Things I Would Not Choose
IF IT were all the same to other folks and I might have things managed exactly as I liked, I should not choose to have my homely book pulled to pieces by fellows who have not the honesty to read it but make up their minds beforehand, as Simple Simon did when they put him on the jury. However, as the rhinoceros said, "I have not a very thin skin; and if it amuses others to find fault with me; they are as welcome as they are free." The anvil is not afraid of the hammer. They tell me those London editors cut a page open, and then smell the knife, and fall to praising the book up to the skies or abusing it without mercy, according as the maggot bites them, or according to what they have had for dinner.
John Ploughman hopes the publisher will turn down this leaf when he sends his book to the papers, and he hopes the following word to the wise will be enough: I hope my pears won't fall into pigs' mouths. I should not choose, if I might have my own way, to see a dozen of these pages brought home wrapped round the butter the next time we send to the shop; but it is not at all unlikely to happen, so I must put up with it, as Tom Higgs did when he had only turkey and plum pudding for dinner.
I should not choose to plow with two old horses, spavined and broken-winded and altogether past work: pity the poor horses, and pity the poor plowman, and no pity at all for the farmer who keeps such wretched cattle. When I see a man whipping and slashing a poor brute of a horse, I want to kick him; but at the same time, I feel glad that Violet and Dapper go well enough with the sound of the whip without needing to be paid like lawyers for all they do. A man who Mocks a horse about ought to be put in harness himself and be driven about by a butcher. There's a good deal to be done with animals with kindness, and nothing with cruelty. He who is unmerciful to his beast is worse than a beast himself.
I should not choose to be a bob-tailed cowl in summertime, nor a servant with a score of masters, nor a minister with half-a-dozen ignorant tyrants for deacons, nor a man who lives with his mother-in-law. Nor should I like to try the truth of the old saying:
"Two cats and one mouse, Two women in one house, Two dogs to one bone, Will not agree long."
I had rather not be a dog with a tin kettle tied to his tail, nor a worm on a fisherman's hook, nor an eel being skinned alive, nor a husband with a vixen for his wife I would much rather not fall into the jaws of a crocodile or the hands of a lawyer: the only suit that lasts too long is a lawsuit, and that would not suit me at all. I would not choose to be gossiped to death by wild washerwomen, or pestered by a traveling bookseller wanting me to take in sixpenny numbers of a book that will run on forever like old Jimmy's debts.
I would be very hard up before I would choose to sleep with pigs or live in some people's dirty houses. I would not choose to own half the cottages poor laborers are made to live in; no farmer would be so mean as to keep his horses in them and they are not good enough for dog kennels. Think of father, mother, a grown-up son, and two daughters sleeping in the same room! It is a burning shame and a crying sin on the part of those who drive people to such shifts. It won't bear to be thought of, and yet it is not at all uncommon. Squires and landlords, how would you like it? If any man defends such a system half-an-hours hanging would be a good thing for him.
To be servant to a miser, to work for a wasp, to be cats-paw to a monkey, or toady to a lord without brains, I would not choose; nor go to the workhouse, nor apply for parish relief; I'd sooner try Grantham gruel, nine grits and a gallon of water. I would not go round with the hat for my own pocket, nor borrow money, nor be a loafer, nor live like a toad under a harrow - no, not for all that ever thawed out of the cold hand of charity.
Bad off as I am, I would not choose to change unless I could hope to better myself. Who would go under the spout to get out of the rain? What's the use of traveling to the other end of the world to be worse off than you are? Old England for me, and Botany Bay for those who like to transport themselves.
I would not choose to drive a pig, nor to manage a fibbing nag, nor try to persuade a man with a wooden head; nor should I like to be a schoolmaster with unruly boys, nor a bull baited by dogs, nor a hen who has hatched ducks. Worse off still is a preacher to drowsy hearers; he hunts with dead dogs and drives wooden horses. I would as well hold a service for sleeping swine as sleeping men.
I would not buy a horse of a horse dealer if I could help it for the two or three honest ones nobody ever heard of. A very honest horse dealer will never cheat you if you don't let him; an ordinary one will pull your eyetooth while your mouth is shut. Horses are almost as hard to judge as men's hearts; the oldest hands are taken in. What with bone spavin, ringbone and splints, grease, crown scab and rattail, wind galls find cankers, colic and jaundice, sandcracks and founders, mallenders and sallenders, there is hardly a sound horse in the world. It's a bad thing to change horses at all. If you have a good one, keep it, for you will not get a better; if you have a bad one, keep it, for ten to one, you will buy a worse.
I would not choose to make myself a doormat nor a poodle, nor a fellow who will eat dirt in order to curry favor with great folks. Let who will tell lies to please others. I'd rather have truth on my side, if I go barefoot. Independence and a clear conscience are better with cold cabbage than slavery and sin with roast beef.
I would not like to keep a tollgate at the top of a long hill, nor to be a tax collector, nor the summoning officer, nor a general nuisance nor a poor postman with half enough to live on and twice as much to do as he ought; it would be better to be a gypsy's horse and live on the common with no hay and no oats but plenty of oak cudgel.
I would not choose to be plucked like a goose, nor to be shareholder in a company, norms to be fried alive, nor to be at the mercy of a Roman Catholic priest. I would not stand as godfather to anybody's child, to promise that the little sinner shall keep God's holy commandments and walk in the same all the days of his life. Of the two, I would sooner promise to put the moon into my coat sleeve and bring it out again at the leg of my trousers, or vow that the little dear shall have red hair and a snub nose. Neither would I choose to have lies told over my baby in the hope of getting on the parson's blind side when the blankets were given away at Christmas.
I would not choose to go where I should be afraid to die, nor could I bear to live without a good hope for hereafter. I would not choose to sit on a barrel of gunpowder and smoke a pipe, but that is what those do who are thoughtless about their souls while life is so uncertain. Neither would I choose my lot on earth, but leave it with God to choose for me. I might pick and choose and take the worst, but His choice is always best.