* * * * *
Later on, that evening, when she knelt by Roy’s bed for good-night talk and prayer, his arms round her neck, his cool cheek against hers, the rebellion she could not altogether stifle surged up in her afresh. But she said not a word.
It was Roy who spoke, as if he had read her heart.
“Mummy, Aunt Jane’s been talking to Daddy again about school. Oh, I do hate her!” (This in fervent parenthesis.)
She only tightened her hold and felt a small quiver run through him.
“Will it be fearfully soon? Has Daddy told you?”
“Yes, my darling. But not too fearfully soon, because he knows I don’t wish that.”
“Not till next year, in the autumn. September.”
“Oh, you good—goodest Mummy!”
He clutched her in an ecstasy of relief. For him a year’s respite was a lifetime. For her it would pass like a watch in the night.
how, alike, to give and take gentleness in due season
... the noble temper of thy sires shineth forth in thee.”—PINDAR.
It was a clear mild Sunday afternoon of November;—pale sunlight, pale sky, long films of laminated cloud. From the base of orange-tawny cliffs, the sands swept out with the tide, shining like rippled silk, where the sea had uncovered them; and sunlight was spilled in pools and tiny furrows: the sea itself grey-green and very still, with streaks and blotches of purple shadow flung by no visible cloud. The beauty and the mystery of them fascinated Roy, who was irresistibly attracted by the thing he could not understand.
He was sitting alone, near the edge of a wooded cliff; troubles forgotten for the moment; imbibing it all....
His fifteen months of reprieve had flown faster than anyone could have believed. It was over—everything was over. No more lessons with Tara under their beech-tree. No more happy hours in the studio, exploring the mysteries of ‘maths’ and Homer, of form and colour, with his father, who seemed to know the ‘Why’ of everything. Worse than all—no more Mummy, to make the whole world beautiful with the colours of her saris and the loveliness and the dearness of her face, and her laugh and her voice.
It was all over. He was at school: not Coombe Friars, decreed by Aunt Jane; but St Rupert’s, because the Head was an artist friend of his father, and would take a personal interest in Roy.
But the Head, however kind, was a distant being; and the boys, who could not exactly be called kind, hemmed him in on every side. His shy sensitive spirit shrank fastidiously from the strange faces and bodies that herded round him, at meals, at bedtime, in the schoolroom, on the playground; some curious and friendly; others curious and hostile:—a very nightmare of boys, who would not let him be. And the more they hemmed him in, the more he felt utterly, miserably alone.