A Traveller In Little Things, By W. H. Hudson



















































































































 - A TRAVELLER IN LITTLE THINGS

BY

W. H. HUDSON




NOTE


Of the sketches contained in this volume, fourteen have appeared - Page 1
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A TRAVELLER IN LITTLE THINGS

BY W. H. HUDSON

NOTE

Of the sketches contained in this volume, fourteen have appeared in the following periodicals: The New Statesman, The Saturday Review, The Nation, and The Cornhill Magazine.

CONTENTS

I. HOW I FOUND MY TITLE II. THE OLD MAN'S DELUSION III. AS A TREE FALLS IV. BLOOD: A STORY OF TWO BROTHERS V. A STORY OF LONG DESCENT VI. A SECOND STORY OF TWO BROTHERS VII. A THIRD STORY OF TWO BROTHERS VIII. THE TWO WHITE HOUSES: A MEMORY IX. DANDY: A STORY OF A DOG X. THE SAMPHIRE GATHERER XI. A SURREY VILLAGE XII. A WILTSHIRE VILLAGE XIII. HER OWN VILLAGE XIV. APPLE BLOSSOMS AND A LOST VILLAGE XV. THE VANISHING CURTSEY XVI. LITTLE GIRLS I HAVE MET XVII. MILLICENT AND ANOTHER XVIII. FRECKLES XIX. ON CROMER BEACH XX. DIMPLES XXI. WILD FLOWERS AND LITTLE GIRLS XXII. A LITTLE GIRL LOST XXIII. A SPRAY OF SOUTHERNWOOD XXIV. IN PORCHESTER CHURCHYARD XXV. HOMELESS XXVI. THE STORY OF A SKULL XXVII. A STORY OF A WALNUT XXVIII. A STORY OF A JACKDAW XXIX. A WONDERFUL STORY OF A MACKEREL XXX. STRANGERS YET XXXI. THE RETURN OF THE CHIFF-CHAFF XXXII. A WASP AT TABLE XXXIII. WASPS AND MEN XXXIV. IN CHITTERNE CHURCHYARD XXXV. A HAUNTER OF CHURCHYARDS XXXVI. THE DEAD AND THE LIVING XXXVII. A STORY OF THREE POEMS

A TRAVELLER IN LITTLE THINGS

I

HOW I FOUND MY TITLE

It is surely a rare experience for an unclassified man, past middle age, to hear himself accurately and aptly described for the first time in his life by a perfect stranger! This thing happened to me at Bristol, some time ago, in the way I am about to relate. I slept at a Commercial Hotel, and early next morning was joined in the big empty coffee-room, smelling of stale tobacco, by an intensely respectable- looking old gentleman, whose hair was of silvery whiteness, and who wore gold-rimmed spectacles and a heavy gold watch-chain with many seals attached thereto; whose linen was of the finest, and whose outer garments, including the trousers, were of the newest and blackest broadcloth. A glossier and at the same time a more venerable-looking "commercial" I had never seen in the west country, nor anywhere in the three kingdoms. He could not have improved his appearance if he had been on his way to attend the funeral of a millionaire. But with all his superior look he was quite affable, and talked fluently and instructively on a variety of themes, including trade, politics, and religion. Perceiving that he had taken me for what I was not - one of the army in which he served, but of inferior rank - I listened respectfully as became me. Finally he led the talk to the subject of agriculture, and the condition and prospects of farming in England. Here I perceived that he was on wholly unfamiliar ground, and in return for the valuable information he had given me on other and more important subjects, I proceeded to enlighten him. When I had finished stating my facts and views, he said: "I perceive that you know a great deal more about the matter than I do, and I will now tell you why you know more. You are a traveller in little things - in something very small - which takes you into the villages and hamlets, where you meet and converse with small farmers, innkeepers, labourers and their wives, with other persons who live on the land. In this way you get to hear a good deal about rent and cost of living, and what the people are able and not able to do. Now I am out of all that; I never go to a village nor see a farmer. I am a traveller in something very large. In the south and west I visit towns like Salisbury, Exeter, Bristol, Southampton; then I go to the big towns in the Midlands and the North, and to Glasgow and Edinburgh; and afterwards to Belfast and Dublin. It would simply be a waste of time for me to visit a town of less than fifty or sixty thousand inhabitants."

He then gave me some particulars concerning the large thing he travelled in; and when I had expressed all the interest and admiration the subject called for, he condescendingly invited me to tell him something about my own small line.

Now this was wrong of him; it was a distinct contravention of an unwritten law among "Commercials" that no person must be interrogated concerning the nature of his business. The big and the little man, once inside the hostel, which is their club as well, are on an equality. I did not remind my questioner of this - I merely smiled and said nothing, and he of course understood and respected my reticence. With a pleasant nod and a condescending let-us-say-no-more-about-it wave of the hand he passed on to other matters.

Notwithstanding that I was amused at his mistake, the label he had supplied me with was something to be grateful for, and I am now finding a use for it. And I think that if he, my labeller, should see this sketch by chance and recognise himself in it, he will say with his pleasant smile and wave of the hand, "Oh, that's his line! Yes, yes, I described him rightly enough, thinking it haberdashery or floral texts for cottage bedrooms, or something of that kind; I didn't imagine he was a traveller in anything quite so small as this."

II

THE OLD MAN'S DELUSION

We know that our senses are subject to decay, that from our middle years they are decaying all the time; but happily it is as if we didn't know and didn't believe. The process is too gradual to trouble us; we can only say, at fifty or sixty or seventy, that it is doubtless the case that we can't see as far or as well, or hear or smell as sharply, as we did a decade ago, but that we don't notice the difference.

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