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19. CHAPTER XIX (continued)
There is no casting of swine's meat before men worse than that which would flatter virtue as though her true origin were not good enough for her, but she must have a lineage, deduced as it were by spiritual heralds, from some stock with which she has nothing to do. Virtue's true lineage is older and more respectable than any that can be invented for her. She springs from man's experience concerning his own well-being--and this, though not infallible, is still the least fallible thing we have. A system which cannot stand without a better foundation than this must have something so unstable within itself that it will topple over on whatever pedestal we place it.
The world has long ago settled that morality and virtue are what bring men peace at the last. "Be virtuous," says the copy-book, "and you will be happy." Surely if a reputed virtue fails often in this respect it is only an insidious form of vice, and if a reputed vice brings no very serious mischief on a man's later years it is not so bad a vice as it is said to be. Unfortunately though we are all of a mind about the main opinion that virtue is what tends to happiness, and vice what ends in sorrow, we are not so unanimous about details--that is to say as to whether any given course, such, we will say, as smoking, has a tendency to happiness or the reverse.
I submit it as the result of my own poor observation, that a good deal of unkindness and selfishness on the part of parents towards children is not generally followed by ill consequences to the parents themselves. They may cast a gloom over their children's lives for many years without having to suffer anything that will hurt them. I should say, then, that it shows no great moral obliquity on the part of parents if within certain limits they make their children's lives a burden to them.
Granted that Mr Pontifex's was not a very exalted character, ordinary men are not required to have very exalted characters. It is enough if we are of the same moral and mental stature as the "main" or "mean" part of men--that is to say as the average.
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