Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

79. CHAPTER LXXIX (continued)

In the end he remembered that on his Sunday walks he had more than once seen a couple who lived on the waterside a few miles below Gravesend, just where the sea was beginning, and who he thought would do. They had a family of their own fast coming on and the children seemed to thrive; both father and mother indeed were comfortable well grown folks, in whose hands young people would be likely to have as fair a chance of coming to a good development as in those of any whom he knew.

We went down to see this couple, and as I thought no less well of them than Ernest did, we offered them a pound a week to take the children and bring them up as though they were their own. They jumped at the offer, and in another day or two we brought the children down and left them, feeling that we had done as well as we could by them, at any rate for the present. Then Ernest sent his small stock of goods to Debenham's, gave up the house he had taken two and a half years previously, and returned to civilisation.

I had expected that he would now rapidly recover, and was disappointed to see him get as I thought decidedly worse. Indeed, before long I thought him looking so ill that I insisted on his going with me to consult one of the most eminent doctors in London. This gentleman said there was no acute disease but that my young friend was suffering from nervous prostration, the result of long and severe mental suffering, from which there was no remedy except time, prosperity and rest.

He said that Ernest must have broken down later on, but that he might have gone on for some months yet. It was the suddenness of the relief from tension which had knocked him over now.

"Cross him," said the doctor, "at once. Crossing is the great medical discovery of the age. Shake him out of himself by shaking something else into him."

I had not told him that money was no object to us and I think he had reckoned me up as not over rich. He continued:-

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