“It is rather muddling,” said Father Payne, “but, in a general way, the point is this. When pose is a deliberate attempt to deceive other people for your own credit, it is detestable. But when it is merely harmless drama, to add to the interest of life and to retain your own self-respect, it’s an amiable foible, and need not be discouraged. The real question is whether it is assumed seriously, or whether it is all a sort of joke. We all like to play our little games, and I find it very easy to forgive a person who enjoys dressing up, so to speak, and making remarks in character. Come, I’ll confess my sins in public. If I meet a stranger in the roads, I rather like to be thought a bluff and hearty English squire, striding about my broad acres. I prefer that to being thought a retired crammer, a dominie who keeps a school and calls it an academy, as Lord Auchinleck said of Johnson. But if I pretended in this house to be a kind of abbot, and glided about in a cassock with a gold cross round my neck, conferring a benediction on everyone, and then retired to my room to read a French novel and to drink whisky-and-soda, that would be a very unpleasant pose indeed!”
We all implored Father Payne to adopt it, and he said he would give it his serious consideration.
I was sitting in the garden one evening in summer with Father Payne and Barthrop. Barthrop was going off next day to Oxford, and was trying to persuade Father Payne to come too.
“No,” he said, “I simply couldn’t! Oxford is the city east of the sun and west of the moon—like as a dream when one awaketh! I don’t hold with indulging fruitless sentiment, particularly about the past.”
“But isn’t it rather a pity?” said Barthrop. “After all, most emotions are useless, if you come to that! Why should you cut yourself off from a place you are so fond of, and which is quite the most beautiful place in England too? Isn’t it rather—well,—weak?”
“Yes,” said Father Payne, “it’s weak, no doubt! That is to say, if I were differently made, more hard-hearted, more sure of myself, I should go, and I should enjoy myself, and moon about, and bore you to death with old stories about the chimes at midnight—everybody would be a dear old boy or a good old soul, and I should hand out tips, and get perfectly maudlin in the evenings over a glass of claret. That’s the normal thing, no doubt—that’s what a noble-minded man in a novel of Thackeray’s would do!”
“Well,” said Barthrop, “you know best—but I expect that if you did take the plunge and go there, you would find yourself quite at ease.”
“I might,” said Father Payne; “but then I also might not—and I prefer not to risk it. You see, it would be merely wallowing in sentiment—and I don’t approve of sentiment. I want my emotions to live with, not to bathe in!”