Tales, not poems, are written upon them now. I hear the voices of "Them Ones," as Irish folk impressively say of the Little People, telling me tales out of the Book Sealed, tales which in the very hearing make a man blush hotly and thrill with hopes mysterious. Such stories as they are! The romances of high young blood, of maidens' winsome purity and frank disdain, of strong men who take their lives in hand and hurl themselves upon the push of pikes. And though I cannot grasp more than a hint of the plot, yet as my feet swish through the dewy swathes of the hyacinths or crisp along the frost-bitten snow, a wild thought quickens within me into a belief, that one day I shall hear them all, and tell these tales for my very own so that the world must listen.
But as the rosy fingers of the morn melt and the broad day fares forth, the vision fades, and I who saw and heard must go and sit down to my plain saltless tale. Once I wrote a book, every word of it, in the open air. It was full of the sweet things of the country, so at least as they seemed to me. I saw the hens nestle sleepily in the holes of the bank-side where the dry dust is, and so I wrote it down. I heard the rain drum on the broad leaves over my head, and I wrote that down also. Day after day I rose and wrote in the dawn, and sometimes I seemed to recapture a leaf or a passing glance of a chapter-heading out of the Book Sealed. It came back to me how the girls were kissed and love was made in the days when the Book Sealed was the Book Open, and when I cared not a jot for anything that was written therein. So as well as I could I wrote these things down in the red dawn. And so till the book was done.
Then the day comes when the book is printed and bound, and when the critics write of it after their kind, things good and things evil. But I that have gathered the fairy gold dare not for my life look again within, lest it should be even as they say, and I should find but withered leaves therein. For the sake of the vision of the breaking day and the incommunicable hope, I shall look no more upon it. But ever with the eternal human expectation, I rise and wait the morning and the final opening of the "Book Sealed."
Then we had the world to ourselves, save for a red farm cart or so. Then there were no motor-cars, no motor-buses, no clappering insolent monocycles! It was in some wise the rider's age of gold. The country still lay waste and sweet and silent about him. The ignoble "toot-toot" and rhinoceros snort of the pursuing monster was unknown—unknown, too, the odors which leave the wayfarer fretful and angry behind them.
"Get out of the way, all you mean little people!" was not yet the commonest of highway sounds. The green hedgerows were not hidden under a gray dust veil. The Trossachs, the Highlands, the English lakes, and our own fair Galloway roads were not splashed with the iridescent fragrance of petrol. Ah, we took Time by the forelock, Sweetheart, you and I, in those old days when the hawthorn was untainted and the wayside honeysuckles still gave forth a good smell. True, Sweetheart (as above stated) sounded a bell. But even she did it with relish, and the trill carried tenderly on the ear, like the mass-bell rung in some great cathedral as the service culminates, each time more thrilling and insistent. And it was good to see the smile of the folk as they stood aside, and the nod which red-cloaked Sweetheart gave them as we glided noiselessly past!