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Title: Father Payne
Author: Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Arthur Christopher Benson



Often as I have thought of my old friend "Father Payne," as we
affectionately called him, I had somehow never intended to write about him,
or if I did, it was "like as a dream when one awaketh," a vision that
melted away at the touch of common life. Yet I always felt that his was one
of those rich personalities well worth depicting, if the attitude and
gesture with which he faced the world could be caught and fixed. The
difficulty was that he was a man of ideas rather than of performance,
suggestive rather than active: and the whole history of his experiment with
life was evasive, and even to ordinary views fantastic.

Besides, my own life has been a busy one, full of hard ordinary work: it
was not until the war gave me, like many craftsmen, a most reluctant and
unwelcome space of leisure, that I ever had the opportunity of considering
the possibility of writing this book. I am too old to be a combatant, and
too much of a specialist in literature to transmute my activities. I lately
found myself with my professional occupations suddenly suspended, and
moreover, like many men who have followed a wholly peaceful profession,
plunged in a dark bewilderment as to the onset of the forces governing the
social life of Europe. In the sad inactivity which followed, I set to work
to look through my old papers, for the sake of distraction and employment,
and found much material almost ready for use, careful notes of
conversations, personal reminiscences, jottings of characteristic touches,
which seemed as if they could be easily shaped. Moreover, the past suddenly
revived, and became eloquent and vivid. I found in the beautiful memories
of those glowing days that I spent with Father Payne--it was only three
years--some consolation and encouragement in my distress.

This little volume is the result. I am well aware that the busy years which
have intervened have taken the edge off some of my recollections, while the
lapse of time has possibly touched others with a sunset glow. That can
hardly be avoided, and I am not sure that I wish to avoid it.

I am not here concerned with either criticising or endorsing Father Payne's
views. I see both inconsistencies and fallacies in them. I even detect
prejudices and misinterpretations of which I was not conscious at the time.
I have no wish to idealise my subject unduly, but it is clear to me, and I
hope I have made it clear to others, that Father Payne was a man who had a
very definite theory of life and faith, and who at all events lived
sincerely and even passionately in the light of his beliefs. Moreover, when
he came to put them to the supreme test, the test of death, they did not
desert or betray him: he passed on his way rejoicing.

He used, I remember, to warn us against attempting too close an analysis of
character. He used to say that the consciousness of a man, the intuitive
instinct which impelled him, his _attack_ upon experience, was a thing
almost independent both of his circumstances and of his reason. He used to
take his parable from the weaving of a tapestry, and say that a box full of
thread and a loom made up a very small part of the process. It was the
inventive instinct of the craftsman, the faculty of designing, that was

He himself was a man of large designs, but he lacked perhaps the practical
gift of embodiment. I looked upon him as a man of high poetical powers,
with a great range of hopes and visions, but without the technical
accomplishment which lends these their final coherence. He was fully aware
of this himself, but he neither regretted it nor disguised it. The truth
was that his interest in existence was so intense, that he lacked the power
of self-limitation needed for an artistic success. What, however, he gave
to all who came in touch with him, was a strong sense of the richness and
greatness of life and all its issues. He taught us to approach it with no
preconceived theories, no fears, no preferences. He had a great mistrust of
conventional interpretation and traditional explanations. At the same time
he abhorred controversy and wrangling. He had no wish to expunge the ideals
of others, so long as they were sincerely formed rather than meekly
received. Though I have come myself to somewhat different conclusions, he
at least taught me to draw my own inferences from my own experiences,
without either deferring to or despising the conclusions of others.

The charm of his personality lay in his independence, his sympathy, his
eager freshness of view, his purity of motive, his perfect simplicity; and
it is all this which I have attempted to depict, rather than to trace his
theories, or to present a philosophy which was always concrete rather than
abstract, and passionate rather than deliberate. To use a homely proverb,
Father Payne was a man who filled his chair!

Of one thing I feel sure, and that is that wherever Father Payne is, and
whatever he may be doing--for I have as absolute a conviction of the
continued existence of his fine spirit as I have of the present existence
of my own--he will value my attempt to depict him as he was. I remember his
telling me a story of Dr. Johnson, how in the course of his last illness,
when he could not open his letters, he asked Boswell to read them for him.
Boswell opened a letter from some person in the North of England, of a
complimentary kind, and thinking it would fatigue Dr. Johnson to have it
read aloud, merely observed that it was highly in his praise. Dr. Johnson
at once desired it to be read to him, and said with great earnestness,
"_The applause of a single human being is of great consequence._"
Father Payne added that it was one of Johnson's finest sayings, and had no
touch of vanity or self-satisfaction in it, but the vital stuff of
humanity. That I believe to be profoundly true: and that is the spirit in
which I have set all this down.

_September_ 30, 1915.


L.       OF HONOUR
LI.      OF WORK




It was a good many years ago, soon after I left Oxford, when I was
twenty-three years old, that all this happened. I had taken a degree in
Classics, and I had not given much thought to my future profession. There
was no very obvious opening for me, no family business, no influence in any
particular direction. My father had been in the Army, but was long dead. My
mother and only sister lived quietly in the country. I had no prosaic and
practical uncles to push me into any particular line; while on coming of
age I had inherited a little capital which brought me in some two hundred a
year, so that I could afford to wait and look round. My only real taste was
for literature. I wanted to write, but I had no very pressing aspirations
or inspirations. I may confess that I was indolent, fond of company, but
not afraid of comparative solitude, and I was moreover an entire
dilettante. I read a good many books, and tried feverishly to write in the
style of the authors who most attracted me, I settled down at home, more or
less, in a country village where I knew everyone; I travelled a little; and
I paid occasional visits to London, where several of my undergraduate and
school friends lived, with a vague idea of getting to know literary people;
but they were not very easy to meet, and, when I did meet them, they did
not betray any very marked interest in my designs and visions.

I was dining one night at a restaurant with a College friend of mine, Jack
Vincent, whose tastes were much the same as my own, only more strenuous;
his father and mother lived in London, and when I went there I generally
stayed with them. They were well-to-do, good-natured people; but, beyond
occasionally reminding Jack that he ought to be thinking about a
profession, they left him very much to his own devices, and he had begun to
write a novel, and a play, and two or three other masterpieces.

That particular night his father and mother were dining out, so we
determined to go to a restaurant. And it was there that Vincent told me
about "Father" Payne, as he was called by his friends, though he was a
layman and an Anglican. He had heard all about him from an Oxford man,
Leonard Barthrop, some years older than ourselves, who was one of the
circle of men whom Father Payne had collected about him. Vincent was very
full of the subject. He said that Father Payne was an elderly man, who had
been for a good many years a rather unsuccessful teacher in London, and
that he had unexpectedly inherited a little country estate in
Northamptonshire. He had gradually gathered about him a small knot of men,
mainly interested in literature, who were lodged and boarded free, and were
a sort of informal community, bound by no very strict regulations, except
that they were pledged to produce a certain amount of work at stated
intervals for Father Payne's inspection. As long as they did this, they
were allowed to work very much as they liked, and Father Payne was always
ready to give criticism and advice. Father Payne reserved the right of
dismissing them if they were idle, quarrelsome, or troublesome in any way,
and exercised it decisively. But Barthrop had told him that it was a most
delightful life; that Father Payne was a very interesting, good-natured,
and amusing man; and that the whole thing was both pleasant and
stimulating. There were certain rules about work and hours, and members of
the circle were not allowed to absent themselves without leave, while
Father Payne sometimes sent them off for a time, if he thought they
required a change. "I gather," said Vincent, "that he is an absolute
autocrat, and that you have to do what he tells you; but that he doesn't
preach, and he doesn't fuss. Barthrop says he has never been so happy in
his life." He went on to say that there were at least two vacancies in the
circle--one of the number had lately married, and another had accepted a
journalistic post. "Now what do you say," said Vincent, "to us two trying
to go there for a bit? You can try it, I believe, without pledging
yourself, for two or three months; and then if Father Payne approves, and
you want to go on, you can regularly join."

I confess that it seemed to me a very attractive affair, and all that
Vincent told me of the place, and particularly of Father Payne, attracted
me. Vincent said that he had mentioned me to Barthrop, and that Barthrop
had said that I might have a chance of getting in. It appeared that we
should have to go down to the place to be interviewed.

We made up our minds to apply, and that night Vincent wrote to Barthrop.
The answer was favourable. Two days later Vincent received a note from
Father Payne, written in a big, finely-formed hand, to the effect that he
would be glad to see Vincent any night that he could come down, and that I
might also arrange an interview, if I wished, but that we were to come
separately. "Mind," said the letter, "I can make no promises and can give
no reasons; but I will not keep either of you waiting."

Vincent went first. He spent a night at Aveley Hall, as the place was
called. I continued my visit to his people, and awaited his return with
great interest.

He told me what had happened. He had been met at the station by an odd
little trap, had driven up to the house--a biggish place, close to a small
church, on the outskirts of a tiny village. It was dark when he arrived,
and he had found Father Payne at tea with four or five men, in a flagged
hall. There had been a good deal of talk and laughter. "He is a big man,
Father Payne, with a beard, dressed rather badly, like a country squire,
very good-natured and talkative. Everyone seemed to say pretty much what
they liked, but he kept them in order, too, I could see that!" Then he had
been carried off to a little study and questioned. "He simply turned me
inside out," said Vincent, "and I told him all my biography, and everything
I had ever done and thought of. He didn't seem to look at me much, but I
felt he was overhauling me somehow. Then I went and read in a sort of
library, and then we had dinner--just the same business. Then the men
mostly disappeared, and Barthrop carried me off for a talk, and told me a
lot about everything. Then I went to my room, a big, ugly, comfortable
bedroom; and in the morning there was breakfast, where people dropped in,
read papers or letters, did not talk, and went off when they had done. Then
I walked about in a nice, rather wild garden. There seemed a lot of fields
and trees beyond, all belonging to the house, but no park, and only a small
stable, with a kitchen-garden. There were very few servants that I saw--an
old butler and some elderly maids--and then I came away. Father Payne just
came out and shook hands, and said he would write to me. It seemed exactly
the sort of thing I should like. I only hope we shall both get in."

It certainly sounded attractive, and it was with great curiosity that I
went off on the following day, as appointed, for my own interview.



The train drew up at a little wayside station soon after four o'clock on a
November afternoon. It was a bare, but rather an attractive landscape. The
line ran along a wide, shallow valley, with a stream running at the bottom,
with many willows, and pools fringed with withered sedges. The fields were
mostly pastures, with here and there a fallow. There were a good many bits
of woodland all about, and a tall spire of pale stone, far to the south,
overtopped the roofs of a little town. I was met by an old groom or
coachman, with a little ancient open cart, and we drove sedately along
pleasant lanes, among woods, till we entered a tiny village, which he told
me was Aveley, consisting of three or four farmhouses, with barns and
ricks, and some rows of stone-built cottages. We turned out of the village
in the direction of a small and plain church of some antiquity, behind
which I saw a grove of trees and the chimneys of a house surmounted by a
small cupola. The house stood close by the church, having an open space of
grass in front, with an old sundial, and a low wall separating it from the
churchyard. We drove in at a big gate, standing open, with stone
gate-posts. The Hall was a long, stone-built Georgian house, perhaps a
hundred and fifty years old, with two shallow wings and a stone-tiled roof,
and was obviously of considerable size. Some withered creepers straggled
over it, and it was neatly kept, but with no sort of smartness. The trees
grew rather thickly to the east of the house, and I could see to the right
a stable-yard, and beyond that the trees of the garden. We drew up--it was
getting dark--and an old manservant with a paternal air came out, took
possession of my bag, and led me through a small vestibule into a long
hall, with a fire burning in a great open fireplace. There was a gallery at
one end, with a big organ in it. The hall was paved with black and white
stone, and there were some comfortable chairs, a cabinet or two, and some
dim paintings on the walls. Tea was spread at a small table by the fire,
and four or five men, two of them quite young, the others rather older,
were sitting about on chairs and sofas, or helping themselves to tea at the
table. On the hearth, with his back to the fire, stood a great, burly man
with a short, grizzled beard and tumbled gray hair, rather bald, dressed in
a rough suit of light-brown homespun, with huge shooting boots, whom I saw
at once to be my host. The talk stopped as I entered, and I was aware that
I was being scrutinised with some curiosity. Father Payne did not move, but
extended a hand, which I advanced and shook, and said: "Very glad to see
you, Mr. Duncan--you are just in time for tea." He mentioned the names of
the men present, who came and shook hands very cordially. Barthrop gave me
some tea, and I was inducted into a chair by the fire. I thought for a
moment that I was taking Father Payne's place, and feebly murmured
something about taking his chair. "They're all mine, thanks!" he said with
a smile, "but I claim no privileges." Someone gave a faint whistle at this,
and Father Payne, turning his eyes but not his head towards the young man
who had uttered the sound, said: "All right, Pollard, if you are going to
be mutinous, we shall have a little business to transact together, as Mr.
Squeers said." "Oh, I'm not mutinous, sir," said the young man--"I'm quite
submissive--I was just betrayed into it by amazement!" "You shouldn't get
into the habit of thinking aloud," said Father Payne; "at least not among
bachelors--when you are married you can do as you like!--I hope you are
polite?" he went on, looking round at me. "I think so," I said, feeling
rather shy, "That's right," he said. "It's the first and only form of
virtue! If you are only polite, there is nothing that you may not do. This
is a school of manners, you know!" One of the men, Rose by name, laughed--a
pleasant musical laugh. "I remember," he said, "that when I was a boy at
Eton, my excellent but very bluff and rough old tutor called upon us, and
was so much taken up with being hearty, that he knocked over the
coal-scuttle, and didn't let anyone get a word in; and when he went off in
a sort of whirlwind, my old aunt, who was an incisive lady, said in a
meditative tone: 'How strange it is that the only thing that the Eton
masters seem able to teach their boys is the only thing they don't
themselves possess!'"

Father Payne uttered a short, loud laugh at this, and said: "Is there any
chance of meeting your aunt?" "No, sir, she is long since dead!" "Blew off
too much steam, perhaps," said Father Payne. "That woman must have had the
steam up! I should have liked to have known her--a remarkable woman! Have
you any more stories of the same sort about her?"

"Not to-day," said Rose, smiling.

"Quite right," said Father Payne. "You keep them for an acceptable time.
Never tell strings of stories--and, by the way, my young friends, that's
the art of writing. Don't cram in good things--space them out, Barthrop!"

"I think I can spread the butter as thin as anyone," said Barthrop,

"So you can, so you can!" said Father Payne enthusiastically, "and very
thin slices too! I give you full credit for that!"

The men had begun to drift away, and I was presently left alone with Father
Payne. "Now you come along of me!" he said to me; and when I got up, he
took my arm in a pleasant fashion, led me to a big curtained archway at the
far end of the hall, under the gallery, and along a flagged passage to the
right. As we went he pointed to the doors--"Smoking-room--Library"--and at
the end of the passage he opened a door, and led me into a small panelled
room with a big window, closely curtained. It was a solid and stately
place, wholly bare of ornament. It had a writing-table, a bookcase, two
armchairs of leather, a fine fireplace with marble pillars, and an old
painting let into the panelling above it. There was a bright, unshaded lamp
on the table. "This is my room," he said, "and there's nothing in it that I
don't use, except those pillars; and when I haul on them, like Samson, the
house comes down. Now you sit down there, and we'll have a talk. Do you
mind the light? No? Well, that's all right, as I want to have a good look
at you, you know! You can get a smoke afterwards--this is business!"

He sate down in the chair opposite me, and stirred the fire. He had fine,
large, solid hands, the softness of which, like silk, had struck me when I
shook hands with him; and, though he was both elderly and bulky, he moved
with a certain grace and alertness. "Tell me your tale from the beginning,"
he said, "Don't leave out any details--I like details. Let's have your life
and death and Christian sufferings, as the tracts say."

He heard me with much patience, sometimes smiling, sometimes nodding, when
I had finished, he said: "Now I must ask you a few questions--you don't
mind if they are plain questions--rather unpleasant questions?" He bent his
brows upon me and smiled. "No," I said, "not at all." "Well, then," he
said, "where's the vocation in all this? This place, to be brief, is for
men who have a real vocation for writing, and yet never would otherwise
have the time or the leisure to train for it. You see, in England, people
think that you needn't train for writing--that you have just got to begin,
and there you are. Very few people have the money to wait a few years--they
have to write, not what they want to write, but what other people want to
read. And so it comes about that by the time that they have earned the
money and the leisure, the spring is gone, the freshness is gone, there's
no invention and no zest. Writing can't be done in a little corner of life.
You have to give up your life to it--and then that means giving up your
life to a great deal of what looks like pure laziness--loafing about,
looking about, travelling, talking, mooning; that is the only way to learn
proportion; and it is the only way, too, of learning what not to write
about--a great many things that are written about are not really material
for writing at all. And all this can't be done in a drivelling mood--you
must pick your way if you are going to write. That's a long preface; but I
mean this place to be a place to give men the right sort of start. I happen
to be able to teach people, more or less, how to write, if they have got
the stuff in them--and to be frank, I'm not sure that you have! You think
this would be a pleasant sort of experience--so it can be; but it isn't
done on slack and chattering lines. It is just meant to save people from
hanging about at the start, a thing which spoils a lot of good writers. But
it's deadly serious, and it isn't a dilettante life at all. Do you grasp
all that?"

"Yes," I said, "and I believe I can work! I know I have wasted my time, but
it was not because I wanted to waste time, but because the sort of things I
have always had to do--the classics--always seemed to me so absolutely
pointless. No one who taught me ever distinguished between what was good
and what was bad. Whatever it was--a Greek play, Homer, Livy, Tacitus--it
was always supposed to be the best thing of the kind. I was always sure
that much of it was rot, and some of it was excellent; but I didn't know
why, and no one ever told me why."

"You thought all that?" said he. "Well, that's more hopeful! Have you ever
done any essay work?"

"Yes," I said, "and that was the worst of all--no one ever showed me how to
do it in my own way, but always in some one else's way."

He sate a little in silence. Then he said: "But mind you, that's not all! I
don't think writing is the end of life. The real point is to feel the
things, to understand the business, to have ideas about life. I don't want
people to learn how to write interestingly about things in which they are
not interested--but to be interested first, and then to write if they can.
I like to turn out a good writer, who can say what he feels and believes.
But I'm just as pleased when a man tells me that writing is rubbish, and
that he is going away to do something real. The real--that's what I care
about! I don't want men to come and pick up grains of truth and reality,
and work them into their stuff. I have turned out a few men like that, and
those are my worst failures. You have got to care about ideas, if you come
here, and to get the ideas into shape. You have got to learn what is
beautiful and what is not, because the only business of a real writer is
with beauty--not a sickly exotic sort of beauty, but the beauty of health
and strength and generous feeling. I can't have any humbugs here, though I
have sent out some humbugs. It's a hard life this, and a tiring life;
though if you are the right sort of fellow, you will get plenty of fun out
of it. But we don't waste time here; and if a man wastes time, out he

"I believe I can work as hard as anyone," I said, "though I have shown no
signs of it--and anyhow, I should like to try. And I do really want to
learn how to distinguish between things, how to know what matters. No one
has ever shown me how to do that!"

"That's all right!" he said, "But are you sure you don't want simply to
make a bit of a name--to be known as a clever man? It's very convenient,
you know, in England, to have a label. Because I want you clearly to
understand that this place of mine has nothing whatever to do with that. I
take no stock in what is called success. This is a sort of monastery, you
know; and the worst of some monasteries is that they cultivate dreams.
That's a beautiful thing in its way, but it isn't what I aim at. I don't
want men to drug themselves with dreams. The great dreamers don't do that.
Shelley, for instance--his dreams were all made out of real feeling, real
beauty. He wanted to put things right in his own way. He was enraged with
life because he was fine, while Byron was enraged with life because he was
vulgar. Vulgarity--that's the one fatal complaint; it goes down deep to the
bottom of the mind. And I may as well say plainly that that is what I fight
against here."

"I don't honestly think I am vulgar," I said.

"Not on the surface, perhaps," he said, "but present-day education is a
snare. We are a vulgar nation, you know. That is what is really the matter
with us--our ambitions are vulgar, our pride is vulgar. We want to fit into
the world and get the most we can out of it; we don't, most of us, just
want to give it our best. That's what I mean by vulgarity, wanting to take
and not wanting to give."

He was silent for a minute, and then he said: "Do you believe in God?"

"I hardly know," I said. "Not very much, I am afraid, in the kind of God
that I have heard preached about."

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Well," I said, "it's rather a large question--but I used to think, both at
school and at Oxford, that many of the men who were rather disapproved of,
that did quite bad things, and tried experiments, and knocked up against
nastiness of various kinds, but who were brave in their way and kind, and
not mean or spiteful or fault-finding, were more the sort of people that
the force--or whatever it is, behind the world--was trying to produce than
many of the virtuous people. What was called virtue and piety had something
stifling and choking about it, I used to think. I had a tutor at school who
was a parson, and he was a good sort of man, too, in a way. But I used to
feel suddenly dreary with him, as if there were a whole lot of real things
and interesting things which he was afraid of. I couldn't say what I
thought to him--only what I felt he wanted me to think. That's a bad
answer," I went on, "but I haven't really considered it."

"No, it isn't a bad answer," he said, "It's all right! The moment you feel
stifled with anyone, whatever the subject is--art, books, religion,
life--there is something wrong. Do you say any prayers?"

"No," I said, "to be honest, I don't."

"You must take to it again," he said. "You can't get on without prayer. And
if you come here," he said, "you may expect to hear about God. I talk a
good deal about God. I don't believe in things being too sacred to talk
about--it's the bad things that ought not to be mentioned. I am interested
in God, more than I am interested in anything else. I can't make Him
out--and yet I believe that He needs me, in a way, as much as I need Him.
Does that sound profane to you?"

"No," I said, "it's new to me. No one ever spoke about God to me like that

"We have to suffer with Him!" he said in a curious tone, his face lighting
up. "That is the point of Christianity, that God suffers, because He wants
to remake the world, and cannot do it all at once. That is the secret of
all life and hope, that if we believe in God, we must suffer with Him. It's
a fight, a hard fight; and He needs us on His side: But I won't talk about
that now; yet if you don't want to believe in God, and to be friends with
Him, and to fight and suffer with Him, you needn't think of coming here.
That's behind all I do. And to come here is simply that you may find out
where He needs you. Why writing is important is, because the world needs
freer and plainer talk about God--about beauty and health and happiness and
energy, and all the things which He stands for. Half the evil comes from
silence, and the end of all my experiments is the word in the New
Testament, Ephphatha--Be opened! That is what I try for, to give men the
power of opening their hearts and minds to others, without fear and yet
without offence. I don't want men to attack things or to criticise things,
but just to speak plainly about what is beautiful and wholesome and true.
So you see this isn't a place for lazy and fanciful people--not a fortress
of quiet, and still less a place for asses to slake their thirst! We don't
set out to amuse ourselves, but to perceive things, and to say them if we
can. My men must be sound and serious, and they must be civil and amusing
too. They have got to learn how to get on with each other, and with me, and
with the village people--and with God! If you want just to dangle about,
this isn't the place for you; but if you want to work hard and be knocked
into shape, I'll consider it."

There was something tremendous about Father Payne! I looked at him with a
sense of terror. His face dissolved in a smile. "You needn't look at me
like that!" he said. "I only want you to know exactly what you are in for!"

"I would like to try," I said.

"Well, we'll see!" he said. "And now you must be off!" he added. "We shall
dine in an hour--you needn't dress. Here, you don't know which your room
is, I suppose?"

He rang the bell, and I went off with the old butler, who was amiable and
communicative. "So, you think of becoming one of the gentlemen, sir?" he
said. "If you'll have me," I replied. "Oh, that will be all right, sir," he
said. "I could see that the Father took to you at first sight!"

He showed me my room--a big bare place. It had a small bed and accessories,
but it was also fitted as a sitting-room, with a writing-table, an
armchair, and a bookcase full of books. The house was warmed, I saw, with
hot water to a comfortable temperature. "Would you like a fire?" he said. I
declined, and he went on: "Now if you lived here, sir, you would have to do
that yourself!" He gave a little laugh. "Anyone may have a fire, but they
have to lay it, and fetch the coal, and clean the grate. Very few of the
gentlemen do it. Anything else, sir? I have put out your things, and you
will find hot water laid on."

He left me, and I flung myself into the chair. I had a good deal to think



A very quiet evening followed. A bell rang out above the roof at 8.15. I
went down to the hall, where the men assembled. Father Payne came in. He
had changed his clothes, and was wearing a dark, loose-fitting suit, which
became him well--he always looked at home in his clothes. The others wore
similar suits or smoking jackets. Father Payne appeared abstracted, and
only gave me a nod. A gong sounded, and he marched straight out through a
door by the fireplace into the dining-room.

The dining-room was a rather grand place, panelled in dark wood, and with a
few portraits. At each end of the room was a section cut off from the
central portion by an oak column on each side. Three windows on one side
looked into the garden. It was lighted by candles only. We were seven in
all, and I sate by Father Payne. Dinner was very plain. There was soup, a
joint with vegetables, and a great apple-tart. The things were mostly
passed about from hand to hand, but the old butler kept a benignant eye
upon the proceedings, and saw that I was well supplied. There was a good
and simple claret in large flat-bottomed decanters, which most of the men
drank. There was a good deal of talk of a lively kind. Father Payne was
rather silent, though he struck in now and then, but his silence imposed no
constraint on the party. He was pressed to tell a story for my benefit,
which he did with much relish, but briefly. I was pleased at the simplicity
of it all. There was only one man who seemed a little out of tune--a
clerical-looking, handsome fellow of about thirty, called Lestrange, with
an air of some solemnity. He made remarks of rather an earnest type, and
was ironically assailed once or twice. Father Payne intervened once, and
said: "Lestrange is perfectly right, and you would think so too, if only he
could give what he said a more secular twist. 'Be soople in things
immaterial,' Lestrange, as the minister says in _Kidnapped_." "But who
is to judge if it _is_ immaterial?" said Lestrange rather
pertinaciously. "It mostly is," said Father Payne. "Anything is better than
being shocked! It's better to be ashamed afterwards of not speaking up than
to feel you have made a circle uncomfortable. You must not rebuke people
unless you really hate doing it. If you like doing it, you may be pretty
sure that it is vanity; a Christian ought not to feel out of place in a

The whole thing did not take more than three-quarters of an hour. Coffee
was brought in, very strong and good. Some of the party went off, and
Father Payne disappeared. I went to the smoking-room with two of the men,
and we talked a little. Finally I went away to my room, and tried to commit
my impressions of the whole thing to my diary before I went to bed. It
certainly seemed a happy life, and I was struck with the curious mixture of
freedom, frankness, and yet courtesy about the whole. There was no
roughness or wrangling or stupidity, nor had I any sense either of
exclusion, or of being elaborately included in the life of the circle. I
would call the atmosphere brotherly, if brotherliness did not often mean
the sort of frankness which is so unpleasant to strangers. There certainly
was an atmosphere about it, and I felt too that Father Payne, for all his
easiness, had somehow got the reins in his hands.

The next morning I went down to breakfast, which was, I found, like
breakfast at a club, as Vincent had said. It was a plain meal--cold bacon,
a vast dish of scrambled eggs kept hot by a spirit lamp and a hot-water
arrangement. You could make toast for yourself if you wished, and there was
a big fresh loaf, with excellent butter, marmalade, and jam--not an ascetic
breakfast at all. There were daily papers on the table, and no one talked.
I did not see Father Payne, who must have come in later.

After breakfast, Barthrop showed me the rooms of the house. The library was
fitted up with bookshelves and easy-chairs for reading, with a big round
oak table in the centre. The floor was of stained oak boards and covered
with rugs. There was also a capacious smoking-room, and I learned that
smoking was not allowed elsewhere. It was, in fact, a solid old family
mansion of some dignity. There were three or four oil paintings in all the
rooms, portraits and landscapes. The general tone of decoration was
dark--red wall-papers and fittings stained brown. It was all clean and
simple, and there was a total absence of ornament, I went and walked in the
garden, which was of the same very straightforward kind--plain grass,
shrubberies, winding paths, with comfortable wooden seats in sheltered
places; one or two big beds, evidently of old-fashioned perennials, and
some trellises for ramblers. The garden was adjoined by a sort of
wilderness, with big trees and ground-ivy, and open spaces in which
aconites and snowdrops were beginning to show themselves. Father Payne, I
gathered, was fond of the garden and often worked there; but there were no
curiosities--it was all very simple. Beyond that were pasture-fields, with
a good many clumps and hedgerow trees, running down to a stream, which had
been enlarged into a deep pool at one place, where there was a timbered
bathing-shed. The stream fed, through little sluices, a big, square pond,
full, I was told, in summer of bulrushes and water-lilies. I noticed a
couple of lawn-tennis courts, and there was a bowling-green by the house.
Then there was a large kitchen-garden, with standards and espaliers, and
box-edged beds. The stables, which were spacious, contained only a pony and
the little cart I had driven up in, and a few bicycles. I liked the solid
air of the big house, which had two wings at the back, corresponding to the
wings in front; the long row of stone pedimented windows, with heavy white
casements, was plain and stately, and there were some fine magnolias and
wisterias trained upon the walls. It all looked stately, and yet home-like;
there was nothing neglected about it, and yet it looked wholesomely left
alone; everything was neat, but nothing was smart.

I was strolling about, enjoying the gleams of bright sunshine and the cold
air, when I saw Father Payne coming down the garden towards me. He gave me
a pleasant nod: I said something about the beauty of the place; he smiled,
and said "Yes, it is the kind of thing I like--but I am so used to it that
I can hardly even see it! That's the worst of habit; but there is nothing
about the place to get on your nerves. It's a well-bred old house, I think,
and knows how to hold its tongue, without making you uncomfortable," Then
he went on presently: "You know how I came by it? It's an odd story. It had
been in my family, till my grandfather left it to his second wife, and cut
my father out. There was a son by the second wife, who was meant to have
it; but he died, and it went to a brother of the second wife, and his widow
left it back to me. It was an entire surprise, because I did not know her,
and the only time I had ever seen the house was once when I came down on
the sly, just to look at the old place, little thinking I should ever come
here. She had some superstition about it, I fancy! Anyhow, while I was
grubbing away in town, fifteen years ago, and hardly able to make two ends
meet, I suddenly found myself put in possession of it; and though I am
poor, as squires go, the farms and cottages bring me in quite enough to rub
along. At any rate it enabled me to try some experiments, and I have been
doing so ever since. Leisure and solitude! Those are the only two things
worth having that money can buy. Perhaps you don't think there's much
solitude about our life? But solitude only means the power to think your
own thoughts, without having other people's thoughts trailed across the
track. Loneliness is quite a different thing, and that's not wholesome."

He strolled on, looking about him. "Do you ever garden?" he said. "It's the
best fun in the world--making plants do as _you_ like, while all the
time they think they are doing as _they_ like. That's the secret of
it! You can't bully these wild things, but they are very obedient, as long
as they believe they are free. They are like children; they will take any
amount of trouble as long as you don't call it work."

Presently we heard the clatter of hoofs in the stable-yard. "That's for
you!" he said. "Will you go and see that they have brought your things
down? I'll meet you at the door." I went up and found my things had been
packed by the old butler. I gave him a little tip, and he said
confidentially: "I daresay we shall be seeing you back here, sir, one of
these days." "I hope so," I said, to which he replied with a mysterious
wink and nod.

Father Payne shook hands. "Well, good-bye!" he said. "It's good of you to
have come down, and I'm glad to have made acquaintance, whatever
happens--I'll drop you a line." I drove away, and he stood at the door
looking after me, till the little cart drove out of the gate.



I must confess that I was much excited about my visit; the whole thing
seemed to me to be almost too good to be true, and I hardly dared hope that
I should be allowed to return. I went back to town and rejoined Vincent,
and we talked much about the delights of Aveley.

The following morning we each received a letter in Father Payne's firm
hand. That to Vincent was very short. It ran as follows:

    DEAR VINCENT,--_I shall be glad to take you in if you wish to
    join us, for three months. At the end of that time, we shall both
    be entirely free to choose. I hope you will be happy here. You
    can come as soon as you like; and if Duncan, after reading my
    letter, decides to come too, you had better arrange to arrive
    together. It will save me the trouble of describing our way of
    life to each separately. Please let me have a line, and I will
    see that your room is ready for you.--Sincerely yours,_

    C. PAYNE.

"That's all right!" said Vincent, with an air of relief. "Now what does he
say to you?" My letter was a longer one. It ran:

    MY DEAR YOUNG MAN,--_I am going to be very frank with you, and
    to say that, though I liked you very much, I nearly decided that
    I could not ask you to join us. I will tell you why. I am not
    sure that you are not too easy-going and impulsive. We should all
    find you agreeable, and I am sure you would find the whole thing
    great fun at first; but I rather think you would get bored. It
    does not seem to me as if you had ever had the smallest
    discipline, and I doubt if you have ever disciplined yourself;
    and discipline is a tiresome thing, unless you like it. I think
    you are quick, receptive, and polite--all that is to the good.
    But are you serious? I found in you a very quick perception, and
    you held up a flattering mirror with great spontaneity to my mind
    and heart--that was probably why I liked you so much. But I don't
    want people here to reflect me or anyone else. The whole point of
    my scheme is independence, with just enough discipline to keep
    things together, like the hem on a handkerchief._

    _But you may have a try, if you wish; and in any case, I think
    you will have a pleasant three months here, and make us all sorry
    to lose you if you do not return. I have told your friend Vincent
    he can come, and I think he is more likely to stay than you are,
    because he is more himself. I don't suppose that he took in the
    whole place and the idea of it as quickly as you did. I expect
    you could write a very interesting description of it, and I don't
    expect he could._

    _Still, I will say that I shall be truly sorry if, after this
    letter, you decide not to come to us. I like your company; and I
    shall not get tired of it. But to be more frank still, I think
    you are one of those charming and sympathetic people who is tough
    inside, with a toughness which is based on the determination to
    find things amusing and interesting--and that is not the sort of
    toughness I can do anything with. People like yourself are
    incapable as a rule of suffering, whatever happens to them. It's
    a very happy disposition, but it does not grow. You are sensitive
    enough, but I don't want sensitiveness, I want men who are not
    sensitive, and who yet can suffer at not getting nearer and more
    quickly than they can to the purpose ahead of them, whatever that
    may be. It is a stiff sort of thing that I want. I can help to
    make a stiff nature pliable; I'm not very good at making a
    pliable nature stiff. That's the truth._

    _So I shall be delighted--more than you think--if you say
    "Yes." but in a way more hopeful about you if you say "No."_

    _Come with Vincent, if you come; and as soon as you like.--Ever
    yours truly,_

    C. PAYNE.

"Does he want me to go, or does he not?" I said. "Is he letting me down
with a compliment?"

"Oh no," said Vincent, "it's all right. He only thinks that you are a
butterfly which will flutter by, and he would rather like you to do a
little fluttering down there."

"But I'm not going to go there," I said, "to wear a cap and bells for a
bit, and then to be spun when I have left my golden store, like the radiant
morn; he puts me on my mettle. I _will_ go, and he _shall_ keep
me! I don't want to fool about any more."

"All right!" said Vincent. "It's a bargain, then! Will you be ready to go
the day after to-morrow? There are some things I want to buy, now that I'm
going to school again. But I'm awfully relieved--it's just what I want. I
was getting into a mess with all my work, and becoming a muddled loafer."

"And I an elegant trifler, it appears," I said.



We went off together on the Saturday, and I think we were both decidedly
nervous. What were we in for? I had a feeling that I had plunged headlong
into rather a foolish adventure.

We did not talk much on the way down; it was all rather solemn. We were
going to put the bit in our mouths again, and Father Payne was an unknown
quantity. We both felt that there was something decidedly big and strong
there to be reckoned with.

We arrived, as before, at tea-time, and we both received a cordial
greeting. After tea Father Payne took us away, and told us the rules of the
house. They were simple enough; he described the day. Breakfast was from
8.30 to 9.15, and was a silent meal. "It's a bad thing to begin the day by
chattering and arguing," said Father Payne. Then we were supposed to work
in our own rooms or the library till one. We might stroll about, if we
wished, but there was to be no talking to anyone else, unless he himself
gave leave for any special reason. Luncheon was a cold meal, quite
informal, and was on the table for an hour. There was to be no talk then
either. From two to five we could do as we liked, and it was expected that
we should take at least an hour's exercise, and if possible two. Tea at
five, and work afterwards. At 8.15, dinner, and we could do as we wished
afterwards, but we were not to congregate in anyone's room, and it was
understood that no one was to go to another man's bedroom, which was also
his study, at any time, unless he was definitely invited, or just to ask a
question. The smoking-room was always free for general talk, but Father
Payne said that on the whole he discouraged any gatherings or cliques. The
point of the whole was solitary work, with enough company to keep things
fresh and comfortable.

He said that we were expected to valet ourselves entirely, and that if we
wanted a fire, we must lay it and clean it up afterwards. If we wanted to
get anything, or have anything done, we could ask him or the butler. "But I
rather expect everyone to look after himself," he said. We were not to
absent ourselves without his leave, and we were to go away if he told us to
do so. "Sometimes a man wants a little change and does not know it," he

Then he also said that he would ask us, from time to time, what we were
doing--hear it read, and criticise it; and that one of the most definite
conditions of our remaining was that he must be satisfied that we really
were at work. If we wanted any special books, he said, we might ask him,
and he could generally get them from the London Library; but that we should
find a good many books of reference and standard works in the library.

He told us, too, of certain conditions of which we had not heard--that we
were to be away, either at home, or travelling wherever he chose to send
us, for three months in the year, and that he supplied the funds if
necessary. Moreover, for one month in the summer he kept open house. Half
of us were to go away for the first fortnight in July, and the other half
were to stay and entertain his guests, or even our own, if we wished to
invite them; then the other half of the men returned, and had their guests
to entertain, while the first half went away; and that during that time
there was to be very little work done. We were not to be always writing,
but there was to be reading, about which he would advise. Once a week there
was a meeting, on Saturday evening, when one of the men had to read
something aloud, and be generally criticised. "You see the idea?" he said.
"It sounds complicated now, but it really is very simple. It is just to get
solid work done regularly, with a certain amount of supervision and
criticism, and, what is more important still, real intervals of travelling.
I shall send you to a particular place for a particular purpose, and you
will have to write about it on lines which I shall indicate. The danger of
this sort of life is that of getting stale. That's why I don't want you to
see too much of each other. And last of all," he said, rather gravely, "you
must do what I tell you to do. There must be no mistake about that--but
with all the apparent discipline of it, I believe you will find it worth

Then he saw us each separately. He inquired into our finances. Vincent had
a small allowance from his parents, about £50, which he was told to keep
for pocket-money, but Father Payne said he would pay his travelling
expenses. I gathered that he gave an allowance to men who had nothing of
their own. He told me that I should have to travel at my own expense, but
he was careful first to inquire whether my mother was in any way dependent
on me. Then he said to me with a smile: "I am glad you decided to come--I
thought my letter would have offended you. No? That's all right. Now, I
don't expect heroic exertions--just hard work. Mind," he said, "I will add
one thing to my letter, and that is that I think you _may_ make a
success of this--if you _do_ take to it, you will do well; but you
will have to be patient, and you may have a dreary time; but I want you to
tell me exactly at any time how you are feeling about it. You won't be
driven, and I think your danger is that you may try to make the pace too

He further asked me exactly what I was writing. It happened to be some
essays on literary subjects. He mentioned a few books, and told me it would
do very well to start with. He was very kind and fatherly in his manner,
and when I rose to go, he put his arm through mine and said: "Come, it will
be strange if we can't hit it off together. I like your presence and talk,
and am glad to think you are in the house. Don't be anxious! The difficulty
with you is that you will foresee all your troubles beforehand, and try to
bolt them in a lump, instead of swallowing them one by one as they come.
Live for the day!" There was something magnetic about him, for by these few
words he established a little special relation with me which was never

When he dismissed me, I went and changed my things, and then came down. I
found that it was the custom for the men to go down to the hall about
eight. Father Payne said that it was a great mistake to work to the last
minute, and then to rush in to dinner. He said it made people nervous and
dyspeptic. He generally strolled in himself a few minutes before, and sate
silent by the fire.

Just as it struck eight, and the hum of the clock in the hall died away, a
little tune in harmony, like a gavotte, was played by softly-tingling tiny
bells. I could not tell where the music came from; it seemed to me like the
Ariel music in _The Tempest_, between earth and heaven, or the
"chiming shower of rare device" in _The Beryl Stone_.

Father Payne smiled at the little gesture I involuntarily made. "You're
right!" he said, when it was over. "How _can_ people talk through
that? It's the clock in the gallery that does it--they say it belonged to
George III. I hope, if so, that it gave him a few happier moments! It is an
ingenious little thing, with silver bells and hammers; I'll show it you
some day. It rings every four hours."

"I think I had rather not see the machinery," I said. "I never heard
anything so delicious."

"You're right again," said Father Payne;

                           "'The isle is full of noises,
  Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.'

Let it stay at that!"

I little thought how much I should grow to connect that fairy gavotte with
Aveley. It always seemed to me like a choir of spirits. I would awake
sometimes on summer nights and hear it chiming in the silent house, or at
noon it would come faintly through the passages. That, and the songs of the
birds in the shrubberies, always flash into my mind when I think of the
place; because it was essentially a silent house, more noiseless than any I
have ever lived in; and I love the thought of its silence; and of its
fragrance--for that was another note of the place. In the hall stood great
china jars with pierced covers, which were always full of pot-pourri; there
was another in the library, and another in Father Payne's study, and two
more in the passage above which looked out by the little gallery upon the
hall. Silence and fragrance always, in the background of all we did; and
outlining itself upon the stillness, the little melody, jetting out like a
fountain of silver sound.



That evening after dinner we two were left with Barthrop in the
smoking-room, and we talked freely about Father Payne. Barthrop said that
his past was a little mysterious. "He was at Marlborough, you know, and
Oxford; and after that, he lived in town, took pupils, and tried to
write--but he was not successful, and had much difficulty in getting
along." "What is his line exactly?" said Vincent. "That's just it," said
Barthrop, "he hasn't any line. He has a wide knowledge of things, and is
quicker at picking up the drift of a subject than anyone I know; and he has
a rare power of criticism. But he isn't anything in particular. He can't
write a bit, he is not a speaker, he isn't learned, he can teach able
people, but he couldn't teach stupid men--he hasn't enough patience. I
can't imagine any line of life for which he would be exactly fitted: and
yet he's the biggest person I have ever met; he carries us all along with
him, like a river. You can't resist him, you can't contradict him. That is
the one danger, that he exerts more influence than he knows, so that when
you are with him, it is hard to be quite yourself. But he puts the wind
into your sails; and, my word, he can take it out of your sails, if he
likes! I have only seen him really angry about twice, and then it was
really appalling. Once was when a man lied to him, and once was when a man
was impertinent to him. He simply blasted them with his displeasure--that
is the only word. He hates getting angry--I expect he had a bad temper
once--and he apologises afterwards; but it's no use--it's like a
thunderstorm apologising to a tree which has been struck. I don't think he
knows his strength. He believes himself to be sensitive and weak-willed--I
have heard him say so. The fact is that he dislikes doing an unpleasant
thing or speaking severely; and he will take a lot of trouble to avoid a
scene, or to keep an irritable man in a good temper. But if he lets himself
loose! I can't express to you the sort of terror I have in thinking of
those two occasions. He didn't say very much, but he looked as if he were
possessed by any number of devils."

"He was never married, I suppose?" I said.

"No," said Barthrop, "and yet he seems to make friends with women very
easily--in fact, they tend to fall in love with him, if I may say so. He
has got a beautiful manner with them, and he is simply devoted to children.
You will see that they really rather worship him in the village. He knows
everyone in the place, and never forgets a fact about them."

"What does he _do_ mostly?" I said.

"I really don't know," said Barthrop. "He is rather a solitary man. He very
often has one of us in for an hour in the evening or morning--but we don't
see much of him in the afternoon; he gardens or walks about. He has a quick
eye for things, birds and plants, and so on; and he can find more nests in
an hour than any man I ever saw. Sometimes he will go and shut himself up
in the church--he is rather fond of going to church; he always goes to the

"Does he expect us to go?" I said.

"No," said Barthrop. "He rather likes us to go, but he doesn't at all like
us going to please him. 'I want you to want to go,' I heard him say once,
'but I don't want you to go _because_ I want you.' And he has no
particular views, I think, about the whole thing--at least not for other

"Tell me some more about him," I said.

"What is there to say?" said Barthrop. "He is just there--the biggest fact
on the horizon. Oh yes, there is one thing; he is tremendously devoted to
music. We have some music in the evenings very often. You saw the organ in
the gallery--it is rather a fine one, and he generally has someone here who
can play. Lestrange is a first-rate musician. Father Payne can't play
himself, but he knows all about it, and composes sometimes. But I think he
looks on music as rather a dangerous indulgence, and does not allow himself
very much of it. You can see how it affects him. And you mustn't be taken
in by his manner. You might think him heavy and unperceptive, with that
quiet and rather secret eye of his; yet he notices everything, always, and
far quicker than anyone else. But it is hard to describe him, because he
can't do anything much, and you might think he was indolent; and yet he is
the biggest person I have ever seen, the one drawback being that he credits
other people with being big too."

"I notice that you call him 'Father Payne,'" said Vincent. "Does that mean
anything in particular?"

"No," said Barthrop, smiling. "It began as a sort of joke, I believe--but
it seemed to fit him; and it's rather convenient. We can't begin by calling
him 'Payne,' and 'Mr. Payne' is a little formal. Some of the men call him
'sir,' but I think he likes 'Father Payne' best, or simply 'Father,' You
will find it exactly expresses him."

"Yes," I said, "I am sure it does!"

I did not sleep much that night. The great change in my life had all taken
place with such rapidity and ease that I felt bewildered, and the thought
of the time ahead was full of a vague excitement. But most of all the
thought of Father Payne ran in my mind, I regarded him with a singular
mixture of interest, liking, admiration, and dread. Yet he had contrived to
kindle a curious flame in my mind. It was not that I fully understood what
he was working for, but I was conscious of a great desire to prove to him
that I could do something, exhibit some tenacity, approve myself to him. I
wanted to make him retract what he had said about me; and, further on, I
had a dim sense of an initiation into ideas, familiar enough, but which had
only been words to me hitherto--power, purpose, seriousness. They had been
ideas which before this had just vaguely troubled my peace, clouds hanging
in a bright sky. I had the sense that there were some duties which I ought
to perform, efforts to be made, ends to fulfil; but they had seemed to me
expressed in rather priggish phrases, words which oppressed me, and ruffled
the surface of my easy joy. Now they loomed up before me as big realities
which could not be escaped, hills to climb, with no pleasant path round
about their bases. I seemed in sight of some inspiring secret. I could not
tell what it was, but Father Payne knew it, might show it me?

Thus I drowsed and woke, a dozen times, till in the glimmer of the early
light I rose and drew back my curtains. The dawn was struggling up fitfully
in the east, among cloudy bars, tipping and edging them with smouldering
flashes of light, and there was a lustrous radiance in the air. Then, to my
surprise, looking down at the silent garden, pale with dew, I saw the great
figure of Father Payne, bare-headed, wrapt in a cloak, pacing solidly and,
I thought, happily among the shrubberies, stopping every now and then to
watch the fiery light and to breathe the invigorating air--and I felt then
that, whatever he might be doing, he at all events _was_ something, in
a sense which applied to but few people I knew. He was not hard,
unimaginative, fenced in by stupidity and self-righteousness from
unhappiness and doubt, as were some of the men accounted successful whom I
knew. No, it was something positive, some self-created light, some stirring
of hidden force, that emanated from him, such as I had never encountered



I can attempt no sort of chronicle of our days, which indeed were quiet and
simple enough. I have only preserved in my diary the record of a few scenes
and talks and incidents. I will, however, first indicate how our party, as
I knew it, was constituted, so that the record may be intelligible.

First of us came Leonard Barthrop, who was, partly by his seniority and
partly by his temperament, a sort of second-in-command in the house, much
consulted and trusted by Father Payne. He was a man of about thirty-five,
grave, humorous, pleasant. If one was in a minor difficulty, too trivial to
take to Father Payne, it was natural to consult Barthrop; and he sometimes,
too, would say a word of warning to a man, if a storm seemed to be brewing.
It must not be denied that men occasionally got on Father Payne's nerves,
quite unconsciously, through tactlessness or stupid mannerisms--and
Barthrop was able to smooth the situation out by a word in season. He had a
power of doing this without giving offence, from the obvious goodwill which
permeated all he did. Barthrop was not very sociable or talkative, and he
was occupied, I think, in some sort of historical research--I believe he
has since made his name as a judicious and interesting historian; but I
knew little of what he was doing, and indeed was hardly intimate with him,
though always at ease in his company. He was not a man with strong
preferences or prejudices, nor was he in any sense a brilliant or
suggestive writer, I think he had merged himself very much in the life of
our little society, and kept things together more than I was at first

Then came Kaye, one of the least conspicuous of the whole group, though he
has since become perhaps the best known, by his poems and his beautiful
critical studies in both art and literature. Kaye is known as one of those
rare figures in literature, a creative critic. His rich and elaborate
style, his exquisite sidelights, his poetical faculty of interpretation,
make his work famous, though hardly popular. But I found that he worked
very slowly and even painfully, deliberately secreting his honey, and
depositing it cell by cell. He had a peculiar intimacy with Father Payne,
who treated him with a marked respect. Kaye was by far the most absorbed of
the party, went and came like a great moth, was the first to disappear, and
generally the last to arrive. Neither did he make any attempt at
friendship. He was a handsome and graceful fellow, now about thirty, with a
worn sort of beauty in his striking features, curling hair, long languid
frame, and fine hands. His hands, I used to think, were the most eloquent
things about him, and he was ever making silent little gestures with them,
as though they were accompanying unuttered trains of thought; but he had,
too, a strained and impatient air, as if he found the pursuit of phrases a
wearing and hazardous occupation. I used to feel Kaye the most attractive
and impressive of our society; but he neither made nor noticed any signals
of goodwill, though always courteous and kindly.

Pollard was a totally different man: he was about twenty-eight, and he was
writing some work of fiction. He was a small, sturdy, rubicund creature,
with beady eyes and pink cheeks, cherubic in aspect, entirely good-natured
and lively, full of not very exalted humour, and with a tendency to wild
and even hysterical giggling. I used to think that Father Payne did not
like him very much; but he was a quick and regular worker, and it was
impossible to find fault with him. He was extremely sociable and
appreciative, and I used to find his company a relief from the strain which
at times made itself felt. Pollard had a way of getting involved in absurd
adventures, which he related with immense gusto; and he had a really
wonderful power of description--more so in conversation than in
writing--and of humorous exaggeration, which made him a delightful
companion. But he was never able to put the best of himself into his books,
which tended to be sentimental and even conventional.

Then there was Lestrange; and I think he was the least congenial of the
lot. He was a handsome, rather clerical-looking man of about twenty-eight,
who had been brought up to take orders, and had decided against doing so.
He was very much in earnest, in rather a tiresome way, and his phrases were
conventional and pietistic. I used to feel that he jarred a good deal on
Father Payne, but much was forgiven him because of his musical talents,
which were really remarkable. His organ-playing, with its verve, its
delicacy, and its quiet mastery, was delicious to hear, he was engaged in
writing music mainly, and had a piano all to himself in a little remote
room beyond the dining-room, which looked out to the stable-yard and had
formerly been an estate-office. We used to hear faint sounds wafted down
the garden when the wind was in the west. He was friendly, but he had the
absorption of the musician in his art, which is unlike all other artistic
absorptions, because it seems literally to check the growth of other
qualities and interests. In fact, in many ways Lestrange was like a pious
child. He was apt to be snubbed by Father Payne, but he was wholly
indifferent to all irony. I used to listen to him playing the organ in the
evenings, and a language of emotions and visions certainly streamed from
his fingers which he was never able to put into words. Father Payne treated
him as one might treat an inspired fool, with a mixture of respect and

Then there was Rose, a man of twenty-five, a curious mixture of knowledge,
cynicism, energy, and affectionateness. I found Rose a very congenial
companion, though I never felt sure what he thought, and never aired my
enthusiasms in his presence. He had great aplomb, and was troubled by no
shyness nor hesitation. There was a touch of frostiness at times between
him and Father Payne. Rose was paradoxical and whimsical, and was apt to
support fantastic positions with apparent earnestness. But he was an
extremely capable and sensible man, and had a knack of dropping his
contentiousness the moment it began to give offence. He was by far the most
mundane of us, and had some command of money. I used to fancy that Father
Payne was a little afraid of him, when he displayed his very considerable
knowledge of the world. His father was a wealthy man, a member of
Parliament, and Rose really knew social personages of the day. I doubt if
he was ever quite in sympathy with the idea of the place, but I used to
feel that his presence was a wholesome sort of corrective, like the vinegar
in the salad. I believe he was writing a play, but he has done nothing
since in literature, and was in many ways more like a visitor than an

Then came my friend Vincent, a solid, good-natured, hard-working man, with
a real enthusiasm for literature, not very critical or even imaginative,
but with a faculty for clear and careful writing. He was at work on a
realistic novel, which made some little reputation; but he has become
since, what I think he always was meant to be, an able journalist and an
excellent leader-writer on political and social topics. Vincent was the
most interested of all of us in current affairs, but at the same time had a
quiet sort of enthusiasm, and a power of idealising people, ardently but
unsentimentally, which made him the most loyal of friends.

The only other person of whom we saw anything was the Vicar of the
parish--a safe, decorous, useful man, a distant cousin of Father Payne's.
His wife was a good-humoured and conventional woman. Their two daughters
were pleasant, unaffected girls, just come to womanhood. Lestrange
afterwards married one of them.

