'It was divine,' said Mother, but whether she meant
the story or her friend's experience, she hardly knew herself.

'And the story--was it not about our little Bourcelles?' asked the
other.

Mother held her hands up as though words failed her. She opened her
arms wide. She was not quite sure of her voice.

'It was,' she said at length, 'but Bourcelles had grown into the
universe. It's a fairy-tale, but it's like a great golden fire. It
warmed my heart till my whole body seemed all heart, and I didn't know
whether to laugh or cry. It makes you see that the whole world is
_one_, and that the sun and moon and stars lie in so small and
unimportant a thing as, say, Jimbo's mischief, or Monkey's impudence,
or Jinny's backwardness and absurdity. All are in sympathy together,
as in a network, and to feel sympathy with anything, even the most
insignificant, connects you instantly with the Whole. Thought and
sympathy _are_ the Universe--they are life.'

While Mother paused for breath, her old friend smiled a curious,
meaning smile, as though she heard a thing that she had always known.

'And all of us are in the story, and all the things we _think_ are
alive and active too, because we have created them. Our thoughts
populate the world, flying everywhere to help or hinder others, you
see.'

The sound of a door opening was heard. Mother got up to go. Shafts of
light again seemed to follow her from the figure in the bed.

'Good-night,' she whispered with a full heart, while her thought ran
suddenly--'You possess the secret of life and of creation, for
suffering has taught it to you, and you have really known it always.
But Daddy has put it into words for everybody.' She felt proud as a
queen.

There were whispered good-nights then in the corridor, for Rogers and
her husband were on their way home to bed.

'Your chocolate is getting cold,' said Daddy kindly.

'We thought you would probably stay in there. We're going over now.
It's very late,' Rogers added. They said good-night again.

She closed and locked the great door of the Citadelle behind them,
hearing their steps upon the cobbles in the yard, and for some time
afterwards upon the road. But their going away seemed the same as
coming nearer. She felt so close to everything that lived. Everything
did live. Her heart included all that existed, that ever had existed,
that ever could exist. Mother was alive all over. 'I have just been
created,' she laughed, and went back into the Den to drink her cup of
tepid chocolate.




CHAPTER XXVIII


    See, the busy Pleiades,
    Sisters to the Hyades,
    Seven by seven
    Across the heaven,
    Light desire
    With their fire,
    Working cunningly together in a soft and tireless band,

    Sweetly linking
    All our thinking
    In the Net of Sympathy that brings back Fairyland.
                             _A Voice_.

The prophecy of the children that Bourcelles was a difficult place to
get away from found its justification next morning, for Rogers slept
so heavily that he nearly missed his train. It was six o'clock when he
tumbled downstairs, too late for a real breakfast, and only just in
time to get his luggage upon the little char that did duty for all
transport in this unsophisticated village. The carpenter pulled it for
him to the station.

'If I've forgotten anything, my cousin will send it after me,' he told
Mme. Michaud, as he gulped down hot coffee on the steps.

'Or we can keep it for you,' was the answer. 'You'll be coming back
soon.' She knew, like the others, that one always came back to
Bourcelles. She shook hands with him as if he were going away for a
night or two. 'Your room will always be ready,' she added. 'Ayez la
bonte seulement de m'envoyer une petite ligne d'avance.'

'There's only fifteen minutes,' interrupted her husband, 'and it's
uphill all the way.'

They trundled off along the dusty road, already hot in the early July
sun. There was no breath of wind; swallows darted in the blue air; the
perfume of the forests was everywhere; the mountains rose soft and
clear into the cloudless sky. They passed the Citadelle, where the
awning was already being lowered over the balcony for Mlle. Lemaire's
bed to be wheeled out a little later. Rogers waved his handkerchief,
and saw the answering flutter inside the window. Riquette, on her way
in, watched him from the tiles. The orchards then hid the lower
floors; he passed the tinkling fountain; to the left he saw the church
and the old Pension, the wistaria blossoms falling down its walls in a
cascade of beauty.

The Postmaster put his head out and waved his Trilby hat with a solemn
smile. 'Le barometre est tres haut...' floated down the village
street, instead of the sentence of good-bye. Even the Postmaster took
it for granted that he was not leaving. Gygi, standing in the door of
his barn, raised his peaked hat and smiled. 'Fait beau, ce matin,' he
said, 'plus tard il fera rudement chaud.' He spoke as if Rogers were
off for a walk or climb. It was the same everywhere. The entire
village saw him go, yet behaved as if he was not really leaving. How
fresh and sweet the morning air was, keen mountain fragrance in it,
and all the delicious, delicate sharpness of wet moss and dewy fields.

As he passed the courtyard near the Guillaume Tell, and glanced up at
the closed windows of Mother Plume's apartment, a pattering step
startled him behind, and Jimbo came scurrying up. Rogers kissed him
and lifted him bodily upon the top of his portmanteau, then helped the
carpenter to drag it up the hill. 'The barriers at the level crossing
are down, the warning gongs are ringing. It's signalled from
Auvernier.' They were only just in time. The luggage was registered
and the train panting up the steep incline, when Monkey, sleep still
thick in her eyes, appeared rolling along the white road. She was too
breathless to speak; she stood and stared like a stuffed creature in a
Museum. Jimbo was beside the engine, having a word with the
_mecanicien_.

'Send a telegram, you know--like that,' he shouted, as the carriage
slid past him, 'and we'll bring the _char_.' He knew his leader would
come back. He took his cap off politely, as a man does to a lady--the
Bourcelles custom. He did not wave his handkerchief or make
undignified signs. He stood there, watching his cousin to the last,
and trying to see the working of the engine at the same time. He had
already told him the times and stopping places, and where he had to
change; there was nothing more for a man to say.

Monkey, her breath recovered now, shouted something impudent from the
road. 'The train will break down with you in it before it gets to
Pontarlier, and you'll be back for tea--worse luck!' He heard it
faintly, above the grinding of the wheels. She blew him a kiss; her
hair flew out in a cloud of brown the sunshine turned half golden. He
almost saw the shining of her eyes. And then the belt of the forest
hid her from view, hid Jimbo and the village too. The last thing he
saw of Bourcelles was the top of the church spire and the red roof of
the towering Citadelle. The crest of the sentinel poplar topped them
both for a minute longer, waved a slight and stately farewell, then
lowered itself into the forest and vanished in its turn.

And Rogers came back with a start and a bump to what is called real
life.

He closed his eyes and leaned back in his corner, feeling he had
suddenly left his childhood behind him for the second time, not
gradually as it ought to happen, but all in one dreadful moment. A
great ache lay in his heart. The perfect book of fairy-tales he had
been reading was closed and finished. Weeks had passed in the
delicious reading, but now the last page was turned; he came back to
duty--duty in London--great, noisy, overwhelming London, with its
disturbing bustle, its feverish activities, its complex, artificial,
unsatisfying amusements, and its hosts of frantic people. He grew
older in a moment; he was forty again now; an instant ago, just on the
further side of those blue woods, he had been fifteen. Life shrank and
dwindled in him to a little, ugly, unattractive thing. He was
returning to a flat in the dolorous edifice of civilisation. A great
practical Scheme, rising in sombre bricks and mortar through a
disfiguring fog, blocked all the avenues of the future.

The picture seemed sordid somewhere, the contrast was so striking. In
a great city was no softness; hard, sharp angles everywhere, or at
best an artificial smoothness that veiled ugliness and squalor very
thinly. Human relationship worked like parts of a machine, cramped
into definite orbits, each wheel, each pulley, the smallest deviation
deemed erratic. In Bourcelles, the mountain village, there was more
latitude, room for expansion, space. The heart leaped up spontaneously
like a spring released. In the city this spring was held down rigidly
in place, pressed under as by a weight; and the weight, surely, was
that one for ever felt compelled to think of self--self in a rather
petty, shameful way--personal safety. In the streets, in the houses,
in public buildings, shops, and railway stations, even where people
met to eat and drink in order to keep alive, were Notice Boards of
caution and warning against their fellow kind. Instead of the kindly
and unnecessary, even ridiculous little Gygi, there were big, grave
policemen by the score, a whole army of them; and everywhere grinned
the Notice Boards, like automatic, dummy policemen, mocking joy with
their insulting warnings. The heart was oppressed with this constant
reminder that safety could only be secured by great care and trouble--
safety for the little personal self; protection from all kinds of
robbery, depredation, and attack; beware of pickpockets, the
proprietor is not responsible for overcoats and umbrellas even! And
burglar alarms and doors of steel and iron everywhere--an organised
defence from morning till night--against one's own kind.

He had lived among these terrible conditions all his life, proud of
the personal security that civilisation provided, but he had never
before viewed it from outside, as now he suddenly did. A spiritual
being, a man, lives in a city as in a state of siege among his own
kind. It was deplorable, it was incredible. In little Bourcelles, a
mountain village most would describe pityingly as half civilised and
out of the world, there was safety and joy and freedom as of the
universe.... His heart contracted as he thus abruptly realised the
distressing contrast. Although a city is a unit, all classes neatly
linked together by laws and by-laws, by County Councils, Parliaments,
and the like, the spirit of brotherhood was a mockery and a sham.
There is organised charity, but there is not--Charity. In a London
Square he could not ring the bell and ask for a glass of milk.... In
Bourcelles he would walk into any house, since there were no bells,
and sit down to an entire meal!

He laughed as the absurd comparison darted across his mind, for he
recognised the foolish exaggeration in it; but behind the laughter
flamed the astonishing truth. In Bourcelles, in a few weeks, he had
found a bigger, richer life than all London had supplied to him in
twenty years; he had found wings, inspiration, love, and happiness; he
had found the universe. The truth of his cousin's story blazed upon
him like an inner sun. In this new perspective he saw that it was a
grander fairy-tale than he had guessed even when close to it. What was
a Scheme for Disabled Thingumabobs compared to the endless, far-
reaching schemes that life in Bourcelles suggested to him! There was
the true centre of life; cities were accretions of disease upon the
surface merely! He was leaving Fairyland behind him.

In sudden moments like this, with their synthetic bird's-eye view, the
mind sometimes sees more clearly than in hours of careful reflection
and analysis. And the first thing he saw now was Minks, his friendly,
ridiculous little confidential secretary. From all the crowds of men
and women he knew, respected, and enjoyed in London, as from the vast
deluge of human mediocrity which for him _was_ London, he picked out
suddenly--little Minks--Herbert Montmorency Minks. His mind, that is,
darting forward in swift, comprehensive survey, and searching
automatically for some means whereby it might continue the happiness
and sweetness recently enjoyed, selected Minks. Minks was a clue.
Minks possessed--no matter how absurd the proportions of their mixing
--three things just left behind: Vision, Belief, Simplicity, all
products of a spiritual imagination.

And at first this was the single thought sent forward into the future.
Rogers saw the fact, flash-like and true-then let it go, yielding to
the greater pull that drew reflection back into the past.

And he found it rather dislocating, this abrupt stepping out of his
delightful forest Fairyland.... Equilibrium was not recovered for a
long time, as the train went thundering over the Jura Mountains into
France, Only on the other side of Pontarlier, when the country grew
unfamiliar and different, did harmony return. Among the deep blue
forests he was still in Fairyland, but at Mouchard the scenery was
already changing, and by the time Dole was reached it had completely
changed. The train ran on among the plains and vineyards of the
Burgundy country towards Laroche and Dijon. The abrupt alteration,
however, was pain. His thoughts streamed all backwards now to
counteract it. He roamed again among the star fields above the
Bourcelles woods. It was true--he had not really left Bourcelles. His
body was bumping into Dijon, but the important part of him--thought,
emotion, love--lingered with the children, hovered above the
Citadelle, floated through the dusky, scented forests.

And the haunting picture was ever set in its framework of old burning
stars. He could not get the Pleiades in particular out of his mind.
The pictures swarmed past him as upon a boy returning to school after
the holidays, and each one had a background of sky with stars behind
it; the faces that he knew so well had starry eyes; Jimbo flung
handfuls of stars loose across the air, and Monkey caught them,
fastening them like golden pins into her hair. Glancing down, he saw a
long brown hair upon his sleeve. He picked it off and held his finger
and thumb outside the window till the wind took it away. Some Morning
Spider would ride it home--perhaps past his cousin's window while he
copied out that wonderful, great tale. But, instead--how in the world
could it happen in clear daylight?--a little hand shot down from above
and gathered it in towards the Pleiades.

The Pleiades--the Seven Sisters--that most exquisite cluster of the
eastern sky, soft, tender, lovely, clinging close together always like
a group of timid children, who hide a little dimly for fear of being
surprised by bolder stars upon their enormous journey--they now shone
down upon all he thought and remembered. They seemed always above the
horizon of his mind. They never set. In them lay souls of unborn
children, children waiting to be born. He could not imagine why this
particular constellation clung with such a haunting touch of beauty
about his mind, or why some passion of  yearning unconfessed and
throbbing hid behind the musical name. Stars and unborn children had
got strangely mixed!

He tried to recall the origin of the name--he had learned it once in
the old Vicar's study. The Pleiades were attendants upon Artemis, the
huntress moon, he recalled vaguely, and, being pursued by Orion, were
set for safety among the stars. He even remembered the names of some
of them; there was Maia, Tagete, Alcyone, but the other four lay in
his mental lumber room, whence they could not be evoked, although
Merope, he felt sure, was one of them. Of Maia, however, he felt
positive.... How beautiful the names were!

Then, midway, in thinking about them, he found himself, as Monkey
said, thinking of something else: of his weeks at Bourcelles again and
what a long holiday it had been, and whether it was wasted time or
well-used time-a kind of general stock-taking, as it were, but chiefly
of how little he had accomplished after all, set down in black and
white. He had enjoyed himself and let himself go, rather foolishly
perhaps, but how much after all had he actually accomplished? He
remembered pleasant conversations with Mother that possibly cheered
and helped her--or possibly were forgotten as soon as ended. He
remembered his cousin's passing words of gratitude--that he had helped
him somehow with his great new story: and he remembered--this least of
all-that his money had done something to relieve a case or two of
suffering. And this was all! The net result so insignificant! He felt
dissatisfied, eager already to make new plans, something definite and
thorough that should retrieve the wasted opportunities. With a little
thought and trouble, how easily he might have straightened out the
tangle of his cousin's family, helped with the education of the
growing children, set them all upon a more substantial footing
generally. It was possible still, of course, but such things are done
best on the spot, the personal touch and presence of value; arranged
by correspondence it becomes another thing at once and loses
spontaneity. The accent lies on the wrong details. Sympathy is watered
by the post.... Importance lodges in angles not intended for it.
Master of his time, with certain means at his disposal, a modicum of
ability as well, he was free to work hard on the side of the angels
wherever opportunity might offer; yet he had wasted all these weeks
upon an unnecessary holiday, frittering the time away in enjoyment
with the children. He felt ashamed and mortified as the meagre record
stared him in the face.

Yet, curiously enough, when Reason had set down the figures
accurately, as he fancied, and totted up the trifling totals, there
flitted before him something more that refused to be set down upon the
paper. The Ledger had no lines for it. What was it? Why was it
pleasant, even flattering? Why did it mitigate his discontent and
lessen the dissatisfied feeling? It passed hovering in and about his
thoughts, though uncaught by actual words; and as his mind played with
it, he felt more hopeful. He searched in vain for a definition, but,
though fruitless, the search brought comfort somehow. Something _had_
been accomplished and it was due to himself, because without his
presence it would never have been done. This hint slipped into desire,
yearning, hope--that, after all, a result _had_ perhaps been achieved,
a result he himself was not properly aware of--a result of that
incalculable spiritual kind that escapes the chains of definite
description. For he recalled--yet mortified a little the memory should
flatter--that his cousin had netted Beauty in his story, and that
Mother had spoken of living with greater carelessness and peace, and
that each had thanked him as though he were the cause.

And these memories, half thought, half feeling, were comforting and
delicious, so that he revelled in them lingeringly, and wished that
they were really true. For, if true, they were immensely significant.
Any one with a purse could build a hospital or pay an education fee,
but to be helpful because of being oneself was a vast, incalculable
power, something direct from God... and his thoughts, wandering on
thus between fact and fantasy, led him back with a deep inexplicable
thrill again to--the Pleiades, whose beauty, without their being aware
of it, shines nightly for all who can accept it. Here was the old, old
truth once more-that the left hand must not know what the right is
doing, and that to be is of greater importance than to do. Here was
Fairyland once more, the Fairyland he had just left. To think beauty
and love is to become them, to shed them forth without realising it. A
Fairy blesses because she is a Fairy, not because she turns a pumpkin
into a coach and four.... The Pleiades do not realise how their
loveliness may....

Rogers started. For the thought had borrowed a tune from the rhythm of
the wheels and sleepers, and he had uttered the words aloud in his
corner. Luckily he had the carriage to himself. He flushed. Again a
tender and very exquisite thing had touched him somewhere.... It was
in that involuntary connection his dreaming had found between a Fairy
and the Pleiades. Wings of gauzy gold shone fluttering a moment before
his inner sight, then vanished. He was aware of some one very dear and
wild and tender, with amber eyes and little twinkling feet--some one
whom the Great Tale brought almost within his reach.... He literally
had seen stars for an instant--_a_ star! Its beauty brimmed him up. He
laughed in his corner. This thing, whatever it was, had been coming
nearer for some time. These hints of sudden joy that breathe upon a
sensitive nature, how mysterious, how wildly beautiful, how
stimulating they are! But whence, in the name of all the stars, do
they come? A great happiness passed flaming through his heart, an
extraordinary sense of anticipation in it--as though he were going to
meet some one who--who--well, what?--who was a necessity and a delight
to him, the complement needed to make his life effective--some one he
loved abundantly--who would love him abundantly in return. He recalled
those foolish lines he had written on sudden impulse once, then thrown
away....

Thought fluttered and went out. He could not seize the elusive cause
of this delicious joy. It was connected with the Pleiades, but how,
where, why? Above the horizon of his life a new star was swimming into
glory. It was rising. The inexplicable emotion thrilled tumultuously,
then dived back again whence it came... It had to do with children and
with a woman, it seemed, for the next thing he knew was that he was
thinking of children, children of his own, and of the deep yearning
Bourcelles had stirred again in him to find their Mother... and, next,
of his cousin's story and that wonderful detail in it that the
principal role was filled at last, the role in the great Children's
Play he himself had felt was vacant. It was to be filled by that
childless Mother the writer's imagination had discovered or created.
And again the Pleiades lit up his inner world and beckoned to him with
their little fingers of spun gold; their eyes of clouded amber smiled
into his own. It was most extraordinary and delightful. There was
something--come much closer this time, almost within reach of
discovery--something he ought to remember about them, something he had
promised to remember, then stupidly forgotten. The lost, hidden joy
was a torture. Yet, try as he would, no revelation came to clear the
matter up. Had he read it somewhere perhaps? Or was it part of the
Story his cousin had wumbled into his ear when he only partly
listened?

'I believe I dreamed it,' he smiled to himself at last in despair. 'I
do believe it was a dream--a fragment of some jolly dream I had in my
Fairyland of little Bourcelles!'

Children, stars, Fairyland, dreams--these brought it somehow. His
cousin's story also had to do with it, chiefly perhaps after all--this
great story.

'I shall have to go back there to get hold of it completely,' he added
with conviction. He almost felt as if some one were thinking hard
about him--one of the characters in the story, it seemed. The mind of
some one far away, as yet unknown, was searching for him in thought,
sending forth strong definite yearnings which came to rest of their
own accord in his own being, a garden naturally suited to their
growth. The creations of his boyhood's imagination had survived, the
Sweep, the Dustman, and the Lamplighter, then why not the far more
powerful creations in the story...? Thought was never lost!

'But no man in his senses can believe such a thing!' he exclaimed, as
the train ran booming through the tunnel.

'That's the point,' whispered a voice beside him. 'You are _out_ of
your senses. Otherwise you could not feel it!'

He turned sharply. The carriage was empty; there was no one there. It
was, of course, another part of himself that supplied the answer; yet
it startled him. The blurred reflection of the lamp, he noticed, cast
a picture against the black tunnel wall that was like a constellation.
The Pleiades again! It almost seemed as if the voice had issued from
that false reflection in the shaking window-pane....

The train emerged from the tunnel. He rushed out into the blaze of the
Interfering Sun. The lovely cluster vanished like a dream, and with it
the hint of explanation melted down in dew. Fields sped past with a
group of haystacks whose tarpaulin skirts spread and lifted in the
gust of wind the train made. He thought abruptly of Mother....
Perhaps, after all, he had taught her something, shown her Existence
as a big, streaming, endless thing in which months and years, possibly
even life itself, were merely little sections, each unintelligible
unless viewed as portions of the Whole, and not as separate,
difficult, puzzling items set apart. Possibly he had drawn her map to
bigger scale, increased her faith, given her more sense of repose and
peace, more courage therefore. She thought formerly of a day, but not
of its relation to all days before and behind. She stuck her husband's
'reviews' in the big book, afflicted by the poor financial results
they represented, but was unable to think of his work as a stage in a
long series of development and progress, no effort lost, no single
hope mislaid. And that was something--_if_ he had accomplished it.
Only, he feared he had not. There was the trouble. There lay the
secret of a certain ineffectiveness in his character. For he did not
realise that fear is simply suppressed desire, vivid signs of life,
and that desire is the ultimate causative agent everywhere and always.
'Behind Will stands Desire,' and Desire is Action.

And if he _had_ accomplished this, how was it done? Not by preaching,
certainly. Was it, then, simply by being, thinking, feeling it? A
glorious thought, if true! For assuredly he had this faculty of seeing
life whole, and even in boyhood he had looked ahead over its entire
map. He had, indeed, this way of relating all its people, and all its
parts together, instead of seeing them separate, unintelligible
because the context was left out. He lived intensely in the present,
yet looked backwards and forwards too at the same time. This large
sympathy, this big comforting vision was his gift. Consequently he
believed in Life. Had he also, then, the gift of making others feel
and believe it too...?

There he was again, thinking in a circle, as Laroche flew past with
its empty platforms, and warned him that Paris was getting close. He
bumped out of Fairyland, yet tumbled back once more for a final
reverie before the long ugly arms of the city snatched him finally
out. 'To see life whole,' he reflected, 'is to see it glorious. To
think one's self part of humanity at large is to bring the universe
down into the heart. But to see life whole, a whole heart is
necessary.... He's done it in that splendid story, and he bagged the
raw idea somehow from me. That's something at any rate. ... So few
think Beaaty.... But will others see it? That's the point!'

'No, it isn't,' answered the voice beside him. 'The point is that he
has thought it, and the universe is richer. Even if others do not read
or understand, what he has thought _is there now_, for ever and ever.'

'True,' he reflected, 'for that Beauty may float down and settle in
other minds when they least are looking for it, and ignoring utterly
whence comes the fairy touch. Divine! Delicious! Heavenly!'

'The Beauty he has written came through you, yet was not yours,' the
voice continued very faintly. 'A far more beautiful mind first
projected it into that network which binds all minds together. 'Twas
thence you caught it flying, and, knowing not how to give it shape,
transferred it to another--who could use it--for others.... Thought is
Life, and Sympathy is living....'

The voice died away; he could not hear the remainder clearly; the
passing scenery caught his attention again; during his reverie it had
been unnoticed utterly. 'Thought is Life, but Sympathy is living---'
it rolled and poured through him as he repeated it. Snatches of
another sentence then came rising into him from an immense distance,
falling upon him from immeasurable heights--barely audible:-

'... from a mind that so loved the Pleiades she made their loveliness
and joy her own... Alcyone, Merope, Maia...' It dipped away into
silence like a flower closing for the night, and the train, he
realised, was slackening speed as it drew into the hideous Gare de
Lyon.

'I'll talk to Minks about it, perhaps,' he thought, as he stood
telling the Customs official that he had no brandy, cigarettes, or
lace. 'He knows about things like that. At any rate, he'll
sympathise.'

He went across Paris to the Gare du Nord, and caught the afternoon
boat train to London. The sunshine glared up from the baking streets,
but he never forgot that overhead, though invisible, the stars were
shining all the time--Starlight, the most tender and least suspected
light in all the world, shining bravely even when obscured by the
Interfering Sun, and the Pleiades, softest, sweetest little group
among them all.

And when at eleven o'clock he entered his St. James's flat, he took a
store of it shining in his heart, and therefore in his eyes. Only that
was no difficult matter, for all the lamps far up the heights were lit
and gleaming, and caught old mighty London in their gorgeous net.




CHAPTER XXIX


     Think with passion
     That shall fashion
     Life's entire design, well planned.
                  _Woman of the Haystack_.

'You are looking so wonderfully well, Mr. Rogers,' Minks observed at
Charing Cross Station, 'the passage across the Channel, I trust, was
calm.'

'And yourself and Mrs. Minks?' asked Rogers, looking into the equally
sunburned face of his secretary, remembering suddenly that he had been
to the sea with his family; 'Frank, too, and the other children? All
well, I hope?'

'All in excellent health, Mr. Rogers, thanks to your generous thought.
My wife---'

'These are the small bags,' the other interrupted, 'and here are the
keys for my portmanteaux. There's nothing dutiable. You might bring
them on to the flat while I run over to the Club for a bit of supper,
Minks.'

'Certainly, with pleasure, Mr. Rogers,' was the beaming reply. 'And
Mrs. Minks begged me to tell you---'

Only Rogers was already in his taxi-cab and out of ear-shot.

'How well he looks!' reflected Minks, dangling the keys, accustomed to
these abrupt interruptions, and knowing that his message had been
understood and therefore duly delivered. These cut-off sentences were
like a secret code between them. 'And ten years younger! Almost like a
boy again. I wonder if---' He did not permit himself to finish the
thought. He tried to remember if he himself had looked like that
perhaps in the days of long ago when he courted Albinia Lucy--an air
of joy and secrecy and an absent-minded manner that might any moment
flame into vehement, concentrated action. For this was the impression
his employer had made upon him. Only he could not quite remember those
far-off, happy days. There was ecstasy in them; that he knew. And
there was ecstasy in Henry Rogers now; that he divined.

'He oughtn't to,' he reflected, as he hurried in another taxi with the
luggage. 'All his yearnings would be satisfied if he did, his life
flow into a single channel instead of into many.'

He did not think about his own position and his salary.

'He won't,' he decided as the cab stopped at the door; 'he's not that
kind of man.' Minks had insight; he knew men. 'No artist ever ought
to. We are so few, and the world has need of us.' His own case was an
exception that had justified itself, for he was but a man of talent,
and talent did not need an exclusive asceticism; whereas his employer
was a man of genius, and no one woman had the right to monopolise what
was intended to sweeten the entire universe.

By the time the luggage had been taken up, he had missed the last tram
home, and his sleep that night must in any case be short. Yet he took
no note of that. One must live largely. A small sacrifice for such a
master was nothing at all. He lingered, glancing now and again at the
heap of correspondence that would occupy them next morning, and
sorting once more the little pile that would need immediate personal
attention. He was picking a bit of disfiguring fluff from his coat
sleeve when the door opened and Henry Rogers came upon him.

'Ah! I waited a moment, Mr. Rogers. I thought you might have something
to say before I went, perhaps.'

'I hoped you would, Minks. I have a great deal to say. It can wait
till to-morrow, really--only I wanted--but, there now, I forgot; you
have to get down to Sydenham, haven't you? And it's late already---'

'That's nothing, Mr. Rogers. I can easily sleep in town. I came
prepared, indeed, to do so---' as though he, too, had his Club and
would take a bedroom in it.

'Clever and thoughtful of you, Minks!'

'Only you must be tired after your journey,' suggested the secretary.

'Tired!' exclaimed the other vigorously, 'not a bit! I'm as fresh as a
st--a daisy, I mean. Come, draw your chair up; we'll have a smoke and
a little chat. I'm delighted to see you again. How are you? And how's
everything?'

Goodness! How bright his eyes were, how alert his manner! He looked so
young, almost springy, thought Minks, as he obeyed decorously, feeling
flattered and pleased, yet at the same time uneasy a little. Such
spirits could only proceed, he feared, from one cause. He was a close
observer, as all poets had need to be. He would discover some clue
before he went to bed, something that should betray the true state of
affairs. In any case sleep would be impossible unless he did.

'You stayed away somewhat longer than you originally intended,' he
ventured at length, having briefly satisfied his employer's question.
'You found genuine recreation. You needed it, I'm sure.' He glanced
with one eye at the letters.

'Re-creation, yes; the very word. It was difficult to leave. The place
was so delightful,' said Rogers simply, filling his pipe and lighting
it. 'A wonderful mountain village, Minks,' he added, between puffs of
smoke, while the secretary, who had been waiting for the sign, then
lit his own Virginian and smoked it diffidently, and with just the
degree of respect he felt was becoming. He never presumed upon his
master's genial way of treating him. He made little puffs and was very
careful with the ashes.

'Ah, yes,' he said; 'I am sure it must have been--both delightful and
--er--difficult to leave.' He recalled the Margate sands, bathing with
Albinia and digging trenches with the children. He had written many
lyrics during those happy weeks of holiday.

'Gave one, in fact, quite a new view of life--and work. There was such
space and beauty everywhere. And my cousin's children simply would not
let me go.'

There was a hint of apology and excuse in the tone and words--the
merest hint, but Minks noticed it and liked the enthusiasm. 'He's been
up to some mischief; he feels a little ashamed; his work--his Scheme--
has been so long neglected; conscience pricks him. Ha, ha!' The
secretary felt his first suspicion confirmed. 'Cousin's children,'
perhaps! But who else?

'He made a tactful reference--oh, very slight and tentative--to the
data he had collected for the Scheme, but the other either did not
hear it, or did not wish to hear it. He brushed it aside, speaking
through clouds of tobacco smoke. Minks enjoyed a bigger, braver puff
at his own. Excitement grew in him.

'Just the kind of place you would have loved, Minks,' Rogers went on
with zeal. 'I think you really must go there some day; cart your
family over, teach the children French, you know, and cultivate a bit
of vineyard. Such fine big forests, too, full of wild flowers and
things--O such lovely hand-made things--why, you could almost see the
hand that made 'em.' The phrase had slipped suddenly into his mind.

'Really, really, Mr. Rogers, but how very jo--delightful it sounds.'
He thought of the stubble fields and treeless sea-coast where he had
been. The language, however, astonished him. Enthusiasm like this
could only spring from a big emotion. His heart sank a little.

'And the people all so friendly and hospitable and simple that you
could go climbing with your bootmaker or ask your baker in to dine and
sleep. No snobbery! Sympathy everywhere and a big free life flowing in
your veins.'  This settled it. Only a lover finds the whole world
lovable.

'One must know the language, though,' said Minks, 'in order to enjoy
the people and understand them, I suppose?'

'Not a bit, not a bit! One _feels_ it all, you see; somehow one feels
it and understands. A few words useful here and there, but one gets
along without even these. I never knew such a place. Every one seemed
to be in sympathy together. They think it, as it were. It was regular
fairyland, I tell you.'

'Which means that _you_ felt and thought it,' said Minks to himself.
Aloud he merely remarked, though with conviction, for he was getting
interested, 'Thinking is important, I know.'

Rogers laid his pipe aside and suddenly turned upon him--so abruptly
that Minks started. Was this the confession coming? Would he hear now
that his chief was going to be married? His wandering eyes almost drew
level in the excitement that he felt. He knocked a tiny ash from his
cigarette and waited. But the expected bomb did not explode. He heard
instead this curious question:--

'And that's something--it reminds me now--something I particularly
wanted to ask you about, my dear fellow. You are familiar, I know,
with such things and theories--er--speculations, as it were. You read
that sort of stuff. You are in touch with the latest ideas, I mean,
and up-to-date. You can tell me, if any one can.'

He paused, hesitating a moment, as Minks, listening in some
bewilderment, gazed into his eager face. He said nothing. He only
committed himself to a deprecating gesture with his hands, letting his
cigarette slip from his fingers on to the carpet.

'About _thought_,' continued Rogers, keeping his eyes fixed upon him
while he rose with flushed face from the search to find the stump.
'What do you know about thought? Tell me what you hear about _that_--
what theories are held--what people believe about it. I mean thought-
transference, telepathy, or whatever it is called. Is it proved? Is it
a fact?'

His voice had lowered. There was mystery in his manner. He sat back in
his chair, picked up his pipe, replaced it in his mouth unlighted, and
waited.

Minks pulled himself together. His admirable qualities as a private
secretary now came in. Putting excitement and private speculations of
his own aside, he concentrated his orderly mind upon replies that
should be models of succinct statement. He had practised thought-
control, and prided himself upon the fact. He could switch attention
instantly from one subject to another without confusion. The replies,
however, were, of course, drawn from his own reading. He neither
argued nor explained. He merely stated.

'Those who have taken the trouble to study the evidence believe,' he
began, 'that it is established, though its laws are as yet unknown.
Personally, if I may quote myself, I do believe it.'

'Quite so, quite so. Do quote yourself--that's what I want--facts. But
you refer to deliberate experiments, don't you?'

'In my own case, yes, Mr. Rogers, although the most successful
thought-transference is probably unconscious and not deliberate---'

'Such as, for instance---'

'Public opinion,' replied Minks, after a moment's search, 'which is
the result of waves of thought sent out by everybody--by a community;
or by the joint thinking of a nation, again, which modifies every mind
born into that nation, the result of' centuries of common thinking
along definite familiar channels. Thought-currents rush everywhere
about the world, affecting every one more or less, and--er--
particularly lodging in minds receptive to them.'

'Thought is dynamic, then, they hold?'

'An actual force, yes; as actual as electricity, and as little
understood,' returned the secretary, proud that he had read these
theories and remembered them. 'With every real thought a definite
force goes forth from you that modifies every single person, and
probably every single object as well, in the entire world. Thought is
creative according to its intensity. It links everybody in the world
with everybody else---'

'Objects too, you say?' Rogers questioned.

Minks glanced up to make sure there was no levity in the question, but
only desire for knowledge.

'Objects too,' he replied, apparently satisfied, 'for science tells us
that the movement of a body here affects the farthest star. A
continuous medium--ether--transmits the vibrations without friction--
and thought-force is doubtless similarly transmitted--er---'

'So that if I think of a flower or a star, my thought leaps into them
and affects them?' the other interrupted again.

'More, Mr. Rogers,' was the reply, 'for your thought, being creative,
enriches the world with images of beauty which may float into another
mind across the sea, distance no obstacle at all. You make a mental
image when you think. There's imagination in all real thinking--if I
make myself clear. "Our most elaborate thoughts," to quote for a
moment, "are often, as I think, not really ours, but have on a sudden
come up, as it were, out of hell or down out of heaven." So what one
thinks affects everybody in the world. The noble thinkers lift
humanity, though they may never tell their thoughts in speech or
writing.'

His employer stared at him in silence through the cloud of smoke. The
clock on the mantelpiece struck half-past twelve.

'That is where the inspiration of the artist comes in,' continued the
secretary after a moment's hesitation whether he should say it or not,
'for his sensitive soul collects them and gives them form. They lodge
in him and grow, and every passionate longing for spiritual growth
sets the whole world growing too. Your Scheme for Disabled---'

'Even if it never materialises---' Rogers brusquely interposed.

'Sweetens the world--yes--according to this theory,' continued Minks,
wondering what in the world had come over his chief, yet so pleased to
state his own views that he forgot to analyse. 'A man in a dungeon
earnestly praying would accomplish more than an active man outside who
merely lived thoughtlessly, even though beneficently--if I make myself
clear.'

'Yes, yes; you make yourself admirably clear, Minks, as I knew you
would.' Rogers lit his pipe again and puffed hard through a minute's
silence. The secretary held his peace, realising from the tone of the
last sentence that he had said enough. Mr. Rogers was leading up to
other questions. Hitherto he had been clearing the ground.

It came then, through the clouds of smoke, though Minks failed to
realise exactly why it was--so important:

'So that if I thought vividly of anything, I should. actually create a
mental picture which in turn might slip into another's mind, while
that other would naturally suppose it was his own?'

'Exactly, Mr. Rogers; exactly so.' Minks contrived to make the
impatience in his voice sound like appreciation of his master's
quickness. 'Distance no obstacle either,' he repeated, as though fond
of the phrase.

'And, similarly, the thought I deemed my own might have come in its
turn from the mind of some one else?'

'Precisely; for thought binds us all together like a network, and to
think of others is to spread oneself about the universe. When we think
thus we get out--as it were--into that medium common to all of us
where spirit meets spirit---'

'Out!' exclaimed Rogers, putting down his pipe and staring keenly,
first into one eye, then into the other. 'Out?'

'Out--yes,' Minks echoed faintly, wondering why that particular word
was chosen. He felt a little startled. This earnest talk, moreover,
stirred the subconsciousness in him, so that he remembered that
unfinished sonnet he had begun weeks ago at Charing Cross. If he were
alone now he could complete it. Lines rose and offered themselves by
the dozen. His master's emotion had communicated itself to him. A
breath of that ecstasy he had already divined passed through the air
between them.

'It's what the Contemplative Orders attempt---' he continued, yet half
to himself, as though a little bemused.

'Out, by George! Out!' Rogers said again.

So emphatic was the tone that Minks half rose from his chair to go.

'No, no,' laughed his chief; 'I don't mean that you're to get out.
Forgive my abruptness. The fact is I was thinking aloud a moment. I
meant--I mean that you've explained a lot to me I didn't understand
before--had never thought about, rather. And it's rather wonderful,
you see. In fact, it's _very_ wonderful. Minks,' he added, with the
grave enthusiasm of one who has made a big discovery, 'this world _is_
a very wonderful place.'

'It is simply astonishing, Mr. Rogers,' Minks answered with
conviction, 'astonishingly beautiful.'

'That's what I mean,' he went on. 'If I think beauty, that beauty may
materialise---'

'Must, will, does materialise, Mr. Rogers, just as your improvements
in machinery did. You first thought them out!'

'Then put them into words; yes, and afterwards into metal. Strong
thought is bound to realise itself sooner or later, eh? Isn't it all
grand and splendid?'

They stared at one another across the smoky atmosphere of the London
flat at the hour of one in the morning in the twentieth century.

'And when I think of a Scaffolding of Dusk that builds the Night,'
Rogers went on in a lower tone to himself, yet not so low that Minks,
listening in amazement, did not catch every syllable, 'or of a
Dustman, Sweep, and Lamplighter, of a Starlight Express, or a vast
Star Net that binds the world in sympathy together, and when I weave
all these into a story, whose centre somehow is the Pleiades--all this
is real and actual, and--and---'

'May have been projected by another mind before it floated into your
own,' Minks suddenly interposed almost in a whisper, charmed wholly
into the poet's region by these suggestive phrases, yet wondering a
little why he said it, and particularly how he dared to say it.

His chief turned sharply upon him.

'My own thought exactly!' he exclaimed; 'but how the devil did you
guess it?'

Minks returned the stare with triumph.

'Unconscious transference!' he said.

'You really think _that_?' his master asked, yet not mockingly.

Minks turned a shade pinker.

'I do, indeed, sir,' he replied warmly. 'I think it probable that the
thoughts of people you have never seen or heard of drop into your mind
and colour it. They lodge there, or are rejected, according to your
mood and the texture of your longings--what you want to be, that is.
What you want, if I may say so, is emptiness, and that emptiness
invites. The flying thought flits in and makes itself at home. Some
people overflow with thoughts of kindness and beauty that radiate from
them, of love and tenderness and desire to help. These thoughts, it
may be, find no immediate object; but they are not lost. They pour
loose about the world of men and women, and sooner or later find the
empty heart that needs them. I believe, sir, that to sit in a chair
and think such things strongly brings comfort to thousands who have
little idea whence comes the sudden peace and happiness. And any one
who happens to be praying for these things at the moment attracts them
instantly. The comfort, the joy, the relief come---'

'What a good idea, Minks,' said Rogers gently, 'and how helpful if we
all believed it. No one's life need be a failure then. Those who want
love, for instance, need it, crave it, just think what an army they
are!'

He stared thoughtfully a moment at his little secretary.

'You might write a book about it, you know--try and make people
believe it--convince them. Eh? Only, you'd have to give your proofs,
you know. People want proofs.'

Minks, pinker than before, hesitated a moment. He was not sure how far
he ought to, indulge his private theories in words. The expression in
his chief's blue eyes apparently encouraged him.

'But, indeed, Mr. Rogers, the proofs are there. Those moments of
sudden strength and joy that visit a man, catching him unawares and
unexplained--every solitary man and woman knows them, for every
solitary man and woman in the world craves first of all--to _be_
loved. To love another, others, an impersonal Cause, is not enough. It
is only half of life; to _be_ loved is the other half. If every single
person--I trust, sir, I do not tire you?--was loved by some one, the
happiness of life would be enormously greater than it is, for each one
loved would automatically then give out from his own store, and to
receive love makes one overflow with love for every one else. It is
so, is it not, sir?'

Rogers, an odd thrill catching him unawares, nodded. 'It is, Minks, it
is,' he agreed. 'To love one person makes one half prepared to love
all, and to be loved in turn may have a similar effect. It is nice to
think so anyhow.'

'It is true, sir----' and Minks sat up, ready with another deluge.

'But you were saying something just now,' interrupted the other,
'about these sudden glimpses of joy and beauty that--er--come to one--
er--inexplicably. What d'ye mean by that precisely?'

Minks glowed. He was being listened to, and understood by his honoured
chief, too!

'Simply that some one, perhaps far away--some sweet woman probably--
has been thinking love,' he replied with enthusiasm, yet in a low and
measured voice, 'and that the burning thoughts have rushed into the
emptiness of a heart that needs them. Like water, thought finds its
level. The sudden gush--all feel it more or less at times, surely!--
may rise first from her mind as she walks lonely upon the shore,
pacing the decks at sea, or in her hillside rambles, thinking,
dreaming, hoping, yearning--to pour out and find the heart that needs
these very things, perhaps far across the world. Who knows? Heart
thrills in response to heart secretly in every corner of the globe,
and when these tides flood unexplained into your soul---'

'Into _my_ soul---!' exclaimed his chief.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' Minks hurried to explain; 'I mean to any
lonely soul that happens to crave such comfort with real longing--it
implies, to my mind at least, that these two are destined to give and
take from one another, and that, should they happen to meet in actual
life, they will rush together instantly like a pair of flames---'

'And if they never--meet?' asked Rogers slowly, turning to the mantel-
piece for the matches.

'They will continue to feed each other in this delicious spiritual way
from a distance, sir. Only--the chances are--that they will meet, for
their thought already connects them vitally, though as yet
unrealised.'

There was a considerable pause. Rogers lit his pipe. Minks, feeling he
ought to stand while his master did so, also rose from his chair. The
older man turned; they faced each other for a moment, Rogers putting
smoke violently into the air between them.

'Minks, my dear fellow,' he observed, 'you are, as I have always
thought, a poet. You have ideas, and, whether true or not, they are
rather lovely. Write them out for others to read. Use your spare time
writing them out. I'll see to it that you have more leisure.'

With a laugh the big man moved abruptly past his chair and knocked his
pipe on the edge of the ash-bowl. His eye, as he did so, fell upon the
pile of letters and papers arranged so neatly on the table. He
remembered the lateness of the hour--and other things besides.

'Well, well,' he said vaguely with a sigh; 'so here we are again back
at work in London.'

Minks had turned, too, realising that the surprising conversation was
over. A great excitement was in him. He did not feel in the least
tired. An unusual sense of anticipation was in the air. He could not
make it out at all. Reviewing a dozen possibilities at once, he
finally rejected the romantic one he had first suspected, and decided
that the right moment had at last come to say something of the Scheme.
He had worked so hard to collect data. All was in perfect order. His
chief could not feel otherwise than pleased.

'Then I'll be saying good-night, Mr. Rogers,' he began, 'for you must
be very tired, and I trust you will enjoy a long night's rest. Perhaps
you would like me to come a little later in the morning than usual.'

He stood looking affectionately at the formidable pile of
correspondence, and, as his chief made no immediate reply, he went on,
with more decision in his voice:

'Here,' he said, touching the papers he had carefully set on one side,
'are all the facts you wanted referring to your great Scheme---'

He jumped. His master's fist had come down with a bang upon the table.
He stepped back a pace. They stared at one another.

'Damn the Scheme!' cried Rogers. 'have done and finished with it. Tear
up the papers. Cancel any arrangements already made. And never mention
the thing again in my hearing. It's all unreal and wrong and
unnecessary!'

Minks gasped. The man was so in earnest. What could it mean?

'Wrong--unnecessary--done with!' he faltered. Then, noticing the
flashing eyes that yet betrayed a hint of merriment in their fire, he
added quickly, 'Quite so, Mr. Rogers; I understand. You've got an
improvement, you mean?'

It was not his place to ask questions, but he could not contain
himself. Curiosity and disappointment rushed over him.

'A bigger and a better one altogether, Minks,' was the vehement reply.
He pushed the heap of papers towards the secretary. Minks took them
gingerly, reluctantly.

'Burn 'em up,' Rogers went on, 'and never speak to me again about the
blessed thing. I've got a far bigger Scheme than that.'

Minks slowly gathered the papers together and put them in his biggest
pocket. He knew not what to think. The suddenness of the affair dazed
him. Thought-transference failed this time; he was too perturbed,
indeed, to be in a receptive state at all. It seemed a catastrophe, a
most undesirable and unexpected climax. The romantic solution revived
in him--but only for a passing moment. He rejected it. Some big
discovery was in the air. He felt that extraordinary sense of
anticipation once again.

'Look here, my dear fellow, Minks,' said Rogers, who had been watching
his discomfiture with amusement, 'you may be surprised, but you need
not be alarmed. The fact is, this has been coming for a long time;
it's not an impulsive decision. You must have felt it--from my
letters. That Scheme was all right enough, only I am not the right man
for it. See? And our work,' he added laughingly, 'won't go for nothing
either, because our thought will drop into another mind somewhere that
will accomplish the thing far better than I could have accomplished
it.'

Minks made an odd gesture, as who should say this might not be true.
He did not venture upon speech, however. This new plan must be very
wonderful, was all he thought just then. His faith in his employer's
genius was complete.

'And in due time you shall hear all about it. Have a little patience.
Perhaps you'll get it out of my thoughts before I tell it to you,' he
smiled, 'but perhaps you won't. I can only tell you just now that it
has beauty in it---a beauty of the stars.'

Yet what his bigger Scheme was he really had no clear idea. He felt it
coming-that was all!

And with that Minks had to be content. This was dismissal. Good-nights
were said, and the secretary went out into the street.

'Go to a comfortable hotel,' was the last thing he heard, 'and put it
down to me, of course. Sleep well, sleep well. To-morrow at two
o'clock will do.'

Minks strolled home, walking upon air. The sky was brilliant with its
gorgeous constellations--the beauty of the stars. Poems blazed upon
him. But he was too excited to compose. Even first lines evaded
capture. 'Stars,' besides, was a dreadful word to rhyme with, for all
its charm and loveliness. He knew of old that the only word was
'wars,' most difficult to bring in naturally and spontaneously, and
with the wrong sound in any case.

'He must have been writing poetry out there,' he reflected finally,
'or else living it. Living it, probably. He's a grand fellow anyhow,
grand as a king.' Stars, wars, kings, thrones-=the words flew in and
out among a maze of unaccomplished lines.

But the last thing in his mind as he curled up to sleep in the strange
bed was that he had delivered his wife's message, but that he could
not tell her about this sudden collapse of the great, long-talked-of
Scheme. Albinia would hardly understand. She might think less of his
chief. He would wait until the new one dawned upon the horizon with
its beauty of the stars. Then he would simply overwhelm her with it,
as his temperament loved to do.




CHAPTER XXX


    Lo, every yearning thought that holds a tear,
    Yet finds no mission
    And lies untold,
    Waits, guarded in that labyrinth of gold,--
    To reappear
    Upon some perfect night,
    Deathless--not old--
    But sweet with time and distance,
    And clothed as in a vision
    Of starry brilliance
    For the world's delight.
                        JOHN HENRY CAMPDEN.

Then, as the days passed, practical life again caught Henry Rogers in
its wholesome grip. Fairyland did not fade exactly, but it dipped a
little below the horizon. Like hell and heaven, it was a state of
mind, open potentially to all, but not to be enjoyed merely for the
asking. Like other desirable things, it was to be 'attained.' Its
remoteness and difficulty of access lent to it a haunting charm; for
though its glory dimmed a little, there was a soft afterglow that shed
its radiance even down Piccadilly and St. James's Street. He was
always conscious of this land beyond the sunset; the stars shone
brightly, though clouds or sunlight interfered to blur their message.

London life, however, by the sheer weight of its grinding daily
machinery, worked its slow effect upon him. He became less sensitive
to impressions. These duller periods were interrupted sometimes by
states of brilliant receptiveness, as at Bourcelles; but there was a
fence between the two--a rather prickly frontier, and the secret of
combining them lay just beyond his reach. For his London mind, guided
by reason, acted in a logical plane of two dimensions, while
imagination, captained by childhood's fairy longings, cantered loose
in all directions at once--impossibly. The first was the world; the
second was the universe. As yet, he was unable to co-ordinate them.
Minks, he was certain, could--and did, sailing therefore upon an even
keel. There was this big harmony in little Minks that he envied. Minks
had an outlet. Sydenham, and even the City, for him were fairyland; a
motor-bus fed his inspiration as surely as a starlit sky; moon always
rhymed with June, and forget with regret. But the inner world of Henry
Rogers was not yet properly connected with the outer. Passage from one
to the other was due to chance, it seemed, not to be effected at will.
Moods determined the sudden journey. He rocked. But for his talks with
little Minks, he might have wrecked.

And the talks with Minks were about--well, he hardly knew what, but
they all played round this map of fairyland he sought to reduce to the
scale of everyday life. They discussed thought, dreams, the
possibility of leaving the body in sleep, the artist temperament, the
source of inspiration as well as the process of the imaginative
faculty that created. They talked even of astronomy. Minks held that
the life of practical, daily work was the bed-rock of all sane
production, yet while preaching this he bubbled over with all the
wild, entrancing theories that were in the air to-day. They were
comical, but never dangerous--did not upset him. They were almost a
form of play.

And his master, listening, found these conversations an outlet somehow
for emotions in himself he could not manage--a scaffolding that
provided outlines for his awakening dreams to build upon. He found
relief. For Minks, with his delightful tact, asked no awkward
questions. He referred neither to the defunct Scheme, nor mentioned
the new one that held 'a beauty of the stars.' He waited. Rogers also
waited.

And, while he waited, he grew conscious more and more of an enormous
thing that passed, driving behind, _below_, his daily external life.
He could never quite get at it. In there, down out of sight somewhere,
he knew everything. His waking existence was fed invisibly from below.
In the daytime he now frequently caught himself attempting to recover
the memory of things that went on elsewhere, things he was personally
involved in, vital things. This daylight effort to recover them was as
irksome as the attempt to draw a loose hair that has wound about the
tongue. He spoke at length to Minks about it.

'Some part of you,' replied the imperturbable secretary, after
listening carefully to his master's vague description of the symptoms,
'is being engaged elsewhere--very actively engaged---'

'Eh?' asked Rogers, puzzled.

'Probably at night, sir, while your brain and body sleep,' Minks
elaborated, 'your energetic spirit is out--on the plane of causes---'

The other gasped slightly, 'While my body lies unconscious?'

'Your spirit may be busy at all kinds of things. _That_ can never be
unconscious,' was the respectful answer. 'They say---'

'Yes, what do they say?' He recognised a fairy theory, and jumped at
it.

'That in sleep,' continued the other, encouraged, 'the spirit knows a
far more concentrated life--dips down into the deep sea of being--our
waking life merely the froth upon the shore.'

Rogers stared at him. 'Yes, yes,' he answered slowly, 'that's very
pretty, very charming; it's quite delightful. What ideas you have, my
dear Minks! What jolly, helpful ideas!'

Minks beamed with pleasure.

'Not my own, Mr. Rogers, not my own,' he said, with as much pride as
if they _were_ his own, 'but some of the oldest in the world, just
coming into fashion again with the turn of the tide, it seems. Our
daily life--even the most ordinary--is immensely haunted, girdled
about with a wonder of incredible things. There are hints everywhere
to-day, though few can read the enormous script complete. Here and
there one reads a letter or a word, that's all. Yet the best minds
refuse to know the language, not even the ABC of it; they read another
language altogether---'

'The best minds!' repeated Rogers. 'What d'you mean by that!' It
sounded, as Minks said it, so absurdly like best families.

'The scientific and philosophical minds, sir. They think it's not
worth learning, this language. That's the pity of it--ah, the great
pity of it!' And he looked both eager and resentful--his expression
almost pathetic. He turned half beseechingly to his employer, as
though _he_ might alter the sad state of things. 'As with an iceberg,
Mr. Rogers,' he added, 'the greater part of everything--of ourselves
especially--is invisible; we merely know the detail banked against an
important grand Unseen.'

The long sentence had been suffered to its close because the audience
was busy with thoughts of his own instead of listening carefully.
Behind the wild language stirred some hint of meaning that, he felt,
held truth. For a moment, it seemed, his daylight searching was
explained--almost.

'Well and good, my dear fellow, and very picturesque,' he said
presently, gazing with admiration at his secretary's neat blue tie and
immaculate linen; 'but thinking, you know, is not possible without
matter.' This in a tone of '_Do_ talk a little sense.' 'Even if the
spirit does go out, it couldn't think apart from the brain, could it
now, eh?'

Minks took a deep breath and relieved himself of the following:

'Ah, Mr. Rogers'--as much as to say 'Fancy _you_ believing that!'--
'but it can experience and know _direct_, since it passes into the
region whence the material that feeds thought issues in the first
instance--causes, Mr. Rogers, causes.'

'Oho!' said his master, 'oho!'

'There is no true memory afterwards,' continued the little dreamer,
'because memory depends upon how much the spirit can bring back into
the brain, you see. We have vague feelings, rather than actual
recollection--feelings such as you were kind enough to confess to me
you had been haunted by yourself---'

'All-overish feelings,' Rogers helped him, seeing that he was losing
confidence a little, 'vague sensations of joy and wonder and--well--in
a word, strength.'

'Faith,' said Minks, with a decision of renewed conviction, 'which is
really nothing but unconscious knowledge--knowledge unremembered. And
it's the half-memory of what you do at night that causes
 this sense of anticipation you now experience; for what is
anticipation, after all, but memory thrown forward?'

There was a pause then, during which Rogers lit a cigarette, while
Minks straightened his tie several times in succession.

