Obrázky na stránke

fix him at home; for with that keen perception which mothers only possess with regard to their children—à perception which springs from the maternal intellect alone, and which is born of a mother's watchful anxious love-she felt that her son's desires, unknown even to himself, might possibly lead him to be a wanderer from her world, the parish of Stepney, in which she was content to live and die. In that beehive she had been born ; in that beehive she had experienced calm happiness and wholesome trouble; and in that beehive she wished to close her eyes, and to see her children's faces smiling upon her, when her time came to say good-bye to the world of which she knew so little. With all a woman's cunning, with all a woman's love, she devoted herself to the task of weaning the mind of her favourite child from the restless aspirations which might drive him from her side.

Until Joshua makes up his mind what he is going to be, father,' she said one night at candletime, it's a pity he should remain idle. Idleness isn't a good thing for a boy.'

‘Idleness isn't a good thing for boy or man,' said Mr. Marvel, converting his wife's remark into an original expression of opinion by the ad

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

dition of the last two words. But I don't see what we are to do, mother.'

Suppose I get him a situation—as an errandboy, perhaps—until he makes up his mind.'

'I'm agreeable,' said Mr. Marvel, if Josh is.'

But Josh was not agreeable. Many a fruitless journey did Mrs. Marvel make, trudging here and trudging there; and many an application did she answer in person to written announcements in shop-windows of 'Errand-boy wanted.' Joshua would not accept any of the situations she obtained for him. She got him one at a watchmaker's; no, he would not go to a watchmaker's : at a saddler's; no, he would not go to a saddler's: at a bootmaker's, at a tailor's; no, nor that, nor that. Still she persevered, appearing to gain fresh courage from every rebuff. As for Joshua, he was beginning to grow wearied of her assiduity. He was resolved not to go to any trade, but being of a very affectionate nature he desired to please his mother, and at the same time to convince her that it was of no use for her to worry him any longer. So he set her what he considered to be an impossible task : he told her that he was determined not to go anywhere except to a printing-office. He felt assured that she would never be able to get him within the sacred precincts of such an establishment. And even if she did, there was something more noble, something more distinguished and grander, in printing than in bootmaking, or tailoring, or watchmaking, or woodturning. There was a fascinating mystery about it; he had seen watchmakers, and tailors, and cobblers working, but he had never seen the inside of a printing-office. Neither had any of his boy-friends. He had been told, too, that there was an act of parliament which allowed printers to wear swords in the streets. That was a fine thing. How all the neighbours would stare when they saw him walking through the narrow streets of Stepney with a sword at his side! Joshua had some sense of humour; and he chuckled to himself at the impossible task he had set his mother.

He was therefore considerably astonished one day, when Mrs. Marvel told him she had obtained a situation for him as errand-boy in a newspaperoffice.

woman fail, except from physical or mental prostration, in the accomplishment of a certain thing upon which she has set her mind? And if, in working for the accomplishment of the desired result, she brings to her

Did ever


aid an unselfish, unwearying love, then did ever a woman fail ? At all events Mrs. Marvel did not. After much labour, fortune befriended her; and she heard that an errand-boy was wanted at a certain printing-office where a weekly newspaper was printed. Thither she hurried, and soon found herself in a small dark office, in which the master sat.

He treated her in the most off-hand manner. Yes, he wanted an errand-boy. Was he sharp, intelligent, willing? O, her son ! Very well. Let him come to-morrow. Wages, four shillings a week. Time, from eight to eight. An hour to dinner, half an hour to tea. Good-morning.

Thus the matter was settled, and Joshua engaged. Mrs. Marvel went home rejoicing.

With fear and trembling, a little pleased and a good deal dismayed, Joshua made his way the next morning to the printing-office. Groping along a dark passage he came to a door on which the word Office' was dimly discernible. The freshness of youthful paint had departed from the word; the letters were faded, and they appeared to be waiting to be quite rubbed out with a kind of jaded resignation. In response to the sharply uttered 'Come in !' Joshua opened the

[ocr errors]

he saw

door, and entered the room. The

person before him had such a dissipated appearance,

that any stranger would have been warranted in coming to the conclusion that he had not been in bed for a fortnight. The room was full of papers, very dusty and very dirty; and looked as if, from the day it was built, it had not found time to wash itself. Scarcely raising his eyes from a long slip of paper, upon which he was making a number of complicated marks, the occupant of the room said,

'It's of no use bothering me. I sha'n't have any copy ready for half an hour.--Hallo! Who are you ?

The new errand-boy, sir,' said Joshua, humbly.

0, very well. Take this proof upstairs, and sweep the composing-room; then come down and clean the street-door plate. Cut along! Look sharp!'

Looking as sharp as he could, Joshua walked upstairs, and found himself in the composingroom of the establishment. A number of men and boys, decorated with aprons with large bibs, were playing a mysterious game with hundreds and thousands of small pieces of lead, which they

« PredošláPokračovať »