“Oh, life will take care of that!” said Father Payne, smiling, “The time will come when you will know where to post your battery, and what to fire at. But don’t try to make up your mind too early—don’t try to fortify yourself against doubts and anxieties. That is the danger of all sensitive people. You can’t attain to proved certainties in this life—at least, you can’t at present. I don’t say that there are not certainties—indeed, I think that it is all certainty, and that we mustn’t confuse the unknown with the unknowable. As you go on, if you are fair-minded and sympathetic, you will get intuitions; you will discover gradually exactly what you are worth, and what you can do, and how you can do it best. But don’t expect to know that too soon. And don’t yield to the awful temptation of saying, ’So many good, fine, reasonable people seem certain of this and that; I had better assume it to be true.’ It isn’t better, it is only more comfortable. A great many more people suffer from making up their mind too early and too decisively than suffer from open-mindedness and the power to relate new experience to old experience. No one can write you out a prescription for life. You can’t anticipate experience; and if you do, you will only find that you have to begin all over again.”
Father Payne had been away on one of his rare journeys. He always maintained that a journey was one of the most enlivening things in the world, if it was not too often indulged in. “It intoxicates me,” he said, “to see new places, houses, people.”
“Why don’t you travel more, then?” said someone.
“For that very reason,” said Father Payne; “because it intoxicates me—and I am too old for that sort of self-indulgence!”
“It’s a dreadful business,” he went on, “that northern industrial country. There’s a grandeur about it—the bare valleys, the steep bleak fields, the dead or dying trees, the huge factories. Those great furnaces, with tall iron cylinders and galleries, and spidery contrivances, and black pipes, and engines swinging vast burdens about, and moving wheels, are fearfully interesting and magnificent. They stand for all sorts of powers and forces; they frighten me by their strength and fierceness and submissiveness. But the land is awfully barren of beauty, and I doubt if that can be wholesome. It all fascinates me, it increases my pride, but it makes me unhappy too, because it excludes beauty so completely. Those bleak stone-walled fields of dirty grass, the lines of grey houses, are fine in their way—but one wants colour and clearness. I longed for a glimpse of elms and water-meadows, and soft-wooded pastoral hills. It produces a shrewd, strong, good-tempered race, but very little genius. There is something harsh about Northerners—they haven’t enough colour.”
“But you are always saying,” said Rose, “that we must look after form, and chance colour.”