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See, the busy Pleiades,
The prophecy of the children that Bourcelles was a difficult place to get away from found its justification next morning, for Rogers slept so heavily that he nearly missed his train. It was six o'clock when he tumbled downstairs, too late for a real breakfast, and only just in time to get his luggage upon the little char that did duty for all transport in this unsophisticated village. The carpenter pulled it for him to the station.
'If I've forgotten anything, my cousin will send it after me,' he told Mme. Michaud, as he gulped down hot coffee on the steps.
'Or we can keep it for you,' was the answer. 'You'll be coming back soon.' She knew, like the others, that one always came back to Bourcelles. She shook hands with him as if he were going away for a night or two. 'Your room will always be ready,' she added. 'Ayez la bonte seulement de m'envoyer une petite ligne d'avance.'
'There's only fifteen minutes,' interrupted her husband, 'and it's uphill all the way.'
They trundled off along the dusty road, already hot in the early July sun. There was no breath of wind; swallows darted in the blue air; the perfume of the forests was everywhere; the mountains rose soft and clear into the cloudless sky. They passed the Citadelle, where the awning was already being lowered over the balcony for Mlle. Lemaire's bed to be wheeled out a little later. Rogers waved his handkerchief, and saw the answering flutter inside the window. Riquette, on her way in, watched him from the tiles. The orchards then hid the lower floors; he passed the tinkling fountain; to the left he saw the church and the old Pension, the wistaria blossoms falling down its walls in a cascade of beauty.
The Postmaster put his head out and waved his Trilby hat with a solemn smile. 'Le barometre est tres haut...' floated down the village street, instead of the sentence of good-bye. Even the Postmaster took it for granted that he was not leaving. Gygi, standing in the door of his barn, raised his peaked hat and smiled. 'Fait beau, ce matin,' he said, 'plus tard il fera rudement chaud.' He spoke as if Rogers were off for a walk or climb. It was the same everywhere. The entire village saw him go, yet behaved as if he was not really leaving. How fresh and sweet the morning air was, keen mountain fragrance in it, and all the delicious, delicate sharpness of wet moss and dewy fields.
As he passed the courtyard near the Guillaume Tell, and glanced up at the closed windows of Mother Plume's apartment, a pattering step startled him behind, and Jimbo came scurrying up. Rogers kissed him and lifted him bodily upon the top of his portmanteau, then helped the carpenter to drag it up the hill. 'The barriers at the level crossing are down, the warning gongs are ringing. It's signalled from Auvernier.' They were only just in time. The luggage was registered and the train panting up the steep incline, when Monkey, sleep still thick in her eyes, appeared rolling along the white road. She was too breathless to speak; she stood and stared like a stuffed creature in a Museum. Jimbo was beside the engine, having a word with the mecanicien.
'Send a telegram, you know--like that,' he shouted, as the carriage slid past him, 'and we'll bring the char.' He knew his leader would come back. He took his cap off politely, as a man does to a lady--the Bourcelles custom. He did not wave his handkerchief or make undignified signs. He stood there, watching his cousin to the last, and trying to see the working of the engine at the same time. He had already told him the times and stopping places, and where he had to change; there was nothing more for a man to say.
Monkey, her breath recovered now, shouted something impudent from the road. 'The train will break down with you in it before it gets to Pontarlier, and you'll be back for tea--worse luck!' He heard it faintly, above the grinding of the wheels. She blew him a kiss; her hair flew out in a cloud of brown the sunshine turned half golden. He almost saw the shining of her eyes. And then the belt of the forest hid her from view, hid Jimbo and the village too. The last thing he saw of Bourcelles was the top of the church spire and the red roof of the towering Citadelle. The crest of the sentinel poplar topped them both for a minute longer, waved a slight and stately farewell, then lowered itself into the forest and vanished in its turn.
And Rogers came back with a start and a bump to what is called real life.
He closed his eyes and leaned back in his corner, feeling he had suddenly left his childhood behind him for the second time, not gradually as it ought to happen, but all in one dreadful moment. A great ache lay in his heart. The perfect book of fairy-tales he had been reading was closed and finished. Weeks had passed in the delicious reading, but now the last page was turned; he came back to duty--duty in London--great, noisy, overwhelming London, with its disturbing bustle, its feverish activities, its complex, artificial, unsatisfying amusements, and its hosts of frantic people. He grew older in a moment; he was forty again now; an instant ago, just on the further side of those blue woods, he had been fifteen. Life shrank and dwindled in him to a little, ugly, unattractive thing. He was returning to a flat in the dolorous edifice of civilisation. A great practical Scheme, rising in sombre bricks and mortar through a disfiguring fog, blocked all the avenues of the future.
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood