That was the delightful thing about him, that he was always ready to fall in with a mood, always light of touch and gay. He could be tender and sympathetic, as well as incisive and sensible if it was needed; but he was never either contradictory or severe or improving. He would sometimes pull himself up and say: "Here, we must be business-like," but he was never reproachful or grieved or shocked by what we said to him. He could be decisive, stern, abrupt, if it was really needed. But his most pungent reproofs were inflicted by a blank silence, which was one of the most appalling things to encounter. He generally began to speak again a few moments later, on a totally different subject, while any such sign of displeasure was extremely rare. He never under any circumstances reminded anyone of his generosity, or the trouble he had taken, or the favours he had conferred, while he would often remind one of some trifling kindness done to him. "I often remember how good you were about those accounts, old boy! I should never have got through without you!"
His demeanour was generally that of an indulgent uncle, with that particular touch of nearness which in England is apt to exist only among relations. He would consult us about his own private worries with entire frankness, and this more than anything made us ready to confide in him. He used to hand us cheques or money if required, with a little wink. "That's your screw!" he used to say; and he liked any thanks that seemed natural.
"Natural,"—that is the word that comes before me all through. I can remember no one so unembarrassed, so easy, so transparent. His thought flowed into his talk; and his silences were not reticences, but the busy silence of the child who has "a plan." He gave himself away without economy and without disguise, and he accepted gratefully and simply whatever you cared to give him of thought or love. I think oftenest of how I sometimes went to see him in the evenings: if he was busy, as he often was, he used just to murmur half to himself, "Well, old man?" indicate a chair, put his finger on his lips, and go on with his work or his book; but at intervals he would just glance at me with a little smile, and I knew that he was glad to have me at hand in that simple companionship when there is no need of speech or explanation. And then the book or paper would be dropped, and he would say: "Well, out with it." If one said, "Nothing—only company," he would give one of his best and sweetest smiles.
But whatever may have been Father Payne's effect upon us individually or collectively, or however the result may have been achieved, there was no question of one thing, and that was the ardent and beautiful happiness of the place. Joy deliberately schemed for and planned is apt to evaporate. But we were not hunting for happiness as men dig for gold. We were looking for something quite different. We were all doing work for which we cared, with kind and yet incisive criticism to help us; and then the simplicity and regularity of the life, the total absence of all indulgence, the exercise, the companionship, the discipline, all generated a kind of high spirits that I have known in no other place and at no other time. I used to awake in the morning fresh and alert, free from all anxiety, all sense of tiresome engagements, all possibility of boredom. All staleness, weariness, all complications and conventional duties, all jealousies and envyings, were absent. We were not competing with each other, we were not bent on asserting ourselves, we had just each our own bit of work to do; moreover our spaces of travel had an invigorating effect, and sent us back to Aveley with the zest of returning to a beloved home. Of course there were little bickerings at times, little complexities of friendship; but these never came to anything in Father Payne's kindly present. Sometimes a man would get fretful or worried over his work; if so, he was generally despatched on a brief holiday, with an injunction to do no work at all; and I am sure that the prospect of even temporary banishment was the strongest of all motives for the suppression of strife. I remember spring mornings, when the birds began to sing in the shrubberies, and the beds were full of rising flower-blades, when one's whole mind and heart used to expand in an ecstasy of hope and delight; I remember long rambles or bicycle rides far into the quiet pastoral country, in the summer heat, alone or with a single companion, when life seemed almost too delicious to continue; then there would be the return, and a plunge into the bathing-pool, and another quiet hour or two at the work in hand, and the delight of feeling that one was gaining skill and ease of expression; or again there would be the quick tramp in winter along muddy roads, with the ragged clouds hurrying across the sky, with the prospect ahead of a fire-lit evening of study and talk; and best of all a walk and a conversation with Father Payne himself, when all that he said seemed to interpret life afresh and to put it in a new and exciting aspect. I never met anyone with such a power of linking the loose ends of life together, and of giving one so joyful a sense of connection and continuance. How it was done I cannot guess; but whereas other minds could cast light upon problems, Father Payne somehow made light shine through them, and gave them a soft translucence. But while he managed to give one a great love of life itself, it never rested there; he made me feel engaged in some sort of eternal business, and though he used no conventional expressions, I had in his presence a sense of vast horizons and shining tracks passing into an infinite distance full of glory and sweetness, and of death itself as a mystery of surprise and wonder. He taught me to look for beauty and harmony, not to waste time in mean controversy or in futile regret, but to be always moving forwards, and welcoming every sign of confidence and goodwill. He had a way, too, of making one realise the dignity and necessity of work, without cherishing any self-absorbed illusions about its impressiveness or its importance. His creed was the recognition of all beauty and vividness as an unquestionable sign of the presence of God, the Power that made for order and health and strength and peace; and the deep necessity of growing to understand one another with unsuspicious trustfulness and sympathy—the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man, these were the doctrines by which he lived.
It used to be an extraordinary pleasure to me to accompany him about the village; he knew every one, and could talk with a simple directness and a quiet humour that was inimitable. I never saw so naturally pastoral a man. He carried good-temper about with him, and yet he could rebuke with a sharpness which surprised me, if there was need. He was curiously tolerant, I used to think, of sensual sins, but in the presence of cruelty or meanness or deliberate deceit he used to explode into the most violent language. I remember a scene which it is almost a terror to me now to recollect, when I was walking with him, and we met a tipsy farmer of a neighbouring village flogging his horse along a lane. He ran up beside the cart, he stopped the horse, he roared at the farmer, "Get out of your cart, you d—d brute, and lead it home." The farmer descended in a state of stupefaction. Father Payne snatched the whip out of his hand, broke it, threw it over the hedge, threatened him with all the terrors of the law, and reduced him to a state of abject submission. Presently he recovered somewhat, and in drunken wrath began to abuse Father Payne. "Very well," said Father Payne, "you can take your choice: either you lead the horse home quietly, and I'll see it done; or else I come with you to the village, and tell the people what I think of you in the open street. And if you put up your fist like that again, I'll run you home myself and hand you over to the policeman. I'll be d—d if I won't do it now. Here, Duncan," he said to me, "you go and fetch the policeman, and we'll have a little procession back." The ruffian thought better of it, and led the horse away muttering, while we walked behind until we were near the farm, "Now get in, and behave yourself," said Father Payne. "And if you choose to come over to-morrow and beg my pardon, you may; and if you don't, I'll have you up before the magistrates on Saturday next."
I had never seen such wrath; but the tempest subsided instantly, and he walked back with me in high good-humour. The next day the man came over, and Father Payne said to me in the evening: "We had quite an affecting scene. I gave him a bit of my mind, and he thanked me for speaking straight. He's a low brute, but I don't think he'll do the same sort of thing in a hurry. I'll give him six weeks to get over his fright, and then I'll do a little patrolling!"
His gentleness, on the other hand, with women and children was beautiful to see. It was as natural for Father Payne to hurry to a scene of disaster or grief as it was for others to wish to stay away. He used to speak to a sufferer or a mourner with great directness. "Tell me all about it," he would say, and he would listen with little nods and gestures, raising his eyebrows or even shutting his eyes, saying very little, except a word or two of sympathy at the end. He knew all the children, but he never petted them or made favourites, but treated them with a serious kind of gravity which he assured us they infinitely preferred. He used to have a Christmas entertainment for them at the Hall, as well as a summer feast. He encouraged the boys and young men to botanise and observe nature in all forms, and though he would never allow nests to be taken, or even eggs if he could help it, he would give little prizes for the noting of any rare bird or butterfly. "If you want men to live in the country, they must love the country," he used to say. He kept a village club going, but he never went there. "It's embarrassing," he used to say. "They don't want me strolling in any more than I want them strolling in. Philanthropists have no sense of privacy." He did not call at the villagers' houses, unless there was some special event, and his talks were confined to chance meetings. Neither was there any sense of duty about it. "No one is taken in by formal visiting," he said. "You must just do it if you like it, or else stay away. 'To keep yourself to yourself' is the highest praise these people can give. No one likes a fuss!"
The same sort of principles regulated our own intercourse. "We are not monks," he used to say; "we are Carthusians, hermits, living together for comfort or convenience." The solitude and privacy of everyone was respected. We used to do our talking when we took exercise; but there was very little sitting and gossiping together tete-a-tete. "I don't want everyone to try to be intimate with everyone else," he used to say. "The point is just to get on amicably together; we won't have any cliques or coteries." He himself never came to any of our rooms, but sent a message if he wanted to see us. One small thing he strongly objected to, the shouting up from the garden to anyone's window: "Most offensive!" He disliked all loud shouting and calling or singing aloud. "You mustn't use the world as a private sitting-room." And the one thing which used to fret him was a voice stridently raised. "Don't rouse the echoes!" he would say. "You have no more right to make a row than you have to use a strong scent or to blow a post-horn—that's not liberty!" The result of this was that the house was a singularly quiet one, and this sense of silence and subdued sound lives in my memory as one of its most refreshing characteristics. "A row is only pleasant if it is deliberate and organised," he used to say. "Native woodnotes wild are all very well, but they are not civilisation. To talk audibly and quietly is the best proof of virtue and honour!"
