And when I left London, abandoned my career, such as it was, I did so because I intended to devote my life to the cultivation of joy, and, by continuous and unsparing effort, to be happy. Among people, and in constant intercourse with others, I did not find it possible; there were too many distractions in towns and work-rooms, and also too much suffering. So I took one step backwards or forwards, as you may choose to put it, and went straight to Nature, to trees, birds, animals, to all those things which quite clearly pursue one aim only, which
blindly follow the great native instinct to be happy without any care at all for morality, or human law or divine
law. I wanted, you understand, to get all joy first-hand and unadulterated, and I think it scarcely exists among
men; it is obsolete.'
Darcy turned in his chair.
'Ah, but what makes birds and animals happy?' he asked. 'Food, food and mating.'
Frank laughed gently in the stillness.
'Do not think I became a sensualist,' he said. 'I did not make that mistake. For the sensualist carries his
miseries pick-a-back, and round his feet is wound the shroud that shall soon enwrap him. I may be mad, it is
true, but I am not so stupid anyhow as to have tried that. No, what is it that makes puppies play with their own
tails, that sends cats on their prowling ecstatic errands at night?'.
He paused a moment.
'So I went to Nature,' he said. 'I sat down here in this New Forest, sat down fair and square, and looked. That
was my first difficulty, to sit here quiet without being bored, to wait without being impatient, to be receptive
and very alert, though for a long time nothing particular happened. The change in fact was slow in those early
'Nothing happened?' asked Darcy rather impatiently, with the sturdy revolt against any new idea which to the
English mind is synonymous with nonsense. 'Why, what in the world should happen?'
Now Frank as he had known him was the most generous but most quick-tempered of mortal men; in other
words his anger would flare to a prodigious beacon, under almost no provocation, only to be quenched again
under a gust of no less impulsive kindliness. Thus the moment Darcy had spoken, an apology for his hasty
question was half-way up his tongue. But there was no need for it to have traveled even so far, for Frank
laughed again with kindly, genuine mirth.
'Oh, how I should have resented that a few years ago,' he said. 'Thank goodness that resentment is one of the
things I have got rid of. I certainly wish that you should believe my story--in fact, you are going to--but that
you at this moment should imply that you do not, does not concern me.'
'Ah, your solitary sojournings have made you inhuman,' said Darcy, still very English.
'No, human,' said Frank. 'Rather more human, at least rather less of an ape.'
'Well, that was my first quest,' he continued, after a moment, 'the deliberate and unswerving pursuit of joy,
and my method, the eager contemplation of Nature. As far as motive went, I daresay it was purely selfish, but
as far as effect goes, it seems to me about the best thing one can do for one's fellow-creatures, for happiness is
more infectious than small-pox. So, as I said, I sat down and waited; I looked at happy things, zealously
avoided the sight of anything unhappy, and by degrees a little trickle of the happiness of this blissful world
began to filter into me. The trickle grew more abundant, and now, my dear fellow, if I could for a moment
divert from me into you one half of the torrent of joy that pours through me day and night, you would throw
the world, art, everything aside, and just live, exist. When a man's body dies, it passes into trees and flowers.
Well, that is what I have been trying to do with my soul before death.'
The servant had brought into the pergola a table with syphons and spirits, and had set a lamp upon it. As
Frank spoke he leaned forward towards the other, and Darcy for all his matter-of-fact commonsense could
have sworn that his companion's face shone, was luminous in itself. His dark brown eyes glowed from within,
the unconscious smile of a child irradiated and transformed his face. Darcy felt suddenly excited, exhilarated.
'Go on,' he said. 'Go on. I can feel you are somehow telling me sober truth. I daresay you are mad; but I don't
see that matters.'
Frank laughed again.