It was not the brain that felt like to burst now, but the heart. She clasped her hands above her head. It did not matter; there was no creature to see or hear that appeal—was it to man or God?—that wild, broken sob, so contrary to her usual self-controlled and self-contained nature. And then she learned her forehead against the gate, just where Robert Roy had accidentally laid his hand in opening it, and wept bitterly.
The “every day” on which Mr. Roy had reckoned for seeing his friend, or whatsoever else he considered Miss Williams to be, proved a failure. Her youngest pupil fell ill, and she was kept beside him, and away from the school-room, until the doctor could decide whether the illness was infectious or not. It turned out to be very trifling—a most trivial thing altogether, yet weighted with a pain most difficult to bear, a sense of fatality that almost overwhelmed one person at least. What the other felt she did not know. He came daily as usual; she watched him come and go, and sometimes he turned and they exchanged a greeting from the window. But beyond that, she had to take all passively. What could she, only a woman, do or say or plan? Nothing. Women’s business is to sit down and endure.
She had counted these days—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday—as if they had been years. And now they were all gone, had fled like minutes, fled emptily away. A few fragmentary facts she had had to feed on, communicated by the boys in their rough talk.
“Mr. Roy was rather cross today.”
“Not cross, Dick—only dull.”
“Mr. Roy asked why David did not come in to lessons, and said he hoped he would be better by Saturday.”
“Mr. Roy said good-by to us all, and gave us each something to remember him by when he was out in India. Did Miss Williams know he was going out to India? Oh, how jolly!”
“Yes, and he sails next week, and the name of his ship is the Queen of the South, and he goes by Liverpool instead of Southampton, because it costs less; and he leaves St. Andrews on Monday morning.”
“Are you sure he said Monday morning?” For that was Saturday night.
“Certain, because he has to get his outfit still. Oh, what fun it must be!”
And the boys went on, greatly excited, and repeating everything Mr. Roy had told them—for he had made them fond of him, even in those few months—expatiating with delight on his future career, as a merchant or something, they did not quite know what; but no doubt it would be far nicer and more amusing than stopping at home and grinding forever on horrid books. Didn’t Miss Williams think so?
Miss Williams only smiled. She knew how all his life he had loved “those horrid books,” preferring them to pleasure, recreation, almost to daily bread; how he had lived on the hope that one day he—born only a farmer’s son—might do something, write something. “I also am of Arcadia.” He might have done it or not—the genius may or may not have been there; but the ambition certainly was. Could he have thrown it all aside? And Why?