As I sat of an early summer morning in the shade of a tree, eating fried bacon with a tinker, the thought came to me that I might some day write a book of my own: a book that should treat of the roads and by-roads, of trees, and wind in lonely places, of rapid brooks and lazy streams, of the glory of dawn, the glow of evening, and the purple solitude of night; a book of wayside inns and sequestered taverns; a book of country things and ways and people. And the thought pleased me much.
“But,” objected the Tinker, for I had spoken my thought aloud, “trees and suchlike don’t sound very interestin’—leastways—not in a book, for after all a tree’s only a tree and an inn, an inn; no, you must tell of other things as well.”
“Yes,” said I, a little damped, “to be sure there is a highwayman—”
“Come, that’s better!” said the Tinker encouragingly.
“Then,” I went on, ticking off each item on my fingers, “come Tom Cragg, the pugilist—”
“Better and better!” nodded the Tinker.
“—a one-legged soldier of the Peninsula, an adventure at a lonely tavern, a flight through woods at midnight pursued by desperate villains, and—a most extraordinary tinker. So far so good, I think, and it all sounds adventurous enough.”
“What!” cried the Tinker. “Would you put me in your book then?”
“Why then,” said the Tinker, “it’s true I mends kettles, sharpens scissors and such, but I likewise peddles books an’ nov-els, an’ what’s more I reads ’em—so, if you must put me in your book, you might call me a literary cove.”
“A literary cove?” said I.
“Ah!” said the Tinker, “it sounds better—a sight better—besides, I never read a nov-el with a tinker in it as I remember; they’re generally dooks, or earls, or barronites—nobody wants to read about a tinker.”
“That all depends,” said I; “a tinker may be much more interesting than an earl or even a duke.”
The Tinker examined the piece of bacon upon his knifepoint with a cold and disparaging eye.
“I’ve read a good many nov-els in my time,” said he, shaking his head, “and I knows what I’m talking of;” here he bolted the morsel of bacon with much apparent relish. “I’ve made love to duchesses, run off with heiresses, and fought dooels—ah! by the hundred—all between the covers of some book or other and enjoyed it uncommonly well—especially the dooels. If you can get a little blood into your book, so much the better; there’s nothing like a little blood in a book—not a great deal, but just enough to give it a ‘tang,’ so to speak; if you could kill your highwayman to start with it would be a very good beginning to your story.”
“I could do that, certainly,” said I, “but it would not be according to fact.”
“So much the better,” said the Tinker; “who wants facts in a nov-el?”