Part 2 out of 6
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!" 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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
Barthrop went off, smiling to himself, and I strolled about with Father
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Yes, there is something in that," said Father Payne. "Of course that is
always the difficulty about the artist, that he appears to live selfishly
in joy--but it applies to most things. The best you can do for the world is
often to turn your back upon it. Philanthropy is a beautiful thing in its
way, but it must be done by people who like it--it is useless if it is done
in a grim and self-penalising way. If a man is really big enough to follow
art, he had better follow it. I do not believe very much in the doctrine
that service to be useful must be painful. No one doubts that Wordsworth
gave more joy to humanity by living his own life than if he had been a
country doctor. Of course the sad part of it is when a man follows art and
does _not_ succeed in giving pleasure. But you must risk that--and a
real devotion to a thing gives the best chance of happiness to a man, and
is perhaps, too, his best chance of giving something to others. There is no
reason to think that Shakespeare was a philanthropist."
"But does that apply to things like horse-racing or golf?" said Rose.
"No, you must not pursue comfort," said Father Payne; "but I don't believe
in the theory that we have all got to set out to help other people. That
implies that a man is aware of valuable things which he has to give away.
Make friends if you can, love people if you can, but don't do it with a
sense of duty. Do what is natural and beautiful and attractive to do. Make
the little circle which surrounds you happy by sympathy and interest. Don't
deal in advice. The only advice people take is that with which they agree.
And have your own work. I think we are--many of us--afraid of enjoying
work; but in any case, if we can show other people how to perceive and
enjoy beauty, we have done a very great thing. The sense of beauty is
growing in the world. Many people are desiring it, and religion doesn't
cater for it, nor does duty cater for it. But it is the only way to make
progress--and religion has got to find out how to include beauty in its
programme, or it will be left stranded. Nothing but beauty ever lifted
people higher--the unsensuous, inexplicable charm, which makes them ashamed
of dull, ugly, greedy, quarrelsome ways. It is only by virtue of beauty
that the world climbs higher--and if the world does climb higher by
something which isn't obviously beautiful, it is only that we do not
recognise it as beautiful. Sin and evil are signals from the unknown, of
course; but they are danger signals, and we follow them with terror--but
beauty is a signal too, and it is the signal made by peace and happiness
The talk one evening turned on War; Lestrange said that he believed it was
good for a nation to have a war: "It unites them with the sense of a common
purpose, it evokes self-sacrifice, it makes them turn to God."
"Yes, yes," said Father Payne, rather impatiently. "But you can't personify
a nation like that; that personification of societies and classes and
sections of the human race does no end of harm. It is all a matter of
statistics, not of generalisation. Take your three statements. 'It is good
for a nation to have a war.' You mean, I suppose, that, in spite of the
loss of the best stock and the disabling of strong young men, and the
disintegration of families, and the hideous waste of time and
money--subtracting all that--there is a balance of good to the survivors?"
"Yes, I think so," said Lestrange.
"But are you sure about this?" said Father Payne. "How do you know? Would
you feel the same if you yourself were turned out a helpless invalid for
life with your occupation gone? Are you sure that you are not only
expressing the feeling of relief in the community at having a danger over?
Is it more than the sense of gratitude of a man who has not suffered
unbearably, to the people who _have_ died and suffered? The only
evidence worth having is that of the real sufferers. Take the case of the
people who have died. You can't get evidence from them. It is an assumption
that they are content to have died. Is not the glory which surrounds
them--and how short a time that lasts!--a human attempt to make consciences
comfortable, and to relieve human doubts? The worst of that theory is that
it makes so light of the worth of life; and, after all, a soldier's
business is to kill and not to be killed; while, generally speaking, the
worst turn that a strong, healthy, and honest man can do to his country is
to die prematurely. Of course war has a great and instinctive prestige
about it; are we not misled by that into accepting it as an inevitable
"No, I believe there is a real gain," said Lestrange, "in the national
sense of unity, in the feeling of having been equal to an emergency."
