Presently we heard the clatter of hoofs in the stable-yard. “That’s for you!” he said. “Will you go and see that they have brought your things down? I’ll meet you at the door.” I went up and found my things had been packed by the old butler. I gave him a little tip, and he said confidentially: “I daresay we shall be seeing you back here, sir, one of these days.” “I hope so,” I said, to which he replied with a mysterious wink and nod.
Father Payne shook hands. “Well, good-bye!” he said. “It’s good of you to have come down, and I’m glad to have made acquaintance, whatever happens—I’ll drop you a line.” I drove away, and he stood at the door looking after me, till the little cart drove out of the gate.
I must confess that I was much excited about my visit; the whole thing seemed to me to be almost too good to be true, and I hardly dared hope that I should be allowed to return. I went back to town and rejoined Vincent, and we talked much about the delights of Aveley.
The following morning we each received a letter in Father Payne’s firm hand. That to Vincent was very short. It ran as follows:
Dear Vincent,—I shall be glad to take you in if you wish to join us, for three months. At the end of that time, we shall both be entirely free to choose. I hope you will be happy here. You can come as soon as you like; and if Duncan, after reading my letter, decides to come too, you had better arrange to arrive together. It will save me the trouble of describing our way of life to each separately. Please let me have a line, and I will see that your room is ready for you.—Sincerely yours,
“That’s all right!” said Vincent, with an air of relief. “Now what does he say to you?” My letter was a longer one. It ran:
My dear young man,—I am going to be very frank with you, and to say that, though I liked you very much, I nearly decided that I could not ask you to join us. I will tell you why. I am not sure that you are not too easy-going and impulsive. We should all find you agreeable, and I am sure you would find the whole thing great fun at first; but I rather think you would get bored. It does not seem to me as if you had ever had the smallest discipline, and I doubt if you have ever disciplined yourself; and discipline is a tiresome thing, unless you like it. I think you are quick, receptive, and polite—all that is to the good. But are you serious? I found in you a very quick perception, and you held up a flattering mirror with great spontaneity to my mind and heart—that was probably why I liked you so much. But I don’t want people here to reflect me or anyone else. The whole point of my scheme is independence, with just enough discipline to keep things together,