He was still too young to reach the answer, `On common sense' - an answer which he would have felt to be unworthy of anyone who had an ideal standard.

However this might be, it was plain that he had now done for himself. It had been thus with him all his life. If there had come at any time a gleam of sunshine and hope, it was to be obscured immediately - why, prison was happier than this! There, at any rate, he had had no money anxieties, and these were beginning to weigh upon him now with all their horrors. He was happier even now than he had been at Battersby or as Roughborough, and he would not now go back, even if he could, to his Cambridge life, but for all that the outlook was so gloomy, in fact so hopeless, that he felt as if he could have only too gladly gone to sleep and died in his arm-chair once for all.

As he was musing thus and looking upon the wreck of his hopes - for he saw well enough that as long as he was linked to Ellen he should never rise as he had dreamed of doing - he heard a noise below, and presently a neighbour ran upstairs and entered his room hurriedly.

`Good gracious, Mr Pontifex,' she exclaimed, `for goodness' sake come down quickly and help. Mrs Pontifex is took with the horrors - and she's orkard.'

The unhappy man came down as he was bid and found his wife mad with delirium tremens.

He knew all now. The neighbours thought he must have known that his wife drank all along, but Ellen had been so artful, and he so simple, that, as I have said, he had had no suspicion. `Why,' said the woman who had summoned him, `she'll drink anything she can stand up and pay her money for.' Ernest could hardly believe his ears, but when the doctor had seen his wife and she had become more quiet, he went over to the public-house hard by and made inquiries, the result of which rendered further doubt impossible. The publican took the opportunity to present my hero with a bill of several pounds for bottles of spirits supplied to his wife, and what with his wife's confinement and the way business had fallen off, he had not the money to pay with, for the sum exceeded the remnant of his savings.

He came to me - not for money, but to tell me his miserable story. I had seen for some time that there was something wrong, and had suspected pretty shrewdly what the matter was, but of course I said nothing. Ernest and I had been growing apart for some time. I was vexed at his having married, and he knew I was vexed, though I did my best to hide it.

A man's friendships are, like his will, invalidated by marriage - but they are also no less invalidated by the marriage of his friends. The rift in friendship which invariably makes its appearance on the marriage of either of the parties to it was fast widening, as it no less invariably does, into the great gulf which is fixed between the married and the unmarried, and I was beginning to leave my protégé to a fate with which I had neither right nor power to meddle. In fact I had begun to feel him rather a burden; I did not so much mind this when I could be of use, but I grudged it when I could be of none. He had made his bed and he must lie upon it. Ernest had felt all this and had seldom come near me till now, one evening late in 1860, he called on me, and with a very woebegone face told me his troubles.

As soon as I found that he no longer liked his wife I forgave him at once, and was as much interested in him as ever. There is nothing an old bachelor likes better than to find a young married man who wishes he had not got married - especially when the case is such an extreme one that he need not pretend to hope that matters will come all right again, or encourage his young friend to make the best of it.

I was myself in favour of a separation, and said I would make Ellen an allowance myself - of course intending that it should come out of Ernest's money; but he would not hear of this. He had married Ellen, he said, and he must try to reform her. He hated it, but he must try; and finding him as usual very obstinate I was obliged to acquiesce, though with little confidence as to the result. I was vexed at seeing him waste himself upon such a barren task, and again began to feel him burdensome. I am afraid I showed this, for he again avoided me for some time, and, indeed, for many months I hardly saw him at all.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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