So far everything is quite ordinary. The game is over, the ball is lost, and you prepare to go. But you decide to go home by a rather roundabout way that brings you by the spot that you have scoured in vain. You are not going to search for the ball. That would simply put the creature up to some new artifice. No, you are just walking round that way accidentally. What so natural as that you should have your eyes on the ground? And there, sure enough, lies the ball, taken completely unaware. It is so ridiculously obvious that to say that it was lying there when you were looking for it so industriously is absurd. It simply couldn’t have been there. You suspect that if after your search, instead of going on with the play you had hidden behind the hedge and watched, you would have seen the creature come out from its hole.
I do not expect to have my theory that the golf-ball has an intelligence accepted. The mystery is explicable, I am told, on the doctrine of the “fresh eye.” You look for a thing so hard that you seem to lose the faculty of vision. Then you forget all about it and find it. The experience applies to all the operations of the mind. If I get “stuck” in writing an article I go and do a bit of physical work, ride a bicycle or merely walk round the garden, and the current flows again. Or you have a knotty problem to decide. You think furiously about it all day and get more hopelessly undecided the longer you think. Then you go to bed, and you wake in the morning with your mind made up. Hence the phrase, “I will sleep on it.” It is this freshness of the vision, this faculty of passive illumination, that Wordsworth had in mind when he wrote:
Think you, ’mid all
this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?
And yet I cannot quite get rid of my fancy that the golf ball does enjoy the game.
There are still a few apples on the topmost branches of the trees in the orchard. They are there because David, the labourer, who used to come and lend us a hand in his odd hours—chiefly when the moon was up—is no longer available. You may remember how David opened his heart to me about enlisting when he stood on the ladder picking the pears last year. He did not like to go and he did not like to stay. All the other chaps had gone, and he didn’t feel comfortable like in being left behind, but there was his mother and his wife and his Aunt Jane, and not a man to do a hand’s turn for ’em or to dig their gardens if he went. And there was the allotment—that ’ud run to weeds. And ...