Raines is my name—Joseph Raines. I am a house-builder by profession, and as I do not often see my writings in print, except as prepaid advertisements, I consider this a good opportunity to say to the public in general that I can build as good a house for a given sum of money as any other builder, and that I am a square man to deal with. I am aware of the fact that both of these assertions have been made by many other persons about themselves; but to prove their trustworthiness when uttered by me, the public needs only to give me a trial. (In justice to other builders, I must admit they can use even this last statement of mine with perfect safety for the present, and with prospective profit if they get a contract to build a house.)
I suppose it will be considered very presumptuous in me to attempt to write a story, for, while some professions seem relatives of literature, I freely admit that there is no carpenter’s tool which prepares one to handle a pen. To be sure, I have read some stories which, it seemed to me, could have been improved by the judicious use of a handsaw, had that extremely radical tool been able to work aesthetically as it does practically; and while I have read certain other stories, and essays, and poems, I have been tormented by an intense desire to apply to them a smoothing-plane, a pair of compasses, or a square, or even to so far interfere with their arrangement as to cut a window-hole or two, and an occasional ventilator. Still, admitting that the carpenter should stick to his bench—or to his office or carriage, if he is a master builder, as I am—I must yet insist that there are occasions when a man is absolutely compelled to handle tools to which he is not accustomed. Doctor Buzzle, my own revered pastor, established this principle firmly in my mind one day by means of a mild rebuke, administered on the occasion of my volunteering to repair some old chairs which had come down to him through several generations. The doctor was at work upon them himself, and although he seemed to regard the very chips and sawdust—even such as found a way into his eyes—with a reverent affection, he was certainly ruining good material in a shocking manner. But when I proffered my assistance, he replied:
“Thank you, Joseph; but—they wouldn’t be the same chairs if any one else touched them.”
I feel similarly about the matter of my story—perhaps you will understand why as you read it.
When I had finished my apprenticeship, people seemed to like me, and some of our principal men advised me to stay at Bartley, my native village—it was so near the city, they said, and would soon fill up with city people, who would want villas and cottages built. So I staid, and between small jobs of repairing, and contracts to build fences, stables and carriage-houses, I managed to keep myself busy, and to save a little money after I had paid my bills.