"But are you speaking of a nation which conquers or a nation which is
defeated?" said Father Payne.
"Both," said Lestrange; "it unites a nation in any case."
"But if a nation is defeated," said Father Payne, "are they the better for
the common depression of _not_ having been equal to the emergency?"
"It may make them set their teeth," said Lestrange, "and prepare themselves
"Then it does not matter," said Father Payne, "whether they are united by
the complacency of conquest or by the desire for revenge?"
"I would not quite say that," said Lestrange. "But at all events a desire
for revenge might teach them discipline."
"I can't believe that," said Father Payne; "it seems to me to make all the
difference what the purpose has been. I do not believe that a nation gains
by being united for a predatory and aggressive purpose. I think the victory
of the Germans in the Franco-Prussian war has been wholly bad for them. It
has made them believe in aggressiveness. A nation naturally philosophical
and moral, and also both energetic and stupid, acquires the sense of a
divine mission like that. I don't believe that a belief in your own methods
of virtue is a wholesome belief. That seems to me likely to perpetuate
war--and I suppose that we should all believe that war was an evil, if we
could produce the good results of it without war."
We all agreed to this.
"I will grant," said Father Payne, "that if a nation which sincerely
believes in peace and wishes to cultivate goodwill, is wantonly and
aggressively attacked, and repels that attack, it may gain much from war if
it sticks to its theory, does not attempt reprisals, and leaves the
conquered bully in a position to see its mistake and regain its
self-respect. But it is a very dangerous kind of success for all that. I do
not believe that complacency ever does anything but harm. The purpose must
be a good one in the first place, the cause must be a great one, and it
must be honestly pursued to the end, if it is to help a nation. But it lets
all sorts of old and evil passions loose, and it makes slaughter glorious.
No, I believe that at best it is a relapse into barbarism. Hardly any
nation is strong enough and great enough to profit either by conquest or by
"But what about the splendid self-sacrifice it all evokes?" said Lestrange.
"People give up their comfort, their careers, they go to face the last
risk--is that nothing?"
"No," said Father Payne; "it is a very magnificent and splendid thing,--I
don't deny that. But even so, that can't be preserved artificially. I mean
that no one would think that, if there were no chance of a real war, it
would be a good thing to evoke such self-sacrifice by having manoeuvres in
which the best youth of the country were pitted against each other, to kill
each other if possible. There must be a _real_ cause behind it. No one
would say it was a noble thing for the youth of a country to fling
themselves down over a cliff or to infect themselves with leprosy to show
that they could despise suffering and death. If it were possible to settle
the differences between nations without war, war would be a wholly evil
thing. The only thing that one can say is that while there exists a strong
nation which believes enough in war to make war aggressively, other nations
are bound to resist it. But the nation which believes in war is _ipso
facto_ an uncivilised nation."
"But does not a war," said Lestrange, "clear the air, and take people away
from petty aims and trivial squabbles into a sterner and larger
"Yes, I think it does," said Father Payne; "but a great pestilence might do
that. We might be thankful for all the good we could get out of a
pestilence, and be grateful for it; but we should never dream of
artificially renewing it for that reason. I look upon war as a sort of
pestilence, a contagion which spreads under certain conditions. But we
disguise the evil of it from ourselves, if we allow ourselves to believe in
its being intrinsically glorious. I can't believe that highway robbery has
only to be organised on a sufficiently large scale to make it glorious. A
man who resists highway robbery, and runs the risk of death, because he
wants to put a stop to it, seems to me a noble person--quite different from
the man who sees a row going on and joins in it because he does not want to
be out of a good thing! Do you remember the story of the Irishman who saw a
fight proceeding, and rushed into the fray wielding his shillelagh, and
praying that it might fall on the right heads? We have all of us
uncivilised instincts, but it does not make them civilised to join with a
million other people in indulging them. I think that a man who refuses to
join from conviction, at the risk of being hooted as a coward, is probably
doing a braver thing still."
