The Way of All Flesh, by Samuel Butler

Chapter 83

JOEY and Charlotte were in the room. Joey was now ordained, and was curate to Theobald. He and Ernest had never been sympathetic, and Ernest saw at a glance that there was no chance of a rapprochement between them. He was a little startled at seeing Joey dressed as a clergyman, and looking so like what he had looked himself a few years earlier, for there was a good deal of family likeness between the pair; but Joey’s face was cold and was illumined with no spark of Bohemianism; he was going to do as other clergymen did, neither better nor worse. He greeted Ernest rather de haut en has, that is to say he began by trying to do so, but the affair tailed off unsatisfactorily.

His sister presented her cheek to him to be kissed. How he hated it; he had been dreading it for the last three hours. She, too, was distant and reproachful in her manner, as such a superior person was sure to be. She had a grievance against him inasmuch as she was still unmarried. She laid the blame this at Ernest’s door; it was his misconduct, she maintained in secret, which had prevented young men from making offers to her, and she ran him up a heavy bill for consequential damages. She and Joey had from the first developed an instinct for hunting with the hounds, and now these two had fairly identified themselves with the older generation — that is to say as against Ernest. On this head there was an offensive and defensive alliance between them, but between themselves there was subdued but internecine warfare.

This at least was what Ernest gathered, partly from his recollections of the parties concerned, and partly from his observation of their little ways during the first half-hour after his arrival, while they were all together in his mother’s bedroom — for as yet of course they did not know that he had money. He could see that they eyed him from time to time with a surprise not unmixed with indignation, and knew very well what they were thinking.

Christina saw the change which had come over him — how much firmer and more vigorous both in mind and body he seemed than when she had last seen him. She saw too how well he was dressed, and, like the others, in spite of the return of all her affection for her first-born, was a little alarmed about Theobald’s pocket, which she supposed would have to be mulcted for all this magnificence. Perceiving this, Ernest relieved her mind and told her all about his aunt’s bequest, and how I had husbanded it, in the presence of his brother and sister — who, however, pretended not to notice, or at any rate to notice as a matter in which they could hardly be expected to take an interest.

His mother kicked a little at first against the money’s having gone to him as she said “over his papa’s head.” “Why, my dear,” she said in a deprecating tone, “this is more than ever your papa has had”; but Ernest calmed her by suggesting that if Miss Pontifex had known how large the sum would become she would have left the greater part of it to Theobald. This compromise was accepted by Christina who forthwith, ill as she was, entered with ardour into the new position, and taking it as a fresh point of departure, began spending Ernest’s money for him.

I may say in passing that Christina was right in saying that Theobald had never had so much money as his son was now possessed of. In the first place he had not had a fourteen years’ minority with no outgoings to prevent the accumulation of the money, and in the second he, like myself and almost everyone else, had suffered somewhat in the 1846 times — not enough to cripple him or even seriously to hurt him, but enough to give him a scare and make him stick to debentures for the rest of his life. It was the fact of his son’s being the richer man of the two, and of his being rich so young, which rankled with Theobald even more than the fact of his having money at all. If he had had to wait till he was sixty or sixty-five, and become broken down from long failure in the meantime, why then perhaps he might have been allowed to have whatever sum should suffice to keep him out of the workhouse and pay his death-bed expenses; but that he should come in to L70,000 at eight-and-twenty, and have no wife and only two children — it was intolerable. Christina was too ill and in too great a hurry to spend the money to care much about such details as the foregoing, and she was naturally much more good-natured than Theobald.

“This piece of good fortune”— she saw it at a glance —“quite wiped out the disgrace of his having been imprisoned. There should be no more nonsense about that. The whole thing was a mistake, an unfortunate mistake, true, but the less said about it now the better. Of course Ernest would come back and live at Battersby until he was married, and he would pay his father handsomely for board and lodging. In fact it would be only right that Theobald should make a profit, nor would Ernest himself wish it to be other than a handsome one; this was far the best and simplest arrangement; and he could take his sister out more than Theobald or Joey cared to do, and would also doubtless entertain very handsomely at Battersby.

“Of course he would buy Joey a living, and make large presents yearly to his sister — was there anything else? Oh! yes — he would become a county magnate now; a man with nearly L4,000 a year should certainly become a county magnate. He might even go into Parliament. He had very fair abilities, nothing indeed approaching such genius as Dr. Skinner’s nor even as Theobald’s, still he was not deficient and if he got into Parliament — so young too — there was nothing to hinder his being Prime Minister before he died, and if so, of course, he would become a peer. Oh! why did he not set about it all at once, so that she might live to hear people call her son ‘my lord’— Lord Battersby she thought would do very nicely, and if she was well enough to sit he must certainly have her portrait painted at full length for one end of his large dining-hall. It should be exhibited at the Royal Academy: ‘Portrait of Lord Battersby’s mother,’ she said to herself, and her heart fluttered with all its wonted vivacity. If she could not sit, happily, she had been photographed not so very long ago, and the portrait had been as successful as any photograph could be of a face which depended so entirely upon its expression as her own. Perhaps the painter could take the portrait sufficiently from this. It was better after all that Ernest had given up the Church-how far more wisely God arranges matters for us than ever we can do for ourselves! She saw it all now-it was Joey who would become Archbishop of Canterbury and Ernest would remain a layman and become Prime Minister” . . . and so on till her daughter told her it was time to take her medicine.

I suppose this reverie, which is a mere fragment of what actually ran through Christina’s brain, occupied about a minute and a half, but it, or the presence of her son, seemed to revive her spirits wonderfully. Ill, dying indeed, and suffering as she was, she brightened up so as to laugh once or twice quite merrily during the course of the afternoon. Next day Dr. Martin said she was so much better that he almost began to have hopes of her recovery again. Theobald, whenever this was touched upon as possible, would shake his head and say: “We can’t wish it prolonged,” and then Charlotte caught Ernest unawares and said: “You know, dear Ernest, that these ups and downs of talk are terribly agitating to papa; he could stand whatever comes, but it is quite too wearing to him to think half-a-dozen different things backwards and forwards, up and down in the same twenty-four hours, and it would be kinder of you not to do it — I mean not to say anything to him even though Dr. Martin does hold out hopes.”

Charlotte had meant to imply that it was Ernest who was at the bottom of all the inconvenience felt by Theobald, herself, Joey, and everyone else, and she had actually got words out which should convey this; true, she had not dared to stick to them and had turned them off, but she had made them hers at any rate for one brief moment, and this was better than nothing. Ernest noticed throughout his mother’s illness, that Charlotte found immediate occasion to make herself disagreeable to him whenever either the doctor or nurse pronounced her mother to be a little better. When she wrote to Crampsford to desire the prayers of the congregation (she was sure her mother would wish it, and that the Crampsford people would be pleased at her remembrance of them), she was sending another letter on some quite different subject at the same time, and put the two letters into the wrong envelopes. Ernest was asked to take these letters to the village post office, and imprudently did so; when the error came to be discovered Christina happened to have rallied a little. Charlotte flew at Ernest immediately, and laid all the blame of the blunder upon his shoulders.

Except that Joey and Charlotte were more fully developed, the house and its inmates, organic and inorganic, were little changed since Ernest had last seen them. The furniture and the ornaments on the chimney-piece were just as they had been ever since he could remember anything at all. In the drawing-room, on either side of the fireplace there hung the Carlo Dolci and the Sassoferrato as in old times; there was the water colour of a scene on the Lago Maggiore, copied by Charlotte from an original lent her by her drawing master, and finished under his direction. This was the picture of which one of the servants had said that it must be good, for Mr. Pontifex had given ten shillings for the frame. The paper on the walls was unchanged; the roses were still waiting for the bees; and the whole family still prayed night and morning to be made “truly honest and conscientious.”

One picture only was removed — a photograph of himself which had hung under one of his father and between those of his brother and sister. Ernest noticed this at prayer time, while his father was reading about Noah’s ark and how they daubed it with slime, which, as it happened, had been Ernest’s favourite text when he was a boy. Next morning, however, the photograph had found its way back again, a little dusty and with a bit of the gilding chipped off from one corner of the frame, but there sure enough it was. I suppose they put it back when they found how rich he had become.

In the dining-room the ravens were still trying to feed Elijah over the fireplace; what a crowd of reminiscences did not this picture bring back! Looking out of the window, there were the flower beds in the front garden exactly as they had been, and Ernest found himself looking hard against the blue door at the bottom of the garden to see if there was rain falling, as he had been used to look when he was a child doing lessons with his father.

