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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Holy Moses

Holy Moses.

In the far-away days when the late Mr Wood was the only printer in Hawke's Bay, he possessed an imp whose baptismal name—if he ever was baptized—was James, but who was always known as « Moses. » Moses was a devil of the most pronounced type, always as black as ink and oil could make him, and never out of mischief and disgrace. The word « larrikin » had not then been coined—but Moses was a grand representative of the class. If any midnight mischief was wrought in the town, no evidence was ever looked for to identify the perpetrator—everyone knew Moses must be at the bottom of it. Many were his tricks with the types. He it was who, in the shipping column, announced the arrival of a ketch in the firewood trade from Mercury Bay with « 40 tons fireworks, » and, being told to set his master's imprint in Maori, made it, « Emea ta Hemi Rakau » instead of the usual « Hemi Wuru. » He was a sore trial to his long-suffering master, but sometimes, as he well deserved, came off second-best. « Holy Moses! » was a favorite expletive of the boss, and when Jem heard it, he used to say under his breath, « Did you speak to me, sir? » Whereupon his mates would giggle, and be sternly enjoined to « get on with the work. » Mr W. was very absent-minded, and frequently made long and ineffectual searches for bodkins, setting-rules, and other sundries, which were ultimately found in his coat-pocket, where he had placed them in a moment of abstraction. His custom was to make up the form himself, generally in the small hours, and dismiss the lads one by one, remaining himself till it was ready for press. He had not been trained to the work, and did it very slowly, but carefully and well. His chief trouble was in handling type—he had not the knack acquired by long practice, and would at times capsize the bottom lines of the column with his coat-sleeve or squabble a stickfull in lifting—repairing the damage himself with infinite toil. The lads have often described how, coat on, with the matter only half-damped—for he hated type swamped with water—he would « plane the whole form with his thumb » before locking-up—by which precautionary measure he infallibly detected any types or leads under the matter. One night the sponge could not be found. « I am sure I had it just now, » said Mr W.,— « What can have become of it? » After much searching by all hands, Moses mildly observed: « Perhaps it is in your coat-pocket, sir? » Indignant as he was at the suggestion, Mr W. put his hand instinctively to the spot indicated, and drew forth the missing article, dripping wet. It was thenceforth a standing joke, how he « put the sponge in his pocket; » but Moses could have given a more correct version as to how it came there. But his best joke was not at his master's expense. It was past the midnight hour, and the form was nearly made up, Moses and his mate assisting, bringing leads, carrying away the galleys, &c. All was ready to lock up, as the clock struck one, and Mr Wood gave the two drowsy lads the welcome signal of dismissal, as he began the customary tattoo with his thumb upon the form. But he pushed in the wrong direction, and a grievous squabble appeared at the foot of a column. « Holy Moses! » he cried, in a tone of vexation, as the door was closing behind the boys. « Did you call me, sir? » asked Moses, with a grin, his grimy face appearing at the door. « No, you—yes! » was the reply. « Just come and mend this smash. » And the worthy boss retired with a quiet chuckle, and passed the next half- hour in the easy-chair in his sitting-room, while Moses ruefully realized that a fellow sometimes might be just a little too smart.

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