Esther had thought deeply over this letter. Its brief, stern truth was exactly the tonic she needed. Like a strong hand it reached down into her direful pit of morbid musings, and, clinging to it, she struggled back into the sunlight. Above all and in spite of everything, she must not fail the man she loved!
At first she had to fight with terrors. She feared she knew not what. The vision of Mary upon the bed, still and ghastly in the golden light of morning, came back to shake her heart. The memory of Callandar’s face, of the frantic struggle to drag the dead woman back to life, made many a night hideous. The endless questioning, Could it have been prevented? Could I have done more? tortured her, but by and by, as she faced them bravely, these terrors lost their baleful power. Her youth and common-sense triumphed.
The school helped. One cannot continue very morbid with a roomful of happy, noisy children to teach and keep in order. Jane’s need of her helped, for she, dared not give way to brooding when the child was near. Aunt Amy helped—perhaps most of all. She was a constant wonder to the girl, so cheerful was she, so thoughtful of others, so forgetful of herself. Her little fancies seemed to have ceased to fret her, there was a new peace in her faded eyes. Sometimes as she went about the house she would sing a little, in a high thready voice, bits from songs that were popular in her youth. “The Blue Alsatian Mountains” or “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” or “Darling Nellie Grey.” She told Esther that it was because she felt “safe.” “The blackness hardly ever comes now,” she said. “I don’t think ‘They’ will bother me any more.”
“Why?” asked Esther, curious.
But Aunt Amy did not seem to know why—or if she knew she never told.
A robin hopped upon the window sill of School-house Number Fifteen and peered cautiously into the room. He had no business there during lesson hours and the arrival of Mary’s little lamb could not have been more disturbing. The children whispered, fidgeted, shuffled their feet and banged their slates.
“Perhaps they do not know it is spring,” thought the robin and ruffling his red breast and swelling his throat he began to tell them.
“It is spring! It is spring! It is spring!”
The effect was electrical. Even the tall young teacher turned from her rows of figures on the blackboard.
“Come out! come out! come out!” sang the robin.
The teacher tapped sharply for order and the robin flew away. But the mischief was done. It was useless to tell them, “Only ten minutes more.” Ten minutes—as well say ten years. The little fat boy in the front seat began to cry. A long sigh passed over the room. Ten minutes? The teacher consulted her watch, hesitated, and was lost.
“Close books,” she ordered. “Attention. Ready—March.” The jostling lines scrambled in some kind of order to the door and then broke into joyous riot. It was spring—and school was out!