Another procrastinator arrived in the porch, and, by a singular simultaneous impulse, Mrs Codleyn and Denry fell into the silence of the overheard and wandered forth together among the graves.
There, among the graves, she eyed him. He was a clerk at eighteen shillings a week, and he looked it. His mother was a sempstress, and he looked it. The idea of neat but shabby Denry and the mighty Duncalf not hitting it off together seemed excessively comic. If only Denry could have worn his dress-suit at church! It vexed him exceedingly that he had only worn that expensive dress-suit once, and saw no faintest hope of ever being able to wear it again.
“And what’s more,” Denry pursued, “I’ll collect ’em for five per cent, instead of seven-and-a-half. Give me a free hand, and see if I don’t get better results than he did. And I’ll settle accounts every month, or week if you like, instead of once a quarter, like he does.”
The bright and beautiful idea had smitten Denry like some heavenly arrow. It went through him and pierced Mrs Codleyn with equal success. It was an idea that appealed to the reason, to the pocket, and to the instinct of revenge. Having revengefully settled the hash of Mr Duncalf, they went into church.
No need to continue this part of the narrative. Even the text of the rector’s sermon has no bearing on the issue.
In a week there was a painted board affixed to the door of Denry’s mother:
E.H. MACHIN, Rent Collector and Estate Agent.
There was also an advertisement in the Signal,
Denry managed estates large or small.
The next crucial event in Denry’s career happened one Monday morning, in a cottage that was very much smaller even than his mother’s. This cottage, part of Mrs Codleyn’s multitudinous property, stood by itself in Chapel Alley, behind the Wesleyan chapel; the majority of the tenements were in Carpenter’s Square, near to. The neighbourhood was not distinguished for its social splendour, but existence in it was picturesque, varied, exciting, full of accidents, as existence is apt to be in residences that cost their occupiers an average of three shillings a week. Some persons referred to the quarter as a slum, and ironically insisted on its adjacency to the Wesleyan chapel, as though that was the Wesleyan chapel’s fault. Such people did not understand life and the joy thereof.
The solitary cottage had a front yard, about as large as a blanket, surrounded by an insecure brick wall and paved with mud. You went up two steps, pushed at a door, and instantly found yourself in the principal reception-room, which no earthly blanket could possibly have covered. Behind this chamber could be seen obscurely an apartment so tiny that an auctioneer would have been justified in terming it “bijou,” Furnished simply but practically with a slopstone;