The fire-tender. You know that in Concord the latest news, except a remark or two by Thoreau or Emerson, is the Vedas. I believe the Rig-Veda is read at the breakfast-table instead of the Boston journals.
The Parson. I know it is read afterward instead of the Bible.
Mandeville. That is only because it is supposed to be older. I have understood that the Bible is very well spoken of there, but it is not antiquated enough to be an authority.
Our next door. There was a project on foot to put it into the circulating library, but the title New in the second part was considered objectionable.
Herbert. Well, I have a good deal of sympathy with Concord as to the news. We are fed on a daily diet of trivial events and gossip, of the unfruitful sayings of thoughtless men and women, until our mental digestion is seriously impaired; the day will come when no one will be able to sit down to a thoughtful, well-wrought book and assimilate its contents.
The mistress. I doubt if a daily newspaper is a necessity, in the higher sense of the word.
The Parson. Nobody supposes it is to women,—that is, if they can see each other.
The mistress. Don’t interrupt, unless you have something to say; though I should like to know how much gossip there is afloat that the minister does not know. The newspaper may be needed in society, but how quickly it drops out of mind when one goes beyond the bounds of what is called civilization. You remember when we were in the depths of the woods last summer how difficult it was to get up any interest in the files of late papers that reached us, and how unreal all the struggle and turmoil of the world seemed. We stood apart, and could estimate things at their true value.
The young lady. Yes, that was real life. I never tired of the guide’s stories; there was some interest in the intelligence that a deer had been down to eat the lily-pads at the foot of the lake the night before; that a bear’s track was seen on the trail we crossed that day; even Mandeville’s fish-stories had a certain air of probability; and how to roast a trout in the ashes and serve him hot and juicy and clean, and how to cook soup and prepare coffee and heat dish-water in one tin-pail, were vital problems.
The Parson. You would have had no such problems at home. Why will people go so far to put themselves to such inconvenience? I hate the woods. Isolation breeds conceit; there are no people so conceited as those who dwell in remote wildernesses and live mostly alone.
The young lady. For my part, I feel humble in the presence of mountains, and in the vast stretches of the wilderness.
The Parson. I’ll be bound a woman would feel just as nobody would expect her to feel, under given circumstances.