“But I don’t know much about agriculture,” I protested.
“That isn’t of any consequence. There are the exchanges, the Farmer’s Cyclop?dia and the scissors, and you’ll learn not to waste space by advising farmers to plant corn in hills three feet apart or to feed potato bugs on paris green. The main thing is to make the department entertaining, so let yourself go and be as funny as you like, provided there’s a grain of horse-sense at the bottom. For instance, you might have an article on how to make the farm pay, taking as a text—um, let me see—ah—you might advocate——”
“The planting of summer boarders in rows three feet apart?” I ventured.
The editor leaned back in his chair and laughed. “Go ahead, Carton,” he said warmly. “You mightn’t be able to draw a better looking pig in a prize competition than the rest of us, but I’d bank on you making a pretty turn to his tail.”
The die was cast, and yet, for a few days at least, I felt as one might, who, accustomed[Pg 20] to prate of the certain bliss of a heavenly home, is suddenly presented with a pass to the delectable land. A kaleidoscopic vision dazzled me of a picturesque country house, an orchard, a cow, a horse, real hens for Paul, our own fruit and vegetables, but beyond I could not see clearly, for I was unnerved by the sudden transition from the fine arts to agriculture. I had gained a superficial insight into rural life from the stand-point of the summer boarder, but I was well aware that I didn’t know as much about farming as about art and literature. However, the editor’s confidence in my ability to do the work and Marion’s glowing enthusiasm caused me to . Indeed, though I never boast, I find it difficult to detract from another person’s estimate of my knowledge or attainments; it seems less egotistical to smile and look modest than to enlarge upon one’s own affairs. There was just one thing that caused me a pang. Marion, in pointing out the advantage it would be to me to have a free hand in writing, casually acknowledged that for a long time she had felt that[Pg 21] criticism was not my forte and that I would write better when I had more scope for my imagination. My pained surprise at this confession moved her to merriment, and she laughingly declared that a woman’s vanity was all on the surface, but a man’s was unfathomable. Did I answer back? No, I didn’t, for when I am truly grieved I merely smile faintly with patient, loving forgiveness; besides, I didn’t know what to say. Afterward—for I didn’t realize it at the time—I saw that I felt hurt, not because she had underrated my previous work, but because she had heretofore simulated a proper appreciation of it. I cannot bear to think that my wife is capable of stooping to any kind of pretence, and I am quite single-minded in this, for I like her to be more perfect—infinitely more perfect—than I am. One would suppose this statement to be unquestionable. It isn’t; she immediately asks why, and in the silence which follows when I am trying to think she repeats the query with such challenging meaningful emphasis that, alas!—I cannot say.
II PETER WAYDEAN IS FOUND WANTING
“No,” said the postmistress, shaking her head dubiously, “I don’t think you’d find a place to suit within a mile of this station. You say you want a small farm with a middling good house, and the only vacant place about here has a hundred acres and the house ain’t no better than a shanty.”