The next day I returned to the spot accompanied by my wife and my two boys. We made a new and elaborate inspection of the two cottages. In the afternoon the landlord, a neighbouring farmer, met us. He was a dales-man born and bred, shrewd, much given to silence, but with a plenitude of genial good sense. He began by being somewhat suspicious of us after the usual country fashion. When he at last understood the sincerity and novelty of our intentions, he treated us with a kind of fatherly derision, which had no hint of impoliteness or impertinence in it. ‘It will na do, I’m thinking,’ he said, several times. When he saw us persistent, and that our persistence grew in the ratio of his dissuasion, he said, just as though he were talking to wayward children, ’Well, a wilful man maun have his way. As for my bit of cottages, ye’re welcome to them, an’ I’ll ask no rent till ye’ve been in them long enough to know your own minds better. They’re of no worth to me, an’ I’ll be your debtor for living in them. If ye want to pull them aboot, ye’ll do it at your own expense, I’m willing. Later on, if ye care to stay, you and me’ll fix a rent, an’ I gie ye ma word it shall na be more than ten pund a year. I’ll help ye too if ye’ll let me. I can find ye a man as ’ll do all the little jobs you want done, an’ glad to do it. As for fishing, the stream’s yours, an’ I would na say but what ye might get some shooting too. But ye’ll tire of it, ye’ll tire of it,’ he concluded, with a grave smile.
With that he handed us the keys. He then shook our hands with the melancholy air of a man who says farewell to friends embarked upon a perilous adventure, and strode away across the heather, stopping once to wave his hand to us as if in wise dissuasion.
So Mahomet might have stood above Damascus when he said, ’My Paradise is not there,’ and yet Damascus was a Paradise all the same.
We are all children, and in nothing so much perhaps as in the kind of delight we take in any form of building. The architectural efforts of a child with a box of bricks or a heap of sand explain the Tower of Babel, the Pyramids, and the Golden House of Nero. House-building unites the ideal with the real more thoroughly than any other human employment. What can there be more delightful than to see that which you have dreamed grow into tangible and enduring form? No wonder the rich man builds himself ‘a lordly pleasure-house’; it is a kind of practical poetry which he can understand. Were there only millionaires enough to go round all architects would be wealthy, for building is a kind of material art admirably suited to men of material intelligence.