I am going to try to give a few impressions of talks with Father Payne—both public and private talks. It is, however, difficult to do this without giving, perhaps, a wrong impression. I used to get into the habit of jotting down the things he had said, and I improved by practice. But he was a rapid talker and somewhat discursive, and he was often deflected from his main subject by a question or a discussion. Yet I do not want it to be thought that he was fond of monologue and soliloquy. He was not, I should say, a very talkative man; days would sometimes pass without his doing more than just taking a hand in conversation. He liked to follow the flow of a talk, and to contribute a remark now and then; sometimes he was markedly silent; but in no case was he ever oppressive. Occasionally, and more often in tete-a-tete, he went ahead and talked copiously, but this was rather the exception than the rule. I have not thought it worth while to try to give the effect of our own talk. We were young, excitable, and argumentative, and, though it was at the time often delightful and stimulating, it was also often very crude and immature. Father Payne was good at helping a talker out, and would often do justice to a clumsily-expressed remark which he thought was interesting. But he was by far the most interesting member of the circle; he spoke easily and flowingly when he was moved, and there always seemed to me a sense of form about his talk which was absent from ours. But under no circumstance did he ever become tedious—indeed he was extremely sensitive to the smallest signs of impatience. We often tried, so to speak, to draw him out; but if he had the smallest suspicion that he was being drawn, he became instantly silent.
There is more coherence about some of the talks I have recorded than was actually the case. He would diverge to tell a story, or he would call one's attention to some sight or sound.
Moreover his face, his movements, his gestures, all added much to his talk. He had a way of wrinkling up his brows, of shaking his head, of looking round with an awestruck expression, his eyes wide open, his mouth pursed up, especially when he had reached some triumphantly absurd conclusion. He had two little quick gestures of the hands as he spoke, opening his fingers, waving a point aside, emphasizing an argument by a quick downward motion of his forefinger. He had, too, a quick, loud, ebullient laugh, sometimes shrill, sometimes deep; and he abandoned himself to laughter at an absurd story or jest as completely as anyone I have ever seen. Rose was an excellent mimic, and Father Payne used to fall into agonising paroxysms of laughter at many of his representations. But he always said that laughter was with him a social mood, and that he had never any inclination to laugh when he was alone.
So the record of his talks must be taken not as typical of his everyday mood, but as instances of the kind of things he said when he was moved to speak at large; and even so they give, I am aware, too condensed an impression. He never talked as if he were playing on a party or a companion with a hose-pipe. There was never anyone who was more easily silenced or diverted. But to anyone who knew him they will give, I believe, a true impression of his method of talk; and perhaps they may give to those who never saw him a faint reflection of his lively and animated mind, the energy with which he addressed himself to small problems, and the firm belief which he always maintained, that any evidence of life, however elementary, was more encouraging and inspiring than the most elaborate logic or the profoundest intellectual grasp of abstract subjects.
OF GOING TO CHURCH
I had been to church one summer Sunday morning—a very simple affair it was, with nothing sung but a couple of hymns; but the Vicar read beautifully, neither emphatically nor lifelessly, with a little thrill in his voice at times that I liked to hear. It did not compel you to listen so much as invite you to join. Lestrange played the organ most divinely; he generally extemporised before the service, and played a simple piece at the end; but he never strained the resources of the little organ, and it was all simple and formal music, principally Bach or Handel.
Father Payne himself was a regular attendant at church, and Sunday was a decidedly leisurely day. He advised us to put aside our writing work, to write letters, read, make personal jottings, talk, though there was no inquisition into such things.
Father Payne was a somewhat irregular responder, but it was a pleasure to sit near him, because his deep, rapid voice gave a new quality to the words. He seemed happy in church, and prayed with great absorption, though I noticed that his Bible was often open before him all through the service. The Vicar's sermons were good of their kind, suggestive rather than provocative, about very simple matters of conduct rather than belief. I have heard Father Payne speak of them with admiration as never being discursive, and I gathered that the Vicar was a great admirer of Newman's sermons.
We came away together, Father Payne and I, and we strolled a little in the garden. I felt emboldened to ask him the plain question why he went to church. "Oh, for a lot of reasons," he said, "none of them very conclusive! I like to meet my friends in the first place; and then a liturgy has a charm for me. It has a beauty of its own, and I like ceremony. It is not that I think it sacred—only beautiful. But I quite admit the weakness of it, which is simply that it does not appeal to everyone, and I don't think that our Anglican service is an ideal service. It is too refined and formal; and many people would feel it was more religious if it were more extempore—prayer and plain advice."
I told him something of my old childish experience, saying that I used to regard church as a sort of calling-over, and that God would be vexed if one did not appear.
He laughed at this. "Yes, I don't think we can insist on it as being a levee," he said, "where one is expected to come and make one's bow and pay formal compliments. That idea is an old anthropomorphic one, of course. It is superstitious—it is almost debasing to think of God demanding praise as a duty incumbent on us. 'To thee all angels cry aloud'—I confess I don't like the idea of heaven as a place of cheerful noise—that isn't attractive!
"And also I think that the attention demanded in our service is a mistake—it's a mixture of two ideas; the liturgical ceremony which touches the eye and the emotion, rather than the reason; and the sermon and the prayer in which the reason is supposed to be concerned. I think the Catholic idea is a better one, a solemnity performed, in which you don't take part, but receive impressions. There's no greater strain on the mind than forcing it to follow a rapid and exalted train of intellectual and literary thought and expression. I confess I don't attempt that, it seems to me just a joyful and neighbourly business, where one puts the mind in a certain expectant mood, and is lucky if one carries a single thrill or aspiration away."
"What do you do, then?" I said.
"Well, I meditate," said Father Payne. "I believe in meditation very much, and in solitude it is very hard work. But the silent company of friends, and the old arches and woodwork, some simple music, a ceremony, and a little plan of thought going on—that seems to me a fruitful atmosphere. Some verse, some phrase, which I have heard a hundred times before, suddenly seems written in letters of gold. I follow it a little way into the dark, I turn it over, I wonder about it, I enjoy its beauty. I don't say that my thoughts are generally very startling or poignant or profound; but I feel the sense of the Fatherly, tolerant, indulgent presence of God, and a brotherly affection for my fellow-men. It's a great thing to be in the same place with a number of people, all silent, and on the whole thinking quiet, happy, and contented thoughts. It all brings me into line with my village friends, it gives me a social mood, and I feel for once that we all want the same things from life—and that for once instead of having to work and push for them, we are fed and comforted. 'Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it'—that's a wholesome, childlike verse, you know. The whole thing seems to me a simple device for producing a placid and expectant mood—I don't know anything else that produces it so well."
"You mean it is something mystical—almost hypnotic?" I said.
"Perhaps I should if I knew what those big words meant," said Father Payne, smiling. "No; church seems to me a thing that has really grown up out of human nature, not a thing imposed upon it. I don't like what may be called ecclesiasticism, partly because it emphasizes the intellectual side of belief, partly because it tries to cast a slur on the people who don't like ceremonial, and whom it does not suit—and most of all because ecclesiasticism aims at making you believe that other people can transact spiritual business on your account. In these democratic days, you can't have spiritual authority—you have got to find what people need, and help them to find it for themselves. The plain truth is that we don't want dogma. Of course it isn't to be despised, because it once meant something, even if it does not now. Dogmas are not unintelligible intellectual propositions imposed on the world. They are explanations, interpretations, attempts to link facts together. They have the sacredness of ideas which people lived by, and for which they were prepared to die. But many of them are scientific in form only, and the substance has gone out of them. We know more in one sense about life and God than we did, but we also know less, because we realise there is so much more to know. But now we want, I believe, two or three great ideas which everyone can understand—like Fatherhood and Brotherhood, like peace and orderliness and beauty. I think that a church service means all these things, or ought to. What people need is simplicity and beauty of life—joy and hope and kindness. Anything which helps these things on is fine; anything which bewilders and puzzles and gives a sense of dreariness is simply injurious. I want to be told to be quiet, to try again, not to be disheartened by failures, not to be angry with other people, to give up things, rather than to get them with a sauce of envy and spite—the feeling of a happy and affectionate family, in fact. The sort of thing I don't want is the Athanasian Creed. I can't regard it simply as a picturesque monument of ancient and ferocious piety. It seems to me an overhanging cloud of menace and mystification! It doesn't hurt the unintelligent Christian, of course—he simply doesn't understand it; but to the moderately intelligent it is like a dog barking furiously which may possibly get loose; a little more intelligence, and it is all right. You know the dog is safely tied up! Again, I don't mind the cursing psalms, because they give the parson the power of saying: 'We say this to remind ourselves that it was what people used to feel, and which Christ came to change.' I don't mind anything that is human—what I can't tolerate is anything inhuman or unintelligible. No one can misunderstand the Beatitudes; very few people can follow the arguments of St. Paul! You don't want only elaborate reasons for clever people, you want still more beautiful motives for simple people. It isn't perfect, our service, I admit, but it does me good."
"Tell me," I said—"to go back for a moment—something more about meditating—I like that!"
"Well," said Father Payne, "it's like anchoring to a thought. Thought is a fidgety thing, restless, perverse. It anchors itself very easily on to a grievance, or an unpleasant incident, or a squabble. Don't you know the misery of being jerked back, time after time, by an unpleasant thought? I think one ought to practise the opposite—and I know now by experience that it is possible. I will make a confession. I don't care for many of the Old Testament lessons myself. I think there's too much fact, or let us say incident, in them, and not enough poetry. Well, I take up my Bible, and I look at Job, or Isaiah, or the Revelation, and I read quietly on. Suddenly there's a gleam of gold in the bed of the stream—some splendid, deep, fine thought. I follow it out; I think how it has appeared in my own life, or in the lives of other people—it bears me away on its wings, I pray about it, I hope to be more like that—and so on. Sometimes it is a sharp revelation of something ugly and perverse in my own nature—I don't dwell long on that, but I see in imagination how it is likely to trouble me, and I hope that it will not delude me again; because these evil things delude one, they call noxious tricks by fine names. I say to myself, 'What you pretend is self-respect, or consistency, is really irritable vanity or stupid unimaginativeness.' But it is a mistake, I think, to dwell long on one's deficiencies: what one has got to do is to fill one's life full of positive, active, beautiful things, until there is no room for the ugly intruders. And, to put it shortly, a service makes me think about other people and about God; I fear it doesn't make me contrite or sorrowful. I don't believe in any sort of self-pity, nor do I think one ought to cultivate shame; those things lie close to death, and it is life that I am in search of—fulness of life. Don't let us bemoan ourselves, or think that a sign of grace!"
