Hardly was Miss Marks settled in the family, than my Father left us on an expedition about which my curiosity was exercised, but not until later, satisfied. He had gone, as we afterwards found, to South Devon, to a point on the coast which he had known of old. Here he had hired a horse, and had ridden about until he saw a spot he liked, where a villa was being built on speculation. Nothing equals the courage of these recluse men; my Father got off his horse, and tied it to the gate, and then he went in and bought the house on a ninety-nine years’ lease. I need hardly say that he had made the matter a subject of the most earnest prayer, and had entreated the Lord for guidance. When he felt attracted to this particular villa, he did not doubt that he was directed to it in answer to his supplication, and he wasted no time in further balancing or inquiring. On my eighth birthday, with bag and baggage complete, we all made the toilful journey down into Devonshire, and I was a town-child no longer.
A NEW element now entered into my life, a fresh rival arose to compete for me with my Father’s dogmatic theology. This rival was the Sea. When Wordsworth was a little child, the presence of the mountains and the clouds lighted up his spirit with gleams that were like the flashing of a shield. He has described, in the marvellous pages of the ‘Prelude’, the impact of nature upon the infant soul, but he has described it vaguely and faintly, with some ’infirmity of love for days disowned by memory’,—I think because he was brought up in the midst of spectacular beauty, and could name no moment, mark no ‘here’ or ‘now’, when the wonder broke upon him. It was at the age of twice five summers, he thought, that he began to hold unconscious intercourse with nature, ‘drinking in a pure organic pleasure’ from the floating mists and winding waters. Perhaps, in his anxiety to be truthful, and in the absence of any record, he put the date of this conscious rapture too late rather than too early. Certainly my own impregnation with the obscurely-defined but keenly-felt loveliness of the open sea dates from the first week of my ninth year.