“Try Mr. Decameron,” I said. “He’s always been very nice to Andrew.”
“Think what it would mean,” he cried, waving an eloquent hand, “if some rich man would start a fund to equip a hundred or so wagons like this to go huckstering literature around through the rural districts. It would pay, too, once you got started. Yes, by the bones of Webster! I went to a meeting of booksellers once, at some hotel in New York, and told ’em about my scheme. They laughed at me. But I’ve had more fun toting books around in this Parnassus than I could have had in fifty years sitting in a bookstore, or teaching school, or preaching. Life’s full of savour when you go creaking along the road like this. Look at today, with the sun and the air and the silver clouds. Best of all, though, I love the rainy days. I used to pull up alongside the road, throw a rubber blanket over Peg, and Bock and I would curl up in the bunk and smoke and read. I used to read aloud to Bock: we went through ‘Midshipman Easy’ together, and a good deal of Shakespeare. He’s a very bookish dog. We’ve seen some queer experiences in this Parnassus.”
The hill road from Shelby to Port Vigor is a lonely one, as most of the farmhouses lie down in the valley. If I had known better we might have taken the longer and more populous way, but as a matter of fact I was enjoying the wide view and the solitary road lying white in the sunshine. We jogged along very pleasantly. Once more we stopped at a house where Mifflin pleaded for a chance to exercise his art. I was much amused when he succeeded in selling a copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” to a shrewish spinster on the plea that she would enjoy reading the stories to her nephews and nieces who were coming to visit her.
“My!” he chuckled, as he gave me the dingy quarter he had extracted. “There’s nothing in that book as grim as she is!”
A little farther on we halted by a roadside spring to give Peg a drink, and I suggested lunch. I had laid in some bread and cheese in Shelby, and with this and some jam we made excellent sandwiches. As we were sitting by the fence the motor stage trundled past on its way to Port Vigor. A little distance down the road it halted, and then went on again. I saw a familiar figure walking back toward us.
“Now I’m in for it,” I said to the Professor. “Here’s Andrew!”
Andrew is just as thin as I am fat, and his clothes hang on him in the most comical way. He is very tall and shambling, wears a ragged beard and a broad Stetson hat, and suffers amazingly from hay fever in the autumn. (In fact, his essay on “Hay Fever” is the best thing he ever wrote, I think.) As he came striding up the road I noticed how his trousers fluttered at the ankles as the wind plucked at them. The breeze curled his beard back under his chin and his face was quite dark with anger. I couldn’t help being amused; he looked so funny.