Part 3 out of 3
Serchia over the gully of the muddy Apennines, for upon the 18th of June,
1901, it was broken down in the middle of the night, and very nearly cost
the life of a man who could ill afford it. The place where a bridge is
most needed, and is not present, is the Ford of Fornovo. The place where
there is most bridge and where it is least needed is the railway bridge
at Venice. The bridge that trembles most is the Bridge of Piacenza. The
bridge that frightens you most is the Brooklyn Bridge, and the bridge that
frightens you least is the bridge in St. James's Park; for even if you
are terrified by water in every form, as are too many boastful men, you
must know, or can be told, that there is but a dampness of some inches in
the sheet below. The longest bridge for boring one is the railway bridge
across the Somme to St. Valery, whence Duke William started with a
horseshoe mouth and very glum upon his doubtful adventure to invade these
shores--but there was no bridge in his time. The shortest bridge is made
of a plank, in the village of Loudwater in the county of Bucks, not far
from those Chiltern Hundreds which men take in Parliament for the good of
their health as a man might take the waters. The most entertaining bridge
is the Tower Bridge, which lifts up and splits into two just as you are
beginning to cross it, as can be testified by a cloud of witnesses. The
broadest bridge is the Alexandre III Bridge in Paris, at least it looks
the broadest, while the narrowest bridge, without a shadow of doubt, is
the bridge that was built by ants in the moon; if the phrase startles you
remember it is only in a novel by Wells.
The first elliptical bridge was designed by a monk of Cortona, and the
first round one by Adam....
But one might go on indefinitely about bridges and I am heartily tired of
them. Let them cross and recross the streams of the world. I for my part
will stay upon my own side.
A BLUE BOOK
I have thought it of some value to contemporary history to preserve the
following document, which concerns the discovery and survey of an island
in the North Atlantic, which upon its discovery was annexed by the United
States in the first moments of their imperial expansion, and was given the
name of "Atlantis."
The island, which appears to have been formed by some convulsion of
nature, disappeared the year after its discovery, and the report drawn up
by the Commissioners is therefore very little known, and has of course
no importance in the field of practical finance and administration. But
it is a document of the highest and most curious interest as an example
of the ideas that guided the policy of the Great Republic at the moment
when the survey was undertaken; and English readers in particular will
be pleased to note the development and expansion of English methods and
of characteristic English points of view and institutions throughout the
Any one who desires to consult the maps, etc., which I have been unable
to reproduce in this little volume, must refer to the Record Office at
Washington. My only purpose in reprinting these really fascinating pages
in such a volume as this is the hope that they may give pleasure to many
who would not have had the opportunity to consult them in the public
archives where they have hitherto been buried.
A. 2. E. 331 ff.
REPORT OF THE THREE COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE
REPUBLIC TO REPORT UPON THE POTENTIAL RESOURCES, SITUATION, ETC., OF THE
NEW ISLAND KNOWN AS "ATLANTIS," RECENTLY DISCOVERED IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
AND ANNEXED TO THE REPUBLIC, TOGETHER WITH A RECOMMENDATION ON FUTURE
TREATMENT OF SAME.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC.
Your Honour's three Commissioners, Joshua Hogg, Abraham Bush and Jack
Bimber, being of sound mind, solvent, and in good corporeal health, all
citizens of more than five years' standing, and domiciled within the
boundaries, frontiers or terms of the Republic, do make oath and say, So
Help Them God:--
[Sidenote: _Arrival off Atlantis_.]
I. That on the 20th of the month of July, being at that time in or about
Latitude 45 N. and betwixt and between Longitude 51 W. and 51.10 W., so
near as could be made out, the captain of the steamboat "Glory of the
Morning Star" (chartered _for this occasion only_ by the Government
of the Republic, without any damage, precedent or future lien whatsoever),
by name James Murphy, of Cork, Ireland, and domiciled within the aforesaid
terms, boundaries, etc., did in a loud voice at about 4.33 a.m., when it
was already light, cry out "That's Hur," or words to that effect. Your
three Commissioners being at that moment in the cabin, state-room or cuddy
in the forward part of the ship (see annexed plan), came up on deck and
were ordered or enjoined to go below by those having authority on the
"Glory of the Morning Star." Your three Commissioners desire individually
and collectively to call attention to the fact that this order was
obeyed, being given under the Maritime Acts of 1853, and desire also to
protest against the indignity offered in their persons to the majesty of
the Republic. (See Attorney-General's Plea, Folio 56, M.) At or about
_6.30_ a.m. of the same day, July 20th, your Commissioners were
called upon deck, and there was put at their disposal a beat manned by
four sailors, who did thereupon and with all due dispatch row them towards
the island, at that moment some two miles off the weather bow, that is
S.S.W. by S. of the "Glory of the Morning Star." They did then each
individually and all collectively land, disembark and set foot upon the
Island of Atlantis and take possession thereof in the name of Your Honour
and the Republic, displaying at the same time a small flag 19" x 6" in
token of the same, which flag was distinctly noted, seen, recorded and
witnessed by the undersigned, to which they put their hand and seal,
trusting in the guidance of Divine Providence.
[Sidenote: _Shape and Dimensions of the Island_]
II. Your Commissioners proceeded at once to a measurement of the aforesaid
island of Atlantis, which they discovered to be of a triangular or
three-cornered shape, in dimensions as follows: On the northern face from
Cape Providence (q.v.) to Cape Mercy (q.v.), one mile one furlong and a
bit. On the south-western face from Cape Mercy (q.v.) to Point Liberty
(q.v.), seven furlongs, two roods and a foot. On the south-eastern face,
which is the shortest face, from Point Liberty (q.v.) round again to Cape
Providence (q.v.), from which we started, something like half a mile, and
not worth measuring. These dimensions, lines, figures, measurements and
plans they do submit to the public office of Record as accurate and done
to the best of their ability by the undersigned: So Help Them God. (SEAL.)
[Sidenote: _Appearance and Structure of the Island_.]
III. It will be seen from the above that the island is in shape an
Isosceles triangle, as it were, pointing in a north-westerly direction
and having a short base turned to the south-east, contains some 170 acres
or half a square mile, and is situate in a temperate latitude suited to
the Anglo-Saxon Race. As to material or structure, it is composed of sand
(_see its specimens in glass phial_), the said sand being of a yellow
colour when dry and inclining to a brown colour where it may be wet by the
sea or by rain.
[Sidenote: _Springs and Rivers_.]
IV. There are no springs or rivers in the Island.
[Sidenote: _Hills and Mountains_.]
V. There are no mountains on the Island, but there is in the North a
slight hummock some fifteen feet in height. To this hummock we have
given (saving your Honour's Reverence) the name of "Mount Providence"
in commemoration of the manifold and evident graces of Providence in
permitting us to occupy and develop this new land in the furtherance of
true civilization and good government. The hill is at present too small
to make a feature in the landscape, but we have great hopes that it will
grow. (See _Younger_ on "The Sand Dunes of Picardy," Vol. II, pp.
VI. The Island is difficult of approach as it slopes up gradually from the
sea bottom and the tides are slight. At high water there is no sounding
of more than three fathoms for about a mile and a half from shore; but at
a distance of two miles soundings of five and six fathoms are common, and
it would be feasible in fine weather for a vessel of moderate draught to
land her cargo, passengers, etc. in small boats. Moreover a harbour might
be built as in our Recommendations (q.v.). There is on the northern side
a bay (caused by indentation of the land) which we think suitable to the
purpose and which, in Your Honour's honour, we have called Buggins' Bay.
[Sidenote: Capes and Headlands.]
VII. These are three, as above enumerated (q.v.); one, the most
precipitous and bold, we have called Cape _Providence_ (q.v.) for
reasons which appear above; the second, Cape _Mercy_, in recognition
of the great mercy shown us in finding this place without running on it
as has been the fate of many a noble vessel. The third we called Point
_Liberty_ from the nature of those glorious institutions which are
the pride of the Republic and which we intend to impose upon any future
inhabitants. These titles, which are but provisional, we pray may remain
and be Enregistered under the seal, notwithstanding the "Act to Restrain
Nuisances and Voids" of 1819, Cap. 2.
VIII. The climate is that of the North Atlantic known as the "Oceanic."
Rain falls not infrequently, and between November and April snow is not
unknown. In summer a more genial temperature prevails, but it is never so
hot as to endanger life or to facilitate the progress of epidemic disease.
Wheat, beans, hops, turnips, and barley could be grown did the soil permit
of it. But we cannot regard an agricultural future as promising for the
HERE ENDETH your Commissioners' Report.
JOSHUA HOGG. ABRAHAM BUSH. JACOBUS BIMBER.
* * * * *
Your Commissioners being also entrusted with the privilege of making
Recommendations, submit the following without prejudice and all pursuants
to the contrary notwithstanding.
As to the _land_: your Commissioners recommend that it should be
held by the State in conformity with those principles which are gaining
a complete ascendancy among the Leading Nations of the Earth. This might
then be let out at its full value to private individuals who would make
what they could of it, leaving the Economic Rent to the community. For
the individual did not make the land, but the State did.
This power of letting the land should, they recommend, be left in the
hands of a _Chartered Company_. Your Commissioners will provide
the names of certain reputable and wealthy citizens who will be glad to
undertake the duty of forming and directing this company, and who will act
on the principle of unsalaried public service by the upper classes, which
is the chief characteristic of our civilization. I. Jacobs, Esq., and Z.
Lewis, Esq. (to be directors of the proposed Chartered Company) have
already volunteered in this matter.
Your Commissioners recommend that the Chartered Company should be granted
the right to strike coins of copper, nickel, silver and gold, the first
three to be issued at three times eight times and twice the value of
the metals respectively, the said currency to be on a gold basis and
mono-metallic and not to exceed the amount of $100 _per capita_.
Your Commissioners further recommend that the same authority be empowered
to issue paper money in proportions of 165% to the gold reserve, the right
to give high values to pieces of paper having proved in the past of the
greatest value to those who have obtained it.
Your Commissioners recommend the building of a stone harbour out to sea
without encroaching on the already exiguous dimensions of the land. They
propose two piers, each some mile and a half long, and built of Portland
rock, an excellent quarry of which is to be discovered on the property
of James Barber, Esq., of Maryville, Kent County, Conn. The stone could
be brought to Atlantis at the lowest rates by the Wall Schreiner line of
floats. In this harbour, if it be sufficiently deepened and its piers set
wide enough apart, the navies of the world could be contained, and it
would be a standing testimony to the energy of our race, "which maketh
the desert to blossom like a rose" (Lev. XXII. 3, 2).
Your Commissioners also recommend an artesian well to be sunk until fresh
water be discovered. This method has been found successful in Australia,
which is also an island and largely composed of sand. It is said that this
method of irrigation produces astonishing results.
Finally, in the matter of industry your Commissioners propose (not, of
course, as a unique industry but as a staple) the packing of sardines. A
sound system of fair trade based upon a tariff scientifically adjusted
to the conditions of the Island should develop the industry rapidly.
