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Aus den Himmelsaugen droben
O ihr Himmelsaugen droben,
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.
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood