The Tragic (and Comedic) Life of Mr. Henry Billersworth

by Hilary Malamud, age 11
The Tragic (and Comedic) Life of Mr. Henry Billersworth Hilary Malamud was born in Manhattan in December, 2003. She likes to read and dance ballet. Her favorite book is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She also loves writing stories.

“They had frequent arguments, and the largest of those often resulted in physical violence and had to be broken up. David Andrews was a fearless man and he was constantly trying to win Mr. Billersworth’s fame and fortune.”

 

There are many different chocolate factories in England, but Henri Chocolat, maker of fine French chocolate, was the best. Henri Chocolat was owned by a man by the name of Henry Billersworth. Mr. Billersworth was a very successful man, with an income of £950,000 per year. Many were jealous of the great Billersworth, but as he became more and more powerful, those who wanted to approach him, did not.

Andrews Chocolates was the second-best chocolate factory in the country, and it was located, like Henri Chocolat, in London. David Andrews, the owner of Andrews Chocolates, was Henry Billersworth’s main rival. They had frequent arguments, and the largest of those often resulted in physical violence and had to be broken up. David Andrews was a fearless man and he was constantly trying to win Mr. Billersworth’s fame and fortune. Many were against Andrews and tried to stop him, but as I said, there were also plenty of people against Mr. Billersworth. The arguments between the two rivals never worsened very much, but they never stopped either.

 

* * *

 

“Mr. Billersworth, I must attest–”

“Allen, I must ask you to be quiet. I am certain that we are in need of a new flavour, and I will not budge.”

Mr. Billersworth and a large group of employees were seated at a conference table in the office building of Henri Chocolat. They were debating whether their company needed to integrate a new flavor of chocolate, and as you can no doubt infer, Mr. Billersworth himself was under the opinion that they definitely needed a new flavor. His chief employee, Allen, disagreed with him, but everyone else wanted the same thing as their boss.

“Yes, Eliza?” Mr. Billersworth said, for a girl’s hand was in the air.

“I have a suggestion for a flavor, Mr. Billersworth.”

“Well, let’s hear it then.”

“Peanut butter.”

The company looked at Eliza like she was mad. Peanut butter, you see, is a purely American thing, and none of the Brits in the room had ever heard of it before.

“Peanut butter, Eliza?” Mr. Billersworth said hesitantly. “May I ask what kind of barmy invention that is?”

“It’s American, and–” but Mr. Billersworth held up a hand to stop her.

“No need to say anymore, Eliza. I should have known those ridiculous Americans would make something like that.”

“It really is a wonderful taste, though–” persisted Eliza, for she had lived in the States for ten years of her life and had grown to love peanut butter.

“Give it a rest, Eliza,” Allen sighed. “Whatever you do, we are not making a ‘Peanut Butter’ flavoured chocolate.”

Eliza hung her head, looking slightly hurt.

“So,” Mr. Billersworth continued, “does anyone have another idea?”

“I do,” James said. James was the smartest employee at Henri Chocolat, and the best at making chocolate, too. He was also incredibly shy, and didn’t like to socialize with people, so no one knew much about him. But I know quite a lot about James, in fact, I would even go so far as to say that he was the employee whom I knew most about. I even know how he got to be as smart as he is now, but that, my friend, is a story for another time.

“Yes, James?”

“Eggplant?”

“Well, James, that’s creative, but I don’t think it would taste very good. Anyone else?”

Almost everyone contributed an idea, for they all wanted to get the credit for inventing one of Henry Billersworth’s chocolates, but none of them seemed to please their boss.

“Well, everyone should think of names tonight,” Mr. Billersworth said at the end of the conference, “and hopefully one of you will have a brain wave before we meet again tomorrow. Good day.” And with that, he picked up his briefcase and left the room, his employees following suit.

Over the next few days, Mr. Billersworth pestered the members of his company for new flavors of chocolate, while he himself spent hours on end scribbling down ideas. And yet, nothing seemed quite right. His main worry was, of course, that Mr. Andrews would invent an incredible new flavor and everyone in Britain would flock to Andrews Chocolates, leaving Henri Chocolat deserted and without business. But Andrews seemed to think that he didn’t need a new flavor, for none appeared in his shops.

It happened one Tuesday evening when Mr. Billersworth was absolutely desperate for a new chocolate to add to his store. He was brainstorming on a small slip of paper when suddenly an idea came to him.

What’s that new phenomenon all over social media? He thought to himself, Ah, that’s right: Selfies.

“So what about selfie flavoured chocolates?” Mr. Billersworth suggested the next day at work. For a moment there was silence, but then a few people spoke.

“Brilliant!” exclaimed one young man by the name of Charlie.

“Wicked!” cried Allen.

But Eliza and her best friend, Joanne, seemed skeptical.

“How on earth are you supposed to make a selfie flavoured chocolate?” Joanne said, scowling. “Selfies don’t have a taste!”

“Well, that’s the fun part!” Mr. Billersworth said.

“Yeah, things have been a bit boring here with nothing to do but make chocolate all day,” a girl named Hannah said, “I mean–it’s just that–” she stuttered, worried that her boss would get angry at her. But Mr. Billersworth was grinning.

“So,” he said, clapping his hands together, “let’s get to work!”

The idea that they had something new and exciting to work on lightened the moods of all the company workers, even those like Eliza and Joanne, who had been reluctant to make a selfie chocolate. Trying to discover what selfies taste like, however, was hard work, and even though his employees were determined to make it work, they found they needed Mr. Billersworth’s help.

“Alright,” he said as he sat down with a small group of workers consisting of Allen, Hannah, Dave, Greg and Louisa. “First, let’s simply define ‘selfie.’ Anyone have an idea?” They all did, and so they decided to do a “I say a line then you say a line,” sort of thing. Dave started.

“A photograph,” he said.

“Of oneself,” Hannah continued.

“Taken by oneself,” Allen said.

“Often on a cell phone,” Louisa said.

“And often taken in quantities,” Greg finished.

“Okay,” Mr. Billersworth said, “now that we’re clear on exactly what a selfie is, let’s think of the emotions caused by taking a selfie.”

“Happiness!”

“Joy!”
“Wickedness!”

But to Mr. Billersworth it just sounded like, “Dappy blay de mickey,” because they were all speaking at once.

“Please repeat that again,” he said, “one at a time.”

“Happiness,” Louisa said.

“Joy,” Greg exclaimed.

“Wickedness!” Allen said happily.

“Allen, I love the word ‘wicked’ just as much as you do,” Mr. Billersworth said, “but

I am afraid that it is not an emotion. Please think of something else.”

“If you say so,” Allen said gloomily. “How about pride?”

“Lovely,” his boss replied. “Hannah, Dave, would you like to contribute an emotion?”

Neither of them did, so Mr. Billersworth moved on.

“Now we need to think about what these emotions would taste like,” he said. “Dave, what do you think happiness would taste like?”

“I’d say popcorn,” Dave said sheepishly. “It’s one of my favourite foods.”

“Alright. Hannah, what would joy taste like?”

“Hmm…” she paused, thinking hard. “I think maybe marshmallows.”

“Wonderful,” Mr. Billersworth said, “After all, marshmallow goes well with chocolate. And Allen, what does pride taste like to you?”
“Peppermint,” Allen said immediately.

“Alright then,” Mr. Billersworth said, and he wrote the last word with a flourish. The brainstorming sheet looked something like this:

 

Selfie:

A photograph of oneself taken by oneself often on a cell phone and often

taken in quantities.
Emotions Caused by Taking a Selfie:

– Happiness–Popcorn

– Joy–Marshmallows

– Pride–Peppermint
Flavours of Selfie–Flavoured Chocolate:

Popcorn, marshmallow and peppermint combined.

 

“So,” Mr. Billersworth said, “our flavours shall be popcorn, marshmallow and peppermint. Now we must decide what quantities of each will work to balance out the flavours. But don’t worry,” he said, seeing the stricken looks on the faces of his employees. “That will be a job for people other than yourselves.”

Even though Mr. Billersworth now had something good up his sleeve, he could not shake off the feeling that Andrews was also mixing up some brilliant new flavor, so one day he paid a visit to one of his rival’s stores.

“Ah, Mr. Billersworth,” Andrews said with feigned politeness when the former walked in the door, “I fancied a chat with you. I heard recently that you have decided to make a selfie-flavoured chocolate.”

“Indeed I have, my dear man,” Mr. Billersworth replied. He was not worried about Andrews knowing his plans, for news always traveled incredibly fast in London.

“May I ask how on earth you expect people to purchase such a ridiculous item?”

Mr. Billersworth laughed dryly. “You don’t seem to know your customers, Mr. Andrews. I’ll remind you that people will purchase almost any kind of chocolate, especially when it has an interesting name and a cheap price tag.”

“You’ll be laughed at, Mr. Billersworth, mark my words.”

Mr. Billersworth laughed again, “Really, my dear man, it will be you who is laughed at once everyone starts buying my wonderful selfie-flavoured chocolates. Now tell me, Mr. Andrews, are you making a new flavour also?”

“I am not, Mr. Billersworth, because I know that my original flavours are more than enough to please my customers.”

“Your customers must be boring people,” Mr. Billersworth said, and he left the shop.

 

* * *

 

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Billersworth, but the flavours just don’t work together!” Danielle, a worker at Henri Chocolat, was doing her very best to turn the imagined selfie chocolate into reality, but she was failing desperately.

“Well, Danielle, of course it won’t work if you just try the same thing over and over again!” Mr. Billersworth exclaimed. “You have to try different combinations, for example, this time put more marshmallow in and if that doesn’t work, put more popcorn in, etcetera.”

“Alright,” Danielle said, though she didn’t sound very optimistic, “I’ll try with the marshmallow.”

Putting more marshmallow in did not work at all. Frankly, the chocolate tasted like gooey sticky stuff with a tiny bit of crunch. Trust me, it was gross. So Danielle tried putting more popcorn in, just like her boss had suggested. But that didn’t work either. It made the chocolate way too crunchy. So lastly, Danielle tried adding more peppermint. When that made it too minty and almost spicy, the poor girl ran to Mr. Billersworth, almost in tears.

“I’ve tried EVERYTHING,” she gasped, “but it all made the chocolate taste disgusting! I don’t know what to do.”

“Well,” Mr. Billersworth said, “have you tried putting in less of something instead of more?”
Danielle looked as if she thought she was the stupidest person on earth, and she ran back to the chocolate maker as fast as she could. At last she found the perfect mix: a bit of popcorn with more peppermint and marshmallows (all the ingredients were in very small pieces, of course). After tasting it herself, she let Mr. Billersworth try, and he clapped her on the back, grinning.

“Excellent job, Danielle,” he said, “you’ve created a wonderful chocolate. We shall become rich from this!”

“Er…richer than we already are, you mean?” Danielle said hesitantly. But her boss was too immersed in happiness to hear her.

“You’re smarter than James, making a chocolate like that! I can never thank you enough.”

Five days after the invention of selfie-flavored chocolate, the flavor started appearing in stores. As Mr. Billersworth had hoped, people immediately bought it, keeping everyone busy restocking the chocolates in the store. James and Danielle were kept busy making the actual chocolate, and they did a very good job, James especially.

“Excuse me, Mr. Billersworth,” a man said one day as he came into Henri Chocolat’s main shop and saw Mr. Billersworth at the desk.

“Yes, sir?” Mr. Billersworth said. “Is there something I can help you with? Are you perhaps looking for our newest invention; the selfie-flavoured chocolate?”

“Actually, Mr. Billersworth, I wanted to inquire about one of your employees. I hear he is incredibly skilled.”

“Oh?” said Mr. Billersworth, taken aback. “And who exactly would you like to hear about?”

“I believe his name is Marcus, James Marcus.”

“Well, James is currently working downstairs in the factory,” Mr. Billersworth said, “I may take you to see him, if you wish.”

“That would be lovely,” the man replied. “Please lead the way.”

So Mr. Billersworth took the man downstairs to where James and Danielle sat working with the chocolate maker.

“Hello James, my name is Richard Ferris. And your name is…?” he turned toward Danielle.

“I’m Danielle,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Ferris.”

“James, I want to ask you something,” Mr. Ferris said. “May I do so?”
“Al–alright,” James stuttered, unnerved by the sudden appearance of a strange man. As I told you earlier, he was a very shy boy, all because of–oh wait. I shouldn’t waste your time like that.

“So James,” Mr. Ferris started, “I’ve heard of your talent and intelligence when it comes to the chocolate factory.” He stopped, waiting for his acquaintance to speak, but he did not, so Mr. Ferris went on. “I shall get straight to the point then, James. How would you like to compete in a chocolate making contest?”

James seemed hesitant, but Mr. Billersworth nodded encouragingly at him.

“Okay,” he said eventually.

“So,” said Mr. Billersworth, clapping his hands together, “what are the details?”

“Well,” Mr. Ferris said, while poor Danielle continued making chocolate, having no part at all in the conversation, “The competition takes place in Paris, and your train will leave in two days. Mr. Billersworth, you may accompany James if you wish, but it is not required. The contest is on June 24, three days after your train arrives, from 11:00 to 15:00. The only thing you will need to bring to the competition, James, is an apron so that your clothes don’t get dirty with chocolate. The rules of the contest will be explained to you on the 24th.”

“Excellent, we’ll be there,” Mr. Billersworth said, for he had evidently decided to accompany James to the chocolate-making competition. “James, you’d better start packing!”

And so, June 21st found Mr. Billersworth and James standing on a station platform, waiting for their train to arrive. James was incredibly nervous, while Mr. Billersworth was merely excited.

When the Eurostar finally arrived in Paris, the two men left the train and headed to L’Hotel, where they had booked a room with two twin beds, a small bathroom and a desk.

They had a nice time strolling around Paris for two days, and James was happy, but on the night of June 23 he hardly slept a wink, and woke up in the morning feeling considerably unrested and even more nervous than he had felt when waiting for the train.

“You’ll do very well,” Mr. Billersworth said to James over breakfast. “There’s no cause for worry.”

But those words of confidence only made James feel worse, for he hated the idea that everyone had high expectations for him.

When James and his boss finally arrived at the contest at precisely 10:49, the former stood by his booth (each competitor had been assigned one) while the latter found a seat in the stands.

“COMPETITORS!” an extremely loud voice rang out at 10:59, “WELCOME TO THE WORLD-WIDE CHOCOLATE-MAKING CONTEST! TODAY YOU WILL BE ASKED TO MAKE A CREATIVE CHOCOLATE MOLD AND THEN MAKE AS MANY CHOCOLATES AS YOU CAN USING THAT MOLD! ALL MATERIALS ARE AT YOUR BOOTH ALREADY, AND YOU WILL HAVE A TIME-LIMIT OF TWO HOURS!”

The man shouting instructions then repeated them in French, and then said, “YOU MAY BEGIN, VOUS POUVEZ COMMENCER, NOW, OR MAINTENANT !”

Mr. Billersworth gave James a fleeting thumbs up, and the latter started crafting his chocolate mold. It depicted nature, with birds singing in the trees, a large river, and a small cottage in the distance. He did not stop to admire his work when he finished, but simply went straight to making chocolate. When there were just ten minutes left in the competition, James had made 12,003 chocolates, and when the timer went off he had made 12,400 chocolates. Mr. Billersworth was confident that his employee would win but James tried not to get his hopes up.

“ALRIGHT COMPETITORS,” shouted the loud voice at the end of the contest, “PLEASE STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING! TIME IS NOW UP, AND JUDGES WILL BE COMING AROUND TO EXAMINE YOUR CHOCOLATES IN JUST A MINUTE. WE WILL TELL YOU WHEN ALL OF THE BOOTHS HAVE BEEN OBSERVED, BUT IN THE MEANTIME, PLEASE JUST SIT TIGHT.” After repeating those directions in French, the man started to look around at the booths along with nine other judges. James stayed silent when one of them came to look at his booth, but he was almost sweating with anxiety.

“ALRIGHT,” the man who had shouted directions said after about forty-five minutes, “THE JUDGES ARE FINISHED OBSERVING YOUR WORK. THEY WILL NOW DISCUSS WHO SHOULD WIN, AND THEN THE CHAMPIONS WILL BE ANNOUNCED.”

The judges gathered to confer, and the competitors stood in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the main judge spoke again.

“WE HAVE DECIDED ON THE WINNERS,” he yelled, “AND THEY SHALL BE ANNOUNCED NOW! IN THIRD PLACE, WE HAVE…ELLIE SANDERS!” The girl called Ellie hurried to the podium and was awarded her trophy.

“IN SECOND PLACE, WE HAVE…JAMES MARCUS!”

James looked up, feeling a mixture of joy and sadness, for it was a bad feeling to almost win. But he was grateful to have placed, and he had a smile on his face as he received his trophy.

“Yes, James!” Mr. Billersworth called as his employee stood on the podium, “well done, well done!

“AND FINALLY, IN FIRST PLACE, WE HAVE MARGARET ANDREWS!” James looked up at Mr. Billersworth’s face with horror. Margaret Andrews was the daughter of David Andrews, and it would not help Henri Chocolat if Andrew Chocolates had one of their employees win the World-Wide Chocolate-Making Contest. James hoped with all his heart that the selfie chocolates would be enough to keep Henri Chocolat in business….

James and Mr. Billersworth rode home the very next day, and for the first hour of the ride neither of them talked at all; James read Murder at 9:59, a mystery, while Mr. Billersworth just stared out the window, thinking about all that had happened. The first time either of them spoke was when they visited the dining car for lunch, and Mr. Billersworth started a conversation.

“Our selfie-flavoured chocolates are enough to keep us in good business,” he said, “and we shouldn’t worry about everyone flocking to Andrews Chocolates. After all, being good at chocolate-making doesn’t mean you’re making good chocolates.”

“You’re very right, Mr. Billersworth,” James said, “and I shall try not to let the fact that Margaret Andrews won bother me, either.”

But Margaret Andrews winning was bothering James more than he let on. For even though James was not a proud man, he liked working for the best people. That is why he originally applied for a job with Mr. Billersworth. And if Andrews became more powerful than his rival…well, James wouldn’t want to be stuck with Mr. Billersworth.

After eating lunch, James and Mr. Billersworth returned to their compartment, and the latter told James about how much money Henri Chocolat had made from the selfie-flavoured chocolates. In the past week they had earned £900 just from the selfie chocolates. Talking about his success made Mr. Billersworth happy, and he had a smile on his face for almost all the rest of the journey.

“I heard your best employee won second place at the World-Wide Chocolate-Making Contest,” Andrews said to Mr. Billersworth when the former was visiting his shop.

“Indeed,” Mr. Billersworth replied.

“May I congratulate you,” Andrews said, a rude smile playing on his lips.

“And I you,” Mr. Billersworth said politely.

“I assume you heard about Margaret?”

“Yes I did, it would be impossible not to, even if I hadn’t attended the contest.”

“And what is that supposed to mean, Mr. Billersworth?” Andrews’ smile was leaving his face.

“Only that, with you boasting about it at every opportunity, it would be impossible for me not to know that your daughter won the World-Wide Chocolate-Making Contest.”

“How dare you! How dare you insult me, David Andrews, the most successful chocolatier in the country!”

 

* * *

 

By statistics, Andrews was not the most successful chocolatier in the country…yet. He was selling more chocolates than he had ever sold before, and Mr. Billersworth was desperate to overcome him. He often lost his temper with his employees and yelled at them to make more chocolate. But no matter what he did, he couldn’t stop his rival becoming more powerful by the minute.

“Come in,” Mr. Billersworth sighed when he heard a knock on his office door one day. “Ah, hello James.”

“Mr. Billersworth, I-I wanted to talk to you.”

“Yes, that is normally what it means when someone comes into my office.”

“Well, as you know, Mr. Billersworth,” James said hesitantly, “Andrews is getting quite powerful, and…er…”

“Spit it out, James,” Mr. Billersworth said impatiently.

“I-I’ve gotten a job at Andrews Chocolates. I’m leaving today.”

Mr. Billersworth stared at James. He couldn’t believe his ears. His best employee going to work for his rival…

“Go,” he said hoarsely, “Go…just go, I can’t–just go.” James began to make his way to the front door, but when he had his hand on the doorknob he turned back.

“So…bye, Mr. Billersworth.”

“Goodbye, James.”

Mr. Billersworth saw Andrews again the very next day.

“I have almost everything now, Mr. Billersworth,” he said, “your power and your best employee. Now all I need is your money.”
“And how will you get my money, Mr. Andrews?” Mr. Billersworth asked skeptically.

“Oh, you will see. I have my plans,” Andrews said, laughing.

The next day, the headline of the newspaper read WHEN COMPANY OWNER LOSES MONEY, IT WILL BE PASSED TO THE NEXT SUCCESSFUL COMPANY OWNER.

“That stupid Andrews,” Mr. Billersworth cried angrily. “He’s always had connections with people in Parliament. There’s no question about it, he’s behind this. The government would never, ever, give someone’s money to another person without their consent. But Andrews is very good at bribing, I’ve seen him at it before…”

Upon reading the first bit of the article, Mr. Billersworth figured out that if he were to lose his money somehow, Andrews would get it. But how was Andrews planning on making Mr. Billersworth lose his money? That was a mystery until that very night.

Mr. Billersworth was walking home from a concert, humming the music to himself. It was very dark outside, and he had to walk carefully, for he was just by the edge of the river Thames. There was a noise behind him, and he turned around quickly, but he saw nothing. He kept walking, dreadfully aware that someone was watching him. He heard the noise again, but still saw nothing. Then, all of a sudden, it happened. He saw two human hands coming at him from the dark, and then the face of David Andrews. But he didn’t see more of Andrews, for at that moment his rival pushed him roughly into the deepest part of the Thames, where his heavy clothes weighed him down. No more was ever heard of Mr. Henry Billersworth.

He had never written a will, so his money was passed to David Andrews. When I heard of Mr. Billersworth’s passing I was very, very sorry I had left him. For I, you see, am James Marcus.

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