His jealousy, as a child, had been a source of trouble. Any gift, any little treat, for his younger brothers, in which he had not fully shared, had been the occasion for a violent outburst of temper, never exhibited by him at any other time, and this feeling had again shown itself as soon as he had singled out Martha as the object of his attentions.
They had remarked a strangeness in his manner when he had returned home that night, and, remembering the past, each entertained a secret dread that there had been some more violent quarrel than usual between him and Martha, and that in his mad passion he had killed her.
It was, then, with a feeling almost of relief that a month after her disappearance he briefly announced his intention of leaving the farm and enlisting in the army. His mother looked in dumb misery at her husband, who only said gravely:
“Well, lad, you are old enough to make your own choice. Things have changed for you of late, and maybe it is as well that you should make a change, too. You have been a good son, and I shall miss you sorely; but John is taking after you, and presently he will make up for your loss.”
“I am sorry to go, father, but I feel that I cannot stay here.”
“If you feel that it is best that you should go, George, I shall say no word to hinder you,” and then his wife was sure that the fear she felt was shared by her husband.
The next morning George came down in his Sunday clothes, carrying a bundle. Few words were spoken at breakfast; when it was over he got up and said:
“Well, goodbye, father and mother, and you boys. I never thought to leave you like this, but things have gone against me, and I feel I shall be best away.
“John, I look to you to fill my place.
“Good-bye all,” and with a silent shake of the hand he took up his bundle and stick and went out, leaving his brothers, who had not been told of his intentions, speechless with astonishment.
Frank Mallet, after he had visited all his tenants, drove to Sir John Greendale’s.
“We have got the route,” he said, as he entered; “and I leave this evening. I had a note from the Adjutant this morning saying that will be soon enough, so you see I have time to come over and say goodbye comfortably.”
“I do not think goodbyes are ever comfortable,” Lady Greendale said. “One may get through some more comfortably than others, but that is all that can be said for the best of them.”
“I call them hateful,” Bertha put in. “Downright hateful, Captain Mallett—especially when anyone is going away to fight.”
“They are not pleasant, I admit,” Frank Mallett agreed; “and I ought to have said as comfortably as may be. I think perhaps those who go feel it less than those who stay. They are excited about their going; they have lots to think about and to do; and the idea that they may not come back again scarcely occurs to them at the time, although they would admit its possibility or even its probability if questioned.