페이지 이미지

it he had written of the sure success of his future; and Anne believed it as fully as he did. Her hand grew warmer as she held the sheet, and as she recalled his sanguine words. She began to feel courageous again. Then another thought came to her : must she tell Miss Vanhorn of her engagement? In their new conditions, would it not be dishonest to keep the truth back 2 “I do not see that it can be of any interest to her,” she said to herself. “Still, I prefer to tell her.” And then, having made her decision, she went to Tante. Tante was charmed with the news (and with the success of her plan). She discoursed upon family affection in very beautiful language. “You will find a true well-spring of love in the heart of your venerable relative,” she remarked, raising her delicate handkerchief, like the suggestion of a happiness that reached even to tears. “Long, long have I held your cherished grandaunt in a warm corner of my memory and heart.” This was true as regarded the time and warmth; only the latter was of a somewhat peppery nature. The next morning Helen was told the news. She threw back her head in comic despair. “The old dragon has taken the game out of my hands at last,” she said, “and ended all the sport. Excuse the title, Anne. But I am morally certain she has all sorts of vinegarish names for me. And now—am I to congratulate you upon your new home 7" “It is more a matter of duty, I think, than congratulation,” said Anne, thoughtfully. “And next, I must tell her of my engagement.” “I wouldn't, if I were you, Crystal.” 4 & Why ?" “She would rather have you free.” “I shall be free, as far as she is concerned.” “Do not be too sure of that. And take my advice—do not tell her.” Anne, however, paid no heed to this admonition; some things she did simply because she could not help doing them. She had intended to make her little confession immediately; but Miss Vanhorn gave her no opportunity. “That is enough talking,” she said. “I have neuralgia in my eyebrow.” “But, grandaunt, I feel that I ought to tell you.” “Tell me nothing. Don't you know

how to be silent 2 Set about learning, then. When I have neuralgia in my eyebrow, you are to speak only from necessity; when I have it in the eye itself, you are not to speak at all. Find me a caraway, and don't bungle.” She handed her velvet bag to Anne, and refitted the fingers of her yellow glove: evidently the young girl's duties were beginning. Several days passed, but the neuralgia always prevented the story. At last the eyebrow was released, and then Anne spoke. “I wish to tell you, grandaunt, before I come to you, that I am engaged —engaged to be married.” “Who cares 7" said Miss Vanhorn. “To the man in the moon, I suppose; most school-girls are.” “No, to-" “Draw up my shawl,” interrupted the old woman. “I do not care who it is. Why do you keep on telling me?” “Because I did not wish to deceive ou.” “Wait till I ask you not to deceive me. Who is the boy #" “His name is Erastus Pronando,” began Anne; “and—” “Pronando 7” cried Katharine Vanhorn, in a loud, bewildered voice—“Pronando 2 And his father's name 7” “John, I believe,” said Anne, startled by the change in the old face. “But he has been dead many years.” Old Katharine rose; her hands trembled, her eyes flashed. “You will give up this boy at once and forever,” she said, violently, “ or my compact with you is at an end.” “How can I, grandaunt 7 promised—” “I believe I am mistress of my own actions; and in this affair I will have no sort of hesitation,” continued the old woman, taking the words from Anne, and tapping a chair back angrily with her hand. “Decide now—this moment. Break this engagement, and my agreement remains. Refuse to break it, and it falls. That is all.” “You are unjust and cruel,” said the girl, roused by these arbitrary words. Miss Vanhorn waved her hand for silence. “If you will let me tell you, aunt—” The old woman bounded forward suddenly, as if on springs, seized her niece by both shoulders, and shook her with all

I have her strength. “There!” she said, breathless. “Will you stop talking ! All I want is your answer—yes, or no.” The drawing-room of Madame Moreau had certainly never witnessed such a sight as this. One of its young ladies shaken— yes, absolutely shaken like a refractory child ! The very chairs and tables seemed to tremble, and visibly hope that there was no one in the salom des élèves, behind. Anne was more startled than hurt by her grandaunt's violence. “I am sorry to displease you,” she said, slowly and very gravely; “but I can not break my engagement.” Without a word, Miss Vanhorn drew her shawl around her shoulders, pinned it, crossed the room, opened the door, and was gone. A moment later her carriage rolled away, and Anne, alone in the drawing-room, listened to the sound of the wheels growing fainter and fainter, with a chilly mixture of blank surprise, disappointment, and grief filling her heart. “But it was right that I should tell her,” she said to herself as she went up stairs— “it was right.” Right and wrong always presented themselves to her as black and white. She knew no shading. She was wrong; there are grays. But, so far in her life, she had not been taught by sad experience to see them. “It was right,” she repeated to Helen, a little miserably, but still steadfastly. “I am not so sure of that,” replied Mrs. Lorrington. “You have lost a year's fixed income for those children, and a second winter here for yourself; and for what? For the sake of telling the dragon something which does not concern her, and which she did not wish to know.” “But it was true.” “Are we to go out with trumpets and tell everything we know, just because it is true 2 Is there not such a thing as egotistical truthfulness 2'" “It makes no difference,” said Anne, despairingly. “I had to tell her.” “You are stubborn, Crystal, and you see but one side of a question. But never fear; we will circumvent the dragon yet. I wonder, though, why she was so wrought up by the name Pronando. Perhaps Aunt Gretta will know.” Miss Teller did not know; but one of the husky-voiced old gentlemen who kept up the “barrier, sir, against modern innovation,” remembered the particulars

