Joe Vigil was already selling his house and quitting his job; that’s how excited he was. Now thatLeadville had built a bridge between American and Tarahumara culture, he was ready to carry outa plan he’d been contemplating for a long time. At sixty-five years old, he was ready to retire fromAdams State anyway. He and his wife, Caroline, would move to Arizona’s Mexican border, wherehe’d set up a base camp for Tarahumara studies. It might take another few years, but in themeantime, he’d come back to Leadville every summer and tighten his relationship with theTarahumara racers. He’d start learning their language … get them on a treadmill with heart-rateand maximal-oxygen-consumption monitors … maybe even arrange workshops with hisOlympians! Because that was the cool part—Ann had been right there with them, which meantwhatever the Tarahumara were doing, the rest of us could learn!
Thinking of all this, as a novelist surely must do — as I certainly have done through my whole career — it becomes to him a matter of deep conscience how he shall handle those characters by whose words and doings he hopes to interest his readers. It will very frequently be the case that he will be tempted to sacrifice something for effect, to say a word or two here, or to draw a picture there, for which he feels that he has the power, and which when spoken or drawn would be alluring. The regions of absolute vice are foul and odious. The savour of them, till custom has hardened the palate and the nose, is disgusting. In these he will hardly tread. But there are outskirts on these regions, on which sweet-smelling flowers seem to grow; and grass to be green. It is in these border-lands that the danger lies. The novelist may not be dull. If he commit that fault he can do neither harm nor good. He must please, and the flowers and the grass in these neutral territories sometimes seem to give him so easy an opportunity of pleasing!
"I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal His will to others on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed He would reveal it directly to me.... Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do."
* * *
And so my connection was dissolved with the department to which I had applied the thirty-three best years of my life — I must not say devoted, for devotion implies an entire surrender, and I certainly had found time for other occupations. It is however absolutely true that during all those years I had thought very much more about the Post Office than I had of my literary work, and had given to it a more unflagging attention. Up to this time I had never been angry, never felt myself injured or unappreciated in that my literary efforts were slighted. But I had suffered very much bitterness on that score in reference to the Post Office; and I had suffered not only on my own personal behalf, but also and more bitterly when I could not promise to be done the things which I thought ought to be done for the benefit of others. That the public in little villages should be enabled to buy postage stamps; that they should have their letters delivered free and at an early hour; that pillar letter-boxes should be put up for them (of which accommodation in the streets and ways of England I was the originator, having, however, got the authority for the erection of the first at St. Heliers in Jersey); that the letter-carriers and sorters should not be overworked; that they should be adequately paid, and have some hours to themselves, especially on Sundays; above all, that they should be made to earn their wages and latterly that they should not be crushed by what I thought to be the damnable system of so-called merit — these were the matters by which I was stirred to what the secretary was pleased to call energetic performance of my duties. How I loved, when I was contradicted — as I was very often and, no doubt, very properly — to do instantly as I was bid, and then to prove that what I was doing was fatuous, dishonest, expensive, and impracticable! And then there were feuds — such delicious feuds! I was always an anti-Hillite, acknowledging, indeed, the great thing which Sir Rowland Hill had done for the country, but believing him to be entirely unfit to manage men or to arrange labour. It was a pleasure to me to differ from him on all occasions — and, looking back now, I think that in all such differences I was right.
Ham echoed this sentiment, and we parted with them in the heartiest manner. I was almost tempted that evening to tell Steerforth about pretty little Em'ly, but I was too timid of mentioning her name, and too much afraid of his laughing at me. I remember that I thought a good deal, and in an uneasy sort of way, about Mr. Peggotty having said that she was getting on to be a woman; but I decided that was nonsense.
The kling-klings eyed the cake stand and complained stridently that their supper was over. James Bond produced twopence and handed it over. "They're wonderful. Like mechanical toys. Give them a second course from me."
"Don't be silly, James. You know, unmarried couples sharing the same house and so on."