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Spy Rock Henry van Dyke

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But why should we blame them--any of them? They were only acting out their natures. To one who can see and understand, it is all perfectly simple, and interesting--immensely interesting."

It is impossible to describe the quiet eagerness, the cool glow of fervour with which he narrated this little history. It was the manner of the triumphant pathologist who lays bare some hidden seat of disease. It surprised and repelled me a little; yet it attracted me, too, for I could see how evidently he counted on my comprehension and sympathy.

"Well," said I, "it is a pitiful history. Rural life is not all peace and innocence. But how came you to know the story?"

"I? Oh, I make it my business to know a little of everything, and as much as possible of human life, not excepting the petty chronicles of the rustics around me. It is my chief pleasure. I earn my living by teaching boys. I find my satisfaction in studying men. But you are on a journey, sir, and night is falling. I must not detain you. Or perhaps you will allow me to forward you a little by serving as a guide. Which way were you going when you turned aside to look at this dismantled shrine?"

"To Canterbury," I answered, "to find a night's, or a month's, lodging at the inn. My journey is a ramble, it has neither terminus nor time-table."

"Then let me commend to you something vastly better than the tender mercies of the Canterbury Inn. Come with me to the school on Hilltop, where I am a teacher. It is a thousand feet above the village--purer air, finer view, and pleasanter company. There is plenty of room in the house, for it is vacation-time. Master Isaac Ward is always glad to entertain guests."

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There was something so sudden and unconventional about the invitation that I was reluctant to accept it; but he gave it naturally and pressed it with earnest courtesy, assuring me that it was in accordance with Master Ward's custom, that he would be much disappointed to lose the chance of talking with an interesting traveller, that he would far rather let me pay him for my lodging than have me go by, and so on--so that at last I consented.

Three minutes' walking from the deserted clearing brought us into a travelled road. It circled the breast of the mountain, and as we stepped along it in the dusk I learned something of my companion. His name was Edward Keene; he taught Latin and Greek in the Hilltop School; he had studied for the ministry, but had given it up, I gathered, on account of a certain loss of interest, or rather a diversion of interest in another direction. He spoke of himself with an impersonal candour.

"Preachers must be always trying to persuade men," he said. "But what I care about is to know men. I don't care what they do. Certainly I have no wish to interfere with them in their doings, for I doubt whether anyone can really change them. Each tree bears its own fruit, you see, and by their fruits you know them."

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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