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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXII
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A Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXII Post by :John_Williams Category :Long Stories Author :Algernon Blackwood Date :April 2011 Read :912

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A Prisoner In Fairyland - 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

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

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

'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

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

'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

'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

'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

'But I don't see the writer himself!' he cried. 'I don't see Mr.

'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.

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A Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXIII A Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXIII

A Prisoner In Fairyland - 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

A Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXI A Prisoner In Fairyland - Chapter XXXI

A Prisoner In Fairyland - 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.