Some people – not you or I because we are so self-possessed – but some people find great difficulty in saying goodbye when making a call or spending the evening somewhere. As the moment draws near, when the visitor feels that he is to go away, he stands up and says: “Well, I think I…” Then the people say: “Oh, must you go now ? Surley it’s early yet” and a pitiful struggle follows.
I think the saddest case of this kind that I ever know was that of my friend Melpomenus Jones – such a dear young man of twenty-three. He simply couldn’t get away from people. He was too honest to tell a lie and too polite to wish to appear rude.
Now it happend that he went to pay a visit to the Whites on the very first afternoon of his summer vacation. The next six weeks were entirely his own – absolutely nothing to do.
He chatted a while about weather, the latest news, drank two cups of tea and then prepared himself for the effort and said:
“Well, I think I’ll…”
But the lady of the house said:
“Oh, no ! Mr Jones, can’t you really stay a little longer ?’
“Yes”, he said, “of course I… er… can stay.”
“Then please don’t go.”
He stayed. He drank some more tea. Night was falling. He stood up again:
“Well, now”, he said shyly, “I think I really…”
“You must go ?” said the lady politely.”I thought perhaps you could have stayed for dinner…”
“Oh, well, so I could, you know…”, Jones said, “if…”
“Then please stay. I’m sure my husband will be delighted.”
“All right”, he said feebly, and he sank back into his chair, just full of tea and miserable.
After dinner mamma decided to draw him out and showed him photographes. She showed him all the family museum – photos of papa, of papa’s uncle and his wife, and mamma’s brother and his little boy and my grandmother’s dog…
“How nice, how interesting,” he said and then “I must say good-night now,” he pleaded.
“Say good-night !” they said, “why, it’s only half past eight ! Have you anything to do ?”
“Nothing”, he admited.
And papa said with irony that Jones had better stay with us all his vacantion.
Jones mistook his meaning and thanked him with tears in his eyes, and papa put Jones to bed in the spare room and cursed him heartily.
Jones passed his time in drinking tea and looking at the photographs. Ilis health was visibly faling. At length the crush came. They carried him upstairs with fever. At times he would say:
“Another cup of tea and more, more photographs.”
“Don’t worry, dear,” said Mrs Whites. “You’ll recover and tomorrow we’ll celebrate Jane’s birthday.”
“Did you say Jane’s birthday ? Hurray ! My vacation is over ! Tomorrow first thing I’ll have to be in my office. So GOODBYE !
Stephen Leacock, Saying Goodbye – adapted