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As they sat silent in that little sitting-room after supper, a double knock at the door suddenly announced the arrival of a telegram for Ernest. He opened it with trembling lingers. It was from Lancaster:--'Come down to the office at once. Schurz has been sentenced to a year's imprisonment, and we want a leader about him for to-morrow.' The telegram roused Ernest at once from his stupefied lethargy. Here was a chance at last of doing something for Max Schurz and for the cause of freedom! Here was a chance of waking up all England to a sense of the horrible crime it had just committed through the voice of its duly accredited judicial mouthpiece! The country was trembling on the brink of an abyss, and he, Ernest Le Breton, might just be in time to save it. The Home Secretary must be compelled by the unanimous clamour of thirty millions of free working people to redress the gross injustice of the law in sending Max Sohurz, the greatest, noblest, and purest-minded of mankind, to a common felon's prison! Nothing else on earth could have moved Ernest, jaded and dispirited as he was at that moment, to the painful exertion of writing a newspaper leader after the day's fatigues and excitements, except the thought that by doing so he might not only blot out this national disgrace, as he considered it, but might also help to release the martyr of the people's rights from his incredible, unspeakable punishment. Flushed and feverish though he was, he rose straight up from the table, handed the telegram to Edie without a word, and started off alone to hail a hansom cab and drive down immediately to the office. Arthur Berkeley, fearful of what might happen to him in his present excited state, stole out after him quietly, and followed him unperceived in another hansom at a little distance.
When Ernest got to the 'Morning Intelligence' buildings, he was shown up at once into the editorial room. He expected to find Mr. Lancaster at the same white heat of indignation as himself; but to his immense surprise he actually found him in the usual sleepy languid condition of apathetic impartiality. 'I wired for you, Le Breton,' the impassive editor said calmly, 'because I understand you know all about this man Schurz, who has just got his twelve months' imprisonment this evening. I suppose, of course, you've heard already all about it.'
'I've been at the trial all day,' Ernest answered, 'and myself heard the verdict and sentence.'
'Good,' Mr. Lancaster said, with a dreamy touch of approval in his tone. 'That's good journalism, certainly, and very smart of you. Helps you to give local colour and realistic touches to the matter. But you ought to have called in here to see me immediately. We shall have a regular reporter's report of the trial, of course; but reporters' reports are fearfully and wonderfully lifeless. If you like, besides the leader, you might work up a striking headed article on the Scene in Court. This is an important case, and we want something more about it than mere writing, you know; a little about the man himself and his personal history, which Berkeley tells me you're well acquainted with. He's written something called "Gold and the Proletariate," or whatever it is; just tell our readers all about it. As to the leader, say what you like in it--of course I shall look over the proof, and tone it down a bit to suit the taste of our public--we appeal mainly to the mercantile middle class, I need hardly say; but you know the general policy of the paper, and you can just write what you think best, subject to subsequent editorial revision. Get to work at once, please, as the articles are wanted immediately, and send down slips as fast as they're written to the printers.'
Ernest could hardly contain his surprise at Mr. Lancaster's calmness under such unheard-of circumstances, when the whole laborious fabric of British liberties was tottering visibly to its base--but he wisely concluded to himself that the editor had to see articles written about every possible subject every evening--from a European convulsion to a fire at a theatre,--and that use must have made it in him a property of easiness. When a man's obliged to work himself up perpetually into a state of artificial excitement about every railway accident, explosion, shipwreck, earthquake, or volcanic eruption, in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, why then, Ernest charitably said to himself, his sympathies must naturally end by getting a trifle callous, especially when he's such a very apathetic person to start with as this laconic editorial Lancaster. So he turned into the little bare box devoted to his temporary use, and began writing with perfectly unexampled and extraordinary rapidity at his leader and his article about the injured and martyred apostle of the slighted communistic religion.
