Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 61

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“And if the neighbours do say cruel things about me, I’m sure it ain’t no thanks to him if they’re true.  Mr Pontifex never took a bit o’ notice of me no more than if I had been his sister.  Oh, it’s enough to make anyone’s back bone curdle.  Then I thought perhaps my Rose might get on better with him, so I set her to dust him and clean him as though I were busy, and gave her such a beautiful clean new pinny, but he never took no notice of her no more than he did of me, and she didn’t want no compliment neither, she wouldn’t have taken not a shilling from him, though he had offered it, but he didn’t seem to know anything at all.  I can’t make out what the young men are a-coming to; I wish the horn may blow for me and the worms take me this very night, if it’s not enough to make a woman stand before God and strike the one half on ’em silly to see the way they goes on, and many an honest girl has to go home night after night without so much as a fourpenny bit and paying three and sixpence a week rent, and not a shelf nor cupboard in the place and a dead wall in front of the window.

“It’s not Mr Pontifex,” she continued, “that’s so bad, he’s good at heart.  He never says nothing unkind.  And then there’s his dear eyes—but when I speak about that to my Rose she calls me an old fool and says I ought to be poleaxed.  It’s that Pryer as I can’t abide.  Oh he!  He likes to wound a woman’s feelings he do, and to chuck anything in her face, he do—he likes to wind a woman up and to wound her down.”  (Mrs Jupp pronounced “wound” as though it rhymed to “sound.”)  “It’s a gentleman’s place to soothe a woman, but he, he’d like to tear her hair out by handfuls.  Why, he told me to my face that I was a-getting old; old indeed! there’s not a woman in London knows my age except Mrs Davis down in the Old Kent Road, and beyond a haricot vein in one of my legs I’m as young as ever I was.  Old indeed!  There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle.  I hate his nasty insinuendos.”

Even if I had wanted to stop her, I could not have done so.  She said a great deal more than I have given above.  I have left out much because I could not remember it, but still more because it was really impossible for me to print it.

When we got to the police station I found Towneley and Ernest already there.  The charge was one of assault, but not aggravated by serious violence.  Even so, however, it was lamentable enough, and we both saw that our young friend would have to pay dearly for his inexperience.  We tried to bail him out for the night, but the Inspector would not accept bail, so we were forced to leave him.

Towneley then went back to Mrs Jupp’s to see if he could find Miss Maitland and arrange matters with her.  She was not there, but he traced her to the house of her father, who lived at Camberwell.  The father was furious and would not hear of any intercession on Towneley’s part.  He was a Dissenter, and glad to make the most of any scandal against a clergyman; Towneley, therefore, was obliged to return unsuccessful.

Next morning, Towneley—who regarded Ernest as a drowning man, who must be picked out of the water somehow or other if possible, irrespective of the way in which he got into it—called on me, and we put the matter into the hands of one of the best known attorneys of the day.  I was greatly pleased with Towneley, and thought it due to him to tell him what I had told no one else.  I mean that Ernest would come into his aunt’s money in a few years’ time, and would therefore then be rich.

Towneley was doing all he could before this, but I knew that the knowledge I had imparted to him would make him feel as though Ernest was more one of his own class, and had therefore a greater claim upon his good offices.  As for Ernest himself, his gratitude was greater than could be expressed in words.  I have heard him say that he can call to mind many moments, each one of which might well pass for the happiest of his life, but that this night stands clearly out as the most painful that he ever passed, yet so kind and considerate was Towneley that it was quite bearable.

But with all the best wishes in the world neither Towneley nor I could do much to help beyond giving our moral support.  Our attorney told us that the magistrate before whom Ernest would appear was very severe on cases of this description, and that the fact of his being a clergyman would tell against him.  “Ask for no remand,” he said, “and make no defence.  We will call Mr Pontifex’s rector and you two gentlemen as witnesses for previous good character.  These will be enough.  Let us then make a profound apology and beg the magistrate to deal with the case summarily instead of sending it for trial.  If you can get this, believe me, your young friend will be better out of it than he has any right to expect.”