Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 12

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When Christina was informed by her lover of his father’s opposition, and of the time which must probably elapse before they could be married, she offered—with how much sincerity I know not—to set him free from his engagement; but Theobald declined to be released—“not at least,” as he said, “at present.”  Christina and Mrs Allaby knew they could manage him, and on this not very satisfactory footing the engagement was continued.

His engagement and his refusal to be released at once raised Theobald in his own good opinion.  Dull as he was, he had no small share of quiet self-approbation.  He admired himself for his University distinction, for the purity of his life (I said of him once that if he had only a better temper he would be as innocent as a new-laid egg) and for his unimpeachable integrity in money matters.  He did not despair of advancement in the Church when he had once got a living, and of course it was within the bounds of possibility that he might one day become a Bishop, and Christina said she felt convinced that this would ultimately be the case.

As was natural for the daughter and intended wife of a clergyman, Christina’s thoughts ran much upon religion, and she was resolved that even though an exalted position in this world were denied to her and Theobald, their virtues should be fully appreciated in the next.  Her religious opinions coincided absolutely with Theobald’s own, and many a conversation did she have with him about the glory of God, and the completeness with which they would devote themselves to it, as soon as Theobald had got his living and they were married.  So certain was she of the great results which would then ensue that she wondered at times at the blindness shown by Providence towards its own truest interests in not killing off the rectors who stood between Theobald and his living a little faster.

In those days people believed with a simple downrightness which I do not observe among educated men and women now.  It had never so much as crossed Theobald’s mind to doubt the literal accuracy of any syllable in the Bible.  He had never seen any book in which this was disputed, nor met with anyone who doubted it.  True, there was just a little scare about geology, but there was nothing in it.  If it was said that God made the world in six days, why He did make it in six days, neither in more nor less; if it was said that He put Adam to sleep, took out one of his ribs and made a woman of it, why it was so as a matter of course.  He, Adam, went to sleep as it might be himself, Theobald Pontifex, in a garden, as it might be the garden at Crampsford Rectory during the summer months when it was so pretty, only that it was larger, and had some tame wild animals in it.  Then God came up to him, as it might be Mr Allaby or his father, dexterously took out one of his ribs without waking him, and miraculously healed the wound so that no trace of the operation remained.  Finally, God had taken the rib perhaps into the greenhouse, and had turned it into just such another young woman as Christina.  That was how it was done; there was neither difficulty nor shadow of difficulty about the matter.  Could not God do anything He liked, and had He not in His own inspired Book told us that He had done this?

This was the average attitude of fairly educated young men and women towards the Mosaic cosmogony fifty, forty, or even twenty years ago.  The combating of infidelity, therefore, offered little scope for enterprising young clergymen, nor had the Church awakened to the activity which she has since displayed among the poor in our large towns.  These were then left almost without an effort at resistance or co-operation to the labours of those who had succeeded Wesley.  Missionary work indeed in heathen countries was being carried on with some energy, but Theobald did not feel any call to be a missionary.  Christina suggested this to him more than once, and assured him of the unspeakable happiness it would be to her to be the wife of a missionary, and to share his dangers; she and Theobald might even be martyred; of course they would be martyred simultaneously, and martyrdom many years hence as regarded from the arbour in the Rectory garden was not painful, it would ensure them a glorious future in the next world, and at any rate posthumous renown in this—even if they were not miraculously restored to life again—and such things had happened ere now in the case of martyrs.  Theobald, however, had not been kindled by Christina’s enthusiasm, so she fell back upon the Church of Rome—an enemy more dangerous, if possible, than paganism itself.  A combat with Romanism might even yet win for her and Theobald the crown of martyrdom.  True, the Church of Rome was tolerably quiet just then, but it was the calm before the storm, of this she was assured, with a conviction deeper than she could have attained by any argument founded upon mere reason.