November 28, 2020

Anne Part 87 – CONCLUSION

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We continue our serialisation of Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson

When Anne’s cheeks finally were dry a little cobweb tie had been formed between herself and Heathcote.

He had learned it from another, and that other, of course, a woman. For once in a while it happens that a woman, when roused to fury, will pour out the whole story of her wrongs to some man who happens to be near. No man does this. He has not the same   need   of   expression; and, besides, he   will never   show   himself   at such a disadvantage voluntarily, even for the sake of comfort. He would rather remain uncomforted.  But women of strong feelings often, when excited, cast wisdom to the winds, and even seem to find a desperate satisfaction in the most hazardous imprudences, which can injure only them.  In a mood of this kind, some one had poured out to Gregory Dexter bitter testimony against Heathcote, one-sided, perhaps, but photographically accurate in all the details, which is so much to women. Dexter had listened with inward anger and contempt; but he had listened.  And he had recognized, besides, the accent of truth in every word. The narrator was now in Austria with a new and foreign husband, apparently as happy as the day is long. But the listener had never forgotten or forgiven her account of Heathcote’s method and manner. He said to himself that he despised it, and he did despise it. Still, in some occult way, one may be jealous of results attained even by ways and means for which one feels a righteous contempt; and the more so when one has a firm confidence in his own abilities, which have not yet, however, been openly recognized in that field. In all other fields Gregory Dexter was a marked type of American success.

As the   days   moved   slowly   on, he   kept   watch   of   Heathcote.   It was more a determination to foil him than interest in Anne which made him add himself as a third whenever he could unobtrusively; which was not often, since Miss Vanhorn liked to talk to him herself, and Anne knew no more how to aid him than a nun. After a while Heathcote became conscious of this watchfulness, and it amused him. His idea of Dexter was  “a clever sort of fellow, who has made money, and is ambitious.  Goes in for politics, and that sort of thing. Talks well, but too much. Tiresome.” He began to devote himself to Anne now in a different way; hitherto he had been only entertaining himself (and rather languidly) by a study of her fresh naïve truthfulness. He had drawn out her history; he, too, knew of the island, the fort, and the dog trains. Poor Anne was always eloquent on these subjects. Her color rose, her words came quickly.

“You are fond of the island,” he said, one evening, as they sat on the piazza in the moonlight, Dexter within three feet of them, but unable to hear there murmured words. For Heathcote had a way of interposing his shoulder between listeners and the person to whom he was talking, which made the breadth of woolen cloth as much a barrier as a stone wall; he   did   this   more   frequently   now   that   he   had   discovered Dexter’s watchfulness.

“Yes,” said Anne, in as low a voice as his own. Then suddenly, plainly visible to him in the moonlight, tears welled up and dropped upon her cheeks.

She had been homesick all day.  Sometimes Miss Vanhorn was hard and cold as a bronze statue in winter; sometimes she was as quick and fiery as if charged with electricity. Sometimes she veered between the two. To-day had been one of the veering days, and Anne had worked over the dried plants five hours in a close room, now a mark for sarcastic darts of ridicule, now enduring an icy silence, until her lot seemed too heavy to bear. She had learned to understand the old woman’s moods, but understanding pain does not make it lighter. Released at last, a great wave of homesickness had swept over her, which did not, however, break bounds until Heathcote’s words touched the spring; then the gates opened and the tears came.

They had no sooner dropped upon her cheeks, one, two, three, than she was overwhelmed with hot shame at having allowed them to fall, and with fear lest any one should notice them. Mr. Heathcote had seen them, that was hopelessly certain; but if only she could keep them from her grandaunt!  Yet she did not dare to lift her handkerchief lest its white should attract attention.

But Heathcote knew what to do.

As soon as he saw the tears (to him, of course, totally unexpected; but girls are so), he raised his straw hat, which lay on his knee, and, holding it by the crown, began elaborately to explain some peculiarity in the lining  (he called it South American) invented   for the occasion, at the same time, by the motion, screening   her face completely from observation on the other side. But Anne could not check herself; the very shelter brought thicker drops.

When Anne’s cheeks finally were dry a little cobweb tie had been formed between herself and Heathcote.  It was too slight to be noticed, but it was there.



Anne will return later under the title “Anne: The Remaining Years”






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