The day after her return to Willowby, Rupert called on her. Mrs. Worth, the landlady, responded to his knock, and said that Virginia had gone out for the day. She was, however, to give him this note if he called.
Rupert took the paper and turned away. He would find her at some neighbor’s. He carefully broke the envelope and read:
Dear Mr. Ames:
As I have accepted a position to teach in another state, I shall have to leave Willowby tomorrow. I shall be too busy to see you, and you have too much good sense to follow me. Forget the past. With kindest regards, I am, Virginia Wilton.
* * * * *
Nina was married on the first of the year. Widow Ames died about two weeks after.
And so life’s shifting scenes came fast to Rupert Ames; and they were mostly scenes of dreariness and trial; but he did not altogether give up. Many of his friends were his friends still, and he could have drowned his sorrow in the social whirl; but he preferred to sit at home during the long winter evenings, beside his fire and shaded lamp, and forget himself in his books. He seemed to be drifting away from his former life, into a strange world of his own. He lost all interest in his surroundings. To him, the world was getting empty and barren and cold.
The former beautiful valley was a prison. The hills in which his boyhood had been spent lost all their loveliness. How foolish, anyway, he began to think, to always live in a narrow valley, and never know anything of the broad world without. Surely the soul will grow small in such conditions.
Early that spring, Rupert packed his possessions in a bundle which he tied behind the saddle on his horse and bade good-bye to his friends.
“Where are you going, Rupe?” they asked.
But his answer was always, “I don’t know.”
“No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.”—Heb. 12:11.
Rupert Ames had ridden all day, resting only at noon to permit his horse to graze. As for himself, he was not tired. The long pent-up energy had begun to escape, and it seemed that he could have ridden, or walked, or in any way worked hard for a long time without need of rest. Move, move he must. He had been dormant long enough; thinking, thinking, nothing but that for months. It would have driven him mad had he not made a change. Where was he going? No one knew; Rupert himself did not know; anywhere for a change; anywhere to get away, for a time, from the scenes and remembrances of the valley and town of Willowby.