A family from York had come by the same train, and I had learnt from their conversation that they had engaged lodgings for a month at Runswick Bay. The children, two boys of ten and twelve, and a little fair-haired girl a year or two younger, were full of excitement on their arrival.
‘Father, where is the sea?’ they cried. ‘Oh, we do want to see the sea!’
‘Run on,’ said their father, ‘and you will soon see it.’
So we ran together, for I felt myself a child again as I watched them, and if ever I lagged behind, one or other of them would turn round and cry, ‘Come on, come on; we shall soon see it.’
Then, suddenly, we came to the edge of the high cliff, and the sea in all its beauty and loveliness burst upon us. The small bay was shut in by rocks on either side, and on the descent of the steep cliff was built the little fishing village. I think I have never seen a prettier place.
The children were already running down the steep, rocky path—I cannot call it a road—which led down to the sea, and I followed more slowly behind them. It was the most curiously built place. The fishermen’s cottages were perched on the rock, wherever a ledge or standing place could be found. Steep, narrow paths, or small flights of rock-hewn steps, led from one to another. There was no street in the whole place; there could be none, for there were hardly two houses which stood on the same level. To take a walk through this quaint village was to go up and down stairs the whole time.
At last, after a long, downward scramble, I found myself on the shore, and then I looked back at the cliff and at the irregular little town. I did not wonder that artists were to be found there. I had counted four as I came down the hill, perched on different platforms on the rock, and all hard at work at their easels.
Yes, it was certainly a picturesque place, and I was glad that I had come. The colouring was charming: there was red rock in the background, here and there covered with grass, and ablaze with flowers. Wild roses and poppies, pink-thrift and white daisies, all contributed to make the old rock gay. But the yellow ragwort was all over; great patches of it grew even on the margin of the sand, and its bright flowers gave the whole place a golden colouring. There seemed to be yellow everywhere, and the red-tiled cottages, and the fishermen in their blue jerseys, and the countless flights of steps, all appeared to be framed in the brightest gilt.
Yes, I felt sure I should find something to paint in Runswick Bay. I was not disappointed in Tom’s choice for me.