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ANOTHER STRANGER WHO JOINED ME ON HIS
ROAD, VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE LAST; AND OF
THE CONVERSATION WE HAD TOGETHER ON THE
MISTAKES ABOUT HAPPINESS.
An I had been a man of any occupation.
For a mile or two I could not forget my strange acquaintance, and was debating with myself whether or not I should seek him out at Reading, and hear his lecture. For I thought it would at least be amusing, if not instructive, in shewing to what extravagance a hot brain may push a wicked heart. My thoughts, however, were diverted by being overtaken by another pedestrian, whose quick step did not at all suit my lounging disposition, whether of mind or body. But my new companion, on coming up,
slackened his pace (indeed it was just at the beginning of a hill), and taking off his hat to wipe his forehead, remarked that it was fine weather for walking. I assented, but said nothing more, which did not satisfy my new friend, who did not disdain to talk to a stranger even of my doubtful appearance. This, I soon found, arose
from a good-natured heartiness of disposition, with perhaps an irrepressible cacoethes loquendi—in plain English, a love of gossipping.
He seemed to revel in the fine weather, which he informed me was the best gift of heaven, and better than a thousand a year. To this I agreed, especially when he added, that he always got moped and bluedeviled unless he had somebody to talk to, and walked ten miles a day.
“ It is just that distance,” said he, “ from my house to Wallingford and back. This I perform every day when it does not rain ; often when it does; and am all the better for it."
“ No doubt,” said I, looking at his rubicund complexion, and limbs active and vigorous (though his face shewed marks of age, and his head was grey); “ no doubt it contributes to bodily health.”
Aye,” returned he," and still more to health of mind.”
The remark seemed more than common-place, and made me survey my fellow-traveller a little more particularly, and I found at least nothing repulsive in him. He might be about fifty, and had the air and look of a man comfortable within himself: an open, composed, and confiding countenance, the reverse of the cloudy Firebrass ; in short, bonhommie, mixed with intelligence. What perhaps recommended him more, he noticed my knapsack without supercilious
On the contrary, he observed how independent it must always make a man in his journeys; “ the truest way,” said he, “ of enjoying liberty.”
This pleased me, and I relaxed from my English sullenness, disposed to a chat which I thought might prove more agreeable, though perhaps not so striking, as the last I had had. I replied, therefore, very frankly to the hints, rather than direct questions, which he made as we wound up the hill together, proceeding in fact, from the right which all fellowtravellers on a road seem legitimately to have, to inquire into one another's professions, and the immediate objects which have brought them together. When I had, therefore, answered his question as to whence I came, and mentioned Oxford, I thought there was no harm in satisfying another, as to the college I belonged to, and also in explaining that I travelled on foot, for pleasure, in order the better to indulge my fancy as to the face of the country, or the little adventures which might arise in the course of my progress. . “ Nothing more pleasant,” said he ;
said he ; " and I should think an excellent preservative against the spleen. For while you can always recruit yourself when tired with too much walking, you are not exposed to the misfortune of being tired with too much rest."
I thought this an odd remark, and told him
6 It may seem such,” he observed, “ but I assure you it is founded in experience ; for hence my daily journey to Wallingford and back."
“ I suppose,” said I, “ you may have business there?
“ Not in the least,” he answered ; “my business is
only to read the newspapers at the Bear, and get my letters, if I have any, from the post.”
I found afterwards he was a sort of moral philosopher, without knowing it; like the Ofellus of Horace, “abnormis sapiens," made so by a study of himself. For he gave this account of his former and present habits.
“I was bred to business," said he, “ but fear I made a mistake in quitting it, which indeed I believe every man does who retires at all before he is absolutely worn out. Now, I was any thing but worn out, for I retired at forty with a mere competency."
“ That,” said I, “is not usually the case with men in business, especially if they succeed.”
" True," returned he, “and I did not fail. But I had no ambition, and was not given to luxury; and though I had not a learned education, like you gentlemen of Oxford, I was fond of reading, and grew fonder, I believe, of printed books than manuscript accounts. So I read many curious stories, and one of them, concerning Diogenes (blackguard as he was), made me envy him."
Indeed,” said I ; “pray what was it ?” “Why, you know it is said of him, that walking once in a fair, where he saw mirrors and ribbons, fiddles and nut-crackers, hobby-horses and what not, exposed to sale, he exclaimed, “Lord! how many things are there in the world of which Diogenes hath no need !' Now I thought this very wise, and longed to imitate him.”
“ In this I quite agree with you," observed I.
He seemed pleased, and then asked if Jeremy Taylor was not thought a fine writer at Oxford.
I answered, “ Very fine ; but did you then study divinity as well as anecdotes in your counting-house ?"
“Not exactly,” he replied ; “ but there are some fine things in Jeremy on contentedness and independence, and also another account of this same Diogenes, which struck me. It was quoted in Latin, but I found that one reason why Diogenes preferred himself to Aristotle was, that Aristotle was forced to dine when it pleased Philip; he, when it pleased himself.* This was after my own heart.”
“ And mine, too," echoed I.
“ Then again,” continued Ofellus,-for so I must call him,~" I was got hold of by I knew not what notions of pastorals, country contentments, and the pleasures of solitude. Upon these subjects, Izaak Walton, and one Zimmerman, a German, made me mad, though I never was a fisherman, and never lived alone. But with these always alongside of my great ledger, I could not bear the counting-house, and I had no sooner realized an annuity sufficient for myself and a housekeeper (for with all my pastoral feelings, I never was even in love, much less married), than I ran away to the country, to be happy by myself.”
“ And were you not so ?”
Why, for a long time I did not know; though I
* Prandet Aristoteles quando Philippo libet, Diogenes quando Diogeni.