Tuesday, 25 November 2008
This morning I received a letter. The letter was from a lady who lives near a park and she told me... oh, look I'll just tell you and you decide.
It seems that this lady had a daughter and the daughter used to go and sit in the park when she wanted to read. She liked the peace and the only animals that bothered her were the occasional curious dog or a hungry squirrel who wished to enquire if she might spare them something. This lady's house it appears had a few other children beside the daughter and they could be somewhat noisy as children are apt to be.
It appears that very early one morning, the daughter, called Opal took a few sandwiches, a flask of tea and the book she was reading and went out to the park. It was a cool crisp morning, slightly misty but with the promise of sunshine later. Opal found the park gates locked, but climbed over the fence and went to her usual place by the fountain.
Now it is a little known fact that if you want to see the faeries (and it a good idea not to see them if you can help it) dawn and dusk at twilight are the best times. Opal did not know that. She was a sensible girl who did not believe in faeries because they were not scientific. Also because her littlest sister wanted to be a faery and Opal thought her littlest sister far too childish.
She thought nothing of the old lady who came and sat beside her. It did not occur to her to wonder immediately how the old lady might have climbed over the park fence. The old lady was very small and very, very old. She wore a red dress and had a green apron and was as wizened as a walnut. She might have been drawn by Arthur Rackham, the illustrator. For a little while, she sat and said nothing. Opal who was a polite girl, shut her book and bid the old lady 'good morning'.
"And good morning to you miss," the old lady answered.
"Chilly isn't it?" Opal remarked, adding 'But it's supposed to clear up later.'
"Hum," said the old lady.
Opal felt a little hungry and had pulled out her sandwiches and tea. She offered the old lady some and the old lady gratefully took the food and they ate in a companionable silence. Opal gazed upon the fountain of Apollo in the centre of the park. Yesterday, a businessman had walked past in the morning with his briefcase in hand and his head bowed with thoughts of business. He had not even gazed in awe upon the fountain. Opal guessed that he had passed the fountain every day until it seemed irrelevant to him. I should not like that to happen to me, she'd thought.
"Wouldn't it be funny," she said now, "If Apollo and Diana came to life? I wonder what they would think of the park."
The old lady smiled and vanished, much to Opal's surprise. A little later her surprise increased when the statue of Apollo, as if kissed by the sunlight seemed to stretch and move. The dark bronze of his skin seemed to pale and flush with warm colour and his hair seemed to blaze like bright gold. He removed the helmet from his head and cast it down into the waters. His radiant sister Diana also seemed to pale and blush. She lowered her bow arm and turned to the deer by which she knelt. Her face was warm and as beautiful as her brothers, yet she seemed paler somehow and strong. Her brother upon his plinth frowned, then leapt to the ground, his lyre in hand. He took his sister's hand and they gazed about the park. Seeing Opal, sitting open-mouthed, they strode up to her.
"Where is this place, child?" Diana asked her gently.
Opal told her feeling how mundane it seemed saying it to a goddess. Diana smiled at her and repeated the words as if they felt strange in her mouth. Opal had a few jam sandwiches left and not knowing what to do, asked them both if they'd like one. You just asked a god and a goddess if they'd like a jam sandwich, she thought to herself flatly. Apollo took one and inspected it.
"It's food," Opal said cautiously.
Apollo ate it and smiled. Seeing this, Diana took one also and sat beside Opal, placing her bow against the bench and her arm about Opal's waist. She felt warm and comforting somehow, like Opal's mother. Had she but known it, Opal's mother (and the writer of the letter I received) was watching this in shock from her bedroom window. She did not know what to say or do. She watched the three of them eat the sandwiches and even drink tea and then opened the window to call for Opal.
However, having opened the window, she was struck silent for Apollo began to play his lyre. The music was clear and pure like the waters of the fountain. It sprang up and gently awoke the world as the sun rose. Diana began to get sleepy however and Opal, suddenly filled with love for the goddess embraced her and kissed her soft face. She helped the goddess to stretch out upon the bench and rest her head upon Opal's lap. Still Apollo sang and the birds in the trees joined him. Dogs in the nearby houses fell silent, their ears alert, their eyes bright with anticipation. Cats awoke, yawned and stretched. People awoke as if newly refreshed from their slumbers and hearing the music, all their fears and worries fell away. The day seemed newer and better than before. Apollo paused and in that instant, Opal's mother called out to her.
Suddenly, as if a bubble had burst, Apollo and Diana vanished to appear suddenly upon the fountain again. But Opal smiled to see them. For now, Apollo's bright hair was gilded upon the bronze statue and Diana had left her bow leaning against the park bench beside Opal. Nearby, Opal seemed to hear a little wizened old lady laughing.