Felix’s own position was bitter in the extreme. He felt he had talent. He loved deeply, he knew that he was in turn as deeply beloved; but he was utterly powerless. On the confines of the estate, indeed, the men would run gladly to do his bidding. Beyond, and on his own account, he was helpless. Manual labour (to plough, to sow, to work on shipboard) could produce nothing in a time when almost all work was done by bondsmen or family retainers. The life of a hunter in the woods was free, but produced nothing.
The furs he sold simply maintained him; it was barter for existence, not profit. The shepherds on the hills roamed in comparative freedom, but they had no wealth except of sheep. He could not start as a merchant without money; he could not enclose an estate and build a house or castle fit for the nuptials of a noble’s daughter without money, or that personal influence which answers the same purpose; he could not even hope to succeed to the hereditary estate, so deeply was it encumbered; they might, indeed, at any time be turned forth.
Slowly the iron entered into his soul. This hopelessness, helplessness, embittered every moment. His love increasing with the passage of time rendered his position hateful in the extreme. The feeling within that he had talent which only required opportunity stung him like a scorpion. The days went by, and everything remained the same. Continual brooding and bitterness of spirit went near to drive him mad.
At last the resolution was taken, he would go forth into the world. That involved separation from Aurora, long separation, and without communication, since letters could be sent only by special messenger, and how should he pay a messenger? It was this terrible thought of separation which had so long kept him inactive. In the end the bitterness of hopelessness forced him to face it. He began the canoe, but kept his purpose secret, especially from her, lest tears should melt his resolution.
There were but two ways of travelling open to him: on foot, as the hunters did, or by the merchant vessels. The latter, of course, required payment, and their ways were notoriously coarse. If on foot he could not cross the Lake, nor visit the countries on either shore, nor the islands; therefore he cut down the poplar and commenced the canoe. Whither he should go, and what he should do, was entirely at the mercy of circumstances. He had no plan, no route.
He had a dim idea of offering his services to some distant king or prince, of unfolding to him the inventions he had made. He tried to conceal from himself that he would probably be repulsed and laughed at. Without money, without a retinue, how could he expect to be received or listened to? Still, he must go; he could not help himself, go he must.