Billeder på siden
[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]



[ocr errors]

6 JT'S all over, Nannie!” said Foe Warrender,

as he entered his little sitting-room in one

of the suburbs of Birmingham, one dull drizzling March evening.

So full was he of his trouble that though he had remembered to take off his overcoat and hang it up in the entrance hall, he had forgotten to change the shiny thread bare garment he dignified with the name of business coat for a still more threadbare and, indeed, ragged jacket in which he was accustomed to lounge about at home. Indeed, so absorbed was he with the one idea he had given utterance to, that he had omitted to remove the sheet of foolscap, which he—careful soul !-always placed over his ample shirt-front to protect it from being soiled by the outer garment: and he was not recalled to his omission until his three-year-old Nannie had climbed his knee and begun tracing straight-strokes and pothooks on the paper.

“ Yes;—it's all over !” he said again, as he took his seat after changing his coat, and with a despairing gesture he pushod his fingers through his somewhat scanty auburn hair, and looked steadily into his tea-cup with so fixed a gaze that the child, thinking the remark applied to his tea, and remembering her own frequent mishaps with tea-cups, said reassuringly

" It aint over, papa. You aint naughty.”

If poor Joe had not been so completely absorbed with his own trouble, he must have noticed that his neat little wife gave a momentary start at his words, and involuntarily put her hand to her side, as if to relieve a sudden pain. But we would defy either him, or a more practised observer, to have found anything but cheery confidence in the tone with which she said

“Never mind, Joe, dear, it'll all come right, you'll see."

And having set his tea before him hot and fragrant, and a round of crisp buttered toast, she took the child from him, and began giving her rides to Banbury Cross, pretending to be thinking of nothing but baby, though scarcely a minute passed in which she did not glance anxiously at her husband's face, eager to read there, if possible, what she had resolved not to ask until tea was over.

A shrewd little woman was Nancy Warrender. She knew that when she felt low and miserable a cup of good strong tea acted like magic. She believed her Joe to be the cleverest, wisest, and best man in all Birmingham borough, but she had learned by experience that he was just the man whom a great trouble seems to crush at the onset, and this was not the first time she-timid retiring woman as she was—had had to be a helpmeet for him.

When Joe had finished his tea he turned his chair to the fire, and showing a face ten degrees brighter than before, actually tempted his little

daughter to come to him, and tossed her a: played with her while his wife quietly a quickly cleared away the tea things.

That done, the little woman sat down by husband's side, took baby on her lap, and yieldir: to her anxious curiosity, said

“Now Joe, dear, tell me what has happened."

“The very worst, Nanny! I've got to lear: Munton's in a month."

“That's not the worst that may have happe=? by a long way, Joe,” said she, with well-assins courage. • It's a scandalous shame though, it all that. After being with them for twelt years! They ought to be ashamed of themsels Do you mean to say they'll turn you air. altogether?”

• Well, it's in this way. Mr. Munton can me into his private office, and told me (what very well knew) that trade had been getti. worse and worse. He said he should have : curtail expenditure, and, as Master George coe now take my place in the office, he should have i reduce me to the position of warehouseman : thirty shillings a week, and he would dischar: Will Matthews to make a place for me."

“What a shame!” said Nancy, drawings chair up nearer her husband, and taking his tas: sympathetically ; " but never mind, Joe, we Les do as well as we can at the lower wages. They be better than nothing."

“Of course, I wouldn't hear of such a thin for a minute," continued Joe, extinguishing : wife's last gleam of hope. “ If they serve Eshabbily, there's no reason why I should do W2 a bad turn, and he only just married too; so ! told the governor I should look out for a fres place."

Joe Warrender was quite right in descritic his employer's treatment of him as shabby. I show how shabby we must go back a few years

Perhaps no town in the kingdom presents opportunities for workmen to start as man: facturers on their own account as does itmetropolis of the midlands. Oliver Munton ba started business so, some twenty-five years befin in one of the many branches of the metal trade By fortunate speculative purchases of copa? immediately preceding phenomenal adrazos he had accumulated a considerable c.pital. Warrender had joined him as his only clers in the early humble days when his manufacturi: premises consisted of one dimly-lighted range shopping in a narrow back street. He had to with the business, and had so controlled all it processes that, at the time of our story, althors. Oliver Munton had a good business reputation the Exchange, and personally conducted th financial arrangements of his now extensive an. varied business, the practical director of tb concern was our modest, painstaking, plodd. friend Joe. The business had been long ss

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

removed to spacious and extensive premises, where, one after another, different collateral trades had been added to the original one, in each case as the result of Joe's working out and mastering the details of the new trade.

