Mr. Tolman

Mr. Tolman was a gentleman whose apparent age was of a varying character. At times, when deep in thought on business matters or other affairs, one might have thought him fifty-five or fifty-seven, or even sixty. Ordinarily, however, when things were running along in a satisfactory and commonplace way, he appeared to be about fifty years old, while upon some extraordinary occasions, when the world assumed an unusually attractive aspect, his age seemed to run down to forty-five or less.

He was the head of a business firm; in fact he was the only member of it. The firm was known as Pusey and Co.; but Pusey had long been dead, and the “Co.,” of which Mr. Tolman had been a member, was dissolved. Our elderly hero having bought out the business, firm name and all, for many years had carried it on with success and profit. His counting-house was a small and quiet place, but a great deal of money had been made in it. Mr. Tolman was rich—very rich indeed.

And yet as he sat in his counting-room one winter evening he looked his oldest. He had on his hat and his overcoat, his gloves and his fur collar. Every one else in the establishment had gone home; and he, with the keys in his hand, was ready to lock up and leave also. He often stayed later than any one else, and left the keys with Mr. Canterfield, the head clerk, as he passed his house on his way home.

Mr. Tolman seemed in no hurry to go. He simply sat and thought, and increased his apparent age. The truth was he did not want to go home. He was tired of going home. This was not because his home was not a pleasant one. No single gentleman in the city had a handsomer or more comfortable suite of rooms. It was not because he felt lonely, or regretted that a wife and children did not brighten and enliven his home. He was perfectly satisfied to be a bachelor. The conditions suited him exactly. But, in spite of all this, he was tired of going home.

“I wish,” said Mr. Tolman to himself, “that I could feel some interest in going home”; and then he rose and took a turn or two up and down the room; but as that did not seem to give him any more interest in the matter, he sat down again. “I wish it were necessary for me to go home,” said he; “but it isn’t”; and then he fell again to thinking. “What I need,” he said after a while, “is to depend more upon myself—to feel that I am necessary to myself. Just now I’m not. I’ll stop going home—at least in this way. Where’s the sense in envying other men when I can have all that they have just as well as not? And I’ll have it too,” said Mr. Tolman as he went out and locked the doors. Once in the streets, and walking rapidly, his ideas shaped themselves easily and readily into a plan which, by the time he reached the house of his head clerk, was quite matured. Mr. Canterfield was just going down to dinner as his employer rang the bell, so he opened the door himself. “I will detain you but a minute or two.” said Mr. Tolman, handing the keys to Mr. Canterfield. “Shall we step into the parlour?”

When his employer had gone, and Mr. Canterfield had joined his family at the dinner-table, his wife immediately asked him what Mr. Tolman wanted.

“Only to say that he is going away to-morrow, and that I am to attend to the business, and send his personal letters to—,” naming a city not a hundred miles away.

“How long is he going to stay?”

“He didn’t say,” answered Mr. Canterfield.

“I’ll tell you what he ought to do,” said the lady. “He ought to make you a partner in the firm, and then he could go away and stay as long as he pleased.”

“He can do that now,” returned her husband. “He has made a good many trips since I have been with him, and things have gone on very much in the same way as when he was here. He knows that.”

“But still you’d like to be a partner?”

“Oh yes,” said Mr. Canterfield.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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