"But if you find yourself grubby, nasty, suspicious, irritable, isn't it a good thing to rub it in sometimes?" I said.
"No, no," said Father Payne, "life will do that hard enough. Turn your back on it all, look at the beautiful things, leave a thief to catch a thief, and the dead to bury the dead. Don't sniff at the evil thing; go and get a breath of fresh air."
Father Payne was a very irregular reader of the newspaper; he was not greedy of news, and he was incurious about events, while he disliked the way in which they were professionally dished up for human consumption. At times, however, he would pore long and earnestly over a daily paper with knitted brows and sighs. "You seem to be suffering a good deal over your paper to-day, Father!" said Barthrop once, regarding him with amusement. Father Payne lifted up his head, and then broke into a smile. "It's all right, my boy!" he said. "I don't despair of the world itself, but I feel that if the average newspaper represents the mind of the average man, the human race is very feeble—not worth saving! This sort of thing"—indicating the paper with a wave of his hand—"makes me realise how many things there are that don't interest me—and I can't get at them either through the medium of these writers' minds. They don't seem to want simply to describe the facts, but to manipulate them; they try to make you uncomfortable about the future, and contented with the past. It ought to be just the other way! And then I ask myself, 'Ought I, as a normal human being, to be as one-sided, as submissive, as trivial, as sentimental as this?' These vast summaries of public opinion, do they represent anyone's opinion at all, or are they simply the sort of thing you talk about in a railway-carriage with a man you don't know? Does anyone's mind really dwell on such things and ponder them? The newspapers do not really know what is happening—everything takes them by surprise. The ordinary person is interested in his work, his amusements, the people he lives with—in real things. There seems to be nothing real here; it is all shadowy, I want to get at men's minds, not at what journalists think is in men's minds. The human being in the newspapers seems to me an utterly unreal person, picturesque, theatrical, fatuous, slobbering, absurd. Does not the newspaper-convention misrepresent us as much as the book-convention misrepresents us? We straggle irregularly along, we are capable of entertaining at the same moment two wholly contrary opinions, we do what we don't intend to do, we don't carry out our hopes or our purposes. The man in the papers is agitated, excited, wild, inquisitive—the ordinary person is calm, indifferent, and on the whole fairly happy, unless some one frightens him. I can't make it out, because it isn't a conspiracy to deceive, and yet it does deceive; and what is more, most people don't even seem to know that they are being misrepresented. It all seems to me to differ as much from real life as the Morning Service read in church differs from the thoughts of the congregation!"
"How would you mend it?" said Barthrop. "It seems to me it must represent something."
"Something!" said Father Payne. "I don't know! I don't believe we are so stupid and so ignoble! As to mending it, that's another question. Writing is such a curious thing—it seems to represent anything in the world except the current of a man's thoughts. Reverie—has anyone ever tried to represent that? I have been out for a walk sometimes, and reflected when I came in that if what has passed through my mind were all printed in full in a book, it would make a large octavo volume—and precious stuff, too! Yet the few thoughts which do stand out when it is all over, the few bright flashes, they are things which can hardly be written down—at least they never are written down."
"But what would you do?" I said—"with the newspapers, I mean."
"Well," said Father Payne, "a great deal of the news most worth telling can be told best in pictures. I believe very much in illustrated papers. They really do help the imagination. That's the worst of words—a dozen scratches on a bit of paper do more to make one realise a scene than columns of description. I would do a lot with pictures, and a bit of print below to tell people what to notice. Then we must have a number of bare facts and notices—weather, business, trade, law—the sort of thing that people concerned must read. But I would make a clean sweep of fashion, and all sensational intelligence—murders, accidents, sudden deaths. I would have much more biography of living people as well as dead, and a few of the big speeches. Then I would have really good articles with pictures about foreign countries—we ought to know what the world looks like, and how the other people live. And then I would have one or two really fine little essays every day by the very best people I could get, amusing, serious, beautiful articles about nature and art and books and ideas and qualities—some real, good, plain, wise, fine, simple thinking. You want to get people in touch with the best minds!"
"And how many people would read such a paper?" I said.
"Oh, I don't know, I'm sure," said Father Payne with a groan. "I would for one! I want to have the feeling of being in touch day by day with the clever, interesting, lively, active-minded people, as if I had been listening to good talk. Isn't that possible? Instead of which I sit here, day after day, overflowing with my own ridiculous thoughts—and the world discharging all its staleness and stupidity like a sewer in these horrible documents. Take it away from me, someone! I'm fascinated by the disgusting smell of it!" I withdrew the paper from under his hands. "Thank you," said Father Payne feebly. "That's the horror of it—that the world isn't a dull place or a sensational place or a nasty place—and those papers make me feel it is all three!"
"I'm sorry you are so low about it," said Barthrop.
"Yes, because journalism ought to be the finest thing in the world," said Father Payne. "Just imagine! The power of talking, without any of the inconveniences of personality, to half-a-million people."
"But why doesn't it improve?" said Barthrop. "You always say that the public finds out what it wants, and will have it."
"In books, yes!" said Father Payne; "but in daily life we are all so damnably afraid of the truth—that's what is the matter with us, and it is that which journalism caters for. Suppress the truth, pepper it up, flavour it, make it appetising—try to persuade people that the world is romantic—that's the aim of the journalist. He flies from the truth, he makes a foolish tale out of it, he makes people despise the real interests of life, he makes us all want to escape from life into something that never has been and never will be. I loathe romance with all my heart. The way of escape is within, and not without."
"You had better go for a walk," said Barthrop soothingly.
"I must," said Father Payne. "I'm drunk and drugged with unreality. I will go and have a look round the farm—no, I won't have any company, thank you. I shall only go on fuming and stewing, if I have sympathetic listeners. You are too amiable, you fellows. You encourage me to talk, when you ought to stop your ears and run from me." And Father Payne swung out of the room.
It was at dinner, one frosty winter evening, and we were all in good spirits. Two or three animated conversations were going on at the table. Father Payne was telling one of his dreams to the three who were nearest to him, and, funny as most of his dreams were, this was unusually so. There was a burst of laughter and a silence—a sudden sharp silence, in which Vincent, who was continuing a conversation, was heard to say to Barthrop, in a tone of fierce vindictiveness, "I hate him like the devil!" Another laugh followed, and Vincent blushed. "Perhaps I ought not to say that?" he said in hurried tones.
"You are quite right," said Father Payne to Vincent, encouragingly—"at least you may be quite right. I don't know of whom you were speaking."
"Yes, who is it, Vincent?" said someone, leaning forwards.
"No, no," said Father Payne, "that's not fair! It was meant to be a private confession."
"But you don't hate people, Father?" said Lestrange, looking rather pained.
"I, dear man?" said Father Payne. "Yes, of course I do! I loathe them! Where are your eyes and ears? All decent people do. How would the world get on without it?"
Lestrange looked rather shocked. "I don't understand," he said. "I always gathered that you thought it our business to—well, to love people."
"Our business, yes!" said Father Payne; "but our pleasure, no! One must begin by hating people. What is there to like about many of us?"
"Why, Father," said Vincent, "you are the most charitable of men!"
Father Payne gave him a little bow. "Come," he said, "I will make a confession. I am by nature the most suspicious of mankind. I have all the uncivilised instincts. There are people of whom I hate the sight and the sound, and even the scent. My natural impulse is to see the worst points of everyone. I admit that people generally improve upon acquaintance, but I have no weak sentiment about my fellow-men—they are often ugly, stupid, ill-mannered, ill-tempered, unpleasant, unkind, selfish. It is a positive delight sometimes to watch a thoroughly nasty person, and to reflect how much one detests him. It is a sign of grace to do so. How otherwise should one learn to hate oneself? If you hate nobody, what reason is there for trying to improve? It is impossible to realise how nasty you yourself can be until you have seen other people being nasty. Then you say to yourself, 'Come, that is the kind of thing that I do. Can I really be like that?'"
"But surely," said Lestrange, "if you do not try to love people, you cannot do anything for them; you cannot wish them to be different."
"Why not?" said Father Payne, laughing. "You may hate them so much that you may wish them to be different. That is the sound way to begin. I say to myself, 'Here is a truly dreadful person! I would abolish and obliterate him if I could; but as I cannot, I must try to get him out of this mess, that we may live more at ease,' It is simple humbug to pretend to like everyone. You may not think it is entirely people's fault that they are so unpleasant; but if you really love fine and beautiful things, you must hate mean and ugly things. Don't let there be any misunderstanding," he said, smiling round the table. "I have hated most of you at different times, some of you very much. I don't deny there are good points about you, but that isn't enough. Sometimes you are detestable!"
"I see what you mean," said Barthrop; "but you don't hate people—you only hate things in them and about them. It is just a selection."
"Not at all," said Father Payne. "How are you going to separate people's qualities and attributes from themselves? It is a process of addition and subtraction, if you like. There may be a balance in your favour. But when a bad mood is on, when a person is bilious, fractious, ugly, cross, you hate him. It is natural to do so, and it is right to do so. I do loathe this talk of mild, weak, universal love. The only chance of human beings getting on at all, or improving at all, is that they should detest what is detestable, as they abominate a bad smell. The only reason why we are clean is because we have gradually learnt to hate bad smells. A bad smell means something dangerous in the background—so do ugliness, ill-health, bad temper, vanity, greediness, stupidity, meanness. They are all danger signals. We have no business to ignore them, or to forget them, or to make allowances for them. They are all part of the beastliness of the world."
"But if we believe in God, and in God's goodness—if He does not hate anything which He has made," said Lestrange rather ruefully, "ought we not to try to do the same?"
"My dear Lestrange," said Father Payne, "one would think you were teaching a Sunday-school class! How do you know that God made the nasty things? One must not think so ill of Him as that! It is better to think of God as feeble and inefficient, than to make Him responsible for all the filth and ugliness of the world. He hates them as much as you do, you may be sure of that—and is as anxious as you are, and a great deal more anxious, to get rid of them. God is infinitely more concerned about it, much more disappointed about it, than you or me. Why, you and I are often taken in. We don't always know when things are rotten. I have made friends before now with people who seemed charming, and I have found out that I was wrong. But I do not think that God is taken in. It is a very mixed affair, of course; but one thing is clear, that something very filthy is discharging itself into the world, like a sewer into a river, I am not going to credit God with that; He is trying to get rid of it, you may be sure, and He cannot do it as fast as He would like. We have got to sympathise with Him, and we have got to help Him. Come, someone else must talk—I must get on with my dinner," Father Payne addressed himself to his plate with obvious appetite.
"It is all my fault," said Vincent, "but I am not going to tell you whom I meant, and Barthrop must not. But I will tell you how it was. I was with this man, who is an old acquaintance of mine. I used to know him when I was living in London. I met him the other day, and he asked me to luncheon. He was pleasant enough, but after lunch he said to me that he was going to take the privilege of an old friend, and give me some advice. He began by paying me compliments; he said that he had thought a year ago that I was really going to do something in literature. 'You had made a little place for yourself,' he said; 'you had got your foot on the ladder. You knew the right people. You had a real chance of success. Then, in the middle of it all, you go and bury yourself in the country with an old'—no, I can't say it."
"Don't mind me!" said Father Payne.
"Very well," said Vincent, "if you will hear it—'with an old humbug, and a set of asses. You sit in each others' pockets, you praise each others' stuff, you lead what you call the simple life. Where will you all be five years hence?' I told him that I didn't know, and I didn't care. Then he lost his temper, and, what was worse, he thought he was keeping it. 'Very well,' he said. 'Now I will tell you what you ought to be doing. You ought to have buckled to your work, pushed yourself quietly in all directions, never have written anything, or made a friend, or accepted an invitation, without saying, "Will this add to my consequence?" We must all nurse our reputations in this world. They don't come of themselves—they have to be made!' Well, I thought this all very sickening, and I said I didn't care a d—n about my reputation. I said I had a chance of living with people whom I liked, and of working at things I cared about, and I thought his theories simply disgusting and vulgar. He showed his teeth at that, and said that he had spoken as a true friend, and that it had been a painful task; and then I said I was much obliged to him, and came away. That's the story!"
"That's all right," said Father Payne, "and I am much obliged to you for the sidelight on my character. But there is something in what he said, you know. You are rather unpractical! I shall send you back for a bit to London, I think!"
"Why on earth do you say that?" said Vincent, looking a little crestfallen.
"Because you mind it too much, my boy," said Father Payne. "You must not get soft. That's the danger of this life! It's all very well for me; I'm tough, and I'm moderately rich. But you would not have cared so much if you had not thought there was something in what he said. It was very low, no doubt, and I give you leave to hate him; though, if you are going to lead the detached life, you must be detached. But now I have caught you up—and we will go back a little. The mistake you made, Vincent, if I may say so, was to be angry. You may hate people, but you must not show that you hate them. That is the practical side of the principle. The moment you begin to squabble, and to say wounding things, and to try to hurt the person you hate, you are simply putting yourself on his level. And you must not be shocked or pained either. That is worse still, because it makes you superior, without making you engaging."
"Then what are you to do?" said Barthrop.
"Try persuasion if you like," said Father Payne, "but you had better fall back on attractive virtue! You must ignore the nastiness, and give the pleasant qualities, if there are any, room to manoeuvre. But I admit it is a difficult job, and needs some practice."
"But I don't see any principle about it," said Vincent.
"There isn't any," said Father Payne;—"at least there is, but you must not dig it in. You mustn't use principles as if they were bayonets. Civility is the best medium. If you appear to be fatuously unconscious of other people's presence, of course they want to make themselves felt. But if you are good-humoured and polite, they will try to make you think well of them. That is probably why your friend calls me a humbug—he thinks I can't feel as polite as I seem."
"But if you are dealing with a real egotist," said Vincent, "what are you to do then?"
"Keep the talk firmly on himself," said Father Payne, "and, if he ever strays from the subject, ask him a question about himself. Egotists are generally clever people, and no clever people like being drawn out, while no egotists like to be perceived to be egotists. You know the old saying that a bore is a person who wants to talk about himself when you want to talk about yourself. It is the pull against him that makes the bore want to hold his own. The first duty of the evangelist is to learn to pay compliments unobtrusively."
"That's rather a nauseous prescription!" said Lestrange, making a face.
"Well, you can begin with that," said Father Payne, "and when I see you perfect in it, I will tell you something else. Let's have some music, and let me get the taste of all this high talk out of my mouth!"
There were certain days when Father Payne would hurry in to meals late and abstracted, with, a cloudy eye, that, as he ate, was fixed on a point about a yard in front of him, or possibly about two miles away. He gave vague or foolish replies to questions, he hastened away again, having heard voices but seen no one. I doubt if he could have certainly named anyone in the room afterwards.
I had a little question of business to ask him on one such occasion after breakfast. I slipped out but two minutes after him, went to his study, and knocked. An obscure sound came from within. He was seated on his chair, bending over his writing-table.
"May I ask you something?" I said.
"Damnation!" said Father Payne.
I apologised, and tried to withdraw on tiptoe, but he said, turning half round, somewhat impatiently, "Oh, come in, come in—it's all right. What do you want?"
"I don't want to disturb you," I said.
"Come in, I tell you!" he said, adding, "you may just as well, because I have nothing to do for a quarter of an hour." He threw a pen on the table. "It's one of my very few penances. If I swear when I am at work, I do no work for a quarter of an hour; so you can keep me company. Sit down there!" He indicated a chair with his large foot, and I sat down.
My question was soon asked and sooner answered. Father Payne beamed upon me with an indulgent air, and I said: "May I ask what you were doing?"
"You may," he said. "I rejoice to talk about it. It's my novel."
"Your novel!" I said. "I didn't know you wrote novels. What sort of a book is it?"
"It's wretched," he said, "it's horrible, it's grotesque! It's more like all other novels than any book I know. It's written in the most abominable style; there isn't a single good point about it. The incidents are all hackneyed, there isn't a single lifelike character in it, or a single good description, or a single remark worth making. I should think it's the worst book ever written. Will you hear a bit of it? Do, now! only a short bit. I should love to read it to you."
"Yes, of course," I said, "there is nothing I should like better."
He read a passage. It was very bad indeed, I couldn't have imagined that an able man could have written such stuff. I had an awful feeling that I had heard every word before.
"There," he said at last, "that's rather a favourable specimen. What do you think of it? Come, out with it."
"I'm afraid I'm not very much of a judge," I said.
His face fell. "That's what everyone says," he said. "I know what you mean. But I'll publish it—I'll be d——d if I won't! Oh, dash it, that's five minutes more. No—I wasn't working, was I? Just conversing."
"But why do you write it, if you are so dissatisfied with it?" I said feebly.
"Why?" he said in a loud voice. "Why? Because I love it. I'm besotted by it. It's like strong drink to me. I doubt if there's a man in England who enjoys himself more than I do when I'm writing. The worst of it is, that it won't come out—it's beautiful enough when I think of it, but I can't get it down. It's my second novel, mind you, and I have got plans for three more. Do you suppose I'm going to sit here, with all you fellows enjoying yourselves, and not have my bit of fun? But it's hopeless, and I ought to be ashamed of myself. There simply isn't anything in the world that I should not be better employed in doing than in scribbling this stuff. I know that; but all the authors I know say that writing a book is the part they enjoy—they don't care about correcting proofs, or publishing, or seeing reviews, or being paid for it. Very disinterested and noble, of course! Now I should enjoy it all through, but I simply daren't publish my last one—I should be hooted in the village when the reviews appeared. But I am going to have my fun—the act of creation, you know! But it's too late to begin, and I have had no training. The beastly thing is as sticky as treacle. It's a sort of vomit of all the novels I have ever read, and that's the truth!"
"I simply don't understand," I said. "I have heard you criticise books, I have heard you criticise some of our work—you have criticised mine. I think you one of the best critics I ever heard. You seem to know exactly how it ought to be done."
"Yes," he said, frowning, "I believe I do. That's just it! I'm a critic, pure and simple. I can't look at anything, from a pigstye to a cathedral, or listen to anything, from a bird singing to an orchestra, or read anything, from Bradshaw to Shakespeare, without seeing when it is out of shape and how it ought to be done. I'm like the man in Ezekiel, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed. He goes on measuring everything for about five chapters, and nothing comes of it, as far as I can remember! I suppose I ought to be content with that, but I can't bear it. I hate fault-finding. I want to make beautiful things. I spent months over my last novel, and, as Aaron said to Moses, 'There came out this calf!' I'm a very unfortunate man. If I had not had to work so hard for many years for a bare living, I could have done something with writing, I think. But now I'm a sort of plumber, mending holes in other people's work. Never mind. I will waste my time!"
All this while he was eyeing the little clock on his table. "Now be off!" he said suddenly, "My penance is over, and I won't be disturbed!" He caught up his pen. "You had better tell the others not to come near me, or I'm blessed if I won't read the whole thing aloud after dinner!" And he was immersed in his work again.
Two or three days later I found Father Payne strolling in the garden, on a bright morning. It was just on the verge of spring. There were catkins in the shrubbery. The lilacs were all knobbed with green. The aconite was in full bloom under the trees, and the soil was all pricked with little green blades. He was drinking it all in with delighted glances. I said something about his book.
"Oh, the fit's off!" said he; "I'm sober again! I finished the chapter, and, by Jove, I think it's the worst thing I have done yet. It's simply infamous! I read it with strong sensations of nausea! I really don't know how I can get such deplorable rubbish down on paper. No matter, I get all the rapture of creation, and that's the best part of it. I simply couldn't live without it. It clears off some perilous stuff or other, and now I feel like a convalescent. Did you ever see anything so enchanting as that aconite? The colour of it, and the way the little round head is tucked down on the leaves! I could improve on it a trifle, but not much. God must have had a delicious time designing flowers—I wonder why He gave up doing it, and left it to the market-gardeners. I can't make out why new flowers don't keep appearing. I could offer a few suggestions. I dream of flowers sometimes—great banks of bloom rising up out of crystal rivers, in deep gorges, full of sunshine and scent. How nice it is to be idle! I'm sure I've earned it, after that deplorable chapter. It really is a miracle of flatness! You go back to your work, my boy, and thank God you can say what you mean! And then you can bring it to me, and I'll tell you to an inch what it is worth!"
We were all at dinner one day, and Father Payne came in, in an excited mood, with a letter in his hand. "Here's a bit of nonsense," he said. "Here's my old friend Davenport giving me what he calls a piece of his mind—he can't have much left—about my 'celibate brotherhood,' as he calls it. It's all the other way! I am rather relieved when I hear that any of you people are happily engaged to be married. Celibacy is the danger of my experiment, not the object of it."
"Do you wish us to be married?" said Kaye. "That's new to me. I thought this was a little fortress against the eternal feminine."
"What rubbish!" said Father Payne. "The worst of using ridiculous words like feminine is that it blinds people to the truth. Masculine and feminine have nothing to do with sex. In the first place, intellectual people are all rather apt to be sexless; in the next place, all sensible people, men and women alike, are what is meant by masculine—that is to say, spirited, generous, tolerant, good-natured, frank. Thirdly, all suspicious, scheming, sensitive, theatrical, irritable, vain people are what is meant by feminine. And artistic natures are all prone to those failings, because they desire dignity and influence—they want to be felt. The real difference between people is whether they want to live, or whether they want to be known to exist. The worst of feminine people is that they are probably the people who ought not to marry, unless they marry a masculine person; and they are not, as a rule, attracted by masculinity."
"But one can't get married in cold blood," said Vincent. "I often wish that marriages could just be arranged, as they do it in France. I think I should be a very good husband, but I shall never have the courage or the time to go in search of a wife."
"That's why I send you all out into the world," said Father Payne. "Most people ought to be married. It's a normal thing—it isn't a transcendental thing. In my experience most marriages are successful. It does everyone good to be obliged to live at close quarters with other people, and to be unable to get away from them."
"I didn't know you were interested in such matters," said someone.
"I have gone into it pretty considerably, sir," said Father Payne, "The one thing that does interest me is human admixtures. It does no one any good to get too much attached to his own point of view."
"But surely," said Rose, "there are some marriages which are obviously bad for all concerned—real incompatibilities? People who can't understand each other or their children—children who can't understand their parents? It always seems to me rather horrible that people should be shut up together like rats in a cage."
"I expect we shall have legislation before long," said Father Payne, "for breaking up homes where some definite evil like drunkenness is at work—but I don't want industrial schools for children; that is even more inhuman than a bad home. We want more boarding out, but that's expensive. Someone has to pay, if children are to be planted out, and to pay well. There's no motive of duty so strong for an Englishman as good wages. People are honest about giving fair money's worth. But it is no good talking about these things, because they are all so far ahead of us. The question is whether anyone can suggest any practical means of filing away any of the roughnesses of marriage. I do not believe that the problem is very serious among workers. It is the marriage of idle people that is apt to be disastrous."
"The thing that damages many marriages," said Rose, "is the fact that people have got to see so much of each other. What people really want is a holiday from each other."
"Yes, but that is impossible financially," said Father Payne. "Apart from love and children, marriage is a small joint-stock company for cheap comfort. But it is of no use to go vapouring on about these big schemes, because in a democracy people won't do what philosophers wish, but what they want. Let's take a notorious case, known to everyone. Can anyone say what practical advice he could have given to either Carlyle or to Mrs. Carlyle, which would have improved that witches' cauldron? There were two high-principled Puritanical people, which is the same thing as saying that they both were disposed to consider that anyone who disagreed with them did so for a bad motive, and exalted their own whims and prejudices into moral principles; both of them irritable and sensitive, both able to give instantaneous and elaborate expression to their vaguest thoughts,—Carlyle himself with eloquence which he wielded like a bludgeon, and Mrs. Carlyle with incisiveness which she used like a sharp knife—Carlyle with too much to do, and Mrs. Carlyle with less than nothing to do—each passionately attached to the other as soon as they were separated, and both capable of saying the sweetest and most affectionate things by letter, which they could not for the life of them utter in talk. They did, as a matter of fact, spend an immense amount of time apart; and when they were together, Carlyle, having been trained as a peasant and one of a large family, roughly neglected Mrs. Carlyle, while Mrs. Carlyle, with a middle-class training, and moreover indulged as an only daughter, was too proud to complain, but not proud enough not to resent the neglect deeply. What could have been done for them? Were they impossible people to live with? Was it true, as Tennyson bluntly said, that it was as well that they married, because two people were unhappy instead of four?"
"They wanted a child as a go-between!" said Barthrop.
"Of course they did!" said Father Payne. "That would have pulled the whole menage together. And don't tell me that it was a wise dispensation that they were childless! Cleansing fires? The fires in which they lived, with Carlyle raging about porridge and milk and crowing cocks, working alone, walking alone, flying off to see Lady Ashburton, sleeping alone; and Mrs. Carlyle, whom everyone else admired and adored, eating her heart out because she could not get him to value her company;—there was not much that was cleansing about all that! The cleansing came when she was dead, and when he saw what he had done."
"I expect they have made it up by now," said Kaye.
"You're quite right!" said Father Payne. "It matters less with those great vivid people. They can afford to remember. But the little people, who simply end further back than they began, what is to be done for them?"
OF LOVING GOD
Father Payne suddenly said to me once in a loud voice, after a long silence—we were walking together—"Writers, preachers, moralists, sentimentalists, are much to blame for not explaining more what they mean by loving God—perhaps they do not know! Love is so large a word, and covers so great a range of feelings. What sort of love are we to give God—the love of the lover, or the son, or the daughter, or the friend, or the patriot, or the dog? Is it to be passion, or admiration, or reverence, or fidelity, or pity? All of these enter into love."
"What do you think yourself?" I said.
"How am I to tell?" said Father Payne. "I am in many minds about it—it cannot be passion, because, whatever one may say, something of physical satisfaction is mingled with that. It cannot be a dumb fidelity—that is irrational. It cannot be an equal friendship, because there is no equality possible. It cannot be that of the child for the mother, because the mind is hardly concerned in that. Can one indeed love the Unknown? Again, it cannot be all receiving and no giving. We must have something to give God which He desires to have and which we can withhold. To say that the answer is, 'My son, give Me thy heart,' begs the question, because the one thing certain about love is that we cannot give it to whom we will—it must be evoked; and even if it is wanted, we cannot always give it. We may respect and reverence a person very much, but, as Charlotte Bronte said, 'our veins may run ice whenever we are near him.'
"And then, too, can we love any one who knows us perfectly, through and through? Is it not of the essence of love to be blind? Is it possible for us to feel that we are worthy of the love of anyone who really knows us?
"And then, too, if disaster and suffering and cruel usage and terror come from God, without reference to the sensitiveness of the soul and body on which they fall, can we possibly love the Power which behaves so? What child could love a father who might at any time strike him? I cannot believe that God wants an unquestioning and fatuous trust, and still less the sort of deference we pay to one who may do us a mischief if we do not cringe before him. All that is utterly unworthy of the mind and soul."
"Is it not possible to believe," I said, "that all experience may be good for us, however harsh it seems?"
"No rational man can think that," said Father Payne. "Suffering is not good for people if it is severe and protracted. I have seen many natures go utterly to pieces under it."
"What do you believe, then?" I said.
"Of course the only obvious explanation," said Father Payne, "is that suffering, misery, evil, disaster, disease do not come from God at all; that He is the giver of health and joy and light and happiness; that He gives us all He can, and spares us all He can; but that there is a great enemy in the world, whom He cannot instantly conquer; that He is doing all He can to shield us, and to repair the harm that befalls us—that we can make common cause with Him, and pity Him for His thwarted plans, His endless disappointments, His innumerable failures, His grievous sufferings. It would be easy to love God if He were like that—yet who dares to say it or to teach it? It is the dreadful doctrine of His Omnipotence that ruins everything. I cannot hold any communication with Omnipotence—it is a consuming fire; but if I could know that God was strong and patient and diligent, but not all-powerful or all-knowing, then I could commune with Him. If, when some evil mishap overtakes me, I could say to Him, 'Come, help me, console me, show me how to mend this, give me all the comfort you can,' then I could turn to Him in love and trust, so long as I could feel that He did not wish the disaster to happen to me but could not ward it off, and was as miserable as myself that it had happened. Not so miserable, of course, because He has waited so long, suffered so much, and can discern so bright and distant a hope. Then, too, I might feel that death was perhaps our escape from many kinds of evil, and that I should be clasped to His heart for awhile, even though He sent me out again to fight His battles. That would evoke all my love and energy and courage, because I could feel that I could give Him my help; but if He is Almighty, and could have avoided all the sorrow and pain, then I am simply bewildered and frightened, because I can predicate nothing about Him."
