Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh


I had begun to like him on the night Towneley had sent for me, and on the following day I thought he had shaped well. I had liked him also during our interview in prison, and wanted to see more of him, so that I might make up my mind about him. I had lived long enough to know that some men who do great things in the end are not very wise when they are young; knowing that he would leave prison on the 30th, I had expected him, and, as I had a spare bedroom, pressed him to stay with me, till he could make up his mind what he would do.

Being so much older than he was, I anticipated no trouble in getting my own way, but he would not hear of it. The utmost he would assent to was that he should be my guest till he could find a room for himself, which he would set about doing at once.

He was still much agitated, but grew better as he ate a breakfast, not of prison fare and in a comfortable room. It pleased me to see the delight he took in all about him; the fireplace with a fire in it; the easy chairs, the Times, my cat, the red geraniums in the window, to say nothing of coffee, bread and butter, sausages, marmalade, etc. Everything was pregnant with the most exquisite pleasure to him. The plane trees were full of leaf still; he kept rising from the breakfast table to admire them; never till now, he said, had he known what the enjoyment of these things really was. He ate, looked, laughed and cried by turns, with an emotion which I can neither forget nor describe.

He told me how his father and mother had lain in wait for him, as he was about to leave prison. I was furious, and applauded him heartily for what he had done. He was very grateful to me for this. Other people, he said, would tell him he ought to think of his father and mother rather than of himself, and it was such a comfort to find someone who saw things as he saw them himself. Even if I had differed from him I should not have said so, but I was of his opinion, and was almost as much obliged to him for seeing things as I saw them, as he to me for doing the same kind office by himself. Cordially as I disliked Theobald and Christina, I was in such a hopeless minority in the opinion I had formed concerning them that it was pleasant to find someone who agreed with me.

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