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Anne – Part 46

We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“Anne was crushed by her grief”

Anne would not believe that he was gone.

Ah, well, many of us know the sorrow.  A daughter’s love for a kind father is a peculiarly dependent, clinging affection; it is mixed with the careless happiness of childhood, which can never come again. Into the father’s grave the daughter, sometimes a gray-haired woman lays away forever the little pet names and memories, which to all the rest of the world are but foolishness.  Even though happy in her woman’s lot, she weeps convulsively here for a while with a sorrow that nothing can comfort; no other love so protecting and unselfish will ever be hers again.

Anne was crushed by her grief; it seemed to those who watched her that she revealed a new nature in her sorrow. Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux spoke of it to each other, but could find little to say to the girl herself; she had, as it were, drifted beyond their reach, far out on an unknown sea. They prayed for her, and went silently away, only to come back within the hour and meet again on the threshold, recognizing each other’s errand. They were troubled by the change in this young creature, upon which they had all, in a certain way, depended. Singularly enough, Miss Lois did not seem to appreciate Anne’s condition: she was suffering too deeply herself. The whole of her repressed nature was in revolt. But faithful to the unconscious secret of her life, she still thought the wild pain of her heart was “sorrow for a friend.”

She went about as usual, attending to household tasks for both homes. She was unchanged, yet totally changed.  There was a new tension about her mouth, and an unwonted silence, but her hands were as busy as ever. Days had passed after the funeral before she began to perceive, even slightly, the broken condition of Anne.  The girl herself was the first to come back to the present, in the necessity for asking one of those sad questions, which often raise their heads as soon as the coffin is borne away. “Miss Lois, there are bills to be paid, and I have no money. Do you know anything of our real income?”

The old habits of the elder woman stirred a little; but she answered, vaguely, “No.”

“We must look through dear papa’s papers,” said Anne, her voice breaking as she spoke the name. “He received few letters, none at all lately; whatever he had, then, must be here.”

Miss Lois assented, still silently, and the two began their task. Anne, with a quivering lip, unlocked her father’s desk. William Douglas had not been a relic-loving man. He had lived, he had loved; but memory was sufficient for him; he needed no tokens. So, amid a hundred mementos of nature, they found nothing personal, not even a likeness of Anne’s mother, or lock of her curling brown hair. And amid a mass of miscellaneous papers, writings on every philosophic and imaginative subject, they found but one relating to money—some figures jotted down, with a date affixed, the sum far from large, the date three years before. Below, a later line was added, as if (for the whole was vague) so much had gone, and this was the remainder; the date of this last line was eight months back.

“Perhaps this is it,” said Anne; “perhaps this is what he had.” “I’m sure I don’t know,” said Miss Lois, mechanically.

They went on with the search, and at last came to a package tied in brown paper, which contained money; opening it, they counted the contents.

“Three hundred and ten dollars and eighty-five cents,” said Anne.

Miss Lois took a pen and made a calculation, still with the manner of a machine. “That is about what would be left by this time, at the rate of the sums you have had, supposing the memorandum is what you think it is,” she said, rubbing her forehead with

A shadowy imitation of her old habit. “It is a large sum,” said Anne.

Nothing more was found.  It appeared, therefore, that the five children of William Douglas were left alone in the world with exactly three hundred and ten dollars and eighty-five cents.

Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux learned the result that day; the story spread through the village and up to the fort. “I never heard anything so extraordinary in my life,” said Mrs. Cromer. “That a man like Dr. Douglas should have gone on for the last four or five years deliberately living on his capital, seeing it go dollar by dollar, without making one effort to save it, or to earn an income—a father with children! I shall always believe, after this, that the villagers were right, and that his mind was affected.”

The chaplain stopped these comments gruffly, and the fort ladies forgave him on account of the tremor in his voice.  He left them, and went across to his little book- clogged cottage with the first indications of age showing in his gait.





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