“And yet,” said I to myself, “if, as Epictetus says—’to despise a thing is to possess it,’ then am I rich, for I have always despised money; and if, weary as I am, I can manage to condemn the luxury of a feather bed, then tonight, lying in this grassy ditch beneath the stars, I shall slumber as sweetly as ever I did between the snowy sheets.” Saying which, I rose and began to look about for some likely nook in the hedge, where I might pass the night. I was thus engaged when I heard the creak of wheels, and the pleasant rhythmic jingle of harness on the dark hill above, and, in a little while, a great wagon or wain, piled high with hay, hove into view, the driver of which rolled loosely in his seat with every jolt of the wheels, so that it was a wonder he did not roll off altogether. As he came level with me I hailed him loudly, whereupon he started erect and brought his horses to a stand:
“Hulloa!” he bellowed, in the loud, strident tone of one rudely awakened, “w’at do ‘ee want wi’ I?”
“A lift,” I answered, “will you give a tired fellow a lift on his way?”
“W’y—I dunno—be you a talkin’ chap?”
“I don’t think so,” said I.
“Because, if you be a talkin’ chap, I beant a-goin’ to give ’ee a lift, no’ow—not if I knows it; give a chap a lift, t’ other day, I did—took ‘im up t’ other side o’ Sevenoaks, an’ ’e talked me up ‘ill an’ down ’ill, ‘e did—dang me! if I could get a wink o’ sleep all the way to Tonbridge; so if you ‘m a talkin’ chap, you don’t get no lift wi’ I.”
“I am generally a very silent chap,” said I; “besides, I am too tired and sleepy to talk, even if I wished—”
“Sleepy,” yawned the man, “then up you get, my chap—I’m sleepy too—I allus am, Lord love ye! theer’s nowt like sleep—up wi’ you, my chap.” Forthwith, up I clambered and, laying myself down among the fragrant hay, stretched out my tired limbs, and sighed. Never shall I forget the delicious sense of restfulness that stole over me as I lay there upon my back, listening to the creak of the wheels, the deliberate hoof-strokes of the horses, muffled in the thick dust of the road, and the gentle snore of the driver who had promptly fallen asleep again. On we went as in borne on air, so soft was my bed, now beneath the far-flung branches of trees, sometimes so low that I could have touched them with my hand, now, beneath a sky heavy with sombre masses of flying cloud or bright with the soft radience of the moon. On I went, careless alike of destination, of time, and of future, content to lie there upon the hay, and rest. And so, lulled by the gentle movement, by the sound of wheels and harness, and the whisper of the soft wind about me, I presently fell into a most blessed sleep.
WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF WITH A FARMER’S WHISKERS AND A WAISTCOAT