No nation can be truly great
That hath not something childlike in its life
Of every day.
Why are we lacking in that which others undoubtedly have, a something to complete the round of homely happiness in our little rural centres; how is it that we do not properly encourage the things which, albeit childlike, are essential, which sweetly recreate? It is not merely the selfishness of those who are well placed and prefer to live for themselves, or who have light but care not to shed it on those who are not of their class. Selfishness is common enough everywhere, in men of all races. It is not selfishness, nor the growth of towns or decay of agriculture, which as a fact does not decay, nor education, nor any of the other causes usually given for the dullness, the greyness of village life. The chief cause, I take it, is that gulf, or barrier, which exists between men and men in different classes in our country, or a considerable portion of it—the caste feeling which is becoming increasingly rigid in the rural world, if my own observation, extending over a period of twenty-five years, is not all wrong.
Never in my experience has there been a worse spring season than that of 1903 for the birds, more especially for the short-winged migrants. In April I looked for the woodland warblers and found them not, or saw but a few of the commonest kinds. It was only too easy to account for this rarity. The bitter north-east wind had blown every day and all day long during those weeks when birds are coming, and when nearing the end of their journey, at its most perilous stage, the wind had been dead against them; its coldness and force was too much for these delicate travellers, and doubtless they were beaten down in thousands into the grey waters of a bitter sea. The stronger-winged wheatear was more fortunate, since he comes in March, and before that spell of deadly weather he was already back in his breeding haunts on Salisbury Plain, and, in fact, everywhere on that open down country. I was there to hear him sing his wild notes to the listening waste—singing them, as his pretty fashion is, up in the air, suspended on quickly vibrating wings like a great black and white moth. But he was in no singing mood, and at last, in desperation, I fled to Salisbury to wait for loitering spring in that unattractive town.
The streets were cold as the open plain, and there was no comfort indoors; to haunt the cathedral during those vacant days was the only occupation left to me. There was some shelter to be had under the walls, and the empty, vast interior would seem almost cosy on coming in from the wind. At service my due feet never failed, while morning, noon, and evening I paced the smooth level green by the hour, standing at intervals to gaze up at the immense pile with its central soaring spire, asking myself why I had never