After their early dinner, when Joey and Ernest and their father were left alone, Theobald rose and stood in the middle of the hearthrug under the Elijah picture, and began to whistle in his old absent way. He had two tunes only — one was “In my Cottage near a Wood,” and the other was the Easter Hymn; he had been trying to whistle them all his life, but had never succeeded; he whistled them as a clever bullfinch might whistle them — he had got them, but he had not got them right; he would be a semitone out in every third note as though reverting to some remote musical progenitor, who had known none but the Lydian or the Phrygian mode, or whatever would enable him to go most wrong while still keeping the tune near enough to be recognised. Theobald stood before the middle of the fire and whistled his two tunes softly in his own old way till Ernest left the room; the unchangedness of the external and changedness of the internal he felt were likely to throw him completely off his balance.

He strolled out of doors into the sodden spinney behind the house, and solaced himself with a pipe. Ere long he found himself at the door of the cottage of his father’s coachman, who had married an old lady’s maid of his mother’s, to whom Ernest had been always much attached as she also to him, for she had known him ever since he had been five or six years old. Her name was Susan. He sat down in the rocking-chair before her fire, and Susan went on ironing at the table in front of the window, and a smell of hot flannel pervaded the kitchen.

Susan had been retained too securely by Christina to be likely to side with Ernest all in a moment. He knew this very well, and did not call on her for the sake of support, moral or otherwise. He had called because he liked her, and also because he knew that he should gather much in a chat with her that he should not be able to arrive at in any other way.

“Oh, Master Ernest,” said Susan, “why did you not come back when your poor papa and mamma wanted you? I’m sure your ma has said to me a hundred times over if she has said it once that all should be exactly as it had been before.”

Ernest smiled to himself. It was no use explaining to Susan why he smiled, so he said nothing.

“For the first day or two I thought she never would get over it; she said it was a judgement upon her, and went on about things as she had said and done many years ago, before your pa knew her, and I don’t know what she didn’t say or wouldn’t have said only I stopped her; she seemed out of her mind like, and said that none of the neighbours would ever speak to her again, but the next day Mrs. Bushby (her that was Miss Cowey, you know) called, and your ma always was so fond of her, and it seemed to do her a power o’ good, for the next day she went through all her dresses, and we settled how she should have them altered; and then all the neighbours called for miles and miles round, and your ma came in here, and said she had been going through the waters of misery, and the Lord had turned them to a well.

“’Oh, yes, Susan,’ said she, ‘be sure it is so. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, Susan,’ and here she began to cry again. ‘As for him,’ she went on, ‘he has made his bed, and he must lie on it; when he comes out of prison his pa will know what is best to be done, and Master Ernest may be thankful that he has a pa so good and so long-suffering.’

“Then when you would not see them, that was a cruel blow to your ma. Your pa did not say anything; you know your pa never does say very much unless he’s downright waxy for the time; but your ma took on dreadful for a few days, and I never saw the master look so black; but, bless you, it all went off in a few days, and I don’t know that there’s been much difference in either of them since then, not till your ma was took ill.”

On the night of his arrival he had behaved well at family prayers, as also on the following morning; his father read about David’s dying injunction to Solomon in the matter of Shimei, but he did not mind it. In the course of the day, however, his corns had been trodden on so many times that he was in a misbehaving humour, on this the second night after his arrival. He knelt next Charlotte and said the responses perfunctorily, not so perfunctorily that she should know for certain that he was doing it maliciously, but so perfunctorily as to make her uncertain whether he might be malicious or not, and when he had to pray to be made truly honest and conscientious he emphasised the “truly.” I do not know whether Charlotte noticed anything, but she knelt at some distance from him during the rest of his stay. He assures me that this was the only spiteful thing he did during the whole time he was at Battersby.

When he went up to his bedroom, in which, to do them justice, they had given him a fire, he noticed what indeed he had noticed as soon as he was shown into it on his arrival, that there was an illuminated card framed and glazed over his bed with the words, “Be the day weary or be the day long, at last it ringeth to evensong.” He wondered to himself how such people could leave such a card in a room in which their visitors would have to spend the last hours of their evening, but he let it alone. “There’s not enough difference between ‘weary’ and ‘long’ to warrant an ‘or,’” he said, “but I suppose it is all right.” I believe Christina had bought the card at a bazaar in aid of the restoration of a neighbouring church, and having been bought it had got to be used — besides, the sentiment was so touching and the illumination was really lovely. how, no irony could be more complete than leaving it in my hero’s bedroom, though assuredly no irony had been intended.

On the third day after Ernest’s arrival Christina relapsed again. For the last two days she had been in no pain and had slept a good deal; her son’s presence still seemed to cheer her, and she often said how thankful she was to be surrounded on her death-bed by a family so happy, so God-fearing, so united, but now she began to wander, and, being more sensible of the approach of death, seemed also more alarmed at the thoughts of the Day of Judgement.

