Fortune Williams rose up and walked, in more senses than one; went round to fetch her little girls, as she had promised, from that newly opened delight of children, the Brighton Aquarium; staid a little with them, admiring the fishes; and when she reached home, and found David Dalziel in the drawing-room, met him and thanked him for bringing her the newspaper. “I suppose it was on account of that obituary notice of Mr. Roy’s child,” said she, calmly naming the name now. “What a sad thing! But still I am glad to know he is alive and well. So will you be. Shall you write to him?”
“Well, I don’t know,” answered the lad, carelessly crumpling up the newspaper and throwing it on the fire. Miss Williams made a faint movement to snatch it out, then disguised the gesture in some way, and silently watched it burn. “I don’t quite see the use of writing. He’s a family man now, and must have forgotten all about his old friends. Don’t you think so?”
“Perhaps; only he was not the sort of person easily to forget.”
She could defend him now; she could speak of him, and did speak more than once afterward, when David referred to the matter. And then the lad quitted Brighton for Oxford, and she was left in her old loneliness.
A loneliness which I will not speak of. She herself never referred to that time. After it, she roused herself to begin her life anew in a fresh home, to work hard, not only for daily bread but for that humble independence which she was determined to win before the dark hour when the most helpful become helpless, and the most independent are driven to fall a piteous burden into the charitable hands of friends or strangers—a thing to her so terrible that to save herself from the possibility of it, she who had never leaned upon any body, never had any body to lean on, became her one almost morbid desire.
She had no dread of a solitary old age but an old age beholden to either public or private charity was to her intolerable; and she had now few years left her to work in—a governess’s life wears women out very fast. She determined to begin to work again immediately, laying by as much as possible yearly against the days when she could work no more; consulted Miss Maclachlan, who was most kind; and then sought and was just about going to another situation, with the highest salary she had yet earned, when an utterly unexpected change altered every thing.
The fly was already at the door, and Miss Williams, with her small luggage, would in five minutes have departed, followed by the good wishes of all the household, from Miss Maclachlan’s school to her new situation, when the postman passed and left a letter for her.
“I will put it in my pocket and read it in the train,” she said, with a slight change of color. For she recognized the handwriting of that good man who had loved her, and whom she could not love.