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The Ruling Passion Henry van Dyke

IV. The Gentle Life

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"Well, then, sir," I said, "you are most heartily welcome, and I trust you will not despise the only hospitality I have to offer. If you will sit down here among these birch trees in Contentment Corner, I will give you half of a fisherman's luncheon, and will cook your char for you on a board before an open wood-fire, if you are not in a hurry. Though I belong to a nation which is reported to be curious, I will promise to trouble you with no inquisitive questions; and if you will but talk to me at your will, you shall find me a ready listener."

So we made ourselves comfortable on the shady bank, and while I busied myself in splitting the fish and pinning it open on a bit of board that I had found in a pile of driftwood, and setting it up before the fire to broil, my new companion entertained me with the sweetest and friendliest talk that I had ever heard.

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"To speak without offence, sir," he began, "there was a word in your discourse a moment ago that seemed strange to me. You spoke of being 'in a hurry'; and that is an expression which is unfamiliar to my ears; but if it mean the same as being in haste, then I must tell you that this is a thing which, in my judgment, honest anglers should learn to forget, and have no dealings with it. To be in haste is to be in anxiety and distress of mind; it is to mistrust Providence, and to doubt that the issue of all events is in wiser hands than ours; it is to disturb the course of nature, and put overmuch confidence in the importance of our own endeavours.

"For how much of the evil that is in the world cometh from this plaguy habit of being in haste! The haste to get riches, the haste to climb upon some pinnacle of worldly renown, the haste to resolve mysteries--from these various kinds of haste are begotten no small part of the miseries and afflictions whereby the children of men are tormented: such as quarrels and strifes among those who would over- reach one another in business; envyings and jealousies among those who would outshine one another in rich apparel and costly equipage; bloody rebellions and cruel wars among those who would obtain power over their fellow-men; cloudy disputations and bitter controversies among those who would fain leave no room for modest ignorance and lowly faith among the secrets of religion; and by all these miseries of haste the heart grows weary, and is made weak and dull, or else hard and angry, while it dwelleth in the midst of them.

"But let me tell you that an angler's occupation is a good cure for these evils, if for no other reason, because it gently dissuadeth us from haste and leadeth us away from feverish anxieties into those ways which are pleasantness and those paths which are peace. For an angler cannot force his fortune by eagerness, nor better it by discontent. He must wait upon the weather, and the height of the water, and the hunger of the fish, and many other accidents of which he has no control. If he would angle well, he must not be in haste. And if he be in haste, he will do well to unlearn it by angling, for I think there is no surer method.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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