“My dear mother,” he wrote, “this will come to you when I have set off on a four years’ voyage round the world. Father has convinced me that it’s time for me to be doing something for myself; and I couldn’t get a school to keep—and, after all, education is got other ways than at college. It’s hard to go, because I love home, and hard because you will miss me— though no one else will. But father may rely upon it, I will not be a burden on him another day. Sink or swim, I shall never come back till I have enough to do for myself, and you too. So good bye, dear mother. I know you will always pray for me, and wherever I am I shall try to do just as I think you would want me to do. I know your prayers will follow me, and I shall always be your affectionate son.
“P.S.—The boys may have those chestnuts and walnuts in my room—and in my drawer there is a bit of ribbon with a locket on it I was going to give cousin Diana. Perhaps she won’t care for it, though; but if she does, she is welcome to it—it may put her in mind of old times."’
And this is all he said, with bitterness in his heart, as he leaned on the window and looked out at the great yellow moon that was shining so bright as to show the golden hues of the overhanging elm boughs and the scarlet of an adjoining maple.
A light ripple of laughter came up from below, and a chestnut thrown up struck him on the hand, and he saw Diana and Bill step from out the shadowy porch.
“There’s a chestnut for you, Mr. Owl,” she called, gaily, “if you will stay moping up there! Come, now, it’s a splendid evening; won’t you come?”
“No, thank you. I sha’n’t be missed,” was the reply.
“That’s true enough; the loss is your own. Good bye, Mr. Philosopher.”
“Good bye, Diana.”
Something in the tone struck strangely through her heart. It was the voice of what Diana never had felt yet—deep suffering—and she gave a little shiver.
“What an awfully solemn voice James has sometimes,” she said; and then added, with a laugh, “it would make his fortune as a Methodist minister.”
The sound of the light laugh and little snatches and echoes of gay talk came back like heartless elves to mock Jim’s sorrow.
“So much for her,” he said, and turned to go and look for his mother.
MOTHER AND SON.
He knew where he should find her. There was a little, low work-room adjoining the kitchen that was his mother’s sanctum. There stood her work-basket—there were always piles and piles of work, begun or finished; and there also her few books at hand, to be glanced into in rare snatches of leisure in her busy life.