September 22, 2018

Anne – Part 82

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“People would discover Anne’s beauty for themselves”

The Frenchwoman was grieved to part with her pupil; she had conceived a real affection for her in the busy spot, which served her as a heart. She said good-by in the privacy of the kitchen, that Miss Vanhorn might not see the tears in her eyes; then she returned   to the blue room and went through a second farewell, with a dignity appropriate to the occasion.

“Good-by,” said Anne, coming back from the doorway to kiss her thin cheek a second time. Then she whispered:  “I may return to you after all, mademoiselle. Do not forget me.”

“The dear child!” said Jeanne-Armande, waving her handkerchief as the carriage drove away. And there was a lump in her yellow old throat, which did not disappear all day.

When the two travellers arrived at Carly’s, Helen was gone. Another telegraphic dispatch had again summoned her to her frequently dying grandfather.

“You are disappointed,” said Miss Vanhorn.

“Yes, grandaunt.”

“You will have all the more time to devote to me,” said the old woman, with her dry little laugh.

Carly’s was a summer resort of an especial kind. Persons who dislike crowds, persons who seek novelty, and, above all, persons who spend their lives in carefully avoiding every thing and place which can even remotely be called popular, combine to make such nooks, and give them a brief fame—a fame which by its very nature must die as suddenly as it is born. Carly’s was originally a stage inn, or “tavern,” in the dialect of the district. But the stage ran no longer, and as the railway was several miles distant, the house had become as isolated as the old road before its door, which went literally nowhere, the bridge which had once spanned the river having fallen into ruin. Some young men belonging to those New York families designated by Tante as “Neeker- bokers” discovered Carly’s by chance, and established themselves there as a place free from new people, with some shooting, and a few trout. The next summer they brought their friends, and from this beginning had swiftly grown the present state of things, namely, two hundred persons occupying the old building and hastily erected cottages, in rooms, which their city servants would have refused with scorn.

The crowd of summer travellers could not find Carly’s; Carly’s was not advertised.

It was not on the road to anywhere.  It was a mysterious spot. The vogue of such places changes as fantastically as it is created; the people who make it take flight suddenly, and never return. If it exists at all, it falls into the hands of another class; and there is a great deal of wondering  (deservedly) over what was ever found attractive in it. The nobler ocean beaches, grand mountains, and bounteous springs will always be, must always be, popular; it is Nature’s ironical method, perhaps, of forcing the would-be exclusives to content themselves with her second best, after all.

Carly’s, now at the height of its transient fame, was merely a quiet nook in the green country, with no more attractions than a hundred others; but the old piazza was paced by the little high-heeled shoes of fashionable women, the uneven floors swept by their trailing skirts. French maids and little bare-legged children sported in the old-fashioned garden, and young men made up their shooting parties in the bare office, and danced in the evening—yes, really danced, not leaving it superciliously to the boys—in the rackety bowling-alley, which, refloored, did duty as a ball-room. There was a certain woody, uncloying flavor about Carly’s (so it was asserted), which could not exist amid the gilding of Saratoga. All this Miss Vanhorn related to her niece on the day of their arrival. “I do not expect you to understand it,” she said; “but pray make no comment; ask no question. Accept everything, and then you will pass.”

Aunt and niece had spent a few days in New York, en  route.  The old lady was eccentric about her own attire; she knew that she could afford to be eccentric. But for her niece she purchased a sufficient although simple supply of summer costumes, so that the young girl made her appearance among the others without attracting especial attention. Helen was not there; no one identified Miss Douglas as the rara avis of her fantastic narrations.  And there was no surface sparkle about Anne, none of the usual girlish wish to attract attention, which makes the eyes, brighten, the color rise, and the breath quicken when entering a new circle.

That old woman of the world, Katharine Vanhorn, took no step to attract notice to her niece.  She knew that Anne’s beauty was of the kind that could afford to wait; people would discover it for themselves. Anne remained, therefore, quietly by her side through several days, while she, not unwilling at heart to have so fresh a listener, talked on and instructed her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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