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was ; women of forty-one can answer whether that makes any difference. On a brilliant, sparkling, clear June morning William Douglas went down to the little Roman Catholic church and married the French girl. As he had resigned his position in the army some time before, and as there was a new set of officers at the fort, his marriage made little impression there save on the mind of the chaplain, who had loved him well when he was surgeon of the post, and had played many a game of chess with him. The whole French population of the island, however, came to the marriage. That was expected. But what was not expected was the presence there of Miss Lois Hinsdale, sitting severely rigid in the first pew, accompanied by the doctor's child— a healthy, blue-eyed little girl, who kissed her new mamma obediently, and thought her very sweet and pretty—a belief which remained with her always, the careless, indolent, easy-tempered, beautiful young second wife having died when her stepdaughter was eleven years old, leaving four little ones, who, according to a common freak of nature, were more Indian than their mother. The Douglas family grew poorer every year; but as every one was poor there, poverty was respectable; and as all poverty is comparative, they always esteemed themselves comfortable. For they had the old Agency for a home, and it was in some respects the most dignified residence on the island; and they had the remains of the furniture which the young surgeon had brought with him from the East when his Alida was a bride, and that was better than most of the furniture in use in the village. The little stone fort on the height was, of course, the castle of the town, and its commandant by courtesy the leader of society; but the infantry officers who succeeded each other at this distant Northern post brought little with them, camping out, as it were, in their low-ceilinged quarters, knowing that another season might see them far away. The Agency, therefore, preserved an air of dignity still, although its roof leaked, its shutters rattled, although its plastering was gone here and there, and its floors were uneven and decayed. Two of its massive outside chimneys, clamped to the sides of the house, were half down, looking like broken columns, monuments of the past; but there were a number left. The Agency originally had
bristled with chimneys, which gave, on a small scale, a castellated air to its rambling outline.
Dr. Douglas's study was old, crowded, and comfortable; that is, comfortable to those who have consciousness in their finger-ends, and no uncertainty as to their feet; the great army of blunderers and stumblers, the handle-everything, knockover-everything people, who cut a broad swath through the smaller furniture of a room whenever they move, would have been troubled and troublesome there. The boys were never admitted; but Tita, who stepped like a little cat, and Anne, who had a deft direct aim in all her motions, were often present. The comfort of the place was due to Anne; she shook out and arranged the curtains, darned the old carpet, re-covered the lounge, polished the and irons, and did all without disturbing the birds' wings, the shells, the arrowheads, the skins, dried plants, wanpum, nets, bits of rock, half-finished drawings, maps, books, and papers, which were scattered about, or suspended from the walls. William Douglas, knowing something of everything, was exact in nothing: now he stuffed birds, now he read Greek, now he botanized, now he played on the flute, now he went about in all weathers chipping the rocks with ardent zeal, now he smoked in his room all day without a word or a look for anybody. He sketched well, but seldom finished a picture; he went out hunting when the larder was empty, and forgot what he went for; he had a delicate mechanical skill, and made some curious bits of intricate work, but he never mended the hinges of the shutters, or repaired a single article which was in daily use in his household.
By the careful attention of Anne he was present in the fort chapel every Sunday morning, and, once there, he played the organ with delight, and brought exquisite harmonies from its little pipes; but Anne stood there beside him all the time, found the places, and kept him down to the work, borrowing his watch beforehand in order to touch him when the voluntary was too long, or the chords between the hymn verses too beautiful and intricate. Those were the days when the old buckram-backed rhymed versions of the psalms were steadfastly given out at every service, and Anne's rich voice sang, with earnest fervor, words like these:
“His liberal favors he extends,
