WHICH NARRATES A SOMEWHAT REMARKABLE CONVERSATION
To find a man in Cambourne Woods, even so big a man as Black George, would seem as hard a matter as to find the needle in the proverbial “bottle of hay;” the sun crept westward, the day declined into evening, yet, hungry though I was, I persevered in my search, not so much in the hope of finding him (in the which I knew I must be guided altogether by chance), as from a disinclination to return, just yet, to the cottage. “It would be miserable there at this hour,” I told myself, “miserable and lonely.”
Yet why should I be lonely; I, who had gloried in my solitude hitherto? Whence then had come this change?
While I stood thus, seeking an answer to this self-imposed question and finding none, I heard some one approach, whistling, and, looking about, beheld a fellow with an axe upon his shoulder, who strode along at a good pace, keeping time to his whistle. He gave me a cheery greeting as he came up, but without stopping.
“You seem in a hurry,” said I.
“Ah!” grinned the man, over his shoulder, “’cause why?—’cause I be goin’ ’ome.”
“Home!” said I.
“To supper,” he nodded, and, forthwith, began to whistle again, while I stood listening till the clear notes had died away.
“Home!” said I for the second time, and there came upon me a feeling of desolation such as I had never known even in my neglected boyhood’s days.
Home! truly a sweet word, a comfortable word, the memory of which has been as oil and wine to many a sick and weary traveler upon this Broad Highway of life; a little word, and yet one which may come betwixt a man and temptation, covering him like a shield. “Roof and walls, be they cottage or mansion, do not make home,” thought I, “rather is it the atmosphere of mutual love, the intimacies of thought, the joys and sorrows endured together, and the never-failing sympathy—that bond invisible yet stronger than death.”
And, because I had, hitherto, known nothing of this, I was possessed of a great envy for this axe-fellow as I walked on through the wood.
Now as I went, it was as if there were two voices arguing together within me, whereof ensued the following triangular conversation:
Myself. Yet I have my books—I will go to my lonely cottage and bury myself among my books.
First voice. Assuredly! Is it for a philosopher to envy a whistling axe-fellow—go to!
Second voice. Far better a home and loving companionship than all the philosophy of all the schools; surely Happiness is greater than Learning, and more to be desired than Wisdom!
First voice. Better rather that Destiny had never sent her to you.
Myself (rubbing my chin very hard, and staring at nothing in particular). Her?