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THE DOCTOR PRESCRIBES
FROM my youth I had been designed by my ambitious and autocratic father for the study of the law. In my secret heart I had rebelled against his desires. He had never given me any reasons. which seemed to justify this line of conduct except, as he frequently said, "There was plenty of room at the top." I could not deny it, because at that time I had never been to the top to verify his statement, and since that time I have never succeeded in getting above the overcrowded condition of affairs at the bottom.
So far as I could learn of my ancestry, there had never been any lawyers in the family since the progenitor of that family in remote times had burst upon the New World. Consequently, there was never any heredity that had given me a desire for the study of the law; in fact, I had always rebelled against any and all study whatsoever, however necessary, however desirable.
It is not out of place here to state that my autocratic father has seen good reasons to moderate his ambitious desires in respect to my vocation in life, and, to speak more plainly, wishes he had not interfered.
Now I had inherited or acquired a certain taste for the soil, which manifested itself in various ways during my boyhood. I had early conceived a taste and interest in mud pies, and had carried the products of that industry on my face and hands to perhaps a greater extent than any child in the neighborhood. I had also manifested a most reprehensible tendency to besmear myself with mud upon every occasion. That this was to a certain extent a matter of heredity I have no doubt.
My great-grandfather had once owned the largest and finest farm in town, and had, while yet a young man, sold the same for a round sum, the interest on which enabled him to live in comfort for the rest of his days and maintain a large family of children, who, as tradition has it, did all they could to relieve that ancestor of all loose money that he possessed. As he passed from this world nearly three quarters of a century ago, it is needless to state that his later life was not embittered by his intimate acquaintance with me. He is gone, but the farm still remains, and the tradition that our family once owned it is the pleasantest item of family history, one upon which we lay the greatest stress in speaking of the departed glories of the family.
Now had I been able to indulge my strong desire to live the life of a farmer, I have no hesitation, in view of my recent experience, in saying that I would have made the worst specimen of an agriculturalist the world has ever seen, and so perhaps my venerable father wrought better than he knew when he indicated in his convincing manner the road which I was to travel. True enough, I might have made a greater success as a musician, a sign-painter, or a seller of patent medicines, but I stuck to the law.
It is a very curious fact that, although I had in common with the rest of my family a decided objection to hard work and drudgery of any kind, and although office-work came terribly hard to a boy who had spent his early years in the open air, yet after a time the regular hours, the interesting nature of my business, and the acquaintance with all kinds of people began to exercise a fascination over me that resulted perhaps in too great attention to business affairs, and the observance of too long hours in my office.
In consequence of this, and in direct violation of all traditions of my family, I became somewhat used up from over-work, and consulted a physician, who, with strange and terrifying instruments, made exhaustive examinations of the workings of my vital organs, and finally suggested that I had better take more exercise, keep in the open air as much as possible, and not allow business affairs to worry me. For, as he said, I had become a little "hipped" from too close attention to business, and needed rest.
Now this gratified me beyond measure, for it is really a delightful thing to have people look upon one as a person who has been sacrificing his health to the demands of his profession, and although I knew in my inmost heart that I never had overworked, but, if the truth were known, had spent a good part of office hours in sitting with my feet on the desk, contemplating the square in front of my office, I fostered to the utmost the delusion under which the doctor and the people in general labored, and I decided to take a rest. I can give you no idea of the pleasure I felt in hearing the remarks made by my acquaintances upon my personal appearance, and in realizing that in the minds of some I was, according to their expression, "booked for the junk heap" unless I took a rest.
It was then that the long-dominant desire to have a small farm or garden patch of my own awoke in me. I knew perfectly well that if I took a deserted farm and tried to bring it to its previous usefulness, history would be repeated, and it would again become a deserted farm, and probably with an added mortgage.
An opportunity to buy a two-and-one-half acre place on the outskirts of the town, and an equally fortuitous arrival of a complacent mortgagee, solved the difficulty. And so from the inherited disposition for that part of a farmer's life which consisted of lying at ease in a pile of new-mown hay, contemplating the growth of one's vegetables, the plumpness of one's neat stock, the regular markings of one's prize poultry, and the exceeding ripeness of one's fruit, I determined to have that place, in order to eke out the precarious living afforded me by the practice of my profession, by applying myself to arduous labor, which I felt sure would bring me renewed health. I recked not of drought, of storms, of the ravages of coleoptera, of the attacks of orthoptera, and the scourge of hemiptera, of lepidoptera, of hymenoptera, of diptera, of all sorts and kinds of 'ptera, those enemies of bucolic prosperity. Nay, I even dared the heavy handicap of a six per cent power-of-sale mortgage, with interest payable semi-annually in advance.