“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.
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.