Chapter 81

SO HE FELL AWAY FROM ALL OLD FRIENDS except myself and three or four old intimates of my own, who were as sure to take to him as he to them, and who like myself enjoyed getting hold of a young fresh mind. Ernest attended to the keeping of my account books whenever there was anything which could possibly be attended to, which there seldom was, and spent the greater part of the rest of his time in adding to the many notes and tentative essays which had already accumulated in his portfolios. Anyone who was used to writing could see at a glance that literature was his natural development, and I was pleased at seeing him settle down to it so spontaneously. I was less pleased, however, to observe, that he would still occupy himself with none but the most serious, I had almost said solemn, subjects, just as he never cared about any but the most serious kind of music.

I said to him one day that the very slender reward which God had attached to the pursuit of serious inquiry was a sufficient proof that He disapproved of it, or at any rate that He did not set much store by it nor wish to encourage it.

He said: `Oh, don't talk about rewards. Look at Milton, who only got £5 for Paradise Lost.'

`And a great deal too much,' I rejoined promptly. `I would have given him twice as much myself not to have written it at all.' Ernest was a little shocked. `At any rate,' he said laughingly, `I don't write poetry.'

This was a cut at me, for my burlesques were, of course, written in rhyme. So I dropped the matter.

After a time he took it into his head to reopen the question of his getting £300 a year for doing, as he said, absolutely nothing, and said he would try to find some employment which should bring him in enough to live upon.

I laughed at this but let him alone. He tried and tried very hard for a long while, but I need hardly say was unsuccessful. The older I grow, the more convinced I become of the folly and credulity of the public; but at the same time the harder do I see it is to impose one-self upon that folly and credulity.

He tried editor after editor with article after article. Sometimes an editor listened to him and told him to leave his articles; he almost invariably, however, had them returned to him in the end with a polite note saying that they were not suited for the particular paper to which he had sent them. And yet many of these very articles appeared in his later works, and no one complained of them, not at least on the score of bad literary workmanship. `I see,' he said to me one day, `that demand is very imperious, and supply must be very suppliant.'

Once, indeed, the editor of an important monthly magazine accepted an article from him, and he thought he had now got a footing in the literary world. The article was to appear in the next issue but one, and he was to receive proof from the printers in about ten days or a fortnight; but week after week passed and there was no proof; month after month went by and there was still no room for Ernest's article; at length after about six months the editor one morning told him that he had filled every number of his review for The next ten months, but that his article should definitely appear. On this he insisted on having his MS. returned to him.

Sometimes his articles were actually published, and he found the editor had edited them according to his own fancy, putting in jokes which he thought were funny, or cutting out the very passage which Ernest had considered the point of the whole thing, and then, though the articles appeared, when it came to paying for them it was another matter, and he never saw his money. `Editors,' he said to me one day about this time, `are like the people who bought and sold in the Book of Revelation; there is not one but has the mark of the beast upon him.'

At last after months of disappointment and many a tedious hour wasted in dingy ante-rooms (and of all ante-rooms those of editors appear to me to be the dreariest), he got a bona fide offer of employment from one of the first-class weekly papers through an introduction I was able to get for him from one who had powerful influence with the paper in question. The editor sent him a dozen long books upon varied

  By PanEris using Melati.

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