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And now, what were Ernest and Edie to do for a living! That was the practical difficulty that stared them at last plainly in the face--no mere abstract question of right and justice, of socialistic ideals or of political economy, but the stern, uncompromising, pressing domestic question of daily bread. They had come from Pilbury Regis with a very small reserve indeed in their poor lean little purses; and though Mrs. Halliss's lodgings might be cheap enough as London lodgings go, their means wouldn't allow them to stop there for many weeks together unless that hypothetical something of which they were in search should happen to turn up with most extraordinary and unprecedented rapidity. As soon as they were settled in at their tiny rooms, therefore, Ernest began a series of weary journeys into town, in search of work of some sort or another; and he hunted up all his old Oxford acquaintances in the Temple or elsewhere, to see if they could give him any suggestions towards a possible means of earning a livelihood. Most of them, he found to his surprise, though they had been great chums of his at college, seemed a little shy of him nowadays: one old Oxford friend, in particular, an impeccable man in close-cut frock coat and hat of shiny perfection, he overheard saying to another, he followed him accidentally up a long staircase in King's Bench Walk, 'Ah, yes, I met Le Breton in the Strand yesterday, when I was walking with a Q.C., too; he's married badly, got no employment, and looks awfully seedy. So very embarrassing, you know, now wasn't it?' And the other answered lightly, in the same unconcerned tone, 'Oh, of course, dreadfully embarrassing, really.' Ernest slank down the staircase again with a sinking heart, and tried to get no further hints from the respectabilities of King's Bench Walk, at least in this his utmost extremity.
Night after night, as the dusk was beginning to throw its pall over the great lonely desert of London--one vast frigid expanse of living souls that knew and cared nothing about him--Ernest turned back, foot-sore and heart-sick, to the cheery little lodgings in the short side-street at Holloway. There good Mrs. Halliss, whose hard face seemed to grow softer the longer you looked at it, had a warm clip of tea always ready against his coming: and Edie, with wee Dot sleeping placidly on her arm, stood at the door to welcome him back again in wife-like fashion. The flowers in the window bloomed bright and gay in the tiny parlour: and Edie, with her motherly cares for little Dot, seemed more like herself than ever she had done before since poor Harry's death had clouded the morning of her happy lifetime. But to Ernest, even that pretty picture of the young mother and her sleeping baby looked only like one more reminder of the terrible burden he had unavoidably yet too lightly taken upon him. Those two dear lives depended wholly upon him for their daily bread, and where that daily bread was ever to come from he had absolutely not the slightest notion.
There is no place in which it is more utterly dreary to be quite friendless than in teeming London. Still, they were not absolutely friendless even in that great lurid throng of jarring humanity, all eagerly intent on its own business, and none of it troubling its collective head about two such nonentities as Ernest and Edie. Ronald used to come round daily to see them and cheer them up with his quiet confidence in the Disposer of all things: and Arthur Berkeley, neglecting his West End invitations and his lady admirers, used to drop in often of an evening for a friendly chat and a rational suggestion or two.
'Why don't you try journalism, Le Breton?' he said to Ernest one night, as they sat discussing possibilities for the future in the little parlour together. 'Literature in some form or other's clearly the best thing for a man like you to turn his hand to. It demands less compliance with conventional rules than any other profession. No editor or publisher would ever dream of dismissing you, for example, because you invited your firebrand friend Max Schurz to dinner. On the contrary, if it comes to that, he'd ask you what Herr Max thought about the future of trades unions and the socialist movement in Germany, and he'd advise you to turn it into a column and a half of copy, with a large type sensational heading, "A Communistic Leader Interviewed. From our Special Correspondent."'
'But it's such a very useless, unsocialistic trade,' Ernest answered doubtfully. 'Do you think it would be quite right, Arthur, for a man to try and earn money by it? Of course it isn't much worse than school-mastering, I dare say; nobody can say he's performing a very useful function for the world by hammering a few lines of Ovid into the skull of poor stupid Blenkinsopp major, who after all will only use what he calls his education, if he uses it in any way at all, to enable him to make rather more money than any other tobacco-pipe manufacturer in the entire trade. Still, one does feel for all that, that mere writing of books and papers is a very unsatisfactory kind of work for an ethical being to perform for humanity. How much better, now, if one could only be a farm-labourer or a shoemaker!'
