Polly did not agree with them, neither did I. Time is precious only as we make it so. To do the wholesome, satisfying thing, without direct or indirect injury to others, is the privilege of every man. To the charge of neglecting my profession I pleaded not guilty, for my profession had dismissed me without so much as saying “By your leave.” I was obliged to change my mode of life, and I chose to be a producer rather than a consumer of things produced by others. I was conserving my health, pleasing my wife, and at the same time gratifying a desire which had long possessed me. I have neither apology to make nor regret to record; for as individuals and as a family we have lived healthier, happier, more wholesome, and more natural lives on the farm than we ever did in the city, and that is saying much.
On the 26th, when I reached the station at Exeter, I found Thompson and the gray team just starting for the farm with the second load of wire fencing. I had ordered fifty-six rolls of Page’s woven wire fence, forty rods in each roll. This fence cost me seventy cents a rod, $224 a mile, or $1568 for the seven miles. Add to this $37 for freight, and the total amounted to $1605 for the wire to fence my land. I got this facer as I climbed to the seat beside Thompson. I did not blink, however, for I had resolved in the beginning to take no account of details until the 31st day of December, and to spend as much on the farm in that time as I could without being wasteful. I did not care much what others thought. I felt that at my age time was precious, and that things must be rushed as rapidly as possible.
I was glad of this slow ride with Thompson, for it gave me an opportunity to study him. I wondered then and afterward why a man of his general intelligence, industry, and special knowledge of the details of farming, should fail of success when working for himself. He knew ten times as much about the business as I did, and yet he had not succeeded in an independent position. Some quality, like broadness of mind or directness of purpose, was lacking, which made him incapable of carrying out a plan, no matter how well conceived. He was like Hooker at Chancellorsville, whose plan of campaign was perfect, whose orders were carried out with exactness, whose army fell into line as he wished, and whose enemy did the obvious thing, yet who failed terribly because the responsibility of the ultimate was greater than he could bear. As second in command, or as corps leader, he was superb; in independent command he was a disastrous failure.
Thompson, then, was a Joe Hooker on a reduced plane,—good only to execute another man’s plans. Thompson might have rebutted this by saying that I too might prove a disastrous failure; that as yet I had shown only ability to spend,—perhaps not always wisely. Such rebuttal would have had weight seven years ago, but it would not be accepted to-day, for I have made my campaign and won my battle. The record of the past seven years shows that I can plan and also execute.