"But I have often, heard you say that life must be a battle," said
"Yes," said Father Payne, "but I know what I want to fight. I want the
human race to join in fighting crime and disease, evil conditions of
nurture, dishonesty and sensuality. I don't want to pit the finest stock of
each country against each other. That is simple suicide, for two nations to
kill off the men who could fight evil best. I want the nations to combine
collectively for a good purpose, not to combine separately for a bad one."
"I see that," said Lestrange; "but I regard war as an inevitable element in
society as at present constituted. I don't think the world can be persuaded
out of it. If it ever ceases, it will die a natural death because it will
suddenly be regarded as absurd. Meantime, I think it is our duty to regard
the benefits of it; and, as I said, it turns a nation to God--it takes them
out of petty squabbles, and makes them recognise a power beyond and behind
"Yes, that is so," said Father Payne, "if you regard war as caused by God.
But I rather believe that it is one of the things that God is fighting
against! And I don't agree that it produces a noble temper all through. It
does in many of the combatants; but there is nothing so characteristic at
the outbreak of war as the amount of bullying that is done. Peaceful people
are hooted at and shouted down; thousands of general convictions are
over-ridden; the violent have it their own way; it seems to me to organise
the unruly and obstreperous, and to force all gentler and more civilised
natures into an unconvinced silence. Many of the people who do most for the
happiness of the world can't face unpopularity. They are apt to think that
there must be something wrong with themselves, something spiritless and
abnormal, if they find themselves loathing the cruelties of which others
seem to approve. I do not believe that war organises wholesome and sane
opinion; I believe that it silences it. It is a time when base, heartless,
cruel people can become heroes. It is true that it also gives serene,
courageous, and calm people a great opportunity. But on the whole it is a
bad time for sober, orderly, and peaceable people. I believe that it evokes
a good many fine qualities--simplicity, uncomplaining patience,
unselfishness, but it reveals them rather than creates them. It shows the
worth of a nation, but it should want a great deal of evidence before I
believe that it does more than prove to people that they are braver than
they know. I can't believe vaguely in death and sorrow and disablement and
waste being good things. It is merely a question of what you are paying so
ghastly a price for. In the Napoleonic wars the price was paid for the
liberties of Europe, to show a great nation that it must abandon the ideal
of domination. That is a great cause; but it is great because men are evil,
and not because they are good. War seems to me the temporary triumph of the
old bad past over the finer and more beautiful future. Do not let us be
taken in by the romance of it. That is the childish view, that loves the
sight and sound of the marching column and the stirring music. People find
it hard to believe that anything so strong and gallant and cheerful
_can_ have a sinister side. And no doubt for a young, strong, and bold
man the excitement of it is an intense pleasure. But what we have to ask is
whether we are right in taking so heavy a toll from the world for all that:
I do not think it right, though it may be inevitable. But then I belong to
the future, and I think I should be more at home in the world a thousand
years hence than I am to-day."
"But I go back to my point," said Lestrange: "does not a great war like
that send people to their knees in faith?"
"Depend upon it," said Father Payne, "that anything which makes people
acquiesce in preventable evil, and see the beautiful effects of death and
pain and waste, is the direct influence of the devil. It is the last and
most guileful subtlety that he practises, to make us solemnly mournful and
patient in the presence of calamities for which we have ourselves to thank.
The only prayer worth praying in the time of war is not, 'Help us to bear
this,' but 'Help us to cure this'; and to behave with meek reverence is to
behave like the old servant in _The Master of Ballantrae_, who bore
himself like an afflicted saint under an illness, the root of which was
drunkenness. The worst religion is that which keeps its sense of repentance
alive by its own misdeeds!"
He was silent for a moment, and then he said: "No, we mustn't make terms
with war, any more than we must do with cholera. It's a great,
heartbreaking evil, and it puts everything back a stage. Of course it
brings out fine qualities--I know that--and so does a plague of cholera.
