Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

63. CHAPTER LXIII (continued)

Poor people! They had tried to keep their ignorance of the world from themselves by calling it the pursuit of heavenly things, and then shutting their eyes to anything that might give them trouble. A son having been born to them they had shut his eyes also as far as was practicable. Who could blame them? They had chapter and verse for everything they had either done or left undone; there is no better thumbed precedent than that for being a clergyman and a clergyman's wife. In what respect had they differed from their neighbours? How did their household differ from that of any other clergyman of the better sort from one end of England to the other? Why then should it have been upon them, of all people in the world, that this tower of Siloam had fallen?

Surely it was the tower of Siloam that was naught rather than those who stood under it; it was the system rather than the people that was at fault. If Theobald and his wife had but known more of the world and of the things that are therein, they would have done little harm to anyone. Selfish they would have always been, but not more so than may very well be pardoned, and not more than other people would be. As it was, the case was hopeless; it would be no use their even entering into their mothers' wombs and being born again. They must not only be born again but they must be born again each one of them of a new father and of a new mother and of a different line of ancestry for many generations before their minds could become supple enough to learn anew. The only thing to do with them was to humour them and make the best of them till they died-- and be thankful when they did so.

Theobald got my letter as I had expected, and met me at the station nearest to Battersby. As I walked back with him towards his own house I broke the news to him as gently as I could. I pretended that the whole thing was in great measure a mistake, and that though Ernest no doubt had had intentions which he ought to have resisted, he had not meant going anything like the length which Miss Maitland supposed. I said we had felt how much appearances were against him, and had not dared to set up this defence before the magistrate, though we had no doubt about its being the true one.

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