October 1, 2020

Anne – Part 48

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“You are all I have in the world, Anne. How could you mistrust me?”

“No,” said Anne, frankly, “I did not—at least for the present. I knew you would help us, Miss Lois, although you did not speak.”

“Speak! Was there any need of speaking?” said the elder woman, bursting into a few dry, harsh sobs. “You are all I have in the world, Anne. How could you mistrust me?”

“I did not,” said Anne.

And then the two women kissed each other, and it was all understood without further words. And thus, through the intervention of the second Miss Macdougall (who found herself ill rewarded for her pains), Lois Hinsdale came out from the watch-chamber of her dead to real life again, took up her burden, and went on.

Anne now unfolded her plans, for she had been obliged to invent plans:  necessity forced her forward.  “We must all come to you for a time, dear Miss Lois; but I am young and strong, and I can work.  I wish to educate the boys, as father would have wished them educated. Do you ask what I can do? I think—that is, I hope—that I can teach.” Then, in a lower voice, she added, “I promised father that I would do all I could for the children, and I shall keep my promise.”

Miss Lois’s eyes filled with tears.  But the effect of the loving emotion was only to     redden the lids, and make the orbs beneath look smaller and more unbeautiful than before.

For to be born into life with small, inexpressive eyes is like being born dumb. One may have a heart full of feeling, but the world will not believe it. Pass on, then, Martha, with your pale little orbs; leave the feeling to Beatrice with her deep brown glance, to Agnes with her pure blue gaze, to Isabel with hers of passionate splendor.  The world does not believe you have any especial feelings, poor Martha. Then do not have them, if you can help it—and pass on.

“I have been thinking deeply,” continued Anne, “and I have consulted Dr. Gaston. He says that I have a good education, but probably an old-fashioned one; at least the fort ladies told him that it would be so considered.  It seems that what I need is a ‘polish of modern accomplishments.’  That is what he called it. Now, to obtain a teacher’s place, I must have this, and I can not obtain it here.” She paused; and then, like one who rides forward on a solitary charge, added, “I am going to write to Miss Vanhorn.”

“A dragon!” said Miss Lois, knitting fiercely. Then added, after a moment, “A positive demon of pride.” Then, after another silence, she said, sternly, “She broke your mother’s heart, Anne Douglas, and she will break yours.”

“I hope not,” said the girl, her voice trembling a little; for her sorrow was still very near the surface. “She is old now, and perhaps more gentle. At any rate, she is my only living relative, and to her I must appeal.”

“How do you know she is alive? The world would be well rid of such a wicked fiend,” pursued Miss Lois, quoting unconsciously from Anne’s forest Juliet.

“She was living last year, for father spoke of her.” “I did not know he ever spoke of her.”

“Only in answer to my questions; for I had found her address, written in mother’s handwriting, in an old note-book. She brought up my mother, you know, and was once very fond of her.”

“So fond of her that she killed her. If poor Alida had not had that strain upon her, she might have been alive at this day,” said Miss Lois.

Anne’s self-control left her now, and she began to sob like a child. “Do not make it harder for me than it is,” she said, amid her tears. “I must ask her; and if she should consent to help me, it will be grief enough to leave you all, without these cruel memories added. She is old: who knows but that she may be longing to repair the harm she did?”

“Can the leopard change his spots?” said Miss Lois, sternly. “But what do you mean by leaving us all? What do you intend to do?”

“I intend to ask her either to use her influence in obtaining a teacher’s place for me immediately, or if I am not, in her opinion, qualified, to give me the proper masters for one year. I would study very hard; she would not be burdened with me long.”

“And the proper masters are not here, of course?”

“No; at the East.”

Miss Lois stopped in the middle of a round, took off her spectacles, rolled up her knitting-work slowly and tightly as though it was never to be unrolled again, and pinned it together with decision; she was pinning in also a vast resolution. Then she looked at Anne in silence for several minutes; saw the tear-dimmed eyes and tired, anxious face, the appealing glance of William Douglas’s child.

 

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