Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

75. CHAPTER LXXV (continued)

He went upstairs to the disused citadel, flung himself into the arm-chair, and covered his face with his hands.

He still did not know that his wife drank, but he could no longer trust her, and his dream of happiness was over. He had been saved from the Church--so as by fire, but still saved--but what could now save him from his marriage? He had made the same mistake that he had made in wedding himself to the Church, but with a hundred times worse results. He had learnt nothing by experience: he was an Esau--one of those wretches whose hearts the Lord had hardened, who, having ears, heard not, having eyes saw not, and who should find no place for repentance though they sought it even with tears.

Yet had he not on the whole tried to find out what the ways of God were, and to follow them in singleness of heart? To a certain extent, yes; but he had not been thorough; he had not given up all for God. He knew that very well he had done little as compared with what he might and ought to have done, but still if he was being punished for this, God was a hard taskmaster, and one, too, who was continually pouncing out upon his unhappy creatures from ambuscades. In marrying Ellen he had meant to avoid a life of sin, and to take the course he believed to be moral and right. With his antecedents and surroundings it was the most natural thing in the world for him to have done, yet in what a frightful position had not his morality landed him. Could any amount of immorality have placed him in a much worse one? What was morality worth if it was not that which on the whole brought a man peace at the last, and could anyone have reasonable certainty that marriage would do this? It seemed to him that in his attempt to be moral he had been following a devil which had disguised itself as an angel of light. But if so, what ground was there on which a man might rest the sole of his foot and tread in reasonable safety?

He was still too young to reach the answer, "On common sense"--an answer which he would have felt to be unworthy of anyone who had an ideal standard.

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