The Way of All Flesh
Samuel Butler

Part 1 out of 8

This etext was prepared by David Price, email
from the 1912 A. C. Fifield edition.


by Samuel Butler


When I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an
old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used
to hobble about the street of our village with the help of a stick.
He must have been getting on for eighty in the year 1807, earlier
than which date I suppose I can hardly remember him, for I was born
in 1802. A few white locks hung about his ears, his shoulders were
bent and his knees feeble, but he was still hale, and was much
respected in our little world of Paleham. His name was Pontifex.

His wife was said to be his master; I have been told she brought him
a little money, but it cannot have been much. She was a tall,
square-shouldered person (I have heard my father call her a Gothic
woman) who had insisted on being married to Mr Pontifex when he was
young and too good-natured to say nay to any woman who wooed him.
The pair had lived not unhappily together, for Mr Pontifex's temper
was easy and he soon learned to bow before his wife's more stormy

Mr Pontifex was a carpenter by trade; he was also at one time parish
clerk; when I remember him, however, he had so far risen in life as
to be no longer compelled to work with his own hands. In his
earlier days he had taught himself to draw. I do not say he drew
well, but it was surprising he should draw as well as he did. My
father, who took the living of Paleham about the year 1797, became
possessed of a good many of old Mr Pontifex's drawings, which were
always of local subjects, and so unaffectedly painstaking that they
might have passed for the work of some good early master. I
remember them as hanging up framed and glazed in the study at the
Rectory, and tinted, as all else in the room was tinted, with the
green reflected from the fringe of ivy leaves that grew around the
windows. I wonder how they will actually cease and come to an end
as drawings, and into what new phases of being they will then enter.

Not content with being an artist, Mr Pontifex must needs also be a
musician. He built the organ in the church with his own hands, and
made a smaller one which he kept in his own house. He could play as
much as he could draw, not very well according to professional
standards, but much better than could have been expected. I myself
showed a taste for music at an early age, and old Mr Pontifex on
finding it out, as he soon did, became partial to me in consequence.

It may be thought that with so many irons in the fire he could
hardly be a very thriving man, but this was not the case. His
father had been a day labourer, and he had himself begun life with
no other capital than his good sense and good constitution; now,
however, there was a goodly show of timber about his yard, and a
look of solid comfort over his whole establishment. Towards the
close of the eighteenth century and not long before my father came
to Paleham, he had taken a farm of about ninety acres, thus making a
considerable rise in life. Along with the farm there went an old-
fashioned but comfortable house with a charming garden and an
orchard. The carpenter's business was now carried on in one of the
outhouses that had once been part of some conventual buildings, the
remains of which could be seen in what was called the Abbey Close.
The house itself, embosomed in honeysuckles and creeping roses, was
an ornament to the whole village, nor were its internal arrangements
less exemplary than its outside was ornamental. Report said that
Mrs Pontifex starched the sheets for her best bed, and I can well
believe it.

How well do I remember her parlour half filled with the organ which
her husband had built, and scented with a withered apple or two from
the pyrus japonica that grew outside the house; the picture of the
prize ox over the chimney-piece, which Mr Pontifex himself had
painted; the transparency of the man coming to show light to a coach
upon a snowy night, also by Mr Pontifex; the little old man and
little old woman who told the weather; the china shepherd and
shepherdess; the jars of feathery flowering grasses with a peacock's
feather or two among them to set them off, and the china bowls full
of dead rose leaves dried with bay salt. All has long since
vanished and become a memory, faded but still fragrant to myself.

Nay, but her kitchen--and the glimpses into a cavernous cellar
beyond it, wherefrom came gleams from the pale surfaces of milk
cans, or it may be of the arms and face of a milkmaid skimming the
cream; or again her storeroom, where among other treasures she kept
the famous lipsalve which was one of her especial glories, and of
which she would present a shape yearly to those whom she delighted
to honour. She wrote out the recipe for this and gave it to my
mother a year or two before she died, but we could never make it as
she did. When we were children she used sometimes to send her
respects to my mother, and ask leave for us to come and take tea
with her. Right well she used to ply us. As for her temper, we
never met such a delightful old lady in our lives; whatever Mr
Pontifex may have had to put up with, we had no cause for complaint,
and then Mr Pontifex would play to us upon the organ, and we would
stand round him open-mouthed and think him the most wonderfully
clever man that ever was born, except of course our papa.

Mrs Pontifex had no sense of humour, at least I can call to mind no
signs of this, but her husband had plenty of fun in him, though few
would have guessed it from his appearance. I remember my father
once sent me down to his workship to get some glue, and I happened
to come when old Pontifex was in the act of scolding his boy. He
had got the lad--a pudding-headed fellow--by the ear and was saying,
"What? Lost again--smothered o' wit." (I believe it was the boy
who was himself supposed to be a wandering soul, and who was thus
addressed as lost.) "Now, look here, my lad," he continued, "some
boys are born stupid, and thou art one of them; some achieve
stupidity--that's thee again, Jim--thou wast both born stupid and
hast greatly increased thy birthright--and some" (and here came a
climax during which the boy's head and ear were swayed from side to
side) "have stupidity thrust upon them, which, if it please the
Lord, shall not be thy case, my lad, for I will thrust stupidity
from thee, though I have to box thine ears in doing so," but I did
not see that the old man really did box Jim's ears, or do more than
pretend to frighten him, for the two understood one another
perfectly well. Another time I remember hearing him call the
village rat-catcher by saying, "Come hither, thou three-days-and-
three-nights, thou," alluding, as I afterwards learned, to the rat-
catcher's periods of intoxication; but I will tell no more of such
trifles. My father's face would always brighten when old Pontifex's
name was mentioned. "I tell you, Edward," he would say to me, "old
Pontifex was not only an able man, but he was one of the very ablest
men that ever I knew."

This was more than I as a young man was prepared to stand. "My dear
father," I answered, "what did he do? He could draw a little, but
could he to save his life have got a picture into the Royal Academy
exhibition? He built two organs and could play the Minuet in Samson
on one and the March in Scipio on the other; he was a good carpenter
and a bit of a wag; he was a good old fellow enough, but why make
him out so much abler than he was?"

"My boy," returned my father, "you must not judge by the work, but
by the work in connection with the surroundings. Could Giotto or
Filippo Lippi, think you, have got a picture into the Exhibition?
Would a single one of those frescoes we went to see when we were at
Padua have the remotest chance of being hung, if it were sent in for
exhibition now? Why, the Academy people would be so outraged that
they would not even write to poor Giotto to tell him to come and
take his fresco away. Phew!" continued he, waxing warm, "if old
Pontifex had had Cromwell's chances he would have done all that
Cromwell did, and have done it better; if he had had Giotto's
chances he would have done all that Giotto did, and done it no
worse; as it was, he was a village carpenter, and I will undertake
to say he never scamped a job in the whole course of his life."

"But," said I, "we cannot judge people with so many 'ifs.' If old
Pontifex had lived in Giotto's time he might have been another
Giotto, but he did not live in Giotto's time."

"I tell you, Edward," said my father with some severity, "we must
judge men not so much by what they do, as by what they make us feel
that they have it in them to do. If a man has done enough either in
painting, music or the affairs of life, to make me feel that I might
trust him in an emergency he has done enough. It is not by what a
man has actually put upon his canvas, nor yet by the acts which he
has set down, so to speak, upon the canvas of his life that I will
judge him, but by what he makes me feel that he felt and aimed at.
If he has made me feel that he felt those things to be loveable
which I hold loveable myself I ask no more; his grammar may have
been imperfect, but still I have understood him; he and I are en
rapport; and I say again, Edward, that old Pontifex was not only an
able man, but one of the very ablest men I ever knew.

Against this there was no more to be said, and my sisters eyed me to
silence. Somehow or other my sisters always did eye me to silence
when I differed from my father.

"Talk of his successful son," snorted my father, whom I had fairly
roused. "He is not fit to black his father's boots. He has his
thousands of pounds a year, while his father had perhaps three
thousand shillings a year towards the end of his life. He IS a
successful man; but his father, hobbling about Paleham Street in his
grey worsted stockings, broad brimmed hat and brown swallow-tailed
coat was worth a hundred of George Pontifexes, for all his carriages
and horses and the airs he gives himself."

"But yet," he added, "George Pontifex is no fool either." And this
brings us to the second generation of the Pontifex family with whom
we need concern ourselves.


Old Mr Pontifex had married in the year 1750, but for fifteen years
his wife bore no children. At the end of that time Mrs Pontifex
astonished the whole village by showing unmistakable signs of a
disposition to present her husband with an heir or heiress. Hers
had long ago been considered a hopeless case, and when on consulting
the doctor concerning the meaning of certain symptoms she was
informed of their significance, she became very angry and abused the
doctor roundly for talking nonsense. She refused to put so much as
a piece of thread into a needle in anticipation of her confinement
and would have been absolutely unprepared, if her neighbours had not
been better judges of her condition than she was, and got things
ready without telling her anything about it. Perhaps she feared
Nemesis, though assuredly she knew not who or what Nemesis was;
perhaps she feared the doctor had made a mistake and she should be
laughed at; from whatever cause, however, her refusal to recognise
the obvious arose, she certainly refused to recognise it, until one
snowy night in January the doctor was sent for with all urgent speed
across the rough country roads. When he arrived he found two
patients, not one, in need of his assistance, for a boy had been
born who was in due time christened George, in honour of his then
reigning majesty.

To the best of my belief George Pontifex got the greater part of his
nature from this obstinate old lady, his mother--a mother who though
she loved no one else in the world except her husband (and him only
after a fashion) was most tenderly attached to the unexpected child
of her old age; nevertheless she showed it little.

The boy grew up into a sturdy bright-eyed little fellow, with plenty
of intelligence, and perhaps a trifle too great readiness at book
learning. Being kindly treated at home, he was as fond of his
father and mother as it was in his nature to be of anyone, but he
was fond of no one else. He had a good healthy sense of meum, and
as little of tuum as he could help. Brought up much in the open air
in one of the best situated and healthiest villages in England, his
little limbs had fair play, and in those days children's brains were
not overtasked as they now are; perhaps it was for this very reason
that the boy showed an avidity to learn. At seven or eight years
old he could read, write and sum better than any other boy of his
age in the village. My father was not yet rector of Paleham, and
did not remember George Pontifex's childhood, but I have heard
neighbours tell him that the boy was looked upon as unusually quick
and forward. His father and mother were naturally proud of their
offspring, and his mother was determined that he should one day
become one of the kings and councillors of the earth.