It was only a few months since Ernest had, with vast toil and forethought, spun slowly out his maiden newspaper article on the Italian organ-boy, and now he found himself, to his own immense surprise, covering sheet after sheet of paper in feverish haste with a long account of Max Schurz's splendid life and labours, and with a really fervid and eloquent appeal to the English people not to suffer such a man as he to go helplessly and hopelessly to an English prison, at the bare bidding of a foreign despot. He never stopped for one moment to take thought, or to correct what he had written; in the excitement of the moment his pen travelled along over the paper as if inspired, and he found the words and thoughts thronging his brain almost faster than his lagging hand could suffice to give them visible embodiment. As each page was thrown off hurriedly, he sent it down, still pale and wet, to the printers in the office; and before two o'clock in the morning, he had full proofs of all he had written sent up to him for final correction. It was a stirring and vigorous leader, he felt quite certain himself as he read it over; and he thought with a swelling breast that it would appear next day, with all the impersonal authority of the 'Morning Intelligence' stamped upon its face, at ten thousand English breakfast tables, where it might rouse the people in their millions to protest sternly before it was too late against this horrid violation of our cherished and boasted national hospitality.
Meanwhile, Arthur Berkeley had stopped at the office, and run in hastily for five minutes' talk with the terrible editor. 'Don't say anything to shock Le Breton, I beg of you, Lancaster,' he said, 'about this poor man Schurz who has just been sent for a year to prison. It's a very hard case, and I'm awfully sorry for the man myself, though that's neither here nor there. I can see from your face that you, for your part, don't sympathise with him; but at any rate, don't say anything about it to hurt Le Breton's feelings. He's in a dreadfully feverish and excited condition this evening; Max Schurz has always been to him almost like a father, and he naturally takes his sentence very bitterly to heart. To tell you the truth, I regret it a great deal myself, I know a little of Schurz, through Le Breton, and I know what a well-meaning, ardent, enthusiastic person he really is, and how much good actually underlies all his chaotic socialistic notions. But at any rate, I do beg of you, don't say anything to further excite and hurt poor Le Breton.'
'Certainly not,' the editor answered, smoothing his large hands softly one over the other. 'Certainly not; though I confess, as a practical man, I don't sympathise in the least with this preposterous German refugee fellow. So far as I can learn, he's been at the bottom of half the revolutionary and insurrectionary movements of the last twenty years--a regular out-and-out professional socialistic incendiary.'
'You wouldn't say so,' Berkeley replied quietly, 'if you'd seen more of him, Lancaster.' But being a man of the world, and having come mainly on Ernest's account, he didn't care to press the abstract question of Herr Max's political sincerity any further.
'Well,' the editor went on, a little testily, 'be that as it may, I won't discuss the subject with your friend Le Breton, who's really a nice, enthusiastic young fellow, I think, as far as I've seen him. I'll simply let him write to-night whatever he pleases, and make the necessary alterations in proof afterwards, without talking it over with him personally at all. That'll avoid any needless discussion and ruffling of his supersensitive communistic feelings. Poor fellow, he looks very ill indeed to-night. I'm really extremely sorry for him.'
'When will he be finished?' asked Arthur.
'At two,' the editor answered.
'I'll send a cab for him,' Arthur said; 'there'll be none about at that hour, probably. Will you kindly tell him it's waiting for him?'
At two o'clock or a little after, Ernest drove home with his heart on fire, full of eagerness and swelling hope for to-morrow morning. He found Edie waiting for him, late as it was, with a little bottle of wine--an unknown luxury at Mrs. Halliss's lodgings--and such light supper as she thought he could manage to swallow in his excitement. Ernest drank a glass of the wine, but left the supper untasted. Then he went to bed, and tossed about uneasily till morning. He couldn't sleep through his anxiety to see his great leader appear in all the added dignity of printer's ink and rouse the slumbering world of England up to a due sense of Max Schurz's wrongs and the law's incomprehensible iniquity.
