I sat again in that scoop of the shore by the long rolling seas, burying in the sand the piece of paper which had summoned me away to my Grand Jury; and the same thoughts came to me with the breaking of the waves that had come to me before: How, in every wave was a particle that had known the shore of every land; and in each sparkle of the hot sunlight stealing up that bright water into the sky, the microcosm of all change and of all unity! 1912.
Not possible to conceive of rarer beauty than that which clung about the summer day three years ago when first we had the news of the poor Herds. Loveliness was a net of golden filaments in which the world was caught. It was gravity itself, so tranquil; and it was a sort of intoxicating laughter. From the top field that we crossed to go down to their cottage, all the far sweep of those outstretched wings of beauty could be seen. Very wonderful was the poise of the sacred bird, that moved nowhere but in our hearts. The lime-tree scent was just stealing out into air for some days already bereft of the scent of hay; and the sun was falling to his evening home behind our pines and beeches. It was no more than radiant warm. And, as we went, we wondered why we had not been told before that Mrs. Herd was so very ill. It was foolish to wonder—these people do not speak of suffering till it is late. To speak, when it means what this meant loss of wife and mother—was to flatter reality too much. To be healthy, or—die! That is their creed. To go on till they drop—then very soon pass away! What room for states between—on their poor wage, in their poor cottages?
We crossed the mill-stream in the hollow—to their white, thatched dwelling; silent, already awed, almost resentful of this so-varying Scheme of Things. At the gateway Herd himself was standing, just in from his work. For work in the country does not wait on illness—even death claims from its onlookers but a few hours, birth none at all, and it is as well; for what must be must, and in work alone man rests from grief. Sorrow and anxiety had made strange alteration already in Herd’s face. Through every crevice of the rough, stolid mask the spirit was peeping, a sort of quivering suppliant, that seemed to ask all the time: “Is it true?” A regular cottager’s figure, this of Herd’s—a labourer of these parts—strong, slow, but active, with just a touch of the untamed somewhere, about the swing and carriage of him, about the strong jaw, and wide thick-lipped mouth; just that something independent, which, in great variety, clings to the natives of these still remote, half-pagan valleys by the moor.