On Something
by H. Belloc
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Those who attacked the Tuileries upon the 10th of August acted in a manner entirely spontaneous, and succeeded. The arrest of the Royal Family at Varennes was not the action of one individual or of two; it was not Drouet nor was it the Saulce family. It was a great number of individuals (the King had been recognized all along the journey), each thinking the same thing under the tension of a particular episode, each vaguely tending to one kind of action and tending with increasing energy towards that action, and all combining, as it were, upon that culminating point in the long journey which was reached at the archway of the little town in Argonne.

To have expressed and portrayed this common national power has been the saving of the principal French historians, notably of Michelet. It has furnished them with the key by which alone the history of their country could be made plain. Nothing is easier than to ridicule or deny so mystical a thing. Taine, by temperament intensely anti-national, ridiculed it as he ridiculed the mysteries of the Faith; but with this consequence, that his denial made it impossible for him to write the history of his country, and compelled him throughout his work, but especially in his history of the Revolution, to perpetual, and at last to somewhat crude, forms of falsehood.

Not to recognize this National force has, again, led men into another error: they will have it that the great common actions of Frenchmen are due to some occult force or to a master. They will explain the Crusades by the cunning organization of the Papacy; the French Revolution by the cunning organization of the Masonic lodges; the Napoleonic episode by the individual cunning and plan of Bonaparte. Such explanations are puerile.

The blow of 1870 was perhaps the most severe which any modern nation has endured. By some accident it did not terminate the activity of the French nation. The Southern States of America remain under the effect of the Civil War. All that is not Prussian in Germany remains prostrate— especially in ideas—under the effect of the Prussian victory over it. The French but barely escaped a similarly permanent dissolution of national character: but they did escape it; and the national mark, the power of spontaneous and collective action, after a few years' check, began to emerge.

Upon two occasions an attempt was made towards such action. The first was in the time of Boulanger, the second during the Dreyfus business. In both cases the nation instinctively saw, or rather felt, its enemy. In both there was a moment when the cosmopolitan financier stood in physical peril of his life. Neither, however, matured; in neither did the people finally move.

Latterly several partial risings have marked French life. Why none of them should have culminated I will consider in a moment. Meanwhile, the foreign observer will do well to note the character of these movements, abortive though they were. It is like standing upon the edge of a crater and watching the heave and swell of the vast energies below. There may have been no actual eruption for some time, but the activities of the volcano and its nature are certain to you as you gaze. The few days that passed two years ago in Herault are an example.

No one who is concerned for the immediate future of Europe should neglect the omen: half a million men, with leaders chosen rapidly by themselves, converging without disaster, with ample commissariat, with precision and rapidity upon one spot: a common action decided upon, and that action most calculated to defeat the enemy; decided upon by men of no exceptional power, mere mouthpieces of this vast concourse: similar and exactly parallel decisions over the whole countryside from the great towns to the tiny mountain villages. It is the spirit of a swarm of bees. One incident in the affair was the most characteristic of it all: fearing they would be ordered to fire on men of their own district the private soldiers and corporals of the 17th of the Line mutinied. So far so good: mutinies are common in all actively military states—the exceptional thing was what followed. The men organized themselves without a single officer or non-commissioned officer, equipped themselves for a full day's march to the capital of the province, achieved it in good order, and took quarters in the town. All that exact movement was spontaneous. It explains the Marshals of the Empire. These were sent off as a punishment to the edge of the African desert; the mutiny seemed to the moneydealers a proof of military defeat. They erred: these young men, some of them of but six months' training, none of them of much more than two years, not one of them over twenty-five years of age, were a precise symbol of the power which made the Revolution and its victims. The reappearance of that power in our tranquil modern affairs seems to me of capital importance.

One should end by asking one's self, "Will these unfinished movements breed a finished movement at last? Will Gaul move to some final purpose in our time, and if so, against what, with what an object and in what a manner?"

Prophecy is vain, but it is entertaining, and I will prophesy that Gaul will move in our time, and that the movement will be directed against the pestilent humbug of the parliamentary system.