We were not much troubled by sociabilities. The place was rather isolated,
and Father Payne had the reputation of being something of an eccentric.
Moreover, the big neighbouring domain, Whitbury Park, blocked all access to
north and west. The owner was an old and invalid peer, who lived a very
secluded life and entertained no one. To the south there was nothing for
miles but farms and hamlets, while the only near neighbour in the east was
a hunting squire, who thought Father Payne kept a sort of boarding-house,
and ignored him entirely. The result was that callers were absolutely
unknown, and the wildest form of dissipation was that Pollard and Rose
occasionally played lawn-tennis at neighbouring vicarages.

We were not often all there together, because Father Payne's scheme of
travel was strictly adhered to. He considered it a very integral part of
our life. I never quite knew what his plan was; but he would send a man
off, generally alone, with a solid sum for travelling expenses. Thus
Lestrange was sent for a month to Berlin when Joachim held court there, or
to Dresden and Munich. I remember Pollard and Vincent being packed off to
Switzerland together to climb mountains, with stern injunctions to be
sociable. Rose went to Spain, to Paris, to St. Petersburg. Kaye went more
than once to Italy; but we often went to different parts of England, and
then we were generally allowed to go together; but Father Payne's theory
was that we should travel alone, learn to pick up friends, and to fend for
ourselves. He had acquaintances in several parts of the Continent, and we
were generally provided with a letter of introduction to some one. We had a
fortnight in June and a fortnight at Christmas to go home--so that we were
always away for three months in the year, while Father Payne was apt to
send us off for a week at a time, if he thought we needed a change.
Barthrop, I think, made his own plans, and it was all reasonable enough, as
Father Payne would always listen to objections. Some of us paid for
ourselves on those tours, but he was always willing to supplement it

It used to be a puzzle to me how Father Payne had the command of so much
money; his estate was not large; but in the first place he spent very
little on himself, and our life was extremely simple. Moreover, I became
aware that some of his former pupils and friends used to send him money at
times for this express purpose.

The staff consisted of the old butler, whose wife was cook. There were
three other maid-servants; the gardener was also coachman. The house was
certainly clean and well-kept; we looked after ourselves to a great extent;
but there was never any apparent lack of money, though, on the other hand,
there was every sign of careful economy. Father Payne never talked about
money. "It's an interesting thing, money," I have heard him say, "and it's
curious to see how people handle it--but we must not do it too much honour,
and it isn't a thing that can be spoken of in general conversation."



I do not propose to make any history of events, or to say how, within a
very short time, I fell into the life of the place. I will only say what
were the features of the scheme, and how the rule, such as it was, worked

First of all, and above all, came the personality of Father Payne, which
permeated and sustained the whole affair. It was not that he made it his
business to drive us along. It was not a case of "the guiding hand in front
and the propelling foot behind." He seldom interfered, and sometimes for a
considerable space one would have no very direct contact with him. He was a
man who was always intent, but by no means always intent on shepherding. I
should find it hard to say how he spent his time. He was sometimes to all
appearances entirely indolent and good-natured, when he would stroll about,
talk to the people in the village, and look after the little farm which he
kept in his own hands under a bailiff. At another time he would be for long
together in an abstracted mood, silent, absent-minded, pursuing some train
of thought. At another time he would be very busy with what we were doing,
and hold long interviews with us, making us read our work to him and giving
us detailed criticisms. On these occasions he was extremely stimulating,
for the simple reason that he always seemed to grasp what it was that one
was aiming at, and his criticisms were all directed to the question of how
far the original conception was being worked out. He did not, as a rule,
point out a different conception, or indicate how the work could be done on
other lines. He always grasped the plan and intention, and really seemed to
be inside the mind of the contriver. He would say; "I think the theme is
weak here--and you can't make a weak place strong by filling it with
details, however good in themselves. That is like trying to mend the Slough
of Despond with cartloads of texts. The thing is not to fall in, or, if you
fall in, to get out." His three divisions of a subject were "what you say,
what you wanted to say, what you ought to have wanted to say." Sometimes he
would listen in silence, and then say: "I can't criticise that--it is all
off the lines. You had better destroy it and begin again," Or he would say:
"You had better revise that and polish it up. It won't be any good when it
is done--these patched-up things never are; but it will be good practice,"
He was encouraging, because he never overlooked the good points of any
piece of writing. He would say: "The detail is good, but it is all too big
for its place, quite out of scale; it is like a huge ear on a small head,"
Or he would say: "Those are all things worth saying and well said, but they
are much too diffuse." He used to tell me that I was apt to stop the
carriage when I was bound on a rapid transit, and go for a saunter among
fields. "I don't object to your sauntering, but you must _intend_ to
saunter--you must not be attracted by a pleasant footpath." Sometimes he
could be severe, "That's vulgar," he once said to me, "and you can't make
it attractive by throwing scent about," Or he would say: "That's a
platitude--which means that it may be worth thinking and feeling, but not
worth saying. You can depend upon your reader feeling it without your
help," Or he would say: "You don't understand that point. It is a case of
the blind leading the blind. Cut the whole passage, and think it out
again," Or he would say: "That is all too compressed. You began by walking,
and now you are jumping." Or he would say: "There is a note of personal
irritation about that; it sounds as if you had been reading an unpleasant
review. It is like the complaint of the nightingale leaning her breast
against a thorn in order to get the sensation of pain. You seem to be
wiping your eyes all through--you have not got far enough away from your
vexation. Your attempt to give it a humorous turn reminds me of Miss
Squeers' titter--you must never titter!" Once or twice in early times I
used to ask him how _he_ would do it. "Don't ask me!" he said. "I
haven't got to do it--that's your business; it's no use your doing it in
_my_ way; all I know is that you are not doing it in _your_ way."
He was very quick at noticing any mannerisms or favourite words. "All good
writers have mannerisms, of course," he would say, "but the moment that the
reader sees that it is a mannerism the charm is gone." His praise was
rarely given, and when it came it was generous and rich. "That is
excellent," I can hear him say, "You have filled your space exactly, and
filled it well. There is not a word to add or to take away." He was always
prepared to listen to argument or defence. "Very well--read it again."
Then, at the end, he would say: "Yes, there is something in that. You meant
to anticipate? I don't mind that! But you have anticipated too much, made
it too clear; it should just be a hint, no more, which will be explained
later. Don't blurt! You have taken the wind out of your sails by explaining
it too fully."

Sometimes he would leave us alone for two or three weeks together, and then
say frankly that one had been wasting time, or the reverse. "You must not
depend upon me too much; you must learn to walk alone."

Every week we had a meeting, at which some one read a fragment aloud. At
these meetings he criticised little himself, but devoted his attention to
our criticisms. He would not allow harshness or abruptness in what we said.
"We don't want your conclusions or your impressions--we want your reasons."
Or he would say: "That is a fair criticism, but unsympathetic. It is in the
spirit of a reviewer who wants to smash a man. We don't want Stephen to be
stoned here, we want him confuted." I remember once how he said with
indignation: "That is simply throwing a rotten egg! And its maturity shows
that it was kept for that purpose! You are not criticising, you are only
paying off an old score!"

But I think that the two ways in which he most impressed himself were by
his conversation, when we were all together, and by his _tête-à-tête_
talks, if one happened to be his companion. When we were all together he
was humorous, ironical, frank. He did not mind what was said to him, so
long as it was courteously phrased; but I have heard him say: "We must
remember we are fencing--we must not use bludgeons." Or: "You must not talk
as if you were scaring birds away--we are all equal here." He was very
unguarded himself in what he said, and always maintained that talkers ought
to contribute their own impressions freely and easily. He used to quote
with much approval Dr. Johnson's remark about his garrulous old
school-fellow, Edwards. Boswell said, when Edwards had gone, that he
thought him a weak man. "Why, yes, sir," said Johnson. "Here is a man who
has passed through life without experiences; yet I would rather have him
with me than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is
always willing to say what he has to say." Father Payne used to add: "The
point is to talk; you must not consider your reputation; say whatever comes
into your head, and when you have learnt to talk, you can begin to select."
I have heard him say; "Go on, some one! It is everybody's business here to
avoid a pause. Don't be sticky! Pauses are for a _tête-à-tête_." Or,
again, I have heard him say: "You mustn't examine witnesses here! You
should never ask more than three questions running." He did not by any
means keep his own rules; but he would apologise sometimes for his
shortcomings. "I'm hopeless to-day. I can't attend, I can't think of
anything in particular. I'm diluted, I'm weltering--I'm coming down like a

The result of this certainly was that we most of us did learn to talk. He
liked to thrash a subject out, but he hated too protracted a discussion.
"Here, we've had enough of this. It's very important, but I'm getting
bored. I feel priggish. Help, help!"

On the other hand, he was even more delightful in a _tête-à-tête_. He
would say profound and tender things, let his emotions escape him. He had
with me, and I expect with others, a sort of indulgent and paternal way
with him. He never forgot a confidence, and he used to listen delightedly
to stories of one's home circle. "Tell me some stories about Aunt Jane," he
would say to me. "There is something impotently fiery about that good lady
that I like. Tell me again what she said when she found cousin Frank in a
smoking-cap reading Thomas-à-Kempis." He had a way of quoting one's own
stories which was subtly flattering, and he liked sidelights of a
good-natured kind on the character of other members. "Why won't he say such
things to me?" he used to say. "He thinks I should respect him less, when
really I should admire him more. He won't let me see when his box is empty!
I suspect him of reading Bartlett's _Familiar Quotations_ before he
goes a walk with me!" Or he would say: "In a general talk you must think
about your companions; in a _tête-à-tête_ you must only feel him."

But the most striking thing about Father Payne was this. Though we were all
very conscious of his influence, and indeed of his authority; though we
knew that he meant to have his own way, and was quite prepared to speak
frankly and act decisively, we were never conscious of being watched or
censured or interfered with. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it was a
pure pleasure to meet him and to be with him, and many a time have I seen
him, in a moment of leisure, strolling in the garden, and hurried out just
on the chance of getting a word or a smile, or, if he was in an expansive
mood, having my arm taken by him for a little turn. In the hundredth case,
it happened that one might have said or done something which one knew that
he would disapprove. But, as he never stored things up or kept you waiting,
you could be sure he would speak soon or not at all. Often, too, he would
just say: "I don't think that your remark to Kaye gave a fair impression of
yourself," or, "Why waste your powder as you did to-night?" I was only once
or twice directly rebuked by him, and that was for a prolonged neglect.
"You don't _care_," he once said to me emphatically. "I can't do
anything for you if you don't care!" But he was the most entirely placable
of men. A word of regret or apology, and he would say: "Don't give it
another thought, my boy," or, "That's all right, then."

The real secret of his influence was that he took not a critical or even a
dispassionate view of each of us, but an enthusiastic view. He took no
pleasure in our shortcomings; they were rather of the nature of an active
personal disappointment. The result was simply that you were natural with
him, but natural with the added sense that he liked you and thought well of
you, and expected friendship and even brilliance from you. You felt that he
knew you well, and recognised your faults and weaknesses, but that he knew
your best side even better, and enjoyed the presence of it. I never knew
anyone who was so appreciative, and though I said foolish things to him
sometimes, I felt that he was glad that I should be my undisguised self. It
was thus delicately flattering to be with him, and it gave confidence and
self-respect. That was the basis of our whole life, the goodwill and
affection of Father Payne, and the desire to please him.



Father Payne was a big solid man, as I have said, but he contrived to give
the impression of being even bigger than he was. It was like the Irish
estate, of which its owner said that it had more land to the acre than any
place he knew. This was the result, I suppose, of what Barthrop once dryly
called the "effortless expansion" of Father Payne's personality. I suppose
he was about six-foot-two in height, and he must have weighed fifteen stone
or even more. He was not stout, but all his limbs were solid, so that he
filled his clothes. His hands were big, his feet were big. He wore a rather
full beard: he was slightly bald when I knew him, but his hair grew rather
long and curly. He always wore old clothes--but you were never conscious of
what he wore: he never looked, as some people do, like a suit of clothes
with a person inside them. Thinking it over, it seems to me that the reason
why you noticed his clothes so little, when you were with him, was because
you were always observing his face, or his hands, which were extremely
characteristic of him, or his motions, which had a lounging sort of grace
about them. Heavy men are apt on occasions to look lumbering, but Father
Payne never looked that. His whole body was under his full control. When he
walked, he swung easily along; when he moved, he moved impetuously and
eagerly. But his face was the most remarkable thing about him. It had no
great distinction of feature, and it was sanguine, often sunburnt, in hue.
But, solid as it was, it was all alive. His big dark eyes were brimful of
amusement and kindliness, and it was like coming into a warm room on a cold
day to have his friendly glance directed upon you. As he talked, his
eyebrows moved swiftly, and he had a look, with his eyes half-closed and
his brows drawn up, as he waited for an answer, of what the old books call
"quizzical"--a sort of half-caressing irony, which was very attractive. He
had an impatient little frown which passed over his face, like a ruffle of
wind, if things went too slowly or heavily for his taste; and he had, too,
on occasions a deep, abstracted look, as if he were following a thought
far. There was also another look, well known to his companions, when he
turned his eyes upwards with a sort of resignation, generally accompanied
by a deprecating gesture of the hand. Altogether it was a most expressive
face, because, except in his abstracted mood, he always seemed to be
entirely _there_, not concealing or repressing anything, but bending
his whole mind upon what was being said. Moreover, if you said anything
personal or intimate to him, a word of gratitude or pleasure, he had a
quick, beautiful, affectionate look, so rewarding, so embracing that I
often tried to evoke it--though an attempt to evoke it deliberately often
produced no more than a half-smile, accompanied by a little wink, as if he
saw through the attempt.

His great soft white hands, always spotlessly clean--he was the
cleanest-looking man I ever saw--were really rather extraordinary. They
looked at first sight clumsy, and even limp; but he was unusually deft and
adroit with his fingers, and his touch on plants, in gardening, his tying
of strings--he liked doing up parcels--was very quick and delicate. He was
fond of all sorts of little puzzles, toys of wood and metal, which had to
be fitted together; and the puzzles took shape or fell to pieces under his
fingers like magic. They were extremely sensitive to pain, his hands, and a
little pinch or abrasion would cause him marked discomfort. His handwriting
was rapid and fine, and he occasionally would draw a tiny sketch to
illustrate something, which showed much artistic skill. He often deplored
his ignorance of handicraft, which, he said would have been a great relief
to him.

His voice, again, was remarkable. It was not in ordinary talk either deep
or profound, though it could and did become both on occasions, especially
when he made a quotation, which he did with some solemnity. I used at first
to think that there was a touch of rhetorical affectation about his
quotations. They were made in a high musical tone, and as often as not
ended with the tears coming into his eyes. He spoke to me once about this.
He said that it was a mistake to think he was _deeply_ affected by a
quotation. "In fact," he said, "I am not easily affected by passionate or
tragic emotion--what does affect me is a peculiar touch of beauty, but it
is a luxurious and superficial thing. It would entirely prevent me," he
added, "from reading many poems or prose passages aloud which I greatly
admire. I simply could not command myself! In fact," he went on, smiling,
"I very often can only get to the end of a quotation by fixing my mind on
something else. I add up the digits giving the number of the page, or I
count the plates at the dinner-table. It's very absurd--but it takes me in
just the same way when I am alone. I could not read the last chapter of the
Book of Revelation aloud to myself, or the chapter on 'The Wilderness' in
Isaiah, without shedding tears. But it doesn't mean anything; it is just
the _hysterica passio_, you know!"

His voice, when he first joined in a talk, was often low and even
hesitating; but when he became interested and absorbed, it gathered volume
and emphasis. Barthrop once said to me that Father Payne was the only
person he knew who always talked in italics. But he very seldom harangued,
though it is difficult to make that clear in recording his talks, because
he often spoke continuously. Yet it was never a soliloquy: he always
included the listeners. He used to look round at them, explore their faces,
catch an eye and smile, indicate the particular person addressed by a
darted-out finger; and he had many little free gestures with his hands as
he talked. He would trace little hieroglyphics with his finger, as if he
were writing a word, sweep an argument aside, bring his hands together as
though he were shaping something. This was a little confusing at first, and
used to divert my attention, because of the great mobility of his hands;
but after a little it seemed to me to bring out and illustrate his points
in a remarkably salient way.

His habits were curious and a little mysterious. They were by no means
regular. Sometimes for days together we hardly saw him. He often rose early
and walked in the garden. If he found a book which interested him, he would
read it with absorbed attention, quite unconscious of the flight of time.
"I do love getting really _buried_ in a book," he would say; "it's the
best of tests." Sometimes he wrote, sometimes he composed music, sometimes
he would have his table covered with bits of paper full of unintelligible
designs and patterns. He did not mind being questioned, but he would not
satisfy one's curiosity. "It's only some nonsense of mine," he would say.
He did not write many letters, and they were generally short. At times he
would be very busy on his farm, at times occupied in the village, at times
he took long walks alone; very occasionally he went away for a day or two.
He was both uncommunicative and communicative. He would often talk with the
utmost frankness and abandon about his private affairs; but, on the other
hand, I always had the sense of much that was hidden in his life. And I
have no doubt that he spent much time in prayer and meditation. He seldom
spoke of this, but it played a large part in his life. He gave the
impression of great ease, cheerfulness, and tranquillity, attained by some
deliberate resolve, because he was both restless and sensitive, took
sorrows and troubles hardly, and was deeply shocked and distressed by sad
news of any kind. I have heard him say that he often had great difficulty
in forcing himself to open a letter which he thought likely to be
distressing or unpleasant. He was naturally, I imagine, of an almost
neurotic tendency; but he did not seem so much to combat this by occupation
and determination as to have arrived at some mechanical way of dealing with
it. I remember that he said to me once: "If you have a bad business on
hand, an unhappy or wounding affair, it is best to receive it fully and
quietly. Let it do its worst, realise it, take it in--don't resist it,
don't try to distract your mind: see the full misery of it, don't attempt
to minimise it. If you do that, you will suddenly find something within you
come to your rescue and say, 'Well, I can bear that!' and then it is all
right. But if you try to dodge it, it's my experience that there comes a
kind of back-wash which hurts very much indeed. Let the stream go over you,
and then emerge. To fight against it simply prolongs the agony." He
certainly recovered himself quicker than anyone I have ever known: indeed I
think his recuperation was the best sign of his enormous vitality. "I'm
sensitive," he said to me once, "but I'm tough--I have a fearful power of
forgetting--it's much better than forgiving." But the thing which remains
most strongly in my mind about him is the way in which he pervaded the
whole place. It was fancy, perhaps, but I used to think I knew whether he
was in the house or not. Certainly, if I wanted to speak to him, I used to
go off to his study on occasions, quite sure that I should find him; while
on other occasions--and I more than once put this to the test--I have
thought to myself, "It's no use going--the Father is out." His presence at
any sort of gathering was entirely unmistakable. It was not that you felt
hampered or controlled: it was more like the flowing of some clear stream.
When he was away, the thing seemed tame and spiritless; when he was there,
it was all full of life. But his presence was not, at least to me, at all
wearisome or straining. I have known men of great vitality who were
undeniably fatiguing, because they overcame one like a whirlwind. But with
Father Payne it always seemed as though he put wind into one's sails, but
left one to steer one's own course. He did not thwart or deflect, or even
direct: he simply multiplied one's own energy. I never had the sensation
with him of suppressing any thought in my mind, or of saying to myself,
"The Father won't care about that." He always did care, and I used to feel
that he was glad to be inquired of, glad to have his own thoughts diverted,
glad to be of use. He never nagged; or found petty fault, or "chivied" you,
as the boys say. If you asked him a question, or asked him to stroll or
walk, you always felt that he was delighted, that it was the one thing he
enjoyed. He liked to have childish secrets. He and I had several little
_caches_ in the holes of trees, or the chinks of buildings, where we
concealed small coins or curious stones on our walks, and at a later date
revisited them. We were frankly silly about certain things. He and I had
some imaginary personages--Dr. Waddilove, supposed to be a rich beneficed
clergyman of Tory views; Mr. McTurk, a matter-of-fact Scotsman; Henry
Bland, a retired schoolmaster with copious stores of information; and
others--and we used often to discourse in character. But he always knew
when to stop. He would say to me suddenly: "Dr. Waddilove said to me
yesterday that he never argued with atheists or radicals, because they
always came round in the end." Or he would say, in Henry Bland's flute-like
tones: "Your mention of Robert Browning induces me to relate an anecdote,
which I think may prove not wholly uninteresting to you." At times we used
to tell long stories on our walks, stopping short in the middle of a
sentence, when the other had instantly to continue the narrative. I do not
mean that the wit was very choice or the humour at all remarkable--it would
not bear being written down--but it amused us both. "Come, what shall we do
to-day?" I can hear him say. "Dr. Waddilove and Mr. Bland might have a walk
and discuss the signs of the times?" And then the ridiculous dialogue would

That was the delightful thing about him, that he was always ready to fall
in with a mood, always light of touch and gay. He could be tender and
sympathetic, as well as incisive and sensible if it was needed; but he was
never either contradictory or severe or improving. He would sometimes pull
himself up and say: "Here, we must be business-like," but he was never
reproachful or grieved or shocked by what we said to him. He could be
decisive, stern, abrupt, if it was really needed. But his most pungent
reproofs were inflicted by a blank silence, which was one of the most
appalling things to encounter. He generally began to speak again a few
moments later, on a totally different subject, while any such sign of
displeasure was extremely rare. He never under any circumstances reminded
anyone of his generosity, or the trouble he had taken, or the favours he
had conferred, while he would often remind one of some trifling kindness
done to him. "I often remember how good you were about those accounts, old
boy! I should never have got through without you!"

His demeanour was generally that of an indulgent uncle, with that
particular touch of nearness which in England is apt to exist only among
relations. He would consult us about his own private worries with entire
frankness, and this more than anything made us ready to confide in him. He
used to hand us cheques or money if required, with a little wink. "That's
your screw!" he used to say; and he liked any thanks that seemed natural.

"Natural,"--that is the word that comes before me all through. I can
remember no one so unembarrassed, so easy, so transparent. His thought
flowed into his talk; and his silences were not reticences, but the busy
silence of the child who has "a plan." He gave himself away without economy
and without disguise, and he accepted gratefully and simply whatever you
cared to give him of thought or love. I think oftenest of how I sometimes
went to see him in the evenings: if he was busy, as he often was, he used
just to murmur half to himself, "Well, old man?" indicate a chair, put his
finger on his lips, and go on with his work or his book; but at intervals
he would just glance at me with a little smile, and I knew that he was glad
to have me at hand in that simple companionship when there is no need of
speech or explanation. And then the book or paper would be dropped, and he
would say: "Well, out with it." If one said, "Nothing--only company," he
would give one of his best and sweetest smiles.



But whatever may have been Father Payne's effect upon us individually or
collectively, or however the result may have been achieved, there was no
question of one thing, and that was the ardent and beautiful happiness of
the place. Joy deliberately schemed for and planned is apt to evaporate.
But we were not hunting for happiness as men dig for gold. We were looking
for something quite different. We were all doing work for which we cared,
with kind and yet incisive criticism to help us; and then the simplicity
and regularity of the life, the total absence of all indulgence, the
exercise, the companionship, the discipline, all generated a kind of high
spirits that I have known in no other place and at no other time. I used to
awake in the morning fresh and alert, free from all anxiety, all sense of
tiresome engagements, all possibility of boredom. All staleness, weariness,
all complications and conventional duties, all jealousies and envyings,
were absent. We were not competing with each other, we were not bent on
asserting ourselves, we had just each our own bit of work to do; moreover
our spaces of travel had an invigorating effect, and sent us back to Aveley
with the zest of returning to a beloved home. Of course there were little
bickerings at times, little complexities of friendship; but these never
came to anything in Father Payne's kindly present. Sometimes a man would
get fretful or worried over his work; if so, he was generally despatched on
a brief holiday, with an injunction to do no work at all; and I am sure
that the prospect of even temporary banishment was the strongest of all
motives for the suppression of strife. I remember spring mornings, when the
birds began to sing in the shrubberies, and the beds were full of rising
flower-blades, when one's whole mind and heart used to expand in an ecstasy
of hope and delight; I remember long rambles or bicycle rides far into the
quiet pastoral country, in the summer heat, alone or with a single
companion, when life seemed almost too delicious to continue; then there
would be the return, and a plunge into the bathing-pool, and another quiet
hour or two at the work in hand, and the delight of feeling that one was
gaining skill and ease of expression; or again there would be the quick
tramp in winter along muddy roads, with the ragged clouds hurrying across
the sky, with the prospect ahead of a fire-lit evening of study and talk;
and best of all a walk and a conversation with Father Payne himself, when
all that he said seemed to interpret life afresh and to put it in a new and
exciting aspect. I never met anyone with such a power of linking the loose
ends of life together, and of giving one so joyful a sense of connection
and continuance. How it was done I cannot guess; but whereas other minds
could cast light upon problems, Father Payne somehow made light shine
through them, and gave them a soft translucence. But while he managed to
give one a great love of life itself, it never rested there; he made me
feel engaged in some sort of eternal business, and though he used no
conventional expressions, I had in his presence a sense of vast horizons
and shining tracks passing into an infinite distance full of glory and
sweetness, and of death itself as a mystery of surprise and wonder. He
taught me to look for beauty and harmony, not to waste time in mean
controversy or in futile regret, but to be always moving forwards, and
welcoming every sign of confidence and goodwill. He had a way, too, of
making one realise the dignity and necessity of work, without cherishing
any self-absorbed illusions about its impressiveness or its importance. His
creed was the recognition of all beauty and vividness as an unquestionable
sign of the presence of God, the Power that made for order and health and
strength and peace; and the deep necessity of growing to understand one
another with unsuspicious trustfulness and sympathy--the Fatherhood of God,
and the Brotherhood of Man, these were the doctrines by which he lived.

It used to be an extraordinary pleasure to me to accompany him about the
village; he knew every one, and could talk with a simple directness and a
quiet humour that was inimitable. I never saw so naturally pastoral a man.
He carried good-temper about with him, and yet he could rebuke with a
sharpness which surprised me, if there was need. He was curiously tolerant,
I used to think, of sensual sins, but in the presence of cruelty or
meanness or deliberate deceit he used to explode into the most violent
language. I remember a scene which it is almost a terror to me now to
recollect, when I was walking with him, and we met a tipsy farmer of a
neighbouring village flogging his horse along a lane. He ran up beside the
cart, he stopped the horse, he roared at the farmer, "Get out of your cart,
you d--d brute, and lead it home." The farmer descended in a state of
stupefaction. Father Payne snatched the whip out of his hand, broke it,
threw it over the hedge, threatened him with all the terrors of the law,
and reduced him to a state of abject submission. Presently he recovered
somewhat, and in drunken wrath began to abuse Father Payne. "Very well,"
said Father Payne, "you can take your choice: either you lead the horse
home quietly, and I'll see it done; or else I come with you to the village,
and tell the people what I think of you in the open street. And if you put
up your fist like that again, I'll run you home myself and hand you over to
the policeman. I'll be d--d if I won't do it now. Here, Duncan," he said to
me, "you go and fetch the policeman, and we'll have a little procession
back." The ruffian thought better of it, and led the horse away muttering,
while we walked behind until we were near the farm, "Now get in, and behave
yourself," said Father Payne. "And if you choose to come over to-morrow and
beg my pardon, you may; and if you don't, I'll have you up before the
magistrates on Saturday next."

I had never seen such wrath; but the tempest subsided instantly, and he
walked back with me in high good-humour. The next day the man came over,
and Father Payne said to me in the evening: "We had quite an affecting
scene. I gave him a bit of my mind, and he thanked me for speaking
straight. He's a low brute, but I don't think he'll do the same sort of
thing in a hurry. I'll give him six weeks to get over his fright, and then
I'll do a little patrolling!"

His gentleness, on the other hand, with women and children was beautiful to
see. It was as natural for Father Payne to hurry to a scene of disaster or
grief as it was for others to wish to stay away. He used to speak to a
sufferer or a mourner with great directness. "Tell me all about it," he
would say, and he would listen with little nods and gestures, raising his
eyebrows or even shutting his eyes, saying very little, except a word or
two of sympathy at the end. He knew all the children, but he never petted
them or made favourites, but treated them with a serious kind of gravity
which he assured us they infinitely preferred. He used to have a Christmas
entertainment for them at the Hall, as well as a summer feast. He
encouraged the boys and young men to botanise and observe nature in all
forms, and though he would never allow nests to be taken, or even eggs if
he could help it, he would give little prizes for the noting of any rare
bird or butterfly. "If you want men to live in the country, they must love
the country," he used to say. He kept a village club going, but he never
went there. "It's embarrassing," he used to say. "They don't want me
strolling in any more than I want them strolling in. Philanthropists have
no sense of privacy." He did not call at the villagers' houses, unless
there was some special event, and his talks were confined to chance
meetings. Neither was there any sense of duty about it. "No one is taken in
by formal visiting," he said. "You must just do it if you like it, or else
stay away. 'To keep yourself to yourself' is the highest praise these
people can give. No one likes a fuss!"

The same sort of principles regulated our own intercourse. "We are not
monks," he used to say; "we are Carthusians, hermits, living together for
comfort or convenience." The solitude and privacy of everyone was
respected. We used to do our talking when we took exercise; but there was
very little sitting and gossiping together _tête-à-tête._ "I don't
want everyone to try to be intimate with everyone else," he used to say.
"The point is just to get on amicably together; we won't have any cliques
or coteries." He himself never came to any of our rooms, but sent a message
if he wanted to see us. One small thing he strongly objected to, the
shouting up from the garden to anyone's window: "Most offensive!" He
disliked all loud shouting and calling or singing aloud. "You mustn't use
the world as a private sitting-room." And the one thing which used to fret
him was a voice stridently raised. "Don't rouse the echoes!" he would say.
"You have no more right to make a row than you have to use a strong scent
or to blow a post-horn--that's not liberty!" The result of this was that
the house was a singularly quiet one, and this sense of silence and subdued
sound lives in my memory as one of its most refreshing characteristics. "A
row is only pleasant if it is deliberate and organised," he used to say.
"Native woodnotes wild are all very well, but they are not civilisation. To
talk audibly and quietly is the best proof of virtue and honour!"



I am going to try to give a few impressions of talks with Father
Payne--both public and private talks. It is, however, difficult to do this
without giving, perhaps, a wrong impression. I used to get into the habit
of jotting down the things he had said, and I improved by practice. But he
was a rapid talker and somewhat discursive, and he was often deflected from
his main subject by a question or a discussion. Yet I do not want it to be
thought that he was fond of monologue and soliloquy. He was not, I should
say, a very talkative man; days would sometimes pass without his doing more
than just taking a hand in conversation. He liked to follow the flow of a
talk, and to contribute a remark now and then; sometimes he was markedly
silent; but in no case was he ever oppressive. Occasionally, and more often
in _tête-à-tête,_ he went ahead and talked copiously, but this was
rather the exception than the rule. I have not thought it worth while to
try to give the effect of our own talk. We were young, excitable, and
argumentative, and, though it was at the time often delightful and
stimulating, it was also often very crude and immature. Father Payne was
good at helping a talker out, and would often do justice to a
clumsily-expressed remark which he thought was interesting. But he was by
far the most interesting member of the circle; he spoke easily and
flowingly when he was moved, and there always seemed to me a sense of form
about his talk which was absent from ours. But under no circumstance did he
ever become tedious--indeed he was extremely sensitive to the smallest
signs of impatience. We often tried, so to speak, to draw him out; but if
he had the smallest suspicion that he was being drawn, he became instantly

There is more coherence about some of the talks I have recorded than was
actually the case. He would diverge to tell a story, or he would call one's
attention to some sight or sound.

Moreover his face, his movements, his gestures, all added much to his talk.
He had a way of wrinkling up his brows, of shaking his head, of looking
round with an awestruck expression, his eyes wide open, his mouth pursed
up, especially when he had reached some triumphantly absurd conclusion. He
had two little quick gestures of the hands as he spoke, opening his
fingers, waving a point aside, emphasizing an argument by a quick downward
motion of his forefinger. He had, too, a quick, loud, ebullient laugh,
sometimes shrill, sometimes deep; and he abandoned himself to laughter at
an absurd story or jest as completely as anyone I have ever seen. Rose was
an excellent mimic, and Father Payne used to fall into agonising paroxysms
of laughter at many of his representations. But he always said that
laughter was with him a social mood, and that he had never any inclination
to laugh when he was alone.

So the record of his talks must be taken not as typical of his everyday
mood, but as instances of the kind of things he said when he was moved to
speak at large; and even so they give, I am aware, too condensed an
impression. He never talked as if he were playing on a party or a companion
with a hose-pipe. There was never anyone who was more easily silenced or
diverted. But to anyone who knew him they will give, I believe, a true
impression of his method of talk; and perhaps they may give to those who
never saw him a faint reflection of his lively and animated mind, the
energy with which he addressed himself to small problems, and the firm
belief which he always maintained, that any evidence of life, however
elementary, was more encouraging and inspiring than the most elaborate
logic or the profoundest intellectual grasp of abstract subjects.



I had been to church one summer Sunday morning--a very simple affair it
was, with nothing sung but a couple of hymns; but the Vicar read
beautifully, neither emphatically nor lifelessly, with a little thrill in
his voice at times that I liked to hear. It did not compel you to listen so
much as invite you to join. Lestrange played the organ most divinely; he
generally extemporised before the service, and played a simple piece at the
end; but he never strained the resources of the little organ, and it was
all simple and formal music, principally Bach or Handel.

Father Payne himself was a regular attendant at church, and Sunday was a
decidedly leisurely day. He advised us to put aside our writing work, to
write letters, read, make personal jottings, talk, though there was no
inquisition into such things.

Father Payne was a somewhat irregular responder, but it was a pleasure to
sit near him, because his deep, rapid voice gave a new quality to the
words. He seemed happy in church, and prayed with great absorption, though
I noticed that his Bible was often open before him all through the service.
The Vicar's sermons were good of their kind, suggestive rather than
provocative, about very simple matters of conduct rather than belief. I
have heard Father Payne speak of them with admiration as never being
discursive, and I gathered that the Vicar was a great admirer of Newman's

We came away together, Father Payne and I, and we strolled a little in the
garden. I felt emboldened to ask him the plain question why he went to
church. "Oh, for a lot of reasons," he said, "none of them very conclusive!
I like to meet my friends in the first place; and then a liturgy has a
charm for me. It has a beauty of its own, and I like ceremony. It is not
that I think it sacred--only beautiful. But I quite admit the weakness of
it, which is simply that it does not appeal to everyone, and I don't think
that our Anglican service is an ideal service. It is too refined and
formal; and many people would feel it was more religious if it were more
extempore--prayer and plain advice."

I told him something of my old childish experience, saying that I used to
regard church as a sort of calling-over, and that God would be vexed if one
did not appear.

He laughed at this. "Yes, I don't think we can insist on it as being a
levée," he said, "where one is expected to come and make one's bow and pay
formal compliments. That idea is an old anthropomorphic one, of course. It
is superstitious--it is almost debasing to think of God demanding praise as
a duty incumbent on us. 'To thee all angels cry aloud'--I confess I don't
like the idea of heaven as a place of cheerful noise--that isn't

"And also I think that the attention demanded in our service is a
mistake--it's a mixture of two ideas; the liturgical ceremony which touches
the eye and the emotion, rather than the reason; and the sermon and the
prayer in which the reason is supposed to be concerned. I think the
Catholic idea is a better one, a solemnity performed, in which you don't
take part, but receive impressions. There's no greater strain on the mind
than forcing it to follow a rapid and exalted train of intellectual and
literary thought and expression. I confess I don't attempt that, it seems
to me just a joyful and neighbourly business, where one puts the mind in a
certain expectant mood, and is lucky if one carries a single thrill or
aspiration away."

"What do you _do_, then?" I said.

"Well, I meditate," said Father Payne. "I believe in meditation very much,
and in solitude it is very hard work. But the silent company of friends,
and the old arches and woodwork, some simple music, a ceremony, and a
little plan of thought going on--that seems to me a fruitful atmosphere.
Some verse, some phrase, which I have heard a hundred times before,
suddenly seems written in letters of gold. I follow it a little way into
the dark, I turn it over, I wonder about it, I enjoy its beauty. I don't
say that my thoughts are generally very startling or poignant or profound;
but I feel the sense of the Fatherly, tolerant, indulgent presence of God,
and a brotherly affection for my fellow-men. It's a great thing to be in
the same place with a number of people, all silent, and on the whole
thinking quiet, happy, and contented thoughts. It all brings me into line
with my village friends, it gives me a social mood, and I feel for once
that we all want the same things from life--and that for once instead of
having to work and push for them, we are fed and comforted. 'Open thy mouth
wide, and I will fill it'--that's a wholesome, childlike verse, you know.
The whole thing seems to me a simple device for producing a placid and
expectant mood--I don't know anything else that produces it so well."

"You mean it is something mystical--almost hypnotic?" I said.

"Perhaps I should if I knew what those big words meant," said Father Payne,
smiling. "No; church seems to me a thing that has really grown up out of
human nature, not a thing imposed upon it. I don't like what may be called
ecclesiasticism, partly because it emphasizes the intellectual side of
belief, partly because it tries to cast a slur on the people who don't like
ceremonial, and whom it does not suit--and most of all because
ecclesiasticism aims at making you believe that other people can transact
spiritual business on your account. In these democratic days, you can't
have spiritual authority--you have got to find what people need, and help
them to find it for themselves. The plain truth is that we don't want
dogma. Of course it isn't to be despised, because it once meant something,
even if it does not now. Dogmas are not unintelligible intellectual
propositions imposed on the world. They are explanations, interpretations,
attempts to link facts together. They have the sacredness of ideas which
people lived by, and for which they were prepared to die. But many of them
are scientific in form only, and the substance has gone out of them. We
know more in one sense about life and God than we did, but we also know
less, because we realise there is so much more to know. But now we want, I
believe, two or three great ideas which everyone can understand--like
Fatherhood and Brotherhood, like peace and orderliness and beauty. I think
that a church service means all these things, or ought to. What people need
is simplicity and beauty of life--joy and hope and kindness. Anything which
helps these things on is fine; anything which bewilders and puzzles and
gives a sense of dreariness is simply injurious. I want to be told to be
quiet, to try again, not to be disheartened by failures, not to be angry
with other people, to give up things, rather than to get them with a sauce
of envy and spite--the feeling of a happy and affectionate family, in fact.
The sort of thing I don't want is the Athanasian Creed. I can't regard it
simply as a picturesque monument of ancient and ferocious piety. It seems
to me an overhanging cloud of menace and mystification! It doesn't hurt the
unintelligent Christian, of course--he simply doesn't understand it; but to
the moderately intelligent it is like a dog barking furiously which may
possibly get loose; a little more intelligence, and it is all right. You
know the dog is safely tied up! Again, I don't mind the cursing psalms,
because they give the parson the power of saying: 'We say this to remind
ourselves that it was what people used to feel, and which Christ came to
change.' I don't mind anything that is human--what I can't tolerate is
anything inhuman or unintelligible. No one can misunderstand the
Beatitudes; very few people can follow the arguments of St. Paul! You don't
want only elaborate reasons for clever people, you want still more
beautiful motives for simple people. It isn't perfect, our service, I
admit, but it does me good."

"Tell me," I said--"to go back for a moment--something more about
meditating--I like that!"

"Well," said Father Payne, "it's like anchoring to a thought. Thought is a
fidgety thing, restless, perverse. It anchors itself very easily on to a
grievance, or an unpleasant incident, or a squabble. Don't you know the
misery of being jerked back, time after time, by an unpleasant thought? I
think one ought to practise the opposite--and I know now by experience that
it is possible. I will make a confession. I don't care for many of the Old
Testament lessons myself. I think there's too much fact, or let us say
incident, in them, and not enough poetry. Well, I take up my Bible, and I
look at Job, or Isaiah, or the Revelation, and I read quietly on. Suddenly
there's a gleam of gold in the bed of the stream--some splendid, deep, fine
thought. I follow it out; I think how it has appeared in my own life, or in
the lives of other people--it bears me away on its wings, I pray about it,
I hope to be more like that--and so on. Sometimes it is a sharp revelation
of something ugly and perverse in my own nature--I don't dwell long on
that, but I see in imagination how it is likely to trouble me, and I hope
that it will not delude me again; because these evil things delude one,
they call noxious tricks by fine names. I say to myself, 'What you pretend
is self-respect, or consistency, is really irritable vanity or stupid
unimaginativeness.' But it is a mistake, I think, to dwell long on one's
deficiencies: what one has got to do is to fill one's life full of
positive, active, beautiful things, until there is no room for the ugly
intruders. And, to put it shortly, a service makes me think about other
people and about God; I fear it doesn't make me contrite or sorrowful. I
don't believe in any sort of self-pity, nor do I think one ought to
cultivate shame; those things lie close to death, and it is life that I am
in search of--fulness of life. Don't let us bemoan ourselves, or think that
a sign of grace!"

"But if you find yourself grubby, nasty, suspicious, irritable, isn't it a
good thing to rub it in sometimes?" I said.

"No, no," said Father Payne, "life will do that hard enough. Turn your back
on it all, look at the beautiful things, leave a thief to catch a thief,
and the dead to bury the dead. Don't sniff at the evil thing; go and get a
breath of fresh air."



Father Payne was a very irregular reader of the newspaper; he was not
greedy of news, and he was incurious about events, while he disliked the
way in which they were professionally dished up for human consumption. At
times, however, he would pore long and earnestly over a daily paper with
knitted brows and sighs. "You seem to be suffering a good deal over your
paper to-day, Father!" said Barthrop once, regarding him with amusement.
Father Payne lifted up his head, and then broke into a smile. "It's all
right, my boy!" he said. "I don't despair of the world itself, but I feel
that if the average newspaper represents the mind of the average man, the
human race is very feeble--not worth saving! This sort of
thing"--indicating the paper with a wave of his hand--"makes me realise how
many things there are that don't interest me--and I can't get at them
either through the medium of these writers' minds. They don't seem to want
simply to describe the facts, but to manipulate them; they try to make you
uncomfortable about the future, and contented with the past. It ought to be
just the other way! And then I ask myself, 'Ought I, as a normal human
being, to be as one-sided, as submissive, as trivial, as sentimental as
this?' These vast summaries of public opinion, do they represent anyone's
opinion at all, or are they simply the sort of thing you talk about in a
railway-carriage with a man you don't know? Does anyone's mind really dwell
on such things and ponder them? The newspapers do not really know what is
happening--everything takes them by surprise. The ordinary person is
interested in his work, his amusements, the people he lives with--in real
things. There seems to be nothing real here; it is all shadowy, I want to
get at men's minds, not at what journalists think is in men's minds. The
human being in the newspapers seems to me an utterly unreal person,
picturesque, theatrical, fatuous, slobbering, absurd. Does not the
newspaper-convention misrepresent us as much as the book-convention
misrepresents us? We straggle irregularly along, we are capable of
entertaining at the same moment two wholly contrary opinions, we do what we
don't intend to do, we don't carry out our hopes or our purposes. The man
in the papers is agitated, excited, wild, inquisitive--the ordinary person
is calm, indifferent, and on the whole fairly happy, unless some one
frightens him. I can't make it out, because it isn't a conspiracy to
deceive, and yet it does deceive; and what is more, most people don't even
seem to know that they are being misrepresented. It all seems to me to
differ as much from real life as the Morning Service read in church differs
from the thoughts of the congregation!"

"How would you mend it?" said Barthrop. "It seems to me it must represent

"Something!" 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
room afterwards.

I had a little question of business to ask him on one such occasion after
breakfast. I slipped out but two minutes after him, went to his study, and
knocked. An obscure sound came from within. He was seated on his chair,
bending over his writing-table.

"May I ask you something?" I said.

"Damnation!" said Father Payne.

I apologised, and tried to withdraw on tiptoe, but he said, turning half
round, somewhat impatiently, "Oh, come in, come in--it's all right. What do
you want?"

"I don't want to disturb you," I said.

"Come in, I tell you!" he said, adding, "you may just as well, because I
have nothing to do for a quarter of an hour." He threw a pen on the table.
"It's one of my very few penances. If I swear when I am at work, I do no
work for a quarter of an hour; so you can keep me company. Sit down there!"
He indicated a chair with his large foot, and I sat down.

My question was soon asked and sooner answered. Father Payne beamed upon me
with an indulgent air, and I said: "May I ask what you were doing?"

"You may," he said. "I rejoice to talk about it. It's my novel."

"Your novel!" I said. "I didn't know you wrote novels. What sort of a book
is it?"

"It's wretched," he said, "it's horrible, it's grotesque! It's more like
all other novels than any book I know. It's written in the most abominable
style; there isn't a single good point about it. The incidents are all
hackneyed, there isn't a single lifelike character in it, or a single good
description, or a single remark worth making. I should think it's the worst
book ever written. Will you hear a bit of it? Do, now! only a short bit. I
should love to read it to you."

"Yes, of course," I said, "there is nothing I should like better."

He read a passage. It was very bad indeed, I couldn't have imagined that an
able man could have written such stuff. I had an awful feeling that I had
heard every word before.

"There," he said at last, "that's rather a favourable specimen. What do you
think of it? Come, out with it."

"I'm afraid I'm not very much of a judge," I said.

His face fell. "That's what everyone says," he said. "I know what you mean.
But I'll publish it--I'll be d----d if I won't! Oh, dash it, that's five
minutes more. No--I wasn't working, was I? Just conversing."

"But why do you write it, if you are so dissatisfied with it?" I said

"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
ménage 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?"



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 Brontë said,
'our veins may run ice whenever we are near him.'

"And then, too, can we love any one who knows us perfectly, through and
through? Is it not of the essence of love to be blind? Is it possible for
us to feel that we are worthy of the love of anyone who really knows us?

"And then, too, if disaster and suffering and cruel usage and terror come
from God, without reference to the sensitiveness of the soul and body on
which they fall, can we possibly love the Power which behaves so? What
child could love a father who might at any time strike him? I cannot
believe that God wants an unquestioning and fatuous trust, and still less
the sort of deference we pay to one who may do us a mischief if we do not
cringe before him. All that is utterly unworthy of the mind and soul."

"Is it not possible to believe," I said, "that all experience may be good
for us, however harsh it seems?"

"No rational man can think that," said Father Payne. "Suffering is not good
for people if it is severe and protracted. I have seen many natures go
utterly to pieces under it."

"What do you believe, then?" I said.

"Of course the only obvious explanation," said Father Payne, "is that
suffering, misery, evil, disaster, disease do not come from God at all;
that He is the giver of health and joy and light and happiness; that He
gives us all He can, and spares us all He can; but that there is a great
enemy in the world, whom He cannot instantly conquer; that He is doing all
He can to shield us, and to repair the harm that befalls us--that we can
make common cause with Him, and pity Him for His thwarted plans, His
endless disappointments, His innumerable failures, His grievous sufferings.
It would be easy to love God if He were like that--yet who dares to say it
or to teach it? It is the dreadful doctrine of His Omnipotence that ruins
everything. I cannot hold any communication with Omnipotence--it is a
consuming fire; but if I could know that God was strong and patient and
diligent, but not all-powerful or all-knowing, then I could commune with
Him. If, when some evil mishap overtakes me, I could say to Him, 'Come,
help me, console me, show me how to mend this, give me all the comfort you
can,' then I could turn to Him in love and trust, so long as I could feel
that He did not wish the disaster to happen to me but could not ward it
off, and was as miserable as myself that it had happened. Not _so_
miserable, of course, because He has waited so long, suffered so much, and
can discern so bright and distant a hope. Then, too, I might feel that
death was perhaps our escape from many kinds of evil, and that I should be
clasped to His heart for awhile, even though He sent me out again to fight
His battles. That would evoke all my love and energy and courage, because I
could feel that I could give Him my help; but if He is Almighty, and could
have avoided all the sorrow and pain, then I am simply bewildered and
frightened, because I can predicate nothing about Him."

"Is not that the idea which Christianity aims at?" I said.

"Yes," he said; "the suffering Saviour, who can resist evil and amend it,
but cannot instantly subdue it; but, even so, it seems to set up two Gods
for one. The mind cannot really _identify_ the Saviour with the
Almighty Designer of the Universe. But the thought of the Saviour
_does_ interpret the sense of God's failure and suffering, does bring
it all nearer to the heart. But if there is Omnipotence behind, it all
falls to the ground again--at least it does for me. I cannot pray to
Omnipotence and Omniscience, because it is useless to do so. The limited
and the unlimited cannot join hands. I must, if I am to believe in God,
believe in Him as a warrior arriving on a scene of disorder, and trying to
make all well. He must not have permitted the disorder to grow up, and then
try to subdue it. It must be there first. It is a battle obviously--but it
must be a real battle against a real foe, not a sham fight between hosts
created by God. In that case, 'to think of oneself as an instrument of
God's designs is a privilege one shares with the devil,' as someone said. I
will not believe that He is so little in earnest as that. No, He is the
great invader, who desires to turn darkness to light, rage to peace, misery
to happiness. Then, and only then, can I enlist under His banner, fight for
Him, honour Him, worship Him, compassionate Him, and even love Him; but if
He is in any way responsible for evil, by design or by neglect, then I am
lost indeed!"



"He is the sort of man who is always losing his friends," said Pollard at
dinner to Father Payne, describing someone, "and I always think that's a
bad sign."

"And I, on the contrary," said Father Payne, "think that a man who always
keeps his friends is almost always an ass!" He opened his mouth and drew in
his breath.

"Or else it means," said Barthrop, "that he has never really made any
friends at all!"

"Quite right," said Father Payne. "People talk about friendship as if it
was a perfectly normal thing, like eating and drinking--it's not that! It's
a difficult thing, and it is a rare thing. I do not mean mere proximities
and easy comradeships and muddled alliances; there are plenty of frank and
pleasant companionships about of a solid kind. Still less do I mean the
sort of thing which is contained in such an expression as 'Dear old boy!'
which is always a half-contemptuous phrase."

"But isn't loyalty a fine quality?" said Lestrange.

"Loyalty!" said Father Payne. "Of course you must play fair, and be ready
to stick by a man, and do him a kindness, and help him up if he has a fall;
but that is not friendship--at least it isn't what I mean by friendship.
Friendship is a sort of passion, without anything sexual or reproductive
about it. There is a physical basis about it, of course. I mean there are
certain quite admirable, straightforward, pleasant people, whom you may
meet and like, and yet with whom you could never be friends, though they
may be quite capable of friendship, and have friends of their own. A man's
presence and his views and emotions must be in some sort of tune with your
own. There are certain people, not in the least repellent, genial, kindly,
handsome, excellent in every way, with whom you simply are not comfortable.
On the other hand, there are people of no great obvious attractiveness with
whom you feel instantaneously at ease. There is something mysterious about
it, some currents that don't mix, and some that do. A thousand years hence
we shall probably know something about it we don't now."

"I feel that very strongly about books," said Kaye. "There are certain
authors, who have skill, charm, fancy, invention, style--all the things you
value--who yet leave you absolutely cold. They have every qualification for
pleasing except the power to please. It is simply a case of Dr. Fell! You
can't give a single valid reason why you don't like them."

"Yes, indeed," said Father Payne. "and then, again, there are authors whom
you like at a certain age and under certain circumstances, and who end by
boring you; and again, authors whom you don't like when you are young, and
like better when you are old. Does your idea of loyalty apply also to
books, Lestrange, or to music?"

"No," said Lestrange, "to be frank, it does not; but I think that is
different--a lot of technical things come in, and then one's taste alters."

"And that is just the same with people," said Father Payne. "Why, what does
loyalty mean in such a connection? You have admired a book or a piece of
music; you cease to admire it. Are you to go on saying you admire it, or to
pretend to yourself that you admire it? Of course not--that is simply
hypocrisy--there is nothing real about that."

"But what are you to do," said Vincent, "about people? You can't treat them
like books or music. You need not go on reading a book which you have
ceased to admire. But what if you have made a friend, and then ceased to
care for him, and he goes on caring for you? Are you to throw him over?"

"I admit that there is a difficulty," said Father Payne; "I agree that you
must not disappoint people; but it is also somehow your duty to get out of
a relation that is no longer a real one. It can't be wholesome to simulate
emotions for the sake of loyalty. It must all depend upon which you think
the finer thing--the emotion or the tie. Personally, I think the emotion is
the more sacred of the two."

"But does it not mean that you have made a mistake somehow," said Vincent,
"if you have made a friend, and then cease to care about him?"

"Not a bit," said Father Payne. "Why, people change very much, and some
people change faster than others. A man may be exactly what you want at a
certain time of life; he may be ahead of you in ideas, in qualities, in
emotions; and what starts a friendship is the perception of something fine
and desirable in another, which you admire and want to imitate. But then
you may outstrip your friend. Take the case of an artist. He may have an
admiration for another artist, and gain much from him; but then he may go
right ahead of him. He can't go on admiring and deferring out of mere

"But must there not be in every real friendship a _purpose_ of
continuance?" said Vincent. "It surely is a very selfish sort of business,
if you say to yourself, 'I will make friends with this man because I admire
him now, but when, I have got all I can out of him, I will discard him.'"

"Of course, you must not think in that coldblooded way," said Father Payne,
"but it can never be more than a _hope_ of continuance. You may
_hope_ to find a friendship a continuous and far-reaching thing. It
may be quite right to get to know a man, believing him to have fine
qualities; but you can't pledge yourself to admire whatever you find in
him. We have to try experiments in friendship as in everything else. It is
purely sentimental to say, 'I am going to believe in this man blindfold,
whatever I find him to be,' That's a rash vow! You must not take rash vows;
and if you do, you must be prepared to break them. Besides, you can't
depend upon your friend not altering. He may lose some of the very things
you most admire. The mistake is to believe that anything can be consistent
or permanent."

"But if you _don't_ believe that," said Lestrange, "are you justified
in entering upon intimate relations at all?"

