I forget what led up to the subject; perhaps I did not hear; but Father Payne said, “It isn’t for nothing that ‘the fearful’ head the list of all the abominable people—murderers, sorcerers, idolaters; and liars—who are reserved for the lake of fire and brimstone! Fear is the one thing that we are always wrong in yielding to: I don’t mean timidity and cowardice, but the sort of heavy, mild, and rather pious sort of foreboding that wakes one up early in the morning, and that takes all the wind out of one’s sails; fear of not being liked, of having given offence, of living uselessly, of wasting time and opportunities. Whatever we do, we must not lead an apologetic kind of life. If we on the whole intend to do something which we think may be wrong, it is better to do it—it is wrong to be cautious and prudent. I love experiments.”
“Isn’t that rather immoral?” said Lestrange.
“No, my dear boy,” said Father Payne, “we must make mistakes: better make them! I am not speaking of things obviously wrong, cruel, unkind, ungenerous, spiteful things; but it is right to give oneself away, to yield to impulses, not to take advice too much, and not to calculate consequences too much. I hate the Robinson Crusoe method of balancing pros and cons. Live your own life, do what you are inclined to do, as long as you really do it. That is probably the best way of serving the world. Don’t be argued into things, or bullied out of them. You need not parade it—but rebel silently. It is absolutely useless going about knocking people down. That proves nothing except that you are stronger. Don’t show up people, or fight people; establish a stronger influence if you can, and make people see that it is happier and pleasanter to live as you live. Make them envy you—don’t make them fear you. You must not play with fear, and you must not yield to fear.”
Father Payne came into the hall one morning after breakfast when I was opening a parcel of books which had arrived for me. It was a fine, sunny day, and the sun lit up the portrait framed in the panelling over the mantelpiece, an old and skilful copy (at least I suppose it was a copy) of Reynolds’ fine portrait of James, tenth Earl of Shropshire. Father Payne regarded the picture earnestly. “Isn’t he magnificent?” he said. “But he was a very poor creature really, and came to great grief. My great-great-grandfather! His granddaughter married my grandfather. Now look at that—that’s the best we can do in the way of breeding! There’s a man whose direct ancestors, father to son, had simply the best that money can buy—fine houses to live in, power, the pick of the matrimonial market, the best education, a fine tradition, every inducement to behave like a hero; and what did he do—he gambled away his inheritance, and died of drink and bad courses. We can’t get what we want, it would seem, by breeding human beings, though we can do it with cows and pigs. Where and how does the thing go wrong? His father and mother were both of them admirable people—fine in every sense of the word.