A Prisoner in Fairyland
Oh! thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.
Doctor Famtus, CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE.
The plop of a water-rat in the pond that occupied the rock-garden in the middle of
the lawn brought him back to earth, and the Vicar's invitation to tea flashed
across his mind.
'Stock Exchange and typewriters!' he exclaimed, 'how rude he'll think me!' And he
rubbed something out of his eyes. He gave one long, yearning glance at the
spangled sky where an inquisitive bat darted zigzag several times between
himself and the Pleiades, that bunch of star-babies as yet unborn, as the blue-
eyed guard used to call them.
'And I shall miss my supper and bed into the bargain!'
He turned reluctantly from his place beside the lime trees, and crossed the lawn
now wet with dew. The whole house seemed to turn its hooded head and watch
him go, staring with amusement in its many lidless eyes. On the front lawn there
was more light, for it faced the dying sunset. The Big and Little Cedar rose from
their pools of shadow, beautifully poised. Like stately dowagers in voluminous
skirts of velvet they seemed to curtsey to him as he passed. Stars like clusters of
sprinkled blossoms hung upon their dignified old heads. The whole place
seemed aware of him. Glancing a moment at the upper nursery windows, he
could just distinguish the bars through which his little hands once netted stars,
and as he did so a meteor shot across the sky its flashing light of wonder. Behind
the Little Cedar it dived into the sunset afterglow. And, hardly had it dipped away,
when another, coming crosswise from the south, drove its length of molten,
shining wire straight against the shoulder of the Big Cedar.
The whole performance seemed arranged expressly for his benefit. The Net was
loosed--this Net of Stars and Thoughts--perhaps to go elsewhere. For this was
taking out the golden nails, surely. It would hardly have surprised him next to see
the Starlight Express he had been dreaming about dart across the heavens
overhead. That cool air stealing towards him from the kitchen-garden might well
have been the wind of its going. He could almost hear the distant rush and
murmur of its flying mass.
'How extraordinarily vivid it all was!' he thought to himself, as he hurried down the
drive. 'What detail! What a sense of reality! How carefully I must have thought
these creatures as a boy! How thoroughly! And what a good idea to go out and
see Jack's children at Bourcelles. They've never known these English sprites. I'll
He thought it out in detail, very vividly indeed. His imagination lingered over it and
gave it singular reality.
Up the road he fairly ran. For Henry Rogers was a punctual man; these last
twenty years he had never once been late for anything. It had been part of the
exact training he had schooled himself with, and the Vicar's invitation was not