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JOSHUA MARVEL.

CHAPTER I.

CONCERNING CERTAIN FAMILY CONVERSATIONS AND THEIR

RESULT.

In the parish of Stepney, in the county of Middlesex, there lived, amidst the hundreds of thousands of human bees who throng that overcrowded locality, a family composed of four persons — mother, father, and two children, boy and girlwho owned the surprising name of Marvel. They had lived in their hive for goodness knows how many years. The father's father had lived there and died there ; the father had been married from there; and the children had been born there. The bees in the locality, who elbowed each other and trod upon each other's toes, were poor and

VOL. I.

B

common bees, and did not make much honey. Some of them made just enough to live upon; and a good many of them, now and then, ran a little short. The consequence was, that they could not store any honey for a rainy day, and were compelled to labour and toil right through the year, in cold weather and in warm weather, in sunshine and in rain. In which respect they were worse off than other bees we know of, that work in the summer and make themselves cosy in the winter.

The bees in the neighbourhood being common and poor, it was natural that the neighbourhood itself should partake of the character of its inhabitants. But, common and poor as it was, it was not too common nor too poor .for love to dwell in it. Love did reside there ; not only in the hive of the Marvels, but in hundreds of other hives, tenanted by the humblest of humble bees.

George Marvel had married for love ; and, lest the reader should suppose that the contract was one-sided, it may be as well to mention that George Marvel's wife had also married for love. They fell in love in the usual way, and they married in the usual way; and, happy and satisfied with each other, they did not mar their enjoyment of the then present by thinking of the sharp stones which, from the very circumstances of their position, were pretty sure to dot the road of their future lives. There are many such simple couples in the world who believe that the future is carpeted with velvet grass, with the sun always shining upon it, and who find themselves all too soon stumbling over a dark and rocky thoroughfare.

It was not long before the Marvels came to the end of their little bit of carpet sunshine ; yet, when they got upon the sharp stones, they contrived by industry and management to keep their feet. George Marvel was a wood-turner by trade, and earned on an average about thirty-two hillings a week. What with a little new furniture now and then, and a little harmless enjoyment now and then, and a few articles of necessary clothing now and then, and the usual breakfasts, dinners, and teas, with a little bit of supper now and then, the thirty-two shillings a week were pretty well and pretty fully employed. So well and so fully were those weekly shillings employed, that it was often a very puzzling matter to solve that problem which millions of human atoms are studying at this present moment, and which consists in endeavouring to make both ends meet. That they did contrive, however, to make both ends meet (not, of course, without the tugging and stretching always employed in the process), was satisfactorily demonstrated by the fact that the family were respected and esteemed by their neighbours, and that they owed no man a shilling. Not even the baker; for they sent for their loaves, and paid for them across the counter. By that they almost always received an extra piece to make up weight; and such extra pieces are of importance in a family. Not even the butcher; for Mrs. Marvel did her own marketing, and found it far cheaper to select her own joints, which you may be sure never had too much bone in them. Not even the cat's-meat man; for the farthing a day laid out with that tradesman was faithfully paid in presence of the carroty-haired cat (who ever heard of a cat with auburn hair ?), who sat the while with eager appetite, looking with hungry eyes at the skewer upon which hung her modicum of the flesh of horse.

Mrs. Marvel was a pale but not sad woman, who had no ámbition in life worthy of being called one save the ambition of making both ends meet,

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