"Of course you are," said Father Payne; "you can't live life on prudent
lines. You can't say, 'I won't engage in life, or take a hand in it, or
believe in it, or love it, till I know more about it.' You can't foresee
all contingencies and risks. You must take risks."

"I expect," said Barthrop, "that we are meaning different things by
friendship. Let us define our terms. What do _you_ mean by friendship,

"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
unknown quantity."

The Wetheralls duly appeared, and proved very simple people. Father Payne,
to our surprise, seemed to be soaked in mission literature, and drew out
Mr. Wetherall with patient skill. But Miss Phyllis was a perfectly
delightful girl, very simple and straightforward, extremely pretty in a
boyish fashion, and quite used to the ways of the world. We would willingly
have entertained her, and did our best; but she made fast friends with
Father Payne, with the utmost promptitude, and the two were for ever
strolling about or sitting out together. The talk at meals was of a sedate
character, but Miss Phyllis used to intercept Father Payne's humorous
remarks with a delighted little smile, and Father Payne would shake his
head gravely at her in return. Miss Phyllis said to me one morning, as we
were sitting in the garden: "You seem to have a very good time here, all of
you--it feels like something in a book--it is too good to be true!"

"Ah," I said, "but this is a holiday, of course! We work very hard in
term-time, and we are very serious." Miss Phyllis looked at me with her
blue eyes in silence for a moment, with an ironical little curve of her
lips, and said: "I don't believe a word of it! I believe it is just a
little Paradise, and I suspect it of being rather a selfish Paradise. Why
do you shut everyone out?"

"Oh, it is a case of 'business first'!" I said. "Father Payne keeps us all
in very good order." "Yes," said Phyllis, "I expect he can do that. But do
any of you men realise what an absolutely enchanting person he is? I have
never seen anyone in the least like him! He understands everything, and
sees everything, and cares for everything--he is so big and kind and
clever. Why, isn't he something tremendous?" "He is," I said. "Oh yes, but
you know what I mean," said Miss Phyllis; "he's a _great_ man, and he
ought to have the reins in his hand. He ought not to potter about here!"

"Well," I said, "I have wondered about that myself. But he knows his own
mind--he's a very happy man!" Miss Phyllis pondered silently, and said: "I
don't think you realise your blessings. Father Payne is like the boy in the
story--the man born to be king, you know. He ought not to be wasted like
this! He ought to be ruler over ten cities. Dear me, I don't often wish I
were a man, but I would give anything to be one of you. Won't you tell me
something more about him?"

I did my best, and Phyllis listened absorbed, dangling a shapely little
foot over her knee, and playing with a flower. "Yes," she said at last,
"that is what I thought! I see you _do_ appreciate him after all. I
won't make that mistake again." And she gave me a fine smile. I liked the
company of this radiant creature, but at this moment Father Payne appeared
at the other end of the garden. "Don't think me rude," said Miss Phyllis,
"but I am going to talk to Father Payne. It's my last day, and I must get
all I can out of him." She fled, and presently they went off together for a
stroll, a charming picture. She carried him off likewise after dinner, and
they sate long in the dusk. I could hear Father Payne's emphatic tones and
Phyllis's refreshing laughter.

The next morning the Wetheralls went off. Barthrop and I, with Father
Payne, saw them go. The Wetheralls were serenely enjoying the prospect of
returning home after a successful visit, but Miss Phyllis looked mournful,
and as if she were struggling with concealed emotions. She kissed her hand
to Father Payne as the carriage drove away.

"Very worthy people!" said Father Payne cheerfully, as the carriage passed
out of sight. "I am very glad to have seen them, and no less thankful that
they are gone."

"But the charming Phyllis?" said Barthrop, "Is that all you have to say
about her? I never saw a more delightful girl!"

"She is--quite delightful," said Father Payne. "Phyllis is my only joy! The
sight of her and the sound of her make me feel as if I had been reading an
Elizabethan song-book--'Sing hey, nonny nonny!' But why didn't one of you
fellows make up to her?--that's a girl worth the winning!"

"Why didn't we make up to her?" I said indignantly. "I wonder you have the
face to ask, Father! Why, she was simply taken up with you, and she hadn't
a word or a look for anyone else. I never saw such a case of love at first

"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
Chénaie? 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
chance colour."

"Yes, but that is because you are _in statu pupillari_," said Father
Payne, "If a man begins by searching for colour and ornament and richness,
he gets clotted and glutinous. Colour looks after itself--but it isn't
clearness that I am afraid of, it is shrewdness--I think that is, on the
whole, a low quality, but it is awfully strong! What I am afraid of, in
bare laborious country like that, is that people should only think of what
is comfortable and sensible. Imagination is what really matters. It is not
enough to have solid emotions; one ought not to be too reasonable about
emotions. The thing is to care in an unreasonable and rapturous way about
beautiful things, and not to know why one cares. That is the point of
things which are simply beautiful and nothing else,--that you feel it isn't
all capable of explanation."

"But isn't that rather sentimental?" said Rose.

"No, no, it's just the opposite," said Father Payne. "Sentiment is when one
understands and exaggerates an emotion; beauty isn't that--it is something
mysterious and inexplicable; it makes you bow the head and worship. Take
the sort of thing you may see on the coast of Italy--a blue sea, with gray
and orange cliffs falling steeply down into deep water; a gap, with a
clustering village, coming down, tier by tier, to the sea's edge; fantastic
castles on spires of rock, thickets and dingles running down among the
clefts and out on the ledges, and perhaps a glimpse of pale, fantastic
hills behind. No one could make it or design it; but every line, every
blending colour, all combine to give you the sense of something
marvellously and joyfully contrived, and made for the richness and
sweetness of it. That is the sort of moment when I feel the overwhelming
beauty and nearness of God--everything done on a vast scale, which floods
mind and heart with utter happiness and wonder. Anything so overpoweringly
joyful and delicious and useless as all that _must_ come out of a
fulness of joy. The sharp cliffs mean some old cutting and slashing, the
blistering and burning of the earth; and yet those old rents have been
clothed and mollified by some power that finds it worth while to do it--and
it isn't done for you or me, either--there must be treasures of loveliness
going on hidden for centuries in tropic forests. It's done for the sake of
doing it; and we are granted a glimpse of it, just to show us perhaps that
we are right to adore it, and to try in our clumsy way to make beautiful
things too. That is why I envy the musician, because he creates beauty more
directly then any other mind--and the best kind of poetry is of the same

"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
and joy."



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
the world."

"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."



"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
from us?"

"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
without memory."

"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
found--and, mind you, it isn't very common. Many people have to arrive at
success by resolute self-limitation; and that becomes very uninteresting.
Buoyancy, sympathy, quick interests, perceptiveness--that's the supreme
charm; and the worst of it is that it mostly belongs to the people who
haven't taken too much out of themselves. When we have got a really
well-ordered State, no one will have any reason to work too hard, and then
we shall all be the happier. These gigantic toilers, it's a sort of
morbidity, you know; the real success is to enjoy work, not to drudge
yourself dry. One must overflow--not pump!"

"But what is an artist to do," I said, "who is simply haunted by the desire
to make something beautiful?"

"He must hold his hand," said Father Payne; "he must learn to waste his
time, and he must love wasting it. A habit of creative work is an awful

"Come out for a turn," he went on; "never mind these rotten books; don't
get into a habit of reading--it's like endlessly listening to good talk
without ever joining in it--it makes a corpulent mind!"

We went and walked in the garden; he stopped before some giant hemlocks.
"Just look at those great things," he said, "built up as geometrically as a
cathedral, tier above tier, and yet not _quite_ regular. There must be
something very hard at work inside that, piling it all up, adding cell to
cell, carrying out a plan, and enjoying it all. Yet the beauty of it is
that it isn't perfectly regular. You see the underlying scheme, yet the
separate shoots are not quite mechanical--they lean away from each other,
that joint is a trifle shorter--there wasn't quite room at the start in
that stem, and the pressure goes on showing right up to the top, I suppose
our lives would look very nearly as geometrical to anyone who
_knew_--really knew; but how little geometrical we feel! I don't
suppose this hemlock is cursed by the power of thinking it might have done
otherwise, or envies the roses. We mustn't spend time in envying, or
repenting either--or still less in renouncing life."

"But if I want to renounce it," I said, "why shouldn't I?"

"Yes, there you have me," said Father Payne; "we know so little about
ourselves, that we don't always know whether we do better to renounce a
thing or to seize it. Make experiments, I say--don't make habits."

"But you are always drilling me into habits," I said.

He gave me a little shake with his hand. "Yes, the habit of being able to
do a thing," he said, "not the habit of being unable to do anything else!
Hang these metaphysics, if that is what they are! What I want you young men
to do is to get a firm hold upon life, and to feel that it is a finer thing
than any little presentment of it. I want you to feel and enjoy for
yourselves, and to live freely and generously. Bad things happen to all of
us, of course; but we mustn't mind that--not to be petty or quarrelsome, or
hidebound or prudish or over-particular, that's the point. To leave other
people alone, except on the rare occasions when they are not letting other
people alone; to be peaceable, and yet not to be afraid; not to be hurt and
vexed; to practise forgetting; not to want to pouch things! It's all very
well for me to talk," he said; "I made a sufficient hash of it, when I was
poor and miserable and overworked; and then I was transplanted out of a
slum window-box into a sunny garden, just in time; yet I'm sure that most
of my old troubles were in a way of my own making, because I hated being so
insignificant; but I fear that was a little poison lurking in me from the
Earls of Shropshire. That is the odd thing about ambitions, that they seem
so often like regaining a lost position rather than making a new one. The
truth is that we are caged; and the only thing to do is to think about the
cage as little as we can."



One day I was strolling down the garden among the winding paths, when I
came suddenly upon Father Payne, who was hurrying towards the house. He had
in each of his hands a large roughly spherical stone, and looked at me a
little shamefacedly.

"You look, Father," I said, "as if you were going to stone Stephen."

He laughed, and looked at the stones. "Yes," he said, "they are what the
Greeks called 'hand-fillers,' for use in battle--but I have no nefarious

"What are you going to do with them?" I said

"That's a secret!" he said, and made as if he were going in. Then he said,
"Come, you shall hear it--you shall share my secret, and be a partner in my
dreams, as the fisherman says in Theocritus." But he did not tell me what
he was going to do, and seemed half shy of doing so.

"It's like Dr. Johnson and the orange-peel," I said. "'Nay, Sir, you shall
know their fate no further.'"

"Well, the truth is," he said at last, "that I'm a perfect baby. I never
can resist looking into a hole in the ground, and I happened to look into
the pit where we dig gravel. I can't tell you how long I spent there."

"What were you doing?" I said.

"Looking for fossils," he said; "I had a great gift for finding them when I
was a child. I didn't find any fossils to-day, but I found these stones,
and I think they contain crystals. I am going to break them and see."

I took one in my hand. "I think they are only fossil sponges," I said;
"there will only be a rusty sort of core inside."

"You know that!" he said, brightening up; "you know about stones too? But
these are not sponges--they would rattle if they were--no, they contain
crystals--I am sure of it. Come and see!"

We went into the stable-yard. Father Payne fetched a hammer, and then
selected a convenient place in the cobbled yard to break the stones. He put
one of them in position, and aimed a blow at it, but it glanced off, and
the stone flew off with the impact to some distance. "Lie still, can't
you?" said Father Payne, apostrophising the stone, and adding, "This is for
my pleasure, not for yours." I recovered the stone, and brought it back,
and Father Payne broke it with a well-directed blow. He gathered up the
pieces eagerly. "Yes," he said, "it's all right--they are blue crystals:
better than I had hoped."

He handed a fragment to me to look at. The inside of the stone was hollow.
It had a coagulated appearance, and was thickly coated with minute bluish
crystals, very beautiful.

"I don't know that I ever saw a stone I liked as well as this," said Father
Payne, musing over another piece. "Think what millions of years this has
been like that,--before Abraham was! It has never seen the light of day
before--it's a splash of some molten stone, which fell plop into a cool
sea-current, I suppose. I wish I knew all about it. The question, is, why
is it so beautiful? It couldn't help it, I suppose! But for whose delight?"
Then he said, "I suppose this was a vacuum in here till it was broken? That
is why it is so clear and fresh. Good Heavens, what would I not give to
know why this thing cooled into these lovely little shapes. It's no use
talking about the laws of matter--why are the laws of matter what they are,
and not different? And odder still, why do I like the look of it?"

"Perhaps that is a law of matter too," I said.

"Oh, shut up!" said Father Payne to me. "But I understand--and of course
the temptation is to believe that this was all done on your account and
mine. That is as odd a thing as the stone itself, if you come to think of
it, that we should be made so that we refer everything to ourselves, and to
believe that God prepared this pretty show for us."

"I suppose we come in somewhere?" I said.

"Yes, we are allowed to see it," said Father Payne. "But it wasn't arranged
for the benefit of a silly old man like me. That is the worst of our
religious theories--that we believe that God is for ever making personal
appeals to us. It is that sort of self-importance which spoils everything."

"But I can hardly believe that we have this sense of self-importance only
to get rid of it," I said. "It all seems to me a dreadful muddle--to shut
up these lovely little things inside millions of stones, and then to give
us the wish to break a couple, only that we may reflect that they were not
meant for us to see at all."

Father Payne gave a groan. "Yes, it is a muddle!" he said. "But one thing I
feel clear about--that a beautiful thing like this means a sense of joy
somewhere: some happiness went to the making of things which in a sense are
quite useless, but are unutterably lovely all the same. Beauty implies
consciousness--but come, we are neglecting our business. Give me the other
stone at once!"

I gave it him, and he cracked it. "Very disappointing!" he said. "I made
sure there was a beautiful stone, but it is all solid--only a flaky sort of
jelly--it's no use at all!"

He threw it aside, but carefully gathered up the fragments of the
crystalline stone. "Don't tell of me!" he said, looking at me whimsically.
"This is the sort of nonsense which our sensible friends won't understand.
But now that I know that you care about stones, we will have a rare hunt
together one of these days. But mind--no stuff about geology! It's beauty
that we are in search of, you and I."



One day, to my surprise and delight, Father Payne indulged in some personal
reminiscences about his early life. He did not as a rule do this. He used
to say that it was the surest sign of decadence to think much about the
past. "Sometimes when I wake early," he said, "I find myself going back to
my childhood, and living through scene after scene. It's not wholesome--I
always know I am a little out of sorts when I do that--it is only one
degree better than making plans about the future!"

However, on this occasion he was very communicative. He had been talking
about Ruskin, and he said: "Do you remember in _Praeterita_ how
Ruskin, writing about his sheltered and complacent childhood, describes how
entirely he lived in the pleasure of _sight_? He noticed everything,
the shapes and colours of things, the almond blossom, the ants that made
nests in the garden walk, the things they saw in their travels. He was
entirely absorbed in sense-impressions. Well, that threw a light on my own
life, because it was exactly what happened to me as a child. I lived wholly
in observation. I had no mind and very little heart. I suppose that I had
so much to do looking at everything, getting the shapes and the textures
and the qualities of everything by heart, that I had no time to think about
ideas and emotions. I had a very lonely childhood, you know, brought up in
the country by my mother, who was rather an invalid, my father being dead.
I had no companions to speak of, and I didn't care about anyone or need
anyone--it was all simply a collecting of impressions. The result is that I
can visualise anything and everything--speak of a larch-bud or a fir-cone,
and there it is before me--the little rosy fragrant tuft, or the glossy
rectangular squares of the cone. Then I went to Marlborough, and I was
dreadfully unhappy, I hated everything and everybody--the ugliness and
slovenliness of it all, the noise, the fuss, the stink. I did not feel I
had anything in common with those little brutes, as I thought them. I lived
the life of a blind creature in a fright, groping aimlessly about. I joined
in nothing--but I was always strong, and so I was left alone. No one dared
to interfere with me; and I have sometimes wished I hadn't been so strong,
that I had had the experience of being weak. I dare say that nasty things
might have happened--but I should have known more what the world was like,
I should have depended more upon other people, I should have made friends.
As it was, I left school entirely innocent, very solitary, very modest,
thinking myself a complete duffer, and everyone else a beast. It got a
little better at the end of my time, and I had a companion or two--but I
never dreamed of telling anyone what I was really thinking about."

He broke off suddenly. "This is awful twaddle!" he said. "Why should you
care to hear about all this? I was thinking aloud."

"Do go on thinking aloud a little," I said; "it is most interesting!"

"Ah," he said, "with the flatterers were busy mockers! You enjoy staring
and looking upon me."

"No, no," I said, rather nettled. "Father Payne, don't you understand? I
want to hear more about you. I want to know how you came to be what you
are: it interests me more than I can say. You asked me about myself when I
came here, and I told you. Why shouldn't I ask you, for a change?"

He smiled, obviously pleased at this. "Why, then," he said, "I'll go on.
I'm not above liking to tell my tale, like the Ancient Mariner. You can
beat your breast when you are tired of it." He was intent for a moment, and
then went on. "Well, I went up to Oxford--to Corpus. A funny little place,
I now think--rather intellectual. I could hardly believe my senses when I
found how different it was from school, and how independent. Heavens, how
happy I was! I made some friends--I found I could make friends after all--I
could say what I liked, I could argue, I could even amuse them. I really
couldn't make you realise how I adored some of those men. I used to go to
sleep after a long evening of chatter, simply hating the darkness which
separated me from life and company. There were two in particular, very
ordinary young men, I expect. But they were fond of me, and liked being
with me, and I thought them the most wonderful and enchanting persons, with
a wide knowledge of the great mysterious world. The world! It wasn't, I
saw, a nasty, jostling place, as I had thought at school, but a great
beautiful affair, full of love and delight, of interest and ideas. I read,
I talked, I flew about--it was simply a new birth! I felt like a prisoner
suddenly released. Of course, the mischief was that I neglected my work.
There wasn't time for that: and I fell in love, too, or thought I did, with
the sister of one of those friends, with whom I went to stay. I wonder if
anyone was ever in love like that! I daresay it's common enough. But I
won't go into that; these raptures are for private consumption. I was
roughly jerked up. I took a bad degree. My mother died--I had very little
in common with her: she was an invalid without any hold on life, and I took
no trouble to be kind to her--I was perfectly selfish and wilful. Then I
had to earn my living. I would have given anything to stay at Oxford: and
you know, even now, when I think of Oxford, a sort of electric shock goes
through me, I love it so much. I daren't even set foot there, I'm so afraid
of finding it altered. But when I think of those dark courts and bowery
gardens, and the men moving about, and the fronts of blistered stone, and
the little quaint streets, and the meadows and elms, and the country all
about, I have a physical yearning that is almost a pain--a sort of

He broke off, and was silent for a moment, and I saw that his eyes were
full of tears.

"Then it was London, that accursed place! I had a tiny income: I got a job
at a coaching establishment, I worked like the devil. That was a cruel
time. I couldn't dream of marriage--that all vanished, and she married
pretty soon, I couldn't get a holiday--I was too poor. I tried writing, but
I made a hash of that. I simply went down into hell. One of my great
friends died, and the other--well, it was awkward to meet, when I had had
to break it off with his sister. I simply can't describe to you how utterly
horrible it all was. I used to teach all the terms, and in the vacations I
simply mooned about. I hadn't a club, and I used to read at the
Museum--read just to keep my senses. Then, I suppose I got used to it. Of
course, if I had had any adventurousness in me, I should have gone off and
become a day-labourer or anything--but I am not that sort of person.

"That went on till I was about thirty-three--and then quite suddenly, and
without any warning, I had my experience. I suppose that something was
going on inside me all the time, something being burnt out of me in those
fires. It was a mixture of selfishness and stupidity and perverseness that
was the matter with me. I didn't see that I could do anything. I was simply
furious with the world for being such a hole, and with God for sticking me
in the middle of it. The occasion of the change was simply too ridiculous.
It was nothing else but coming back to my rooms and finding a big bowl of
daffodils there. They had been left, my landlady told me, by a young
gentleman. It sounds foolish enough--but it suddenly occurred to me to
think that someone was interested in me, pitied me, cared for me. A sort of
mist cleared away from my eyes, and I saw in a flash, what was the
mischief--that I had walled myself in by my misery and bad temper, and by
my expectation that something must be done for me. The next day I had to
take a lot of pupils, one after another, for composition. One of them had a
daffodil in his hand, which he put down carelessly on the table. I stared
at it and at him, and he blushed. He wasn't an interesting young man to
look at or to talk to--but it was just a bit of simple humanity. It all
came out. I had been good to him--I looked as if I were having a bad time.
It was just a little human, signal, and a beautiful one. It was there,
then, all the time, I saw--human affection--if I cared to put out my hand
for it. I can't describe to you how it all developed, but my heart had
melted somehow--thawed like a lump of ice. I saw that there was no specific
ill-will to me in the world. I saw that everything was there, if I only
chose to take it. That was my second awakening--a glimmer of light through
a chink--and suddenly, it was day! I had been growling over bones and straw
in a filthy kennel, and I was not really tied up at all. Life was running
past me, a crystal river. I was dying of thirst: and all because it was not
given me in a clean glass on a silver tray, I would not drink it--and God
smiling at me all the time."

Father Payne walked on in silence.

"The truth is, my boy," he said a minute later, "that I'm a converted man,
and it isn't everyone who can say that--nor do I wish everyone to be
converted, because it's a ghastly business preparing for the operation. It
isn't everyone who needs it--only those self-willed, devilish, stand-off,
proud people, who have to be braised in a mortar and pulverised to atoms.
Then, when you are all to bits, you can be built up. Do you remember that
stone we broke the other day? Well, I was a melted blob of stone, and then
I was crystallised--now I'm full of eyes within! And the best of it is that
they are little living eyes, and not sparkling flints--they see, they don't
reflect! At least I think so; and I don't think trouble is brewing for me
again--though that is always the danger!"

I was very deeply moved by this, and said something about being grateful.

"Oh, not that," said Father Payne; "you don't know what fun it has been to
me to tell you. That's the sort of thing that I want to get into one of my
novels, but I can't manage it. But the moral is, if I may say so: Be afraid
of self-pity and dignity and self-respect--don't be afraid of happiness and
simplicity and kindness. Give yourself away with both hands. It's easy for
me to talk, because I have been loaded with presents ever since: the clouds
drop fatness--a rich but expressive image that!"



"I'm feeling low to-night," said Father Payne in answer to a question about
his prolonged silence. "I'm not myself: virtue has gone out of me--I'm in
the clutches of a bloodsucker."

"Old debts with compound interest?" said Rose cheerfully.

"Yes," said Father Payne with a frown; "old emotional I.O.U.'s. I didn't
know what I was putting my name to."

"A man or a woman?" said Rose.

"Thank God, it's a man!" said Father Payne. "Female bloodsuckers are worse
still. A man, at all events, only wants the blood; a woman wants the
pleasure of seeing you wince as well!"

"It sounds very tragic," said Kaye.

"No, it's not tragic," said Father Payne; "there would be something
dignified about that! It's only unutterably low and degrading. Come, I'll
tell you about it. It will do me good to get it off my chest.

"It is one of my old pupils," Father Payne went on. "He once got into
trouble about money, and I paid his debts--he can't forgive me that!"

"Does he want you to pay some more?" said Rose.

"Yes, he does," said Father Payne, "but he wants to be high-minded too. He
wants me to press him to take the money, to prevail upon him to accept it
as a favour. He implies that if I hadn't begun by paying his debts
originally, he would not have ever acquired what he calls 'the unhappy
habit of dependence.' Of course he doesn't think that really: he wants the
money, but he also wants to feel dignified. 'If I thought it would make you
happier if I accepted it,' he says, 'of course I should view the matter
differently. It would give me a reason for accepting what I must confess
would be a humiliation,' Isn't that infernal? Then he says that I may
perhaps think that his troubles have coarsened him, but that he unhappily
retains all his old sensitiveness. Then he goes on to say that it was I who
encouraged him to preserve a high standard of delicacy in these matters."

"He must be a precious rascal," said Vincent.

"No, he isn't," said Father Payne, "that's the worst of it--but he is a
frantic poseur. He has got so used to talking and thinking about his
feelings, that he doesn't know what he really does feel. That's the part of
it which bothers me: because if he was a mere hypocrite, I would say so
plainly. One must not be taken in by apparent hypocrisy. It often
represents what a man did once really think, but which has become a mere
memory. One must not be hard on people's reminiscences. Don't you know how
the mildest people are often disposed to make out that they were reckless
and daring scapegraces at school? That isn't a lie; it is imagination
working on very slender materials."

We laughed at this, and then Barthrop said, "Let me write to him, Father. I
won't be offensive."

"I know you wouldn't," said Father Payne; "but no one can help me. It's not
my fault, but my misfortune. It all comes of acting for the best. I ought
to have paid his debts, and made myself thoroughly unpleasant about it.
What I did was to be indulgent and sympathetic. It's all that accursed
sentimentality that does it. I have been trying to write a letter to him
all the morning, showing him up to himself without being brutal. But he
will only write back and say that I have made him miserable, and that I
have wholly misunderstood him: and then I shall explain and apologise; and
then he will take the money to show that he forgives me. I see a horrible
vista of correspondence ahead. After four or five letters, I shall not have
the remotest idea what it is all about, and he will be full of reproaches.
He will say that it isn't the first time that he has found how the increase
of wealth makes people ungenerous. Oh, don't I know every step of the way!
He is going to have the money, and he is going to put me in the wrong: that
is his plan, and it is going to come off. I shall be in the wrong: I feel
in the wrong already!"

"Then in that case there is certainly no necessity for losing the money
too!" said Rose.

"It's all very well for you to talk in that impersonal way, Rose," said
Father Payne. "Of course I know very well that you would handle the
situation kindly and decisively; but you don't know what it is to suffer
from politeness like a disease. I have done nothing wrong except that I
have been polite when I might have been dry. I see right through the man,
but he is absolutely impervious; and it is my accursed politeness that
makes it impossible for me to say bluntly what I know he will dislike and
what he genuinely will not understand. I know what you are thinking, every
one of you--that I say lots of things that you dislike--but then you
_do_ understand! I could no more tell this wretch the truth than I
could trample on a blind old man."

"What will you really do?" said Barthrop.

"I shall send him the money," said Father Payne firmly, "and I shall
compliment him on his delicacy; and then, thank God, I shall forget, until
it all begins again. I am a wretched old opportunist, of course; a sort of
Ally Sloper--not fit company for strong and concise young men!"



I do not remember what led to this remark of Father Payne's:--"It's a
painful fact, from the ethical point of view, that qualities are more
admired, and more beautiful indeed, the more instinctive they are. We don't
admire the faculty of taking pains very much. The industrious boy at school
is rather disliked than otherwise, while the brilliant boy who can construe
his lesson without learning it is envied. Take a virtue like courage: the
love of danger, the contempt of fear, the power of dashing headlong into a
thing without calculating the consequences is the kind of courage we
admire. The person who is timid and anxious, and yet just manages
desperately to screw himself up to the sticking-point, does not get nearly
as much credit as the bold devil-may-care person. It is so with most
performances; we admire ease and rapidity much more than perseverance and
tenacity, what obviously costs little effort rather than what costs a great

"We all rather tend to be bored by a display of regularity and discipline.
Do you remember that letter of Keats, where he confesses his intense
irritation at the way in which his walking companion, Brown, I think,
always in the evening got out his writing-materials in the same
order--first the paper, then the ink, then the pen. 'I say to him,' says
Keats, 'why not the pen sometimes first?' We don't like precision; look at
the word 'Methodist,' which originally was a nick-name for people of
strictly disciplined life. We like something a little more gay and

"Yet the power of forcing oneself by an act of will to do something
unpleasant is one of the finest qualities in the world. There is a story of
a man who became a Bishop. He was a delicate and sensitive fellow, much
affected by a crowd, and particularly by the sight of people passing in
front of him. He began his work by holding an enormous confirmation, and
five times in the course of it he actually had to retire to the vestry,
where he was physically sick. That's a heroic performance; but we admire
still more a bland and cheerful Bishop who is not sick, but enjoys a

"Surely that is all right, Father Payne?" said Barthrop. "When we see a
performance, we are concerned with appreciating the merit of it. A man with
a bad headache, however gallant, is not likely to talk as well as a man in
perfect health and high spirits; but if we are not considering the
performance, but the virtues of the performer, we might admire the man who
pumped up talk when he was feeling wretched more than the man from whom it

"The judicious Barthrop!" said Father Payne. "Yes, you are right--but for
all that we do not instinctively admire effort as much as we admire easy
brilliance. We are much more inclined to imitate the brilliant man than we
are to imitate the man who has painfully developed an accomplishment. The
truth is, we are all of us afraid of effort; and instinct is generally so
much more in the right than reason, that I end by believing that it is
better to live freely in our good qualities, than painfully to conquer our
bad qualities; not to take up work that we can't do from a sense of duty,
but to take up work that we can do from a sense of pleasure. I believe in
finding our real life more than in sticking to one that is not real for the
sake of virtue. Trained inclination is the secret. That is why I should
never make a soldier. I love being in a rage--no one more--it has all the
advantages and none of the disadvantages of getting drunk. But I can't do
it on the word of command."

"Isn't that what is called hedonism?" said Lestrange.

"You must not get in the way of calling names!" said Father Payne;
"hedonism is a word invented by Puritans to discourage the children of
light. It is not a question of doing what you like, but of liking what you
do. Of course everyone has got to choose--you can't gratify all your
impulses, because they thwart each other; but if you freely gratify your
finer impulses, you will have much less temptation to indulge your baser
inclinations. It is more important to have the steam up and to use the
brake occasionally, than never to have the steam up at all."



We had been listening to a paper by Kaye--a beautiful and fanciful piece of
work; when he finished, Father Payne said: "That's a charming thing,
Kaye--a little sticky in places, but still beautiful."

"It's not so good as I had hoped," said Kaye mildly.

"Oh, don't be humble," said Father Payne; "that's the basest of the
virtues, because it vanishes the moment you realise it! Make your bow like
a man. It may not be as good as you hoped--nothing ever is--but surely it
is better than you expected?"

Kaye blushed, and said, "Well, yes, it is."

"Now let me say generally," said Father Payne, "that in art you ought never
to undervalue your own work. You ought all to be able to recognise how far
you have done what you intended. The big men, like Tennyson and Morris,
were always quite prepared to praise their own work. They did it quite
modestly, more as if some piece of good fortune had befallen them than as
if they deserved credit. There's no such thing as taking credit to oneself
in art. What you try to do is always bound to be miles ahead of what you
can do--that is where the humility comes in. But a man who can't admire his
own work on occasions, can't admire anyone's work. If you do a really good
thing, you ought to feel as if you had been digging for diamonds and had
found a big one. Hang it, you _intend_ to make a fine thing! You are
not likely to be conceited about it, because you can't make a beautiful
thing every day; and the humiliation comes in when, after turning out a
good thing, you find yourself turning out a row of bad ones. The only
artists who are conceited are those who can't distinguish between what is
good and what is inferior in their own work. You must not expect much
praise, and least of all from other artists, because no artist is ever very
deeply interested in another artist's work, except in the work of the two
or three who can do easily what he is trying to do. But it is a deep
pleasure, which may be frankly enjoyed, to turn out a fine bit of work;
though you must not waste much time over enjoying it, because you have got
to go on to the next."

"I always think it must be very awful," said Vincent, "when it dawns upon a
man that his mind is getting stiff and his faculty uncertain, and that he
is not doing good work any more. What ought people to do about stopping?"

"It's very hard to say," said Father Payne. "The happiest thing of all is,
I expect, to die before that comes; and the next best thing is to know when
to stop and to want to stop. But many people get a habit of work, and fall
into dreariness without it."

"Isn't it better to go on with the delusion that you are just as good as
ever--like Wordsworth and Browning?" said Rose.

"No, I don't think that is better," said Father Payne, "because it means a
sort of blindness. It is very curious in the case of Browning, because he
learned exactly how to do things. He had his method, he fixed upon an
abnormal personality or a curious incident, and he turned it inside out
with perfect fidelity. But after a certain time in his life, the thing
became suddenly heavy and uninteresting. Something evaporated--I do not
know what! The trick is done just as deftly, but one is bored; one simply
doesn't care to see the inside of a new person, however well dissected.
There's no life, no beauty about the later things. Wordsworth is somehow
different--he is always rather noble and prophetic. The later poems are not
beautiful, but they issue from a beautiful idea--a passion of some kind.
But the later Browning poems are not passionate--they remind one of a
surgeon tucking up his sleeves for a set of operations. I expect that
Browning was too humble; he loved a gentlemanly convention, and Wordsworth
certainly did not do that. If you want to know how a poet should
_live_, read Dorothy Wordsworth's journals at Grasmere; if you want to
know how he should _feel_, read the letters of Keats."



I had been having some work looked over by Father Payne, who had been
somewhat trenchant. "You have been beating a broken drum, you know," he had
said, with a smile.

"Yes," I said. "It's poor stuff, I see. But I didn't know it was so bad
when I wrote it; I thought I was making the best of a poor subject rather
ingeniously. I am afraid I am rather stupid."

"If I thought you really felt like that," said Father Payne, "I should be
sorry for you. But I expect it is only your idea of modesty?"

"No," I said, "it isn't modesty--it's humility, I think."

"No one has any business to think himself humble," said Father Payne. "The
moment you do that, you are conceited. It's not a virtue to grovel. A man
ought to know exactly what he is worth. You needn't be always saying what
you are, worth, of course. It's modest to hold your tongue. But humility
is, or ought to be, extinct as a virtue. It belongs to the time when people
felt bound to deplore the corruption of their heart, and to speak of
themselves as worms, and to compare themselves despondently with God. That
in itself is a piece of insolence; and it isn't a wholesome frame of mind
to dwell on one's worthlessness, and to speak of one's righteousness as
filthy rags. It removes every stimulus to effort. If you really feel like
that, you had better take to your bed permanently--you will do less harm
there than pretending to do work in the value of which you don't believe."

"But what is the word for the feeling which one has when one reads a really
splendid book, let us say, or hears a perfect piece of music?" I said.

"Well, it ought to be gratitude and admiration," said Father Payne. "Why
mix yourself up with it at all?"

"Because I can't help it," I said; "I think of the way in which I muddle on
with my writing, and I feel how hopeless I am."

"That's all wrong, my boy," said Father Payne; "you ought to say to
yourself--'So that is _his_ way of putting things and, by Jove, it's
superb. Now I've got to find my way of putting things!' You had better go
and work in the fields like an honest man, if you don't feel you have got
anything to say worth saying. You have your own point of view, you know:
try and get it down on paper. It isn't exactly the same as, let us say,
Shakespeare's point of view: but if you feel that he has seen everything
worth seeing, and said everything worth saying, then, of course, it is no
good going on. But that is pure grovelling; no lively person ever does feel
that--he says, 'Hang it, he has left _some_ things out!' After all,
everyone has a right to his point of view, and if it can be expressed, why,
it is worth expressing. We want all the sidelights we can get."

"That's one comfort!" I said.

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but you know perfectly well that you knew it
before I told you. Why be so undignified? You need not want to astonish or
amuse the whole civilised world. You probably won't do that; but you can
fit a bit of the mosaic in, if you have it in you. Now look you here! I
know exactly what I am worth. I can't write--though I think I can when I'm
at it--but I can perceive, and see when a thing is amiss, and lay my finger
on a fault; I can be of some use to a fellow like yourself--and I can
manage an estate in my own way, and I can keep my tenants' spirits up. I
have got a perfectly definite use in the world, and I'm going to play my
part for all that I'm worth. I'm not going to pretend that I am a worm or
an outcast--I don't feel one; and I am as sure as I can be of anything,
that God does not wish me to feel one. He needs me; He can't get on without
me just here; and when He can, He will say the word. I don't think I am of
any far-reaching significance: but neither am I going to say that I am
nothing but vile earth and a miserable sinner. I'm lazy, I'm cross, I'm
unkind, I'm greedy: but I know when I am wasting time and temper, and I
don't do it all the time. It's no use being abject. The mistake is to go
about comparing yourself with other people and weighing yourself against
them. The right thing to do is to be able to recognise generously and
desirously when you see anyone doing something finely which you do badly,
and to say, 'Come, that's the right way! I must do better.' But to be
humble is to be grubby, because it makes one proud, in a nasty sort of way,
of doing things badly. 'What a poor creature I am,' says the humble man,
'and how nice to know that I am so poor a creature; how noble and unworldly
I am.' The mistake is to want to do a thing better than Smith or Jones: the
right way is to want to do it better than yourself."

"Yes," I said, "that's perfectly true, Father: and I won't be such a fool

"You haven't been a fool, so far as I am aware," said Father Payne. "It is
only that you are just a thought too polite. You mustn't be polite in mind,
you know--only in manners. Politeness only consists in not saying all you
think unless you are asked. But humility consists in trying to believe that
you think less than you think. It's like holding your nose, and saying that
the bad smell has gone--it is playing tricks with your mind: and if you get
into the way of doing that, you will find that your mind has a nasty way of
playing tricks upon you. Here! hold on! I am rapidly becoming like
Chadband! Send me Vincent, will you--there's a good man? He comes next."



Father Payne had told me that my writing was becoming too juicy and too
highly-scented. "You mustn't hide the underlying form," he said; "have
plenty of plain spaces. This sort of writing is only for readers who want
to be vaguely soothed and made to feel comfortable by a book--it's a
stimulant, it's not a food!"

"Yes," I said with a sigh, "I suppose you are right."

"Up to a certain point, I am right," he replied, "because you are in
training at present--and people in training have to do abnormal things: you
can't _live_ as if you were in training, of course; but when you begin
to work on your own account, you must find your own pace and your own
manner: and even now you needn't agree with me unless you like."

I determined, however, that I would give him something very different next
time. He suggested that I should write an essay on a certain writer of
fiction. I read the novels with great care, and I then produced the driest
and most technical criticism I could. I read it aloud to Father Payne a
month later. He heard it in silence, stroking his beard with his left hand,
as his manner was. When I had finished, he said: "Well, you have taken my
advice with a vengeance; and as an exercise--indeed, as a
_tour-de-force_--it is good. I didn't think you had it in you to
produce such a bit of anatomy. I think it's simply the most uninteresting
essay I ever heard in my life--chip, chip, chip, the whole time. It won't
do you any harm to have written it, but, of course, it's a mere caricature.
No conceivable reason could be assigned for your writing it. It's like the
burial of the dead--ashes to ashes, dust to dust!"

"I admit," I said, "that I did it on purpose, to show you how judicious I
could be."

"Oh yes," he said, "I quite realise that--and that's why I admire it. If
you had produced it as a real thing, and not by way of reprisal, I should
think very ill of your prospects. It's like the work of an analytical
chemist--I tell you what it's like, it's like the diagnosis of the symptoms
of some sick person of rank in a doctor's case-book! But, of course, you
know you mustn't write like that, as well as I do. There must be some
motive for writing, some touch of admiration and sympathy, something you
can show to other people which might escape them, and which is worth while
for them to see. In writing--at present, at all events--one can't be so
desperately scientific and technical as all that. I suppose that some day,
when we treat human thought and psychology scientifically, we shall have to
dissect like that; but even so, it will be in the interests of science, not
in the interests of literature. One must not confuse the two, and no doubt,
when we begin to analyse the development of human thought, its heredity,
its genesis and growth, we shall have a Shelley-culture in a test-tube, and
we shall be able to isolate a Browning-germ: but we haven't got there yet."

"In that case," I said, "I don't really see what was so wrong with my last

"Why, it was a mere extemporisation," said Father Payne; "a phrase
suggested a phrase, a word evoked a lot of other words--there was no real
connection of thought. It was pretty enough, but you were not even roving
from one place to another, you were just drifting with the stream. Now this
last essay is purely business-like. You have analysed the points--but
there's no beauty or pleasure in it. It is simply what an engineer might
say to an engineer about the building of a bridge. Mind, I am not finding
fault with your essay. You did what you set out to do, and you have done it
well. I only say there is not any conceivable reason why it should have
been written, and there is every conceivable reason why it should not be

"It was just an attempt," I said, "to see the points and to disentangle

"Yes, yes," said Father Payne; "I see that, and I give you full credit for
it. But, after all, you must look on writing as a species of human
communication. The one reason for writing is that the writer sees something
which other people overlook, perceives the beauty and interest of it, gets
behind it, sees the quality of it, and how it differs from other similar
things. If the writer is worth anything, his subject must be so interesting
or curious or beautiful to himself that he can't help setting it down. The
motive of it all must be the fact that he is interested--not the hope of
interesting other people. You must risk that, though the more you are
interested, the better is your chance of interesting others. Then the next
point is that things mustn't be presented in a cold and abstract light--you
have done that here--it must be done as you see it, not as a photographic
plate records it: and that is where the personality of the artist comes in,
and where writers are handicapped, according as they have or have not a
personal charm. That is the unsolved mystery of writing--the personal
charm: apart from that there is little in it. A man may see a thing with
hideous distinctness, but he may not be able to invest it with charm: and
the danger of charm is that some people can invest very shallow, muddled,
and shabby thinking with a sort of charm. It is like a cloak, if I may say
so. If I wear an old cloak, it looks shabby and disgraceful, as it is. But
if I lend it to a shapely and well-made friend, it gets a beauty from the
wearer. There are men I know who can tell me a story as old as the hills,
and yet make it fresh and attractive. Look at that delicious farrago of
nonsense and absurdity, Ruskin's _Fors Clavigera_. He crammed in
anything that came into his head--his reminiscences, scraps out of old
dreary books he had read, paragraphs snipped out of the papers. There's no
order, no sequence about it, and yet it is irresistible. But then Ruskin
had the charm, and managed to pour it into all that he wrote. He is always
_there_, that whimsical, generous, perverse, affectionate, afflicted,
pathetic creature, even in the smallest scrap of a letter or the dreariest
old tag of quotation. But you and I can't play tricks like that. You are
sometimes there, I confess, in what you write, while I am never there in
anything that I write. What I want to teach you to do is to be really
yourself in all that you write."

"But isn't it apt to be very tiresome," said I, "if the writer is always
obtruding himself?"

"Yes, if he obtrudes himself, of course he is tiresome," said Father Payne.
"But look at Ruskin again. I imagine, from all that I read about him, that
if he was present at a gathering, he was the one person whom everyone
wanted to hear. If he was sulky or silent, it was everyone's concern to
smoothe him down--if _only_ he would talk. What you must learn to do
is to give exactly as much of yourself as people want. But it must be a
transfusion of yourself, not a presentment, I don't imagine that Ruskin
always talked about himself--he talked about what interested him, and
because he saw five times as much as anyone else saw in a picture, and
about three times as much as was ever there, it was fascinating: but the
primary charm was in Ruskin himself. Don't you know the curious delight of
seeing a house once inhabited by anyone whom one has much admired and
loved? However dull and commonplace it is, you keep on saying to yourself,
'That was what his eyes rested on, those were the books he handled; how
could he bear to have such curtains, how could he endure that wallpaper?'
The most hideous things become interesting, because he tolerated them. In
writing, all depends upon how much of what is interesting, original,
emphatic, charming in yourself you can communicate to what you are writing.
It has got to _live_; that is the secret of the commonplace and even
absurd books which reviewers treat with contempt, and readers buy in
thousands. They have _life!_"

"But that is very far from being art, isn't it?" I said.

"Of course!" said Father Payne, "but the use of art, as I understand it, is
just that--that all you present shall have life, and that you should learn
not to present what has not got life. Why I objected to your last essay was
because you were not alive in it: you were just echoing and repeating
things: you seemed to me to be talking in your sleep. Why I object to this
essay is that you are too wide awake--you are just talking shop."

"I confess I rather despair," I said.

"What rubbish!" said Father Payne; "all I want you to do is to _live_
in your ideas--make them your own, don't just slop them down without having
understood or felt them. I'll tell you what you shall do next. You shall
just put aside all this dreary collection of formulae and scalpel-work, and
you shall write me an essay on the whole subject, saying the best that you
feel about it all, not the worst that a stiff intelligence can extract from
it. Don't be pettish about it! I assure you I respect your talent very
much. I didn't think it was in you to produce anything so loathsomely



There had been some vague ethical discussion during dinner in which Father
Payne had not intervened; but he suddenly joined in briskly, though I don't
remember who or what struck the spark out. "You are running logic too
hard," he said; "the difficulty with all morality is not to know where it
is to begin, but where it is to stop."

"I didn't know it had to stop," said Vincent; "I thought it had to go on."

"Yes, but not as morality," said Father Payne; "as instinct and
feeling--only very elementary people indeed obey rules, _because_ they
are rules. The righteous man obeys them because on the whole he agrees with

"But in one sense it isn't possible to be too good?" said Vincent.

"No," said Father Payne, "not if you are sure what good is--but it is quite
easy to be too righteous, to have too many rules and scruples--not to live
your own life at all, but an anxious, timid, broken-winged sort of life,
like some of the fearful saints in the _Pilgrim's Progress_, who got
no fun out of the business at all. Don't you remember what Mr. Feeblemind
says? I can't quote--it's a glorious passage."

Barthrop slipped out and fetched a _Pilgrim's Progress_, which he put
over Father Payne's shoulder. "Thank you, old man," said Father Payne,
"that's very kind of you--that is morality translated into feeling!"

He turned over the pages, and read the bit in his resonant voice:

"'I am, as I said, a man of a weak and feeble mind, and shall be offended
and made weak at that which others can bear. I shall like no Laughing: I
shall like no gay Attire: I shall like no unprofitable Questions. Nay, I am
so weak a man, as to be offended with that which others have a liberty to
do. I do not know all the truth: I am a very ignorant Christian man;
sometimes, if I hear some rejoice in the Lord, it troubles me, because I
cannot do so too.'"

"There," he said, "that's very good writing, you know--full of
freshness--but you are not meant to admire the poor soul: _that's_ not
the way to go on pilgrimage! There is something wrong with a man's
religion, if it leaves him in that state. I don't mean that to be happy is
always a sign of grace--it often is simply a lack of sympathy and
imagination; but to be as good as Mr. Feeblemind, and at the same time as
unhappy, is a clear sign that something is wrong. He is like a dog that
_will_ try to get through a narrow gap with a stick in his mouth--he
can't make out why he can't do his duty and bring the stick--it catches on
both sides, and won't let him through. He knows it is his business to bring
the thing back at once, but he is prevented in some mysterious way. It
doesn't occur to him to put the stick down, get through himself, and then
pull it through by the end. That is why our duty is often so hard, because
we think we ought to do it simply and directly, when it really wants a
little adjusting--we regard the momentary precept, not the ultimate

"But what is to tell us where to draw the line," said Vincent, "and when to
disregard the precept?"

"Ah," said Father Payne, "that's my great discovery, which no one else will
ever recognise--that is where the sense of beauty comes in!"

"I don't see that the sense of beauty has anything to do with morality,"
said Vincent.

"Ah, but that is because you are at heart a Puritan," said Father Payne;
"and the mistake of all Puritans is to disregard the sense of beauty--all
the really great saints have felt about morality as an artist feels about
beauty. They don't do good things because they are told to do them, but
because they feel them to be beautiful, splendid, attractive; and they
avoid having anything to do with evil things, because such things are ugly
and repellent."

"But when you have to do a thoroughly disagreeable thing," said Vincent,
"there often isn't anything beautiful about it either way. I'll give you a
small instance. Some months ago I had been engaged for a fortnight to go to
a thoroughly dull dinner-party with some dreary relations of mine, and a
man asked me to come and dine at his club and meet George Meredith, whom I
would have given simply anything to meet. Of course I couldn't do it--I had
to go on with the other thing. I had to do what I hated, without the
smallest hope of being anything but fearfully bored: and I had to give up
doing what would have interested me more than anything in the world. Of
course, that is only a small instance, but it will suffice."

"It all depends on how you behaved at your dinner-party when you got
there," said Father Payne, smiling; "were you sulky and cross, or were you
civil and decent?"

"I don't know," said Vincent; "I expect I was pretty much as usual. After
all, it wasn't their fault!"

"You are all right, my boy," said Father Payne; "you have got the sense of
beauty right enough, though you probably call it by some uncomfortable
name. I won't make you blush by praising you, but I give you a good mark
for the whole affair. If you had excused yourself, or asked to be let off,
or told a lie, it would have been ugly. What you did was in the best taste:
and that is what I mean. The ugly thing is to clutch and hold on. You did
more for yourself by being polite and honest than even George Meredith
could have done for you. What I mean by the sense of beauty, as applied to
morality, is that a man must be a gentleman first, and a moralist
afterwards, if he can. It is grabbing at your own sense of righteousness,
if you use it to hurt other people. Your own complacency of conscience is
not as important as the duty of not making other people uncomfortable. Of
course there are occasions when it is right to stand up to a moral bully,
and then you may go for him for all you are worth: but these cases are
rare; and what you must not do is to get into the way of a sort of moral
skirmishing. In ordinary life, people draw their lines in slightly
different places according to preference: you must allow for temperament.
You mustn't interfere with other people's codes, unless you are prepared to
be interfered with. It is impossible to be severely logical. Take a thing
like the use of money: it is good to be generous, but you mustn't give away
what you can't afford, because then your friends have to pay your bills.
What everyone needs is something to tell him when he must begin practising
a virtue, and when to stop practising it. You may say that common sense
does that. Well, I don't think it does! I know sensible people who do very
brutal things: there must be something finer than common sense: it must be
a mixture of sense and sympathy and imagination, and delicacy and humour
and tact--and I can't find a better way of expressing it than to call it a
sense of beauty, a faculty of judging, in a fine, sweet-tempered, gentle,
quiet way, with a sort of instinctive prescience as to where the ripples of
what you do and say will spread to, and what sort of effect they will
produce. That's the right sort of virtue--attractive virtue--which makes
other people wish to behave likewise. I don't say that a man who lives like
that can avoid suffering: he suffers a good deal, because he sees ugly
things going on all about him; but he doesn't cause suffering--unless he
intends to--and even so he doesn't like doing it. He is never spiteful or
jealous. He often makes mistakes, but he recognises them. He doesn't erect
barriers between himself and other people. He isn't always exactly popular,
because many people hate superiority whenever they see it: but he is
trusted and loved and even taken advantage of, because he doesn't go in for

"But if you haven't got this sense of beauty," said Vincent, "how are you
to get it?"

"By admiring it," said Father Payne. "I don't say that the people who have
got it are conscious of it--in fact they are generally quite unconscious of
it. Do you remember what Shelley--who was, I think, one of the people who
had the sense of beauty as strongly as anyone who ever lived--what he said
to Hogg, when Hogg told him how he had shut up an impertinent young
ruffian? 'I wish I could be as exclusive as you are,' said Shelley with a
sigh, feeling, no doubt, a sense of real failure--'but I cannot!' Shelley's
weakness was a much finer thing than Hogg's strength. I don't say that
Shelley was perfect: his imagination ran away with him to an extent that
may be called untruthful; he idealised people, and then threw them over
when he discovered them to be futile; but that is the right kind of mistake
to make: the wrong kind of mistake is to see people too clearly, and to
take for granted that they are not as delightful as they seem."

"You mean that if one must choose," said Vincent, "it is better to be a
fool than a knave."

"Why, of course," said Father Payne; "but don't call it 'a fool'--call it
'a child': that's the kind of beauty I mean, the unsuspicious, guileless,
trustful, affectionate temper--that to begin with: and you must learn, as
you go on, a quality which the child has not always got--a sense of humour.
That is what experience ought to give you--a power, that is, of seeing what
is really there, and of being more amused than shocked by it. That helps
you to distinguish real knavishness from childish faults. A great many of
the absurd, perverse, unkind, unpleasant things which people do are not
knavish at all--they are silly, selfish little diplomacies, guileless
obedience to conventions, unreasonable deference to imaginary authority.
People don't mean any harm by such tricks--they are the subterfuges of
weakness: but when you come upon real cynical deliberate knavishness--that
is different. There's nothing amusing about that. But you must be indulgent
to weakness, and only severe with strength."

"I'm getting a little confused," said Vincent.

"Not as much as I am," said Father Payne; "I don't know where I have got
to, I am sure. I seem to have changed hares! But one thing does emerge, and
that is, that a sort of inspired good taste is the only thing which can
regulate morals. The root of all morals is ultimately beauty. Why are we
not all as greedy and dirty as the old cave-men? For the simple reason that
something, for which he was not responsible, began to work in the caveman's
mind. He said to himself, 'This is not the way to behave: it would be nicer
not to have killed Mary when I was angry.' And then, when that impulse is
once started, human beings go too fast, and want to carry out their new
discoveries of rules and principles too far: and you must have a regulating
force: and if you can find a better force than the instinct for what is
beautiful, tell me, and I'll undertake to talk for at least as long about
it. I must stop! My sense of beauty warns me that I am becoming a bore."



Father Payne broke out suddenly after dinner to two or three of us about a
book he had been reading.

"It's called a _Life_," he said, "at the top of every page almost. I
don't wonder the author felt it necessary to remind you--or perhaps he was
reminding himself? I can see him," said Father Payne, "saying to himself
with a rueful expression, 'This is a Life, undoubtedly!' Why, the waxworks
of Madame Tussaud are models of vivacity and agility compared to it. I
never set eyes on such a book!"

"Why on earth did you go on reading it?" said I.

"Well may you ask!" said Father Payne. "It's one of my weaknesses; if I
begin a book, I can put it down if it is moderately good; but if it is
either very good or very bad, I can't get out of it--I feel like a wasp in
a honey-pot. I make faint sticky motions of flight--but on I go."

"Whose life was it?" I said, laughing.

"I hardly know," said Father Payne. "It leaves on my mind the impression of
his having been a decent old party enough. I think he must have been a
general merchant--he seems to have had pretty nearly everything on hand. He
wrote books, I gather"; and Father Payne groaned.

"What were they about?" I said.

"I don't know, I'm sure," said Father Payne. "History and stuff--literary
essays, and people's influence, perhaps. He went in for accounting for
things, I fancy, and explaining things away. There were extracts which
alienated my attention faster than any extracts I ever read. I could not
keep my mind on them. God preserve me from ever falling in with any of his
books; I should spend days in reading them! He travelled too--he was always
travelling. Why couldn't he leave Europe alone? He has left his trail all
over Europe, like a snail. He has defiled all the finest scenery on the
Continent. But, by Jove, he met his match in his biographer; he has been
accounted for all right. And yet I feel that it was rather hard on him. If
_he_ could have held his tongue about things in general, and if his
biographer could have held his tongue about _him_, it would have been
all right. He did no harm, so far as I can make out--he was honest and
upright; he would have done very well as a trustee."

Father Payne stopped, and looked round with a melancholy air. "I have
gathered," he said, "after several hours' reading, three interesting facts
about him. The first is that he wore rather loud checks--I liked that--I
detected a touch of vanity in that. The second is that he was fond of
quoting poetry, and the moment he did so, his voice became wholly inaudible
from emotion--that's a good touch. And the third is that, if he had a guest
staying with him, he used to talk continuously in the smoking-room, light
his candle, go on talking, walk away talking--by Jove, I can hear him doing
it--all up the stairs, along the passage to his bedroom--talk, talk,
talk--in they went--then he used to begin to undress--no escape--I can hear
his voice muffled as he pulled off his shirt--off went his socks--talking
still--then he would actually get into bed--more explanations, more
quotations, I wonder how the guest got away; that isn't related--in the
intervals of an inaudible quotation, perhaps? What do you think?"

We exploded in laughter, in which Father Payne joined. Then he said: "But
look here, you know, it's not really a joke--it's horribly serious! A man
ought really to be prosecuted for writing such a book. That is the worst of
English people, that they have no idea who deserves a biography and who
does not. It isn't enough to be a rich man, or a public man, or a man of
virtue. No one ought to be written about, simply because he has _done_
things. He must be content with that. No one should have a biography unless
he was either beautiful or picturesque or absurd, just as no one should
have a portrait painted unless he is one of the three. Now this poor
fellow--I daresay there were people who loved him--think what their
feelings must be at seeing him stuffed and set up like this! A biography
must be a work of art--it ought not to be a post-dated testimonial! Most of
us are only fit, when we have finished our work, to go straight into the
waste-paper basket. The people who deserve biographies are the vivid, rich,
animated natures who lived life with zest and interest. There are a good
many such men, who can say vigorous, shrewd, lively, fresh things in talk,
but who cannot express themselves in writing. The curse of most biographies
is the letters; not many people can write good letters, and yet it becomes
a sacred duty to pad a Life out with dull and stodgy documents; it is all
so utterly inartistic and decorous and stupid. A biography ought to be well
seasoned with faults and foibles. That is the one encouraging thing about
life, that a man can have plenty of failings and still make a fine business
out of it all. Yet it is regarded as almost treacherous to hint at
imperfections. Now if I had had our friend the general merchant to
biographise, I would have taken careful notes of his talk while
undressing--there's something picturesque about that! I would have told how
he spent his day, how he looked and moved, ate and drank. A real portrait
of an uninteresting man might be quite a treasure."

"Yes, but you know it wouldn't do," said Barthrop; "his friends would be
out at you like a swarm of wasps."

"Oh, I know that," said Father Payne. "It is all this infernal
sentimentality which spoils everything; as long as we think of the dead as
elderly angels hovering over us while we pray, there is nothing to be done.
If we really believe that we migrate out of life into an atmosphere of mild
piety, and lose all our individuality at once, then, of course, the less
said the better. As long as we hold that, then death must remain as the
worst of catastrophes for everyone concerned. The result of it all is that
a bad biography is the worst of books, because it quenches our interest in
life, and makes life insupportably dull. The first point is that the
biographer is infinitely more important than his subject. Look what an
enchanting book Carlyle made out of the Life of Sterling. Sterling was a
man of real charm who could only talk. He couldn't write a line. His
writings are pitiful. Carlyle put them all aside with a delicious irony;
and yet he managed to depict a swift, restless, delicate, radiant creature,
whom one loves and admires. It is one of the loveliest books ever written.
But, on the other hand, there are hundreds of fine creatures who have been
hopelessly buried for ever and ever under their biographies--the sepulchre
made sure, the stone sealed, and the watch set."

"But there are some good biographies?" said Barthrop.

"About a dozen," said Father Payne. "I won't give a list of them, or I
should become like our friend the merchant. I feel it coming on, by Jove--I
feel like accounting for things and talking you all up to my bedroom."

"But what can be done about it all?" I said.

"Nothing whatever, my boy," said Father Payne; "as long as people are not
really interested in life, but in money and committees, there is nothing to
be done. And as long as they hold things sacred, which means a strong
dislike of the plain truth, it's hopeless. If a man is prepared to write a
really veracious biography, he must also be prepared to fly for his life
and to change his name. Public opinion is for sentiment and against truth;
and you must change public opinion. But, oh dear me, when I think of the
fascination of real personality, and the waste of good material, and the
careful way in which the pious biographer strains out all the meat and
leaves nothing but a thin and watery decoction, I could weep over the
futility of mankind. The dread of being interesting or natural, the
adoration of pomposity and full dress, the sickening love of romance, the
hatred of reality--oh, it's a deplorable world!"



"I wonder," said Father Payne one day at dinner, "whether any nation's
proverbs are such a disgrace to them as our national proverbs are to us.
Ours are horribly Anglo-Saxon and characteristic. They seem to me to have
been all invented by a shrewd, selfish, complacent, suspicious old farmer,
in a very small way of business, determined that he will not be
over-reached, and equally determined, too, that he will take full advantage
of the weakness of others. 'Charity begins at home,' 'Possession is nine
points of the law,' 'Don't count your chickens before they are hatched,'
'When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window.' They are
all equally disgraceful. They deride all emotion, they despise imagination,
they are unutterably low and hard, and what is called sensible; they are
frankly unchristian as well as ungentlemanly. No wonder we are called a
nation of shopkeepers."

"But aren't we a great deal better than our proverbs?" said Barthrop: "do
they really express anything more than a contempt for weakness and

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but I don't like them any better for that. Why
should we be ashamed of all our better feelings? I admit that we have a
sense of justice; but that only means that we care for material possessions
so much that we are afraid not to admit that others have the right to do
the same. The real obstacle to socialism in England is the sense of
sanctity about a man's savings. The moment that a man has saved a few
pounds, he agrees to any legislation that allows him to hold on to them."

"But aren't we, behind all that," said Barthrop, "an intensely sentimental

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but that's a fault really--we don't believe in
real justice, only in picturesque justice. We are hopeless individualists.
We melt into tears over a child that is lost, or a dog that howls; and we
let all sorts of evil systems and arrangements grow and flourish. We can't
think algebraically, only arithmetically. We can be kind to a single case
of hardship; we can't take in a widespread system of oppression. We are
improving somewhat; but it is always the particular case that affects us,
and not the general principle."

"But to go back to our sense of possession," I said, "is that really much
more than a matter of climate? Does it mean more than this, that we, in a
temperate climate inclining to cold, need more elaborate houses and more
heat-producing food than nations who live in warmer climates? Are not the
nations who live in warmer climates less attached to material things simply
because they are less important?"

"There is something in that, no doubt," said Father Payne. "Of course,
where nature is more hostile to life, men will have to work longer hours to
support life than where 'the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle.'
But it isn't that of which I complain--it is the awful sense of
respectability attaching to possessions, the hideous way in which we fill
our houses with things which we do not want or use, just because they are a
symbol of respectability. We like hoarding, and we like luxuries, not
because we enjoy them, but because we like other people to know that we can
pay for them. I do not imagine that there is any nation in the world whose
hospitality differs so much from the mode in which people actually live as
ours does. In a sensible society, if we wanted to see our friends, we
should ask them to bring their cold mutton round, and have a picnic. What
we do actually do is to have a meal which we can't afford, and which our
guests know is not in the least like our ordinary meals; and then we expect
to be asked back to a similarly ostentatious banquet."

"But isn't there something," said Barthrop, "in Dr. Johnson's dictum, that
a meal was good enough to eat, but not good enough to ask a man to? Isn't
it a good impulse to put your best before a guest?"

"Oh, no doubt," said Father Payne, "but there's a want of simplicity about
it if you only want to entertain people in order that they may see you do
it, and not because you want to see them. It's vulgar, somehow--that's what
I suspect our nation of being. Our inability to speak frankly of money is
another sign. We do money too much honour by being so reticent about it.
The fact is that it is the one sacred subject among us. People are reticent
about religion and books and art, because they are not sure that other
people are interested in them. But they are reticent about money as a
matter of duty, because they are sure that everyone is deeply interested.
People talk about money with nods and winks and hints--those are all the
signs of a sacred mystery!"

"Well, I wonder," said Barthrop, "whether we are as base as you seem to

"I will tell you when I will change my mind," said Father Payne; "all the
talk of noble aims and strong purposes will not deceive me. What would
convert me would be if I saw generous giving a custom so common that it
hardly excited remark. You see a few generous _wills_--but even then a
will which leaves money to public purposes is generally commented upon; and
it almost always means, too, if you look into it, that a man has had no
near relations, and that he has stuck to his money and the power it gives
him during his life. If I could see a few cases of men impoverishing
themselves and their families in their lifetime for public objects; if I
saw evidence of men who have heaped up wealth content to let their children
start again in the race, and determined to support the State rather than
the family; if I could hear of a rich man's children beseeching their
father to endow the State rather than themselves, and being ready to work
for a livelihood rather than to receive an inherited fortune; if I could
hear of a few rich men living simply and handing out their money for
general purposes,--then I would believe! But none of these things is
anything but a rare exception; a man who gives away his fortune, as Ruskin
did, in great handfuls, is generally thought to be slightly crazy; and,
speaking frankly, the worth of a man seems to depend not upon what he has
given to the world, but upon what he has gained from the world. You may say
it is a rough test;--so it is! But when we begin to feel that a man is
foolish in hoarding and wise in lavishing, instead of being foolish in
lavishing and wise in hoarding, then, and not till then, shall I believe
that we are a truly great nation. At present the man whom we honour most is
the man who has been generous to public necessities, and has yet retained a
large fortune for himself. That is the combination which we are not ashamed
to admire."



We were walking together, Father Payne and I. It was in the early summer--a
still, hot day. The place, as I remember it, was very beautiful. We crossed
the stream by a little foot-bridge, and took a bypath across the meadows;
up the slope you came to a beautiful bit of old forest country, the trees
of all ages, some of them very ancient; there were open glades running into
the heart of the woodland, with thorn thickets and stretches of bracken.
Hidden away in the depth of the woods, and approached only by green rides,
were the ruins of what must have been a big old Jacobean mansion; but
nothing remained of it except some grassy terraces, a bit of a fine façade
of stone with empty windows, half-hidden in ivy, and some tall stone
chimney-stacks. The forest lay silent and still; and, along one of the
branching rides, you could discern far away a glimpse of blue hills. The
scene was so entirely beautiful that we had gradually ceased to talk, and
had given ourselves up to the sweet and quiet influence of the place.

We stood for awhile upon one of the terraces, looking at the old house, and
Father Payne said, "I'm not sure that I approve of the taste for ruins;
there is something to be said for a deserted castle, because it is a
reminder that we do not need to safeguard ourselves so much against each
others' ill-will; but a roofless church or a crumbling house--there's
something sad about them. It seems to me a little like leaving a man
unburied in order that we may come and sentimentalise over his bones. It
means, this house, the decay of an old centre of life--there's nothing evil
or cruel about it, as there is about a castle; and I am not sure that it
ought not to be either repaired or removed--

  "'And doorways where a bridegroom trode
  Stand open to the peering air.'"

"I don't know," I said; "I'm sure that this is somehow beautiful. Can't one
feel that nature is half-tender, half-indifferent to our broken designs?"

"Perhaps," said Father Payne, "but I don't like being reminded of death and
waste--I don't want to think that they can end by being charming--the
vanity of human wishes is more sad than picturesque. I think Dr. Johnson
was right when he said, 'After all, it is a sad thing that a man should lie
down and die.'"

A little while afterwards he said, "How strange it is that the loneliness
of this place should be so delightful! I like my fellow-beings on the
whole--I don't want to avoid them or to abolish them--but yet it is one of
the greatest luxuries in the world to find a place where one is pretty sure
of not meeting one of them."

"Yes," I said, "it is very odd! I have been feeling to-day that I should
like time to stand still this summer afternoon, and to spend whole days in
rambling about here. I won't say," I said with a smile, "that I should
prefer to be quite alone; but I shouldn't mind even that in a place like
this. I never feel like that in a big town--there is always a sense of
hostile currents there. To be alone in a town is always rather melancholy;
but here it is just the reverse."

"Indeed, yes," said Father Payne, "and it is one of the great mysteries of
all to me what we really want with company. It does not actually take away
from us our sense of loneliness at all. You can't look into my mind, nor
can I look into yours; whatever we do or say to break down the veil between
us, we can't do it. And I have often been happier when alone than I have
ever been in any company."

"Isn't it a sense of security?" I said; "I suppose that it is an instinct
derived from old savage days which makes us dread other human beings. The
further back you go, the more hatred and mistrust you find; and I suppose
that the presence of a friend, or rather of someone with whom one has a
kind of understanding, gives a feeling of comparative safety against

"That's it, no doubt," said Father Payne; "but if I had to choose between
spending the rest of my life in solitude, or in spending it without a
chance of solitude, I should be in a great difficulty. I am afraid that I
regard company rather as a wholesome medicine against the evils of solitude
than I regard solitude as a relief from company. After all, what is it that
we want with each other?--what do we expect to get from each other? I
remember," he said, smiling, "a witty old lady saying to me once that
eternity was a nightmare to her.--'For instance,' she said, 'I enjoy
sitting here and talking to you very much; but if I thought it was going on
to all eternity, I shouldn't like it at all.' Do we really want the company
of any one for ever and ever? And if so, why? Do we want to agree or to
disagree? Is the point of it that we want similarity or difference? Do we
want to hear about other people's experiences, or do we simply want to tell
our own? Is the desire, I mean, for congenial company anything more than
the pleasure of seeing our own thoughts and ideas reflected in the minds of
others; or is it a real desire to alter our own thoughts and ideas by
comparing them with the experiences of others? Why do we like books, for
instance? Isn't it more because we recognise our own feelings than because
we make acquaintance with unfamiliar feelings? It comes to this? Can we
really ever gain an idea, or can we only recognise our own ideas?"

"It is very difficult," I said; "if I answered hastily, I should say that I
liked being with you because you give me many new ideas; but if I think
about it, it seems to me that it is only because you make me recognise my
own thoughts."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "I think that is so. If I see another man
behaving well where I should behave ill, I recognise that I have all the
elements in my own mind for doing the same, but that I have given undue
weight to some of them and not enough weight to others. I don't think, on
the whole, that anyone can give one a new idea; he can only help one to a
sense of proportion. But I want to get deeper than that. You and I are
friends--at least I think so; but what exactly do we give each other? How
do you affect my solitude, or I yours? I'm blessed if I know. It looks to
me, indeed, as if you and I might be parts of one great force, one great
spirit, and that we recognise our unity, through some material condition
which keeps us apart. I am not sure that it isn't only the body that
divides us, and that we are a part of the same thing behind it all."

"But why, if that is so," said I, "do we feel a sense of unity with some
people, and not at all with others? There are people, I mean, with whom I
feel that I have simply nothing in common, and that our spirits could not
possibly mix or blend. With you, to speak frankly, it is different. I feel
as though I had known you far longer than a few months, and should never be
in any real doubt about you. I recognise myself in you and yourself in me.
But there are many people in whom I don't recognise myself at all."

Father Payne put his arm through mine, "Well, old man," he said, "we must
be content to have found each other, but we mustn't give up trying to find
other people too. I think that is what civilisation means--a mutual
recognition--we're only just at the start of it, you know. I'm in no doubt
as to what you give me--it's a sense of trust. When I think about you, I
feel, 'Come, there is someone at all events who will try to understand me
and to forgive me and to share his best with me'--but even so, my boy, I
shall enjoy being alone sometimes. I shall want to get away from everyone,
even from you! There are thoughts I cannot share with you, because I want
you to think better of me than I do of myself. I suppose that is
vanity--but still old Wordsworth was right when he wrote:

  "'And many love me; but by none
  Am I enough beloved.'"



I was walking once with Father Payne in the fields, and he was talking
about the difficulties of the writer's life. He said that the great problem
for all industrious writers was how to work in such a way as not to be a
nuisance to the people they lived with. "Of course men vary very much in
their habits," he said; "but if you look at the lives of authors, they
often seem tiresome people to get on with. The difficulty is mostly this,"
he went on, "that a writer can't write to any purpose for more than about
three hours a day--if he works really hard, even that is quite enough to
tire him out. Think what the brain is doing--it is concentrated on some
idea, some scene, some situation. Take a novelist: he has to have a picture
in his mind all the time--a clear visualisation of a place--a room, a
garden, a wood; then he must know how his people move and look and speak,
and he has to fly backwards and forwards from one to another; then he has
the talk to create, and he has to be always rejecting thoughts and
impressions and words, good enough in themselves, but not characteristic.
It is a fearful strain on imagination and emotion, on phrase-making and
word-finding. The real wonder is not that a few people can do it better
than others, but that anyone can do it at all. The difference between the
worst novelist and the best is much less than the difference between the
worst novelist and the person who can't write at all.

"Well, then, there is such a thing as inspiration; most creative writers
get a book in their minds, and can think of nothing else, day and night,
while it is on. The difficulty is to know what a writer is to do in the
intervals between his books, and in the hours in which he is not writing.
He has got to take it easy somehow, and the question is what is he to do.
He can't, as a rule, do much in the way of hard exercise. Violent exercise
in the open air is pleasant enough, but it leaves the brain torpid and
stagnant. A man who really makes a business of writing has got to live
through ten or twelve hours of a day when he isn't writing. He can't afford
to read very much--at least he can't afford to read authors whom he
admires, because they affect his style. There is something horribly
contagious about style, because it is often much easier to do a thing in
someone else's way than to do it in one's own. Pater was asked once if he
had read Stevenson or Kipling, I forget which--'Oh no, I daren't!' he said,
'I have peeped into him occasionally, but I can't afford to read him. I
have learnt exactly how I can approach and develop a subject, and if I
looked to see how he does it, I should soon lose my power. The man with a
style is debarred from reading fine books unless they are on lines entirely
apart from his own.' That is perfectly true, I expect. There is nothing so
dreadful as reading a writer whom one likes, and seeing that he has got
deflected from his manner by reading some other craftsman. The effect is a
very subtle one. If you really want to see that sort of sympathy at work,
you should look at Ruskin's letters--his letters are deeply affected by the
correspondent to whom he is writing. If he wrote to Carlyle or to Browning,
he wrote like Carlyle and Browning, because, as he wrote, they were
strongly in his mind.

"With a painter or a musician it is different--a lot of hand-work comes in
which relieves the brain, so that they can work longer hours. But a writer,
as a rule, while he is writing, can't even afford to talk very much to
interesting people, because talking is hard work too.

"Well, then, a writer, as an artistic person, is rather easily bored. He
likes vivid sensations and emphatic preferences--and it is not really good
for him to be bored; a man may read the paper, write a few letters, stroll,
garden, chatter--but if he takes his writing seriously, he must somehow be
fresh for it. It isn't easy to combine writing with any other occupation,
and it leaves many hours unoccupied.

"Carlyle is a terrible instance, because he was wretched and depressed when
he was not writing; he was melancholy, peevish, physically unwell; and when
he was writing, he was wholly absorbed very impatient of his labour, and
most intolerable. Indeed, it does not look as if the home lives of writers
have generally been very happy--there is too often a patent conspiracy to
keep the great irritable babyish giant amused--and that's a bad atmosphere
for anyone to live in--an unreal, a royal sort of atmosphere, of
deferential scheming."

I said something about Walter Scott. "Ah yes," said Father Payne, "but
Scott's work was amazing--it just seemed to overflow from a gigantic
reservoir of vitality. He could do his day's work in the early hours, and
then tramp about all day, chattering, farming, planting,
entertaining--endlessly good-humoured. Of course he wore himself out at
last by perfectly ghastly work--most of it very poor stuff. Browning and
Thackeray were men of the same sort, sociable, genial, exuberant. They
overflowed too--they didn't batter things out.

"But, as a rule, most men who want to do good work, must be content to
potter about, and seem lazy and even self-indulgent. And one of the reasons
why many men who start as promising writers come to nothing is because they
can't be inert, acquiescent, easy-going. I have often thought that a good
novel might be written about the wife of a great writer, who marries him,
dazzled by his brilliance and then finds him to be a petty, suspicious,
wayward sort of child, with all his force lying in one supreme faculty of
vision and expression. It must be a fiery trial to see deep, wise,
beautiful things produced by a man who can't _live_ his thoughts--can
only write them."

"But what should a man _do_?" I said.

"Well," said Father Payne, "I think, as a practical matter, it would be a
good thing to cultivate a hobby of a manual kind--and also, above all, the
power of genial loafing. Of course, the real pity is that we are not all
taught to do some house-work as a matter of course--we depend too much on
servants, and house-work is the natural and amusing outlet of our physical
energies; as it is, we specialise too much, and half of our maladies and
discomforts and miseries are due to that--that we work a part of ourselves
too hard, and the other parts not hard enough. The thing to aim at is
equanimity, and the existence of unsatisfied instincts in us is what
poisons life for many people."

He was silent for a little, and then he said, "And then, too, there is the
great danger of all writers--the feeling that he has the power of giving
people what they want, when he ought to remember that he has only the good
fortune of expressing what people feel. Art oughtn't to be a thing
sprinkled on life, as you shake sugar out on to a pudding--it is just a
power of disentangling things; we suffer most of us from finding life too
complicated--we don't understand it--it's a mass of confused impressions.
Well, the artist puts it all in order, isolates the important things, makes
the values distinct--he helps people to feel clearly--that's his only use.
And then, if he succeeds, there come silly flatteries and adorations--until
he gets to feel as if he were handing down pots of jam and bottles of wine
from a high shelf out of reach--until he grows to believe that he put them
there, when he only found them there. It's a dreadful thing for an artist
never to succeed at all, because then his life appears the most useless
business conceivable; but it is almost a worse thing to get to depend upon
success--and it is undeniably pleasant to be a personage, to cause a little
stir when you enter a room, to find that people know all about you and like
meeting you, and saying they have met you. I never had any of that: and I
have sometimes found myself with successful writers who made me thank God I
couldn't write--such complacency, such lolling among praise, such vexation
at not being deferred to! The best fate for a man is to be fairly
successful, and to be at the same time pretty severely criticised. That
keeps him modest, while it gives him a degree of confidence that he is
doing something useful. The danger is of drifting right out of life into
unreal civilities and compliments, which you don't wholly like and yet
can't do without. The fact is that writing doesn't generally end in very
much happiness, except perhaps the happiness of work. That's the solid part
of it really, and no one can deprive you of that, whatever happens."



We were discussing Keats and his premature death. Someone had said that,
beside being one of the best, he was also one of the most promising of
poets; and Father Payne had remarked that reading Keats's letters made him
feel more directly in the presence of a man of genius than any other book
he knew. Kaye had added that the death of Keats seemed to him the most
ghastly kind of waste, at which Father Payne had smiled, and said that that
presupposed that he was knocked out by some malign or indifferent force.
"It is possible--isn't it?" he added, "that he was needed elsewhere and
summoned away." "Then why was he so elaborately tortured first?" said Kaye.
"Well," said Father Payne, "I can conceive that if he had recovered his
health, and escaped from his engagement with Fanny Brawne, he might have
been a much finer fellow afterwards. There were two weak points in Keats,
you know--his over-sensuousness and a touch of commonness--I won't call it
vulgarity," he added, "but his jokes are not of the best quality! I do not
feel sure that his suffering might not have cleared away the poisonous

"Perhaps," said Kaye; "but doesn't that make it more wasteful still? The
world needs beauty--and for a man to die so young with his best music in
him seems to me a clumsy affair."

"I don't know," said Father Payne; "it seems to me harder to define the
word _waste_ than almost any word I know. Of course there are cases
when it is obviously applicable--if a big steamer carrying a cargo of wheat
goes down in a storm, that is a lot of human trouble thrown away--and a war
is wasteful, because nations lose their best and healthiest parental stock.
But it isn't a word to play with. In a middle-class household it is applied
mainly to such things as there being enough left of a nice dish for the
servants to enjoy; and, generally speaking, I think it might be applied to
all cases in which the toil spent over the making of a thing is out of all
proportion to the enjoyment derived from it. But the difficulty underlying
it is that it assumes a knowledge of what a man's duty is in this
world--and I am not by any means sure that we know. Look at the phrase 'a
waste of time.' How do we know exactly how much time a man ought to allot
to sleep, to work, to leisure? I had an old puritanical friend who was very
fond of telling people that they wasted time. He himself spent nearly two
hours of every day in dressing and undressing. That is to say that when he
died at the age of seventy-six, he had spent about six entire years in
making and unmaking his toilet! Let us assume that everyone is bound to
give a certain amount of time to doing the necessary work of the
world--enough to support, feed, clothe, and house himself, with a margin to
spare for the people who can't support themselves and can't work. Then
there are a lot of outlying things which must be done--the work of
statesmen, lawyers, doctors, writers--all the people who organise, keep
order, cure, or amuse people. Then there are all the people who make
luxuries and comforts--things not exactly necessary, but still reasonable
indulgences. Now let us suppose that anyone is genuinely and sensibly
occupied in any one of these ways, and does his or her fair share of the
world's work: who is to say how such workers are to spend their margin of
time? There are obviously certain people who are mere drones in the
hive--rich, idle, extravagant people: we will admit that they are wasters.
But I don't admit for a moment that all the time spent in enjoying oneself
is wasted, and I think that people have a right to choose what they do
enjoy. I am inclined to believe that we are here to live, and that work is
only a part of our material limitations. A great deal of the usefulness of
work is not its intrinsic value, but its value to ourselves. It isn't only
what we perform that matters; it is the fact that work forces us into
relations with other people, which I take to be the experience we all need.
In the old dreary books of my childhood, the elders were always hounding
the young people into doing something useful--useful reading, useful
sewing, and so forth. But I am inclined to believe that sociability and
talk are more useful than reading, and that solitary musing and dreaming
and looking about are useful too. All activity is useful, all interchange,
all perception. What isn't useful is anything which hides life from you,
any habit that drugs you into inactivity and idleness, anything which makes
you believe that life is romantic and sentimental and fatuous. I wouldn't
even go so far as to say that _all_ the time spent in squabbling and
quarrelling is useless, because it brings you up against people who think
differently from yourself. That becomes wasteful the moment it leaves you
with the impotent desire to hurt your adversary. No, I am inclined to think
that the only thing which is wasteful is anything which suspends interest
and animation and the love of life; and I don't blame idle and extravagant
people who live with zest and liveliness for doing that. I only blame them
for not seeing that their extravagance is keeping people at the other end
of the scale in drudgery and dulness. Of course the difficulty of it is,
that if we offered the lowest stratum of workers a great increase of
leisure, they would largely misuse it; and that is why I believe that in
the future a large part of the education of workers will be devoted to
teaching them how to employ their leisure agreeably and not noxiously. And
I believe that there are thousands of cases in the world which are
infinitely worse than the case of Keats--who, after all, had more joy of
the finest quality in his short life than most of us achieve. I mean the
cases of men and women with fine and sensitive instincts, who by being born
under base and down-trodden conditions are never able to get a taste of
clean, wholesome, and beautiful life at all--that's a much darker

"But how do you fit that into your theories of life at all?" said Vincent.

"Oh, it fits my theory of life well enough," said Father Payne. "You see, I
believe it to be a real battle, and not a sham fight. I believe in God as
the source of all the fine, beautiful, and free instincts, casting them
lavishly into the world, against a horribly powerful and relentless but
ultimately stupid foe. 'Who put the evil there?' you may say, 'and how did
it get there first?' Ah, I don't know that--that is the origin of evil. But
I don't believe that God put it there first, just for the interest of the
fight. I don't believe that He is responsible for waste--I think it is one
of the forces He is fighting. He pushes battalion after battalion to the
assault, and down they go. It's cruel work, but it isn't anything like so
cruel as to suppose that He arranged it all or even permitted it all. That
would indeed sicken and dishearten me. No, I believe that God never wastes
anything; but it's a fearful and protracted battle; and I believe that He
will win in the end. I read a case in the paper the other day of a little
child in a workhouse that had learnt a lot of infamous language, and cursed
and swore if it was given milk instead of beer or brandy. Am I to believe
that God was in any way responsible for putting a little child in that
position?--for allowing things to take shape so, if He could have checked
it? No, indeed! I do not believe in a God as helpless or as wicked as that!
There is something devilish there, for which He is not responsible, and
against which He is fighting as hard as He can."

"But doesn't heredity come in there?" said Vincent. "It isn't the child's
fault, and probably no amount of decent conditions would turn that child
into anything respectable."

"Yes," said Father Payne; "heredity is just one of the evil devices--but
don't you see the stupidity of it? It stops progress, but it also helps it
on--it hinders, but it also helps; and nothing in the world seems to me so
Divine as the way in which God is using and mastering heredity for good. It
multiplies evil, but it also multiplies good; and God has turned that
weapon against the contriver of it. The wiser that the world grows, the
more they will see how to use heredity for happiness, by preventing the
tainted from continuing to taint the races. The slow civilisation of the
world is the strongest proof I know that the battle is going the right way.
The forces of evil are being slowly transformed into the forces of good.
The waste of noble things is but the slow arrival of the new armies of
light. There is something real in fighting for a General who has a very
urgent and terrible business on hand. There is nothing real about fighting
for one who has brought both the armies into the field. It doesn't do to
sentimentalise about evil, and to say that it is hidden good! The world is
a probation, I don't doubt--but it is testing your strength against
something which is really there, and can do you a lot of harm, not against
something which is only there for the purpose of testing what might have
been made and kept both innocent and strong."



Father Payne generally declined to talk about education. "Teaching is one
of the things, like golf and hunting, which is exciting to do and pleasant
to remember, but intolerable to talk about," he said one evening.

"Well," I said, "it is certainly intolerable to listen to people discussing
education, or to read about it; but if you know anything about it, I should
have thought it was good fun to talk about it."

"Ah," said Father Payne, "you say, 'If you know anything about it.' The
worst of it is that everybody knows everything about it. A man who is a
success, thinks that his own education is the only one worth having; a man
who is a failure thinks that all systems of education are wrong. And as for
talking about teaching, you can't talk about it--you can only relate your
own experience, and listen with such patience as you can muster to another
man relating his. That's not talking!"

"But it is interesting in a general way," said Vincent,--"the kind of thing
you are aiming at, what you want to produce, and so on."

"Yes, my dear Vincent," said Father Payne, "but education isn't that--it's
an obstinate sort of tradition; it's a quest, like the Philosopher's Stone.
Most people think that it is a sort of charm which, if you could discover
it, would transmute all baser metals into gold. The justification of the
Philosopher's Stone is, I suppose, that different metals are not really
different substances, but only different arrangements of the same atoms.
But we can't predicate that of human spirits as yet; and to attempt to find
one formula of education is like planting the same crop in different soils.
It is the ridiculous democratic doctrine of human equality which is the
real difficulty. There is no natural equality in human nature, and the
question really is whether you are going to try to reduce all human beings
to the same level, which is the danger of discipline, or to let people
follow their own instincts unchecked, which is the shadow of liberty. I'm
all for liberty, of course."

"But why 'of course'?" said Vincent.

"Because I take the aristocratic view," said Father Payne, "which is that
you do more for the human race by having a few fine people, than by having
an infinite number of second-rate people. What the first-rate man thinks
to-day, the second-rate people think to-morrow--that is how we make
progress; and I would like to take infinite pains with the best material,
if I could find it, and leave discipline for the second-rate. The Jews and
the Greeks, both first-class nations, have done more for the world on the
whole than the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons, who are the best of the
second-rate stocks."

"But how are you going to begin to sort your material?" said Barthrop.

"Yes, you have me there," said Father Payne. "But I don't despair of our
ultimately finding that out. At present, the worst of men of genius is that
they are not always the most brisk and efficient boys. A genius is apt to
be perceptive and sensitive. His perceptiveness makes him seem bewildered,
because he is vaguely interested in everything that he sees; his
sensitiveness makes him hold his tongue, because he gets snubbed if he asks
too many questions. Men of genius are not as a rule very precocious--they
are often shy, awkward, absent-minded. Genius is often strangely like
stupidity in its early stages. The stupid boy escapes notice because he is
stupid. The genius escapes notice because he is diffident, and _wants_
to escape notice."

"But how would you set about discovering which was which?" said Barthrop.

"Well," said Father Payne, "if you ask me, I don't think we discriminate; I
think we go in for teaching children too much, and not trying to make them
observe and think more. We give them things to do, and to get by heart; we
imprison them in a narrow round of gymnastics. As Dr. Johnson said once,
'You teach your children the use of the globes, and when they get older you
wonder that they do not seek your society!' The whole thing is so devilish
dull, and it saves the teacher such a lot of trouble! I myself was fairly
quick as a boy, and found that it paid to do what I was told. But I never
made the smallest pretence to be interested in what I had to do--grammar,
Euclid, tiny scraps of Latin and Greek. I used to thank God, in Xenophon
lessons, when a bit was all about stages and parasangs, because there were
fewer words to look out. The idea of teaching languages like that! If I had
a clever boy to teach a language, I would read some interesting book with
him, telling him the meaning of words, until he got a big stock of ordinary
words; I would just teach him the common inflexions; and when he could read
an easy book, and write the language intelligibly, then I would try to
teach him a few niceties and idioms, and make him look out for differences
of style and language. But we begin at the wrong end, and store his memory
with exceptions and idioms and niceties first. No sensible human being who
wanted, let us say, to know enough Italian to read Dante, would dream of
setting to work as we set to work on classics. Well then," Father Payne
went on, "I should cultivate the imagination of children a great deal more.
I should try to teach them all I could about the world as it is--the
different nations, and how they live, the distribution of plants and
animals, the simpler sorts of science. I don't think that it need be very
accurate, all that. But children ought to realise that the world is a big
place, with all sorts of interesting and exciting things going on. I would
try to give them a general view of history and the movement of
civilisation. I don't mean a romantic view of it, with the pomps and shows
and battles in the foreground; but a real view--how people lived, and what
they were driving at. The thing could be done, if it were not for the
bugbear of inaccuracy. To know a little perfectly isn't enough; of course,
people ought to be able to write their own language accurately, and to do
arithmetic. Outside of that, you want a lot of general ideas. It is no good
teaching everything as if everyone was to end as a Professor."

"That is a reasonable general scheme," said Barthrop, "but what about
special aptitudes?"

"Why," said Father Payne, "I should go on those general lines till boys and
girls were about fourteen. And I should teach them with a view to the lives
they were going to live. I should teach girls a good deal of house-work,
and country boys about the country--we mustn't forget that the common work
of the world has to be done. You must somehow interest people in the sort
of work they are going to do. It is hopeless without that. And then we must
gradually begin to specialise. But I'm not going into all that now. The
general aim I should have in view would be to give people some idea of the
world they were living in, and try to interest them in the part they were
going to play; and I should try to teach them how to employ their leisure.
That seems entirely left out at present. I want to develop people on simple
and contented lines, with intelligent interests and, if possible, a special
taste. The happy man is the man who likes his work, and all education is a
fraud if it turns out people who don't like their work; and then I want
people to have something to fall back upon which they enjoy. No one can
live a decent life without having things to look forward to. But, of
course, the whole thing turns on Finance, and that is what makes it so
infernally dull. You want more teachers and better teachers; you want to
make teaching a profession which attracts the best people. You can't do
that without money, and at present education is looked upon as an expensive
luxury. That's all part of the stodgy Anglo-Saxon mind. It doesn't want
ideas--it wants positions which, carry high salaries; and really the one
thing which blocks the way in all our education is that we care so much for
money and property, and can't think of happiness apart from them. As long
as our real aim in England is income, we shall not make progress; because
we persist in thinking of ideas as luxuries in which a man can indulge if
he has a sufficient income to afford to do so."

"You take a gloomy view of our national ideals, Father," said Vincent.

"Not a gloomy view, my boy," said Father Payne; "only a dull view! We are a
respectable nation--we adore respectability; and I don't think it is a
sympathetic quality. What I want is more sympathy and more imagination. I
think they lead to happiness; and I don't think the Anglo-Saxon cares
enough about happiness; if he is happy, he has an uneasy idea that he is in
for a disaster of some kind."



I found Father Payne one morning reading a letter with knitted brows.
Presently he cast it down on the table with a gesture of annoyance. "What a
fool one is to argue!" he said--and then stopping, he said, "But you wanted
something--what is it?" It was a question about some books which was soon
answered. Then he said: "Stay a few minutes, won't you, unless you are
pressed? I have got a tiresome letter, and if you will let me pour out my
complaint to you, I shall be all right--otherwise I shall go about
grumbling and muttering all day, and inventing repartees."

I sate down in a chair. "Yes, do tell me!" I said; "I have really very
little to do this morning, but finish up a bit of work."

He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. "I expect you ought to be at
work," he said, "and if I were conscientious, I should send you away--but
this is rather interesting, I think."

He meditated for a moment, and then went on. "It's this! I have got
involved in an argument with an old friend of mine who is a stiff sort of
High-Churchman--a parson. It's about religion, too, and it's no good
arguing about religion. You only confirm your adversary in his opinion. He
brings forth the bow, and makes ready the arrows within the quiver. I
needn't go into the argument. It's the old story. He objected to something
I said as 'vague,' and I was ass enough to answer him. He is one of those
people who is very strong on dogma, and treats his religion as if it were a
sort of trades' union. He thinks I am a kind of blackleg, not true to my
principles; or rather he thinks that I am not a Christian at all, and only
call myself one for the sake of the associations. Of course he triumphs
over me at every point. He is entrenched in what he calls a logical system,
and he fires off texts as if from a machine-gun. Of course my point is that
all strict denominations have got a severely logical system, but that they
can't all be sound, because they all deduce different conclusions from the
same evidence. All denominational positions are drawn up by able men, and I
imagine that an old theology like the Catholic theology is one of the most
ingenious constructions in the world from the logical point of view. But
the mischief of it all is that the data are incomplete, and many of them
are not mathematically demonstrable at all. They are all coloured by human
ideas and personalities and temperaments, and half of them are intuitions
and experiences, which vary at different times and under different
circumstances. All precise denominational systems are the outcome of the
desire for a precise certainty in the minds of business-like people--the
people who say that they wish to know exactly where they are. Now I don't
go so far as to say, or even to think, that religion will always be as
mysterious a thing as it is now. I fully expect that we shall know much
more about it some day. But we don't at present know very much about the
central things of all--the nature of God, the relation of good and evil,
life after death, human psychology. We have not reached the point of being
able definitely to identify the moral force of the world with the forces
which do not appear to be moral, but are undoubtedly, active--with
realities, that is, as we come into contact with them. There are no
scientific certainties on these points--we simply have not reached that
stage. My friend's view is that out of a certain number of denominations,
one is undoubtedly right. My view is that all are necessarily incomplete.
But the moment I say this, he says that my religion is so vague as not to
be a religion at all.

"Now my own position is this, that I think religion, by which I mean our
relation to the Power behind the world, is the most important fact in the
world, as well as the most absorbingly interesting. Whatever form of
religion I study, I seem to see the same thing going on. The saints,
however much they differ in dogma, seem to me to have a strong family
likeness. Mysticism is a very definite thing indeed, and I have never any
doubt that all mystics have the same or a very similar experience, namely,
the perception of some perfectly definite force--as real a force as
electricity, for instance--with which they are in touch. Something, which
is quite clearly there, is affecting them in a particular way.

"If you ask me what that something is, I don't know. I believe it to be a
sort of life-force, which can and does mingle itself with our own life; and
I believe that we are all affected by it, just as every drop of water on
the earth is affected by the moon's attraction--though we can measure that
effect in an ocean by observing the tides, when we can't measure it in a
basin of water. We are not all equally conscious of it, and I don't know
why that is. Sometimes I am aware of it myself, and sometimes not. But I
have had enough experience of it to feel that something is making signals
to me, affecting me, attracting me. And the reason why I am a Christian is
because in Christianity and in the teaching of Christ I feel the influence
of it in a way that I feel it nowhere else in the same degree. I feel that
Christ was closer to what I recognise as God; knew God better than anyone
that ever lived, and in a different kind of way--from inside, so to speak.
But it's a _life_ that I find in the Gospel, and not a _creed_:
and I believe that this is religion, to be somehow in touch with a higher
life and a higher sort of beauty.

"But I personally don't want this explained and defined and codified. That
seems to me only to hem it in and limit it. The moment I find it reduced to
dogma and rule, to definite channels of grace, to particular powers
entrusted to particular persons, then I begin to be stifled and, what is
worse, bored. I don't feel it to be a logical affair at all--I feel it to
be a living force, the qualities of which are virtue, beauty, peace,
enthusiasm, happiness; all the things which glow and sparkle in life, and
make me long to be different--to be stronger, wiser, more patient, more
interested, more serene. I want to share my secret with others, not to keep
it to myself. But when I argue with my friend, I don't feel it is my secret
but his, and that in his mind the force itself is missing, while a lot of
rules and logical propositions and arrangements have taken its place. It is
just as though I were in love with a girl, and were taken to task by
someone, and informed of a score of conventions which I must observe if I
wish to be considered really in love. I know what love means to me, and I
know, how I want to make love; and the same sort of thing is happening to
lovers all the world over, though they don't all make love in the same way.
You can't codify the rules of love!"

Presently he went on: "It seems to me like this--like seeing the reflection
of the moon. You may see it in the marble basin of a fountain, clear and
distinct. You may see it blurred into ripples on a wind-stirred sea. You
may see it moulded into liquid curves on a swift stream. The changing
shapes of it matter little--you are sure that it is the same thing which is
being reflected, however differently it appears. I believe that human
nature has a power of reflecting God, and the different denominations seem
to me to reflect Him in different ways, like the fountain and the stream
and the sea. But the same thing is there, though the forms seem to vary.
And therefore we must not quarrel with the different attempts to reflect
it--or even be vexed if the fountain tells the sea that it is not
reflecting the moon at all. Take my advice, my boy," he added, smiling,
"and never argue about religion--only try to make your own spirit as calm
and true as you can!"



I came in from a stroll one day with Father Payne and Barthrop. Father
Payne opened a letter which was lying on the hall table, and saying,
"Hallo, Leonard, look at this. Gladwin is coming down for Sunday--that will
be rather fun!"

"I don't know about fun," said Barthrop; "at least I doubt if I should find
it fun, if I had the responsibility of entertaining him."

"Yes, it's a great responsibility," said Father Payne. "I feel that.
Gladwin is a man who has to be taken as you find him, but who never makes
any pretence of taking you as he finds you! But it will amuse me to put him
through his paces a bit!"

"Who on earth is Gladwin?" said I, consumed by curiosity.

Father Payne and Barthrop laughed. "I should like Gladwin to hear that!"
said Barthrop.

"Only it would grieve him still more if Duncan _had_ heard of him,"
said Father Payne; "there would be a commonness about that!" Then turning
to me, he said, "Gladwin? Well, he's about the most critical man in
England, I suppose. He does a little work--a very little: and I think he
might have been a great man, if he hadn't become so fearfully dry. He began
by despising everyone else, and ended by despising himself--and now it's
almost a torture to him to make up his mind. 'There's something base about
a _decision_,' he once said to me. But 'despising' isn't the right
word. He doesn't despise--that would be coarse. He only feels the
coarseness of things in general. He has got too fine an edge on his
mind--everything blunts it!"

"Do you remember Rose's song about him?" said Barthrop.

"Yes, what was it?" said Father Payne.

"The refrain," said Barthrop, "was

  "'Not too much of whatever is best,
    That is enough for me!'"

Father Payne laughed. "Yes, I remember!" he said; "'Not too much' is a good

I happened to be with Father Payne when Gladwin arrived. He was a small,
trim, compact man, about forty, unembarrassed and graceful, but with an air
of dejection. He had a short pointed beard and moustache, and his hair was
growing grey. He had fine thin hands, and he was dressed in old but
well-fitting clothes. He had an atmosphere of great distinction about him.
I had expected something incisive and clear-cut about him, but he was
conspicuously gentle, and even deprecating in manner. He greeted Father
Payne smilingly, and shook hands with me, with a courteous little bow. We
strolled a little in the garden. Father Payne did most of the talking, but
Gladwin's silence was sympathetic and impressive. He listened to us
tolerantly, as a man might listen to the prattle of children.

"What are you doing just now?" said Father Payne after a pause.

"Oh, nothing worth mentioning," said Gladwin softly. "I work more slowly
than ever, I believe. It can hardly be called work, indeed. In fact, I want
to consult you about a few little bits--they can hardly be called anything
so definite as 'pieces'--but I am in doubt about their arrangement. The
placing of independent pieces is such a difficulty to me, you know! One
must secure some sort of a progression!"

"Ah, I shall enjoy that," said Father Payne. "But you won't take my advice,
you know--you never do!"

"Oh, don't say that," said Gladwin. "Of course one must be ultimately
responsible. It can't be otherwise. But I always respect your judgment. You
always help me to the materials, at all events, for a decision!"

Father Payne laughed, and said, "Well, I shall be at your service any

A little while after, Gladwin said he thought he would go to his room. "I
know your ways here," he said to me with a smile; "one mustn't interfere
with a system. Besides I like it! It is such a luxury to obliterate
oneself!" When we met again before dinner, Gladwin walked across to a big
picture, an old sea-piece, rather effectively painted, which Father Payne
had found in a garret, and had had restored and framed.

"What is this?" said Gladwin very gently; "I think this is new?"

Father Payne told him the story of its discovery, adding, "I don't suppose
it is worth much--but it has a certain breeziness about it, I think."

Gladwin considered it in silence, and then turned away.

"Do you like it?" said Father Payne--a little maliciously, I thought.

"Like it?" said Gladwin meditatively, "I don't know that I can go as far as
that! I like it in your house."

Gladwin said very little at dinner. He ate and drank sparingly; and I
noticed that he looked at any dish that was offered him with a quick
scrutinising glance. He tasted his first glass of wine with the same air of
suspense, and then appeared to be relieved from a preoccupation. But he
joined little in the talk, and exercised rather a sobering effect upon us.
Once or twice he spoke out. Mention was made of Gissing's _Papers of
Henry Ryecroft_, and Father Payne asked him if he had read it. "Oh no, I
couldn't _read_ it, of course," said Gladwin; "I looked into it, and
had to put it away. I felt as if I had opened a letter addressed to someone
else by mistake!"

At a later period of the evening, a discussion arose about the laws of
taste. Father Payne had said that the one phenomenon in art he could not
understand was the almost inevitable reaction which seemed to take place in
the way in which the work of a great writer or painter or musician is
regarded a few years after his vogue declines. "I am not speaking," said
Father Payne, "of poor, commonplace, merely popular work, but of work which
was acclaimed as great by the best critics of the time, and which will
probably return to pre-eminence," He instanced, I remember, Mendelssohn and
Tennyson. "Of course," he said, "they both wrote a great deal--perhaps too
much--and some kind of sorting is necessary. I don't mind the _Idylls of
the King_, or the _Elijah_, being relegated to oblivion, because
they both show signs of having been done with one eye on the public. But
the progressive young man won't hear of Tennyson or Mendelssohn being
regarded as serious figures in art at all. Yet I honestly believe that
poems like 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal,' or 'Come down, O Maid,' have a
high and permanent beauty about them; or, again, the overture to the
_Midsummer Night's Dream_. I can't believe that it isn't a thing full
of loveliness and delight. I can't for the life of me see what happens to
cause such things to be forgotten. Tennyson and Mendelssohn seem to me to
have been penetrated with a sense of beauty, and to have been great
craftsmen too: and their work at its best not only satisfied the most
exacting and trained critics, but thrilled all the most beauty-loving
spirits of the time with ineffable content, as of a dream fulfilled beyond
the reach of hope. And yet all the light seems to die out of them as the
years go on. The new writers and musicians, the new critics, the new
audience, are all preoccupied with a different presentment of beauty. And
then, very slowly, the light seems to return to the old things--at least to
the best of them: but they have to suffer an eclipse, during which they are
nothing but symbols of all that is hackneyed and commonplace in music and
literature. I think things are either beautiful or not: I can't believe in
a real shifting of taste, a merely relative and temporary beauty. If it
only happened to the second-rate kinds of goodness, it would be
intelligible--but it seems to involve the best as well. What do you think,

Gladwin, who had been dreamily regarding the wine in his glass, gave a
little start almost of pain, as if a thorn had pricked him. He glanced
round the table, and then said in his gentlest voice, "Well, Payne, I don't
quite know from what point of view you are speaking--from the point of view
of serious investigation, or of edification, or of mere curiosity? I should
have to be sure of that. But, speaking hurriedly and perhaps intemperately,
I should be inclined to think that there was a sort of natural revolt
against a convention, a spontaneous disgust at deference being taken for
granted. Isn't it like what takes place in politics--though, of course, I
know nothing about politics--the way, I mean, in which the electors get
simply tired of a political party being in power, and give the other side a
chance of doing better? I mean that the gross and unintelligent laudation
of any artist who arrives at what is called assured fame, naturally turns
one's mind on to the critical consciousness of his imperfections. I don't
say it's noble or right--in fact, I think it is probably ungenerous--but I
think it is natural."

"Yes, there is a good deal in that," said Father Payne, "but ought not the
trained critics to withstand it?"

"The trained critic," said Gladwin, "the man who sells his opinion of a
work of art for money, is, of course, the debased outcome of a degrading
system. If you press me, I should consider that both the extravagant
laudation and the equally extravagant reaction are entirely vulgar and
horrible. Personally, I am not easily pleased: but then what does it matter
whether I am pleased or not?"

"But you sometimes bring yourself to form, and even express, an opinion?"
said Father Payne with a smile.

"An opinion--an opinion"--said Gladwin, shaking his head, "I don't know
that I ever get so far as that. One has a kind of feeling, no doubt; but it
is so far underground, that one hardly knows what its operations may be."

"'Well said, old mole! Canst work i' the earth so fast? A worthy pioneer!'"
said Payne, laughing.

Gladwin gave a quick smile: "A good quotation!" he said, "that was very
ready! I congratulate you on that! But there's more of the mole than the
pioneer about my work, such as it is!"

Gladwin drifted about the next day like a tired fairy.

He had a long conference with Father Payne, and at dinner he seemed aloof,
and hardly spoke at all. He vanished the next day with an air of relief.
"Well, what did you think of our guest?" said Father Payne to me, meeting
me in the garden before dinner.

"Well," I said, "he seemed to me an unhappy, heavily-burdened man--but he
was evidently extraordinarily able."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "that's about it. His mind is too big for him to
carry. He sees everything, understands everything, and passes judgment on
everything. But he hasn't enough vitality. It must be an awful curse to
have no illusions--to see the inferiority of everything so clearly. He's
awfully lonely, and I must try to see more of him. But it is very
difficult. I used to amuse him, and he appointed me, in a way he has, a
sort of State Jester--Royal Letters Patent, you know. But then he began to
detect the commonness of my mind and taste, and, one by one, all the
avenues of communication became closed. If I liked a book which he
disliked, and praised it to him, he became inflicted with a kind of mental
nausea: and it's impossible to see much of a man, with any real comfort,
when you realise that you are constantly turning him faint and sick. I had
a dreary time with him yesterday. He produced some critical essays of his
own, which he was thinking of making into a book. They were awfully dry,
like figs which have been kept too long--not a drop of juice in them. They
were hideously acute, I saw that. But there wasn't any reason why they
should have been written. They were mere dissections: I suggested that he
should call them 'Depreciations,' and he shivered, and I felt a brute. But
that didn't last long, because he has a way of putting you in your place. I
felt like something in a nightmare he was having. He annexes you, and he
disapproves of you at the same time. I am awfully sorry for him, but I
can't help him. The moment I try, I run up against his disapproval, and my
vulgar spirit revolts. He's an aristocrat, through and through. He comes
and hoists his flag over a place. I felt all yesterday as if I were a
rather unwelcome guest in his house, you know. It's a stifling atmosphere.
I can't breathe or speak, because I instantly feel myself suspected of
crudity! The truth is that Gladwin thinks you can live upon light, and
forgets that you also want air."

"It seems rather a ghastly business," I said.

"Yes," said Father Payne, "it's a wretched business! That combination of
great sensitiveness and great self-righteousness is the most melancholy
thing I know. You have to get rid of one or the other--and yet that is how
Gladwin is made. Now, I have plenty of opinions of my own, but I don't
consider them final or absolute. It ends, of course, in poor Gladwin
knowing about a hundredth part of what is going on in the world, and
thinking that it's d--d bad. Of course it is, if you neglect the other
ninety-nine parts altogether!"



It was one of those perfectly fine and radiant days of early summer, with a
touch of easterly about the breeze, which means perhaps a drier air, and
always seems to bring out the true colours of our countryside, as with a
touch of ethereal golden-tinged varnish. The humid rain-washed days, so
common in England, are beautiful enough, with their rolling cloud-ranges
and their soft mistiness: but the clear sparkle of this brighter weather,
summer without its haze, intensifying each tone of colour and sharply
defining each several tint, has a special beauty of form as well as of hue.

