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2006-07-29 00:36

  Many a traveller came out of his way to see me and the inside of my house, and, as an excuse for calling, asked for a glass of water. I told them that I drank at the pond, and pointed thither, offering to lend them a dipper.  Far off as I lived, I was not exempted from the annual visitation which occurs, methinks, about the first of April, when everybody is on the move; and I had my share of good luck, though there were some curious specimens among my visitors. Half-witted men from the almshouse and elsewhere came to see me; but I endeavored to make them exercise all the wit they had, and make their confessions to me; in such cases making wit the theme of our conversation; and so was compensated.  Indeed, I found some of them to be wiser than the so-called overseers of the poor and selectmen of the town, and thought it was time that the tables were turned. With respect to wit, I learned that there was not much difference between the half and the whole.  One day, in particular, an inoffensive, simple-minded pauper, whom with others I had often seen used as fencing stuff, standing or sitting on a bushel in the fields to keep cattle and himself from straying, visited me, and expressed a wish to live as I did.  He told me, with the utmost simplicity and truth, quite superior, or rather inferior, to anything that is called humility, that he was "deficient in intellect."  These were his words.  The Lord had made him so, yet he supposed the Lord cared as much for him as for another.  "I have always been so," said he,"from my childhood; I never had much mind; I was not like other children; I am weak in the head.  It was the Lord's will, I suppose."  And there he was to prove the truth of his words.  He was a metaphysical puzzle to me.  I have rarely met a fellowman on such promising ground —— it was so simple and sincere and so true all that he said.  And, true enough, in proportion as he appeared to humble himself was he exalted.  I did not know at first but it was the result of a wise policy.  It seemed that from such a basis of truth and frankness as the poor weak-headed pauper had laid, our intercourse might go forward to something better than the intercourse of sages.

  I had some guests from those not reckoned commonly among the town's poor, but who should be; who are among the world's poor, at any rate; guests who appeal, not to your hospitality, but to your hospitalality; who earnestly wish to be helped, and preface their appeal with the information that they are resolved, for one thing,never to help themselves.  I require of a visitor that he be not actually starving, though he may have the very best appetite in the world, however he got it.  Objects of charity are not guests.  Men who did not know when their visit had terminated, though I went about my business again, answering them from greater and greater remoteness.  Men of almost every degree of wit called on me in the migrating season.  Some who had more wits than they knew what to do with; runaway slaves with plantation manners, who listened from time to time, like the fox in the fable, as if they heard the hounds a-baying on their track, and looked at me beseechingly, as much as to say, ——

  "O Christian, will you send me back?

  One real runaway slave, among the rest, whom I helped to forward toward the north star.  Men of one idea, like a hen with one chicken, and that a duckling; men of a thousand ideas, and unkempt heads, like those hens which are made to take charge of a hundred chickens, all in pursuit of one bug, a score of them lost in every morning's dew —— and become frizzled and mangy in consequence; men of ideas instead of legs, a sort of intellectual centipede that made you crawl all over.  One man proposed a book in which visitors should write their names, as at the White Mountains; but, alas! I have too good a memory to make that necessary.

  I could not but notice some of the peculiarities of my visitors. Girls and boys and young women generally seemed glad to be in the woods.  They looked in the pond and at the flowers, and improved their time.  Men of business, even farmers, thought only of solitude and employment, and of the great distance at which I dwelt from something or other; and though they said that they loved a ramble in the woods occasionally, it was obvious that they did not.  Restless committed men, whose time was an taken up in getting a living or keeping it; ministers who spoke of God as if they enjoyed a monopoly of the subject, who could not bear all kinds of opinions; doctors,lawyers, uneasy housekeepers who pried into my cupboard and bed when I was out —— how came Mrs. —— to know that my sheets were not as clean as hers? —— young men who had ceased to be young, and had concluded that it was safest to follow the beaten track of the professions —— all these generally said that it was not possible to do so much good in my position.  Ay! there was the rub.  The old and infirm and the timid, of whatever age or sex, thought most of sickness, and sudden accident and death; to them life seemed full of danger —— what danger is there if you don't think of any? —— and they thought that a prudent man would carefully select the safest position, where Dr. B. might be on hand at a moment's warning.  To them the village was literally a community, a league for mutual defence, and you would suppose that they would not go a-huckleberrying without a medicine chest.  The amount of it is, if a man is alive, there is always danger that he may die, though the danger must be allowed to be less in proportion as he is dead-and-alive to begin with.  A man sits as many risks as he runs. Finally, there were the self-styled reformers, the greatest bores of all, who thought that I was forever singing,——

  This is the house that I built;This is the man that lives in the house that I built;

  but they did not know that the third line was,

  These are the folks that worry the man That lives in the house that I built.

  I did not fear the hen-harriers, for I kept no chickens; but I feared the men-harriers rather. I had more cheering visitors than the last.  Children come a-berrying, railroad men taking a Sunday morning walk in clean shirts, fishermen and hunters, poets and philosophers; in short, all honest pilgrims, who came out to the woods for freedom's sake, and really left the village behind, I was ready to greet with ——"Welcome, Englishmen! welcome, Englishmen!" for I had had communication with that race.

