But no visions have been recorded. It is true that certain stories of alleged visions have been circulated during the last few years. One, very pretty and touching, is of a child from the London slums who saw things invisible to others. This was one of the children of the very poor, who are taken in summer and planted all about England in cottages to have a week or a fortnight of country air and sunshine. Taken to Stonehenge, she had a vision of a great gathering of people, and so real did they seem that she believed in the reality of it all, and so beautiful did they appear to her that she was reluctant to leave, and begged to be taken back to see it all again. Unfortunately it is not true. A full and careful inquiry has been made into the story, of which there are several versions, and its origin traced to a little story-telling Wiltshire boy who had read or heard of the white-robed priests of the ancient days at “The Stones,” and who just to astonish other little boys naughtily pretended that he had seen it all himself!
Chapter Twenty-Three: Following a River
The stream invites us to follow: the impulse is so common that it might be set down as an instinct; and certainly there is no more fascinating pastime than to keep company with a river from its source to the sea. Unfortunately this is not easy in a country where running waters have been enclosed, which should be as free as the rain and sunshine to all, and were once free, when England was England still, before landowners annexed them, even as they annexed or stole the commons and shut up the footpaths and made it an offence for a man to go aside from the road to feel God’s grass under his feet. Well, they have also got the road now, and cover and blind and choke us with its dust and insolently hoot-hoot at us. Out of the way, miserable crawlers, if you don’t want to be smashed!
Sometimes the way is cut off by huge thorny hedges and fences of barbed wire—man’s devilish improvement on the bramble —brought down to the water’s edge. The river-follower must force his way through these obstacles, in most cases greatly to the detriment of his clothes and temper; or, should they prove impassable, he must undress and go into the water. Worst of all is the thought that he is a trespasser. The pheasants crow loudly lest he should forget it. Occasionally, too, in these private places he encounters men in velveteens with guns under their arms, and other men in tweeds and knickerbockers, with or without guns, and they all stare at him with amazement in their eyes, like disturbed cattle in a pasture; and sometimes they challenge him. But I must say that, although I have been sharply spoken to on several occasions, always, after a few words, I have been permitted to keep on my way. And on that way I intend to keep until I have no more strength to climb over fences and force my way through hedges, but like a blind and worn-out old badger must take to my earth and die.