September 22, 2020

Anne – Part 41

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 We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“always one could hear the rustling and laughing of the forest”

And yet there was nothing resembling the lowland heats in this atmosphere, for all the time a breeze blew, ruffling the Straits, and bearing the vessels swiftly on to the east and the west on long tacks, making the leaves in the woods flutter on their branches, and keeping the wild-brier bushes, growing on angles and points of the cliff, stretched out like long whip-cords wreathed in pink and green. There was nothing, too, of the stillness of the lowlands, for always one could hear the rustling and laughing of the forest, and the wash of the water on the pebbly beach.  There were seldom any clouds in the summer sky, and those that were there were never have that soft, high-piled white downiness that belongs to summer clouds farther south. They came up in the west at evening in time for the sunset, or they lay along the east in the early morning, but they did not drift over the zenith in white laziness at noontide, or come together violently in sudden thunder-storms. They were sober clouds of quiet hue, and they seemed to know that they were not to have a prominent place in the summer procession of night, noon, and morning in that Northern sky, as though there was a law that the sun should have uninterrupted sway during the short season allotted to him. Anne walked in the woods as usual, but not far.  Rast was gone.  Rast always hurried everybody; left alone, she wandered slowly through the aisles of the arbor vat on the southern heights. The close ranks of these trees hardly made what is called a grove, for the flat green plats of foliage rose straight into the air, and did not arch or mingle with each other; a person walking there could always see the open sky above. But so dense was the thickness on each side that though the little paths with which the wood was intersected often ran close to each other, sometimes side by side, persons following them had no suspicion of each other’s presence unless their voices betrayed them. In the hot sun the trees exhaled a strong aromatic fragrance, and as the currents of air did not penetrate their low green-walled aisles, it rested there, although up above everything was dancing along—butterflies, petals of the brier, waifs and strays from the forest, borne lake ward on the strong breeze. The atmosphere in these paths was so hot, still, and aromatic that now and then Anne loved to go there and steep her in it. She used to tell Miss Lois that it made her feel as though she was an Egyptian princess who had been swathed in precious gums and spices for a thousand years.

Over on the other side of the island grew the great pines. These had two deeply worn Indian trails leading through them from north to south, not aimless, wandering little paths like those through the arbor vat, but one straight track from the village to the western shore, and another leading down to the spring on the beach. The cliffs on whose summit these pines grew were high and precipitous, overlooking deep water; a vessel could have sailed by so near the shore that a pebble thrown from above would have dropped upon her deck. With one arm round an old trunk, Anne often sat on the edge of these cliffs, looking down through the western pass.  She had never felt any desire to leave the island, save that sometimes she had vague dreams of the tropics—visions of palm-trees and white lilies, the Pyramids and minarets, as fantastic as her dreams of Shakespeare. But she loved the island and the island trees; she loved the wild larches, the tall spires of the spruces bossed with lighter green, the gray pines, and the rings of the juniper. She had a peculiar feeling about trees. When she was a little girl she used to whisper to them how much she loved them, and even now she felt that they noticed her. Several times since these recent beginnings of care she had turned back and gone over part of the path a second time, because she felt that she had not been as observant as usual of her old friends, and that they would be grieved by the inattention. But this she never told.

There was, however, less and less time for walking in the woods; there was much to do at home, and she was faithful in doing it: every spring of the little household machinery felt her hand upon it, keeping it in order. The clothes she made for Tita and the boys, the dinners she provided from scanty materials, the locks and latches she improvised, the paint she mixed and applied, the cheerfulness and spirit with which she labored on day after day, were evidences of a great courage and unselfishness; and if the garments were not always successful as regards shape, nor the dinners always good, she was not disheartened.

 

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