It is one thing however to resolve that one's son shall win some of
life's larger prizes, and another to square matters with fortune in
this respect. George Pontifex might have been brought up as a
carpenter and succeeded in no other way than as succeeding his
father as one of the minor magnates of Paleham, and yet have been a
more truly successful man than he actually was--for I take it there
is not much more solid success in this world than what fell to the
lot of old Mr and Mrs Pontifex; it happened, however, that about the
year 1780, when George was a boy of fifteen, a sister of Mrs
Pontifex's, who had married a Mr Fairlie, came to pay a few days'
visit at Paleham. Mr Fairlie was a publisher, chiefly of religious
works, and had an establishment in Paternoster Row; he had risen in
life, and his wife had risen with him. No very close relations had
been maintained between the sisters for some years, and I forget
exactly how it came about that Mr and Mrs Fairlie were guests in the
quiet but exceedingly comfortable house of their sister and brother-
in-law; but for some reason or other the visit was paid, and little
George soon succeeded in making his way into his uncle and aunt's
good graces. A quick, intelligent boy with a good address, a sound
constitution, and coming of respectable parents, has a potential
value which a practised business man who has need of many
subordinates is little likely to overlook. Before his visit was
over Mr Fairlie proposed to the lad's father and mother that he
should put him into his own business, at the same time promising
that if the boy did well he should not want some one to bring him
forward. Mrs Pontifex had her son's interest too much at heart to
refuse such an offer, so the matter was soon arranged, and about a
fortnight after the Fairlies had left, George was sent up by coach
to London, where he was met by his uncle and aunt, with whom it was
arranged that he should live.

This was George's great start in life. He now wore more fashionable
clothes than he had yet been accustomed to, and any little rusticity
of gait or pronunciation which he had brought from Paleham, was so
quickly and completely lost that it was ere long impossible to
detect that he had not been born and bred among people of what is
commonly called education. The boy paid great attention to his
work, and more than justified the favourable opinion which Mr
Fairlie had formed concerning him. Sometimes Mr Fairlie would send
him down to Paleham for a few days' holiday, and ere long his
parents perceived that he had acquired an air and manner of talking
different from any that he had taken with him from Paleham. They
were proud of him, and soon fell into their proper places, resigning
all appearance of a parental control, for which indeed there was no
kind of necessity. In return, George was always kindly to them, and
to the end of his life retained a more affectionate feeling towards
his father and mother than I imagine him ever to have felt again for
man, woman, or child.

George's visits to Paleham were never long, for the distance from
London was under fifty miles and there was a direct coach, so that
the journey was easy; there was not time, therefore, for the novelty
to wear off either on the part of the young man or of his parents.
George liked the fresh country air and green fields after the
darkness to which he had been so long accustomed in Paternoster Row,
which then, as now, was a narrow gloomy lane rather than a street.
Independently of the pleasure of seeing the familiar faces of the
farmers and villagers, he liked also being seen and being
congratulated on growing up such a fine-looking and fortunate young
fellow, for he was not the youth to hide his light under a bushel.
His uncle had had him taught Latin and Greek of an evening; he had
taken kindly to these languages and had rapidly and easily mastered
what many boys take years in acquiring. I suppose his knowledge
gave him a self-confidence which made itself felt whether he
intended it or not; at any rate, he soon began to pose as a judge of
literature, and from this to being a judge of art, architecture,
music and everything else, the path was easy. Like his father, he
knew the value of money, but he was at once more ostentatious and
less liberal than his father; while yet a boy he was a thorough
little man of the world, and did well rather upon principles which
he had tested by personal experiment, and recognised as principles,
than from those profounder convictions which in his father were so
instinctive that he could give no account concerning them.

His father, as I have said, wondered at him and let him alone. His
son had fairly distanced him, and in an inarticulate way the father
knew it perfectly well. After a few years he took to wearing his
best clothes whenever his son came to stay with him, nor would he
discard them for his ordinary ones till the young man had returned
to London. I believe old Mr Pontifex, along with his pride and
affection, felt also a certain fear of his son, as though of
something which he could not thoroughly understand, and whose ways,
notwithstanding outward agreement, were nevertheless not as his
ways. Mrs Pontifex felt nothing of this; to her George was pure and
absolute perfection, and she saw, or thought she saw, with pleasure,
that he resembled her and her family in feature as well as in
disposition rather than her husband and his.

When George was about twenty-five years old his uncle took him into
partnership on very liberal terms. He had little cause to regret
this step. The young man infused fresh vigour into a concern that
was already vigorous, and by the time he was thirty found himself in
the receipt of not less than 1500 pounds a year as his share of the
profits. Two years later he married a lady about seven years
younger than himself, who brought him a handsome dowry. She died in
1805, when her youngest child Alethea was born, and her husband did
not marry again.


In the early years of the century five little children and a couple
of nurses began to make periodical visits to Paleham. It is
needless to say they were a rising generation of Pontifexes, towards
whom the old couple, their grandparents, were as tenderly
deferential as they would have been to the children of the Lord
Lieutenant of the County. Their names were Eliza, Maria, John,
Theobald (who like myself was born in 1802), and Alethea. Mr
Pontifex always put the prefix "master" or "miss" before the names
of his grandchildren, except in the case of Alethea, who was his
favourite. To have resisted his grandchildren would have been as
impossible for him as to have resisted his wife; even old Mrs
Pontifex yielded before her son's children, and gave them all manner
of licence which she would never have allowed even to my sisters and
myself, who stood next in her regard. Two regulations only they
must attend to; they must wipe their shoes well on coming into the
house, and they must not overfeed Mr Pontifex's organ with wind, nor
take the pipes out.

By us at the Rectory there was no time so much looked forward to as
the annual visit of the little Pontifexes to Paleham. We came in
for some of the prevailing licence; we went to tea with Mrs Pontifex
to meet her grandchildren, and then our young friends were asked to
the Rectory to have tea with us, and we had what we considered great
times. I fell desperately in love with Alethea, indeed we all fell
in love with each other, plurality and exchange whether of wives or
husbands being openly and unblushingly advocated in the very
presence of our nurses. We were very merry, but it is so long ago
that I have forgotten nearly everything save that we WERE very
merry. Almost the only thing that remains with me as a permanent
impression was the fact that Theobald one day beat his nurse and
teased her, and when she said she should go away cried out, "You
shan't go away--I'll keep you on purpose to torment you."

One winter's morning, however, in the year 1811, we heard the church
bell tolling while we were dressing in the back nursery and were
told it was for old Mrs Pontifex. Our manservant John told us and
added with grim levity that they were ringing the bell to come and
take her away. She had had a fit of paralysis which had carried her
off quite suddenly. It was very shocking, the more so because our
nurse assured us that if God chose we might all have fits of
paralysis ourselves that very day and be taken straight off to the
Day of Judgement. The Day of Judgement indeed, according to the
opinion of those who were most likely to know, would not under any
circumstances be delayed more than a few years longer, and then the
whole world would be burned, and we ourselves be consigned to an
eternity of torture, unless we mended our ways more than we at
present seemed at all likely to do. All this was so alarming that
we fell to screaming and made such a hullabaloo that the nurse was
obliged for her own peace to reassure us. Then we wept, but more
composedly, as we remembered that there would be no more tea and
cakes for us now at old Mrs Pontifex's.

On the day of the funeral, however, we had a great excitement; old
Mr Pontifex sent round a penny loaf to every inhabitant of the
village according to a custom still not uncommon at the beginning of
the century; the loaf was called a dole. We had never heard of this
custom before, besides, though we had often heard of penny loaves,
we had never before seen one; moreover, they were presents to us as
inhabitants of the village, and we were treated as grown up people,
for our father and mother and the servants had each one loaf sent
them, but only one. We had never yet suspected that we were
inhabitants at all; finally, the little loaves were new, and we were
passionately fond of new bread, which we were seldom or never
allowed to have, as it was supposed not to be good for us. Our
affection, therefore, for our old friend had to stand against the
combined attacks of archaeological interest, the rights of
citizenship and property, the pleasantness to the eye and goodness
for food of the little loaves themselves, and the sense of
importance which was given us by our having been intimate with
someone who had actually died. It seemed upon further inquiry that
there was little reason to anticipate an early death for anyone of
ourselves, and this being so, we rather liked the idea of someone
else's being put away into the churchyard; we passed, therefore, in
a short time from extreme depression to a no less extreme
exultation; a new heaven and a new earth had been revealed to us in
our perception of the possibility of benefiting by the death of our
friends, and I fear that for some time we took an interest in the
health of everyone in the village whose position rendered a
repetition of the dole in the least likely.

Those were the days in which all great things seemed far off, and we
were astonished to find that Napoleon Buonaparte was an actually
living person. We had thought such a great man could only have
lived a very long time ago, and here he was after all almost as it
were at our own doors. This lent colour to the view that the Day of
Judgement might indeed be nearer than we had thought, but nurse said
that was all right now, and she knew. In those days the snow lay
longer and drifted deeper in the lanes than it does now, and the
milk was sometimes brought in frozen in winter, and we were taken
down into the back kitchen to see it. I suppose there are rectories
up and down the country now where the milk comes in frozen sometimes
in winter, and the children go down to wonder at it, but I never see
any frozen milk in London, so I suppose the winters are warmer than
they used to be.

About one year after his wife's death Mr Pontifex also was gathered
to his fathers. My father saw him the day before he died. The old
man had a theory about sunsets, and had had two steps built up
against a wall in the kitchen garden on which he used to stand and
watch the sun go down whenever it was clear. My father came on him
in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, and saw him with his
arms resting on the top of the wall looking towards the sun over a
field through which there was a path on which my father was. My
father heard him say "Good-bye, sun; good-bye, sun," as the sun
sank, and saw by his tone and manner that he was feeling very
feeble. Before the next sunset he was gone.

There was no dole. Some of his grandchildren were brought to the
funeral and we remonstrated with them, but did not take much by
doing so. John Pontifex, who was a year older than I was, sneered
at penny loaves, and intimated that if I wanted one it must be
because my papa and mamma could not afford to buy me one, whereon I
believe we did something like fighting, and I rather think John
Pontifex got the worst of it, but it may have been the other way. I
remember my sister's nurse, for I was just outgrowing nurses myself,
reported the matter to higher quarters, and we were all of us put to
some ignominy, but we had been thoroughly awakened from our dream,
and it was long enough before we could hear the words "penny loaf"
mentioned without our ears tingling with shame. If there had been a
dozen doles afterwards we should not have deigned to touch one of

George Pontifex put up a monument to his parents, a plain slab in
Paleham church, inscribed with the following epitaph:-

1727, AND DIED FEBRUARY 8, 1812,


In a year or two more came Waterloo and the European peace. Then Mr
George Pontifex went abroad more than once. I remember seeing at
Battersby in after years the diary which he kept on the first of
these occasions. It is a characteristic document. I felt as I read
it that the author before starting had made up his mind to admire
only what he thought it would be creditable in him to admire, to
look at nature and art only through the spectacles that had been
handed down to him by generation after generation of prigs and
impostors. The first glimpse of Mont Blanc threw Mr Pontifex into a
conventional ecstasy. "My feelings I cannot express. I gasped, yet
hardly dared to breathe, as I viewed for the first time the monarch
of the mountains. I seemed to fancy the genius seated on his
stupendous throne far above his aspiring brethren and in his
solitary might defying the universe. I was so overcome by my
feelings that I was almost bereft of my faculties, and would not for
worlds have spoken after my first exclamation till I found some
relief in a gush of tears. With pain I tore myself from
contemplating for the first time 'at distance dimly seen' (though I
felt as if I had sent my soul and eyes after it), this sublime
spectacle." After a nearer view of the Alps from above Geneva he
walked nine out of the twelve miles of the descent: "My mind and
heart were too full to sit still, and I found some relief by
exhausting my feelings through exercise." In the course of time he
reached Chamonix and went on a Sunday to the Montanvert to see the
Mer de Glace. There he wrote the following verses for the visitors'
book, which he considered, so he says, "suitable to the day and

Lord, while these wonders of thy hand I see,
My soul in holy reverence bends to thee.
These awful solitudes, this dread repose,
Yon pyramid sublime of spotless snows,
These spiry pinnacles, those smiling plains,
This sea where one eternal winter reigns,
These are thy works, and while on them I gaze
I hear a silent tongue that speaks thy praise.

Some poets always begin to get groggy about the knees after running
for seven or eight lines. Mr Pontifex's last couplet gave him a lot
of trouble, and nearly every word has been erased and rewritten once
at least. In the visitors' book at the Montanvert, however, he must
have been obliged to commit himself definitely to one reading or
another. Taking the verses all round, I should say that Mr Pontifex
was right in considering them suitable to the day; I don't like
being too hard even on the Mer de Glace, so will give no opinion as
to whether they are suitable to the scene also.

Mr Pontifex went on to the Great St Bernard and there he wrote some
more verses, this time I am afraid in Latin. He also took good care
to be properly impressed by the Hospice and its situation. "The
whole of this most extraordinary journey seemed like a dream, its
conclusion especially, in gentlemanly society, with every comfort
and accommodation amidst the rudest rocks and in the region of
perpetual snow. The thought that I was sleeping in a convent and
occupied the bed of no less a person than Napoleon, that I was in
the highest inhabited spot in the old world and in a place
celebrated in every part of it, kept me awake some time." As a
contrast to this, I may quote here an extract from a letter written
to me last year by his grandson Ernest, of whom the reader will hear
more presently. The passage runs: "I went up to the Great St
Bernard and saw the dogs." In due course Mr Pontifex found his way
into Italy, where the pictures and other works of art--those, at
least, which were fashionable at that time--threw him into genteel
paroxysms of admiration. Of the Uffizi Gallery at Florence he
writes: "I have spent three hours this morning in the gallery and I
have made up my mind that if of all the treasures I have seen in
Italy I were to choose one room it would be the Tribune of this
gallery. It contains the Venus de' Medici, the Explorator, the
Pancratist, the Dancing Faun and a fine Apollo. These more than
outweigh the Laocoon and the Belvedere Apollo at Rome. It contains,
besides, the St John of Raphael and many other chefs-d'oeuvre of the
greatest masters in the world." It is interesting to compare Mr
Pontifex's effusions with the rhapsodies of critics in our own
times. Not long ago a much esteemed writer informed the world that
he felt "disposed to cry out with delight" before a figure by
Michael Angelo. I wonder whether he would feel disposed to cry out
before a real Michael Angelo, if the critics had decided that it was
not genuine, or before a reputed Michael Angelo which was really by
someone else. But I suppose that a prig with more money than brains
was much the same sixty or seventy years ago as he is now.

Look at Mendelssohn again about this same Tribune on which Mr
Pontifex felt so safe in staking his reputation as a man of taste
and culture. He feels no less safe and writes, "I then went to the
Tribune. This room is so delightfully small you can traverse it in
fifteen paces, yet it contains a world of art. I again sought out
my favourite arm chair which stands under the statue of the 'Slave
whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino), and taking possession of it I
enjoyed myself for a couple of hours; for here at one glance I had
the 'Madonna del Cardellino,' Pope Julius II., a female portrait by
Raphael, and above it a lovely Holy Family by Perugino; and so close
to me that I could have touched it with my hand the Venus de'
Medici; beyond, that of Titian . . . The space between is occupied
by other pictures of Raphael's, a portrait by Titian, a Domenichino,
etc., etc., all these within the circumference of a small semi-
circle no larger than one of your own rooms. This is a spot where a
man feels his own insignificance and may well learn to be humble."
The Tribune is a slippery place for people like Mendelssohn to study
humility in. They generally take two steps away from it for one
they take towards it. I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave
himself for having sat two hours on that chair. I wonder how often
he looked at his watch to see if his two hours were up. I wonder
how often he told himself that he was quite as big a gun, if the
truth were known, as any of the men whose works he saw before him,
how often he wondered whether any of the visitors were recognizing
him and admiring him for sitting such a long time in the same chair,
and how often he was vexed at seeing them pass him by and take no
notice of him. But perhaps if the truth were known his two hours
was not quite two hours.

Returning to Mr Pontifex, whether he liked what he believed to be
the masterpieces of Greek and Italian art or no he brought back some
copies by Italian artists, which I have no doubt he satisfied
himself would bear the strictest examination with the originals.
Two of these copies fell to Theobald's share on the division of his
father's furniture, and I have often seen them at Battersby on my
visits to Theobald and his wife. The one was a Madonna by
Sassoferrato with a blue hood over her head which threw it half into
shadow. The other was a Magdalen by Carlo Dolci with a very fine
head of hair and a marble vase in her hands. When I was a young man
I used to think these pictures were beautiful, but with each
successive visit to Battersby I got to dislike them more and more
and to see "George Pontifex" written all over both of them. In the
end I ventured after a tentative fashion to blow on them a little,
but Theobald and his wife were up in arms at once. They did not
like their father and father-in-law, but there could be no question
about his power and general ability, nor about his having been a man
of consummate taste both in literature and art--indeed the diary he
kept during his foreign tour was enough to prove this. With one
more short extract I will leave this diary and proceed with my
story. During his stay in Florence Mr Pontifex wrote: "I have just
seen the Grand Duke and his family pass by in two carriages and six,
but little more notice is taken of them than if I, who am utterly
unknown here, were to pass by." I don't think that he half believed
in his being utterly unknown in Florence or anywhere else!


Fortune, we are told, is a blind and fickle foster-mother, who
showers her gifts at random upon her nurslings. But we do her a
grave injustice if we believe such an accusation. Trace a man's
career from his cradle to his grave and mark how Fortune has treated
him. You will find that when he is once dead she can for the most
part be vindicated from the charge of any but very superficial
fickleness. Her blindness is the merest fable; she can espy her
favourites long before they are born. We are as days and have had
our parents for our yesterdays, but through all the fair weather of
a clear parental sky the eye of Fortune can discern the coming
storm, and she laughs as she places her favourites it may be in a
London alley or those whom she is resolved to ruin in kings'
palaces. Seldom does she relent towards those whom she has suckled
unkindly and seldom does she completely fail a favoured nursling.

Was George Pontifex one of Fortune's favoured nurslings or not? On
the whole I should say that he was not, for he did not consider
himself so; he was too religious to consider Fortune a deity at all;
he took whatever she gave and never thanked her, being firmly
convinced that whatever he got to his own advantage was of his own
getting. And so it was, after Fortune had made him able to get it.

"Nos te, nos facimus, Fortuna, deam," exclaimed the poet. "It is we
who make thee, Fortune, a goddess"; and so it is, after Fortune has
made us able to make her. The poet says nothing as to the making of
the "nos." Perhaps some men are independent of antecedents and
surroundings and have an initial force within themselves which is in
no way due to causation; but this is supposed to be a difficult
question and it may be as well to avoid it. Let it suffice that
George Pontifex did not consider himself fortunate, and he who does
not consider himself fortunate is unfortunate.

True, he was rich, universally respected and of an excellent natural
constitution. If he had eaten and drunk less he would never have
known a day's indisposition. Perhaps his main strength lay in the
fact that though his capacity was a little above the average, it was
not too much so. It is on this rock that so many clever people
split. The successful man will see just so much more than his
neighbours as they will be able to see too when it is shown them,
but not enough to puzzle them. It is far safer to know too little
than too much. People will condemn the one, though they will resent
being called upon to exert themselves to follow the other.

The best example of Mr Pontifex's good sense in matters connected
with his business which I can think of at this moment is the
revolution which he effected in the style of advertising works
published by the firm. When he first became a partner one of the
firm's advertisements ran thus:-

"Books proper to be given away at this Season. -

"The Pious Country Parishioner, being directions how a Christian may
manage every day in the course of his whole life with safety and
success; how to spend the Sabbath Day; what books of the Holy
Scripture ought to be read first; the whole method of education;
collects for the most important virtues that adorn the soul; a
discourse on the Lord's Supper; rules to set the soul right in
sickness; so that in this treatise are contained all the rules
requisite for salvation. The 8th edition with additions. Price

*** An allowance will be made to those who give them away."

Before he had been many years a partner the advertisement stood as

"The Pious Country Parishioner. A complete manual of Christian
Devotion. Price 10d.

A reduction will be made to purchasers for gratuitous distribution."

What a stride is made in the foregoing towards the modern standard,
and what intelligence is involved in the perception of the
unseemliness of the old style, when others did not perceive it!

Where then was the weak place in George Pontifex's armour? I
suppose in the fact that he had risen too rapidly. It would almost
seem as if a transmitted education of some generations is necessary
for the due enjoyment of great wealth. Adversity, if a man is set
down to it by degrees, is more supportable with equanimity by most
people than any great prosperity arrived at in a single lifetime.
Nevertheless a certain kind of good fortune generally attends self-
made men to the last. It is their children of the first, or first
and second, generation who are in greater danger, for the race can
no more repeat its most successful performances suddenly and without
its ebbings and flowings of success than the individual can do so,
and the more brilliant the success in any one generation, the
greater as a general rule the subsequent exhaustion until time has
been allowed for recovery. Hence it oftens happens that the
grandson of a successful man will be more successful than the son--
the spirit that actuated the grandfather having lain fallow in the
son and being refreshed by repose so as to be ready for fresh
exertion in the grandson. A very successful man, moreover, has
something of the hybrid in him; he is a new animal, arising from the
coming together of many unfamiliar elements and it is well known
that the reproduction of abnormal growths, whether animal or
vegetable, is irregular and not to be depended upon, even when they
are not absolutely sterile.

And certainly Mr Pontifex's success was exceedingly rapid. Only a
few years after he had become a partner his uncle and aunt both died
within a few months of one another. It was then found that they had
made him their heir. He was thus not only sole partner in the
business but found himself with a fortune of some 30,000 pounds into
the bargain, and this was a large sum in those days. Money came
pouring in upon him, and the faster it came the fonder he became of
it, though, as he frequently said, he valued it not for its own
sake, but only as a means of providing for his dear children.

Yet when a man is very fond of his money it is not easy for him at
all times to be very fond of his children also. The two are like
God and Mammon. Lord Macaulay has a passage in which he contrasts
the pleasures which a man may derive from books with the
inconveniences to which he may be put by his acquaintances.
"Plato," he says, "is never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant.
Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays too long.
No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy
can excite the horror of Bossuet." I dare say I might differ from
Lord Macaulay in my estimate of some of the writers he has named,
but there can be no disputing his main proposition, namely, that we
need have no more trouble from any of them than we have a mind to,
whereas our friends are not always so easily disposed of. George
Pontifex felt this as regards his children and his money. His money
was never naughty; his money never made noise or litter, and did not
spill things on the tablecloth at meal times, or leave the door open
when it went out. His dividends did not quarrel among themselves,
nor was he under any uneasiness lest his mortgages should become
extravagant on reaching manhood and run him up debts which sooner or
later he should have to pay. There were tendencies in John which
made him very uneasy, and Theobald, his second son, was idle and at
times far from truthful. His children might, perhaps, have
answered, had they known what was in their father's mind, that he
did not knock his money about as he not infrequently knocked his
children. He never dealt hastily or pettishly with his money, and
that was perhaps why he and it got on so well together.

It must be remembered that at the beginning of the nineteenth
century the relations between parents and children were still far
from satisfactory. The violent type of father, as described by
Fielding, Richardson, Smollett and Sheridan, is now hardly more
likely to find a place in literature than the original advertisement
of Messrs. Fairlie & Pontifex's "Pious Country Parishioner," but the
type was much too persistent not to have been drawn from nature
closely. The parents in Miss Austen's novels are less like savage
wild beasts than those of her predecessors, but she evidently looks
upon them with suspicion, and an uneasy feeling that le pere de
famille est capable de tout makes itself sufficiently apparent
throughout the greater part of her writings. In the Elizabethan
time the relations between parents and children seem on the whole to
have been more kindly. The fathers and the sons are for the most
part friends in Shakespeare, nor does the evil appear to have
reached its full abomination till a long course of Puritanism had
familiarised men's minds with Jewish ideals as those which we should
endeavour to reproduce in our everyday life. What precedents did
not Abraham, Jephthah and Jonadab the son of Rechab offer? How easy
was it to quote and follow them in an age when few reasonable men or
women doubted that every syllable of the Old Testament was taken
down verbatim from the mouth of God. Moreover, Puritanism
restricted natural pleasures; it substituted the Jeremiad for the
Paean, and it forgot that the poor abuses of all times want

Mr Pontifex may have been a little sterner with his children than
some of his neighbours, but not much. He thrashed his boys two or
three times a week and some weeks a good deal oftener, but in those
days fathers were always thrashing their boys. It is easy to have
juster views when everyone else has them, but fortunately or
unfortunately results have nothing whatever to do with the moral
guilt or blamelessness of him who brings them about; they depend
solely upon the thing done, whatever it may happen to be. The moral
guilt or blamelessness in like manner has nothing to do with the
result; it turns upon the question whether a sufficient number of
reasonable people placed as the actor was placed would have done as
the actor has done. At that time it was universally admitted that
to spare the rod was to spoil the child, and St Paul had placed
disobedience to parents in very ugly company. If his children did
anything which Mr Pontifex disliked they were clearly disobedient to
their father. In this case there was obviously only one course for
a sensible man to take. It consisted in checking the first signs of
self-will while his children were too young to offer serious
resistance. If their wills were "well broken" in childhood, to use
an expression then much in vogue, they would acquire habits of
obedience which they would not venture to break through till they
were over twenty-one years old. Then they might please themselves;
he should know how to protect himself; till then he and his money
were more at their mercy than he liked.

How little do we know our thoughts--our reflex actions indeed, yes;
but our reflex reflections! Man, forsooth, prides himself on his
consciousness! We boast that we differ from the winds and waves and
falling stones and plants, which grow they know not why, and from
the wandering creatures which go up and down after their prey, as we
are pleased to say without the help of reason. We know so well what
we are doing ourselves and why we do it, do we not? I fancy that
there is some truth in the view which is being put forward nowadays,
that it is our less conscious thoughts and our less conscious
actions which mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who
spring from us.


Mr Pontifex was not the man to trouble himself much about his
motives. People were not so introspective then as we are now; they
lived more according to a rule of thumb. Dr Arnold had not yet sown
that crop of earnest thinkers which we are now harvesting, and men
did not see why they should not have their own way if no evil
consequences to themselves seemed likely to follow upon their doing
so. Then as now, however, they sometimes let themselves in for more
evil consequences than they had bargained for.

Like other rich men at the beginning of this century he ate and
drank a good deal more than was enough to keep him in health. Even
his excellent constitution was not proof against a prolonged course
of overfeeding and what we should now consider overdrinking. His
liver would not unfrequently get out of order, and he would come
down to breakfast looking yellow about the eyes. Then the young
people knew that they had better look out. It is not as a general
rule the eating of sour grapes that causes the children's teeth to
be set on edge. Well-to-do parents seldom eat many sour grapes; the
danger to the children lies in the parents eating too many sweet

I grant that at first sight it seems very unjust, that the parents
should have the fun and the children be punished for it, but young
people should remember that for many years they were part and parcel
of their parents and therefore had a good deal of the fun in the
person of their parents. If they have forgotten the fun now, that
is no more than people do who have a headache after having been
tipsy overnight. The man with a headache does not pretend to be a
different person from the man who got drunk, and claim that it is
his self of the preceding night and not his self of this morning who
should be punished; no more should offspring complain of the
headache which it has earned when in the person of its parents, for
the continuation of identity, though not so immediately apparent, is
just as real in one case as in the other. What is really hard is
when the parents have the fun after the children have been born, and
the children are punished for this.

On these, his black days, he would take very gloomy views of things
and say to himself that in spite of all his goodness to them his
children did not love him. But who can love any man whose liver is
out of order? How base, he would exclaim to himself, was such
ingratitude! How especially hard upon himself, who had been such a
model son, and always honoured and obeyed his parents though they
had not spent one hundredth part of the money upon him which he had
lavished upon his own children. "It is always the same story," he
would say to himself, "the more young people have the more they
want, and the less thanks one gets; I have made a great mistake; I
have been far too lenient with my children; never mind, I have done
my duty by them, and more; if they fail in theirs to me it is a
matter between God and them. I, at any rate, am guiltless. Why, I
might have married again and become the father of a second and
perhaps more affectionate family, etc., etc." He pitied himself for
the expensive education which he was giving his children; he did not
see that the education cost the children far more than it cost him,
inasmuch as it cost them the power of earning their living easily
rather than helped them towards it, and ensured their being at the
mercy of their father for years after they had come to an age when
they should be independent. A public school education cuts off a
boy's retreat; he can no longer become a labourer or a mechanic, and
these are the only people whose tenure of independence is not
precarious--with the exception of course of those who are born
inheritors of money or who are placed young in some safe and deep
groove. Mr Pontifex saw nothing of this; all he saw was that he was
spending much more money upon his children than the law would have
compelled him to do, and what more could you have? Might he not
have apprenticed both his sons to greengrocers? Might he not even
yet do so to-morrow morning if he were so minded? The possibility
of this course being adopted was a favourite topic with him when he
was out of temper; true, he never did apprentice either of his sons
to greengrocers, but his boys comparing notes together had sometimes
come to the conclusion that they wished he would.

At other times when not quite well he would have them in for the fun
of shaking his will at them. He would in his imagination cut them
all out one after another and leave his money to found almshouses,
till at last he was obliged to put them back, so that he might have
the pleasure of cutting them out again the next time he was in a

Of course if young people allow their conduct to be in any way
influenced by regard to the wills of living persons they are doing
very wrong and must expect to be sufferers in the end, nevertheless
the powers of will-dangling and will-shaking are so liable to abuse
and are continually made so great an engine of torture that I would
pass a law, if I could, to incapacitate any man from making a will
for three months from the date of each offence in either of the
above respects and let the bench of magistrates or judge, before
whom he has been convicted, dispose of his property as they shall
think right and reasonable if he dies during the time that his will-
making power is suspended.

Mr Pontifex would have the boys into the dining-room. "My dear
John, my dear Theobald," he would say, "look at me. I began life
with nothing but the clothes with which my father and mother sent me
up to London. My father gave me ten shillings and my mother five
for pocket money and I thought them munificent. I never asked my
father for a shilling in the whole course of my life, nor took aught
from him beyond the small sum he used to allow me monthly till I was
in receipt of a salary. I made my own way and I shall expect my
sons to do the same. Pray don't take it into your heads that I am
going to wear my life out making money that my sons may spend it for
me. If you want money you must make it for yourselves as I did, for
I give you my word I will not leave a penny to either of you unless
you show that you deserve it. Young people seem nowadays to expect
all kinds of luxuries and indulgences which were never heard of when
I was a boy. Why, my father was a common carpenter, and here you
are both of you at public schools, costing me ever so many hundreds
a year, while I at your age was plodding away behind a desk in my
Uncle Fairlie's counting house. What should I not have done if I
had had one half of your advantages? You should become dukes or
found new empires in undiscovered countries, and even then I doubt
whether you would have done proportionately so much as I have done.
No, no, I shall see you through school and college and then, if you
please, you will make your own way in the world."

In this manner he would work himself up into such a state of
virtuous indignation that he would sometimes thrash the boys then
and there upon some pretext invented at the moment.

And yet, as children went, the young Pontifexes were fortunate;
there would be ten families of young people worse off for one
better; they ate and drank good wholesome food, slept in comfortable
beds, had the best doctors to attend them when they were ill and the
best education that could be had for money. The want of fresh air
does not seem much to affect the happiness of children in a London
alley: the greater part of them sing and play as though they were
on a moor in Scotland. So the absence of a genial mental atmosphere
is not commonly recognised by children who have never known it.
Young people have a marvellous faculty of either dying or adapting
themselves to circumstances. Even if they are unhappy--very
unhappy--it is astonishing how easily they can be prevented from
finding it out, or at any rate from attributing it to any other
cause than their own sinfulness.

To parents who wish to lead a quiet life I would say: Tell your
children that they are very naughty--much naughtier than most
children. Point to the young people of some acquaintances as models
of perfection and impress your own children with a deep sense of
their own inferiority. You carry so many more guns than they do
that they cannot fight you. This is called moral influence, and it
will enable you to bounce them as much as you please. They think
you know and they will not have yet caught you lying often enough to
suspect that you are not the unworldly and scrupulously truthful
person which you represent yourself to be; nor yet will they know
how great a coward you are, nor how soon you will run away, if they
fight you with persistency and judgement. You keep the dice and
throw them both for your children and yourself. Load them then, for
you can easily manage to stop your children from examining them.
Tell them how singularly indulgent you are; insist on the
incalculable benefit you conferred upon them, firstly in bringing
them into the world at all, but more particularly in bringing them
into it as your own children rather than anyone else's. Say that
you have their highest interests at stake whenever you are out of
temper and wish to make yourself unpleasant by way of balm to your
soul. Harp much upon these highest interests. Feed them
spiritually upon such brimstone and treacle as the late Bishop of
Winchester's Sunday stories. You hold all the trump cards, or if
you do not you can filch them; if you play them with anything like
judgement you will find yourselves heads of happy, united, God-
fearing families, even as did my old friend Mr Pontifex. True, your
children will probably find out all about it some day, but not until
too late to be of much service to them or inconvenience to yourself.

Some satirists have complained of life inasmuch as all the pleasures
belong to the fore part of it and we must see them dwindle till we
are left, it may be, with the miseries of a decrepit old age.

To me it seems that youth is like spring, an overpraised season--
delightful if it happen to be a favoured one, but in practice very
rarely favoured and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting
east winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and
what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. Fontenelle at
the age of ninety, being asked what was the happiest time of his
life, said he did not know that he had ever been much happier than
he then was, but that perhaps his best years had been those when he
was between fifty-five and seventy-five, and Dr Johnson placed the
pleasures of old age far higher than those of youth. True, in old
age we live under the shadow of Death, which, like a sword of
Damocles, may descend at any moment, but we have so long found life
to be an affair of being rather frightened than hurt that we have
become like the people who live under Vesuvius, and chance it
without much misgiving.


A few words may suffice for the greater number of the young people
to whom I have been alluding in the foregoing chapter. Eliza and
Maria, the two elder girls, were neither exactly pretty nor exactly
plain, and were in all respects model young ladies, but Alethea was
exceedingly pretty and of a lively, affectionate disposition, which
was in sharp contrast with those of her brothers and sisters. There
was a trace of her grandfather, not only in her face, but in her
love of fun, of which her father had none, though not without a
certain boisterous and rather coarse quasi-humour which passed for
wit with many.

John grew up to be a good-looking, gentlemanly fellow, with features
a trifle too regular and finely chiselled. He dressed himself so
nicely, had such good address, and stuck so steadily to his books
that he became a favourite with his masters; he had, however, an
instinct for diplomacy, and was less popular with the boys. His
father, in spite of the lectures he would at times read him, was in
a way proud of him as he grew older; he saw in him, moreover, one
who would probably develop into a good man of business, and in whose
hands the prospects of his house would not be likely to decline.
John knew how to humour his father, and was at a comparatively early
age admitted to as much of his confidence as it was in his nature to
bestow on anyone.

His brother Theobald was no match for him, knew it, and accepted his
fate. He was not so good-looking as his brother, nor was his
address so good; as a child he had been violently passionate; now,
however, he was reserved and shy, and, I should say, indolent in
mind and body. He was less tidy than John, less well able to assert
himself, and less skilful in humouring the caprices of his father.
I do not think he could have loved anyone heartily, but there was no
one in his family circle who did not repress, rather than invite his
affection, with the exception of his sister Alethea, and she was too
quick and lively for his somewhat morose temper. He was always the
scapegoat, and I have sometimes thought he had two fathers to
contend against--his father and his brother John; a third and fourth
also might almost be added in his sisters Eliza and Maria. Perhaps
if he had felt his bondage very acutely he would not have put up
with it, but he was constitutionally timid, and the strong hand of
his father knitted him into the closest outward harmony with his
brother and sisters.

The boys were of use to their father in one respect. I mean that he
played them off against each other. He kept them but poorly
supplied with pocket money, and to Theobald would urge that the
claims of his elder brother were naturally paramount, while he
insisted to John upon the fact that he had a numerous family, and
would affirm solemnly that his expenses were so heavy that at his
death there would be very little to divide. He did not care whether
they compared notes or no, provided they did not do so in his
presence. Theobald did not complain even behind his father's back.
I knew him as intimately as anyone was likely to know him as a
child, at school, and again at Cambridge, but he very rarely
mentioned his father's name even while his father was alive, and
never once in my hearing afterwards. At school he was not actively
disliked as his brother was, but he was too dull and deficient in
animal spirits to be popular.

Before he was well out of his frocks it was settled that he was to
be a clergyman. It was seemly that Mr Pontifex, the well-known
publisher of religious books, should devote at least one of his sons
to the Church; this might tend to bring business, or at any rate to
keep it in the firm; besides, Mr Pontifex had more or less interest
with bishops and Church dignitaries and might hope that some
preferment would be offered to his son through his influence. The
boy's future destiny was kept well before his eyes from his earliest
childhood and was treated as a matter which he had already virtually
settled by his acquiescence. Nevertheless a certain show of freedom
was allowed him. Mr Pontifex would say it was only right to give a
boy his option, and was much too equitable to grudge his son
whatever benefit he could derive from this. He had the greatest
horror, he would exclaim, of driving any young man into a profession
which he did not like. Far be it from him to put pressure upon a
son of his as regards any profession and much less when so sacred a
calling as the ministry was concerned. He would talk in this way
when there were visitors in the house and when his son was in the
room. He spoke so wisely and so well that his listening guests
considered him a paragon of right-mindedness. He spoke, too, with
such emphasis and his rosy gills and bald head looked so benevolent
that it was difficult not to be carried away by his discourse. I
believe two or three heads of families in the neighbourhood gave
their sons absolute liberty of choice in the matter of their
professions--and am not sure that they had not afterwards
considerable cause to regret having done so. The visitors, seeing
Theobald look shy and wholly unmoved by the exhibition of so much
consideration for his wishes, would remark to themselves that the
boy seemed hardly likely to be equal to his father and would set him
down as an unenthusiastic youth, who ought to have more life in him
and be more sensible of his advantages than he appeared to be.

No one believed in the righteousness of the whole transaction more
firmly than the boy himself; a sense of being ill at ease kept him
silent, but it was too profound and too much without break for him
to become fully alive to it, and come to an understanding with
himself. He feared the dark scowl which would come over his
father's face upon the slightest opposition. His father's violent
threats, or coarse sneers, would not have been taken au serieux by a
stronger boy, but Theobald was not a strong boy, and rightly or
wrongly, gave his father credit for being quite ready to carry his
threats into execution. Opposition had never got him anything he
wanted yet, nor indeed had yielding, for the matter of that, unless
he happened to want exactly what his father wanted for him. If he
had ever entertained thoughts of resistance, he had none now, and
the power to oppose was so completely lost for want of exercise that
hardly did the wish remain; there was nothing left save dull
acquiescence as of an ass crouched between two burdens. He may have
had an ill-defined sense of ideals that were not his actuals; he
might occasionally dream of himself as a soldier or a sailor far
away in foreign lands, or even as a farmer's boy upon the wolds, but
there was not enough in him for there to be any chance of his
turning his dreams into realities, and he drifted on with his
stream, which was a slow, and, I am afraid, a muddy one.

I think the Church Catechism has a good deal to do with the unhappy
relations which commonly even now exist between parents and
children. That work was written too exclusively from the parental
point of view; the person who composed it did not get a few children
to come in and help him; he was clearly not young himself, nor
should I say it was the work of one who liked children--in spite of
the words "my good child" which, if I remember rightly, are once put
into the mouth of the catechist and, after all, carry a harsh sound
with them. The general impression it leaves upon the mind of the
young is that their wickedness at birth was but very imperfectly
wiped out at baptism, and that the mere fact of being young at all
has something with it that savours more or less distinctly of the
nature of sin.

If a new edition of the work is ever required I should like to
introduce a few words insisting on the duty of seeking all
reasonable pleasure and avoiding all pain that can be honourably
avoided. I should like to see children taught that they should not
say they like things which they do not like, merely because certain
other people say they like them, and how foolish it is to say they
believe this or that when they understand nothing about it. If it
be urged that these additions would make the Catechism too long I
would curtail the remarks upon our duty towards our neighbour and
upon the sacraments. In the place of the paragraph beginning "I
desire my Lord God our Heavenly Father" I would--but perhaps I had
better return to Theobald, and leave the recasting of the Catechism
to abler hands.


Mr Pontifex had set his heart on his son's becoming a fellow of a
college before he became a clergyman. This would provide for him at
once and would ensure his getting a living if none of his father's
ecclesiastical friends gave him one. The boy had done just well
enough at school to render this possible, so he was sent to one of
the smaller colleges at Cambridge and was at once set to read with
the best private tutors that could be found. A system of
examination had been adopted a year or so before Theobald took his
degree which had improved his chances of a fellowship, for whatever
ability he had was classical rather than mathematical, and this
system gave more encouragement to classical studies than had been
given hitherto.

Theobald had the sense to see that he had a chance of independence
if he worked hard, and he liked the notion of becoming a fellow. He
therefore applied himself, and in the end took a degree which made
his getting a fellowship in all probability a mere question of time.
For a while Mr Pontifex senior was really pleased, and told his son
he would present him with the works of any standard writer whom he
might select. The young man chose the works of Bacon, and Bacon
accordingly made his appearance in ten nicely bound volumes. A
little inspection, however, showed that the copy was a second hand

Now that he had taken his degree the next thing to look forward to
was ordination--about which Theobald had thought little hitherto
beyond acquiescing in it as something that would come as a matter of
course some day. Now, however, it had actually come and was
asserting itself as a thing which should be only a few months off,
and this rather frightened him inasmuch as there would be no way out
of it when he was once in it. He did not like the near view of
ordination as well as the distant one, and even made some feeble
efforts to escape, as may be perceived by the following
correspondence which his son Ernest found among his father's papers
written on gilt-edged paper, in faded ink and tied neatly round with
a piece of tape, but without any note or comment. I have altered
nothing. The letters are as follows:-

"My dear Father,--I do not like opening up a question which has been
considered settled, but as the time approaches I begin to be very
doubtful how far I am fitted to be a clergyman. Not, I am thankful
to say, that I have the faintest doubts about the Church of England,
and I could subscribe cordially to every one of the thirty-nine
articles which do indeed appear to me to be the ne plus ultra of
human wisdom, and Paley, too, leaves no loop-hole for an opponent;
but I am sure I should be running counter to your wishes if I were
to conceal from you that I do not feel the inward call to be a
minister of the gospel that I shall have to say I have felt when the
Bishop ordains me. I try to get this feeling, I pray for it
earnestly, and sometimes half think that I have got it, but in a
little time it wears off, and though I have no absolute repugnance
to being a clergyman and trust that if I am one I shall endeavour to
live to the Glory of God and to advance His interests upon earth,
yet I feel that something more than this is wanted before I am fully
justified in going into the Church. I am aware that I have been a
great expense to you in spite of my scholarships, but you have ever
taught me that I should obey my conscience, and my conscience tells
me I should do wrong if I became a clergyman. God may yet give me
the spirit for which I assure you I have been and am continually
praying, but He may not, and in that case would it not be better for
me to try and look out for something else? I know that neither you
nor John wish me to go into your business, nor do I understand
anything about money matters, but is there nothing else that I can
do? I do not like to ask you to maintain me while I go in for
medicine or the bar; but when I get my fellowship, which should not
be long first, I will endeavour to cost you nothing further, and I
might make a little money by writing or taking pupils. I trust you
will not think this letter improper; nothing is further from my wish
than to cause you any uneasiness. I hope you will make allowance
for my present feelings which, indeed, spring from nothing but from
that respect for my conscience which no one has so often instilled
into me as yourself. Pray let me have a few lines shortly. I hope
your cold is better. With love to Eliza and Maria, I am, your
affectionate son,


"Dear Theobald,--I can enter into your feelings and have no wish to
quarrel with your expression of them. It is quite right and natural
that you should feel as you do except as regards one passage, the
impropriety of which you will yourself doubtless feel upon
reflection, and to which I will not further allude than to say that
it has wounded me. You should not have said 'in spite of my
scholarships.' It was only proper that if you could do anything to
assist me in bearing the heavy burden of your education, the money
should be, as it was, made over to myself. Every line in your
letter convinces me that you are under the influence of a morbid
sensitiveness which is one of the devil's favourite devices for
luring people to their destruction. I have, as you say, been at
great expense with your education. Nothing has been spared by me to
give you the advantages, which, as an English gentleman, I was
anxious to afford my son, but I am not prepared to see that expense
thrown away and to have to begin again from the beginning, merely
because you have taken some foolish scruples into your head, which
you should resist as no less unjust to yourself than to me.