Arthur Berkeley looked across at him half angrily. 'My dear Ernest,' he said, in a severer voice than he often used, 'the time has gone by now for this economical puritanism of yours. It won't do any longer. You have to think of your child and of Mrs. Le Breton. Your first duty is to earn a livelihood for them and yourself; when you've done that satisfactorily, you may begin to think of the claims of humanity. Don't be vexed with me, my dear fellow, if I speak to you very plainly. You've lost your place at Pilbury because you wouldn't be practical. You might have known they wouldn't let you go hobnobbing publicly before the very eyes of boys and parents with a firebrand German Socialist. Mind, I don't say anything against Herr Schurz myself--what little I know about him is all in his favour--that he's a thorn in the side of those odious prigs, the political economists. I've often noticed that when a man wants to dogmatise to his heart's content without fear of contradiction, he invariably calls himself a political economist. Then if people differ from him, he smiles at them the benign smile of superior wisdom, and says superciliously, "Ah, I see you don't understand political economy!" Now, your Herr Schurz is a dissenter among economists, I believe--a sort of embryo Luther come to tilt with a German toy lance against their economical infallibilities; and I'm told he knows more about the subject than all the rest of them put together. Of course, if you like him and respect him--and I know you have one superstition left, my dear fellow--there's no reason on earth why you shouldn't do so; but you mustn't parade him too openly before the scandalised faces of respectable Pilbury. In future, you must be practical. Turn your hand to whatever you can get to do, and leave humanity at large to settle the debtor and creditor account with you hereafter.'
'I'll do my best, Berkeley,' Ernest answered submissively; 'and if you like, I'll strangle my conscience and try my hand at journalism.'
'Do, there's a good man,' Arthur Berkeley said, delighted at his late conversion. 'I know two or three editor fellows pretty well, and if you'll only turn off something, I'll ask them to have a look at it.'
Next morning, at breakfast, Ernest discussed the possibilities of this new venture very seriously with sympathising Edie. 'It's a great risk,' he said, turning it over dubiously in his mind; 'a great risk, and a great expense too, for nothing certain. Let me see, there'll be a quire of white foolscap to start with; that'll be a shilling--a lot of money as things go at present, Edie, isn't it?'
'Why not begin with half a quire, Ernest?' said his little wife, cautiously. 'That'd be only sixpence, you see.'
'Do they halve quires at the stationer's, I wonder?' Ernest went on still mentally reckoning. 'Well, suppose we put it at sixpence. Then we've got pens already by us, but not any ink--that's a penny--and there's postage, say about twopence; total ninepence. That's a lot of money, isn't it, now, for a pure uncertainty?'
'I'd try it, Ernest dear, if I were you,' Edie answered. 'We must do something, mustn't we, dear, to earn our living.'
'We must,' Ernest said, sighing. 'I wish it were anything but that; but I suppose what must be must be. Well, I'll go out a walk by myself in the quietest streets I can find, and try if I can think of anything on earth a man can write about. Arthur Berkeley says I ought to begin with a social article for a paper; he knows the "Morning Intelligence" people, and he'll try to get them to take something if I can manage to write it. I wonder what on earth would do as a social article for the "Morning Intelligence"! If only they'd let me write about socialism now! but Arthur says they won't take that; the times aren't yet ripe for it. I wish they were, Edie, I wish they were; and then perhaps you and I would find some way to earn ourselves a decent living.'
So Ernest went out, and ruminated quietly by himself, as well as he was able, in the least frequented streets of Holloway and Highgate. After about half an hour's excogitation, a brilliant idea at last flashed across him; he had found in a tobacconist's window something to write about! Your practised journalist doesn't need to think at all; he writes whatever comes uppermost without the unnecessarily troublesome preliminary of deliberate thinking. But Ernest Le Breton was only making his first experiment in the queer craft, and he looked upon himself as a veritable Watt or Columbus when he had actually discovered that hitherto unknown object, a thing to write about. He went straight back to good Mrs. Halliss's with his discovery whirling in his head, stopping only by the way at the stationer's, to invest in half a quire of white foolscap. 'The best's a shilling a quire, mister,' said the shopman; 'second best, tenpence.' Communist as he was, Ernest couldn't help noticing the unusual mode of address; but he took the cheaper quality quietly, and congratulated himself on his good luck in saving a penny upon the original estimate.
