A Prisoner in Fairyland
La vie est un combat qu'ils ont change en fete.
Lei Elus, E. VERHAIREN.
The excitement a few days later spread through the village like a flame. People
came out of their way to steal a glance at the Pension that now, for the first time
in their--memory, was free of debt. Gygi, tolling the bell at midi, forgot to stop, as
he peered through the narrow window in the church tower and watched the
Widow Jequier planting and digging recklessly in her garden. Several came
running down the street, thinking it was a warning of fire.
But the secret was well kept; no one discovered who had worked the miracle.
Pride sealed the lips of the beneficiaries themselves, while the inhabitants of the
Citadelle, who alone shared the knowledge, kept the facts secret, as in honour
bound. Every one wondered, however, for every one knew the sum ran into
several thousand francs; and a thousand francs was a fortune; the rich man in
the corner house, who owned so many vineyards, and was reputed to enjoy an
income of ten thousand francs a year, was always referred to as 'le million naire.'
And so the story spread that Madame Jequier had inherited a fortune, none knew
whence. The tradespeople treated her thereafter with a degree of respect that
sweetened her days till the end of life.
She had come back from the Bank in a fainting condition, the sudden joy too
much for her altogether. A remote and inaccessible air pervaded her, for all the
red of her inflamed eyes and tears. She was aloof from the world, freed at last
from the ceaseless, gnawing anxiety that for years had eaten her life out. The
spirits had justified themselves, and faith and worship had their just reward. But
this was only the first, immediate effect: it left her greater than it found her, this
unexpected, huge relief--brimming with new sympathy for others. She doubled
her gifts. She planned a wonderful new garden. That very night she ordered such
a quantity of bulbs and seedlings that to this day they never have been planted.
Her interview with Henry Rogers, when she called at the carpenter's house in all
her finery, cannot properly be told, for it lay beyond his powers of description. Her
sister accompanied her; the Postmaster, too, snatched fifteen minutes from his
duties to attend. The ancient tall hat, worn only at funerals as a rule, was
replaced by the black Trilby that had been his portion from the Magic Box, as he
followed the excited ladies at a reasonable distance. 'You had better show
yourself,' his wife suggested; 'Monsieur Rogairs would like to see you with us--to
know that you are there.' Which meant that he was not to interfere with the actual
thanksgiving, but to countenance the occasion with his solemn presence. And,
indeed, he did not go upstairs. He paced the road beneath the windows during
the interview, looking exactly like a professional mourner waiting for the arrival of
'My dear old friend--friends, I mean,' said Rogers in his fluent and very dreadful
French, 'if you only knew what a pleasure it is to me--It is I who should thank you
for giving me the opportunity, not you who should thank me.' The sentence broke