'You are a greater reader than I, of course,' resumed his employer
presently; 'still, I have come across one or two stories which deal
with this kind of thing. Only, in the books, the people always
remember what they've done at night, out of the body, in the spirit,
or whatever you like to call it. Now, _I_ remember nothing whatever.
How d'you account for that, pray?'

Minks smiled a little sadly. 'The books,' he answered very softly,
'are wrong there--mere inventions--not written from personal
experience. There can be no detailed memory unless the brain has been
'out' too--which it hasn't. That's where inaccuracy and looseness of
thought come in. If only the best minds would take the matter up, you
see, we might---'

Rogers interrupted him. 'We shall miss the post, Minks, if we go on
dreaming and talking like this,' he exclaimed, looking at his watch
and then at the pile of letters waiting to be finished. 'It is very
delightful indeed, very--but we mustn't forget to be practical, too.'

And the secretary, not sorry perhaps to be rescued in time from the
depths he had floundered in, switched his mind in concentration upon
the work in hand again. The conversation had arisen from a chance
coincidence in this very correspondence--two letters that had crossed
after weeks of silence.

Work was instantly resumed. It went on as though it had never been
interrupted. Pride and admiration stirred the heart of Minks as he
noticed how keenly and accurately his master's brain took up the lost
threads again. 'A grand fellow!' he thought to himself, 'a splendid
man! He lives in both worlds at once, yet never gets confused, nor
lets one usurp his powers to the detriment of the other. If only I
were equally balanced and effective. Oh dear!' And he sighed.

And there were many similar conversations of this kind. London seemed
different, almost transfigured sometimes. Was this the beginning of
that glory which should prove it a suburb of Bourcelles?

Rogers found his thoughts were much in that cosy mountain village: the
children capered by his side all day; he smelt the woods and flowers;
he heard the leaves rustle on the poplar's crest; and had merely to
think of a certain room in the tumble-down old Citadelle for a wave of
courage and high anticipation to sweep over him like a sea. A new
feeling of harmony was taking him in hand. It was very delightful; and
though he felt explanation beyond his reach still, his talks with
Minks provided peep-holes through which he peered at the enormous
thing that brushed him day and night.

A great settling was taking place inside him. Thoughts certainly began
to settle. He realised, for one thing, that he had left the theatre
where the marvellous Play had been enacted. He stood outside now, able
to review and form a judgment. His mind loved order. Undue
introspection he disliked, as a form of undesirable familiarity; a
balanced man must not be too familiar with himself; it endangered
self-respect.

He had been floundering rather. After years of methodical labour the
freedom of too long a holiday was disorganising. He tried to steady
himself. And the Plan of Life, answering to control, grew smaller
instantly, reduced to proportions he could examine reasonably. This
was the beginning of success. The bewildering light of fairyland still
glimmered, but no longer so diffused. It focused into little definite
kernels he could hold steady while he scrutinised them.

And these kernels he examined carefully as might be: in the quiet,
starry evenings usually, while walking alone in St. James's Park after
his day of board meetings, practical work with Minks, and the like.

Gradually then, out of the close survey, emerged certain things that
seemed linked together in an intelligible sequence of cause and
effect. There was still mystery, for subconscious investigation ever
involves this background of shadow. Question and Wonder watched him.
But the facts emerged.

He jotted them down on paper as best he could. The result looked like
a Report drawn up by Minks, only less concise and--he was bound to
admit it--less intelligible. He smiled as he read them over....

'My thoughts and longings, awakened that night in the little Crayfield
garden,' he summed it up to himself, having read the Report so far,
'went forth upon their journey of realisation. I projected them--
according to Minks--vividly enough for that! I thought Beauty--and
this glorious result materialised! More--my deepest, oldest craving of
all has come to life again--the cry of loneliness that yearns to--that
seeks--er---'

At this point, however, his analysis grew wumbled; the transference of
thought and emotion seemed comprehensible enough; though magical, it
was not more so than wireless telegraphy, or that a jet of steam
should drive an express for a hundred miles. It was conceivable that
Daddy had drawn thence the inspiration for his wonderful story. What
baffled him was the curious feeling that another was mixed up in the
whole, delightful business, and that neither he nor his cousin were
the true sponsors of the fairy fabric. He never forgot the description
his cousin read aloud that night in the Den--how the Pattern of his
Story reached its climax and completeness when a little starry figure
with twinkling feet and amber eyes had leaped into the centre and made
itself at home there. From the Pleiades it came. The lost Pleiad was
found. The network of thought and sympathy that contained the universe
had trembled to its uttermost fastenings. The principal role was
filled at last.

It was here came in the perplexing thing that baffled him. His mind
sat down and stared at an enormous, shadowy possibility that he was
unable to grasp. It brushed past him overhead, beneath, on all sides.
He peered up at it and marvelled, unconvinced, yet knowing himself a
prisoner. Something he could not understand was coming, was already
close, was watching him, waiting the moment to pounce out, like an
invisible cat upon a bewildered mouse. The question he flung out
brought no response, and he recalled with a smile the verse that
described his absurd position:--

     Like a mouse who, lost in wonder,
     Flicks its whiskers at the thunder!

For, while sprites and yearning were decidedly his own, the
interpretation of them, if not their actual origin, seemed another's.
This other, like some dear ideal on the way to realisation, had taken
him prisoner. The queer sense of anticipation Bourcelles had fostered
was now actual expectation, as though some Morning Spider had borne
his master-longing, exquisitely fashioned by the Story, across the
Universe, and the summons had been answered-from the Pleiades. The
indestructible threads of thought and feeling tightened. The more he
thought about his cousin's interpretation the more he found in it a
loveliness and purity, a crystal spiritual quality, that he could
credit neither to the author's mind nor to his own. This soft and
starry brilliance was another's. Up to a point the interpretation came
through Daddy's brain, just as the raw material came through his own;
but there-after this other had appropriated both, as their original
creator and proprietor. Some shining, delicate hand reached down from
its starry home and gathered in this exquisite form built up from the
medley of fairy thought and beauty that were first its own. The owner
of that little hand would presently appear to claim it.

'We were but channels after all then--both of us,' was the idea that
lay so insistently in him. 'The sea of thought sends waves in all
directions. They roll into different harbours. I caught the feeling,
he supplied the form, but this other lit the original fire!'

And further than this wumbled conclusion he could not get. He went
about his daily work. however, with a secret happiness tugging at his
mind all day, and a sense of expectant wonder glancing brightly over
everything he thought or did. He was a prisoner in fairyland, and what
he called his outer and his inner world were, after all, but different
ways of looking at one and the same thing. Life everywhere was one.




CHAPTER XXXI


    Es stehen unbeweglich
    Die Sterne in der Hoh'
    Viel tausend Jahr', und schauen
    Sich an mit Liebesweh.

    Sie sprechen eine Sprache,
    Die ist so reich, so schon;
    Doch keiner der Philologen
    Kann diese Sprache verstehen.

    Ich aber hab' sie gelernet,
    Und ich vergesse sie nicht;
    Mir diente als Grammatik
    Der Herzallerliebsten Gesicht.
                            HEINE.

One evening in particular the sense of expectation in him felt very
close upon delivery. All day he had been aware of it, and a letter
received that morning from his cousin seemed the cause. The story, in
its shorter version, had been accepted. Its reality, therefore, had
already spread; one other mind, at least, had judged it with
understanding. Two months from now, when it appeared in print,
hundreds more would read it. Its beauty would run loose in many
hearts. And Rogers went about his work that day as though the pleasure
was his own. The world felt very sweet. He saw the good in every one
with whom he came in contact. And the inner excitement due to
something going to happen was continuous and cumulative.

Yet London just then--it was August--was dull and empty, dusty, and
badly frayed at the edges. It needed a great cleaning; he would have
liked to pour sea water over all its streets and houses, bathed its
panting parks in the crystal fountains of Bourcelles. All day long his
thoughts, indeed, left London for holidays in little Bourcelles. He
was profoundly conscious that the Anticipation he first recognised in
that forest village was close upon accomplishment now. On the journey
back to England he recalled how urgent it had been. In London, ever
since, it had never really left him. But to-day it now suddenly became
more than expectation--he felt it in him as a certainty that
approached fulfilment. It was strange, it was bewildering; it seemed
to him as though something from that under-self he could never
properly reach within him, pushed upwards with a kind of aggressive
violence towards the surface. It was both sweet and vital. Behind the
'something' was the 'some one' who led it into action.

At half-past six he strolled down a deserted St. James's Street,
passed the door of his club with no temptation to go in, and climbed
the stairs slowly to his rooms. His body was languid though his mind
alert. He sank into an arm-chair beside the open window. 'I must
_do_ something to-night,' he thought eagerly; 'mere reading at the
club is out of the question. I'll go to a theatre or--or--.' He
considered various alternatives, deciding finally upon Richmond Park.
He loved long walks at night when his mind was restless thus; the air
in Richmond Park was peculiarly fresh and scented after dark. He knew
the little gate that was never closed. He would dine lightly, and go
for a ten-mile stretch among the oaks, surprise the deer asleep,
listen to the hum of distant London, and watch the fairy battle
between the lurid reflection of its million lights and the little
stars.... There were places in the bracken where....

The rumbling clatter of a railway van disturbed the picture. His mind
followed the noise instead. Thought flashed along the street to a
station. He saw trains...

'Come at once! You're wanted here--some one calls you!' sounded a
breathless merry voice beside him. 'Come quickly; aussi schnell que
moglich!'

There was a great gulp of happiness in him; his spirit plunged in joy.
He turned and looked about him swiftly. That singing voice, with its
impudent mingling of languages was unmistakable.

'From the Pleiades. Look sharp! You've been further off than ever
lately, and further is further than farther--much! Over the forests
and into the cave, that is the way we must all behave---!'

He opened an eye.

Between him and a great gold sunset ran the wind. It was a slender
violet wind. The sunset, however, was in the act of disappearing for
the Scaffolding of Dusk was passing through the air--he saw the slung
trellis-work about him, the tracery of a million lines, the guy-ropes,
uprights, and the feathery threads of ebony that trailed the Night
behind them like a mighty cloth. There was a fluttering as of
innumerable wings.

'You needn't tug like that,' he gasped. 'I'm coming all right. I'm
out!'

'But you're so slow and sticky,' she insisted. 'You've been sticky
like this for weeks now!'


He saw the bright brown eyes and felt the hair all over his face like
a bath of perfume. They rushed together. His heart beat faster....

'Who wants me in such a hurry?' he cried, the moment he was
disentangled. Laughter ran past him on every side from the world of
trees.

'As if you didn't know! What _is_ the good of pretending any longer!
You're both together in the Network, and you know it just as well as
she does!'

Pretending! Just as well as _she_ does!

As though he had eyes all over his body he saw the Net of Stars above
him. Below were forests, vineyards, meadows, and the tiny lights of
houses. In the distance shimmered the waters of a familiar lake. Great
purple mountains rolled against the sky line. But immediately over his
head, close yet also distant, filling the entire heavens, there hung a
glittering Pattern that he knew, grown now so vast that at first he
scarcely recognised its dazzling loveliness. From the painted western
horizon it stretched to other fastenings that dipped below the world,
where the East laid its gulfs of darkness to surprise the sun. It
swung proudly down, as though hung from the Pole Star towards the
north, and while the Great Bear 'pointers' tossed its embroidery
across Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, just rising, flung its further
fringes down to Orion, waiting in wonder to receive them far below the
horizon. Old Sirius wore one breadth of it across his stupendous
shoulder, and Aldebaran, with fingers of bronze and fire, drew it
delicately as with golden leashes over the sleeping world.

When first he saw it, there was this gentle fluttering as of wings
through all its intricate parts, but the same moment four shooting
stars pierced its outlying edges with flying nails of gold. It
steadied and grew taut.

'There she is!' cried Monkey, flashing away like a comet towards the
Cave. 'You'll catch it now--and you deserve to!' She turned a
brilliant somersault and vanished.

Then, somehow, the vast Pattern settled into a smaller scale, so that
he saw it closer, clearer, and without confusion. Beauty and wonder
focused for his sight. The perfected design of Daddy's fairy story
floated down into his heart without a hint of wumbling. Never had he
seen it so luminous and simple. For others, of course, meanwhile had
known and understood it. Others believed. Its reality was more
intense, thus, than before.

He rose from the maze of tree-tops where he floated, and stretched his
arms out, no fear or hesitation in him anywhere. Perched in the very
centre of the Pattern, seated like a new-born star upon its throne, he
saw that tiny figure who had thrilled him months ago when he caught it
in a passing instant, fluttering in the web of Daddy's story,--both
its climax and its inspiration. The twinkling feet were folded now. He
saw the soft little eyes that shone like starlight through clear
amber. The hands, palms upwards, were stretched to meet his own.

'You, of course, must come up--to me,' he heard.

And climbing the lace-like tracery of the golden web, he knelt before
her. But, almost before both knees were bent, her hands had caught
him--the touch ran like a sheath of fire through every nerve--and he
was seated beside her in that shining centre.

'But why did it suddenly grow small?' he asked at once. He felt
absolutely at home. It was like speaking to a child who loved him
utterly, and whom he, in his turn, knew intimately inside out.

'Because you suddenly understood,' was the silvery, tiny answer. 'When
you understand, you bring everything into yourself, small as a toy. It
is size that bewilders. Men make size. Fairy things, like stars and
tenderness, are always small.'

'Of course,' he said; 'as if I didn't know it already!'

'Besides,' she laughed, half closing her brilliant eyes and peering at
him mischievously, 'I like everything so tiny that you can find it
inside a shell. That makes it possible to do big things.'

'Am _I_ too big---?' he exclaimed, aware of clumsiness before this
exquisite daintiness.

'A little confused, that's all,' her laughter rippled. 'You want
smoothing down. I'll see to that.'

He had the feeling, as she said it, that his being included the entire
Pattern, even to its most distant edges where it fastened on to the
rim of the universe. From this huge sensation, he came back swiftly to
its tiny correspondence again. His eyes turned to study her. But she
seemed transparent somehow, so that he saw the sky behind her, and in
it, strangely enough--just behind her face--the distant Pleiades,
shining faintly with their tender lustre. They reached down into her
little being, it seemed, as though she emanated from them. Big
Aldebaran guided strongly from behind. For an instant he lost sight of
the actual figure, seeing in its place a radiant efflorescence,
purified as by some spiritual fire--the Spirit of a Star.

'I'm here, quite close beside you,' whispered the tiny voice. 'Don't
let your sight get troublesome like your size. Inside-sight, remember,
is the thing!'

He turned, or rather he focused sight again to find her. He was
startled a little. For a moment it seemed like his own voice speaking
deep down within himself.

'Make yourself at home,' it continued, 'you belong here--almost as
much as I do.' And at the sound of her voice all the perplexities of
his life lay down. It brushed him smooth, like a wind that sets rough
feathers all one way,

He remembered again where he was, and what was going on.

'I do,' he answered, happy as a boy. 'I am at home. It is perfect.'

'Do you, indeed! You speak as though this story were your own!'

And her laugh was like the tinkle of hare-bells in the wind.

'It is,' he said; 'at least I had--I _have_, rather, a considerable
hand in the making of it.'

'Possibly,' she answered, 'but the story belongs to the person who
first started it. And that person is myself. The story is mine
really!'

'Yours!' he gasped.

'Because--I am the story!'

He stared hard to find the face that said this thing. Thought stopped
dead a moment, blocked by a marvel that was impossible, yet true.

'You mean---?' he stammered.

'You heard perfectly what I said; you understood it, too. There's no
good pretending,' impatience as well as laughter in the little voice.
'I am the story,--the story that you love.'

A sudden joy burst over him in a flood. Struggle and search folded
their wings and slept. An immense happiness wrapped him into the very
woof of the pattern wherein they sat. A thousand loose and ineffective
moods of his life found coherence, as a thousand rambling strands were
gathered home and fastened into place.

And the Pattern quivered and grew brighter.

'I am the story because I thought of it first. You, as a version of
its beauty--a channel for its delivery--belong utterly to me. You can
no more resist me than a puddle can resist the stars' reflection. You
increase me. We increase each other.'

'You say you thought it first,' he cried, feeling the light he
radiated flow in and mingle with her own. 'But who are you? Where do
you come from?'

'Over there somewhere, I think,' she laughed, while a ray like fire
flashed out in the direction of the Pleiades that climbed the sky
towards the East. 'You ought to know. You've been hunting for me long
enough!'

'But who _are_ you?' he insisted again, 'for I feel it's you that have
been looking for me--I've so often heard you calling!'

She laughed again till the whole web quivered. Through her eyes the
softness of all the seven Pleiades poured deliciously into him.

'It's absurd that such a big thing as you could hide so easily,' she
said. 'But you'll never hide again. I've got you fast now. And you've
got me! It's like being reflected together in the same puddle, you
see!'

The dazzling radiance passed as she said it into a clearer glow, and
across the fire of it he caught her eyes steadily a moment, though he
could not see the face complete. Two brilliant points of amber shone
up at him, as stars that peep from the mirror of a forest pool. That
mental daylight-searching seemed all explained, only he could not
remember now that there was any such thing at all as either searching
or daylight. When 'out' like this, waking was the dream---the sunlight
world forgotten.

'This Pattern has always been my own,' she continued with infinite
softness, yet so clearly that his whole body seemed a single ear
against her lips, 'for I've thought it ever since I can remember. I've
lived it. This Network of Stars I made ages ago in a garden among far
bigger mountains than these hills, a garden I knew vividly, yet could
not always find--almost as though I dreamed it. The Net included the--
oh, included everything there is, and I fastened it to four big pines
that grew on the further side of the torrent in that mountain garden
of my dream--fastened it with nails of falling stars. And I made the
Pleiades its centre because I loved them best of all. Oh! Orion,
Orion, how big and comforting your arms are! Please hold me tight for
ever and ever!'

'But I know it, too, that lovely dream,' he cried. 'It all comes back
to me. I, too, have dreamed it with you then somewhere--somewhere---!'
His voice choked. He had never known that life could hold such
sweetness, wonder, joy. The universe lay within his arms.

'All the people I wanted to help I used to catch in my Net of Stars,'
she went on. 'There was a train that brought them up to its edges, and
once I got the passengers into the web, and hung them loose in it till
they were soaked with starlight, I could send them back happier and
braver than they came. It's been my story ever since I can remember
anything--my adventure, my dream, my life. And when the great Net
faded a little and wanted brightening, we knew an enormous cavern in
the mountains where lost starlight collected, and we used to gather
this in thousands of sacks, and wash and paint the entire web afresh.
That made it sticky, so that the passengers hung in it longer. Don't
you remember?

