Yes, we got down out of that tree. I don't think it even occurred to Charlie I might be worried about it; as he pointed out, climbing in the dark is not much different than climbing it in the light, because you can do it by feel. I think Charlie must do a lot of things by feel, because I've never once seen him use a flashlight at night.
After Litha, not much has changed. We have the same classes and everything. And yet there is a subtle difference--it really feels like summer now, for one thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because there are kids around now. There's a summer camp on campus, it just started up, and while we don't interact with the campers much, we can usually hear them laughing or shrieking or whatever in the distance.
We do have a few new rules to deal with, mostly to do with avoiding the campers. We're not supposed to wear uniforms outdoors if we don't have to, for example. The counselors are all students here, but the kids at the camp are mostly outsiders, and I guess it's just easier if the campers don't realize how strange we are and start asking questions.
We do have to wear uniforms for Dead Poet's Society, though, cloaks included. We have to keep the hoods up, and Charlie doesn't want us talking in the Grape Arbor, except for poetry. I thought this was really strange, until I found out we would have guests; some of the camp kids show up for the meetings.
So this past time, we met in the grape arbor, and right after we got started our group started filling up with small people--I think some of them were around six. And we ignored them, except when one of them offered some poetry. I try to imagine how this looked--a dozen or so grown-ups wearing hooded capes in the candle-light and speaking only in poetry--and I'd think it would be pretty scary. I also think if it wasn't scary it would probably be pretty boring, especially for the littlest ones. And it was really late at night--we meet at ten, past the camper's bed-time, I'm sure. When we ended the meeting the kids ran off, disappearing into the night like little shadows. And instead of disappearing himself, Charlie lowered his hood and grinned.
"Some of them were your family, right?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, they make this happen. They're my instigators."
"Yeah, instigators. I sent them to camp, and they talk the others into sneaking out to meet us."
"It's not against the rules, is it?" I asked, surprised. After all, the camp is run by Charlie's employer.
"Oh, no--but we make sure they don't know that," he explained, with another grin.
"What happens if they get caught? I'm sure somebody tells, now and then. Do you just admit it's not against the rules?"
"Oh, no. Where would be the fun in that? When somebody tells, the miscreants are severely punished--they are sentenced to spend all day with the groundskeeper."
It took about a minute for this to sink in. Charlie, of course, is the groundskeeper.
"Some of them were really young. Do they really like this?" I asked. "Will they come back?"
"Maybe not," Charlie answered, starting to put out the candles and pack up. "A lot of them don't come back, but some do. Some kids come back for all six years of camp. I've watched children grow up, here in this grape arbor, or in my gardens."
"That must be some kid, to keep sneaking out for poetry with grown-ups," I commented.
"It's more than that, I think. Those kids bear watching."
And with that, Charlie walked away. And I kept thinking about those kids, sneaking out. I've been to a couple of Kit's storytelling workshops, and a lot of the stories involve kids who grew up with fairies, were stolen by fairies, or even just slept with their ears against fairy hills. And these kids grow up strange, touched by magic, and become artists or adventurers themselves. And when Charlie said the kids who return to Dead Poet's Society would bear watching, that's what I thought of, those people in Kit's stories whose lives are touched by fairies. But I've always wondered, is it the fairy magic, the coincidence of falling asleep with one's ear to the right hill, that changes these people, or does contact with fairies happen only to people who are already a bit strange?
I asked Charlie, this morning, when I saw him, whether he thinks those kids bear watching as a result of attending Dead Poet's Society, or is liking Dead Poet's Society just a sign of an extraordinary kid? He took my question seriously, frowning for a moment, a quick light in his eyes that happens when I've surprised him somehow, but for answer he merely said "I don't know," thoughtfully.
I'm looking forward to the next meeting, looking forward to when I get to be one of the strange, tall grown-ups in hooded cloaks by candle-light. Dead Poet's Society, if you've seen the movie, is supposed to be against the rules, a kind of deliciousness we've been missing, because, of course, it's organized by a teacher. But with these kids, we get to be outlaws. For them, we get to be fairies and elves.
Charlie says we have to keep our hoods up around them, and we can't talk normally. I suppose that's to stop our being recognized, or even saying each others' names. Charlie keeps his own hood up, and, apart from those few sentenced to spend the day with the groundskeeper, I suppose most of them don't know who he really is. He says he's watched kids grow up like this, but I suppose a lot of them never even learn his name.
For them, he must simply be the Elven King.
[Next Post: Monday, June 24th: Curious Assignments]