She ventured more than once or twice to return to the subject of her sins, and implored Theobald to make quite sure that they were forgiven her. She hinted that she considered his professional reputation was at stake; it would never do for his own wife to fail in securing at any rate a pass. This was touching Theobald on a tender spot; he winced and rejoined with an impatient toss of the head, “But, Christina, they are forgiven you”; and then he entrenched himself in a firm but dignified manner behind the Lord’s Prayer. When he rose he left the room, but called Ernest out to say that he could not wish it prolonged.

Joey was no more use in quieting his mother’s anxiety than Theobald had been — indeed he was only Theobald and water; at last Ernest, who had not liked interfering took the matter in hand, and, sitting beside her, let her pour out her grief to him without let or hindrance.

She said she knew she had not given up all for Christ’s sake; it was this that weighed upon her. She had given up much, and had always tried to give up more year by year, still she knew very well that she had not been so spiritually minded as she ought to have been. If she had, she should probably have been favoured with some direct vision or communication; whereas, though God had vouchsafed such direct and visible angelic visits to one of her dear children, yet she had had none such herself — nor even had Theobald.

She was talking rather to herself than to Ernest as she said these words, but they made him open his ears. He wanted to know whether the angel had appeared to Joey or to Charlotte. He asked his mother, but she seemed surprised, as though she expected him to know all about it; then, as if she remembered, she checked herself and said, “Ah! yes-you know nothing of all this, and perhaps it is as well.” Ernest could not of course press the subject, so he never found out which of his near relations it was who had had direct communication with an immortal. The others never said anything to him about it, though whether this was because they were ashamed, or because they feared he would not believe the story and thus increase his own damnation, he could not determine.

Ernest has often thought about this since. He tried to get the facts out of Susan, who he was sure would know, but Charlotte had been beforehand with him. “No, Master Ernest,” said Susan, when he began to question her, “your ma has sent a message to me by Miss Charlotte as I am not to say nothing at all about it, and I never will.” Of course no further questioning was possible. It had more than once occurred to Ernest that Charlotte did not in reality believe more than he did himself, and this incident went far to strengthen his surmises, but he wavered when he remembered how she had misdirected the letter asking for the prayers of the congregation. “I suppose,” he said to himself gloomily, “she does believe in it after all.”

Then Christina returned to the subject of her own want of spiritual-mindedness, she even harped upon the old grievance of her having eaten black puddings — true, she had given them up years ago, but for how many years had she not persevered in eating them after she had had misgivings about their having been forbidden! Then there was something that weighed on her mind that had taken place before her marriage, and she should like —

Ernest interrupted her: “My dear mother,” he said, “you are ill and your mind is unstrung; others can now judge better about you than you can; I assure you that to me you seem to have been the most devotedly unselfish wife and mother that ever lived. Even if you have not literally given up all for Christ’s sake, you have done so practically as far as it was in your power, and more than this is not required of anyone. I believe you will not only be a saint, but a very distinguished one.”

At these words Christina brightened. “You give me hope, you give me hope,” she cried, and dried her eyes. She made him assure her over and over again that this was his solemn conviction; she did not care about being a distinguished saint now; she would be quite content to be among the meanest who actually got into heaven, provided she could make sure of escaping that awful Hell. The fear of this evidently was omnipresent with her, and in spite of all Ernest could say he did not quite dispel it. She was rather ungrateful, I must confess, for after more than an hour’s consolation from Ernest she prayed for him that he might have every blessing in this world, inasmuch as she always feared that he was the only one of her children whom she should never meet in heaven; but she was then wandering, and was hardly aware of his presence; her mind in fact was reverting to states in which it had been before her illness.

On Sunday Ernest went to church as a matter of course, and noted that the ever receding tide of Evangelicalism had ebbed many a stage lower, even during the few years of his absence. His father used to walk to the church through the Rectory garden, and across a small intervening field. He had been used to walk in a tall hat, his master’s gown, and wearing a pair of Geneva bands. Ernest noticed that the bands were worn no longer, and lo! greater marvel still, Theobald did not preach in his master’s gown, but in a surplice. The whole character of the service was changed; you could not say it was high even now, for high-church Theobald could never under any circumstances become, but the old easy-going slovenliness, if I may say so, was gone for ever. The orchestral accompaniments to the hymns had disappeared while my hero was yet a boy, but there had been no chanting for some years after the harmonium had been introduced. While Ernest was at Cambridge, Charlotte and Christina had prevailed on Theobald to allow the canticles to be sung; and sung they were to old-fashioned double chants by Lord Mornington and Dr. Dupuis and others. Theobald did not like it, but he did it, or allowed it to be done.

Then Christina said: “My dear, do you know, I really think” (Christina always “really” thought) “that the people like the chanting very much, and that it will be a means of bringing many to church who have stayed away hitherto. I was talking about it to Mrs. Goodhew and to old Miss Wright only yesterday, and they quite agreed with me, but they all said that we ought to chant the ‘Glory be to the Father’ at the end of each of the psalms instead of saying it.”

Theobald looked black — he felt the waters of chanting rising higher and higher upon him inch by inch; but he felt also, he knew not why, that he had better yield than fight. So he ordered the “Glory be to the Father” to be chanted in future, but he did not like it.

“Really, mamma dear,” said Charlotte, when the battle was won, “you should not call it the ‘Glory be to the Father’— you should say ‘Gloria.’

“Of course, my dear,” said Christina, and she said “Gloria” for ever after. Then she thought what a wonderfully clever girl Charlotte was, and how she ought to marry no one lower than a bishop. By-and-by when Theobald went away for an unusually long holiday one summer, he could find no one but a rather high-church clergyman to take his duty. This gentleman was a man of weight in the neighbourhood, having considerable private means, but without preferment. In the summer he would often help his brother clergymen, and it was through his being willing to take the duty at Battersby for a few Sundays that Theobald had been able to get away for so long. On his return, however, he found that the whole psalms were being chanted as well as the Glorias. The influential clergyman, Christina, and Charlotte took the bull by the horns as soon as Theobald returned, and laughed it all off; and the clergyman laughed and bounced, and Christina laughed and coaxed, and Charlotte uttered unexceptionable sentiments, and the thing was done now, and could not be undone, and it was no use grieving over spilt milk; so henceforth the psalms were to be chanted, but Theobald grisled over it in his heart, and he did not like it.

During this same absence what had Mrs. Goodhew and old Miss Wright taken to doing but turning towards the east while repeating the Belief? Theobald disliked this even worse than chanting. When he said something about it in a timid way at dinner after service, Charlotte said, “Really, papa dear, you must take to caring it the ‘Creed’ and not the ‘Belief’”; and Theobald winced impatiently and snorted meek defiance, but the spirit of her aunts Jane and Eliza was strong in Charlotte, and the thing was too small to fight about, and he turned it off with a laugh. “As for Charlotte,” thought Christina, “I believe she knows everything.” So Mrs. Good. and Miss Wright continued to turn to the east during the time the Creed was said, and by-and-by others followed their example, and ere long the few who had stood out yielded and turned eastward too; and then Theobald made as though he had thought it all very right and proper from the first, but like it he did not. By-and-by Charlotte tried to make him say “Alleluia” instead of “Hallelujah,” but this was going too far, and Theobald turned, and she got frightened and ran away.

And they changed the double chants for single ones, and altered them psalm by psalm, and in the middle of psalms, just where a cursory reader would see no reason why they should do so, they changed from major to minor and from minor back to major; and then they got “Hymns Ancient and Modern,” and, as I have said, they robbed him of his beloved bands, and they made him preach in a surplice, and he must have celebration of the Holy Communion once a month instead of only five times in the year as heretofore, and he struggled in vain against the unseen influence which he felt to be working in season and out of season against all that he had been accustomed to consider most distinctive of his party. Where it was, or what it was, he knew not, nor exactly what it would do next, but he knew exceedingly well that go where he would it was undermining him; that it was too persistent for him; that Christina and Charlotte liked it a great deal better than he did, and that it could end in nothing but Rome. Easter decorations indeed! Christmas decorations — in reason — were proper enough, but Easter decorations! well, it might last his time.

This was the course things had taken in the Church of England during the last forty years. The set has been steadily in one direction. A few men who knew what they wanted made catspaws of the Christinas and the Charlottes, and the Christinas and the Charlottes made catspaws of the Mrs. Goodhews and the old Miss Wrights, and the Mrs. Goodhews and old Miss Wrights told the Mr. Goodhews and young Miss Wrights what they should do, and when the Mr. Goodhews and the young Miss Wrights did it the little Goodhews and the rest of the spiritual flock did as they did, and the Theobalds went for nothing; step by step, day by day, year by year, parish by parish, diocese by diocese this was how it was done. And yet the Church of England looks with no friendly eyes upon the theory of Evolution or Descent with Modification.

My hero thought over these things, and remembered many a ruse on the part of Christina and Charlotte, and many a detail of the struggle which I cannot further interrupt my story to refer to, and he remembered his father’s favourite retort that it could only end in Rome. When he was a boy he had firmly believed this, but he smiled now as he thought of another alternative clear enough to himself, but so horrible that it had not even occurred to Theobald — I mean the toppling over of the whole system. At that time he welcomed the hope that the absurdities and unrealities of the Church would end in her downfall. Since then he has come to think very differently, not as believing in the cow jumping over the moon more than he used to, or more, probably, than nine-tenths of the clergy themselves — who know as well as he does that their outward and visible symbols are out of date — but because he knows the baffling complexity of the problem when it comes to deciding what is actually to be done. Also, now that he has seen them more closely, he knows better the nature of those wolves in sheep’s clothing, who are thirsting for the blood of their victim, and exulting so clamorously over its anticipated early fall into their clutches. The spirit behind the Church is true, though her letter — true once — is now true no longer. The spirit behind the High Priests of Science is as lying as its letter. The Theobalds, who do what they do because it seems to be the correct thing, but who in their hearts neither like it nor believe in it, are in reality the least dangerous of all classes to the peace and liberties of mankind. The man to fear is he who goes at things with the cocksureness of pushing vulgarity and self-conceit. These are not vices which can be justly laid to the charge of the English clergy.

Many of the farmers came up to Ernest when service was over, and shook hands with him. He found everyone knew of his having come into a fortune. The fact was that Theobald had immediately told two or three of the greatest gossips in the village, and the story was not long in spreading. “It simplified matters,” he had said to himself, “a good deal.” Ernest was civil to Mrs. Goodhew for her husband’s sake, but he gave Miss Wright the cut direct, for he knew that she was only Charlotte in disguise.

A week passed slowly away. Two or three times the family took the sacrament together round Christina’s death-bed. Theobald’s impatience became more and more transparent daily, but fortunately Christina (who even if she had been well would have been ready to shut her eyes to it) became weaker and less coherent in mind also, so that she hardly, if at all, perceived it. After Ernest had been in the house about a week his mother fell into a comatose state which lasted a couple of days, and in the end went away so peacefully that it was like the blending of sea and sky in mid-ocean upon a soft hazy day when none can say where the earth ends and the heavens begin. Indeed she died to the realities of life with less pain than she had waked from many of its illusions.

“She has been the comfort and mainstay of my life for more than thirty years,” said Theobald as soon as all was over, “but one could not wish it prolonged,” and he buried his face in his handkerchief to conceal his want of emotion.

Ernest came back to town the day after his mother’s death, and returned to the funeral accompanied by myself. He wanted me to see his father in order to prevent any possible misapprehension about Miss Pontifex’s intentions, and I was such an old friend of the family that my presence at Christina’s funeral would surprise no one. With all her faults I had always rather liked Christina. She would have chopped Ernest or anyone else into little pieces of mincemeat to gratify the slightest wish of her husband, but she would not have chopped him up for anyone else, and so long as he did not cross her she was very fond of him. By nature she was of an even temper, more willing to be pleased than ruffled, very ready to do a good-natured action, provided it did not cost her much exertion, nor involve expense to Theobald. Her own little purse did not matter; anyone might have as much of that as he or she could get after she had reserved what was absolutely necessary for her dress. I could not hear of her end as Ernest described it to me without feeling very compassionate towards her, indeed her own son could hardly have felt more so; I at once, therefore, consented to go down to the funeral; perhaps I was also influenced by a desire to see Charlotte and Joey, in whom I felt interested on hearing what my godson had told me.

I found Theobald looking remarkably well. Everyone said he was bearing it so beautifully. He did indeed once or twice shake his head and say that his wife had been the comfort and mainstay of his life for over thirty years, but there the matter ended. I stayed over the next day, which was Sunday, and took my departure on the following morning after having told Theobald all that his son wished me to tell him. Theobald asked me to help him with Christina’s epitaph.

“I would say,” said he, “as little as possible; eulogies of the departed are in most cases both unnecessary and untrue. Christina’s epitaph shall contain nothing which shall be either the one or the other. I should give her name, the dates of her birth and death, and of course say she was my wife, and then I think I should wind up with a simple text-her favourite one for example, none indeed could be more appropriate, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

I said I thought this would be very nice, and it was settled. So Ernest was sent to give the order to Mr. Prosser, the stonemason in the nearest town, who said it came from “the Beetitudes.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31