Chapter 73

ELLEN AND HE GOT ON CAPITALLY, all the better, perhaps, because the disparity between them was so great, that neither did Ellen want to be elevated, nor did Ernest want to elevate her. He was very fond of her, and very kind to her; they had interests which they could serve in common; they had antecedents with a good part of which each was familiar; they had each of them excellent tempers, and this was enough. Ellen did not seem jealous at Ernest's preferring to sit the greater part of his time after the day's work was done in the first floor front where I occasionally visited him. She might have come and sat with him if she had liked, but, somehow or other, she generally found enough to occupy her down below. She had the tact also to encourage him to go out of an evening whenever he had a mind, without in the least caring that he should take her too and this suited Ernest very well. He was, I should say, much happier in his married life than people generally are.

At first it had been very painful to him to meet any of his old friends, as he sometimes accidentally did, but this soon passed; either they cut him, or he cut them; it was not nice being cut for the first time or two, but after that it became rather pleasant than not, and when he began to see that he was going ahead, he cared very little what people might say about his antecedents. The ordeal is a painful one, but if a man's moral and intellectual constitutions are naturally sound, there is nothing which will give him so much strength of character as having been well cut.

It was easy for him to keep his expenditure down, for his tastes were not luxurious. He liked theatres, outings into the country on a Sunday, and tobacco, but he did not care for much else, except writing and music. As for the usual run of concerts, he hated them. He worshipped Handel; he liked Offenbach, and the airs that went about the streets, but he cared for nothing between these two extremes, Music, therefore, cost him little. As for theatres, I got him and Ellen as many orders as they liked, so these cost them nothing. The Sunday outings were a small item; for a shilling or two he could get a return ticket to some place far enough out of town to give him a good walk and a thorough change for the day. Ellen went with him the first few times, but she said she found it too much for her; there were a few of her old friends whom she should sometimes like to see, and they and he, she said, would not hit it off perhaps too well, so it would be better for him to go alone. This seemed so sensible, and suited Ernest so exactly that he readily fell into it, nor did he suspect dangers which were apparent enough to me when I heard how she had treated the matter. I kept silence, however, and for a time all continued to go well. As I have said, one of his chief pleasures was in writing. If a man carries with him a little sketch-book and is continually jotting down sketches, he has the artistic instinct; a hundred things may hinder his due development, but the instinct is there. The literary instinct may be known by a man's keeping a small notebook in his waistcoat pocket, into which he jots down anything that strikes him, or any good thing that he hears said, or a reference to any passage which he thinks will come in useful to him. Ernest had such a notebook always with him. Even when he was at Cambridge he had begun the practice without anyone's having suggested it to him. These notes he copied out from time to time into a book, which, as they accumulated, he was driven into indexing approximately, as he went along. When I found out this, I knew that he had the literary instinct, and when I saw his notes I began to hope great things of him.

For a long time I was disappointed. He was kept back by the nature of the subjects he chose - which were generally metaphysical. In vain I tried to get him away from these to matters which had a greater interest for the general public. When I begged him to try his hand at some pretty, graceful, little story which should be full of whatever people knew and liked best, he would immediately set to work upon a treatise to show the grounds on which all belief rested.

`You are stirring mud,' said I, `or poking at a sleeping dog. You are trying to make people resume consciousness about things, which, with sensible men, have already passed into the unconscious stage. The men whom you would disturb are in front of you, and not, as you fancy, behind you; it is you who are the lagger, not they.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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