If you want to be successful in life, what do you need? Do you need to be clever, good-looking, kind, hard-working, honest? Or just lucky?
Denry Machin is a cheerful kind of fellow. When he meets a problem, he doesn’t lie down and cry about it. He looks for a chance, and when he sees one, he takes it with both hands. He has a lot of luck too, of course. It’s lucky that the Countess decides to give a ball, but how does Denry manage to get an invitation? It’s lucky that Mrs Codleyn has an argument with Denry’s employer, but how does Denry become Mrs Codleyn’s rent-collector? And it’s very lucky indeed for Denry when the Hjalmar goes down in the sea off Llandudno – but how does Denry make a thousand pounds out of it?
The people of Bursley, the town where Denry lives, love a young man who makes them laugh. ‘He’s a real card,’ they say. They can’t wait to hear about his next adventure …
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Word count (main text): 11,100 words
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Edward Henry Machin first saw daylight on the 27th of May, 1867, in Brougham Street in Bursley, the oldest of the Five Towns. Brougham Street goes down a hill to the canal, and contains a number of potbanks or pottery factories as well as some small houses. The rent for one of these houses was not high – only about twenty-three pence a week.
Edward Henry’s mother (his father was dead) lived by making and washing clothes for fine ladies. She did not often laugh, and if you tried to argue with her, you never got very far. She was a woman of few words, and saved time every day by calling her son Denry, instead of Edward Henry.
Denry did not work hard at school, and boys who were lazy and not very clever usually just found jobs in the potbanks. Luckily, at the age of twelve, he won a place at the best school in Bursley. It happened like this. On the second day of the examination, Denry arrived a little early. As he walked around the examination room, he came to the teacher’s desk, where he saw a list of names with the marks for the first day of the examination. The highest possible mark was thirty, but next to his name he saw the number 7. The numbers were written in pencil, and the pencil was on the desk. He picked it up, looked around the empty room, and at the door, and then wrote a 2 in front of the 7. Of course, this was not honest, but how many truly honest schoolboys are there? Denry was no worse than most of them.