I know many people who have felt the same inclination that sometimes comes over me, to choose bad weather to go out in. They are generally men who have passed from a childhood lived in the open air of the country, to an occupation which entails much sitting still, and for whom the room sometimes seems to become too narrow and confined—or else they are poets. Their recollection and imagination live, more or less unknown to themselves, in a continual longing to get away from the confined air of a room, and the barrack-life of a town.
So one day when the country comes into the town in the shape of a downright storm of wind and rain, which shakes the tiles on the roofs, and now and then flings one after you, while the streets become rivers, and every corner an ambush from which the whirlwind makes a sudden attack upon your umbrella, and, after a more or less prolonged and adroit struggle, tears it, and turns it inside out, until at last you stand with only the stick and the ribs left in your hand—at such a time, it now and then happens that a quiet, dignified civil servant, or business man, instead of sitting at home, as usual, in the afternoon in his comfortable room after the day’s toil in the office, says to his wife that he “is sorry he must go out into the town for a little while.” And what he unfortunately must go out for is, of course, “business.” For little would it become a sedate, grave man, perhaps an alderman, and one of the fathers of the town, to acknowledge, even to himself, that he is childish enough to go and wander about in bad weather, that he only wants to walk down to the quay to see the spray dash over the bitts, and to watch the ships in the harbour playing at shipwreck. He must, of course, have something to do there; if nothing else, at any rate to see “ne quid detrimenti capiat respublica”; that is to say, that the town, whose welfare, in one way or another, it is his business to look after, is not blown down.
The fact is, there is a revolution in the streets—not a political revolution, Heaven preserve him from that—but one which has an attraction for him, because it awakens all his old recollections, and in which, much to his disgrace, he contrives surreptitiously to join, although, in its own way, it too defies all police arrangements, breaks windows, puts out street-lamps, tears the tiles from the house-roofs, damages piers and moorings, and chases police and watchmen into their holes. It is Nature’s loud war-cry, in the very midst of the civilised town, to all the recollections of his childhood, to his imagination and his love of Nature; and he obeys it like an old trumpeter’s horse that hears the signal of his youth, and instantly leaps the fence.