The schoolmaster was leaving the village and everybody seemed sorry. I assumed, in the way city people do about country life, that it was probably normal in a close community such as this.
My first hint that all was not as it appeared was when I called in to the Post Office to collect some stamps. Conversation wandered – the price of postage, the weather, how I was finding the place – and ended up at the schoolmaster. A smile flickered across the postmistress’s face like a subliminal advert for cynicism. “Oh yes,” she said quietly. “So sad to see him go.”
From then on, every time I spoke to someone about the schoolmaster I saw something under their words, some deeper well below the summer’s puddle of sadness in their eyes. No one said a word against the man; no one needed to.
When the day of his departure arrived a small crowd gathered to see him leave. They wished him well in his new home, a retirement bungalow near the sea. I noticed none of them took his address and when they said goodbye they did not embrace. Eyes brimmed with tears, lines that shone like seams of iron ore in granite faces. They did not weep. They watched his car disappear into the far horizon, under the giant dome of the fenland sky. They seemed sorry to see him go, but I knew they were not.