September 18, 2020

Anne – Part 39

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“I don’t think I should have made him at all if I couldn’t have made him better.”

“I shall not go one step, even now, unless you promise to write regularly, Annet,” said Rast, the evening before his departure, as they stood together on the old piazza of the Agency watching for the lights of the steamer, which was to carry him away.

“Of course I shall write, Rast; once a week always.”

“No; I wish no set times fixed. You are simply to promise that you will immediately answer every letter I write.”

“I will answer; but as to the time—I may not always be able—”

“You may if you choose; and I will not go unless you promise,” said Rast, with irritation. “Do you want to spoil everything, my education and all my future? I would not be so selfish, Annet, if I were you. What is it I ask? A trifle. I have no father, no mother, no sister; only you. I am going away for the first time in my life, and you grudge me a letter!”

“Not a letter, Rast, but a promise; lest I might not be able to fulfill it. I only meant that something might happen in the house, which would keep me from answering within the hour, and then my promise would be broken. I will always answer as soon as I can.”

“You will not fail me, then?”

The girl held out her hand and clasped his with a warm, honest pressure; he turned and looked at her in the starlight. “God bless you for your dear sincere eyes!” he said. “The devil himself would believe you.”

“I hope he would,” said Anne, smiling.

What with Miss Lois’s Calvinism, and the terrific picture of his Satanic Majesty at the death-bed of the wicked in the old Catholic church, the two, as children, had often talked about the devil and his characteristics, Rast being sure that some day he should see him. Miss Lois, overhearing this, agreed with the lad dryly, much to Anne’s dismay.

“What is the use of the devil?” she had once demanded.

“To punish the wicked,” answered Miss Lois.

“Does he enjoy it?”

“I suppose he does.”

“Then he must be very wicked himself?”

“He is.”

“Who created him?”

“You know as well as I do, Anne. God created him, of course.”

“Well,” said the child, after a silence, going as usual to the root of the matter, “I don’t think I should have made him at all if I couldn’t have made him better.”

The next morning the sun rose as usual, but Rast was gone. Anne felt a loneliness she had never felt before in all her life. For Rast had been her companion; hardly a day had passed without his step on the piazza, his voice in the hall, a walk with him or a sail; and always, whether at home or abroad, the constant accompaniment of his suggestions, his fault-findings, his teachings, his teasings, his grumblings, his laughter and merry nonsense, the whole made bearable—nay, even pleasant—by the affection that lay underneath. Anne Douglas’s nature was faithful to an extraordinary degree, faithful to its promises, its duties, its love; but it was an intuitive faithfulness, which never thought about itself at all. Those persons who are in the habit of explaining voluminously to themselves and everybody else the lines of argument, the struggles, and triumphant conclusions reached by their various virtues, would have considered this girl’s mind but a poor dull thing, for Anne never analyzed herself at all. She had never lived for herself or in herself, and it was that which gave the tinge of coldness that was noticed in her. For warm-heartedness generally begins at home, and those who are warm to others are warmer to themselves; it is but the overflow.

Meantime young Pronando, sailing southward, felt his spirits rise with every shining mile. Loneliness is crowded out of the mind of the one who goes by the myriad images of travel; it is the one who stays who suffers.  But there was much to be done at the Agency.  The boys grew out of their clothes, the old furniture fell to pieces, and the father seemed more lost to the present with every day and hour. He gave less and less attention to the wants of the household, and at last Anne and Miss Lois together managed everything without troubling him even by a question.  For strange patience have loving women ever had with dreamers like William Douglas—men who, viewed by the eyes of the world, are useless and incompetent; tears are shed over their graves oftentimes long after the successful are forgotten.  For personally there is a sweetness and gentleness in their natures, which make them very dear to the women who love them. The successful man, perhaps, would not care for such love, which is half devotion, half protection; the successful man wishes to domineer.

 

 

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