The Pot of Gold
(an extract from The Pot of Gold by H. Melville)
Ralph worked nights on a plan that promised him a well-paying job in Texas, but through no fault of his own this promise was never realized. In the third year of his marriage with Laura, a firm that was almost identical in size and character with the firm Ralph worked for underwent a change of ownership, and Ralph was approached and asked if he would be interested in joining the overhauled firm. His own job promised only meager security after a series of slow promotions and he was glad of the chance to escape. He met the new owners, and their enthusiasm for him seemed intense. They were prepared to put him in charge of a department and pay him twice what he was getting then. The arrangement was to remain tacit for a month or two, until the new owners had secured their position, but they shook hands warmly and had a drink on the deal, and that night Ralph took Laura out to dinner at an expensive restaurant.
They decided to look for a larger apartment, to have a child and to buy a secondhand car. They faced their good fortune with perfect calm, for it was what they had expected all along. The city seemed to them a generous place, where people were rewarded either by a sudden and deserved development like this or by the capricious bounty of lawsuits, eccentric and peripheral business ventures, unexpected legacies and other windfalls.
He was twenty-eight years old; poverty and youth were inseparable in his experience, and one was ending with the other. The life they were about to leave had not been hard, and he thought with sentiment of the soiled tablecloth in the Italian restaurant where they usually went for their celebrations, and the high spirits with which Laura on a wet night ran from the subway to the bus stop. But they were drawing away from all this. Shirt sales in department — store basements, lines at meat counters, weak drinks, the roses he brought her up from the subway in the spring, when roses were cheap – these were all unmistakably the souvenirs of the poor, and though they seemed to him good and gentle, he was glad that they would soon be memories.
The reorganization and Ralph’s new position hung fire, but they talked about it freely when with friends. ‘All we need is patience,’ Laura would say. There were many delays and postponements, and they waited with the patience of people expecting justice. He decided to telephone his potential employers. Their secretary told him they were both out. This made him apprehensive. He called several times from the telephone booth in the lobby of the building he worked in and was told that they were busy, they were out, they were at conference with lawyers, or they were talking long-distance. This variety of excuses frightened him. He said nothing to Laura that evening and tried to call them the next day. Late in the afternoon, after many tries, one of them came to the phone. ‘We gave the job to somebody else’ he said. Like a saddened father, he spoke to Ralph in a hoarse and gentle voice. ‘Don’t try to get us on the telephone any more. We’ve got other things to do besides answer the telephone. This other fellow seemed better suited. That’s all I can tell you, and don’t try to get me on the telephone any more.’
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What was Laura reaction at delays of the new position?
- She telephoned the employers.
- She was patient.
- She was worried.
- She kept silent about it.
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