Joe Warrender was not one of that large class of men one so often meets with in mechanical pursuits, who are content to work on for ever by rule of thumb. He never felt satisfied with any new process or production until he had thoroughly worked out its prime cost, and tabulated its results, which in due course got entered in a capacious pocket-book he always carried, and which, from the comprehensive variety of its contents, its unquestioned authority, and a superstitious exaggeration of its range of information, was called by the workmen “Warrender's almighty book.” There was not a question of weight, of cost, of specific gravity, or of alloy, that could not be answered from this wonderful compilation, combining the results of twenty years of calculation, observation, and experience.

About two years before the events we are recording, Mr. Munton's eldest son, George, had left school and entered his father's office. Joe had known Master George from the time when as a child he had visited the works in his holidays, and a kindly feeling towards his master's son had sprung up, increasing as he grew

towards manhood. And when the youth came to take a place in the business, Joe welcomed him cordially, and spared no trouble to show him the ins and outs of the trade.

It was not long before Master George saw that the "almighty book” contained the key to the whole concern, and he suggested to his father the idea of borrowing the book for him to take a copy of it, not having the courage to ask Joe for it himself.

The father took an early opportunity of asking Joe to lend George the book in question in the evenings when he was not using it, and asked, apparently as a favour, that Joe would help him all he could in mastering the trade, finishing up with—“Do all you can for him, Joe. I'll make it worth your while. You have been a good trusty fellow, and after Christmas we'll see what can be done about your salary.”

For the credit of humanity, let us hope Mr. Munton meant all he said. Certainly he kept his word at Christmas to the extent of increasing Joe's wages by twenty pounds a year.

On the strength of this, Joe and Nancy had carried out a long cherished ambition to move from the town-house they had hitherto occupied to a small but pretty villa in the nearest suburb. They had now two children, a boy of about ten and the little three-year-old Nannie, and both father and mother were desirous of getting them away if possible from the deteriorating surroundings of a Birmingham back street.

Besides, Joe, like most busy men, had a hobby. He was fond of flowers. Town-born and townhred as he was, this taste for horticulture may at first sight seem strange. But, perhaps, there was nothing so very wonderful in it. He had never in his youth known that familiarity with flowers which brings indifference, if it does not

breed contempt, and consequently the simplest flower excited a passing interest in Joe's admiring eyes. And so when he found himself in the possession of a dozen yards of garden ground, he thought he was in Eden. His ambition, however, soon carried him beyond the cultivation of hardy annuals, and he had recently set up a small portable greenhouse and gone in for growing pelargoniums. He had cultivated these with such success, that he had lately exhibited some blooms of his favourite variety-a pure white, zoned with cherry colour-at the Town Hall show; and he had nov: struck some plants which he had every reason to believe would carry off one of the prizes in the very next competition.

But, unfortunately, the tide of prosperity in the hardware trades had slowly but persistently ebbed. Speculative purchases in copper which had at first been one of the principal factors in Mr. Munton's early successes, now proved in every instance a loss; and at the same time keen competition kept the profits on manufacturing at a vanishing point. And so, as soon as George Munton had got a complete copy of Joe's "almighty book," and felt competent with his father and the subordinate foremen to manage the concern, the temptation to economise by saving Joe's salary was too strong to be long resisted, and, as we have seen, he was offered a post as warehouseman, which he indignantly declined.

When a great bewildering trouble befalls us, it is often some inconsiderable detail which for a time absorbs our attention, as if the mind found relief in considering that instead of exhausting its energies in trying to comprehend the vague vastness of the disaster. So with poor Joe Warrender and his wife. The one tangible feature of their trouble was the fact that, whatever else it might or might not mean, it was certain they would have to leave their pretty home, which they had begun to love so much--with its pure air and bright arnshine, its flowers and treesand to return to the dingy smoky town streets, rendered more squalid than ever by their short experience of the comparative paradise of a suburb. And to Joe's mind came, with absurd disproportion, the thought of his choice pelargoniums, which it would be so utterly impossible to grow in town.

And so the two sat, sad and silent, picturing a dark future, and counting one by one


many pleasant things they would soon have to forego, until they were roused from their gloomy reverie by the return of little John, who was brimful of the wonders of some dissolving views he had been witnessing at a school entertainment.

Joe Warrender was happily not without the consolation of religion, and in the case of another's trouble would have promptly pointed out sources of comfort and hope. But at present the future seemed as black to him as if he had been brought up in an atheist creed and had never been able to catch a glimpse of, the loving face

our Father which art in heaven.” He had long been in the habit of having family prayer, but to-night he suggested it should


of "


be dispensed with. He felt that the heavens were as brass. The suggestion was a great grief to Nancy. Again she came to his help.

“Don't say that, Joe, dear! That would be a bad start. Let me read to-night.”

And when John had brought to his mother's knee the old family Bible, the little woman hesitated but a moment, and then, turning quickly to the thirty-seventh Psalm, she read in a clear voice, that seemed the very articulation of confident faith, the words that have been the comfort of so many a downcast spirit.

“ Fret not thyself because of evildoers."

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

“C hit thy way unto the Lord; trust so in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.'

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

“A little that a righteous man bath is better than the riches of many wicked.”

“ The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord : and He delighteth in his way."

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.”

And so the grand old promises came pealing forth in his wife's clear ringing tones, like shorebells guiding a fog-bound mariner into a haven of safety.

When the Psalm ended with its triumphant burst of confidence in God, Joe had not only lost his gloom and bitterness, but was actually smiling through dimmed eyes at his dear wife. And when he knelt down he was able to pour forth his trouble in a few earnest petitions, and then confiding himself and his dear ones, his present and his future, to his loving Father, who knew all and could do all, the fond pair sought their couch in cheerful resignation, and hopeful expectation of deliverance.

But, alas! this hopeful feeling did not abide. It was much easier to be sanguine of a possible opening before any attempt had been made to find one, than to be hopeful after weeks of eager inquiry, and anxious canvassing among all his acquaintances, and in every kindred trade, had failed to offer anything better than a vague promise to remember him if anything dropped out.

bright, but her face was fast becoming sharpered with care and apprehension. As all sources of income were now closed, she jealously watched every penny of expenditure, and practised anxious economy of fear, instead of the pleasan: thrift of voluntary carefulness.

She was one morning at work in her trin kitchen, making an apple-pudding for dinner, and brooding over her troubles in silent hopelessness. Little John was at school, and Nanna after several fruitless attempts to interest ba mother in her play, had given up the attemit. and was “ making believe” with an all-absorbing interest.

Nancy had just rolled her paste into a lung, and was stooping over her paste-board to hide from the child the tears which were actually falling into the flour, when she heard the familiar click of Joe's latch-key in the front door, and in a second more she heard him close the door behind him with a bang, and shout with a voice like a bugle

“It's all over, Nannie!"

In less time than it takes to tell it she was be his side in the little hall, with her arms round his neck, and sobbing for joy as she asked him what he meant.

What mattered it that Joe's overcoat was marked with an Ulster badge of white flour ; or that the pot boiled dry waiting for the pudding, which never got made; or that Nannie, missing her mother from the kitchen, had tried her bani on the paste with such success that she was dusted from head to foot like a miller's apprentice? Sorrow could afford to wait. No danger of its bitter fruit spoiling by keeping. But joy's exquisite clusters must be shared with the bloom on.

“ Yes, our anxiety is all over at last, love." “How?

Why, I am to start in business on my own account!”

responded his wife, with an inflexion of voice expressive of surprise, wonder, and fear. “It's all right, Nannie. Never fear. ,

I'm to find the brains and experience, and a gentlemaa friend is to provide the capital. Hurrah !"-an the sedate old-fashioned Joe, who had never learned a step in his life, actually attempted a pas seul which was so utterly ridiculous, that his wife began to wonder if he had lost his mentai balance, and to question if the good luck he had reported were really true.

* And who is the friend, Joe?”

“ Walter Birchall, Esq., Metal Broker, of Cannon Street, London, and New Street, Birmingham!"answered he with boastful pomposity, while he watched with great amusement the growing wonder expressed in his wife's face.

“Mr. Birchall !” said she, and well she might That name had been for years in her thoughts a synonym for all that was respectable, substantial and wealthy. She had of course never had the honour of an introduction to so great a man, but she had seen him on two occasions supporting the mayor on the platform at Town Hall meetings, and when Joe bad pointed him out as a great citizen with whom he had a speaking


The last week at Munton's had come and gone, and Joe Warrender had heard of nothing likely to suit him. As a special favour, his landlord had arranged to let him off at only three months' notice, and he was in treaty with an acquaintance for the sale, at a ridiculously low figure, of his little green-house. His choice plants he had promised to several amateur florists. He had visited every likely place and yet could hear of nothing to his advantage. Day after day he started out on his weary search after employment, and returned heart-sick, as well as tired from his fruitless perambulations.

His wife tried her best to be cheerful and

[blocks in formation]



acquaintance, she had felt that some measure of his dignity and importance were reflected on them. He was a tall, square-shouldered man, of near upon sixty, whose well-set head was adorned with an abundance of almost snowy hair; and it seemed to Nancy Warrender that he was the very model for å perfectly honest and upright millionaire.

