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
That is enough for me!’”
Father Payne laughed. “Yes, I remember!” he said; “‘Not too much’ is a good stroke!”
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.