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Anne Part 33 “Miss Lois having a vehement dislike for sing-song.”

We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

The priest requiring no such recitation, but listening, as usual, patiently, with his eyes half closed, as the old-time schoolteacher listened to Wirt’s description of Blennerhasset’s Island. Père Michaux had no mystical tendencies.  His life was too busy; in the winter it was too cold, and in the summer the sunshine was too brilliant, on his Northern Island, for mystical thoughts. At present, through Tita’s recitation, his mind was occupied with a poor fisherman’s family over on the mainland, to which on the morrow he was going to send assistance. The three boys came round on the outside, and peered through the windows to see whether the lesson was finished. Anne ordered them back by gesture, for they were bareheaded, and they’re little faces red with the cold. But they pressed their noses against the panes, glared at Tita, and shook their fists. “It’s all ready,” they said, in sepulchral tones, putting their mouths to the crack under the sash,  “and it’s a pudding.  Tell her to hurry up, Annet.”


But Tita’s murmuring voice went steadily on, and the Protestant sister would not interrupt the little Catholic’s recitation; she shook her head at the boys, and motioned to them to go back to the kitchen.  But they danced up and down to warm themselves, rubbed their little red ears with their hands, and then returned to the crack, and roared in chorus, “Tell her to hurry up; we shall not have time to eat it.”


“True,” said Père Michaux, overhearing this triple remonstrance. “That will do for to- day, Tita.”


“But I have not finished, my father.”

“Another time, child.”

“I shall recite it, then, at the next lesson, and learn besides as much more; and the interruption was not of my making, but a crime of those sacrilegious boys,” said Tita, gathering her books together.  The boys, seeing Père Michaux rise from his chair, ran back round the house to announce the tidings to Pierre; the priest came forward to the window.


“That is the mail-train, is it not?” said Anne, looking at a black spot coming up the Strait from the east. “It is due,” said Père Michaux; “but the weather has been so cold that I hardly expected it to-day.” He took down a spyglass, and looked at the moving speck. “Yes, it is the train. I can see the dogs, and Denis himself. I will go over to the village with you, I think. I expect letters.”


Père Michaux’s correspondence was large. From many a college and mission station came letters to this hermit of the North, on subjects as various as the writers: the flora of the region, its mineralogy, the Indians and their history, the lost grave of Father Marquette (in these later days said to have been found), the legends of the fur-trading times, the existing commerce of the lakes, the fisheries, and kindred subjects were mixed with discussions kept up with fellow Latin and Greek scholars exiled at far-off Southern stations, with games  of  chess  played  by  letter,  with  recipes  for  sauces,  and  with humorous  skirmishing  with  New  York  priests  on  topics  of  the  day,  in  which the Northern hermit often had the best of it.


A hurrah in the kitchen, an opening of doors, a clattering in the hall, and the boys appeared, followed by old Pierre, bearing aloft a pudding enveloped in steam, exhaling fragrance, and beautiful with raisins, currants, and citron—rarities regarded by Louis, Gabriel, and André with eager eyes.


“But it was for your dinner,” said Anne.


“It is still for my dinner. But it would have lasted three days, and now it will end its existence more honourably in one,” replied the priest, beginning to cut generous slices.


Tita was the last to come forward. She felt herself obliged to set down all the marks of her various recitations in a small note-book after each lesson; she kept a careful record, and punished or rewarded herself accordingly, the punishments being long readings from some religious book in her corner, murmured generally half aloud, to the exasperation of Miss Lois when she happened to be present, Miss Lois having a vehement dislike for “sing-song.” Indeed, the little, soft, persistent murmur sometimes-made even Anne think that the whole family bore their part in Tita’s religious penances. But what could be said to the child? Was she not engaged in saving her soul?


The marks being at last all set down, she took her share of pudding to the fire, and ate it daintily and dreamily, enjoying it far more than the boys, who swallowed too hastily; far more than Anne, who liked the simplest food. The priest was the only one present who appreciated Pierre’s skill as Tita appreciated it. “It is délicieux,” she said, softly, replacing the spoon in the saucer, and leaning back against the cushions with half-closed eyes.




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