An online conversation last week got me thinking about E.B. White's Stuart Little. This excerpt is from the end of the book, in which Stuart heads out to search for his friend Margalo and talks with a telephone line repairman about his quest.
“There’s something about north,” [the repairman] said, “something that sets it apart from all
other directions. A person who is heading north is not making any mistake, in my
“That’s the way I look at it,” said Stuart. “I rather expect
that from now on I shall be traveling north until the end of my
“Worse things than that could happen to a person,” said the
“Yes, I know,” answered Stuart.
“Following a broken
telephone line north, I have come upon some wonderful places,” continued the
repairman. “Swamps where cedars grow and turtles wait on logs but not for
anything in particular; fields bordered by crooked fences broken by years of
standing still; orchards so old they have forgotten where the farmhouse is. In
the north I have eaten my lunch in pastures rank with ferns and junipers, all
under fair skies with a wind blowing. My business has taken me into spruce woods
on winter nights where the snow lay deep and soft, a perfect place for a
carnival of rabbits. I have sat at peace on the freight platforms of railroad
junctions in the north, in the warm hours and with the warm smells. I know fresh
lakes in the north, undisturbed except by fish and hawk and, of course, by the
Telephone Company, which has to follow its nose. I know all these places well.
They are a long way from here — don’t forget that. And a person who is looking
for something doesn’t travel very fast.”
“That’s perfectly true,” said
Stuart. “Well, I guess I’d better be going. Thank you for your friendly
“Not at all,” said the repairman. “I hope you find that
Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up
the road that led toward the north. The sun was just coming up over the hills on
his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the
way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in
the right direction.