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The stars ran loose about the sky,
And so, about my mind and yours,
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!
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood