T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The story of the adventures, experiences, and journeyings of Mr. Joseph Hutchinson, his daughter, and the invention, if related in detail, would prove reading of interest; but as this is merely a study of the manner in which the untrained characteristics and varied limitations of one man adjusted or failed to adjust themselves to incongruous surroundings and totally unprepared-for circumstances, such details, whatsoever their potential picturesqueness, can be touched upon but lightly. No new idea of value to the world of practical requirements is presented to the public at large without the waking of many sleeping dogs, and the stirring of many snapping fish, floating with open ears and eyes in many pools. An uneducated, blustering, obstinate man of one idea, having resentfully borne discouragement and wounded egotism for years, and suddenly confronting immense promise of success, is not unlikely to be prey easily harpooned. Joseph Hutchinson's rebound from despair to high and well- founded hope made of him exactly what such a man is always made by such rebound. The testimony to his genius and judgment which acknowledgment of the value of his work implied was naturally, in his opinion, only a proper tribute which the public had been a bull-headed fool not to lay at his feet years before. So much time lost, and so much money for it, as well as for him, and served 'em all damned well right, he said. If Temple Barholm hadn't come into his money, and hadn't had more sense than the rest of them, where would they all have been? Perhaps they'd never have had the benefit of the thing he'd been telling them about for years. He prided himself immensely on the possession of a business shrewdness which was an absolute defense against any desire on the part of the iniquitous to overreach him. He believed it to be a peculiarly Lancashire characteristic, and kept it in view constantly.
"Lancashire's not easy to do," he would say hilariously, "Them that can do a Lancashire chap has got to look out that they get up early in the morning and don't go to bed till late."
Smooth-mannered and astute men of business who knew how to make a man talk were given diffuse and loud-voiced explanations of his methods and long-acknowledged merits and characteristics. His life, his morals, and his training, or rather lack ot it, were laid before them as examples of what a man might work himself up to if "he had it in him." Education didn't do it. He had never been to naught but a village school, where he'd picked up precious little but the three R's. It had to be born in a man. Look at him! His invention promised to bring him in a fortune like a duke's, if he managed it right and kept his eyes open for sharpers. This company and that company were after him, but Lancashire didn't snap up things without going into 'em, and under 'em, and through 'em, for the matter of that.
The well-mannered gentlemen of business stimulated him greatly by their appreciative attention. He sometimes lost his head a trifle and almost bullied them, but they did not seem to mind it. Their apparently old- time knowledge of and respect for Lancashire business sagacity seemed invariably a marked thing. Men of genius and powerful character combined with practical shrewdness of outlook they intimated, were of enormous value to the business world. They were to be counted upon as important factors. They could see and deal with both sides of a proposal as those of weaker mind could not.
"That they can," Hutchinson would admit, rolling about in his chair and thrusting his hands in his pockets. "They've got some bottom to stand on." And he would feel amenable to reason.
Little Ann found her duties and responsibilities increasing daily. Many persons seemed to think it necessary to come and talk business, and father had so much to think of and reason out, so that he could be sure that he didn't make any mistakes. In a quiet, remote, and darkened corner of her mind, in which were stored all such things as it was well to say little or nothing about, there was discreetly kept for reference the secretly acquired knowledge that father did not know so much about business ways and business people as he thought he did. Mother had learned this somewhat important fact, and had secluded it in her own private mental store-room with much affectionate delicacy.
"Father's a great man and a good man, Ann love," she had confided to her, choosing an occasion when her husband was a hundred miles away, "and he is right-down Lancashire in his clever way of seeing through people that think themselves sharp; but when a man is a genius and noble-minded he sometimes can't see the right people's faults and wickedness. He thinks they mean as honest as he does. And there's times when he may get taken in if some one, perhaps not half as clever as he is, doesn't look after him. When the invention's taken up, and everybody's running after him to try to cheat him out of his rights, if I'm not there, Ann, you must just keep with him and watch every minute. I've seen these sharp, tricky ones right-down flinch and quail when there was a nice, quiet-behaved woman in the room, and she just fixed her eye steady and clear-like on them and showed she'd took in every word and was like to remember. You know what I mean, Ann; you've got that look in your own eye."
She had. The various persons who interviewed Mr. Hutchinson became familiar with the fact that he had an unusual intimacy with and affection for his daughter. She was present on all occasions. If she had not been such a quiet and entirely unobtrusive little thing, she might have been an obstacle to freedom of expression. But she seemed a childish, unsophisticated creature, who always had a book with her when she waited in an office, and a trifle of sewing to occupy herself with when she was at home. At first she so obliterated herself that she was scarcely noticed; but in course of time it became observed by some that she was curiously pretty. The face usually bent over her book or work was tinted like a flower, and she had quite magnificent red hair. A stout old financier first remarked her eyes. He found one day that she had quietly laid her book on her lap, and that they were resting upon him like unflinching crystals as he talked to her father. Their serenity made him feel annoyed and uncomfortable. It was a sort of recording serenity. He felt as though she would so clearly remember every word he had said that she would be able to write it down when she went home; and he did not care to have it written down. So he began to wander somewhat in his argument, and did not reach his conclusions.
"I was glad, Father, to see how you managed that gentleman this afternoon," Little Ann said that night when Hutchinson had settled himself with his pipe after an excellent dinner.
"Eh?" he exclaimed. "Eh?"
"The one," she exclaimed, "that thought he was so sure he was going to persuade you to sign that paper. I do wonder he could think you'd listen to such a poor offer, and tie up so much. Why, even I could see he was trying to take advantage, and I know nothing in the world about business."
The financier in question had been a brilliant and laudatory conversationalist, and had so soothed and exhilarated Mr. Hutchinson that such perils had beset him as his most lurid imaginings could never have conceived in his darkest moments of believing that the entire universe had ceased all other occupation to engage in that of defrauding him of his rights and dues. He had been so uplifted by the admiration of his genius so properly exhibited, and the fluency with which his future fortunes had been described, that he had been huffed when the arguments seemed to dwindle away. Little Ann startled him, but it was not he who would show signs of dismay at the totally unexpected expression of adverse opinion. He had got into the habit of always listening, though inadvertently, as it were, to Ann as he had inadvertently listened to her mother.
"Rosenthal?" he said. "Are you talking about him?"
"Yes, I am," Little Ann answeered, smiling approvingly over her bit of sewing. "Father, I wish you'd try and teach me some of the things you know about business. I've learned a little by just listening to you talk; but I should so like to feel as if I could follow you when you argue. I do so enjoy hearing you argue. It's just an education."
"Women are not up to much at business," reflected Hutchinson. "If you'd been a boy, I'd have trained you same as I've trained myself. You're a sharp little thing, Ann, but you're a woman. Not but what a woman's the best thing on earth," he added almost severely in his conviction--"the best thing on earth in her place. I don't know what I'd ever have done without you, Ann, in the bad times."
He loved her, blundering old egotist, just as he had loved her mother. Ann always knew it, and her own love for him warmed all the world about them both. She got up and went to him to kiss him, and pat him, and stuff a cushion behind his stout back.
"And now the good times have come," she said, bestowing on him two or three special little pats which were caresses of her own invention, "and people see what you are and always have been, as they ought to have seen long ago, I don't want to feel as if I couldn't keep up with you and understand your plans. Perhaps I've got a little bit of your cleverness, and you might teach me to use it in small ways. I've got a good memory you know, Father love, and I might recollect things people say and make bits of notes of them to save you trouble. And I can calculate. I once got a copy of Bunyan's `Pilgrim's Progress' for a prize at the village school just for sums."
The bald but unacknowledged fact that Mr. Hutchinson had never exhibited gifts likely to entitle him to receive a prize for "sums" caused this suggestion to be one of some practical value. When business men talked to him of per cents., and tenth shares or net receipts, and expected him to comprehend their proportions upon the spot without recourse to pencil and paper, he felt himself grow hot and nervous and red, and was secretly terrified lest the party of the second part should detect that he was tossed upon seas of horrible uncertainty. T. Tembarom in the same situation would probably have said, "This is the place where T. T. sits down a while to take breath and count things up on his fingers. I am not a sharp on arithmetic, and I need time--lots of it."
Mr. Hutchinson's way was to bluster irritatedly.
"Aye, aye, I see that, of course, plain enough. I see that." And feel himself breaking into a cold perspiration. "Eh, this English climate is a damp un," he would add when it became necessary to mop his red forehead somewhat with his big clean handkerchief.
Therefore he found it easy to receive Little Ann's proposition with favor.
"There's summat i' that," he acknowledged graciously, dropping into Lancashire. "That's one of the little things a woman can do if she's sharp at figures. Your mother taught me that much. She always said women ought to look after the bits of things as was too small for a man to bother with."