while her father followed them with harmony fit for angels. Douglas taught his daughter music in the best sense of the phrase; she read notes accurately, and knew nothing of inferior composers, the only change from the higher courts of melody being some of the old French chansons of the voyageurs, which still lingered on the island, echoes of the past. She could not touch the ivory keys with any skill, her hands were too much busied with other work; but she practiced her singing lessons as she went about the house-–music which would have seemed to the world of New York as old-fashioned as Chaucer. The fire of logs blazed on the hearth, the father sat looking at his daughter, who was sewing swiftly, her thoughts fixed upon her work. The clock struck eleven. “It is late, Anne.” “Yes, father, but I must finish. I have so little time during the day.” “My good child,” said Douglas, slowly and fondly. Anne looked up; his eyes were dim with tears. “I have done nothing for you, dear,” he said, as she dropped her work and knelt by his side. “I have kept you selfishly with me here, and made you a slave to those children.” “My own brothers and my own little sister, father.” “Do you feel so, Anne 2 Then may God bless you for it! But I should not have kept you here.” “This is our home, papa.” “A poor one.” “Is it ! It never seemed so to me.” “That is because you have known nothing better.” “But I like it, papa, just as it is. I have always been happy here.” “Really happy, Anne?” The girl paused, and reflected a moment. “Yes,” she said, looking into the depths of the fire, with a smile, “I am happy all the time. I am never anything but happy.” William Douglas looked at her. The fire-light shone on her face ; she turned her clear eyes toward him. “Then you do not mind the children :
They are not a burdensome weight upon you ?” “Never, papa; how can you suppose it? I love them dearly, next to you.” “And will you stand by them, Anne : Note my words: I do not urge it, I simply ask.” “Of course I will stand by them, papa. I give a promise of my own accord. I will never forsake them as long as I can do anything for them, as long as I live. But why do you speak of it? Have I ever neglected them or been unkind to them 7” said the girl, troubled, and very near tears. “No, dear; you love them better than they or I deserve. I was thinking of the future, and of a time when”—he had intended to say, “when I am no longer with you,” but the depth of love and trust in her eyes made him hesitate, and finish his sentence differently—“a time when they may give you trouble,” he said. “They are good boys—that is, they mean no harm, papa. When they are older they will study more.” “Will they to “Certainly,” said Anne, with confidence. “I did. And as for Tita, you yourself must see, papa, what a remarkable child she is.” Douglas shaded his face with his hand. The uneasy sense of trouble which always stirred within him when he thought of his second daughter was rising to the surface now like a veiled, formless shape. “The sins of the fathers,” he thought, and sighed heavily. Anne threw her arms around his neck, and begged him to look at her. “Papa, speak to me, please. What is it that troubles you so o' “Stand by little Tita, child, no matter what she does. Do not expect too much of her, but remember always her—her Indian blood,” said the troubled father, in a low voice. A slush crossed Anne's face. The cross of mixed blood in the younger children was never alluded to in the family circle or among their outside friends. In truth, there had been many such mixtures on the island in the old times, although comparatively few in the modern days to which William Douglas's second marriage belonged. “Tita is French,” said Anne, speaking rapidly, almost angrily. “She is more French than Indian. Still—one never knows.” Then, after a pause: “I have been a slothful father, Anne, and feel myself cowardly also in thus shifting upon your shoulders my own responsibilities. Still, what can I do I can not re-live my life : and even if I could, perhaps I might do the same again. I do not know—I do not know. We are as we are, and tendencies dating generations back come out in us, and confuse our actions.” He spoke dreamily. His eyes were assuming that vague look with which his children were familiar, and which betokened that his mind was far away. “You could not do anything which was not right, father,” said Anne. She was standing by his side now, and in her young strength might have been his champion against the whole world. The fire-light shining out showed a prematurely old man, whose thin form, bent drooping shoulders, and purposeless face were but Time's emphasis upon the slender, refined, dreamy youth, who, entering the domain of doubt with honest negations and a definite desire, still wandered there, lost to the world, having forgotten his first object, and loving the soft haze now for itself alone. Anne received no answer: her father's mind had passed away from her. After waiting a few moments in silence she saw that he was lost in one of his reveries, and sitting down again she took up her work and went on sewing with rapid stitches. Poor Anne and her poor presents! How coarse the little white shirts for Louis and André! how rough the jacket for Gabriel ! How forlorn the doll! How awkwardly fashioned the small cloth slippers for Tita! The elder sister was obliged to make her Christmas gifts with her own hands; she had no money to spend for such superfluities. The poor doll had a cloth face, with features painted on a flat surface, and a painful want of profile. A little before twelve the last stitch was taken with happy content. “Papa, it is nearly midnight; do not sit up very late,” said the daughter, bending to kiss the father's bent, brooding brow. William Douglas's mind came back for an instant, and looked out through his clouded eyes upon his favorite child. He kissed her, gave her his usual blessing, “May God help the soul He has created " and them, almost before she had closed the door, he was far away again on one of those long journeyings
