The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 16
He does not like this branch of his profession--indeed he hates it-- but will not admit it to
himself. The habit of not admitting things to himself has become a confirmed one with
him. Nevertheless there haunts him an ill defined sense that life would be pleasanter if
there were no sick sinners, or if they would at any rate face an eternity of torture with
more indifference. He does not feel that he is in his element. The farmers look as if they
were in their element. They are full-bodied, healthy and contented; but between him and
them there is a great gulf fixed. A hard and drawn look begins to settle about the corners
of his mouth, so that even if he were not in a black coat and white tie a child might know
him for a parson.
He knows that he is doing his duty. Every day convinces him of this more firmly; but
then there is not much duty for him to do. He is sadly in want of occupation. He has no
taste for any of those field sports which were not considered unbecoming for a clergyman
forty years ago. He does not ride, nor shoot, nor fish, nor course, nor play cricket. Study,
to do him justice, he had never really liked, and what inducement was there for him to
study at Battersby? He reads neither old books nor new ones. He does not interest himself
in art or science or politics, but he sets his back up with some promptness if any of them
show any development unfamiliar to himself. True, he writes his own sermons, but even
his wife considers that his forte lies rather in the example of his life (which is one long
act of self-devotion) than in his utterances from the pulpit. After breakfast he retires to his
study; he cuts little bits out of the Bible and gums them with exquisite neatness by the
side of other little bits; this he calls making a Harmony of the Old and New Testaments.
Alongside the extracts he copies in the very perfection of hand-writing extracts from
Mede (the only man, according to Theobald, who really understood the Book of
Revelation), Patrick, and other old divines. He works steadily at this for half an hour
every morning during many years, and the result is doubtless valuable. After some years
have gone by he hears his children their lessons, and the daily oft-repeated screams that
issue from the study during the lesson hours tell their own horrible story over the house.
He has also taken to collecting a hortus siccus, and through the interest of his father was
once mentioned in the Saturday Magazine as having been the first to find a plant, whose
name I have forgotten, in the neighbourhood of Battersby. This number of the Saturday
Magazine has been bound in red morocco, and is kept upon the drawing-room table. He
potters about his garden; if he hears a hen cackling he runs and tells Christina, and
straightway goes hunting for the egg.
When the two Miss Allabys came, as they sometimes did, to stay with Christina, they
said the life led by their sister and brother-in-law was an idyll. Happy indeed was
Christina in her choice, for that she had had a choice was a fiction which soon took root
among them-- and happy Theobald in his Christina. Somehow or other Christina was
always a little shy of cards when her sisters were staying with her, though at other times
she enjoyed a game of cribbage or a rubber of whist heartily enough, but her sisters knew
they would never be asked to Battersby again if they were to refer to that little matter, and