A Prisoner in Fairyland
One of the great facts of the world I hold to be the registration in the Universe of
every past scene and thought.
F. W. M.
No place worth knowing yields itself at sight, and those the least inviting on first
view may leave the most haunting pictures upon the walls of memory.
This little village, that Henry Rogers was thus to revisit after so long an interval,
can boast no particular outstanding beauty to lure the common traveller. Its
single street winds below the pine forest; its tiny church gathers close a few
brown-roofed houses; orchards guard it round about; the music of many
fountains tinkle summer and winter through its cobbled yards; and its feet are
washed by a tumbling stream that paints the fields with the radiance of countless
wild-flowers in the spring. But tourists never come to see them. There is no hotel,
for one thing, and ticket agents, even at the railway stations, look puzzled a
moment before they realise where this place with the twinkling name can hide....
Some consult books. Yet, once you get there, it is not easy to get away again.
Something catches the feet and ears and eyes. People have been known to go
with all their luggage on Gygi's handcart to the station--then turn aside at the last
moment, caught back by the purple woods.
A traveller, glancing up at the little three-storey house with 'Poste et Telegraphe'
above the door, could never guess how busy the world that came and went
beneath its red-tiled roof. In spring the wistaria tree (whence the Pension
borrowed its brave name, Les Glycines) hangs its blossoms between 'Poste' and
'Telegraphe,' and the perfume of invisible lilacs drenches the street from the
garden at the back. Beyond, the road dips past the bee-hives of la cure; and
Boudry towers with his five thousand feet of blue pine woods over the horizon.
The tinkling of several big stone fountains fills the street.
But the traveller would not linger, unless he chanced to pass at twelve o'clock
and caught the stream of people going into their mid- day dinner at the Pension.
And even then he probably would not see the presiding genius, Madame Jequier,
for as often as not she would be in her garden, busy with eternal bulbs, and so
strangely garbed that if she showed herself at all, it would be with a shrill,
plaintive explanation--'Mais il ne faut pas me regarder. Je suis invisible!'
Whereupon, consistently, she would not speak again, but flit in silence to and fro,
as though she were one of those spirits she so firmly believed in, and sometimes
talked to by means of an old Planchette.
And on this particular morning the Widow Jequier was 'invisible' in her garden
clothes as Gygi, the gendarme, came down the street to ring the midi bell. Her
mind was black with anxiety. She was not thinking of the troop that came to
dejeuner, their principal meal of the day, paying a franc for it, but rather of the
violent scenes with unpaid tradesmen that had filled the morning-tradesmen who
were friends as well (which made it doubly awkward) and often dropped in
socially for an evening's music and conversation. Her pain darkened the