“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