“You’re making a strong case,” laughed John Starkweather.
“Strong!” I said. “It is simply wonderful what a leverage upon society a few acres of land, a cow, a pig or two, and a span of horses gives a man. I’m ridiculously independent. I’d be the hardest sort of a man to dislodge or crush. I tell you, my friend, a farmer is like an oak, his roots strike deep in the soil, he draws a sufficiency of food from the earth itself, he breathes the free air around him, his thirst is quenched by heaven itself—and there’s no tax on sunshine.”
I paused for very lack of breath. John Starkweather was laughing.
“When you commiserate me, therefore” ("I’m sure I shall never do it again,” said John Starkweather)—“when you commiserate me, therefore, and advise me to rise, you must give me really good reasons for changing my occupation and becoming a millionnaire. You must prove to me that I can be more independent, more honest, more useful as a millionnaire, and that I shall have better and truer friends!”
John Starkweather looked around at me (I knew I had been absurdly eager and I was rather ashamed of myself) and put his hand on my knee (he has a wonderfully fine eye!).
“I don’t believe,” he said, “you’d have any truer friends.”
“Anyway,” I said repentantly, “I’ll admit that millionnaires have their place—at present I wouldn’t do entirely away with them, though I do think they’d enjoy farming better. And if I were to select a millionnaire for all the best things I know, I should certainly choose you, Mr. Starkweather.”
He jumped up.
“You know who I am?” he asked.
“And you knew all the time?”
“Well, you’re a good one!”
We both laughed and fell to talking with the greatest friendliness. I led him down my garden to show him my prize pie-plant, of which I am enormously proud, and I pulled for him some of the finest stalks I could find.
“Take it home,” I said, “it makes the best pies of any pie-plant in this country.”
He took it under his arm.
“I want you to come over and see me the first chance you get,” he said. “I’m going to prove to you by physical demonstration that it’s better sport to be a millionnaire than a farmer—not that I am a millionnaire: I’m only accepting the reputation you give me.”
So I walked with him down to the lane.
“Let me know when you grease up again,” he said, “and I’ll come over.”
So we shook hands: and he set off sturdily down the road with the pie-plant leaves waving cheerfully over his shoulder.
[Illustration: “Somehow, and suddenly, I was a boy again”]
A BOY AND A PREACHER
This morning I went to church with Harriet. I usually have some excuse for not going, but this morning I had them out one by one and they were altogether so shabby that I decided not to use them. So I put on my stiff shirt and Harriet came out in her best black cape with the silk fringes. She looked so immaculate, so ruddy, so cheerfully sober (for Sunday) that I was reconciled to the idea of driving her up to the church. And I am glad I went, for the experience I had.