Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

72. CHAPTER LXXII (continued)

Ernest had by this time been married some two months, for he had stuck to his original plan of marrying Ellen on the first day he could legally do so. This date was a little delayed by the change of abode from Laystall Street to Blackfriars, but on the first day that it could be done it was done. He had never had more than 250 pounds a year, even in the times of his affluence, so that a profit of 5 pounds a week, if it could be maintained steadily, would place him where he had been as far as income went, and, though he should have to feed two mouths instead of one, yet his expenses in other ways were so much curtailed by his changed social position, that, take it all round, his income was practically what it had been a twelvemonth before. The next thing to do was to increase it, and put by money.

Prosperity depends, as we all know, in great measure upon energy and good sense, but it also depends not a little upon pure luck--that is to say, upon connections which are in such a tangle that it is more easy to say that they do not exist, than to try to trace them. A neighbourhood may have an excellent reputation as being likely to be a rising one, and yet may become suddenly eclipsed by another, which no one would have thought so promising. A fever hospital may divert the stream of business, or a new station attract it; so little, indeed, can be certainly known, that it is better not to try to know more than is in everybody's mouth, and to leave the rest to chance.

Luck, which certainly had not been too kind to my hero hitherto, now seemed to have taken him under her protection. The neighbourhood prospered, and he with it. It seemed as though he no sooner bought a thing and put it into his shop, than it sold with a profit of from thirty to fifty per cent. He learned book-keeping, and watched his accounts carefully, following up any success immediately; he began to buy other things besides clothes--such as books, music, odds and ends of furniture, etc. Whether it was luck or business aptitude, or energy, or the politeness with which he treated all his customers, I cannot say--but to the surprise of no one more than himself, he went ahead faster than he had anticipated, even in his wildest dreams, and by Easter was established in a strong position as the owner of a business which was bringing him in between four and five hundred a year, and which he understood how to extend.

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