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A Lazy, Idle Brook Henry van Dyke

A Better Acquaintance

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On the voyage home, she gently talked me out of my disappointment, and into a wiser frame of mind.

It was a surprise, of course, she admitted, to find that our wilderness was so little, and to discover the trail of a parlour-car on the edge of Paradise. But why not turn the surprise around, and make it pleasant instead of disagreeable? Why not look at the contrast from the side that we liked best?

It was not necessary that everybody should take the same view of life that pleased us. The world would not get on very well without people who preferred parlour-cars to canoes, and patent-leather shoes to India-rubber boots, and ten-course dinners to picnics in the woods. These good people were unconsciously toiling at the hard and necessary work of life in order that we, of the chosen and fortunate few, should be at liberty to enjoy the best things in the world.

Why should we neglect our opportunities, which were also our real duties? The nervous disease of civilization might prevail all around us, but that ought not to destroy our grateful enjoyment of the lucid intervals that were granted to us by a merciful Providence.

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Why should we not take this little untamed brook, running its humble course through the borders of civilized life and midway between two flourishing summer resorts,--a brook without a single house or a cultivated field on its banks, as free and beautiful and secluded as if it flowed through miles of trackless forest,--why not take this brook as a sign that the ordering of the universe had a "good intention" even for inveterate idlers, and that the great Arranger of the world felt some kindness for such gipsy-hearts as ours? What law, human or divine, was there to prevent us from making this stream our symbol of deliverance from the conventional and commonplace, our guide to liberty and a quiet mind?

So reasoned Graygown with her

    "most silver flow
    Of subtle-paced counsel in distress."

And, according to her word, so did we. That lazy, idle brook became to us one of the best of friends; the pathfinder of happiness on many a bright summer day; and, through long vacations, the faithful encourager of indolence.

Indolence in the proper sense of the word, you understand. The meaning which is commonly given to it, as Archbishop Trench pointed out in his suggestive book about WORDS AND THEIR USES, is altogether false. To speak of indolence as if it were a vice is just a great big verbal slander.

Indolence is a virtue. It comes from two Latin words, which mean freedom from anxiety or grief. And that is a wholesome state of mind. There are times and seasons when it is even a pious and blessed state of mind. Not to be in a hurry; not to be ambitious or jealous or resentful; not to feel envious of anybody; not to fret about to-day nor worry about to-morrow,--that is the way we ought all to feel at some time in our lives; and that is the kind of indolence in which our brook faithfully encouraged us.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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