The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 12
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 eagerness.
"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