THIS morning the air is clear, and there is a trace of summer again.
I am sitting in a nook beside the stream from the Upper Lake, close
down among the heather and bracken and rushes. I have seen the
people going up to Mass in the Reformatory, and the valley seems
empty of life.
I have gone on, mile after mile, of the road to Sally Gap, between
brown dykes and chasms in the turf with broken foot-bridges across
them, or between sheets of sickly moss and bog-cotton that is unable
to thrive. The road is caked with moss that breaks like pie-crust
under my feet, and in corners where there is shelter there are sheep
loitering, or a few straggling grouse.... The fog has come down in
places; I am meeting multitudes of hares that run round me at a
little distance--looking enormous in the mists--or sit up on their
ends against the sky line to watch me going by. When I sit down for
a moment the sense of loneliness has no equal. I can hear nothing
but the slow running of water and the grouse crowing and chuckling
underneath the band of cloud. Then the fog lifts and shows the white
empty roads winding everywhere, with the added sense of desolation
one gets passing an empty house on the side of a road.
When I turn back again the air has got stuffy and heavy and calm,
with a cloud still down upon the glen; there is a dead heat in the
air that is not natural so high up, and the silence is so great
three or four wrens that are singing near the lake seem to fill the
valley with sound. In most places I can see the straight ending of
the cloud, but above the lake grey fingers are coming up and down,
like a hand that is clasping and opening again. One longs for rain
or wind or thunder. The very ewes and lambs have stopped bleating,
and are slinking round among the stacks of turf.
I have come out again on the mountain road the third day of the fog.
At first it was misty only, and then a cloud crept up the water
gullies from the valley of the Liffey, and in a moment I am cut off
in a white silent cloud. The little turfy ridges on each side of the
road have the look of glens to me, and every block of stone has the
size of a house. The cobwebs on the furze are like a silvery net,
and the silence is so great and queer, even weazels run squealing
past me on the side of the road.... An east wind is rising. Once in
every minute I see the little mounds in their natural shapes that
have been mountains for a week. I see wet cottages on the other side
of the glen that I had forgotten. Then, as I walk on, I see out over
a cloud to the tops of real mountains standing up into the sky.
There is a dense white fog around the cottage, and we seem to be
shut away from any habitation. All round behind the hills there is a
moan and rumble of thunder coming nearer, at times with a fierce and
sudden crash. The bracken has a nearly painful green in the
strangeness of the light. Enormous sheep are passing in and out of
the sky line.
There is a strange depression about the cottage to-night. The woman
of the house is taken ill and has got into bed beside her
mother-in-law, who is over ninety, and is wandering in her mind. The
man of the house has gone away ten miles for medicine, and I am left
with the two children, who are playing silently about the door.
The larches in the haggard are dripping heavily with damp, and the
hens and geese, bewildered with the noise and gloom, are cackling
with uneasy dread. All one's senses are disturbed. As I walk
backwards and forwards, a few yards above and below the door, the
little stream I do not see seems to roar out of the cloud.
Every leaf and twig is heavy with drops, and a dog that has passed
with a sad-eyed herd looked wet and draggled and afraid.
I remember lying in the heather one clear Sunday morning in the
early autumn when the bracken had just turned. All the people of the
district were at Mass in a chapel a few miles away, so the valleys
were empty, and there was nothing to be heard but the buzzing of a
few late bees and the autumn song of thrushes. The sky was covered
with white radiant clouds, with soft outlines, broken in a few
places by lines of blue sky of wonderful delicacy and clearness. In
a little while I heard a step on a path beneath me, and a tramp came
wandering round the bottom of the hill. There was a spring below
where I was lying, and when he reached it he looked round to see if
anyone was watching him. I was hidden by the ferns, so he knelt down
beside the water, where there was a pool among the stones, pulled
his shirt over his head, and began washing it in the spring. After a
little he seemed satisfied, and began wringing the water out of it;
then he put it on, dripping as it was, buttoned his old coat over
it, and wandered on towards the village, picking blackberries from