(musty and dusty now) of Kate Vanhorn's engagement to one of the Pronandos— the wild one who ran away. He was younger than she was, a handsome fellow (yes, yes, he remembered it all now), and “she was terribly cut up about it, and went abroad immediately.” Abroad— great panacea for American woes ' To what continent can those who live “abroad” depart when trouble seizes them in its pitiless claws 7 Time is not so all-erasing as we think. Old Katharine Vanhorn, at seventy, heard from the young lips of her grandniece the name which had not been mentioned in her presence for nearly half a century —the name which still had power to rouse in her heart the old bitter feeling. For John Pronando had turned from her to an uneducated common girl—a marketgardener's daughter. The proud Kate Vanhorn resented the defection instantly; she broke the bond of her betrothal, and sailed for England before Pronando realized that she was offended. This idyl of the gardener's daughter was but one of his passing amusements; and so he wrote to his black-browed goddess. But she replied that if he sought amusement of that kind during the short period of betrothal, he would seek it doubly after marriage, and then it would not be so easy to sail for Europe. She considered that she had had an escape. Pronando, handsome, light-hearted, and careless, gave up his offended Juno without much heart-ache, and the episode of Phyllis being by this time finished, he strayed back to his Philadelphia home, to embroil himself as usual with his family, and, later, to follow out the course ordained for him by fate. Kate Vanhorn had other suitors; but the old wound never healed. “Come and spend the summer with me,” said Helen. “I trust I am as agreeable as the dragon.” “No ; I must stay here. Even as it is, she is doing a great deal for me; I have no real claim upon her,” replied Anne, trying not to give way to the loneliness that oppressed her. “Only that of being her nearest living relative, and natural heir.” “I have not considered the question of inheritance,” replied the island girl, proudly. “I know you have not; yet it is there. Old ladies, however, instead of natural heirs, are apt to prefer unnatural ones— cold-blooded Societies, Organizations, and the endless Heathen. about the summer, Crystal: spend it with me.” “You are always generous to me,” said Anne, gratefully. “No; I never was generous in my life. I do not know how to be generous. But this is the way it is: I am rich; I want a companion; and I like you. Your voice supports mine perfectly, and is not in the least too loud—a thing I detest. Besides, we look well together. You are an excellent background for me; you make me look poetic; whereas most women make me look like a caricature of myself—of what I really am. As though a straw-bug should go out walking with a very attenuated grasshopper. Now if the straw-bug went out always with a plump young toad or wood-turtle, people might be found to admire even his hair-like fineness of limb and yellow transparency, by force, you know, of contrast.” Anne laughed; but there was also a slight change of expression in her face. “I can read you, Crystal,” said Helen, "laughing in her turn. “Old Katharine has already told you all those things— sweet old lady! She understands me so well ! Come; call it selfishness or generosity, as you please; but accept.” “It is generosity, Helen; which, however, I must decline.” “It must be very inconvenient to be so conscientious,” said Mrs. Lorrington. “But mind, I do not give it up. What! lose so good a listener as you are 2 To whom, then, can I confide the latest particulars respecting the Poet, the Bishop, the Knight-errant, and the Haunted Man?” “I like the Bishop,” said Anne, smiling back at her friend. She had acquired the idea, without words, that Helen liked him also. The story of Miss Vanhorn's change was, of course, related to Tante: Anne had great confidence both in the old Frenchwoman's kindness of heart and excellent judgment. Tante listened, asked a question or two, and then said: “Yes, yes, I see. For the present, nothing more can be done. She will allow you to finish your year here, and as the time is of value to you, you shall continue your studies through the vacation. But not at my New Jersey farm, as she supposes; at a better place than that. You shall go to Pitre.”

