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

Father Payne gave a groan.  “Yes, it is a muddle!” he said.  “But one thing I feel clear about—­that a beautiful thing like this means a sense of joy somewhere:  some happiness went to the making of things which in a sense are quite useless, but are unutterably lovely all the same.  Beauty implies consciousness—­but come, we are neglecting our business.  Give me the other stone at once!”

I gave it him, and he cracked it.  “Very disappointing!” he said.  “I made sure there was a beautiful stone, but it is all solid—­only a flaky sort of jelly—­it’s no use at all!”

He threw it aside, but carefully gathered up the fragments of the crystalline stone.  “Don’t tell of me!” he said, looking at me whimsically.  “This is the sort of nonsense which our sensible friends won’t understand.  But now that I know that you care about stones, we will have a rare hunt together one of these days.  But mind—­no stuff about geology!  It’s beauty that we are in search of, you and I.”

XXIX

EARLY LIFE

One day, to my surprise and delight, Father Payne indulged in some personal reminiscences about his early life.  He did not as a rule do this.  He used to say that it was the surest sign of decadence to think much about the past.  “Sometimes when I wake early,” he said, “I find myself going back to my childhood, and living through scene after scene.  It’s not wholesome—­I always know I am a little out of sorts when I do that—­it is only one degree better than making plans about the future!”

However, on this occasion he was very communicative.  He had been talking about Ruskin, and he said:  “Do you remember in Praeterita how Ruskin, writing about his sheltered and complacent childhood, describes how entirely he lived in the pleasure of sight?  He noticed everything, the shapes and colours of things, the almond blossom, the ants that made nests in the garden walk, the things they saw in their travels.  He was entirely absorbed in sense-impressions.  Well, that threw a light on my own life, because it was exactly what happened to me as a child.  I lived wholly in observation.  I had no mind and very little heart.  I suppose that I had so much to do looking at everything, getting the shapes and the textures and the qualities of everything by heart, that I had no time to think about ideas and emotions.  I had a very lonely childhood, you know, brought up in the country by my mother, who was rather an invalid, my father being dead.  I had no companions to speak of, and I didn’t care about anyone or need anyone—­it was all simply a collecting of impressions.  The result is that I can visualise anything and everything—­speak of a larch-bud or a fir-cone, and there it is before me—­the little rosy fragrant tuft, or the glossy rectangular squares of the cone.  Then I went to Marlborough, and I was dreadfully unhappy, I hated everything and everybody—­the ugliness

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