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clicked with marvellous rapidity, but without any apparent meaning, against an instrument they held in their hands. He looked in vain for the swords which he had heard printers were allowed to wear, and he was covered with confusion at finding himself in the midst of so large an assemblage, who one and all appeared as if they were playing on a number of pianos without any tune in them. Going up to a youth whose head, covered with a profusion of red hair, looked as if it were in a blaze, Joshua asked to whom he should give the proof. "To Snooks,' was the prompt reply. For which piece of information he received a slap on the side of his head from some person in authority; who, taking the proof from Joshua, directed him to sweep up the room. forming this task he surveyed the scene before him. There were sixteen men and four boys at work. All the men had the same dissipated look that he had observed upon the countenance of the master. Their faces, otherwise, were very clean; but the tips of the right-hand fore-finger and thumb of each were black with dirt, caused by the types which they picked up with those extremities from the boxes before them. Not
Not a word was spoken, except what appeared to have reference to
the business, and the conversation proceeded somewhat in this wise. One of the workmen, walking to a slab of iron placed in the middle of the room, took therefrom a sheet of manuscript, and looking at it negligently, shouted,
Number three !'
Another voice at the end of the room cried out,
Awful Collision !'
Joshua stopped in the midst of his sweeping, and waited for the shock. But as none came, he proceeded with his work, and thought that the second speaker was crazy. In the mean time the dialogue continued.
Speaker number one: • End a break.'
Speaker number two : All right,' with a growl.
Speaker number one: 'What type ?'
Speaker number two, with another growl : • Minion !
At the word 'minion,' which Joshua considered was a term expressive of anything but respect, he expected speaker number one would walk up to speaker number two, and punch his head. Instead of which the insulted individual went into his corner again, and recommenced
playing his tuneless piano in the meekest possible
The overseer then going to a part of the room where long rows of type were placed in detached pieces, asked,
'How long will this Dreadful Suicide be before it's finished ?'
Done in five minutes, sir,' was the reply, in a cheerful voice.
• Who's on the Inquest ?' asked the overseer. 'I am, sir.'
* Be quick and get it finished ; you've been long enough over it. Now, then, how long is this Chancery Court to remain open ?'
• • Close it up in two minutes, sir.'
And Joshua gazed with a kind of wonder at the individual who spoke, as if it were as easy to close the Court of Chancery as to close his hand.
It was the day on which the paper was sent to press; the publishing hour was three o'clock in the afternoon; and as the work was behindhand, everybody was very busy. In the centre of the room was a large iron slab, and at one time the hammering and beating on this slab were terrific. Two or three excited individuals, with mallets and iron sticks in their hands, advanced towards the
type, which was laid upon the slab, with the apparent intention of smashing it to pieces. They commenced to do this with such extraordinary earnestness, that Joshua was on the point of rushing downstairs to the master to inform him that his property was being wantonly destroyed ; but as the other workmen appeared to regard the proceeding as quite a matter of course, Joshua checked himself, and thought it would perhaps be as well for him to say nothing about it. The overseer also continued to issue his strange orders; and during a slight cessation in the hammering, he peremptorily ordered the workmen to 'lock up that Escaped Lunatic, and be quick about it.' At another time he gave directions to lay the Female in Disguise on the stone (meaning the iron slab), to unlock the Old Bailey, and to correct the Chancellor's Budget. Joshua grew perfectly bewildered. The information that there was an Escaped Lunatic in the room did not so much astonish as alarm him; but as to the Female in Disguise he could not identify her, and he waited in amazement to see what disguise she wore and where she would be brought from ; at the same time entertaining the idea that to lay any female upon a stone was a decidedly improper
proceeding. While in this state of mental perplexity, the overseer cried out,
Now, then, who has the Female in Disguise in hand ?
'I have, sir,' a voice replied.
Bring it here, then,' ordered the overseer, and finish the corrections on the stone.'
* All right, sir.
Joshua started and looked round to catch a sight of the Female ; in his agitation he stumbled against a workman who held a column of type in his arms.
The type fell to the ground, and was smashed into thousands of pieces. In an instant the whole office was in confusion.
You've done it this time, youngster,' the workman said in dismay, looking at the scattered type on the floor.
Joshua did not exactly know what it was he had done, but felt that it must be something very bad. He soon received practical proof of the extent of the mischief, for the master, rushing into the room, kicked him downstairs, and told him to go about his business. Which Joshua did in a
. state of much bewilderment.
Thus all the good intentions of Mrs. Marvel were frustrated. Joshua declared he would not