"Is not that the idea which Christianity aims at?" I said.
"Yes," he said; "the suffering Saviour, who can resist evil and amend it, but cannot instantly subdue it; but, even so, it seems to set up two Gods for one. The mind cannot really identify the Saviour with the Almighty Designer of the Universe. But the thought of the Saviour does interpret the sense of God's failure and suffering, does bring it all nearer to the heart. But if there is Omnipotence behind, it all falls to the ground again—at least it does for me. I cannot pray to Omnipotence and Omniscience, because it is useless to do so. The limited and the unlimited cannot join hands. I must, if I am to believe in God, believe in Him as a warrior arriving on a scene of disorder, and trying to make all well. He must not have permitted the disorder to grow up, and then try to subdue it. It must be there first. It is a battle obviously—but it must be a real battle against a real foe, not a sham fight between hosts created by God. In that case, 'to think of oneself as an instrument of God's designs is a privilege one shares with the devil,' as someone said. I will not believe that He is so little in earnest as that. No, He is the great invader, who desires to turn darkness to light, rage to peace, misery to happiness. Then, and only then, can I enlist under His banner, fight for Him, honour Him, worship Him, compassionate Him, and even love Him; but if He is in any way responsible for evil, by design or by neglect, then I am lost indeed!"
"He is the sort of man who is always losing his friends," said Pollard at dinner to Father Payne, describing someone, "and I always think that's a bad sign."
"And I, on the contrary," said Father Payne, "think that a man who always keeps his friends is almost always an ass!" He opened his mouth and drew in his breath.
"Or else it means," said Barthrop, "that he has never really made any friends at all!"
"Quite right," said Father Payne. "People talk about friendship as if it was a perfectly normal thing, like eating and drinking—it's not that! It's a difficult thing, and it is a rare thing. I do not mean mere proximities and easy comradeships and muddled alliances; there are plenty of frank and pleasant companionships about of a solid kind. Still less do I mean the sort of thing which is contained in such an expression as 'Dear old boy!' which is always a half-contemptuous phrase."
"But isn't loyalty a fine quality?" said Lestrange.
"Loyalty!" said Father Payne. "Of course you must play fair, and be ready to stick by a man, and do him a kindness, and help him up if he has a fall; but that is not friendship—at least it isn't what I mean by friendship. Friendship is a sort of passion, without anything sexual or reproductive about it. There is a physical basis about it, of course. I mean there are certain quite admirable, straightforward, pleasant people, whom you may meet and like, and yet with whom you could never be friends, though they may be quite capable of friendship, and have friends of their own. A man's presence and his views and emotions must be in some sort of tune with your own. There are certain people, not in the least repellent, genial, kindly, handsome, excellent in every way, with whom you simply are not comfortable. On the other hand, there are people of no great obvious attractiveness with whom you feel instantaneously at ease. There is something mysterious about it, some currents that don't mix, and some that do. A thousand years hence we shall probably know something about it we don't now."
"I feel that very strongly about books," said Kaye. "There are certain authors, who have skill, charm, fancy, invention, style—all the things you value—who yet leave you absolutely cold. They have every qualification for pleasing except the power to please. It is simply a case of Dr. Fell! You can't give a single valid reason why you don't like them."
"Yes, indeed," said Father Payne. "and then, again, there are authors whom you like at a certain age and under certain circumstances, and who end by boring you; and again, authors whom you don't like when you are young, and like better when you are old. Does your idea of loyalty apply also to books, Lestrange, or to music?"
"No," said Lestrange, "to be frank, it does not; but I think that is different—a lot of technical things come in, and then one's taste alters."
"And that is just the same with people," said Father Payne. "Why, what does loyalty mean in such a connection? You have admired a book or a piece of music; you cease to admire it. Are you to go on saying you admire it, or to pretend to yourself that you admire it? Of course not—that is simply hypocrisy—there is nothing real about that."
"But what are you to do," said Vincent, "about people? You can't treat them like books or music. You need not go on reading a book which you have ceased to admire. But what if you have made a friend, and then ceased to care for him, and he goes on caring for you? Are you to throw him over?"
"I admit that there is a difficulty," said Father Payne; "I agree that you must not disappoint people; but it is also somehow your duty to get out of a relation that is no longer a real one. It can't be wholesome to simulate emotions for the sake of loyalty. It must all depend upon which you think the finer thing—the emotion or the tie. Personally, I think the emotion is the more sacred of the two."
"But does it not mean that you have made a mistake somehow," said Vincent, "if you have made a friend, and then cease to care about him?"
"Not a bit," said Father Payne. "Why, people change very much, and some people change faster than others. A man may be exactly what you want at a certain time of life; he may be ahead of you in ideas, in qualities, in emotions; and what starts a friendship is the perception of something fine and desirable in another, which you admire and want to imitate. But then you may outstrip your friend. Take the case of an artist. He may have an admiration for another artist, and gain much from him; but then he may go right ahead of him. He can't go on admiring and deferring out of mere loyalty."
"But must there not be in every real friendship a purpose of continuance?" said Vincent. "It surely is a very selfish sort of business, if you say to yourself, 'I will make friends with this man because I admire him now, but when, I have got all I can out of him, I will discard him.'"
"Of course, you must not think in that coldblooded way," said Father Payne, "but it can never be more than a hope of continuance. You may hope to find a friendship a continuous and far-reaching thing. It may be quite right to get to know a man, believing him to have fine qualities; but you can't pledge yourself to admire whatever you find in him. We have to try experiments in friendship as in everything else. It is purely sentimental to say, 'I am going to believe in this man blindfold, whatever I find him to be,' That's a rash vow! You must not take rash vows; and if you do, you must be prepared to break them. Besides, you can't depend upon your friend not altering. He may lose some of the very things you most admire. The mistake is to believe that anything can be consistent or permanent."
"But if you don't believe that," said Lestrange, "are you justified in entering upon intimate relations at all?"
"Of course you are," said Father Payne; "you can't live life on prudent lines. You can't say, 'I won't engage in life, or take a hand in it, or believe in it, or love it, till I know more about it.' You can't foresee all contingencies and risks. You must take risks."
"I expect," said Barthrop, "that we are meaning different things by friendship. Let us define our terms. What do you mean by friendship, Father?"
"Well," said Father Payne, "I will tell you if I can. I mean a consciousness, which generally comes rather suddenly, of the charm of a particular person. You have a sudden curiosity about him. You want to know what his ideas, motives, views of life are. It is not by any means always that you think he feels about things as you do yourself. It is often the difference in him which attracts you. But you like his manner, his demeanour, his handling of life. What he says, his looks, his gestures, his personality, affect you in a curious way. And at the same time you seem to discern a corresponding curiosity in him about yourself. It is a pleasurable surprise both to discover that he agrees with you, and also that he disagrees with you. There is a beauty, a mystery, about it all. Generally you think it rather surprising that he should find you interesting. You wish to please him and to satisfy his expectations. That is the dangerous part of friendship, that two people in this condition make efforts, sacrifices, suppressions in order to be liked. Even if you disagree, you both give hints that you are prepared to be converted. There is a sudden increase of richness in life, the sense of a moving current whose impulse you feel. You meet, you talk, you find a freshness of feeling, light cast upon dark things, a new range of ideas vividly present."
"But isn't all that rather intellectual?" said Vincent, who had been growing restive. "The thing can surely be much simpler than that?"
"Yes, of course it can," said Father Payne, "among simple people—but we are all complicated people here."
"Yes," said Vincent, "we are! But isn't it possible for an intellectual man to feel a real friendship for a quite unintellectual man—not a desire to discuss everything with him, but a simple admiration for fine frank qualities?"
"Oh yes," said Father Payne, "there can be all sorts of alliances; but I am not speaking of them. I am speaking of a sort of mutual understanding. In friendship, as I understand it, the two must not speak different languages. They must be able to put their minds fairly together—there can be a kind of man-and-dog friendship, of course, but that is more a sort of love and trust. Now in friendship people must be mutually intelligible. It need not be equality—it is very often far removed from that; but there must not be any condescension. There must be a desire for equality, at all events. Each must lament anything, whether it is superiority or inferiority, which keeps the two apart. It must be a desire for unity above everything. There must not be the smallest shadow of contempt on either side—it must be a frank proffer of the best you have to give, and a knowledge that the other can give you something—sympathy, support, help—which you cannot do without. What breaks friendship, in my experience, is the loss of that sense of equality; and the moment that friends become critical—in the sense, I mean, that they want to alter or improve each other—I think a friendship is in danger. If you have a friend, you must be indulgent to his faults—like him, not in spite of them, but almost because of them, I think."
"That's very difficult," said Vincent. "Mayn't you want a friend to improve? If he has some patent and obvious fault, I mean?"
"You mustn't want to improve him," said Father Payne, smiling; "that's not your business—unless he wants you to help him to improve; and even then you have to be very delicate-handed. It must hurt you to have to wish him different."
"But isn't that what you call sentimental?" said Vincent.
