Philip walked almost ceremoniously along the shingle towards the bank of pebbles at the edge of the land. The first time he came—he came many times—he was eager to reach the water edge, and only took in the human clutter and the tenacious vegetables with sidelong glances. He met no one. It was his adventure, and felt like his place. When he came to the end, he scrambled up the bank with the pebbles rattling and rushing below him, pulling him down with them, so that he went up slowly and with effort. There was the sea, to be seen from the unstable summit. He stood under a sunny sky and saw that it was dark and deep, with patches of wind, and contrary currents, pulling this way and that, and the waves coming in, and in, the shifting and grinding of the stones. He thought it would be good to see it in a storm, if he could stand up. He was at the edge of England. He thought about edges, and limits, and he thought about Palissy, studying salt water, and fresh water, springs and runnels on the earth. He hadn’t even considered the fact that the earth was round, that he stood on the curved surface of a ball. Here, seeing the horizon, feeling the precariousness of his standpoint, he suddenly had a vision of the thing—a huge ball, flying and covered mostly with this water endlessly in motion but held to the surface as it hurtled through the atmosphere, and in its dark depths, blue, green, brown and black, it covered the colder earth, the sand and stone, to which the light never reached, where perhaps things lived in the dark and plunged and ate each other, he didn’t know, maybe no one knew. The round earth with hills and valleys of earth and the liquid surface. It was pleasant, and frightening, to be alive in the sun.
The Chidlren’s Book