October 22, 2020

Anne – Part 57

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

“I shall never forgive myself, Rast, for having let you go”

 It was considered quite an achievement to bring back this accomplished animal, and Rast was not above the glory. But it was not to be so easy as he had imagined: several minutes passed and he did not return, Spotty’s dog having shown his thin nose and one eye but an instant at the top of the height, and then withdrawn them, leaving no trace behind.

“We will go up the path, and join Anne,” said Père Michaux; “we will not wait longer for Rast. He can find us there as well as here.”

They started; but after a few steps the priest’s foot slipped on a rolling stone; he lost his balance, and half fell, half sank to the ground, fortunately directly along the narrow path, and not beyond its edge. When he attempted to rise, he found that his ankle was strained: he was a large man, and he had fallen heavily. Tita bound up the place as well as she could with his handkerchief and her own formed into a bandage; but at best he could only hobble. He might manage to go down the path to the house, but evidently he could not clamber further. Again they waited for Rast, but he did not come. They called, but no one answered.  They were perched half way up the white cliff, where no one could hear them. Tita’s whole face had grown darkly red, as though the blood would burst through; she looked copper-colored, and her expression was full of repressed impatience. Père Michaux, himself more perturbed and angry than so slight a hurt would seem to justify, happening to look at her, was seized with an idea. “Run up, child,” he said, “and join Anne; do not leave her again. Tell her what has happened, and—mind what I say exactly, Tita—do not leave her.”

Tita was off up the path and out of sight in an instant. The old priest, left to him, hobbled slowly down the hill and across the garden to the Agency, not without some difficulty and pain.

Anne had gone up to the heights, and seated herself in good faith to wait for the others; Rast had gone after the dog in good faith, and not to seek Anne. Yet they met, and the others did not find them.

The dog ran away, and Rast after him, down the north path for a mile, and then straight into the fir wood, where nothing can be caught, man or dog. So Rast came back, not by the path, but through the forest, and found Anne sitting in a little nook among the arbor vitæ, where there was an opening, like a green window, overlooking the harbor. He sat down by her side, and fanned himself with his hat for a few moments, and then he went down to find Père Michaux and bring him up thither. But by that time the priest had reached the house, and he returned, saying that he saw by the foot-marks that the old man had for some reason gone down the hill again, leaving them to watch their last sunset alone. He threw himself down by Anne’s side, and together they looked through their green casement.

“The steamer has turned the point,” said Anne.

They both watched it in silence. They heard the evening gun from the fort.

“I shall never forgive myself, Rast, for having let you go before so carelessly. When the gale began that night, every blast seemed to go through my heart.”

“I thought you did not appear to care much,” said Rast, in an aggrieved tone.

“Did you notice it, then? It was only because I have to repress myself every moment, dear, lest I should give way entirely. You know I too must go far away—far away from all I love. I feel it very deeply.

She turned toward him as she spoke, with her eyes full of tears. Her hat was off, and her face, softened by emotion, looked for the first time to his eyes womanly. For generally that frank brow, direct gaze, and impersonal expression gave her the air of a child. Rast had never thought that Anne was beautiful; he had never thought of himself as her lover. He was very fond of her, of course; and she was very fond of him; and he meant to be good to her always. But that was all. Now, however, suddenly a new feeling came over him; he realized that her eyes were very lovely, and that her lips trembled with emotion. True, even then she did not turn from him, rather toward him; but he was too young himself to understand these indications, and, carried away by her sweetness, his own affection, and the impulse of the moment, he put his arm round her, and drew her toward him, sure that he loved her, and especially sure that she loved him. Poor Anne, who would soon have to part with him—dear Anne, his old playmate and friend!


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