The Wind In The Willows - online version

Complete text of the classic childrens book By KENNETH GRAHAME

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He rose and descended river-wards once more; then changed his mind and sought the side of the dusty lane. There, lying half- buried in the thick, cool under-hedge tangle that bordered it, he could muse on the metalled road and all the wondrous world that it led to; on all the wayfarers, too, that might have trodden it, and the fortunes and adventures they had gone to seek or found unseeking--out there, beyond--beyond!
Footsteps fell on his ear, and the figure of one that walked somewhat wearily came into view; and he saw that it was a Rat, and a very dusty one. The wayfarer, as he reached him, saluted with a gesture of courtesy that had something foreign about it-- hesitated a moment--then with a pleasant smile turned from the track and sat down by his side in the cool herbage. He seemed tired, and the Rat let him rest unquestioned, understanding something of what was in his thoughts; knowing, too, the value all animals attach at times to mere silent companionship, when the weary muscles slacken and the mind marks time.
The wayfarer was lean and keen-featured, and somewhat bowed at the shoulders; his paws were thin and long, his eyes much wrinkled at the corners, and he wore small gold ear rings in his neatly-set well-shaped ears. His knitted jersey was of a faded blue, his breeches, patched and stained, were based on a blue foundation, and his small belongings that he carried were tied up in a blue cotton handkerchief.
When he had rested awhile the stranger sighed, snuffed the air, and looked about him.
`That was clover, that warm whiff on the breeze,' he remarked; `and those are cows we hear cropping the grass behind us and blowing softly between mouthfuls. There is a sound of distant reapers, and yonder rises a blue line of cottage smoke against the woodland. The river runs somewhere close by, for I hear the call of a moorhen, and I see by your build that you're a freshwater mariner. Everything seems asleep, and yet going on all the time. It is a goodly life that you lead, friend; no doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong enough to lead it!'
`Yes, it's THE life, the only life, to live,' responded the Water Rat dreamily, and without his usual whole-hearted conviction.
`I did not say exactly that,' replied the stranger cautiously; `but no doubt it's the best. I've tried it, and I know. And because I've just tried it--six months of it--and know it's the best, here am I, footsore and hungry, tramping away from it, tramping southward, following the old call, back to the old life, THE life which is mine and which will not let me go.'