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By J. G. Cozzens

...

 

I met Richards ten or more years ago when I first went down to Cuba. He was a short, sharp-faced, agreeable chap, then about 22. He introduced himself to me on the boat and I was surprised to find that Panamerica Steel was sending us both to the same Richards was from some not very good state university engineering schooP. Being the same age myself, and just out of technical college I saw at once that his knowledge was rather poor. In fact I couldn't imagine how he had managed to get this job.

Richards was naturally likable, and I liked him a lot. The firm had a contract for the construction of a private railroad. For Richards and me it was mostly an easy job of inspections and routine paper work. At least it was easy for me. It was harder for Richards, because he didn't appear to have mastered the use of a slide rule. When he asked me to check his figures I found his calculations awful. "Boy," I was at last obliged to say, "you are undoubtedly the silliest white man in this province. Look, stupid, didn't you evertake arithmetic? How much are seven times thirteen?" "Work that out," Richards said, "and let me have a report tomorrow."

So when I had time I checked his figures for him, and the inspector only caught him in a bad mistake about twice. In January several directors of the United Sugar Company came down to us on business, but mostly pleasure; a good excuse to 'get south on a vacation. Richards and I were to accompany them around the place. One of the directors, Mr. Prosset was asking a number of questions. I knew the job well enough to answer every sensible question – the sort of question that a trained engineer would be likely to ask. As it was Mr. Prosset was not an engineer and some of his questions put me at a loss. For the third time I was obliged to say, "I'm afraid I don't know, sir.

We haven't any calculations on that".

When suddenly Richards spoke up.

"I think, about nine million cubic feet, sir", he said. "I just happened to be working this out last night. Just for my own interest".

"Oh," said Mr. Prosset, turning in his seat and giving him a sharp look. "That's very interesting, Mr. -er- Richards, isn't it? Well, now, maybe you could tell me about".

Richards could. Richards knew everything. All the way up Mr. Prosset fired questions on him and he fired answers right back. When we reached the head of the rail, a motor was waiting for Mr. Prosset. He nodded absent-mindedly to me, shook hands with Richards. "Very interesting, indeed," he said. "Good-bye, Mr. Richards, and thank you."


...

"Not, at all, sir," Richards said. "Glad if I could be of service to you."

As soon as the car moved off, I exploded. "A little honest bluff doesn't hurt; but some of your figures...!"

"I like to please," said Richards grinning. "If a man like Prosset wants to know something, who am I to hold out on him?"

"What's he going to think when he looks up the figures or asks somebody who does know?"

"Listen, my son," said Richards kindly. "He wasn't asking for any information he was going to use. He doesn't want to know these figures. He won't remember them. I don't even remember them myself. What he is going to remember is you and me." "Yes," said Richards firmly. "He is going to remember that Panamerica Steel has a bright young man named Richards who could tell him everything, he wanted, – just the sort of chap he can use; not like that other fellow who took no interest in his work, couldn't answer the simplest question and who is going to be doing small-time contracting all his life."

It is true. I am still working for the Company, still doing a little work for the construction line. And Richards? I happened to read in a newspaper a few weeks ago that Richards had been made a vice-resident and director of Panamerica Steel when the Prosset group bought the old firm.

 

NOTES:

Panamerica Steel –

state university engineering school –

Prosset group –

 

Give Russian equivalents for the following words and expressions from the text and use them in the sentences of your own:

ten or more years ago, a sharp-faced chap, being the same age, just out of technical college, found his calculations awful, take arithmetic, every sensible question, be of service, just the sort of chap he can use, introduce smb to smb, master smth, come on business, accompany smb., be likely to do smth, shake hands with smb., take a lot (some, no) interest in smth.

 

III Questions on the text:

1) Describe Richards (age, appearance, education, manners)

2) Why was the author surprised that Richards had managed to get the same job?


...

3) What kind of work were the young men to do?

4) How did they cope with it?

5) Why did the author call his colleague stupid? Did it annoy Richards?

6) Why did the young men find themselves in the company of Mr. Prosset?

7) Why was the author unable to answer Mr. Prosset's questions?

8) What did Richard do and how did he explain his behaviour to the author later?

9) What made Mr. Prosset give Richards a sharp look?

10) What opinion had Mr. Prosset formed of the twoyoung men, judging by the way he said good-bye to them?

11) Why did the author explode?

12) Whose theory proved to be right?

 

IV Discuss the following:

1) Explain why Richards took little trouble to do his job properly. What was Richards' ambition? Do you approve of his behaviour? Give your reasons.

2) What to your mind is more important: to have good knowledge in the field you work or the ability to be equal to the situation?

3) Can we say that Richards was a good "phsycologist"? In what way did it help him?

4) Who had more advantages to win the top job: Richards or his friend? Do you agree that hard work plus knowledge always leads to success?

5) Give a character sketch of a) Richards, b) the other young man, c) Mr. Prosset

6) Whom do you think are the author's sympathies with? Prove your choice.

 

...

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