This was a trifle. For the first time he received a rejected piece of writing without distress; he even laughed at the artistic completeness of the situation. The money would have been welcome, but on that very account he might have known it would not come.
The cart that was to transfer his property to the room in Islington arrived about mid-day. By that time he had dismissed the last details of business in relation to the flat, and was free to go back to the obscure world whence he had risen. He felt that for two years and a half he had been a pretender. It was not natural to him to live in the manner of people who enjoy an assured income; he belonged to the class of casual wage-earners. Back to obscurity!
Carrying a bag which contained a few things best kept in his own care, he went by train to King's Cross, and thence walked up Pentonville Hill to Upper Street and his own little by-way. Manville Street was not unreasonably squalid; the house in which he had found a home was not alarming in its appearance, and the woman who kept it had an honest face. Amy would have shrunk in apprehension, but to one who had experience of London garrets this was a rather favourable specimen of its kind. The door closed more satisfactorily than poor Biffen's, for instance, and there were not many of those knot-holes in the floor which gave admission to piercing little draughts; not a pane of the window was cracked, not one. A man might live here comfortably--could memory be destroyed.
'There's a letter come for you,' said the landlady as she admitted him. 'You'll find it on your mantel.'
He ascended hastily. The letter must be from Amy, as no one else knew his address. Yes, and its contents were these:
'As you have really sold the furniture, I shall accept half this money that you send. I must buy clothing for myself and Willie. But the other ten pounds I shall return to you as soon as possible. As for your offer of half what you are to receive from Mr Carter, that seems to me ridiculous; in any case, I cannot take it. If you seriously abandon all further hope from literature, I think it is your duty to make every effort to obtain a position suitable to a man of your education.--AMY REARDON.'
Doubtless Amy thought it was her duty to write in this way. Not a word of sympathy; he must understand that no one was to blame but himself; and that her hardships were equal to his own.
In the bag he had brought with him there were writing materials. Standing at the mantelpiece, he forthwith penned a reply to this letter:
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