‘An Idyll in Winter’ by William Trevor


From The Guardian:

Mary Bella didn’t remember when she woke up and then she did: he hadn’t come. The train was late and Woods had telephoned from the station. It was nearly ten by then and she must have fallen asleep waiting on the sofa. She didn’t remember going up to bed.

It was very early now, she could tell by the light. The air coming in at the half-open window was cold and she pulled the bedclothes up. If he had come he would be in the room she had helped to get ready for him, the primroses she’d picked in the vase on the dressing-table. She wondered if he had.

When she slept again she dreamed he hadn’t, that it was wrong about the train being late, that Woods came back alone and said a stranger hadn’t got off that train. But when she went down to the breakfast-room and listened at the door there was a voice she didn’t know. “Now why can I guess who this is!” he said when she went in, and held his hand out for her to shake. They had all summer, he said in the schoolroom afterwards. They had a lot to do.

It was she who called the nursery the schoolroom when she first had lessons there. Woods found a slate that might do for a blackboard, but it wasn’t necessary since everything could be written in her different exercise-books. Mary Bella was twelve that summer, thirteen when September came.

He wore blue jerseys, and blue shirts which her mother called Aertex, and tweed ties and whipcord trousers. Her mother said he reminded her of Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind, her father that he was confident this chap would get her into Evelynscourt, which was the purpose of his being here. “Enough for one morning,” he said himself every day when it was twelve o’clock and they went about the farm then to see how things were getting on. Later in the afternoon they would ride to Worley Edge and sometimes on to Still Fell, or walk to Grattan’s Tomb.

“Very Heathcliffian,” he said when there were riders racing one another on the moors one day and she didn’t understand what he meant. He read to her on their walks, or she to him, depending on what book it was. It made her sad that the summer had to end. He said it never would, because remembering wouldn’t let it.

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