A Prisoner in Fairyland
A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the
Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and
Tomlinson, R. KIPLING.
The boy presently came up in a cloud of dust with the key, and ran off again with
a shilling in his pocket, while Henry Rogers, budding philanthropist and re-
awakening dreamer, went down the hill of memories at high speed that a doctor
would have said was dangerous, a philosopher morbid, and the City decreed
unanimously as waste of time.
He went over the house from cellar to ceiling...
And finally he passed through a back door in the scullery and came out upon the
lawn. With a shock he realised that a long time had intervened. The dusk was
falling. The rustle of its wings was already in the shrubberies. He had missed the
tea hour altogether. And, as he walked there, so softly that he hardly disturbed
the thrushes that busily tapped the dewy grass for supper, he knew suddenly that
he was not alone, but that shadowy figures hid everywhere, watching, waiting,
wondering like himself. They trooped after him, invisible and silent, as he went
about the old familiar garden, finding nothing changed. They were so real that
once he stopped beneath the lime trees, where afternoon tea was served in
summer, and where the Long Walk began its haunted, shadowy existence--stood
still a moment and called to them--
'Is any one there? Come out and show yourselves....!'
And though his voice fell dead among the foliage, winning echoes from spots
whence no echoes possibly could come, and rushing back upon him like a
boomerang, he got the curious impression that it had penetrated into certain
corners of the shrubberies where it had been heard and understood. Answers did
not come. They were no more audible than the tapping of the thrushes, or the
little feet of darkness that ran towards him from the eastern sky. But they were
there. The troop of Presences drew closer. They had been creeping on all fours.
They now stood up. The entire garden was inhabited and alive.
'He has come back!'
It ran in a muted whisper like a hush of wind. The thrill of it passed across the
lawn in the dusk. The dark tunnel of the Long Walk filled suddenly to the brim.
The thrushes raised their heads, peeping sideways to listen, on their guard. Then
the leaves opened a little and the troop ventured nearer. The doors and windows
of the silent, staring house had also opened. From the high nursery windows
especially, queer shapes of shadow flitted down to join the others. For the sun
was far away behind the cedars now, and that Net of Starlight dropped
downwards through the air. So carefully had he woven it years ago that hardly a
mesh was torn....