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Anne – Part 36

We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“Annet. You are like a stone.” “Then throw me away.”

At that early season the passengers were seldom pleasure-travellers, and therefore they endured the delay philosophically. It is only the real pleasure-traveller who has not one hour to spare.

The steamers Anne now watched were the first from below.  The lower lakes were clear; it was only this northern Strait that still held the ice together, and kept the fleets at bay on the east and on the west.  White-winged vessels, pioneers of the summer squadron, waited without while the propellers turned their knife-bladed bows into the ice, and cut a pathway through. Then word went down that the Straits were open, all the freshwater fleet set sail, the lights were lit again in the light-houses, and the fishing stations and lonely little wood docks came to life.

“How delightful it is!” said Anne, aloud?

There are times when a person, although alone, does utter a sentence or two, that is, thinks aloud; but such times are rare. And such sentences, also, are short—exclamations. The long soliloquies of the stage, so convenient in the elucidation of plot, do not occur in real life, where we are left to guess at our neighbor’s motives, untaught by so much as a syllable. How fortunate for Dora’s chances of happiness could she but overhear that Alonzo thinks her a sweet, bigoted little fool, but wants that very influence to keep him straight, nothing less than the intense convictions of a limited intelligence and small experience in life being of any use in sweeping him over with a rush by means of his feelings alone, which is what he is hoping for. Having worn out all the pleasure there is to be had in this world, he has now a mind to try for the next.

What an escape for young Conrad to learn from Honoree’s own passionate soliloquy that she is marrying him from bitterest rage against Manuel, and that those tones and looks that have made him happy are second-hand wares, which she flings from her voice and eyes with desperate scorn! Still, we must believe that Nature knows what she is about; and she has not as yet taught us to think aloud.

But sometimes, when the air is peculiarly exhilarating, when a distant mountain grows purple and gold tipped as the sun goes down behind it, sometimes when we see the wide ocean suddenly, or come upon a bed of violets, we utter an exclamation as the bird sings: we hardly know we have spoken.

“Yes, it is delightful,” said some one below, replying to the girl’s sentence.

It was Rast, who had come across the plateau unseen, and was now standing on the old bastion of the fort beneath her. Anne smiled, and then turned as if to descend.

“Wait; I am coming up,” said Rast. “But it is time to go home.”

“Apparently it was not time until I came,” said the youth, swinging himself up without the aid of the ladder, and standing by her side.  “What are you looking at? Those steamers?”

“Yes, and the spring, and the air.”

“You can not see the air.”

“But I can feel it; it is delicious. I wonder, if we should go far away, Rast, and see tropical skies, slow rivers, great white lilies, and palms, whether they would seem more beautiful than this?”

“Of course they would; and we are going some day. We are not intending to stay here on this island all our lives, I hope.”

“But it is our home, and I love it. I love this water and these woods, I love the flash of the light-houses, and the rushing sound the vessels make sweeping by at night under full sail, close in shore.”

“The island is well enough in its way, but there are other places; and I, for one, mean to see the world,” said young Pronando, taking off his cap, throwing it up, and catching it like a ball.

“Yes, you will see the world,” answered Anne; “but I shall stay here. You must write and tell me all about it.”

“Of course,” said Rast, sending the cap up twice as high, and catching it with unerring hand. Then he stopped his play, and said, suddenly, “Will you care very much when I am gone away?”

“Yes,” said Anne; “I shall be very lonely.”

“But shall you care?” said the youth, insistently. “You have so little feeling, Annet; you are always cold.”

“I shall be colder still if we stay here any longer,” said the girl, turning to descend. Rast followed her, and they crossed the plateau together.

“How much shall you care?” he repeated. “You never say things out, Annet. You are like a stone.”

“Then throw me away,” answered the girl, lightly. But there was a moisture in her eyes and  a  slight  tremor  in  her  voice  which  Rast  understood,   or,  rather,  thought he understood. He took her hand and pressed it warmly; the two fur gloves made the action awkward, but he would not loosen his hold.





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