which he took silently, only his following guardian angel knew whither. Anne went across the hall and entered the sitting-room; the fire was low, but she stirred the embers, and by their light filled the four stockings hanging near the chimneypiece. First she put in little round cakes wrapped in papers; then home-made candies, not thoroughly successful in outline, but well-flavored and sweet; next gingerbread elephants and camels, and an attempt at a fairy; lastly the contents of her work-basket, which gave her much satisfaction as she inspected them for the last time. Throwing a great knot, which would burn slowly all night, upon the bed of dying coals, she lighted a candle and went up to her own room. As soon as she had disappeared, a door opened softly above, and a small figure stole out into the dark hall. After listening a moment, this little figure went silently down the stairs, paused at the line of light underneath the closed study door, listened again, and then, convinced that all was safe, went into the sitting-room, took down the stockings one by one, and deliberately inspected all their contents, sitting on a low stool before the fire. First came the stockings of the boys; each parcel was unrolled, down to the last gingerbread camel, and as deftly enwrapped again by the skillful little fingers. During this examination there was not so much an expression of interest as of jealous scrutiny. But when the turn of her own stocking came, the small face showed the most profound, almost weazened, solicitude. Package after package was swiftly opened, and its contents spread upon the mat beside her. The doll was cast aside with contempt, the slippers examined and tried on with critical care, and then when the candy and cake appeared and nothing else, the eyes snapped with anger. The little brown hand felt down to the toe of the stocking; no, there was nothing more. “It is my opinion,” said Tita, in her French island patois, half aloud, “that Annet is one stupid beast.” She then replaced everything, hung the stockings on their nails, and stole back to her own room; here, by the light of a secreted candle-end, she manufactured the following epistle, with heavy labor of brains and hand: “Cher papa, -I hav dreemed that Sant Klos has hare-ribbans in his pak. Will you ask him for sum for your little Tita ?” This not seeming sufficiently expressive, she inserted “trez affecsionay” before “Tita,” and then, folding the epistle, she went softly down the stairs again, and stealing around in the darkness through several unused rooms, she entered her father's bedroom, which communicated with the study, and by sense of feeling pinned the paper carefully around his large pipe, which lay in its usual place on the table. For William Douglas always began smoking as soon as he rose, in this way nullifying, as it were, the fresh, vivifying effect of the morning, which smote painfully upon his eyes and mind alike; in the afternoon and evening he did not smoke so steadily, the falling shadows supplying of themselves the atmosphere he loved. Having accomplished her little manoeuvre, Tita went back up stairs to her own room like a small white ghost, and fell asleep with the satisfaction of a successful diplomatist. In the mean time Anne was brushing her brown hair, and thoughtfully going over in her own mind the morrow's dinner. Her room was a bare and comfortless place; there was but a small fire on the hearth, and no curtains over the windows: it took so much care and wood to keep the children's rooms warm that she neglected her own, and as for the furniture, she had removed it piece by piece, exchanging it for broken-backed wornout articles from all parts of the house. One leg of the bedstead was gone, and its place supplied by a box which the oldfashioned valance only half concealed; the looking-glass was cracked, and distorted her image; the chairs were in hospital and out of service, the young mistress respecting their injuries, and using as her own seat an old wooden stool which stood near the hearth. Upon this she was now seated, the rippling waves of her thick hair flowing over her shoulders. Having at last faithfully rehearsed the Christmas dinner in all its points, she drew a long breath of relief, rose, extinguished her light, and going over to the window, stood there for a moment looking out. The moonlight came gleaming in and touched her with silver, her pure youthful face and girlish form draped in white. “May God bless my dear father,” she prayed, silently, looking up to the thick studded stars; “and my dear mother too, wherever she is to-night, in one of those far bright worlds, perhaps.” It will
be seen from this prayer that the boundaries of Anne Douglas's faith were wide enough to include even the unknown.
“Heap on more wood' the wind is chill;
“An island always pleases my imagination, even the smallest, as a small continent and integral portion of the globe. I have a fancy for building my hut on one. Even a bare grassy isle which I can see entirely over at a glance, has some undefined and mysterious charm for me.”—ThostEAU.