I walked with Father Payne far among the fields. He was at first in a
silent mood, observing and enjoying. We passed a field carpeted with
buttercups, and he said, "That's a beautiful touch, 'the flower-enamelled
field'--it isn't just washed with colour, it is like hammered work of
beaten gold, like the letters in old missals!" Presently he burst out into
talk: "I don't want to say anything affected," he began, "but a day like
this, out in the country, gives me a stronger feeling of what I can only
describe as _worship_ than anything else in the world, because the
scene holds the beauty of life so firmly up before you. Worship means the
sense of the unmistakable presence of beauty, I am sure--a beauty great and
overwhelming, which one has had no part in making--'The sea is His, and He
made it, and His hands prepared the dry land. O come, let us worship and
fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker'--it's that exactly--a sense
of joyful abasement in the presence of something great and infinitely
beautiful. I do wish that were more clearly stated and understood and
believed. Religion, as we know it in its technical sense, is so
faint-hearted about it all! It has limited worship to things beautiful
enough, arches and music and ceremony: and it is so afraid of vagueness, so
considerate of man's feeble grasp and small outlook, that it is afraid of
recognising all the channels by which that sense is communicated, for fear
of weakening a special effect. I'll tell you two or three of the
experiences I mean. You know old Mrs. Chetwynd, who is fading away in that
little cottage beyond the churchyard. She is poor, old, ill. She can hardly
be said to have a single pleasure, as you and I reckon pleasures. She just
lies there in that poky room waiting for death, always absolutely patient
and affectionate and sweet-tempered, grateful for everything, never saying
a hard or cross word. Well, I go to see her sometimes--not as often as I
ought. She shakes hands with that old knotted-looking hand of hers which
has grown soft enough now after its endless labours. She talks a
little--she is interested in all the news, she doesn't regret things, or
complain, or think it hard that she can't be out and about. After I have
been with her for two minutes, with her bright old eyes looking at me out
of such a thicket, so to speak, of wrinkles,--her face simply hacked and
seamed by life,--I feel myself in the presence of something very divine
indeed,--a perfectly pure, tender, joyful, human spirit, suffering the last
extremity of discomfort and infirmity, and yet entirely radiant and
undimmed. It is then that I feel inclined to kneel down before God, and
thank Him humbly for having made and shown me so utterly beautiful a thing
as that poor old woman's courage and sweetness. I feel as I suppose the
devout Catholic feels before the reserved Sacrament in the shrine--in the
presence of a divine mystery; and I rejoice silently that God is what He
is, and that I see Him for once unveiled.

"And then the sight of a happy and contented child, kind and spirited and
affectionate, like little Molly Akers, never making a fuss, or seeming to
want things for herself, or cross, or tiresome--that gives me the same
feeling! Then flowers often give me the same feeling, with their cleanness
and fresh beauty and pure outline and sweet scent--so useless in a way,
often so unregarded, and yet so content just to be what they are, so apart
from every stain and evil passion.

"And then in the middle of that you see a man like Barlow stumbling home
tipsy to his frightened wife and children, or you read a bad case in the
papers, or a letter from a man of virtue finding fault with everybody and
slinging pious Billingsgate about: or I lose my own temper about something,
and feel I have made a hash of my life--and then I wonder what is the foul
poison that has got into things, and what is the dismal ugliness that seems
smeared all over life, so that the soul seems like a beautiful bird caught
in a slime-pit, and trying to struggle out, with its pinions fouled and
dabbled, wondering miserably what it has done to be so filthily hampered."

He stopped for a minute, and I could see that his eyes were full of tears.

"It is no good giving up the game!" he said. "We are in the devil of a
mess, no doubt: and even if we try our best to avoid it, we dip into the
slime sometimes! But we must hold fast to the beautiful things, and be on
the look-out for them everywhere. Not shut our eyes in a rapture of
sentiment, and think that we can:

  "'Walk all day, like the Sultan of old, in a garden
       of spice!'

"That won't do, of course! We can't get out of it like that! But we must
never allow ourselves to doubt the beauty and goodness of God, or make any
mistake about which side He is on. The marvel of dear old Mrs. Chetwynd is
just that beauty has triumphed, in spite of everything. With every kind of
trouble, every temptation to be dispirited and spiteful and wretched, that
fine spirit has got through--and, by George, I envy her the awakening, when
that sweet old soul slips away from the cage where she is caught, and goes
straight to the arms of God!"

He turned away from me as he said this, and I could see that he struggled
with a sob. Then he looked at me with a smile, and put his arm in mine.
"Old man," he said, "I oughtn't to behave like this--but a day like this,
when the world looks as it was meant to look, and as, please God, it
_will_ look more and more, goes to my heart! I seem to see what God
desires, and what He can't bring about yet, for all His pains. And I want
to help Him, if I can!

  "'We too! We ask no pledge of grace,
    No rain of fire, no heaven-hung sign.
  Thy need is written on Thy face--
    Take Thou our help, as we take Thine!'

"That's what I mean by worship--the desire to be _used_ in the service
of a Power that longs to make things pure and happy, with groanings that
cannot be uttered. The worst of some kinds of worship is that they drug you
with a sort of lust for beauty, which makes you afraid to go back and pick
up your spade. We mustn't swoon in happiness or delight, but if we say
'Take me, use me, let me help!' it is different, because we want to share
whatever is given us, to hand it on, not to pile it up. Of course it's
little enough that we can do: but think of old Mrs. Chetwynd again--what
has she to give? Yet it is more than Solomon in all his beauty had to
offer. We must be simple, we mustn't be ambitious. Do you remember the old
statesman who, praising a disinterested man, said that he was that rare and
singular type of man who did public work for the sake of the public? That's
what I want you to do--that is what a writer can do. He can remind the
world of beauty and simplicity and purity. He can be 'a messenger, an
interpreter, one among a thousand, _to show unto man his
uprightness_!' That's what you have got to do, old boy! Don't show unto
man his nastiness--don't show him up! Keep on reminding him of what he
really is or can be."

He went on after a moment. "I ought not to talk like this," he said,
"because I have failed all along the line. 'I put in my thumb and pull out
a plum,' like Jack Homer. I try a little to hand it on, but it is awfully
nice, you know, that plum! I don't pretend it isn't."

"Why, Father," I said, much moved at his kind sincerity, "I don't know
anyone in the world who eats fewer of his plums than you!"

"Ah, that's a friendly word!" said Father Payne. "But you can't count the
plum-stones on my plate."

We did not say much after this. We walked back in the summer twilight, and
my mind began to stir and soar, as indeed it often did when Father Payne
showed me his heart in all its strength and cleanness. No one whom I ever
met had his power of lighting a flame of pure desire and beautiful
hopefulness, in the fire of which all that was base and mean seemed to
shrivel away.



I was walking one day with Father Payne; he said to me, "I have been
reading Newman's _Apologia_ over again--I must have read it a dozen
times! It is surely one of the most beautiful and singular books in the
whole world?--and I think that the strangest sentence in it is this,--'Who
would ever dream of making the world his confidant?' Did Newman, do you
suppose, not realise that he had done that? And what is stranger still, did
he not know that he had told the world, not the trivial things, the little
tastes and fancies which anyone might hear, but the most intimate and
sacred things, which a man would hardly dare to say to God upon his knees.
Newman seems to me in that book to have torn out his beating and
palpitating heart, and set it in a crystal phial for all the world to gaze
upon. And further, did Newman really not know that this was what he always
desired to do and mostly did--to confide in the world, to tell his story as
a child might tell it to a mother? It is clear to me that Newman was a man
who did not only desire to be loved by a few friends, but wished everybody
to love him. I will not say that he was never happy till he had told his
tale, and I will not say that artist-like he loved applause: but he did
_not_ wish to be hidden, and he earnestly desired to be approved. He
craved to be allowed to say what he thought--it is pathetic to hear him say
so often how 'fierce' he was--and yet he hated suspicion and hostility and
misunderstanding: and though he loved a refined sort of quiet, he even more
loved, I think, to be the centre of a fuss! I feel little doubt in my own
mind that, even when he was living most retired, he wished people to be
curious about what he was doing. He was one of those men who felt he had a
special mission, a prophetical function. He was a dramatic creature, a
performer, you know. He read the lessons like an actor: he preached like an
actor; he was intensely self-conscious. Naturally enough! If you feel like
a prophet, the one sign of failure is that your audience melts away."

Father Payne paused a moment, lost in thought.

"But," I said, "do you mean that Newman calculated all his effects?"

"Oh, not deliberately," said Father Payne, "but he was an artist pure and
simple--he was never less by himself than when he was alone, as the old
Provost of Oriel said of him. He lived dramatically by a kind of instinct.
The unselfconscious man goes his own way, and does not bother his head
about other people: but Newman was not like that. When he was reading, it
was always like the portrait of a student reading. That's the artist's
way--he is always living in a sort of picture-frame. Why, you can see from
the _Apologia_, which he wrote in a few weeks, and often, as he once
said, in tears, how tenderly and eagerly he remembered all he had ever done
or thought. His descriptions of himself are always romantic: he lived in
memories, like all poets."

"But that gives one a disagreeable sense of unreality--of pose," I said.

"Ah, but that's very short-sighted," said Father Payne. "Newman's was a
beautiful spirit--wonderfully tender-hearted, self-restrained, gentle,
sensitive, beauty-loving. He loved beauty as much as any man who ever
lived--beautiful conduct, beautiful life--and then his gift of expression!
There's a marvellous thing. It's pure poetry, most of the _Apologia_:
look at the way he flashes into metaphor, at his exquisite pictures of
persons, at his irony, his courtesy, his humour, his pathos. He and Ruskin
knew exactly how to confide in the world, how to humiliate themselves
gracefully in public, how to laugh at themselves, how to be gay--it's all
so well-bred, so delicate! Depend upon it, that's the way to make the world
love you--to tell it all about yourself like a charming child, without any
boasting or bragging. The world is awfully stupid! It adores well-bred
egotism. We are all deeply inquisitive about _people_; and if you can
reveal yourself without vanity, and are a lovable creature, the world will
overwhelm you with love. You can't pay the world a greater compliment than
to open your heart to it. You must not bore it, of course, nor must you
seem to be demanding its applause. You must just seem to be in need of
sympathy and comfort. You must be a little sad, a little tired, a little
bewildered. I don't say that is easy to do, and a man must not set out to
do it. But if a man has got something childlike and innocent about him, and
a naïve way with him, the world will take him to its heart. The world loves
to pity, to compassionate, to sympathise, much more than it loves to

"But what about the religious side of it all?" I said.

"Ah," said Father Payne, "I think that is more touching still. The people
who change their religion, as it is called,--there is something extremely
captivating about them as a rule. To want to change your form of religion
simply means that you are unhappy and uneasy. You want more beauty, or more
assurance, or more sympathy, or more antiquity. Have you never noticed how
all converts personify their new Church in feminine terms? She becomes a
Madonna, something at once motherly and young. It is the passion with which
the child turns away from what is male and rough, to the mother, the nurse,
the elder sister. The convert isn't really in search of dogmas and
doctrines: he is in love with a presence, a shape, something which can
clasp and embrace and love him. I don't feel any real doubt of that. The
man who turns away to some other form of faith wants a home. He sees the
ugliness, the spite, the malice, the contentiousness of his own Church. He
loathes the hardness and uncharitableness of it; he is like a boy at school
sick for home. To me Newman's logic is like the effort of a man desperately
constructing a bridge to escape to the other side of the river. The land
beyond is like a landscape seen from a hill, a scene of woods and waters,
of fields and hamlets--everything seems peaceful and idyllic there. He
wants the wings of a dove, to flee away and be at rest. It is the same
feeling which makes people wish to travel. When you travel, the new land is
a spectacular thing--it is all a picture. It is not that you crave to live
in a foreign land: you merely want the luxury of seeing life without living
life. No ordinary person goes to live in Italy because he has studied the
political constitution and organisation of Italy, and prefers it to that of
England. So, too, the charm of a religious conversion is that it doesn't
seem unpatriotic to do it--but you get the feel of a new country without
having to quit your own. And the essence of it is a flight from conditions
which you dread and dislike. Of course Newman does not describe it so--that
is all a part of his guilelessness--he speaks of the shadow of a hand upon
the wall: but I don't doubt that his subconscious mind thrilled with the
sense of a possible escape that way. His heart was converted long before
his mind. What he hated in the English Church was having to decide for
himself--he wanted to lean on something, to put himself inside a
stronghold: he wanted to obey. Some people dislike the way in which he made
himself obey,--the way he argued himself into holding things which were
frankly irrational. But I don't mind that! It is the pleasure of the child
in being told what to do instead of having to amuse itself."

He was silent for a little, and then he said: "I see it all so clearly, and
yet of course it is in a sense inconceivable to me, because to my mind all
the Churches have got a burden of belief which they can't carry. The Gospel
is simple enough, and it is as much as I can do to live on those lines.
Besides, I don't want to obey--I want to obey as little as I can! The
ecclesiastical and the theological tradition is all a world of shadows to
me. I can't be bound by the pious fancies of men who knew no science, and
very little about evidence of any kind. What I want is just a simple and
beautiful principle of living, such as I feel thrills through the words of
Christ. The Prodigal Son--that's almost enough for me! It is simplification
that I want, and independence. Of course I see that if that isn't what a
man wants, if he requires that something or someone should be infallible,
then he does require a good deal of argument and information and history.
But though I don't object to people who want all that, it isn't what I am
in search of. I want as much strong emotion and as little system as I can
get. By emotion I don't mean sentiment, but real motives for acting or not
acting. I want to hear someone saying, 'Come up hither,' and to see
something in his face which makes me believe he sees something that I don't
see and that I wish to see. I don't feel that with Newman! He is fifty
times better than myself, but I couldn't do the thing in his way, though I
love him with all my heart: it's a quiet sort of brotherhood that I want,
and not too many rules. In fact, it is _laws_ I want, and not
_rules_, and to feel the laws rather than to know them, I can't help
feeling that Newman spent too much of his time in the law-court, pleading
and arguing: and it's stuffy in there! But he will remain for ever one of
those figures whom the world will love, because it can pity him as well as
admire him. Newman goes to one's head, you know, or to one's heart! And I
expect that it was exactly what he wanted to do all the time!"



Father Payne, on our walks, invariably stopped and spoke to animals. I will
not say that animals were always fond of him, because that is a privilege
confined to saints, and heroes of romantic legends. But they generally
responded to his advances. It used to amuse me to hear the way he used to
talk to animals. He would stop to whistle to a caged bird: "You like your
little prison, don't you, sweet?" he would say. Or he would apostrophise a
cat, "Well, Ma'am, you must find it wearing to carry on your expeditions
all night, and to live the life of a domestic saint all day?" I asked him
once why he did not keep a dog, when he was so fond of animals. "Oh, I
couldn't," he said; "it is so dreadful when dogs get old and ill, and when
they die! It's sentiment, too; and I can't afford to multiply
emotions--there are too many as it is! Besides, there is something rather
terrible to me about the affection of a dog--it's so unreasonable a
devotion, and I like more critical affections--I prefer to earn affection!
I read somewhere the other day," he went on, "that it might easily be
argued that the dog was a higher flight of nature even than man; that man
has gone ahead in mind and inventiveness; but that the dog is on the whole
the better Christian, because he does by instinct what man fails to do by
intention--he is so sympathetic, so unresentful, so trustful! It is really
amazing, if you come to think of it, the dog's power of attachment to
another species. We must seem very mysterious to dogs, and yet they never
question our right to use them as we will, while nothing shakes their love.
And then there is something wonderful in the way in which the dog, however
old he is, always wants to play. Most animals part with that after their
first youth; but a dog plays, partly for the fun of it, and partly to make
sure that you like his company and are happy. And yet it is a little
undignified to care for people like that, you know!"

"How ought one to care for people?" I said.

"Ah, that's a large question," said Father Payne, "the duty of loving--it's
a contradiction in terms! To love people seems the one thing in the world
you cannot do because you ought to do it; and yet to love your neighbour as
yourself can't _only_ mean to behave _as if_ you loved him. And
then, what does caring about people mean? It seems impossible to say. It
isn't that you want anything which they can give you--it isn't that they
need anything you can give them; it isn't always even that you want to see
them. There are people for whom I care who rather bore me; there are people
who care for me who bore me to extinction; and again there are people whose
company I like for whom I don't care. It isn't always by any means that I
admire the people for whom I care. I see their faults, I don't want to
resemble them. Then, too, there have been people for whom I have cared very
much, and wanted to please, who have not cared in the least for me. Some of
the best-loved people in the world seem to have had very little love to
give away! I have a sort of feeling that the people who evoke most
affection are the people who have something of the child always in
them--something petulant, wilful, self-absorbed, claiming sympathy and
attention. It is a certain innocence and freshness that we love, I think;
the quality that seems to say, 'Oh, do make me happy'; and I think that
caring for people generally means just that you would like to make them
happy, or that they have it in their power to make you happy. I think it is
a kind of conspiracy to be happy together, if possible. Probably the
mistake we make is to think it is one definite thing, when a good many
things go to make it up. I have been interested in a very large number of
people--in fact, I am generally interested in people; but I haven't cared
for all of them, while I have cared for a good many people in whom I have
not been at all interested. But it is easier to say what the qualities are
that repel affection, than what the qualities are which attract it. I don't
think any faults prevent it, if people are sorry for their faults and are
sorry to have hurt you. It seems to me impossible to care for spiteful
people, or for the people who turn on you in a sudden anger, and don't want
to be forgiven, but are glad to have made you fear them. I don't care for
people who claim affection as a right, or who bargain for sacrifices. The
bargaining element must be wholly absent from affection. The feeling 'it is
your turn to be nice' is fatal to it. No, I think that it is a feeling that
you can live at peace with the particular person that is the basis of
friendship. The element of reproach must be wholly absent: I don't mean the
element of criticism--that can be impersonal--but the feeling 'you ought
not to behave like this to me.'"

Father Payne relapsed into silence. "But," I said, "surely the people who
make claims for affection are very often most beloved, even when they are
unjust, inconsiderate, ill-tempered?"

"By women," said Father Payne, "but not by men--and there's another
difficulty. Men and women mean such utterly different things by affection,
that they can't even discuss it together. Women will do anything for you,
if you claim their help, and make it clear that you need them; they will
love you if you do that. A man, on the other hand, will often do his very
best to help you, if you appeal to him, but he won't care for you, as a
rule, in consequence. Women like emotional surprises, men do not. A man
wants to get done with excitement, and to enter on an easy
partnership--women like the excitement more than the ease. And then it is
all complicated by the admixture of the masculine and feminine
temperaments. As a rule, however, women are interested in moody
temperaments, and men are bored by them. Personally, my own pleasure in
meeting a real friend, or in hearing from a friend, is the pleasure of
feeling 'Yes, you are there, just the same,'--it's the tranquillity that
one values. The possibility of finding a man angry or pettish is unpleasant
to me. I feel 'so all this nonsense has to be cleared away again!' I don't
want to be questioned and scrutinised, with a sense that I am on my trial.
I don't mind an ironical letter, which shows that a friend is fully aware
of my faults and foibles; but it's an end of all friendship with me if I
feel a man is bent on improving me, especially if it is for his own
convenience. I'm sure that the fault-finding element is fatal to affection.
That may sound weak, but I can't be made to feel that I am responsible to
other people. I don't recognise anyone's right to censure me. A man may
criticise me if he likes, but he mustn't impose upon me the duty of living
up to his ideal. I don't believe that even God does that!"

"I don't understand," I said.

"Well," said Father Payne, "I don't believe that God says, 'This is my law,
and you must obey it because I choose," I believe He says, 'This is the
law, for Me as well as for you, and you will not be happy till you obey
it,'--Yes, I have got it, I believe--the essence of affection is
_equality_. I don't mean that you may not recognise superiorities in
your friend, and he in you; but they must not come into the question of
affection. Love makes equal, and when there is a real sense of equality,
love can begin."

"But," I said, "the passion of lovers--isn't that all based on the worship
of something infinitely superior to oneself?"

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but that means a sight of something beyond--of
the thing which we all love--beauty. I don't say that equality is the thing
we love--it's only the condition of loving. The lover can't love, if he
feels himself _really_ unworthy of love. He must believe that at worst
he _can_ be loved, though he may be astonished at being loved; it is
in love that it is possible to meet; it is love that brings beauty within
your reach, or down, to your level. It is beauty that you love in your
friend, not his right to improve you. He is what you want to be; and the
comfort of being loved is the comfort of feeling that there is some touch
of the same beauty in yourself. It is so easy to feel dreary, stupid,
commonplace--and then someone appears, and you see in his glance and talk
that there is, after all, some touch of the same thing in yourself which
you love in him, some touch of the beauty which you love in God. But the
glory of beauty is that it is concerned with being beautiful and becoming
beautiful--not in mocking or despising or finding fault or improving. Love
is the finding your friend beautiful in mind and heart, and the joy of
being loved is the sense that you are beautiful to him--that you are equal
in that! When you once know that, little quarrels and frictions do not
matter--what _does_ matter is the recognising of some ugly thing which
the man whom you thought was your friend really clings to and worships.
Faults do not matter if only the friend is aware of them, and ashamed of
them: it is the self-conscious fault, proud of its power to wound, and
using affection as the channel along which the envenomed stream may flow,
which destroys affection and trust."

"Then it comes to this," I said, "that affection is a mutual recognition of
beauty and a sense of equality?"

"It _is_ that, more or less, I believe," said Father Payne. "I don't
mean that friends need be aware of that--you need not philosophise about
your friendships--but if you ask me, as an analyst, what it all consists
in, I believe that those are the essential elements of it--and I believe
that it holds good of the dog-and-man friendship as well!"



Father Payne had been out to luncheon one day with some neighbours. He had
groaned over the prospect the day before, and had complained that such
goings-on unsettled him.

"Well, Father," said Rose at dinner, "so you have got through your ordeal!
Was it very bad?"

"Bad!" said Father Payne, "why should it be bad? I'm crammed with
impressions--I'm a perfect mine of them."

"But you didn't like the prospect of going?" said Rose.

"No," said Father Payne, "I shrank from the strain--you phlegmatic,
aristocratic people,--men-of-the-world, blasés, highly-born and
highly-placed,--have no conception of the strain these things are on a
child of nature. You are used to such things, Rose, no doubt--you do not
anticipate a luncheon-party with a mixture of curiosity and gloom. But it
is good for me to go to such affairs--it is like a waterbreak in a
stream--it aerates and agitates the mind. But _you_ don't realise the
amount of observation I bring to bear on such an event--the strange house,
the unfamiliar food, the new inscrutable people--everything has to be
observed, dealt with, if possible accounted for, and if unaccountable, then
inflexibly faced and recollected. A torrent of impressions has poured in
upon me--to say nothing of the anxious consideration beforehand of topics
of conversation, and modes of investigation! To stay in a new house crushes
me with fatigue--and even a little party like this, which seems, I daresay,
to some of you, a negligible, even a tedious thing, is to me rich in
far-flung experience."

"Mayn't we have the benefit of some of it?" said Rose.

"Yes," said Father Payne, "you may--you must, indeed! I am grateful to you
for introducing the subject--it is more graceful than if I had simply
divested myself of my impressions unsolicited."

"What was it all about?" said Rose.

"Why," said Father Payne, "the answer to that is simple enough--it was to
meet an American! I know that race! Who but an American would have heard of
our little experiment here, and not only wanted to know--they all do
that--but positively arranged to know? Yes, he was a hard-featured man--a
man of wealth, I imagine--from some place, the grotesque and extravagant
name of which I could not even accurately retain, in the State of

"Did he want to try a similar experiment?" said Barthrop.

"He did not," said Father Payne. "I gathered that he had no such
intention--but he desired to investigate ours. He was full of compliments,
of information, even of rhetoric. I have seldom heard a simple case stated
more emphatically, or with such continuous emphasis. My mind simply reeled
before it. He pursued me as a harpooner might pursue a whale. He had the
whole thing out of me in no time. He interrogated me as a corkscrew
interrogates a cork. That consumed the whole of luncheon. I made a poor
show. My experiment, such as it is, stood none of the tests he applied to
it. It appeared to be lacking in all earnestness and zeal. I was painfully
conscious of my lack of earnestness. 'Well, sir,' he said at the conclusion
of my examination-in-chief, 'I seem to detect that this business of yours
is conducted mainly with a view to your own entertainment, and I admit that
it causes me considerable disappointment.' The fact is, my boys," said
Father Payne, surveying the table, "that we must be more conscious of
higher aims here, and we must put them on a more commercial footing!"

"But that was not all?" said Barthrop.

"No, it was not all," said Father Payne; "and, to tell you the truth, I was
more alarmed by than interested in the Minnesota merchant. I couldn't state
my case--I failed in that--and I very much doubt if I could have convinced
him that there was anything in it. Indeed, he said that my conceptions of
culture were not as clear-cut as he had hoped."

"He seems to have been fairly frank," said Rose.

"He was frank, but not uncivil," said Father Payne. "He did not deride my
absence of definiteness, he only deplored it. But I really got more out of
the subsequent talk. We adjourned to a sort of portico, a pretty place
looking on to a formal garden: it was really very charmingly done--a clever
fake of an, old garden, but with nothing really beautiful about it. It
looked as if no one had ever lived in it, though the illusion of age was
skilfully contrived--old paving-stones, old bricks, old lead vases, but all
looking as if they were shy, and had only been just introduced to each
other. There was no harmony of use about it. But the talk--that was the
amazing thing! Such pleasant intelligent people, nice smiling women,
courteous grizzled men. By Jove, there wasn't a single writer or artist or
musician that they didn't seem to know intimately! It was a literary party,
I gathered: but even so there was a haze of politics and society about
it--vistas of politicians and personages of every kind, all known
intimately, all of them quoted, everything heard and whispered in the
background of events--we had no foregrounds, I can tell you, nothing
second-hand, no concealments or reticences. Everyone in the world worth
knowing seemed to have confided their secrets to that group. It was a
privilege, I can tell you! We simply swam in influences and authenticities.
I seemed to be in the innermost shrine of the world's forces--where they
get the steam up, you know!"

"But who are these people, after all?" said Rose.

"My dear Rose!" said Father Payne. "You mustn't destroy my illusions in
that majestic manner! What would I not have given to be able to ask myself
that question! To me they were simply the innermost circle, to whom the
writers and artists of the day told their dreams, and from whom they sought
encouragement and sympathy. That was enough for me. I stored my memory with
anecdotes and noble names, like the man in _Pride and Prejudice_."

"But what did it all come to?" said Rose.

"Well," said Father Payne, "to tell you the truth, it didn't amount to very
much! At the time I was dazzled and stupefied--but subsequent reflection
has convinced me that the cooking was better than the food, so to speak."

"You mean that it was mostly humbug?" said Rose.

"Well, I wouldn't go quite as far as that," said Father Payne, "but it was
not very nutritive--no, the nutriment was lacking! Come, I'll tell you
frankly what I did think, as I came away. I thought these pretty people
very adventurous, very quick, very friendly. But I don't truly think they
were interested in the real thing at all--only interested in the words of
the wise, and in the unconsidered trifles of the Major Prophets, so to
speak. I didn't think it exactly pretentious--but they obviously only cared
for people of established reputation. They didn't admire the ideas behind,
only the reputations of the people who said the things. They had
undoubtedly seen and heard the great people--I confess it amazed me to
think how easily the men of mark can be exploited--but I did not discern
that they cared about the things represented,--only about the
representatives. The American was different. He, I think, cared about the
ideas, though he cared about them in the wrong way. I mean that he claimed
to find everything distinct, whereas the big things are naturally
indistinct. They loom up in a shadowy way, and the American was examining
them through field-glasses. But my other friends seemed to me to be only
interested in the people who had the entrée, so to speak--the priests of
the shrine. They had noticed everything that doesn't matter about the high
and holy ones--how they looked, spoke, dressed, behaved. It was awfully
clever, some of it; one of the women imitated Legard the essayist down to
the ground--the way he pontificates, you know--but nothing else. They were
simply interested in the great men, and not interested in what make the
great men different from other people, but simply in their resemblance to
other people. Even great people have to eat, you know! Legard himself eats,
though it's a leisurely process; and this woman imitated the way he forked
up a bit, held it till the bit dropped off, and put the empty fork into his
mouth. It was excruciatingly funny--I'll admit that. But they missed the
point, after all. They didn't care about Legard's books a bit--they cared
much more about that funny cameo ring he wears on his tie!"

"It all seems to me horribly vulgar," said Kaye.

"No, it was no more vulgar than a dance of gnats," said Father Payne. "They
were all alive, those people. They were just gnats, now I come to think of
it! They had stung all the great men of the day--even drawn a little
blood--and they were intoxicated by it. Mind, I don't say that it is worth
doing, that kind of thing! But they were having their fun--and the only
mistake they made was in thinking they cared about these people for the
right reasons. No, the only really rueful part of the business was the
revelation to me of what the great people can put up with, in the way of
being fêted, and the extent to which they seem able to give themselves away
to these pretty women. It must be enervating, I think, and even exhausting,
to be so pawed and caressed; but it's natural enough, and if it amuses
them, I'm not going to find fault. My only fear is that Legard and the rest
think they are really _living_ with these people. They are not doing
that; they are only being roped in for the fun of the performance. These
charming ladies just ensnare the big people, make them chatter, and then
get together, as they did to-day, and compare the locks of hair they have
snipped from their Samsons. But it isn't a bit malicious--it's simply
childish; and, by Jove, I enjoyed myself tremendously. Now, don't pull a
long face, Kaye! Of course it was very cheap--and I don't say that anyone
ought to enjoy that sort of thing enough to pursue it. But if it comes in
my way, why, it is like a dish of sweetmeats! I don't approve of it, but it
was like a story out of Boccaccio, full of life and zest, even though the
pestilence was at work down in the city. We must not think ill of life too
easily! I don't say that these people are living what is called the highest
life. But, after all, I only saw them amusing themselves. There were some
children about, nice children, sensibly dressed, well-behaved, full of go,
and yet properly drilled. These women are good wives and good mothers; and
I expect they have both spirit and tenderness, when either is wanted. I'm
not going to bemoan their light-mindedness; at all events, I thought it was
very pleasant, and they were very good to me. They saw I wasn't a
first-hander or a thoroughbred, and they made it easy for me. No, it was a
happy time for me--and, by George, how they fed us! I expect the women
looked after all that. I daresay that, as far as economics go, it was all
wrong, and that these people are only a sort of scum on the surface of
society. But it is a pretty scum, shot with bright colours. Anyhow, it is
no good beginning by trying to alter _them_! If you could alter
everything else, they would fall into line, because they are good-humoured
and sensible. And as long as people are kindly and full of life, I shall
not complain; I would rather have that than a dreary high-mindedness."

Father Payne rose. "Oh, do go on, Father!" said someone.

"No, my boy," said Father Payne, "I'm boiling over with impressions--rooms,
carpets, china, flowers, ladies' dresses! But that must all settle down a
bit. In a few days I'll interrogate my memory, like Wordsworth, and see if
there is anything of permanent worth there!"



Father Payne had been listening to some work of mine: and he said at the
end, "That is graceful enough, and rather attractive--but it has a great
fault: it is sometimes ambiguous. Several of your sentences can have more
than one meaning. I remember once at Oxford," he said, smiling, "that
Collins, one of our lecturers, had been going through a translation-paper
with me, and had told me three quite distinct ways of rendering a sentence,
each backed by a great scholar. I asked him, I remember, whether that meant
that the original writer--it was Livy, I think--had been in any doubt as to
what his words were meant to convey. He laughed, and said, 'No, I don't
imagine that Livy intended to make his meaning obscure. I expect, if we
took the passage to him with the three renderings, he would deride at least
two of them, and possibly all three, and would point out that we simply did
not know the usage of some word or phrase which would have been absolutely
clear to a contemporary reader,' But Collins went on to say that there
might also be a real ambiguity about the passage: and then he quoted the
supposed remark of the bishop who declined to wear gaiters, and said, 'I
shall wear no clothes to distinguish myself from my fellow-Christians.'
This was printed in his biography, 'I shall wear no clothes, to distinguish
myself from my fellow-Christians.' 'That sentence may be fairly called
ambiguous,' Collins said, 'when its sense so much depends upon

"Now," Father Payne went on, "you must remember, in writing, that you write
for the eye, you don't write for the ear. A book isn't primarily meant to
be read aloud: and you mustn't resort to tricks of emphasis, such as
italics and so forth, which can only be rendered by voice-inflections. It
is your first duty to be absolutely clear and limpid. You mustn't write
long involved sentences which necessitate the mind holding in solution a
lot of qualifying clauses. You must break up your sentences, and even
repeat yourself rather than be confused. There is no beauty of style like
perfect clearness, and in all writing mystification is a fault. You ought
never to make your reader turn back to the page before to see what you are
driving at."

"But surely," I said, "there are great writers like Carlyle and George
Meredith, for instance, who have been difficult to understand."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but that's a fault, though it may be a
magnificent fault. It may mean such a pressure of ideas and images that the
thing can hardly be written at length--and it may give you a sense of
exuberant greatness. You may have to forgive a great writer his
exuberance--you may even have to forgive him the trouble it costs to
penetrate his exact thoughts, for the sake of steeping yourself in the rush
and splendour of the style. But obscurity isn't a thing to aim at for
anyone who is trying to write; it may be, in the case of a great writer, a
sort of vociferousness which intoxicates you: and the man may convey a kind
of inspiration by his very obscurities. But it must be an impulse which
simply overpowers him--it mustn't be an effect deliberately planned. You
may perhaps feel the bigness of the thought all the more in the presence of
a writer who, for all his power, can't confine the stream, and comes down
in a cataract of words. But if you begin trying for an effect, it is like
splashing about in a pool to make people believe it is a rushing river. The
movement mustn't be your own contortions, but the speed of the stream. If
you want to see the bad side of obscurity, look at Browning. The idea is
often a very simple one when you get at it; it's only obscure because it is
conveyed by hints and jerks and nudges. In _Pickwick_, for instance,
one does not read Jingle's remarks for the underlying thought--only for the
pleasure of seeing how he leaps from stepping-stone to stepping-stone. You
mustn't confuse the pleasure of unravelling thought with the pleasure of
thought. If you can make yourself so attractive to your readers that they
love your explosions and collisions, and say with a half-compassionate
delight--'how characteristic--but it _is_ worth while unravelling!'
you have achieved a certain success. But the chance is that future ages
won't trouble you much. Disentangling obscurities isn't bad fun for
contemporaries, who know by instinct the nuances of words; but it becomes
simply a bore a century later, when people are not interested in old
nuances, but simply want to know what you thought. Only scholars love
obscurity--but then they are detectives, and not readers."

"But isn't it possible to be too obvious?" I said--"to get a namby-pamby
way of writing--what a reviewer calls painfully kind?"

"Well, of course, the thought must be tough," said Father Payne, "but it's
your duty to make a tough thought digestible, not to make an easy thought
tough. No, my boy, you may depend upon it that, if you want people to
attend to you, you must be intelligible. Don't, for God's sake, think that
Carlyle or Meredith or Browning _meant_ to be unintelligible, or even
thought they were being unintelligible. They were only thinking too
concisely or too rapidly for the reader. But don't you try to produce that
sort of illusion. Try to say things like Newman or Ruskin--big, beautiful,
profound, delicate things, with an almost childlike naïveté. That is the
most exquisite kind of charm, when you find that half-a-dozen of the
simplest words in the language have expressed a thought which holds you
spell-bound with its truth and loveliness. That is what lasts. People want
to be fed, not to be drugged: That, I believe, is the real difference
between romance and realism, and I am one of those who gratefully believe
that romance has had its day. We want the romance that comes from realism,
not the romance which comes by neglecting it. But that's another subject."



"I don't think there is a single word in the English language," said Father
Payne, "which is responsible for such unhappiness as the word 'believe.' It
is used with a dozen shades of intensity by people; and yet it is the one
word which is always being used in theological argument, and which, like
the ungodly, 'is a sword of thine.'"

"I always mean the same thing by it, I believe!" I said.

"Excuse me," said Father Payne, "but if you will take observations of your
talk, you will find you do not. At any rate, _I_ do not, and I am more
careful about the words I use than many people. If I have a heated argument
with a man, and think he takes up a perverse or eccentric opinion, I am
quite capable of saying of him, 'I believe he must be crazy.' Now such a
sentence to a foreigner would carry the evidence of a deep and clear
conviction; but, as I say it, it doesn't really express the faintest
suspicion of my opponent's sanity--it means little more than that I don't
agree with him; and yet when I say, 'If there is one thing that I do
believe, it is in the actual existence of evil,' it means a slowly
accumulated and almost unalterable opinion. In the Creed, one uses the word
'believe' as the nearest that conviction can come to knowledge, short of
indisputable evidence; and some people go further still, and use it as if
it meant an almost higher sort of knowledge. The real meaning is just what
Tennyson said,

  "'Believing where we cannot prove,'

where it signifies a conviction which we cannot actually test, but on which
we are content to act."

"But," I said, "if I say to a friend--'You are a real sceptic--you seem to
me to believe nothing,' I mean to imply something almost cynical."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "you mean that he has no enthusiasm or ideals,
and holds nothing sacred, because those are just the convictions which
cannot be proved."

"Some people," I said, "seem to me simply to mean by the word 'believe'
that they hold an opinion in such a way that they would be upset if it
turned out to be untrue."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "it is the intrusion of the nasty personal
element which spoils the word. Belief ought to be a very impersonal thing.
It ought simply to mean a convergence of your own experience on a certain
result; but most people are quite as much annoyed at your disbelieving a
thing which they _believe_, as at your disbelieving a thing which they
_know_. You ought never to be annoyed at people not accepting your
conclusions, and still less when your conclusion is partly intuition, and
does not depend upon evidence. This is the sort of scale I have in my
mind--'practically certain, probable, possible, unproved, unprovable.' Now,
I am so far sceptical that, apart from practical certainties, which are
just the convergence of all normal experience, the fact that any one person
or any number of persons believed a thing would not affect my own faith in
it, unless I felt sure that the people who believed it were fully as
sceptical as and more clear-headed than myself, and had really gone into
the evidence. But even so, as I said, the things most worth believing are
the things that can't be proved by any evidence."

"What sort of things do you mean?" I said.

"Well, a thing like the existence of God," said Father Payne; "that at best
is only a generalisation from an immense range of facts, and a special
interpretation of them. But the amazing thing in the world is the vast
number of people who are content to believe important things on hearsay,
because, on the whole, they love or trust the people who teach them. The
word 'believing,' when I use it, doesn't mean that a good man says it, and
that I can't disprove it, but a sort of vital assent, so that I can act
upon the belief almost as if I knew it. It means for me some sort of
personal experience, I could not love or hate a man on hearsay, just
because people whom I loved or trusted said that they either loved or hated
him. I might be so far biassed that I should meet him expecting to find him
either lovable or hateful, but I could not adopt a personal emotion on
hearsay--that must be the result of a personal experience; and yet the
adoption of a personal emotion on hearsay is just what most people seem to
me to be able to do. I might believe that a man had done good or bad things
on hearsay: but I could have no feeling about him unless I had seen him. I
could not either love or hate a historical personage: the most I could do
would be to like or dislike all stories told about him so much that I could
wish to have met him or not to have met him."

"Isn't it a question of imagination?" I said.

"Yes," said Father Payne, "and most ordinary religious belief is simply an
imaginative personification: but that is a childish affair, not a
reasonable affair: and that is why most religious teachers praise what they
call a childlike faith, but what is really a childish faith. I don't
honestly think that our religious beliefs ought to be a dog-like kind of
fidelity, unresentful, unquestioning, undignified confidence. The love of
Bill Sikes' terrier for Bill Sikes doesn't make Bill Sikes an admirable or
lovable man: it only proves his terrier a credulous terrier. The only
reason why we admire such a faith is because it is pleasant and convenient
to be blindly trusted, and to feel that we can behave as badly as we like
without alienating that sort of trust. I have sometimes thought that the
deepest anguish of God must lie in His being loved and trusted by people to
whom He has been unable so far to show Himself a loving and careful Father.
I don't believe God can wish us to love Him in an unreasonable way--I mean
by simply overlooking the bad side of things. A man, let us say, with some
hideous inherited disease or vice ought not to love God, unless he can be
sure that God has not made him the helpless victim of disease or vice."

"But may the victim not have a faith in God through and in spite of a
disease or a vice?" I said.

"Yes, if he really faces the fact of the evil," said Father Payne; "but he
must not believe in a muddled sort of way, with a sort of abject timidity,
that God may have brought about his weakness or his degradation. He ought
to be quite clear that God wishes him to be free and happy and strong, and
grieves, like Himself, over the miserable limitation. He must have no sort
of doubt that God wishes him to be healthy or clean-minded. Then he can
pray, he can strive for patience, he can fight his fault: he can't do it,
if he really thinks that God allowed him to be born with this horror in his
blood. If God could have avoided evil--I don't mean the sharp sorrows and
trials which have a noble thing behind them, but the ailments of body or
soul that simply debase and degrade--if He could have done without evil,
but let it creep in, then it seems to me a hopeless business, trying to
believe in God's power or His goodness. I believe in the reality of evil,
and I believe too in God with all my heart and soul. But I stand with God
against evil: I don't stand facing God, and not knowing on which side He is
fighting. Everything may not be evil which I think evil: but there are some
sorts of evil--cruelty, selfish lust, spite, hatred, which I believe that
God detests as much as and far more than I detest them. That is what I mean
by a belief, a conviction which I cannot prove, but on which I can and do

"But am I justified in not sharing that belief?" I said.

"Yes," said Father Payne; "if you, in the light of your experience, think
otherwise, you need not believe it--you cannot believe it! But it is the
only interpretation of the facts which sets me free to love God, which I do
not only with heart and soul, but with mind and strength. If I could
believe that God had ever tampered with what I feel to be evil, ever
permitted it to exist, ever condoned it, I could fear Him--I should fear
Him with a ghastly fear--but I could not believe in Him, or love Him as I



"No, I couldn't do that," said Lestrange to Barthrop, in one of those
unhappy little silences which so often seemed to lie in wait for
Lestrange's most platitudinal utterances. "It wouldn't be consistent with a
sense of honour."

Father Payne gave a chuckle, and Lestrange looked pained, "Oughtn't one to
have a code of honour?" he said.

"Why, certainly!" said Father Payne, "but you mustn't impose your code on
other people. You mustn't take for granted that your idea of honour means
the same thing to everyone. Suppose you lost money at cards, and called it
a debt of honour, and thought it dishonourable not to pay it; while at the
same time you didn't think it dishonourable not to pay a poor tradesman
whose goods you had ordered and consumed, am I bound to accept your code of

"But there _is_ a difference there," said Rose, "because the man to
whom you owe a gambling debt can't recover it by law, while a tradesman
can. All that a debt of honour means is that you feel bound to pay it,
though you are not legally compelled to do so."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "that is so, in a sense, I admit. But still, one
mustn't shelter oneself behind big words unless one is certain that they
mean exactly the same to one's opponent. When I was at school there was a
master who used to be fond, as he said, of putting the boys on their
honour: but he never asked if we accepted the obligation. If I say, 'I give
you my honour not to do a thing,' then I can be called dishonourable if I
don't do it; but you can't put me on my honour unless I consent."

"But surely honour means something quite definite?" said Lestrange.

"Tell me what it is, then," said Father Payne. "Rose, you seem to have
ideas on the subject. What do you mean by honour?"

"Isn't it one of the ultimate things," said Rose, "which can't be defined,
but which everyone recognises--like blue and green, let me say, or sweet
and bitter?"

"No," said Father Payne; "at least I don't think so. It seems to me rather
an artificial thing, because it varies at different dates. It used, not so
long ago, to be considered an affair of honour to fight a duel with a man
if he threw a glass of wine in your face. And what do you make of the old
proverb, 'All is fair in love and war'? That seems to mean that honour is
not a universal obligation. Then there's the phrase, 'Honour among
thieves,' which isn't a very exalted one; or the curious thing, schoolboy
honour, which dictates that a boy may know that another boy is being
disgracefully and cruelly bullied, and yet is prevented by his sense of
honour from telling a master about it. I admit that honour is a fine idea;
but it seems to me to cover a lot of things in human nature which are very
bad indeed. It may mean only a sort of prudential arrangement which binds a
set of people together for a bad purpose, because they do not choose to be
interfered with, and yet call the thing honour for the sake of the

"Yes, I don't think it is necessarily a moral thing," said Rose, "but that
doesn't seem to me to matter. It is simply an obligation, pledged or
implied, that you will act in a certain way. It may conflict with a moral
obligation, and then you have to decide which is the greater obligation."

"Yes, that is perfectly true," said Father Payne, "and as long as you admit
that honour isn't in itself bound to be a good thing, that is all I want.
Lestrange seemed to use it as if you had only got to say that a motive was
honourable, to have it recognised by everyone as right. Take the case of
what are called 'national obligations.' A certain party in the State,
having secured a majority of votes, enters into some arrangement--a treaty,
let us say--without consulting the nation. Is that held to be for ever
binding on a nation till it is formally repealed? Is it dishonourable for a
citizen belonging, let us say, to the minority which is not represented by
the particular Government which makes the treaty, to repudiate it?"

"Yes, I think it may be fairly called dishonourable," said Rose; "there is
an obligation on a citizen to back up his Government."

"Then I should feel that honour is a very complicated thing," said Father
Payne. "If a citizen thinks a treaty dishonourable, and if it is also
dishonourable for him to repudiate it, it seems to me he is dishonourable
whatever he does. He is obliged to consent for the sake of honour to a
dishonourable thing being done. It seems to me perilously like a director
of a firm having to condone fraudulent practices, because it is
dishonourable to give his fellow-directors away. It is this conflict
between individual honour and public honour which puzzles me, and which
makes me feel that honour isn't a simple thing at all. A high conception of
private honour seems to me a very fine thing indeed. I mean by it a
profound hatred of anything false or cowardly or perfidious, and a loathing
of anything insincere or treacherous. That sort of proud and stainless
chivalry seems to me to be about the brightest thing we can discern, and
the furthest beauty we can recognise. But honour seems also, according to
you, to be a principle to which you can be committed by a majority of
votes, whether you approve of it or not; and then it seems to me a merely
detestable thing, if you can be bound by honour to acquiesce in something
which you honestly believe to be base. It seems to me a case of what
Tennyson describes:

  "'His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
  And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.'"

"But surely social obligations must often conflict with private beliefs,"
said Rose. "A nation or a society has got to act collectively, and a
minority must be over-ridden."

"I quite agree," said Father Payne, "but why mix up honour with it at all?
I don't object to a man who conscientiously dissents to some national move
being told that he must lump it. But if he is called dishonourable for
dissenting, then honour does not seem to me to be a real word at all, but
only a term of abuse for a man who objects to some concerted plan. You
can't make a dishonest thing honest because a majority choose to do it--at
least I do not believe that morality is purely a matter of majorities, or
that the dishonour of one century can become the honour of the next. I am
inclined to believe just the opposite. I believe that the man who has so
sensitive a conscience about what is honourable or not, that he is called a
Quixotic fool by his contemporaries, is far more likely to be right than
the coarser majority who only see that a certain course is expedient. I
should believe that he saw some truth of morality clearly which the rougher
sort of minds did not see. The saint--call him what you like--is only the
man who stands higher up, and sees the sunrise before the people who stand
lower down."

"But everyone has a right to his own sense of honour," said Rose.

"Certainly," said Father Payne, "but you must be certain that a man's sense
of honour is lower than your own before you call him dishonourable for
differing from you. If a man is less scrupulous than myself, I may think
him dishonourable, if I also think that he knows better. But what I do not
think that any of us has a right to do is to call a man dishonourable if he
has more scruples than oneself. He may be over-scrupulous, but the chances
are that any man who sacrifices his convenience to a scruple has a higher
sense of honour than the man who throws over a scruple for the sake of his
convenience. That is why I think honour is a dangerous word to play with,
because it is so often used to frighten people who don't fall in with what
is for the convenience of a gang."

"But surely," said Rose, "morality is after all only a word for what
society agrees to consider moral."

"Yes, in a sense that is so," said Father Payne; "it is only a word to
express a phenomenon. But I believe that morality is a real thing, for all
that; and that our conceptions of it get clearer, as the world goes on. It
is something outside of us--a law of nature if you like--which we are
learning; not merely a thing which we invent for our convenience.
But that is too big a business to go into now."



I cannot remember now what public man it was who had died of a breakdown
from overwork, but I heard Father Payne say, after dinner, referring to the
event, "I wish it to be clearly understood that I think a man who dies of
deliberate or reckless overwork is a victim of self-indulgence. It is
nothing more or less than giving way to a passion. I am as sure as I can be
of anything," he went on, "that a thousand years hence that will be
recognised by human beings, and that they will feel it to be as shameful
for a man to die of spontaneous overwork as for him to die of drink or
gluttony or any other vice. I don't of course mean," he added, "the cases
of men who have had some definite and critical job to carry through, and
have decided that the risk is worth running. A man has always the right to
risk his life for a definite aim--but I mean the men--you can see it in
biographies, and the worst of it is that they are often the biographies of
clergymen--who, in spite of physical warnings, and entreaties from their
friends, and definite statements by their doctors that they are shortening
their lives by labour, still cannot stop, or, if they stop, begin again too
soon. No man has any right to think his work so important as that--to take
unimportant things too seriously is the worst sort of frivolity."

"But isn't it the finer kind of people," said Kaye, "who make the mistake?"

"Yes, of course," said Father Payne, "but so, too, if you look into it, you
will too often find that it is the finer kinds of imaginative people who
take to drink and drugs. I remember," he added, "once going to see a poor
friend of mine in an asylum, and the old doctor at the head of it said, 'It
isn't the stupid people who come here, Mr. Payne; it is the clever

"But does not your principle about the right to risk one's life hold good
here too?" said Barthrop.

"No, I think not," said Father Payne. "A man may choose to try a dangerous
thing, climb a mountain, explore a perilous country, go up in a balloon,
where an element of risk is inseparable from the experiment; but ordinary
work isn't risky in itself. Why," he added, "I was reading a book the other
day, the life of Fitzherbert, you know, who was a man of prodigious
laboriousness, who died early, worn out. He had an impossible standard of
perfection. If he had to write an article, he read all the literature on
the subject over and over; he wrote and re-wrote his stuff. There was a
case quoted in the book, as if it were to Fitzherbert's credit, when he had
to send in an article by a certain date--just a _Quarterly_ article.
It had to go in on the Friday. He had finished it on the Monday before,
when his mind misgave him. He destroyed the article, began again, sate up
all Monday night and all Wednesday night, and wrote the whole thing afresh.
He was laid up for a month after it. That is simply the act of an
unbalanced mind."

"I can't help feeling that there is something fine about it," said Vincent.

"There is always something fine about unreasonable things," said Father
Payne, "or in a man making a sacrifice for an idea. But there is an entire
lack of proportion about this performance; and if Fitzherbert thought his
work so valuable as that, then he ought to have reflected that he was
simply limiting his future output by this reckless expenditure of force.
But the whole case was a sad one--Fitzherbert worked in a ghastly way as a
boy and as a young man. He had a very broad outlook, he was interested in
everything; and when he was at Oxford, he told a friend that he was
discovering a hundred subjects on which he hoped to have a say. Well, then,
the middle part of his life was spent in preparing himself, under the same
sort of pressure, to entitle himself to have his say: and then came his
first bad break-down--and the end of his life, which was a wretched period,
was spent in finding elaborate reasons why he should not commit himself to
any opinion whatever. If he was asked his opinion, he always said he had
not studied the subject adequately. That seems to me the life of a man
suffering from a sort of nightmare. Things are not so deep as all that--at
least, if no one is to give an opinion on any point until he has mastered
the whole sum of human opinion on the point, then we shall never make any
progress at all. I remember Fitzherbert's strong condemnation of Ruskin,
for giving his opinion cursorily on all subjects of importance. Yet Ruskin
did a greater work than Fitzherbert, because he at least made people think,
while Fitzherbert only prevented them from daring to think. I don't mean
that people ought to feel competent to express an opinion on
everything--yet even that habit cures itself, because, if you do it, no one
pays any attention. But if a man has gone into a subject with decent care,
or if he has reflected upon problems of which the data are fairly well
known, I think there is every reason why he should give an opinion. It is
very easy to be too conscientious. There are plenty of fine hints of
opinions in Fitzherbert's letters. You could make a very good book of
_Pensées_ out of them--he had a clear, forcible, and original mind;
but he did not dare to say what he thought; and you may remember that if he
was ever sharply criticised, he felt it deeply, as a sort of imputation of
dishonesty. A man must not go down before criticism like that."

"But everyone must do their work in their own way?" said I.

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but Fitzherbert ended by doing nothing--he only
snubbed and silenced his own fine mind, by giving way to this unholy
passion for examining things. No, I want you fellows to have common-sense
about these matters. There is a great deal too much sanctity attached to
print. The written word--there's a dark superstition about it! A man has as
much right to write as he has to talk. He may say to the world, to his
unseen and unknown friends in it, whatever he may say to his intimates. You
should write just as you could talk to any gentleman, with the same
courtesy and frankness. Of course you must run the risk of your book
falling into the hands of ill-bred people--that can't be helped--and of
course you must not pretend that your book is the result of deep and
copious labour, if it is nothing of the kind. But heart-breaking toil is
not the only qualification for speaking. There are plenty of complicated
little topics--all the problems which arise from the combination of
individuals into societies--which people ought to think about, and which
are really everyone's concern. The interplay, I mean, of human
relations--the moral, religious, social, intellectual ideas--which have all
got to be co-ordinated. A man does not need immense knowledge for that; in
fact if he studies the history of such things too deeply, he is often apt
to forget that old interpreters of such things had not got all the present
data. There is an immense future before writers who will interest people in
and familiarise them with ideas. Some people get absorbed in life in the
wrong way, just bent on acquisition and comfort--some people, again, live
as if they were staying in somebody else's house--but what you want to
induce men and women to do is to realise the sort of thing that life really
is, and to attempt to put it in some kind of proportion. The mischief done
by men like Fitzherbert, who was fond of snapping at people who produced
ideas for inspection, is that ordinary people get to confuse wisdom with
knowledge; and that won't do! And so the man who sets to work like
Fitzherbert loses his alertness and his observation, with the result that
instead of bringing a very fresh and incisive mind to bear on life, he
loses his way in books, and falls a victim to the awful passion for feeling
able to despise other people's opinions."

"But isn't it possible," said Vincent, "for a man to get the best out of
life for himself by a sort of passion for exact knowledge--like the man in
the Grammarian's funeral, I mean?"

"Personally," said Father Payne, "I always think that Browning did a lot of
harm by that poem. He was glorifying a real vice, I think. If the
Grammarian had said to himself, 'There is all this nasty work to be done by
someone; I can do it, and I can save other people having to waste their
time over it, by doing it once and for all,' it would have been different.
But I think he was partly indulging a poor sort of vanity by just
determining to know what no other man knew. The point of work is twofold.
It is partly good for the worker, to tranquillise his life and to reduce it
to a certain order and discipline; but you mustn't do it only for the sake
of your own tranquillity, any more than the artist must work for the sake
of luxuriating in his own emotions. You must have something to give away:
you must have some idea of combination, of helping other people to find
each other and to understand each other. It is vicious to isolate yourself
for your own satisfaction. Fitzherbert and the Grammarian were really
misers. They just accumulated, and enjoyed the pleasure of having their own
minds clear. That doesn't seem to me in itself to be a fine thing at all.
It is simply the oldest of temptations, 'Ye shall be as gods, knowing good
and evil.' That is the danger of the critical mind, that it says, 'I will
know within myself what is good,' The only excuse for the critical mind is
to help people not to be taken in by what is bad. It is better to be like
Plato and Ruskin, to make mistakes, to have prejudices, to be unfair, even
to be silly, because at least you encourage people to think that life is
interesting--and that is about as much as any of us can do."



"Isn't it rather odd," said someone to Father Payne after dinner, "that
great men have as a rule rather preferred the company of their inferiors to
the company of their equals?"

"I don't know," said Father Payne; "I think it's rather natural! By Jove, I
know that a very little of the society of a really superior person goes a
very long way with me. No, I think it is what one would expect. When the
great man is at work, he is on the strain and doing the lofty business for
all he is worth; when he is at leisure, he doesn't want any more strain--he
has done his full share."

"But take the big groups," said someone, "like the Wordsworth set, or the
pre-Raphaelite set--or take any of the great biographies--the big men of
any time seem always to have been mutual friends and correspondents. You
have letters to and from Ruskin from and to all the great men of his day."

"Letters, yes!" said Father Payne; "of course the great men know each
other, and respect each other; but they don't tend to coagulate. They
relish an occasional meeting and an occasional letter, and they say how
deeply they regret not seeing more of each other--but they tend to seek the
repose of their own less exalted circle. The man who has fine ideas prefers
his own disciples to the men who have got a different set of fine ideas.
That is natural enough! You want to impart the ideas you believe in--you
don't want to argue about them, or to have them knocked out of your hand.
Depend upon it, the society of an intelligent person, who can understand
you enough to stimulate you, and who is grateful for your talk, is much
pleasanter, and indeed more fruitful, than the society of a man who is
fully as intelligent as yourself, and thinks some of your conclusions to be

"But doesn't all that encourage people to be prophets?" Vincent said. "One
of the depressing things about great men is that they grow to consider
themselves a sort of special providence--the originators of great ideas
rather than the interpreters."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "of course the little coteries and courts of
great men are rather repulsive. But the best people don't do that. They
live contentedly in a circle which combines with its admiration for the
hero a comfortable feeling that, if other people knew what they know, they
wouldn't feel genius to be quite so extraordinary as is commonly believed.
And we must remember, too, that most great men seem greater afterwards than
they did at the time. More of a treat and a privilege, I mean."

"Do you think one ought to try to catch a sight of great men who are
contemporaries?" said I.

"Yes, a sight, I think," said Father Payne. "It's a pleasant thing to
realise how your big man sits and looks and talks, what his house is like,
and so forth. I have often rather regretted I haven't had the curiosity to
get a sight of the giants. It helps you to understand them. I remember a
pleasant old gentleman, Vinter by name, who lived in London. Vinter the
novelist was his son. When young Vinter became famous for a bit, and people
wanted to know him, old Vinter made a glorious rule. He told his son that
he might invite any well-known person he liked to the house, to luncheon or
dinner--but that unless he made a special exception in any one's favour,
they were not to be invited again. There's a fine old Epicurean! He liked
to realise what the bosses looked like, but he wasn't going to be bothered
by having to talk respectfully to them time after time."

"But that's rather tame," said Vincent. "The point surely would be to get
to know a big man well."

"Why, yes," said Father Payne, "but Vinter was a wise _old_ man; now I
should say to any _young_ man who had a chance of really having a
friendship with a great man, 'Of course, take it and thank your stars!' But
I shouldn't advise any young man to make a collection of celebrities, or to
go about hunting them. In fact I think for an original young man, it is apt
to be rather dangerous to have a real friendship with a great man. There's
a danger of being diverted from your own line, and of being drawn into
imitative worship. A very moderate use of great men in person should
suffice anyone. Your real friends ought to be people with whom you are
entirely at ease, not people whom you reverence and defer to. It's better
to learn to bark than to wag your tail. I don't think the big men
themselves often begin by being disciples."

"Then who _is_ worth seeing?" said Vincent. "There must be somebody!"

"Why, to be frank," said Father Payne, "agreeable men like me, who haven't
got too much authority, and are not surrounded by glory and worship! I'm
interested in most things, and have learnt more or less how to talk--you
look out for ingenious and kindly elderly men, who haven't been too
successful, and haven't frozen into Tories, and yet have had some
experience;--men of humour and liveliness, who have a rather more extended
horizon than yourself, and who will listen to what you say instead of
shutting you up, and saying 'Very likely' as Newman did--after which you
were expected to go into a corner and think over your sins! Or clever,
sympathetic, interesting women--not too young. Those are the people whom it
is worth taking a little trouble to see."

"But what about the young people!" said Vincent.

"Oh, that will look after itself," said Father Payne. "There's no
difficulty about that! You asked me whom it was worth while taking some
trouble to see, and I prescribe a very occasional great man, and a good
many well-bred, cultivated, experienced, civil men and women. It isn't very
easy to find, that sort of society, for a young man; but it is worth trying

"But do you mean that you should pursue good talk?" said Vincent.

"A little, I think," said Father Payne; "there's a good deal of art in
it--unconscious art in England, probably--but much of our life is spent in
talking, and there's no reason why we shouldn't learn how to get the best
and the most out of talk--how to start a subject, and when to drop it--how
to say the sort of things which make other people want to join in, and so
on. Of course you can't learn to talk unless you have a lot to say, but you
can learn _how_ to do it, and better still how _not_ to do it. I
used to feel in the old days, when I met a clever man--it was rare enough,
alas!--how much more I could have got out of him if I had known how to do
the trick. It's a great pleasure, good talk; and the fact that it is so
tiring shows what a real pleasure it must be. But a man with whom you can
only talk _hard_ isn't a companion--he's an adversary in a game. There
have been times in my life when I have had a real tough talker staying here
with me, when I have suffered from crushing intellectual fatigue, and felt
inclined to say, like Elijah, 'Take away my life, for I am not better than
my fathers.' That is the strange thing to me about most human beings--the
extent to which they seem able to talk without being tired. I agree with
Walter Scott, when he said, 'If the question was eternal company without
the power of retiring within myself, or solitary confinement for life, I
should say, "Turnkey, lock the cell!"' Companionship doesn't seem to me the
normal thing. Solitude is the normal thing, with a few bits of talk thrown
in, like meals, for refreshment. But you can't lay down rules for people
about it. Some people are simply gregarious, and twitter together like
starlings in a shrubbery: that isn't talk--it's only a series of signals
and exclamations. The danger of solitude is that the machinery runs just as
you wish it to run--and that wears it out."

"But isn't your whole idea of talk rather strenuous--a little artificial?"
said Vincent.

"Not more so than fixed meals," said Father Payne, "or regular exercise.
But, of course silent companionship is the greatest boon of all. I have a
belief that even in silent companionship there is a real intermingling of
vital and mental currents, and that one is much pervaded and affected by
the people one lives with, even if one does not talk to them. The very
sight of some people is as bad as an argument! The ideal thing, of course,
is to have a few intimate friends and some comfortable acquaintances. But I
am rather a fatalist about friendship, and I think that most of us get
about as much as we deserve. Anyhow, it's all worth taking some trouble
about; and most people make the mistake of not taking any trouble or
putting themselves about; and that's not the way to behave!"



I suppose I had said something high-minded, showing a supposed contempt of
money, for Father Payne looked at me in silence.

"You mustn't say such things," said he, at last. "I'll tell you why! What
you said was perfectly genuine, and I have no doubt you feel it--but, if
I may say so, it's like talking about a place where you have never been, as
if you had visited it, when you have only read about it in the guide-book.
I don't mean that you wish to deceive for an instant--but you simply don't
know! That's the tragic thing about money--that it is both so important and
so unimportant. If you have enough money, you need never give it a thought;
if you haven't, it's the devil! It's like health--no one who hasn't been on
the wrong side of the dividing line knows what a horrible place the wrong
side is. Those two things--I daresay there are others--poverty and
ill-health--put a man on the rack. The healthy man, and the man with a
sufficient income, are apt to think that the poor man and the ill man make
a great fuss about very little. I don't know about ill-health, but by
George, I know all about poverty--and I'll tell you once for all. For
twenty years I was poor, and this is what that means. To be tied hand and
foot to a piece of hideous drudgery--morning by morning, month by month,
and with the consciousness too that, if health fails you, or if you lose
your work, you will either starve or have to sponge on your friends--never
to be able to do what you like or go where you like--to know that the world
is full of beautiful places, delightful people, interesting ideas, books,
talk, art, music--to sicken for all these things, and not even to have the
time or energy to get hold of such scraps of them as can be found cheap in
London--to feel time slipping away, and all your instincts for beautiful
things unused and unsated--to live a solitary, grubby, nasty life--never
able to entertain a friend, or to go a trip with a friend, or to do a
kindness, or to help anyone generously--and yet to feel that with an income
which many people would regard as ridiculously inadequate, you could do
most of these things--the slavery, the bondage, the dreariness of it!" He
broke off, much moved.

"But," said I, "don't many quite poor people live happily and contentedly
and kindly with minute incomes?"

"Why, yes," said Father Payne, "of course they do!--and I'm willing enough
to admit that I ought to have done better than I did. But then I had been
brought up differently, and by the time I had done with Oxford, I had all
the tastes and instincts of the well-to-do man. That was the mischief, that
I had tasted freedom. Of course, if I had been cast in a stronger and
nobler mould, it would have been different--but all my senses had been
acutely developed, my faculties of interest and enjoyment and
appreciation--not gross things, mind you, nor feelings that _ought_ to
be starved, but just the wholesome delights of the well-educated man. I did
not want to be extravagant, and I knew too that there were millions of
people in the same case as myself. There was every reason why I should
behave decently about it! If I had been really interested in my work, I
could have done better--but I did not believe in the value of my work--I
taught men, not to educate them, but that they might pass an examination
and never look at the beastly stuff again. Whenever I reached the point at
which I became interested, I had to hold my hand. And then, too, the work
tired me without exercising my mind. There were the vacations, of
course--but I couldn't afford to leave London--I simply lived in hell. I
don't say that I didn't get some discipline out of it--and my escape gave
me a stock of gratitude and delight that has been simply inexhaustible. The
misery of it for me was that I had to live an unreal life. If I had been
poor, and had had my leisure, and had worked at things I cared about, with
a set, let us say, of young artists, all working too at things which they
cared about, it would have been different--but I hadn't the energy left to
make friends, or the time to find any congenial people. I can't describe
what a nightmare it all was--so that when I hear you speaking as if money
didn't really matter, I simply feel that you don't know what a tragedy it
can be, or what your own income saves you from. You and I have the
Epicurean temperament, my boy; it's no good pretending we haven't--things
appeal to our mind and senses in a way they don't appeal to everyone. So I
don't think that people ought to talk lightly about money, unless they have
known poverty and _not_ suffered under it. I used to ask myself in
those days if it was possible to suffer more, when every avenue reaching
away out of my life to the things I loved and cared for seemed to be closed
to me by an impassable barrier."

"But one can practise oneself in doing without things?" I said.

"With about as much success," said Father Payne, "as you can practise doing
without food."

"But isn't it partly that people are unduly reticent about money?" I said.
"If people could only say frankly what they can and what they can't afford,
it would simplify things very much."

"I don't know," said Father Payne. "Money is one of those curious
things--uninteresting if you have enough, tragic if you haven't. I don't
think talking about money is vulgar--I think it is simply dull: to discuss
poverty is like discussing a disease--to discuss wealth is like talking
about food or wine. The poverty that simply humiliates and pinches can't be
joked about--it's far too serious for that! Of course, there are men who
don't really feel the call of life. Look at our friend Kaye! If Kaye had to
live in London lodgings, he wouldn't mind a bit, if he could get to the
Museum Reading-Room--he only wants books and his own work--he doesn't want
company or music or art or talk or friends. He is wholly indifferent to
nasty food or squalor. Poverty is not a real evil to him. If he had money
he wouldn't know how to spend it. I read a book the other day about a
priest who lived a very devoted life in the slums--he had two rooms in a
clergy-house--and there was a chapter in praise of the way in which he
endured his poverty. But it was all wrong! What that man really enjoyed was
preaching and ceremonial and company--he had a real love of human beings.
Well, that man's life was crammed with joy--he got exactly what he wanted
all day long. It wasn't a self-sacrificing life--it would have been to you
and me--but he no doubt woke day after day, with a prospect of having his
whole time taken up with things he thoroughly enjoyed."

"But what about the people," I said, "who really enjoy just the sense of
power which money gives them, without using it--or the people whose only
purpose in using it is the pleasure of being known to have it?"

"Oh, of course, they are simply barbarians," said Father Payne, "and it
doesn't do _them_ any harm to be poor. No, the tragedy lies in the
case of a man with really expansive, generous, civilised instincts, to whom
the world is full of wholesome and urgent delights, and whose life is
simply starved out of him by poverty. I have a great mind to send you to
London for a couple of months, to live on a pound a week, and see what you
make of it."

"I'll go if you wish it," I said.

"It might bring things home to you," said Father Payne, smiling, "but again
it probably would not, because it would only be a game--the real pinch
would not come. Most people would rather enjoy migrating to hell from
heaven for a month--it would just give them a sharper relish for heaven."

"But do you really think your poverty hurt you?" I said.

"I have no doubt it did," said Father Payne. "Of course I was rescued in
time, before the bitterness really sank down into my soul. But I think it
prevented my ever being more than a looker-on. I believe I could have done
some work worth doing, if I could have tried a few experiments. I don't
know! Perhaps I am ungrateful after all. My poverty certainly gave me a
wish to help things along, and I doubt if I should have learnt that
otherwise. And I think, too, it taught me not to waste compassion on the
wrong things. The people to be pitied are simply the people whose minds and
souls are pinched and starved--the over-sensitive, responsive people, who
feel hunted and punished without knowing why. It's temperament always, and
not circumstance, which is the happy or the unhappy thing. I felt, when you
said what you did about poverty, that you neither knew how harmless it
could be, or how infinitely noxious it might be. I don't take a high-minded
view of money myself. I don't tell people to despise it. I always tell the
fellows here to realise what they can endure and what they can't. The first
requisite for a sensible man is to find work which he enjoys, and the next
requisite is for him to earn as much as he really needs--that is to say
without having to think daily and hourly about money. I don't over-estimate
what money can do, but it is foolish to under-estimate what the want of it
can do. I have seen more fine natures go to pieces under the stress of
poverty than under any other stress that I know. Money is perfectly
powerless as a shield against many troubles--and on the other hand it can
save a man from innumerable little wretchednesses and horrors which destroy
the beauty and dignity of life. I don't believe mechanically in humiliation
and renunciation and ignominy and contempt, as purifying influences. It all
depends upon whether they are gallantly and adventurously and humorously
borne. They often make some people only sore and diffident, and I don't
believe in learning to hate life. Not to learn your own limitations is
childish: and one of the insolences which is most heavily punished is that
of making a sacrifice without knowing if you can endure the consequences of
it. The people who begin by despising money as vulgar are generally the
people who end by making a mess which other people have to sweep up. So
don't be either silly or prudent about money, my boy! Just realise that
your first duty is not to be a burden on yourself or on other people. Find
out your minimum, and secure it if you can; and then don't give the matter
another thought. If it is any comfort to you, reflect that the best authors
and artists have almost invariably been good men of business, and don't
court squalor of any kind unless you really enjoy it."



Father Payne, talking one evening, made a statement which involved an
assumption that the world was progressing. Rose attacked him on this point.
"Isn't that just one of the large generalisations," he said, "which you are
always telling us to beware of?"

"It isn't an assumption," said Father Payne, "but a conviction of mine,
based upon a good deal of second-hand evidence. I don't think it can be
doubted. I can't array all my reasons now, or we should sit here all
night--but I will tell you one main reason, and that is the immensely
increased peaceableness of the world. Fighting has gone out in schools, and
none but decayed clubmen dare to deplore it: corporal punishment has
diminished, and isn't needed, because children don't do savage things;
bullying is extinct in decent schools; crimes of violence are much more
rare; duelling is no longer a part of social life, except for an occasional
farcical performance between literary men or politicians in France--I saw
an account of one in the papers the other day. It was raining, and one of
the combatants would not furl his umbrella: his seconds said that it made
him a bigger target. "I may be shot," he said, "but that is no reason why I
should get wet!" Then there is the mediaeval nonsense among students in
Germany, where they fence like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Generally
speaking, however, the belief that a blow is an argument has gone out. Then
war has become more rare, and is more reluctantly engaged in. I suppose
that till the date of Waterloo there was hardly a year in history when some
fighting was not going on. No, I think it is impossible not to believe that
the impulse to kick and scratch and bite is really on the decline."

"But need that be a proof of progress?" said Rose. "May it not only mean a
decrease of personal courage, and a greater sensitiveness to pain?"

"I think not," said Father Payne, "because when there _is_ fighting to
be done, it is done just as courageously--indeed I think _more_
courageously than used to be the case. No, I think it is the training of an
instinct--the instinct of self-restraint. I believe that people have more
imagination and more sympathy than they used to have; there is more
tolerance of adverse opinion, a greater sense of liberty in the air:
opponents have more respect for each other, and do not attribute bad
motives so easily. Why, consider how much milder even the newspapers are.
If one reads old reviews, old books of political controversy, old
pamphlets--how much more blackguarding and calling names one sees.
Anonymous journalists, anonymous reviewers, are now the only people who
keep up the tradition of public bad manners--all signed articles and
criticisms are infinitely politer than they used to be."

"But," persisted Rose, "isn't that simply a possible proof of the general
declension of force?"

"Certainly not," said Father Payne, "it only means more equilibrium. You
must remember that equilibrium means a balance of forces, not a mere
diminution of them. There is more force present in a banked-up reservoir
than in a rushing stream. The rushing stream merely means a force making
itself felt without a counterbalancing force--but that isn't nearly as
strong as the pressure in a reservoir exerted by the water which is trying
to get out, and the resistance of the dam which is trying to keep it in.
You must not be taken in by apparent placidity: it often means two forces
at work instead of one. Peace, as opposed to war, is a tremendous
counterpoising of forces, and it simply means an organised resistance. In
old days, there was no cohesion of the forces which desire peace, and
violence was unresisted. There can be no doubt, I think, that in a
civilised country there are many more forces at work than in a combative
country. I do not suppose that we can either of us prove whether the forces
at work in the world have increased or diminished. Let us grant that the
amount is constant. If so, a great deal of the force that was combative has
now been transformed to the force which resists combat. But I imagine that
on the whole most people would grant that human energies have increased: if
that is so, certainly the combative element has not increased in
proportion, while the peaceful element has increased out of all

"But," said Vincent, "you often talk in the most bellicose way, Father. You
say that we ought all to be fighting on the side of good."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "on the side of resistance to evil, I admit; but
you can fight without banging and smashing things, as the dam fights the
reservoir by silent cohesion. There is a temptation, from which some people
suffer, to think that one can't be fighting for God at all, unless one is
doing it furiously, and all the time, and successfully, and on a large and
impressive scale. That is a fatal blunder. To hide your adversary's sword
is often a very good way of fighting. To have an open tussle often makes
the bystanders sympathise with the assailant. It is really a far more
civilised thing, and often stands for a higher degree of force and honour,
to be able to bear contradiction not ignobly. Direct conflict is a mistake,
as a rule--blaming, fault-finding, censuring, snapping, punishing. The
point is to put all your energy into your own life and work, and make it
outweigh the energy of the combative critic. Do not fight by destroying
faulty opinion, but by creating better opinion. You fight darkness by
lighting a candle, not by waving a fan to clear it away. Look at one of the
things we have been talking about--bullying in schools. That has not been
conquered by expelling or whipping boys, or preaching about it--it has been
abolished by kindlier and gentler family life, by humaner school-masters
living with and among their boys, till the happiness of more peaceful
relations all round has been instinctively perceived."

"But isn't it right to show up mean and dishonest people, to turn the light
of publicity upon cruel and detestable things?" said Vincent.

"Exactly, my dear Vincent," said Father Payne; "but you can't turn the
light of publicity on evil unless the light is there to turn. The reason
why bullying continued was because people believed in it as inseparable
from school life, and even, on the whole, bracing. What has got rid of it
is a kinder and more tender spirit outside. I don't object to showing up
bad things at all. By all means put them, if you can, in a clear light, and
show their ugliness. Show your shame and disgust if you like, but do not
condescend to personal abuse. That only weakens your case, because it
merely proves that you have still some of the bully left in you. Be
peaceable writers, my dear boys," said Father Payne, expanding in a large
smile. "Don't squabble, don't try to scathe, don't be affronted! If your
critic reveals a weak place in your work, admit it, and do better! I want
to turn you out peace-makers, and that needs as much energy and restraint
as any other sort of fighting. Don't make the fact that your opponent may
be a cad into a personal grievance. Make your own idea clear, stick to it,
repeat it, say it again in a more attractive way. Don't you see that not
yielding to a bad impulse is fighting? The positive assertion of good, the
shaping of beauty, the presentment of a fruitful thought in so desirable a
light that other people go down with fresh courage into the dreariness and
dullness of life, with all the delight of having a new way of behaving in
their minds and hearts--that's how I want you to fight! It requires the
toughest sort of courage, I can tell you. But instead of showing your
spirit by returning a blow, show your spirit by propounding your idea in a
finer shape. Don't be taken in by the silly and ugly old war-metaphors--the
trumpet blown, the gathering of the hosts. That's simply a sensational
waste of your time! Look out of your window, and then sit down to your
work. That's the way to win, without noise or fuss."



I walked one afternoon with Father Payne just as winter turned to spring,
in the pastures. There was a mound at the corner of one of his fields, on
which grew a row of beech trees of which Father Payne was particularly
fond. He pointed out to me to-day how the most southerly of the trees,
exposed as it was to the full force of the wind, grew lower and sturdier
than the rest, and how as the trees progressed towards the north, each one
profiting more by the shelter of his comrades, they grew taller and more
graceful. "I like the way that stout little fellow at the end grows," said
Father Payne. "He doesn't know, I suppose, that he is protecting the rest,
and giving them room to expand. But he holds on; and though he isn't so
tall, he is bulkier and denser than his brethren. He knows that he has to
bear the brunt of the wind, so he puts out no sail. He just devotes himself
to standing four-square--he is not going to be bullied! He would like to be
as smooth and as shapely as the rest, but he knows his own business, and he
has adapted himself, like a sensible fellow, to his rough conditions."

A little later Father Payne stopped to look at a great sow-thistle that was
growing vigorously under a hedge-row. "Did you ever see such a bit of pure
force?" said Father Payne. "I see a fierce conscious life in every inch of
that plant. Look at the way he clips himself in, and strains to the earth:
look at his great rays of leaves, thrust out so geometrically from the
centre, with the sharp, horny, uncompromising thorns. And see how he
flattens down his leaves over the surrounding grasses: they haven't a
chance; he just squeezes them down and strangles them. There is no mild and
delicate waving of fronds in the air. He means to sit down firmly on the
top of his comrades. I don't think I ever saw anything with such a muscular
pull on--you can't lift his leaves up; look, he resists with all his might!
Just consider the immense force which he is using: he is not merely
snuggling down: he is just hauling things about. You don't mean to tell me
that this thistle isn't conscious! He knows he has enemies, but he is going
to make the place his very own--and all that out of a drifting little arrow
of down!"

"Now that may not be a sympathetic or even Christian way of doing things,"
he went on presently, "but for all that, I do love to see the force of
life, the intentness of living. I like our friend the beech a little
better, because he is helping his friends, though he doesn't know it, and
the thistle is only helping himself. But I am sure that it is the right way
to go at it! We mustn't be always standing aside and making room: we
mustn't obliterate ourselves. We have a right to our joy in life, and we
mustn't be afraid of it. If we give away what we have got, it must cost us
something--it must not be a mere relinquishing."

"It is rather hard to combine the two principles," I said--"the living of
life, I mean, and the giving away of life."

"Well, I think that devotion is better than self-sacrifice," said Father
Payne. "On the whole I mistrust weakness more than I mistrust strength.
It's easy to dislike violence--but I rather worship vitality. I would
almost rather see a man forcing his way through with some callousness, than
backing out, smiling and apologising. You can convert strength, you can't
do anything with weakness. Take the sort of work you fellows do. I always
feel I can chasten and direct exuberance: what I can't do is to impart
vigour. If a man says his essay is short because he can't think of anything
to write, I feel inclined to say, 'Then for goodness' sake hold your
tongue!' It's the people who can't hold their tongue, who go on roughly
pointing things out, and commenting, and explaining, and thrusting
themselves in front of the show, who do something. Of course force has to
be kept in order, but there it is--it lives, it must have its say. What you
have to learn is to insinuate yourself into life, like ivy, but without
spoiling other people's pleasure. That's liberty! The old thistle has no
respect for liberty, and that is why he is rooted up. But it's rather sad
work doing it, because he does so very much want to be alive. But it isn't
liberty simply to efface yourself, because you may interfere with other
people. The thing is to fit in, without disorganising everything about

He mused for a little in silence; then he said, "It's like almost
everything else--it's a weighing of claims! I don't want you fellows to be
either tyrannical or slavish. It's tyrannical to bully, it's slavish to
defer. The thing is to have a firm opinion, not to be ashamed of it or
afraid of it; to say it reasonably and gently, and to stick to it amiably.
Good does not attack, though if it is attacked it can slay. Good fights
evil, but it knows what it is fighting, while evil fights good and evil
alike. I think that is true. I don't want you people to be controversial or
quarrelsome in what you write, and to go in for picking holes in others'
work. If you want to help a man to do better, criticise him
privately--don't slap him in public, to show how hard you can lay on. Make
your own points, explain if you like, but don't apologise. The great
writers, mind you, are the people who can go on. It's volume rather than
delicacy that matters in the end. It must flow like honey--good solid
stuff--not drip like rain, out of mere weakness. But the thing is to flow,
and largeness of production is better than little bits of overhandled work.
Mind that, my boy! It's force that tells: and that's why I don't want you
to be over-interested in your work. You must go on filling up with
experience; but it doesn't matter where or how you get it, as long as it is
eagerly done. Be on the side of life! _Amor fati_, that's the motto
for a man--to love his destiny passionately, and all that is before him;
not to droop, or sentimentalise, or submit, but to plunge on, like a
'sea-shouldering whale'! You remember old Kit Smart--

  'Strong against tide, the enormous whale
  Emerges as he goes.'

"Mind you _emerge!_ Never heed the tide: there's plenty of room for it
as well as for you!"



Lestrange was being genially bantered by Rose one day at dinner on what
Rose called "problems of life and being," or "springs of action," or even
"higher ground." Lestrange was oppressively earnest, but he was always

"Ultimately?" he had said, "why, ultimately, of course, you must obey your

"No, no!" said Father Payne, "that won't do, Lestrange! Who are _you_,
after all? I mean that the 'you' you speak of has something to say about
it, to decide whether to disobey or to obey. And then, too, the same 'you'
seems to have decided that conscience is to be obeyed. The thing that you
describe as 'yourself' is much more ultimate than conscience, because if it
is not convinced that conscience is to be obeyed, it will not obey. I mean
that there is something which criticises even the conscience. It can't be
reason, because your conscience over-rides your reason, and it can't be
instinct, generally speaking, because conscience often over-rides

"I am confused," said Lestrange. "I mean by conscience the thing which says
'You _ought!_' That is what seems to me to prove the existence of God,
that there is a sense of a moral law which one does not invent, and which
is sometimes very inconveniently aggressive."

"Yes, that is all right," said Father Payne, "but how is it when there are
two 'oughts,' as there often are? A man ought to work--and he ought not to
overwork--something else has to be called in to decide where one 'ought'
begins and the other ends. There is a perpetual balancing of moral claims.
Your conscience tells you to do two things which are mutually
exclusive--both are right in the abstract. What are you to do then?"

"I suppose that reason comes in there," said Lestrange.

"Then reason is the ultimate guide?" said Father Payne.

"Oh, Father, you are darkening counsel," said Lestrange.

"No, no," said Father Payne, "I am just trying to face facts."

"Well, then," said Lestrange, "what is the ultimate thing?"

"The ultimate thing," said Father Payne, "is of course the thing you call
yourself--but the ultimate instinct is probably a sense of proportion--a
sense of beauty, if you like!"

"But how does that work out in practice?" said Vincent. "It seems to me to
be a mere argument about names and titles. You are using conscience as the
sense of right and wrong, and, as you say, they often seem to have
conflicting claims. Lestrange used it in the further sense of the thing
which ultimately decides your course. It is right to be philanthropic, it
is right to be artistic--they may conflict; but something ultimately tells
you what you _can_ do, which is really more important than what you
_ought to_ do."

"That is right," said Father Payne, "I think the test is simply this--that
whenever you feel yourself paralysed, and your natural growth arrested by
your obedience to any one claim--instinct, reason, conscience, whatever it
is--the ultimate power cuts the knot, and tells you unfailingly where your
real life lies. That is the real failure, when owing to some habit, some
dread, some shrinking, you do not follow your real life. That, it seems to
me, is where the old unflinching doctrines of sin and repentance have done
harm. The old self-mortifying saints, who thought so badly of human nature,
and who tore themselves to pieces, resisting wholesome impulses--celibate
saints who ought to have been married, morbidly introspective saints who
needed hard secular work, those were the people who did not dare to trust
the sense of proportion, and were suspicious of the call of life. Look at
St. Augustine in the wonderful passage about light, 'sliding by me in
unnumbered guises'--he can only end by praying to be delivered from the
temptation to enjoy the sight of dawn and sunset, as setting his affections
too much upon the things of earth. I mistrust the fear of life--I mistrust
all fear--at least I think it will take care of itself, and must not be
cultivated. I think the call of God is the call of joy--and I believe that
the superstitious dread of joy is one of the most potent agencies of the

"But there are many joys which one has to mistrust," said Lestrange; "mere
sensual delights, for instance."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but most healthy and normal people, after a very
little meddling with such delights, learn certainly enough that they only
obscure the real, wholesome, temperate joys. You have to compromise wisely
with your instincts, I think. You mustn't spend too much time in frontal
attacks upon them. You have a quick temper, let us say. Well, it is better
to lose it occasionally and apologise, than to hold your tongue about
matters in which you are interested for fear of losing it. You are
avaricious--well, hoard your money, and then yield on occasions to a
generous impulse. That's a better way to defeat evil, than by dribbling
money away in giving little presents which no one wants. I don't believe in
petty warfare against faults. You know the proverb that if you knock too
long at a closed door, the Devil opens it to you? Just give your sins a
knock-down blow every now and then. I believe in the fire of life more than
I believe in the cold water you use to quench it. Everything can be
forgiven to passion; nothing can be forgiven to chilly calculation. The
beautiful impulse is the thing that one must not disobey; and when I see
people do big, wrong-headed, unguarded, unwise things, get into rows,
sacrifice a reputation or a career without counting the cost, I am inclined
to feel that they have probably done better for themselves than if they had
been prudent and cautious. I don't say that they are always right, because
people yield sometimes to a mere whim, and sometimes to a childishly
overwhelming desire; but if there is a real touch of unselfishness about a
sacrifice--that's the test, that some one else's joy should be
involved--then I feel that it isn't my business to approve or disapprove. I
feel in the presence of a force--an 'ought' as Lestrange says, which makes
me shy of intervening. It's the wind of the Spirit--it blows where it
will--and I know this, that I'm thankful beyond everything when I feel it
in my own sails."

"Tell me when you feel it next, Father," said Vincent.

"I feel it now," said Father Payne, "now and here." And there was something
in his face which made us disinclined to ask him any further questions.



Someone had been telling a curious story about a contested peerage. It was
a sensational affair, involving the alteration of registers, the burning
down of a vestry, and the flight of a clergyman.

"I like that story," said Father Payne, "and I like heraldry and rank and
all that. It's decidedly picturesque. I enjoy the zigzagging of a title
through generations. But the worst of it is that the most picturesque of
all distinctions, like being the twentieth baron, let us say, in direct
descent, is really of the nature of a stigma; a man whose twentieth
ancestor was a baron has no excuse for not being a duke."

"But what I don't like," said Rose, "is the awful sense of sanctity which
some people have about it. I read a book the other day where the hero
sacrificed everything in turn, a career, a fortune, an engagement to a
charming girl, a reputation, and last of all an undoubted claim to an
ancient barony. I don't remember exactly why he did all these things--it
was noble, undoubtedly it was noble! But there was something which made me
vaguely uncomfortable about the order in which he spun his various

"It's only a sense of beauty slightly awry," said Father Payne; "names are
curiously sacred things--they often seem to be part of the innermost
essence of a man. I confess I would rather change most things than change
my name. I would rather shave my head, for instance."

"But my hero would have had to change his name if he had claimed the
peerage," said Rose.

"Yes, but you see the title was his _right_ name," said Father Payne;
"he was only masquerading as a commoner, you must remember. Why I should
value an ancient peerage is because I think it might improve my manners."

"Impossible!" said Vincent.

"Thank you," said Father Payne. "Yes, my manners are very good for a
commoner--but I should like to be a little more in the grand style. I
should like to be able to look long at a person, who said something of
which I disapproved, and then change the subject. That would be fine! But I
daren't do that now. Now I have to argue. Do you remember in _Daniel
Deronda_, Grandcourt's habit of looking stonily at smiling persons. I
have often envied that! Whereas my chief function in life is looking
smilingly at stony persons, and that's very bourgeois."

"We must show more animation," said Barthrop to his neighbour.

"I mean it!" said Father Payne, "but come, I won't be personal! Seriously,
you know, the one thing I have admired in the very few great people I have
ever met is the absence of embarrassment. They don't need to explain who
they are, they haven't got to preface their statements of opinion by
fragments of autobiography, to show their right to speak. It is convenient
to feel that if people don't know who you are, they will feel slightly
foolish afterwards when they discover, like the man who shook hands warmly
with Queen Victoria, and said, "I know the face quite well, but I can't put
a name to it." It did not show any pride of birth in the Queen to be
extremely amused by the incident. But even more than that I admire the case
which people of that sort get by having had, from childhood onwards, to
meet all sorts of persons, and to behave themselves, and to see that people
do not feel shy or uncomfortable. I sometimes go about the village simply
teeming with benevolence, and I pass some one, and can't think of anything
to say. If I had the great manner, I should say, "Why, Tommy, is that you?"
or some such human signal, which would not mean anything in particular, but
would after all express exactly what is in my mind. But I can't just do
that. I rack my brains for an _appropriate_ remark, because I am
bourgeois, and have not the point of honour, as the French say. And by the
time I have elaborated it, Tommy is gone, and Jack is passing, and I begin
elaborating again; whereas I should simply add, if I were aristocratic,
'And that's you, Jack, isn't it?' That's the way to talk."

We all laughed; and Barthrop said, "Well, I must say, Father, that I have
often envied you your power of saying something to everyone."

"I have spent more trouble on it than it is worth," said Father Payne; "and
that's my point, that if I were only a great man, I should have learnt it
all in childhood, and should not have to waste time over it at all. That's
the best of rank; it's a device for saving trouble; it saves introduction
and explanation and autobiography and elaborate civility, and makes people
willing to be pleased by the smallest sign of affability. You may depend
upon it that it was a very true instinct which made the Scotch minister
pray that all might have honourable ancestors. It isn't a sacred thing,
rank, and it isn't a magnificent thing--but it's a pleasant human sort of
thing in the right hands. What is more, in these democratic days, it tends
to make people of rank additionally anxious not to parade the fact--and I
doubt if there is anything on the whole happier than having advantages
which you don't want to parade--it gives a tranquil sort of contentment,
and it removes all futile ambitions. To be, by descent, what a desperately
industrious lawyer or a successful general feels himself amply rewarded for
his toil by becoming, isn't nothing. I'm always rather suspicious of the
people who try to pretend that it is nothing at all. The rank is but the
guinea stamp, of course. But after all the stamp is what makes it a guinea
instead of an unnegotiable disc of metal!"



Father Payne used often to say that he was more interested in biography
than in any other form of art, and believed that there was a greater future
before it than before any other sort of literature. "Just think," I
remember his saying, "human portraiture--the most interesting thing in the
world by far--what the novel tries to do and can't do!"

"What exactly do you mean by 'can't do'?" I said.

"Why, my boy," said Father Payne, "because we are all so horrified at the
idea of telling the truth or looking the truth in the face. The novel
accommodates human nature, patches it up, varnishes it, puts it in a good
light: it may be artistic and romantic and poetical--but it hasn't got the
beauty of truth. Life is much more interesting than any imaginative
fricassee of it! These realistic fellows--they are moving towards
biography, but they haven't got much beyond the backgrounds yet."

"But why shouldn't it be done?" I said. "There's Boswell's Johnson--why
does that stand almost alone?"

"Why, think of all the difficulties, my boy," said Father Payne. "There's
nothing like Boswell's Johnson, of course--but what a subject! There's
nothing that so proves Boswells genius--we mustn't forget that--as the
other wretched stuff written about Johnson. There's a passage in Boswell,
when he didn't see Johnson for a long time, and stuck in a few stories
collected from other friends. They are awfully flat and flabby--they have
all been rolled about in some one's mind, till they are as smooth as
pebbles--some bits of the crudest rudeness, not worked up to--some
knock-down schoolboy retorts which most civilised men would have had the
decency to repress--and then we get back to the real Boswell again, and how
fresh and lively it is!"

"But what are the difficulties you spoke of?" I said.

"Why, in the first place," said Father Payne, "a biography ought to be
written _during_ a man's life and not _after_ it--and very few
people will take the trouble to write things down day after day about
anyone else, as Boswell did. If it waits till after a man's death, a hush
falls on the scene--everyone is pious and sentimental. Of course, Boswell's
life is inartistic enough--it wanders along, here a letter, there a lot of
criticism, here a talk, there a reminiscence. It isn't arranged--it has no
scheme: but how full of _zest_ it is! And then you have to be pretty
shameless in pursuing your hero, and elbowing other people away, and
drawing him out; and you have to be prepared to be kicked and trampled
upon, when the hero is cross: and then you have to be a considerable snob,
and say what you really value and admire, however vulgar it is. And then
you must expect to be called hard names when the book appears. I was
reading a review the other day of what seemed to me to be a harmless
biography enough--a little frank and enthusiastic affair, I gathered: and
the reviewer wrote in the style of Pecksniff, caddish and priggish at the
same time: he called the man to task for botanising on his friend's
grave--that unfortunate verse of Wordsworth's, you know--and he left the
impression that the writer had done something indelicate and impious, and
all with a consciousness of how high-minded he himself was.

"You ought to write a biography as though you were telling your tale in a
friendly and gentle ear--you ought not to lose your sense of humour, or be
afraid of showing your subject in a trivial or ridiculous light. Look at
Boswell again--I don't suppose a more deadly case could be made out against
any man, with perfect truth, than could be made out against Johnson. You
could show him as brutal, rough, greedy, superstitious, prejudiced, unjust,
and back it all up by indisputable evidence--but it's the balance, the net
result, that matters! We have all of us faults; we know them, our friends
know them--why the devil should not everyone know them? But then an
interesting man dies, and everyone becomes loyal and sentimental. Not a
word must be said which could pain or wound anyone. The friends and
relations, it would seem, are not pained by the dead man's faults, they are
only pained that other people should know them. The biography becomes a
mixture of disinfectants and perfumes, as if it were all meant to hide some
putrid thing. It's like what Jowett said about a testimonial, 'There's a
strong smell here of something left out!' We have hardly ever had anything
but romantic biographies hitherto, and they all smell of something left
out. There's a tribe somewhere in Africa who will commit murder if anyone
tries to sketch them. They think it brings bad luck to be sketched, a sort
of 'overlooking' as they say. Well that seems to be the sort of
superstition that many people have about biographies, as if the departed
spirit would be vexed by anything which isn't a compliment. I suppose it is
partly this--that many people are ill-bred, glum, and suspicious, and can't
bear the idea of their faults being recorded. They hate all frankness: and
so when anything frank gets written, they talk about violating sacred
confidences, and about shameless exposures. It is really that we are all
horribly uncivilised, and can't bear to give ourselves away, or to be given
away. Of course we don't want biographies of merely selfish, stupid,
brutal, ill-bred men--but everyone ought to be thankful when a life can be
told frankly, and when there's enough that is good and beautiful to make it
worth telling.

"But, as I said, the thing can't be done, unless it is written to a great
extent in a man's lifetime. Conversation is a very difficult thing to
remember--it can't be remembered afterwards--it needs notes at the time:
and few people's talk is worth recording; and even if it is, people are a
little ashamed of doing it--there seems something treacherous about it: but
it ought to be done, for all that! You don't want so very much of it--I
don't suppose that Boswell has got down a millionth part of all Johnson
said--you just want specimens--enough to give the feeling of it and the
quality of it. One doesn't want immensely long biographies--just enough to
make you feel that you have seen a man and sat with him and heard him
talk--and the kind of way in which he dealt with things and people. I'll
tell you a man who would have made a magnificent biography--Lord Melbourne.
He had a great charm, and a certain whimsical and fantastic humour, which
made him do funny little undignified things, like a child. But every single
dictum of Melbourne's has got something original and graceful about
it--always full of good sense, never pompous, always with a delicious
lightness of touch. The only person who took the trouble to put down
Melbourne's sayings, just as they came out, was Queen Victoria--but then
she was in love with him without knowing it: and in the end he got stuck
into the heaviest and most ponderous of biographies, and is lost to the
world. Stale politics--there's nothing to beat them for dulness

"But isn't it an almost impossible thing," I said, "to expect a man who is
a first-rate writer, with ambitions in authorship, to devote himself to
putting down things about some interesting person with the chance of their
never being published? Very few people would have sufficient
self-abnegation for that."

"That's true enough," said Father Payne, "and of course it is a risk--a man
must run the risk of sacrificing a good deal of his time and energy to
recording unimportant details, perhaps quite uselessly, but with this
possibility ahead of him, that he may produce an immortal book--and I grant
you that the infernal vanity and self-glorification of authors is a real
difficulty in the way."

He was silent for a minute or two, and then he said: "Now, I'll tell you
another difficulty, that at present people only want biographies of men of
affairs, of big performers, men who have done things--I don't want that. I
want biographies of people who wielded a charm of personality, even if they
didn't _do_ things--people, I mean, who deserve to live and to be
loved.--Those are the really puzzling figures a generation later, the men
who lived in an atmosphere of admiring and delighted friendship, radiating
a sort of enchanting influence, having the most extravagant things said and
believed about them by their friends, and yet never doing anything in
particular. People, I mean, like Arthur Hallam, whose letters and remains
are fearfully pompous and tiresome--and who yet had _In Memoriam_
written about him, and who was described by Gladstone as the most perfect
human being, physically, intellectually and morally, he had ever seen. Then
there is Browning's Domett--the prototype of Waring--and Keats's friend
James Rice, and Stevenson's friend Ferrier--that's a matchless little
biographical fragment, Stevenson's letter about Ferrier--those are the sort
of figures I mean, the men who charmed and delighted everyone, were brave
and humorous, gave a pretty turn to everything they said--those are the
roses by the wayside! They had ill-health some of them, they hadn't the
requisite toughness for work, they even took to drink, or went to the bad.
But they are the people of quality and tone, about whom one wants to know
much more than about sun-burnt and positive Generals--the strong silent
sort--or overworked politicians bent on conciliating the riff-raff. I don't
want to know about men simply because they did honest work, and still less
about men who never dared to say what they thought and felt. You can't make
a striking picture out of a sense of responsibility! I'm not underrating
good work--it's fine in every way, but it can't always be written about.
There are exceptions, of course. Nelson and Wellington would have been
splendid subjects, if anyone had really Boswellised them. But Nelson had a
theatrical touch about him, and became almost too romantic a hero; while
the Duke had a fund of admirable humour and almost grotesque directness of
expression,--and he has never been half done justice to, though you can see
from Lord Mahon's little book of _Table Talk_ and Benjamin Haydon's
_Diary_, and the letters to Miss J., what a rich affair it all might
have been, if only there had been a perfectly bold, candid, and truthful

"But the charming people of whom you spoke," I said--"isn't the whole thing
often too evanescent to be recorded?"

"Not a bit of it!" said Father Payne, "and these are the people we want to
hear about, because they represent the fine flower of civilisation. If a
man has a delightful friend like that, always animated, fresh, humorous,
petulant, original, he couldn't do better than observe him, keep scraps of
his talk, record scenes where he took a leading part, get the impression
down. It may come to nothing, of course, but it may also come to something
worth more than a thousand twaddling novels. The immense _use_ of
it--if one must think about the use--is that such a life might really show
commonplace and ordinary people how to handle the simplest materials of
life with zest and delicacy. Novels don't really do that--they only make
people want to escape from middle-class conditions, what everyone is the
better for seeing is not how life might conceivably be handled, but how it
actually has been handled, freshly and distinctly, by someone in a
commonplace milieu. Life isn't a bit romantic, but it is devilish
interesting. It doesn't go as you want it to go. Sometimes it lags,
sometimes it dances; and horrible things happen, often most unexpectedly.
In the novel, everything has to be rounded off and led up to, and you never
get a notion of the inconsequence of life. The interest of life is not what
happens, but how it affects people, how they meet it, how they fly from it:
the relief of a biography is that you haven't got to invent your setting
and your character--all that is done for you: you have just got to select
the characteristic things, and not to blur the things that you would have
wished otherwise. For God's sake, let us get at the truth in books, and not
use them as screens to keep the fire off, or as things to distract one from
the depressing facts in one's bank-book. I welcome all this output of
novels, because it at least shows that people are interested in life, and
trying to shape it. But I don't want romance, and I don't want ugly and
sensational realism either. That is only romance in another shape. I want
real men and women--not from an autobiographical point of view, because
that is generally romantic too--but from the point of view of the friends
to whom they showed themselves frankly and naturally, and without that
infernal reticence which is not either reverence or chivalry, but simply an
inability to face the truth,--which is the direct influence of the spirit
of evil. If one of my young men turns out a good biography of an
interesting person, however ineffective he was, I shall not have lived in
vain. For, mind this--very few people's performances are worth remembering,
while very many people's personalities are."



Rose told a story one night which amused Father Payne immensely. He had
been up in town, and had sate next a Minister's wife, who had been very
confidential. She had said to Rose that her husband had just been elected
into a small dining-club well known in London, where the numbers were very
limited, the society very choice, and where a single negative vote excluded
a candidate. "I don't think," said the good lady, "that my husband has ever
been so pleased at anything that has befallen him, not even when he was
first given office--such a distinguished club--and so exclusive!" Father
Payne laughed loud and shrill. "That's human nature at its nakedest!" he
said. "It's like Miss Tox, in _Dombey and Son_, you know, who, when
Dombey asked her if the school she recommended was select, said, 'It's
exclusion itself!' What people love is the power of being able to
_exclude_--not necessarily disagreeable people, or tiresome people,
but simply people who would like to be inside--

  "'Loving not, hating not, just choosing so.'

"Those are the two great forces of society, you know--the exclusive force,
and the inclusive force: the force that says, 'We few, we happy few, we
band of brothers'; and the force which says, 'The more the merrier.' The
exclusive force is represented by caste and class, by gentility and
donnishness, by sectarianism and nationalism, and even by patriotism--and
the inclusive force is represented by Walt Whitmanism and Christianity."

"But what about St. Paul's words," said Lestrange, "'Honour all men: love
the brotherhood'?"

"That's an attempt to recognise both," said Father Payne, smiling. "Of
course you can't love everyone equally--that's the error of
democracy--democracy is really one of the exclusive forces, because it
excludes the heroes--it is '_mundus contra Athanasium_,'--it is best
illustrated by what the American democrat said to Charles Kingsley, 'My
principle is "whenever you see a head above the crowd, hit it."' Democracy
is, at its worst, the jealousy of the average man for the superior man."

"But which is the best principle?" said Vincent.

"Both are necessary," said Father Payne. "One must aim at inclusiveness, of
course: and we must be quite certain that we exclude on the ground of
qualities, and not on the ground of superficial differences. The best
influences in the world arise not from individuals but from groups--and
there is no sort of reason why groups should spoil their intensive
qualities by trying to admit outsiders. The strength of a group lies in the
fact that one gets the sense of fellowship and common purpose, of sympathy
and encouragement. A man who has to fight a battle single-handed is always
tempted to wonder whether, after all, it is worth all the trouble and
misunderstanding. But, on the other hand, you are at liberty to mistrust
the men who say that they don't want to know people. Do you remember how
Charles Lamb once said, 'I do hate the Trotters!' 'But I thought you didn't
know them?' said someone. 'That's just it,' said Charles Lamb, 'I never can
hate anyone that I know!' The best bred man is the man who finds it easy to
get on with everybody on equal terms: but it's part of the snobbishness of
human nature that exclusiveness is rather admired than otherwise. There's a
delightfully exclusive woman in one of Henry James' novels, who refuses to
be introduced to a family. She entirely declines, and the man who is
anxious to effect the introduction says, 'I can't think why you object to
them.' 'They are hopelessly vulgar,' says the incisive lady, 'and in this
short life, that is enough!' But St. Paul's remark is really very good,
because it means 'Treat everyone with courtesy--but reserve your fine
affections for the inner circle, whose worth you really know!'--it's a
better theory than that of the man who said, 'It is enough for me to be
with those whom I love!' That's rather inhuman."

"Do you remember," said Barthrop, "the lines in Tennyson's Guinevere, which
sum up the knightly attributes?

  "'High thought, and amiable words,
  And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
  And love of truth, and all that makes a man.'"

"That's very interesting and curious!" said Father Payne. "Dear me, I had
forgotten that--did Tennyson say that?--Come--let's have it again!"

Barthrop repeated the lines again.

"Now, that's the gentlemanly ideal of the sixties," said Father Payne,
"and, good heavens, how offensive it sounds! The most curious part of it
really is 'the desire of fame'--of course, a hundred years ago, no one made
any secret of that! You remember Nelson's frank confession, made not once,
but many times, that he pursued glory, 'Defeat--or Westminster
Abbey'--didn't he say that?"

"But surely people pursue fame as much as ever?" said Vincent.

"I daresay," said Father Payne, "but it isn't now considered good taste to
say so. You have got to pretend, at all events, that you wish to benefit
humanity now-a-days. If a man had said to Ruskin or Carlyle, 'Why do you
write all these books?' and they replied, 'It is because of my desire for
fame,' it would have been thought vulgar. There's that odd story of Robert
Browning, when he received an ovation at Oxford, and someone said to him,
'I suppose you don't care about all this,' he said, 'It is what I have
waited for all my life!' I wonder if he _did_ say it! I think he must
have done, because it is exactly the sort of thing that one is supposed not
to say--and I confess I don't like it--it seems to me vain, and not proud,
I don't mind a kind of pride--I think a man ought to know what he is
worth: but I hate vanity. Perhaps that's only because I haven't been a
success myself."

"But mayn't you desire fame?" said Vincent. "It seems to me rather priggish
to condemn it!"

"Many fine things sound priggish when they are said," said Father Payne.
"But, to be frank, I don't think that a man ought to desire fame. I think
he may desire to do a thing well. I don't think he ought to desire to do it
better than other people. It is the wanting to beat other people which is
low. Why not wish them to do it well too?"

"You mean that the difference between pride and vanity lies there?" said

"Yes, I do," said Father Payne, "and it is a pity that pride is included in
the deadly sins, because the word has changed its sense. Pride used to mean
the contempt of others--that's a deadly sin, if you like. It used to mean a
ghastly sort of self-satisfaction, arrived at by comparison of yourself
with others. But now to be called a proud man is a real compliment. It
means that a man can't condescend to anything mean or base. We ought all to
be proud--not proud _of_ anything, because that is vulgar, but ashamed
of doing anything which we know to be feeble or low. The Pharisee in the
parable was vain, not proud, because he was comparing himself with other
people. But it is all right to be grateful to God for having a sense of
decency, just as you may be grateful for having a sense of beauty. The
hatefulness of it comes in when you are secretly glad that other people
love indecency and ugliness."

"That is the exclusive feeling then?" said Barthrop.

"Yes, the bad kind of exclusiveness," said Father Payne--"the kind of
exclusiveness which ministers to self-satisfaction. And that is the fault
of the group when it becomes a coterie. The coterie means a set of inferior
people, bolstering up each other's vanity by mutual admiration. In a
coterie you purchase praise for your own bad work, by pretending to admire
the bad work of other people. But the real group is interested, not in each
other's fame, but in the common work."

"It seems to me confusing," said Vincent.

"Not a bit of it," said Father Payne; "we have to consider our limitations:
we are limited by time and space. You can't know everybody and love
everybody and admire everybody--and you can't sacrifice the joy and
happiness of real intimacy with a few for a diluted acquaintance with five
hundred people. But you mustn't think that your own group is the only
one--that is the bad exclusiveness--you ought to think that there are
thousands of intimate groups all over the world, which you could love just
as enthusiastically as you love your own, if you were inside them: and
then, apart from your own group, you ought to be prepared to find
reasonable and amiable and companionable people everywhere, and to be able
to put yourself in line with them. Why, good heavens, there are millions of
possible friends in the world! and one of my deepest and firmest hopes
about the next world, so to speak, is that there will be some chance of
communicating with them all at once, instead of shutting ourselves up in a
frowsy room like this, smelling of meat and wine. I don't deny you are very
good fellows, but if you think that you are the only fit and desirable
company in the world for me or for each other, I tell you plainly that you
are utterly mistaken. That's why I insist on your travelling about, to
avoid our becoming a coterie."

"Then it comes to this," said Vincent drily, "that you can't be inclusive,
and that you ought not to be exclusive?"

"Yes, that's exactly it!" said Father Payne. "You meant to shut me up with
one of our patent Oxford epigrams, I know--and, of course, it is deuced
smart! But put it the other way round, and it's all right. You can't help
being exclusive, and you must try to be inclusive--that's the truth, with
the Oxford tang taken out!"

We laughed at this, and Vincent reddened.

"Don't mind me, old man!" said Father Payne, "but try to make your epigrams
genial instead of contemptuous--inclusive rather than exclusive. They are
just as true, and the bitter flavour is only fit for the vitiated taste of
Dons." And Father Payne stretched out a large hand down the table, and
enclosed Vincent's in his own.

"Yes, it was a nasty turn," said Vincent, smiling, "I see what you mean."

"The world is a friendlier place than people know," said Father Payne. "We
have inherited a suspicion of the unknown and the unfamiliar. Don't you
remember how the ladies in _The Mill on the Floss_ mistrusted each
other's recipes, and ate dry bread in other houses rather than touch jam or
butter made on different methods. That is the old bad taint. But I think we
are moving in the right direction. I fancy that the awakening may be very
near, when we shall suddenly realise that we are all jolly good fellows,
and wonder that we have been so blind."

"A Roman Catholic friend of mine," said Rose--"he is a priest--told me that
he attended a clerical dinner the other day. The health of the Pope was
proposed, and they all got up and sang, 'For he's a jolly good fellow!'"

There was a loud laugh at this. "I like that," said Father Payne, "I like
their doing that! I expect that that is exactly what the Pope is! I should
dearly love to have a good long quiet talk with him! I think I could let in
a little light: and I should like to ask him if he enjoyed his fame, dear
old boy: and whether he was interested in his work! 'Why, Mr. Payne, it's
rather anxious work, you know, the care of all the churches'--I can hear
him saying--'but I rub along, and the time passes quickly! though, to be
sure, I'm not as young as I was once: and while I am on the subject, Mr.
Payne, you look to me to be getting on in years yourself!' And then I
should say 'Yes, your Holiness, I am a man that has seen trouble.' And he
would say, 'I'm sorry to hear that! Tell me all about it!' That's how we
should talk, like old friends, in a snug parlour in the Vatican, looking
out on the gardens!"



I was walking with Father Payne one hot summer day upon a field-path he was
very fond of. There was a copse, through the middle of which the little
river, the Fyllot, ran. It was the boundary of the Aveley estate, and it
here joined another stream, the Rode, which came in from the south. The
path went through the copse, dense with hazels, and there was always a
musical sound of lapsing waters hidden in the wood. The birds sang shrill
in the thicket, and Father Payne said, "This is the juncture of Pison and
Hiddekel, you know, rivers of Paradise. Aveley is Havilah, where the gold
is good, and where there is bdellium, if we only knew where to look for it.
I fancy it is rich in bdellium. I came down here, I remember, the first day
I took possession. It was wonderful, after being so long among the tents of
Kedar, to plant my flag in Havilah; I made a vow that day--I don't know if
I have kept it!"

"What was that?" I said.

"Only that I would not get too fond of it all," said Father Payne, smiling,
"and that I would share it with other people. But I have got very fond of
it, and I haven't shared it. Asking people to stay with you, that they may
see what a nice place you have to live in, is hardly sharing it. It is
rather the other way--the last refinement of possession, in fact!"

"It's very odd," he went on, "that I should love this little bit of the
world so much as I do. It's called mine--that's a curious idea. I have got
very little power over it. I can't prevent the trees and flowers from
growing here, or the birds from nesting here, if they have a mind to do so.
I can only keep human beings out of it, more or less. And yet I love it
with a sort of passion, so that I want other people to love it too. I
should like to think that after I am gone, some one should come here and
see how exquisitely beautiful it is, and wish to keep it and tend it.
That's what lies behind the principle of inheritance; it isn't the money or
the position only that we desire to hand on to our children--it's the love
of the earth and all that grows out of it; and possession means the desire
of keeping it unspoiled and beautiful, I could weep at the idea of this all
being swept away, and a bdellium-mine being started here, with a
factory-chimney and rows of little houses; and yet I suppose that if the
population increased, and the land was all nationalised, a great deal of
the beauty of England would go. I hope, however, that the sense of beauty
might increase too--I don't think the country people here have much notion
of beauty. They only like things to remain as they know them. It's a
fearful luxury really for a man like myself to live in a land like this, so
full of old woodland and pasture, which is only possible under rich
proprietors. I'm an abuse, of course. I have got a much larger slice of my
native soil than any one man ought to have; but I don't see the way out.
The individual can't dispossess himself--it's the system which is wrong."

He stopped in the middle of the copse, and said: "Did you ever see anything
so perfectly lovely as this place? And yet it is all living in a state of
war and anarchy. The trees and plants against each other, all fighting for
a place in the sun. The rabbit against the grass, the bird against the
worm, the cat against the bird. There's no peace here really--it's full of
terrors! Only the stream is taking it easy. It hasn't to live by taking
life, and the very sound of it is innocent."

Presently he said: "This is all cut down every five years. It's all made
into charcoal and bobbins. Then the flowers all come up in a rush; then the
copse begins to grow again--I never can make up my mind which is most
beautiful. I come and help the woodmen when they cut the copse. That's
pleasant work, you know, cutting and binding. I sometimes wonder if the
hazels hate being slashed about. I expect they do; but it can't hurt them
much, for up they come again. It's the right way to live, of course, to
begin again the minute you are cut down to the roots, to struggle out to
the air and sun again, and to give thanks for life. Don't you feel yourself
as if you were good for centuries of living?"

"I'm not sure that I do," I said, "I don't feel as if I had quite got my
hand in."

"Yes, that's all right for you, old boy," said Father Payne. "You are
learning to live, and you are living. But an old fellow like me, who has
got in the way of it, and has found out at last how good it is to be alive,
has to realise that he has only got a fag-end left. I don't at all want to
die; I've got my hands as full as they can hold of pretty and delightful
things; and I don't at all want to be cut down like the copse, and to have
to build up my branches again. Yes," he added, pondering, "I used to think
I should not live long, and I didn't much want to, I believe! But now--it's
almost disgraceful to think how much I prize life, and how interesting I
find it. Depend upon it, on we go! The only thing that is mysterious to me
is why I love a place like this so much. I don't suppose it loves me. I
suppose there isn't a beast or a bird, perhaps not a tree or a flower, in
the place that won't be rather relieved when I go back home without having
killed something. I expect, in fact, that I have left a track of death
behind me in the grass--little beetles and things that weren't doing any
harm, and that liked being alive. That's pretty beastly, you know, but how
is one to help it? Then my affection for it is very futile. I can't
establish a civilised system here; I can't prevent the creatures from
eating each other, or the trees from crowding out the flowers. I can't eat
or use the things myself, I can't take them away with me; I can only stand
and yearn with cheap sentiment.

"And yet," he said after a moment, "there's something here in this bit of
copse that whispers to me beautiful secrets--the sunshine among the stems,
the rustle of leaves, the wandering breeze, the scent and coolness of it
all! It is crammed with beauty; it is all trying to live, and glad to live.
You may say, of course, that you don't see all that in it, and it is I that
am abnormal. But that doesn't explain it away. The fact that I feel it is a
better proof that it is there than the fact that you don't feel it is a
proof that it isn't there! The only thing about it that isn't beautiful to
me is the fact that life can't live except by taking life--that there is no
right to live; and that, I admit, is disconcerting. You may say to me, 'You
old bully, crammed with the corpses of sheep and potatoes, which you
haven't even had the honesty to kill for yourself, you dare to come here,
and talk this stuff about the beauty of it all, and the joy of living. If
all the bodies of the things you have consumed in your bloated life were
piled together, it would make a thing as big as a whole row of ricks!' If
you say that, I admit that you take the sentiment out of my sails!"

"But I don't say it," said I: "Who dies if Father Payne live?"

He laughed at this, and clapped me on the back. "You're in the same case as
I, old man," he said, "only you haven't got such a pile of blood and bones
to your credit! Here, we must stow this talk, or we shall become both
humbugs and materialists. It's a puzzling business, talking! It leads you
into some very ugly places!"



I went in to see Father Payne one morning about some work. He was reading a
book with knitted brows: he looked up, gave a nod, but no smile, pointed to
a chair, and I sate down: a minute or two later he shut the book--a neat
enough little volume--with a snap, and skimmed it deftly from where he
sate, into his large waste-paper basket. This, by the way, was a curious
little accomplishment of his,--throwing things with unerring aim. He could
skim more cards across a room into a hat than anyone I have ever seen who
was not a professed student of legerdemain.

"What are you doing?" I said--"such a nice little book!" I rose and rescued
the volume, which was a careful enough edition of some poems and scraps of
poems, posthumously discovered, of a well-known poet.

"Pray accept it with my kindest regards," said Father Payne. "No, I don't
know that I _ought_ to give it you. It is the sort of book I object

"Why?" I said, examining it--"it seems harmless enough."

"It's the wrong sort of literature," said Father Payne. "There isn't time,
or there ought not to be, to go fumbling about with these old scraps. They
aren't good enough to publish--and what's more, if the man didn't publish
them himself, you may be sure he had very good reasons for _not_ doing
so. The only interest of them is that so good a poet could write such
drivel, and that he knew it was drivel sufficiently well not to publish it.
But the man who can edit it doesn't know that, and the critics who review
it don't know it either--it was a respectful review that made me buy the
rubbish--and as for the people who read it, God alone knows what they think
of it. It's a case of

  "'Weave a circle round him thrice,
  And close your eyes in holy dread.'

"You have to shut your eyes pretty tight not to see what bosh it all is--it
is all this infernal reverence paid by people, who have no independence of
judgment, to great reputations. It reminds me of the barber who used to cut
the Duke of Wellington's hair and nails, who made quite a lot of money by
selling clippings to put in lockets!"

"But isn't it worth while to see a great poet's inferior jottings, and to
grasp how he worked?" said I.

"No," said Father Payne;--"at least it would be worth while to see how he
brought off his good strokes, but it isn't worth while seeing how he missed
his stroke altogether. This deification business is all unwholesome. In
art, in life, in religion, in literature, it's a mistake to worship the
saints--you don't make them divine, you only confuse things, and bring down
the divine to your own level. The truth--the truth--why can't people see
how splendid it is, and that it is one's only chance of getting on! To shut
your eyes to the possibility of the great man having a touch of the
commonplace, a touch of the ass, even a touch of the knave in him, doesn't
ennoble your conception of human nature. If you can only glorify humanity
by telling lies about it, and by ruling out all the flaws in it, you end by
being a sentimentalist. "See thou do it not ... worship God!" that's one of
the finest things in the Bible. Of course it is magnificent to see a streak
of the divine turning up again and again in human nature--but you have got
to wash the dirt to find the diamond. Believe in the beauty behind and in
and beyond us all--but don't worship the imperfect thing. This sort of book
is like selling the dirt out of which the diamonds have been washed, and
which would appear to have gained holiness by contact. I hate to see people
stopping short on the symbol and the illustration, instead of passing on to
the truth behind--it's idolatry. It's one degree better than worshipping
nothing; but the danger of idolatry is that you are content to get no
further: and that is what makes idolatry so ingenious a device of the
devil, that it persuades people to stop still and not to get on."

"But aren't you making too much out of it?" I said. "At the worst, this is
a harmless literary blunder, a foolish bit of hero-worship?"

"Yes," said Father Payne, "in a sense that is true, that these little
literary hucksters and pedlars don't do any very great harm--I don't mean
that they cause much mischief: but they are the symptom of a grave disease.
It is this d----d _bookishness_ which is so unreal. I would like to
say a word about it to you, if you have time, instead of doing our work
to-day--for if you will allow me to say so, my boy, you have got a touch of
it about you--only a touch--and I think if I can show you what I mean, you
can throw it off--I have heard you say rather solemn things about books!
But I want you to get through that. It reminds me of the talk of
ritualists. I have a poor friend who is a very harmless sort of parson--but
I have heard him talk of a bit of ceremonial with tears in his eyes. 'It
was exquisite, exquisite,' he will say,--'the celebrant wore a cope--a bit,
I believe of genuine pre-Reformation work--of course remounted--and the
Gospeller and Epistoller had copes so perfectly copied that it would have
been hard to say which was the real one. And then Father Wynne holds
himself so nobly--such a mixture of humility and pride--a priest ought to
exhibit both, I think, at that moment?--and his gestures are so
inevitable--so inevitable--that's the only word: there's no sense of
rehearsal about it: it is just the supreme act of worship expressing itself
in utter abandonment'--He will go on like that for an hour if he can find a
great enough goose to listen to him. Now, I don't mean to say that the man
hasn't a sense of beauty--he has the real ritual instinct, a perfectly
legitimate branch of art. But he doesn't know it's art--he thinks it is
religion. He thinks that God is preoccupied with such things; 'a full
choral High Mass, at nine o'clock, that's a thing to live and die for,' I
have heard him say. Of course it's a sort of idealism, but you must know
what you are about, and what you are idealising: and you mustn't think that
your kind is better than any other kind of idealising."

He made a pause, and then held out his hand for the book.

"Now here is the same sort of intemperate rapture," he said. "Look at this
introduction! 'It is his very self that his poems give, and the sharpest
jealousy of his name and fame is enkindled by them. Not to find him there,
his passion, endurance, faith, rapture, despair, is merely a confession of
want in ourselves.' That's not sane, you know--it's the intoxication of the
Corybant! It isn't the man himself we want to fix our eyes upon. He felt
these things, no doubt: but we mustn't worship his raptures--we must
worship what he worshipped. This sort of besotted agitation is little
better than a dancing dervish. The poems are little sparks, struck out from
a scrap of humanity by some prodigious and glorious force: but we must
worship the force, not the spark: the spark is only an evidence, a system,
a symbol if you like, of the force. And then see how utterly the man has
lost all sense of proportion--he has spent hours and days in identifying
with uncommon patience the exact date of these tepid scraps, and he says he
is content to have laid a single stone in the "unamended, unabridged,
authentic temple" of his idol's fame. That seems to me simply degrading:
and then the portentous ass, whose review I read, says that if the editor
had done nothing else, he is sure of an honoured place for ever in the
hierarchy of impeccable critics! And what is all this jabber about--a few
rhymes which a man made when he was feeling a little off colour, and which
he did not think it worth while to publish!

"You mustn't get into this kind of a mess, my boy. The artist mustn't
indulge in emotion for the sake of the emotion. 'The weakness of life,'
says this pompous ass, 'is that it deviates from art!' You might just as
well say that the weakness of food was that it deviated from a well-cooked
leg of mutton! Art is just an attempt to disentangle something, to get at
one of the big constituents of life. It helps you to see clearly, not to
confuse one thing with another, not to be vaguely impressed--the hideous
danger of bookishness is that it is one of the blind alleys into which
people get. These two fellows, the editor and his critic, have got stuck
there: they can't see out: they think their little valley is the end of the
world. I expect they are both of them very happy men, as happy as a man who
goes to bed comfortably drunk. But, good God, the awakening!" Father Payne
relapsed into a long silence, with knitted brows. I tried to start him

"But you often tell us to be serious, to be deadly earnest, about our
work?" I said.

"Oh yes," said Father Payne, "that's another matter. We have to work hard,
and put the best of ourselves into what we do. I don't want you to be an
amiable dilettante. But I also want you to see past even the best art. You
mustn't think that the stained-glass window is the body of heaven in its
clearness. The sort of worshippers I object to are the men who shut
themselves up in a church, and what with the colour and the music and the
incense-smoke, think they are in heaven already. It's an intoxication, all
that. I don't get you men to come here to make you drunk, but to get you to
loathe drunkenness. God--that's the end of it all! God, who reveals Himself
in beauty and kindness, and trustfulness, and charm and interest, and in a
hundred pure and fine forces--yet each of them are but avenues which lead
up to Him, the streets of the city, full of living water. But it is
movement I am in search of--and I would rather be drowned in the depth of
the sea than mislead anyone, or help him to sit still. I have made an awful
row about it all," said Father Payne, relapsing into a milder mood--"But
you will forgive me, I know. I can't bear to see these worthy men blocking
the way with their unassailable, unabridged, authentic editions. They are
like barbed-wire entanglements: and the worst of it is that, in spite of
all their holy air of triumph, they enjoy few things more than tripping
each other up! They condemn each other to eternal perdition for misplacing
a date or misspelling a name. It's like getting into a bed of nettles to
get in among these little hierophants. They remind me of the bishops at
some ancient Church Council or other who tore the clothes off two right
reverend consultants, and literally pulled them limb from limb in the name
of Christ. That's the end of these holy raptures, my boy! They unchain the
beast within."



There had been a little vague talk about politics, and someone had quoted a
definition of a true Liberal as a man who, if he had only to press a button
in a dark room to annihilate all cranks, faddists, political quacks,
extremists, propagandists, and nostrum-mongers, would not dream of doing
so, as a matter of conscience, on the ground that everyone has a right to
hold his own beliefs and to persuade the world to accept them if he can.
Father Payne laughed at this; but Rose, who had been nettled, I fancy, at a
lack of deference for his political experience, his father being a Unionist
M.P., said loudly, "Hear, hear! that's the only sort of Liberal whom I

A look of sudden anger passed over Father Payne's face--unmistakable and
uncompromising wrath. "Come, Rose," he said, "this isn't a political
meeting; and even if it were, why proclaim yourself as accepting a
definition which is almost within the comprehension of a chimpanzee?"

There was a faint laugh at this, but everyone had an uncomfortable sense of
thunder in the air. Rose got rather white, and his nostrils expanded. "I'm
sorry I put it in that way," he said rather frostily, "if you object. But I
mean it, I think. I don't like diluted Liberalism."

"Yes, but you beg the question by calling it diluted," said Father Payne.
"If anyone had said that the only Tory he respected was a man who if he
could press a button in a still darker room, and by doing so bring it to
pass that all institutions on the face of the earth would remain immutably
fixed for ever and ever, and would feel himself bound conscientiously to do
it, you wouldn't accept that as a definition of Conservatism? These things
are not hard and fast matters of principle--they are only tendencies.
Toryism is an instinct to trust custom and authority, Liberalism is an
instinct to welcome development and change. All that the definition of
Liberalism which was quoted means is, that the Liberal has a deep respect
for freedom of opinion; and all that my grotesque definition of Toryism
means is that a Tory prefers to trust a fixed tradition. But, of course,
both want a settled Government, and both have to recognise that the world
and its conditions change. The Tory says, 'Look before you leap'; the
Liberal says, 'Leap before you look.' But it is really all a matter of
infinite gradations, and what differentiates people is merely their idea of
the pace at which things can go and ought to go. Why should you say that
you can only respect a man who wants to go at sixty miles an hour, any more
than I should say I can only respect a man who wants to remain absolutely

Rose had by this time recovered his temper, and said, "It was rather crude,
I admit. But what I meant was that if a man feels that all opinions are of
equal value, he must give full weight to all opinions. The doctrinaire
Liberal seems to me to be just as much inclined to tyrannise as the
doctrinaire Tory, and to use his authority on the side of suppression when
it is convenient to do so, and against all his own principles."

"I don't think that is quite fair," said Father Payne. "You must have a
working system; you can't try everyone's experiments. All that the Liberal
says is, 'Persuade us if you can.' Pure Liberalism would be anarchy, just
as pure Toryism would be tyranny. Both are intolerable. But just as the
Liberal has to compromise and say, 'This may not be the ultimate theory of
the Government, but meanwhile the world has to be governed,' so the Tory
has to compromise, if a large majority of the people say, 'We will not be
governed by a minority for their interest; we will be governed for our
own.' The parliamentary vote is just a way of avoiding civil war; you can't
always resort to force, so you resort to arbitration. But why the Liberal
position is on the whole the stronger is because it says frankly, 'If you
Tories can persuade the nation to ask you to govern it, we will obey you.'
The weakness of the Tory position is that it has to make exactly the same
concessions, while it claims to be inspired by a divine sort of knowledge
as to what is just and right. I personally mistrust all intuitions which
lead to tyranny. Of course, the weakness of the whole affair is that the
man who believes in democracy has to assume that all have equal rights;
that would be fair enough if all people were born equal in character and
ability, and influence and wealth. But that isn't the case; and so the
Liberal says, 'Democracy is a bad system perhaps, but it is the only
system,' and it is fairer to maintain that everyone who gets into the world
has as good a right as anyone else to be there, than it is to say, 'Some
people have a right to manage the world and some have only a duty to obey.'
Both represent a side of the truth, but neither represents the whole truth.
At worst Liberalism is a combination of the weak against the strong, and
Toryism a combination of the strong against the weak! I personally wish the
weak to have a chance; but what we all really desire is to be governed by
the wise and good, and my hope for the world is that the quality of it is
improving. I want the weak to become sensible and self-restrained, and the
strong to become unselfish and disinterested. It is generosity that I want
to see increase--it is the finest of all qualities--the desire, I mean to
serve others, to admire, to sympathise, to share, to rejoice, in other
people's happiness. That would solve all our difficulties."

"Yes, of course," said Rose. "But I would like to go back again, and say
that what I was praising was consistency."

"But there is no such thing," said Father Payne, "except in combination
with entire irrationality. One can't say at any time of one's life, 'I know
everything worth knowing. I am in a position to form a final judgment.' You
can say, 'I will shut off all fresh light from my mind, and I will consider
no further evidence,' but that isn't a thing to respect! I begin to
suspect, Rose, that why you praised the uncompromising Liberal, as you call
him, is because he is the only kind of opponent who isn't dangerous. A man
who takes up such a position as I have described is practically insane. He
has a fixed idea, which neither argument nor evidence can alter. The
uncompromising man of fixed opinions, whatever those opinions may be, is
almost the only man I do not respect, because he is really the only
inconsistent person. He says, 'I have formed an opinion which is based on
experience, and I shall not alter it.' That is tantamount to saying that
you have done with experience; it is a claim to have attained infallibility
through fallible faculties. Where is the dignity of that? It's just a
deification of stupidity and stubbornness and insolence and complacency."

"But you must take your stand on _some_ certainties," said Rose.

"The fewer the better," said Father Payne. "One may learn to discriminate
between things, and to observe differences; but that is very different from
saying that you have got at the ultimate essence of any one thing. I am all
for clearness--we ought not to confuse things with each other, or use the
same names for different things; but I'm all against claiming absolute and
impeccable knowledge. It may be a comfortable system for a man who doesn't
want to be bothered; but he is only deferring the bother--he is like a man
who stays in bed because he doesn't like dressing. But it isn't a solution
to stay in bed--it is only suspending the solution. No, we mustn't have any
regard for human consistency--it's a very paltry attribute; it's the
opposite of anthropomorphism. That makes out God to be in the image of man,
but consistency claims for man the privilege of God. And that isn't
wholesome, you know, either for a man or his friends!"

"I give up," said Rose: "can nothing be logical?"

"Hardly anything," said Father Payne, "except logic itself. You have to
coin logical ideas into counters to play with. No two things, for instance,
can ever be absolutely equal, except imaginary equalities--and that's the
mischief of logic applied to life, that it presumes an exact valuation of
the ideas it works with, when no two people's valuations of the same idea
are identical, and even one person's valuation varies from time to time;
and logic breeds a phantom sort of consistency which only exists in the
imagination. You know the story of how Smith and Jones were arguing, and
Smith said, 'Brown will agree with me': 'Yes,' said Jones triumphantly, 'he
will, but for my reasons!'"



It was the first warm and sunny day, after a cold and cloudy spring: I took
a long and leisurely walk with Father Payne down a valley among woods, of
which Father Payne was very fond. "Almost precipitous for Northamptonshire,
eh?" he used to say. I was very full of a book I had been reading, but I
could not get him to talk. He made vague and foolish replies, and said
several times, "I shall have to think that over, you know," which was, I
well knew, a polite intimation that he was not in a mood for talk. But I
persisted, and at last he said, "Hang it, you know, I'm not attending--I'm
very sorry--it isn't your fault--but there's such a lot going on
everywhere." He quoted a verse of _The Shropshire Lad_, of which he
was very fond:

  "'Now, of my threescore years and ten,
  Twenty will not come again,
  And take from seventy springs a score,
  It only leaves me fifty more'";

adding, "That's the only instance I know of a subtraction sum made into
perfect poetry--but it's the other way round, worse luck!

  "And _add_ to seventy springs a score,
  _That_ only leaves me forty more!"

The birds were singing very sweetly in the copses as we passed--"That isn't
art, I believe," said Father Payne. "It's only the reproductive instinct, I
am told! I wish it took such an artistic form in my beloved brothers in the
Lord! There," he added, stopping and speaking in a low tone; "don't
move--there's a cock-wren singing his love-song--you can see his wings
quivering." There followed a little tremolo, with four or five emphatic
notes for a finish. "Now, if you listen, you'll hear the next wren answer
him!" said Father Payne. In a moment the same little song came like an echo
from a bush a few yards away. "The wren sings in stricter time than any
bird but the cuckoo," said Father Payne--"four quavers to a bar. That's
very important! Those two ridiculous creatures will go on doing that half
the morning. They are so excited that they build sham nests, you know,
about now--quite useless piles of twigs and moss, not intended for eggs,
just to show what they can do. But that little song! It has all the passion
of the old chivalry in it--it is only to say, 'My Dulcinea is prettier,
sweeter, brighter-eyed than yours!' and the other says, 'You wait till I
can get at you, and then we will see!' If they were two old knights, they
would fight to the death over it, till the world had lost a brave man, and
one of the Dulcineas was a hapless widow, and nothing proved. That's the
sort of thing that men admire, full of fine sentiment. Why can't we leave
each other alone? Why does loving one person make you want to fight
another? Just look at that wren: he's as full of joy and pride as he can
hold: look at the angle at which he holds his tail: he feels the lord of
the world, sure enough!"

We walked on, and I asked no more questions. "There's a bit of colour,"
said Father Payne, pointing to a bare wood, all carpeted with green blades.
"That's pure emerald, like the seventh foundation of the city. Now, if I
ask you, who are a bit of a poet, what those leaves are, what do you say?
You say hyacinth or daffodil, or perhaps lily-of-the-valley. But what does
the simple botanist--that's me--say? Garlic, my boy, and nothing else! and
you had better not walk musing there, or you will come in smelling of
spring onions, like a greengrocer's shop. So much for poetry! It's the
loveliest green in creation, and it has a pretty flower too--but it's never
once mentioned in English poetry, so far as I know. And yet Keats had the
face to say that Beauty was Truth and Truth Beauty! That's the way we play
the game."

We rambled on, and passed a pleasant old stone-built cottage in the wood,
with a tiny garden. "It's a curious thing," said Father Payne, "but in the
spring I always want to live in all the houses I see. It's the nesting
instinct, no doubt. I think I could be very happy here, for instance--much
happier than in my absurd big house, with all you fellows about. Why did I
ever start it? I ought to have had more sense. I want a cottage like this,
and a little garden to work in, and a few books. I would live on bread and
cold bacon and cheese and cabbages, with a hive of my own honey. I should
get wise and silent, and not run on like this."

A dog came out of the cottage garden, and followed us a little way. "Do we
belong to your party, sir, or do you belong to ours?" said Father Payne.
The dog put his head on one side, and wagged his tail. "It appears I have
the pleasure of your acquaintance!" said Father Payne to him. "Very well,
you can set us on our way if you like!" The dog gave a short shrill bark,
and trotted along with us. When we got to the end of the lane, where it
turned into the high road, Father Payne said to the dog, "Now, sir, I
expect that's all the time you can spare this morning? You must go back and
guard the house, and be a faithful dog. Duty first!" The dog looked
mournfully at us, and wagged his tail, but did not attempt to come farther.
He watched us for a little longer, but as we did not invite him to come on,
he presently turned round and trotted off home. "Now, that's the sort of
case where I feel sentimental," said Father Payne. "It's the sham sort of
pathos. I hate to see anyone disappointed. A person offering flowers in the
street for sale, and people not buying them--the men in London showing off
little toys by the pavement, which nobody wants--I can't bear that. It
makes me feel absurdly wretched to see anyone hoping to please, and not
pleasing. And if the people who do it look old and frail and unhappy, I'm
capable of buying the whole stock. The great uncomforted! It's silly, of
course, and there is nothing in the world so silly as useless emotion! It
is so easy to overflow with cheap benevolence, but the first step towards
the joyful wisdom is to be afraid of the emotion that costs you nothing:
but we won't be metaphysical to-day!"

Presently Father Payne insisted on sitting down in a sheltered place. He
flung his hat off, and sate there, looking round him with a smile, his arms
clasped round his big knees. "Well," he said, "it's a jolly place, the old
world, to be sure! Plenty of nasty and ugly things, I suppose, going on in
corners; but if you look round, they are only a small percentage of the
happy things. They don't force themselves upon the eye and ear, the beastly
things: and it's a stupid and faithless mistake to fix the imagination and
the reason too much upon them. We are all of us in a tight place
occasionally, and we have to meet it as best we can. But I don't think we
do it any better by anticipating it beforehand. What is more, no one can
really help us or deliver us: we can be made a little more comfortable, and
that's all, by what they call cooling drinks, and flowers in a vase by the
bedside. And it's a bad thing to get the misery of the world in a vague way
on our nerves. That's the useless emotion. We have got certain quite
definite things to do for other people in our own circle, and we are bound
to do them; we mustn't shirk them, and we mustn't shirk our own troubles,
though the less we bother about them the better. I am not at all sure that
the curse of the newspapers is not that they collect all the evils of the
world into a hideous posy, and thrust it under our nose. They don't collect
the fine, simple, wholesome things. Now you and I are better employed
to-day in being agreeable to each other--at least you are being kind to me,
even though I can't talk about that book--and in looking at the delightful
things going on everywhere--just think of all the happiness in the world
to-day, symbolised by that ridiculous wren!--we are better employed, I say,
than if we were extending the commerce of England, or planning how to make
war, or scolding people in sermons about their fatal indifference to the
things that belong to their peace. Men and women must find and make their
own peace, and we are doing both to-day. That awful vague sense of
responsibility, that desire to interfere, that wish that everyone else
should do uncomplaining what we think to be their duty--that's all my eye!
It is the kindly, eager, wholesome life which affects the world, wherever
it is lived: and that is the best which most of us can do. We can't be
always fighting. Even the toughest old veteran soldier--how many hours of
his life has he spent actually under fire? No, I'm not forgetting the
workers either: but you need not tell me that they are all sick at heart
because they are not dawdling in a country lane. It would bore them to
death, and they can live a very happy life without it. That's the false
pathos again--to think that everyone who can't do as _we_ like must be
miserable. And anyhow, I have done my twenty-five years on the treadmill,
and I am not going to pretend it was noble work, because it wasn't. It was
useless and disgraceful drudgery, most of it!"

"Ah," I said, "but that doesn't help me. You may have earned a holiday, but
I have never done any real drudgery--I haven't earned anything."

"Be content," said Father Payne; "take two changes of raiment! You have got
your furrow to plough--all in good time! You are working hard now, and
don't let me hear any stuff about being ashamed because you enjoy it! The
reward of labour is life: to enjoy our work is the secret. If you could
persuade people that the spring of life lies there, you would do more for
the happiness of man than by attending fifty thousand committees. But I
won't talk any more. I want to consider the lilies of the field, how they
grow. They don't do it every day!"



Someone said rashly, after dinner to-night, that the one detestable and
unpardonable thing in a man was pose. A generalisation of this kind acted
on Father Payne very often like a ferret on a rabbit. He had been
mournfully abstracted during dinner, shaking his head slowly, and turning
his eyes to heaven when he was asked leading questions. But now he said: "I
don't think that is reasonable--you might as well say that you always
disliked length in a book. A book has got to be some length--it is as short
as it's long. Of course, the moment you begin to say, 'How long this book
is!' you mean that it is too long, and excess is a fault. Do you remember
the subject proposed in a school debating society, 'That too much athletics
is worthy of our admiration'? Pose is like that--when you become conscious
of pose it is generally disagreeable--that is, if it is meant to deceive:
but it is often amusing too, like the pose of the unjust judge in the
parable, who prefaces his remarks by saying, 'Though I fear not God,
neither regard man.'"

"Oh, but you know what I mean, Father," said the speaker, "the pose of
knowing when you don't know, and being well-bred when you are snobbish, and
being kind when you are mean, and so on."

"I think you mean humbug rather than pose," said Father Payne; "but even
so, I don't agree with you. I have a friend who would be intolerable, but
for his pose of being agreeable. He isn't agreeable, and he doesn't feel
agreeable; but he behaves as if he was, and it is the only thing that makes
him bearable. What you really mean is the pose of superiority--the man
whose motives are always just ahead of your own, and whose taste is always
slightly finer, and who knows the world a little better. But there is a lot
of pose that isn't that. What _is_ pose, after all? Can anyone define

"It's an artist's phrase, I think," said Barthrop; "it means a position in
which you look your best."

"Like the Archbishop who was always painted in a gibbous attitude--first
quarter, you know--with his back turned to you, and his face just visible
over his lawn sleeve," said Father Payne, "but that was in order to hide an
excrescence on his left cheek. Do you remember what Lamb said of Barry
Cornwall's wen on the nape of his neck? Some one said that Barry Cornwall
was thinking of having it cut off. 'I hope he won't do that,' said Lamb, 'I
rather like it--it's redundant, like his poetry!' I rather agree with Lamb.
I like people to be a little redundant, and a harmless pose is pure
redundancy: it only means that a man is up to some innocent game or other,
some sort of mystification, and is enjoying himself. It's like a summer
haze over the landscape. Now, there's another friend of mine who was once
complimented on his 'uplifted' look. Whenever he thinks of it, and that's
pretty often, he looks uplifted, like a bird drinking, with his eyes fixed
on some far-off vision. I don't mind that! It's only a wish to look his
best. It's partly a wish to give pleasure, you know. It's the same thing
that makes people wear their hair long, or dress in a flamboyant way. I'll
tell you a little story. You know Bertie Nash, the artist. I met him once
in a Post Office, and he was buying a sheet of halfpenny stamps. I asked
him if he was going to send out some circulars. He looked at me sadly, and
said, 'No, I always use these--I can't use the penny stamps--such a crude
red!' Now, he didn't do that to impress me: but it was a pose in a way, and
he liked feeling so sensitive to colour."

"But oughtn't one to avoid all that sort of nonsense?" said some one; "it's
better surely to be just what you are."

"Yes, but what _are_ you, after all?" said Father Payne; "your moods
vary. It would be hopeless if everyone tried to keep themselves down to
their worst level for the sake of sincerity. The point is that you ought to
try to keep at your best level, even if you don't feel so. Hang it, good
manners are a pose, if it comes to that. The essence of good manners is
sometimes to conceal what you are feeling. Is it a pose to behave amiably
when you are tired or cross?"

"No, but that is in order not to make other people uncomfortable," said

"Well, it's very hard to draw the line," said Father Payne: "but what we
really mean by pose is, I imagine, the attempt to appear to be something
which you frankly are not--and that is where the word has changed its
sense, Barthrop. An artist's pose is something characteristic, which makes
a man look his best. What we generally mean by pose is the affecting a best
which one never reaches. Come, tell a story, some one! That's the best way
to get at a quality. Won't some one quote an illustration?"

"What about my friend Pearce, the schoolmaster?" said Vincent. "He read a
book about schoolmastering, and he said he didn't think much of it. He
added that the author seemed only to be giving elegant reasons for doing
things which the born schoolmaster did by instinct."

"Well, that's not a bad criticism," said Father Payne; "but it was pose if
he meant to convey that _he_ was a born schoolmaster. Is he one, by
the way?"

"No," said Vincent, "he is not: he is much ragged by the boys; but he
comforts himself by thinking that all schoolmasters are ragged, but that he
is rather more successful than most in dealing with it. He has a great deal
of moral dignity, has Pearce! I don't know where he would be without it!"

"Well, there's an instance," said Father Payne, "of a pose being of some
use. I think a real genuine pose often makes a man do better work in the
world than if he was drearily conscious of failure. It's a game, you
know--a dramatic game: and I think it's a sign of vitality and interest to
want to have a game. It's like the lawyer's clerk in _Our Mutual
Friend_, when Mr. Boffin calls to keep an appointment, being the
lawyer's only client; but the boy makes a show of looking it all up in a
ledger, runs his finger down a list of imaginary consultants, and says to
himself, 'Mr. Aggs, Mr. Baggs, Mr. Caggs, Mr. Daggs, Mr. Boffin--Yes, sir,
that is right!' Now there's no harm in that sort of thing--it's only a bit
of moral dignity, as Vincent says. It's no good acquiescing in being a
humble average person--we must do better than that! Most people believe in
themselves in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary--but it's better
than disbelieving in yourself. That's abject, you know."

"But if you accept the principle of pose," said Lestrange, "I don't see
that you can find fault with any pose."

"You might as well say," said Father Payne, "that if I accept the principle
of drinking alcohol, it doesn't matter how much I drink! Almost all
morality is relative--in fact, it is doubtful if it is ever absolute. The
mischief of pose is not when it makes a man try to be or to appear at his
best: but when a man lives a thoroughly unreal life, taking a high line in
theory and never troubling about practice, then it's incredible to what
lengths self-deception can go. Dr. Johnson said that he looked upon himself
as a polite man! It is quite easy to get to believe yourself impeccable in
certain points: and as one gets older, and less assailable, and less liable
to be pulled up and told the hard truth, it is astonishing how serenely you
can sail along. But that isn't pose exactly. It generally begins by a pose,
and becomes simple imperviousness; and that is, after all, the danger of
pose,--that it makes people blind to the truth about themselves."

"I'm getting muddled," said Vincent.

"It _is_ rather muddling," said Father Payne, "but, in a general way,
the point is this. When pose is a deliberate attempt to deceive other
people for your own credit, it is detestable. But when it is merely
harmless drama, to add to the interest of life and to retain your own
self-respect, it's an amiable foible, and need not be discouraged. The real
question is whether it is assumed seriously, or whether it is all a sort of
joke. We all like to play our little games, and I find it very easy to
forgive a person who enjoys dressing up, so to speak, and making remarks in
character. Come, I'll confess my sins in public. If I meet a stranger in
the roads, I rather like to be thought a bluff and hearty English squire,
striding about my broad acres. I prefer that to being thought a retired
crammer, a dominie who keeps a school and calls it an academy, as Lord
Auchinleck said of Johnson. But if I pretended in this house to be a kind
of abbot, and glided about in a cassock with a gold cross round my neck,
conferring a benediction on everyone, and then retired to my room to read a
French novel and to drink whisky-and-soda, that would be a very unpleasant
pose indeed!"

We all implored Father Payne to adopt it, and he said he would give it his
serious consideration.



I was sitting in the garden one evening in summer with Father Payne and
Barthrop. Barthrop was going off next day to Oxford, and was trying to
persuade Father Payne to come too.

"No," he said, "I simply couldn't! Oxford is the city east of the sun and
west of the moon--like as a dream when one awaketh! I don't hold with
indulging fruitless sentiment, particularly about the past."

"But isn't it rather a pity?" said Barthrop. "After all, most emotions are
useless, if you come to that! Why should you cut yourself off from a place
you are so fond of, and which is quite the most beautiful place in England
too? Isn't it rather--well,--weak?"

"Yes," said Father Payne, "it's weak, no doubt! That is to say, if I were
differently made, more hard-hearted, more sure of myself, I should go, and
I should enjoy myself, and moon about, and bore you to death with old
stories about the chimes at midnight--everybody would be a dear old boy or
a good old soul, and I should hand out tips, and get perfectly maudlin in
the evenings over a glass of claret. That's the normal thing, no
doubt--that's what a noble-minded man in a novel of Thackeray's would do!"

"Well," said Barthrop, "you know best--but I expect that if you did take
the plunge and go there, you would find yourself quite at ease."

"I might," said Father Payne; "but then I also might not--and I prefer not
to risk it. You see, it would be merely wallowing in sentiment--and I don't
approve of sentiment. I want my emotions to live with, not to bathe in!"

"But you don't mind going back to London," said Barthrop.

"No," said Father Payne, "but that bucks me up. I was infernally unhappy in
London, and it puts me in a thoroughly sensible and cheerful mood to go and
look at the outside of my old lodgings, and the place where I used to
teach, and to say to myself, 'Thank God, that's all over!' Then I go on my
way rejoicing, and make no end of plans. But if I went to Oxford, I should
just remember how happy and young I was; and I might even commit the folly
of regretting the lapse of time, and of wishing I could have it back again.
I don't think it is wholesome to do anything which makes one discontented,
or anything which forces one to dwell on what one has lost. That doesn't
matter. Nothing really is ever lost, and it only takes the starch out of
one to think about it from that angle. I don't believe in the past. It
seems unalterable, and I suppose in a sense it is so. But if you begin to
dwell on unalterable things, you become a fatalist, and I'm always trying
to get away from that. The point is that no one is unalterable, and, thank
God, we are always altering. To potter about in the past is like grubbing
in an ash-heap, and shedding tears over broken bits of china. The plate, or
whatever it is, was pretty enough, and it had its place and its use; and
when the stuff of which it is made is wanted again, it will be used again.
It is simply fatuous to waste time over the broken pieces of old dreams and
visions; and I mean to use my emotions and my imagination to see new dreams
and finer visions. Perhaps the time will come when I can dream no more--the
brain gets tired and languid, no doubt. But even then I shall try to be
interested in what is going on."

"I see your point," said Barthrop; "but, for the life of me, I can't see
why the old place should not take its part in the new visions! When I go
down to Oxford I don't regret it. I go gratefully and happily about, and I
like to see the young men as jolly as I was, and as unaware what a good
time they are having. An old pal of mine is a Don, and he puts me up in
College, and it amuses me to go into Hall, and to see some of the young
lions at close quarters. It's all pure and simple refreshment."

"I've no doubt of it, old man," said Father Payne; "and it's an excellent
thing for you to go, and to draw fresh life from the ancient earth, like
Antaeus. But I'm not made that way. I'm not loyal--that is to say, I am not
faithful to things simply because I once admired and loved them. If you are
loyal in the right way, as you are, it's different. But these old
attachments are a kind of idolatry to me--a false worship. I'm naturally
full of unreasonable devotion to the old and beautiful things; but they get
round my neck like a mill-stone, and it is all so much more weight that I
have to carry. I sometimes go to see an old cousin of mine, a widow in the
country, who lives entirely in the past, never allows anything to be
changed in the house, never talks about anyone who isn't dead or ill. The
woman's life is simply buried under old memories, mountains of old china,
family plate, receipts for jam and marmalade--everything has got to be done
as it was in the beginning. Now most of her friends think that very
beautiful and tender, and talk of the old-world atmosphere of the place;
but I think it simply a stuffy waste of time. I don't tell her so--God
forbid! But I feel that she is lolling in an arbour by the roadside instead
of getting on. It's innocent enough, but it does not seem to me beautiful."

"But I still don't see why you give way to the feeling," said Barthrop.
"I'm sure that if I felt as you do about Oxford, or any other place, you
would tell me it was my duty to conquer it."

"Very likely!" said Father Payne. "But doctors don't feel bound to take
their own prescriptions! Everyone must decide for himself, and I know that
I should fall under the luxurious enchantment. I should go into cheap
raptures, I should talk about 'the tender grace of a day that is
dead'--it's no use putting your head in a noose to see what being strangled
feels like."

"But do you apply that to everything," I said, "old friendships, old
affections, old memories? They seem to me beautiful, and harmlessly

"Well, if you can use them up quite freshly, and make a poetical dish out
of them, for present consumption, I don't mind," said Father Payne. "But
that isn't my way--I'm not robust enough. It's all I can do to take things
in as they come along. Of course an old memory sometimes goes through one
like a sword, but I pull it out as quick as I can, and cast it away. I am
not going to dance with Death if I can help it! I have got my job cut out
for me, and I am not going to be hampered by old rubbish. Mind you, I don't
say that it was rubbish at the time; but I have no use for anything that I
can't use. Sentiment seems to me like letting valuable steam off. The
people I have loved are all there still, whether they are dead or alive.
They did a bit of the journey with me, and I enjoyed their company, and I
shall enjoy it again, if it so comes about. But we have to live our life,
and we can't keep more than a certain number of things in mind--that is an
obvious limitation. Do you remember the old fairy story of the man who
carried a magic goose, and everyone who touched it, or touched anyone who
touched it, could not leave go, with the result that there was a long train
of helpless people trotting about behind the man. I don't want to live like
that, with a long train of old memories and traditions and friendships and
furniture trailing helplessly behind me. My business is with my present
circle, my present work, and I can't waste my strength in drawing about
vehicles full of goods. If anyone wants me, here I am, and I will do my
best to meet his wishes; but I am not going to be frightened by words like
loyalty into pretending that I am going to stagger along carrying the whole
of my past. No, my boy," said Father Payne, turning to Barthrop, "you go to
Oxford, and enjoy yourself! But the old place is too tight about my heart
for me to put my nose into it. I'm a free man, and I am not going to be in
bondage to my old fancies. You may give my love to Corpus and to Wadham
Garden--it's all dreadfully bewitching--but I'm not going to run the risk
of falling in love with the phantom of the past--that's _La Belle Dame
Sans Merci_ for me, and I'm riding on--I'm riding on. I won't have the
hussy on my horse.

  "I set her on my pacing steed,
    And nothing else saw all day long,
  For sideways would she lean, and sing
      A faery's song.

  She found me roots of relish sweet,
    And honey wild and manna dew.
  And sure in language strange she said,
      'I love thee true,'"

He stopped a moment, as he often did when he made a quotation, overcome
with feeling. Then he smiled, and added half to himself, "No; I should say,
as Dr. Johnson said to the lady in Fleet Street; 'No, no; it won't do, my



"Well, anyhow," said Vincent at dinner, commenting on something that had
been said, "you may not get anything else out of a disagreeable affair like
that, but you get a sort of discipline."

"Come, hold on," said Father Payne; "that won't do, you know! Discipline,
in my belief, is in itself a bad thing, unless you not only get something
out of it, but, what is more, know what you get out of it. You can't
discipline anyone, unless he desires it! Discipline means the repressing of
something--you must be quite sure that it is worth repressing."

"What I mean," said Vincent, "is that it makes you tougher and harder."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "but that is not a good thing in itself, unless
there is something soft and weak in you. Discipline may easily knock the
good things out of you. There's a general kind of belief that, because the
world is a rough place, where you may get tumbles and shocks without any
fault of your own, therefore it is as well to have something rough about
you. I don't believe in that. The reason why a man gets roughly handled, in
nine cases out of ten, is not because he is obnoxious or offensive, but
because other people are harsh and indifferent. I want to apply discipline
to the brutal, not to brutalise the sensitive. If discipline simply made
people brave and patient, it would be different, but it often makes them
callous and unpleasant."

"But doesn't everyone want discipline of some kind?" said Vincent.

"Of the right kind, yes," said Father Payne. "Some people want a good deal
more than they get, and some a certain amount less than they get. It's a
delicate business. It is not always fortifying. Take a simple case. A bold,
brazen sort of boy who is untruthful may want a whipping; but a timid and
imaginative boy who is untruthful doesn't necessarily want a whipping at
all--it makes him more, and not less, timid. One of the most ridiculous and
persistent blunders in human life is to believe that a certain penalty is
divinely appointed for a certain offence. Our theory of punishment is all
wrong; we inflict punishment, as a rule, not to improve an offender, but
out of revenge, or because it gives us a comfortable sense of our own
justice. And the whole difficulty of discipline is that it is apt to be
applied in lumps, and distributed wholesale to people who don't all want
the same amount. We haven't really got very far away from the Squeers
theory of giving all the boys brimstone and treacle alike."

"Yes, but in a school," said Vincent, "would not the boys themselves resent
it, if they were punished differently for the same offence?"

"That is to say," said Father Payne, "that you are to treat boys, whom you
are supposed to be training, in accordance with their ideas of justice, and
not in accordance with yours! Why should you confirm them in a wholly
erroneous view of justice? Justice isn't a mathematical thing--or rather,
it ought to be a mathematical thing, because you ought to take into account
a lot of factors, which you simply omit from your calculation. I believe
very little in punishment, to tell you the truth; it ought only to be
inflicted after many warnings, when the offence is deliberately repeated. I
don't believe that the sane and normal person is a habitual and deliberate
offender. The kind of absence of self-restraint which makes people unable
to resist temptation, in any form, is a disease, and ought to be
segregated. I haven't the slightest doubt that we shall end by segregating
or sterilising the person of criminal tendencies, which only means a total
inability, in the presence of a temptation, to foresee consequences, and
which gratifies a momentary desire."

"But apart from definite moral disease," said Vincent, "isn't it a good
thing to compel people, if possible, into a certain sort of habit? I am
speaking of faults which are not criminal--things like unpunctuality,
laziness, small excesses, mild untrustworthiness, and so forth."

"Well, I don't personally believe in coercive discipline at all," said
Father Payne. "I think it simply gets people out of shape. I believe in
trying to give people a real motive for self-discipline: take
unpunctuality, for instance. The only way to make an unpunctual person
punctual is to convince him that it is rude and unjust to keep other people
waiting. There is nothing sacred about punctuality in itself, unless some
one else suffers by your being unpunctual. If it comes to that, isn't it
quite as good a discipline for punctual people to learn to wait without
impatience for the unpunctual? Supposing an unpunctual person were to say,
'I do it on principle, to teach precise people not to mind waiting,' where
is the flaw in that? Take what you call laziness. Some people work better
by fits and starts, some do better work by regularity. The point is to know
how you work best. You must not make the convenience of average people into
a moral law. The thing to aim at is that a man should not go on doing a
thing which he honestly believes to be wrong and hurtful, out of a mere
habit. Take the small excesses of which you speak--food, drink, sleep,
tobacco. Some people want more of these things than others; you can't lay
down exact laws. A man ought to find out precisely what suits him best; but
I'm not prepared to say that regularity in these matters is absolutely good
for everyone. The thing is not to be interfered with by your habits; and
the end of all discipline is, I believe, efficiency, vitality, and freedom;
but it is no good substituting one tyranny for another. I was reading the
life of a man the other day who simply could not believe that anyone could
think a thing wrong and yet do it. His biographer said, very shrewdly, that
his sense of sin was as dead as his ear for music--that he did not possess
even the common liberty of right and wrong. That's a bad case of atrophy!
You must not, of course, be at the mercy of your moods, but you must not be
at the mercy of your ethical habits either. Of the two, I am not sure that
the habit isn't the most dangerous."

"You seem to be holding a brief all round, Father," said Vincent.

"No, I am not doing that," said Father Payne, "but my theory is this. You
must know, first of all, what you are aiming at, and you must apply your
discipline sensibly to that. There are certain things in us which we know
to be sloppy--we lie in bed, we dawdle, we eat too much, we moon over our
work. All that is obviously no good, and all sensible people try to pull
themselves up. When you have found out what suits you, do it boldly; but
the man who admires discipline for its own sake is a sort of
hypochondriac--a medicine-drinker. I have a friend who says that if he
stays in a house, and sees a bottle of medicine in a cupboard, he is always
tempted to take a dose. 'Is it that you feel ill?' I once said to him.
'No,' he said; 'but I have an idea that it might do me good.' The
disciplinarian is like that: he is always putting a little strain upon
himself, cutting off this and that, trying new rules, heading himself off.
He has an uneasy feeling that if he likes anything, it is a sort of sign
that he should abstain from it: he mistrusts his impulses and instincts. He
thinks he is getting to talk too much, and so he practises holding his
tongue. The truth is that he is suspicious of life. He is like the
schoolmaster who says, 'Go and see what Jack is doing, and tell him not
to!' Of course I am taking an extreme case, but there is a tendency in that
direction in many people. They think that strength means the power to
resist, when it really means the power to flow. I do not think that people
ought to be deferential to criticism, timid before rebuke, depressed by
disapproval: and, on the whole, I believe that more harm is done by
self-repression, obedience, meekness than by the opposite qualities. I want
men to live their own lives fearlessly--not offensively, of course--with a
due regard to other people's comfort, but without any regard to other
people's conventions. I believe in trusting yourself, on the whole, and
trusting the world. I do not think it is wholesome or brave to live under
the shadow of other people's fears or other people's convictions. All the
people, it seems to me, who have done anything for the world, have been the
people who have gone their own way; and I think that self-discipline, or
external discipline meekly accepted, ends in a flattening out of men's
power and character. Of course you fellows here are learning to do a
definite technical thing--but you will observe that all the discipline here
is defensive, and not coercive. I don't want you to take any shape or
mould: I want you just to learn to do things in your own way. I don't ever
want you to interfere with each other's minds too much. I don't want to
interfere with your minds myself, except in so far as to help you to get
rid of sloppiness and prejudices. Here, I mustn't go on--it's becoming like
a prospectus! but it comes to this, that I believe in the trained mind, and
not in the moulded mind; and I think that the moment discipline ceases to
train strength, and begins to mould weakness, it's a thoroughly bad thing.
No one can be artificially protected from life without losing life--and
life is what I am out for."



