But the most striking thing about Father Payne was this. Though we were all very conscious of his influence, and indeed of his authority; though we knew that he meant to have his own way, and was quite prepared to speak frankly and act decisively, we were never conscious of being watched or censured or interfered with. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it was a pure pleasure to meet him and to be with him, and many a time have I seen him, in a moment of leisure, strolling in the garden, and hurried out just on the chance of getting a word or a smile, or, if he was in an expansive mood, having my arm taken by him for a little turn. In the hundredth case, it happened that one might have said or done something which one knew that he would disapprove. But, as he never stored things up or kept you waiting, you could be sure he would speak soon or not at all. Often, too, he would just say: “I don’t think that your remark to Kaye gave a fair impression of yourself,” or, “Why waste your powder as you did to-night?” I was only once or twice directly rebuked by him, and that was for a prolonged neglect. “You don’t care,” he once said to me emphatically. “I can’t do anything for you if you don’t care!” But he was the most entirely placable of men. A word of regret or apology, and he would say: “Don’t give it another thought, my boy,” or, “That’s all right, then.”
The real secret of his influence was that he took not a critical or even a dispassionate view of each of us, but an enthusiastic view. He took no pleasure in our shortcomings; they were rather of the nature of an active personal disappointment. The result was simply that you were natural with him, but natural with the added sense that he liked you and thought well of you, and expected friendship and even brilliance from you. You felt that he knew you well, and recognised your faults and weaknesses, but that he knew your best side even better, and enjoyed the presence of it. I never knew anyone who was so appreciative, and though I said foolish things to him sometimes, I felt that he was glad that I should be my undisguised self. It was thus delicately flattering to be with him, and it gave confidence and self-respect. That was the basis of our whole life, the goodwill and affection of Father Payne, and the desire to please him.
Father Payne was a big solid man, as I have said, but he contrived to give the impression of being even bigger than he was. It was like the Irish estate, of which its owner said that it had more land to the acre than any place he knew. This was the result, I suppose, of what Barthrop once dryly called the “effortless expansion” of Father Payne’s personality. I suppose he was about six-foot-two in height, and he must have weighed fifteen stone or even more. He was not stout, but all his limbs were solid, so that he filled his clothes. His