Where he went he hardly knew.
He had a dim memory of wandering through a labyrinth
of sordid houses, of being lost in a giant web of sombre
streets, and it was bright dawn when he found himself
at last in Piccadilly Circus. As he strolled
home towards Belgrave Square, he met the great waggons
on their way to Covent Garden. The white-smocked
carters, with their pleasant sunburnt faces and coarse
curly hair, strode sturdily on, cracking their whips,
and calling out now and then to each other; on the
back of a huge grey horse, the leader of a jangling
team, sat a chubby boy, with a bunch of primroses
in his battered hat, keeping tight hold of the mane
with his little hands, and laughing; and the great
piles of vegetables looked like masses of jade against
the morning sky, like masses of green jade against
the pink petals of some marvellous rose. Lord
Arthur felt curiously affected, he could not tell why.
There was something in the dawn’s delicate
loveliness that seemed to him inexpressibly pathetic,
and he thought of all the days that break in beauty,
and that set in storm. These rustics, too, with
their rough, good-humoured voices, and their nonchalant
ways, what a strange London they saw! A London
free from the sin of night and the smoke of day, a
pallid, ghost-like city, a desolate town of tombs!
He wondered what they thought of it, and whether
they knew anything of its splendour and its shame,
of its fierce, fiery-coloured joys, and its horrible
hunger, of all it makes and mars from morn to eve.
Probably it was to them merely a mart where they
brought their fruits to sell, and where they tarried
for a few hours at most, leaving the streets still
silent, the houses still asleep. It gave him
pleasure to watch them as they went by. Rude
as they were, with their heavy, hob-nailed shoes,
and their awkward gait, they brought a little of a
ready with them. He felt that they had lived
with Nature, and that she had taught them peace.
He envied them all that they did not know.
By the time he had reached Belgrave
Square the sky was a faint blue, and the birds were
beginning to twitter in the gardens. Lord
Arthur Savile’s Crime.