September 18, 2020

Anne – Part 38

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“Now came the parting. Rast was to leave the island”

“A promise.”

“To be magnificently fulfilled in the future?”

“That depends upon fate, madam; or rather circumstances.”

“For my part, I would rather be fulfilled, although not perhaps magnificently, than remain even the most glorious promise,” said Mrs. Rankin, laughing.

“For my part, I would rather be fulfilled, although not perhaps magnificently, than remain even the most glorious promise,” said Mrs. Rankin, laughing.

The fort ladies liked the old chaplain, and endured his long monologues by adding to them running accompaniments of their own. To bright society women there is nothing so unendurable as long arguments or dissertations on one subject. Whether from want of mental training, or from impatience of delay, they are unwilling to follow any one line of thought for more than a minute or two; they love to skim at random, to light and fly away again, to hover, to poise, and then dart upward into space like so many humming- birds. Listen to a circle of them sitting chatting over their embroidery round the fire or on a piazza; no man with a thoroughly masculine mind can follow them in their mental dartings hither and thither. He has just brought his thoughts to bear upon a subject, and is collecting what he is going to say, when, behold! They are miles away, and he would be considered stupid to attempt to bring them back. His mental processes are slow and lumbering compared with theirs.  And when, once in a while, a woman appears who likes to search out a subject, she finds herself out of place and bewildered too, often a target for the quick tongues and light ridicule of her companions.  If she likes to generalize, she is lost. Her companions never wish to generalize; they want to know not the general view of a subject, but what Mrs. Blank or Mr. Star thinks of it. Parents, if you have a daughter of this kind, see that she spends in her youth a good portion of every day with the most volatile swift-tongued maidens you can find; otherwise you leave her without the current coin of the realm in which she must live and die, and no matter if she be fairly a gold mine herself, her wealth is unavailable.

Spring burst upon the island with sudden glory; the maples showed all at once a thousand perfect little leaflets, the rings of the juniper brightened, the wild larches beckoned with their long green fingers from the height. The ice was gone, the snow was gone, and no one knew whither; the Straits were dotted with white sails. Bluebells appeared, swinging on their hair-like stems where late the icicles hung, and every little Indian farm set to work with vigor, knowing that the time was short. The soldiers from the fort dug in the military garden under the cliff, turning up the mold in long ridges, and pausing to hang up their coats on the old stockade with a finely important air of heat: it was so long since they had been too warm! The little village was broad awake now; there was shipping at the piers again, and a demand for whitefish; all the fishing-boats were out, and their half-breed crews hard at work. The violins hung unused on the walls of the little cabins that faced the west, for the winter was ended, and the husbands and lovers were off on the water: the summer was their time for toil.

And now came the parting. Rast was to leave the island, and enter the Western college, which Dr. Gaston had selected for him. The chaplain would have sent the boy over to England at once to his own alma mater had it been possible; but it was not possible, and the good man knew little or nothing of the degree of excellence possessed by American colleges, East or West. Harvard and Yale and old Columbia would not have believed this; yet it was true.

Rast was in high spirits; the brilliant world seemed opening before him. Everything in his life was as he wished it to be; and he was not disturbed by any realization that this was a rare condition of affairs, which might never occur again. He was young, buoyant, and beautiful; everybody liked him, and he liked everybody.  He was going to set sail into his far bright future, and he would find, probably, an island of silver and diamonds, with peacocks walking slowly about spreading their gorgeous feathers, and pleasure- boats at hand with silken sails and golden oars.  It was not identically this that he dreamed, but things equally shining and unattainable—that is, to such a nature as his. The silver and diamond islands are there, but by a law of equalization only hard- featured prosaic men attain them and take possession, forming there afterward a lasting

Contrast to their own surroundings, which then goes into the other scale, and amuses forever the poverty-stricken poets who, in their poor old boats, with ragged canvas and some small ballast of guitars and lutes, sail by, eating their crusts and laughing
at them.

 

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