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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 485 pages of information about The Way of All Flesh.
nothing to do with the result; it turns upon the question whether a sufficient number of reasonable people placed as the actor was placed would have done as the actor has done.  At that time it was universally admitted that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, and St Paul had placed disobedience to parents in very ugly company.  If his children did anything which Mr Pontifex disliked they were clearly disobedient to their father.  In this case there was obviously only one course for a sensible man to take.  It consisted in checking the first signs of self-will while his children were too young to offer serious resistance.  If their wills were “well broken” in childhood, to use an expression then much in vogue, they would acquire habits of obedience which they would not venture to break through till they were over twenty-one years old.  Then they might please themselves; he should know how to protect himself; till then he and his money were more at their mercy than he liked.

How little do we know our thoughts—­our reflex actions indeed, yes; but our reflex reflections!  Man, forsooth, prides himself on his consciousness!  We boast that we differ from the winds and waves and falling stones and plants, which grow they know not why, and from the wandering creatures which go up and down after their prey, as we are pleased to say without the help of reason.  We know so well what we are doing ourselves and why we do it, do we not?  I fancy that there is some truth in the view which is being put forward nowadays, that it is our less conscious thoughts and our less conscious actions which mainly mould our lives and the lives of those who spring from us.

CHAPTER VI

Mr Pontifex was not the man to trouble himself much about his motives.  People were not so introspective then as we are now; they lived more according to a rule of thumb.  Dr Arnold had not yet sown that crop of earnest thinkers which we are now harvesting, and men did not see why they should not have their own way if no evil consequences to themselves seemed likely to follow upon their doing so.  Then as now, however, they sometimes let themselves in for more evil consequences than they had bargained for.

Like other rich men at the beginning of this century he ate and drank a good deal more than was enough to keep him in health.  Even his excellent constitution was not proof against a prolonged course of overfeeding and what we should now consider overdrinking.  His liver would not unfrequently get out of order, and he would come down to breakfast looking yellow about the eyes.  Then the young people knew that they had better look out.  It is not as a general rule the eating of sour grapes that causes the children’s teeth to be set on edge.  Well-to-do parents seldom eat many sour grapes; the danger to the children lies in the parents eating too many sweet ones.

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