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2006-07-29 00:34

  He was a skilful chopper, and indulged in some flourishes and ornaments in his art.  He cut his trees level and close to the ground, that the sprouts which came up afterward might be more vigorous and a sled might slide over the stumps; and instead of leaving a whole tree to support his corded wood, he would pare it away to a slender stake or splinter which you could break off with your hand at last.

  He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes.  His mirth was without alloy.  Sometimes I saw him at his work in the woods, felling trees, and he would greet me with a laugh of inexpressible satisfaction, and a salutation in Canadian French, though he spoke English as well.  When I approached him he would suspend his work, and with half-suppressed mirth lie along the trunk of a pine which he had felled, and, peeling off the inner bark, roll it up into a ball and chew it while he laughed and talked.  Such an exuberance of animal spirits had he that he sometimes tumbled down and rolled on the ground with laughter at anything which made him think and tickled him.  Looking round upon the trees he would exclaim  —— "By George!  I can enjoy myself well enough here chopping; I want no better sport."  Sometimes, when at leisure, he amused himself all day in the woods with a pocket pistol, firing salutes to himself at regular intervals as he walked. In the winter he had a fire by which at noon he warmed his coffee in a kettle; and as he sat on a log to eat his dinner the chickadees would sometimes come round and alight on his arm and peck at the potato in his fingers; and he said that he "liked to have the little fellers about him."

  In him the animal man chiefly was developed.  In physical endurance and contentment he was cousin to the pine and the rock.  I asked him once if he was not sometimes tired at night, after working all day; and he answered, with a sincere and serious look,"Gorrappit, I never was tired in my life."  But the intellectual and what is called spiritual man in him were slumbering as in an infant. He had been instructed only in that innocent and ineffectual way in which the Catholic priests teach the aborigines, by which the pupil is never educated to the degree of consciousness, but only to the degree of trust and reverence, and a child is not made a man, but kept a child.  When Nature made him, she gave him a strong body and contentment for his portion, and propped him on every side with reverence and reliance, that he might live out his threescore years and ten a child.  He was so genuine and unsophisticated that no introduction would serve to introduce him, more than if you introduced a woodchuck to your neighbor.  He had got to find him out as you did.  He would not play any part.  Men paid him wages for work, and so helped to feed and clothe him; but he never exchanged opinions with them.  He was so simply and naturally humble —— if he can be called humble who never aspires —— that humility was no distinct quality in him, nor could he conceive of it.  Wiser men were demigods to him.  If you told him that such a one was coming,he did as if he thought that anything so grand would expect nothing of himself, but take all the responsibility on itself, and let him be forgotten still.  He never heard the sound of praise.  He particularly reverenced the writer and the preacher.  Their performances were miracles.  When I told him that I wrote considerably, he thought for a long time that it was merely the handwriting which I meant, for he could write a remarkably good hand himself.  I sometimes found the name of his native parish handsomely written in the snow by the highway, with the proper French accent,and knew that he had passed.  I asked him if he ever wished to write his thoughts.  He said that he had read and written letters for those who could not, but he never tried to write thoughts —— no, he could not, he could not tell what to put first, it would kill him,and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!

  他是一个熟练的樵夫,他陶醉在这项艺术的技巧之中,他齐着地面把树木伐下来,从根上再萌发的芽将来就格外强壮,而运木料的雪橇在平根上也可以滑得过去;而且,他不是用绳子来把砍过根部一半的大树拉倒的,他把树木砍削得成为细细的一根或者薄薄的一片,最后,你只消轻轻用手一推,就推倒了。

  他使我发生兴趣是因为他这样安静,这样寂寞,而内心又这样愉快;他的眼睛里溢出他高兴而满足的神情。他的欢乐并没有搀杂其他的成分。有时候,我看到他在树林中劳动、砍伐树木,他带着一阵无法描写的满意的笑声迎接我,用加拿大腔的法文向我致意,其实他的英文也说得好。等我走近了他,他就停止工作,一半克制着自己的喜悦,躺倒在他砍下的一棵松树旁边,把树枝里层的皮剥了下来,再把它卷成一个圆球,一边笑着说话,一边还咀嚼它。他有如此充溢的元气,有时遇到使他运用思想的任何事情,碰着了他的痒处,他就大笑得倒在地上,打起滚来了。看看他四周的树木,他会叫喊,——“真的呵!在这里伐木真够劲;我不要更好的娱乐了。”有时候,他闲了下来,他带着把小手枪在林中整天自得其乐,一边走,一边按时地向自己放枪致敬。冬天他生了火,到正午在一个壶里煮咖啡,当他坐在一根圆木上用膳的时候,小鸟偶尔会飞过来,停在他的胳膊上,啄他手里的土豆;他就说他“喜欢旁边有些小把戏”。

  在他身上,主要的是生气勃发。论体力上的坚韧和满足,他跟松树和岩石称得上是表兄弟。有一次问他整天做工,晚上累不累;他口答时,目光真诚而严肃,“天晓得,我一生中从没有累过。”可是在他身上,智力,即一般所谓的灵性却还是沉睡着的,跟婴孩的灵性一样。他所受的教育,只是以那天真的,无用的方式进行的,天主教神父就是用这种方式来教育土人,而用这种方式,学生总不能达到意识的境界,只达到了信任和崇敬的程度,像一个孩子并没有被教育成人,他依然还是个孩子。当大自然创造他这人的时候,她给了他一副强壮的身体,并且让他对自己的命运感到满足,在他的四周用敬意和信任支撑着他,这样他就从可以像一个孩子似的,一直活到七十岁。他是这样单纯,毫不虚伪,无须用介绍的方式来介绍他,正如你无须给你的邻居介绍土拨鼠一样。

  他这人,还得自己慢慢来认识自己,就跟你得慢慢地才能认识他一样。他什么事都不做作。人们为了他的工作,给他钱;这就帮他得到了衣食;可是他从来不跟人们交换意见。

  他这样地单纯,天然地卑微,——如果那种不抱奢望的人可以称作卑微的话,——这种卑微在他身上并不明显,他自己也不觉得。对于他,聪明一点的人,简直成了神仙,如果你告诉他,这样一个人正要来到,他似乎觉得这般隆重的事情肯定是与他无关的,事情会自然而然地自己办好的,还是让他被人们忘掉吧。他从来没有听到过赞美他的话。

  他特别敬重作家和传教师。他认为他们的工作真是神乎其神。当我告诉他,说我也写作甚多,他想了一会儿,以为我说的是写字,他也写得一手好字呢。我有时候看到,在公路旁的积雪上很秀丽地写着他那故乡的教区的名字,并标明了那法文的重音记号,就知道他曾在这里经过。我问过他有没有想过要写下他自己的思想来。他说他给不识字的人读过和写过一些信件,但从没有试过写下他的思想,——不,他不能,他就不知道应该先写什么,这会难死他的,何况写的时候还要留意拼音!

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