were loose, and the paper was torn and dirty; the stairs were weak and one felt the treads give as one went up them.

Over and above these drawbacks the house had an ill name, by reason of the fact that the wife of the last occupant had hanged herself in it not very many weeks previously. She had set down a bloater before the fire for her husband's tea, and had made him a round of toast. She then left the room as though about to return to it shortly, but instead of doing so she went into the back kitchen and hanged herself without a word. It was this which had kept the house empty so long in spite of its excellent position as a corner shop. The last tenant had left immediately after the inquest, and if the owner had had it done up then people would have got over the tragedy that had been enacted in it; but the combination of bad condition and bad fame had hindered many from taking it who, like Ellen, could see that it had great business capabilities. Almost anything would have sold there, but it happened also that there was no second-hand clothes shop in close proximity, so that everything combined in its favour, except its filthy state and its reputation.

When I saw it, I thought I would rather die than live in such an awful place - but then I had been living in the Temple for the last five and twenty years. Ernest was lodging in Laystall Street and had just come out of prison; before this he had lived in Ashpit Place, so that this house had no terrors for him provided he could get it done up. The difficulty was that the landlord was hard to move in this respect. It ended in my finding the money to do everything that was wanted, and taking a lease of the house for five years at the same rental as that paid by the last occupant. I then sublet it to Ernest, of course taking care that it was put more efficiently into repair than his landlord was at all likely to have put it.

A week later I called and found everything so completely transformed that I should hardly have recognized the house. All the ceilings had been whitewashed, all the rooms papered, the broken glass hacked out and reinstated, the defective woodwork renewed; all the sashes, cupboards and doors had been painted. The drains had been thoroughly overhauled, everything in fact that could be done had been done, and the rooms now looked as cheerful as they had been forbidding when I had last seen them. The people who had done the repairs were supposed to have cleaned the house down before leaving, but Ellen had given it another scrub from top to bottom herself after they were gone, and it was as clean as a new pin. I almost felt as though I could have lived in it myself, and as for Ernest, he was in the seventh heaven. He said it was all my doing and Ellen's.

There was already a counter in the shop and a few fittings, so that nothing now remained but to get some stock and set it out for sale. Ernest said he could not begin better than by selling his clerical wardrobe and his books, for though the shop was intended especially for the sale of second-hand clothes, yet Ellen said there was no reason why they should not sell a few books too; so a beginning was to be made by selling the books he had had at school and college at about one shilling a volume, taking them all round, and I have heard him say that he learned more than proved of practical use to him through stocking his books on a bench in front of his shop and selling them, than he had done from all the years of study which he had bestowed upon their contents.

For the inquiries that were made of him whether he had such and such a book taught him what he could sell and what he could not; how much he could get for this, and how much for that. Having made ever such a little beginning with books, he took to attending book sales as well as clothes sales, and ere long this branch of his business became no less important than the tailoring, and would, I have no doubt, have been the one which he would have settled down to exclusively, if he had been called upon to remain a tradesman; but this is anticipating.

I made a contribution and a stipulation. Ernest wanted to sink the gentleman completely, until such time as he could work his way up again. If he had been left to himself he would have lived with Ellen in the shop, back parlour and kitchen, and have let out both the upper floors according to his original programme. I did not want him, however, to cut himself adrift from music, letters and polite life, and feared that unless he had some kind of den into which he could retire he would ere long become the tradesman and nothing

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