Father Payne eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.

LXIII

OF WRENS AND LILIES

It was the first warm and sunny day, after a cold and cloudy spring:  I took a long and leisurely walk with Father Payne down a valley among woods, of which Father Payne was very fond.  “Almost precipitous for Northamptonshire, eh?” he used to say.  I was very full of a book I had been reading, but I could not get him to talk.  He made vague and foolish replies, and said several times, “I shall have to think that over, you know,” which was, I well knew, a polite intimation that he was not in a mood for talk.  But I persisted, and at last he said, “Hang it, you know, I’m not attending—­I’m very sorry—­it isn’t your fault—­but there’s such a lot going on everywhere.”  He quoted a verse of The Shropshire Lad, of which he was very fond: 

  “’Now, of my threescore years and ten,
  Twenty will not come again,
  And take from seventy springs a score,
  It only leaves me fifty more’”;

adding, “That’s the only instance I know of a subtraction sum made into perfect poetry—­but it’s the other way round, worse luck!

  “And add to seventy springs a score,
  That only leaves me forty more!”

The birds were singing very sweetly in the copses as we passed—­“That isn’t art, I believe,” said Father Payne.  “It’s only the reproductive instinct, I am told!  I wish it took such an artistic form in my beloved brothers in the Lord!  There,” he added, stopping and speaking in a low tone; “don’t move—­there’s a cock-wren singing his love-song—­you can see his wings quivering.”  There followed a little tremolo, with four or five emphatic notes for a finish.  “Now, if you listen, you’ll hear the next wren answer him!” said Father Payne.  In a moment the same little song came like an echo from a bush a few yards away.  “The wren sings in stricter time than any bird but the cuckoo,” said Father Payne—­“four quavers to a bar.  That’s very important!  Those two ridiculous creatures will go on doing that half the morning.  They are so excited that they build sham nests, you know, about now—­quite useless piles of twigs and moss, not intended for eggs, just to show what they can do.  But that little song!  It has all the passion of the old chivalry in it—­it is only to say, ’My Dulcinea is prettier, sweeter, brighter-eyed than yours!’ and the other says, ’You wait till I can get at you, and then we will see!’ If they were two old knights, they would fight to the death over it, till the world had lost a brave man, and one of the Dulcineas was a hapless widow, and nothing proved.  That’s the sort of thing that men admire, full of fine sentiment.  Why can’t we leave each other alone?  Why does loving one person make you want to fight another?  Just look at that wren:  he’s as full of joy and pride as he can hold:  look at the angle at which he holds his tail:  he feels the lord of the world, sure enough!”

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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