“Bairn, I may never see ye in this world again; give your old teacher a kiss.”
Eliza stared, then lent her face to be kissed. She was surprised at the gentleness of his sparing caress, so surprised that when she lifted her head she stood stock still and watched him till he was out of sight, for, driven by the scourge of his feeling, he went away from her with quick, upright gait, never looking back.
She watched him till he disappeared into Trenholme’s house. When she walked home she did not sob or wipe her eyes or cover her face, yet when she got to the hotel her eyes were swollen and red, and she went about her work heedless that anyone who looked at her must see the disfigurement of tears.
In the latter part of that day Bates suffered a fierce attack of his malady. Everyone in Trenholme’s house, including the master himself on crutches, became agile in their desire to alleviate the suffering, and he received their ministrations with that civility which denoted that, had conventionality allowed, he would not have received them; for to fling all that is given him at the heads of the givers is undoubtedly the conduct that nature suggests to a man in pain. Having need, however, of some help, Bates showed now, as before, an evident preference for Alec as an attendant, a preference due probably to the fact that Alec never did anything for him that was not absolutely necessary, and did that only in the most cursory way. When Alec entered his room that night to see, as he cheerfully remarked, whether he was alive or not, Bates turned his face from the wall.
“I think it right to tell ye,” he began, and his tone and manner were so stiff that the other knew something painful was coming, “I think it right to tell ye that Eliza Cameron is alive and well. I have seen her.”
In his annoyance to think a meeting had occurred Alec made an exclamation that served very well for the surprise that Bates expected.
“Her father,” continued Bates, “was decently buried, unknown to me, on his own land, as is the custom in those parts of the country. The girl was the person ye saw get up from the coffin—the one that ye were so frightened of.”
This last word of explanation was apparently added that he might be assured Alec followed him, and the listener, standing still in the half-darkened room, did not just then feel resentment for the unnecessary insult. He made some sound to show that he heard.
“Then”—stiffly—“she took the train, and she has been living here ever since, a very respectable young woman, and much thought of. I’m glad to have seen her.”
“I thought it right to tell ye, and I’m going home to-morrow or next day.”
That was evidently all that was to be told him, and Alec refrained from all such words as he would like to have emitted. But when he was going dumbly out of the room, Bates spoke again.