Everything lends itself to this: the skilled labour could be imparted
from home, the sardines from France, and the tin and oil from Spain. It
would need for some years an export Bounty somewhat in the nature of
Protection, the scale of which would have to be regulated by the needs
of the community, but they are convinced that when once the industry was
established, the superior skill of our workmen and the enterprise of
our capitalists would control the markets of the world.
As to political rights, we recommend that Atlantis should be treated as a
territory, and that a sharp distinction should be drawn between Rural and
Urban conditions; that the inhabitants should not be granted the franchise
till they have shown themselves worthy of self-government, saving, of
course, those immigrants (such as the negroes of Carolina, etc.) who have
been trained in the exercise of representative institutions. All Religions
should be tolerated except those to which the bulk of the community show
an implacable aversion. Education should be free to all, compulsory upon
the poor, non-sectarian, absolutely elementary, and subject, of course,
to the paramount position of that gospel which has done so much for our
dear country. The sale of Intoxicants should be regulated by the Company,
and these should be limited to a little spirits: wine and beer and all
alcoholic liquors habitually used as beverages should be rigorously
forbidden to the labouring classes, and should only be supplied in _bona
fide_ clubs with a certain minimum yearly subscription.
IN CONCLUSION your Commissioners will ever pray, etc.
MS. note added at the end in the hand of Mr. Charles P. Hands, the curator
of this section:
(_The Island was lost--luckily with no one aboard--during the storms
of the following winter. This report still possesses, however, a strong
PERIGEUX OF THE PERIGORD
I knew a man once. I met him in a wooden inn upon a bitterly cold day.
He was an American, and we talked of many things. At last he said to me:
"Have you ever seen the Matterhorn?"
"No," said I; for I hated the very name of it. Then he continued:
"It is the most surprising thing I ever saw."
"By the Lord," said I, "'you have found the very word!" I took out a
sketch-book and noted his word "surprising." What admirable humour had
this American; how subtle and how excellent a spirit! I have never seen
the Matterhorn; but it seems that one comes round a corner, and there it
is. It is surprising! Excellent word of the American. I never shall forget
An elephant escapes from a circus and puts his head in at your window
while you are writing and thinking of a word. You look up. You may be
alarmed, you may be astonished, you may be moved to sudden processes of
thought; but one thing you will find about it, and you will find out quite
quickly, and it will dominate all your other emotions of the time: the
elephant's head will be surprising. You are caught. Your soul says loudly
to its Creator: "Oh, this is something new!"
So did I first see in the moonlight up the quite unknown and quite
deserted valley which the peak of the Dead Man dominates in a lonely
and savage manner the main crest of the Pyrenees. So did I first see a
land-fall when I first went overseas. So did I first see the Snowdon range
when I was a little boy, having, until I woke up that morning and looked
out of the windows of the hotel, never seen anything in my life more
uplifted than the rounded green hills of South England.
Now the cathedral of St. Front in Perigeux of the Perigord is the most
surprising thing in Europe. It is much more surprising than the hills--for
a man made it. Man made it hundreds and hundreds of years ago; man has
added to it, and, by the grace of his enthusiasm and his disciplined
zeal, man has (thank God!) scraped, remodelled, and restored it. Upon my
soul, to see such a thing I was proud to be an Anthropoid, and to claim
cousinship with those dark citizens of the Dordogne and of Garonne and of
the Tarn and of the Lot, and of whatever rivers fall into the Gironde. I
know very well that they have sweated to indoctrinate, to persecute, to
trim, to improve, to exterminate, to lift up, to cast down, to annoy, to
amuse, to exasperate, to please, to enmusic, to offend, to glorify their
kind. In some of these energies of theirs I blame them, in others I
praise; but it is plainly evident that they know how to binge. I wished
(for a moment) to be altogether of their race, like that strong cavalry
man of their race to whom they have put up a statue pointing to his wooden
leg. What an incredible people to build such an incredible church!
The Clericals claim it, the anti-Clericals adorn it. The Christians bemoan
within it the wickedness of the times. The Atheists are baptized in it,
married in it, denounced in it, and when they die are, in great coffins
surrounded by great candles, to the dirge of the _Dies Ira_, to the
booming of the vast new organ, very formally and determinedly absolved
in it; and holy water is sprinkled over the black cloth and cross of
silver. The pious and the indifferent, nay, the sad little army of
earnest, intelligent, strenuous men who still anxiously await the death
of religion--they all draw it, photograph it, paint it; they name their
streets, their hotels, their villages, and their very children after it.
It is like everything else in the world: it must be seen to be believed.
It rises up in a big cluster of white domes upon the steep bank of the
river. And sometimes you think it a fortress, and sometimes you think it
a town, and sometimes you think it a vision. It is simple in plan and
multiple in the mind; and after all these years I remember it as one
remembers a sudden and unexpected chorus. It is well worthy of Perigeux of
Perigeux of the Perigord is Gaulish, and it has never died. When it was
Roman it was Vesona; the temple of that patron Goddess still stands at its
eastern gate, and it is one of those teaching towns which have never died,
but in which you can find quite easily and before your eyes every chapter
of our worthy story. In such towns I am filled as though by a book, with a
contemplation of what we have done, and I have little doubt for our sons.
The city reclines and is supported upon the steep bank of the Isle just
where the stream bends and makes an amphitheatre, so that men coming in
from the north (which is the way the city was meant to be entered--and
therefore, as you may properly bet, the railway comes in at the other side
by the back door) see it all at once: a great sight. One goes up through
its narrow streets, especially noting that street which is very nobly
called after the man who tossed his sword in the air riding before the
Conqueror at Hastings, Taillefer. One turns a narrow corner between houses
very old and very tall, and then quite close, no longer a vision, but a
thing to be touched, you see--to use the word again--the "surprising"
thing. You see something bigger than you thought possible.
Great heavens, what a church!
Where have I heard a church called "the House of God"? I think it was in
Westmorland near an inn called "The Nag's Head"--or perhaps "The Nag's
Head" is in Cumberland--no matter, I did once hear a church so called. But
this church has a right to the name. It is a gathering-up of all that men
could do. It has fifty roofs, it has a gigantic signal tower, it has blank
walls like precipices, and round arch after round arch, and architrave
after architrave. It is like a good and settled epic; or, better still, it
is like the life of a healthy and adventurous man who, having accomplished
all his journeys and taken the Fleece of Gold, comes home to tell his
stories at evening, and to pass among his own people the years that are
left to him of his age. It has experience and growth and intensity of
knowledge, all caught up into one unity; it conquers the hill upon which
it stands. I drew one window and then another, and then before I had
finished that a cornice, and then before I had finished that a porch,
for it was evening when I saw it, and I had not many hours.
Music, they say, does something to the soul, filling it full of
unsatisfied but transcendent desires, and making it guess, in glimpses
that mix and fail, the soul's ultimate reward or destiny. Here, in
Perigeux of the Perigord, where men hunt truffles with hounds, stone set
in a certain order does what music is said to do. For in the sight of this
standing miracle I could believe and confess, and doubt and fear, and
control, all in one.
Here is, living and continuous, the Empire in its majority and
its determination to be eternal. The people of the Perigord, the
truffle-hunting people, need never seek civilization nor fear its death,
for they have its symbol, and a sacrament, as it were, to promise them
that the arteries of the life of Europe can never be severed. The arches
and the entablatures of this solemn thing are alive.
It was built some say nine, some say eight hundred years ago; its apse was
built yesterday, but the whole of it is outside time.
In human life, which goes with a short rush and then a lull, like the wind
among trees before rains, great moments are remembered; they comfort us
and they help us to laugh at decay. I am very glad that I once saw this
church in Perigeux of the Perigord.
When I die I should like to be buried in my own land, but I should take it
as a favour from the Bishop, who is master of this place, if he would come
and give my coffin an absolution, and bring with him the cloth and the
silver cross, and if he would carry in his hand (as some of the statues
have) a little model of St. Front, the church which I have seen and which
renewed my faith.
There is a place where the valley of the Allier escapes from the central
mountains of France and broadens out into a fertile plain.
Here is a march or boundary between two things, the one familiar to most
English travellers, the other unfamiliar. The familiar thing is the rich
alluvium and gravel of the Northern French countrysides, the poplar trees,
the full and quiet rivers, the many towns and villages of stone, the broad
white roads interminable and intersecting the very fat of prosperity,
and over it all a mild air. The unfamiliar is the mass of the Avernian
Mountains, which mass is the core and centre of Gaul and of Gaulish
history, and of the unseen power that lies behind the whole of that
The plains are before one, the mountains behind one, and one stands in
that borderland. I know it well.
I have said that in the Avernian Mountains was the centre of Gaul and the
power upon which the history of Gaul depends. Upon the Margeride, which is
one of their uttermost ridges, du Guesclin was wounded to death. One may
see the huge stones piled up on the place where he fell. In the heart of
those mountains, at Puy, religion has effects that are eerie; it uses odd
high peaks for shrines--needles of rock; and a long way off all round is a
circle of hills of a black-blue in the distance, and they and the rivers
have magical names--the river Red Cap and Chaise Dieu, "God's Chair."
In these mountains Julius Caesar lost (the story says) his sword; and
in these mountains the Roman armies were staved off by the Avernians.
They are as full of wonder as anything in Europe can be, and they are
complicated and tumbled all about, so that those who travel in them with
difficulty remember where they have been, unless indeed they have that
general eye for a countryside which is rare nowadays among men.
Just at the place where the mountain land and the plain land meet, where
the shallow valleys get rounder and less abrupt, I went last September,
following the directions of a soldier who had told me how I might find
where the centre of the manoeuvres lay. The manoeuvres, attempting to
reproduce the conditions of war, made a drifting scheme of men upon either
side of the River Sioule. One could never be certain where one would find
I had come up off the main road from Vichy, walking vaguely towards the
sound of the firing. It was unfamiliar. The old and terrible rumble has
been lost for a generation; even the plain noise of the field-piece which
used to be called "90" is forgotten by the young men now. The new little
guns pop and ring. And when you are walking towards them from a long way
off you do not seem to be marching towards anything great, but rather
towards something clever. Nevertheless it is as easy to-day as ever it
was to walk towards the sound of cannon.
Two valleys absolutely lonely had I trudged-through since the sun rose,
and it was perhaps eight o'clock when I came upon one of those lonely
walled parks set in bare fields which the French gentry seem to find
homelike enough. I asked a man at the lodge about how far the position
was. He said he did not know, and looked upon me with suspicion.
