“Dear Theobald,—I have received yours. I am at a loss to conceive its motive, but am very clear as to its effect. You shall not receive a single sixpence from me till you come to your senses. Should you persist in your folly and wickedness, I am happy to remember that I have yet other children whose conduct I can depend upon to be a source of credit and happiness to me.—Your affectionate but troubled father, G. PONTIFEX.”
I do not know the immediate sequel to the foregoing correspondence, but it all came perfectly right in the end. Either Theobald’s heart failed him, or he interpreted the outward shove which his father gave him, as the inward call for which I have no doubt he prayed with great earnestness—for he was a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer. And so am I under certain circumstances. Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether they are good things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the world were to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the things that are being wrought by prayer. But the question is avowedly difficult. In the end Theobald got his fellowship by a stroke of luck very soon after taking his degree, and was ordained in the autumn of the same year, 1825.
Mr Allaby was rector of Crampsford, a village a few miles from Cambridge. He, too, had taken a good degree, had got a fellowship, and in the course of time had accepted a college living of about 400 pounds a year and a house. His private income did not exceed 200 pounds a year. On resigning his fellowship he married a woman a good deal younger than himself who bore him eleven children, nine of whom—two sons and seven daughters—were living. The two eldest daughters had married fairly well, but at the time of which I am now writing there were still five unmarried, of ages varying between thirty and twenty-two—and the sons were neither of them yet off their father’s hands. It was plain that if anything were to happen to Mr Allaby the family would be left poorly off, and this made both Mr and Mrs Allaby as unhappy as it ought to have made them.
Reader, did you ever have an income at best none too large, which died with you all except 200 pounds a year? Did you ever at the same time have two sons who must be started in life somehow, and five daughters still unmarried for whom you would only be too thankful to find husbands—if you knew how to find them? If morality is that which, on the whole, brings a man peace in his declining years—if, that is to say, it is not an utter swindle, can you under these circumstances flatter yourself that you have led a moral life?