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Days Off
by [?]

“But will it do that,” I asked, “unless one is careful to follow the straight line of the highway and march as fast as one can?”

“That depends,” said my Uncle Peter, nodding his head gravely, “upon what you consider the end of the journey. If it is something entirely outside of yourself, a certain stint of work which you were created to perform; or if it is something altogether beyond yourself, a certain place or office at which you are aiming to arrive; then, of course, you must stick to the highway and hurry along.

“But suppose that the real end of your journey is something of which you yourself are a part. Suppose it is not merely to get to a certain place, but to get there in a certain condition, with the light of a sane joy in your eyes and the peace of a grateful content in your heart. Suppose it is not merely to do a certain piece of work, but to do it in a certain spirit, cheerfully and bravely and modestly, without overrating its importance or overlooking its necessity. Then, I fancy, you may find that the winding foot-path among the hills often helps you on your way as much as the high road, the day off among the islands of repose gives you a steadier hand and a braver heart to make your voyage along the stream of duty.”

“You may skip the moralizing, if you please, Uncle Peter,” said I, “and concentrate your mind upon giving me a reasonable account of the peculiar happiness of what you call a day off.”

“Nothing could be simpler,” he answered. “It is the joy of getting out of the harness that makes a horse fling up his heels, and gallop around the field, and roll over and over in the grass, when he is turned loose in the pasture. It is the impulse of pure play that makes a little bunch of wild ducks chase one another round and round on the water, and follow their leader in circles and figures of eight; there is no possible use in it, but it gratifies their instinct of freedom and makes them feel that they are not mere animal automata, whatever the natural history men may say to the contrary. It is the sense of release that a man experiences when he unbuckles the straps of his knapsack, and lays it down under a tree, and says ‘You stay there till I come back for you! I’m going to rest myself by climbing this hill, just because it is not on the road-map, and because there is nothing at the top of it except the view.’

“It is this feeling of escape,” he continued, in the tone of a man who has shaken off the harness of polite conversation and let himself go for a gallop around the field of monologue, “it is just this exhilarating sense of liberation that is lacking in most of our social amusements and recreations. They are dictated by fashion and directed by routine. Men get into the so-called ’round of pleasure,’ and they are driven into a trot to keep up with it, just as if it were a treadmill. The only difference is that the pleasure-mill grinds no corn. Harry Bellairs was complaining to me, the other day, that after an exhausting season of cotillons in New York, he had been running his motor-car through immense fatigues in France and Italy, and had returned barely in time to do his duty by his salmon-river in Canada, work his new boat through the annual cruise of the yacht club, finish up a round of house-parties at Bar Harbor and Lenox, and get ready for the partridge-shooting in England with his friend the Duke of Bangham,–it was a dog’s life, he said, and he had no time to himself at all. I rather pitied him; he looked so frayed. It seems to me that the best way for a man or a woman of pleasure to get a day off would be to do a little honest work.