  许多旅行家离开了他们的路线,来看我和我屋子的内部,他们的托辞往往是要一杯水喝。我告诉他们,我是从湖里喝水的,手指着湖,愿意借一个水勺给他们。住得虽然远僻,每年,我想,四月一日左右,人人都来踏青,我也免不了受到访问;我就鸿运高照了,虽然其中有一些古怪人物的标本。从济贫院或别处出来的傻瓜也来看我;我就尽量让他们施展出他们的全部机智,让他们对我畅谈一番;在这种场合,机智常常成了我们谈话的话题;这样我大有收获了。真的,我觉得他们比贫民的管理者,甚至比市里行政管理委员会的委员要聪明得多,认为大翻身的时期已差不多了。关于智慧,我觉得愚昧和大智之间没有多少分别。特别有一天,有一个并不讨厌的头脑单纯的贫民来看我,还表示愿意跟我一样地生活。以前我常常看到他和别人一起好像篱笆一样,在田野中站着,或坐在一个箩斗上看守着牛和他自己,以免走散。他怀着极大的纯朴和真诚,超出或毋宁说低于一般的所谓的自卑,告诉我说他“在智力上非常之低”。这是他的原话。

  上帝把他造成这个样子,可是,他认为,上帝关心他,正如关心旁人一样。“从我的童年时代起,”他说,“我就一向如此,我脑筋就不大灵;我跟别的小孩子不同;我在智力方面很薄弱。我想,这是神的意志吧。”而他就在那里,证实了他自己的话。他对我是一个形而上学的谜语。我难得碰到一个人是这样有希望的——他说的话全都这样单纯诚恳,这样真实。他越是自卑之至,他却真的越是高贵。起先我还不知道,可是这是一个聪明办法取得的效果。在这个智力不足的贫民所建立的真实而坦率的基础上,我们的谈话反倒可以达到比和智者谈话更深的程度。还有一些客人,一般不算城市贫民,实际上他们应该算是城市贫民;无论如何可以说是世界贫民;这些客人无求于你的好客,而有求于你的大大的殷勤。他们急于得到你的帮助,却开口就说,他们下决心了,就是说,他们不想帮助自己了。我要求访客不能饿着肚子来看我,虽然也许他们有世上最好的胃口,不管他们是怎么养成这样好的胃口的。慈善事业的对象,不得称为客人。有些客人,不知道他们的访问早该结束了,我已经在料理我自己的事务,回答他们的话就愈来愈怠慢了。几乎各种智能的人在候鸟迁移的时节都来访问过我。有些人的智能是超过了他们能运用的范围的;一些逃亡的奴隶,带着种植园里的神情,不时尖起耳朵来听,好像寓言中的狐狸时时听到猎大在追踪它们,用恳求的目光看着我,好像在说,——“啊,基督教徒,你会把我送回去吗?”其中有一个真正的逃亡者,我帮他朝北极星的那个方向逃去。有人只有一个心眼儿,像只有一只小鸡的母鸡,有人却像只有一只小鸭的母鸭;有些人千头万绪,脑子里杂乱无章,像那些要照料一百只小鸡的老母鸡,都在追逐一只小虫,每天在黎明的露水中总要丢失一二十只小鸡,——而争得它们羽毛蓬乱、污秽不堪了;此外还有一些不是用腿而是用智力走路的人,像一条智力的蜈蚣,使得你周身都发抖。有人建议我用一本签名簿来保留访客的名字,像白山那里的情形;可惜,啊!我的记忆力太好了,不需要这种东西。

  我不能不发现我的访客的若干特点。女孩子,男孩子,少妇,一到森林中就很快活。

  他们看着湖水,看着花,觉得时间过得很愉快。一些生意人,却只感到寂寞,只想着生意经,只觉得我住得不是离这太远就是离那太远,甚至有些农民也如此,虽然他们说,他们偶尔也爱作林中闲游,其实很明显,他们并不爱好。这些焦灼安的人啊,他们的时间都花在谋生或者维持生活上了;一些牧师,开口闭口说上帝,好像这题目是他们的专利品,他们也听不见各种不同的意见;医生,律师,忙碌的管家妇则趁我不在家的时候审察我的碗橱和床铺,——不然某夫人怎样知道我的床单没有她的干净?——有些已经不再年轻的年轻人,以为跟着职业界的老路走,是最安全的办法了,——这些人一般都说我这种生活没有好处。啊,问题就在这里!那些衰老的,有病的,胆怯的人,不管他们的年龄性别,想得最多的是疾病、意外和死亡;在他们看来,生命是充满了危险的,——可如果你不去想它,那又有什么危险呢?——他们觉得,谨慎的人应当小心地挑选个最安全的地区,在那里的医生可以随唤随到。在他们看来,村子真是一个com一Munit y,一个共同防护的联盟,你可以想象的,他们连采集越橘时也要带药箱去呢。这就是说,一个人如果是活着的,他就随时随地有死亡的危险,其实这样的死亡危险,由于他已经是一个活着的死人而相对地减少了。一个人闭门家中坐,跟他出外奔跑是一样危险的。

  最后,还有一种人,自名为改革家的,所有访客中要算他们最讨厌了,他们以为我是一直在歌唱着,——这是我所造的屋子;这是在我所造的屋子中生活的人;可是他们不知道接下来的两行正是,——而正是这些人,烦死了住在我所造之屋中的人。我并不怕捉小鸡的老鹰,因为我没有养小鸡,可是我最怕捉人的鹫鸟。

  “除开最后一种人,我还有一些更令人愉快的访客。小孩子来采浆果,铁路上的工人们穿着干净的衬衣来散步,渔人、猎户、诗人和哲学家;总之,一切老老实实的朝圣者,为了自由的缘故而到森林中来,他们真的把村子抛在后面了,我很喜欢向他们说,”欢迎啊,英国人!欢迎啊,英国人!“因为我曾经和这一个民族往来过。

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