When they rose from table, however, he followed her into the pantry.
“Diana, will you take a walk with me to-night?” he said, in a voice husky with repressed feeling.
“To-night! Why, I have just promised Bill to go with him over to the husking at the Jenks’s. Why don’t you go with us? We’re going to have lots of fun,” she added with an innocent air of not perceiving his gravity.
“I can’t,” he said. “Besides I wanted to walk with you alone. I had something special I wanted to say.”
“Bless me, how you frighten one! You look solemn as a hearse; but I promised to go with Bill to-night, and I suspect another time will do just as well. What you have to say will keep, I suppose,” she said mischievously.
He turned away quickly.
“I should really like to know what’s the matter with you to-night,” she added, but as she spoke he went up-stairs and shut the door.
“He’s cross to-night,” was Diana’s comment. “Well, he’ll have to get over his pet. I sha’n’t mind it!”
Up-stairs in his room James began the work of putting up the bundle with which he was to go forth to seek his fortune. There stood his books, silent and dear witnesses of the world of hope and culture and refined enjoyment he had been meaning to enter. He was to know them no more. Their mute faces seemed to look at him mournfully as parting friends. He rapidly made his selection, for that night he was to be off in time to reach the vessel before she sailed, and he felt even glad to avoid the Thanksgiving festivities for which he had so little relish. Diana’s frolicsome gaiety seemed heart-breaking to him, on the same principle that the poet sings:
“How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary, fu’ o’ care?”
To the heart struck through with its first experiences of real suffering all nature is full of cruelty, and the young and light-hearted are a large part of nature.
“She has no feeling,” he said to himself. “Well, there is one reason the more for my going. She won’t break her heart for me; nobody loves me but mother, and it’s for her sake I must go. She mustn’t work herself to death for me.”
And then he sat down in the window to write a note to be given to his mother after he had sailed, for he could not trust himself to tell her what he was about to do. He knew that she would try to persuade him to stay, and he felt faint-hearted when he thought of her. “She would sit up early and late, and work for me to the last gasp,” he thought, “but father was right. It is selfish of me to take it,” and so he sat trying to fashion his parting note into a tone of cheerfulness.