"Of course," said Father Payne, "inconsistency isn't a virtue—it is generally the product of a quick and confused intelligence. But consistency ought not to be a principle of thought or action—you ought not to do or think a thing simply because you have thought it before—that is mere laziness! What one wants is a consistent sort of progress—you ought not to stay still."
"But you must have principles," said Vincent.
"Yes, but you must expect to change them," said Father Payne. "Principles are only deductions after all: and to remain consistent as a rule only means that you have ceased to do anything with your experience, or else it means that you have taken your principles second-hand. They ought to be living things, yielding fruits of increase. I don't mean that you should be at the mercy of a persuasive speaker, or of the last book you have read—but, on the other hand, to meet an interesting man or to read a suggestive book ought to modify your views a little. You ought to be elastic. The only thing that is never quite the same is opinion; and to be holding a ten years' old opinion simply means that you are stranded. There's nothing worse than to be high and dry."
"But isn't it worse still," said Vincent, "to see so many sides to a question that you can't take a definite part?"
"I don't feel sure," said Father Payne. "I know that the all-round sympathiser is generally found fault with in books; but it is an uncommon temperament, and means a great power of imagination. I am not sure that the faculty of taking a side is a very valuable one. People say that things get done that way; but a great many things get done wrong, and have to be undone. There is no blessing on the palpably one-sided people. Besides, there is a great movement in the world now towards approximation. Majorities don't want to bully minorities. Persecution has gone out. People are beginning to see that principles are few and interpretations many. I believe, as a matter of fact, that we ought always to be simplifying our principles, and getting them under a few big heads. Besides, you do not convert people by hammering away at principles. I always like the story of the Frenchman who said to his opponent, 'Come, let us go for a little walk, and see if we can disagree.'"
"I don't exactly see what he meant," said Vincent.
"Why, he meant," said Father Payne, "that if they could bring their minds together, they would find that there wasn't very much to quarrel about. But I don't believe in arguing. I don't think opinion changes in that way. I fancy it has tides of its own, and that ideas appear in numbers of minds all over the world, like flowers in spring.
"But how is one ever to act at all," said Vincent, "if one is always to be feeling that a principle may turn out to be nonsense after all?"
"Well, I think action is mainly a matter of instinct," said Father Payne. "But I don't really believe in taking too diffuse a view of things in general. Very few of us are strong enough and wise enough, let me say, to read the papers with any profit. The newspapers emphasize the disunion of the world, and I believe in its solidarity. Come, I'll tell you how I think people ought really to live, if you like. I think a man ought to live his own life, without attempting too much reference to what is going on in the world. I think it becomes pretty plain to most of us, by the time we reach years of discretion, what we can do and what we cannot. I don't mean that life ought to be lived in blank selfishness, without reference to anyone else. Most of us can't do that, anyhow—it requires extraordinary concentration of will. But I think that our lives ought to be intensive—that is to say, I don't think we ought to concern ourselves with getting rid of our deficiencies, so much as by concentrating and emphasizing our powers and faculties. We ought all of us to have a certain circle in mind—I believe very much in circles. We are very much limited, and our power of affecting people for good and evil is very small; our chance of helping is small. The moment we try to extend our circle very much, to widen our influence, we become like a juggler who keeps a dozen plates spinning all at once—it is mere legerdemain. But we most of us live really with about a score of people. We can't choose our circle altogether, and there are generally certain persons in it whom we should wish away. I think we ought to devote ourselves to our work, whatever it is, and outside of that to getting a real, intimate, and vital understanding with the people round us. That is a problem which is amply big enough for most of us. Then I think we ought to go seriously to work, not arguing or finding fault, not pushing or shoving people about, but just living on the finest lines we can. The only real chance of converting other people to our principles or own ideas, is to live in such a way that it is obvious that our ideas bring us real and vital happiness. You may depend upon it, that is the only way to live—the positive way. We simply must not quarrel with our associates: we must be patient and sympathetic and imaginative."
"But are there no exceptions?" said I. "I have heard you say that a man must be prepared to lose friends on occasions."
"Yes," said Father Payne, "the circle shifts and changes a little, no doubt. I admit that it becomes clear occasionally that you cannot live with a particular person. But if you have alienated him or her by your censoriousness and your want of sympathy, you have to be ashamed of yourself. If it is the other way, and you are being tyrannised over, deflected, hindered, then it may be necessary to break away—though, mind you, I think it is finer still if you do not break away. But you must have your liberty, and I don't believe in sacrificing that, because then you live an unreal life—and, whatever happens, you must not do that."
"But what is to be done when people are tied up by relationships, and can't get away?" said I.
"Yes, there are such cases," said Father Payne; "I don't deny it. If there is really no escape possible, then you must tackle it, and make the finest thing you can out of the situation. Fulness of life, that is what we must aim at. Of course people are hemmed in in other ways too—by health, poverty, circumstances of various kinds. But, however small your saucepan is, it ought to be on the boil."
"But can people make themselves active and hopeful?" I said. "Isn't that just the most awful problem of all, the listlessness which falls on many of us, as the limitations draw round and the net encloses us?"
"You must kick out for all you are worth," said Father Payne. "I fully admit the difficulty. But one of the best things in life is the fact that you can always do a little better than you expect. And then—you mustn't forget God."
"But a conscious touch with God?" I said. "Isn't that a rare thing?"
"It need not be," said Father Payne, very seriously. "If there is one thing which experience has taught me, it is this—that if you make a signal to God, it is answered. I don't say that troubles roll away, or that you are made instantly happy. But you will find that you can struggle on. People simply don't try that experiment. The reason why they do not is, I honestly believe, because of our services, where prayer is made so ceremoniously and elaborately that people get a false sense of dignity and reverence. It is a very natural instinct which made the disciples say, 'Teach us to pray,' and I do not think that ecclesiastical systems do teach people to pray—at least the examples they give are too intellectual, too much concerned with good taste. A prayer need not be a verbal thing—the best prayers are not. It is the mute glance of an eye, the holding out of a hand. And if you ask me what can make people different, I say it is not will, but prayer."
I was walking about the garden on a wintry Sunday with Father Payne. He had a particular mood on Sundays, I used to think, which made itself subtly felt—a mood serious, restrained, and yet contented. I do not remember how the subject came up, but he said something about prayer, and I replied:
"I wish you would tell me exactly what you feel about prayer, Father. I never quite understand. You always speak as if it played a great part in your life, and yet I never am sure what exactly it means to you."
"You might as well say," he said, smiling, "that you never felt quite sure what breakfast meant to me."