"Don't give way to that restless desire for change which is the bane
of so many persons of both sexes at the present day.

"Of course you needn't be ordained: nobody will compel you; you are
perfectly free; you are twenty-three years of age, and should know
your own mind; but why not have known it sooner, instead of never so
much as breathing a hint of opposition until I have had all the
expense of sending you to the University, which I should never have
done unless I had believed you to have made up your mind about
taking orders? I have letters from you in which you express the
most perfect willingness to be ordained, and your brother and
sisters will bear me out in saying that no pressure of any sort has
been put upon you. You mistake your own mind, and are suffering
from a nervous timidity which may be very natural but may not the
less be pregnant with serious consequences to yourself. I am not at
all well, and the anxiety occasioned by your letter is naturally
preying upon me. May God guide you to a better judgement.--Your
affectionate father, G. PONTIFEX."

On the receipt of this letter Theobald plucked up his spirits. "My
father," he said to himself, "tells me I need not be ordained if I
do not like. I do not like, and therefore I will not be ordained.
But what was the meaning of the words 'pregnant with serious
consequences to yourself'? Did there lurk a threat under these
words--though it was impossible to lay hold of it or of them? Were
they not intended to produce all the effect of a threat without
being actually threatening?"

Theobald knew his father well enough to be little likely to
misapprehend his meaning, but having ventured so far on the path of
opposition, and being really anxious to get out of being ordained if
he could, he determined to venture farther. He accordingly wrote
the following:

"My dear father,--You tell me--and I heartily thank you--that no one
will compel me to be ordained. I knew you would not press
ordination upon me if my conscience was seriously opposed to it; I
have therefore resolved on giving up the idea, and believe that if
you will continue to allow me what you do at present, until I get my
fellowship, which should not be long, I will then cease putting you
to further expense. I will make up my mind as soon as possible what
profession I will adopt, and will let you know at once.--Your
affectionate son, THEOBALD PONTIFEX."

The remaining letter, written by return of post, must now be given.
It has the merit of brevity.

"Dear Theobald,--I have received yours. I am at a loss to conceive
its motive, but am very clear as to its effect. You shall not
receive a single sixpence from me till you come to your senses.
Should you persist in your folly and wickedness, I am happy to
remember that I have yet other children whose conduct I can depend
upon to be a source of credit and happiness to me.--Your
affectionate but troubled father, G. PONTIFEX."

I do not know the immediate sequel to the foregoing correspondence,
but it all came perfectly right in the end. Either Theobald's heart
failed him, or he interpreted the outward shove which his father
gave him, as the inward call for which I have no doubt he prayed
with great earnestness--for he was a firm believer in the efficacy
of prayer. And so am I under certain circumstances. Tennyson has
said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams
of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether they are good
things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the world were
to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the things that
are being wrought by prayer. But the question is avowedly
difficult. In the end Theobald got his fellowship by a stroke of
luck very soon after taking his degree, and was ordained in the
autumn of the same year, 1825.


Mr Allaby was rector of Crampsford, a village a few miles from
Cambridge. He, too, had taken a good degree, had got a fellowship,
and in the course of time had accepted a college living of about 400
pounds a year and a house. His private income did not exceed 200
pounds a year. On resigning his fellowship he married a woman a
good deal younger than himself who bore him eleven children, nine of
whom--two sons and seven daughters--were living. The two eldest
daughters had married fairly well, but at the time of which I am now
writing there were still five unmarried, of ages varying between
thirty and twenty-two--and the sons were neither of them yet off
their father's hands. It was plain that if anything were to happen
to Mr Allaby the family would be left poorly off, and this made both
Mr and Mrs Allaby as unhappy as it ought to have made them.

Reader, did you ever have an income at best none too large, which
died with you all except 200 pounds a year? Did you ever at the
same time have two sons who must be started in life somehow, and
five daughters still unmarried for whom you would only be too
thankful to find husbands--if you knew how to find them? If
morality is that which, on the whole, brings a man peace in his
declining years--if, that is to say, it is not an utter swindle, can
you under these circumstances flatter yourself that you have led a
moral life?

And this, even though your wife has been so good a woman that you
have not grown tired of her, and has not fallen into such ill-health
as lowers your own health in sympathy; and though your family has
grown up vigorous, amiable, and blessed with common sense. I know
many old men and women who are reputed moral, but who are living
with partners whom they have long ceased to love, or who have ugly
disagreeable maiden daughters for whom they have never been able to
find husbands--daughters whom they loathe and by whom they are
loathed in secret, or sons whose folly or extravagance is a
perpetual wear and worry to them. Is it moral for a man to have
brought such things upon himself? Someone should do for morals what
that old Pecksniff Bacon has obtained the credit of having done for

But to return to Mr and Mrs Allaby. Mrs Allaby talked about having
married two of her daughters as though it had been the easiest thing
in the world. She talked in this way because she heard other
mothers do so, but in her heart of hearts she did not know how she
had done it, nor indeed, if it had been her doing at all. First
there had been a young man in connection with whom she had tried to
practise certain manoeuvres which she had rehearsed in imagination
over and over again, but which she found impossible to apply in
practice. Then there had been weeks of a wurra wurra of hopes and
fears and little stratagems which as often as not proved
injudicious, and then somehow or other in the end, there lay the
young man bound and with an arrow through his heart at her
daughter's feet. It seemed to her to be all a fluke which she could
have little or no hope of repeating. She had indeed repeated it
once, and might perhaps with good luck repeat it yet once again--but
five times over! It was awful: why she would rather have three
confinements than go through the wear and tear of marrying a single

Nevertheless it had got to be done, and poor Mrs Allaby never looked
at a young man without an eye to his being a future son-in-law.
Papas and mammas sometimes ask young men whether their intentions
are honourable towards their daughters. I think young men might
occasionally ask papas and mammas whether their intentions are
honourable before they accept invitations to houses where there are
still unmarried daughters.

"I can't afford a curate, my dear," said Mr Allaby to his wife when
the pair were discussing what was next to be done. "It will be
better to get some young man to come and help me for a time upon a
Sunday. A guinea a Sunday will do this, and we can chop and change
till we get someone who suits." So it was settled that Mr Allaby's
health was not so strong as it had been, and that he stood in need
of help in the performance of his Sunday duty.

Mrs Allaby had a great friend--a certain Mrs Cowey, wife of the
celebrated Professor Cowey. She was what was called a truly
spiritually minded woman, a trifle portly, with an incipient beard,
and an extensive connection among undergraduates, more especially
among those who were inclined to take part in the great evangelical
movement which was then at its height. She gave evening parties
once a fortnight at which prayer was part of the entertainment. She
was not only spiritually minded, but, as enthusiastic Mrs Allaby
used to exclaim, she was a thorough woman of the world at the same
time and had such a fund of strong masculine good sense. She too
had daughters, but, as she used to say to Mrs Allaby, she had been
less fortunate than Mrs Allaby herself, for one by one they had
married and left her so that her old age would have been desolate
indeed if her Professor had not been spared to her.

Mrs Cowey, of course, knew the run of all the bachelor clergy in the
University, and was the very person to assist Mrs Allaby in finding
an eligible assistant for her husband, so this last named lady drove
over one morning in the November of 1825, by arrangement, to take an
early dinner with Mrs Cowey and spend the afternoon. After dinner
the two ladies retired together, and the business of the day began.
How they fenced, how they saw through one another, with what loyalty
they pretended not to see through one another, with what gentle
dalliance they prolonged the conversation discussing the spiritual
fitness of this or that deacon, and the other pros and cons
connected with him after his spiritual fitness had been disposed of,
all this must be left to the imagination of the reader. Mrs Cowey
had been so accustomed to scheming on her own account that she would
scheme for anyone rather than not scheme at all. Many mothers
turned to her in their hour of need and, provided they were
spiritually minded, Mrs Cowey never failed to do her best for them;
if the marriage of a young Bachelor of Arts was not made in Heaven,
it was probably made, or at any rate attempted, in Mrs Cowey's
drawing-room. On the present occasion all the deacons of the
University in whom there lurked any spark of promise were
exhaustively discussed, and the upshot was that our friend Theobald
was declared by Mrs Cowey to be about the best thing she could do
that afternoon.

"I don't know that he's a particularly fascinating young man, my
dear," said Mrs Cowey, "and he's only a second son, but then he's
got his fellowship, and even the second son of such a man as Mr
Pontifex the publisher should have something very comfortable."

"Why yes, my dear," rejoined Mrs Allaby complacently, "that's what
one rather feels."


The interview, like all other good things had to come to an end; the
days were short, and Mrs Allaby had a six miles' drive to
Crampsford. When she was muffled up and had taken her seat, Mr
Allaby's factotum, James, could perceive no change in her
appearance, and little knew what a series of delightful visions he
was driving home along with his mistress.

Professor Cowey had published works through Theobald's father, and
Theobald had on this account been taken in tow by Mrs Cowey from the
beginning of his University career. She had had her eye upon him
for some time past, and almost as much felt it her duty to get him
off her list of young men for whom wives had to be provided, as poor
Mrs Allaby did to try and get a husband for one of her daughters.
She now wrote and asked him to come and see her, in terms that
awakened his curiosity. When he came she broached the subject of Mr
Allaby's failing health, and after the smoothing away of such
difficulties as were only Mrs Cowey's due, considering the interest
she had taken, it was allowed to come to pass that Theobald should
go to Crampsford for six successive Sundays and take the half of Mr
Allaby's duty at half a guinea a Sunday, for Mrs Cowey cut down the
usual stipend mercilessly, and Theobald was not strong enough to

Ignorant of the plots which were being prepared for his peace of
mind and with no idea beyond that of earning his three guineas, and
perhaps of astonishing the inhabitants of Crampsford by his academic
learning, Theobald walked over to the Rectory one Sunday morning
early in December--a few weeks only after he had been ordained. He
had taken a great deal of pains with his sermon, which was on the
subject of geology--then coming to the fore as a theological
bugbear. He showed that so far as geology was worth anything at
all--and he was too liberal entirely to pooh-pooh it--it confirmed
the absolutely historical character of the Mosaic account of the
Creation as given in Genesis. Any phenomena which at first sight
appeared to make against this view were only partial phenomena and
broke down upon investigation. Nothing could be in more excellent
taste, and when Theobald adjourned to the rectory, where he was to
dine between the services, Mr Allaby complimented him warmly upon
his debut, while the ladies of the family could hardly find words
with which to express their admiration.

Theobald knew nothing about women. The only women he had been
thrown in contact with were his sisters, two of whom were always
correcting him, and a few school friends whom these had got their
father to ask to Elmhurst. These young ladies had either been so
shy that they and Theobald had never amalgamated, or they had been
supposed to be clever and had said smart things to him. He did not
say smart things himself and did not want other people to say them.
Besides, they talked about music--and he hated music--or pictures--
and he hated pictures--or books--and except the classics he hated
books. And then sometimes he was wanted to dance with them, and he
did not know how to dance, and did not want to know.

At Mrs Cowey's parties again he had seen some young ladies and had
been introduced to them. He had tried to make himself agreeable,
but was always left with the impression that he had not been
successful. The young ladies of Mrs Cowey's set were by no means
the most attractive that might have been found in the University,
and Theobald may be excused for not losing his heart to the greater
number of them, while if for a minute or two he was thrown in with
one of the prettier and more agreeable girls he was almost
immediately cut out by someone less bashful than himself, and
sneaked off, feeling as far as the fair sex was concerned, like the
impotent man at the pool of Bethesda.

What a really nice girl might have done with him I cannot tell, but
fate had thrown none such in his way except his youngest sister
Alethea, whom he might perhaps have liked if she had not been his
sister. The result of his experience was that women had never done
him any good and he was not accustomed to associate them with any
pleasure; if there was a part of Hamlet in connection with them it
had been so completely cut out in the edition of the play in which
he was required to act that he had come to disbelieve in its
existence. As for kissing, he had never kissed a woman in his life
except his sister--and my own sisters when we were all small
children together. Over and above these kisses, he had until quite
lately been required to imprint a solemn flabby kiss night and
morning upon his father's cheek, and this, to the best of my belief,
was the extent of Theobald's knowledge in the matter of kissing, at
the time of which I am now writing. The result of the foregoing was
that he had come to dislike women, as mysterious beings whose ways
were not as his ways, nor their thoughts as his thoughts.

With these antecedents Theobald naturally felt rather bashful on
finding himself the admired of five strange young ladies. I
remember when I was a boy myself I was once asked to take tea at a
girls' school where one of my sisters was boarding. I was then
about twelve years old. Everything went off well during tea-time,
for the Lady Principal of the establishment was present. But there
came a time when she went away and I was left alone with the girls.
The moment the mistress's back was turned the head girl, who was
about my own age, came up, pointed her finger at me, made a face and
said solemnly, "A na-a-sty bo-o-y!" All the girls followed her in
rotation making the same gesture and the same reproach upon my being
a boy. It gave me a great scare. I believe I cried, and I know it
was a long time before I could again face a girl without a strong
desire to run away.

Theobald felt at first much as I had myself done at the girls'
school, but the Miss Allabys did not tell him he was a nasty bo-o-
oy. Their papa and mamma were so cordial and they themselves lifted
him so deftly over conversational stiles that before dinner was over
Theobald thought the family to be a really very charming one, and
felt as though he were being appreciated in a way to which he had
not hitherto been accustomed.

With dinner his shyness wore off. He was by no means plain, his
academic prestige was very fair. There was nothing about him to lay
hold of as unconventional or ridiculous; the impression he created
upon the young ladies was quite as favourable as that which they had
created upon himself; for they knew not much more about men than he
about women.

As soon as he was gone, the harmony of the establishment was broken
by a storm which arose upon the question which of them it should be
who should become Mrs Pontifex. "My dears," said their father, when
he saw that they did not seem likely to settle the matter among
themselves, "Wait till to-morrow, and then play at cards for him."
Having said which he retired to his study, where he took a nightly
glass of whisky and a pipe of tobacco.


The next morning saw Theobald in his rooms coaching a pupil, and the
Miss Allabys in the eldest Miss Allaby's bedroom playing at cards
with Theobald for the stakes.

The winner was Christina, the second unmarried daughter, then just
twenty-seven years old and therefore four years older than Theobald.
The younger sisters complained that it was throwing a husband away
to let Christina try and catch him, for she was so much older that
she had no chance; but Christina showed fight in a way not usual
with her, for she was by nature yielding and good tempered. Her
mother thought it better to back her up, so the two dangerous ones
were packed off then and there on visits to friends some way off,
and those alone allowed to remain at home whose loyalty could be
depended upon. The brothers did not even suspect what was going on
and believed their father's getting assistance was because he really
wanted it.

The sisters who remained at home kept their words and gave Christina
all the help they could, for over and above their sense of fair play
they reflected that the sooner Theobald was landed, the sooner
another deacon might be sent for who might be won by themselves. So
quickly was all managed that the two unreliable sisters were
actually out of the house before Theobald's next visit--which was on
the Sunday following his first.

This time Theobald felt quite at home in the house of his new
friends--for so Mrs Allaby insisted that he should call them. She
took, she said, such a motherly interest in young men, especially in
clergymen. Theobald believed every word she said, as he had
believed his father and all his elders from his youth up. Christina
sat next him at dinner and played her cards no less judiciously than
she had played them in her sister's bed-room. She smiled (and her
smile was one of her strong points) whenever he spoke to her; she
went through all her little artlessnesses and set forth all her
little wares in what she believed to be their most taking aspect.
Who can blame her? Theobald was not the ideal she had dreamed of
when reading Byron upstairs with her sisters, but he was an actual
within the bounds of possibility, and after all not a bad actual as
actuals went. What else could she do? Run away? She dared not.
Marry beneath her and be considered a disgrace to her family? She
dared not. Remain at home and become an old maid and be laughed at?
Not if she could help it. She did the only thing that could
reasonably be expected. She was drowning; Theobald might be only a
straw, but she could catch at him and catch at him she accordingly

If the course of true love never runs smooth, the course of true
match-making sometimes does so. The only ground for complaint in
the present case was that it was rather slow. Theobald fell into
the part assigned to him more easily than Mrs Cowey and Mrs Allaby
had dared to hope. He was softened by Christina's winning manners:
he admired the high moral tone of everything she said; her sweetness
towards her sisters and her father and mother, her readiness to
undertake any small burden which no one else seemed willing to
undertake, her sprightly manners, all were fascinating to one who,
though unused to woman's society, was still a human being. He was
flattered by her unobtrusive but obviously sincere admiration for
himself; she seemed to see him in a more favourable light, and to
understand him better than anyone outside of this charming family
had ever done. Instead of snubbing him as his father, brother and
sisters did, she drew him out, listened attentively to all he chose
to say, and evidently wanted him to say still more. He told a
college friend that he knew he was in love now; he really was, for
he liked Miss Allaby's society much better than that of his sisters.

Over and above the recommendations already enumerated, she had
another in the possession of what was supposed to be a very
beautiful contralto voice. Her voice was certainly contralto, for
she could not reach higher than D in the treble; its only defect was
that it did not go correspondingly low in the bass: in those days,
however, a contralto voice was understood to include even a soprano
if the soprano could not reach soprano notes, and it was not
necessary that it should have the quality which we now assign to
contralto. What her voice wanted in range and power was made up in
the feeling with which she sang. She had transposed "Angels ever
bright and fair" into a lower key, so as to make it suit her voice,
thus proving, as her mamma said, that she had a thorough knowledge
of the laws of harmony; not only did she do this, but at every pause
added an embellishment of arpeggios from one end to the other of the
keyboard, on a principle which her governess had taught her; she
thus added life and interest to an air which everyone--so she said--
must feel to be rather heavy in the form in which Handel left it.
As for her governess, she indeed had been a rarely accomplished
musician: she was a pupil of the famous Dr Clarke of Cambridge, and
used to play the overture to Atalanta, arranged by Mazzinghi.
Nevertheless, it was some time before Theobald could bring his
courage to the sticking point of actually proposing. He made it
quite clear that he believed himself to be much smitten, but month
after month went by, during which there was still so much hope in
Theobald that Mr Allaby dared not discover that he was able to do
his duty for himself, and was getting impatient at the number of
half-guineas he was disbursing--and yet there was no proposal.
Christina's mother assured him that she was the best daughter in the
whole world, and would be a priceless treasure to the man who
married her. Theobald echoed Mrs Allaby's sentiments with warmth,
but still, though he visited the Rectory two or three times a week,
besides coming over on Sundays--he did not propose. "She is heart-
whole yet, dear Mr Pontifex," said Mrs Allaby, one day, "at least I
believe she is. It is not for want of admirers--oh! no--she has had
her full share of these, but she is too, too difficult to please. I
think, however, she would fall before a GREAT AND GOOD man." And
she looked hard at Theobald, who blushed; but the days went by and
still he did not propose.

Another time Theobald actually took Mrs Cowey into his confidence,
and the reader may guess what account of Christina he got from her.
Mrs Cowey tried the jealousy manoeuvre and hinted at a possible
rival. Theobald was, or pretended to be, very much alarmed; a
little rudimentary pang of jealousy shot across his bosom and he
began to believe with pride that he was not only in love, but
desperately in love or he would never feel so jealous.
Nevertheless, day after day still went by and he did not propose.

The Allabys behaved with great judgement. They humoured him till
his retreat was practically cut off, though he still flattered
himself that it was open. One day about six months after Theobald
had become an almost daily visitor at the Rectory the conversation
happened to turn upon long engagements. "I don't like long
engagements, Mr Allaby, do you?" said Theobald imprudently. "No,"
said Mr Allaby in a pointed tone, "nor long courtships," and he gave
Theobald a look which he could not pretend to misunderstand. He
went back to Cambridge as fast as he could go, and in dread of the
conversation with Mr Allaby which he felt to be impending, composed
the following letter which he despatched that same afternoon by a
private messenger to Crampsford. The letter was as follows:-

"Dearest Miss Christina,--I do not know whether you have guessed the
feelings that I have long entertained for you--feelings which I have
concealed as much as I could through fear of drawing you into an
engagement which, if you enter into it, must be prolonged for a
considerable time, but, however this may be, it is out of my power
to conceal them longer; I love you, ardently, devotedly, and send
these few lines asking you to be my wife, because I dare not trust
my tongue to give adequate expression to the magnitude of my
affection for you.

