Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

80. CHAPTER LXXX (continued)

At Marseilles we rested, and there the excitement of the change proved, as I had half feared it would, too much for my godson's still enfeebled state. For a few days he was really ill, but after this he righted. For my own part I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better. I remember being ill once in a foreign hotel myself and how much I enjoyed it. To lie there careless of everything, quiet and warm, and with no weight upon the mind, to hear the clinking of the plates in the far-off kitchen as the scullion rinsed them and put them by; to watch the soft shadows come and go upon the ceiling as the sun came out or went behind a cloud; to listen to the pleasant murmuring of the fountain in the court below, and the shaking of the bells on the horses' collars and the clink of their hoofs upon the ground as the flies plagued them; not only to be a lotus-eater but to know that it was one's duty to be a lotus-eater. "Oh," I thought to myself, "if I could only now, having so forgotten care, drop off to sleep for ever, would not this be a better piece of fortune than any I can ever hope for?"

Of course it would, but we would not take it though it were offered us. No matter what evil may befall us, we will mostly abide by it and see it out.

I could see that Ernest felt much as I had felt myself. He said little, but noted everything. Once only did he frighten me. He called me to his bedside just as it was getting dusk and said in a grave, quiet manner that he should like to speak to me.

"I have been thinking," he said, "that I may perhaps never recover from this illness, and in case I do not I should like you to know that there is only one thing which weighs upon me. I refer," he continued after a slight pause, "to my conduct towards my father and mother. I have been much too good to them. I treated them much too considerately," on which he broke into a smile which assured me that there was nothing seriously amiss with him.

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