"No," said Father Payne, "it is sentiment to try to pretend to yourself and others that the fault isn't there. But I am speaking of a tie which you can't risk breaking for anything so trivial as a fault. The moment that the fault stands out, naked and unpleasant, then you may know that the friendship is over. There must be a glamour even about your friend's faults. You must love them, as you love the dints and cracks in an old building."
"That seems to me weak," said Vincent.
"You will find that it is true," said Father Payne. "We can't afford to sit in judgment on each other. We must simply try to help each other along. We must not say, 'You ought not to be tired.'"
"But surely we may pity people?" said Lestrange.
"Not your friends," said Father Payne. "Pity is fatal to friendship. There is always something complacent in pity—it means conscious strength. You can't both pity and admire. You can't separate people up into qualities—they all come out of the depth of a man; I am quite sure of this, that the moment you begin to differentiate a friend's qualities, that moment what I call friendship is over. It must simply be a case of you and me—not my weakness and your virtue, and still less your weakness and my virtue. And you must be content to lose friends and to be discarded by friends. What is sentimental is to believe that it can be otherwise."
It was in the course of July, the month given to hospitality. Father Payne used to have guests of various kinds, quite unaccountable people, some of them, with whom he seemed to be on the easiest of terms, but whom he never mentioned at any other time. "It is a time when I have old friends to stay with me," he once said, "and I decline to define the term. There are reasons—you must assume that there are reasons—which may not be apparent, for the tie. They are not all selected for intellectual or artistic brilliance—they are the symbols of undesigned friendships, which existed before I exercised the faculty of choice. They are there, uncriticised, unexplained, these friends of mine. The modest man, you will remember, finds his circle ready-made. I am attached to them, and they to me. They understand no language, some of them, as you will see, except the language of the heart; but you will help me, I know, to make them feel at home and happy."
They certainly were odd people, several of them—dumb, good-natured, elderly men with no ostensible purpose in the world; elderly ladies, who called Father Payne "dear"; some simple and homely married couples, who seemed to be living in another century. But Father Payne welcomed them, chattered with them, jested with them, took them drives and walks, and seemed well-contented with their company, though I confess that I generally felt as though I were staying in a seaside boarding-house on such occasions. We used to speculate as to who they were, and how Father Payne had made their acquaintance: we gathered that they were mostly the friends and acquaintances of his youth, or people into whose company he had drifted when he lived in London. Sometimes, before a new arrival, he would touch off his or her character and circumstances in a few words. On one occasion he said after breakfast to Barthrop and me: "Arrivals to-day, Mr. and Mrs. Wetherall—the man a retired coal-merchant, rather wealthy, interested in foreign missions; the woman inert; daughter prevented from coming, and they bring a niece, Phyllis by name, understood to be charming. I undertake the sole charge of Wetherall himself, Mrs. Wetherall requires no specific attentions—placid woman, writes innumerable letters—Miss Phyllis an unknown quantity."
The Wetheralls duly appeared, and proved very simple people. Father Payne, to our surprise, seemed to be soaked in mission literature, and drew out Mr. Wetherall with patient skill. But Miss Phyllis was a perfectly delightful girl, very simple and straightforward, extremely pretty in a boyish fashion, and quite used to the ways of the world. We would willingly have entertained her, and did our best; but she made fast friends with Father Payne, with the utmost promptitude, and the two were for ever strolling about or sitting out together. The talk at meals was of a sedate character, but Miss Phyllis used to intercept Father Payne's humorous remarks with a delighted little smile, and Father Payne would shake his head gravely at her in return. Miss Phyllis said to me one morning, as we were sitting in the garden: "You seem to have a very good time here, all of you—it feels like something in a book—it is too good to be true!"
"Ah," I said, "but this is a holiday, of course! We work very hard in term-time, and we are very serious." Miss Phyllis looked at me with her blue eyes in silence for a moment, with an ironical little curve of her lips, and said: "I don't believe a word of it! I believe it is just a little Paradise, and I suspect it of being rather a selfish Paradise. Why do you shut everyone out?"
"Oh, it is a case of 'business first'!" I said. "Father Payne keeps us all in very good order." "Yes," said Phyllis, "I expect he can do that. But do any of you men realise what an absolutely enchanting person he is? I have never seen anyone in the least like him! He understands everything, and sees everything, and cares for everything—he is so big and kind and clever. Why, isn't he something tremendous?" "He is," I said. "Oh yes, but you know what I mean," said Miss Phyllis; "he's a great man, and he ought to have the reins in his hand. He ought not to potter about here!"
"Well," I said, "I have wondered about that myself. But he knows his own mind—he's a very happy man!" Miss Phyllis pondered silently, and said: "I don't think you realise your blessings. Father Payne is like the boy in the story—the man born to be king, you know. He ought not to be wasted like this! He ought to be ruler over ten cities. Dear me, I don't often wish I were a man, but I would give anything to be one of you. Won't you tell me something more about him?"
I did my best, and Phyllis listened absorbed, dangling a shapely little foot over her knee, and playing with a flower. "Yes," she said at last, "that is what I thought! I see you do appreciate him after all. I won't make that mistake again." And she gave me a fine smile. I liked the company of this radiant creature, but at this moment Father Payne appeared at the other end of the garden. "Don't think me rude," said Miss Phyllis, "but I am going to talk to Father Payne. It's my last day, and I must get all I can out of him." She fled, and presently they went off together for a stroll, a charming picture. She carried him off likewise after dinner, and they sate long in the dusk. I could hear Father Payne's emphatic tones and Phyllis's refreshing laughter.
The next morning the Wetheralls went off. Barthrop and I, with Father Payne, saw them go. The Wetheralls were serenely enjoying the prospect of returning home after a successful visit, but Miss Phyllis looked mournful, and as if she were struggling with concealed emotions. She kissed her hand to Father Payne as the carriage drove away.
"Very worthy people!" said Father Payne cheerfully, as the carriage passed out of sight. "I am very glad to have seen them, and no less thankful that they are gone."
"But the charming Phyllis?" said Barthrop, "Is that all you have to say about her? I never saw a more delightful girl!"
"She is—quite delightful," said Father Payne. "Phyllis is my only joy! The sight of her and the sound of her make me feel as if I had been reading an Elizabethan song-book—'Sing hey, nonny nonny!' But why didn't one of you fellows make up to her?—that's a girl worth the winning!"
"Why didn't we make up to her?" I said indignantly. "I wonder you have the face to ask, Father! Why, she was simply taken up with you, and she hadn't a word or a look for anyone else. I never saw such a case of love at first sight!"
"She gave me a flower this morning," said Father Payne meditatively, "and I believe I kissed her hand. It was like a scene in one of my novels. It wasn't my fault—the woman tempted me, of course! But I think she is a charming creature, and as clever as she is pretty. I could have made love to her with the best will in the world! But that wouldn't do, and I just made friends with her. She wants an older friend, I think. She has ideas, the pretty Phyllis, and she doesn't strike out sparks from the Wetheralls much."
Barthrop went off, smiling to himself, and I strolled about with Father Payne.
"You really could hardly do better than be Phyllis's faithful shepherd," he said to me, smiling. "She's a fine creature, you know, full of fire and vitality, and eager for life. She must marry a nice man and have nice children. We want more people like Phyllis. You consider it, old man! I would like to see you happily married."
"Why, Father," I said boldly, "if you feel like that, why don't you put in for her yourself? Phyllis is in love with you! You may not know it—she may not know it—but I know it. She could talk of nothing else."
"Get thee behind me, Satan!" said Father Payne very emphatically. Don't say such things to me! The pretty Phyllis wants a father confessor—that's all I can, do for her."
"I don't think that is so, Father," I said. "She would be prepared for something much closer than that, if you held out your hand."
Father Payne smiled benignantly at me. "Yes, I know what you mean, old man," he said, "and I daresay it is true! But I mustn't allow myself to think of such things at my age. It wouldn't do. I'm old enough to be her father—and she has just had a pretty fancy, that's all. It's rather a romantic setting, this place, you know; and she is hungering and thirsting for all sorts of ideas and beautiful adventures; and she finds a good-humoured old bird like myself, who can give her something of what she wants. She is fitful and impetuous, and she wants something strong and fatherly to lean upon and to worship, perhaps. Bless you, I see it all clearly enough! But put the clock on for a few years: the charming Phyllis is made for better things than tying my muffler and walking beside my bath-chair. No, she must have a run for her money. And what's more, I'm not sure that I want the sole charge of that sweet nymph—she would want a lot of response and sympathy and understanding. It's altogether too big a job for me, and I don't feel the call. What do I want, then, with the pretty child? Why, I like to be with her, and to see her, and to hear her talk and laugh. I want to help her along if I can—she is a high-spirited creature, and will take things hardly. But I cannot be romantic, and take advantage of a romantic child. Mind you, I think that these friendships between men and women are good for both, if they aren't complicated by love: the worst of it is that passion is a tindery thing, and lights up suddenly when people least expect it. But I'm too old for all that; and one of the pleasures of growing old is that one can see a beautiful creature like Phyllis—high-spirited, vivid, full of grace and delight—without wanting to claim her for one's own or take her away into a corner. I'm just glad to be with her, glad to think she is in the world, glad to think she comes direct from the Divine hand. It moves me tremendously, that flashing and brightening charm of hers—but I see and feel it, I think, as something beyond and outside of her, which comes as a message to me. She's a darling! But I am not going to interfere with her or complicate her life. She must find a fit mate, and I am going to let her feel that she can depend on me for any service I can do for her. I don't mind saying, old man," added Father Payne, in a different tone, "that there isn't a touch of temptation about it all. I yield in imagination to it quite frankly—I think how jolly it would be to have a creature like that living in this old house, telling me all she thought about, making a home beautiful. I could make a very fair lover if I tried! But I have got myself well in hand, and I know better. It isn't what she wants, and it isn't really what I want. I have got my work cut out for me; but I'll give her all I can, and be thankful if she gives me a bit of her heart; and I shall love to think of her going about the world, and reminding everyone she meets of the best and purest sort of beauty. I love Phyllis with all my old heart—is that enough for you?—and a great deal too well to confiscate her, as I should certainly have tried to do twenty years ago."
Father Payne stopped, and looked at me with one of his great clear smiles.
"Well, I must say," I began—
"No, you mustn't," said Father Payne. "I know all the excellent arguments you would advance. Why shouldn't two people be happy and not look ahead, and all that? I do look ahead, and I'm going to make her happy if I can. Shall I use my influence in your favour, my boy? How does that strike you?"
I laughed and reddened. Father Payne put his arm in mine, and said: "Now, I have turned my heart out for your inspection, and you can't convert me. Let the pretty child go her way! I only wish she was likely to get more fun out of the Wetheralls. Such excellent people too: but a lack of inspiration—not propelled from quite the central fount of beauty, I fancy! But it will do Phyllis good to make the best of them, and I fancy she is trying pretty hard. Dear me, I wish she were my niece! But I couldn't have her here—we should all be at daggers drawn in a fortnight: that's the puzzling thing about these beautiful people, that they light up such conflagrations, and make such havoc of divine philosophy, old boy!"
We were returning from a walk, Father Payne and I; as we passed the churchyard, he said: "Do you remember that story of Lamennais at La Chenaie? He was sitting behind the chapel under two Scotch firs which grew there, with some of his young disciples. He took his stick, and marked out a grave on the turf, and said: 'It is there I would wish to be buried, but no tombstone! Only a simple mound of grass. Oh, how well I shall be there!' That is what I call sentiment. If Lamennais really thought he would be confined in spirit to such a place, he would not tolerate it—least of all a combative fellow like Lamennais—it would be a perpetual solitary confinement. Such a cry is merely a theatrical way of saying that he felt tired. Yet it is such sayings which impress people, because men love rhetoric."
Presently he went on: "It is strange that what one fears in death is the vagueness and the solitude of it—we are afraid of finding ourselves lost in the night. It would be agitating, but not frightful, if we were sure of finding company; and if we were sure of meeting those whom we had loved and lost, death would not frighten us at all. Dying is simple enough, and indeed easy, for most of us. But I expect that something very precise and definite happens to us, the moment we die. It is probable, I think, that we shall set about building up a new body to inhabit at once, as a snail builds its shell. We are very definite creatures, all of us, with clearly apportioned tastes and energies, preferences and dislikes. The only puzzling thing is that we do not all of us seem to have the bodies which suit us here on earth: fiery spirits should have large phlegmatic bodies, and they too often have weak and inadequate bodies. Beautiful spirits cannot always make their bodies beautiful, and evil people have often very lovely shapes and faces. I confess I find all that very mysterious; heredity is quite beyond me. If it were merely confined to the body and even the mind, I should not wonder at it, but it seems to affect the soul as well. Who can feel free in will, if that is the case? And now, too, they say with some certainty that it seems as though all their own qualities need not be transmitted by parents but that no quality can be transmitted which is not present in the parents—that we can lose qualities, that is, but not gain them. If that is true, then all our qualities were present in primitive forms of life, and we are not really developing, we are only specialising. All this hurts one to think of, because it ties us hand and foot."
Presently he went on: "How ludicrous, after all, to make up our mind about things as most of us do! I believe that the desire for certainty is one of the worst temptations of the devil. It means closing our eyes and minds and hearts to experience; and yet it seems the only way to accomplish anything. I trust," he said, turning to me with a look of concern, "that you do not feel that you are being formed or moulded here, by me or by any of the others?"
"No," I said, "certainly not! I feel, indeed, since I came here, that I have got a wider horizon of ideas, and I hope I am a little more tolerant. I have certainly learnt from you not to despise ideas or experiences at first sight, but to look into them."
He seemed pleased at this, and said: "Yes, to look into them—we must do that! When we see anyone acting in a way that we admire, or even in a way which we dislike, we must try to see why he acts so, what makes him what he is. We must not despise any indications. On the whole, I think that people behave well when they are happy, and ill when they are afraid. All violence and spite come when we are afraid of being left out; and we are happy when we are using all our powers. Don't be too prudent! Don't ever be afraid of uprooting yourself," he added with great emphasis. "Try experiments—in life, in work, in companionship. Have an open mind! That is why we should be so careful what we pray for, because in my experience prayers are generally granted, and often with a fine irony. The grand irony of God! It is one of the things that most reassures me about Him, to find that He can be ironical and indulgent; because our best chance of discovering the nature of things is that we should be given what we wish, just in order to find out that it was not what we wished at all!"
"But," I said, "if you are for ever experimenting, always moving on, always changing your mind, don't you run the risk of never mixing with life at all?"
"Oh, life will take care of that!" said Father Payne, smiling, "The time will come when you will know where to post your battery, and what to fire at. But don't try to make up your mind too early—don't try to fortify yourself against doubts and anxieties. That is the danger of all sensitive people. You can't attain to proved certainties in this life—at least, you can't at present. I don't say that there are not certainties—indeed, I think that it is all certainty, and that we mustn't confuse the unknown with the unknowable. As you go on, if you are fair-minded and sympathetic, you will get intuitions; you will discover gradually exactly what you are worth, and what you can do, and how you can do it best. But don't expect to know that too soon. And don't yield to the awful temptation of saying, 'So many good, fine, reasonable people seem certain of this and that; I had better assume it to be true.' It isn't better, it is only more comfortable. A great many more people suffer from making up their mind too early and too decisively than suffer from open-mindedness and the power to relate new experience to old experience. No one can write you out a prescription for life. You can't anticipate experience; and if you do, you will only find that you have to begin all over again."
Father Payne had been away on one of his rare journeys. He always maintained that a journey was one of the most enlivening things in the world, if it was not too often indulged in. "It intoxicates me," he said, "to see new places, houses, people."
"Why don't you travel more, then?" said someone.
"For that very reason," said Father Payne; "because it intoxicates me—and I am too old for that sort of self-indulgence!"
"It's a dreadful business," he went on, "that northern industrial country. There's a grandeur about it—the bare valleys, the steep bleak fields, the dead or dying trees, the huge factories. Those great furnaces, with tall iron cylinders and galleries, and spidery contrivances, and black pipes, and engines swinging vast burdens about, and moving wheels, are fearfully interesting and magnificent. They stand for all sorts of powers and forces; they frighten me by their strength and fierceness and submissiveness. But the land is awfully barren of beauty, and I doubt if that can be wholesome. It all fascinates me, it increases my pride, but it makes me unhappy too, because it excludes beauty so completely. Those bleak stone-walled fields of dirty grass, the lines of grey houses, are fine in their way—but one wants colour and clearness. I longed for a glimpse of elms and water-meadows, and soft-wooded pastoral hills. It produces a shrewd, strong, good-tempered race, but very little genius. There is something harsh about Northerners—they haven't enough colour."
"But you are always saying," said Rose, "that we must look after form, and chance colour."
"Yes, but that is because you are in statu pupillari," said Father Payne, "If a man begins by searching for colour and ornament and richness, he gets clotted and glutinous. Colour looks after itself—but it isn't clearness that I am afraid of, it is shrewdness—I think that is, on the whole, a low quality, but it is awfully strong! What I am afraid of, in bare laborious country like that, is that people should only think of what is comfortable and sensible. Imagination is what really matters. It is not enough to have solid emotions; one ought not to be too reasonable about emotions. The thing is to care in an unreasonable and rapturous way about beautiful things, and not to know why one cares. That is the point of things which are simply beautiful and nothing else,—that you feel it isn't all capable of explanation."
"But isn't that rather sentimental?" said Rose.
"No, no, it's just the opposite," said Father Payne. "Sentiment is when one understands and exaggerates an emotion; beauty isn't that—it is something mysterious and inexplicable; it makes you bow the head and worship. Take the sort of thing you may see on the coast of Italy—a blue sea, with gray and orange cliffs falling steeply down into deep water; a gap, with a clustering village, coming down, tier by tier, to the sea's edge; fantastic castles on spires of rock, thickets and dingles running down among the clefts and out on the ledges, and perhaps a glimpse of pale, fantastic hills behind. No one could make it or design it; but every line, every blending colour, all combine to give you the sense of something marvellously and joyfully contrived, and made for the richness and sweetness of it. That is the sort of moment when I feel the overwhelming beauty and nearness of God—everything done on a vast scale, which floods mind and heart with utter happiness and wonder. Anything so overpoweringly joyful and delicious and useless as all that must come out of a fulness of joy. The sharp cliffs mean some old cutting and slashing, the blistering and burning of the earth; and yet those old rents have been clothed and mollified by some power that finds it worth while to do it—and it isn't done for you or me, either—there must be treasures of loveliness going on hidden for centuries in tropic forests. It's done for the sake of doing it; and we are granted a glimpse of it, just to show us perhaps that we are right to adore it, and to try in our clumsy way to make beautiful things too. That is why I envy the musician, because he creates beauty more directly then any other mind—and the best kind of poetry is of the same order."
"But isn't there a danger in all this?" said Lestrange. "No, I don't want to say anything priggish," he added, seeing a contraction of Father Payne's brows; "I only want to say what I feel. I recognise the fascination of it as much as anyone can—but isn't it, as you said about travelling, a kind of intoxication? I mean, may it not be right to interpose it, but yet not right to follow it? Isn't it a selfish thing, and doesn't it do the very thing which you often speak against—blind us to other experience, that is?"