There had been a wedding that afternoon at St. Peter's Church, and Edward Foreman still wore his verger's gown. He had been verger for 16 years and liked his job. The verger was waiting for the vicar. The vicar had just been appointed. He was a red-faced energetic man and the verger disliked him. Soon the vicar came in and said: "Foreman, I've got something unpleasant to say to you. You have been here a great many years and I think you've fulfilled your duties quite satisfactorily here; but I found out a most striking thing the other day. I discovered to my astonishment that you could neither read nor write. I think you must learn, Foreman."
"I'm afraid I can't now, sir. I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks."
"In that case, Foreman, I'm afraid you must go."
"Yes, sir, I quite understand. I shall be happy to hand in my resignation as soon as you have found somebody to take my place."
Up to now Edward's face hadn't shown any signs of emotion. But when he had closed the door of the church behind him his lips trembled. He walked slowly with a heavy heart. He didn't know what to do with himself. True, he had saved a small sum of money butit was not enough to live on without doing something, and life cost more and more every year.
It occurred to him now that a cigarette would comfort him and since he was not a smoker and never had any in his pockets he looked for a shop where he could buy a packet of good cigarettes. It was a long street with all sorts of. shops in it but there was not a single one where you could buy cigarettes.
"That's strange," said Edward. "I can't be the only man who walks along the street and wants to have a smoke," he thought. An idea struck him. Why shouldn't he open a little shop there? "Tobacco and Sweets." "That's an idea," he said. "It is strange how things come to you when you least expect it."
He turned, walked home and had his tea.
"You are very silent this afternoon, Edward," his wif e remarked.
"I'm thinking," he said. He thought the matter over from every point of view and the next day he went to look for a suitable shop. And within a week the shop was opened and Edward was behind the counter selling cigarettes.
Edward Foreman did very well. Soon he decided that he might open another shop and employ a manager. He looked for another long street that didn't have a tobacconist's in it and opened another shop. This was a success too. In the course of ten years he acquired no less than ten shops and was making a lot of money. Every Monday he went to all his shops, collected the week's takings and took them to the bank.
One morning the bank manager said that he wanted to talk to him.
"Mr. Foreman, do you know how much money you have got in the bank?"
"Well, I have a rough idea."
"You have 30 thousand dollars and it's a large sum. You should invest it." We shall make you out a list of securities' which will bring you a better rate of interest' than the bank can give you."
There was a troubled look on Mr. Foreman's face. "And what will I have to do?"
"Oh, you needn't worry," the banker smiled. "All you have to do is to read and to sign the papers."
"That's the trouble, sir. I can signmyname but I can't read." The manager was so surprised that he jumped up from his seat. He couldn't believe his ears.
"Good God, man, what would you be if you had been able to read?!"
"I can tell you that, sir," said Mr. Foreman. "I would be verger of St. Peter's church."