Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh


The man-servant William came and set the chairs for the maids, and presently they filed in. First Christina's maid, then the cook, then the housemaid, then William, and then the coachman. I sat opposite them, and watched their faces as Theobald read a chapter from the Bible. They were nice people, but more absolute vacancy I never saw upon the countenances of human beings.

Theobald began by reading a few verses from the Old Testament, according to some system of his own. On this occasion the passage came from the fifteenth chapter of Numbers: it had no particular bearing that I could see upon anything which was going on just then, but the spirit which breathed throughout the whole seemed to me to be so like that of Theobald himself, that I could understand better after hearing it, how he came to think as he thought, and act as he acted.

The verses are as follows -

"But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

"Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandments, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.

"And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day.

"And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

"And they put him in ward because it was not declared what should be done to him.

"And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

"And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

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