The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 13
A due number of old shoes had been thrown at the carriage in which the happy pair
departed from the Rectory, and it had turned the corner at the bottom of the village. It
could then be seen for two or three hundred yards creeping past a fir coppice, and after
this was lost to view.
"John," said Mr Allaby to his man-servant, "shut the gate;" and he went indoors with a
sigh of relief which seemed to say: "I have done it, and I am alive." This was the reaction
after a burst of enthusiastic merriment during which the old gentleman had run twenty
yards after the carriage to fling a slipper at it--which he had duly flung.
But what were the feelings of Theobald and Christina when the village was passed and
they were rolling quietly by the fir plantation? It is at this point that even the stoutest
heart must fail, unless it beat in the breast of one who is over head and ears in love. If a
young man is in a small boat on a choppy sea, along with his affianced bride and both are
sea-sick, and if the sick swain can forget his own anguish in the happiness of holding the
fair one's head when she is at her worst--then he is in love, and his heart will be in no
danger of failing him as he passes his fir plantation. Other people, and unfortunately by
far the greater number of those who get married must be classed among the "other
people," will inevitably go through a quarter or half an hour of greater or less badness as
the case may be. Taking numbers into account, I should think more mental suffering had
been undergone in the streets leading from St George's, Hanover Square, than in the
condemned cells of Newgate. There is no time at which what the Italians call la figlia
della Morte lays her cold hand upon a man more awfully than during the first half hour
that he is alone with a woman whom he has married but never genuinely loved.
Death's daughter did not spare Theobald. He had behaved very well hitherto. When
Christina had offered to let him go, he had stuck to his post with a magnanimity on which
he had plumed himself ever since. From that time forward he had said to himself: "I, at
any rate, am the very soul of honour; I am not," etc., etc. True, at the moment of
magnanimity the actual cash payment, so to speak, was still distant; when his father gave
formal consent to his marriage things began to look more serious; when the college living
had fallen vacant and been accepted they looked more serious still; but when Christina
actually named the day, then Theobald's heart fainted within him.
The engagement had gone on so long that he had got into a groove, and the prospect of
change was disconcerting. Christina and he had got on, he thought to himself, very nicely
for a great number of years; why--why--why should they not continue to go on as they
were doing now for the rest of their lives? But there was no more chance of escape for
him than for the sheep which is being driven to the butcher's back premises, and like the
sheep he felt that there was nothing to be gained by resistance, so he made none. He
behaved, in fact, with decency, and was declared on all hands to be one of the happiest
men imaginable.