Before seven, he rose very quietly, dressed himself without saying a word, and stole out to buy an early copy of the 'Morning Intelligence.' He got one at the small tobacconist's shop round the corner, where he had taken his first hint for the Italian organ-boy leader. It was with difficulty that he could contain himself till he was back in Mrs. Halliss's little front parlour; and there he tore open the paper eagerly, and turned to the well-remembered words at the beginning of his desperate appealing article. He could recollect the very run of every clause and word he had written: 'No Englishman can read without a thrill of righteous indignation,' it began,'the sentence passed last night upon Max Schurz, the author of that remarkable economical work, "Gold and the Proletariate." Herr Schurz is one of those numerous refugees from German despotism who have taken advantage of the hospitable welcome usually afforded by England to the oppressed of all creeds or nations'--and so forth, and so forth. Where was it now? Yes, that was it, in the place of honour, of course--the first leader under the clock in the 'Morning Intelligence.' His eye caught at once the opening key-words, 'No Englishman.' Sinking down into the easy-chair by the flowers in the window he prepared to run it through at his leisure with breathless anxiety.
'No Englishman can read without a feeling of the highest approval the sentence passed last night upon Max Schurz, the author of that misguided economical work, "Gold and the Proletariate." Herr Schurz is one of those numerous refugees from German authority, who have taken advantage of the hospitable welcome usually afforded by England to the oppressed of all creeds or nations, in order to hatch plots in security against the peace of sovereigns or governments with which we desire always to maintain the most amicable and cordial relations.' Ernest's eyes seemed to fail him. The type on the paper swam wildly before his bewildered vision. What on earth could this mean? It was his own leader, indeed, with the very rhythm and cadence of the sentences accurately preserved, but with all the adjectives and epithets so ingeniously altered that it was turned into a crushing condemnation of Max Schurz, his principles, his conduct, and his ethical theories. From beginning to end, the article appealed to the common-sense of intelligent Englishmen to admire the dignity of the law in thus vindicating itself against the atrocious schemes of a dangerous and ungrateful political exile who had abused the hospitality of a great fres country to concoct vile plots against the persons of friendly sovereigns and innocent ministers on the European continent.
Ernest laid down the paper dreamily, and leant back for a moment in his chair, to let his brain recover a little from the reeling dizziness of that crushing disappointment. Then he turned in a giddy mechanical fashion to the headed article on the fourth page. There the self-same style of treatment met once more his astonished gaze. All the minute facts as to Max Schurz's history and personality were carefully preserved; the description of his simple artisan life, his modest household, his Sunday evening receptions, his great following of earnest and enthusiastic refugees--every word of all this, which hardly anyone else could have equally well supplied, was retained intact in the published copy; yet the whole spirit of the thing had utterly evaporated, or rather had been perverted into the exact opposite unsympathetic channel. Where Ernest had written 'enthusiasm,' Lancaster had simply altered the word to 'fanaticism;' where Ernest had spoken of Herr Max's 'single-hearted devotion,' Lancaster had merely changed the phrase into 'undisguised revolutionary ardour.' The whole paper was one long sermon against Max Schurz's Utopian schemes, imputing to him not only folly but even positive criminality as well. We all know how we all in England look upon the foreign political refugee--a man to be hit again with impunity, because he has no friends; but to Ernest, who had lived so long in his own little socialistic set, the discovery that people could openly say such things against his chosen apostle at the very moment of his martyrdom, was a hideous and blinding disillusionment. He put the paper down upon the table once more, and buried his face helplessly between his burning hands.
The worst of it all was this: if Herr Max ever saw those articles he would naturally conclude that Ernest had been guilty of the basest treachery, and that too on the very day when he most needed the aid and sympathy of all his followers. With a thrill of horror he thought in his own soul that the great leader might suspect him for an hour of being the venal Judas of the little sect.
How Ernest ever got through that weary day he did not know himself; nothing kept him up through it except his burning indignation against Lancaster's abominable conduct. About eleven o'clock, Arthur Berkeley called in to see him. 'I'm afraid you've been a little disappointed,' he said, 'about the turn Lancaster has given to your two articles. He told me he meant to alter the tone so as to suit the policy of the paper, and I see he's done so very thoroughly. You can't look for much sympathy from commonplace, cold, calculating Englishmen for enthusiastic natures like Herr Max's.'
Ernest turned to him in blank amazement. He had expected Berkeley to be as angry as himself at Lancaster's shameful mutilation of his appealing leader; and he found now that even Berkeley accepted it as an ordinary incident in the course of journalistic business. His heart sank within him as he thought how little hope there could be of Herr Max's liberation, when even his own familiar friend Berkeley looked upon the matter in such a casual careless fashion.
'I shall never write another word for the "Morning Intelligence,"' he cried vehemently, after a moment's pause. 'If we starve for it, I shall never write another word in that wicked, abominable, dishonourable paper. I can die easily enough, heaven knows, without a murmur: but I can't be disloyal to dear Herr Max, and to all my innate ingrained principles.'
'Don't say that, Ernest,' Berkeley answered gently. 'Think of Mrs. Le Breton and the baby. The luxury of starvation for the sake of a cause is one you might venture to allow yourself if you were alone in the world as I am, but not one which you ought to force unwillingly upon your wife and children. You've been getting a trifle more practical of late under the spur of necessity; don't go and turn impossible again at the supreme moment. Whatever happens, it's your plain duty to go on writing for the "Morning Intelligence." You say with your own hand only what you think and believe yourself: the editor alone is responsible for the final policy of the paper.'
Ernest only muttered slowly to himself,--'Never, never, never!'
Still, though the first attempt had failed, Ernest did not wholly give up his hopes of doing something towards the release of Herr Max from that unutterable imprisonment. He drew up a form of petition to the Home Secretary, in which he pointed out the reasons for setting aside the course of the law in the case of this particular political prisoner. With feverish anxiety he ran about London for the next two days, trying to get influential signatures to his petition, and to rouse the people in their millions to demand the release of the popular martyr. Alas for the stolid indifference of the British public! The people in their millions sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play, exactly as if nothing unusual in any way had happened. Most of them had never heard at all of Herr Max, or of 'Gold and the Proletariate,' and those who had heard understood for the most part that he was a bad lot who was imprisoned for trying nefariously to blow up the Emperor of Rooshia. Crowds of people nightly besieged the doors of the Ambiguities and the Marlborough, to hear the fate of 'The Primate of Fiji' and 'The Duke of Bermondsey;' but very few among the millions took the trouble to sign their names to Ernest Le Breton's despairing petition. Even the advanced radicals of the market-place, the men who figured largely at Trafalgar Square meetings and Agricultural Labourers' Unions, feared to damage their reputation for moderation and sobriety by getting themselves mixed up with a continental agitator like this man Schurz that people were talking about. The Irish members expressed a pious horror of the very word dynamite: the working-man leaders hemmed and hawed, and regretted their inability, in their very delicate position, to do anything which might seem like countenancing Russian nihilism. In the end, Ernest sent, in his petition with only half a dozen unknown signatures; and the Home Secretary's private prompter threw it into the waste-paper basket entire, without even taking the trouble to mention its existence to his harassed and overburdened chief. Just a Marylebone communist refugee in prison! How could a statesman with half the bores and faddists of England on his troubled hands, find time to look at uninfluential petitions about an insignificant worthless nobody like that?
So gentle, noble-natured, learned Herr Max went to prison and served his year there uncomplainingly, like any other social malefactor; and Society talked about his case with languid interest for nearly a fortnight, and then straightway found a new sensation, and forgot all about him. But there are three hundred and sixty-five days of twenty-four hours each in every year; and for every one of those days Herr Max and Herr Max's friends never forgot for an hour together that he was in prison.
