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Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,
The feeling that something was going to happen--that odd sense of anticipation--which all had experienced the evening before at tea-time had entirely vanished, of course, next morning. It was a mood, and it had passed away. Every one had slept it off. They little realised how it had justified itself. Jane Anne, tidying the Den soon after seven o'clock, noticed the slip of paper above the mantelpiece, read it over--'The Starlight Express will start to-night. Be reddy!'--and tore it down. 'How could that. have amused us!' she said aloud, as she tossed it into the waste-paper basket. Yet, even while she did so, some stray sensation of delight clutched at her funny little heart, a touch of emotion she could not understand that was wild and very sweet. She went singing about her work. She felt important and grown- up, extraordinarily light-hearted too. The things she sang made up their own words--such odd snatches that came she knew not whence. An insect clung to her duster, and she shook it out of the window with the crumbs and bits of cotton gathered from the table-cloth.
'Get out, you Morning Spider,
she sang, and at the same minute Mother opened the bedroom door and peeped in, astonished at the unaccustomed music. In her voluminous dressing-gown, her hair caught untidily in a loose net, her face flushed from stooping over the porridge saucepan, she looked, thought Jinny, 'like a haystack somehow.' Of course she did not say it. The draught, flapping at her ample skirts, added the idea of a covering tarpaulin to the child's mental picture. She went on dusting with a half-offended air, as though Mother had no right to interrupt her with a superintending glance like this.
'You won't forget the sweeping too, Jinny?' said Mother, retiring again majestically with that gliding motion her abundant proportions achieved so gracefully.
'Of course I won't, Mother,' and the instant the door was closed she fell into another snatch of song, the words of which flowed unconsciously into her mind, it seemed--
'For I'm a tremendously busy Sweep,
--a little wumbled, it is true, but its source unmistakable.
And all day long, with every one, it was similar, this curious intrusion of the night into the day, the sub-conscious into the conscious--a kind of subtle trespassing. The flower of forgotten dreams rose so softly to the surface of consciousness that they had an air of sneaking in, anxious to be regarded as an integral part of normal waking life. Like bubbles in water they rose, discharged their puff of fragrant air, and disappeared again. Jane Anne, in particular, was simply radiant all day long, and more than usually clear-headed. Once or twice she wumbled, but there was big sense in her even then. It was only the expression that evaded her. Her little brain was a poor transmitter somehow.
'I feel all endowed to-day,' she informed Rogers, when he congratulated her later in the day on some cunning act of attention she bestowed upon him. It was in the courtyard where they all sat sunning themselves after dejeuner, and before the younger children returned to afternoon school.
'I feel emaciated, you know,' she added, uncertain whether emancipated was the word she really sought.
'You'll be quite grown-up,' he told her, 'by the time I come back to little Bourcelles in the autumn.' Little Bourcelles! It sounded, the caressing way he said it, as if it lay in the palm of his big brown hand.
'But you'll never come back, because you'll never go,' Monkey chimed in. 'My hair, remember---'
'My trains won't take you,' said Jimbo gravely.
'Oh, a train may take you,' continued Monkey, 'but you can't leave. Going away by train isn't leaving.'
'It's only like going to sleep,' explained her brother. You'll come back every night in a Starlight Express---'
'Because a Starlight Express takes passengers--whether they like it or not. You take an ordinary train, but a starlight train takes you!' added Monkey.
Mother heard the words and looked up sharply from her knitting. Something, it seemed, had caught her attention vividly, though until now her thoughts had been busy with practical things of quite another order. She glanced keenly round at the faces, where all sat grouped upon the stone steps of La Citadelle. Then she smiled curiously, half to herself. What she said was clearly not what she had first meant to say.
'Children, you're not sitting on the cold stone, are you?' she inquired, but a little absent-mindedly.
'We're quite warm; we've got our thick under-neathies on,' was the reply. They realised that only part of her mind was in the, question, and that any ordinary answer would satisfy her.
Mother resumed her knitting, apparently satisfied.
But Jinny, meanwhile, had been following her own train of thought, started by her cousin's description of her as 'grown-up.' The picture grew big and gracious in her mind.
'I wonder what I shall do when my hair goes up?' she observed, apparently a propos de bottes. It was the day, of course, eagerly, almost feverishly, looked forward to.
'Hide your head in a bag probably,' laughed her sister. Jinny flushed; her hair was not abundant. Yet she seemed puzzled rather than offended.
'Never mind,' Rogers soothed her. 'The day a girl puts up her hair, a thousand young men are aware of it,--and one among them trembles.' The idea of romance seemed somehow in the air.
'Oh, Cousinenry!' She was delighted, comforted, impressed; but perplexity was uppermost. Something in his tone of voice prevented impudent comment from the others.
'And all the stars grow a little brighter,' he added. 'The entire universe is glad.'
'I shall be a regular company promoter!' she exclaimed, nearer to wit than she knew, yet with only the vaguest inkling of what he really meant.
'And draw up a Memorandum of Agreement with the Milky Way,' he added, gravely smiling.
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood