Book 6, Chapter 5 Summary
Mr. Deane has called his nephew, Tom, into his office to discuss a business proposition. Deane starts the conversation by comparing the present time to when he was Tom’s age. He tells his nephew that it took much longer for a young man to progress. Everything moved slower back then. However, now there are steam engines that speed productions, and with the population growing, there are greater demands for goods. This means there are opportunities for young men to advance at a much quicker pace.
As his uncle continues, Tom anticipates what Deane is about to say. In the past few weeks, his uncle has thrown out hints that Tom might expect a promotion in position as well as a bigger salary. Tom has been working for his uncle for seven years now. He is twenty-three years old. Uncle Deane says that if he had had a son, he would have hoped he would turn out as well as Tom has. It is not because the two of them are related, though, that Deane is about to make this offer. He is about to make this offer because Tom has proved himself worthy. Tom is a man of “right habits,” Deane tells him.
The more Tom hears, the more nervous he becomes. Tom has ideas of his own about his future, and he is not sure his uncle will approve of them. However, he keeps quiet until his uncle is finished speaking. Mr. Deane is saying he has discussed Tom with his partner, the elder Mr. Guest. They have decided to offer Tom a share in their business. In exchange, Tom will take on more responsibilities and do some of the work his uncle has been doing.
When Deane is finished, Tom reminds his uncle that he had once said the company might buy the Tulliver mill, thinking it would be a good investment. Mr. Deane recalls this and reminds him that Wakem outbid them in the auction. Tom says it was his father’s dying wish that Tom buy back the property as soon as he could. If the company were to buy it, Tom would work the mill and eventually pay the company back. Mr. Deane’s only hesitation, after some reflection, is that he is not sure Mr. Wakem is willing to sell the mill. Tom replies that there have been rumors that the mill is not making the kind of money Wakem had anticipated. If this continues, Wakem might want to be rid of the mill. Tom knows how to improve the mill to make it a better investment.
Mr. Deane agrees to look into the matter. However, he wonders how Tom would find time to run the mill and work in the trading business. Tom replies that he lives for work, sees no wife in his future, and would love to keep himself so busy he has little time to do anything else.