They came back with starlight in their hair and eyes and voices--and
in their hearts.'

'And the way you--_we_ got them into the Net,' he interrupted
excitedly, 'was by understanding them--by feeling with them---'

'Sympathy,' she laughed, 'of course! Only there were so many I could
not reach and could not understand, and so could never get in. In
particular there was some one who ought to have been there to help me.
If I could find that some one I could do twice as much. I searched and
searched. I hunted through every corner of the garden, through forest,
cavern, sky, but never with success. Orion never overtook me! My
longing cried every where, but in vain. Oh, Orion, my lost Orion, I
have found you now at last!... The Net flashed messages in all
directions, but without response. This some one who could make my work
complete existed--that I _knew_--only he was hidden somewhere out of
sight--concealed in some corner or other, veiled by a darkness that he
wove about himself--as though by some funny kind of wrong thinking
that obscured the light I searched for and made it too dim to reach me
properly. His life or mind--his thought and feeling, that is--were
wumbled---'

'_Wumbled!_' he cried, as the certainty burst upon him with the
password. He stood close to her, opening his arms.

Instantly she placed her golden palm upon his mouth, with fingers that
were like soft star-rays. Her words, as she continued, were sweeter
than the footfalls of the Pleiades when they rise above the sea.

'Yet there were times when we were so close that we could feel each
other, and each wondered why the other did not actually appear. I have
been trying,' she whispered, oh so dearly, 'to find you always. And
you knew it, too, for I've felt you searching too....'

The outlying skirts of the Pattern closed in a little, till the edges
gathered over them like a tent of stars. Alone in the heart of the
universe they told their secret very softly....

'There are twin-stars, you know,' she whispered, when he released her,
'that circle so close about each other that they look like one. I
wonder, oh, I wonder, do they ever touch!'

'They are apart in order to see one another better,' he murmured.
'They watch one another more sweetly so. They play at separation for
the joy of coming together again.'

And once more the golden Pattern hid them for a moment from the other
stars.... The shafts of night-fire played round and above their secret
tent in space.... Most marvellously their beings found each other in
the great whispering galleries of the world where Thought and Yearning
know that first fulfilment which is the source of action later....

'So, now that I have found you,' her voice presently
 went on, 'our Network shall catch everybody everywhere. For the
Pattern of my story, woven so long ago, has passed through you as
through a channel--to another who can give it forth. It will spread
across every sky. All, all will see it and climb up.'

'My scheme---' he cried, with eager delight, yet not quite certain
what he meant, nor whence the phrase proceeded.

'Was my thought first,' she laughed, 'when you were a little boy and I
was a little girl--somewhere in a garden very long ago. A ray from its
pattern touched you into beauty. Though I could do nothing with it
myself, one little ray shot into the mirror of your mind and instantly
increased itself. But then, you hid yourself; the channel closed---'

'It never died, though,' he interrupted; 'the ray, I mean.'

'It waited,' she went on, 'until you found children somewhere, and the
channel cleared instantly. Through you, opened up and cleaned by them,
my pattern rushed headlong into another who can use it. It could never
die, of course. And the long repression--I never ceased to live it--
made its power irresistible.'

'Your story!' he cried. 'It _is_ indeed your story.'

The eyes were so close against his own that he made a movement that
was like diving into a deep and shining sea to reach them.... The
Pleiades rushed instantly past his face.... Soft filaments of golden
texture stroked his very cheeks. That slender violet wind rose into
his hair. He saw other larger winds behind it, deeply coloured....
Something made him tremble all over like a leaf in a storm. He saw,
then, the crest of the sentinel poplar tossing between him and the
earth far, far below. A mist of confusion caught him, so that he knew
not where he was.... He made an effort to remember... a violent
effort.... Some strange sense of heaviness oppressed him.... He was
leaving her.

'Quick!' he tried to cry; 'be quick! I am changing. I am drowsy with
your voice and beauty. Your eyes have touched me, and I am--falling
asleep!' His voice grew weaker as he said it.

Her answer sounded faint, and far above him:

'Give me... your... hand. Touch me. Come away with me... to... my ...
garden ... in the mountains.... We may wake together ... You are
waking now...!'

He made an effort to find her little palm. But the wind swept coldly
between his opened fingers.

'Waking!--what is it?' he cried thinly. He thought swiftly of
something vague and muddy--something dull, disordered, incomplete.
Here it was all glass-clear. 'Where are you? I can't find you. I can't
see!'

A dreadful, searching pain shot through him. He was losing her, just
when he had found her. He struggled, clung, fought frantically to hold
her. But his fingers seized the air.

'Oh, I shall find you--even when you wake,' he heard far away among
the stars. 'Try and remember me--when I come. _Try and remember_....'

It dipped into the distance. He had lost her. He caught a glimpse of
the Pleiades as he fell at a fearful speed. Some one behind them
picked up stars and tossed them after him. They dimmed as they shot
by--from gold to white, from white to something very pale. Behind them
rose a wave of light that hurt his eyes.

'Look out! The Interfering Sun!' came a disappearing voice that was
followed by a peal of laughter. 'I hope you found her, and I hope you
caught it well. You deserved to....'

There was a scent of hair that he loved, a vision of mischievous brown
eyes, an idea that somebody was turning a somersault beside him--and
then he landed upon the solid earth with a noise like thunder.

The room was dark. At first he did not recognise it. Through the open
window came the clatter of lumbering traffic that passed heavily down
St. James's Street. He rose stiffly from his chair, vexed with himself
for having dozed. It was more than a doze, though; he had slept some
thirty minutes by his watch. No memory of any dreams was in him--
nothing but a feeling of great refreshing lightness and peace....

It was wonderful, he reflected, as he changed into country clothes for
his walk in Richmond Park, how even the shortest nap revives the brain
and body. There was a sense that an immense interval had elapsed, and
that something very big had happened or was going to happen to him
very soon....

And an hour later he passed through the Richmond Gate and found the
open spaces of the Park deserted, as they always were. The oaks and
bracken rustled in a gentle breeze. The swishing of his boots through
the wet grass was the only sound he heard, for the boom and purr of
distant London reached him more as touch than as something audible.
Seated on a fallen tree, he watched the stars and listened to the
wind. That hum and boom of the city seemed underground, the flare it
tossed into the sky rose from vast furnaces below the world. The stars
danced lightly far beyond its reach, secure and unafraid. He thought
of children dancing with twinkling feet upon the mountains....

And in himself there was hum and light as well. Too deep, too far
below the horizon for full discovery, he caught the echo, the faint,
dim flashings of reflection that are called by men a Mood. These,
rising to the surface, swept over him with the queer joy of
intoxicating wonder that only children know. Some great Secret he had
to tell himself, only he had kept it so long and so well that he could
not find it quite. He felt the thrill, yet had forgotten what it was.

Something was going to happen. A new footfall was coming across the
world towards him. He could almost hear its delicate, swift tread.
Life was about to offer him this delicious, thrilling secret--very
soon. Looking up he saw the Pleiades, and the single footfall became
many. He remembered that former curious obsession of the Pleiades...
and as Thought and Yearning went roaming into space, they met
Anticipation, who took them by the hand. It seemed, then, that
children came flocking down upon him from the sky, led by a little
figure with starry eyes of clearest amber, a pair of tiny twinkling
feet, and a voice quite absurdly soft and tender.

'Your time is coming,' he heard behind the rustling of the oak leaves
overhead, 'for the children are calling to you--children of your own.
And this is the bravest Scheme in all the world. There is no bigger.
How can there be? For all the world is a child that goes past your
windows crying for its lost Fairyland...!'

It was after midnight when at length he slipped through the Robin Hood
Gate, passed up Priory Lane, and walked rapidly by the shuttered
houses of Roehampton. And, looking a moment over Putney Bridge; he saw
the reflections of the stars in the muddy, dawdling Thames. Nothing
anywhere was thick enough to hide them. The Net of Stars, being in his
heart, was everywhere. No prisoner could be more securely caught than
he was.




CHAPTER XXXII


_Asia_. The point of one white star is quivering still
    Deep in the orange light of widening morn
    Beyond the purple mountains: through a chasm
    Of wind-divided mist the darker lake
    Reflects it: now it wanes: it gleams again
    As the waves fade, and as the burning threads
    Of woven cloud unravel in the pale air:
    'Tis lost! and through yon peaks of cloud-like snow
    The roseate sunlight quivers: hear I not
    The AEolian music of her sea-green plumes
    Winnowing the crimson dawn?
               _Prometheus Unbound_, SHELLEY.

August had blazed its path into September, and September had already
trimmed her successor's gown with gold and russet before Henry Rogers
found himself free again to think of holidays. London had kept its
grip upon him all these weeks while the rest of the world was gay and
irresponsible. He was so absurdly conscientious. One of his Companies
had got into difficulties, and he was the only man who could save the
shareholders' money. The Patent Coal Dust Fuel Company, Ltd., had
bought his invention for blowing fine coal dust into a furnace whereby
an intense heat was obtainable in a few minutes. The saving in
material, time, and labour was revolutionary. Rogers had received a
large sum in cash, though merely a nominal number of the common
shares. It meant little to him if the Company collapsed, and an
ordinary Director would have been content with sending counsel through
the post in the intervals of fishing and shooting. But Henry Rogers
was of a different calibre. The invention was his child, born by hard
labour out of loving thought. The several thousand shareholders
believed in him: they were his neighbours. Incompetence and
extravagance threatened failure. He took a room in the village near
the Essex factories, and gave his personal energy and attention to
restoring economical working of every detail. He wore overalls. He put
intelligence into hired men and foremen; he spent his summer holiday
turning a system of waste into the basis of a lucrative industry. The
shareholders would never know whose faithfulness had saved them loss,
and at the most his thanks would be a formal paragraph in the Report
at the end of the year. Yet he was satisfied, and worked as though his
own income depended on success. For he knew--of late this certainty
had established itself in him, influencing all he did--that faithful
labour, backed by steady thinking, must reach ten thousand wavering
characters, merge with awakening tendencies in them, and slip thence
into definite daily action. Action was thought materialised. He helped
the world. A copybook maxim thus became a weapon of tempered steel.
His Scheme was bigger than any hospital for disabled bodies. It would
still be cumulative when bodies and bricks were dust upon the wind. It
must increase by geometrical progression through all time.

It was largely to little Minks that he owed this positive conviction
and belief, to that ridiculous, high-souled Montmorency Minks, who,
while his master worked in overalls, took the air himself on Clapham
Common, or pored with a wet towel round his brow beneath the oleograph
of Napoleon in the attempt to squeeze his exuberant emotion into
tripping verse. For Minks admired intensely from a distance. He
attended to the correspondence in the flat, and made occasional visits
down to Essex, but otherwise enjoyed a kind of extra holiday of his
own. For Minks was not learned in coal dust. The combustion was in his
eager brain. He produced an amazing series of lyrics and sonnets,
though too high-flown, alas, to win a place in print. Love and
unselfishness, as usual, were his theme, with a steady sprinkling of
'the ministry of Thought,' 'true success, unrecognised by men, yet
noted by the Angels,' and so forth. His master's labour seemed to him
a 'brilliant form of purity,' and 'the soul's security' came in
admirably to close the crowded, tortuous line. 'Beauty' and 'Duty'
were also thickly present, both with capitals, but the verse that
pleased him most, and even thrilled Albinia to a word of praise, was
one that ended--'Those active powers which are the Doves of Thought.'
It followed 'neither can be sold or bought,' and Mrs. Minks approved,
because, as she put it, 'there, now, is something you can _sell_; it's
striking and original; no editor could fail to think so.' The
necessities of Frank and Ronald were ever her standard of praise or
blame.

Thus, it was the first week in October before Rogers found himself
free to leave London behind him and think of a change of scene. No
planning was necessary.... Bourcelles was too constantly in his mind
all these weary weeks to admit of alternatives. Only a few days ago a
letter had come from Jinny, saying she was going to a Pension in
Geneva after Christmas, and that unless he appeared soon he would not
see her again as she 'was,' a qualification explained by the
postscript, 'My hair will be up by that time. Mother says I can put it
up on Xmas Day. So please hurry up, Mr. Henry Rogers, if you want to
see me as I am.'

But another thing that decided him was that the great story was at
last in print. It was published in the October number of the Review,
and the press had already paid considerable attention to it. Indeed,
there was a notice at the railway bookstall on the day he left, to the
effect that the first edition was exhausted, and that a large second
edition would be available almost immediately. 'Place your orders at
once' was added in bold red letters. Rogers bought one of these
placards for his cousin.

'It just shows,' observed Minks, whom he was taking out with him.

'Shows what?' inquired his master.

'How many more thoughtful people there are about, sir, than one had
any idea of,' was the reply. 'The public mind is looking for something
of that kind, expecting it even, though it hardly knows what it really
wants. That's a story, Mr. Rogers, that must change the point of view
of all who read it--with understanding. It makes the commonest man
feel he is a hero.'

'You've put our things into a non-smoker, Minks,' the other
interrupted him. 'What in the world are you thinking about?'

'I beg your pardon, I'm sure, sir; so I have,' said Minks, blushing,
and bundling the bags along the platform to another empty carriage,
'but that story has got into my head. I sat up reading it aloud to
Mrs. Minks all night. For it says the very things I have always longed
to say. Sympathy and the transference of thought--to say nothing of
the soul's activity when the body is asleep--have always seemed to
me---'

He wandered on while his companion made himself comfortable in a
corner with his pipe and newspaper. But the first thing Rogers read,
as the train went scurrying through Kent, was a summary of the
contents of this very Review. Two-thirds of the article was devoted to
the 'Star Story' of John Henry Campden, whose name 'entitled his work
to a high standard of criticism.' The notice was well written by some
one evidently of intelligence and knowledge; sound judgment was
expressed on style and form and general execution, but when it came to
the matter itself the criticism was deplorably misunderstanding. The
writer had entirely missed the meaning. While praising the
'cleverness' he asked plainly between the lines of his notice 'What
does it mean?' This unconscious exposure of his own ignorance amused
his reader while it also piqued him. The critic, expert in dealing
with a political article, was lamentably at sea over an imaginative
story.

'Inadequate receiving instrument,' thought Rogers, smiling audibly.

Minks, deep in a mysterious looking tome in the opposite corner,
looked up over his cigarette and wondered why his employer laughed. He
read the article the other handed to him, thinking how much better he
could have done it himself. Encouraged by the expression in Mr.
Rogers's eyes, he then imparted what the papers call 'a genuine
contribution to the thought upon the subject.'

'The writer quarrels with him,' he observed, 'for not giving what is
expected of him. What he has thought he must go on thinking, or be
condemned. He must repeat himself or be uncomprehended.

Hitherto'--Minks prided himself upon the knowledge--'he has written
studies of uncommon temperaments. Therefore to indulge in fantasy now
is wrong.'

'Ah, you take it that way, do you?'

'Experience justifies me, Mr. Rogers,' the secretary continued. 'A
friend of mine, or rather of Mrs. Minks's, once wrote a volume of
ghost stories that, of course, were meant to thrill. His subsequent
book, with no such intention, was judged by the object of the first--
as a failure. It must make the flesh creep. Everything he wrote must
make the flesh creep. One of the papers, the best--a real thunderer,
in fact--said "Once or twice the desired thrill comes close, but
never, alas, quite comes off."'

'How wumbled,' exclaimed his listener.

'It is indeed,' said Minks, 'in fact, one of the thorns in the path of
literature. The ordinary clever mind is indeed a desolate phenomenon.
And how often behind the "Oxford manner" lurks the cultured prig, if I
may put it so.'

'Indeed you may,' was the other's rejoinder, 'for you put it
admirably.'

They laughed a little and went on with their reading in their
respective corners. The journey to Paris was enlivened by many similar
discussions, Minks dividing his attentions between his master, his
volume of philosophy, and the needs of various old ladies, to whom
such men attach themselves as by a kind of generous, manly instinct.
Minks was always popular and inoffensive. He had such tact.

'Ah! and that reminds me, Minks,' said Rogers, as they paced the banks
of the Seine that evening, looking at the starry sky over Paris. 'What
do you know about the Pleiades? Anything--eh?'

Minks drew with pride upon his classical reading.

'The seven daughters of Atlas, Mr. Rogers, if I remember correctly,
called therefore the Atlantides. They were the virgin companions of
Artemis. Orion, the great hunter, pursued them in Boeotia, and they
called upon the gods for help.'

'And the gods turned 'em into stars, wasn't it?'

'First into doves, sir--Peleiades means doves--and then set them among
the Constellations, where big Orion still pursues, yet never overtakes
them.'

'Beautiful, isn't it? What a memory you've got, Minks. And isn't one
of 'em lost or something?'

'Merope, yes,' the delighted Minks went on. He knew it because he had
looked it up recently for his lyric about 'the Doves of Thought.' 'She
married a mortal, Sisyphus, the son of Aeolus, and so shines more
dimly than the rest. For her sisters married gods. But there is one
who is more luminous than the others---'

'Ah! and which was that?' interrupted Rogers.

'Maia,' Minks told him pat. 'She is the most beautiful of the seven.
She was the Mother, too, of Mercury, the Messenger of the gods. She
gave birth to him in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. Zeus was the
father---'

'Take care; you'll get run over,' and Rogers pulled him from the path
of an advancing taxi-cab, whose driver swore furiously at the pair of
them. 'Charming, all that, isn't it?'

'It is lovely, sir. It haunts the mind. I suppose,' he added, 'that's
why your cousin, Mr. Campden, made the Pleiades the centre of his Star
Net in the story--a cluster of beautiful thoughts as it were.'

'No doubt, no doubt,' his tone so brusque suddenly that Minks decided
after all not to mention his poem where the Pleiades made their
appearance as the 'doves of thought.'

'What a strange coincidence,' Rogers said as they turned towards the
hotel again.

'Subconscious knowledge, probably, sir,' suggested the secretary,
scarcely following his meaning, if meaning indeed there was.

'Possibly! One never knows, does one?'

'Never, Mr. Rogers. It's all very wonderful.'

And so, towards six o'clock in the evening of the following day,
having passed the time pleasantly in Paris, the train bore them
swiftly beyond Pontarlier and down the steep gradient of the Gorges de
l'Areuse towards Neuchatel. The Val de Travers, through which the
railway slips across the wooded Jura into Switzerland, is like a
winding corridor cleft deep between savage and precipitous walls.
There are dizzy glimpses into the gulf below. With steam shut off and
brakes partly on, the train curves sharply, hiding its eyes in many
tunnels lest the passengers turn giddy. Strips of bright green meadow-
land, where the Areuse flows calmly, alternate with places where the
ravine plunges into bottomless depths that have been chiselled out as
by a giant ploughshare. Rogers pointed out the chosen views, while his
secretary ran from window to window, excited as a happy child. Such
scenery he had never known. It changed the entire content of his mind.
Poetry he renounced finally before the first ten minutes were past.
The descriptions that flooded his brain could be rendered only
 by the most dignified and stately prose, and he floundered among a
welter of sonorous openings that later Albinia would read in Sydenham
and retail judiciously to the elder children from 'Father's foreign
letters.'

'We shall pass Bourcelles in a moment now! Look out! Be ready with
your handkerchief!' Rogers warned him, as the train emerged from the
final tunnel and scampered between thick pine woods, emblazoned here
and there with golden beeches. The air was crystal, sparkling. They
could smell the forests.

They took their places side by side at the windows. The heights of
Boudry and La Tourne, that stand like guardian sentries on either side
of the mountain gateway, were already cantering by. The precipices
flew past. Beyond lay the smiling slopes of vineyard, field, and
orchard, sprinkled with farms and villages, of which Bourcelles came
first. The Areuse flowed peacefully towards the lake. The panorama of
the snowy Alps rolled into view along the farther horizon, and the
slanting autumn sunshine bathed the entire scene with a soft and ruddy
light. They entered the Fairyland of Daddy's story.

'Voila la sentinelle deja!' exclaimed Rogers, putting his head out to
see the village poplar. 'We run through the field that borders the
garden of the Pension. They'll come out to wave to us. Be ready.'

'Ah, oui,' said Minks, who had been studying phrase books, 'je vwa.'
But in reality he saw with difficulty, for a spark had got into his
eye, and its companion optic, wandering as usual, was suffused with
water too.

The news of their arrival had, of course, preceded them, and the row
of waving figures in the field gave them a welcome that went straight
to Minks's heart. He felt proud for his grand employer. Here was a
human touch that would modify the majesty of the impersonal mountain
scenery in his description. He waved his handkerchief frantically as
the train shot past, and he hardly knew which attracted him most--the
expression of happiness on Mr. Rogers's face, or the line of
nondescript humanity that gesticulated in the field as though they
wished to stop the Paris 'Rapide.'

For it was a _very_ human touch; and either Barnum's Circus or the
byeways and hedges of Fairyland had sent their picked representatives
with a dance seen usually only in shy moonlit glades. His master named
them as the carriage rattled by. The Paris Express, of course, did not
stop at little Bourcelles. Minks recognised each one easily from the
descriptions in the story.

The Widow Jequier, with garden skirts tucked high, and wearing big
gauntlet gloves, waved above her head a Union Jack that knocked her
bonnet sideways at every stroke, and even enveloped the black triangle
of a Trilby hat that her brother-in-law held motionless aloft as
though to test the wind for his daily report upon the condition of le
barometre. The Postmaster never waved. He looked steadily before him
at the passing train, his small, black figure more than usually
dwarfed by a stately outline that rose above the landscape by his
side, and was undoubtedly the Woman of the Haystack. Telling lines
from the story's rhymes flashed through Minks's memory as, chuckling
with pleasure, he watched the magnificent, ample gestures of Mother's
waving arms. She seemed to brush aside the winds who came a-courting,
although wide strokes of swimming really described her movements best.
A little farther back, in the middle distance, he recognised by his
peaked cap the gendarme, Gygi, as he paused in his digging and looked
up to watch the fun; and beyond him again, solid in figure as she was
unchanging in her affections, he saw Mrs. Postmaster, struggling with
a bed sheet the _pensionnaires des Glycines_ helped her shake in the
evening breeze. It was too close upon the hour of _souper_ for her to
travel farther from the kitchen. And beside her stood Miss Waghorn,
waving an umbrella. She was hatless. Her tall, thin figure, dressed in
black, against the washing hung out to dry, looked like a note of
exclamation, or, when she held the umbrella up at right angles, like a
capital L the fairies had set in the ground upon its head.

And the fairies themselves, the sprites, the children! They were
everywhere and anywhere. Jimbo flickered, went out, reappeared, then
flickered again; he held a towel in one hand and a table napkin in the
other. Monkey seemed more in the air than on the solid earth, for one
minute she was obviously a ball, and the next, with a motion like a
somersault, her hair shot loose across the sunlight as though she
flew. Both had their mouths wide open, shouting, though the wind
carried their words all away unheard. And Jane Anne stood apart. Her
welcome, if the gesture is capable of being described at all, was a
bow. She moved at the same time sedately across the field, as though
she intended to be seen separately from the rest. She wore hat and
gloves. She was evidently in earnest with her welcome. But Mr. John
Henry Campden, the author and discoverer of them all, Minks did not
see.

'But I don't see the writer himself!' he cried. 'I don't see Mr.
Campden.'

'You can't,' explained Rogers, 'he's standing behind his wife.'

And the little detail pleased the secretary hugely. The true artist,
he reflected, is never seen in his work.

It all was past and over--in thirty seconds. The spire of the church,
rising against a crimson sky, with fruit trees in the foreground and a
line of distant summits across the shining lake, replaced the row of
wonderful dancing figures. Rogers sank back in his corner, laughing,
and Minks, saying nothing, went across to his own at the other end of
the compartment. It all had been so swift and momentary that it seemed
like the flash of a remembered dream, a strip of memory's pictures, a
vivid picture of some dazzling cinematograph. Minks felt as if he had
just read the entire story again from one end to the other--in thirty
seconds. He felt different, though wherein exactly the difference lay
was beyond him to discover. 'It must be the spell of Bourcelles,' he
murmured to himself. 'Mr. Rogers warned me about it. It is a Fairyland
that thought has created out of common things. It is quite wonderful!'
He felt a glow all over him. His mind ran on for a moment to another
picture his master had painted for him, and he imagined Albinia and
the family out here, living in a little house on the borders of the
forest, a strip of vineyards, sunlight, mountains, happy scented
winds, and himself with a writing-table before a window overlooking
the lake... writing down Beauty.




CHAPTER XXXIII


    We never meet; yet we meet day by day
    Upon those hills of life, dim and immense:
    The good we love, and sleep-our innocence.
    O hills of life, high hills! And higher than they,

    Our guardian spirits meet at prayer and play.
    Beyond pain, joy, and hope, and long suspense,
    Above the summits of our souls, far hence,
    An angel meets an angel on the way.

    Beyond all good I ever believed of thee
    Or thou of me, these always love and live.
    And though I fail of thy ideal of me,

    My angel falls not short. They greet each other.
    Who knows, they may exchange the kiss we give,
    Thou to thy crucifix, I to my mother.
                                    ALICE MCYNELL.

The arrival at the station interrupted the reverie in which the
secretary and his chief both were plunged.

'How odd,' exclaimed Minks, ever observant, as he leaped from the
carriage, 'there are no platforms. Everything in Switzerland seems on
one level, even the people--everything, that is, except the
mountains.'

'Switzerland _is_ the mountains,' laughed his chief.

Minks laughed too. 'What delicious air!' he added, filling his lungs
audibly. He felt half intoxicated with it.

After some delay they discovered a taxi-cab, piled the luggage on to
it, and were whirled away towards a little cluster of lights that
twinkled beneath the shadows of La Tourne and Boudry. Bourcelles lay
five miles out.

'Remember, you're not my secretary here,' said Rogers presently, as
the forests sped by them. 'You're just a travelling companion.'

'I understand,' he replied after a moment's perplexity. 'You have a
secretary here already.'

'His name is Jimbo.'

The motor grunted its way up the steep hill above Colombier. Below
them spread the vines towards the lake, sprinkled with lights of farms
and villages. As the keen evening air stole down from forest and
mountain to greet them, the vehicle turned into the quiet village
street. Minks saw the big humped shoulders of La Citadelle, the
tapering church spire, the trees in the orchard of the Pension.
Cudrefin, smoking a cigar at the door of his grocery shop, recognised
them and waved his hand. A moment later Gygi lifted his peaked hat and
called 'bon soir, bonne nuit,' just as though Rogers had never gone
away at all. Michaud, the carpenter, shouted his welcome as he
strolled towards the Post Office farther down to post a letter, and
then the motor stopped with a jerk outside the courtyard where the
fountain sang and gurgled in its big stone basin. Minks saw the plane
tree. He glanced up at the ridged backbone of the building. What a
portentous looking erection it was. It seemed to have no windows. He
wondered where the famous Den was. The roof overlapped like a giant
hood, casting a deep shadow upon the cobbled yard. Overhead the stars
shone faintly.

Instantly a troop of figures shot from the shadow and surrounded them.
There was a babel of laughter, exclamations, questions. Minks thought
the stars had fallen. Children and constellations were mingled all
together, it seemed. Both were too numerous to count. All were rushing
with the sun towards Hercules at a dizzy speed.

'And this is my friend, Mr. Minks,' he heard repeated from time to
time, feeling his hand seized and shaken before he knew what he was
about. Mother loomed up and gave him a stately welcome too.

'He wears gloves in Bourcelles!' some one observed audibly to some one
else.

'Excuse me! This is Riquette!' announced a big girl, hatless like the
rest, with shining eyes. 'It's a she.'

'And this is my secretary, Mr. Jimbo,' said Rogers, breathlessly,
emerging from a struggling mass. Minks and Jimbo shook hands with
dignity.

'Your room is over at the Michauds, as before.'

'And Mr. Mix is at the Pension--there was no other room to be had---'

'Supper's at seven---'

'Tante Jeanne's been _grand-cieling_ all day with excitement. She'll
burst when she sees you!'

'She's read the story, too. Elle dit que c'est le bouquet!'

'There's new furniture in the salon, and they've cleaned the sink
while you've been away!...'

The author moved forward out of the crowd. At the same moment another
figure, slight and shadowy, revealed itself, outlined against the
white of the gleaming street. It had been hidden in the tangle of the
stars. It kept so quiet.

'Countess, may I introduce him to you,' he said, seizing the momentary
pause. There was little ceremony in Bourcelles. 'This is my cousin I
told you about--Mr. Henry Rogers. You must know one another at once.
He's Orion in the story.'

He dragged up his big friend, who seemed suddenly awkward, difficult
to move. The children ran in and out between them like playing
puppies, tumbling against each in turn.

'They don't know which is which,' observed Jinny, watching the
introduction. Her voice ran past him like the whir of a shooting star
through space--far, far away. 'Excuse me!' she cried, as she cannoned
off Monkey against Cousinenry. 'I'm not a terminus! This is a regular
shipwreck!'

The three elder ones drew aside a little from the confusion.

'The Countess,' resumed Daddy, as soon as they were safe from
immediate destruction, 'has come all the way from Austria to see us.
She is staying with us for a few days. Isn't it delightful? We call
her the little Grafin.' His voice wumbled a trifle thickly in his
beard. 'She was good enough to like the story--our story, you know--
and wrote to me---'

'My story,' said a silvery, laughing voice.

And Rogers bowed politely, and with a moment's dizziness, at two
bright smiling eyes that watched him out of the little shadow standing
between him and the children. He was aware of grandeur.

He stood there, first startled, then dazed. She was so small. But
something about her was so enormous. His inner universe turned over
and showed its under side. The hidden thing that so long had brushed
his daily life came up utterly close and took him in its gigantic
arms. He stared like an unmannered child.

_Something had lit the world_....

'This _is_ delicious air,' he heard Minks saying to his cousin in the
distance--to his deaf side judging by the answer:

'Delicious here--yes, isn't it?'

_Something had lit the stars._...

Minks and his cousin continued idly talking. Their voices twittered
like birds in empty space. The children had scattered like marbles
from a spinning-top. Their voices and footsteps sounded in the cobbled
yard of La Citadelle, as they scampered up to prepare for supper.
Mother sailed solemnly after them, more like a frigate than ever. The
world, on fire, turned like a monstrous Catherine wheel within his
brain.


_Something had lit the universe._...

He stood there in the dusk beneath the peeping stars, facing the
slender little shadow. It was all he saw at first--this tiny figure.
Demure and soft, it remained motionless before him, a hint of
childhood's wonder in its graceful attitude. He was aware of something
mischievous as well--that laughed at him.... He realised then that she
waited for him to speak. Yet, for the life of him, he could find no
words, because the eyes, beneath the big-brimmed hat with its
fluttering veil, looked out at him as though some formidable wild
creature watched him from the opening of its cave. There was a glint
of amber in them. The heart in him went thumping. He caught his
breath. Out, jerked, then, certain words that he tried hard to make
ordinary---

'But surely--we have met before--I think I know you---'

He just said it, swallowing his breath with a gulp upon the unfinished
sentence. But he said it--somewhere else, and not here in the twilight
street of little Bourcelles. For his sight swam somehow far away, and
he was giddy with the height. The roofs of the houses lay in a sea of
shadow below him, and the street wound through them like a ribbon of
thin lace. The tree-tops waved very softly in a  wind that purred and
sighed beneath his feet, and this wind was a violet little wind, that
bent them all one way and set the lines and threads of gold a-quiver
to their fastenings. For the fastenings were not secure; any minute he
might fall. And the threads, he saw, all issued like rays from two
central shining points of delicate, transparent amber, radiating forth
into an exquisite design that caught the stars. Yet the stars were not
reflected in them. It was they who lit the stars....

He _was_ dizzy. He tried speech again.

'I told you I _should_--' But it was not said aloud apparently.

Two little twinkling feet were folded. Two hands, he saw, stretched
down to draw him close. These very stars ran loose about him in a
cloud of fiery sand. Their pattern danced in flame. He picked out
Sirius, Aldebaran--the Pleiades! There was tumult in his blood, a wild
and exquisite confusion. What in the world had happened to him that he
should behave in this ridiculous fashion? Yet he was doing nothing. It
was only that, for a passing instant, the enormous thing his life had
been dimly conscious of so long, rose at last from its subterranean
hiding-place and overwhelmed him. This picture that came with it was
like some far-off dream he suddenly recovered. A glorious excitement
caught him. He felt utterly bewildered.

'Have we?' he heard close in front of him. 'I do not think I have had
the pleasure'--it was with a slightly foreign accent--'but it is so
dim here, and one cannot see very well, perhaps.'

And a ripple of laughter passed round some gigantic whispering gallery
in the sky. It set the trellis-work of golden threads all trembling.
He felt himself perched dizzily in this shaking web that swung through
space. And with him was some one whom he knew.... He heard the words
of a song:

'Light desire With their fire.'

_Something had lit his heart._...

He lost himself again, disgracefully. A mist obscured his sight,
though with the eyes of his mind he still saw crystal-clear. Across
this mist fled droves and droves of stars. They carried him out of
himself--out, out, out!... His upper mind then made a vehement effort
to recover equilibrium. An idea was in him that some one would
presently turn a somersault and disappear. The effort had a result, it
seemed, for the enormous thing passed slowly away again into the
caverns of his under-self, ... and he realised that he was conducting
himself in a foolish and irresponsible manner, which Minks, in
particular, would disapprove. He was staring rudely--at a shadow, or
rather, at two eyes in a shadow. With another effort--oh, how it
hurt!--he focused sight again upon surface things. It seemed his turn
to say something.

'I beg your pardon,' he stammered, 'but I thought--it seemed to me for
a moment--that I--remembered.'

The face came close as he said it. He saw it clear a moment. The
figure grew defined against the big stone fountain--the little hands
in summer cotton gloves, the eyes beneath the big brimmed hat, the
streaming veil. Then he went lost again--more gloriously than before.
Instead of the human outline in the dusky street of Bourcelles, he
stared at the host of stars, at the shimmering design of gold, at the
Pleiades, whose fingers of spun lustre swung the Net loose across the
world....

    'Flung from huge Orion's hand...'

he caught in a golden whisper,

    'Sweetly linking
     All our thinking....'

His cousin and Minks, he was aware vaguely, had left him. He was alone
with her. A little way down the hill they turned and called to him. He
made a frantic effort--there seemed just time--to plunge away into
space and seize the cluster of lovely stars with both his hands.
Headlong, he dived off recklessly... driving at a fearful speed, ...
when--the whole thing vanished into a gulf of empty blue, and he found
himself running, not through the sky to clutch the Pleiades, but
heavily downhill towards his cousin and Minks.

It was a most abrupt departure. There was a curious choking in his
throat. His heart ran all over his body. Something white and sparkling
danced madly through his brain. What must she think of him?

'We've just time to wash ourselves and hurry over to supper,' his
cousin said, as he overtook them, flustered and very breathless. Minks
looked at him--regarded him, rather--astonishment, almost disapproval,
in one eye, and in the other, apparently observing the vineyards, a
mild rebuke.

He walked beside them in a dream. The sound of Colombier's bells
across Planeyse, men's voices singing fragments of a Dalcroze song
floated to him, and with them all the dear familiar smells:--

     Le coeur de ma mie
     Est petit, tout petit petit,
     J'en ai l'ame ravie....

It was Minks, drawing the keen air noisily into his lungs in great
draughts, who recalled him to himself.

'I could find my way here without a guide, Mr. Campden,' he was saying
diffidently, burning to tell how the Story had moved him. 'It's all so
vivid, I can almost see the Net. I feel in it,' and he waved one hand
towards the sky.

The other thanked him modestly. 'That's your power of visualising
then,' he added. 'My idea was, of course, that every mind in the world
is related with every other mind, and that there's no escape--we are
all prisoners. The responsibility is vast.'

'Perfectly. I've always believed it. Ah! if only one could _live_ it!'

Rogers heard this clearly. But it seemed that another heard it with
him. Some one very close beside him shared the hearing. He had
recovered from his temporary shock. Only the wonder remained. Life was
sheer dazzling glory. The talk continued as they hurried along the
road together. Rogers became aware then that his cousin was giving
information--meant for himself.

