September 19, 2020

Anne – Part 56

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“After the storm came halcyon days”

With his wig pushed back, and his cheery face scarlet from the heat, Dr. Gaston presented a fine contrast to Père Michaux, who, quietly and deliberately as usual, was seasoning a stew with scientific care, while Miss Lois, beating eggs, harried the Irish soldier’s wife until she ran to and fro, at her wits’ end.

Tita kept guard in the sitting -room, where Anne had been decisively ordered to remain and entertain Rast; the child sat in her corner, watching them, her eyes narrowed under their partly closed lids. Rast had now recovered his usual spirits, and talked gaily; Anne did not say much, but leaned back in her chair listening, thankfully quiet and happy. The evening was radiant with contentment; it was midnight when they separated.  The gale was then as wild as ever; but who cared now whether the old house shook?

Rast was safe.

At the end of the following day at last the wind ceased:  twenty-two wrecks were counted in the Straits alone, with many lives lost. The dead sailors were washed ashore on the island beaches and down the coast, and buried in the sands where they were found. The friends of those who had been washed overboard from the steamer came up and searched for their bodies up and down the shores for miles; some found their lost, others, after days of watching in vain, went away sorrowing, thinking, with a new idea of its significance, of that time “when the sea shall give up her dead.”

After the storm came halcyon days. The trees now showed those brilliant hues of the American autumn, which as yet no native poet has so strongly described, no native artist so vividly painted, that the older nations across the ocean have fit idea of their splendor. Here, in the North, the scarlet, orange, and crimson trees were mingled with pines, which made the green of the background; indeed, the islets all round were like gorgeous bouquets set in the deep blue of the water, and floating quietly there.

Rast was to return to college in a few days. He was in such gay spirits that Miss Lois was vexed, although she could hardly have told why. Père Michaux, however, aided and encouraged all the pranks of the young student. He was with him almost constantly, not returning to the hermitage at all during the time of his stay; Miss Lois was surprised to see how fond he was of the youth.

“No one can see Rast a moment alone now,” she said, complainingly; “Père Michaux is always with him.”

“Why do you want to see him alone?”  Said Tita, from her corner, looking up for a moment from her book.

“Don’t you know that it is rude to ask questions?”  Said Miss Lois, sharply.  But although she gave no reasons, it was plain that for some reason she was disappointed and angry.

The last day came, the last afternoon; the smoke of the coming steamer could be seen beyond the blue line of the point. No danger now of storm; the weather would be fair for many days. Père Michaux had proposed that Anne, Rast, and himself should go up to the heights behind the house and watch the sunset hues for the last time that year; they were to come back to the Agency in time to meet Dr. Gaston and Miss Lois, and take tea there all together, before the steamer’s departure. Tita announced that she wished to go to the heights also.

“Come along then, Puss,” said Rast, giving her his hand.

They set out through the garden, and up the narrow winding path; but the ascent was steep, and the priest climbed slowly, pausing now and then to take breath. Rast staid with him, while Anne strolled forward; Tita waited with Rast. They had been sitting on a crag for several minutes, when suddenly Rast exclaimed: “Hallo! There’s Spotty’s dog! He has been lost for three days, the scamp. I’ll go up and catch him, and be back in a moment.”  While still speaking he was already scaling the rocks above them, not following the path by which Anne had ascended, but swinging himself up, hand over hand, with the dexterity and strength of a mountaineer; in a minute or two he was out of sight. Spotty’s dog was a favorite in the garrison, Spotty, a dilapidated old Irish soldier, being his owner in name.  Spotty said that the dog had  “followed” him, when he was passing through Detroit; if he did, he had never repeated the act, but had persistently gone in the opposite direction ever since. But the men always went out and hunted for him all over the island, sooner or later finding him and bringing him back; for they liked to see him dance on his mournful hind legs, go through the drill, and pretend to be dead — eats which once formed parts of his répertoire as member of the travelling canine troupe which he had deserted at Detroit.

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