“And why not?”
“Because, supposing I ever became contented with the world, and everything in general, which is highly improbable, I shall never, never be contented with myself.”
CONCERNING HAPPINESS, A PLOUGHMAN, AND SILVER BUTTONS
Now as I went, pondering on true happiness, and the nature of it, I beheld a man ploughing in a field hard by, and, as he ploughed, he whistled lustily. And drawing near to the field, I sat down upon a gate and watched, for there are few sights and sounds I am fonder of than the gleam of the ploughshare and the sighing whisper it makes as it turns the fragrant loam.
“A truly noble occupation!” said I to myself, “dignified by the ages—ay—old, well nigh, as the green earth itself; no man need be ashamed to guide a plough.”
And indeed a fine sight it made, the straining horses, the stalwart figure of the Ploughman, with the blue sky, the long, brown furrows, and, away and beyond, the tender green of leaves; while the jingle of the harness, the clear, merry, whistled notes, and the song of a skylark, high above our heads, all blended into a chorus it was good to hear.
As he came up to where I sat upon the gate, the Ploughman stopped, and, wiping the glistening moisture from his brow, nodded good-humoredly.
“A fine morning!” said I.
“So it be, sir, now you come to mention it, it do be a fine day surely.”
“You, at least seem happy,” said I.
“Happy?” he exclaimed, staring.
“Yes,” said I.
“Well, I bean’t.”
“And why not?” The Ploughman scratched his ear, and carried his glance from my face up to the sky, and down again.
“I dunno,” he answered, “but I bean’t.”
“Yet you whistle gayly enough.”
“Why, a man must do summat.”
“Then, you seem strong and healthy.”
“Yes, I do be fine an’ hearty.”
“And sleep well?”
“Like a blessed log.”
“And eat well?”
“Eat!” he exclaimed, with a mighty laugh. “Lord! I should think so—why, I’m always eatin’ or thinkin’ of it. Oh, I’m a fine eater, I am—an’ I bean’t no chicken at drinkin’, neither.”
“Then you ought to be happy.”
“Ah!—but I bean’t!” he repeated, shaking his head.
“Have you any troubles?”
“None as I can think on.”
“You earn good money every week?”
“You are not married?”
“Then,” said I, “you must be happy.” The Ploughman pulled at his ear again, looked slowly all round the field, and, finally, shook his head.
“Well,” said he, “I bean’t.”
“But why not?” His eye roved slowly up from my boots to the buttons on my coat.
“Them be fine buttons!” said he.
“Do you think so?”