——I forgot to say that the Scotch Preacher chose the most impressive text in the Bible for his talk at the funeral:
“He that is greatest among you, let him be ... as he that doth serve.”
And we came away with a nameless, aching sense of loss, thinking how, perhaps, in a small way, we might do something for somebody else—as the old Doctor did.
AN EVENING AT HOME
“How calm and quiet a delight
Is it, alone,
To read and meditate and write,
By none offended, and offending none.
To walk, ride, sit or sleep at one’s own ease,
And, pleasing a man’s self, none other to displease.”
—Charles Cotton, a friend of Izaak Walton, 1650
During the last few months so many of the real adventures of life have been out of doors and so much of the beauty, too, that I have scarcely written a word about my books. In the summer the days are so long and the work so engrossing that a farmer is quite willing to sit quietly on his porch after supper and watch the long evenings fall—and rest his tired back, and go to bed early. But the winter is the true time for indoor enjoyment!
Days like these! A cold night after a cold day! Well wrapped, you have made arctic explorations to the stable, the chicken-yard and the pig-pen; you have dug your way energetically to the front gate, stopping every few minutes to beat your arms around your shoulders and watch the white plume of your breath in the still air—and you have rushed in gladly to the warmth of the dining-room and the lamp-lit supper. After such a day how sharp your appetite, how good the taste of food! Harriet’s brown bread (moist, with thick, sweet, dark crusts) was never quite so delicious, and when the meal is finished you push back your chair feeling like a sort of lord.
“That was a good supper, Harriet,” you say expansively.
“Was it?” she asks modestly, but with evident pleasure.
“Cookery,” you remark, “is the greatest art in the world——”
“Oh, you were hungry!”
“Next to poetry,” you conclude, “and much better appreciated. Think how easy it is to find a poet who will turn you a presentable sonnet, and how very difficult it is to find a cook who will turn you an edible beefsteak——”
I said a good deal more on this subject which I shall not attempt to repeat. Harriet did not listen through it all. She knows what I am capable of when I really get started; and she has her well-defined limits. A practical person, Harriet! When I have gone about so far, she begins clearing the table or takes up her mending—but I don’t mind it at all. Having begun talking, it is wonderful how pleasant one’s own voice becomes. And think of having a clear field—and no interruptions!