The Way of All Flesh HTML version

Chapter 20
The birth of his son opened Theobald's eyes to a good deal which he had but faintly
realised hitherto. He had had no idea how great a nuisance a baby was. Babies come into
the world so suddenly at the end, and upset everything so terribly when they do come:
why cannot they steal in upon us with less of a shock to the domestic system? His wife,
too, did not recover rapidly from her confinement; she remained an invalid for months;
here was another nuisance and an expensive one, which interfered with the amount which
Theobald liked to put by out of his income against, as he said, a rainy day, or to make
provision for his family if he should have one. Now he was getting a family, so that it
became all the more necessary to put money by, and here was the baby hindering him.
Theorists may say what they like about a man's children being a continuation of his own
identity, but it will generally be found that those who talk in this way have no children of
their own. Practical family men know better.
About twelve months after the birth of Ernest there came a second, also a boy, who was
christened Joseph, and in less than twelve months afterwards, a girl, to whom was given
the name of Charlotte. A few months before this girl was born Christina paid a visit to the
John Pontifexes in London, and, knowing her condition, passed a good deal of time at the
Royal Academy exhibition looking at the types of female beauty portrayed by the
Academicians, for she had made up her mind that the child this time was to be a girl.
Alethea warned her not to do this, but she persisted, and certainly the child turned out
plain, but whether the pictures caused this or no I cannot say.
Theobald had never liked children. He had always got away from them as soon as he
could, and so had they from him; oh, why, he was inclined to ask himself, could not
children be born into the world grown up? If Christina could have given birth to a few
full-grown clergymen in priest's orders--of moderate views, but inclining rather to
Evangelicalism, with comfortable livings and in all respects facsimiles of Theobald
himself--why, there might have been more sense in it; or if people could buy ready-made
children at a shop of whatever age and sex they liked, instead of always having to make
them at home and to begin at the beginning with them--that might do better, but as it was
he did not like it. He felt as he had felt when he had been required to come and be
married to Christina--that he had been going on for a long time quite nicely, and would
much rather continue things on their present footing. In the matter of getting married he
had been obliged to pretend he liked it; but times were changed, and if he did not like a
thing now, he could find a hundred unexceptionable ways of making his dislike apparent.
It might have been better if Theobald in his younger days had kicked more against his
father: the fact that he had not done so encouraged him to expect the most implicit
obedience from his own children. He could trust himself, he said (and so did Christina),
to be more lenient than perhaps his father had been to himself; his danger, he said (and so
again did Christina), would be rather in the direction of being too indulgent; he must be