Some day I shall write a novel on that theme, and call it “The Pulley.” In this tragic, restless world there must be some place where at last we can lay our heads and be at rest. Some people call it death. Some call it God.
My ideal of a man is not the Omar who wants to shatter into bits this sorry scheme of things, and then remould it nearer to the heart’s desire. Old Omar was a coward, with his silk pajamas and his glass of wine. The real man is George Herbert’s “seasoned timber”—the fellow who does handily and well whatever comes to him. Even if it’s only shovelling coal into a furnace he can balance the shovel neatly, swing the coal square on the fire and not spill it on the floor. If it’s only splitting kindling or running a trolley car he can make a good, artistic job of it. If it’s only writing a book or peeling potatoes he can put into it the best he has. Even if he’s only a bald-headed old fool over forty selling books on a country road, he can make an ideal of it. Good old Parnassus! It’s a great game.... I think I’ll have to give her up soon, though: I must get that book of mine written. But Parnassus has been a true glass of blessings to me.
There was much more in the notebook; indeed it was half full of jotted paragraphs, memoranda, and scraps of writing—poems I believe some of them were—but I had seen enough. It seemed as if I had stumbled unawares on the pathetic, brave, and lonely heart of the little man. I’m a commonplace creature, I’m afraid, insensible to many of the deeper things in life, but every now and then, like all of us, I come face to face with something that thrills me. I saw how this little, red-bearded pedlar was like a cake of yeast in the big, heavy dough of humanity: how he travelled about trying to fulfil in his own way his ideals of beauty. I felt almost motherly toward him: I wanted to tell him that I understood him. And in a way I felt ashamed of having run away from my own homely tasks, my kitchen and my hen yard and dear old, hot-tempered, absent-minded Andrew. I fell into a sober mood. As soon as I was alone, I thought, I would sell Parnassus and hurry back to the farm. That was my job, that was my glass of blessings. What was I doing—a fat, middle-aged woman—trapesing along the roads with a cartload of books I didn’t understand?
I slipped the little notebook back into its hiding-place. I would have died rather than let the Professor know I had seen it.
We were coming into Woodbridge; and I was just wondering whether to wake the Professor when the little window behind me slid back and he stuck his head out.
“Hello!” he said. “I think I must have been asleep!”
“Well, I should hope so,” I said. “You needed it.”