And at the end of the week Ernest got a letter from Lancaster, enclosing a cheque for eight guineas. That is a vast sum of money, eight guineas: just think of all the bread, and meat, and tea, and clothing one can buy with it for a small family! 'My dear Le Breton,' the editor wrote--in his own hand, too; a rare honour; for he was a kindly man, and he had learned, much to his surprise, from Arthur Berkeley, that Ernest was angry at his treatment of the Schurzian leader: 'My dear Le Breton, I enclose cheque for eight guineas, for your two articles. I hope you didn't mind the way I was obliged to cut them up in some unessential details, so as to suit the policy of the paper. I kept whatever was really most distinctive as embodying special information in them. You know we are above all things strictly moderate. Please send us another social shortly.'
It was a kind letter, undoubtedly a kind and kindly-meant letter: but Ernest flung it from him as though he had been stung by a serpent or a scorpion. Then he handed the cheque to Edie in solemn silence, to see what she would do with it. He merely wanted to try her constancy. For himself, he would have felt like a Judas indeed if he had taken and used their thirty pieces of silver.
Edie looked at the cheque intently and sighed a deep sigh of regret. How could she do otherwise? They were so very poor, and it was such an immense sum of money! Then she rose quietly without saying a word, and lighted a match from the box on the mantelpiece. She held the cheque firmly between her finger and thumb till it was nearly burnt, end let it drop slowly at last into the empty fireplace. Ernest rose up and kissed her tenderly. The leaden weight of the thirty pieces of silver was fairly off their united conscience. They had made what reparation they could for the evil of that unhappy, undesigned leader. After all Ernest had wasted the last remnant of his energy on one eventful evening, all for nothing.
As Edie sat looking wistfully at the smouldering fragments of the burnt cheque, Ernest roused her again by saying quietly, 'To-day's Saturday. Have we got anything for to-morrow's dinner, Edie?'
'Nothing,' Edie answered, simply. 'How much money have you left, Ernest?'
'Sixpence,' Ernest said, without needing to consult his empty purse for confirmation--he had counted the pence, as they went, too carefully for that already. 'Edie, I'm afraid we must go at last to the poor man's banker till I can get some more money.'
'Oh, Ernest--not--not--not the pawnbroker!'
'Yes, Edie, the pawnbroker.'
The tears came quickly into Edie's eyes, but she answered nothing. They must have food, and there was no other way open before them. They rose together and went quietly into the bedroom. There they gathered together the few little trinkets and other things that might be of use to them, and Ernest took down his hat from the stand to go out with them to the pawnbroker's.
As he turned out he was met energetically on the landing by a stout barricade from good Mrs. Halliss. 'No, sir, not you, sir,' the landlady said firmly, trying to take the parcel from him as he went towards the door. 'I beg your pardon, sir, for 'avin' over'eard what wasn't meant for me to 'ear, no doubt, but I couldn't 'elp it, sir, and John an' me can't allow nothink of this sort, we can't. We're used to this sort o' things, sir, John and me is; but you and the dear lady isn't used to 'em, sir, and didn't nought to be neither, and John an' me can't allow it, not anyhow.'
Ernest turned scarlet with shame, but could say nothing. Edie only whispered softly, 'Dear, dear Mrs. Halliss, we're so sorry, but we can't help it.'
''Elp it, ma'am,' said Mrs. Halliss, herself almost crying, 'nor there ain't no reason why you should try to 'elp it neither. As I says to John, "John," says I, "there ain't no 'arm in it, noways," says I, "but I can't stand by," says I, "and see them two poor dear young creechurs," meanin' no offence, ma'am, "a-pawning of their own jewelry and things to go and pay for their Sunday's dinner." And John, 'e says, says 'e, "Quite right, Martha," says 'e; "don't let 'em, my dear," says 'e. "The Lord has prospered us a bit in our 'umble way, Martha," says 'e, "and we ain't got no cause to want, we ain't; and if the dear lady and the good gentleman wouldn't take it as a liberty," says 'e, "it 'ud be better they should just borrer a pound or two for a week from us," says 'e, beggin' your pardon, ma'am, for 'intin' of it, "than that there Mr. Le Breting, as ain't accustomed to such places nohow, should go a-makin' acquaintance, for the fust time of his life, as you may say, with the inside of a pawnbroker's shop," says 'e. "John," says I, "it's my belief the lady and gentleman 'ud be insulted," says I, "though they are the sweetest unassoomin'est young gentlefolk I ever did see," says I, "if we were to go as tin' them to accept the loan of money from the likes of you and me, John, as is no better, by the side of them, nor old servants, in the manner o' speakin'." "Insulted," says 'e; "not a bit of it, they needn't, Martha," says 'e, "for I knows the ways of the aristocracy," says 'e, "and I knows as there's many a gentleman as owns 'is own 'osses and 'is own 'ounds as isn't afraid to borrer a pound or so from 'is own coachman, or even from 'is own groom--not but what to borrer from a groom is lowerin'," says 'e, "in a tempory emergency. Mind you, Martha," says 'e, "a tempory emergency is a thing as may 'appen to landed gentlefolks any day," says 'e. "It's like a 'ole in your coat made by a tear," says 'e; "a haccident as may 'appen to-morrer to the Prince of Wales 'isself upon the 'untin' field," 'e says. "Well, then, John," says I, "I'll just go an' speak to 'em about it, this very minnit," says I, and if I might make so bold, ma'am, without seemin' too presumptious, I should be very glad if you'd kindly allow me, ma'am, to lend Mr. Le Breting a few suvverins till 'e gets 'is next remittances, ma'am.'
Edie looked at Ernest, and Ernest looked at Edie and the landlady; and then they all three burst out crying together without further apology. Perhaps it was the old Adam left in Ernest a little; but though he could stand kindness from Dr. Greatrex or from Mr. Lancaster stoically enough, he couldn't watch the humble devotion of those two honest-hearted simple old servants without a mingled thrill of shame and tenderness. 'Mrs. Halliss,' he said, catching up the landlady's hard red hand gratefully in his own, 'you are too good and too kind, and too considerate for us altogether. I feel we have done nothing to deserve such great kindness from you. But I really don't think it would be right of us to borrow from you when we don't even know how long it may be before we're able to return your money or whether we shall ever be able to return it at all. We're so much obliged to you, so very very much obliged to you, dear Mrs. Halliss, but I think we ought as a matter of duty to pawn these few little things rather than run into debt which we've no fair prospect at present of ever redeeming.'
'Has you please, sir,' Mrs. Halliss said gently, wiping her eyes with her snow-white apron, for she saw at once that Ernest really meant what he said. 'Not that John an' me would think of it for a minnit, sir, so long as you wouldn't mind our takin' the liberty; but any'ow, sir, we can't allow you to go out yourself and go to the pawnbroker's. It ain't no fit place for the likes of you, sir, a pawnbroker's ain't, in all that low company; and I don't suppose you'd rightly know 'ow much to hask on the articles, neither. John, 'e ain't afeard of goin'; an' 'e says, 'e insists upon it as 'e's to go, for 'e don't think, sir, for the honour of the 'ouse, 'e says, sir, as a lodger of ours ought to be seen a-goin' to the pawnbroker's. Just you give them things right over to John, sir, and 'e'll get you a better price on 'em by a long way nor they'd ever think of giving a gentleman like you, sir.'
Ernest fought off the question in a half-hearted fashion for a little while, but Mrs. Halliss insisted upon it, and after a short time Ernest gave way, for to say the truth he had very vague ideas himself as to how he ought to proceed in a pawnbroking expedition. Mrs. Halliss ran down the kitchen stairs quickly, for fear he should change his mind as soon as her back was turned, and called out gaily to her husband in the first delight of her unexpected triumph.
