Father Payne walked on in silence.
“The truth is, my boy,” he said a minute later, “that I’m a converted man, and it isn’t everyone who can say that—nor do I wish everyone to be converted, because it’s a ghastly business preparing for the operation. It isn’t everyone who needs it—only those self-willed, devilish, stand-off, proud people, who have to be braised in a mortar and pulverised to atoms. Then, when you are all to bits, you can be built up. Do you remember that stone we broke the other day? Well, I was a melted blob of stone, and then I was crystallised—now I’m full of eyes within! And the best of it is that they are little living eyes, and not sparkling flints—they see, they don’t reflect! At least I think so; and I don’t think trouble is brewing for me again—though that is always the danger!”
I was very deeply moved by this, and said something about being grateful.
“Oh, not that,” said Father Payne; “you don’t know what fun it has been to me to tell you. That’s the sort of thing that I want to get into one of my novels, but I can’t manage it. But the moral is, if I may say so: Be afraid of self-pity and dignity and self-respect—don’t be afraid of happiness and simplicity and kindness. Give yourself away with both hands. It’s easy for me to talk, because I have been loaded with presents ever since: the clouds drop fatness—a rich but expressive image that!”
“I’m feeling low to-night,” said Father Payne in answer to a question about his prolonged silence. “I’m not myself: virtue has gone out of me—I’m in the clutches of a bloodsucker.”
“Old debts with compound interest?” said Rose cheerfully.
“Yes,” said Father Payne with a frown; “old emotional I.O.U.’s. I didn’t know what I was putting my name to.”