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What art thou, then? I cannot guess;
In the act of waking up on the morning of the Star Cave experience, Henry Rogers caught the face of a vivid dream close against his own-- but in rapid motion, already passing. He tried to seize it. There was a happy, delightful atmosphere about it. Examination, however, was impossible; the effort to recover the haunting dream dispersed it. He saw the tip, like an express train flying round a corner; it flashed and disappeared, fading into dimness. Only the delightful atmosphere remained and the sense that he had been somewhere far away in very happy conditions. People he knew quite well, had been there with him; Jimbo and Monkey; Daddy too, as he had known him in his boyhood. More than this was mere vague surmise; he could not recover details. Others had been also of the merry company, familiar yet unrecognisable. Who in the world were they? It all seemed oddly real.
'How I do dream in this place, to be sure,' he thought; 'I, who normally dream so little! It was like a scene of my childhood-- Crayfield or somewhere.' And he reflected how easily one might be persuaded that the spirit escaped in sleep and knew another order of experience. The sense of actuality was so vivid.
He lay half dozing for a little longer, hoping to recover the adventures. The flying train showed itself once or twice again, but smaller, and much, much farther away. It curved off into the distance. A deep cutting quickly swallowed it. It emerged for the last time, tiny as a snake upon a chess-board of far-off fields. Then it dipped into mist; the snake shot into its hole. It was gone. He sighed. It had been so lovely. Why must it vanish so entirely? Once or twice during the day it returned, touched him swiftly on the heart and was gone again. But the waking impression of a dream is never the dream itself. Sunshine destroys the sense of enormous wonder.
'I believe I've been dreaming all night long, and going through all kinds of wild adventures.'
He dressed leisurely, still hunting subconsciously for fragments of that happy dreamland. Its aroma still clung about him. The sunshine poured into the room. He went out on to the balcony and looked at the Alps through his Zeiss field-glasses. The brilliant snow upon the Diablerets danced and sang into his blood; across the broken teeth of the Dent du Midi trailed thin strips of early cloud. Behind him rose great Boudry's massive shoulders, a pyramid of incredible deep blue. And the limestone precipices of La Tourne stood dazzlingly white, catching the morning sunlight full in their face.
The air had the freshness of the sea. Men were singing at their work among the vineyards. The tinkle of cow-bells floated to him from the upper pastures upon Mont Racine. Little sails like sea-gulls dipped across the lake. Goodness, how happy the world was at Bourcelles! Singing, radiant, careless of pain and death. And, goodness, how he longed to make it happier still!
Every day now this morning mood had been the same. Desire to do something for others ran races with little practical schemes for carrying it out. Selfish considerations seemed to have taken flight, all washed away while he slept. Moreover, the thought of his Scheme had begun to oppress him; a touch of shame came with it, almost as though an unworthy personal motive were somewhere in it. Perhaps after all--he wondered more and more now--there had been an admixture of personal ambition in the plan. The idea that it would bring him honour in the eyes of the world had possibly lain there hidden all along. If so, he had not realised it; the depravity had been unconscious. Before the Bourcelles standard of simplicity, artificial elements dropped off automatically, ashamed. ... And a profound truth, fished somehow out of that vanished dreamland, spun its trail of glory through his heart. Kindness that is thanked-for surely brings degradation--a degradation almost as mean as the subscription acknowledged in a newspaper, or the anonymous contribution kept secret temporarily in order that its later advertisement may excite the more applause. Out flashed this blazing truth: kind acts must be instinctive, natural, thoughtless. One hand must be in absolute ignorance of the other's high adventures. ... And when the carpenter's wife brought up his breakfast tray, with the bunch of forest flowers standing in a tumbler of water, she caught him pondering over another boyhood's memory--that friend of his father's who had given away a million anonymously.
... In his heart plans shaped themselves with soft, shy eyes and hidden faces.... He longed to get la famille anglaise straight ... for one thing. ...
It was an hour later, while he still sat dreaming in the sunshine by the open window, that a gentle tap came at the door, and Daddy entered. The visit was a surprise. Usually, until time for dejeuner, he kept his room, busily unwumbling stories. This was unusual. And something had happened to him; he looked different. What was it that had changed? Some veil had cleared away; his eyes were shining. They greeted one another, and Rogers fell shyly to commonplaces, while wondering what the change exactly was.
But the other was not to be put off. He was bursting with something. Rogers had never seen him like this before.
'You've stopped work earlier than usual,' he said, providing the opening. He understood his diffidence, his shyness in speaking of himself. Long disappointments lay so thinly screened behind his unfulfilled enthusiasm.
But this time the enthusiasm swept diffidence to the winds. It had been vitally stirred.
'Early indeed,' he cried. 'I've been working four hours without a break, man. Why, what do you think?--I woke at sunrise, a thing I never do, with--with a brilliant idea in my head. Brilliant, I tell you. By Jove, if only I can carry it out as I see it----!'
'You've begun it already?'
'Been at it since six o'clock, I tell you. It was in me when I woke-- idea, treatment, everything complete, all in a perfect pattern of Beauty.'
There was a glow upon his face, his hair was untidy; a white muffler with blue spots was round his neck instead of collar. One end stuck up against his chin. The safety pin was open.
'By Jove! I am delighted!' Rogers had seen him excited before over a 'brilliant idea,' but the telling of it always left him cold. It touched the intellect, yet not the heart. It was merely clever. This time, however, there was a new thing in his manner. 'How did you get it?' he repeated. Methods of literary production beyond his own doggerels were a mystery to him. 'Sort of inspiration, eh?'
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood