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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:25:45
Typefacelarge in Small
Chapter 6

In his eagerness to regenerate the Church of England (and through this the universe) by the means which Pryer had suggested to him, it occurred to him to try to familiarise himself with the habits and thoughts of the poor by going and living among them. I think he got this notion from Kingsley’s Alton Locke,” which, High Churchman though he for the nonce was, he had devoured as he had devoured Stanley’s Life of Arnold,” Dickens’s novels, and whatever other literary garbage of the day was most likely to do him harm; at any rate he actually put his scheme into practice, and took lodgings in Ashpit Place, a small street in the neighbourhood of Drury Lane Theatre, in a house of which the landlady was the widow of a cabman.

The moment, however, that he heard the word water” he saw his way again, and flew to the pantry. Before his master had well noted his absence he returned with a little sponge and a basin, and had begun sopping up the waters of the Jordan as though they had been a common slop.

They could soon make a business of L2 a week in this way; she had a friend who began like that and had now moved to a better shop, where she made L5 or L6 a week at least — and she, Ellen, had done the greater part of the buying and selling herself.

I do not know exactly what Christina expected, but I should imagine it was something like this: My children ought to be all geniuses, because they are mine and Theobald’s, and it is naughty of them not to be; but, of course, they cannot be so good and clever as Theobald and I were, and if they show signs of being so it will be naughty of them. Happily, however, they are not this, and yet it is very dreadful that they are not. As for genius — hoity-toity, indeed -why, a genius should turn intellectual somersaults as soon as it is born, and none of my children have yet been able to get into the newspapers. I will not have children of mine give themselves airs — it is enough for them that Theobald and I should do so.”

I may as well say here all that need be said further about Ellen. For the next three years she used to call regularly at Mr. Ottery’s every Monday morning for her pound. She was always neatly dressed, and looked so quiet and pretty that no one would have suspected her antecedents. At first she wanted sometimes to anticipate, but after three or four ineffectual attempts — on each of which occasions she told a most pitiful story — she gave it up and took her money regularly without a word. Once she came with a bad black eye, which a boy had throwed a stone and hit her by mistake”; but on the whole she looked pretty much the same at the end of the three years as she had done at the beginning. Then she explained that she was going to be married again. Mr. Ottery saw her on this, and pointed out to her that she would very likely be again committing bigamy by doing so. You may call it what you like,” she replied, but I am going off to America with Bill the butcher’s man, and we hope Mr. Pontifex won’t be too hard on us and stop the allowance.” Ernest was little likely to do this, so the pair went in peace. I believe it was Bill who had blacked her eye, and she liked him all the better for it.

This, however, did not bar their right to feeling aggrieved now that neither they nor Ernest had taken anything at all, and they could profess disappointment on their boy’s behalf which they would have been too proud to admit upon their own. In fact, it was only amiable of them to be disappointed under these circumstances.


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