Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh


I had called on Ernest as a matter of course when he first came to London, but had not seen him. I had been out when he returned my call, so that he had been in town for some weeks before I actually saw him, which I did not very long after he had taken possession of his new rooms. I liked his face, but except for the common bond of music, in respect of which our tastes were singularly alike, I should hardly have known how to get on with him. To do him justice he did not air any of his schemes to me until I had drawn him out concerning them. I, to borrow the words of Ernest's landlady, Mrs Jupp, "am not a very regular church-goer"--I discovered upon cross-examination that Mrs Jupp had been to church once when she was churched for her son Tom some five and twenty years since, but never either before or afterwards; not even, I fear, to be married, for though she called herself "Mrs" she wore no wedding ring, and spoke of the person who should have been Mr Jupp as "my poor dear boy's father," not as "my husband." But to return. I was vexed at Ernest's having been ordained. I was not ordained myself and I did not like my friends to be ordained, nor did I like having to be on my best behaviour and to look as if butter would not melt in my mouth, and all for a boy whom I remembered when he knew yesterday and to-morrow and Tuesday, but not a day of the week more--not even Sunday itself--and when he said he did not like the kitten because it had pins in its toes.

I looked at him and thought of his aunt Alethea, and how fast the money she had left him was accumulating; and it was all to go to this young man, who would use it probably in the very last ways with which Miss Pontifex would have sympathised. I was annoyed. "She always said," I thought to myself, "that she should make a mess of it, but I did not think she would have made as great a mess of it as this." Then I thought that perhaps if his aunt had lived he would not have been like this.

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