Story type: Essay
Everybody, as I said before, has his or her own receipt for “getting away.” Some find it in long “chats” over the fireside with old friends; some in reading and music and art; some in travel, some in “good works” and just a few in “bad” ones. A new hat will often lift a woman several floors nearer to the seventh heaven. A good dinner in prospect will sometimes elevate the spirit of man out of the dreary “rut” and give that soupcon of something-to-live-for which can take the ordinary everyday and turn it into a day which belongs to the extraordinary. For myself, I like to get out into the country alone; or, if I can’t do that, or the weather sees to it that I shan’t, I like to get by myself–anywhere to dream, or, preferably, to explore some unknown district or street or place in my own company. Sometimes I find that to open a new book or a favourite old one, soon takes the edge off “edgyness,” and makes me see that the pin-pricks of life are merely pin-pricks, from which, unless there are too many of them, I shan’t die, however much I may suffer. But even when reading–I like best to read alone–I am never really at ease when at any moment a companion may suddenly break the silence and bring me back to reality by asking the unseen listening gods “if they’ve locked the cat out?” You condemn me? Well, perhaps I am wrong. And if you can find happiness perpetually surrounded by people, then I envy you. It is so much easier to go through life requiring nothing but food, friends, and a bank balance, than always to hide misanthropic tendencies behind a social smile. I envy you, because I realise that the fight to be alone, the fight to be yourself, is the longest fight of all–and it lays you open to suspicion, unfriendliness, even dislike, everywhere you go. But, if I must be honest, I will confess that I hate social pastimes. To work and to dream, to travel, to listen to music, to be in England in the springtime, to read, to give of myself to those who most specially need me–if any there be?–that is what I now call happiness, the rest is merely boredom in varying degree. My only regret is that one has generally to live so long to discover what the constituents of happiness are, or what is worth while and what worthless; what makes you feel that the everyday is a day well spent, and not a day merely got through somehow or other. You lose so much of your youth, and the best years of your life, trying to find happiness along those paths where other people informed you that it lay. It takes so many years of experience to realise that most of the things which men call “pleasure” are but, as it were, tough dulness covered with piquant sauce–a tough mess of which, when you tire of the piquant sauce the toughness remains just so long as you go on trying to eat it.