I went down into the depth of the valley, and there I met a priest who was
reading his Breviary and erroneously believed me (if I might judge his
looks) to be of a different religion, for he tested philosophy by clothes;
and this, by the way, is unalterably necessary for all mankind. When,
however, he found by my method of address that I knew his language and
was of his own faith, he became very courteous, and when I told him that
I wanted to find the position he became as lively as a linesman, making
little maps with his stick in the earth, and waving his arms, and making
great sweeps with his hand to show the way in which the army had been
drifting all morning, northward and eastward, above the Sioule, with the
other division on the opposite bank, and how, whenever there was a bridge
to be fought for, the game had been to pretend that one or the other had
got hold of it. Of this priest it might truly be said, as was said of
the priest of Thiers in the Forez, that chance had made him a choir-boy,
but destiny had designed him for the profession of arms; and upon this
one could build an interesting comedy of how chance and destiny are
perpetually at issue, and how chance, having more initiative and not
being so bound to routine, gets the better of destiny upon all occasions
Well, the priest showed me in this manner whither I should walk, and so I
came out of the valley on to a great upland, and there a small boy (who
was bullying a few geese near a pond) showed much the same excitement as
the priest when he told me at what village I should find the guns.
That village was a few miles further on. As I went along the straight,
bare road, with stubble upon either side, I thought the sound of firing
got louder; but then, again, it would diminish, as the batteries took a
further and a further position in their advance. It was great fun, this
sham action, with its crescent of advancing fire and one's self in the
centre of the curve. At the next village I had come across the arteries
of the movement. By one road provisionment was going off to the right;
by another two men with messages, one a Hussar on horseback, the other a
Reservist upon a bicycle, went by me very quickly. Then from behind some
high trees in a churchyard there popped out a lot of little Engineers, who
were rolling a great roll of wire along. So I went onwards; and at last
I came to a cleft just before the left bank of the Sioule. This cleft
appeared deserted: there was brushwood on its sides and a tiny stream
running through it. On the ridge beyond were the roofs of a village. The
firing of the pieces was now quite close and near. They were a little
further than the houses of the hamlet, doubtless in some flat field where
the position was favourable to them. Down that cleft I went, and in its
hollow I saw the first post, but as yet nothing more. Then when I got to
the top of the opposing ridge I found the whole of the 38th lolling under
the cover of the road bank. From below you would have said there were no
men at all. The guns were right up beyond the line, firing away. I went up
past the linesmen till I found the guns.
And what a pretty sight! They were so small and light and delicate! There
was no clanking, and no shouting, and to fire them a man pulled a mere
trigger. I thought to myself: "How simple and easy our civilization
becomes. Think of the motor-cars, and how they purr. Think of the simple
telephone, and all the other little things." And with this thought in my
mind I continued to watch the guns. Without yells or worry a man spoke
gently to other men, and they all limbered up, quite easily. The weight
seemed to have gone since my time. They trotted off with the pieces, and
when they crossed the little ditch at the edge of the field I waited for
the heavy clank-clank and the jog that ought to go with that well-known
episode; but I did not hear it, and I saw no shock. They got off the
field with its little ditch on to the high road as a light cart with good
springs might have done. And when they massed themselves under the cover
of a roll of land it was all done again without noise. I thought a little
sadly that the world had changed. But it was all so pretty and sensible
that I hardly regretted the change. There was a stretch of road in front
where nothing on earth could have given cover. The line was on its
stomach, firing away, and it was getting fired at apparently, in the sham
of the manoeuvre from the other side of the Sioule. As it covered this
open space the line edged forward and upward. When a certain number of the
38th had worked up like this, the whole bunch of them, from half a mile
down the road, right through the village, were moved along, and the head
of the column was scattered to follow up the firing. It was like spraying
water out of a tap. The guns still stood massed, and then at a sudden
order which was passed along as though in the tones of a conversation
(and again I thought to myself, "Surely the world is turning upside down
since I was a boy") they started off at a sharp gallop and leapt, as it
were, the two or three hundred yards of open road between cover and cover.
They were very well driven. The middle horses and the wheelers were doing
their work: it was not only the leaders that kept the traces taut. It was
wonderfully pretty to see them go by: not like a storm but like a smoke.
No one could have hit those gunners or those teams. Whether they were on
the sky-line or not I could not tell, but at any rate they could have been
seen just for that moment from beyond the Sioule. And when they massed up
again, beyond--some seconds afterwards--one heard the pop-pop from over
the valley, which showed they had been seen just too late.
Hours and hours after that I went on with the young fellows. The guns I
could not keep with: I walked with the line. And all the while as I walked
I kept on wondering at the change that comes over European things. This
army of young men doing two years, with its odd silence and its sharp
twittering movements, and the sense of eyes all round one, of men glancing
and appreciating: individual men catching an opportunity for cover; and
commanding men catching the whole countryside.... Then, in the early
afternoon, the bugles and the trumpets sounded that long-drawn call which
has attended victories and capitulations, and which is also sounded every
night to tell people to put out the lights in the barrack-rooms. It is the
French "Cease fire." And whether from the national irony or the national
economy, I know not, but the stopping of either kind of fire has the
same call attached to it, and you must turn out a light in a French
barrack-room to the same notes as you must by command stop shooting at the
The game was over. I faced the fourteen miles back to Gannat very stiff.
All during those hours I had been wondering at the novelty of Europe, and
at all these young men now so different, at the silence and the cover, and
the hefty, disposable little guns. But when I had my face turned southward
again to get back to a meal, that other aspect of Europe, its eternity,
was pictured all abroad. For there right before me stood the immutable
mountains, which stand enormous and sullen, but also vague at the base,
and, therefore, in their summits, unearthly, above the Limagne. There was
that upper valley of the Allier down which Casar had retreated, gathering
his legions into the North, and there was that silent and menacing sky
which everywhere broods over Auvergne, and even in its clearest days seems
to lend the granite and the lava land a sort of doomed hardness, as though
Heaven in this country commanded and did not allure. Never had I seen a
landscape more mysterious than those hills, nor at the same time anything
There is a river called the Eure which runs between low hills often
wooded, with a flat meadow floor in between. It so runs for many miles.
The towns that are set upon it are for the most part small and rare,
and though the river is well known by name, and though one of the chief
cathedrals of Europe stands near its source, for the most part it is not
visited by strangers.
In this valley one day as I was drawing a picture of the woods I found a
wandering Englishman who was in the oddest way. He seemed by the slight
bend at his knees and the leaning forward of his head to have no very
great care how much further he might go. He was in the clothes of an
English tourist, which looked odd in such a place, as, for that matter,
they do anywhere. He had upon his head a pork-pie hat which was of the
same colour and texture as his clothes, a speckly brown. He carried a
thick stick. He was a man over fifty years of age; his face was rather
hollow and worn; his eyes were very simple and pale; he was bearded with a
weak beard, and in his expression there appeared a constrained but kindly
weariness. This was the man who came up to me as I was drawing my picture.
I had heard him scrambling in the undergrowth of the woods just behind me.
He came out and walked to me across the few yards of meadow. The haying
was over, so he did the grass no harm. He came and stood near me,
irresolutely, looking vaguely up and across the valley towards the further
woods, and then gently towards what I was drawing. When he had so stood
still and so looked for a moment he asked me in French the name of the
great house whose roof showed above the more ordered trees beyond the
river, where a park emerged from and mixed with the forest. I told him the
name of the house, whereupon he shook his head and said that he had once
more come to the wrong place.
I asked him what he meant, and he told me, sitting down slowly and
carefully upon the grass, this adventure:
"First," said he, "are you always quite sure whether a thing is really
there or not?"
"I am always quite sure," said I; "I am always positive."
He sighed, and added: "Could you understand how a man might feel that
things were really there when they were not?"
"Only," said I, "in some very vivid dream, and even then I think a man
knows pretty well inside his own mind that he is dreaming." I said that it
seemed to me rather like the question of the cunning of lunatics; most of
them know at the bottom of their silly minds that they are cracked, as you
may see by the way they plot and pretend.
"You are not sympathetic with me," he said slowly, "but I will
nevertheless tell you what I want to tell you, for it will relieve me, and
it will explain to you why I have again come into this valley." "Why do
you say 'again'?" said I.
"Because," he answered gently, "whenever my work gives me the opportunity
I do the same thing. I go up the valley of the Seine by train from Dieppe;
I get out at the station at which I got out on that day, and I walk across
these low hills, hoping that I may strike just the path and just the
mood--but I never do."
"What path and what mood?" said I.
"I was telling you," he answered patiently, "only you were so brutal about
reality." And then he sighed. He put his stick across his knees as he sat
there on the grass, held it with a hand on either side of his knees, and
so sitting bunched up began his tale once more.
"It was ten years ago, and I was extremely tired, for you must know that
I am a Government servant, and I find my work most wearisome. It was just
this time of year that I took a week's holiday. I intended to take it in
Paris, but I thought on my way, as the weather was so fine, that I would
do something new and that I would walk a little way off the track. I had
often wondered what country lay behind the low and steep hills on the
right of the railway line.
"I had crossed the Channel by night," he continued, a little sorry for
himself, "to save the expense. It was dawn when reached Rouen, and there I
very well remember drinking some coffee which I did not like, and eating
some good bread which I did. I changed carriages at Rouen because the
express did not stop at any of the little stations beyond. I took a slower
train, which came immediately behind it, and stopped at most of the
stations. I took my ticket rather at random for a little station between
Pont de l'Arche and Mantes. I got out at that little station, and it was
still early--only midway through the morning.
"I was in an odd mixture of fatigue and exhilaration: I had not slept and
I would willingly have done so, but the freshness of the new day was upon
me, and I have always had a very keen curiosity to see new sights and to
know what lies behind the hills.
"The day was fine and already rather hot for June. I did not stop in the
village near the station for more than half an hour, just the time to take
some soup and a little wine; then I set out into the woods to cross over
into this parallel valley. I knew that I should come to it and to the
railway line that goes down it in a very few miles. I proposed when I came
to that other railway line on the far side of the hills to walk quietly
down it as nearly parallel to it as I could get, and at the first station
to take the next train for Chartres, and then the next day to go from
Chartres to Paris. That was my plan.
"The road up into the woods was one of those great French roads which
sometimes frighten me and always weary me by their length and insistence:
men seem to have taken so much trouble to make them, and they make me
feel as though I had to take trouble myself; I avoid them when I walk.
Therefore, so soon as this great road had struck the crest of the hills
and was well into the woods (cutting through them like the trench of a
fortification, with the tall trees on either side) I struck out into a
ride which had been cut through them many years ago and was already half
overgrown, and I went along this ride for several miles.
"It did not matter to me how I went, since my design was so simple and
since any direction more or less westward would enable me to fulfil it,
that is, to come down upon the valley of the Eure and to find the single
railway line which leads to Chartres. The woods were very pleasant on that
June noon, and once or twice I was inclined to linger in their shade and
sleep an hour. But--note this clearly--I did not sleep. I remember every
moment of the way, though I confess my fatigue oppressed me somewhat
as the miles continued.
"At last by the steepness of a new descent I
recognized that I had crossed the watershed and was coming down into the
valley of this river. The ride had dwindled to a path, and I was wondering
where the path would lead me when I noticed that it was getting more
orderly: there were patches of sand, and here and there a man had cut and
trimmed the edges of the way. Then it became more orderly still. It was
all sanded, and there were artificial bushes here and there--I mean bushes
not native to the forest, until at last I was aware that my ramble had
taken me into some one's own land, and that I was in a private ground.