I did not hear the argument, but I heard Vincent say to Father Payne: "Of
course I couldn't do that--it would have been so inconsistent."

"Oh! consistency's a very cheap affair," said Father Payne; "it is mostly a
blend of vanity and slow intelligence."

"But one must stick to _something_," said Vincent. "There's nothing so
tiresome as never knowing how a man is going to behave."

"Of course," said Father Payne, "inconsistency isn't a virtue--it is
generally the product of a quick and confused intelligence. But consistency
ought not to be a principle of thought or action--you ought not to do or
think a thing simply because you have thought it before--that is mere
laziness! What one wants is a consistent sort of progress--you ought not to
stay still."

"But you must have principles," said Vincent.

"Yes, but you must expect to change them," said Father Payne. "Principles
are only deductions after all: and to remain consistent as a rule only
means that you have ceased to do anything with your experience, or else it
means that you have taken your principles second-hand. They ought to be
living things, yielding fruits of increase. I don't mean that you should be
at the mercy of a persuasive speaker, or of the last book you have
read--but, on the other hand, to meet an interesting man or to read a
suggestive book ought to modify your views a little. You ought to be
elastic. The only thing that is never quite the same is opinion; and to be
holding a ten years' old opinion simply means that you are stranded.
There's nothing worse than to be high and dry."

"But isn't it worse still," said Vincent, "to see so many sides to a
question that you can't take a definite part?"

"I don't feel sure," said Father Payne. "I know that the all-round
sympathiser is generally found fault with in books; but it is an uncommon
temperament, and means a great power of imagination. I am not sure that the
faculty of taking a side is a very valuable one. People say that things get
done that way; but a great many things get done wrong, and have to be
undone. There is no blessing on the palpably one-sided people. Besides,
there is a great movement in the world now towards approximation.
Majorities don't want to bully minorities. Persecution has gone out. People
are beginning to see that principles are few and interpretations many. I
believe, as a matter of fact, that we ought always to be simplifying our
principles, and getting them under a few big heads. Besides, you do not
convert people by hammering away at principles. I always like the story of
the Frenchman who said to his opponent, 'Come, let us go for a little walk,
and see if we can disagree.'"

"I don't exactly see what he meant," said Vincent.

"Why, he meant," said Father Payne, "that if they could bring their minds
together, they would find that there wasn't very much to quarrel about. But
I don't believe in arguing. I don't think opinion changes in that way. I
fancy it has tides of its own, and that ideas appear in numbers of minds
all over the world, like flowers in spring.

"But how is one ever to act at all," said Vincent, "if one is always to be
feeling that a principle may turn out to be nonsense after all?"

"Well, I think action is mainly a matter of instinct," said Father Payne.
"But I don't really believe in taking too diffuse a view of things in
general. Very few of us are strong enough and wise enough, let me say, to
read the papers with any profit. The newspapers emphasize the disunion of
the world, and I believe in its solidarity. Come, I'll tell you how I think
people ought really to live, if you like. I think a man ought to live his
own life, without attempting too much reference to what is going on in the
world. I think it becomes pretty plain to most of us, by the time we reach
years of discretion, what we can do and what we cannot. I don't mean that
life ought to be lived in blank selfishness, without reference to anyone
else. Most of us can't do that, anyhow--it requires extraordinary
concentration of will. But I think that our lives ought to be
intensive--that is to say, I don't think we ought to concern ourselves with
getting rid of our deficiencies, so much as by concentrating and
emphasizing our powers and faculties. We ought all of us to have a certain
circle in mind--I believe very much in _circles_. We are very much
limited, and our power of affecting people for good and evil is very small;
our chance of helping is small. The moment we try to extend our circle very
much, to widen our influence, we become like a juggler who keeps a dozen
plates spinning all at once--it is mere legerdemain. But we most of us live
really with about a score of people. We can't choose our circle altogether,
and there are generally certain persons in it whom we should wish away. I
think we ought to devote ourselves to our work, whatever it is, and outside
of that to getting a real, intimate, and vital understanding with the
people round us. That is a problem which is amply big enough for most of
us. Then I think we ought to go seriously to work, not arguing or finding
fault, not pushing or shoving people about, but just living on the finest
lines we can. The only real chance of converting other people to our
principles or own ideas, is to live in such a way that it is obvious that
our ideas bring us real and vital happiness. You may depend upon it, that
is the only way to live--the _positive_ way. We simply must not
quarrel with our associates: we must be patient and sympathetic and

"But are there no exceptions?" said I. "I have heard you say that a man
must be prepared to lose friends on occasions."

"Yes," said Father Payne, "the circle shifts and changes a little, no
doubt. I admit that it becomes clear occasionally that you cannot live with
a particular person. But if you have alienated him or her by your
censoriousness and your want of sympathy, you have to be ashamed of
yourself. If it is the other way, and you are being tyrannised over,
deflected, hindered, then it may be necessary to break away--though, mind
you, I think it is finer still if you do not break away. But you must have
your liberty, and I don't believe in sacrificing that, because then you
live an unreal life--and, whatever happens, you must not do that."

"But what is to be done when people are tied up by relationships, and can't
get away?" said I.

"Yes, there are such cases," said Father Payne; "I don't deny it. If there
is really no escape possible, then you must tackle it, and make the finest
thing you can out of the situation. Fulness of life, that is what we must
aim at. Of course people are hemmed in in other ways too--by health,
poverty, circumstances of various kinds. But, however small your saucepan
is, it ought to be on the boil."

"But can people _make_ themselves active and hopeful?" I said. "Isn't
that just the most awful problem of all, the listlessness which falls on
many of us, as the limitations draw round and the net encloses us?"

"You must kick out for all you are worth," said Father Payne. "I fully
admit the difficulty. But one of the best things in life is the fact that
you can always do a little better than you expect. And then--you mustn't
forget God."

"But a conscious touch with God?" I said. "Isn't that a rare thing?"

"It need not be," said Father Payne, very seriously. "If there is one thing
which experience has taught me, it is this--that if you make a signal to
God, it is answered. I don't say that troubles roll away, or that you are
made instantly happy. But you will find that you can struggle on. People
simply don't try that experiment. The reason why they do not is, I honestly
believe, because of our services, where prayer is made so ceremoniously and
elaborately that people get a false sense of dignity and reverence. It is a
very natural instinct which made the disciples say, 'Teach us to pray,' and
I do not think that ecclesiastical systems do teach people to pray--at
least the examples they give are too intellectual, too much concerned with
good taste. A prayer need not be a verbal thing--the best prayers are not.
It is the mute glance of an eye, the holding out of a hand. And if you ask
me what can make people different, I say it is not will, but prayer."



I was walking about the garden on a wintry Sunday with Father Payne. He had
a particular mood on Sundays, I used to think, which made itself subtly
felt--a mood serious, restrained, and yet contented. I do not remember how
the subject came up, but he said something about prayer, and I replied:

"I wish you would tell me exactly what you feel about prayer, Father. I
never quite understand. You always speak as if it played a great part in
your life, and yet I never am sure what exactly it means to you."

"You might as well say," he said, smiling, "that you never felt quite sure
what breakfast meant to me."

He stopped and looked at me for a moment. "Do we know what anything
_means_? We know what prayer _is_, at any rate--one of the
commonest and most natural of instincts. What is your difficulty?"

"Oh, the usual one," I said, "that if the God to whom we pray is the Power
which puts into our minds good desires, and knows not only what is passing
in our thoughts, but the very direction which our thoughts are going to
take--reads us, in fact, like a book, as they say--what, then, is the
object or purpose of setting ourselves to pray to a Power that knows our
precise range of thoughts, and can disentangle them all far better than we
can ourselves?"

"Why," said Father Payne, "that is pure fatalism. If you carry that on a
little further it means all absence of effort. You might as well say, 'I
will take no steps to provide myself with food--if God is All-Powerful, and
sends me a good appetite, it is His business to satisfy it!"

"Oh," I said, "I see that. But if I set about providing myself with
breakfast, I know exactly what I want, and have a very fair chance of
obtaining it. But the essence of prayer is that you must not expect to get
your desires fulfilled."

"I certainly do not pretend," said he, "that prayer is a mechanical method
of getting things; it isn't a _substitute_ for effort and action. Nor
do I think that God simply withholds things unless you ask for them, as a
dog has to beg for a piece of biscuit. I don't look upon prayer as the mere
formulating of a list of requests; and I dislike very much the way some
good people have of getting a large number of men and women to pray for the
same thing, as if you were canvassing for votes. And yet I believe that
prayers have a way of being granted. Indeed, I think that both the strength
and the danger of prayer lies in the fact that people do very much tend to
get what they have set their hearts upon. A recurrent prayer for a definite
thing is often a sign that a man is working hard to secure it. It is rather
perilous to desire definite things too definitely, not because you are
disappointed, but because you are often successful in attaining them."

"Then that would be a reason for not praying," I said.

Father Payne gave one of his little frowns, which I knew well. "I'm not
arguing for the sake of arguing, Father," I said; "I really want to
understand. It seems to me such a muddle."

The little frown passed off in a smile. "Yes, it isn't a wholly rational
thing," said Father Payne, "but it's a natural and instinctive thing. To
forbid prayer seems to me like forbidding hope and love. Prayer seems to me
just a mingling of hope and desire and love and confidence. It is more like
talking over your plans and desires with God. It all depends upon whether
you say, 'My will be done,' which is the wrong sort of prayer, or 'Thy will
be done,' which is the right sort of prayer, and infinitely harder. I don't
mind telling you this, that my prayers are an attempt to put myself in
touch with the Spirit of God. I believe in God; I believe that He is trying
very hard to bring men and women to live in a certain way--the right,
joyful, beautiful way. He sees it clearly enough; but we are so tangled up
with material things that we don't see it clearly--we don't see where our
happiness lies; we mistake all kinds of things--pleasures, schemes,
successes, comforts, desires--for happiness; and prayer seems to me like
opening a sluice and letting a clear stream gush through. That's why I
believe one must set oneself to it. The sluice is not always open--we are
lazy, cowardly, timid; or again, we are confident, self-satisfied, proud of
our own inventiveness and resourcefulness. I don't know what the will is or
what its limitations are; but I believe it has a degree of liberty, and it
can exercise that liberty in welcoming God. Of course, if we think of God
as drearily moral, harsh, full of anger and disapproval, we are not likely
to welcome Him; but if we feel Him full of eagerness and sympathy, of
'comfort, light, and fire of love,' as the old hymn says, then we desire
His company. You have to prepare yourself for good company, you know. It is
a bit of a strain; and I feel that the people who won't pray are like the
lazy and sloppy people who won't put themselves out or forego their habits
or take any trouble to receive a splendid guest. The difference is that the
splendid guest is not to be got every day, while God is always glad of your
company, I think."

"Then with you prayer isn't a process of asking?" I said. "But isn't it a
way of changing yourself by simply trying to get your ideals clear?"

"No, no," said Father Payne; "it's just drawing water from a well when you
are thirsty. Of course you must go to the well, and let down the bucket. It
isn't a mere training of imagination; it is helping yourself to something
actually there. The more you pray, the less you ask for definite things.
You become ashamed to do that. Do you remember the story of Hans Andersen,
when he went to see the King of Denmark? The King made a pause at one point
and looked at Andersen, and Andersen said afterwards that the King had
evidently expected him to ask for a pension. 'But I could not,' he said. 'I
know I was a fool, but my heart would not let me.' One can trust God to
know one's desires, and one's heart will not let one ask for them. It is
His will that you want to know--your own will that you want to surrender.
Strength, clearsightedness, simplicity--those are what flow from contact
with God."

"But what do you make," I said, "of contemplative Orders of monks and nuns,
who say that they specialise in prayer, and give up their whole time and
energy to it?"

"Well," said Father Payne, "it's a harmless and beautiful life; but it
seems to me like abandoning yourself to one kind of rapture. Prayer seems
to me a part of life, not the whole of it. You have got to use the strength
given you. It is given you to do business with. It seems to me as if a man
argued that because eating gave him strength, it must be a good thing to
eat; and that he would therefore eat all day long. It isn't the gaining of
strength that is desirable, but the using of strength. You mustn't sponge
upon God, so to speak. And I don't honestly believe in any life which takes
you right away from life. Life is the duty of all of us; and prayer seems
to me just one of the things that help one to live."

"But intercession," I said, "is there nothing in the idea that you can pray
for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves?"

"I don't know," said Father Payne. "If you love people and wish them well,
and hate the thought of the evils which befall the innocent, and the
overflowings of ungodliness, you can't keep that out of your prayers, of
course. But I doubt very much whether one can do things vicariously. It
seems to land you in difficulties; if you say, for instance, 'I will
inflict sufferings upon myself, that others may be spared suffering,'
logically you might go on to say, 'I will enjoy myself that my enjoyment
may help those who cannot enjoy.' One doesn't really know how much one's
own experience does help other people. Living with others certainly does
affect them, but I don't feel sure that isolating oneself from others does.
I think, on the whole, that everyone must take his place in a circle. We
are limited by time and space and matter, you know. You can know and love a
dozen people; you can't know and love a hundred thousand to much purpose. I
remember when I was a boy that there was a run on a Bank where we lived.
Two of the partners went there, and did what they could. The third, a pious
fellow, shut himself up in his bedroom and prayed. The Bank was saved, and
he came down the next day and explained his absence by saying he had been
giving them the most effectual help in his power. He thought, I believe,
that he had saved the Bank; I don't think the other two men thought so, and
I am inclined to side with them. Mind, I am not deriding the idea of a
vocation for intercessory prayer. I don't know enough about the forces of
the world to do that. It's a harmless life, a beautiful life, and a hard
life too, and I won't say it is useless. But I am not convinced of its
usefulness. It seems to me on a par with the artistic life, a devotion to a
beautiful dream, I don't, on the whole, believe in art for art's sake, and
I don't think I believe in prayer for prayer's sake. But I don't propound
my ideas as final. I think it possible--I can't say more--that a life
devoted to the absorption of beautiful impressions may affect the
atmosphere of the world--we are bound up with each other behind the scenes
in mysterious ways--and similarly I think that lives of contemplative
prayer _may_ affect the world. I should not attempt to discourage
anyone from such a vocation. But it can't be taken for granted, and I think
that a man must show cause, apart from mere inclination, why he should not
live the common life of the world, and mingle with his fellows."

"Then prayer, you think," I said, "is to you just one of the natural
processes of life?"

"That's about it!" said Father Payne. "It seems to me as definite a way of
getting strength and clearness of view and hope and goodness, as eating and
sleeping are ways of getting strength of another kind. To neglect it is to
run the risk of living a hurried, muddled, self-absorbed life. I can't
explain it, any more than I can explain eating or breathing. It just seems
to me a condition of fine life, which we can practise to our help and
comfort, and neglect to our hurt. I don't think I can say more about it
than that, my boy!"



One evening, when I was sitting with Barthrop in the smoking-room and the
others had gone away, he said to me suddenly, "There's something I want to
speak to you about: I have been worrying about it for some little time, and
it's a bad thing to do that. I daresay it is all nonsense, but I am
bothered about the Father. I don't think he is well, and I don't think he
thinks he is well. He is much thinner, you know, and he isn't in good
spirits. I don't mean that he isn't cheerful in a way, but it's an effort
to him. Now, have you noticed anything?"

I thought for a minute, and then I said, "No, I don't think I have! He's
thinner, of course, but he joked to me about that--he said he had turned
the corner, as people do, and he wasn't going to be a pursy old party when
he got older. Now that you mention it, I think he has been rather silent
and abstracted lately. But then he often is that, you know, when we are all
together. And in his private talks with me--and I have had several
lately--he has seemed to me more tender and affectionate than usual even;
not so amusing, perhaps, not bubbling over with talk, and a little more
serious. If I have thought anything at all, it simply is that he is getting

"It may simply be that, of course," said Barthrop, looking relieved. "I
suppose he is about fifty-eight or so? But I'll tell you something else. I
went in to speak to him two or three days ago. Well you know how he always
seems to be doing something? He is never unoccupied indoors, though he has
certainly seen less of everyone's work of late--but that morning I found
him sitting in his chair, looking out of the window, doing nothing at all;
and I didn't like his look. How can I put it? He looked like a man who was
going off on a long journey--and he was tired and worn-looking--I have
never seen him looking _worn_ before--as if there was a strain of some
kind. There were lines about his face I hadn't noticed before, and his eyes
seemed larger and brighter. He said to me, half apologetically, 'Look here,
this won't do! I'm getting lazy,' Then he went on, 'I was thinking, you
know, about this place: it has been an experiment, and a good and happy
experiment. But it hasn't founded itself, as I hoped,' I asked him what
exactly he meant, and he laughed, and said: 'You know I don't believe in
founding things! A place like this has got to grow up of itself, and have a
life of its own. I don't think the place has got that. I put a seed or two
into the ground, but I'm not sure that they have quickened to life.' Then
he went on in a minute: 'You will know I don't say this conceitedly, but I
think it has all depended too much on me, and I know I'm only a tiller of
the ground. I don't believe I can give life to a society--I can keep it
lively, but that's not the same thing. Something has come of my plan, to be
sure, but it isn't going to spread like a tree--and I hoped it might! But
it's no good being disappointed--that's childish--you can't do what you
mean to do in this world, only what you are meant to do. I expect the
weakness has been that I meddle too much--I don't leave things alone
enough. I trust too much to myself, and not enough to God. It's been too
much a case of "See me do it!"--as the children say.'"

"What did you say?" I said.

"Nothing at all," said Barthrop; "that's where I fail. I can't rise to an
emergency. I murmured something about our all being very grateful to
him--it was awfully flat! If I could but have told him how I cared for him,
and how splendid he had always been! But those perfectly true, sincere,
fine things are just what one can't say, unless one has it all written down
on paper. I wish he would see a doctor, or go away for a bit; but I can't
advise him to do that--he hates a fuss about anything, and most of all
about health. He says you ought never to tell people how you are feeling,
because they have to pretend to be interested!"

I smiled at this, and said, "I don't think there really is much the matter!
People can't be always at the top of their game, and he takes a lot out of
himself, of course. He's always giving out!"

"He is indeed," said Barthrop; "but I won't say more now. I feel better for
having told you. Just you keep your eyes open--but, for Heaven's sake,
don't watch him--you know how sharp he is."

I went off a little depressed by the talk, because it seemed so impossible
to connect anything but buoyant health with Father Payne. I did not see him
at breakfast, but he came in to lunch; and I saw at once that there was
something amiss with him. He ate little, and he looked tired. However, as I
rose to go--we did not, as I have said, talk at lunch--he just beckoned to
me, and pointed with his finger in the direction of his room. It was a
well-known gesture if he wanted to speak to one. I went there, and stood
before the fire surveying the room, which looked unwontedly tidy, the table
being almost free from books and papers. But there lay a long folded folio
sheet on the table, a legal document, and it gave me a chill to see the
word _Will_ on the top of it. Father Payne came in a moment later with
a smile. Then somehow divining, as he so often did, exactly what had
happened, he said, as if answering an unspoken question, "Yes, that's my
will! I have been, in fact, making it. It's a wholesome occupation for an
elderly man. But I only wanted to know if you would come for a stroll? Yes?
That's all right! You are sure I'm not interfering with any arrangement?"

It was a late autumn day in November: the air was cold and damp, the roads
wet, the hedges hung with moisture and the leaves were almost gone from the
trees. "Most people don't like this sort of day," said Father Payne, as we
went out of the gate; "but I like it even better than spring. Everything
seems going contentedly to sleep, like a tired child. All the plants are
withdrawing into themselves, into the inner life. They have had a pleasant
time, waving their banners about--but they have no use for them any more.
They are all going to be alone for a bit. Do you remember that epithet of
Keats, about the 'cool-rooted' flowers? That's a bit of genius. That's what
makes the difference between people, I think--whether they are cool-rooted
or not."

He walked more slowly than was his wont to-day, but he seemed in equable
spirits, and made many exclamations of delight. He said suddenly, "Do you
know one of the advantages of growing old? It is that if you have an
unpleasant thing ahead of you, instead of shadowing the mind, as it does
when you are young, it gives a sort of relish to the intervening time. I
can even imagine a man in the condemned cell, till the end gets close,
being able to look ahead to the day, when he wakes in the morning--the
square meals, the pipe--I believe they allow them to smoke--the talk with
the chaplain. It's always nice to feel it is your duty to talk about
yourself, and to explain how it all came about, and why you couldn't do
otherwise. Now I have got to go up to town on some tiresome business at the
end of this week, and I'm going to enjoy the days in between."

He stopped and spoke with all his accustomed good humour to half a dozen
people whom we met. Then he said to me: "Do you know, my boy, I want to
tell you that you have been one of my successes! I did not honestly think
you would buckle to as you have done, and I don't think you are quite as
sympathetic as I once feared!" He gave me a smile as he said it, and went
on: "You know what I mean--I thought you would reflect people too much, and
be too responsive to your companions. And you have been a great comfort to
me, I don't deny it. But I thankfully discern a good hard stone in the
middle of all the juiciness, with a tight little kernel inside it--I'll
quote Keats again, and say 'a sweet-hearted kernel,' Mind, I don't say you
will do great things. You are facile, and you see things very quickly and
accurately, and you have a style. But I don't think you have got the tragic
quality or the passionate gift. You are too placid and contented--but you
spin along, and I think you see something of the reality of things. You
will be led forth beside the waters of comfort--you will lack nothing--your
cup will be full. But the great work is done by people with large empty
cups that take some filling--the people who are given the plenteousness of
tears to drink. It's a bitter draught--you won't have to drink it. But I
think you are on right and happy lines, and you must be content with good
work. Anyhow, you will always write like a gentleman, and that's a good
deal to say."

This pleased and touched me very deeply. I began to murmur something. "Oh
no," said Father Payne, "you needn't! A boy at a prize-giving isn't
required to enter into easy talk with the presiding buffer! I have just
handed you your prize."

He talked after this lightly of many small things--about Barthrop in
particular, and asked me many questions about him. "I am afraid I haven't
allowed him enough initiative," said Father Payne; "that's a bad habit of
mine. But if he had really had it, we should have squabbled--he's not quite
fiery enough, the beloved Barthrop! He's awfully judicious, but he must
have a lead. He's a submissioner, I'm afraid, as a witty prelate once said!
You know the two sides of the choir, _Decani_ and _Cantoris_ as
they are called. _Decani_ always begin the psalms and say the
versicles, _Cantoris_ always respond. People are always one or the
other, and Barthrop is a born _Cantoris_."

We did not go very far, and he soon proposed to return. But just as we were
nearing home, he said, "I think the hardest thing in life to
understand--the very hardest of all--is our pleasure in the sense of
permanence! It's the supreme and constant illusion. I can't think where it
comes from, or why it is there, or what it is supposed to do for us. Do you
remember," he said with a smile, "how Shelley, the most hopelessly restless
of mortals, whenever he settled anywhere, always wrote to his friends that
he had established himself _for ever_? It's the instinct which is most
contrary to reason. Everything contradicts it--we are not the same people
for five minutes together, nothing that we see or hear or taste
continues--and yet we feel eternally and immutably fixed; and instead of
living each day as if it was our last--which is a thoroughly bad piece of
advice--we live each day as if it was one of an endlessly revolving chain
of days, and as if we were going to live to all eternity--as indeed I
believe we are! Probably the reason for it is to give us a hint that we
_are_ immortal, after all, though we are tempted to think that all
things come to an end. It is strange to think that nothing on which our
eyes rest at this moment is the same as it was when we started our
walk--the very stones of the wall are altered. It ought to make us ashamed
of pretending that we are anything but ourselves; and yet we do change a
little, thank God, and for the better. I've a fancy--though I can't say
more than that of that we aren't meant to _know_ anything: and I think
that the times when we know, or think we know, are the times when we stand
still. That seems hard!"--he broke off with an unusual emotion: but he was
himself again in a moment, and said, "I don't know why--it's the weather,
perhaps: but I feel inclined to do nothing but thank people all day, like
the man in _Happy Thoughts_ you know, who came down late for breakfast
and could say nothing but 'Thanks, thanks, awfully thanks--thanks (to the
butler), thanks (to the hostess)--thanks, thanks!' but it means
something--a real emotion, though grotesquely phrased!--I've enjoyed this
bit of a walk, my boy!"



This was, I think, the last talk I had with Father Payne before he left us,
so suddenly and so quietly, for his last encounter.

It was a calm and sunny day, though the air was cold and fresh. I finished
some work I was doing, a little after noonday, and I walked down the
garden. I was on the grass, and turning the corner of a tiny thicket of
yews and hollies, where there was a secluded seat facing the south, I saw
that Father Payne was sitting there in the sun alone. I came up to him, and
was just about to speak, when I saw that his eyes were closed, though his
lips were moving. He sat in an attitude of fatigue and lassitude, I
thought, with one leg crossed over the other and his arm stretched out
along the seat-back. I would have stolen away again unobserved, when he
opened his eyes and saw me; he gave me one of his big smiles, and motioned
to me to come and sit down beside him. I did so, and he put his arm through
mine. I said something about disturbing him, and he said, "Not a bit of
it--I shall be glad of your company, old boy." Presently he said, "Do you
know what it is to feel _sad_? I suppose not. I don't mean troubled
about anything in particular--there's nothing to be troubled about--but
simply sad, in a causeless, listless way?"

"Yes, I think so," I said. He smiled at that, and said, "Then you
_don't_ know what I mean, old man! You would be quite sure, if you had
ever felt it. I mean a sense of feebleness and wretchedness, as if there
was much to be done, and no desire to do it--as if your life had been a
long mistake from beginning to end. Of course it is quite morbid and
unreal, I know that! It is a temptation of the devil, sure enough, and it
is an uncommonly effective one. He gets inside the weakness of our mortal
nature, and tells us that we have come down to the truth at last. It's all
nonsense, of course, but it's infernally ingenious nonsense. He brings all
the failures of the world before your mind and heart, the thought of all
the people who have fallen by the roadside and can't get up, and, worse
still, all the people who have lost hope and pride, and don't want to be
different. He points out how brief our time is, and how little we know what
lies beyond. He shows us how the strong and unscrupulous and cruel people
succeed and have a good time, and how many well-meaning, sensitive, muddled
people come to hopeless grief. Oh, he has a score of instances, a quiver
full of poisonous shafts." He was silent for a minute, and then he said,
"Old boy, we won't heed him, you and I. We'll say, 'Yes, my dear Apollyon,
all that is undoubtedly true. You do a lot of mischief, but your time is
short. You wound us and disable us--you can even kill us; but it's a poor
policy at best. You defeat yourself, because we slip away and you can't
follow us. And when we are refreshed and renewed, we will come back, and go
on with the battle.' That's what well say, like old Sir Andrew Barton:

  "'I'll but lie down and bleed awhile,
  And then I'll rise and fight again.'

You must never mind being defeated, old man. You must never say that your
sins have done for you! I don't care what a man has done, I don't care how
cruel, wicked, sensual, evil he has been, if in the bottom of his heart he
can say, 'I belong to God, after all!' That's the last and worst assault of
the devil, when he comes and whispers to you that you have cut yourself off
from God. You can't do that, whatever you feel. I have been thinking to-day
of all the mistakes I have made, how I have drifted along, how I have
enjoyed myself, when I might have been helping other people; what a lazy,
greedy, ugly business it has all been, how little I have ever _made_
myself do anything. But I don't care. I go straight to God and I say,
'Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and am no more
worthy to be called Thy son.' But I am His son, for all that, and I know it
and He knows it; and Apollyon may straddle across the way as much as he
likes, but he can't stop me. If he does stop me, he only sends me straight

I saw the tears stand in Father Payne's eyes, and I said hurriedly and
eagerly, "Why, Father, you have done so much, for me, for all of us, for
everyone you have ever had to do with. Don't speak so; it isn't true, it
hasn't been a failure. You are the only person I have met who has showed me
what goodness really is."

Father Payne pressed my arm, but he did not speak for a moment.

"You are very good to me, old man," he said in a moment. "I was not trying
to get a testimonial out of you, you know; and of course you can't judge
how far I have fallen short of all I might have done. But your affection
and your kindness are very precious to me. You give me a message from God!
It matters little how near the truth you are or how far away. God doesn't
think of that. He isn't a hard reckoner; He's only glad when we return to
Him, and put down our tired head upon His shoulder for a little. But even
so, that isn't the end. As soon as we are strong again, we must begin
again. There's plenty left to do. The battle isn't over because you or I
are tired. He is tired Himself, I dare say. But it all goes on, and there
is victory ahead. Don't forget that, dear boy. It's no good being
heart-broken or worn out. Rise and fight again as soon as you can. I'm
quite ready--I haven't had enough. I have had an easy post, I don't deny
that. I have suffered very little, as suffering goes; and I'm grateful for
that; but we mustn't fall in love with rest. If we sleep, it is only that
we may rise refreshed, and go off again singing. We mustn't be afraid of
weakness and suffering, and we mustn't be afraid of joy and strength
either. That's treachery, you know."

Presently he said, "Now you must leave me here a little! You came in the
nick of time, and you brought me a message. It always comes, if you ask for
it! And I shall say a prayer for the Little Master himself, as Sintram
called him, before I go. He has his points, you know. He is uncommonly
shrewd and tenacious and brave. He's fighting for his life, and I pity him
whenever he suspects--and it must be pretty often--that things are not
going his way. I don't despair of the old fellow himself, if I may say so.
I suspect him of a sense of humour. I can't help thinking he will
capitulate and cut his losses some day, and then we shall get things right
in a trice. He will be conquered, and perhaps convinced; but he won't be
used vindictively, whatever happens. My knowledge of that, and of the fact
that he has got defeat ahead of him, and knows it, is the best defence
against him, even when it is his hour, and the power of darkness, as it has
been to-day."

I got up and left him; he smiled at me and waved his hand.



The week passed without anything further occurring to arouse our anxieties,
and Father Payne went up to town on the Monday: he went off in apparently
good spirits: but we got a wire in the course of the day to say that he was
detained in town by business and would write. On the following morning,
Barthrop came into my room in silence, shortly after breakfast, and handed
me a letter without a word. It was very short: it ran as follows:

    "DEAR LEONARD,--_I want you to come up to town to-morrow to see
    me, and if Duncan cares to come, I shall be delighted to see him
    too, though I know he has an artistic objection to seeing people
    who are ill, and I understand that I am ill. I saw a doctor
    yesterday, and he advised me to see a specialist, who advised me
    to have an operation. It seems better to get it over at once; so
    I went without delay into a nursing home, where I feel like a
    child in the nursery again. I want to talk over matters, and it
    will be better to say nothing which will cause a fuss. So just
    run up to-morrow, there's a good man, and you can get back in the
    evening. Ever yours,_


It happened that there were only two of us at Aveley at the time, Kaye, and
a younger man, Raven, who had just joined. We determined to say nothing
about it till the following morning: the day passed heavily enough. I found
I could do nothing with the dread of what it might all mean overhanging me.
I admired Barthrop's common-sense: he spent the day, he told me, in doing
accounts--he acted as a sort of bursar--and he kept up a quiet conversation
at dinner in which I confess I played a very poor part. Kaye never noticed
anything, and had no curiosity, and Raven had no suspicion of anything
unusual. I slept ill that night, and found myself in a very much depressed
mood on the following morning. I realised at every moment how entirely
everything at Aveley was centred upon Father Payne, and how he was both in
the foreground as well as in the background of all that we did or thought.
Our journey passed almost in silence, and we drove straight to the nursing
home in Mayfair. We were admitted to a little waiting-room in a bright,
fresh-looking house, and were presently greeted by a genial and motherly
old lady, dressed in a sort of nursing uniform, who told us that Mr. Payne
was expecting us. We asked anxiously how he was. "Oh, he is very cheerful,"
she said; "his nurse, Sister Jane, thinks he is the most amusing man she
ever saw. You must not worry about him. The operation is to be on
Friday--he seems very well and strong in himself, and we will soon have him
all right again--you will see! He is just the sort of man to make a good
recovery." Then she added, "Mr. Payne said he thought you would like to see
the doctor, so he is going to look in here in half an hour from now--he
will see Mr. Payne first, and then you can have a good talk to him. You are
going back this afternoon, I think?"

"That depends!" said Barthrop.

"Oh, Mr. Payne is expecting you to go back, I know--we will just run up and
see him now."

We went up two flights of stairs: the matron knocked at a door in the
passage, and we went in. Father Payne was sitting up in bed, in a sort of
blue wrapper which gave him, I thought, a curiously monastic air--he was
reading quietly. The room was large and airy, and looked out on the backs
of tall houses: it was quiet enough: there was just a far-off murmur of the
town in the air.

He greeted us with much animation, and smiled at me. "It's good of you to
come, I'm sure," he said, "with your feeling about ill people. I don't
object to that," he added in the familiar manner. "I think it's a sign of
health, you know!" We sat down beside him. "Now," said Father Payne, "don't
let's have any grave looks or hushed voices--you remember what Baines told
us, when he joined the Church of Rome, that when he got back after his
reception, his friends all spoke to him as if he had had a serious illness.
The matter is simple enough--and I'm going to speak plainly. I have got
some internal mischief, something that obstructs the passages, and it has
got to be removed. There's a risk, of course--they never can tell exactly
what they will find, but they don't think it has gone too far to be
remedied. I don't pretend to like it--in fact it's decidedly inconvenient.
I like my own little plans as well as anyone! and this time I don't seem
able to look ahead--there's a sort of wall ahead of me. I feel as if I had
come, like the boy in the _Water Babies_, to the place which was
called _Stop_!" He paused a moment and smiled on us, his big
good-natured smile.

"But if I put my head out of the other end of the tunnel, I shall go on as
usual. If I _don't_, then I had better tell you what I have done. You
know I have no near relations. The noble family of Payne is practically
summed up in me. The Vicar's a sort of cousin, but a very diluted one. I
have arranged by my will that if you two fellows think you can keep the
place going on its present lines, you can have a try. But I don't think it
will do, I think it will be artificial and possibly ridiculous. I don't
think it has got life! And if you decide not to try, then it will all go to
my old College, which is quite alive. I would rather they would not sell
it--but bless me, what does it matter? It is a mistake to try and grip
anything with a dead hand. But if I get through, and I believe I have a
good chance of doing so, you must just keep things going till I get
back--which won't be long. There's the case in a nutshell! You quite
understand? I don't want you to do what you think I should wish, because I
_don't_ wish. And now we won't say another word about it, unless there
are any questions you would like to ask. By the way, I have arranged the
programme for the day. The doctor is coming to see me presently, and while
he is here you can have some lunch--they will see to that--and then you can
have a talk to him, while I have my lunch--I can tell you they do feed me
up here!--and then we will have a talk, and you can catch the 4.30. You
know how I like planning out a day."

"But we thought we would like to stay in town, and see it all through,"
said Barthrop. "We have brought up some things."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Father Payne in his old manner. "Back you go by
the 4.30, things and all! I have got the best nurse in the world, Sister
Jane. By George, it's a treat exploring that woman's mind. She's full of
kindness and common sense and courage, without a grain of reason. There's
nothing in the world that woman wouldn't do, and nothing she wouldn't
believe--she's entirely mediaeval. Then I have some books: and I'm going to
read and talk and play patience--I'm quite good at that already--and eat
and drink and sleep. I'm not to be disturbed, I tell you! To-morrow is a
complete holiday: and on Friday the great event comes off. I won't have any
useless emotion, or any bedside thoughts!" He glanced at us smiling and
said, "Oh, of course, my dear boys, I'm only joking. I know you would like
to stay, and I would like to have you here well enough: but see here--if
all goes well, what's the use of this drama?--people can't behave quite
naturally, however much they would like to, and I don't want any melting
looks: and if it goes the other way--well, I don't like good-byes. I agree
with dear old Mrs. Barbauld:

  "'Say not Good-night, but in some brighter clime
        Bid me Good-morning.'"

He was silent for a moment--and just at that moment the doctor arrived.

We went off to lunch with the old matron, who talked cheerfully about
things in general: and it was strange to feel that what was to us so deep a
tragedy was to her just a familiar experience, a thing that happened day by

Then the doctor came in, a tall, thin, pale, unembarrassed man, very frank
and simple.

"Yes," he said, "there's a risk--I don't deny that! One never knows exactly
what the mischief is or how far it extends. I told Mr. Payne exactly what I
thought. He is the sort of man to whom one can do that. But he is strong,
he has lived a healthy life, he has a great vitality--everything is in his
favour. How long has he seemed to be ill, by the way?"

"Some three or four months, I think," said Barthrop. "But it is difficult
when you see anyone every day to realise a change--and then he is always

"He is," said the doctor. "I never saw a better patient. He told me his
symptoms like a doctor describing someone else's case, I never heard
anything so impersonal! We managed to catch Dr. Angus--that's the
specialist, you know, who will operate. Mr. Payne wasn't in the least
flurried. He showed no sign of being surprised: we sent him in here at
once, and he seems to have made friends with everyone. That's all to the
good, of course. He's not a nervous subject. No," he added reflectively,
"he has an excellent chance of recovery. But I should deceive you if I
pretended there was no risk. There _is_ a risk, and we must hope for
the best. By the way, gentlemen," he added, taking up his hat, "I hope you
won't think of staying in town. Mr. Payne seems most anxious that you
should go back, and I think his wish should be paramount. You can do
nothing here, and I think your remaining would fret him. I won't attempt to
dictate, but I feel that you would do well to go!"

"Oh, yes, we will go," said Barthrop. "You will let us know how all goes?"

"Of course!" said the doctor. "You shall hear at once!"

We went back, and spent an hour with Father Payne. I shall never forget
that hour: he talked on quietly, seeing that we were unable to do our part.
He spoke about the men and their work, and gave pleasant, half-humorous
summaries of their characters. He gave us some little reminiscences of his
life in London; he talked about the villagers at Aveley, and the servants.
I realised afterwards that he had spoken a few words about every single
person in the circle, small or great. The time sped past, and presently
they told us that our cab was at the door, "Now don't make me think you are
going to miss the train, old boys!" said Father Payne, raising himself up
to shake hands. "I have enjoyed the sight of you. Give them all my love: be
good and wise! God bless you both!" He shook hands with Barthrop and with
me, and I felt the soft touch of his firm hand, as I had done at our first
meeting. Barthrop did not speak, and went hurriedly from the room, without
looking round. I could not help it, but I bent down and kissed his hand.
"Well, well!" he said indulgently, and gave me a most tender and beautiful
look out of his big eyes, and then he mentioned to me to go. I went in

We felt, both of us, a premonition of the worst disaster. I knew in my
heart that it was the end. It seemed to me characteristic of Father Payne
to make his farewells simply, and without any dramatic emphasis. The way in
which he had spoken of all his friends, in that last hour we spent with
him, had been a series of adieux, and even as I recalled his words, they
seemed to me to shape themselves into unspoken messages. His own calmness
had been unmistakable, and was marvellous to me; but it was all the more
impressive because he did not, as one has read in some of the well-known
scenes recorded in history of the deaths of famous men, seem to be
attempting to say anything memorable or magnanimous. "What can I say that
will be worthy of myself?"--that question appears to me to be sometimes
lurking in the minds of men who have played a great part in the world, and
who are determined to play it to the end. It is, of course a noble sort of
courage which enables a man, at the very threshold of death, to force
himself to behave with dignity and grandeur: but it seemed to me now to be
an even more supreme courage to be, as Father Payne was, simply himself.
Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, Charles II, Archbishop Laud all died
with a real greatness of undismayed bravery, but with just a sense of
enacting a part rehearsed. The death scene of Socrates, which is, I
suppose, a romantically constructed tale, does indeed give a picture of
perfect naturalness: and I thought that Father Payne's demeanour, like that
of Socrates, showed clearly enough that the idea of death was not an
overshadowing dread dispelled by an effort of the will, but that it was not
present as a fear in his mind at all, and rather regarded with a reverent
curiosity: and I was reminded of a saying of Father Payne's which I have
elsewhere recorded, that the virtues to which we give our most unhesitating
admiration are the instinctive virtues rather than the reasoned virtues. If
Father Payne had appeared to be keeping a firm hold on himself, and to be
obliging himself to speak things timely and fitting, I should have admired
him deeply: but I admired him all the more because of his unaffected
tranquillity and unuttered affection. He had just enveloped us in his own
calmness, and gone straight forward.

We made our journey almost in silence: Barthrop was too much moved to
speak: and my own mind was dim with trouble, at all that we were to lose,
and yet drawn away into an infinite loyalty and tenderness for one who had
been more than a father to me.



The end is soon told. On the following day, we thought it best to tell our
two companions and the Vicar what was happening, and we also told the old
butler that Father Payne was ill. It was a day of infinite dreariness to
me, with outbursts of sharp emotion at the sight of everything so closely
connected with Father Payne, and with the thought that he would see them no

I was sitting in my room on the Friday morning, after a sleepless night,
when Barthrop came in and handed me a telegram from the doctor. "Mr. Payne
never recovered consciousness, and died an hour after the operation. All
details arranged. Please await letter." I raised my eyes to Barthrop's
face, but saw that he could not speak. I could say nothing either: my mind
and heart seemed to crumble suddenly into a hopeless despair.

A letter reached us the same evening by train. It was to the effect that
Father Payne had written down some exact directions the day before and
given them to the matron. He did not wish, in case of his death, that
anyone should see his body: he wished to be placed in the simplest of
coffins, as soon as possible, and that the coffin should be sent down by
train to Aveley, be taken from the station straight to the church, and if
possible to be buried at once. But even so, that was only his wish, and he
particularly desired to avoid alike all ceremony and inconvenience. But
besides that there were two notes enclosed addressed in Father Payne's hand
to Barthrop and myself, which ran as follows:

    "My dear Leonard,--_I thought it very good of you to come up to
    see me, and no less good of you to go away as I desired. It is
    possible, of course, that I may return to you, and all be as
    before. But to be frank, I do not think it will be so. Even if I
    survive, I shall, I think, be much weakened by this operation,
    and shall have the possibility of a recurrence of the disease
    hanging over me. Much as I love life, and the world where I have
    found it pleasant to live, I do not want to lead a broken sort of
    existence, with invalid precautions and limitations. I think that
    this would bring out all that is worst in me, and would lead to
    unhappiness both in myself and in all those about me. If it has
    to be so, I shall do my best, but I think it would be a
    discreditable performance. I do not, however, think that I shall
    have this trial laid upon me. I feel that I am summoned
    elsewhere, and I am glad to think that my passage will be a swift
    one. I am not afraid of what lies beyond, because I believe death
    to be simple and natural enough, and a perfectly definite thing.
    Of what lies beyond it, I can form no idea; all our theories are
    probably quite wide of the mark. But it will be the same for me
    as it has been for all others who have died, and as it will some
    day be for you; and when we know, we shall be surprised that we
    did not see what it would be. I confess that I love the things
    that I know, and dislike the unknown. The world is very dear and
    familiar, and it has been kind and beautiful to me, as well as
    full of interest. But I expect that things will be much
    simplified. And please bear this in mind, that such a scene which
    we went through yesterday is worse for those who stand by and can
    do nothing than for the man himself; and you will believe me when
    I say that I am neither afraid nor unhappy._

    "_With regard to my wishes about the place being kept on, on
    its present lines, remember that it is only a wish, and not to be
    regarded as a binding obligation or undertaken against your
    judgment. I trust you fully in this, as I have always trusted
    you; and I will just thank you, once and for all, for all that
    you have done and been. I shall always think of you with deep
    gratitude and lasting affection. God bless you now and always.
    Your old friend,_


To me he had written:

    "My dear boy,--_Please read my letter to Barthrop, which is
    meant for you as well. I won't repeat myself--you know I dislike
    that. But I would like just to say that you have been more like a
    son to me than anyone I ever have known, and I thank God for
    bringing you into my life, and for all your kind and faithful
    affection. You must just go on as you have begun; and I can only
    say that if I still have any knowledge of what goes on in the
    world, my affection and interest will not fail; and if I have
    not, I shall believe that we shall still find each other again,
    and rejoice in mutual knowledge and confidence. You are very dear
    to me, and always will be._

    "_Settle everything with Leonard. I know that you will be able
    to interpret my wishes as I should wish them to be interpreted.
    Your affectionate old friend,_

    "C. PAYNE."

The last act was simple enough. The preparations were soon made. The coffin
arrived at midday, and was buried in the afternoon, between the church and
the Hall. It was sad and beautiful to see the heartfelt grief of the
villagers: and it was wonderful to me that at that moment I recovered a
kind of serenity on the surface of the grief below, so that in the still
afternoon as we walked away from the grave it seemed to me strange rather
than sorrowful. With those last letters in mind, it seemed to me almost
traitorous to mourn. He at least had his heart's desire, and I did not
doubt that he was abundantly satisfied.



Barthrop and I decided that we could not hope to continue the scheme. We
had neither the force nor the experience. The whole society was, we felt,
just the expression of Father Payne's personality, and without it, it had
neither stability nor significance. Barthrop and the Vicar were left money
legacies: the servants all received little pensions: there was a sum for
distribution in the village, and a fund endowed to meet certain practical
needs of the place. We handed over the estate to Father Payne's old
College, the furniture and pictures to go with the house, which was to be
let, if possible, to a tenant who would be inclined to settle there and
make it his home: the income of the estate was to provide travelling
scholarships. All had been carefully thought out with much practical sense
and insight.

Our other two companions went away. Barthrop and I stayed on at the Hall
together for some weeks to settle the final arrangements. We had some
wonderfully touching letters from old pupils and friends of Father Payne's.
One in particular, saying that the writer owed an infinite debt of
gratitude to Father Payne, for having saved him from himself and given him
a new life.

We talked much of Father Payne in those days; and I went alone to all the
places where I had walked with him, recalling more gratefully than sadly
how he had looked and moved and talked and smiled.

It came to the last night that we were to spend at the Hall together.
Everything had been gone through and arranged, and we were glad, I think,
to be departing.

"I don't know what to say and think about it all," said Barthrop; "I feel
at present quite lost and stranded, as if my motive for living were gone,
and as if I could hardly take up my work again. I know it is wrong, and I
am ashamed of it. Father Payne always said that we must not depend
helplessly upon persons or institutions, but must find our own real life
and live it--you remember?"

"Yes," I said, "indeed I do remember! But I do not think he ever realised
quite how strong he was, and how he affected those about him. He did not
need us--I sometimes think he did not need anyone--and he credited everyone
with living the same intent life that he lived. But I shall always be
infinitely grateful to him for showing me just that--that one must live
one's own life, through and in spite of everything grievous that happens.
The temptation is to indulge grief, and to feel that collapse in such a
case is a sign of loyalty. It isn't so--if one collapses, it only means
that one has been living an artificial and parasitical life. Father Payne
would have hated that--and I don't mean to do it. He has given me not only
an example, but an inspiration--a real current of life has flowed into my
life from his--or perhaps rather through his from some deeper origin."

"That is so," said Barthrop, "that is perfectly true! and don't you
remember too how he always said life must be a _real_ fight--a joining
in the fight that was going forwards? It need not be wrangling or
disputing, or finding fault with other people, or maintaining and
confuting. He used to say that people fought in a hundred ways--with their
humour, their companionableness, their kindness, their friendliness--it
need not be violent, and indeed if it was violent, that was fighting on the
wrong side--it had only to be calm and sincere and dutiful."

"Did he say that?" I said. "Yes, I am sure he did--no one else could say it
or think of it. Of course, we have to fight, but not by dealing injury and
harm, but by seeking and following peace and goodwill. Well, we must
try--and it may be that we shall find him again, though he is hidden for a
little while with God."

"Yes," said Barthrop, "we shall find him, or he will find us--it makes
little difference: and he will always be the same, though I hope we may be



It was a soft and delicious spring morning when I left Aveley--and I have
never had the heart to visit it again. I had had a sleepless night, with
the thought of Father Payne continually in my mind. I saw him in a score of
attitudes, as he loitered in the garden with that look of inexpressible and
tender interest that he had for all that grew out of the
earth--worshipping, I used to think, at the shrine of life--or as he sat
rapt in thought in church, or as he strode beside me along the uplands, or
as he came and went in a hurried abstraction, or as he argued and
discussed, with his great animated smile and his quick little gestures. I
felt how his personality had filled our lives to the brim, as a spring
whose waters fail not. It was not that he was a perfect character, with a
tranquil and effortless superiority, or with a high intellectual tenacity,
or with an unruffled serenity. He was sensitive, impatient, fitful,
prejudiced. He had little constructive capacity, no creative or dramatic
power, no loftiness of tragic emotion. I knew all that; I did not regard
him with a false or uncritical reverence. But he was vital, generous, rich
in zest and joy, heroic, as no other man I had ever known. He had no petty
ambition, no thirst for recognition, no acidity of judgment. He never
sought to impress himself: but his was a large, affectionate, liberal
nature, more responsive to life, more lavish of self, more disinterested
than any human being that had crossed my path. He had never desired to make
disciples--he was not self-confident or self-regarding enough for that. But
he had continued to draw us all with him into a vortex of life, where the
stream ran swiftly, and where it seemed disgraceful to be either listless
or unconcerned. I blessed the kindly fate that had guided me to him, and
had won for me his deep regard. I did not wish to copy or imitate him--he
had infected me with a deep distrust for dependence--I only wished to live
my own life in the same eager spirit. As he had said to me once, the motto
for every man was to be _Amor Fati_--not a reluctant acquiescence, or
a feeble optimism, or a gentle resignation, but a passion for one's own
destiny, a deep desire to make the most and the best out of life, and a
strong purpose to share one's best with all who were journeying at one's

So the night passed, thick with recollections and regrets, deepening into a
horror of loss and darkness, and then slowly brightening into the calm
prelude of a day of farewell. The birds began to chirp and twitter in the
ivy; the thrush uttered her long-drawn notes, sweetly repeated and
sustained in the dusky bushes. That sound was much connected in my mind
with Aveley. To be awakened thus in the summer dawn, to listen awhile to
the delicious sound, to fall asleep again with the thought of the long
pleasant day of work and friendship ahead of me, had been one of my
greatest luxuries.

I rose early, and made my last preparations, and then, having got a little
time before the last meal I was to take with Barthrop, I went round about
the garden with a desire to draw into my spirit for the last time the pure
and happy atmosphere of the place.

I saw the beds fringed with purple polyanthus, and the daffodils in the
dewy grass. I gazed at the long lines of the low hills across the stream,
with the woodland spaces all flushed with spring. I heard the cawing of the
rooks in the soft air, and the bubbling song of the chaffinches filled the

I knew the mood of old--the mood in which, after a holiday sojourn in some
place which one has learned to love, a happy space of time stained by no
base anxiety, shadowed by no calamity, the call to rejoin the routine of
life makes itself heard half reluctantly, half ardently. The heart at such
moments tries to be grateful without regret, and hopeful without
indifference. The purpose to go, the desire to stay, wrestle together; and
now at the end of the happiest and most fruitful period I had ever known or
was ever, I thought, likely to know, I felt like Jacob wrestling with the
angel till the breaking of the day, and crying out, half in weakness, half
in strength, "I will not let thee go until thou bless me."

It came, the sudden blessing which I desired. It fell like some full warm
shower upon the thirsty earth. In that moment I had the blissful instinct
which had before been but a reasoned conviction, that Father Payne was near
me, with me, about me, enfolding me with a swift tenderness, and yet at the
same time pointing me forward, bidding me clearly and almost, it seemed,
petulantly, to disengage myself from all dependence upon himself or his
example. He had other things to do, I felt with something like a smile,
than to hover over me and haunt my path with tenderness. Such weakness of
sentiment was worthy neither of himself nor of myself. I had all the world
before me, and I was to take my part in it with spirit and even gaiety. To
shrink into the shadow, to live in tearful retrospect--it was not to be
thought of; and I had in that moment a glow of thankful energy which made
light of grief and pain alike. I must take hold of life instantly and with
both hands. I saw it in a sudden flash of light.

I went to the churchyard, I stood for an instant beside the grave, now
turfed over and planted with daffodils. I put aside from my heart, once and
for all, the old wistful instinct which ties the living to the dead. The
poor body that lay there, dust in dust, had no more to do with Father Payne
than the stained candle-socket with the flame that had leapt away upon the
air. That was a moment of true and certain joy; so that when I went back to
the house and joined Barthrop, I felt no longer the uneasy quivering of the
spirit which had long overmastered me. He too was calm and brave; we sat
together for the last time, we talked with an unaffected cheerfulness of
the future. He too, I saw, had experienced the same loosening of the spirit
from its trivial bonds, dear and beautiful as they were, so long as one did
not hug them close.

"I never thought," he said to me at last, "to go light-heartedly away--and
yet I can do even that! I have heard something, I can hardly say what,
which tells me to go forward, not to hanker, not to look back--and which
tells me best of all that it would be almost like treachery to wish the
Father back again. It is better so! I say this," he went on, "not with
resignation, not with a mild desire to make the best of a bad business, but
with a serene certainty that it is not a bad business at all. I cannot tell
where it is gone, the cloud that has oppressed me--but it is gone, and it
will not come back."

"Yes," I said, "I recognise that--I feel it too; our work here is done, and
we have work waiting for us. We shall meet, we shall compare experiences,
we shall love our fate. Life is to be a new quest, not an old worship. That
is to be our loyalty to Father Payne, that we are to believe in life, and
not only to believe in memory."

It was soon over. Barthrop was to go later, and he came out to see me go.
Just before I started, the old clock played its sweet tune; we stood in
silence listening. "That is the best of omens," I said, "to depart with
thanksgiving and the voice of melody." He smiled in my face, we clasped
hands; I drove up the little road, while he stood at the door, smiling and
waving his hand, till I turned into the main road, between the blossoming
hedges, and saw Aveley no more.

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