He stopped and looked at me for a moment. "Do we know what anything means? We know what prayer is, at any rate—one of the commonest and most natural of instincts. What is your difficulty?"
"Oh, the usual one," I said, "that if the God to whom we pray is the Power which puts into our minds good desires, and knows not only what is passing in our thoughts, but the very direction which our thoughts are going to take—reads us, in fact, like a book, as they say—what, then, is the object or purpose of setting ourselves to pray to a Power that knows our precise range of thoughts, and can disentangle them all far better than we can ourselves?"
"Why," said Father Payne, "that is pure fatalism. If you carry that on a little further it means all absence of effort. You might as well say, 'I will take no steps to provide myself with food—if God is All-Powerful, and sends me a good appetite, it is His business to satisfy it!"
"Oh," I said, "I see that. But if I set about providing myself with breakfast, I know exactly what I want, and have a very fair chance of obtaining it. But the essence of prayer is that you must not expect to get your desires fulfilled."
"I certainly do not pretend," said he, "that prayer is a mechanical method of getting things; it isn't a substitute for effort and action. Nor do I think that God simply withholds things unless you ask for them, as a dog has to beg for a piece of biscuit. I don't look upon prayer as the mere formulating of a list of requests; and I dislike very much the way some good people have of getting a large number of men and women to pray for the same thing, as if you were canvassing for votes. And yet I believe that prayers have a way of being granted. Indeed, I think that both the strength and the danger of prayer lies in the fact that people do very much tend to get what they have set their hearts upon. A recurrent prayer for a definite thing is often a sign that a man is working hard to secure it. It is rather perilous to desire definite things too definitely, not because you are disappointed, but because you are often successful in attaining them."
"Then that would be a reason for not praying," I said.
Father Payne gave one of his little frowns, which I knew well. "I'm not arguing for the sake of arguing, Father," I said; "I really want to understand. It seems to me such a muddle."
The little frown passed off in a smile. "Yes, it isn't a wholly rational thing," said Father Payne, "but it's a natural and instinctive thing. To forbid prayer seems to me like forbidding hope and love. Prayer seems to me just a mingling of hope and desire and love and confidence. It is more like talking over your plans and desires with God. It all depends upon whether you say, 'My will be done,' which is the wrong sort of prayer, or 'Thy will be done,' which is the right sort of prayer, and infinitely harder. I don't mind telling you this, that my prayers are an attempt to put myself in touch with the Spirit of God. I believe in God; I believe that He is trying very hard to bring men and women to live in a certain way—the right, joyful, beautiful way. He sees it clearly enough; but we are so tangled up with material things that we don't see it clearly—we don't see where our happiness lies; we mistake all kinds of things—pleasures, schemes, successes, comforts, desires—for happiness; and prayer seems to me like opening a sluice and letting a clear stream gush through. That's why I believe one must set oneself to it. The sluice is not always open—we are lazy, cowardly, timid; or again, we are confident, self-satisfied, proud of our own inventiveness and resourcefulness. I don't know what the will is or what its limitations are; but I believe it has a degree of liberty, and it can exercise that liberty in welcoming God. Of course, if we think of God as drearily moral, harsh, full of anger and disapproval, we are not likely to welcome Him; but if we feel Him full of eagerness and sympathy, of 'comfort, light, and fire of love,' as the old hymn says, then we desire His company. You have to prepare yourself for good company, you know. It is a bit of a strain; and I feel that the people who won't pray are like the lazy and sloppy people who won't put themselves out or forego their habits or take any trouble to receive a splendid guest. The difference is that the splendid guest is not to be got every day, while God is always glad of your company, I think."
"Then with you prayer isn't a process of asking?" I said. "But isn't it a way of changing yourself by simply trying to get your ideals clear?"
"No, no," said Father Payne; "it's just drawing water from a well when you are thirsty. Of course you must go to the well, and let down the bucket. It isn't a mere training of imagination; it is helping yourself to something actually there. The more you pray, the less you ask for definite things. You become ashamed to do that. Do you remember the story of Hans Andersen, when he went to see the King of Denmark? The King made a pause at one point and looked at Andersen, and Andersen said afterwards that the King had evidently expected him to ask for a pension. 'But I could not,' he said. 'I know I was a fool, but my heart would not let me.' One can trust God to know one's desires, and one's heart will not let one ask for them. It is His will that you want to know—your own will that you want to surrender. Strength, clearsightedness, simplicity—those are what flow from contact with God."
"But what do you make," I said, "of contemplative Orders of monks and nuns, who say that they specialise in prayer, and give up their whole time and energy to it?"
"Well," said Father Payne, "it's a harmless and beautiful life; but it seems to me like abandoning yourself to one kind of rapture. Prayer seems to me a part of life, not the whole of it. You have got to use the strength given you. It is given you to do business with. It seems to me as if a man argued that because eating gave him strength, it must be a good thing to eat; and that he would therefore eat all day long. It isn't the gaining of strength that is desirable, but the using of strength. You mustn't sponge upon God, so to speak. And I don't honestly believe in any life which takes you right away from life. Life is the duty of all of us; and prayer seems to me just one of the things that help one to live."
"But intercession," I said, "is there nothing in the idea that you can pray for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves?"
"I don't know," said Father Payne. "If you love people and wish them well, and hate the thought of the evils which befall the innocent, and the overflowings of ungodliness, you can't keep that out of your prayers, of course. But I doubt very much whether one can do things vicariously. It seems to land you in difficulties; if you say, for instance, 'I will inflict sufferings upon myself, that others may be spared suffering,' logically you might go on to say, 'I will enjoy myself that my enjoyment may help those who cannot enjoy.' One doesn't really know how much one's own experience does help other people. Living with others certainly does affect them, but I don't feel sure that isolating oneself from others does. I think, on the whole, that everyone must take his place in a circle. We are limited by time and space and matter, you know. You can know and love a dozen people; you can't know and love a hundred thousand to much purpose. I remember when I was a boy that there was a run on a Bank where we lived. Two of the partners went there, and did what they could. The third, a pious fellow, shut himself up in his bedroom and prayed. The Bank was saved, and he came down the next day and explained his absence by saying he had been giving them the most effectual help in his power. He thought, I believe, that he had saved the Bank; I don't think the other two men thought so, and I am inclined to side with them. Mind, I am not deriding the idea of a vocation for intercessory prayer. I don't know enough about the forces of the world to do that. It's a harmless life, a beautiful life, and a hard life too, and I won't say it is useless. But I am not convinced of its usefulness. It seems to me on a par with the artistic life, a devotion to a beautiful dream, I don't, on the whole, believe in art for art's sake, and I don't think I believe in prayer for prayer's sake. But I don't propound my ideas as final. I think it possible—I can't say more—that a life devoted to the absorption of beautiful impressions may affect the atmosphere of the world—we are bound up with each other behind the scenes in mysterious ways—and similarly I think that lives of contemplative prayer may affect the world. I should not attempt to discourage anyone from such a vocation. But it can't be taken for granted, and I think that a man must show cause, apart from mere inclination, why he should not live the common life of the world, and mingle with his fellows."