"I saw no great harm in this, for a traveller, if he explains himself,
will usually be excused; moreover, I had to continue, for I knew no
other way, and this path led me westward also. Only, whether because my
trespassing worried me or because I felt my own dishevelment more acutely,
the lack of sleep and the strain upon me increased as I pursued those
last hundred yards, until I came out suddenly from behind a screen of
rosebushes upon a large lawn, and at the end of it there was a French
country house with a moat round it, such as they often have, and a stone
bridge over the moat.
"The chateau was simple and very grand. The mouldings upon it pleased me,
and it was full of peace. Upon the further side of the lawn, so that I
could hear it but not see it, a fountain was playing into a basin. By the
sound it was one of those high French fountains which the people who built
such houses as these two hundred years ago delighted in. The plash of it
was very soothing, but I was so tired and drooping that at one moment it
sounded much further than at the next.
"There was an iron bench at the edge of the screen of roses, and hardly
knowing what I did,--for it was not the right thing to do in another
person's place--I sat down on this bench, taking pleasure in the sight of
the moat and the house with its noble roof, and the noise of the fountain.
I think I should have gone to sleep there and at that moment--for I felt
upon me worse than ever the strain of that long hot morning and that long
night journey--had not a very curious thing happened."
Here the man looked up at me oddly, as though to see whether I disbelieved
him or not; but I did not disbelieve him.
I was not even very much interested, for I was trying to make the trees to
look different one from the other, which is an extremely difficult thing:
I had not succeeded and I was niggling away. He continued with more
"The thing that happened was this: a young girl came out of the house
dressed in white, with a blue scarf over her head and crossed round her
neck. I knew her face as well as possible: it was a face I had known all
my youth and early manhood--but for the life of me I could not remember
"When one is very tired," I said, "that does happen to one: a name one
knows as well as one's own escapes one. It is especially the effect of
lack of sleep."
"It is," said he, sighing profoundly; "but the oddness of my feeling it is
impossible to describe, for there I was meeting the oldest and perhaps the
dearest and certainly the most familiar of my friends, whom," he added,
hesitating a moment, "I had not seen for many years. It was a very great
pleasure ... it was a sort of comfort and an ending. I forgot, the moment
I saw her, why I had come over the hills, and all about how I meant to get
to Chartres.... And now I must tell you," added the man a little awkwardly,
"that my name is Peter."
"No doubt," said I gravely, for I could not see why he should not bear
"My Christian name," he continued hurriedly.
"Of course," said I, as sympathetically as I could. He seemed relieved
that I had not even smiled at it.
"Yes," he went on rather quickly, "Peter--my name is Peter. Well, this
lady came up to me and said, 'Why, Peter, we never thought you would
come!' She did not seem very much astonished, but rather as though I had
come earlier than she had expected. 'I will get Philip,' she said. 'You
remember Philip?' Here I had another little trouble with my memory: I did
remember that there was a Philip, but I could not place him. That was odd,
you know. As for her, oh, I knew _her_ as well as the colour of the
sky: it was her name that my brain missed, as it might have missed my own
name or my mother's.
"Philip came out as she called him, and there was a familiarity between
them that seemed natural to me at the time, but whether he was a brother
or a lover or a husband, or what, I could not for the life of me remember.
"'You look tired,' he said to me in a kind voice that I liked very much
and remembered clearly. 'I am,' said I, 'dog tired.' 'Come in with us,' he
said, 'and we will give you some wine and water. When would you like to
eat?' I said I would rather sleep than eat. He said that could easily be
"I strolled with them towards the house across that great lawn, hearing
the noise of the fountain, now dimmer, now nearer; sometimes it seemed
miles away and sometimes right in my ears. Whether it was their
conversation or my familiarity with them or my fatigue, at any rate, as I
crossed the moat I could no longer recall anything save their presence. I
was not even troubled by the desire to recall anything; I was full of a
complete contentment, and this surging up of familiar things, this surging
up of it in a foreign place, without excuse or possible connexion or any
explanation whatsoever, seemed to me as natural as breathing.
"As I crossed the bridge I wholly forgot whence I came or whither I was
going, but I knew myself better than ever I had known myself, and every
detail of the place was familiar to me.
"Here I had passed (I thought) many hours of my childhood and my boyhood
and my early manhood also. I ceased considering the names and the relation
of Philip and the girl.
"They gave me cold meat and bread and excellent wine, and water to mix
with it, and as they continued to speak even the last adumbrations of care
fell off me altogether, and my spirit seemed entirely released and free.
My approaching sleep beckoned to me like an easy entrance into Paradise.
I should wake from it quite simply into the perpetual enjoyment of this
place and its companionship. Oh, it was an absolute repose!
"Philip took me to a little room on the ground floor fitted with the
exquisite care and the simplicity of the French: there was a curtained
bed, a thing I love. He lent me night clothes, though it was broad day,
because he said that if I undressed and got into the bed I should be much
more rested; they would keep everything quiet at that end of the house,
and the gentle fall of the water into the moat outside would not disturb
me. I said on the contrary it would soothe me, and I felt the benignity of
the place possess me like a spell. Remember that I was very tired and had
not slept for now thirty hours.
"I remember handling the white counterpane and noting the delicate French
pattern upon it, and seeing at one corner the little red silk coronet
embroidered, which made me smile. I remember putting my hand upon the cool
linen of the pillow-case and smoothing it; then I got into that bed and
fell asleep. It was broad noon, with the stillness that comes of a summer
noon upon the woods; the air was cool and delicious above the water of the
moat, and my windows were open to it.
"The last thing I heard as I dropped asleep was her voice calling to
Philip in the corridor. I could have told the very place. I knew that
corridor so well. We used to play there when we were children. We used to
play at travelling, and we used to invent the names of railway stations
for the various doors. Remembering this and smiling at the memory, I fell
at once into a blessed sleep.
"...I do not want to annoy you," said the man apologetically, "but I
really had to tell you this story, and I hardly know how to tell you the
end of it."
"Go on," said I hurriedly, for I had gone and made two trees one exactly
like the other (which in nature was never seen) and I was annoyed with
"Well," said he, still hesitating and sighing with real sadness, "when
I woke up I was in a third-class carriage; the light was that of late
afternoon, and a man had woken me by tapping my shoulder and telling me
that the next station was Chartres.... That's all."
He sighed again. He expected me to say something. So I did. I said without
much originality: "You must have dreamed it."
"No," said he, very considerably put out, "that is the point! I didn't! I
tell you I can remember exactly every stage from when I left the railway
train in the Seine Valley until I got into that bed."
"It's all very odd," said I.
"Yes," said he, "and so was my mood; but it was real enough. It was the
second or third most real thing that has ever happened to me. I am quite
certain that it happened to me."
I remained silent, and rubbed out the top of one of my trees so as to
invent a new top for it, since I could not draw it as it was. Then, as he
wanted me to say something more, I said: "Well, you must have got into the
"Of course," said he.
"Well, where did you get into the train?"
"I don't know."
"Your ticket would have told you that."
"I think I must have given it up to the man," he answered doubtfully, "the
guard who told me that the next station was Chartres."
"Well, it's all very mysterious," I said.
"Yes," he said, getting up rather weakly to go on again, "it is." And
he sighed again. "I come here every year. I hope," he added a little
wistfully, "I hope, you see, that it may happen to me again ... but it
"It will at last," said I to comfort him.
And, will you believe it, that simple sentence made him in a moment
radiantly happy; his face beamed, and he positively thanked me, thanked me
"You speak like one inspired," he said. (I confess I did not feel like it
at all.) "I shall go much lighter on my way after that sentence of yours."
He bade me good-bye with some ceremony and slouched off, with his eyes set
towards the west and the more distant hills.
THE WAY TO FAIRYLAND
A child of four years old, having read of Fairyland and of the people in
it, asked only two days ago, in a very popular attitude of doubt, whether
there were any such place, and, if so, where it was; for she believed in
her heart that the whole thing was a pack of lies.
I was happy to be able to tell her that her scepticism, though well
founded, was extreme. The existence of Fairyland, I was able to point out
to her both by documentary evidence from books and also by calling in the
testimony of the aged, could not be doubted by any reasonable person. What
was really difficult was the way to get there. Indeed, so obviously true
was the existence of Fairyland, that every one in this world set out to go
there as a matter of course, but so difficult was it to find the way that
very few reached the place. Upon this the child very naturally asked me
what sort of way the way was and why it was so difficult.
"You must first understand," said I, "where Fairyland is: it lies a little
way farther than the farthest hill you can see. It lies, in fact, just
beyond that hill. The frontiers of it are sometimes a little doubtful in
any landscape, because the landscape is confused, but if on the extreme
limits of the horizon you see a long line of hills bounding your view
exactly, then you may be perfectly certain that on the other side of those
hills is Fairyland. There are times of the day and of the weather when the
sky over Fairyland can be clearly perceived, for it has a different colour
from any other kind of sky. That is where Fairyland is. It is not on an
island, as some have pretended, still less is it under the earth--a
ridiculous story, for there it is all dark."
"But how do you get there?" asked the child. "Do you get there by walking
to the hills and going over?"
"No," said I, "that is just the bother of it. Several people have thought
that that was the way of getting there; in fact, it looked plain common
sense, but there is a trick about it; when you get to the hills everything
changes, because the fairies have that power: the hills become ordinary,
the people living on them turn into people just like you and me, and then
when you get to the top of the hills, before you can say knife another
common country just like ours has been stuck on the other side. On this
account, through the power of the fairies, who hate particularly to be
disturbed, no one can reach Fairyland in so simple a way as by walking
"Then," said the child to me, "I don't see how any one can get there"--for
this child had good brains and common sense.
"But," said I, "you must have read in stories of people who get to
Fairyland, and I think you will notice that in the stories written by
people who know anything about it (and you know how easily these are
distinguished from the others) there are always two ways of getting to
Fairyland, and only two: one is by mistake, and the other is by a spell.
In the first way to Fairyland is to lose your way, and this is one of the
best ways of getting there; but it is dangerous, because if you get there
that way you offend the fairies. It is better to get there by a spell.
But the inconvenience of that is that you are blindfolded so as not to be
allowed to remember the way there or back again. When you get there by a
spell, one of the people from Fairyland takes you in charge. They prefer
to do it when you are asleep, but they are quite game to do it at other
times if they think it worth their while.
"Why do they do it?" said the child.
"They do it," said I, "because it annoys the fairies very much to think
that people are stopping believing in them. They are very proud people,
and think a lot of themselves. They can, if they like, do us good, and
they think us ungrateful when we forget about them. Sometimes in the past
people have gone on forgetting about fairies more and more and more,
until at last they have stopped believing in them altogether. The fairies
meanwhile have been looking after their own affairs, and it is their fault
more than ours when we forget about them. But when this has gone on for
too long a time the fairies wake up and find out by a way they have that
men have stopped believing in them, and get very much annoyed. Then some
fairy proposes that a map of the way to Fairyland should be drawn up and
given to the people; but this is always voted down; and at last they make
up their minds to wake people up to Fairyland by going and visiting this
world, and by spells bringing several people into their kingdom and so
getting witnesses. For, as you can imagine, it is a most unpleasant thing
to be really important and for other people not to know it."