"Men have the big things to look after. That's enough for anybody," said Little Ann. "And they ought to leave something for women to do. If you'll just let me keep notes for you and remember things and answer your letters, and just make calculations you're too busy to attend to, I should feel right-down happy, Father."
"Eh!" he said relievedly, "tha art like thy mother."
"That would make me happy if there was nothing else to do it," said Ann, smoothing his shoulder.
"You're her girl," he said, warmed and supported.
"Yes, I'm her girl, and I'm yours. Now, isn't there some little thing I could begin with? Would you mind telling me if I was right in what I thought you thought about Mr. Rosenthal's offer?"
"What did you think I thought about it?" He was able to put affectionate condescension into the question.
She went to her work-basket and took out a sheet of paper. She came back and sat cozily on the arm of his chair.
"I had to put it all down when I came home," she said. "I wanted to make sure I hadn't forgotten. I do hope I didn't make mistakes."
She gave it to him to look at, and as he settled himself down to its careful examination, she kept her blue eyes upon him. She herself did not know that it was a wonderful little document in its neatly jotted down notes of the exact detail most important to his interests.
There were figures, there were calculations of profits, there were records of the gist of his replies, there were things Hutchinson himself could not possibly have fished out of the jumbled rag-bag of his uncertain recollections.
"Did I say that?" he exclaimed once.
"Yes, Father love, and I could see it upset him. I was watching his face because it wasn't a face I took to."
Joseph Hutchinson began to chuckle--the chuckle of a relieved and gratified stout man.
"Tha kept thy eyes open, Little Ann," he said. "And the way tha's put it down is a credit to thee. And I'll lay a sovereign that tha made no mistakes in what tha thought I was thinking."
He was a little anxious to hear what it had been. The memorandum had brought him up with a slight shock, because it showed him that he had not remembered certain points, and had passed over others which were of dangerous importance. Ann slipped her warm arm about his neck, as she nearly always did when she sat on the arm of his chair and talked things over with him. She had never thought, in fact she was not even aware, that her soft little instincts made her treat him as the big, good, conceited, blundering child nature had created him.
"What I was seeing all the time was the way you were taking in his trick of putting whole lots of things in that didn't really matter, and leaving out things that did," she explained. "He kept talking about what the invention would make in England, and how it would make it, and adding up figures and per cents. and royalties until my head was buzzing inside. And when he thought he'd got your mind fixed on England so that you'd almost forget there was any other country to think of, he read out the agreement that said `All rights,' and he was silly enough to think he could get you to sign it without reading it over and over yourself, and showing it to a clever lawyer that would know that as many tricks can be played by things being left out of a paper as by things being put in."
Small beads of moisture broke out on the bald part of Joseph Hutchinson's head. He had been first so flattered and exhilarated by the quoting of large figures, and then so flustrated and embarrassed by his inability to calculate and follow argument, and again so soothed and elated and thrilled by his own importance in the scheme and the honors which his position in certain companies would heap upon him, that an abyss had yawned before him of which he had been wholly unaware. He was not unaware of it now. He was a vainglorious, ignorant man, whose life had been spent in common work done under the supervision of those who knew what he did not know. He had fed himself upon the comforting belief that he had learned all the tricks of any trade. He had been openly boastful of his astuteness and experience, and yet, as Ann's soft little voice went on, and she praised his cleverness in seeing one point after another, he began to quake within himself before the dawning realization that he had seen none of them, that he had been carried along exactly as Rosenthal had intended that he should be, and that if luck had not intervened, he had been on the brink of signing his name to an agreement that would have implied a score of concessions he would have bellowed like a bull at the thought of making if he had known what he was doing.
"Aye, lass," he gulped out when he could speak--"aye, lass, tha wert right enow. I'm glad tha wert there and heard it, and saw what I was thinking. I didn't say much. I let the chap have rope enow to hang himself with. When he comes back I'll give him a bit o' my mind as'll startle him. It was right-down clever of thee to see just what I had i' my head about all that there gab about things as didn't matter, an' the leavin' out them as did--thinking I wouldn't notice. Many's the time I've said, `It is na so much what's put into a contract as what's left out.' I'll warrant tha'st heard me say it thysen."
"I dare say I have," answered Ann, "and I dare say that was why it came into my mind."
"That was it," he answered. "Thy mother was always tellin' me of things I'd said that I'd clean forgot myself."