But I am in earnest |

“A place, Tante?” “No ; a friend of mine, and a woman.” Mademoiselle Jeanne-Armande Pitre was not so old as Tante (Tante had friends of all ages); she was about fifty, but conveyed the impression of never having been young. “She is an excellent teacher,” continued the other Frenchwoman, “and so closely avaricious that she will be glad to take you even for the small sum you will pay. She is employed in a Western seminary somewhere, but always returns to this little house of hers for the summer vacation. Your opportunity for study with her will be excellent; she has a rage for study. Write and tell your grandaunt, ma fille, what I have decided.” “Ma fille” wrote; but Miss Vanhorn made no reply. Early in June, accompanied by “monsieur,” Anne started on her little journey. The German music master said farewell with hearty regret. He was leaving also: he should not be with Madame Moreau another winter, he said. The Italian atmosphere stifled him, and the very sight of Belzini made him “dremble wit a er-righteous er-rage.” He gave Anne his address, and begged that she would send to him when she wanted new music; “music vort someding.” Monsieur Laurent, Anne's escort, was a nephew of Tante's, a fine-looking middle-aged Frenchman, who taught the verbs with a military air. But it was not so much his air as his dining-room which gave him importance in the eyes of the school. The “salle à manger de monsieur” was a small half-dark apartment, where he took his meals by himself. It was a mysterious place; monsieur was never seen there; it was not known even at what hour he dined. But there were stories in whispered circulation of soups, sauces, salads, and wines served there in secret, which made the listeners hungry even in the mere recital. They peered into the dim little room as they passed, but never saw anything save a brown linen table-cloth, an old caster, and one chair. It was stated, however, that this caster was not a common caster, but that it held, instead of the ordinary pepper and mustard, various liquids and spices of mysterious nature, delightfully and wickedly French. In less than an hour the travellers reached Lancaster. Heremonsieur placed Anne in a red wagon which was in waiting, said good-by hastily (being, perhaps, in a hurry to return to his dining-room), and caught the down train back to the city. He had lived in America so long that he could hurry like a native. The old horse attached to the red wagon walked slowly over a level winding road, switching his tail to and fro, and stopping now and then to cough, with the profundity which only a horse's cough possesses. At last, turning into a field, he stopped before what appeared to be a fragment of a house. “Is this the place {" said Anne, surprised. “It's Miss Peter's,” replied the boy driver. The appearance of Mademoiselle Pitre in person at the door now removed all

doubt as to her abode. “I am glad to see you,” she said, extending a long yellow hand. “Enter.”

The house, which had never been finished, was old; the sides and back were of brick, and the front of wood, temporarily boarded across. The kitchen and one room made all the depth; above, there were three small chambers. After a while, apparently, windows and a front door had been set in the temporary boarding, and a flight of steps added. Mademoiselle had bought the house in its unfinished condition, and had gradually become an object of great unpopularity in the neighborhood because, as season after season rolled by, she did nothing more to her purchase. What did she mean, then 2 Simple comment swelled into suspicion; the penny-saving old maid was now considered a dark and mysterious person at Lancaster. Opinions varied as to whether she had committed a crime in her youth, or intended to commit one in her age. At any rate, she was not like other people—in the country a heinous crime.

The interior of this half-house was not uncomfortable, although arranged with the strictest economy. The chief room had been painted a brilliant blue by the skillful hands of mademoiselle herself ; there was no carpet, but in summer one can spare a carpet ; and Anne thought the bright color, the growing plants and flowers, the gayly colored crockery, the four white cats, the sunshine, and the cool open space unfilled by furniture, quaintly foreign and attractive.

The mistress of the house was tall and yellow. She was attired in a black velvet bodice, and a muslin skirt whereon a wav

