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.
Ellen and he got on capitally, all the better, perhaps, because the disparity between them was so great, that neither did Ellen want to be elevated, nor did Ernest want to elevate her. He was very fond of her, and very kind to her; they had interests which they could serve in common; they had antecedents with a good part of which each was familiar; they had each of them excellent tempers, and this was enough. Ellen did not seem jealous at Ernest’s preferring to sit the greater part of his time after the day’s work was done in the first floor front where I occasionally visited him. She might have come and sat with him if she had liked, but, somehow or other, she generally found enough to occupy her down below. She had the tact also to encourage him to go out of an evening whenever he had a mind, without in the least caring that he should take her too—and this suited Ernest very well. He was, I should say, much happier in his married life than people generally are.
At first it had been very painful to him to meet any of his old friends, as he sometimes accidentally did, but this soon passed; either they cut him, or he cut them; it was not nice being cut for the first time or two, but after that, it became rather pleasant than not, and when he began to see that he was going ahead, he cared very little what people might say about his antecedents. The ordeal is a painful one, but if a man’s moral and intellectual constitution are naturally sound, there is nothing which will give him so much strength of character as having been well cut.