Morgan did not venture again to take
any walks to the east of the town, though he dwelt
with pain on the possibility of the Medhursts hoping
to fall in with him again. He could only trust
that they would understand, though from their point
of view there might perhaps seem no reason why he
should avoid them so utterly. Had not the last
encounter been a success, they might argue, and had
he not been perfectly cheerful and, to all appearance,
happy in their company?
Once or twice he thought of writing
to Mrs. Medhurst, but he could not get down a word,
and the pen dropped from his hand.
He felt the effects for several days,
a vision of that lamp-lit room continuing to obtrude
between him and his work, and the stream of music
still flowing from Margaret’s fingers. His
proofs were dirty and needed much correction; and
he even found himself setting up his thoughts in type,
instead of following his copy.
However, he toiled on, almost with
desperation, and Mr. Kettering’s respect for
him and his abilities advanced greatly. He and
Mark had never ceased to call him “sir”;
and Morgan, on his part, could never cease wondering
how such sterling character could exist side by side
in the same family with the general instability that
characterised the women. As for Alice and Mary,
he had been so long now in the house that an occasional
quarrel with them signified nothing; in fact, that
was part of the routine of the life.
About the end of the year he got his
first chance in life. Mr. Kettering had been
very proud, indeed, of employing him, especially as
he had proved so apt a learner, and the experiment
had entirely been crowned with success. The old
man had enlarged on Morgan’s superior culture
to the traveller of a great London paper firm himself
a man of some education who had for many
years been going abroad regularly on the business
of his firm, and who as regularly looked in for Kettering’s
order. This Mr. Brett thus came to make Morgan’s
acquaintance, discovered he knew Greek and Latin, and
divined some mystery was at the back of Morgan’s
The direct result of this acquaintance
was that, on the first day of the next year, Morgan
found himself installed as “reader” in
a large firm of printers in Upper Thames street, London,
in which a brother of Mr. Brett was the junior partner.
He had thoroughly mastered the business of proof-reading
under Kettering’s tuition, and his Greek and
Latin and general culture had done the rest for him,
for there was now scope for all of it in his new position.
His salary at starting was two pounds fifteen shillings
per week, the same as that of his predecessor, who
had left the firm voluntarily.
But even before leaving Dover he had
had the satisfaction of being able to send Helen a
few pounds to pay some of the workmen, and she had
been able to make a satisfactory report to him.
While she had been in Scotland a couple of letters
had passed between them which sufficed for all they
had to say to each other; and to his father as well
he had reported progress from time to time. Simon
and Mark Kettering both exhibited signs of emotion
when the moment for parting came, and, though they
were sorry to lose him, rejoiced with him at his promotion.
“And I can only hope,”
were Simon’s last words, “that my daughter
will never turn up to worry you, and that, even if
you forget her, you’ll sometimes think of us
folk here at Dover. And, be sure, if you ever
find yourself in the town again, there’s a hearty
welcome waiting for you at my house.”
In London, Morgan took a large, airy
garret in Southwark, to get from which to his work
he had only to cross the bridge, and fitted it with
a narrow folding-bed and the few things he needed.
He made his own breakfast, had his dinner sent into
the works at one o’clock from a neighboring
coffee-shop, had tea made for him by one of the girl
folders, and supped at home on bread and cheese.
In this way he managed to live and to dress neatly patronising
a very different sort of tailor from his old London
one on a pound a week. Every penny
of the rest he put by rigorously.
About this time he learnt that his
father could not come to town yet, as the winter was
a severe one, and he had had a touch of rheumatism.
As Morgan had come to look forward to seeing him now,
this was a disappointment. Moreover, he had grown
to take a keener interest now in the affairs of the
home. At one time it had occupied little part
of his thoughts, but now a finer sensibility to his
domestic ties seemed to have arisen in him. He
was very much concerned about this illness of his
father’s, the full extent of which, he had an
idea, had been concealed from him. Helen, too,
he saw but once during his first month in London,
on which occasion he donned his best garments and went
to take tea with her. Though their friendship
had been so long passive, it was not less intense
than heretofore. By some mutual instinct they
seemed to avoid discussing his personal concerns now,
Helen receiving him just as an old friend and as if
there had been nothing in their lives to make a special
link between them. She seemed to have grown somewhat
graver in expression, and he was not sure that he did
not like her face better like that. She amused
and cheered him, and, once they had come together
again, she insisted there was no reason now why he
should not come oftener. And so, on a rare Saturday
afternoon, when he was free, he would come in for
an hour and listen to her pleasant chatting.
Only when he brought her money would she permit herself
any reference to his progress in life.
Of Cleo he heard nothing. She
had not made another appearance on the boards, or,
if she had, it had been in some obscure way. She
intruded into his thoughts often enough, and was still
a reality to him when he specially dwelt on her.
But he was quite startled one day at suddenly realising
the rapidity with which she was becoming a far-off
shadow. There were moments now when he could
almost believe that the whole episode of his marriage
had been the veriest product of his fancy.
Frequently in the evenings and on
rest days he would employ his leisure wandering amid
the regions in which his lot was now cast. For
the first time now he felt the mammoth city as a reality;
for the first time he seemed to comprehend it what
it was and what it represented. In the days when
he had trodden these same pavements with Helen its
aspect had been merely panoramic. Now he himself
was of it, a living and breathing unit of the multitude
of toilers that peopled these vast industrial quarters.
His vision pierced the swarming surface, the great
grimy thoroughfares with their tramlines, their miles
of sordid shops, their windowed expanse of brick, dingy
and far-stretching, their serried lines of narrow houses.
And then he would feel that a great
sense of the spirit of human life was passing into
his blood. Leaping flashes of light came to him
at times, as he sat in his garret with the fused murmur
of the world surging in his ears, illumining for him
abysses that had appeared to him once dark and bottomless.