The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 17
In the course of time this sorrow was removed. At the beginning of the fifth year of her
married life Christina was safely delivered of a boy. This was on the sixth of September
Word was immediately sent to old Mr Pontifex, who received the news with real
pleasure. His son John's wife had borne daughters only, and he was seriously uneasy lest
there should be a failure in the male line of his descendants. The good news, therefore,
was doubly welcome, and caused as much delight at Elmhurst as dismay in Woburn
Square, where the John Pontifexes were then living.
Here, indeed, this freak of fortune was felt to be all the more cruel on account of the
impossibility of resenting it openly; but the delighted grandfather cared nothing for what
the John Pontifexes might feel or not feel; he had wanted a grandson and he had got a
grandson, and this should be enough for everybody; and, now that Mrs Theobald had
taken to good ways, she might bring him more grandsons, which would be desirable, for
he should not feel safe with fewer than three.
He rang the bell for the butler.
"Gelstrap," he said solemnly, "I want to go down into the cellar."
Then Gelstrap preceded him with a candle, and he went into the inner vault where he kept
his choicest wines.
He passed many bins: there was 1803 Port, 1792 Imperial Tokay, 1800 Claret, 1812
Sherry, these and many others were passed, but it was not for them that the head of the
Pontifex family had gone down into his inner cellar. A bin, which had appeared empty
until the full light of the candle had been brought to bear upon it, was now found to
contain a single pint bottle. This was the object of Mr Pontifex's search.
Gelstrap had often pondered over this bottle. It had been placed there by Mr Pontifex
himself about a dozen years previously, on his return from a visit to his friend the
celebrated traveller Dr Jones- -but there was no tablet above the bin which might give a
clue to the nature of its contents. On more than one occasion when his master had gone
out and left his keys accidentally behind him, as he sometimes did, Gelstrap had
submitted the bottle to all the tests he could venture upon, but it was so carefully sealed
that wisdom remained quite shut out from that entrance at which he would have
welcomed her most gladly--and indeed from all other entrances, for he could make out
nothing at all.
And now the mystery was to be solved. But alas! it seemed as though the last chance of
securing even a sip of the contents was to be removed for ever, for Mr Pontifex took the