Lily fought her emotions when examining Hamlet. She had read and taught Shakespeare’s dramas and poetry for decades but she could not put Beth from her mind. She worried about Beth’s schemes and about her remaining connections to Covenant. Lily was not from this town; Beth’s entire life was rooted here. Lily nevertheless persisted teaching.
She wrote on her dry erase board of Hamlet’s endless conflicts. Hamlet struggled with his mother over her remarrying so hastily after King Hamlet’s murder. And as son of the murdered king, Prince Hamlet should have been the next ruler at Elsinore, but he was denied that role. Additionally, Hamlet suffered amidst a kingdom of corruption. His life was stripped of almost anyone he could trust. And the ghost of his murdered father, prompting him to avenge his murder—well, Hamlet’s conflicts called for our compassion as reader-witnesses of his struggles.
Covenant’s faculty, not unlike Elsinore’s citizens, was seeking trustworthy personnel. Nathanael was headmaster, but Lily knew now that Beth had not been crushed; the terse note confirmed that.
Lily assigned topics for her students to write on in their journals. As her students settled into writing, Lily sat down into the cheap swivel chair behind her desk and looked outside. Clouds the color of bruises slid across the firmament. Winds stirred. Then Lily rose from her chair and walked over to the rectangle of window. As she neared the window she caught her reflection in the glass. Her muslin dress seemed to her as sackcloth. She beheld her aging frame. Did God ever hide his face, she wondered.
The day limped along. Finally the last classes dismissed. The afternoon meeting time neared. Lily walked the corridor to the library. Looking up, she saw Alice standing in front of the library doors.
“Hey, Lily. Are you ready to meet our newest employee?”
“I think so,” Lily said. “Are you familiar with her?”
“You bet,” Alice said. “She is a friend of Beth’s. They’ve been inseparable since girlhood.”
“Really?” Lily responded. “Interesting.”
“Why do you say ‘interesting’?” Alice asked.
“Sometimes it seems Covenant is skeptical of hiring outside of this town, with few exceptions,” Lily said.
“That’s ‘interesting’ you would say that, Lily. Beth would like that,” Alice said.
“Lily, would you like to sit together?”
“I usually sit in the same spot each time we have meetings, if you’re okay with that.”
“You bet,” Alice said, and followed Lily. Lily looked to confirm the settee near the shelves of Dickens’ works had not been moved.
Lily looked for Thomas McDavid’s face among the other entering faculty and staff personnel but did not see him. But Nathanael entered with his grandmother, Ellen Aims. Her face had the same warmth she exhibited at Beulah. Mrs. Aims saw Lily as soon as she and Nathanael entered. Lily rose and walked over to them.
“Lily, nice to see you, dear. Are you finding Covenant satisfactory? And is my grandson leading well?”
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Ellen. Covenant promises much—bright students and fine leadership.” Lily listened to her words, wondering if she’d be misunderstood.
“Well, Nathan is like his mother and father—a born learner. I am so proud of him,” Mrs. Aims said.
“How about we get settled, okay?” Nathanael said to his grandmother. “I should move things along this afternoon.”
“Of course, Nathan.”
Lily returned to the settee near Dickens’ works.
“You know Mrs. Aims?” Alice asked.
“Somewhat,” Lily said. “I have been visiting Beulah. She is a very kind woman.”
“Like our founder,” Alice said. “We have good people here, Lily. I’m so glad you’re here. You’ll like our new employee, too. She’s a lot like Beth. It’ll be good to have them working together, even though Beth’s role has changed. Aren’t you excited?”
(To be continued)