The average buyer is a good deal like the heiress to a million dollars who’s been on the market for eight or ten years, not because there’s no demand for her, but because there’s too much. Most girls whose capital of good looks is only moderate, marry, and marry young, because they’re like a fellow on ’Change who’s scalping the market—not inclined to take chances, and always ready to make a quick turn. Old maids are usually the girls who were so homely that they never had an offer, or so good-looking that they carried their matrimonial corner from one option to another till the new crop came along and bust them. But a girl with a million dollars isn’t a speculative venture. She can advertise for sealed proposals on her fiftieth birthday and be oversubscribed like an issue of 10 per cent. Government bonds. There’s no closed season on heiresses, and, naturally, a bird that can’t stick its head up without getting shot at becomes a pretty wary old fowl.
A buyer is like your heiress—he always has a lot of nice young drummers flirting and fooling around him, but mighty few of them are so much in earnest that they can convince him that their only chance for happiness lies in securing his particular order. But you let one of these dead-in-earnest boys happen along, and the first thing you know he’s persuaded the heiress that he loves her for herself alone or has eloped from town with an order for a car-load of lard.
A lot of young men start off in business with an idea that they must arm themselves with the same sort of weapons that their competitors carry. There’s nothing in it. Fighting the devil with fire is all foolishness, because that’s the one weapon with which he’s more expert than any one else. I usually find that it’s pretty good policy to oppose suspicion with candor, foxiness with openness, indifference with earnestness. When you deal squarely with a crooked man you scare him to death, because he thinks you’re springing some new and extra-deep game on him.
A fellow who’s subject to cramps and chills has no business in the water, but if you start to go in swimming, go in all over. Don’t be one of those chappies who prance along the beach, shivering and showing their skinny shapes, and then dabble their feet in the surf, pour a little sand in their hair, and think they’ve had a bath.
You mustn’t forget, though, that it’s just as important to know when to come out as when to dive in. I mention this because yesterday some one who’d run across you at Yemassee told me that you and Helen were exchanging the grip of the third degree under the breakfast-table, and trying to eat your eggs with your left hands. Of course, this is all very right and proper if you can keep it up, but I’ve known a good many men who would kiss their wives on the honeymoon between swallows of coffee and look like an ass a year later when she chirruped out at the breakfast-table, “Do you love me, darling?” I’m just a little afraid that you’re one of those fellows who wants to hold his wife in his lap during the first six months of his married life, and who, when she asks him at the end of a year if he loves her, answers “Sure.” I may be wrong about this, but I’ve noticed a tendency on your part to slop over a little, and a pail that slops over soon empties itself.