“That’s right, Pa,” assented Mrs. Mason. ("Go on with your meal, Professor, the meat’ll be cold.”) She was completely won by the travelling bookseller, and had given him the highest title of honour in her ken. “Why, I read that story when I was a girl, and I still remember it. That’s better readin’ for Dorothy than those funeral speeches, I reckon. I believe the Professor’s right: we’d ought to have more books laying around. Seems kind of a shame, with a famous author at the next farm, not to read more, don’t it, now?”
So by the time we got down to Mrs. Mason’s squash pie (good pie, too, I admit, but her hand is a little heavy for pastry), the whole household was enthusiastic about books, and the atmosphere was literary enough for even Dr. Eliot to live in without panting. Mrs. Mason opened up her parlour and we sat there while Mifflin recited “The Revenge” and “Maud Muller.”
“Well, now, ain’t that real sweet!” said Emma Mason. “It’s surprising how those words rhyme so nicely. Seems almost as though it was done a-purpose! Reminds me of piece day at school. There was a mighty pretty piece I learned called the ’Wreck of the Asperus.’” And she subsided into a genteel melancholy.
I saw that Mr. Mifflin was well astride his hobby: he had started to tell the children about Robin Hood, but I had the sense to give him a wink. We had to be getting along or surely Andrew might be on us. So while Mifflin was putting Pegasus into the shafts again I picked out seven or eight books that I thought would fit the needs of the Masons. Mr. Mason insisted that “Happiness and Hayseed” be included among them, and gave me a crisp five-dollar bill, refusing any change. “No, no,” he said, “I’ve had more fun than I get at a grange meeting. Come round again, Miss McGill; I’m going to tell Andrew what a good show this travelling theayter of yours gives! And you, Professor, any time you’re here about road-mending season, stop in an’ tell me some more good advice. Well, I must get back to the field.”
Bock fell in under the van, and we creaked off down the lane. Mifflin filled his pipe and was chuckling to himself. I was a little worried now for fear Andrew might overtake us.
“It’s a wonder Sam Mason didn’t call up Andrew,” I said. “It must have looked mighty queer to him for an old farm hand like me to be around, peddling books.”
“He would have done it straight off,” said Mifflin, “but you see, I cut his telephone wire!”
I gazed in astonishment at the wizened little rogue. Here was a new side to the amiable idealist! Apparently there was a streak of fearless deviltry in him besides his gentle love of books. I’m bound to say that now, for the first time, I really admired him. I had burnt my own very respectable boats behind me, and I rather enjoyed knowing that he, too, could act briskly in a pinch.