Unhappy Far-Off Things eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 43 pages of information about Unhappy Far-Off Things.

I do not know which the Happy Valley is, for so many little valleys run in and out about Albert; and with a little effort of imagination, having only seen them full of the ruin of war, one can fancy any of them being once named happy.  Yet one there is away to the east of Albert, which even up to last autumn seemed able to bear this name, so secluded it was in that awful garden of Mars; a tiny valley running into the wood of Becourt.  A few yards, higher up and all was desolation, a little further along a lonely road and you saw Albert mourning over irreparable vistas of ruin and wasted fields; but the little valley ran into the wood of Becourt and sheltered there, and there you saw scarcely any signs of war.  It might almost have been an English valley, by the side of an English wood.  The soil was the same brown clay that you see in the south Of England above the downs and the chalk; the wood was a hazel wood, such as grow in England, thinned a good deal, as English hazels are, but with several tall trees still growing; and plants were there and late flowers, such as grow in Surrey and Kent.  And at the end of the valley, just in the shadow of that familiar homely wood, a hundred British officers rest for ever.

As the world is today perhaps that obscure spot, as fittingly as any, might be named the Happy Valley.

In Bethune

Under all ruins is history, as every tourist knows.  Indeed, the dust that gathers above the ruin of cities may be said to be the cover of the most wonderful of the picture-books of Time, those secret books into which we sometimes peep.  We turn no more, perhaps, than the corner of a single page in our prying, but we catch a glimpse there of things so gorgeous, in the book that we are not meant to see, that it is worth while to travel to far countries, whoever can, to see one of those books, and where the edges are turned up a little to catch sight of those strange winged bulls and mysterious kings and lion-headed gods that were not meant for us.  And out of the glimpses, one catches from odd comers of those volumes of Time, where old centuries hide, one builds up part by guesses, part by fancy mixed with but little knowledge, a tale or theory of how men and women lived in unknown ages in the faith of forgotten gods.

Such a people lived in Timgad and left it probably about the time that waning Rome began to call home her outposts.  Long after the citizens left the city stood on that high plateau in Africa, teaching shepherd Arabs what Rome had been:  even to-day its great arches and parts of its temples stand:  its paved streets are still grooved clearly with the wheel-ruts of chariots, and beaten down on each side of the centre by the pairs of horses that drew them two thousand years ago.  When all the clatter had died away Timgad stood there in silence.

At Pompeii, city and citizens ended together.  Pompeii did not mourn among strangers, a city without a people:  but was buried at once, closed like an ancient book.

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Unhappy Far-Off Things from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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