When he got home, he sat down at the plain wooden table by the window, and began with nervous haste to write away rapidly at his first literary venture. Edie sat by in her little low chair and watched him closely with breathless interest. Would it be a success or a failure? That was the question they were both every moment intently asking themselves. It was not a very important piece of literary workmanship, to be sure; only a social leader for a newspaper, to be carelessly skimmed to-day and used to light the fire to-morrow, if even that; and yet had it been the greatest masterpiece ever produced by the human intellect Ernest could not have worked at it with more conscientious care, or Edie watched him with profounder admiration. When Shakespeare sat down to write 'Hamlet,' it may be confidently asserted that neither Mistress Anne Shakespeare nor anybody else awaited the result of his literary labours with such unbounded and feverish anxiety. By the time Ernest had finished his second sheet of white foolscap--much erased and interlined with interminable additions and corrections--Edie ventured for a moment briefly to interrupt his creative efforts. 'Don't you think you've written as much as makes an ordinary leader now, Ernest?' she asked, apologetically. 'I'm afraid you're making it a good deal longer than it ought to be by rights.'
'I'm sure I don't know, Edie,' Ernest answered, gazing at the two laboured sheets with infinite dubitation and searching of spirit. 'I suppose one ought properly to count the words in an average leader, and make it the same length as they always are in the "Morning Intelligence." I think they generally run to just a column.'
'Of course you ought, dear,' Edie answered. 'Run out this minute and buy one before you go a single line further.'
Ernest looked back at his two pages of foolscap somewhat ruefully. 'That's a dreadful bore,' he said, with a sigh: 'it'll just run away with the whole penny I thought I'd managed to save in getting the second quality of foolscap for fivepence. However, I suppose it can't be helped, and after all, if the thing succeeds, one can look upon the penny in the light of an investment. It's throwing a sprat to catch a whale, as the proverb says: though I'm afraid Herr Max would say that that was a very immoral capitalist proverb. How horribly low we must be sinking, Edie, when we come to use the anti-social language of those dreadful capitalists!'
'I don't think capitalists deal much in proverbs, dear,' said Edie, smiling in spite of herself; 'but you needn't go to the expense of buying a "Morning Intelligence," I dare say, for perhaps Mrs. Halliss may have an old one in the house; or if not, she might be able to borrow one from a neighbour. She has a perfect genius for borrowing, Mrs. Halliss; she borrows everything I want from somebody or other. I'll just run down to the kitchen this minute and ask her.'
In a few seconds Edie returned in triumph with an old soiled and torn copy of the 'Morning Intelligence,' duly procured by the ingenious Mrs. Halliss from the dairy opposite. It was a decidedly antiquated copy, and it had only too obviously been employed by its late possessor to wrap up a couple of kippered herrings; but it was still entire, so far as regarded the leaders at least, and it was perfectly legible in spite of its ancient and fish-like smell. To ensure accuracy, Ernest and Edie took a leader apiece, and carefully counted up the number of words that went to the column. They came on an average to fifteen hundred. Then Ernest counted his own manuscript with equal care--no easy task when one took into consideration the interlined or erased passages--and, to his infinite disgust, discovered that it only extended to seven hundred and fifty words. 'Why, Edie,' he said, in a very disappointed tone, 'how little it prints into! I should certainly have thought I'd written at least a whole column. And the worst of it is, I believe I've really said all I have to say about the subject.'
'What is it, Ernest dear?' asked Edie.
'Italian organ-boys,' Ernest answered. 'I saw on a placard in the news shop that one of them had been taken to a hospital in a starving condition.' He hardly liked to tell even Edie that he had stood for ten minutes at a tobacconist's window and read the case in a sheet of 'Lloyd's News' conspicuously hung up there for public perusal.
'Well, let me hear what you have written, Ernest dear, and then see if you couldn't expand it.'
Ernest read it over most seriously and solemnly--it was only a social leader, of the ordinary commonplace talky-talky sort; but to those two poor young people it was a very serious and solemn matter indeed--no less a matter than their own two lives and little Dot's into the bargain. It began with the particular case of the particular organ-boy who formed the peg on which the whole article was to be hung; it went on to discourse on the lives and manners of organ-boys in general; it digressed into the natural history of the common guinea-pig, with an excursus on the scenery of the Lower Apennines; and. it finished off with sundry abstract observations on the musical aspect of the barrel-organ and the aesthetic value of hurdygurdy performances. Edie listened to it all with deep attention.
'It's very good, Ernest dear,' she said, with wifely admiration, as soon as he had finished. 'Just like a real leader exactly; only, do you know, there aren't any anecdotes in it. I think a social leader of that sort ought always to have a lot of anecdotes. Couldn't you manage to bring in something about Fox and Sheridan, or about George IV. and Beau Brummel? They always do, you know, in most of the papers.'
