Some few feet up the cliff was a little thicket of withered thorns. The air was chilly and the cleft was growing very black. Why should not he make a fire behind the great boulder? He gathered some armfuls and heaped them in a space of dry sand. They were a little wet, so they burned slowly with a great smoke, which the rising night wind blew behind him. He was still hungry, so he ate the food he had brought in his pockets; and then he lit his pipe. How oddly the tobacco tasted in this moment of high excitement! It was as if the essence of all the pipes he had ever smoked was concentrated into this last one. The smoke blew back, and as he sniffed its old homely fragrance he seemed to feel the smell of peat and heather, of drenched homespun in the snowy bogs, and the glory of a bright wood fire and the moorland cottage. In a second his thoughts were many thousand miles away. The night wind cooled his brow, and he looked into the dark gap and saw his own past.
The first picture was a cold place on a low western island. Snow was drifting sparsely, and a dull grey Atlantic swell was grumbling on the reefs. He was crouching among the withered rushes, where seaweed and shells had been blown, and snow lay in dirty patches. He felt the thick collar of his shooting-coat tight about his neck, while the December evening grew darker and colder. A gillie, who had no English, was lying at his right hand, and far out at sea a string of squattering geese were slowly drifting shorewards with the wind. He saw the scene clear in every line, and he remembered the moment as if it had been yesterday, It had been one of his periods of great exultation. He had just left Oxford, and had fled northward after some weeks in Paris to wash out the taste of civilization from his mouth among the island north-westers. He had had a great day among the woodcock, and now was finishing with a stalk after wild geese. He was furiously hungry, chilled and soaked to the bone, but riotously happy. His future seemed to stretch before him, a brighter continuation of a bright past, a time for high achievement, bold work, and yet no surcease of pleasure. He had been master of himself in that hour, his body firm and strong, his soul clear, his mind a tempered weapon awaiting his hands.