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The Way of All Flesh

Chapter 18
For the first time in his life Theobald felt that he had done something right, and could
look forward to meeting his father without alarm. The old gentleman, indeed, had written
him a most cordial letter, announcing his intention of standing godfather to the boy--nay,
I may as well give it in full, as it shows the writer at his best. It runs:
"Dear Theobald,--Your letter gave me very sincere pleasure, the more so because I had
made up my mind for the worst; pray accept my most hearty congratulations for my
daughter-in-law and for yourself.
"I have long preserved a phial of water from the Jordan for the christening of my first
grandson, should it please God to grant me one. It was given me by my old friend Dr
Jones. You will agree with me that though the efficacy of the sacrament does not depend
upon the source of the baptismal waters, yet, ceteris paribus, there is a sentiment
attaching to the waters of the Jordan which should not be despised. Small matters like this
sometimes influence a child's whole future career.
"I shall bring my own cook, and have told him to get everything ready for the christening
dinner. Ask as many of your best neighbours as your table will hold. By the way, I have
told Lesueur NOT TO GET A LOBSTER--you had better drive over yourself and get one
from Saltness (for Battersby was only fourteen or fifteen miles from the sea coast); they
are better there, at least I think so, than anywhere else in England.
"I have put your boy down for something in the event of his attaining the age of twenty-
one years. If your brother John continues to have nothing but girls I may do more later
on, but I have many claims upon me, and am not as well off as you may imagine.--Your
affectionate father,
"G. PONTIFEX."
A few days afterwards the writer of the above letter made his appearance in a fly which
had brought him from Gildenham to Battersby, a distance of fourteen miles. There was
Lesueur, the cook, on the box with the driver, and as many hampers as the fly could carry
were disposed upon the roof and elsewhere. Next day the John Pontifexes had to come,
and Eliza and Maria, as well as Alethea, who, by her own special request, was godmother
to the boy, for Mr Pontifex had decided that they were to form a happy family party; so
come they all must, and be happy they all must, or it would be the worse for them. Next
day the author of all this hubbub was actually christened. Theobald had proposed to call
him George after old Mr Pontifex, but strange to say, Mr Pontifex over-ruled him in
favour of the name Ernest. The word "earnest" was just beginning to come into fashion,
and he thought the possession of such a name might, like his having been baptised in
water from the Jordan, have a permanent effect upon the boy's character, and influence
him for good during the more critical periods of his life.
 
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