ing design, like an endless procession of spindling beet roots, or fat leeches going around and around, was depicted in dark crimson. This muslin was secretly admired in the neighborhood; but as mademoiselle never went to church, and, what was worse, made no change in her dress on the Sabbath-day, it was considered a step toward rationalism to express the liking. Anne slept peacefully on her narrow bed, and went down to a savory breakfast the next morning. The old Irish servant, Nora, who came out from the city every summer to live with mademoiselle, prepared with skill the few dishes the careful mistress ordered. But when the meal was over, Anne soon discovered that the careful mistress was also an expert in teaching. Her French, Italian, music, and drawing were all reviewed and criticised, and then Jeanne-Armande put on her bonnet, and told her pupil to make ready for her first lesson in botany. “Am I to study botany ?” said Anne, surprised. “All study botany who come to me,” replied Jeanne-Armande, much in the tone' of “Lasciate ognisperanza voi ch' entrate.” “Is that all the bonnet you have It is far too fine. I will buy you a Shaker at the store.” And with her tin flower case slung from her shoulder, she started down the road toward the country store at the corners; here she bought a Shaker bonnet for her pupil, selecting one that was bent, and demanding a reduction in price in consequence of the “irreparable injury to the fibre of the fabric.” The store-keeper, an anxious little man with a large family, did his best to keep on good terms with “the foreigner” privately, and to preserve on other occasions that appearance of virtuous disapproval which the neighborhood required of him. He lived haunted by a fear lest the Frenchwoman and her chief detractors should meet face to face in the narrow confines of his store; and he had long determined that in case of such event he would be down in the cellar drawing molasses—an operation universally known to consume time. But the sword of Damocles does not fall; in this instance, as in others, mademoiselle departed in safety, bearing Anne away to the woods, her face hidden in the depths of the Shaker. Wild flowers, that seem so fresh and young, are, singularly enough, the especial prey of old maids. Young girls love the garden flowers; beautiful women surround themselves with hot-house hues and perfumes. But who goes into the woods, explores the rocky glens, braves the swamps ? Always the ardent-hearted old maid, who, in her plain garb and thick shoes, is searching for the delicate little wild blossoms, the world over. Jeanne-Armande had an absorbing love for flowers, a glowing enthusiasm for botany. She now taught Anne the flower study with what Tante would have called “a rage.” More than once the pupil thought how strange it was that fate should have forced into her hands at this late hour the talisman that might once have been the key to her grandaunt's favor. It did not occur to her that Tante was the Fate. Letters had come from all on the island, and from Rast. Regarding her course in telling Miss Vanhorn of her engagement, Miss Lois wrote that it was “quite unnecessary,” and Dr. Gaston that it was “imprudent.” Even Rast (this was hardest to bear) had written, “While I am proud, dearest, to have your name linked with mine, still, I like better to think of the time when I can come and claim you in person, in the face of all the grandaunts in the world, who, if they knew nothing, could not in the mean time harass and annoy you.” Père Michaux made no comment. Anne looked through Tita's letters for some time expectantly, but no message in his small, clear handwriting appeared. The weeks passed. The pupil learned the real kindness of the teacher, and newer thought of laughing at her oddities, until—Helen came. For Helen came: on her way home from her grandfather's bedside, whither she had been summoned (as usual two or three times each year) “to see him die.” “Grandpapa always recovers as soon as I enter the door,” she said. “I should think he would insist upon my living there as a safeguard! This time I did not even see him—he did not wish me in the room; and so, having half a day to spare, I decided to send my maid on, and stop over and see you, Crystal.” Anne, delighted and excited, sat looking at her friend with happy eyes. “I am so glad, glad, to see you!” she said. “Then present me to your hostess and

jailer. For I intend to remain overnight, and corrupt the household.” Jeanne-Armande was charmed with their visitor; she said she was “a lady decidedly as it should be.” Helen accompanied them on their botany walk, observed the velvet bodice and beet-root muslin, complimented the ceremonious courses of the meagre little dinner, and did not laugh until they were safely ensconced in Anne's cell for the night. “But, Crystal,” she said, when she had imitated Jeanne-Armande, and Anne herself as pupil, with such quick and ridiculous fidelity that Anne was obliged to bury her face in the pillow to stifle her laughter, “I have a purpose in coming here. The old dragon has appeared at Caryl's, where Aunt Gretta and I spent last summer, and where we intend to spend the remainder of this; she is even there to-night, caraway seeds, malice, and all. Now I want you to go back with me, as my guest for a week or two, and together we will annihilate her.” “Do not call her by that name, Helen.” “Not respectful enough 7 Grand Llama, then ; the double l scintillates with respect. The Grand Llama being present, I want to bring you on the scene as a charming, botanizing, singing niece whom she has strangely neglected. Will you go ?” “Of course I can not.” “You have too many principles; and, mind you, principles are often shockingly egotistical and selfish. I would rather have a mountain of sins piled up against me on the judgment-day, and a crowd of friends whom I had helped and made happy, than the most snowy empty pious record in the world, and no such following.” “One does not necessitate the other,” said Anne, after her usual pause when with Helen: she was always a little behind Helen's fluent phrases. “One can have friends without sins.” “Wait and see,” said Helen. In the morning the brilliant visitor took her departure, and the half-house fell back into its usual quietude. Anne did not go with Helen; but Helen avowed her purpose of bringing her to Caryl's yet, in spite of fate. “I am not easily defeated,” she said. “When I wish a thing, it always happens. But, like the magicians, nobody notices how hard I have worked to have it happen.” She departed. And within a week she

« 이전계속 »