For forty years this force in the nation of which I speak, though so frequently stirred, has not achieved its purpose. But in nearly every case, directly or indirectly, the thing against which it moved was the Parliament. It would be too lengthy a matter to discuss here why the representative system has sunk to be what it is in modern Europe. It was the glory of the Middle Ages, it was a great vital institution of Christendom, sprung from the monastic institution that preceded it, a true and living power first in Spain, where Christendom was at its most acute activity in the struggle against Asia, then in the north-west, in England and in France. And indeed, in one form or another, throughout all the old limits of the Empire. It died, its fossil was preserved in one or two small and obscure communities, its ancient rules and form were captured by the English squires and merchants, and it was maintained, a curious but vigorous survival, in this country. When the Revolution in 1789 began the revival of democracy in the great nations the old representative scheme of the French, a very perfect one, was artificially resurrected, based upon the old doctrine of universal suffrage and upon a direct mandate. It was logical, it ought to have worked, but in barely a hundred years it has failed.

There is an instructive little anecdote upon the occupation of Rome in 1870.

When the French garrison was withdrawn and the Northern Italians had occupied the city, representative machinery was set to work, nominally to discover whether the change in Government were popular or no. A tiny handful of votes was recorded in the negative, let us say forty-three.

Later, in the early winter of that same year, a great festival of the Church was celebrated in the Basilica of St. Peter and at the tombs of the Apostles. The huge church was crowded, many were even pressed outside the doors. When the ceremony was over the dense mass that streamed out into the darkness took up the cry, the irony of which filled the night air of the Trastevere and its slums of sovereign citizens. The cry was this:

"We are the Forty-three!"

It is an anecdote that applies continually to the modern representative system in every country which has the misfortune to support it. No one needs to be reminded of such a truth. We know in England how the one strong feeling in the elections of 1906 was the desire to get at the South African Jews and sweep away their Chinese labour from under them.

The politicians and the party hacks put into power by that popular determination went straight to the South African Jews, hat in hand, asked them what was their good pleasure in the matter, and framed a scheme in connivance with them, by which no vengeance should be taken and not a penny of theirs should be imperilled.

In modern France the chances of escape from the parliamentary game, tawdry at its best, at its worst a social peril, are much greater than in this country. The names and forms of the thing are not of ancient institution. There is therefore no opportunity for bamboozling people with a sham continuity, or of mixing up the interests of the party hacks with the instinct of patriotism. Moreover, in modern France the parliamentary system happened to come up vitally against the domestic habits of the people earlier and more violently than it has yet done in this country. The little gang which had captured the machine was violently anti-Christian; it proceeded step by step to the destruction of the Church, until at the end of 1905 the crisis had taken this form. The Church was disestablished, its endowments were cancelled, the housing of its hierarchy, its churches and its cathedrals and their furniture were, further, to be taken from it unless it adopted a Presbyterian form of government which could not but have cankered it and which was the very negative of its spirit. So far nothing that the Parliament had done really touched the lives of the people. Even the proposal to put the remaining goods of the Church under Presbyterian management was a matter for the theologians and not for them. Not one man in a hundred knew or cared about the business. The critical date approached (the 11th of December, if I remember rightly). Rome was to accept the anti-Catholic scheme of government or all the churches were to be shut. Rome refused the scheme, and Parliament, faced for once with a reality and brought under the necessity of really interfering with the popular life or of capitulating, capitulated.

What has that example to do, you may ask, with that movement in the south of France, which is the text of these pages? The answer is as follows:

In the south of France the one main thing actually touching the lives of the people, after their religion (which the complete breakdown of the anti-clerical threat had secured), was the sale of their principal manufacture. This sale was rendered difficult from a number of reasons, one of which, perhaps not the chief, but the most apparent and the most easily remediable, was the adulteration and fraud existing in the trade. Such adulteration and fraud are common to all the trade of our own time. It was winked at by the gang in power in France, just as similar dirty work is winked at by the gang in power in every other parliamentary country. When the peasants who had suffered so severely by this commercial corruption of our time asked that it should be put a stop to, the old reply, which has done duty half a million times in every case of corruption in France, England, or America for a generation, was given to them: "If you desire a policy to be effected, elect men who will effect it." As a fact, these four departments had elected a group of men, of whom Laferre, the Grand Master of the Freemasons, is a good type, with his absorbing interest in the destruction of Christianity, and his ignorance and ineptitude in any other field than that of theology.

