The Magic Egg and Other Stories
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."
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." So 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 parlor?"