"I cannot pretend to offer you a heart which has never known either
love or disappointment. I have loved already, and my heart was
years in recovering from the grief I felt at seeing her become
another's. That, however, is over, and having seen yourself I
rejoice over a disappointment which I thought at one time would have
been fatal to me. It has left me a less ardent lover than I should
perhaps otherwise have been, but it has increased tenfold my power
of appreciating your many charms and my desire that you should
become my wife. Please let me have a few lines of answer by the
bearer to let me know whether or not my suit is accepted. If you
accept me I will at once come and talk the matter over with Mr and
Mrs Allaby, whom I shall hope one day to be allowed to call father
and mother.

"I ought to warn you that in the event of your consenting to be my
wife it may be years before our union can be consummated, for I
cannot marry till a college living is offered me. If, therefore,
you see fit to reject me, I shall be grieved rather than surprised.-
-Ever most devotedly yours,


And this was all that his public school and University education had
been able to do for Theobald! Nevertheless for his own part he
thought his letter rather a good one, and congratulated himself in
particular upon his cleverness in inventing the story of a previous
attachment, behind which he intended to shelter himself if Christina
should complain of any lack of fervour in his behaviour to her.

I need not give Christina's answer, which of course was to accept.
Much as Theobald feared old Mr Allaby I do not think he would have
wrought up his courage to the point of actually proposing but for
the fact of the engagement being necessarily a long one, during
which a dozen things might turn up to break it off. However much he
may have disapproved of long engagements for other people, I doubt
whether he had any particular objection to them in his own case. A
pair of lovers are like sunset and sunrise: there are such things
every day but we very seldom see them. Theobald posed as the most
ardent lover imaginable, but, to use the vulgarism for the moment in
fashion, it was all "side." Christina was in love, as indeed she
had been twenty times already. But then Christina was
impressionable and could not even hear the name "Missolonghi"
mentioned without bursting into tears. When Theobald accidentally
left his sermon case behind him one Sunday, she slept with it in her
bosom and was forlorn when she had as it were to disgorge it on the
following Sunday; but I do not think Theobald ever took so much as
an old toothbrush of Christina's to bed with him. Why, I knew a
young man once who got hold of his mistress's skates and slept with
them for a fortnight and cried when he had to give them up.


Theobald's engagement was all very well as far as it went, but there
was an old gentleman with a bald head and rosy cheeks in a counting-
house in Paternoster Row who must sooner or later be told of what
his son had in view, and Theobald's heart fluttered when he asked
himself what view this old gentleman was likely to take of the
situation. The murder, however, had to come out, and Theobald and
his intended, perhaps imprudently, resolved on making a clean breast
of it at once. He wrote what he and Christina, who helped him to
draft the letter, thought to be everything that was filial, and
expressed himself as anxious to be married with the least possible
delay. He could not help saying this, as Christina was at his
shoulder, and he knew it was safe, for his father might be trusted
not to help him. He wound up by asking his father to use any
influence that might be at his command to help him to get a living,
inasmuch as it might be years before a college living fell vacant,
and he saw no other chance of being able to marry, for neither he
nor his intended had any money except Theobald's fellowship, which
would, of course, lapse on his taking a wife.

Any step of Theobald's was sure to be objectionable in his father's
eyes, but that at three-and-twenty he should want to marry a
penniless girl who was four years older than himself, afforded a
golden opportunity which the old gentleman--for so I may now call
him, as he was at least sixty--embraced with characteristic

"The ineffable folly," he wrote, on receiving his son's letter, "of
your fancied passion for Miss Allaby fills me with the gravest
apprehensions. Making every allowance for a lover's blindness, I
still have no doubt that the lady herself is a well-conducted and
amiable young person, who would not disgrace our family, but were
she ten times more desirable as a daughter-in-law than I can allow
myself to hope, your joint poverty is an insuperable objection to
your marriage. I have four other children besides yourself, and my
expenses do not permit me to save money. This year they have been
especially heavy, indeed I have had to purchase two not
inconsiderable pieces of land which happened to come into the market
and were necessary to complete a property which I have long wanted
to round off in this way. I gave you an education regardless of
expense, which has put you in possession of a comfortable income, at
an age when many young men are dependent. I have thus started you
fairly in life, and may claim that you should cease to be a drag
upon me further. Long engagements are proverbially unsatisfactory,
and in the present case the prospect seems interminable. What
interest, pray, do you suppose I have that I could get a living for
you? Can I go up and down the country begging people to provide for
my son because he has taken it into his head to want to get married
without sufficient means?

"I do not wish to write unkindly, nothing can be farther from my
real feelings towards you, but there is often more kindness in plain
speaking than in any amount of soft words which can end in no
substantial performance. Of course, I bear in mind that you are of
age, and can therefore please yourself, but if you choose to claim
the strict letter of the law, and act without consideration for your
father's feelings, you must not be surprised if you one day find
that I have claimed a like liberty for myself.--Believe me, your
affectionate father, G. PONTIFEX."

I found this letter along with those already given and a few more
which I need not give, but throughout which the same tone prevails,
and in all of which there is the more or less obvious shake of the
will near the end of the letter. Remembering Theobald's general
dumbness concerning his father for the many years I knew him after
his father's death, there was an eloquence in the preservation of
the letters and in their endorsement "Letters from my father," which
seemed to have with it some faint odour of health and nature.

Theobald did not show his father's letter to Christina, nor, indeed,
I believe to anyone. He was by nature secretive, and had been
repressed too much and too early to be capable of railing or blowing
off steam where his father was concerned. His sense of wrong was
still inarticulate, felt as a dull dead weight ever present day by
day, and if he woke at night-time still continually present, but he
hardly knew what it was. I was about the closest friend he had, and
I saw but little of him, for I could not get on with him for long
together. He said I had no reverence; whereas I thought that I had
plenty of reverence for what deserved to be revered, but that the
gods which he deemed golden were in reality made of baser metal. He
never, as I have said, complained of his father to me, and his only
other friends were, like himself, staid and prim, of evangelical
tendencies, and deeply imbued with a sense of the sinfulness of any
act of insubordination to parents--good young men, in fact--and one
cannot blow off steam to a good young man.

When Christina was informed by her lover of his father's opposition,
and of the time which must probably elapse before they could be
married, she offered--with how much sincerity I know not--to set him
free from his engagement; but Theobald declined to be released--"not
at least," as he said, "at present." Christina and Mrs Allaby knew
they could manage him, and on this not very satisfactory footing the
engagement was continued.

His engagement and his refusal to be released at once raised
Theobald in his own good opinion. Dull as he was, he had no small
share of quiet self-approbation. He admired himself for his
University distinction, for the purity of his life (I said of him
once that if he had only a better temper he would be as innocent as
a new-laid egg) and for his unimpeachable integrity in money
matters. He did not despair of advancement in the Church when he
had once got a living, and of course it was within the bounds of
possibility that he might one day become a Bishop, and Christina
said she felt convinced that this would ultimately be the case.

As was natural for the daughter and intended wife of a clergyman,
Christina's thoughts ran much upon religion, and she was resolved
that even though an exalted position in this world were denied to
her and Theobald, their virtues should be fully appreciated in the
next. Her religious opinions coincided absolutely with Theobald's
own, and many a conversation did she have with him about the glory
of God, and the completeness with which they would devote themselves
to it, as soon as Theobald had got his living and they were married.
So certain was she of the great results which would then ensue that
she wondered at times at the blindness shown by Providence towards
its own truest interests in not killing off the rectors who stood
between Theobald and his living a little faster.

In those days people believed with a simple downrightness which I do
not observe among educated men and women now. It had never so much
as crossed Theobald's mind to doubt the literal accuracy of any
syllable in the Bible. He had never seen any book in which this was
disputed, nor met with anyone who doubted it. True, there was just
a little scare about geology, but there was nothing in it. If it
was said that God made the world in six days, why He did make it in
six days, neither in more nor less; if it was said that He put Adam
to sleep, took out one of his ribs and made a woman of it, why it
was so as a matter of course. He, Adam, went to sleep as it might
be himself, Theobald Pontifex, in a garden, as it might be the
garden at Crampsford Rectory during the summer months when it was so
pretty, only that it was larger, and had some tame wild animals in
it. Then God came up to him, as it might be Mr Allaby or his
father, dexterously took out one of his ribs without waking him, and
miraculously healed the wound so that no trace of the operation
remained. Finally, God had taken the rib perhaps into the
greenhouse, and had turned it into just such another young woman as
Christina. That was how it was done; there was neither difficulty
nor shadow of difficulty about the matter. Could not God do
anything He liked, and had He not in His own inspired Book told us
that He had done this?

This was the average attitude of fairly educated young men and women
towards the Mosaic cosmogony fifty, forty, or even twenty years ago.
The combating of infidelity, therefore, offered little scope for
enterprising young clergymen, nor had the Church awakened to the
activity which she has since displayed among the poor in our large
towns. These were then left almost without an effort at resistance
or co-operation to the labours of those who had succeeded Wesley.
Missionary work indeed in heathen countries was being carried on
with some energy, but Theobald did not feel any call to be a
missionary. Christina suggested this to him more than once, and
assured him of the unspeakable happiness it would be to her to be
the wife of a missionary, and to share his dangers; she and Theobald
might even be martyred; of course they would be martyred
simultaneously, and martyrdom many years hence as regarded from the
arbour in the Rectory garden was not painful, it would ensure them a
glorious future in the next world, and at any rate posthumous renown
in this--even if they were not miraculously restored to life again--
and such things had happened ere now in the case of martyrs.
Theobald, however, had not been kindled by Christina's enthusiasm,
so she fell back upon the Church of Rome--an enemy more dangerous,
if possible, than paganism itself. A combat with Romanism might
even yet win for her and Theobald the crown of martyrdom. True, the
Church of Rome was tolerably quiet just then, but it was the calm
before the storm, of this she was assured, with a conviction deeper
than she could have attained by any argument founded upon mere

"We, dearest Theobald," she exclaimed, "will be ever faithful. We
will stand firm and support one another even in the hour of death
itself. God in his mercy may spare us from being burnt alive. He
may or may not do so. Oh Lord" (and she turned her eyes prayerfully
to Heaven), "spare my Theobald, or grant that he may be beheaded."

"My dearest," said Theobald gravely, "do not let us agitate
ourselves unduly. If the hour of trial comes we shall be best
prepared to meet it by having led a quiet unobtrusive life of self-
denial and devotion to God's glory. Such a life let us pray God
that it may please Him to enable us to pray that we may lead."

"Dearest Theobald," exclaimed Christina, drying the tears that had
gathered in her eyes, "you are always, always right. Let us be
self-denying, pure, upright, truthful in word and deed." She
clasped her hands and looked up to Heaven as she spoke.

"Dearest," rejoined her lover, "we have ever hitherto endeavoured to


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