September 21, 2020

Anne – Part 51

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“I could not help coming, sir, because Annet is going away”

Then Tita came in. “Annet is going away,” she said, softly; “she is going to school. The letter came to-day.”

“So Miss Vanhorn consents, does she?  Excellent!  Excellent!”  Said Père Michaux, rubbing his hands, his eyes expressing a hearty satisfaction.

“When will you say ‘Excellent! Excellent!’ about me?” said Tita, jealously. “Before long,

I hope,” said the priest, patting her small head.

“But are you sure, Mon père?”

“Well, yes,” said Père Michaux, “on the whole, I am.”

He smiled, and the child smiled also; but with a deep quiet triumph remarkable in one so young.

It was still September; for great sorrows come, graves are made and turfed over, and yet the month is not out.  Anne had written her letter immediately, accepting her grandaunt’s offer, and Père Michaux gave her approval and praise; but the others did not, could not, and she suffered from their silence. It made, however, no change in her purpose; she went about her tasks steadily, toiling all day over the children’s clothes, for she had used part of the money in her hands to make them comfortable, and part was to be given to Miss Lois.  Her own garments troubled her little; two strong, plain black gowns she considered amply sufficient. Into the midst of this entire swift sewing suddenly one day came Rast.

“Why did I do it?” he said, in answer to everybody. “Do you suppose I was going to let Annet go away for a whole long year without saying even good-by? Of course not.”

“It is very kind,” said Anne, her tired eyes resting on his handsome face gratefully, her sewing for the moment cast aside. Her friends had not been over kind to her lately, and she was deeply touched by this proof of attachment   from her old playmate and companion.  Rast expressed his affection, as usual, in his own way. He did not say that he had come back to the island because he wished to see her, but because he knew that she wished to see him. And Anne willingly agreed.  Dr. Gaston, as guardian of this runaway collegian, gave him a long lecture on his escapade and its consequences, his interrupted   studies, a long train of disasters   to follow being pictured with stern distinctness. Rast listened to the sermon, or rather sat through it, without impatience: he had a fine sunny temper, and few things troubled him. He seldom gave any attention to subtleties of meaning, or under-currents, but took the surface impression, and answered it promptly, often putting to rout by his directness trains of reasoning much deeper than his own. So now all he said was, “I could not help coming, sir, because Annet is going away; I wanted to see her.” And the old man was silenced in spite of himself.

As he was there, and it could not be helped, Rast, by common consent of the island, was allowed to spend several days unmolested among his old haunts. Then they all began to grow restive, to ask questions, and to speak of the different boats. For the public of small villages has always a singular impatience as to anything like uncertainty in the date of departure of its guests. Many a miniature community has been stirred into heat because it could not find out the day and hour when Mrs. Blank would terminate her visit at her friend’s mansion, and with her trunk and bag depart on her way to the railway station; and this not because the community has any objection to Mrs. Blank, or any wish to have her depart, but simply because if she is going, they wish to know when, and have it settled. The few days over, Rast himself was not unwilling to go. He had seen Anne, and Anne was pressed with work, and so constantly threatened by grief that she had to hold it down with an iron effort at almost every moment. If she kept her eyes free from tears and her voice steady, she did all she could; she had no idea that Rast expected more.  Rast meanwhile had learned clearly that he was a remarkably handsome, brilliant young fellow, and that the whole world was before him where to choose. He was fond of Anne; the best feelings of his nature and the associations of his whole boyhood’s life were twined round her; and yet he was conscious that he had always been very kind to her, and this coming back to the island on purpose to see her — that was remarkably kind. He was glad to do it, of course; but she must appreciate it. He began now to feel that as he had seen her, and as he could not in any case stay until she went, he might as well go. He yielded, therefore, to the first suggestion of the higher powers, saying, however, frankly, and with real feeling, that it was hard to bid farewell for so long a time to his old playmate, and that he did not know how he could endure the separation.

 

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