“What Society did you think I belonged to?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, “when I was in town a man who wanted to sell me a corn-planter asked me if I was a Mason——”
“Did he ask you that, too?” interrupted my companion.
“He did,” I said. “He did——” and I reflected not without enthusiasm that I had come away without a corn-planter. “And when I drove out of town I was feeling rather depressed because I wasn’t a member of the lodge.”
“Were you?” exclaimed my companion. “So was I. I just felt as though I had about reached the last ditch. I haven’t any money to pay into lodges and it don’t seems if a man could get acquainted and friendly without.”
“Farming is rather lonely work sometimes, isn’t it?” I observed.
“You bet it is,” he responded. “You’ve been there yourself, haven’t you?”
There may be such a thing as the friendship of prosperity; but surely it cannot be compared with the friendship of adversity. Men, stooping, come close together.
“But when I got to thinking it over,” I said, “it suddenly occurred to me that I belonged to the greatest of all fraternities. And I recognized you instantly as a charter member.”
He looked around at me expectantly, half laughing. I don’t suppose he had so far forgotten his miseries for many a day.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“The Universal Brotherhood of Men.”
Well, we both laughed—and understood.
After that, what a story he told me!—the story of a misplaced man on an unproductive farm. Is it not marvellous how full people are—all people—of humour, tragedy, passionate human longings, hopes, fears—if only you can unloosen the floodgates! As to my companion, he had been growing bitter and sickly with the pent-up humours of discouragement; all he needed was a listener.
He was so absorbed in his talk that he did not at first realize that we had turned into his own long lane. When he discovered it he exclaimed:
“I didn’t mean to bring you out of your way. I can manage the bag all right now.”
“Never mind,” I said, “I want to get you home, to say nothing of hearing how you came out with your pigs.”
As we approached the house, a mournful-looking woman came to the door. My companion sprang out of the buggy as much elated now as he had previously been depressed (for that was the coinage of his temperament), rushed up to his wife and led her down to the gate. She was evidently astonished at his enthusiasm. I suppose she thought he had at length discovered his gold mine!
When I finally turned the mare around, he stopped me, laid his hand on my arm and said in a confidential voice:
“I’m glad we discovered that we belong to the same society.”
As I drove away I could not help chuckling when I heard his wife ask suspiciously:
“What society is that?”
I heard no word of his answer: only the note in his voice of eager explanation.