Cycling another day between Lyndhurst and Burley, I reached the east entrance of Burley Lodge, which is on higher ground than the farm spread out to the right in the valley. The whole valley was filled with thick white mist, as level as a lake, so that nothing could be seen of the fields. The setting sun was low down at the further extremity of the valley, and the surface of the mist-lake reflected its rays in a rosy sheen, with a track of brighter light in the middle, stretching from the far end of the lake in a broad path almost to where I was standing; just as we see the track of sunlight or moonlight, sometimes, on the sea, from the shore. This phenomenon is not uncommon when one is looking down from the top of a hill in the sunshine, upon a valley full of mist, but I have never seen it before from comparatively low ground, as on this occasion.
My summers at Aldington were nearly always too busy to allow me to take a holiday, except for a very few days, but when the urgent work of the year was over, the harvest completed, and the hops and the fruit picked, we always had a clear month away from home, about the middle of October to the middle of November; and, as we found the autumn much less advanced in the south than in the midlands, we often spent the time on the south coast or in the Isle of Wight, and we were nearly always favoured by fine weather. On one of these occasions, when we were exploring the whole island on bicycles, I never once found it necessary to carry a waterproof cape, though in the course of this visit we rode over 600 miles.
[Illustration: NOTE. THE CHANGING COURSE OF STREAMS.]
BIRDS: PEACOCKS—A WHITE PHEASANT—ROOKS’ ARITHMETIC.
“Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven or near it,
Pourest thy full heart.”
—SHELLEY: To a Skylark.
We read of the peacocks which Solomon’s navy of Tarshish brought once in three years with other rare and precious commodities to contribute to the splendour of his court; and doubtless their magnificence added a distinct feature even where so much that was beautiful was to be seen; but, to show itself off to the best advantage, one cannot imagine a better place for a peacock than a grey old English home, round whose mellow stone walls time is lingering lovingly. The touch of brilliant life beside the appeal of the venerable past adds perfection to the picture. I have always had an immense admiration for peacocks, and soon after I came to Aldington I bought a pair. The cock we named Gabriel Junks, after the famous bird in one of Scrutator’s books; he was a grand presence, and loved to display the huge fan of his gorgeously-eyed tail, quivering his rattling quills in all the glory of its greens and blues, and cinnamon-coloured wing feathers, on the little piece of lawn under the chestnut trees in front of the Manor.