Showing that Tom Had Opened the Oyster

`AND now we've settled this Newcastle business, Tom,' said Mr Deane, that same afternoon, as they were seated in the private room at the Bank together, `there's another matter I want to talk to you about. Since you're likely to have rather a smoky, unpleasant time of it in Newcastle for the next few weeks, you'll want a good prospect of some sort to keep up your spirits.' Tom waited less nervously than he had done on a former occasion in this apartment, while his uncle took out his snuff box and gratified each nostril with deliberate impartiality.

`You see, Tom,' said Mr Deane, at last, throwing himself backward, `the world goes on at a smarter pace now than it did when I was a young fellow. Why, sir, forty years ago, when I was much such a strapping youngster as you, a man expected to pull between the shafts the best part of his life, before he got the whip in his hand. The looms went slowish, and fashions didn't alter quite so fast - I'd a best suit that lasted me six years. Everything was on a lower scale, sir - in point of expenditure, I mean. It's this steam, you see, that has made the difference - it drives on every wheel double pace and the wheel of Fortune along with 'em, as our Mr Stephen Guest said at the Anniversary dinner (he hits these things off wonderfully, considering he's seen nothing of business). I don't find fault with the change, as some people do. Trade, sir, opens a man's eyes; and if the population is to get thicker upon the ground, as it's doing, the world must use its wits at inventions of one sort or other. I know I've done my share as an ordinary man of business. Somebody has said it's a fine thing to make two ears of corn grow where only one grew before: - but, sir, it's a fine thing too, to further the exchange of commodities, and bring the grains of corn to the mouths that are hungry. And that's our line of business - and I consider it as honourable a position as a man can hold, to be connected with it.'

Tom knew that the affair his uncle had to speak of was not urgent; Mr Deane was too shrewd and practical a man to allow either his reminiscences or his snuff to impede the progress of trade. Indeed for the last month or two there had been hints thrown out to Tom which enabled him to guess that he was going to hear some proposition for his own benefit. With the beginning of the last speech he had stretched out his legs, thrust his hands in his pockets and prepared himself for some introductory diffuseness, tending to show that Mr Deane had succeeded by his own merit, and that what he had to say to young men in general was, that if they didn't succeed too, it was because of their own demerit. He was rather surprised, then, when his uncle put a direct question to him.

`Let me see - it's going on for seven years now since you applied to me for a situation - eh, Tom?'

`Yes, sir; I'm three and twenty now,' said Tom.

`Ah - it's as well not to say that, though; for you'd pass for a good deal older, and age tells well in business. I remember your coming very well: I remember I saw there was some pluck in you, and that was what made me give you encouragement. And I'm happy to say, I was right - I'm not often deceived. I was naturally a little shy at pushing my nephew, but I'm happy to say you've done me credit, sir - and if I'd had a son o' my own, I shouldn't have been sorry to see him like you.'

Mr Deane tapped his box and opened it again, repeating in a tone of some feeling - `No, I shouldn't have been sorry to see him like you.'

`I'm very glad I've given you satisfaction, sir; I've done my best,' said Tom, in his proud, independent way.

`Yes, Tom, you've given me satisfaction. I don't speak of your conduct as a son - though that weighs with me in my opinion of you. But what I have to do with, as a partner in our firm, is the qualities you've shown as a man o' business. Ours is a fine business - a splendid concern, sir - and there's no reason why it shouldn't go on growing: there's a growing capital and growing outlets for it, but there's another thing that's wanted for the prosperity of every concern, large or small, and that's men to conduct it - men of the right habits, none o' your flashy fellows, but such as are to be depended on. Now this is what Mr Guest and I see clear enough. Three years ago, we took Gell into the concern - we gave him a share in the oil-mill. And why? Why, because Gell was a fellow whose services were worth a premium. So it

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