It's the evil in both that brings out the fine things to oppose it. But we
ought to have more faith, and believe that the fine qualities are
there--war doesn't create them, it only shows you that they are
present--and we believe in war because it reassures us about the presence
of the great qualities. It shows them, and then blows them out, like the
flame of a candle. But we want to keep them; we don't want just to be shown
them, with a risk of extinguishing them. Example can do something, but not
half as much as inheritance; and we sweep away the inheritance for the sake
of the romantic delight of seeing the great virtues flare up. No," he said,
"war is one of the evil things that is trying to hurt mankind, and
disguising itself in shining armour; but it means men ill; it is for ever
trying to bring their dreams to an end."
OF CADS AND PHARISEES
"There are only two sorts of people with whom it is impossible to live,"
said Father Payne one day, in a loud, mournful tone.
"Elderly women and young women, I suppose he means," said Rose softly.
"No," said Father Payne, "I protest! I adore sensible women, simple women,
clever women, all non-predatory women--it is they who will not live with
me. I forget they are not men, and they do not like that. And then they are
so much more unselfish than men, that they have generally axes to grind,
and I don't like that."
"Whom do you mean, then?" said I.
"Cads and Pharisees," said Father Payne, "and they are not two sorts
really, but one. They are the people without imagination. It is that which
destroys social life, the lack of imagination. The Pharisee is the cad with
a tincture of Puritanism."
"What is the cad, then?" said I.
"Well," said Father Payne, "he is very easy to detect, and not very easy to
define. He is the man who has got a perfectly definite idea of what he
wants, and he suffers from isolation. He can't put himself into anyone's
place, or get inside other people's minds. He is stupid, and he is
unperceptive. He does not detect the little looks, gestures, tones of
voice, which show when people are uncomfortable or disgusted. He is not
uncomfortable or easily disgusted himself, and he does not much mind other
people being so. He says what he thinks, and you have got to lump it.
Sometimes he is good-natured enough, and even brave. There is an admirable
sketch of a good-natured cad in one of Mrs. Walford's novels, who is the
acme of kind indelicacy. The cad is dreadful to live with, because he is
always making one ashamed, and ashamed of being ashamed, because many of
the things he does do not really matter very much. Then, when he is out of
sight and hearing, you cannot trust him. He makes mischief; he throws mud.
If he is vexed with you, he injures you with other people. We are all
criticised behind our backs, of course, and we have all faults which amuse
and interest our friends; and it is not caddish to criticise friends if one
is only interested in them. But the cad is not interested, except in
clearing other people out of his way. He is treacherous and spiteful. He
drops in upon you uninvited, and then he tells people he could not get
enough to eat. He repeats things you have said about your friends to the
people of whom you have spoken, leaving out all the justifications, and
says that he thinks they ought to know how you abuse them. He borrows money
of you, and if you ask him for repayment, he says he is not accustomed to
be dunned. He never can bring himself to apologise for anything, and if you
lose your temper with him, he says you are getting testy in your old age.
His one idea is to be formidable, and he says that he does not let people
take liberties with him. He takes a mean and solitary view of the world,
and other people are merely channels for his own wishes, or obstacles to
them. The only way is to keep him at arm's length, because he is not
disarmed by any generosity or trustfulness; the discovery of caddishness in
a man is the only excuse for breaking off a companionship. The worst of it
is that cads are sometimes very clever, and don't let the caddishness
appear till you are hooked. The mischief really is that the cad has no
morals, no sense of social duty."
"What about Pharisees?" said I.
"Well, the Pharisee has too many morals," said Father Payne. "He is the
person whose own tastes are a sort of standard. If you disagree with him,
he thinks you must be wicked. If your tastes differ from his, they are of
the nature of sin. You live under his displeasure. If he dresses for
dinner, it is sloppy and middle-class not to do so. If he doesn't dress for
dinner, the people who do are either wasting time or aping the manners of
the great. He is always very strong about wasting time. If he likes
gardening, he says it is the best sort of exercise; if he does not, he says
that it is bilious work muddling about in a corner. Everything that he does
is done on principle, but he uses his principles to bludgeon other people.
