His life and books
After two happy years of farming at his beloved Bradbourne the fact had to be faced by Nat Gould and his mother that there was no prospect of his ever buying or leasing a farm of his own. He would have to make his living elsewhere.
His mother urged him to have another try at the tea trade. Nat was reluctant, but eventually gave way, and sorrowfully he returned to Manchester. It was 1876. There could be no question of his returning to the business that had been started and built up by his father. He went instead to Messrs. Auty and Firth, who had established themselves in 1865 as “Grocery and Italian Warehouseman” as well as tea dealers at No. 7 Corporation Street in Manchester, just round the corner from his father’s old firm. When Nat Gould went there to work there, theirs was a thriving business, dealing in the provisions familiar to him from his father’s shop and specialising in such delicacies as dessert fruits and French plums in bottles or handsome boxes, crystallised fruits in great variety, figs, dates and almonds, not forgetting their Christmas hampers at one, two or three guineas.
It was employment that many men would have been glad to have been offered. But for young Nat Gould it was a total change of scene. He found he dense smoky atmosphere stifling, and the confinement in a shop irksome. He had to work from eight in the morning till seven at night – and until ten or eleven at night in November and December as the shop prepared for Christmas. Nat later admitted that he did not pay much attention to his work. He disliked it, but nevertheless he persevered.
Not for long, however. Nat Gould soon realised that there was just as little chance of success in his new employment as there had been at the old family firm. He gave it up, and his old temptations and distractions returned. “Manchester is a lively city, and I got into a set of young fellows that were no good to themselves or to me. We had riotous times, and late hours were the rule. I am afraid I caused my good mother some trouble, but she was ever kind and indulgent, and forgave much”.
For several months after leaving Nat lived an idle life. He knew that it did not suit him, and must have been even less to his mother’s liking He was nearly twenty years old. So far everything he had done had come to nothing. He was sick at heart, and grew discontented and wondered what would become of him. Then one day, reading the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Mary Gould noticed an advertisement for job as a journalist. Nat Gould was certain that his mother had never given the matter any previous thought, but that seems rather doubtful. Patient though she might have been, she must by then have become thoroughly fed up with him. And perhaps she too was tiring of living in Manchester (1).