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Anne – Part 47

We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“Clear out of my house this moment, you lying, evil-speaking woman!”

“It is a blow to him; he is very fond of Anne, and hoped everything for her,” said Mrs. Bryden. “I presume he would adopt her if he could; but there are the other children.”

“They might go to their mother’s relatives, I should think,” said Mrs. Rankin. “They could, but Anne will not allow it. You will see.”

“I suppose our good chaplain has nothing to bequeath, even if he should adopt Anne?”

“No, he has no property, and has saved nothing from his little salary; it has all gone into books,” answered the colonel’s wife.

Another week passed. By that time Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux together had brought the reality clearly before Anne’s eyes; for the girl had heretofore held such small sums of money in her hands at any one time that the amount found in the desk had seemed to her large. Père Michaux began the small list of resources by proposing that the four children should go at once to their uncle, their mother’s brother, who was willing to receive them and give them a home, such as it was, among his own brood of black-eyed little ones. Anne decidedly refused.  Dr. Gaston then asked her to come to him, and be his dear daughter as long as he lived.

“I must not come with them, and I can not come without them,” was Anne’s reply. There remained Miss Lois.  But she seemed entirely unconscious of any pressing necessity for haste in regard to the affairs of the little household, coming and going as usual, but without words; while people round her, with that virtuous readiness as to the duties of their neighbors which is so helpful in a wicked world, said loudly and frequently that she was the nearest friend, and ought to do—Here followed a variety of suggestions, which amounted in the aggregate to everything. At last, as often happens, it was an outside voice that brought the truth before her.

“And what are you thinking of doing, dear Miss Lois, for the five poor orphans?”

Asked the second Miss Macdougall while paying a visit of general condolence at the church-house.

“Why, what should I do?” said Miss Lois, with a faint remembrance of her old vigilant pride. “They want nothing.”

“They want nothing! And not one hundred dollars apiece for them in the wide world!” exclaimed Miss Jean.

“Surely you’re joking, my dear. Here’s Dr. Gaston wishing to take Anne, as is most kind and natural; but she will not leave those children. Although why they should not go back to the stratum from which they came is a mystery to me.  She can never make anything of them: mark my words.”

Miss Jean paused; but whether Miss Lois marked her words or not, she made no response, but sat gazing straight at the wall. Miss Jean, however, knew her duty, and did it like a heroine of old. “We thought, perhaps, dear Miss Lois, that you would like to take them for a time,” she said, “seeing that Anne has proved herself so obstinate as to the other arrangements proposed. The village has thought so generally, and I am not the one to hide it from you, having been taught by my lamented parent to honor and abide by veracity the most precise.  We could all help you a little in clothing them for the present, and we will contribute to their support a fish now and then, a bag of meal, a barrel of potatoes, which we would do gladly—right gladly, I do assure you. For no one likes to think of Dr. Douglas’s children being on the town.”

The homely phrase roused Miss Lois at last. “What in the world are you talking about, Jean Macdougall?” she exclaimed, in wrath. “On the town! Are you clean daft? On the town, indeed! Clear out of my house this moment, you lying, evil-speaking woman!”

The second Miss Macdougall rose in majesty, and drew her black silk visite round her. “Of whom ye are speaking, Miss Hinsdale, I knaw not,” she said, growing Scotch in her anger; “but I believe ye hae lost your wits. I tak’ my departure freely, and not as sent by one who has strangely forgotten the demeanor of a leddy.”

With hands folded, she swept toward the door, all the flowers on her dignified bonnet swaying perceptibly. Pausing on the threshold, she added, “As a gude Christian, and a keeper of my word, I still say, Miss Hinsdale, in spite of insults, that in the matter of a fish or two, or a barrel of potatoes now and then, ye can count upon the Macdougalls.”

Left alone, Miss Lois put on her shawl and bonnet with feverish haste, and went over to the Agency. Anne was in the sitting -room, and the children were with her.

“Anne, of course you and the children are coming to live with me whenever you think it best to leave this house,” said Miss Lois, appearing on the threshold like an excited ghost in spectacles. “You never thought or planned anything else, I hope?”







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