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.