Be thou my star, and thou in me be seen
And he rather astonished the imperturbable Minks next day by the announcement that he was thinking of going abroad for a little holiday. 'When I return, it will be time enough to take up the Scheme in earnest,' he said. For Minks had brought a sheaf of notes embodying the results of many hours' labour, showing what others had already done in that particular line of philanthropy.
'Very good indeed, Minks, very good. I'll take 'em with me and make a careful study of the lot. I shall be only gone a week or so,' he added, noticing the other's disappointment. For the secretary had hoped to expound these notes himself at length. 'Take a week's holiday yourself,' he added. 'Mrs. Minks might like to get to the sea, perhaps. There'll only be my letters to forward. I'll give you a little cheque.' And he explained briefly that he was going out to Bourcelles to enjoy a few days' rest before they attacked great problems together. After so many years of application to business he had earned it. Crayfield, it seemed, had given him a taste for sentimental journeys. But the fact was, too, the Tramp, the Dustman, the Lamplighter, and the Starlight Express were all in his thoughts still.
And it was spring. He felt this sudden desire to see his cousin again, and make the acquaintance of his cousin's children. He remembered how the two of them had tramped the Jura forests as boys. They had met in London at intervals since. He dictated a letter to him then and there --Minks taking it down like lightning--and added a postscript in his own handwriting:--
'I feel a longing,' he wrote, 'to come out and see the little haven of rest you have chosen, and to know your children. Our ways have gone very far apart--too far--since the old days when we climbed out of the windows of la cure with a sheet, and tramped the mountains all night long. Do you remember? I've had my nose on the grindstone ever since, and you've worked hard too, judging by your name in publishers' lists. I hope your books are a great success. I'm ashamed I've never any time to read now. But I'm "retired" from business at last and hope to do great things. I'll tell you about a great Scheme I have in hand when we meet. I should like your advice too.
'Any room will do--sunny aspect if possible. And please give my love to your children in advance. Tell them I shall come out in the Starlight Express. Let me have a line to say if it's all right.'
In due course the line--a warm-hearted one--arrived. Minks came to Charing Cross to see him off, the gleam of the sea already in his pale-blue eyes.
'The Weather Report says "calm," Mr. Rogers,' he kept repeating. 'You'll have a good crossing, I hope and trust. I'm taking Mrs. Minks myself---'
'Yes, yes, that's good,' was the quick reply. 'Capital. And--let me see-I've got your notes with me, haven't I? I'll draft out a general plan and send it to you as soon as I get a moment. You think over it too, will you, while I'm away. And enjoy yourself at the same time. Put your children in the sea--nothing like the sea for children--sea and sun and sand and all that sort of thing.'
'Thank you very much, Mr. Rogers, and I trust---'
Somebody bumped against him, cutting short a carefully balanced sentence that was intended to be one-third good wishes, one-third weather remark, and the last third Mrs. Minks. Her letter of thanks had never been referred to. It rankled, though very slightly.
'What an absurd-looking person!' exclaimed the secretary to himself, following the aggressor with one eye, and trying to recapture the lost sentence at the same time. 'They really should not allow such people in a railway terminus,' he added aloud. The man was ragged and unkempt to the last degree--a sort of tramp; and as he bought a ticket at the third-class wicket, just beyond, he kept looking up slyly at Minks and his companion. 'The way he knocked against me almost seemed intentional,' Minks thought. The idea of pickpockets and cleverly disguised detectives ran confusedly in his mind. He felt a little flustered for some reason.
'I beg your pardon,' Mr. Rogers was saying to a man who tried to push in front of him. 'But we must each take our turn, you know.' The throng of people was considerable. This man looked like a dustman. He, too, was eagerly buying a ticket, but had evidently mistaken the window. 'Third-class is lower down I think,' Mr. Rogers suggested with a touch of authority.
'What a lot of foreigners there are about,' remarked Minks. 'These stations are full of suspicious characters.' The notice about loitering flashed across him.
He took the ticket Mr. Rogers handed to him, and went off to register the luggage, and when later he joined his chief at the carriage door he saw him talking to a couple of strangers who seemed anxious to get in.
'I took this corner seat for you, Mr. Rogers,' he explained, both to prove his careful forethought and to let the strangers know that his master was a person of some importance. They were such an extraordinary couple too! Had there been hop-pickers about he could have understood it. They were almost figures of masquerade; for while one resembled more than anything else a chimney-sweep who had forgotten to wash his face below the level of the eyes, the other carried a dirty sack across his shoulders, which apparently he had just been trying to squeeze into the rack.
They moved off when they saw Minks, but the man with the sack made a gesture with one hand, as though he scattered something into the carriage through the open door.
The secretary threw a reproachful look at a passing guard, but there was nothing he could do. People with tickets had a right to travel. Still, he resented these crowding, pushing folk. 'I'm sorry, Mr. Rogers,' he said, as though he had chosen a poor train for his honoured chief; 'there must be an excursion somewhere. There's a big fete of Vegetarians, I know, at Surbiton to-day, but I can hardly think these people---'
A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood