Like every Sunday morning, the farmers’ market in Norwich was bustling. People darted from stall to stall looking for the freshest and cheapest produce they could find. At a corner of the market, Morris sat restlessly at his stall, waiting for customers to buy his recent harvest. The harvest had been poor. There been too little rain that year and his fruit trees did not produce many fruits as a result. Furthermore, the price of fertilisers had gone up threefold and he could not afford it.
As Morris waited, his thoughts drifted to the days when he could be free to pursue his dreams. He had wanted to be an artist and he even attended art school for three years. However, since his parents became too old to tend to the orchard, he had to take over the farm. To his dismay, he knew nothing about farming even though he spent his entire childhood on the farm. As his parents did not want him to be a farmer, they taught him very little about maintaining an orchard.
A man dressed in a fine pin-striped suit soon walked over with three assistants in tow. He began to peruse through Morris’ fruits. Morris introduced himself but the man did not reply. Morris was bewildered. The man looked up and turned to his assistants. Without saying a word, his assistants looked at his expression and started scribbling frantically into their notebooks. The man then turned towards Morris and shook his head.
“How long have you been farming, Morris?” The man finally spoke in a crisp, upper-class accent.
“Not long. This is my second year back in the farm,” Morris replied.
“I see. It’s no wonder your fruits look shrivelled. He picked up an apple, bit into it and then spat it out. “They taste awful as well.”
Morris’ head hung low after he heard what the man had said. As he looked up again, he realised that the man was staring at the sign hanging by his stall. It was something that Morris had painted that morning and the paint was still wet. Even though he had not put much effort in it, it was by far the most beautiful sign in the market. Morris had also signed it like any artist would to their masterpieces.
“No …. not a farmer. An artist. A true artist,” the man mumbled to himself.
The man turned to his assistants and raised four fingers. One of the assistants quickly pulled out a cheque book, wrote something on it and handed it to Morris. Morris rubbed his eyes several times and was about to ask a question when the assistant spoke.
“This is for the crate of fruits here, as well as the sign on your stall. We will continue to give you this amount every week until you want us to stop. However, you must fulfil this condition: Stop farming and start painting,” said the assistant in a stern and firm voice.
Morris knew that the assistant was not joking. He simply nodded. The assistants carried the crate of fruits and the man lifted the sign. They walked off to a large town car which was waiting for them. Morris knew that with the four thousand dollars a week, he could afford to find helpers to tend to his family’s orchard and provide him with enough money to pay for his art materials.
The cheques came every week and Morris painted finer and finer works. His paintings began to receive critical acclaim. He decided to organise his first ever exhibition in London and he wanted to invite his benefactor. However, he realised that he did not even know his name and that the cheques were signed by a bank official.
On the day of his exhibition, he dedicated his largest painting to his benefactor. He wrote on it “Dedicated to a great man.” While at the exhibition, someone tapped on Morris’ shoulder and passed him an envelope. He opened it and found a newspaper clipping was the obituary of a person. Morris shed a tear, walked up towards his largest painting and added “Sir Walter Smith”.