"Then prayer, you think," I said, "is to you just one of the natural processes of life?"
"That's about it!" said Father Payne. "It seems to me as definite a way of getting strength and clearness of view and hope and goodness, as eating and sleeping are ways of getting strength of another kind. To neglect it is to run the risk of living a hurried, muddled, self-absorbed life. I can't explain it, any more than I can explain eating or breathing. It just seems to me a condition of fine life, which we can practise to our help and comfort, and neglect to our hurt. I don't think I can say more about it than that, my boy!"
One evening, when I was sitting with Barthrop in the smoking-room and the others had gone away, he said to me suddenly, "There's something I want to speak to you about: I have been worrying about it for some little time, and it's a bad thing to do that. I daresay it is all nonsense, but I am bothered about the Father. I don't think he is well, and I don't think he thinks he is well. He is much thinner, you know, and he isn't in good spirits. I don't mean that he isn't cheerful in a way, but it's an effort to him. Now, have you noticed anything?"
I thought for a minute, and then I said, "No, I don't think I have! He's thinner, of course, but he joked to me about that—he said he had turned the corner, as people do, and he wasn't going to be a pursy old party when he got older. Now that you mention it, I think he has been rather silent and abstracted lately. But then he often is that, you know, when we are all together. And in his private talks with me—and I have had several lately—he has seemed to me more tender and affectionate than usual even; not so amusing, perhaps, not bubbling over with talk, and a little more serious. If I have thought anything at all, it simply is that he is getting older."
"It may simply be that, of course," said Barthrop, looking relieved. "I suppose he is about fifty-eight or so? But I'll tell you something else. I went in to speak to him two or three days ago. Well you know how he always seems to be doing something? He is never unoccupied indoors, though he has certainly seen less of everyone's work of late—but that morning I found him sitting in his chair, looking out of the window, doing nothing at all; and I didn't like his look. How can I put it? He looked like a man who was going off on a long journey—and he was tired and worn-looking—I have never seen him looking worn before—as if there was a strain of some kind. There were lines about his face I hadn't noticed before, and his eyes seemed larger and brighter. He said to me, half apologetically, 'Look here, this won't do! I'm getting lazy,' Then he went on, 'I was thinking, you know, about this place: it has been an experiment, and a good and happy experiment. But it hasn't founded itself, as I hoped,' I asked him what exactly he meant, and he laughed, and said: 'You know I don't believe in founding things! A place like this has got to grow up of itself, and have a life of its own. I don't think the place has got that. I put a seed or two into the ground, but I'm not sure that they have quickened to life.' Then he went on in a minute: 'You will know I don't say this conceitedly, but I think it has all depended too much on me, and I know I'm only a tiller of the ground. I don't believe I can give life to a society—I can keep it lively, but that's not the same thing. Something has come of my plan, to be sure, but it isn't going to spread like a tree—and I hoped it might! But it's no good being disappointed—that's childish—you can't do what you mean to do in this world, only what you are meant to do. I expect the weakness has been that I meddle too much—I don't leave things alone enough. I trust too much to myself, and not enough to God. It's been too much a case of "See me do it!"—as the children say.'"
"What did you say?" I said.
"Nothing at all," said Barthrop; "that's where I fail. I can't rise to an emergency. I murmured something about our all being very grateful to him—it was awfully flat! If I could but have told him how I cared for him, and how splendid he had always been! But those perfectly true, sincere, fine things are just what one can't say, unless one has it all written down on paper. I wish he would see a doctor, or go away for a bit; but I can't advise him to do that—he hates a fuss about anything, and most of all about health. He says you ought never to tell people how you are feeling, because they have to pretend to be interested!"
I smiled at this, and said, "I don't think there really is much the matter! People can't be always at the top of their game, and he takes a lot out of himself, of course. He's always giving out!"
"He is indeed," said Barthrop; "but I won't say more now. I feel better for having told you. Just you keep your eyes open—but, for Heaven's sake, don't watch him—you know how sharp he is."
I went off a little depressed by the talk, because it seemed so impossible to connect anything but buoyant health with Father Payne. I did not see him at breakfast, but he came in to lunch; and I saw at once that there was something amiss with him. He ate little, and he looked tired. However, as I rose to go—we did not, as I have said, talk at lunch—he just beckoned to me, and pointed with his finger in the direction of his room. It was a well-known gesture if he wanted to speak to one. I went there, and stood before the fire surveying the room, which looked unwontedly tidy, the table being almost free from books and papers. But there lay a long folded folio sheet on the table, a legal document, and it gave me a chill to see the word Will on the top of it. Father Payne came in a moment later with a smile. Then somehow divining, as he so often did, exactly what had happened, he said, as if answering an unspoken question, "Yes, that's my will! I have been, in fact, making it. It's a wholesome occupation for an elderly man. But I only wanted to know if you would come for a stroll? Yes? That's all right! You are sure I'm not interfering with any arrangement?"
It was a late autumn day in November: the air was cold and damp, the roads wet, the hedges hung with moisture and the leaves were almost gone from the trees. "Most people don't like this sort of day," said Father Payne, as we went out of the gate; "but I like it even better than spring. Everything seems going contentedly to sleep, like a tired child. All the plants are withdrawing into themselves, into the inner life. They have had a pleasant time, waving their banners about—but they have no use for them any more. They are all going to be alone for a bit. Do you remember that epithet of Keats, about the 'cool-rooted' flowers? That's a bit of genius. That's what makes the difference between people, I think—whether they are cool-rooted or not."
He walked more slowly than was his wont to-day, but he seemed in equable spirits, and made many exclamations of delight. He said suddenly, "Do you know one of the advantages of growing old? It is that if you have an unpleasant thing ahead of you, instead of shadowing the mind, as it does when you are young, it gives a sort of relish to the intervening time. I can even imagine a man in the condemned cell, till the end gets close, being able to look ahead to the day, when he wakes in the morning—the square meals, the pipe—I believe they allow them to smoke—the talk with the chaplain. It's always nice to feel it is your duty to talk about yourself, and to explain how it all came about, and why you couldn't do otherwise. Now I have got to go up to town on some tiresome business at the end of this week, and I'm going to enjoy the days in between."