"Yes," said the child, who had had this unpleasant experience, and greatly
sympathized with the fairies when I explained how much they disliked it.
Then the child asked me again:
"Why do the fairies let us forget about them?"
"It is," said I, "because they get so excited about their own affairs.
Rather more than a hundred years ago, for instance, a war broke out in
Fairyland because the King of the Fairies, whose name is Oberon, and the
Queen of the Fairies, whose name is Titania, had asked the Trolls to
dinner. The Gnomes were very much annoyed at this, and the Elves still
more so, for the chief glory of the Elves was that being elfish got you to
know people; and it was universally admitted that the Trolls ought never
to be asked out, because they were trollish. King Oberon said that all
that was a wicked prejudice, and that the Trolls ought to be asked out to
dinner just as much as the Elves, in common justice. But his real reason
was that he was bored by the perpetual elfishness of the Elves, and wanted
to see the great ugly Trolls trying to behave like gentlemen for a change.
So the Trolls came and tied their napkins round their necks, and ate such
enormous quantities at dinner that King Oberon and his Queen almost died
of laughing. The Elves were frightfully jealous, and so the war began. And
while it was going on everybody in Earthland forgot more and more about
Fairyland, until at last some people went so far as to say, like you, that
Fairyland did not exist."
"I did not say so," said the child, "I only asked."
"But," I answered severely, "asking about such things is the beginning of
doubting them. Anyhow, the fairies woke up one fine day about the time
when your great-grandfather got married, to discover that they were not
believed in, so they patched up their quarrel and they sent fairies to
cast spells, and any amount of people began to be taken to Fairyland,
until at last every one was forced to believe their evidence and to say
that Fairyland existed."
"Were they glad?" said the child.
"Who?" said I; "the witnesses who were thus taken away and shown
"Yes," said the child. "They ought to have been glad."
"Well, they _weren't_!" said I. "They were as sick as dogs. Not one
of them but got into some dreadful trouble. From one his wife ran away,
another starved to death, a third killed himself, a fourth was drowned
and then burned upon the seashore, a fifth went mad (and so did several
others), and as for poverty, and all the misfortunes that go with it, it
simply rained upon the people who had been to Fairyland."
"Why?" said the child, greatly troubled.
"Ah!" said I, "that is what none of us know, but so it is, if they take
you to Fairyland you are in for a very bad business indeed. There is only
one way out of it."
"And what is that?" said the child, interested.
"Washing," said I, "washing in cold water. It has been proved over and
"Then," said the child happily, "they can take me to Fairyland as often as
they like, and I shall not be the worse for it, for I am washed in cold
water every day. What about the other way to Fairyland?"
"Oh _that_," said I, "that, I think, is much the best way; I've gone
"Have you really?" said the child, now intensely interested. "That
_is_ good! How often have you been there?"
"Oh I can't tell you," I said carelessly, "but at least eight times, and
perhaps more, and the dodge is, as I told you, to lose your way; only the
great trouble is that no one can lose his way on purpose. At first I used
to think that one had to follow signs. There was an omnibus going down the
King's Road which had 'To the World's End' painted on it. I got into this
one day, and after I had gone some miles I said to the man, 'When do we
get to the World's End?' 'Oh,' said he, 'you have passed it long ago,' and
he rang a little bell to make me get out. So it was a fraud. Another time
I saw another omnibus with the words, 'To the Monster,' and I got into
that, but I heard that it was only a sort of joke, and that though the
Monster was there all right, he was not in Fairyland. This omnibus went
through a very uninteresting part of London, and Fairyland was nowhere in
the neighbourhood. Another time in the country of France I came upon a
printed placard which said: 'The excursion will pass by the Seven Winds,
the Foolish Heath, and St. Martin under Heaven.' This time also I thought
I had got it, but when I looked at the date on the placard I saw that the
excursion had started several days before, so I missed it again. Another
time up in Scotland I saw a signpost on which there was, 'To the King's
House seven miles.' And some one had written underneath in pencil: 'And
to the Dragon's Cave eleven.' But nothing came of it. It was a false
lane. After that I gave up believing that one could get to Fairyland by
signposts or omnibuses, until one day, quite by mistake, I chanced on the
dodge of losing one's way."
"How is that done?" said the child.
"That is what no one can tell you," said I. "If people knew how it was
done everybody would do it, but the whole point of losing your way is that
you do it by mistake. You must be quite certain that you have not lost
your way or it is no good. You walk along, and you walk along, and you
wonder how long it will be before you get to the town, and then instead of
getting to the town at all, there you are in Fairyland."
"How do you know that you are in Fairyland?" said the little child.
"It depends how far you get in," said I. "If you get in far enough trees
and rocks change into men, rivers talk, and voices of people whom you
cannot see tell you all sorts of things in loud and clear tones close to
your ear. But if you only get a little way inside then you know that you
are there by a sort of wonderment. The things ought to be like the things
you see every day, but they are a little different, notably the trees.
It happened to me once in a town called Lanchester. A part of that
town (though no one would think of it to look at it) happens to be in
Fairyland. And there I was received by three fairies, who gave me supper
in an inn. And it happened to me once in the mountains and once it
happened to me at sea. I lost my way and came upon a beach which was in
Fairyland. Another time it happened to me between Goodwood and Upwaltham
At this moment the child's nurse came in to take it away, so she came to
"How did you know you were in Fairyland?' she said doubtfully." Perhaps
you are making all this up."
"Nonsense!" I said reprovingly, "the only people who make things up are
little children, for they always tell lies. Grown-up people never tell
lies. Let me tell you that one always knows when one has been in Fairyland
by the feeling afterwards, and because it is impossible to find it again."
The child said, "Very well, I will believe you," but I could see from the
expression of her eyes that she was not wholly convinced, and that in the
bottom of her heart she does not believe there is any such place. She
will, however, if she can hang on another forty years, and then I shall
have my revenge.
THE PORTRAIT OF A CHILD
In a garden which must, I think, lie somewhat apart and enclosed in one
of the valleys of central England, you came across the English grass in
summer beneath the shade of a tree; you were running, but your arms were
stretched before you in a sort of dance and balance as though you rather
belonged to the air and to the growing things about you and above you than
to the earth over which you passed; and you were not three years old.
As, in jest, this charming vision was recorded by a camera which some
guest had with him, a happy accident (designed, for all we know, by
whatever powers arrange such things, an accident of the instrument or of
the plate upon which your small, happy, advancing figure was recorded) so
chanced that your figure, when the picture was printed, shone all around
I cannot, as I look at it now before me and as I write these words,
express, however much I may seek for expression, how great a meaning
underlies that accident nor how full of fate and of reason and of
suggested truth that aureole grows as I gaze. Your innocence is beatified
by it, and takes on with majesty the glory which lies behind all
innocence, but which our eyes can never see. Your happiness seems in that
mist of light to be removed and permanent; the common world in which you
are moving passes, through this trick of the lens, into a stronger world
more apt for such a sight, and one in which I am half persuaded (as I
still look upon the picture) blessedness is not a rare adventure, but
something native and secure.
Little child, the trick which the camera has played means more and more as
I still watch your picture, for there is present in that light not only
blessedness, but holiness as well. The lightness of your movement and of
your poise (as though you were blown like a blossom along the tops of the
grass) is shone through, and your face, especially its ready and wondering
laughter, is inspired, as though the Light had filled it from within;
so that, looking thus, I look not on, but through. I say that in this
portrait which I treasure there is not only blessedness, but holiness as
well--holiness which is the cause of blessedness and which contains it,
and by which secretly all this world is sustained.
Now there is a third thing in your portrait, little child. That accident
of light, light all about you and shining through your face, is not only
blessed nor only holy, but it is also sacred, and with that thought there
returns to me as I look what always should return to man if he is to find
any stuff or profit in his consideration of divine things. In blessedness
there is joy for which here we are not made, so that we catch it only
in glimpses or in adumbrations. And in holiness, when we perceive it we
perceive something far off; it is that from which we came and to which
we should return; yet holiness is not a human thing. But things sacred--
things devoted to a purpose, things about which there lies an awful
necessity of sacrifice, things devoted and necessarily suffering some
doom--these are certainly of this world; that, indeed, all men know well
at last, and find it part of the business through which they needs must
pass. Human memories, since they are only memories; human attachments,
since they are offered up and end; great human fears and hopeless human
longings--these are sacred things attached to a victim and to a sacrifice;
and in this picture of yours, with the light so glorifying you all round,
no one can doubt who sees it but that the sacredness of human life will be
yours also; that is, you must learn how it is offered up to some end and
what a sacrifice is there.
I could wish, as I consider this, that the camera had played no such
trick, and had not revealed in that haze of awful meaning all that lies
beyond the nature of you, child. But it is a truth which is so revealed;
and we may not, upon a penalty more terrible than death, neglect any
ultimate truth concerning our mortal way.
Your feet, which now do not seem to press upon the lawn across which they
run, have to go more miles than you can dream of, through more places than
you could bear to hear, and they must be directed to a goal which will not
in your very young delight be mentioned before you, or of which, if it is
mentioned, you will not understand by name; and your little hands which
you bear before you with the little gesture of flying things, will grasp
most tightly that which can least remain and will attempt to fashion what
can never be completed, and will caress that which will not respond to
the caress. Your eyes, which are now so principally filled with innocence
that that bright quality drowns all the rest, will look upon so much of
deadly suffering and of misuse in men, that they will very early change
themselves in kind; and all your face, which now vaguely remembers nothing
but the early vision from which childhood proceeds, will grow drawn and
self-guarded, and will suffer some agonies, a few despairs, innumerable
fatigues, until it has become the face of a woman grown. Nor will this
sacred doom about you, which is that of all mankind, cease or grow less
or be mitigated in any way; it will increase as surely and as steadily
as increase the number of the years, until at last you will lay down the
daylight and the knowledge of day-lit things as gladly as now you wake
from sleep to see them.
For you are sacred, and all those elders about you, whose solemn demeanour
now and then startles you into a pretty perplexity which soon calls back
their smiles, have hearts only quite different from your quite careless
heart, because they have known the things to which, in the manner of
victims, they are consecrated.
All that by which we painfully may earn rectitude and a proper balance in
the conduct of our short affairs I must believe that you will practise;
and I must believe, as I look here into your face, seeing your confident
advance (as though you were flying out from your babyhood into young life
without any fear), that the virtues which now surround you in a crowd and
make a sort of court for you and are your angels every way, will go along
with you and will stand by you to the end. Even so, and the more so, you
will find (if you read this some years hence) how truly it is written. By
contrast with your demeanour, with your immortal hopes, and with your
pious efforts the world about you will seem darker and less secure with
every passing harvest, and in proportion as you remember the childhood
which has led me so to write of you, in proportion as you remember
gladness and innocence with its completed joy, in that proportion will
you find at least a breaking burden in the weight of this world.
