Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 442 pages of information about Father Payne.

“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 people!’”

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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