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“ I marvel much at not seeing of Master Francis,” exclaimed her husband, at last. 6. He is not wont to make such long stays. I hope nothing amis3 hath happened to him.”
“ In honest truth, I hope so too,” added his fair companion, “for he seemeth to serve thee so lovingly, and with so modest a spirit. Methinks he doth look exceedingly unhappy."
6 I do believe his mind is ill at ease,” replied Sir Walter. “ There existeth some obscurity in his birth which he doth allow to prey on his sensitive spirit more, I think, than the matter calls for. Without doubt, he is a youth of admirable good qualities; yet hath he his faults nevertheless. He is oft too apt to draw conclusions which the premises will scarce warrant: this is, however, a natural error at his time of life, and one that time will correct. I have great hopes of him.”
Having said this, he did again return to his books, and Dame Elizabeth continued nursing of her babe, who seemed at it to crow and laugh so prettily, that Sir Walter did more than once raise his head and smilingly observe him; and mayhap would call to him in such sort of prattle as parents do usually adopt on the like occasions. Presently there was heard a knocking at the door, and admittance being allowed, in walked Master Francis, with a very gentlemanly courteousness, yet looking as pale and melancholy as ever.
“ I have been detained, Sir Walter, upon certain of mine own affairs that did require instant attention, else had I been here earlier,” observed the young secretary.
“ It matters not,” replied his patron, kindly. “ But now sit you down, Master Francis. I would have some talk with you.
The youth, at this request, put his hat on one side, and sat himself down near the table.
56 Hast ever considered the moral effects of solitude upon the heart ?” enquired Raleigh, after a little while.
“ Methinks its tendency must needs be of a very soothing kind,” replied the other, modestly, “yet, save the impressions I have got of books, know I but little of the matter. I have heard of divers philosophers and many godly eremites, who, by retiring from the cares of the busy world, have acquired a marvellous wisdom and a right notable holiness. Nay, it hath been writ in credible histories, that men used to, and moving in the restless turmoil of political governments and military avocations, have found wonderful comfort from the enjoyment of a perfect solitariness. It hath been said of Pericles, as an example among many such famous lawgivers and statesmen, that when he entertained in his mind any great object, the which, peradventure, might be for the right governing of the Athenian people, he would refrain from all
social feastings, and every pleasure he was wont to delight in whatsoever, and as much alone as might be possible to him, give himself up to the perfect consideration of the question. As far as I may be capable of judging, this seemeth a truly excellent good plan. Out of no small number of notable commanders, Scipio Africanus, the Roman, and Epaminondas, the Theban general, had a like passion for retirement, and, doubtless, found profit in it. And of the learned and pious is there so great a number who have lauded its advantages, as is almost impossible for me to name.”
“ And from their report you do consider that solitariness is to be recommended ?” said his patron, enquiringly.
“ It seemeth so to me," answered the youth. “ Believe me, 'tis a great error,” observed Sir Walter.
“ Of all things contained within this infinite world that have powers and offices over man, you shall find nothing so pernicious and unnatural as this same solitude. That it be pernicious, is on the face of it, for it doth rob society of a member, whose duty it should be to labour for the rest as much as in him lieth. As
shall a hive of bees, or in a community of ants, there be none that go into holes and corners, shutting of themselves up from all fellowship, and working only for their own gratifications; so ought it to be in the common hive of the world. "Tis sociality
that createth the sweet honey of life, to wit, philanthropy; and he who is active in doing of good amongst his fellows, is the industrious ant, that ever storeth up grain for the general use. He who findeth enjoyment in solitariness, cannot help but be selfish in his nature; for it requireth of a man to concentrate all his affections upon himself ere he can take any pleasure in it. That tis unnatural, is full as evident: for nature hath made us all one universal brotherhood, for the helping of each other, for the pleasure of each other, and for the teaching of each other by such exemplary doings as may
be profitable in the following. For one to get away from the rest, and keep himself in secrecy, and labour in loneliness, he shall be accounted a deserter from his colours, the defence of which he hath abandoned to save himself; and deserveth no better treatment than to be shot for the acting of such an infamous cowardice.
“ As for what you have said of Pericles and others, in no instance must such be brought forward as examples of solitude, else with as much shew of truth it may be said of me because I have oft retired unto the privacy of my study that I might not be disturbed in my contemplations, that I did it for no other end than to gratify a desire for the like thing. I would take upon me to say, that he who maketh it a practice to live out of the world, is in no way worthy to live in it.”
“ And yet I have found it asserted, both of philosophers and divines," observed Master Francis, " that solitude doth afford excellent opportunity for a man to study himself, without a proper knowledge of which, he shall be considered exceeding ignorant."
“ Better be ignorant-in one thing than useless in all," answered his patron. “ If a man having only one book of his own, and that mayhap of no great value, goeth into a goodly library where there shall be volumes of every sort out of all number, whereof he may
find admirable entertainment when he lists by perusing of them, still keepeth poring over his own book, what knowledge think you he would get
“ It could not help being but little, especially when brought into some comparison with what he might have had," said the youth. • l'faith,
could not have answered me more in accordance with what I expected of you,” added his patron. “ Like unto that man is he who goeth away from the numberless natures around him, where doubtless he shall find an exhaustless stock of learning ever at his hand, to creep into some desert place or another, with nothing to study from but himself, the which I do hugely suspect would turn out to be a very sorry volume. Such a one must needs be a fool all his life-ay, though he thumb his book till he knoweth it every bit by