If you make him the subject of a harmless jest, he says that he cannot bear
personalities. You can please him only by deferring to him, and the only
way to manage him is by gross flattery. A Pharisee can be a gentleman, and
he isn't purely noxious like the cad; he is only unpleasant and
discouraging. He is quite impervious to argument, and only says that he
thought the principle he is contending for was generally accepted. The
Pharisee wants in a heavy way to improve the world, and thinks meanly of
it, while the cad thinks meanly of it, and wants to exploit it. The
Pharisee is a tyrant, and hates freedom; but you can often make a friend of
him by asking him a favour, if you are also prepared to be subsequently
reminded of the trouble he took to serve you.
"I think that the Pharisee perhaps does most harm in the end, because he
hates all experiments. He does harm to the young, because he makes them
dislike virtue and mistrust beauty. The cad does not corrupt--in fact, I
think he rather improves people, because he is so ugly a case of what no
one wishes to be--and it is better to hate people than to be frightened of
them. If we got a cad and a Pharisee in here, for instance, it would be
easier to get rid of the cad than the Pharisee."
"I begin to breathe more freely," said Vincent. "I had begun to review my
Father Payne laughed. "It's all blank cartridge," he said.
I was walking with Father Payne in the garden one day of spring. I think I
liked him better when I was alone with him than I did when we were all
together. His mind expanded more tenderly and simply--less
epigrammatically. He spoke of this once to me, saying: "I am at my best
when alone; even one companion deflects me. I find myself wishing to please
him, pinching off roughnesses, perfuming truth, diplomatising. This ought
not to be, of course; and if one was not thorny, self-assertive, stupid, it
would not be so; and every companion added makes me worse, because the
strain of accommodation grows--I become vulgar and rough and boisterous in
a large circle. I often feel: 'How these young men must be hating this
gibbering and giggling ape, which after all is not really me!'" I tried to
reassure him, but he shook his head, though with a smiling air. "Barthrop
is not like that," he said, "the wise Barthrop! He is never suspicious or
hasty--he does not think it necessary to affirm; yet you are never in any
doubt what he thinks! He moves along like water, never anxious if he is
held up or divided, creeping on as the land lies--that is the right way."
Presently he stopped, and looked long at some daffodil blades which were
thrusting up in a sheltered place. "Look at the gray bloom on those
blades," he said; "isn't that perfect? Fancy thinking of that--each of them
so obviously the same thought taking shape, yet each of them different. Do
not you see in them something calm, continuous, active--happy, in fact--at
work; often tripped up and imprisoned, and thwarted--but moving on?" He was
silent a little, and then he said: "This force of _life_--what a
fascinating mystery it is--never dying, never ceasing, always coming back
to shape itself into matter. I wonder sometimes it is not content to exist
alone; but no, it is always back again, arranging matter, manipulating it
into beautiful shapes and creatures, never discouraged; even when the plant
falls ill and begins to pine away, the happy life is within it--languid
perhaps, but just waiting for the release, till the cage in which it has
imprisoned itself is opened, and then--so I believe--back again in an
instant somewhere else.
"I am inclined to believe," he went on, "that that is what we are all
about; it seems to me the only explanation for the fact that we care so
much about the past and the future. If we are creatures of a day, why
should we be interested? The only reason we care about the past is because
we ourselves were there in it; and we care about the future because we
shall be there in it again."
"You mean a sort of re-incarnation," I said.
