by W. S. Maugham
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 but it 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 wife remarked. "I'm...