Now you may say to me, little child (not now, but later on), to what
purpose is all this complaint, and why should you tell me these things?
It is because in the portrait before me the holiness, the blessedness, and
therefore the sacredness are apparent that I am writing as I do. For you
must know that there is a false way out and a seeming relief for the rack
of human affairs, and that this way is taken by many. Since you are sacred
do not take it, but bear the burden. It is the character of whatever is
sacred that it does not take that way; but, like a true victim, remains
to the end, ready to complete the sacrifice.
The way out is to forget that one is sacred, and this men and women do in
many ways. The most of them by way of treason. They betray. They break at
first uneasily, later easily, and at last unconsciously, the word which
each of us has passed before He was born in Paradise. All men and all
women are conscious of that word, for though their lips cannot frame it
here, and though the terms of the pledge are forgotten, the memory of its
obligation fills the mind. But there comes a day, and that soon in the
lives of many, when to break it once is to be much refreshed and to seem
to drop the burden; and in the second and the third time it is done, and
the fourth it is done more easily--until at last there is no more need
for a man or a woman to break that pledged word again and once again; it
is broken for good and for all. This is one most common way in which the
sacred quality is lost: the way of treason. Round about such as choose
this kind of relief grows a habit and an air of treason. They betray all
things at last, and even common friendship is at last no longer theirs.
The end of this false issue is despair.
Another way is to take refuge from ourselves in pleasures, and this is
easily done, not by the worse, but by the better sort; for there are some,
some few, who would never betray nor break their ancient word, but who,
seeing no meaning in a sacrifice nor in a burden, escape from it through
pleasure as through a drug, and this pleasure they find in all manner of
things, and always that spirit near them which would destroy their sacred
mark, persuades them that they are right, and that in such pursuits the
sacrifice is evaded. So some will steep themselves in rhyme, some in
landscapes, some in pictures, some in the watching of the complexity and
change of things, some in music, some in action, some in mere ease. It
seems as though the men and women who would thus forget their sacredness
are better loved and better warned than those who take the other path, for
they never forget certain gracious things which should be proper to the
mind, nor do they lose their friends. But that they have taken a wrong
path you may easily perceive from this sign: that these pleasures, like
any other drug, do not feed or satisfy, but must be increased with every
dose, and even so soon pall and are continued not because they are
pleasures any longer, but because, dull though they have become, without
them there is active pain.
Take neither the one path nor the other, but retain, I beseech you, when
the time comes, that quality of sacredness of which I speak, for there
is no alternative. Some trouble fell upon our race, and all of us must
take upon ourselves the business and the burden. If you will attempt any
way out at all it will but lead you to some worse thing. We have not all
choices before us, but only one of very few, and each of those few choices
is mortal, and all but one is evil.
You should remember this also, dear little child, that at the beginning--
oh, only at the very beginning of life--even your reason that God gave
may lead you wrong. For with those memories strong upon you of perfect
will, of clear intelligence, and of harmonious beauty all about, you will
believe the world in which you stand to be the world from which you have
come and to which you are also destined. You have but to treat this world
for but a very little while as though it were the thing you think it to
find it is not so.
Do you know that that which smells most strongly in this life of
immortality, and which a poet has called "the ultimate outpost of
eternity," is insecure and perishes? I mean the passionate affection of
early youth. If that does not remain, what then do you think can remain?
I tell you that nothing which you take to be permanent round about you
when you are very young is more than the symbol or clothes of permanence.
Another poet has written, speaking of the chalk hills:--
Only a little while remain
The Downs in their solemnity.
Nor is this saying forced. Men and women cannot attach themselves even to
the hills where they first played.
Some men, wise but unillumined, and not conscious of that light which I
here physically see shining all round and through you in the picture which
is before my eyes as I write, have said that to die young and to end the
business early was a great blessing. We do not know. But we do know that
to die long after and to have gone through the business must be blessed,
since blessedness and holiness and sacredness are bound together in one.
But, of these three, be certain that sacredness is your chief business,
blessedness after your first childhood you will never know, and holiness
you may only see as men see distant mountains lifted beyond a plain; it
cannot be your habitation. Sacredness, which is the mark of that purpose
whose heir is blessedness, whose end is holiness, will be upon you until
you die; maintain it, and let it be your chief concern, for though you
neglect it, it will remain and avenge itself.
All this I have seen in your picture as you go across the grass, and it
was an accident of the camera that did it. If any one shall say these
things do not attach to the portrait of a child, let him ask himself
whether they do not attach to the portrait that might be drawn, did human
skill suffice, of the life of a woman or a man which springs from the
demeanour of childhood; or let him ask himself whether, if a face in old
age and that same face in childhood were equally and as by a revelation
set down each in its full truth, and the growth of the one into the other
were interpreted by a profound intelligence, what I have said would not
be true of all that little passage of ours through the daylight.
There are three phases in the life of man, so far as his thoughts upon
his surroundings are concerned.
The first of these is the phase of youth, in which he takes certain
matured things for granted, and whether he realizes his illusion or no,
believes them to be eternal. This phase ends sharply with every man, by
the action of one blow. Some essence is dissolved, some binding cordage
snaps, or some one dies.
I say no matter how clearly the reason of a man tells him that all about
him is changeable, and that perfect and matured things and characters upon
whose perfection and maturity he reposes for his peace must disappear, his
attitude in youth towards those things is one of a complete security as
towards things eternal. For the young man, convinced as he is that his
youth and he himself are there for ever, sees in one lasting framework his
father's garden, his mother's face, the landscape from his windows, his
friendships, and even his life; the very details of food, of clothing,
and of lesser custom, all these are fixed for him. Fixed also are the
mature and perfect things. This aged friend, in whose excellent humour
and universal science he takes so continual a delight, is there for ever.
That considered judgment of mankind upon such and such a troubling matter,
of sex, of property, or of political right, is anchored or rooted in
eternity. There comes a day when by some one experience he is startled out
of that morning dream. It is not the first death, perhaps, that strikes
him, nor the first loss--no, not even, perhaps, the first discovery that
human affection also passes (though that should be for every man the
deepest lesson of all). What wakes him to the reality which is for some
dreadful, for others august, and for the faithful divine, is always an
accident. One death, one change, one loss, among so many, unseals his
judgment, and he sees thenceforward, nay, often from one particular moment
upon which he can put his finger, the doom which lies upon all things
whatsoever that live by a material change.
The second phase which he next enters is for a thoughtful man in a
sceptical and corrupted age the crucial phase, whereby will be determined,
not indeed the fate of his soul, but the justice, and therefore the
advantage to others, of his philosophy.
He has done with all illusions of permanence and repose. Henceforward he
sees for himself a definite end, and the road which used to lead over
the hills and to be lost beyond in the haze of summer plains now leads
directly to a visible place; that place is a cavern in the mountain side,
dark and without issue. He must die. Henceforward he expects the passing
of all to which he is attached, and he is braced against loss by something
lent to him which is to despair as an angel is to a demon; something in
the same category of emotion, but just and fortifying, instead of void
and vain and tempting and without an end. A man sees in this second phase
of his experience that he must lose. Oh, he does not lose in a gamble!
It is not a question of winning a stake or forfeiting it, as the vulgar
falsehood of commercial analogy would try to make our time believe. He
knows henceforward that there is no success, no final attainment of
desire, because there is no fixity in any material thing. As he sits at
table with the wisest and keenest of his time, especially with the old,
hearing true stories of the great men who came before him, looking at
well-painted pictures, admiring the proper printing of collected books,
and praising the just balance of some classical verse or music which
time has judged and made worthy, he so admires and enjoys with a full
consciousness that these things are flowing past him. He cannot rely; he
attempts no foothold. The equilibrium of his soul is only to be discovered
in marching and continually marching. He now knows that he must go onward,
he may not stand, for if he did he would fall. He must go forward and see
the river of things run by. He must go forward--but to what goal?
There is a third phase, in which (as the experience of twenty Christian
centuries determines) that goal also is discovered, and for some who so
discover it the experience of loss begins to possess a meaning.
What this third phase is I confess I do not know, and as I have not felt
it I cannot describe it, but when that third phase is used as I have
suggested a character of wisdom enters into those so using it; a character
of wisdom which is the nearest thing our dull time can show to inspiration
and to prophecy.
It is to be noted also that in this third phase of man's experience of
doom those who are not wise are most unwise indeed; and that where the age
of experience has not produced this sort of clear maturity in the spirit,
then it produces either despair or folly, or an exaggerated shirking of
reality, which, being a falsehood, is wickeder than despair, and far more
inhuman than mere foolishness. Thus those who in the third phase of which
I speak have not attained the wisdom which I here recognize will often
sink into a passion of avarice, accumulating wealth which they cannot
conceivably enjoy; a stupidity so manifest that every age of satire has
found it the most facile of commonplaces. Or, again, those who fail to
find wisdom in that last phase will constantly pretend an unreal world,
making plans for a future that cannot be there. So did a man eleven
years ago in the neighbourhood of Regent Street, for this man, being
eighty-seven years of age, wealthy, and wholly devoid of friends, or near
kindred, took a flat, but he insisted that the lease should be one of not
less than sixty years. In a hundred ways this last phase if it is degraded
is most degraded; and, though it is not worst, it is most sterile when it
falls to a mere regret for the past.
Now it is here that the opposite, the wisdoms of old age appears; for the
old, when they are wise, are able to point out to men and to women of
middle age what these least suspect, and can provide them with a good
medicine against the insecurity of the soul. The old in their wisdom can
tell those just beneath them this: that though all things human pass, all
bear their fruit. They can say: "You believe that such and such a woman,
with her courtesy, her travel, her sharp edge of judgment, her large
humanity, and her love of the comedy of the world, being dead can never be
replaced. There are, growing up around you, characters quite insufficient,
and to you, perhaps, contemptible, who will in their fruiting display all
these things." There never was, nor has been, a time (say those who are
acquainted with the great story of Europe) when Christendom has failed.
Out of dead passages there has sprung up suddenly, and quite miraculously,
whatever was thought to be lost. So it has been with our music, so with
the splendour of our armies, so with the fabric of our temples, so with
our deathless rhymes. The old, when they are wise, can do for men younger
than they what history does for the reader; but they can do it far more
poignantly, having expression in their eyes and the living tones of a
voice. It is their business to console the world.
Here and there, scattered rarely among men as men are now, you will
find one man who does not pursue the same ends as his fellows; but in a
peculiar manner leads his life as though his eyes were fixed upon some
distant goal or his appetites subjected to some constant and individual
Such a man may be doing any one of many things. He may be a poet, and his
occupation may be the writing of good verse, pleased at its sound and
pleased as well by the reflection of the pleasure it will give to others.
