Bennett gives a Thackerayan description of the "solemn" service, with the battle between God and his evil counterpart for the attention of the congregation. Nevertheless, the scene provides background for the beliefs of the Baines family and their community, belonging to a rigid religious system convinced of "its rightness and correctness." There is no room for discussion, what must be cannot be changed or debated. It is in this spirit that Constance responds to the death of her sister Sophia:
Up to within a few days of her death people had been wont to remark that Mrs. Scales looked as young as ever, and that she was as bright and as energetic as ever. And truly, regarding Sophia from a little distance—that handsome oval, that erect carriage of a slim body, that challenging eye!—no one would have said that she was in her sixtieth year. But look at her now, with her twisted face, her sightless orbs, her worn skin—she did not seem sixty, but seventy! She was like something used, exhausted, and thrown aside! Yes, Constance's heart melted in an anguished pity for that stormy creature. And mingled with the pity was a stern recognition of the handiwork of divine justice. To Constance's lips came the same phrase as had come to the lips of Samuel Povey on a different occasion: God is not mocked! The ideas of her parents and her grandparents had survived intact in Constance. It is true that Constance's father would have shuddered in Heaven could he have seen Constance solitarily playing cards of a night. But in spite of cards, and of a son who never went to chapel, Constance, under the various influences of destiny, had remained essentially what her father had been. Not in her was the force of evolution manifest. There are thousands such (Book 4, Ch. 4).
What a harsh judgment from a sister! Nevertheless, Constance has remained committed to the beliefs of her parents that all will be judged harshly who have compromised those beliefs.
Sophia had sinned. It was therefore inevitable that she should suffer. An adventure such as she had in wicked and capricious pride undertaken with Gerald Scales, could not conclude otherwise than it had concluded. It could have brought nothing but evil. There was no getting away from these verities, thought Constance (Book 4, Ch. 4).
Constance's unforgiving attitude toward her sister's demise dehumanizes Constance as a barbaric, unfeeling personification of the Wesleyan Methodist system. Her first thoughts of her sister after her death is not of her soul but of her sin. She offers no means of redemption, the deed was done and the punishment was absolute. In this society, every misdeed faces harsh judgment (though admirably, Constance defends her son when he steals money from the till), and any misfortune must be the result of some character flaw. In the case of Daniel Povey:
The flighty character of his wife was regarded by many as a judgment upon him for the robust Rabelaisianism of his more private conversation, for his frank interest in, his eternal preoccupation with, aspects of life and human activity which, though essential to the divine purpose, are not openly recognized as such—even by Daniel Poveys. It was not a question of his conduct; it was a question of the cast of his mind (Book 2, Ch. 2).
His perverse frame of mind is to blame for his wife's character. In another instance, the refusal of Madame Foucault to allow her residence to be used as a brothel any further is rewarded, showing the other side of divine justice:
Madame Foucault was deeply impressed. Characteristically she began at once to construct a theory that Sophia had only to walk out of the house in order to discover ideal tenants for the rooms. Also she regarded the advent of the grocer as a reward from Providence for her self-denial in refusing the profits of sinfulness (Book 3, Ch. 6).
A respectable tenant is the reward for her "self-denial." All wasn't bad in this society, though everything that happened was viewed as a divine judgment, whether favorable or unfavorable. Nevertheless, subjection to this judgment was a fearful aspect of life.