"That's an ugly word for a beautiful thing," he said. "But this love of
life, this impulse to live, to protect ourselves, to keep ourselves alive,
must surely mean that we have always lived and shall always live. Some
people think that dreadful. They think it is taking liberties with them. If
they are rich and comfortable and dignified, they cannot bear to think that
they may have to begin again, perhaps as a baby in a slum--or they grow
tired, and think they want rest; but we can't rest--we must live again, we
must be back at work; and of course the real hope in it all is that, when
we do anything to make the world happier, it is our own future that we are
working for. Who could care about the future of the world, if he was to be
banished from it for ever? I was reading a book the other day, in which a
wise and a good man said that he felt about the future progress of the
world as Moses did about the promised land, 'not as of something we want to
have for ourselves, but as of something which we want to exist, whether we
exist or no,' I can't take so impersonal a view! If one really believed
that one was going to be extinguished in death, one would care no more
about the world's future than one cares where the passengers in a train are
going to, when we get out at a station. Who, on arriving at home, can lose
himself in wondering where his fellow-travellers have got to? We have
better things to do than that! That is the sham altruism. It is as if a boy
at school, instead of learning his own lesson, spent his time in imploring
the other boys to learn theirs. That is what we are whipped for--for not
learning our own lesson."
"But if all this is so," I said, "why don't we _know_ that we shall
live again? Why is the one thing which is important for us to know hidden
"I think we do know it," said Father Payne, "deep down in ourselves. It is
why it is worth while to go on living. If we believed our reason, which
tells us that we come to an end and sink into silence, we could not care to
live, to suffer, to form passionate ties which must all be severed, only to
sink into nothingness ourselves. If we will listen to our instincts, they
assure us that it _is_ all worth doing, because it all has a
significance for us in the life that comes next."
"But if we are to go on living," I said, "are we to forget all the love and
interest and delight of life? There seems no continuance of identity
"Oh," said Father Payne, "that is another delusion of reason. Our qualities
remain--our power of being interested, of loving, of caring, of suffering.
We practise them a little in one life, we practise them again in the
next--that is why we improve. I forget who it was who said it, but it is
quite true, that there are numberless people now alive, who, because of
their orderliness, their patience, their kindness, their sweetness, would
have been adored as saints if they had lived in mediaeval times. And that
is the best reason we have for suppressing as far as we can our evil
dispositions, and for living bravely and freely in happy energy, that we
shall make a little better start next time. It is not the particular people
we love who matter--it is the power of loving other people--and if we meet
the same people as those we loved again, we shall love them again; and if
we do not, why, there will be others to love. One of the worst limitations
I feel is the fact that there are so many thousand people on earth whom I
could love, if I could but meet them--and I am not going to believe that
this wretched span of days is my only chance of meeting them. We need not
be in a hurry--and yet we have no time to waste!"
He stopped for a moment, and then added: "When I lived in London, and was
very poor, and had either too much or not enough to do, and was altogether
very unhappy, I used to wander about the streets and wonder how I could be
so much alone when there were so many possible friends. Just above Ludgate
Railway Viaduct, as you go to St. Paul's, there is a church on your left, a
Wren church, very plain, of white and blackened stone, and an odd lead
spire at the top. It has hardly any ornament, but just over the central
doorway, under a sort of pediment, there is a little childish angel's head,
a beautiful little baby face, with such an expression of stifled
bewilderment. It seems to say, 'Why should I hang here, covered with soot,
with this mob of people jostling along below, in all this noise and dirt?'
The child looks as if it was just about to burst into tears. I used to feel
like that. I used to feel that I was meant to be happy, and even to make
people happy, and that I had been caught and pinned down in a sort of
pillory. It's a grievous mistake to feel like that. Self-pity is the worst
of all luxuries! But I think I owe all my happiness to that bad time.
Coming here was like a resurrection; and I never grudged the time when I
was face to face with a nasty, poky, useless life. And if that can happen
inside a single existence, I am not going to despair about the possibility
of its happening in many existences. I dreamed the other night that I saw a
party of little angels singing a song together, all absorbed in making
music, and I recognised the little child of Ludgate Hill in the middle of
them singing loud and clear. He gave me a little smile and something like a
wink, and I knew that he had got his promotion. We ought all of us, and
always, to be expecting that. But we have got to earn it, of course. It
does not come if we wait with folded hands."
