Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh


Ernest told Ellen of his difficulty about finding employment.

"But what do you think of going into a shop for, my dear," said Ellen. "Why not take a little shop yourself?"

Ernest asked how much this would cost. Ellen told him that he might take a house in some small street, say near the "Elephant and Castle," for 17s. or 18s. a week, and let off the two top floors for 10s., keeping the back parlour and shop for themselves. If he could raise five or six pounds to buy some second-hand clothes to stock the shop with, they could mend them and clean them, and she could look after the women's clothes while he did the men's. Then he could mend and make, if he could get the orders.

They could soon make a business of 2 pounds a week in this way; she had a friend who began like that and had now moved to a better shop, where she made 5 pounds or 6 pounds a week at least--and she, Ellen, had done the greater part of the buying and selling herself.

Here was a new light indeed. It was as though he had got his 5000 pounds back again all of a sudden, and perhaps ever so much more later on into the bargain. Ellen seemed more than ever to be his good genius.

She went out and got a few rashers of bacon for his and her breakfast. She cooked them much more nicely than he had been able to do, and laid breakfast for him and made coffee, and some nice brown toast. Ernest had been his own cook and housemaid for the last few days and had not given himself satisfaction. Here he suddenly found himself with someone to wait on him again. Not only had Ellen pointed out to him how he could earn a living when no one except himself had known how to advise him, but here she was so pretty and smiling, looking after even his comforts, and restoring him practically in all respects that he much cared about to the position which he had lost--or rather putting him in one that he already liked much better. No wonder he was radiant when he came to explain his plans to me.

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