Ernest gazed at her in silent admiration. 'How clever of you, Edie,' he said, 'to think of that! Why, of course there ought to be some anecdotes. They're the very breath of life to this sort of meaningless writing. Only, somehow, George IV. and Beau Brummel don't seem exactly relevant to Italian organ-grinders, now do they?'
'I thought,' said Edie, with hardly a touch of unintentional satire, 'that the best thing about anecdotes of that kind in a newspaper was their utter irrelevancy. But if Beau Brummel won't do, couldn't you manage to work in Guicciardini and the galleys? That's strictly Italian, you know, and therefore relevant; and I'm sure the newspaper leaders are extremely fond of that story about Guiccardini.'
'They are,' Ernest answered,'most undoubtedly; but perhaps for that very reason readers may be beginning to get just a little tired of it by this time.'
'I don't think the readers matter much,' said Edie, with a brilliant, flash of practical common-sense; 'at least, not nearly half as much, Ernest, as the editor.'
'Quite true,' Ernest replied, with another admiring look; 'but probably the editor more or less consults the taste and feelings of the readers. Well, I'll try to expand it a bit, and I'll manage to drag in an anecdote or two somehow--if not Guicciardini, at least something or other else Italian. You see Italy's a tolerably rich subject, because you can do any amount about Raffael, and Michael Angelo, and Leonardo, and so forth, not to mention Botticelli. The papers have made a dreadful run lately on Botticelli.'
So Ernest sat down once more at the table by the window, and began to interlard the manuscript with such allusions to Italy and the Italians as could suggest themselves on the spur of the moment to his anxious imagination. At the end of half an hour--about the time a practised hand would have occupied in writing the whole article--he counted words once more, and found there were still two hundred wanting. Two hundred more words to say about Italian organ-boys! Alas for the untrained human fancy! A master leader writer at the office of the 'Morning Intelligence' could have run on for ever on so fertile and suggestive a theme--a theme pregnant with unlimited openings for all the cheap commonplaces of abstract journalistic philanthropy; but poor Ernest, a 'prentice hand at the trade, had yet to learn the fluent trick of the accomplished news purveyor; he absolutely could not write without thinking about it. A third time he was obliged to recommit his manuscript, and a third time to count the words over. This time, oh joy, the reckoning came out as close as possible to the even fifteen hundred. Ernest gave a sigh of relief, and turned to read it all over again, as finally enlarged and amended, to the critical ears of admiring Edie.
There was anecdote enough now, in all conscience, in the article; and allusions enough to stock a whole week's numbers of the 'Morning Intelligence.' Edie listened to the whole tirade with an air of the most severe and impartial criticism. When Ernest had finished, she rose up and kissed him. 'I'm sure it'll do, Ernest,' she said confidently. 'It's exactly like a real leader. It's quite beautiful--a great deal more beautiful, in fact, than anything else I ever read in a newspaper: it's good enough to print in a volume.'
'I hope the editor'll think so,' Ernest answered, dubiously. 'If not, what a lot of valuable tenpenny foolscap wasted all for nothing! Now I must write it all out again clean, Edie, on fresh pieces.'
Newspaper men, it must be candidly admitted, do not usually write their articles twice over; indeed, to judge by the result, it may be charitably believed that they do not even, as a rule, read them through when written, to correct their frequent accidental slips of logic or English; but Ernest wrote out his organ-boy leader in his most legible and roundest hand, copperplate fashion, with as much care and precision as if it were his first copy for presentation to the stern writing-master of a Draconian board school. 'Editors are more likely to read your manuscript if it's legible, I should think, Edie,' he said, looking up at her with more of hope in his face than had often been seen in it of late. 'I wonder, now, whether they prefer it sent in a long envelope, folded in three; or in a square envelope, folded twice over; or in a paper cover, open like a pamphlet. There must be some recognised professional way of doing it, and I should think one's more likely to get it taken if one sends it in the regular professional fashion, than if one makes it look too amateurish. I shall go in for the long envelope; at any rate, if not journalistic, it's at least official.'
The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence' is an important personage in contemporary politics, and a man of more real weight in the world than half-a-dozen Members of Parliament for obscure country boroughs; but even that mighty man himself would probably have been a little surprised as well as amused (if he could have seen it) at the way in which Ernest and Edie Le Breton anxiously endeavoured to conciliate beforehand his merest possible personal fads and fancies. As a matter of fact, the question of the particular paper on which the article was written mattered to him absolutely less than nothing, inasmuch as he never looked at anything whatsoever until it had been set up in type for him to pass off-hand judgment upon its faults or its merits. His time was far too valuable to be lightly wasted on the task of deciphering crabbed manuscript.