He stopped and spoke with all his accustomed good humour to half a dozen people whom we met. Then he said to me: "Do you know, my boy, I want to tell you that you have been one of my successes! I did not honestly think you would buckle to as you have done, and I don't think you are quite as sympathetic as I once feared!" He gave me a smile as he said it, and went on: "You know what I mean—I thought you would reflect people too much, and be too responsive to your companions. And you have been a great comfort to me, I don't deny it. But I thankfully discern a good hard stone in the middle of all the juiciness, with a tight little kernel inside it—I'll quote Keats again, and say 'a sweet-hearted kernel,' Mind, I don't say you will do great things. You are facile, and you see things very quickly and accurately, and you have a style. But I don't think you have got the tragic quality or the passionate gift. You are too placid and contented—but you spin along, and I think you see something of the reality of things. You will be led forth beside the waters of comfort—you will lack nothing—your cup will be full. But the great work is done by people with large empty cups that take some filling—the people who are given the plenteousness of tears to drink. It's a bitter draught—you won't have to drink it. But I think you are on right and happy lines, and you must be content with good work. Anyhow, you will always write like a gentleman, and that's a good deal to say."
This pleased and touched me very deeply. I began to murmur something. "Oh no," said Father Payne, "you needn't! A boy at a prize-giving isn't required to enter into easy talk with the presiding buffer! I have just handed you your prize."
He talked after this lightly of many small things—about Barthrop in particular, and asked me many questions about him. "I am afraid I haven't allowed him enough initiative," said Father Payne; "that's a bad habit of mine. But if he had really had it, we should have squabbled—he's not quite fiery enough, the beloved Barthrop! He's awfully judicious, but he must have a lead. He's a submissioner, I'm afraid, as a witty prelate once said! You know the two sides of the choir, Decani and Cantoris as they are called. Decani always begin the psalms and say the versicles, Cantoris always respond. People are always one or the other, and Barthrop is a born Cantoris."
We did not go very far, and he soon proposed to return. But just as we were nearing home, he said, "I think the hardest thing in life to understand—the very hardest of all—is our pleasure in the sense of permanence! It's the supreme and constant illusion. I can't think where it comes from, or why it is there, or what it is supposed to do for us. Do you remember," he said with a smile, "how Shelley, the most hopelessly restless of mortals, whenever he settled anywhere, always wrote to his friends that he had established himself for ever? It's the instinct which is most contrary to reason. Everything contradicts it—we are not the same people for five minutes together, nothing that we see or hear or taste continues—and yet we feel eternally and immutably fixed; and instead of living each day as if it was our last—which is a thoroughly bad piece of advice—we live each day as if it was one of an endlessly revolving chain of days, and as if we were going to live to all eternity—as indeed I believe we are! Probably the reason for it is to give us a hint that we are immortal, after all, though we are tempted to think that all things come to an end. It is strange to think that nothing on which our eyes rest at this moment is the same as it was when we started our walk—the very stones of the wall are altered. It ought to make us ashamed of pretending that we are anything but ourselves; and yet we do change a little, thank God, and for the better. I've a fancy—though I can't say more than that of that we aren't meant to know anything: and I think that the times when we know, or think we know, are the times when we stand still. That seems hard!"—he broke off with an unusual emotion: but he was himself again in a moment, and said, "I don't know why—it's the weather, perhaps: but I feel inclined to do nothing but thank people all day, like the man in Happy Thoughts you know, who came down late for breakfast and could say nothing but 'Thanks, thanks, awfully thanks—thanks (to the butler), thanks (to the hostess)—thanks, thanks!' but it means something—a real emotion, though grotesquely phrased!—I've enjoyed this bit of a walk, my boy!"
This was, I think, the last talk I had with Father Payne before he left us, so suddenly and so quietly, for his last encounter.
It was a calm and sunny day, though the air was cold and fresh. I finished some work I was doing, a little after noonday, and I walked down the garden. I was on the grass, and turning the corner of a tiny thicket of yews and hollies, where there was a secluded seat facing the south, I saw that Father Payne was sitting there in the sun alone. I came up to him, and was just about to speak, when I saw that his eyes were closed, though his lips were moving. He sat in an attitude of fatigue and lassitude, I thought, with one leg crossed over the other and his arm stretched out along the seat-back. I would have stolen away again unobserved, when he opened his eyes and saw me; he gave me one of his big smiles, and motioned to me to come and sit down beside him. I did so, and he put his arm through mine. I said something about disturbing him, and he said, "Not a bit of it—I shall be glad of your company, old boy." Presently he said, "Do you know what it is to feel sad? I suppose not. I don't mean troubled about anything in particular—there's nothing to be troubled about—but simply sad, in a causeless, listless way?"
"Yes, I think so," I said. He smiled at that, and said, "Then you don't know what I mean, old man! You would be quite sure, if you had ever felt it. I mean a sense of feebleness and wretchedness, as if there was much to be done, and no desire to do it—as if your life had been a long mistake from beginning to end. Of course it is quite morbid and unreal, I know that! It is a temptation of the devil, sure enough, and it is an uncommonly effective one. He gets inside the weakness of our mortal nature, and tells us that we have come down to the truth at last. It's all nonsense, of course, but it's infernally ingenious nonsense. He brings all the failures of the world before your mind and heart, the thought of all the people who have fallen by the roadside and can't get up, and, worse still, all the people who have lost hope and pride, and don't want to be different. He points out how brief our time is, and how little we know what lies beyond. He shows us how the strong and unscrupulous and cruel people succeed and have a good time, and how many well-meaning, sensitive, muddled people come to hopeless grief. Oh, he has a score of instances, a quiver full of poisonous shafts." He was silent for a minute, and then he said, "Old boy, we won't heed him, you and I. We'll say, 'Yes, my dear Apollyon, all that is undoubtedly true. You do a lot of mischief, but your time is short. You wound us and disable us—you can even kill us; but it's a poor policy at best. You defeat yourself, because we slip away and you can't follow us. And when we are refreshed and renewed, we will come back, and go on with the battle.' That's what well say, like old Sir Andrew Barton:
"'I'll but lie down and bleed awhile, And then I'll rise and fight again.'
You must never mind being defeated, old man. You must never say that your sins have done for you! I don't care what a man has done, I don't care how cruel, wicked, sensual, evil he has been, if in the bottom of his heart he can say, 'I belong to God, after all!' That's the last and worst assault of the devil, when he comes and whispers to you that you have cut yourself off from God. You can't do that, whatever you feel. I have been thinking to-day of all the mistakes I have made, how I have drifted along, how I have enjoyed myself, when I might have been helping other people; what a lazy, greedy, ugly business it has all been, how little I have ever made myself do anything. But I don't care. I go straight to God and I say, 'Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son.' But I am His son, for all that, and I know it and He knows it; and Apollyon may straddle across the way as much as he likes, but he can't stop me. If he does stop me, he only sends me straight home."
I saw the tears stand in Father Payne's eyes, and I said hurriedly and eagerly, "Why, Father, you have done so much, for me, for all of us, for everyone you have ever had to do with. Don't speak so; it isn't true, it hasn't been a failure. You are the only person I have met who has showed me what goodness really is."
Father Payne pressed my arm, but he did not speak for a moment.
"You are very good to me, old man," he said in a moment. "I was not trying to get a testimonial out of you, you know; and of course you can't judge how far I have fallen short of all I might have done. But your affection and your kindness are very precious to me. You give me a message from God! It matters little how near the truth you are or how far away. God doesn't think of that. He isn't a hard reckoner; He's only glad when we return to Him, and put down our tired head upon His shoulder for a little. But even so, that isn't the end. As soon as we are strong again, we must begin again. There's plenty left to do. The battle isn't over because you or I are tired. He is tired Himself, I dare say. But it all goes on, and there is victory ahead. Don't forget that, dear boy. It's no good being heart-broken or worn out. Rise and fight again as soon as you can. I'm quite ready—I haven't had enough. I have had an easy post, I don't deny that. I have suffered very little, as suffering goes; and I'm grateful for that; but we mustn't fall in love with rest. If we sleep, it is only that we may rise refreshed, and go off again singing. We mustn't be afraid of weakness and suffering, and we mustn't be afraid of joy and strength either. That's treachery, you know."
Presently he said, "Now you must leave me here a little! You came in the nick of time, and you brought me a message. It always comes, if you ask for it! And I shall say a prayer for the Little Master himself, as Sintram called him, before I go. He has his points, you know. He is uncommonly shrewd and tenacious and brave. He's fighting for his life, and I pity him whenever he suspects—and it must be pretty often—that things are not going his way. I don't despair of the old fellow himself, if I may say so. I suspect him of a sense of humour. I can't help thinking he will capitulate and cut his losses some day, and then we shall get things right in a trice. He will be conquered, and perhaps convinced; but he won't be used vindictively, whatever happens. My knowledge of that, and of the fact that he has got defeat ahead of him, and knows it, is the best defence against him, even when it is his hour, and the power of darkness, as it has been to-day."
I got up and left him; he smiled at me and waved his hand.
THE BANK OF THE RIVER
The week passed without anything further occurring to arouse our anxieties, and Father Payne went up to town on the Monday: he went off in apparently good spirits: but we got a wire in the course of the day to say that he was detained in town by business and would write. On the following morning, Barthrop came into my room in silence, shortly after breakfast, and handed me a letter without a word. It was very short: it ran as follows:
"DEAR LEONARD,—I want you to come up to town to-morrow to see me, and if Duncan cares to come, I shall be delighted to see him too, though I know he has an artistic objection to seeing people who are ill, and I understand that I am ill. I saw a doctor yesterday, and he advised me to see a specialist, who advised me to have an operation. It seems better to get it over at once; so I went without delay into a nursing home, where I feel like a child in the nursery again. I want to talk over matters, and it will be better to say nothing which will cause a fuss. So just run up to-morrow, there's a good man, and you can get back in the evening. Ever yours,
It happened that there were only two of us at Aveley at the time, Kaye, and a younger man, Raven, who had just joined. We determined to say nothing about it till the following morning: the day passed heavily enough. I found I could do nothing with the dread of what it might all mean overhanging me. I admired Barthrop's common-sense: he spent the day, he told me, in doing accounts—he acted as a sort of bursar—and he kept up a quiet conversation at dinner in which I confess I played a very poor part. Kaye never noticed anything, and had no curiosity, and Raven had no suspicion of anything unusual. I slept ill that night, and found myself in a very much depressed mood on the following morning. I realised at every moment how entirely everything at Aveley was centred upon Father Payne, and how he was both in the foreground as well as in the background of all that we did or thought. Our journey passed almost in silence, and we drove straight to the nursing home in Mayfair. We were admitted to a little waiting-room in a bright, fresh-looking house, and were presently greeted by a genial and motherly old lady, dressed in a sort of nursing uniform, who told us that Mr. Payne was expecting us. We asked anxiously how he was. "Oh, he is very cheerful," she said; "his nurse, Sister Jane, thinks he is the most amusing man she ever saw. You must not worry about him. The operation is to be on Friday—he seems very well and strong in himself, and we will soon have him all right again—you will see! He is just the sort of man to make a good recovery." Then she added, "Mr. Payne said he thought you would like to see the doctor, so he is going to look in here in half an hour from now—he will see Mr. Payne first, and then you can have a good talk to him. You are going back this afternoon, I think?"
"That depends!" said Barthrop.
"Oh, Mr. Payne is expecting you to go back, I know—we will just run up and see him now."
We went up two flights of stairs: the matron knocked at a door in the passage, and we went in. Father Payne was sitting up in bed, in a sort of blue wrapper which gave him, I thought, a curiously monastic air—he was reading quietly. The room was large and airy, and looked out on the backs of tall houses: it was quiet enough: there was just a far-off murmur of the town in the air.
He greeted us with much animation, and smiled at me. "It's good of you to come, I'm sure," he said, "with your feeling about ill people. I don't object to that," he added in the familiar manner. "I think it's a sign of health, you know!" We sat down beside him. "Now," said Father Payne, "don't let's have any grave looks or hushed voices—you remember what Baines told us, when he joined the Church of Rome, that when he got back after his reception, his friends all spoke to him as if he had had a serious illness. The matter is simple enough—and I'm going to speak plainly. I have got some internal mischief, something that obstructs the passages, and it has got to be removed. There's a risk, of course—they never can tell exactly what they will find, but they don't think it has gone too far to be remedied. I don't pretend to like it—in fact it's decidedly inconvenient. I like my own little plans as well as anyone! and this time I don't seem able to look ahead—there's a sort of wall ahead of me. I feel as if I had come, like the boy in the Water Babies, to the place which was called Stop!" He paused a moment and smiled on us, his big good-natured smile.
"But if I put my head out of the other end of the tunnel, I shall go on as usual. If I don't, then I had better tell you what I have done. You know I have no near relations. The noble family of Payne is practically summed up in me. The Vicar's a sort of cousin, but a very diluted one. I have arranged by my will that if you two fellows think you can keep the place going on its present lines, you can have a try. But I don't think it will do, I think it will be artificial and possibly ridiculous. I don't think it has got life! And if you decide not to try, then it will all go to my old College, which is quite alive. I would rather they would not sell it—but bless me, what does it matter? It is a mistake to try and grip anything with a dead hand. But if I get through, and I believe I have a good chance of doing so, you must just keep things going till I get back—which won't be long. There's the case in a nutshell! You quite understand? I don't want you to do what you think I should wish, because I don't wish. And now we won't say another word about it, unless there are any questions you would like to ask. By the way, I have arranged the programme for the day. The doctor is coming to see me presently, and while he is here you can have some lunch—they will see to that—and then you can have a talk to him, while I have my lunch—I can tell you they do feed me up here!—and then we will have a talk, and you can catch the 4.30. You know how I like planning out a day."
"But we thought we would like to stay in town, and see it all through," said Barthrop. "We have brought up some things."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Father Payne in his old manner. "Back you go by the 4.30, things and all! I have got the best nurse in the world, Sister Jane. By George, it's a treat exploring that woman's mind. She's full of kindness and common sense and courage, without a grain of reason. There's nothing in the world that woman wouldn't do, and nothing she wouldn't believe—she's entirely mediaeval. Then I have some books: and I'm going to read and talk and play patience—I'm quite good at that already—and eat and drink and sleep. I'm not to be disturbed, I tell you! To-morrow is a complete holiday: and on Friday the great event comes off. I won't have any useless emotion, or any bedside thoughts!" He glanced at us smiling and said, "Oh, of course, my dear boys, I'm only joking. I know you would like to stay, and I would like to have you here well enough: but see here—if all goes well, what's the use of this drama?—people can't behave quite naturally, however much they would like to, and I don't want any melting looks: and if it goes the other way—well, I don't like good-byes. I agree with dear old Mrs. Barbauld:
"'Say not Good-night, but in some brighter clime Bid me Good-morning.'"
He was silent for a moment—and just at that moment the doctor arrived.
We went off to lunch with the old matron, who talked cheerfully about things in general: and it was strange to feel that what was to us so deep a tragedy was to her just a familiar experience, a thing that happened day by day.
Then the doctor came in, a tall, thin, pale, unembarrassed man, very frank and simple.
"Yes," he said, "there's a risk—I don't deny that! One never knows exactly what the mischief is or how far it extends. I told Mr. Payne exactly what I thought. He is the sort of man to whom one can do that. But he is strong, he has lived a healthy life, he has a great vitality—everything is in his favour. How long has he seemed to be ill, by the way?"
"Some three or four months, I think," said Barthrop. "But it is difficult when you see anyone every day to realise a change—and then he is always cheerful."
"He is," said the doctor. "I never saw a better patient. He told me his symptoms like a doctor describing someone else's case, I never heard anything so impersonal! We managed to catch Dr. Angus—that's the specialist, you know, who will operate. Mr. Payne wasn't in the least flurried. He showed no sign of being surprised: we sent him in here at once, and he seems to have made friends with everyone. That's all to the good, of course. He's not a nervous subject. No," he added reflectively, "he has an excellent chance of recovery. But I should deceive you if I pretended there was no risk. There is a risk, and we must hope for the best. By the way, gentlemen," he added, taking up his hat, "I hope you won't think of staying in town. Mr. Payne seems most anxious that you should go back, and I think his wish should be paramount. You can do nothing here, and I think your remaining would fret him. I won't attempt to dictate, but I feel that you would do well to go!"
"Oh, yes, we will go," said Barthrop. "You will let us know how all goes?"
"Of course!" said the doctor. "You shall hear at once!"
We went back, and spent an hour with Father Payne. I shall never forget that hour: he talked on quietly, seeing that we were unable to do our part. He spoke about the men and their work, and gave pleasant, half-humorous summaries of their characters. He gave us some little reminiscences of his life in London; he talked about the villagers at Aveley, and the servants. I realised afterwards that he had spoken a few words about every single person in the circle, small or great. The time sped past, and presently they told us that our cab was at the door, "Now don't make me think you are going to miss the train, old boys!" said Father Payne, raising himself up to shake hands. "I have enjoyed the sight of you. Give them all my love: be good and wise! God bless you both!" He shook hands with Barthrop and with me, and I felt the soft touch of his firm hand, as I had done at our first meeting. Barthrop did not speak, and went hurriedly from the room, without looking round. I could not help it, but I bent down and kissed his hand. "Well, well!" he said indulgently, and gave me a most tender and beautiful look out of his big eyes, and then he mentioned to me to go. I went in silence.
We felt, both of us, a premonition of the worst disaster. I knew in my heart that it was the end. It seemed to me characteristic of Father Payne to make his farewells simply, and without any dramatic emphasis. The way in which he had spoken of all his friends, in that last hour we spent with him, had been a series of adieux, and even as I recalled his words, they seemed to me to shape themselves into unspoken messages. His own calmness had been unmistakable, and was marvellous to me; but it was all the more impressive because he did not, as one has read in some of the well-known scenes recorded in history of the deaths of famous men, seem to be attempting to say anything memorable or magnanimous. "What can I say that will be worthy of myself?"—that question appears to me to be sometimes lurking in the minds of men who have played a great part in the world, and who are determined to play it to the end. It is, of course a noble sort of courage which enables a man, at the very threshold of death, to force himself to behave with dignity and grandeur: but it seemed to me now to be an even more supreme courage to be, as Father Payne was, simply himself. Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, Charles II, Archbishop Laud all died with a real greatness of undismayed bravery, but with just a sense of enacting a part rehearsed. The death scene of Socrates, which is, I suppose, a romantically constructed tale, does indeed give a picture of perfect naturalness: and I thought that Father Payne's demeanour, like that of Socrates, showed clearly enough that the idea of death was not an overshadowing dread dispelled by an effort of the will, but that it was not present as a fear in his mind at all, and rather regarded with a reverent curiosity: and I was reminded of a saying of Father Payne's which I have elsewhere recorded, that the virtues to which we give our most unhesitating admiration are the instinctive virtues rather than the reasoned virtues. If Father Payne had appeared to be keeping a firm hold on himself, and to be obliging himself to speak things timely and fitting, I should have admired him deeply: but I admired him all the more because of his unaffected tranquillity and unuttered affection. He had just enveloped us in his own calmness, and gone straight forward.
We made our journey almost in silence: Barthrop was too much moved to speak: and my own mind was dim with trouble, at all that we were to lose, and yet drawn away into an infinite loyalty and tenderness for one who had been more than a father to me.
The end is soon told. On the following day, we thought it best to tell our two companions and the Vicar what was happening, and we also told the old butler that Father Payne was ill. It was a day of infinite dreariness to me, with outbursts of sharp emotion at the sight of everything so closely connected with Father Payne, and with the thought that he would see them no more.
I was sitting in my room on the Friday morning, after a sleepless night, when Barthrop came in and handed me a telegram from the doctor. "Mr. Payne never recovered consciousness, and died an hour after the operation. All details arranged. Please await letter." I raised my eyes to Barthrop's face, but saw that he could not speak. I could say nothing either: my mind and heart seemed to crumble suddenly into a hopeless despair.
A letter reached us the same evening by train. It was to the effect that Father Payne had written down some exact directions the day before and given them to the matron. He did not wish, in case of his death, that anyone should see his body: he wished to be placed in the simplest of coffins, as soon as possible, and that the coffin should be sent down by train to Aveley, be taken from the station straight to the church, and if possible to be buried at once. But even so, that was only his wish, and he particularly desired to avoid alike all ceremony and inconvenience. But besides that there were two notes enclosed addressed in Father Payne's hand to Barthrop and myself, which ran as follows:
"My dear Leonard,—I thought it very good of you to come up to see me, and no less good of you to go away as I desired. It is possible, of course, that I may return to you, and all be as before. But to be frank, I do not think it will be so. Even if I survive, I shall, I think, be much weakened by this operation, and shall have the possibility of a recurrence of the disease hanging over me. Much as I love life, and the world where I have found it pleasant to live, I do not want to lead a broken sort of existence, with invalid precautions and limitations. I think that this would bring out all that is worst in me, and would lead to unhappiness both in myself and in all those about me. If it has to be so, I shall do my best, but I think it would be a discreditable performance. I do not, however, think that I shall have this trial laid upon me. I feel that I am summoned elsewhere, and I am glad to think that my passage will be a swift one. I am not afraid of what lies beyond, because I believe death to be simple and natural enough, and a perfectly definite thing. Of what lies beyond it, I can form no idea; all our theories are probably quite wide of the mark. But it will be the same for me as it has been for all others who have died, and as it will some day be for you; and when we know, we shall be surprised that we did not see what it would be. I confess that I love the things that I know, and dislike the unknown. The world is very dear and familiar, and it has been kind and beautiful to me, as well as full of interest. But I expect that things will be much simplified. And please bear this in mind, that such a scene which we went through yesterday is worse for those who stand by and can do nothing than for the man himself; and you will believe me when I say that I am neither afraid nor unhappy.
"With regard to my wishes about the place being kept on, on its present lines, remember that it is only a wish, and not to be regarded as a binding obligation or undertaken against your judgment. I trust you fully in this, as I have always trusted you; and I will just thank you, once and for all, for all that you have done and been. I shall always think of you with deep gratitude and lasting affection. God bless you now and always. Your old friend,
To me he had written:
"My dear boy,—Please read my letter to Barthrop, which is meant for you as well. I won't repeat myself—you know I dislike that. But I would like just to say that you have been more like a son to me than anyone I ever have known, and I thank God for bringing you into my life, and for all your kind and faithful affection. You must just go on as you have begun; and I can only say that if I still have any knowledge of what goes on in the world, my affection and interest will not fail; and if I have not, I shall believe that we shall still find each other again, and rejoice in mutual knowledge and confidence. You are very dear to me, and always will be.
"Settle everything with Leonard. I know that you will be able to interpret my wishes as I should wish them to be interpreted. Your affectionate old friend,
The last act was simple enough. The preparations were soon made. The coffin arrived at midday, and was buried in the afternoon, between the church and the Hall. It was sad and beautiful to see the heartfelt grief of the villagers: and it was wonderful to me that at that moment I recovered a kind of serenity on the surface of the grief below, so that in the still afternoon as we walked away from the grave it seemed to me strange rather than sorrowful. With those last letters in mind, it seemed to me almost traitorous to mourn. He at least had his heart's desire, and I did not doubt that he was abundantly satisfied.
Barthrop and I decided that we could not hope to continue the scheme. We had neither the force nor the experience. The whole society was, we felt, just the expression of Father Payne's personality, and without it, it had neither stability nor significance. Barthrop and the Vicar were left money legacies: the servants all received little pensions: there was a sum for distribution in the village, and a fund endowed to meet certain practical needs of the place. We handed over the estate to Father Payne's old College, the furniture and pictures to go with the house, which was to be let, if possible, to a tenant who would be inclined to settle there and make it his home: the income of the estate was to provide travelling scholarships. All had been carefully thought out with much practical sense and insight.
Our other two companions went away. Barthrop and I stayed on at the Hall together for some weeks to settle the final arrangements. We had some wonderfully touching letters from old pupils and friends of Father Payne's. One in particular, saying that the writer owed an infinite debt of gratitude to Father Payne, for having saved him from himself and given him a new life.
We talked much of Father Payne in those days; and I went alone to all the places where I had walked with him, recalling more gratefully than sadly how he had looked and moved and talked and smiled.
It came to the last night that we were to spend at the Hall together. Everything had been gone through and arranged, and we were glad, I think, to be departing.
"I don't know what to say and think about it all," said Barthrop; "I feel at present quite lost and stranded, as if my motive for living were gone, and as if I could hardly take up my work again. I know it is wrong, and I am ashamed of it. Father Payne always said that we must not depend helplessly upon persons or institutions, but must find our own real life and live it—you remember?"
"Yes," I said, "indeed I do remember! But I do not think he ever realised quite how strong he was, and how he affected those about him. He did not need us—I sometimes think he did not need anyone—and he credited everyone with living the same intent life that he lived. But I shall always be infinitely grateful to him for showing me just that—that one must live one's own life, through and in spite of everything grievous that happens. The temptation is to indulge grief, and to feel that collapse in such a case is a sign of loyalty. It isn't so—if one collapses, it only means that one has been living an artificial and parasitical life. Father Payne would have hated that—and I don't mean to do it. He has given me not only an example, but an inspiration—a real current of life has flowed into my life from his—or perhaps rather through his from some deeper origin."
"That is so," said Barthrop, "that is perfectly true! and don't you remember too how he always said life must be a real fight—a joining in the fight that was going forwards? It need not be wrangling or disputing, or finding fault with other people, or maintaining and confuting. He used to say that people fought in a hundred ways—with their humour, their companionableness, their kindness, their friendliness—it need not be violent, and indeed if it was violent, that was fighting on the wrong side—it had only to be calm and sincere and dutiful."
"Did he say that?" I said. "Yes, I am sure he did—no one else could say it or think of it. Of course, we have to fight, but not by dealing injury and harm, but by seeking and following peace and goodwill. Well, we must try—and it may be that we shall find him again, though he is hidden for a little while with God."
"Yes," said Barthrop, "we shall find him, or he will find us—it makes little difference: and he will always be the same, though I hope we may be different!"
It was a soft and delicious spring morning when I left Aveley—and I have never had the heart to visit it again. I had had a sleepless night, with the thought of Father Payne continually in my mind. I saw him in a score of attitudes, as he loitered in the garden with that look of inexpressible and tender interest that he had for all that grew out of the earth—worshipping, I used to think, at the shrine of life—or as he sat rapt in thought in church, or as he strode beside me along the uplands, or as he came and went in a hurried abstraction, or as he argued and discussed, with his great animated smile and his quick little gestures. I felt how his personality had filled our lives to the brim, as a spring whose waters fail not. It was not that he was a perfect character, with a tranquil and effortless superiority, or with a high intellectual tenacity, or with an unruffled serenity. He was sensitive, impatient, fitful, prejudiced. He had little constructive capacity, no creative or dramatic power, no loftiness of tragic emotion. I knew all that; I did not regard him with a false or uncritical reverence. But he was vital, generous, rich in zest and joy, heroic, as no other man I had ever known. He had no petty ambition, no thirst for recognition, no acidity of judgment. He never sought to impress himself: but his was a large, affectionate, liberal nature, more responsive to life, more lavish of self, more disinterested than any human being that had crossed my path. He had never desired to make disciples—he was not self-confident or self-regarding enough for that. But he had continued to draw us all with him into a vortex of life, where the stream ran swiftly, and where it seemed disgraceful to be either listless or unconcerned. I blessed the kindly fate that had guided me to him, and had won for me his deep regard. I did not wish to copy or imitate him—he had infected me with a deep distrust for dependence—I only wished to live my own life in the same eager spirit. As he had said to me once, the motto for every man was to be Amor Fati—not a reluctant acquiescence, or a feeble optimism, or a gentle resignation, but a passion for one's own destiny, a deep desire to make the most and the best out of life, and a strong purpose to share one's best with all who were journeying at one's side.
So the night passed, thick with recollections and regrets, deepening into a horror of loss and darkness, and then slowly brightening into the calm prelude of a day of farewell. The birds began to chirp and twitter in the ivy; the thrush uttered her long-drawn notes, sweetly repeated and sustained in the dusky bushes. That sound was much connected in my mind with Aveley. To be awakened thus in the summer dawn, to listen awhile to the delicious sound, to fall asleep again with the thought of the long pleasant day of work and friendship ahead of me, had been one of my greatest luxuries.
I rose early, and made my last preparations, and then, having got a little time before the last meal I was to take with Barthrop, I went round about the garden with a desire to draw into my spirit for the last time the pure and happy atmosphere of the place.
I saw the beds fringed with purple polyanthus, and the daffodils in the dewy grass. I gazed at the long lines of the low hills across the stream, with the woodland spaces all flushed with spring. I heard the cawing of the rooks in the soft air, and the bubbling song of the chaffinches filled the shrubberies.
I knew the mood of old—the mood in which, after a holiday sojourn in some place which one has learned to love, a happy space of time stained by no base anxiety, shadowed by no calamity, the call to rejoin the routine of life makes itself heard half reluctantly, half ardently. The heart at such moments tries to be grateful without regret, and hopeful without indifference. The purpose to go, the desire to stay, wrestle together; and now at the end of the happiest and most fruitful period I had ever known or was ever, I thought, likely to know, I felt like Jacob wrestling with the angel till the breaking of the day, and crying out, half in weakness, half in strength, "I will not let thee go until thou bless me."
It came, the sudden blessing which I desired. It fell like some full warm shower upon the thirsty earth. In that moment I had the blissful instinct which had before been but a reasoned conviction, that Father Payne was near me, with me, about me, enfolding me with a swift tenderness, and yet at the same time pointing me forward, bidding me clearly and almost, it seemed, petulantly, to disengage myself from all dependence upon himself or his example. He had other things to do, I felt with something like a smile, than to hover over me and haunt my path with tenderness. Such weakness of sentiment was worthy neither of himself nor of myself. I had all the world before me, and I was to take my part in it with spirit and even gaiety. To shrink into the shadow, to live in tearful retrospect—it was not to be thought of; and I had in that moment a glow of thankful energy which made light of grief and pain alike. I must take hold of life instantly and with both hands. I saw it in a sudden flash of light.
I went to the churchyard, I stood for an instant beside the grave, now turfed over and planted with daffodils. I put aside from my heart, once and for all, the old wistful instinct which ties the living to the dead. The poor body that lay there, dust in dust, had no more to do with Father Payne than the stained candle-socket with the flame that had leapt away upon the air. That was a moment of true and certain joy; so that when I went back to the house and joined Barthrop, I felt no longer the uneasy quivering of the spirit which had long overmastered me. He too was calm and brave; we sat together for the last time, we talked with an unaffected cheerfulness of the future. He too, I saw, had experienced the same loosening of the spirit from its trivial bonds, dear and beautiful as they were, so long as one did not hug them close.
"I never thought," he said to me at last, "to go light-heartedly away—and yet I can do even that! I have heard something, I can hardly say what, which tells me to go forward, not to hanker, not to look back—and which tells me best of all that it would be almost like treachery to wish the Father back again. It is better so! I say this," he went on, "not with resignation, not with a mild desire to make the best of a bad business, but with a serene certainty that it is not a bad business at all. I cannot tell where it is gone, the cloud that has oppressed me—but it is gone, and it will not come back."
"Yes," I said, "I recognise that—I feel it too; our work here is done, and we have work waiting for us. We shall meet, we shall compare experiences, we shall love our fate. Life is to be a new quest, not an old worship. That is to be our loyalty to Father Payne, that we are to believe in life, and not only to believe in memory."
It was soon over. Barthrop was to go later, and he came out to see me go. Just before I started, the old clock played its sweet tune; we stood in silence listening. "That is the best of omens," I said, "to depart with thanksgiving and the voice of melody." He smiled in my face, we clasped hands; I drove up the little road, while he stood at the door, smiling and waving his hand, till I turned into the main road, between the blossoming hedges, and saw Aveley no more.