Or he may be devoted, and follow a creed, a single truth or a character
which he loves, and whose influence and glory he makes it his business to
propagate. Or he may be but a worker in some material, a carver in wood,
or a manager of commercial affairs, or a governor and administrator of
men, and yet so order his life that his work and his material are his
object: not his gain in the end--not his appreciable and calculable gain
at least--nor his immediate and ephemeral pleasures.
Such men, if you will examine them, will prove intent upon one ultimate
completion of their being which is also (whether they know it or not) a
reward, and those who have carefully considered the matter and give it
expression say that such men are out a-hunting for Immortality.
Now what is that? There was a man, before the Normans came to England, who
sailed from the highest Scandinavian mountains, I think, towards these
shores, and landing, fought against men and was wounded so that he was
certain to die. When they asked him why he had undertaken that adventure,
he answered: "That my name might live between the lips of men."
The young, the adventurous, the admired--how eagerly and how properly do
they not crave for glory. Fame has about it a divine something as it were
an echo of perfect worship and of perfect praise, which, though it is
itself imperfect, may well deceive the young, the adventurous, and the
admired. How great to think that things well done and the enlargement of
others shall call down upon our names, even when all is lost but the mere
names, a continuous and an increasing benediction. Nay, more than this:
how great to think of the noise only of an achievement, and to be sure
that the poem written, the carving concluded, or the battle won, the
achievement of itself, though the name of the achiever be perished or
unknown, shall awake those tremendous echoes.
But wait a moment. What is that thing which so does and so desires? What
end does _it_ find in glory? _It_ is not the receiver of the
benefit; _it_ will not hear that large volume of recognition and of
salute. Twist it how you will no end is here, nor in such a pursuit is the
It is true that men who love to create for themselves imaginary stuff, and
to feed, their cravings, if they cannot with substance then with dreams,
perpetually pretend a satisfaction in such acquirements which the years as
they proceed tell them with increasing iteration that they do not feel.
The young, the adventurous, the admired, may at first be deceived by such
a glamour, and it is in the providential scheme of human affairs, and it
is for the good of us all that the pleasing cheat should last while the
good things are doing. Thus do substantial verse and noble sculpture and
building whose stuff is lasting and whose beauty is almost imperishable,
rise to the advantage of mankind--but oh! there is no lasting in the
There comes a day of truth inwardly but ineradicably perceived, when such
things, such aspirations, are clearly known for what they are. Of all the
affections that pass, of all those things which being made by a power
itself perishable, must be unmade again, some may be less, others more
lasting, but not one remains for ever.
Nor is this all. What is it, I say, which did the thing and suffered the
desire? Not the receiver, still less the work achieved, it was the man
that so acted and so desired; and that part of him which was affected thus
we call the Soul. Then, surely (one may reason) the soul has, apt to its
own nature, a completion which is also a reward, and there is something
before it which is not the symbol or the cheat of perfect praise, but
is perfect praise; there is surely something before it which is not the
symbol or the cheat of life, but life completed.
Now stand at night beneath a clear heaven solemn and severe with stars,
comprehend (as the great achievement of our race permits us now to do)
what an emptiness and what a scale are there, and you will easily discover
in that one glance, or you will feel at least the appalling thing which
tempts men to deny their immortality.
There is no man who has closely inquired upon this, and there is none
who has troubled himself and admitted a reasonable anxiety upon it, who
has not well retained the nature of despair. Those who approach their
fellow-beings with assertion and with violence in such a matter, affirming
their discovery, their conviction, or their acquired certitude, do an
ill service to their kind. It is not thus that the last things should be
approached nor the most tremendous problem which man is doomed to envisage
be propounded and solved. Ah! the long business in this world! The way in
which your deepest love goes up in nothingness and breaks away, and the
way in which the strongest and the most continuous element of your dear
self is dissipated and fails you in some moment; if I do not understand
these things in a man nor comprehend how the turn of the years can obscure
or obliterate a man's consciousness of what his end should be, then I act
in brute ignorance, or what is much worse, in lack of charity.
How should you not be persuaded, ephemeral intelligence? Does not every
matter which you have held closely enough and long enough escape you and
withdraw? Is not that doom true of things which were knit into us, and
were of necessity, so to speak, prime parts of our being? Is it not true
of the network and the structure which supports whatever we are, and
without which we cannot imagine ourselves to be? We ourselves perish. Of
that there is no doubt at all. One is here talking and alive. His friends
are with him: on the time when they shall meet again he is utterly not
there. The motionless flesh before his mourners is nothing. It is not a
simulacrum, it is not an outline, it is not a recollection of the man, but
rather something wholly gone useless. As for that voice, those meanings in
the eyes, and that gesture of the hand, it has suddenly and entirely
ceased to be.
Then how shall we deny the dreadful conclusion (to which how many elder
civilizations have not turned!) that we must seek in vain for any gift to
the giver for any workers' wage, or, rather, to put it more justly, for
a true end to the life we lead. Yet it is not so. The conclusion is more
weighty by far that all things bear their fruit: that the comprehender and
the master of so much, the very _mind_, suffers to no purpose and in
one moment a tragic, final, and unworthy catastrophe agrees with nothing
other that we know. It is not thus of the good things of the earth that
turn kindly into the earth again. It cannot be thus with that which makes
of all the earth a subject thing for contemplation and for description,
for understanding, and, if it so choose--for sacrifice.
Those of our race who have deliberately looked upon the scroll and found
there nothing to read, who have lifted the curtain and found beyond it
nothing to see, have faced their conclusions with a nobility which should
determine us; for that nobility does prove, or, if it does not prove,
compels us to proclaim, that the soul of man which breeds it has somewhere
a lasting home. The conclusion is imperative.
Let not any one pretend in his faith that his faith is immediately evident
and everywhere acceptable. There is in all who pretend to judgment a sense
of the doubt that lies between the one conviction and the other, and all
acknowledge that the scales swing normally upon the beam for normal men.
But they swing--and one is the heavier.
The poets, who are our interpreters, know well and can set forth the
contrast between such intimations and such despair.
The long descent of wasted days
To these at last have led me down:
Remember that I filled with praise
The meaningless and doubtful ways
That lead to an eternal town.
Moreover, since we have spoken of the night it is only reasonable to
consider the alternate dawn. The quality of light, its merry action on the
mind, the daylit sky under whose benediction we repose and in which our
kind has always seen the picture of its final place: are these then
visions and deceits?
ON SACRAMENTAL THINGS
It is good for a man's soul to sit down in the silence by himself and to
think of those things which happen by some accident to be in communion
with the whole world. If he has not the faculty of remembering these
things in their order and of calling them up one after another in his
mind, then let him write them down as they come to him upon a piece of
paper. They will comfort him; they will prove a sort of solace against
the expectation of the end. To consider such things is a sacramental
occupation. And yet the more I think of them the less I can quite
understand in what elements their power consists.
A woman smiling at a little child, not knowing that others see her, and
holding out her hands towards it, and in one of her hands flowers; an old
man, lean and active, with an eager face, walking at dusk upon a warm
and windy evening westward towards a clear sunset below dark and flying
clouds; a group of soldiers, seen suddenly in manoeuvres, each man intent
upon his business, all working at the wonderful trade, taking their places
with exactitude and order and yet with elasticity; a deep, strong tide
running back to the sea, going noiselessly and flat and black and smooth,
and heavy with purpose under an old wall; the sea smell of a Channel
seaport town; a ship coming up at one out of the whole sea when one is
in a little boat and is waiting for her, coming up at one with her great
sails merry and every one doing its work, with the life of the wind in
her, and a balance, rhythm, and give in all that she does which marries
her to the sea--whether it be a fore and aft rig and one sees only great
lines of the white, or a square rig and one sees what is commonly and well
called a leaning tower of canvas, or that primal rig, the triangular sail,
that cuts through the airs of the world and clove a way for the first
adventures, whatever its rig, a ship so approaching an awaiting boat from
which we watch her is one of the things I mean.
I would that the taste of my time permitted a lengthy list of such things:
they are pleasant to remember! They do so nourish the mind! A glance
of sudden comprehension mixed with mercy and humour from the face of a
lover or a friend; the noise of wheels when the guns are going by; the
clatter-clank-clank of the pieces and the shouted halt at the head of the
column; the noise of many horses, the metallic but united and harmonious
clamour of all those ironed hoofs, rapidly occupying the highway; chief
and most persistent memory, a great hill when the morning strikes it and
one sees it up before one round the turning of a rock after the long passes
and despairs of the night.
When a man has journeyed and journeyed through those hours in which there
is no colour or shape, all along the little hours that were made for sleep
and when, therefore, the waking soul is bewildered or despairs, the morning
is always a resurrection--but especially when it reveals a height in the
This last picture I would particularly cherish, so great a consolation is
it, and so permanent a grace does it lend later to the burdened mind of a
For when a man looks back upon his many journeys--so many rivers crossed,
and more than one of them forded in peril; so many swinging mountain
roads, so many difficult steeps and such long wastes of plains--of all the
pictures that impress themselves by the art or kindness of whatever god
presides over the success of journeys, no picture more remains than that
picture of a great hill when the day first strikes it after the long
burden of the night.
Whatever reasons a man may have for occupying the darkness with his travel
and his weariness, those reasons must be out of the ordinary and must go
with some bad strain upon the mind. Perhaps one undertook the march from
an evil necessity under the coercion of other men, or perhaps in terror,
hoping that the darkness might hide one, or perhaps for cool, dreading the
unnatural heat of noon in a desert land; perhaps haste, which is in itself
so wearying a thing, compelled one, or perhaps anxiety. Or perhaps, most
dreadful of all, one hurried through the night afoot because one feared
what otherwise the night would bring, a night empty of sleep and a night
whose dreams were waking dreams and evil.
But whatever prompts the adventure or the necessity, when the long burden
has been borne, and when the turn of the hours has come; when the stars
have grown paler; when colour creeps back greyly and uncertainly to the
earth, first into the greens of the high pastures, then here and there
upon a rock or a pool with reeds, while all the air, still cold, is full
of the scent of morning; while one notices the imperceptible disappearance
of the severities of Heaven until at last only the morning star hangs
splendid; when in the end of that miracle the landscape is fully revealed,
and one finds into what country one has come; then a great hill before
one, losing the forests upwards into rock and steep meadow upon its sides,
and towering at last into the peaks and crests of the inaccessible places,
gives a soul to the new land.... The sun, in a single moment and with the
immediate summons of a trumpet-call, strikes the spear-head of the high
places, and at once the valley, though still in shadow, is transfigured,
and with the daylight all manner of things have come back to the world.
Hope is the word which gathers the origins of those things together, and
hope is the seed of what they mean, but that new light and its new quality
is more than hope. Livelihood is come back with the sunrise, and the fixed
certitude of the soul; number and measure and comprehension have returned,
and a just appreciation of all reality is the gift of the new day. Glory
(which, if men would only know it, lies behind all true certitude)
illumines and enlivens the seen world, and the living light makes of the
true things now revealed something more than truth absolute; they appear
as truth acting and creative.