In the afternoon, Berkeley called to see whether Ernest had followed his suggestion, and was agreeably surprised to find a whole article already finished. He glanced through the neatly written pages, and was still more pleased to discover that Ernest, with an unsuspected outburst of practicality and practicability, had really hit upon a possible subject. 'This may do, Ernest,' he said with a sigh of relief. 'I dare say it will. I know Lancaster wants leader writers, and I think this is quite good enough to serve his turn. I've spoken to him about you: come round with me now--he'll be at the office by four o'clock--and we'll see what we can do for you. It's absolutely useless sending anything to the editor of a daily paper without an introduction. You might write with the pen of the angel Gabriel, or turn out leaders which were a judicious mean between Gladstone, Burke, and Herbert Spencer, and it would profit you nothing, for the simple reason that he hasn't got the time to read them. He would toss Junius and Montesquieu into the waste paper basket, and accept copy on the shocking murder in the Borough Road from one of his regular contributors instead. He can't help himself: and what you must do, Ernest, is to become one of the regular ring, and combine to keep Junius and Montesquieu permanently outside.'
'The struggle for existence gives no quarter,' Ernest said sadly with half a sigh.
'And takes none,' Berkeley answered quickly. 'So for your wife's sake you must try your best to fight your way through it on your own account, for yourself and your family.'
The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence,' Mr. Hugh Lancaster, was a short, thick-set, hard-headed sort of man, with a kindly twinkle in his keen grey eyes, and a harassed smile playing continually around the corners of his firm and dose mouth. He looked as though he was naturally a good-humoured benevolent person, overdriven at the journalistic mill till half the life was worn out of him, leaving the benevolence as a wearied remnant, without energy enough to express itself in any other fashion than by the perpetual harassed smile. He saw Arthur Berkeley and Ernest Le Breton at once in his own sanctum, and took the manuscript from their hands with a languid air of perfect resignation. 'This is the friend you spoke of, is it, Berkeley?' he said in a wearied way. 'Well, well, we'll see what we can do for him.' At the same time he rang a tiny hand-bell. A boy, rather the worse for printer's ink, appeared at the summons. Mr. Lancaster handed him Ernest's careful manuscript unopened, with the laconic order, 'Press. Proof immediately.' The boy took it without a word. 'I'm very busy now,' Mr. Lancaster went on in the same wearied dispirited manner: 'come again in thirty-five minutes. Jones, show these gentlemen into a room somewhere.' And the editor fell back forthwith into his easy-chair and his original attitude of listless indifference. Berkeley and Ernest followed the boy into a bare back room, furnished only with a deal table and two chairs, and there anxiously awaited the result of the editor's critical examination.
'Don't be afraid of Lancaster, Ernest,' Arthur said kindly. 'His manner's awfully cold, I know, but he means well, and I really believe he'd go out of his way, rather than not, to do a kindness for anybody he thought actually in want of occupation. With most men, that's an excellent reason for not employing you: with Lancaster I do truly think it's a genuine recommendation.'
At the end of thirty-five minutes the grimy-faced office-boy returned with a friendly nod. 'Editor'll see you,' he said, with the Spartan brevity of the journalistic world--nobody connected with newspapers ever writes or speaks a single word unnecessarily, if he isn't going to be paid for it at so much per thousand--and Ernest followed him, trembling from head to foot, into Mr. Lancaster's private study.
The great editor took up the steaming hot proof that had just been brought him, and glanced down it carelessly with a rapid scrutiny. Then he turned to Ernest, and said in a dreamy fashion, 'This will do. We'll print this to-morrow. You may send us a middle very occasionally. Come here at four o'clock, when a subject suggests itself to you, and speak to me about it. My time's very fully occupied. Good morning, Mr. Le Breton. Berkeley, stop a minute, I want to talk with you.'
It was all done in a moment, and almost before Ernest knew what had happened he was out in the street again, with tears filling his eyes, and joy his heart, for here at last was bread, bread, bread, for Edie and the baby! He ran without stopping all the way back to Holloway, rushed headlong into the house and fell into Edie's arms, calling out wildly, 'He's taken it! He's taken it!' Edie kissed him half-a-dozen times over, and answered bravely, 'I knew he would, Ernest. It was such a splendid article.' And yet thousands of readers of the 'Morning Intelligence' next day skimmed lightly over the leader on organ-boys in their ordinary casual fashion, without even thinking what hopes and fears and doubts and terrors had gone to the making of that very commonplace bit of newspaper rhetoric. For if the truth must be told, Edie's first admiring criticism was perfectly correct, and Ernest Le Breton's leader was just for all the world exactly the same as anybody else's.