'... A most charming little lady, indeed. She comes from over there,'
and he pointed to where the Pleiades were climbing the sky towards the
East, 'in Austria somewhere. She owns a big estate among the
mountains. She wrote to me--I've had _such_ encouraging letters, you
know, from all sorts of folk--and when I replied, she telegraphed to
ask if she might come and see me. She seems fond of telegraphing,
rather.' And he laughed as though he were speaking of an ordinary
acquaintance.

'Charming little lady!' The phrase was like the flick of a lash.
Rogers had known it applied to such commonplace women.

'A most intelligent face,' he heard Minks saying, 'quite beautiful,
_I_ thought--the beauty of mind and soul.'

'... Mother and the children took to her at once,' his cousin's voice
went on. 'She and her maid have got rooms over at the Beguins. And, do
you know, a most singular coincidence,' he added with some excitement,
'she tells me that ever since childhood she's had an idea like this--
like the story, I mean--an idea of her own she always wanted to write
but couldn't-----'

'Of course, of course,' interrupted Rogers impatiently; and then he
added quickly, 'but how _very_ extraordinary!'

'The idea that Thought makes a network everywhere about the world in
which we all are caught, and that it's a positive duty, therefore, to
think beauty--as much a duty as washing one's face and hands, because
what you think _touches_ others all day long, and all night long too--
in sleep.'

'Only she couldn't write it?' asked Rogers. His tongue was like a
thick wedge of unmanageable wood in his mouth. He felt like a man who
hears another spoil an old, old beautiful story that he knows himself
with intimate accuracy.

'She can telegraph, she says, but she can't write!'

'An expensive talent,' thought the practical Minks.

'Oh, she's very rich, apparently. But isn't it odd? You see, she
thought it vividly, played it, lived it. Why, she tells me she even
had a Cave in her mountains where lost thoughts and lost starlight
collected, and that she made a kind of Pattern with them to represent
the Net. She showed me a drawing of it, for though she can't write,
she paints quite well. But the odd thing is that she claims to have
thought out the main idea of my own story years and years ago with the
feeling that some day her idea was bound to reach some one who
_would_ write it---'

'Almost a case of transference,' put in Minks.


'A fairy tale, yes, isn't it!'

'Married?' asked Rogers, with a gulp, as they reached the door. But
apparently he had not said it out loud, for there was no reply.

He tried again less abruptly. It required almost a physical effort to
drive his tongue and frame the tremendous question.

'What a fairy story for her children! How _they_ must love it!' This
time he spoke so loud that Minks started and looked up at him.

'Ah, but she has no children,' his cousin said.

They went upstairs, and the introductions to Monsieur and Madame
Michaud began, with talk about rooms and luggage. The mist was over
him once more. He heard Minks saying:--

'Oui, je comprongs un poo,' and the clatter of heavy boots up and down
the stairs, ... and then found himself washing his hands in stinging
hot water in his cousin's room.

'The children simply adore her already,' he heard, 'and she won
Mother's confidence at the very start. They can't manage her long
name. They just call her the Little Countess--die kleine Grafin. She's
doing a most astonishing work in Austria, it seems, with children...
the Montessori method, and all that....'

'By George, now; is it possible? Bourcelles accepted her at once
then?'

'She accepted Bourcelles rather--took it bodily into herself--our
poverty, our magic boxes, our democratic intimacy, and all the rest;
it was just as though she had lived here with us always. And she kept
asking who Orion was--that's you, of course--and why you weren't
here---'

'And the Den too?' asked Rogers, with a sudden trembling in his heart,
yet knowing well the answer.

'Simply appropriated it--came in naturally without being asked; Jimbo
opened the door and Monkey pushed her in. She said it was her Star
Cave. Oh, she's a remarkable being, you know, rather,' he went on more
gravely, 'with unusual powers of sympathy. She seems to feel at once
what you are feeling. Takes everything for granted as though she knew.
I think she _does_ know, if you ask me---'

'Lives the story in fact,' the other interrupted, hiding his face
rather in the towel, 'lives her belief instead of dreaming it, eh?'

'And, fancy this!' His voice had a glow and softness in it as he said
it, coming closer, and almost whispering, 'she wants to take Jinny and
Monkey for a bit and educate them.' He stood away to watch the effect
of the announcement. 'She even talks of sending Edward to Oxford,
too!' He cut a kind of wumbled caper in his pleasure and excitement.

'She loves children then, evidently?' asked the other, with a coolness
that was calculated to hide other feelings. He rubbed his face in the
rough towel as though the skin must come off. Then, suddenly dropping
the towel, he looked into his cousin's eyes a moment to ensure a
proper answer.

'Longs for children of her own, I think,' replied the author; 'one
sees it, feels it in all she says and does. Rather sad, you know,
that! An unmarried mother---'

'In fact,' put in Rogers lightly, 'the very character you needed to
play the principal role in your story. When you write the longer
version in book form you'll have to put her in.'

'And find her a husband too--which is a bore. I never write love
stories, you see. She's finer as she is at present--mothering the
world.'

Rogers's face, as he brushed his hair carefully before the twisted
mirror, was not visible.

There came a timid knock at the door.

'I'm ready, gentlemen, when you are,' answered the voice of Minks
outside.

They went downstairs together, and walked quickly over to the Pension
for supper. Rogers moved sedately enough so far as the others saw, yet
inwardly he pranced like a fiery colt in harness. There were golden
reins about his neck. Two tiny hands directed him from the Pleiades.
In this leash of sidereal fire he felt as though he flew. Swift
thought, flashing like a fairy whip, cut through the air from an
immense distance, and urged him forwards. Some one expected him and he
was late--years and years late. Goodness, how his companions crawled
and dawdled!

'... she doesn't come over for her meals,' he heard, 'but she'll join
us afterwards at the Den. You'll come too, won't you, Mr. Minks?'

'Thank you, I shall be most happy--if I'm not intruding,' was the
reply as they passed the fountain near the courtyard of the Citadelle.
The musical gurgle of its splashing water sounded to Rogers like a
voice that sang over and over again, 'Come up, come up, come up! You
must come up to me!'

'How brilliant your stars are out here, Mr. Campden,' Minks was saying
when they reached the door of La Poste. He stood aside to let the
others pass before him. He held the door open politely. 'No wonder you
chose them as the symbol for thought and sympathy in your story.' And
they climbed the narrow, creaking stairs and entered the little hall
where the entire population of the Pension des Glycines awaited them
with impatience.

The meal dragged out interminably. Everybody had so much to say.
Minks, placed between Mother and Miss Waghorn, talked volubly to the
latter and listened sweetly to all her stories. The excitement of the
Big Story, however, was in the air, and when she mentioned that she
looked forward to reading it, he had no idea, of course, that she had
already done so at least three times. The Review had replaced her
customary Novel. She went about with it beneath her arm. Minks,
feeling friendly and confidential, informed her that he, too,
sometimes wrote, and when she noted the fact with a deferential phrase
 about 'you men of letters,' he rose abruptly to the seventh heaven of
contentment. Mother meanwhile, on the other side, took him bodily into
her great wumbled heart. 'Poor little chap,' her attitude said
plainly, 'I don't believe his wife half looks after him.' Before the
end of supper she knew all about Frank and Ronald, the laburnum tree
in the front garden, what tea they bought, and Albinia's plan for
making coal last longer by mixing it with coke.

Tante Jeanne talked furiously and incessantly, her sister-in-law told
her latest dream, and the Postmaster occasionally cracked a solemn
joke, laughing uproariously long before the point appeared. It was a
merry, noisy meal, and Henry Rogers sat through it upon a throne that
was slung with golden ropes from the stars. He was in Fairyland again.
Outside, the Pleiades were rising in the sky, and somewhere in
Bourcelles--in the rooms above Beguin's shop, to be exact--some one
was waiting, ready to come over to the Den. His thoughts flew wildly.
Passionate longing drove behind them. 'You must come up to me,' he
heard. They all were Kings and Queens.

He played his part, however; no one seemed to notice his
preoccupation. The voices sounded now far, now near, as though some
wind made sport with them; the faces round him vanished and
reappeared; but he contrived cleverly, so that none remarked upon his
absent-mindedness. Constellations do not stare at one another much.

'Does your Mother know you're "out"?' asked Monkey once beside him--it
was the great joke now, since the Story had been read--and as soon as
she was temporarily disposed of, Jimbo had serious information to
impart from the other side. 'She's a real Countess,' he said, speaking
as man to man. 'I suppose if she went to London she'd know the King--
visit him, like that?'

Bless his little heart! Jimbo always knew the important things to talk
about.

There were bursts of laughter sometimes, due usually to statements
made abruptly by Jane Anne--as when Mother, discussing the garden with
Minks, reviled the mischievous birds:--

'They want thinning badly,' she said.

'Why don't they take more exercise, then?' inquired Jinny gravely.

And in these gusts of laughter Rogers joined heartily, as though he
knew exactly what the fun was all about. In this way he deceived
everybody and protected himself from discovery. And yet it seemed to
him that he shouted his secret aloud, not with his lips indeed, but
with his entire person. Surely everybody knew it...! He was self-
conscious as a schoolgirl.

'You must come up--to me,' rang continuously through his head like
bells. 'You must come up to me.'




CHAPTER XXXIV


   How many times do I love thee, dear?
     Tell me how many thoughts there be
       In the atmosphere
       Of a new fall'n year,
   Whose white and sable hours appear
     The latest flake of Eternity:--
   So many times do I love thee, dear.

   How many times do I love again?
     Tell me how many beads there are
       In a silver chain
       Of evening rain,
   Unravelled from the tumbling main,
     And threading the eye of a yellow star:--
   So many times do I love again.
                           THOMAS LOVELL BEDDOES.

A curious deep shyness settled upon Henry Rogers as they all trooped
over to the Den. The others gabbled noisily, but to him words came
with difficulty. He felt like a boy going up for some great test,
examination, almost for judgment. There was an idea in him that he
must run and hide somewhere. He saw the huge outline of Orion tilting
up above the Alps, slanting with the speed of his eternal hunt to
seize the Pleiades who sailed ever calmly just beyond his giant arms.
Yet what that old Hunter sought was at last within his reach. He knew
it, and felt the awe of capture rise upon him.

'You've eaten so much supper you can't speak,' said Monkey, whose hand
was in his coat-pocket for loose chicken-feed, as she called centimes.
'The Little Countess will _regler ton affaire_ all right. Just wait
till she gets at you.'

'You love her?' he asked gently, feeling little disposed to play.

The child's reply was cryptic, yet uncommonly revealing:--

'She's just like a relation. It's so funny she didn't know us long,
long ago--find us out, I mean.'

'Mother likes her awfully,' added Jimbo, as though that established
the matter of her charm for ever. 'It's a pity she's not a man'--just
to show that Cousinenry's position was not endangered.

They chattered on. Rogers hardly remembers how he climbed the long
stone steps. He found himself in the Den. It came about with a sudden
jump as in dreams. _She_ was among them before the courtyard was
crossed; she had gone up the steps immediately in front of him....
Jinny was bringing in the lamp, while Daddy struggled with a load of
peat for the fire, getting in everybody's way. Riquette stood
silhouetted against the sky upon the window sill. Jimbo used the
bellows. A glow spread softly through the room. He caught sight of
Minks standing rather helplessly beside the sofa talking to Jane Anne,
and picking at his ear as he always did when nervous or slightly ill
at ease. He wondered vaguely what she was saying to him. He looked
everywhere but at the one person for whose comfort the others were so
energetic.

His eyes did not once turn in her direction, yet he knew exactly how
she was dressed, what movements she made, where she stood, the very
words, indeed, she used, and in particular the expression of her face
to each in turn. For he was guilty of a searching inner scrutiny he
could not control. And, above all, he was aware, with a divine,
tumultuous thrill, that she, for her part, also neither looked at him
nor uttered one sentence that he could take as intended for himself.

Because, of course, all she said and did and looked _were_ meant for
him, and her scrutiny was even closer and more searching than his own.

In the Den that evening there was one world within another, though
only these two, and probably the intuitive and diabolically observant
Minks, perceived it. The deep furnaces of this man's inner being,
banked now so long that mere little flames had forgotten their way
out, lay open at last to that mighty draught before whose fusing power
the molten, fluid state becomes inevitable.

'You must come up to me' rang on in his head like a chime of bells. 'O
think Beauty: it's your duty....'

The chairs were already round the open fireplace, when Monkey pushed
him into the big one with the broken springs he always used, and
established herself upon his knee. Jimbo was on the other in a
twinkling. Jane Anne plumped down upon the floor against him. Her hair
was up, and grown-ups might sit as they pleased. Minks in a hard,
straight-backed chair, firmly assured everybody that he was
exceedingly comfortable and really preferred stiff chairs. He found
safety next to Mother who, pleased and contented, filled one corner of
the sofa and looked as though she occupied a pedestal. Beyond her
perched Daddy, on the music stool, leaning his back against the
unlighted fourneau. The Wumble Book was balanced on his knees, and
beside him sat the little figure of the visitor who, though at the
end, was yet somehow the true centre of the circle. Rogers saw her
slip into her unimportant place. She took her seat, he thought, as
softly as a mouse. For no one seemed to notice her. She was so
perfectly at home among them. In her little folded hands the Den and
all its occupants seemed cared for beyond the need of words or
definite action. And, although her place was the furthest possible
remove from his own, he felt her closer to him than the very children
who nestled upon his knees.

Riquette then finally, when all were settled, stole in to complete the
circle. She planted herself in the middle of the hearth before them
all, looked up into their faces, decided that all was well, and began
placidly to wash her face and back. A leg shot up, from the middle of
her back apparently, as a signal that they might talk. A moment later
she composed herself into that attitude of dignified security possible
only to the feline species. She made the fourth that inhabited this
world within a world. Rogers, glancing up suddenly from observing her,
caught---for the merest fraction of an instant--a flash of starfire in
the air. It darted across to him from the opposite end of the horse-
shoe. Behind it flickered the tiniest smile a human countenance could
possibly produce.

    'Little mouse who, lost in wonder,
     Flicks its whiskers at the thunder.'

It was Jane Anne repeating the rhyme for Minks's benefit. How
appropriately it came in, he thought. And voices were set instantly in
motion; it seemed that every one began to speak at once.

Who finally led the conversation, or what was actually said at first,
he has no more recollection than the man in the moon, for he only
heard the silvery music of a single voice. And that came rarely. He
felt washed in glory from head to foot. In a dream of happy starlight
he swam and floated. He hid his face behind the chair of Monkey, and
his eyes were screened below the welcome shelter of Jimbo's shoulder.

The talk meanwhile flowed round the horse-shoe like a river that
curves downhill. Life ran past him, while he stood on the banks and
watched. He reconstructed all that happened, all that was said and
done, each little movement, every little glance of the eye. These
common things he recreated. For, while his body sat in the Den before
a fire of peat, with children, a cat, a private secretary, three very
ordinary people and a little foreign visitor, his spirit floated high
above the world among the immensities of suns and starfields. He was
in the Den, but the Den was in the universe, and to the scale of the
universe he set the little homely, commonplace picture. Life, he
realised, _is_ thought and feeling; and just then he thought and felt
like a god. He was Orion, and Orion had at last overtaken the
Pleiades. The fairest of the cluster lay caught within his giant arms.
The Enormous Thing that so long had haunted him with hints of its
approach, rose up from his under-self, and possessed him utterly. And,
oh, the glory of it, the splendour, the intoxication!

In the dim corner where _she_ sat, the firelight scarcely showed her
face, yet every shade of expression that flitted across her features
he saw unobscured. The sparkling, silvery sentences she spoke from
time to time were volumes that interpreted life anew. For years he had
pored over these thick tomes, but heavily and without understanding.
The little things she said now supplied the key. Mind and brain played
no part in this. It was simply that he heard--and knew. He re-
discovered her from their fragments, piece by piece....

The general talk flowed past him in a stream of sound, cut up into
lengths by interrupting consonants, and half ruined by this arbitrary
division; but what _she_ said always seemed the living idea that lay
behind the sound. He could not explain it otherwise. With herself,
and with Riquette, and possibly with little, dreaming Minks, he sat
firmly at the centre of this inner world. The others, even the
children, hovered about its edges, trying to get in. That tiny smile
had flashed its secret, ineffable explanation into him. Starlight was
in his blood....

Mother, for instance, he vaguely knew, was speaking of the years they
all had lived in Bourcelles, of the exquisite springs, of the fairy,
gorgeous summers. It was the most ordinary talk imaginable, though it
came sincerely from her heart.

'If only you had come here earlier,' she said, 'when the forest was so
thick with flowers.' She enumerated them one by one. 'Now, in the
autumn, there are so few!'

The little sparkling answer lit the forest glades afresh with colour,
perfume, wonder:--

'But the autumn flowers, I think, are the sweetest; for they have the
beauty of all the summer in them.'

A slight pause followed, and then all fell to explaining the shining
little sentence until its lustre dimmed and disappeared beneath the
smother of their words. In himself, however, who heard them not, a new
constellation swam above the horizon of his inner world. Riquette
looked slyly up and blinked. She purred more deeply, but she made no
stupid sign....

And Daddy mentioned then the forest spell that captured the entire
village with its peace and softness--'all so rough and big and
tumbled, and yet every detail so exquisitely finished and thought out,
you know.'

Out slipped the softest little fairy phrase imaginable from her dim
corner then:--

'Yes, like hand-made things--you can almost see the hand that made
them.'

And Rogers started so perceptibly that Jimbo shifted his weight a
little, thinking he must be uncomfortable. He had surely used that
very phrase himself! It was familiar. Even when using it he remembered
wondering whence its sweetness had dropped into his clumsier mind.
Minks uncrossed his legs, glanced up at him a moment, then crossed
them again. He made this sign, but, like Riquette, he said nothing....

The stream flowed on and on. Some one told a story. There was hushed
attentive listening, followed suddenly by bursts of laughter and
delight. Who told it, or what it was about, Rogers had no notion.
Monkey dug him in the ribs once because apparently he grunted at the
wrong moment, and Jimbo chided her beneath his breath--'Let him have a
nap if he wants to; a man's always tired after a long journey like
that...!' Some one followed with another story--Minks, was it, this
time?--for Rogers caught his face, as through a mist, turning
constantly to Mother for approval. It had to do with a vision of great
things that had come to a little insignificant woman on a bed of
sickness. He recognised the teller because he knew the tale of old.
The woman, he remembered, was Albinia's grandmother, and Minks was
very proud of it.

'That's a _very_ nice story,' rippled from the dim corner when it was
over. 'For I like everything so tiny that you can find it inside a
shell. That's the way to understand big things and to do them.'

And again the phrase was as familiar to him as though he had said it
himself--heard it, read it, dreamed it, even. Whatever its fairy
source, he knew it. His bewilderment increased absurdly. The things
she said were so ordinary, yet so illuminating, though never quite
betraying their secret source. Where had he heard them? Where had he
met this little foreign visitor? Whence came the singular certainty
that she shared this knowledge with him, and might presently explain
it, all clear as daylight and as simple? He had the odd impression
that she played with him, delayed purposely the moment of revelation,
even expected that _he_ would be the first to make it known. The
disclosure was to come from himself! She provided him with
opportunities--these little sparkling sentences! But he hid in his
corner, silent and magically excited, afraid to take the lead. These
sentences were addressed to him. There was conversation thus between
the two of them; but his replies remained inaudible. Thought makes no
sound; its complete delivery is ever wordless.... He felt very big,
and absurdly shy.

It was gesture, however, that infallible shorthand of the mind, which
seemed the surest medium of this mute delightful intercourse. For each
little gesture that she made--unconsciously, of course--expressed more
than the swiftest language could have compassed in an hour. And he
noted every one: the occasional flourish of the little hands, the
bending of the graceful neck, the shadowy head turned sideways, the
lift of one shoulder, almost imperceptible, and sometimes the attitude
of the entire body. To him they were, one and all, eloquently
revealing. Behind each little gesture loomed a yet larger one, the
scale increasing strangely, till his thoughts climbed up them as up a
ladder into the region where her ideas lay naked before casual
interpretation clothed them. Those, he reflected, who are rich in
ideas, but find words difficult, may reveal themselves prodigally in
gesture. Expression of one kind or another there must be; yet lavish
action, the language of big souls, seems a man's expression rather
than a woman's.... He built up swiftly, surely, solidly his
interpretation of this little foreign visitor who came to him thus
suddenly from the stars, whispering to his inmost thought, 'You must
come up to me.' The whole experience dazed him. He sat in utter
dumbness, shyer than a boy, but happier than a singing star!... The
Joy in his heart was marvellous.

Yet how could he know all this?

In the intervals that came to him like breathing spaces he asked
himself this childish question. How could he tell that this little
soft being with the quiet unobtrusive manners had noble and great
beauty of action in her anywhere? A few pretty phrases, a few
significant gestures, these were surely a slight foundation to build
so much upon! Was there, then, some absolute communion of thought
between the two of them such as his cousin's story tried to show? And
had their intercourse been running on for years, neither of them aware
of it in the daytime? Was this intimate knowledge due to long
acquaintance? Had her thought been feeding him perhaps since childhood
even?

In the pause of his temporary lunacy he asked himself a dozen similar
questions, but before the sign of any answer came he was off again,
sweeping on outstretched wings among the stars. He drank her in. He
knew. What was the good of questions? A thirsty man does not stop
midway in his draught to ask when his thirst began, its cause, or why
the rush of liquid down his throat is satisfying. He knows, and
drinks. It seemed to Henry Rogers, ordinary man of business and
practical affairs, that some deep river which so long had flowed deep
out of sight, hidden below his daily existence, rose now grandly at
the flood. He had heard its subterranean murmurs often. Here, in the
Den, it had reached his lips at last. And he quenched his thirst....
His thought played round her without ceasing, like flowing water....

This idea of flux grew everywhere about him. There was fluid movement
in this world within a world. All life was a flowing past of ceaseless
beauty, wonder, splendour; it was doubt and question that dammed the
rush, causing that stoppage which is ugly, petty, rigid. His being
flowed out to mingle with her own. It was all inevitable, and he never
really doubted once. Only before long he would be compelled to act--to
speak--to tell her what he felt, and hear her dear, dear answer....
The excitement in him became more and more difficult to control.
Already there was strain and tension below his apparent outer
calmness. Life in him burst forward to a yet greater life than he had
ever known....

The others--it was his cousin's voice this time--were speaking of the
Story, and of his proposed treatment of it in its larger version as a
book. Daddy was saying, apparently, that it must fail because he saw
no climax for it. The public demanded a cumulative interest that
worked up to some kind of thrilling denouement that they called a
climax, whereas his tale was but a stretch of life, and of very
ordinary life. And Life, for the majority, knew no such climax. How
could he manage one without inventing something artificial?

'But the climax of life comes every day and every minute,' he heard
her answer--and how her little voice rang out above the others like a
bell!--'when you deny yourself for another, and that other does not
even know it. A day is lost that does not pin at least one sweet
thought against each passing hour.'

And his inner construction took a further prodigious leap, as the
sentence showed him the grand and simple motive of her being. It had
been his own as well, though he had stupidly bungled it in his search
to find something big enough to seem worth doing. She, he divined,
found neighbours everywhere, losing no time. He had known a few rare,
exquisite souls who lived for others, but here, close beside him at
last, was one of those still rarer souls who seem born to--die for
others.... They give so unsparingly of their best.... To his
imaginative interpretation of her he gave full rein.... And it was
instantaneous as creation....

The voices of Minks and Mother renewed the stream of sound that swept
by him then, though he caught no words that were comparable in value
to these little singing phrases that she used from time to time.
Jimbo, bored by the grown-up talk that took the place of expected
stories, had fallen asleep upon his shoulder; Monkey's hair, as usual,
was in his eyes; he sat there listening and waiting with a heart that
beat so loudly he thought the children must feel it and ask him what
was the matter. Jinny stirred the peat from time to time. The room was
full of shadows. But, for him, the air grew brighter every minute, and
in this steady brilliance he saw the little figure rise and grow in
grandeur till she filled all space.

'You called it "getting out" while the body is asleep,' came floating
through the air through the sound of Jimbo's breathing, 'whereas
_I_ called it getting away from self while personal desire is asleep.
But the idea is the same....'

His cousin's words that called forth this criticism he had not heard.
It was only her sentence that seemed to reach him.

From the river of words and actions men call life she detained, it
seemed to him, certain that were vital and important in some
symbolical sense; she italicised them, made them her own--then let
them go to join the main stream again. This selection was a kind of
genius. The river did not overwhelm her as it overwhelms most, because
the part of it she did not need for present action she ignored, while
yet she swam in the whole of it, shirking nothing.

This was the way he saw her--immediately. And, whether it was his own
invention, or whether it was the divination of a man in the ecstasy of
sudden love, it was vital because he felt it, and it was real because
he believed it. Then why seek to explain the amazing sense of
intimacy, the certainty that he had known her always? The thing was
_there_; explanation could bring it no nearer. He let the explanations
go their way; they floated everywhere within reach; he had only to
pocket them and take them home for study at his leisure afterwards--
with her.

'But, we _shall_ come to it in time,' he caught another flying
sentence that reached him through the brown tangle of Monkey's hair.
It was spoken with eager emphasis. 'Does not every letter you write
begin with _dear_?....'

All that she said added something to life, it seemed, like poetry
which, he remembered, 'enriches the blood of the world.' The
selections were not idle, due to chance, but belonged to some great
Scheme, some fairy edifice she built out of the very stuff of her own
life. Oh, how utterly he understood and knew her. The poison of
intellectuality, thank heaven, was not in her, yet she created
somehow; for all she touched, with word or thought or gesture, turned
suddenly alive in a way he had never known before. The world turned
beautiful and simple at her touch....

Even the commonest things! It was miraculous, at least in its effect
upon himself. Her simplicity escaped all signs of wumbling. She had no
favourite and particular Scheme for doing good, but did merely what
was next her at the moment to be done. She _was_ good. In her little
person glowed a great enthusiasm for life. She created neighbours.
And, as the grandeur of her insignificance rose before him, his own
great Scheme for Disabled Thingumabobs that once had filled the
heavens, shrank down into the size of a mere mouse-trap that would go
into his pocket. In its place loomed up another that held the beauty
of the Stars. How little, when announcing it to Minks weeks and weeks
ago, had he dreamed the form it was to take!

And so, wrapped in this glory of the stars, he dreamed on in his
corner, fashioning this marvellous interpretation of a woman he had
never seen before, and never spoken with. It was all so different to
ordinary falling in love at sight, that the phrase never once occurred
to him. It was consummated in a moment--out there, beside the fountain
when he saw her first, shadowy, with brilliant, peering eyes. It
seemed perfect instantly, a recovery of something he had always known.
And who shall challenge the accuracy of his vision, or call its sudden
maturity impossible? For where one sees the surface only, another sees
the potentialities below. To believe in these is to summon them into
activity, just as to think the best of a person ever brings out that
best. Are we not all potential splendours?

Swiftly, in a second, he reviewed the shining sentences that revealed
her to him: The 'autumn flowers'--she lived, then, in the Present,
without that waste of energy which is regret! In 'a little shell' lay
the pattern of all life,--she saw the universe in herself and lived,
thus, in the Whole! To be 'out' meant forgetting self; and life's
climax is at every minute of the day--she understood, that is, the
growth of the soul, due to acceptance of what every minute brings,
however practical, dull, uninteresting. By recreating the commonest
things, she found a star in each. And her world was made up of
neighbours--for 'every letter that one writes begins with
_dear_!'

The Pattern matured marvellously before his eyes; and its delicate
embroideries, far out of sight, seemed the arabesques that yearnings,
hitherto unfulfilled, had traced long long ago with the brush of
tender thinking. Together, though at opposite ends of the world, these
two had woven the great Net of sympathy, thought, and longing in which
at last they both were prisoners ... and with them all the earth.

The figure of Jane Anne loomed before him like an ogress suddenly.

'Cousinenry, _will_ you answer or will you _not_? Daddy's already
asked you twenty times at least!' Then, below her breath, as she bent
over him, 'The Little Countess will think you awf'ly rude if you go to
sleep and snore like this.'

He looked up. He felt a trifle dazed. For a moment he had forgotten
where he was. How dark the room had grown! Only--he was sure he had
not snored.

'I beg your pardon,' he stammered, 'but I was only thinking--how
wonderful you--how wonderful it all is, isn't it? I was listening. I
heard perfectly.'

'You were dozing,' whispered Monkey. 'Daddy wants the Countess to tell
you how she knew the story long ago, or something. _Ecoute un peu, man
vieux_!'

'I should love to hear it,' he said, louder, sitting up so abruptly in
his chair that Jimbo tilted at a dangerous angle, though still without
waking. 'Please, please go on.'

And he listened then to the quiet, silvery language in which the
little visitor described the scenery of her childhood, when, without
brothers or sisters, she was forced to play alone, and had amused
herself by imagining a Net of Constellations which she nailed by
shooting stars to four enormous pine trees that grew across the
torrent. She described the great mountains that enclosed her father's
estate, her loneliness in this giant garden, due to his morose
severity of character, her yearnings to escape and see the big world
beyond the ridges. All her thought and longing went to the fashioning
of this Net, and every night she flung it far across the peaks and
valleys to catch companions with whom she might play. The characters
in her fairy books came out of the pages to help her, and sometimes
when they drew it in, it was so heavy with the people entangled in its
meshes that they could scarcely move it. But the moment all were out,
the giant Net, relieved of their weight, flew back into the sky. The
Pleiades were its centre, because she loved the Pleiades best of all,
and Orion pursued its bright shape with passion, yet could never quite
come up with it.

'And these people whom you caught,' whispered Rogers from his corner,
listening to a tale he knew as well as she did, 'you kept them
prisoners?'

'I first put into them all the things I longed to do myself in the big
world, and then flung them back again into their homes and towns and
villages---'

'Excepting one,' he murmured.

'Who was so big and clumsy that he broke the meshes and so never got
away.' She laughed, while the children stared at their cousin,
wondering how he knew as much as she did. 'He stayed with me, and
showed me how to make our prisoners useful afterwards by painting them
all over with starlight which we collected in a cave. Then they went
back and dazzled others everywhere by their strange, alluring
brilliance. We made the whole world over in this way---'

'Until you lost him.'

'One cloudy night he disappeared, yes, and I never found him again.
There was a big gap between the Pleiades and Orion where he had
tumbled through. I named him Orion after that; and I would stand at
night beneath the four great pine trees and call and call, but in
vain. "You must come up to me! You must come up to me!" I called, but
got no answer---'

'Though you knew quite well where he had fallen to, and that he was
only hiding---'

'Excuse me, but _how_ did she know?' inquired Jinny abruptly.

The Little Countess laughed. 'I suppose--because the threads of the
Net were so sensitive that they went on quivering long after he
tumbled out, and so betrayed the direction---'

'And afterwards, when you got older, Grafin,' interrupted Daddy, who
wished his cousin to hear the details of the extraordinary
coincidence, 'you elaborated your idea---'

'Yes, that thought and yearning always fulfil themselves somewhere,
somehow, sooner or later,' she continued. 'But I kept the imagery of
my Star Net in which all the world lies caught, and I used starlight
as the symbol of that sympathy which binds every heart to every other
heart. At my father's death, you see, I inherited his property. I
escaped from the garden which had been so long my prison, and I tried
to carry out in practical life what I had dreamed there as a child. I
got people together, where I could, and formed Thinkers' Guilds--
people, that is, who agreed to think beauty, love, and tolerance at
given hours in the day, until the habit, once formed, would run
through all their lives, and they should go about as centres of light,
sweetening the world. Few have riches, fewer still have talent, but
all can think. At least, one would _think_ so, wouldn't one?'--with a
smile and a fling of her little hands.

She paused a moment, and then went on to describe her failure. She
told it to them with laughter between her sentences, but among her
listeners was one at least who caught the undertone of sadness in the
voice.

'For, you see, that was where I made my mistake. People would do
anything in the world rather than think. They would work, give money,
build schools and hospitals, make all manner of sacrifices--only--they
would not think; because, they said, there was no visible result.' She
burst out laughing, and the children all laughed too.

'I should think not indeed,' ventured Monkey, but so low that no one
heard her.

'And so you went on thinking it all alone,' said Rogers in a low
voice.

'I tried to write it first as a story,' she answered softly, 'but
found that was beyond me; so I went on thinking it all alone, as you
say---'

'Until the Pattern of your thought floated across the world to me,'
said Daddy proudly. 'I imagined I was inspired; instead I was a
common, unoriginal plagiarist!'

'Like all the rest of us,' she laughed.

'Mummie, what _is_ a plagiarist?' asked Jinny instantly; and as
Rogers, her husband, and even Minks came hurriedly to her aid, the
spell of the strange recital was broken, and out of the turmoil of
voices the only thing distinctly heard was Mother exclaiming with
shocked surprise:--

'Why, it's ten o'clock! Jimbo, Monkey, please plagiarise off to bed at
once!'--in a tone that admitted of no rejoinder or excuses.

'A most singular thing, isn't it, Henry?' remarked the author, coming
across to his side when the lamp was lit and the children had said
their good-nights.

'I really think we ought to report it to the Psychical Society as a
genuine case of thought-transference. You see, what people never
properly realise is---'

But Henry Rogers lost the remainder of the sentence even if he heard
the beginning, for his world was in a state of indescribable turmoil,
one emotion tumbling wildly upon the heels of another. He was elated
to intoxication. The room spun round him. The next second his heart
sank down into his boots. He only caught the end of the words she was
saying to Mother across the room:--

'... but I must positively go to-morrow, I've already stayed too long.
So many things are waiting at home for me to do. I must send a
telegram and....'

His cousin's wumbling drowned the rest. He was quite aware that Rogers
was not listening to him.

'... your great kindness in writing to him, and then coming yourself,'
Mother was saying. 'It's such an encouragement. I can't tell you how
much he--we---'

'And you'll let me write to you about the children,' she interrupted,
'the plans we discussed, you know....'

Rogers broke away from his cousin with a leap. It felt at least like a
leap. But he knew not where to go or what to say. He saw Minks
standing with Jane Anne again by the fourneau, picking at his ear. By
the open window with Mother stood the little visitor. She was leaving
to-morrow. A torturing pain like twisting knives went through him. The
universe was going out!... He saw the starry sky behind her. Daddy
went up and joined them, and he was aware that the three of them
talked all at once for what seemed an interminable time, though all he
heard was his cousin's voice repeating at intervals, 'But you _can't_
send a telegram before eight o'clock to-morrow morning in any case;
the post is closed....'

And then, suddenly, the puzzle reeled and danced before his eyes. It
dissolved into a new and startling shape that brought him to his
senses with a shock. There had been a swift shuffling of the figures.

Minks and his cousin were helping her into her cloak. She _was_ going.

One of them--he knew not which--was offering politely to escort her
through the village.

It sounded like his own sentence of exile, almost of death. Was he
forty years of age, or only fifteen? He felt awkward, tongue-tied,
terrified.

They were already in the passage. Mother had opened the door into the
yard.

'But your way home lies down the hill,' he heard the silver voice,
'and to go with me you must come up. I can easily---'

Above the leaves of the plane tree he saw the stars. He saw Orion and
the Pleiades. The Fairy Net flung in and caught him. He found his
voice.

In a single stride he was beside her. Minks started at his sudden
vehemence and stepped aside.

'_I_ will take you home, Countess, if I may,' and his tone was so
unnecessarily loud and commanding that Mother turned and stared. 'Our
direction lies together. I will come up--with you.'

She did not even look at him. He saw that tiny smile that was like the
flicker of a star--no more. But he heard her answer. It seemed to fill
the sky.

'Thank you. I might lose my way alone.'

And, before he realised how she managed it, they had crossed the
cobbled yard, Daddy was swinging away downhill towards the
carpenter's, and Minks behind them, at the top of the stone steps, was
saying his last good-night to Mother. With the little visitor beside
him, he passed the singing fountain and led her down the deserted
village street beneath the autumn stars.

Three minutes later they were out of sight... when Minks came down the
steps and picked his way among the shadows after Daddy, who had the
latch-key of the carpenter's house. He ran to overtake him.

     And he ran upon his toes
     As softly as a saying does,
     For so the saying goes!

His thoughts were very active, but as clear as day. He was thinking
whether German was a difficult language to acquire, and wondering
whether a best man at a wedding ought to wear white gloves or not. He
decided to ask Albinia. He wrote the letter that very night before he
went to sleep.

And, while he slept, Orion pursued the Pleiades across the sky, and
numerous shooting stars fastened the great Net of thought and sympathy
close over little Bourcelles.

THE END







End of Project Gutenberg's A Prisoner in Fairyland, by Algernon Blackwood

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