The peasants replied to this sophistry, which had done duty so often and had been successful so often in their case as in others, by calling upon their Deputies to resign. Laferre neglected to do so. He was too greatly occupied with his opportunity. He went down to "address his constituents." They chased him for miles. And in that exhilarating episode it was apparent that the peasants of the Aude had discovered in their simple fashion both where the representative system was at fault and by what methods it may be remedied.


Stand on the side of a stream and consider two things: the imbecility of your private nature and the genius of your common kind.

For you cannot cross the stream, you—Individual you; but Man (from whence you come) has found out an art for crossing it. This art is the building of bridges. And hence man in the general may properly be called Pontifex, or "The Bridge Builder"; and his symbolic summits of office will carry some such title.

Here I will confess (Individual) that I am tempted to leave you by the side of the stream, to swim it if you can, to drown if you can't, or to go back home and be eaten out with your desire for the ulterior shore, while I digress upon that word Pontifex, which, note you, is not only a name over a shop as "Henry Pontifex, Italian Warehouseman," or "Pontifex Brothers, Barbers," but a true key-word breeding ideas and making one consider the greatness of man, or rather the greatness of what made him.

For man builds bridges over streams, and he has built bridges more or less stable between mind and mind (a difficult art!), having designed letters for that purpose, which are his instrument; and man builds by prayer a bridge between himself and God; man also builds bridges which unite him with Beauty all about.

Thus he paints and draws and makes statues, and builds for beauty as well as for shelter from the weather. And man builds bridges between knowledge and knowledge, co-ordinating one thing that he knows with another thing that he knows, and putting a bridge from each to each. And man is for ever building—but he has never yet completed, nor ever will—that bridge they call philosophy, which is to explain himself in relation to that whence he came. I say, when his skeleton is put in the Museum properly labelled, it shall be labelled not Homo Sapiens, but Homo Pontifex; hence also the anthem, or rather the choral response, "Pontificem habemus," which is sung so nobly by pontifical great choirs, when pontifications are pontificated, as behooves the court of a Pontiff.

Nevertheless (Individual) I will not leave you there, for I have pity on you, and I will explain to you the nature of bridges. By a bridge was man's first worry overcome. For note you, there is no worry so considerable as to wail by impassable streams (as Swinburne has it). It is the proper occupation of the less fortunate dead.


Believe me, without bridges the world would be very different to you. You take them for granted, you lollop along the road, you cross a bridge. You may be so ungrateful as to forget all about it, but it is an awful thing!

A bridge is a violation of the will of nature and a challenge. "You desired me not to cross," says man to the River God, "but I will." And he does so: not easily. The god had never objected to him that he should swim and wet himself. Nay, when he was swimming the god could drown him at will, but to bridge the stream, nay, to insult it, to leap over it, that was man all over; in a way he knows that the earthy gods are less than himself and that all that he dreads is his inferior, for only that which he reveres and loves can properly claim his allegiance. Nor does he in the long run pay that allegiance save to holiness, or in a lesser way to valour and to worth.

Man cannot build bridges everywhere. They are not multitudinous as are his roads, nor universal as are his pastures and his tillage. He builds from time to time in one rare place and another, and the bridge always remains a sacred thing. Moreover, the bridge is always in peril. The little bridge at Paris which carried the Roman road to the island was swept away continually; and the bridge of Staines that carried the Roman road from the great port to London was utterly destroyed.

Bridges have always lived with fear in their hearts; and if you think this is only true of old bridges (Individual), have you forgotten the Tay Bridge with the train upon it? Or the bridge that they were building over the St. Lawrence some little time ago, or the bridge across the Loire where those peasants went to their death on a Sunday only a few months since? Carefully consider these things and remember that the building and the sustaining of a bridge is always a wonderful and therefore a perilous thing.

