Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 83

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Chapter LXXXIII

Joey and Charlotte were in the room.  Joey was now ordained, and was curate to Theobald.  He and Ernest had never been sympathetic, and Ernest saw at a glance that there was no chance of a rapprochement between them.  He was a little startled at seeing Joey dressed as a clergyman, and looking so like what he had looked himself a few years earlier, for there was a good deal of family likeness between the pair; but Joey’s face was cold and was illumined with no spark of Bohemianism; he was a clergyman and was going to do as other clergymen did, neither better nor worse.  He greeted Ernest rather de haut en bas, that is to say he began by trying to do so, but the affair tailed off unsatisfactorily.

His sister presented her cheek to him to be kissed.  How he hated it; he had been dreading it for the last three hours.  She, too, was distant and reproachful in her manner, as such a superior person was sure to be.  She had a grievance against him inasmuch as she was still unmarried.  She laid the blame of this at Ernest’s door; it was his misconduct she maintained in secret, which had prevented young men from making offers to her, and she ran him up a heavy bill for consequential damages.  She and Joey had from the first developed an instinct for hunting with the hounds, and now these two had fairly identified themselves with the older generation—that is to say as against Ernest.  On this head there was an offensive and defensive alliance between them, but between themselves there was subdued but internecine warfare.

This at least was what Ernest gathered, partly from his recollections of the parties concerned, and partly from his observation of their little ways during the first half-hour after his arrival, while they were all together in his mother’s bedroom—for as yet of course they did not know that he had money.  He could see that they eyed him from time to time with a surprise not unmixed with indignation, and knew very well what they were thinking.

Christina saw the change which had come over him—how much firmer and more vigorous both in mind and body he seemed than when she had last seen him.  She saw too how well he was dressed, and, like the others, in spite of the return of all her affection for her first-born, was a little alarmed about Theobald’s pocket, which she supposed would have to be mulcted for all this magnificence.  Perceiving this, Ernest relieved her mind and told her all about his aunt’s bequest, and how I had husbanded it, in the presence of his brother and sister—who, however, pretended not to notice, or at any rate to notice as a matter in which they could hardly be expected to take an interest.

His mother kicked a little at first against the money’s having gone to him as she said “over his papa’s head.”  “Why, my dear,” she said in a deprecating tone, “this is more than ever your papa has had”; but Ernest calmed her by suggesting that if Miss Pontifex had known how large the sum would become she would have left the greater part of it to Theobald.  This compromise was accepted by Christina who forthwith, ill as she was, entered with ardour into the new position, and taking it as a fresh point of departure, began spending Ernest’s money for him.

I may say in passing that Christina was right in saying that Theobald had never had so much money as his son was now possessed of.  In the first place he had not had a fourteen years’ minority with no outgoings to prevent the accumulation of the money, and in the second he, like myself and almost everyone else, had suffered somewhat in the 1846 times—not enough to cripple him or even seriously to hurt him, but enough to give him a scare and make him stick to debentures for the rest of his life.  It was the fact of his son’s being the richer man of the two, and of his being rich so young, which rankled with Theobald even more than the fact of his having money at all.  If he had had to wait till he was sixty or sixty-five, and become broken down from long failure in the meantime, why then perhaps he might have been allowed to have whatever sum should suffice to keep him out of the workhouse and pay his death-bed expenses; but that he should come in to £70,000 at eight and twenty, and have no wife and only two children—it was intolerable.  Christina was too ill and in too great a hurry to spend the money to care much about such details as the foregoing, and she was naturally much more good-natured than Theobald.