Meanwhile, Arthur Berkeley had stayed behind as requested in Mr. Lancaster's study, and waited to hear what Mr. Lancaster had to say to him. The editor looked up at him wearily from his chair, passed his bread hand slowly across his bewildered forehead, and then said the one word, 'Poor?'
'Nothing on earth to do,' Berkeley answered.
'He might make a journalist, perhaps,' the editor gaid, sleepily. 'This social's up to the average. At any rate, I'll do my very best for him. But he can't live upon socials. We have too many social men already. What can he do? That's the question. It won't do to say he can write pretty nearly as well about anything that turns up as any other man in England can do. I can get a hundred young fellows in the Temple to do that, any day. The real question's this: is there anything he can write about a great deal better than all the other men in all England put together?'
'Yes, there is,' Berkeley answered with commendable promptitude, undismayed by Mr. Lancaster's excessive requirements. 'He knows more about communists, socialists, and political exiles generally, than anybody else in the whole of London.'
'Good,' the editor answered, brightening up, and speaking for a moment a little less languidly. 'That's good. There's this man Schurz, now, the German agitator. He's going to be tried soon for a seditious libel it seems, and he'll be sent to prison, naturally. Now, does your friend know anything at all of this fellow?'
'He knows him personally and intimately,' Berkeley replied, delighted to find that the card which had proved so bad a one at Pilbury Regis was turning up trumps in the more Bohemian neighbourhood of the Temple and Fleet Street. 'He can give you any information you want about Schurz or any of the rest of those people. He has associated with them all familiarly for the last six or seven years.'
'Then he takes an interest in politics,' said Mr. Lancaster, almost waking up now. 'That's good again. It's so very difficult to find young men nowadays, able to write, who take a genuine interest in politics. They all go off after literature and science and aesthetics, and other dry uninteresting subjects. Now, what does your average intelligent daily paper reader care, I should like to know, about literature and science and aesthetics and so forth? Well, he'll do, I've very little doubt: at any rate, I'll give him a trial. Perhaps he might be able to undertake this Great Widgerly disenfranchising case. Stop! he's poor, isn't he? I daresay he'd just as soon not wait for his money for this social. In the ordinary course, he wouldn't get paid till the end of the quarter; but I'll give you a cheque to take back to him now; perhaps he wants it. Poor fellow, poor fellow! he really looks very delicate. Depend upon it, Berkeley, I'll do anything on earth for him, if only he'll write tolerably.'
'You're awfully good,' Arthur said, taking the proffered cheque gratefully. 'I'm sure the money will be of great use to him: and it's very kind indeed of you to have thought of it.'
'Not at all, not at all,'the editor answered, collapsing dreamily. 'Good morning, good morning.'
At Mrs. Halliss's lodgings in Holloway, Edie was just saying to Ernest over their simple tea, 'I wonder what they'll give you for it, Ernest.' And Ernest had just answered, big with hope, 'Well, I should think it would be quite ten shillings, but I shouldn't be surprised, Edie, if it was as much as a pound;' when the door opened, and in walked Arthur Berkeley, with a cheque in his hand, which he laid by Edie's teacup. Edie took it up and gave a little cry of delight and astonishment. Ernest caught it from her hand in his eagerness, and gazed upon it with dazed and swimming vision. Did he read the words aright, and could it be really, 'Pay E. Le Breton, Esq., or order, three guineas'? Three guineas! Three guineas! Three real actual positive gold and silver guineas! It was almost too much for either of them to believe, and all for a single morning's light labour! What a perfect Eldorado of wealth and happiness seemed now to be opening out unexpectedly before them!
So much Arthur Berkeley, his own eyes glistening too with a sympathetic moisture, saw and heard before he went away in a happier mood and left them to their own domestic congratulations. But he did not see or know the reaction that came in the dead of night, after all that day's unwonted excitement, to poor, sickening, weary, over-burdened Ernest. Even Edie never knew it all, for Ernest was careful to hide it as much as possible from her knowledge. But he knew himself, though he would not even light the candle to see it, that he had got those three glorious guineas--the guineas they had so delighted in--with something more than a morning's labour. He had had to pay for them, not figuratively but literally, with some of his very life-blood.
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