“Tell me when you feel it next, Father,” said Vincent.
“I feel it now,” said Father Payne, “now and here.” And there was something in his face which made us disinclined to ask him any further questions.
Someone had been telling a curious story about a contested peerage. It was a sensational affair, involving the alteration of registers, the burning down of a vestry, and the flight of a clergyman.
“I like that story,” said Father Payne, “and I like heraldry and rank and all that. It’s decidedly picturesque. I enjoy the zigzagging of a title through generations. But the worst of it is that the most picturesque of all distinctions, like being the twentieth baron, let us say, in direct descent, is really of the nature of a stigma; a man whose twentieth ancestor was a baron has no excuse for not being a duke.”
“But what I don’t like,” said Rose, “is the awful sense of sanctity which some people have about it. I read a book the other day where the hero sacrificed everything in turn, a career, a fortune, an engagement to a charming girl, a reputation, and last of all an undoubted claim to an ancient barony. I don’t remember exactly why he did all these things—it was noble, undoubtedly it was noble! But there was something which made me vaguely uncomfortable about the order in which he spun his various advantages.”
“It’s only a sense of beauty slightly awry,” said Father Payne; “names are curiously sacred things—they often seem to be part of the innermost essence of a man. I confess I would rather change most things than change my name. I would rather shave my head, for instance.”