As we talked, then, Horace and I, I began to have hopes of him. There is no joy comparable to the making of a friend, and the more resistant the material the greater the triumph. Baxter, the carpenter, says that when he works for enjoyment he chooses curly maple.
When Horace set me down at my gate that afternoon he gave me his hand and told me that he would look in on me occasionally, and that if I had any trouble to let him know.
A few days later I heard by the roundabout telegraph common in country neighbourhoods that Horace had found a good deal of fun in reporting what I said about farming and that he had called me by a highly humorous but disparaging name. Horace has a vein of humour all his own. I have caught him alone in his fields chuckling to himself, and even breaking out in a loud laugh at the memory of some amusing incident that happened ten years ago. One day, a month or more after our bargain, Horace came down across his field and hitched his jean-clad leg over my fence, with the intent, I am sure, of delving a little more in the same rich mine of humour.
“Horace,” I said, looking him straight in the eye, “did you call me an—Agriculturist!”
I have rarely seen a man so pitifully confused as Horace was at that moment. He flushed, he stammered, he coughed, the perspiration broke out on his forehead. He tried to speak and could not. I was sorry for him.
“Horace,” I said, “you’re a Farmer.”
We looked at each other a moment with dreadful seriousness, and then both of us laughed to the point of holding our sides. We slapped our knees, we shouted, we wriggled, we almost rolled with merriment. Horace put out his hand and we shook heartily. In five minutes I had the whole story of his humorous reports out of him.
No real friendship is ever made without an initial clashing which discloses the metal of each to each. Since that day Horace’s jean-clad leg has rested many a time on my fence and we have talked crops and calves. We have been the best of friends in the way of whiffle-trees, butter tubs and pig killings—but never once looked up together at the sky.
The chief objection to a joke in the country is that it is so imperishable. There is so much room for jokes and so few jokes to fill it. When I see Horace approaching with a peculiar, friendly, reminiscent smile on his face I hasten with all ardour to anticipate him:
“Horace,” I exclaim, “you’re a Farmer.”
[Illustration: “The heat and sweat of the hay fields”]
THE JOY OF POSSESSION
“How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees: How graceful climb these shadows on my hill.”
Always as I travel, I think, “Here I am, let anything happen!”
I do not want to know the future; knowledge is too certain, too cold, too real.
It is true that I have not always met the fine adventure nor won the friend, but if I had, what should I have more to look for at other turnings and other hilltops?