David Elginbrod

Contents:
Author: George MacDonald

Chapter III. Endeavours

And, even should misfortunes come, —I, here wha sit, hae met wi’ some,
An’s thankfu’ for them yet. They gie the wit of age to youth;
They let us ken oursel’; They mak’ us see the naked truth,
The real guid and ill.
Tho’ losses, and crosses,
Be lessons right severe,
There’s wit there, ye’ll get there,
Ye’ll find nae other where.

BURNS.

Hugh took his advertisement to the Times office, and paid what seemed to him an awful amount for its insertion. Then he wandered about London till the middle of the day, when he went into a baker’s shop, and bought two penny loaves, which he put in his pocket. Having found his way to the British Museum, he devoured them at his leisure as he walked through the Grecian and Roman saloons. "What is the use of good health," he said to himself, "if a man cannot live upon bread?" Porridge and oatmeal cakes would have pleased him as well; but that food for horses is not so easily procured in London, and costs more than the other. A cousin of his had lived in Edinburgh for six months upon eighteen-pence a week in that way, and had slept the greater part of the time upon the floor, training himself for the hardships of a soldier’s life. And he could not forget the college youth whom his comrades had considered mean, till they learned that, out of his poor bursary of fourteen pounds a session, and what he could make besides by private teaching at the rate previously mentioned or even less, he helped his parents to educate a younger brother; and, in order to do so, lived himself upon oatmeal and potatoes. But they did not find this out till after he was dead, poor fellow! He could not stand it.

I ought at the same time to mention, that Hugh rarely made use of a crossing on a muddy day, without finding a half-penny somewhere about him for the sweeper. He would rather walk through oceans of mud, than cross at the natural place when he had no coppers—especially if he had patent leather boots on.

After he had eaten his bread, he went home to get some water. Then, as he had nothing else to do, he sat down in his room, and began to manufacture a story, thinking it just possible it might be accepted by one or other of the pseudo-literary publications with which London is inundated in hebdomadal floods. He found spinning almost as easy as if he had been a spider, for he had a ready invention, and a natural gift of speech; so that, in a few days, he had finished a story, quite as good as most of those that appear in the better sort of weekly publications. This, in his modesty, he sent to one of the inferior sort, and heard nothing more of it than if he had flung it into the sea. Possibly he flew too low. He tried again, but with no better success. His ambition grew with his disappointments, or perhaps rather with the exercise of his faculties. Before many days had passed he made up his mind to try a novel. For three months he worked at this six hours a day regularly. When material failed him, from the exhaustion consequent upon uninterrupted production, he would recreate himself by lying fallow for an hour or two, or walking out in a mood for merely passive observation. But this anticipates.

His advertisement did not produce a single inquiry, and he shrunk from spending more money in such an apparently unprofitable appliance. Day after day went by, and no voice reached him from the unknown world of labour. He went at last to several stationers’ shops in the neighbourhood, bought some necessary articles, and took these opportunities of asking if they knew of any one in want of such assistance as he could give. But unpleasant as he felt it to make such inquiries, he soon found that to most people it was equally unpleasant to reply to them. There seemed to be something disreputable in having to answer such questions, to judge from the constrained, indifferent, and sometimes, though not often, surly answers which he received. "Can it be," thought Hugh, "as disgraceful to ask for work as to ask for bread?" If he had had a thousand a year, and had wanted a situation of another thousand, it would have been quite commendable; but to try to elude cold and hunger by inquiring after paltry shillings’ worths of hard labour, was despicable.

So he placed the more hope upon his novel, and worked at that diligently. But he did not find it quite so easy as he had at first expected. No one finds anything either so easy or so difficult as, in opposite moods, he had expected to find it. Everything is possible; but without labour and failure nothing is achievable. The labour, however, comes naturally, and experience grows without agonizing transitions; while the failure generally points, in its detected cause, to the way of future success. He worked on.

He did not, however, forget the ring. Frequent were his meditations, in the pauses of his story, and when walking in the streets, as to the best means of recovering it. I should rather say any means than best; for it was not yet a question of choice and degrees. The count could not but have known that the ring was of no money value; therefore it was not likely that he had stolen it in order to part with it again. Consequently it would be of no use to advertise it, or to search for it in the pawnbrokers’ or second-hand jewellers’ shops. To find the crystal, it was clear as itself that he must first find the count.

But how?—He could think of no plan. Any alarm would place the count on the defensive, and the jewel at once beyond reach. Besides, he wished to keep the whole matter quiet, and gain his object without his or any other name coming before the public. Therefore he would not venture to apply to the police, though doubtless they would be able to discover the man, if he were anywhere in London. He surmised that in all probability they knew him already. But he could not come to any conclusion as to the object he must have had in view in securing such a trifle.

Hugh had all but forgotten the count’s cheque for a hundred guineas; for, in the first place, he had never intended presenting it—the repugnance which some minds feel to using money which they have neither received by gift nor acquired by honest earning, being at least equal to the pleasure other minds feel in gaining it without the expense of either labour or obligation; and in the second place, since he knew more about the drawer, he had felt sure that it would be of no use to present it. To make this latter conviction a certainty, he did present it, and found that there were no effects.

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Chicago: George MacDonald, "Chapter III. Endeavours," David Elginbrod, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in David Elginbrod Original Sources, accessed September 20, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKDRG1SBV7NBCA2.

MLA: MacDonald, George. "Chapter III. Endeavours." David Elginbrod, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in David Elginbrod, Original Sources. 20 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKDRG1SBV7NBCA2.

Harvard: MacDonald, G, 'Chapter III. Endeavours' in David Elginbrod, ed. and trans. . cited in , David Elginbrod. Original Sources, retrieved 20 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKDRG1SBV7NBCA2.