We read of certain saints who were subject to experiences of this kind that they were “snatched up” into some supramundane region, and that they stated on their return to earth that it was not lawful for them to speak of the things they had witnessed. The humble naturalist and nature-worshipper can only witness the world glorified—transfigured; what he finds is the important thing. I fancy the mystics would have been nearer the mark if they had said that their experiences during their period of exaltation could not be reported, or that it would be idle to report them, since their questioners lived on the ground and would be quite incapable on account of the mind’s limitations of conceiving a state above it and outside of its own experience.
The glory passed and with it the exaltation: the earth and sea turned grey; the last boat was drawn up on the slope and the men departed slowly: only one remained, a rough-looking youth, about fifteen years old. Some important matter which he was revolving in his mind had detained him alone on the darkening beach. He sat down, then stood up and gazed at the rolling wave after wave to roar and hiss on the shingle at his feet; then he moved restlessly about, crunching pebbles beneath his thick boots; finally, making up his mind, he took off his coat, threw it down, and rolled up his shirt-sleeves, with the resolute air of a man about to engage in a fight with an adversary nearly as big as himself. Stepping back a little space, he made a rush at the sea, not to cast himself in it, but only, as it turned out, with the object of catching some water in the hollow of his hands from the top of an incoming wave. He only succeeded in getting his legs wet, and in hastily retreating he fell on his back. Nothing daunted, he got up and renewed the assault, and when he succeeded in catching water in his hands he dashed it on and vigorously rubbed it over his dirty face. After repeating the operation about a dozen times, receiving meanwhile several falls and wettings, he appeared satisfied, put on his coat and marched away homewards with a composed air.
Since that visit to Salisbury, described in a former chapter, when I watched and listened to the doves in those cold days in early spring, I have been there a good many times, but never at the time when the bird colony is most interesting to observe, just before and during the early part of the breeding-season. At length, in the early days of June, 1908, the wished opportunity was mine—wished yet feared, seeing that it was possible some disaster had fallen upon that unique colony of stock-doves. It is true they appeared to be long established and well able to maintain their foothold on the building in spite of malicious persecuting daws, but there was nothing to show that they had been long there, seeing that it had been observed by no person but myself