“Yes, that’s exactly it!” said Father Payne. “You meant to shut me up with one of our patent Oxford epigrams, I know—and, of course, it is deuced smart! But put it the other way round, and it’s all right. You can’t help being exclusive, and you must try to be inclusive—that’s the truth, with the Oxford tang taken out!”
We laughed at this, and Vincent reddened.
“Don’t mind me, old man!” said Father Payne, “but try to make your epigrams genial instead of contemptuous—inclusive rather than exclusive. They are just as true, and the bitter flavour is only fit for the vitiated taste of Dons.” And Father Payne stretched out a large hand down the table, and enclosed Vincent’s in his own.
“Yes, it was a nasty turn,” said Vincent, smiling, “I see what you mean.”
“The world is a friendlier place than people know,” said Father Payne. “We have inherited a suspicion of the unknown and the unfamiliar. Don’t you remember how the ladies in The Mill on the Floss mistrusted each other’s recipes, and ate dry bread in other houses rather than touch jam or butter made on different methods. That is the old bad taint. But I think we are moving in the right direction. I fancy that the awakening may be very near, when we shall suddenly realise that we are all jolly good fellows, and wonder that we have been so blind.”
“A Roman Catholic friend of mine,” said Rose—“he is a priest—told me that he attended a clerical dinner the other day. The health of the Pope was proposed, and they all got up and sang, ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow!’”
There was a loud laugh at this. “I like that,” said Father Payne, “I like their doing that! I expect that that is exactly what the Pope is! I should dearly love to have a good long quiet talk with him! I think I could let in a little light: and I should like to ask him if he enjoyed his fame, dear old boy: and whether he was interested in his work! ’Why, Mr. Payne, it’s rather anxious work, you know, the care of all the churches’—I can hear him saying—’but I rub along, and the time passes quickly! though, to be sure, I’m not as young as I was once: and while I am on the subject, Mr. Payne, you look to me to be getting on in years yourself!’ And then I should say ‘Yes, your Holiness, I am a man that has seen trouble.’ And he would say, ‘I’m sorry to hear that! Tell me all about it!’ That’s how we should talk, like old friends, in a snug parlour in the Vatican, looking out on the gardens!”
OF TAKING LIFE