A Prisoner in Fairyland
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,
Or loose the bands of Orion?
Book of Job.
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,
You fairy-cotton rider!'
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
'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
'For I'm a tremendously busy Sweep,
Dusting the room while you're all asleep,
And shoving you all in the rubbish heap,
Over the edge of the tiles'
--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