Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

and of being able, although Stepney was not liable to floods, to keep the heads of her family above water. But, because Mrs. Marvel had no ambition, that was no reason why Mr. Marvel should not have any. Not that he could have defined precisely what it was if he had been asked; but that the constant difficulties which cropped up in the constant attempt to solve the problem (which has something perpetual in its nature) of making both ends meet, made him fretful. This fretfulness had found vent in speech day after day for many years; so that Joshua Marvel, the wood-turner's heir, had from his infancy upwards been in the habit of hearing what a miserable thing it was to be poor, and what a miserable thing it was to be cooped up, as George Marvel expressed it, and what a miserable thing it was to live until one's hair turned gray without ever having had a start in the world. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that Joshua Marvel had gathered slowly in his mind the determination not to be a wood-turner all his life, but to start in the world for himself, and try to be something better; never for one moment thinking that there was the most remote possibility of his ever being anything worse. When, in the course of certain family discussions and conversations, this determination became known, it did not receive discouragement from the head of the family, although the tender-hearted mother cried by the hour together, and could not for the life of her see why Joshua should not be satisfied to do as his father had done before him.

And what is that, mother ?' Mr. Marvel would ask. What have I done before him ? I've been wood-turning all my life before him—that's what I've been doing; and I shall go on woodturning, I suppose, till my dying day, when I can't wood-turn any more. Why, it might be yesterday that I started as a boy to learn woodturning. The first day I used the lathe I dreamt that I had cut my thumb off ; and I woke up with a curious sensation in my jaw which has haunted me ever since like a ghost. That was before I knew you, mother. And now it is to-day, and I'm wood-turning still; and —How many white hairs did you pull out of my head last night, Sarah ?'

Fourteen,' replied Sarah ; "and you owe me a farthing.'

"Fourteen,' said Mr. Marvel, quietly repudiating the liability, which arose from an existing

6

[ocr errors]

arrangement that Sarah should have a farthing for every dozen white hairs she pulled out of his head; "and next week it will be forty, perhaps; and the week after four hundred.'

White hairs will come, father,' said Mrs. Marvel; we must all get 'em when we're old enough.

'I'm not old enough,' grumbled Mr. Marvel.

And I don't see, father,' continued Mrs. Marvel, 'what the fourteen white hairs Sarah pulled out of your head has to do with Joshua.'

Of course you don't see, mother,' said Mr. Marvel, who had a contempt for a woman's argument; 'you're not supposed to see,' being a woman; but I do see ; and what I say is, woodturning brings on white hairs quicker than anything else.'

• Grandfather was a wood-turner,' remarked Mrs. Marvel, and he didn't have white hairs until he was quite old.'

Well, he was lucky - that's all I can say; but, for all that, Josh isn't going to be a woodturner, unless he's set his mind upon it.'

'I won't be a wood-turner, father,' said Joshua.

* All right, Josh,' said Mr. Marvel; you sha'n't.'

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

From this it will be seen that the voice maternal was weak and impotent when opposed to the voice paternal. But Mrs. Marvel, although by no means a strong-minded woman, had a will of her own, and a quiet unobtrusive way of working which often achieved a victory without inflicting humiliation. She did not like the idea of her boy leading an idle life; she had an intuitive conviction that Joshua would come to no good if he had nothing to do. She argued the matter with her good man, and never introduced the subject at an improper time. The consequence was, that her first moves were crowned with success.

If Joshua won't be & wood-turner, fathershe said.

• Which he won't,' asserted her husband.

Which he won't, as you say,' Mrs. Marvel replied, like a sensible woman. If he won't be a wood-turner, he must be something. Now he must be something, father-mustn't he ?'

This being spoken in the form of a question, left the decision with Mr. Marvel; and he said, as if the remark originated with himself,

Yes; he must be something.'
And with that admission Mrs. Marvel rested

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

content for a little while; but not for long. She soon returned to the attack; and asked her husband what Joshua should be. Now this puzzled Mr. Marvel ; and he could not see any way out of the difficulty, except by remarking that the boy would make up his mind one of these fine days. But these fine days—in which people, especially boys, make up their minds—are remarkably like angels' visits; and the calendar of our lives often comes to an end without one of them being marked upon the record. To all outward appearance, this was likely to be the case with Joshua; and the task of making up his mind seemed to be so tardy in its accomplishment, that George Marvel himself began to grow perplexed as to the future groove of his son and heir ; for Joshua kept himself mentally very much to himself. Vague wishes and desires he had; but they had not yet shaped themselves in his mind—which was most likely the reason why they had not found expression.

Meanwhile Mrs. Marvel was not idle. She saw her husband's perplexity, and rejoiced at it. Her great desire was to see Joshua settled down to a trade, whether it were wood-turning or any other. Wood-turning she would have preferred ; but, failing that, some other trade which would

« PredošláPokračovať »