The journey which this little book is to describe was very agreeable and
fortunate for me. After an uncouth beginning, I had the best of luck to
the end. But we are all travellers in what John Bunyan calls the
wilderness of this world - all, too, travellers with a donkey: and the
best that we find in our travels is an honest friend. He is a fortunate
voyager who finds many. We travel, indeed, to find them. They are the
end and the reward of life. They keep us worthy of ourselves; and when
we are alone, we are only nearer to the absent.
Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of
him who writes it. They alone take his meaning; they find private
messages, assurances of love, and expressions of gratitude, dropped for
them in every corner. The public is but a generous patron who defrays
the postage. Yet though the letter is directed to all, we have an old
and kindly custom of addressing it on the outside to one. Of what shall
a man be proud, if he is not proud of his friends? And so, my dear
Sidney Colvin, it is with pride that I sign myself affectionately yours,
R. L. S.
Many are the mighty things, and nought is more mighty than man. . . .
He masters by his devices the tenant of the fields.
Who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
THE DONKEY, THE PACK, AND THE PACK-SADDLE
In a little place called Le Monastier, in a pleasant highland valley
fifteen miles from Le Puy, I spent about a month of fine days. Monastier
is notable for the making of lace, for drunkenness, for freedom of
language, and for unparalleled political dissension. There are adherents
of each of the four French parties - Legitimists, Orleanists,
Imperialists, and Republicans - in this little mountain-town; and they all
hate, loathe, decry, and calumniate each other. Except for business
purposes, or to give each other the lie in a tavern brawl, they have laid
aside even the civility of speech. 'Tis a mere mountain Poland. In the
midst of this Babylon I found myself a rallying-point; every one was
anxious to be kind and helpful to the stranger. This was not merely from
the natural hospitality of mountain people, nor even from the surprise
with which I was regarded as a man living of his own free will in Le
Monastier, when he might just as well have lived anywhere else in this
big world; it arose a good deal from my projected excursion southward
through the Cevennes. A traveller of my sort was a thing hitherto
unheard of in that district. I was looked upon with contempt, like a man
who should project a journey to the moon, but yet with a respectful
interest, like one setting forth for the inclement Pole.
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