Father Payne told us an odd story to-day of a big house on the outskirts of
London, with a great garden and some fields belonging to it, that was shut
up for years and seemed neglected. It was inhabited by an old retired
Colonel and his daughter: the daughter had become an invalid, and her mind
was believed to be affected. No one ever came to the house or called there.
A wall ran, round it, and the trees grew thick and tangled within; the big
gates were locked. Occasionally the Colonel came out of a side-door, a tall
handsome man, and took a brisk walk; sometimes he would be seen handing his
daughter, much wrapped up, into a carriage, and they drove together. But
the place had a sinister air, and was altogether regarded with a gloomy
When the Colonel died, it was discovered that the place was beautifully
kept within, and the house delightfully furnished. It came out that, after
a period of mental depression, the daughter had recovered her spirits,
though her health was still delicate. The two were devoted to each other,
and they decided that, instead of living an ordinary sociable life, they
would just enjoy each other's society in peace. It had been the happiest
life, simple, tenderly affectionate, the two living in and for each other,
and one, moreover, of open-handed, secret benevolence. Apart from the
expenses of the household, the Colonel's wealth had been used to support
every kind of good work. Only one old friend of the Colonel's was in the
secret, and he spoke of it as one of the most beautiful homes he had ever
Someone of us criticised the story, and asked whether it was not a case of
refined selfishness. He added rather incisively that the expenditure of
money on charitable objects seemed to him to show that the Colonel's
conscience was ill at ease.
Father Payne was very indignant. He said the world had gone mad on
philanthropy and social service. Three-quarters of it was only fussy
ambition. He went on to say that a beautiful and simple life was probably
the thing most worth living in the world, and that two people could hardly
be better employed than in making each other happy. He said that he did not
believe in self-denial unless people liked it. Was it really a finer life
to chatter at dinner-parties and tea-parties, and occasionally to inspect
an orphanage? Perspiration was not the only evidence of godliness. Why, was
it to be supposed that one could not live worthily unless one was always
poking one's nose into one's neighbour's concerns? He said that you might
as well say that it was refined selfishness to have a rose-tree in your
garden, unless you cut off every bud the moment it appeared and sent it to
a hospital. If the critic really believed what he said, Aveley was no place
for him. Let him go to Chicago!
I forget what led up to the subject; perhaps I did not hear; but Father
Payne said, "It isn't for nothing that 'the fearful' head the list of all
the abominable people--murderers, sorcerers, idolaters; and liars--who are
reserved for the lake of fire and brimstone! Fear is the one thing that we
are always wrong in yielding to: I don't mean timidity and cowardice, but
the sort of heavy, mild, and rather pious sort of foreboding that wakes one
up early in the morning, and that takes all the wind out of one's sails;
fear of not being liked, of having given offence, of living uselessly, of
wasting time and opportunities. Whatever we do, we must not lead an
apologetic kind of life. If we on the whole intend to do something which we
think may be wrong, it is better to do it--it is wrong to be cautious and
prudent. I love experiments."
"Isn't that rather immoral?" said Lestrange.
"No, my dear boy," said Father Payne, "we must make mistakes: better make
them! I am not speaking of things obviously wrong, cruel, unkind,
ungenerous, spiteful things; but it is right to give oneself away, to yield
to impulses, not to take advice too much, and not to calculate consequences
too much. I hate the Robinson Crusoe method of balancing pros and cons.
