observe a child; any one will do. you will see that not a day passes in which he does not find something or other to make him happy, though he may be in tears the net moment. then look at a man; any one of us will do. you will notice that weeks and months can pass in which day is greeted with nothing more than resignation1, and endure with every polite indifference. indeed, most men are as miserable as sinners, though they are too bored to sin-perhaps their sin is their indifference2. but it is true that they so seldom smile that when they do we do not recognize their face, so distorted is it from the fied mask we take for granted3. and even then a man can not smile like a child, for a child smiles with his eyes, whereas a man smiles with his lips alone. it is not a smile; but a grin; something to do with humor4, but little to do with happiness. and then, as anyone can see, there is a point (but who can define that point?) when a man becomes an old man, and then he will smile again.
it would seem that happiness is something to do with simplicity, and that it is the ability to etract pleasure form the simplest things-such as a peach stone, for instance.it is obvious that it is nothing to do with success. for sir henry stewart was certainly successful. it is twenty years ago since he came down to our village from london, and bought a couple of old cottages, which he had knocked into one. he used his house a s weekend refuge5. he was a barrister. and the village followed his brilliant career with something almost amounting to paternal pride.i remember some ten years ago when he was made a kings counsel6, amos and i, seeing him get off the london train, went to congratulate him. we grinned with pleasure; he merely looked as miserable as though hed received a penal sentence. it was the same when he was knighted; he never smiled a bit, he didnt even bother to celebrate with a round of drinks at the "blue fo"7. he took his success as a child does his medicine. and not one of his achievements brought even a ghost of a smile to his tired eyes.
i asked him one day, soon after hed retired to potter about his garden,8 what is was like to achieve all ones ambitions. he looked down at his roses and went on watering them. then he said "the only value in achieving ones ambition is that you then realize that they are not worth achieving." quickly he moved the conversation on to a more practical level, and within a moment we were back to a safe discussion on the weather. that was two years ago.
i recall this incident, for yesterday, i was passing his house, and had drawn up my cart just outside his garden wall. i had pulled in from the road for no other reason than to let a bus pass me. as i set there filling my pipe, i suddenly heard a shout of sheer joy come from the other side of the wall.i peered over. there stood sir henry doing nothing less than a tribal war dance9 of sheer unashamed ecstasy. even when he observed my bewildered face staring over the wall he did not seem put out10 or embarrassed, but shouted for me to climb over.
"come and see, jan. look! i have done it at last! i have done it at last!"there he was, holding a small bo of earth in his had. i observed three tiny shoots out of it."and there were only three!" he said, his eyes laughing to heaven."three what?" i asked."peach stones", he replied. "ive always wanted to make peach stones grow, even since i was a child, when i used to take them home after a party, or as a man after a banquet. and i used to plant them, and then forgot where i planted them. but now at last i have done it, and, whats more, i had only three stones, and there you are, one, two, three shoots," he counted.
and sir henry ran off, calling for his wife to come and see his achievement-his achievement of simplicity.