“CAN you make out what the child means ?” said Douglas, as his eldest daughter entered the study early on Christmas morning to renew the fire and set the apartment in order for the day. As he spoke he held Tita's epistle hopelessly before him, and scanned the zigzag lines. “She wants some ribbons for her hair,” said Anne, making out the words over his shoulder. “Poor little thing! she is so proud of her hair, and all the other girls have bright ribbons. But I can not make ribbons,” she added, regretfully, as though she found herself wanting in a needful accomplishment. “Think of her faith in Santa Klaus, old as she is, and her writing to ask him But there is ribbon in the house, after all,” she added, suddenly, her face brightening. “Miss Lois gave me some last month; I had forgotten it. That will be the very thing for Tita; she has not even seen it.” (But has she not, thou unsuspicious elder sister ?) “Do not rob yourself, child,” said the father, wearily casting his eyes over the slip of paper again. “What spelling! The English is bad, but the French worse.” “That is because she has no French teacher, papa; and you know I do not allow her to speak with the island patois, lest it should corrupt the little she knows.” “But she does speak it; she always talks patois when she is alone with me.” “Does she 7” said Anne, in astonishment. “I had no idea of that. But you might correct her, papa.” “I can never correct her in any way,” replied Douglas, gloomily ; and then Anne, seeing that he was on the threshold of one of his dark moods, lighted his pipe, stirred the fire into a cheery blaze, and went out to get a cup of coffee for him. For the Irish soldier's wife was already at work in the kitchen, having been to mass in the cold gray dawn, down on her two knees on the hard floor, repentant for all her sins, and refulgently content in the absolution which wiped out the old score (and left place for a new one). After taking in the coffee, Anne ran up to her own room, brought down the ribbon, and placed it in Tita's stocking; she then made up the fire with light-wood, and set about decorating the walls with wreaths of evergreen as the patter of the little boys' feet was heard on the old stairway. The breakfast table was noisy that morning. Tita had inspected her ribbons demurely, and wondered how Santa Klaus knew her favorite colors so well. Anne glanced toward her father, and smiled; but the father's face showed doubt, and did not respond. While they were still at the table the door opened, and a tall figure entered, muffled in furs. “Miss Lois!” cried the boys. “Hurrah! See our presents, Miss Lois.” They danced around her while she removed her wrappings, and kept up such a noise that no one could speak. Miss Lois, viewed without her cloak and hood, was a tall, angular woman, past middle age, with sharp features, thin brown hair tinged with gray, and pale blue eyes shielded by spectacles. She kissed Anne first with evident affection, and afterward the children with business-like promptitude; then she shook hands with William Douglas. “I wish you a happy Christmas, doctor,” she said. “Thank you, Lois,” said Douglas, holding her hand in his an instant or two longer than usual. A faint color rose in Miss Lois's cheeks. When she was young she had one of those exquisitely delicate complexions which seem to belong to some parts of New England, together with slender willowy figures and narrow chests; even now color would rise unexpectedly in her cheeks, much to her annoyance: she wondered why wrinkles did not keep it down. But New England knows her own. The creamy skins of the South, with their brown shadows under the eyes, the rich colors of the West, even the calm white complexions that are bred and long retained in cities, all fade before this faint
healthy bloom on old New England's cheeks, like winter-apples. Miss Lois inspected the boys' presents with exact attention, and added some gifts of her own, which filled the room with a more jubilant uproar than before. Tita, in the mean while, remained quietly seated at the table, eating her breakfast; she took very small mouthfuls, and never hurried herself. She said she liked to taste things, and that only snapping dogs, like the boys, for instance, gulped their food in a mass. “I gave her the ribbons; do not say anything,” whispered Anne, in Miss Lois's ear, as she saw the spectacled eyes turning toward Tita's corner. Miss Lois frowned, and put back into her pocket a small parcel she was taking out. She had forgiven Dr. Douglas the existence of the boys, but she never could forgive the existence of Tita. Once Anne had asked about Angélique. “I was but a child when she died, Miss Lois,” said she, “so my recollection of her may not be accurate; but I know that I thought her very beautiful. Does Tita look like her ?” “Angélique Lafontaine was beautiful —in her way,” replied Miss Lois. “I do not say that I admire that way, mind you.” “And Tita ?” ‘‘Tita is hideous.” “Oh, Miss Lois!” “She is, child. She is dwarfish, black, and sly.” “I do not think she is sly,” replied Anne, with heat. “And although she is dark and small, still, sometimes—” “That, for your beauty of ‘sometimes!’” said Miss Lois, snapping her fingers. “Give me a girl who is pretty in the morning as well as by candle-light, one who has a nice, white, well-born, downEast face, and none of your Western-border mongrelosities!” But this last phrase she uttered under her breath. She was ever mindful of Anne's tender love for her father, and the severity with which she herself, as a contemporary, had judged him was never revealed to the child. At half past ten the Douglas family were all in their places in the little fort chapel. It was a bright but bitterly cold day, and the members of the small congregation came enveloped in shaggy furs like bears, shedding their skins at the door,