It appears that Mr. Birchall happened to call at Oliver Munton's works that week after Joe had left, and missing the busy clerk, enquired if he were away ill.

No,” said Mr. Munton, “he's not ill—he has -in fact, he has left.”

“Left you?" said the old gentleman. “Nothing the matter, I trust ? ”

Nothing at all, except that-well, the fact is, trade is so bad, we were obliged to cut down expenses. We offered him, as an alternative, the chief place in the warehouse, but he refused, and chose to leave.”

“ He was a rare fellow,” said Mr. Birchall quietly, as if talking to himself rather than to Mr. Munton. “I should have thought you could ill-spare a man like him. How long had he been with you, now? Ever since I knew you certainly.”

“ Yes, he has been with us over twenty years.” “ Has he got into anything yet?

“ He hadn't on Saturday, but he still refused to fall in with our offer, though he looked downhearted enough."

"Well, you have surprised me," said Mr. Birchall, rising and putting on his hat, “I certainly thought him quite a fixture here.'

It was evident the old gentleman had some absorbing idea in his head as he went out, for he neither acknowledged nor saw the deferential bows of the junior clerks as he passed through the general office.

Arrived at the street entrance, he asked the porter if he had any idea where Mr. Warrender might be found, and hearing from the old pensioner that he was intending to call at the old place that morning, Mr. Birchall took out a card, and hurriedly pencilling on the back, “Meet me at my office at earliest convenience,” stepped into his brougham and drove off.

Thus it was that Joe Warrender, having dejectedly gone to the scene of his former labours, with the intention of clearing up a few matters with the foremen, was induced by the bit of paste board to proceed hastily and anxiously to Mr. Birchall's office, where in less than an hour all the preliminaries of a partnership were arranged.

Joe learned that the old gentleman had long intended adding manufacturing to his merchant business, and having some large and convenient

remises idle, he only wanted to put his hand on a trustworthy competent manager to decide about starting. The thought had often crossed his mind that Mr. Munton's manager was just the fellow he wanted, but concluding that he and his employer suited each other, he had given up all hope of securing him. But now that Mr. Munton ħad treated Joe in a way he could not help characterising as shabby, he felt no scruples

about doing himself and Joe a good turn by enlisting his interest in the new venture.

We may be quite sure Joe felt no disinclination for family prayer that evening. When at the appointed time little Johnnie brought his father the well-worn Bible, Joe asked

Where shall I read to-night, love?“Wherever you like, Joe," said she absently, for her mind was otherwhere, and then, seeing a suggestive smile on her husband's face, she added, “I don't think you can improve on the thirty-seventh Psalm. Do you?”

Joe was amazed to find how sweet the old Psalm was in his new experiences. He thought he had exhausted all its comfort at the last reading of it, but now it was like looking over a familiar landscape bright with new and glorious sunshine.

After the children were in bed, Joe and his wife had a long delightful chat, and laughed and cried together over their bright prospects, with as charming an interest as ever they did over their first house furnishing projects.

Joe had, of course, already sent a note to his landlord withdrawing his notice to leave, and informing him he hoped to occupy the house for some years. Equally, of course, Joe did not sell his little greenhouse at the ruinous sacrifice anticipated, nor did he sell it at all, but indulged his horticultural predilections to his heart's content. And, of course, he did not distribute his choice collection of pelargoniums, but actually took the first prize at the Town Hall for his wonderfully pretty pink and white bloom.

The business of Birchall and Warrender proved a great success. They started in the tube drawing branch; but before two years had gone, they added rolling machinery and wire drawing. Mr. Warrender brought out several patented processes of great utility, and in five years the business had developed into a larger concern than the older firm of Munton and Sons. In fact, that firm gradually receded. Even the

almighty book" was found not to be omnipotent apart from its author's brains, and Joe's old employer was driven to the necessity of paying him a royalty on the adoption of some of his patented processes.

Joseph Warrender, Esq., is now a prominent man in his native town. He might long ago have been a member of its town council bad he desired the honour; but he preferred less prominent though not less useful spheres. He is a leading man in all religious works, a Sundayschool superintendent, and director of many social and commercial undertakings.

He still grows pelargoniums for exhibition, though declining to compete for prizes.

In all his prosperity he never forgets the day of adversity Over the fireplace in his breakfast room there hangs, in a splendid gilt frame, a large illuminated text, prettily painted by his eldest daughter Nannie“ Commit thy way unto the Lord ; trust also in Him; and We shall bring it to pass.”


« ForrigeFortsæt »