Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the I once met a man who had made an inter esting and practical study of sleepless nights. Incidentally, he pointed out that anyone intent upon many lines of activity is also fortified against the necessity of killing time. Here is his story of the use to which he put his sleep less nights. In it there is contained many a good suggestion for those of us who live, not sleepless nights alone, but sleepy days.
When I have a wakeful night, he said, I do not worry myself into a nervous con dition. I lie perfectly still with the body at ease, breathe regularly and deeply, and think all I want to, or all I must.
It is true that I have few sleepless nights but I welcome one when it comes, for I re gard it as an admirable opportunity to go through my mental gallery and take account of stock.
There are a lot of things I have seen in this world that I cherish. When I was a boy I used to roam up and down a long highway lined with oaks, with meadows and cultivated fields on either side. I learned to know in timately the grasses and wild flowers, the shrubs and mushrooms, and every growing thing. I looked at them carefully, learned their names, and knew their habits. And whenever I see one of the growing things I learned to know there, I greet it as an old friend. I make many a mental pilgrimage up and down the oak-lined road.
Then again, he went on, I have a fine mental gallery of trees. Dr. Holmes loved to measure their girth no more than I love to recall their beauty and the place where I first saw them. If I lived in New York and could not sleep, I would learn the trees of Cen tral Park and think of them. That would be worth while.
As you know, I have traveled quite a little. In other rooms of my mental gallery there are cathedrals, paintings, statues, scenes from na ture, and the like. These are fine possessions, and I find that an enforced or voluntary re view of them now and again is as stimulating to the memory as cool air is to the lungs.
And another room in my gallery of things worth remembering is worthy of a word. I am, in a measure, a disciple of William T. Harris, late Commissioner of Education. For instance, he was not only fond of Blackmore's novel, Lorna Doone, but he would tramp the country in which the scenes were laid. He tried to get as near the author's background as he could. This, of course, filled his mind with pictures. Now, while I have not had the opportunity to do as he did, I do possess a gallery of scenes from books that I prize highly.
Think of being a chum along the dusty road with Don Quixote, or of going fishing with Sir Izaak Walton, or a-gypsying with George Borrow.
What a host of friends a man wins through Dickens and Thackeray, not to mention the company that makes up the Canterbury Pil grims, or that other company that peoples the pages of Shakespeare.
It is delightful to keep these memories fresh, and to add now and again another friend or scene. I am sure the streets of any town offer a man something worth storing up—and offer it every minute.
So a sleepless night, or a quiet hour on a journey, or when it is too hot to work, I go within me, like a turtle, and take account of stock.
This man, busy to an unusual degree, had many delightful hobbies. Some of them are referred to in his theory and practice of the sleepless night. He proves, at least for him self, that it is essential to have hobbies of one kind or another. They are like lanes and love ly pathways in a great estate that lead us away from the main roads and reveal treasures un suspected.
But a hobby is something to be held in check as this anecdote teaches us : The gentleman who wished to see the resi dent physician at the insane asylum passed through the hallway to the doctor's office.
He met a middle-aged man riding, at a furi ous pace, on a broomstick.
"You seem to be having a fine ride on your horse this morning," said the gentleman.