Such were some of the discoveries which I made when I came to the real business of finding a humble country residence. In my ignorance and inexperience it had seemed the easiest thing in the world. After a fortnight of experiment I began to think it was the hardest.
I FIND MY COTTAGE
In the meantime a circumstance had occurred which was of great importance to me. Some enterprising spirits had started a new weekly local paper, and—mirabile dictu—they actually contemplated a literary page! With a faith in suburban culture, so unprecedented as to be almost sublime, these daring adventurers proposed giving their readers reviews of books, literary gossip, and general information about the doings of eminent writers. They offered the work to me at the modest honorarium of two pounds a week, and were willing to give me a three years’ agreement. They were frank enough to acknowledge that their journal was likely to die of ‘superiority to its public,’ long before the three years were over; but, barring this disaster, they gave me assurance of regular employment. This was the very thing for me. One could write about books anywhere. I thankfully closed with the offer and began to study the ha’-penny evening papers with assiduity, in order to learn the craft of manufacturing biographies of living authors.
The greatest of all questions was thus settled: I should not starve. But the question of a local habitation remained as difficult as ever. I went upon wild-goose chases innumerable; was the victim of every kind of chance hint; gathered fallacious information from garrulous third-class passengers on many railways; confided my case to carters and rural postmen, who played upon my innocence with genial malice; stayed so long at village public-houses without visible motive that I incurred the suspicion of the local constabulary, and on one memorable occasion found myself identified with a long watched-for robber of local hen-roosts. When I dropped upon some quaint village that, from a pictorial point of view, seemed to offer all that I desired, I found my tale, that I wished to settle in it, universally derided. No one could conceive any sane person as being desirous of living in a village; the design seemed wholly unaccountable to people who themselves would have been only too glad to live in towns.