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We never meet; yet we meet day by day
Our guardian spirits meet at prayer and play.
Beyond all good I ever believed of thee
My angel falls not short. They greet each other.
The arrival at the station interrupted the reverie in which the secretary and his chief both were plunged.
'How odd,' exclaimed Minks, ever observant, as he leaped from the carriage, 'there are no platforms. Everything in Switzerland seems on one level, even the people--everything, that is, except the mountains.'
'Switzerland is the mountains,' laughed his chief.
Minks laughed too. 'What delicious air!' he added, filling his lungs audibly. He felt half intoxicated with it.
After some delay they discovered a taxi-cab, piled the luggage on to it, and were whirled away towards a little cluster of lights that twinkled beneath the shadows of La Tourne and Boudry. Bourcelles lay five miles out.
'Remember, you're not my secretary here,' said Rogers presently, as the forests sped by them. 'You're just a travelling companion.'
'I understand,' he replied after a moment's perplexity. 'You have a secretary here already.'
'His name is Jimbo.'
The motor grunted its way up the steep hill above Colombier. Below them spread the vines towards the lake, sprinkled with lights of farms and villages. As the keen evening air stole down from forest and mountain to greet them, the vehicle turned into the quiet village street. Minks saw the big humped shoulders of La Citadelle, the tapering church spire, the trees in the orchard of the Pension. Cudrefin, smoking a cigar at the door of his grocery shop, recognised them and waved his hand. A moment later Gygi lifted his peaked hat and called 'bon soir, bonne nuit,' just as though Rogers had never gone away at all. Michaud, the carpenter, shouted his welcome as he strolled towards the Post Office farther down to post a letter, and then the motor stopped with a jerk outside the courtyard where the fountain sang and gurgled in its big stone basin. Minks saw the plane tree. He glanced up at the ridged backbone of the building. What a portentous looking erection it was. It seemed to have no windows. He wondered where the famous Den was. The roof overlapped like a giant hood, casting a deep shadow upon the cobbled yard. Overhead the stars shone faintly.
Instantly a troop of figures shot from the shadow and surrounded them. There was a babel of laughter, exclamations, questions. Minks thought the stars had fallen. Children and constellations were mingled all together, it seemed. Both were too numerous to count. All were rushing with the sun towards Hercules at a dizzy speed.
'And this is my friend, Mr. Minks,' he heard repeated from time to time, feeling his hand seized and shaken before he knew what he was about. Mother loomed up and gave him a stately welcome too.
'He wears gloves in Bourcelles!' some one observed audibly to some one else.
'Excuse me! This is Riquette!' announced a big girl, hatless like the rest, with shining eyes. 'It's a she.'
'And this is my secretary, Mr. Jimbo,' said Rogers, breathlessly, emerging from a struggling mass. Minks and Jimbo shook hands with dignity.
'Your room is over at the Michauds, as before.'
'And Mr. Mix is at the Pension--there was no other room to be had---'
'Supper's at seven---'
'Tante Jeanne's been grand-cieling all day with excitement. She'll burst when she sees you!'
'She's read the story, too. Elle dit que c'est le bouquet!'
'There's new furniture in the salon, and they've cleaned the sink while you've been away!...'
The author moved forward out of the crowd. At the same moment another figure, slight and shadowy, revealed itself, outlined against the white of the gleaming street. It had been hidden in the tangle of the stars. It kept so quiet.
'Countess, may I introduce him to you,' he said, seizing the momentary pause. There was little ceremony in Bourcelles. 'This is my cousin I told you about--Mr. Henry Rogers. You must know one another at once. He's Orion in the story.'
He dragged up his big friend, who seemed suddenly awkward, difficult to move. The children ran in and out between them like playing puppies, tumbling against each in turn.
'They don't know which is which,' observed Jinny, watching the introduction. Her voice ran past him like the whir of a shooting star through space--far, far away. 'Excuse me!' she cried, as she cannoned off Monkey against Cousinenry. 'I'm not a terminus! This is a regular shipwreck!'
The three elder ones drew aside a little from the confusion.
'The Countess,' resumed Daddy, as soon as they were safe from immediate destruction, 'has come all the way from Austria to see us. She is staying with us for a few days. Isn't it delightful? We call her the little Grafin.' His voice wumbled a trifle thickly in his beard. 'She was good enough to like the story--our story, you know-- and wrote to me---'
'My story,' said a silvery, laughing voice.
And Rogers bowed politely, and with a moment's dizziness, at two bright smiling eyes that watched him out of the little shadow standing between him and the children. He was aware of grandeur.
He stood there, first startled, then dazed. She was so small. But something about her was so enormous. His inner universe turned over and showed its under side. The hidden thing that so long had brushed his daily life came up utterly close and took him in its gigantic arms. He stared like an unmannered child.
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A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood