“Well, well, my boy, if good luck knocks at your door, don’t you put your head out at window and tell it to be gone about its business, that’s all. You must learn to deal with odd and even in life, as well as in figures. I tell you now, as I told you ten years ago, when you pommelled young Mike Holdsworth for wanting to pass a bad shilling before you knew whether he was in jest or earnest—you’re overhasty and proud, and apt to set your teeth against folks that don’t square to your notions. It’s no harm for me to be a bit fiery and stiff-backed—I’m an old schoolmaster, and shall never want to get on to a higher perch. But where’s the use of all the time I’ve spent in teaching you writing and mapping and mensuration, if you’re not to get for’ard in the world and show folks there’s some advantage in having a head on your shoulders, instead of a turnip? Do you mean to go on turning up your nose at every opportunity because it’s got a bit of a smell about it that nobody finds out but yourself? It’s as foolish as that notion o’ yours that a wife is to make a working-man comfortable. Stuff and nonsense! Stuff and nonsense! Leave that to fools that never got beyond a sum in simple addition. Simple addition enough! Add one fool to another fool, and in six years’ time six fools more—they’re all of the same denomination, big and little’s nothing to do with the sum!”
During this rather heated exhortation to coolness and discretion the pipe had gone out, and Bartle gave the climax to his speech by striking a light furiously, after which he puffed with fierce resolution, fixing his eye still on Adam, who was trying not to laugh.
“There’s a good deal o’ sense in what you say, Mr. Massey,” Adam began, as soon as he felt quite serious, “as there always is. But you’ll give in that it’s no business o’ mine to be building on chances that may never happen. What I’ve got to do is to work as well as I can with the tools and mater’als I’ve got in my hands. If a good chance comes to me, I’ll think o’ what you’ve been saying; but till then, I’ve got nothing to do but to trust to my own hands and my own head-piece. I’m turning over a little plan for Seth and me to go into the cabinet-making a bit by ourselves, and win a extra pound or two in that way. But it’s getting late now—it’ll be pretty near eleven before I’m at home, and Mother may happen to lie awake; she’s more fidgety nor usual now. So I’ll bid you good-night.”
“Well, well, we’ll go to the gate with you—it’s a fine night,” said Bartle, taking up his stick. Vixen was at once on her legs, and without further words the three walked out into the starlight, by the side of Bartle’s potato-beds, to the little gate.
“Come to the music o’ Friday night, if you can, my boy,” said the old man, as he closed the gate after Adam and leaned against it.
“Aye, aye,” said Adam, striding along towards the streak of pale road. He was the only object moving on the wide common. The two grey donkeys, just visible in front of the gorse bushes, stood as still as limestone images—as still as the grey-thatched roof of the mud cottage a little farther on. Bartle kept his eye on the moving figure till it passed into the darkness, while Vixen, in a state of divided affection, had twice run back to the house to bestow a parenthetic lick on her puppies.