Father Payne eBook

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

LXIX

THE SHADOW

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

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Father Payne from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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