No bridges more testify to the soul of man than the bridges that leap in one arch from height to height over the gorge of a torrent. Many of these are called the Devil's Bridges with good reason, for they suggest art beyond man's power, and there are two to be crossed and wondered at, one in Wales in the mountains, and another in Switzerland, also in the mountains. There is a third in the mountains at the gate of the Sahara, of the same sort, jumping from rock to rock. But it is not called the Devil's Bridge. It is called with Semitic simplicity "El Kantara," and that is the name the Arabs gave to the old bridges, to the lordly bridges of the Romans, wherever they came across them, for the Arabs were as incapable of making bridges as they were of doing anything else except singing love songs and riding about on horses. "Alcantara" is a name all over Spain, and it is in the heart of the capital of Portugal, and it is fixed in the wilds of Estremadura. You get it outside Constantine also where the bridge spans the gulf. Never did an Arab see bridges but he wondered.

Our people also, though they were not of the sort to stand with their mouths open in front of bridges or anything else, felt the mystery of these things. And they put chapels in the middle of them, as you may see at Bale, and at Bradford-upon-Avon, and especially was there one upon old London Bridge, which was dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket, and was very large. And speaking of old London Bridge, every one in London should revere bridges, for a great number of reasons.

In the first place London never would have been London but for London Bridge.

In the second place, bridges enable the people of London to visit the south of the river, which is full of pleasing and extraordinary sights, and in which may be seen, visibly present to the eye, Democracy. If any one doubts this let him take the voyage.

Then again, but for bridges Londoners could not see the river except from the Embankment, which is an empty sort of place, or from the windows of hotels. Bridges also permit railways from the south to enter London. If this seems to you a commonplace, visit New York or for ever after hold your peace.

All things have been degraded in our time and have also been multiplied, which is perhaps a condition of degradation; and your simple thing, your bridge, has suffered with the rest. Men have invented all manner of bridges: tubular bridges, suspension bridges, cantilever bridges, swing bridges, pontoon bridges, and the bridge called the Russian Bridge, which is intolerable; but they have not been able to do with the bridge what they have done with some other things: they have not been able to destroy it; it is still a bridge, still perilous, and still a triumph. The bridge still remains the thing which may go at any moment and yet the thing which, when it remains, remains our oldest monument. There is a bridge over the Euphrates—I forget whether it goes all the way across—which the Romans built. And the oldest thing in the way of bridges in the town of Paris, a thing three hundred years old, was the bridge that stood the late floods best. The bridge will remain a symbol in spite of the engineers.

Look how differently men have treated bridges according to the passing mood of civilization. Once they thought it reasonable to tax people who crossed bridges. Now they think it unreasonable. Yet the one course was as reasonable as the other. Once they built houses on bridges, clearly perceiving that there was lack of room for houses, and that there was a housing problem, and that the bridges gave a splendid chance. Now no one dares to build a house upon a bridge, and the one proceeding is as reasonable as the other.

The time has come to talk at random about bridges.

The ugliest bridge in the world runs from Lambeth to the Horseferry Road, and takes the place of the old British trackway which here crossed the Thames. About the middle of it, if you will grope in the mud, you may or may not find the great Seal of England which James II there cast into the flood. If it was fished up again, why then it is not there. The most beautiful bridge in London is Waterloo Bridge; the most historic is London Bridge; and far the most useful Westminster Bridge. The most famous bridge in Italy to tourists is the old bridge at Florence, and the best known from pictures the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. That with the best chance of an eternal fame is the bridge which carries the road from Tizzano to 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.


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 whole document.

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.




[Sidenote: Preamble.]

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. 199-200.)

[Sidenote: Harbours.]

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.

[Sidenote: Climate.]

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 new territory.

HERE ENDETH your Commissioners' Report.



* * * * *


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 historical interest).


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 it!

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 Ir, 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 the Perigord.

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 business.

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 the guns.

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 whatsoever.

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 other people.

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 Csar 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 more enduring.


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 chteau 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 assurance:

"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 her name!'

"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 that name.

"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 arranged.

"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 myself.

"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 train somehow."

"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 never does."

"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 warmly.

"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.


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 towards it."

"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 Fairyland?"

"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 over again."

"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 there myself."

"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 in Sussex."

At this moment the child's nurse came in to take it away, so she came to the point:

"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.


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 with light.

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.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse