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.
OF A CHANGE OF RELIGION
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.”