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Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
He lifts me to the golden doors;
Miss Waghorn, of late, had been unusually trying, and especially full of complaints. Her poor old memory seemed broken beyond repair. She offered Madame Jequier her weekly payment twice within ten minutes, and was quite snappy about it when the widow declined the second tender.
'But you had the receipt in your hand wizin ten minutes ago, Mees Wag'orn. You took it upstairs. The ink can hardly be now already yet dry.' But nothing would satisfy her that she had paid until they went up to her room together and found it after much searching between her Bible and her eternal novel on the writing-table.
'Forgive me, Madame, but you do forget sometimes, don't you?' she declared with amusing audacity. 'I like to make quite sure--- especially where money is concerned.' On entering the room she had entirely forgotten why they came there. She began complaining, instead, about the bed, which had not yet been made. A standing source of grumbling, this; for the old lady would come down to breakfast many a morning, and then go up again before she had it, thinking it was already late in the day. She worried the pensionnaires to death, too. It was their duty to keep the salon tidy, and Miss Waghorn would flutter into the room as early as eight o'clock, find the furniture still unarranged, and at once dart out again to scold the girls. These interviews were amusing before they became monotonous, for the old lady's French was little more than 'nong pas' attached to an infinitive verb, and the girls' Swiss-German explanations of the alleged neglect of duty only confused her. 'Nong pas faire la chambre,' she would say, stamping her foot with vexation. 'You haven't done the room, though it's nearly dejooner time!' Or else--'Ten minutes ago it was tidy. Look at it now!' while she dragged them in and forced them to put things straight, until some one in authority came and explained gently her mistake. 'Oh, excuse me, Madame,' she would say then, 'but they do forget so often.' Every one was very patient with her as a rule.
And of late she had been peculiarly meddlesome, putting chairs straight, moving vases, altering the lie of table-cloths and the angle of sofas, opening windows because it was 'so stuffy,' and closing them a minute later with complaints about the draught, forcing occupants of arm-chairs to get up because the carpet was caught, fiddling with pictures because they were crooked either with floor or ceiling, and never realising that in the old house these latter were nowhere parallel. But her chief occupation was to prevent the children crossing their legs when they sat down, or pulling their dresses lower, with a whispered, 'You must not cross your legs like that; it isn't ladylike, dear.'
She had been very exasperating and interfering. Tempers had grown short. Twice running she had complained about the dreadful noise the pensionnaires made at seven o'clock in the morning. 'Nong pas creer comme ca!' she called, running down the passage in her dressing-gown and bursting angrily into their rooms without knocking--to find them empty. The girls had left the day before.
But to-day (the morning after the Star Cave adventure) the old lady was calmer, almost soothed, and at supper she was composed and gentle. Sleep, for some reason, had marvellously refreshed her. Attacks that opened as usual about Cornish Cream or a Man with a long Beard, she repelled easily and quietly. 'I've told you that story before, my dear; I know I have.' It seemed her mind and memory were more orderly somehow. And the Widow Jequier explained how sweet and good-natured she had been all day--better than for years. 'When I took her drops upstairs at eleven o'clock I found her tidying her room; she was sorting her bills and papers. She read me a letter she had written to her nephew to come out and take her home--well written and quite coherent. I've not known her mind so clear for months. Her memory, too. She said she had slept so well. If only it would last, helas!'
'There are days like that,' she added presently, 'days when everything goes right and easily. One wakes up happy in the morning and sees only the bright side of things. Hope is active, and one has new courage somehow.' She spoke with feeling, her face was brighter, clearer, her mind less anxious. She had planned a visit to the Bank Manager about the mortgages. It had come as an inspiration. It might be fruitless, but she was hopeful, and so knew a little peace. 'I wonder why it is,' she added, 'and what brings these changes into the heart so suddenly.'
'Good sleep and sound digestion,' Mrs. Campden thought. She expressed her views deliberately like this in order to counteract any growth of fantasy in the children.
'But it is strange,' her husband said, remembering his new story; 'it may be much deeper than that. While the body sleeps the spirit may get into touch with helpful forces----' His French failed him. He wumbled painfully.
'Thought-forces possibly from braver minds,' put in Rogers. 'Who knows? Sleep and dreaming have never really been explained.' He recalled a theory of Minks.
'I dream a great deal,' Miss Waghorn observed, eager to take part. 'It's delightful, dreaming--if only one could remember!' She looked round the table with challenge in her eager old eyes. But no one took her up. It involved such endless repetition of well-known stories. The Postmaster might have said a word--he looked prepared--but, not understanding English, he went on with his salad instead.
'Life is a dream,' observed Monkey, while Jinny seemed uncertain whether she should laugh or take it seriously.
The Widow Jequier overheard her. There was little she did not overhear.
'Coquine!' she said, then quoted with a sentimental sigh:--
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood