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- A Prisoner in Fairyland - 70/79 -

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.'

A Prisoner in Fairyland - 70/79

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