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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.

“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 think!”

“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.”

XXXVIII

OF LONELINESS

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