I do not believe in my own presentiments, for I never have any, unless the ever-present optimistic belief that everything I undertake is going to turn out well is a presentiment, but I have learned by experience to place a certain amount of dependence upon Marion’s. Therefore, for a few days after our conversation I confidently expected something to turn up, and every day when I returned home from the office I saw by her inquiring expectant glance that she was looking for the fulfilment of her prediction. As time passed, however, I began to think she had been mistaken, though I did not say so, for I know how annoying it is to have one’s mistakes pointed out when one is most keenly conscious of them. Besides, to refrain made me feel magnanimous, and that feeling, perhaps, caused a shade of pitying[Pg 16] magnanimity to creep into my tone when we discussed the project; so Marion, who is intensely susceptible to inflections, was perfectly well aware that I was practising one of the higher virtues, as well as showing a delicate consideration for her feelings that she might well copy in regard to mine. Of course, we could do nothing but make plans during the winter; but as spring approached, without any prospect of a change that would give me regular hours of work, it seemed as, for a time, the prospect of moving to the country.
It was one morning early in March that the unexpected did happen. I was at my desk reading a batch of indignant letters taking me to task for an opinion I had expressed in an article on musical culture when a summons arrived from the editor-in-chief. Up to that moment I had been amused by the denials of my assertion that the performance of a Bach fugue on the piano as part of a concert programme should be condemned as provocative of snobbish pretence; that the giving out of[ the theme by the performer had become the signal for the audience to assume an air of intense and exalted intellectual enjoyment, though not one person in a hundred could appreciate the logical development of such a composition or distinguish anything but a confused intermingling of the parts; but the summons from the editor made me regard the matter more seriously. I hurriedly looked over the article to see if I had laid myself open to reproof for indiscretion. Yes, I had! At the very end the statement glared at me that musicians listened to a fugue with the strained intentness of jugglers watching a fellow-performer keeping three balls in the air; I had committed the fatal oversight of not saying some musicians. Probably an irate deputation representing the profession so notoriously sensitive to truthful criticism had waited upon the editor to demand a public retraction of the libel.
“Sit down, Carton," said the editor, as I entered. “You’ve been doing ‘Music and Drama’ for two years now," he said musingly, laying down his pen, “and I don’t[Pg 18] think I have expressed my opinion of your work to you personally."
I shook my head mutely, afraid of what was coming next.
“That, however, doesn’t indicate any want of appreciation on my part. You have changed the former commonplace rut of criticism to something that people read with interest, and if they laugh and swear alternately, so much the better. You have a knack of telling the truth with a light touch that is quite refreshing. How would you like to edit the agricultural page in the weekly?"
I gazed at him in bewilderment; ready to laugh if he meant to be jocular, incredulous of his serious intention. “The agricultural page!" I exclaimed.
“Rather sudden, eh? Well, I’ll tell you how the matter stands. Old Rollings is out of it, and I’ve got to fill his place at once. Now it strikes me that farmers don’t hanker after instruction in their newspaper—they want to be entertained, and I think you might make the thing go. The salary will be higher and you can take your own time for the work."