Live your own life, do what you are inclined to do, as long as you really
do it. That is probably the best way of serving the world. Don't be argued
into things, or bullied out of them. You need not parade it--but rebel
silently. It is absolutely useless going about knocking people down. That
proves nothing except that you are stronger. Don't show up people, or fight
people; establish a stronger influence if you can, and make people see that
it is happier and pleasanter to live as you live. Make them envy you--don't
make them fear you. You must not play with fear, and you must not yield to
Father Payne came into the hall one morning after breakfast when I was
opening a parcel of books which had arrived for me. It was a fine, sunny
day, and the sun lit up the portrait framed in the panelling over the
mantelpiece, an old and skilful copy (at least I suppose it was a copy) of
Reynolds' fine portrait of James, tenth Earl of Shropshire. Father Payne
regarded the picture earnestly. "Isn't he magnificent?" he said. "But he
was a very poor creature really, and came to great grief. My
great-great-grandfather! His granddaughter married my grandfather. Now look
at that--that's the best we can do in the way of breeding! There's a man
whose direct ancestors, father to son, had simply the best that money can
buy--fine houses to live in, power, the pick of the matrimonial market, the
best education, a fine tradition, every inducement to behave like a hero;
and what did he do--he gambled away his inheritance, and died of drink and
bad courses. We can't get what we want, it would seem, by breeding human
beings, though we can do it with cows and pigs. Where and how does the
thing go wrong? His father and mother were both of them admirable
people--fine in every sense of the word.
"And then people talk, too, as if we had got rid of idolatry! We make a man
a peer, we heap wealth upon him, and then we worship him for his
magnificence, and are deeply affected if he talks civilly to us. We don't
do it quite so much now, perhaps--but in that man's day, think what an
aroma of rank and splendour is cast, even in Boswell's _Life of
Johnson_, over a dinner-party where a man like that was present! If he
paid Johnson the most trumpery of compliments, Johnson bowed low, and down
it went on Boswell's cuff! Yet we go on perpetuating it. We don't require
that such a man should be active, public-spirited, wise. If he is fond of
field-sports, fairly business-like, kindly, courteous, decently virtuous,
we think him a great man, and feel mildly elated at meeting him and being
spoken to civilly by him. I don't mean that only snobs feel that; but
respectable people, who don't pursue fashion, would be more pleased if an
Earl they knew turned up and asked for a cup of tea than if the worthiest
of their neighbours did so. I don't exaggerate the power of rank--it
doesn't make a man necessarily powerful now, but a very little ability,
backed up by rank, will go a long way. A great general or a great statesman
likes to be made an Earl; and yet a good many people would like an Earl of
long descent quite as much. There are a lot of people about who feel as
Melbourne did when he said he liked the Garter so much because there was no
d----d merit about it. I believe we admire people who inherit magnificence
better than we admire people who earn it; and while that feeling is there,
what can be done to alter it?"
"I don't think I want to alter it," I said; "it is very picturesque!"
"Yes, there's the mischief," said Father Payne, "it _is_ more
picturesque, hang it all! The old aristocrat who feels like a prince and
behaves like one, _is_ more picturesque than the person who has
sweated himself into it. Think of the old Duke who was told he _must_
retrench, and that he need not have six still-room maids in his
establishment, and said, after a brief period of reflection, 'D----n it, a
man must have a biscuit!' We _like_ insolence! That is to say, we like
it in its place, because we admire power. It's ten times more impressive
than the meekness of the saint. The mischief is that we like anything from
a man of power. If he is insolent, we think it grand; if he is stupid, we
think it a sort of condescension; if he is mild and polite, we think it
marvellous; if he is boorish, we think it is simple-minded. It is power
that we admire, or rather success, and both can be inherited. If a man gets
a big position in England, he is always said to grow into it; but that is
because we care about the position more than we care about the man.
"When I was younger," he went on, "I used to like meeting successful
people--it was only rarely that I got the chance--but I gradually
discovered that they were not, on the whole, the interesting people.
Sometimes they were, of course, when they were big animated men, full of
vitality and interest. But many men use themselves up in attaining success,
and haven't anything much to give you except their tired side. No, I soon
found out that freshness was the interesting thing, wherever it was to be