From one or two little things I have been able to gather that the couple got on very well together, and that in Bill she has found a partner better suited to her than either John or Ernest. On his birthday Ernest generally receives an envelope with an American post-mark containing a book-marker with a flaunting text upon it, or a moral kettle-holder, or some other similar small token of recognition, but no letter. Of the children she has taken no notice.
Ernest was now well turned twenty-six years old, and in little more than another year and a half would come into possession of his money. I saw no reason for letting him have it earlier than the date fixed by Miss Pontifex herself; at the same time I did not like his continuing the shop at Blackfriars after the present crisis. It was not till now that I fully understood how much he had suffered, nor how nearly his supposed wife’s habits had brought him to actual want.
I had indeed noted the old wan worn look settling upon his face, but was either too indolent or too hopeless of being able to sustain a protracted and successful warfare with Ellen to extend the sympathy and make the inquiries which I suppose I ought to have made. And yet I hardly know what I could have done, for nothing short of his finding out what he had found out would have detached him from his wife, and nothing could do him much good as long as he continued to live with her.
After all I suppose I was right; I suppose things did turn out all the better in the end for having been left to settle themselves—at any rate whether they did or did not, the whole thing was in too great a muddle for me to venture to tackle it so long as Ellen was upon the scene; now, however, that she was removed, all my interest in my godson revived, and I turned over many times in my mind, what I had better do with him.
It was now three and a half years since he had come up to London and begun to live, so to speak, upon his own account. Of these years, six months had been spent as a clergyman, six months in gaol, and for two and a half years he had been acquiring twofold experience in the ways of business and of marriage. He had failed, I may say, in everything that he had undertaken, even as a prisoner; yet his defeats had been always, as it seemed to me, something so like victories, that I was satisfied of his being worth all the pains I could bestow upon him; my only fear was lest I should meddle with him when it might