He was beginning to recover his balance and self-respect. It would have been so like a Lancashire chap to have seen and dealt shrewdly with a business schemer who tried to outwit him that he was gradually convinced that he had thought all that had been suggested, and had comported himself with triumphant though silent astuteness. He even began to rub his hands.
"I'll show him," he said, "I'll send him off with a flea in his ear."
"If you'll help me, I'll study out the things I've written down on this paper," Ann said, "and then I'll write down for you just the things you make up your mind to say. It will be such a good lesson for me, if you don't mind, Father. It won't be much to write it out the way you'll say it. You know how you always feel that in business the fewer words the better, and that, however much a person deserves it, calling names and showing you're angry is only wasting time. One of the cleverest things you ever thought was that a thief doesn't mind being called one if he's got what he wanted out of you; he'll only laugh to see you in a rage when you can't help yourself. And if he hasn't got what he wanted, it's only waste of strength to work yourself up. It's you being what you are that makes you know that temper isn't business."
"Well," said Hutchinson, drawing a long and deep breath, "I was almost hot enough to have forgot that, and I'm glad you've reminded me. We'll go over that paper now, Ann. I'd like to give you your lesson while we've got a bit o' time to ourselves and what I've said is fresh in your mind. The trick is always to get at things while they're fresh in your mind."
The little daughter with the red hair was present during Rosenthal's next interview with the owner of the invention. The fellow, he told himself, had been thinking matters over, had perhaps consulted a lawyer; and having had time for reflection, he did not present a mass of mere inflated and blundering vanity as a target for adroit aim. He seemed a trifle sulky, but he did not talk about himself diffusely, and lose his head when he was smoothed the right way. He had a set of curiously concise notes to which he referred, and he stuck to his points with a bulldog obstinacy which was not to be shaken. Something had set him on a new tack. The tricks which could be used only with a totally ignorant and readily flattered and influenced business amateur were no longer in order. This was baffling and irritating.
The worst feature of the situation was that the daughter did not read a book, as had seemed her habit at other times. She sat with a tablet and pencil on her knee, and, still as unobtrusively as ever, jotted down notes.
"Put that down, Ann," her father said to her more than once. "There's no objections to having things written down, I suppose?" he put it bluntly to Rosenthal. "I've got to have notes made when I'm doing business. Memory's all well enough, but black and white's better. No one can go back of black and white. Notes save time."
There was but one attitude possible. No man of business could resent the recording of his considered words, but the tablet and pencil and the quietly bent red head were extraordinary obstacles to the fluidity of eloquence. Rosenthal found his arguments less ready and his methods modifying themselves. The outlook narrowed itself. When he returned to his office and talked the situation over with his partner, he sat and bit his nails in restless irritation.
"Ridiculous as it seems, outrageously ridiculous, I've an idea," he said, "I've more than an idea that we have to count with the girl."
"Girl? What girl?"
"Daughter. Well-behaved, quiet bit of a thing, who sits in a corner and listens while she pretends to sew or read. I'm certain of it. She's taken to making notes now, and Hutchinson's turned stubborn. You need not laugh, Lewis. She's in it. We've got to count with that girl, little female mouse as she looks."
This view, which was first taken by Rosenthal and passed on to his partner, was in course of time passed on to others and gradually accepted, sometimes reluctantly and with much private protest, sometimes with amusement. The well-behaved daughter went with Hutchinson wheresoever his affairs called him. She was changeless in the unobtrusiveness of her demeanor, which was always that of a dutiful and obedient young person who attended her parent because he might desire her humble little assistance in small matters.
"She's my secretary," Hutchinson began to explain, with a touch of swagger. "I've got to have a secretary, and I'd rather trust my private business to my own daughter than to any one else. It's safe with her."
It was so safe with her steady demureness that Hutchinson found himself becoming steady himself. The "lessons" he gave to Little Ann, and the notes made as a result, always ostensibly for her own security and instruction, began to form a singularly firm foundation for statement and argument. He began to tell himself that his memory was improving. Facts were no longer jumbled together in his mind. He could better follow a line of logical reasoning. He less often grew red and hot and flustered.
"That's the thing I've said so often--that temper's got naught to do wi' business, and only upsets a man when he wants all his wits about him. It's the truest thing I ever worked out," he not infrequently congratulated himself. "If a chap can keep his temper, he'll be like to keep his head and drive his bargain. I see it plainer every day o' my life."