This first shaft of the sun is to that hill and valley what a word is to a
thought. It is to that hill and valley what verse is to the common story
told; it is to that hill and valley what music is to verse. And there lies
behind it, one is very sure, an infinite progress of such exaltations, so
that one begins to understand, as the pure light shines and grows and as
the limit of shadow descends the vast shoulder of the steep, what has been
meant by those great phrases which still lead on, still comfort, and still
make darkly wise, the uncomforted wondering of mankind. Such is the famous
phrase: "Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart
of man what things God has prepared for those that serve Him."
So much, then, is conveyed by a hill-top at sunrise when it comes upon the
traveller or the soldier after the long march of a night, the bending of
the shoulders, and the emptiness of the dark.
Many other things put one into communion with the whole world.
Who does not remember coming over a lifting road to a place where the
ridge is topped, and where, upon the further side, a broad landscape,
novel or endeared by memory (for either is a good thing), bursts upon the
seized imagination as a wave from the open sea, swelling up an inland
creek, breaks and bursts upon the rocks of the shore? There is a place
where a man passes from the main valley of the Rhone over into the valley
of the Isere, and where the Gresivandan so suddenly comes upon him. Two
gates of limestone rock, high as the first shoulders of the mountains,
lead into the valley which they guard; it is a province of itself, a level
floor of thirty miles, nourished by one river, and walled in up to the
clouds on either side.
Or again, in the champagne country, moving between great blocks of wood
in the Forest of Rheims and always going upward as the ride leads him, a
man comes to a point whence he suddenly sees all that vast plain of the
invasions stretching out to where, very far off against the horizon, two
days away, twin summits mark the whole site sharply with a limit as a
frame marks a picture or a punctuation a phrase.
There is another place more dear to me, but which I doubt whether any
other but a native of that place can know. After passing through the
plough lands of an empty plateau, a traveller breaks through a little
fringe of chestnut hedge and perceives at once before him the wealthiest
and the most historical of European things, the chief of the great
capitals of Christendom and the arena in which is now debated (and has
been for how long!) the Faith, the chief problem of this world.
Apart from landscape other things belong to this contemplation: Notes
of music, and, stronger even than repeated and simple notes of music, a
subtle scent and its association, a familiar printed page. Perhaps the
test of these sacramental things is their power to revive the past.
There is a story translated into the noblest of English writing by Dasent.
It is to be found in his "Tales from the Norse." It is called the Story of
the Master Maid.
A man had found in his youth a woman on the Norwegian hills: this woman
was faery, and there was a spell upon her. But he won her out of it in
various ways, and they crossed the sea together, and he would bring her
to his father's house, but his father was a King. As they went over-sea
together alone, he said and swore to her that he would never forget how
they had met and loved each other without warning, but by an act of God,
upon the Dovrefjeld. Come near his father's house, the ordinary influences
of the ordinary day touched him; he bade her enter a hut and wait a moment
until he had warned his father of so strange a marriage; she, however,
gazing into his eyes, and knowing how the divine may be transformed into
the earthly, quite as surely as the earthly into the divine, makes him
promise that he will not eat human food. He sits at his father's table,
still steeped in her and in the seas. He forgets his vow and eats human
food, and at once he forgets.
Then follows much for which I have not space, but the woman in the hut by
her magic causes herself to be at last sent for to the father's palace.
The young man sees her, and is only slightly troubled as by a memory which
he cannot grasp. They talk together as strangers; but looking out of the
window by accident the King's son sees a bird and its mate; he points them
out to the woman, and she says suddenly: "So was it with you and me high
up upon the Dovrefjeld." Then he remembers all.
Now that story is a symbol, and tells the truth. We see some one thing in
this world, and suddenly it becomes particular and sacramental; a woman
and a child, a man at evening, a troop of soldiers; we hear notes of
music, we smell the smell that went with a passed time, or we discover
after the long night a shaft of light upon the tops of the hills at
morning: there is a resurrection, and we are refreshed and renewed.
But why all these things are so neither I nor any other man can tell.
There is a certain valley, or rather profound cleft, through the living
rock of certain savage mountains through which there roars and tumbles in
its narrow trench the Segre, here but a few miles from its rising in the
This cleft is so disposed that the smooth limestone slabs of its western
wall stand higher than the gloomy steps of cliff upon its eastern, and
thus these western cliffs take the glare of the morning sunlight upon
them, or the brilliance of the moon when she is full or waning in the
first part of her course through the night.
The only path by which men can go down that gorge clings to the eastern
face of the abyss and is for ever plunged in shadow. Down this path I went
very late upon a summer night, close upon midnight, and the moon just past
the full. The air was exceedingly clear even for that high place, and the
moon struck upon the limestone of the sheer opposing cliffs in a manner
neither natural nor pleasing, but suggesting horror, and, as it were,
something absolute, too simple for mankind.
It was not cold, but there were no crickets at such a level in the
mountains, nor any vegetation there except a brush here and there clinging
between the rocks and finding a droughty rooting in their fissures.
Though the map did not include this gorge, I could guess that it would be
impossible for me, save by following that dreadful path all night, to find
a village, and therefore I peered about in the dense shadow as I went for
one of those overhanging rocks which are so common in that region, and
soon I found one. It was a refuge better than most that I had known during
a lonely travel of three days, for the whole bank was hollowed in, and
there was a distinct, if shallow, cave bordering the path. Into this,
therefore, I went and laid down, wrapping myself round in a blanket I
had brought from the plains beyond the mountains, and, with my loaf and
haversack and a wine-skin that I carried for a pillow, I was very soon
* * * * *
When I woke, which I did with suddenness, it seemed to me to have turned
uncommonly cold, and when I stepped out from my blanket (for I was broad
awake) the cold struck me still more nearly, and was not natural in such a
place. But I knew how a mist will gather suddenly upon these hills, and I
went out and stood upon the path to see what weather the hour had brought
me. The sky, the narrow strip of sky above the gorge, was filled with
scud flying so low that now and then bulges or trails of it would strike
against that western cliff of limestone and wreath down it, and lift and
disappear, but fast as the scud was moving there was no noise of wind. I
seemed not to have slept long, for the moon was still riding in heaven,
though her light now came in rapid waxing and waning between the shreds of
the clouds. Beneath me a little angrier than before (so that I thought to
myself, "Up in the hills it has been raining") roared the Segre.
As I stood thus irresolute and quite awakened from sleep, I saw to my
right the figure of a little man who beckoned. No fear took me as I saw
him, but a good deal of wonder, for he was oddly shaped, and in the
darkness of that pathway I could not see his face. But in his presence
by some accident of the mind many things changed their significance: the
gorge became personal to me, the river a voice, the fitful moonlight a
warning, and it seemed as though some safety was to be sought, or some
certitude, upwards, whence I had come, and I felt oddly as though the
little figure were a guide.
He was so short as I watched him that I thought him almost a dwarf, though
I have seen men as small guiding the mules over the breaches in the ridge
of the hills. He was hunchback, or the great pack he was carrying made him
seem so. His thin legs were long for his body, and he walked too rapidly,
with bent knees; his right hand he leant upon a great sapling; upon his
head was a very wide hat, the stuff of which I could not see in the
darkness. Now and again he would turn and beckon me, and he always went
on a little way before. As for me, partly because he beckoned, but more
because I felt prescient of a goal, I followed him.
No mountain path seems the same when you go up it and when you go down it.
This it was which rendered unfamiliar to me the shapes of the rocks and
the turnings of the gorge as I hurried, behind my companion. With every
passing moment, moreover, the light grew less secure, the scud thickened,
and as we rose towards the lower level of those clouds the mass of them
grew more even, until at last the path and some few yards of the emptiness
which sank away to our left was all one could discern. The mist was full
of a diffused moonlight, but it was dense. I wondered when we should
strike out of the gorge and begin to find the upland grasses that lead
toward the highest summits of those hills, for thither I was sure were we
Soon I began to recognize that easier trend in the rock wall, those
increasing and flattened gullies which mark the higher slope. Here and
there an unmelted patch of snow appeared, grass could be seen, and at last
we were upon the roll of the high land where it runs up steeply to the
ridge of the chain. Moss and the sponging of moisture in the turf were
beneath our feet, the path disappeared, and our climb got steeper and
steeper; and still the little man went on before, pressing eagerly and
breasting the hill. I neither felt fatigue nor noticed that I did not feel
it. The extreme angle of the slope suited my mood, nor was I conscious of
its danger, though its fantastic steepness exhilarated me because it was
so novel to be trying such things at night in such a weather. The moon,
I think, must by this time have been near its sinking, for the mist grew
full of darkness round about us, and at last it was altogether deep night.
I could see my companion only as a blur of difference in the darkness, but
even as this change came I felt the steepness relax beneath my climbing
feet, the round level of the ridge was come, and soon again we were
hurrying across it until there came, in a hundred yards or so, a moment in
which my companion halted, as men who know the mountains halt when they
reach an edge below which they know the land to break away.
He was waiting, and I waited with him: we had not long so to stand.
The mist which so often lifts as one passes the crest of the hills lifted
for us also, and, below, it was broad day.
Ten thousand feet below, at the foot of forest cascading into forest,
stretched out into an endless day, was the Weald. There were the places I
had always known, but not as I had known them: they were in another air.
There was the ridge, and the river valley far off to the eastward, and
Pasham Pines, Amberley wild brooks, and Petworth the little town, and I
saw the Rough clearly, and the hills out beyond the county, and beyond
them farther plains, and all the fields and all the houses of the men I
knew. Only it was much larger, and it was more intimate, and it was
farther away, and it was certainly divine.
A broad road such as we have not here and such as they have not in those
hills, a road for armies, sank back and forth in great gradients down to
the plain. These and the forests were foreign; the Weald below, so many
thousand feet below, was not foreign but transformed. The dwarf went down
that road. I did not follow him. I saw him clearly now. His curious little
coat of mountain stuff, his thin, bent legs walking rapidly, and the
chestnut sapling by he walked, holding it in his hand by the middle. I
could see the brown colour of it, and the shininess of the bark of it, and
the ovals of white where the branchlings had been cut away. So I watched
him as he went down and down the road. He never once looked back and he no
longer beckoned me.
In a moment, before a word could form in the mind, the mist had closed
again and it was mortally cold; and with that cold there came to me an
appalling knowledge that I was alone upon such a height and knew nothing
of my way. The hand which I put to my shoulder where my blanket was found
it wringing wet. The mist got greyer, my mind more confused as I struggled
to remember, and then I woke and found I was still in the cave. All that
business had been a dream, but so vivid that I carried it all through the
day, and carry it still.
* * * * *
It was the very early morning; the gorge was full of mist, the Segre made
a muffled roaring through such a bank of cloud; the damp of the mist was
on everything. The stones in the pathway glistened, the air was raw and
fresh, awaiting the rising of the sun. I took the path and went downward.