The moment, however, that he heard the word “water,” he saw his way again, and flew to the pantry. Before his master had well noted his absence he returned with a little sponge and a basin, and had begun sopping up the waters of the Jordan as though they had been a common slop.
“I’ll filter it, Sir,” said Gelstrap meekly. “It’ll come quite clean.”
Mr Pontifex saw hope in this suggestion, which was shortly carried out by the help of a piece of blotting paper and a funnel, under his own eyes. Eventually it was found that half a pint was saved, and this was held to be sufficient.
Then he made preparations for a visit to Battersby. He ordered goodly hampers of the choicest eatables, he selected a goodly hamper of choice drinkables. I say choice and not choicest, for although in his first exaltation he had selected some of his very best wine, yet on reflection he had felt that there was moderation in all things, and as he was parting with his best water from the Jordan, he would only send some of his second best wine.
Before he went to Battersby he stayed a day or two in London, which he now seldom did, being over seventy years old, and having practically retired from business. The John Pontifexes, who kept a sharp eye on him, discovered to their dismay that he had had an interview with his solicitors.
For the first time in his life Theobald felt that he had done something right, and could look forward to meeting his father without alarm. The old gentleman, indeed, had written him a most cordial letter, announcing his intention of standing godfather to the boy—nay, I may as well give it in full, as it shows the writer at his best. It runs:
letter gave me very sincere pleasure, the more
so because I had made up my mind for the worst; pray accept my most
hearty congratulations for my daughter-in-law and for yourself.
“I have long preserved a phial of water from the Jordan for the christening of my first grandson, should it please God to grant me one. It was given me by my old friend Dr Jones. You will agree with me that though the efficacy of the sacrament does not depend upon the source of the baptismal waters, yet, ceteris paribus, there is a sentiment attaching to the waters of the Jordan which should not be despised. Small matters like this sometimes influence a child’s whole future career.
“I shall bring my own cook, and have told him to get everything ready for the christening dinner. Ask as many of your best neighbours as your table will hold. By the way, I have told Lesueur not to get a lobster—you had better drive over yourself and get one from Saltness (for Battersby was only fourteen or fifteen miles from the sea coast); they are better there, at least I think so, than anywhere else in England.