Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

74. CHAPTER LXXIV (continued)

The great change in Ellen's life consequent upon her meeting Ernest and getting married had for a time actually sobered her by shaking her out of her old ways. Drunkenness is so much a matter of habit, and habit so much a matter of surroundings, that if you completely change the surroundings you will sometimes get rid of the drunkenness altogether. Ellen had intended remaining always sober henceforward, and never having had so long a steady fit before, believed she was now cured. So she perhaps would have been if she had seen none of her old acquaintances. When, however, her new life was beginning to lose its newness, and when her old acquaintances came to see her, her present surroundings became more like her past, and on this she herself began to get like her past too. At first she only got a little tipsy and struggled against a relapse; but it was no use, she soon lost the heart to fight, and now her object was not to try and keep sober, but to get gin without her husband's finding it out.

So the hysterics continued, and she managed to make her husband still think that they were due to her being about to become a mother. The worse her attacks were, the more devoted he became in his attention to her. At last he insisted that a doctor should see her. The doctor of course took in the situation at a glance, but said nothing to Ernest except in such a guarded way that he did not understand the hints that were thrown out to him. He was much too downright and matter of fact to be quick at taking hints of this sort. He hoped that as soon as his wife's confinement was over she would regain her health and had no thought save how to spare her as far as possible till that happy time should come.

In the mornings she was generally better, as long that is to say as Ernest remained at home; but he had to go out buying, and on his return would generally find that she had had another attack as soon as he had left the house. At times she would laugh and cry for half an hour together, at others she would lie in a semi-comatose state upon the bed, and when he came back he would find that the shop had been neglected and all the work of the household left undone. Still he took it for granted that this was all part of the usual course when women were going to become mothers, and when Ellen's share of the work settled down more and more upon his own shoulders he did it all and drudged away without a murmur. Nevertheless, he began to feel in a vague way more as he had felt in Ashpit Place, at Roughborough, or at Battersby, and to lose the buoyancy of spirits which had made another man of him during the first six months of his married life

This is page 347 of 431. [Mark this Page]
Mark any page to add this title to Your Bookshelf. (0 / 10 books on shelf)
Customize text appearance:
Color: A A A A A   Font: Aa Aa   Size: 1 2 3 4 5   Defaults
(c) 2003-2012 and Michael Moncur. All rights reserved.
For information about public domain texts appearing here, read the copyright information and disclaimer.