“He is the sort of man who is always losing his friends,” said Pollard at dinner to Father Payne, describing someone, “and I always think that’s a bad sign.”
“And I, on the contrary,” said Father Payne, “think that a man who always keeps his friends is almost always an ass!” He opened his mouth and drew in his breath.
“Or else it means,” said Barthrop, “that he has never really made any friends at all!”
“Quite right,” said Father Payne. “People talk about friendship as if it was a perfectly normal thing, like eating and drinking—it’s not that! It’s a difficult thing, and it is a rare thing. I do not mean mere proximities and easy comradeships and muddled alliances; there are plenty of frank and pleasant companionships about of a solid kind. Still less do I mean the sort of thing which is contained in such an expression as ‘Dear old boy!’ which is always a half-contemptuous phrase.”
“But isn’t loyalty a fine quality?” said Lestrange.
“Loyalty!” said Father Payne. “Of course you must play fair, and be ready to stick by a man, and do him a kindness, and help him up if he has a fall; but that is not friendship—at least it isn’t what I mean by friendship. Friendship is a sort of passion, without anything sexual or reproductive about it. There is a physical basis about it, of course. I mean there are certain quite admirable, straightforward, pleasant people, whom you may meet and like, and yet with whom you could never be friends, though they may be quite capable of friendship, and have friends of their own. A man’s presence and his views and emotions must be in some sort of tune with your own. There are certain people, not in the least repellent, genial, kindly, handsome, excellent in every way, with whom you simply are not comfortable. On the other hand, there are people of no great obvious attractiveness with whom you feel instantaneously at ease. There is something mysterious about it, some currents that don’t mix, and some that do. A thousand years hence we shall probably know something about it we don’t now.”