With Gerard’s death, Henry began to find Aunt Tipping’s too sad a place to go on living in. It had become haunted; and when new people moved into Gerard’s rooms, it became still more painful for him. It was as though Gerard had been dispossessed and driven out. So he cast about for some new shelter; and, one day, chance having taken him to the shipping end of the city, he came upon some old offices which seemed full of anxiety to be let. Inquiring of a chatty little housekeeper’s wife, he discovered, away at the echoing top of the building, a big, well-lighted room, for which she thought the owner would be glad to take ten pounds a year. That whole storey was deserted. Henry made up his mind at once, and broke the news to Aunt Tipping that evening. It was the withering of one of her few rays of poetry, and she struggled to keep him; but when she saw how it was, the good woman insisted that he should take something from her towards furnishing. Receiving was nothing like so blessed as giving for Aunt Tipping. That old desk,—yes, she had bought it for him,—that he must certainly take, and think of his old aunt sometimes as he wrote his great books on it; and some bed-linen she could well afford. She would take no denial.
Angel and Esther were then called in to help him in the purchase of a carpet, a folding-bed, an old sofa, and a few chairs. A carpenter got to work on the bookshelves, and in a fortnight’s time still another habitation had been built for the Muse,—a habitation from which she was not destined to remove again, till she and Angel and Henry all moved into one house together,—a removal which was, as yet, too far off to be included in this history.
Ten pounds a year, a folding-bed, and a teapot!—this was Henry’s new formula for the cultivation of literature. He had so far progressed in his ambitions as to have arrived at the dignity of a garret of his own, and he liked to pretend that soon he might be romantically fortunate enough to sit face to face with starvation. He knew, however, that it would be a starvation mitigated by supplies from three separate, well-lardered homes. A lad with a sweetheart and a sister, a mother and an aunt, all in love with him, is not likely to become an authority on starvation in its severest forms.
A stern law had been passed that Henry’s daytime hours were to be as strictly respected as those of a man of business; yet quite often, about eleven o’clock in the morning, there would come a heavenly whisper along the passage and a little knock on the door, soft as a flower tapping against a window-pane.
“Thank goodness, that’s Angel!
“Angel, bless you! How glad I am to see you! I can’t get on a bit with my work this morning.”