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- A Prisoner in Fairyland - 50/79 -


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.


A Prisoner in Fairyland - 50/79

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