We came away from the gravity of that bargaining in Horace’s wagon. On our way home Horace gave me fatherly advice about using my farm. He spoke from the height of his knowledge to me, a humble beginner. The conversation ran something like this:
Horace: Thar’s a clump of plum trees along the lower pasture fence. Perhaps you saw ’m——
Myself: I saw them: that is one reason I bought the back pasture. In May they will be full of blossoms.
Horace: They’re wild plums: they ain’t good for nothing.
Myself: But think how fine they will be all the year round.
Horace: Fine! They take up a quarter-acre of good land. I’ve been going to cut ’em myself this ten years.
Myself: I don’t think I shall want them cut out.
After a pause:
Horace: There’s a lot of good body cord-wood in that oak on the knoll.
Myself: Cord-wood! Why, that oak is the treasure of the whole farm, I have never seen a finer one. I could not think of cutting it.
Horace: It will bring you fifteen or twenty dollars cash in hand.
Myself: But I rather have the oak.
So our conversation continued for some time. I let Horace know that I preferred rail fences, even old ones, to a wire fence, and that I thought a farm should not be too large, else it might keep one away from his friends. And what, I asked, is corn compared with a friend? Oh, I grew really oratorical! I gave it as my opinion that there should be vines around the house (Waste of time, said Horace), and that no farmer should permit anyone to paint medicine advertisements on his barn (Brings you ten dollars a year, said Horace), and that I proposed to fix the bridge on the lower road (What’s a path-master for? asked Horace). I said that a town was a useful adjunct for a farm; but I laid it down as a principle that no town should be too near a farm. I finally became so enthusiastic in setting forth my conceptions of a true farm that I reduced Horace to a series of humphs. The early humphs were incredulous, but as I proceeded, with some joy, they became humorously contemptuous, and finally began to voice a large, comfortable, condescending tolerance. I could fairly feel Horace growing superior as he sat there beside me. Oh, he had everything in his favour. He could prove what he said: One tree + one thicket = twenty dollars. One landscape = ten cords of wood = a quarter-acre of corn = twenty dollars. These equations prove themselves. Moreover, was not Horace the “best off” of any farmer in the country? Did he not have the largest barn and the best corn silo? And are there better arguments?
Have you ever had anyone give you up as hopeless? And is it not a pleasure? It is only after people resign you to your fate that you really make friends of them. For how can you win the friendship of one who is trying to convert you to his superior beliefs?