'John,' she cried, '--drat that man, where is 'e? John, dear, you just putt your 'at on, and purtend to run round the corner a bit to Aston's the pawnbroker's. The Lord have mercy upon me for the stories I've been a-tellin' of 'em, but I couldn't bear to see them two pore things a-pawnin' their little bits of jewelry and sich, and Mr. Le Breting, too, 'im as ain't fit to go knockin' together with underbred folks like pawnbrokers. So I told 'im as you'd take 'em round and pawn 'em for 'im yourself; not as I don't suppose you've never pawned nothink in your 'ole life, John, leastways not since ever you an' me kep' company, for afore that I suppose you was purty much like other young men is, John, for all you shakes your 'ead at it now so innocent like. But you just run round, there's a dear, and make as if you was goin' to the pawnbroker's, and then you come straight 'ome again unbeknown to 'em. I ain't a goin' to let them two pore dears go pawnin' their things for a dinner nohow. You take them two suvverins out of your box, John, and putt away these 'ere little things for the present time till the pore souls is able to pay us, and if they never don't, small matter neither. Now you go fast, John, there's a dear, and come back, and mind you give them two suvverins to Mr. Le Breting as natural like as ever you're able.'
'Pawn 'em,' John said in a pitying voice, 'no indeed, it ain't come to that yet, I should 'ope, that they need go a-pawnin' their effects while we've got a suvverin or two laid by in our box, Martha. Not as anybody need be ashamed of pawnin' on occasions, for that matter,--I don't say as a reg'lar thing, but now an' then on occasions, as you may call it; for even in the best dookal families, I've 'eard tell they do sometimes 'ave to pawn the dimonds, so that pawnin' ain't in the runnin' noways, bless you, as respects gentility. Not as I'd like to go into a pawnshop myself, Martha, as I've always been brought up respectable; but when you send for Mr. Hattenborough to your own ressydence and say quite commandin' like, "'Er Grace 'ud be obleeged if you'd wait upon 'er in Belgrave Square to hinspeck 'er dimonds as I want to raise the wind on 'em," why, that's quite another matter nat'rally.'
When honest John came back in a few minutes and handed the two sovereigns over to Ernest, he did it with such an unblushing face as might have won him applause on any stage for its perfect naturalness. 'Lor' bless your 'eart, sir,' he said in answer to Ernest's shamefaced thanks, touching the place where his hat ought to be mechanically, 'it ain't nothing, sir, that ain't. If it weren't for the dookal families of England, sir, it's my belief the pawnbrokin' business wouldn't be worth mentioning in the manner o' speakin'.'
That evening, Ernest paced up and down the little parlour rather moodily for half an hour with three words ringing perpetually in his dizzy ears-the 'Never, never, never,' he had used so short a tune since about the 'Morning Intelligence.' He must get money somehow for Dot and Edie! he must get money somehow to pay good Mrs. Halliss for their board and lodging! There was only one way possible. Fight against it as he would, in the end he must come back to that inevitable conclusion. At last he sat down with a gloomy face at the centre table, and pulled out a sheet of blank foolscap.
'What are you going to do, Ernest?' Edie asked him.
Ernest groaned. 'I'm writing a social for the "Morning Intelligence," Edie,' he answered bitterly.
'Oh, Ernest!' Edie said with a face of horror and surprise. 'Not after the shameful way they've treated poor Max Schurz!'
Ernest groaned again. 'There's nothing else to be done, Edie,' he said, looking up at her despondently. 'I must earn money somehow to keep the house going.'
It is the business of the truthful historian to narrate facts, not to palliate or extenuate the conduct of the various actors. Whether Ernest did right or wrong, at least he did it; he wrote a playful social for Monday's 'Morning Intelligence,' and carried it into the office on Sunday afternoon himself, beause there was no postal delivery in the London district.
That night, he lay awake once more for hours together, tossing and turning, and reflecting bitterly on his own baseness and his final moral downfall. Herbert was right, after all. The environment was beginning to conquer. He could hold out no longer. Herr Max was in prison; the world was profoundly indifferent; he himself had fallen away like Peter; and there was nothing left for him now but to look about and find himself a dishonourable grave.
And Dot? And Edie? What was to become of them after? Ah me, for the pity of it when a man cannot even crawl quietly into a corner and die in peace like a dog, without being tortured by fears and terrors beforehand as to what will come to those he loves far better than life when he himself is quietly dead and buried out of the turmoil!
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