Sometimes short stories are brought together like parcels in a basket. Sometimes they grow together like blossoms on a bush. Then, of course, they really belong to one another, because they have the same life in them.The stories in this book have been growing together for a long time. It is at least ten years since the first of them, the story of The Other Wise Man, came to me; and all the others I knew quite well by heart a good while before I could find the time, in a hard-worked life, to write them down and try to make them clear and true to others. It has been a slow task, because the right word has not always been easy to find, and I wanted to keep free from conventionality in the thought and close to nature in the picture. It is enough to cause a man no little shame to see how small is the fruit of so long labour.
he lived with all sorts of men, in battles, in whirling crowds, in lonely huts. He was cast into prison. He fell into dire distress and want. All experiences seemed to be sharpened to an edge. He felt them keenly, yet they did not harm him. He died and came alive again; he loved to the height of passion, and then was parted forever from his beloved. At last, toward morning, as the dawn was stealing near, his soul grew calm, and the pictures showed more clear and firm.
It seemed as if he were walking alone through the deep woods. Seldom the daylight shimmered through the green veil. Soon he came to a rocky gorge in the mountains. Under the mossy stones in the bed of the stream, he heard the water secretly tinkling downward, ever downward, as he climbed upward.
The forest grew thinner and lighter. He came to a fair meadow on the slope of the mountain. Beyond the meadow was a high cliff, and in the face of the cliff an opening like the entrance to a path. Dark was the way, but smooth, and he follo