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'Woke with it, I tell you,' continued his cousin, twisting the muffler so that it tickled his ear now instead of his chin. 'It must have come to me in sleep----' 'In sleep,' exclaimed the other; 'you dreamt it, then?'
'Kind of inspiration business. I've heard of that sort of thing, but never experienced it----' The author paused for breath.
'What is it? Tell me.' He remembered how ingenious details of his patents had sometimes found themselves cleared up in the morning after refreshing slumber. This might be something similar. 'Let's hear it,' he added; 'I'm interested.'
His cousin's recitals usually ended in sad confusion, so that all he could answer by way of praise was--' You ought to make something good out of that. I shall like to read it when you've finished it.' But this time, he felt, there was distinctly a difference. There were new conditions.
The older man leaned closer, his face alight, his manner shyly, eagerly confidential. The morning sunshine blazed upon his untidy hair. A bread crumb from breakfast still balanced in his beard.
'It's difficult to tell in a few words, you see,' he began, the enthusiasm of a boy in his manner, 'but--I woke with the odd idea that this little village might be an epitome of the world. All the emotions of London, you see, are here in essence--the courage and cowardice, the fear and hope, the greed and sacrifice, the love and hate and passion--everything. It's the big world in miniature. Only--with one difference.'
'That's good,' said Rogers, trying to remember when it was he had told his cousin this very thing. Or had he only thought it? 'And what is the difference?'
'The difference,' continued the other, eyes sparkling, face alight, 'that here the woods, the mountains and the stars are close. They pour themselves in upon the village life from every side--above, below, all round. Flowers surround it; it dances to the mountain winds; at night it lies entangled in the starlight. Along a thousand imperceptible channels an ideal simplicity from Nature pours down into it, modifying the human passions, chastening, purifying, uplifting. Don't you see? And these sweet, viewless channels--who keeps them clean and open? Why, God bless you----. The children! My children!'
'By Jingo, yes; your children.'
Rogers said it with emphasis. But there was a sudden catch at his heart; he was conscious of a queer sensation he could not name. This was exactly what he had felt himself--with the difference that his own thought had been, perhaps, emotion rather than a reasoned-out idea. His cousin put it into words and gave it form. A picture--had he seen it in a book perhaps?--flashed across his mind. A child, suspiciously like Monkey, held a pen and dipped it into something bright and flowing. A little boy with big blue eyes gathered this shining stuff in both hands and poured it in a golden cataract upon the eyelids of a sleeping figure. And the figure had a beard. It was a man ... familiar. ... A touch of odd excitement trembled through his undermind ... thrilled ... vanished. ...
All dived out of sight again with the swiftness of a darting swallow. His cousin was talking at high speed. Rogers had lost a great deal of what he had been saying.
'... it may, of course, have come from something you said the other night as we walked up the hill to supper--you remember?--something about the brilliance of our stars here and how they formed a shining network that hung from Boudry and La Tourne. It's impossible to say. The germ of a true inspiration is never discoverable. Only, I remember, it struck me as an odd thing for you to say. I was telling you about my idea of the scientist who married--no, no, it wasn't that, it was my story of the materialist doctor whom circumstances compelled to accept a position in the Community of Shakers, and how the contrast produced an effect upon his mind of--of--you remember, perhaps? It was one or the other; I forget exactly,'--then suddenly-- 'No, no, I've got it--it was the analysis of the father's mind when he found----'
'Yes, yes,' interrupted Rogers. 'We were just passing the Citadelle fountain. I saw the big star upon the top of Boudry, and made a remark about it.' His cousin was getting sadly wumbled. He tried to put severity and concentration into his voice.
'That's it,' the other cried, head on one side and holding up a finger, 'because I remember that my own thought wandered for a moment --thought will, you know, in spite of one's best effort sometimes--and you said a thing that sent a little shiver of pleasure through me for an instant--something about a Starlight Train--and made me wonder where you got the idea. That's it. I do believe you've hit the nail on the head. Isn't it curious sometimes how a practical mind may suggest valuable material to the artist? I remember, several years ago----'
'Starlight Express, wasn't it?' said his friend with decision in his voice. He thumped the table vigorously with one fist. 'Keep to the point, old man. Follow it out. Your idea is splendid.'
'Yes, I do believe it is.' Something in his voice trembled.
One sentence in particular Rogers heard, for it seemed plucked out of the talk he had with the children in the forest that day two weeks ago.
'You see, all light meets somewhere. It's all one, I mean. And so with minds. They all have a common meeting-place. Sympathy is the name for that place--that state--they feel with each other, see flash-like from the same point of view for a moment. And children are the conduits. They do not think things out. They feel them, eh?' He paused an instant.
'For you see, along these little channels that the children--my children, as I think I mentioned--keep sweet and open, there might troop back into the village--Fairyland. Not merely a foolish fairyland of make-believe and dragons and princesses imprisoned in animals, but a fairyland the whole world needs--the sympathy of sweet endeavour, love, gentleness and sacrifice for others. The stars would bring it-- starlight don't you see? One might weave starlight in and out everywhere--use it as the symbol of sympathy--and--er--so on---'
Rogers again lost the clue. Another strangely familiar picture, and then another, flashed gorgeously before his inner vision; his mind raced after them, yet never caught them up. They were most curiously familiar. Then, suddenly, he came back and heard his cousin still talking. It was like a subtle plagiarism. Too subtle altogether, indeed, it was for him. He could only stare and listen in amazement.
But the recital grew more and more involved. Perhaps, alone in his work-room, Daddy could unwumble it consistently. He certainly could not tell it. The thread went lost among a dozen other things. The interfering sun had melted it all down in dew and spider gossamer and fairy cotton. ...
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood