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And that is partly why she is so anxious to have me spend a night with her . . . so that I’d have it to remember after she passed away. Please, Mother. I’ll go without the new hat with ribbon streamers you promise me if you’ll let me.”
But Mother was adamant and Di betook herself to a tearful pillow. Nan had no sympathy for her . . . Nan “had no use” for Jenny Penny.
“I don’t know what has got into the child,” said Anne worriedly. “She has never behaved like this before. As you say, that Penny girl seems to have bewitched her.”
“You were quite right in refusing to let her go to a place so far beneath her, Mrs.
“Oh, Susan, I don’t want her to feel that anyone is ‘beneath’ her. But we must draw the line somewhere. It’s not Jenny so much . . . I think she’s harmless enough apart from her habit of exaggeration . . . but I’m told the boys are really dreadful. The Mowbray Narrows teacher is at her wits’-end with them.”
“Do they TRYannize over you like that?” asked Jenny loftily when Di told her she was not to be allowed to go. “I wouldn’t let anyone use me like that. I have too much spirit. Why, I sleep out of doors all night whenever I take the notion. I s’pose you’d never dream of doing that?”
Di looked wistfully at this mysterious girl who had “often slept out all night.”
“You don’t blame me for not going, Jenny? You know I want to go?”
“Of course I don’t blame you. Some girls wouldn’t put up with it, of course, but I s’pose you just can’t help it. We could have had fun. I’d planned we’d go fishing by moonlight in our back brook. We often do. I’ve caught trout that long. And we have the dearest little pigs and a new foal that’s just sweet and a litter of puppies.
Well, I guess I must ask Sadie Taylor. Her father and mother let her call her soul her own.”
“My father and mother are very good to me,” protested Di loyally. “And my father is the best doctor in P. E. Island. Everyone says so.”
“Putting on airs because you have a father and mother and I have none,” said Jenny disdainfully. “Why, my father has wings and always wears a golden crown.
But I don’t go about with my head in the air on that account, do I? Now, Di, I158 don’t want to quarrel with you but I hate to hear anyone bragging about their folks. It’s not etiket. And I have made up my mind to be a lady. When that Persis Ford you’re always talking of comes to Four Winds this summer I am not going to ‘sociate with her. There’s something queer about her ma, Aunt Lina says. She was married to a dead man and he come alive.”
“Oh, it wasn’t like that at all, Jenny. I know . . . Mother told me. . . . Aunt Leslie . . .”
“I don’t want to hear about her. Whatever it is, it’s something that’d better not be talked of, Di. There’s the bell.”
“Are you really going to ask Sadie?” choked Di, her eyes widening with hurt.
“Well, not right at once. I’ll wait and see. Maybe I’ll give you one more chance.
But if I do it will be the last.”
A few days later Jenny Penny came to Di at recess.
“I heard Jem saying your pa and ma went away yesterday and wouldn’t be back till tomorrow night?”
“Yes, they went up to Avonlea to see Aunt Marilla.”
“Then it’s your chance.”
“To stay all night with me.”
“Oh, Jenny . . . but I couldn’t.”
“Of course you can. Don’t be a ninny. They’ll never know.”
“But Susan wouldn’t let me . . .”
“You don’t have to ask her. Just come home with me from school. Nan can tell her where you’ve gone so she won’t be worried. And she won’t tell on you when your pa and ma come back. She’ll be too scared they’d blame her.”
Di stood in an agony of indecision. She knew perfectly well she should not go with Jenny, but the temptation was irresistible. Jenny turned the full battery of her extraordinary eyes upon Di.159
“This is your last chance,” she said dramatically. “I can’t go on ‘sociating with anyone who thinks herself too good to visit me. If you don’t come we part forever.”
That settled it. Di, still in the thrall of Jenny Penny’s fascination, couldn’t face the thought of parting forever. Nan went home alone that afternoon to tell Susan that Di had gone to stay all night with that Jenny Penny.
Had Susan been her usual active self she would have gone straight to the Pennys and brought Di home. But Susan had strained her ankle that morning and while she could make shift to hobble around and get the children’s meals she knew she could never walk a mile down the Base Line road. The Pennys had no telephone and Jem and Walter flatly refused to go. They were invited to a mussel-bake at the lighthouse and nobody would eat Di at the Pennys’. Susan had to resign herself to the inevitable.
Di and Jenny went home across the fields, which made it little more than a quarter of a mile. Di, in spite of her prodding conscience, was happy. They went through so much beauty . . . little bays of bracken, elfin haunted, in the bays of deep-green woods, a rustling windy hollow where you waded knee-deep in butter-cups, a winding lane under young maples, a brook that was a rainbow scarf of blossom, a sunny pasture field full of strawberries. Di, just wakening to a perception of the loveliness of the world, was enraptured and almost wished Jenny wouldn’t talk so much. That was all right at school but here Di wasn’t sure she wanted to hear about the time Jenny poisoned herself . . . ‘zackzidentally of course . . . by taking the wrong kind of medicine. Jenny painted her dying agonies finely but was somewhat vague as to the reason she hadn’t died after all.
She had “lost conscious” but the doctor had managed to pull her back from the brink of the grave.
“Though I’ve never been the same since. Di Blythe, what are you staring at? I don’t believe you’ve been listening at all.”
“Oh, yes, I have,” said Di guiltily. “I do think you’ve had the most wonderful life, Jenny. But look at the view.”
“The view? What’s a view?”
“Why . . . why . . . something you’re looking at. That . . .” waving her hand at the panorama of meadow and woodland and cloud-smitten hill before them, with that sapphire dent of sea between the hills.160
“Just a lot of old trees and cows. I’ve seen it a hundred times. You’re awful funny by spells, Di Blythe. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but sometimes I think you’re not all there. I really do. But I s’pose you can’t help it. They say your ma is always raving like that. Well, there’s our place.”
Di gazed at the Penny house and lived through her first shock of disillusionment.
Was this the “mansion” Jenny had talked of? It was big enough, certainly, and had the five bay-windows; but it was wofully in need of painting and much of the “wooden lace” was missing. The verandah had sagged badly and the once lovely old fanlight over the front door was broken. The blinds were crooked, there were several brown-paper panes and the “beautiful birch grove” behind the house was represented by a few lean sinewy old trees. The barns were in a very tumbledown condition, the yard was full of old rusty machinery and the garden was a perfect jungle of weeds. Di had never seen such a looking place in her life and for the first time it occurred to her to wonder if all Jenny’s tales were true. Could anyone have so many narrow escapes of her life, even in nine years, as she had claimed to have?
Inside it was not much better. The parlour into which Jenny ushered her was musty and dusty. The ceiling was discoloured and covered with cracks. The famous marble mantelpiece was only painted . . . even Di could see that . . . and draped with a hideous Japanese scarf, held in place by a row of “moustache”
cups. The stringy lace curtains were a bad colour and full of holes. The blinds were of blue paper, much cracked and torn, with a huge basketful of roses depicted on them. As for the parlour being full of stuffed owls, there was a small glass case in one corner containing three rather dishevelled birds, one with its eyes missing entirely. To Di, accustomed to the beauty and dignity of Ingleside, the room looked like something you had seen in a bad dream. The odd thing, however, was that Jenny seemed quite unconscious of any discrepancy between her descriptions and reality. Di wondered if she had just dreamed that Jenny had told her such and such.
It was not so bad outside. The little playhouse Mr. Penny had built in the spruce corner, looking like a real house in miniature, was a very interesting place and the little pigs and the new foal were “just sweet.” As for the litter of mongrel puppies they were as woolly and delightful as if they had belonged to the dog caste of Vere de Vere. One was especially adorable, with long brown ears and a white spot on its forehead, a wee pink tongue and white paws. Di was bitterly disappointed to learn that they had all been promised.161
‘Though I don’t know as we could give you one even if they weren’t,” said Jenny.
“Uncle’s awful particular where he puts his dogs. We’ve heard you can’t get a dog to stay at Ingleside at all. There must be something queer about you. Uncle says dogs know things people don’t.”
“I’m sure they can’t know anything nasty about us!” cried Di.
“Well, I hope not. Is your pa cruel to your ma?”
“No, of course he isn’t!”
“Well, I heard that he beat her . . . beat her till she screamed. But of course I didn’t believe that. Ain’t it awful the lies people tell? Anyway, I’ve always liked you, Di, and I’ll always stand up for you.”
Di felt she ought to be very grateful for this, but somehow she was not. She was beginning to feel very much out of place and the glamour with which Jenny had been invested in her eyes was suddenly and irrevocably gone. She did not feel the old thrill when Jenny told her about the time she had been almost drowned falling in a millpond. She did not believe it. . . Jenny just imagined those things. And likely the millionaire uncle and the thousand-dollar diamond ring and the missionary to the leopards had just been imagined too. Di felt as flat as a pricked balloon.
But there was Gammy yet. Surely Gammy was real. When Di and Jenny returned to the house Aunt Lina, a full-breasted, red-cheeked lady in a none-too-fresh cotton print, told them Gammy wanted to see the visitor.
“Gammy’s bed-rid,” explained Jenny. “We always take everybody who comes in to see her. She gets mad if we don’t.”
“Mind you don’t forget to ask her how her backache is,” cautioned Aunt Lina.
“She doesn’t like it if folks don’t remember her back.”
“And Uncle John,” said Jenny. “Don’t forget to ask her how Uncle John is.”
“Who is Uncle John?” asked Di.
“A son of hers who died fifty years ago,” explained Aunt Lina. “He was sick for years afore he died and Gammy kind of got accustomed to hearing folks ask how he was. She misses it.”162
At the door of Gammy’s room Di suddenly hung back. All at once she was terribly frightened of this incredibly old woman.
“What’s the matter?” demanded Jenny. “Nobody’s going to bite you!”
“Is she . . . did she really live before the flood, Jenny?”
“Of course not. Whoever said she did? She’ll be a hundred, though, if she lives till her next birthday. Come on!”
Di went, gingerly. In a small, badly cluttered bedroom Gammy lay in a huge bed.
Her face, unbelievably wrinkled and shrunken, looked like an old monkey’s. She peered at Di with sunken, red-rimmed eyes and said testily:
“Stop staring. Who are you?”
“This is Diana Blythe, Gammy,” said Jenny . . . a rather subdued Jenny.
“Humph! A nice high-sounding name! They tell me you’ve got a proud sister.”
“Nan isn’t proud,” cried Di, with a flash of spirit. Had Jenny been running down Nan?
“A little saucy, ain’t you? I wasn’t brought up to speak like that to my betters.
She is proud. Anyone who walks with her head in the air, like Young Jenny tells me she does, isproud. One of your hoity-toitys! Don’t contradict me.”
Gammy looked so angry that Di hastily enquired how her back was.
“Who says I’ve got a back? Such presumption! My back’s my own business.
Come here . . . come close to my bed!”
Di went, wishing herself a thousand miles away. What was this dreadful old woman going to do to her?
Gammy hitched herself alertly to the edge of the bed and put a clawlike hand on Di’s hair.
“Sort of carroty but real slick. That’s a pretty dress. Turn it up and show me your petticoat.”163
Di obeyed, thankful that she had on her white petticoat with its trimming of Susan’s crocheted lace. But what sort of a family was it where you were made to show your petticoat?
“I always judge a girl by her petticoats,” said Gammy. “Yours’ll pass. Now your drawers.”
Di dared not refuse. She lifted her petticoat.
“Humph! Lace on them too! That’s extravagance. And you’ve never asked after John!”
“How is he?” gasped Di.
“How is he, says she, bold as brass. He might be dead, for all you know. Tell me this. Is it true your mother has a gold thimble . . . a solid gold thimble?”
“Yes. Daddy gave it to her her last birthday.”
“Well, I’d never have believed it. Young Jenny told me she had, but you can’t never believe a word Young Jenny says. A solid gold thimble! I never heard the beat of that. Well, you’d better go out and get your suppers. Eating never goes out of fashion. Jenny, pull up your pants. One leg’s hanging below your dress. Let us have decency at least.”
“My pant–drawer leg isn’t hanging down,” said Jenny indignantly.
“Pants for Pennys and drawers for Blythes. That’s the distinction between you and always will be. Don’t contradict me.”
The whole Penny family were assembled around the supper table in the big kitchen. Di had not seen any of them before except Aunt Lina, but as she shot a glance around the board she understood why Mother and Susan had not wanted her to come here. The tablecloth was ragged and daubed with ancient gravy stains. The dishes were a nondescript assortment. As for the Pennys . . . Di had never sat at table with such company before and she wished herself safely back at Ingleside. But she must go through with it now.
Uncle Ben, as Jenny called him, sat at the head of the table; he had a flaming red beard and a bald, grey-fringed head. His bachelor brother, Parker, lank and unshaven, had arranged himself at an angle convenient for spitting in the woodbox, which he did at frequent intervals. The boys, Curt, twelve, and George164 Andrew, thirteen, had pale-blue, fishy eyes with a bold stare and bare skin showing through the holes in their ragged shirts. Curt had his hand, which he had cut on a broken bottle, tied up with a blood-stained rag. Annabel Penny, eleven, and “Gert” Penny, ten, were two rather pretty girls with round brown eyes.
“Tuppy,” aged two, had delightful curls and rosy cheeks, and the baby, with roguish black eyes, on Aunt Lina’s lap would have been adorable if it had been clean.
“Curt, why didn’t you clean your nails when you knew company was coming?”
demanded Jenny. “Annabel, don’t speak with your mouth full. I’m the only one who ever tries to teach this family any manners,” she explained aside to Di.
“Shut up,” said Uncle Ben in a great booming voice.
“I won’t shut up . . . you can’t make me shut up!” cried Jenny.
“Don’t sass your uncle,” said Aunt Lina placidly. “Come now, girls, behave like ladies. Curt, pass the potatoes to Miss Blythe.”
“Oh, ho, Miss Blythe,” sniggered Curt.
But Diana had got at least one thrill. For the first time in her life she had been called Miss Blythe.
For a wonder the food was good and abundant. Di, who was hungry, would have enjoyed the meal . . . though she hated drinking out of a chipped cup . . . if she had only been sure it was clean . . . and if everybody hadn’t quarrelled so. Private fights were going on all the time . . . between George Andrew and Curt . . . between Curt and Annabel . . . between Gert and Jen . . . even between Uncle Ben and Aunt Lina. They had a terrible fight and hurled the bitterest accusations at each other. Aunt Lina cast up to Uncle Ben all the fine men she might have married and Uncle Ben said he only wished she had married anybody but him.
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if my father and mother fought like that?” thought Di.
“Oh, if I were only back home! Don’t suck your thumb, Tuppy.”
She said that before she thought. They had had such a time breaking Rilla of sucking her thumb.
Instantly Curt was red with rage.165
“Let him alone!” he shouted. “He can suck his thumb if he likes! We ain’t bossed to death like you Ingleside kids are. Who do you think you are?”
“Curt, Curt! Miss Blythe will think you haven’t any manners,” said Aunt Lina.
She was quite calm and smiling again and put two teaspoons of sugar in Uncle Ben’s tea. “Don’t mind him, dear. Have another piece of pie.”
Di did not want another piece of pie. She only wanted to go home . . . and she did not see how it could be brought about.
“Well,” boomed Uncle Ben, as he drained the last of his tea noisily from the saucer, “that’s so much over. Get up in the morning . . . work all day . . . eat three meals and go to bed. What a life!”
“Pa loves his little joke,” smiled Aunt Lina.
“Talking of jokes . . . I saw the Methodist minister in Flagg’s store today. He tried to contradict me when I said there was no God. ‘You talk on Sunday,’ I told him.
‘It’s my turn now. Prove to me there’s a God,’ I told him. ‘It’s you that’s doing the talking,’ says he. They all laughed like ninnies. Thought he was smart.”
No God! The bottom seemed falling out of Di’s world. She wanted to cry.166 29
It was worse after supper. Before that she and Jenny had been alone at least. Now there was a mob. George Andrew grabbed her hand and galloped her through a mud-puddle before she could escape him. Di had never been treated like this in her life. Jem and Walter teased her, as did Ken Ford, but she did not know anything about boys like these.
Curt offered her a chew of gum, fresh from his mouth, and was mad when she refused it.
“I’ll put a live mouse on you!” he yelled. “Smartycat! Stuckupitty! Got a sissy for a brother!”
“Walter isn’t a sissy!” said Di. She was half sick from fright but she would not hear Walter called names.
“He is–he writes po’try. Do you know what I’d do if I’d a brother that writ po’try?
I’d drown him . . . like they do kittens.”
“Talking of kittens, there’s a lot of wild ones in the barn,” said Jen. “Let’s go and hunt them out.”
Di simply would not go hunting kittens with those boys, and said so.
“We’ve got plenty of kittens at home. We’ve got eleven,” she said proudly.
“I don’t believe it!” cried Jen. “You haven’t! Nobody ever had eleven kittens. It wouldn’t be right to have eleven kittens.”
“One cat has five and the other six. And I’m not going to the barn anyhow. I fell down off the loft in Amy Taylor’s barn last winter. I’d have been killed if I hadn’t lit on a pile of chaff.”
“Well, I’d have fell off our loft once if Curt hadn’t caught me,” said Jen sulkily.
Nobody had any right to be falling off lofts but her. Di Blythe having adventures!
The impudence of her!
“You should say ‘I’d have fallen,’” said Di; and from that moment everything was over between her and Jenny.167
But the night had to be got through somehow. They did not go to bed till late because none of the Pennys ever went to bed early. The big bedroom where Jenny took her at half-past ten had two beds in it. Annabel and Gert were getting ready for theirs. Di looked at the others. The pillows were very frowsy. The quilt needed washing very badly. The paper . . . the famous “parrot” paper . . . had been leaked on and even the parrots did not look very parroty. On the stand by the bed were a granite pitcher and a tin wash-basin half full of dirty water. She could never wash her face in that. Well, for once she must go to bed without washing her face. At least the nightgown Aunt Lina had left for her was clean.
When Di got up from saying her prayers Jenny laughed.
“My, but you’re old-fashioned. You looked so funny and holy saying your prayers. I didn’t know anybody said prayers now. Prayers ain’t any good. What do you say them for?”
“I’ve got to save my soul,” said Di, quoting Susan.
“I haven’t any soul,” mocked Jenny.
“Perhaps not, but I have,” said Di, drawing herself up.
Jenny looked at her. But the spell of Jenny’s eyes was broken. Never again would Di succumb to its magic.
“You’re not the girl I thought you were, Diana Blythe,” said Jennie sadly, as one much deceived.
Before Di could reply George Andrew and Curt rushed into the room. George Andrew wore a mask . . . a hideous thing with an enormous nose. Di screamed.
“Stop squealing like a pig under a gate!” ordered George Andrew. “You’ve got to kiss us good-night.”
“If you don’t we’ll lock you up in that closet . . . and it’s full of rats,” said Curt.
George Andrew advanced towards Di, who shrieked again and retreated before him. The mask paralyzed her with terror. She knew quite well it was only George Andrew behind it and she was not afraid of him; but she would die if that awful mask came near her . . . she knew she would. Just as it seemed that the dreadful nose was touching her face she tripped over a stool and fell backward on the168 floor, striking her head on the sharp edge of Annabel’s bed as she fell. For a moment she was dazed and lay with her eyes shut.
“She’s gone dead . . . she’s gone dead!” sniffled Curt, beginning to cry.
“Oh, won’t you get a licking if you’ve killed her, George Andrew!” said Annabel.
“Maybe she’s only pretending,” said Curt. “Put a worm on her. I’ve some in this can. If she’s only foxing that will bring her to.”
Di heard this but was too frightened to open her eyes. (Perhaps they would go away and leave her alone if they thought her dead. But if they put a worm on her . . .)
“Prick her with a pin. If she bleeds she ain’t dead,” said Curt.
(She could stand a pin but not a worm.)
“She ain’t dead . . . she can’t be dead,” whispered Jenny. “You’ve just scared her into a fit. But if she comes to she’ll be screeching all over the place and Uncle Ben’ll come in and lambast the daylights out of us. I wish I’d never asked her here, the fraid-cat!”
“Do you s’pose we could carry her home before she comes to?” suggested George Andrew.
(Oh, if they only would!)
“We couldn’t . . . not that far,” said Jenny.
“It’s only a quarter of a mile ‘cross lots. We’ll each take an arm or leg . . . you and Curt and me and Annabel.”
Nobody but the Pennys could have conceived such an idea or carried it out if they had. But they were used to doing anything they took it into their heads to do and a “lambasting” from the head of the household was something to be avoided if possible. Dad didn’t bother about them up to a certain point but beyond that . . . good-night!
“If she comes to while we’re carrying her we’ll just cut and run,” said George Andrew.169
There wasn’t the least danger of Di coming to. She trembled with thankfulness when she felt herself being hoisted up between the four of them. They crept downstairs and out of the house, across the yard and over the long clover field . . . past the woods . . . down the hill. Twice they had to lay her down while they rested. They were quite sure now she was dead and all they wanted was to get her home without being seen. If Jenny Penny never prayed in her life before she was praying now . . . that nobody in the village would be up. If they could get Di Blythe home they would all swear she had got so homesick at bedtime that she had insisted on going home. What happened after that would be no concern of theirs.
Di ventured to open her eyes once as they plotted this. The sleeping world around looked very strange to her. The fir trees were dark and alien. The stars were laughing at her. (“I don’t like such a big sky. But if I can just hold on a little spell longer I’ll be home. If they find out that I’m not dead they’ll just leave me here and I’ll never get home in the dark alone.”)
When the Pennys dropped Di on the verandah of Ingleside they ran like mad. Di did not dare come back to life too soon, but at last she ventured to open her eyes.
Yes, she was home. It seemed almost too good to be true. She had been a very, very naughty girl but she was quite sure she would never be naughty again. She sat up and the Shrimp came stealthily up the steps and rubbed against her, purring. She hugged him to her. How nice and warm and friendly he was! She did not think she would be able to get in . . . she knew Susan would have all the doors locked when Dad was away and she dared not wake Susan up at this hour.
But she did not mind. The June night was cold enough but she would get into the hammock and cuddle down with the Shrimp, knowing that, near to her, behind those locked doors, were Susan and the boys and Nan . . . and home.
How strange the world was after dark! Was everyone in it asleep but her? The large white roses on the bush by the steps looked like small human faces in the night. The smell of the mint was like a friend. There was a glint of firefly in the orchard. After all, she would be able to brag that she had “slept out all night.”
But it was not to be. Two dark figures came through the gate and up the driveway. Gilbert went around by the back way to force open a kitchen window but Anne came up the steps and stood looking in amazement at the poor mite who sat there, with her armful of cat.
“Mummy . . . oh, Mummy!” She was safe in Mother’s arms.
“Di, darling! What does this mean?”170
“Oh, Mummy, I was bad . . . but I’m so sorry . . . and you were right . . . and Gammy was so dreadful–but I thought you wouldn’t be back till tomorrow.”
“Daddy got a telephone from Lowbridge . . . they have to operate on Mrs. Parker tomorrow and Dr. Parker wanted him to be there. So we caught the evening train and walked up from the station. Now tell me . . .”
The whole story was sobbed out by the time Gilbert had got in and opened the front door. He thought he had effected a very silent entrance, but Susan had ears that could hear a bat squeak when the safety of Ingleside was concerned, and she came limping downstairs with a wrapper over her nightgown.
There were exclamations and explanations, but Anne cut them short.
“Nobody is blaming you, Susan dear. Di has been very naughty but she knows it and I think she has had her punishment. I’m sorry we’ve disturbed you . . . you must go straight back to bed and the doctor will see to your ankle.”
“I was not asleep, Mrs. Dr. dear. Do you think I could sleep, knowing where that blessed child was? And ankle or no ankle I am going to get you both a cup of tea.”
“Mummy,” said Di, from her own white pillow, “is Daddy ever cruel to you?”
“Cruel! To me? Why, Di . . .”
“The Pennys said he was . . . said he beat you . . .”
“Dear, you know what the Pennys are now, so you know better than to worry your small head over anything they said. There is always a bit of malicious gossip floating round in any place . . . people like that invent it. You must never bother about it.”
“Are you going to scold me in the morning, Mummy?”
“No. I think you’ve learned your lesson. Now go to sleep, precious.”
“Mummy is so sensible,” was Di’s last conscious thought. But Susan, as she stretched out peacefully in bed, with her ankle expertly and comfortably bandaged, was saying to herself:
“I must hunt up the fine-tooth comb in the morning . . . and when I see my fine Miss Jenny Penny I shall give her a ticking off she will not forget.”171 Jenny Penny never got the promised ticking off, for she came no more to the Glen school. Instead, she went with the other Pennys to Mowbray Narrows school, whence rumours drifted back of her yarns, among them being one of how Di Blythe, who lived in the “big house” at Glen St. Mary but was always coming down to sleep with her, had fainted one night and had been carried home at midnight pick-a-back, by her, Jenny Penny, alone and unassisted. The Ingleside people had knelt and kissed her hands out of gratitude and the doctor himself had got out his fringed-top buggy and his famous dappled grey span and driven her home. “And if there is ever anything I can do for you, Miss Penny, for your kindness to my beloved child you have only to name it. My best heart’s blood would not be enough to repay you. I would go to Equatorial Africa to reward you for what you have done,” the doctor had vowed.172
“I know something you don’t know . . . something you don’t know . . . something you don’t know,” chanted Dovie Johnson, as she teetered back and forth on the very edge of the wharf.
It was Nan’s turn for the spotlight . . . Nan’s turn to add a tale to the do-youremembers of after Ingleside years. Though Nan to the day of her death would blush to be reminded of it. She had been so silly.
Nan shuddered to see Dovie teetering . . . and yet it had a fascination. She was so sure Dovie would fall off sometime and then what? But Dovie never fell. Her luck always held.
Everything Dovie did, or said she did . . . which were, perhaps, two very different things, although Nan, brought up at Ingleside where nobody ever told anything but the truth even as a joke, was too innocent and credulous to know that . . . had a fascination for Nan. Dovie, who was eleven and had lived in Charlottetown all her life knew so much more than Nan, who was only eight. Charlottetown, Dovie said, was the only place where people knew anything. What could you know, shut off in a one-horse place like Glen St. Mary?
Dovie was spending part of her vacation with her Aunt Ella in the Glen and she and Nan had struck up a very intimate friendship in spite of the difference in their ages. Perhaps because Nan looked up to Dovie, who seemed to her to be almost grown up, with the adoration we needs must give the highest when we see it . . . or think we see it. Dovie liked her humble and adoring little satellite.
“There’s no harm in Nan Blythe . . . she’s only a bit soft,” she told Aunt Ella.
The watchful folks at Ingleside could not see anything out of the way about Dovie . . . even if, as Anne reflected, her mother was a cousin of the Avonlea Pyes . . . and made no objection to Nan’s chumming with her, though Susan from the first mistrusted those gooseberry-green eyes with their pale golden lashes.
But what would you? Dovie was “nice-mannered,” well-dressed, ladylike, and did not talk too much. Susan could not give any reason for her mistrust and held her peace. Dovie would be going home when school opened and in the meantime there was certainly no need of fine-tooth combs in this case.173 So Nan and Dovie spent most of their spare time together at the wharf, where there was generally a ship or two with their folded wings, and Rainbow Valley hardly knew Nan that August. The other Ingleside children did not care greatly for Dovie and no love was lost. She had played a practical joke on Walter and Di had been furious and “said things.” Dovie was, it seemed, fond of playing practical jokes. Perhaps that was why none of the Glen girls ever tried to lure her from Nan.
“Oh, please tell me,” pleaded Nan.
But Dovie only winked a wicked eye and said that Nan was far too young to be told such a thing. This was just maddening.
“Please tell me, Dovie.”
“Can’t. It was told me as a secret by Aunt Kate and she’s dead. I’m the only person in the world that knows it now. I promised when I heard it that I’d never tell a soul. You’d tell somebody . . . you couldn’t help it.”
“I wouldn’t . . . I could so!” cried Nan.
“People say you folks at Ingleside tell each other everything. Susan’d pick it out of you in no time.”
“She wouldn’t. I know lots of things I’ve never told Susan. Secrets. I’ll tell mine to you if you’ll tell me yours.”
“Oh, I’m not int’rested in the secrets of a little girl like you,” said Dovie.
A nice insult that! Nan thought her little secrets were lovely . . . that one wild cherry trees she had found blooming in the spruce wood away back behind Mr.
Taylor’s hay barn . . . her dream of a tiny white fairy lying on a lily pad in the marsh . . . her fancy of a boat coming up the harbour drawn by swans attached to silver chains . . . the romance she was beginning to weave about the beautiful lady at the old MacAllister place. They were all very wonderful and magical to Nan and she felt glad, when she thought it over, that she did not have to tell them to Dovie after all.
But what did Dovie know about her that she didn’t know? The query haunted Nan like a mosquito.
The next day Dovie again referred to her secret knowledge.174 “I’ve been thinking it over, Nan . . . perhaps you ought to know it since it’s about you. Of course what Aunt Kate meant was that I mustn’t tell anyone but the person concerned. Look here. If you’ll give me that china stag of yours I’ll tell you what I know about you.”
“Oh, I couldn’t give you that, Dovie. Susan gave it to me my last birthday. It would hurt her feelings dreadfully.”
“All right, then. If you’d rather have your old stag than know an important thing about yourself you can keep him. I don’t care. I’d rather keep it. I always like to know things other girls don’t. It makes you important. I’ll look at you next Sunday in church and I’ll think to myself, ‘if you just knew what I know about you, Nan Blythe.’ It’ll be fun.”
“Is what you know about me nice?” queried Nan.
“Oh, it’s very romantic . . . just like something you’d read in a story-book. But never mind, you ain’t interested and I know what I know.”
By this time Nan was crazy with curiosity. Life wouldn’t be worth living if she couldn’t find out what Dovie’s mysterious knowledge was. She had a sudden inspiration.
“Dovie, I can’t give you my stag, but if you’ll tell me what you know about me I’ll give you my red parasol.”
Dovie’s gooseberry eyes gleamed. She had been eaten up by envy of that parasol.
“The new red parasol your mother brought you from town last week?” she bargained.
Nan nodded. Her breath came quickly. Was it . . . oh, was it possible that Dovie would really tell her?
“Will your mother let you?” demanded Dovie.
Nan nodded again, but a little uncertainly. She was none too sure of it. Dovie scented the uncertainty.
“You’ll have to have that parasol right here,” she said firmly, “before I can tell you. No parasol, no secret.”175
“I’ll bring it tomorrow,” promised Nan hastily. She just had to know what Dovie knew about her, that was all there was to it.
“Well, I’ll think it over,” said Dovie doubtfully. “Don’t get your hopes up. I don’t expect I’ll tell you after all. You’re too young . . . I’ve told you so often enough.”
“I’m older than I was yesterday,” pleaded Nan. “Oh, come, Dovie, don’t be mean.”
“I guess I’ve got a right to my own knowledge,” said Dovie crushingly. “You’d tell Anne . . . that’s your mother . . .”
“Of course I know my own mother’s name,” said Nan, a trifle on her dignity.
Secrets or no secrets, there were limits. “I told you I wouldn’t tell anybody at Ingleside.”
“Will you swear it?”
“Don’t be a poll-parrot. Of course I mean just promising solemnly.”
“I promise solemnly.”
“Solemner than that.”
Nan didn’t see how she could be any solemner. Her face would set if she was.
“‘Clasp your hands, look at the sky,
Cross your heart and hope to die,’”
Nan went through the ritual.
“You’ll bring the parasol tomorrow and we’ll see,” said Dovie. “What did your mother do before she was married, Nan?”
“She taught school . . . and taught it well,” said Nan.176
“Well, I was just wondering. Mother thinks it was a mistake for your Dad to marry her. Nobody knew anything about her family. And the girls he might have had, Mother says. I must be going now. O revor.”
Nan knew that meant “till tomorrow.” She was very proud of having a chum who could talk French. She continued to sit on the wharf long after Dovie had gone home. She liked to sit on the wharf and watch the fishing boats going out and coming in, and sometimes a ship drifting down the harbour, bound to fair lands far away. Like Jem, she often wished she could sail away in a ship . . . down the blue harbour, past the bar of shadowy dunes, past the lighthouse point where at night the revolving Four Winds Light became an outpost of mystery, out, out, to the blue mist that was the summer gulf, on, on, to enchanted islands in golden morning seas. Nan flew on the wings of her imagination all over the world as she squatted there on the old sagging wharf.
But this afternoon she was all keyed up over Dovie’s secret. Would Dovie really tell her? What would it be . . . what could it be? And what about those girls Father might have married? Nan liked to speculate about those girls. One of them might have been her mother. But that was horrible. Nobody could be her mother except Mother. The thing was simply unthinkable.
“I think Dovie Johnson is going to tell me a secret,” Nan confided to Mother that night when she was being kissed bye-bye. “Of course I won’t be able to tell even you, Mummy, because I’ve promised I wouldn’t. You won’t mind, will you, Mummy?”
“Not at all,” said Anne, much amused.
When Nan went down to the wharf the next day she took the parasol. It was her parasol, she told herself. It had been given to her, so she had a perfect right to do what she liked with it. Having quieted her conscience with this sophistry she slipped away when nobody could see her. It gave her a pang to think of giving up her dear, gay little parasol, but by this time the craze to find out what Dovie knew had become too strong to be resisted.
“Here’s the parasol, Dovie,” she said breathlessly. “And now tell me the secret.”
Dovie was really taken aback. She had never meant matters to go as far as this . . . she had never believed Nan Blythe’s mother would let her give away her red parasol. She pursed her lips.177
“I don’t know as that shade of red will suit my complexion, after all. It’s rather gaudy. I guess I won’t tell.” Nan had a spirit of her own and Dovie had not yet quite charmed it into blind submission. Nothing roused it more quickly than injustice.
“A bargain is a bargain, Dovie Johnson! You said the parasol for the secret. Here is the parasol and you’ve got to keep your promise.”
“Oh, very well,” said Dovie in a bored way.
Everything grew very still. The gusts of wind had died away. The water stopped glug-glugging round the piles of the wharf. Nan shivered with delicious ecstasy.
She was going to find out at last what Dovie knew.
“You know the Jimmy Thomases down at the Harbour Mouth,” said Dovie. “Sixtoed Jimmy Thomas?”
Nan nodded. Of course she knew the Thomases . . . at least, knew of them. Sixtoed Jimmy sometimes called at Ingleside selling fish. Susan said you never could be sure of getting good ones from him. Nan did not like the look of him.
He had a bald head, with a fluff of curly white hair on either side of it, and a red, hooked nose. But what could the Thomases possibly have to do with the matter?
“And you know Cassie Thomas?” went on Dovie.
Nan had seen Cassie Thomas once when Six-toed Jimmy had brought her round with him in his fishwagon. Cassie was just about her own age, with a mop of red curls and bold, greenish-grey eyes. She had stuck her tongue out at Nan.
“Well. . . . “Dovie drew a long breath . . . “this is the truth about you. You are Cassie Thomas and she is Nan Blythe.”
Nan stared at Dovie. She hadn’t the faintest glimmer of Dovie’s meaning. What she had said made no sense.
“I . . . I . . . what do you mean?”
“It’s plain enough, I should think,” said Dovie with a pitying smile. Since she had been forced to tell this she was going to make it worth the telling. “You and her were born the same night. It was when the Thomases lived in the Glen. The nurse took Di’s twin down to Thomas’s and put her in the cradle and took you back to Di’s mother. She didn’t dare take Di, too, or she would have. She hated your178 mother and she took that way of getting even. And that is why you are really Cassie Thomas and you ought to be living down there at the Harbour Mouth and poor Cass ought to be up at Ingleside instead of being banged about by that old stepmother of hers. I feel so sorry for her many’s the time.”
Nan believed every word of this preposterous yarn. She had never been lied to in her life and not for one moment did she doubt the truth of Dovie’s tale. It never occurred to her that anyone, much less her beloved Dovie, would or could make up such a story. She gazed at Dovie with anguished, disillusioned eyes.
“How . . . how did your Aunt Kate find it out?” she gasped through dry lips.
“The nurse told her on her death-bed,” said Dovie solemnly. “I s’pose her conscience troubled her. Aunt Kate never told anyone but me. When I came to the Glen and saw Cassie Thomas . . . Nan Blythe, I mean . . . I took a good look at her. She’s got red hair and eyes the same colour as your mother’s. You’ve got brown eyes and brown hair. That’s why you don’t look like Di . . . twins always look exactly alike. And Cass has just the same kind of ears as your father . . . lying so nice and flat against her head. I don’t s’pose anything can be done about it now. But I’ve often thought it wasn’t fair, you having such an easy time and being kept like a doll and poor Cass–Nan–in rags, and not even getting enough to eat, many’s the time. And old Six-toed beating her when he comes home drunk! . . . Why, what are you looking at me like that for?”
Nan’s pain was greater than she could bear. All was horribly clear to her now.
Folks had always thought it funny she and Di didn’t look one bit alike. This was why.
“I hate you for telling me this, Dovie Johnson!”
Dovie shrugged her fat shoulders.
“I didn’t tell you you’d like it, did I? You made me tell. Where are you going?”
For Nan, white and dizzy, had risen to her feet.
“Home . . . to tell Mother,” she said miserably.
“You mustn’t . . . you dassn’t! Remember you swore you wouldn’t tell!” cried Dovie.179
Nan stared at her. It was true she had promised not to tell. And Mother always said you mustn’t break a promise.
“I guess I’ll be getting home myself,” said Dovie, not altogether liking the look of Nan.
She snatched up the parasol and ran off, her plump bare legs twinkling along the old wharf. Behind her she left a broken-hearted child, sitting amid the ruins of her small universe. Dovie didn’t care. Soft was no name for Nan. It really wasn’t much fun to fool her. Of course she would tell her mother as soon as she got home and find out she had been hoaxed.
“Just as well I’m going home Sunday,” reflected Dovie.
Nan sat on the wharf for what seemed hours . . . blind, crushed, despairing. She wasn’t Mother’s child! She was Six-toed Jimmy’s child . . . Six-toed Jimmy of whom she had always had a secret dread simply because of his six toes. She had no business to be living at Ingleside, loved by Mother and Dad. “Oh!” Nan gave a piteous little moan. Mother and Dad wouldn’t love her any more if they knew. All their love would go to Cassie Thomas.
Nan put her hand to her head. “It makes me dizzy,” she said.180 31
“What is the reason you are not eating anything, pet?” asked Susan at the supper table.
“Were you out in the sun too long, dear?” asked Mother anxiously. “Does your head ache?”
“Ye-e-s,” said Nan. But it wasn’t her head that ached. Was she telling a lie to Mother? And if so, how many more would she have to tell? For Nan knew she would never be able to eat again . . . never so long as this horrible knowledge was hers. And she knew she could never tell Mother. Not so much because of the promise . . . hadn’t Susan said once that a bad promise was better broken than kept? . . . but because it would hurt Mother. Somehow, Nan knew beyond any doubt that it would hurt Mother horribly. And Mother mustn’t . . . shouldn’t . . . be hurt. Nor Dad.
And yet . . . there was Cassie Thomas. She wouldn’t call her Nan Blythe. It made Nan feel awful beyond description to think of Cassie Thomas as being Nan Blythe. She felt as if it blotted her out altogether. If she wasn’t Nan Blythe she wasn’t anybody! She would not be Cassie Thomas.
But Cassie Thomas haunted her. For a week Nan was beset by her . . . a wretched week during which Anne and Susan were really worried over the child, who wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t play and, as Susan said, “just moped around.” Was it because Dovie Johnson had gone home? Nan said it wasn’t. Nan said it wasn’t anything. She just felt tired. Dad looked her over and prescribed a dose which Nan took meekly. It was not so bad as castor-oil but even castor-oil meant nothing now. Nothing meant anything except Cassie Thomas . . . and the awful question which had emerged from her confusion of mind and taken possession of her.
Shouldn’t Cassie Thomas have her rights?
Was it fair that she, Nan Blythe . . . Nan clung to her identity frantically . . . should have all the things Cassie Thomas was denied and which were hers by rights? No, it wasn’t fair. Nan was despairingly sure it wasn’t fair. Somewhere in Nan there was a very strong sense of justice and fair play. And it became increasingly borne in upon her that it was only fair that Cassie Thomas should be told.181
After all, perhaps nobody would care very much. Mother and Dad would be a little upset at first, of course, but as soon as they knew that Cassie Thomas was their own child all their love would go to Cassie and, she, Nan, would be of no account to them. Mother would kiss Cassie Thomas and sing to her in the summer twilights . . . sing the song Nan liked best. . . .
“I saw a ship a-sailing, a-sailing on the sea,
“And oh, it was all laden with pretty things for me.”
Nan and Di had often talked about the day their ship would come in. But now the pretty things . . . her share of them anyhow . . . would belong to Cassie Thomas.
Cassie Thomas would take her part as fairy queen in the forthcoming Sunday School concert and wear her dazzling band of tinsel. How Nan had looked forward to that! Susan would make fruit puffs for Cassie Thomas and Pussywillow would purr for her. She would play with Nan’s dolls in Nan’s mosscarpeted play-house in the maple grove, and sleep in her bed. Would Di like that?
Would Di like Casssie Thomas for a sister?
There came a day when Nan knew she could bear it no longer. She must do what was fair. She would go down to the Harbour Mouth and tell the Thomases the truth. They could tell Mother and Dad. Nan felt that she simply could not do that.
Nan felt a little better when she had come to this decision, but very, very sad. She tried to eat a little supper because it would be the last meal she would ever eat at Ingleside.
“I’ll always call Mother ‘Mother,’” thought Nan desperately. “And I won’t call Six-toed Jimmy ‘Father.’ I’ll just say ‘Mr. Thomas’ very respectfully. Surely he won’t mind that.”
But something choked her. Looking up she read castor-oil in Susan’s eye. Little Susan thought she wouldn’t be here at bedtime to take it. Cassie Thomas would have to swallow it. That was the one thing Nan didn’t envy Cassie Thomas.
Nan went off immediately after supper. She must go before it was dark or her courage would fail her. She went in her checked gingham play-dress, not daring to change it, lest Susan or Mother ask why. Besides, all her nice dresses really belonged to Cassie Thomas. But she did put on the new apron Susan had made182 for her . . . such a smart little scalloped apron, the scallops bound in turkey red.
Nan loved that apron. Surely Cassie Thomas wouldn’t grudge her that much.
She walked down to the village, through the village, past the wharf road, and down the harbour road, a gallant, indomitable little figure. Nan had no idea that she was a heroine. On the contrary she felt very much ashamed of herself because it was so hard to do what was right and fair, so hard to keep from hating Cassie Thomas, so hard to keep from fearing Six-toed Jimmy, so hard to keep from turning round and running back to Ingleside.
It was a lowering evening. Out to sea hung a heavy black cloud, like a great dark bat. Fitful lightning played over the harbour and the wooded hills beyond. The cluster of fishermen’s houses at the Harbour Mouth lay flooded in a red light that escaped from under the cloud. Pools of water here and there glowed like great rubies. A ship, silent, white-sailed, was drifting past the dim, misty dunes to the mysterious calling ocean; the gulls were crying strangely.
Nan did not like the smell of the fishing houses or the groups of dirty children who were playing and fighting and yelling on the sands. They looked curiously at Nan when she stopped to ask them which was Six-toed Jimmy’s house.
“That one over there,” said a boy, pointing. “What’s your business with him?”
“Thank you,” said Nan, turning away.
“Have ye got no more manners than that?” yelled a girl. “Too stuck-up to answer a civil question!”
The boy got in front of her.
“See that house back of Thomases?” he said. “It’s got a sea-serpent in it and I’ll lock you up in it if you don’t tell me what you want with Six-toed Jimmy.”
“Come now, Miss Proudy,” taunted a big girl. “You’re from the Glen and the glenners all think they’re the cheese. Answer Bill’s question!”
“If you don’t look out,” said another boy, “I’m going to drown some kittens and I’ll quite likely pop you in, too.”
“If you’ve got a dime about you I’ll sell you a tooth,” said a black-browed girl, grinning. “I had one pulled yesterday.”183
“I haven’t got a dime and your tooth wouldn’t be of any use to me,” said Nan, plucking up a little spirit. “You let me alone.”
“None of your lip!” said the black-browed.
Nan started to run. The sea-serpent boy stuck out a foot and tripped her up. She fell her length on the tide-rippled sand. The others screamed with laughter.
“You won’t hold your head so high now, I reckon,” said the black-browed.
“Strutting about here with your red scallops!”
Then someone exclaimed, “There’s Blue Jack’s boat coming in!” and away they all ran. The black cloud had dropped lower and every ruby pool was grey.
Nan picked herself up. Her dress was plastered with sand and her stockings were soiled. But she was free from her tormentors. Would these be her playmates in the future?
She must not cry . . . she must not! She climbed the rickety board steps that led up to Six-toed Jimmy’s door. Like all the Harbour Mouth houses Six-toed Jimmy’s was raised on blocks of wood to be out of the reach of any unusually high tide, and the space underneath it was filled with a medley of broken dishes, empty cans, old lobster traps, and all kinds of rubbish. The door was open and Nan looked into a kitchen the like of which she had never seen in her life. The bare floor was dirty, the ceiling was stained and smoked, the sink was full of dirty dishes. The remains of a meal were on the rickety old wooden table and horrid big black flies were swarming over it. A woman with an untidy mop of grayish hair was sitting on a rocker nursing a fat lump of a baby . . . a baby gray with dirt.
“My sister,” thought Nan.
There was no sign of Cassie or Six-toed Jimmy, for which latter fact Nan felt grateful.
“Who are you and what do you want?” said the woman rather ungraciously.
She did not ask Nan in but Nan walked in. It was beginning to rain outside and a peal of thunder made the house shake. Nan knew she must say what she had come to say before her courage failed her, or she would turn and run from that dreadful house and that dreadful baby and those dreadful flies.184 “I want to see Cassie, please,” she said. “I have something important to tell her.”
“Indeed, now!” said the woman. “It must be important, from the size of you.
Well, Cass isn’t home. Her dad took her to the Upper Glen for a ride and with this storm coming up there’s no telling when they’ll be back. Sit down.”
Nan sat down on a broken chair. She had known the Harbour Mouth folks were poor but she had not known any of them were like this. Mrs. Tom Fitch in the Glen was poor but Mrs. Tom Fitch’s house was as neat and tidy as Ingleside. Of course, everyone knew that Six-toed Jimmy drank up everything he made. And this was to be her home henceforth!
“Anyhow, I’ll try to clean it up,” thought Nan forlornly. But her heart was like lead. The flame of high self-sacrifice which had lured her on had gone out.
“What are you wanting to see Cass for?” asked Mrs. Six-toed curiously, as she wiped the baby’s dirty face with a still dirtier apron. “If it’s about that Sunday School concert she can’t go and that’s flat. She hasn’t a decent rag. How can I get her any? I ask you.”
“No, it’s not about the concert,” said Nan drearily. She might as well tell Mrs.
Thomas the whole story. She would have to know it anyhow. “I came to tell her . . . to tell her that . . . that she is me and I’m her!”
Perhaps Mrs. Six-toed might be forgiven for not thinking this very lucid.
“You must be cracked,” she said. “Whatever on earth do you mean?”
Nan lifted her head. The worst was now over.
“I mean that Cassie and I were born the same night and . . . and . . . the nurse changed us because she had a spite at Mother, and . . . and . . . Cassie ought to be living at Ingleside . . . and having advantages.”
This last phrase was one she had heard her Sunday School teacher use but Nan thought it made a dignified ending to a very lame speech.
Mrs. Six-toed stared at her.
“Am I crazy or are you? What you’ve been saying doesn’t make any sense.
Whoever told you such a rigmarole?”
Mrs. Six-toed threw back her tousled head and laughed. She might be dirty and draggled but she had an attractive laugh. “I might have knowed it. I’ve been washing for her aunt all summer and that kid is a pill! My, doesn’t she think it smart to fool people! Well, little Miss What’s-your-name, you’d better not be believing all Dovie’s yarns or she’ll lead you a merry dance.”
“Do you mean it isn’t true?” gasped Nan.
“Not very likely. Good glory, you must be pretty green to fall for anything like that. Cass must be a good year older than you. Who on earth are you, anyhow?”
“I’m Nan Blythe.” Oh, beautiful thought! She was Nan Blythe!
“Nan Blythe! One of the Ingleside twins! Why, I remember the night you were born. I happened to call at Ingleside on an errand. I wasn’t married to Six-toed then . . . more’s the pity I ever was . . . and Cass’s mother was living and healthy, with Cass beginning to walk. You look like your dad’s mother . . . she was there that night, too, proud as Punch over her twin granddaughters. And to think you’d no more sense than to believe a crazy yarn like that.”
“I’m in the habit of believing people,” said Nan, rising with a slight stateliness of manner, but too deliriously happy to want to snub Mrs. Six-toed very sharply.
“Well, it’s a habit you’d better get out of in this kind of a world,” said Mrs. Sixtoed cynically. “And quit running round with kids who like to fool people. Sit down, child. You can’t go home till this shower’s over. It’s pouring rain and dark as a stack of black cats. Why, she’s gone . . . the child’s gone!”
Nan was already blotted out in the downpour. Nothing but the wild exultation born of Mrs. Six-toed’s assurances could have carried her home through that storm. The wind buffeted her, the rain streamed upon her, the appalling thunderclaps made her think the world had burst open. Only the incessant icyblue glare of the lightning showed her the road. Again and again she slipped and fell. But at last she reeled, dripping, into the hall at Ingleside.
Mother ran and caught her in her arms.
“Darling, what a fright you have given us! Oh, where have you been?”
“I only hope Jem and Walter won’t catch their deaths out in that rain searching for you,” said Susan, the sharpness of strain in her voice.186 Nan had almost had the breath battered out of her. She could only gasp, as she felt Mother’s arms enfolding her:
“Oh, Mother, I’m me . . . really me. I’m not Cassie Thomas and I’ll never be anybody but me again.”
“The poor pet is delirious,” said Susan. “She must have et something that disagreed with her.”
Anne bathed Nan and put her to bed before she would let her talk. Then she heard the whole story.
“Oh, Mummy, am I really your child?”
“Of course, darling. How could you think anything else?”
“I didn’t ever think Dovie would tell me a story . . . not Dovie. Mummy, can you believe anybody? Jen Penny told Di awful stories . . .”
“They are only two girls out of all the little girls you know, dear. None of your other playmates has ever told you what wasn’t true. There are people in the world like that, grown-ups as well as children. When you are a little older you will be better able to ‘tell the gold from the tinsel.’”
“Mummy, I wish Walter and Jem and Di needn’t know what a silly I was.”
“They needn’t. Di went to Lowbridge with Daddy, and the boys need only know you went too far down the Harbour Road and were caught in the storm. You were foolish to believe Dovie but you were a very fine brave little girl to go and offer what you thought her rightful place to poor little Cassie Thomas. Mother is proud of you.”
The storm was over. The moon was looking down on a cool happy world.
“Oh, I’m so glad I’m me!” was Nan’s last thought as she fell on sleep.
Gilbert and Anne came in later to look on the little sleeping faces that were so sweetly close to each other. Diana slept with the corners of her firm little mouth tucked in but Nan had gone to sleep smiling. Gilbert had heard the story and was so angry that it was well for Dovie Johnson that she was a good thirty miles away from him. But Anne was feeling conscience-stricken.187
“I should have found out what was troubling her. But I’ve been too much taken up with other things this week . . . things that really mattered nothing compared to a child’s unhappiness. Think of what the poor darling has suffered.”
She stooped repentantly, gloatingly over them. They were still hers . . . wholly hers, to mother and love and protect. They still came to her with every love and grief of their little hearts. For a few years longer they would be hers . . . and then?
Anne shivered. Motherhood was very sweet . . . but very terrible.
“I wonder what life holds for them,” she whispered.
“At least, let’s hope and trust they’ll each get as good a husband as their mother got,” said Gilbert teasingly.188
“So the Ladies’ Aid is going to have their quilting at Ingleside,” said the doctor.
“Bring out all your lordly dishes, Susan, and provide several brooms to sweep up the fragments of reputations afterwards.”
Susan smiled wanly, as a woman tolerant of a man’s lack of all understanding of vital things, but she did not feel like smiling . . . at least, until everything concerning the Aid supper had been settled.
“Hot chicken pie,” she went about murmuring, “mashed potatoes and creamed peas for the main course. And it will be such a good chance to use your new lace tablecloth, Mrs. Dr. dear. Such a thing has never been seen in the Glen and I am confident it will make a sensation. I am looking forward to Annabel Clow’s face when she sees it. And will you be using your blue and silver basket for the flowers?”
“Yes, full of pansies and yellow-green ferns from the maple grove. And I want you to put those three magnificent pink geraniums of yours somewhere around . . . in the living-room if we quilt there or on the balustrade of the verandah if it’s warm enough to work out there. I’m glad we have so many flowers left. The garden has never been so beautiful as it has been this summer, Susan. But then I say that every autumn, don’t I?”
There were many things to be settled. Who should sit by whom . . . it would never do, for instance, to have Mrs. Simon Millison sit beside Mrs. William McCreery, for they never spoke to each other because of some obscure old feud dating back to schooldays. Then there was the question of whom to invite . . . for it was the hostess’ privilege to ask a few guests apart from the members of the Aid.
“I’m going to have Mrs. Best and Mrs. Campbell,” said Anne.
Susan looked doubtful.
“They are newcomers, Mrs. Dr. dear,” . . . much as she might have said, “They are crocodiles.”
“The doctor and I were newcomers once, Susan.”189
“But the doctor’s uncle was here for years before that. Nobody knows anything about these Bests and Campbells. But it is your house, Mrs. Dr. dear, and whom am I to object to anyone you wish to have? I remember one quilting at Mrs.
Carter Flagg’s many years ago when Mrs. Flagg invited a strange woman. She came in wincey, Mrs. Dr. dear . . . said she didn’t think a Ladies’ Aid worth dressing up for! At least there will be no fear of that with Mrs. Campbell. She is very dressy . . . though I could never see myself wearing hydrangea blue to church.”
Anne could not either, but she dared not smile.
“I thought that dress was lovely with Mrs. Campbell’s silver hair, Susan. And by the way, she wants your recipe for spiced gooseberry relish. She says she had some of it at the Harvest Home supper and it was delicious.”
“Oh, well, Mrs. Dr. dear, it is not everyone who can make spiced gooseberry . . .”
and no more disapproval was expressed of hydrangea blue dresses. Mrs.
Campbell might henceforth appear in the costume of a Fiji Islander if she chose and Susan would find excuses for it.
The young months had grown old but autumn was still remembering summer and the quilting day was more like June than October. Every member of the Ladies’
Aid who could possibly come came, looking forward pleasurably to a good dish of gossip and an Ingleside supper, besides, possibly, seeing some sweet new thing in fashions since the doctor’s wife had recently been to town.
Susan, unbowed by the culinary cares that were heaped upon her, stalked about, showing the ladies to the guest-room, serene in the knowledge that not one of them possessed an apron trimmed with crochet lace five inches deep made from Number One Hundred thread. Susan had captured first prize at the Charlottetown Exhibition the week before with that lace. She and Rebecca Dew had trysted there and made a day of it, and Susan had come home that night the proudest woman in Prince Edward Island.
Susan’s face was perfectly controlled but her thoughts were her own, sometimes spiced with a trifle of mild malice.
“Celia Reese is here, looking for something to laugh at as usual. Well, she will not find it at our supper table and that you may tie to. Myra Murray in red velvet . . . a little too sumptuous for a quilting in my opinion but I am not denying she looks well in it. At least it is not wincey. Agatha Drew . . . and her glasses tied on with a string as usual. Sarah Taylor . . . it may be her last quilting . . . she has got190 a terrible heart, the doctor says, but the spirit of her! Mrs. Donald Reese . . . thank the Good Lord she didn’t bring Mary Anna with her but no doubt we will hear plenty. Jane Burr from the Upper Glen. She isn’t a member of the Aid. Well, I shall count the spoons after supper and that you may tie to. That family were all light-fingered. Candace Crawford . . . she doesn’t often trouble an Aid meeting but a quilting is a good place to show off her pretty hands and her diamond ring.
Emma Pollock with her petticoat showing below her dress, of course . . . a pretty woman but flimsy-minded like all that tribe. Tillie MacAllister, don’t you go and upset the jelly on the tablecloth like you did at Mrs. Palmer’s quilting. Martha Crothers, you will have a decent meal for once. It is too bad your husband could not have come too . . . I hear he has to live on nuts or something like that. Mrs.
Elder Baxter . . . I hear the elder has scared Harold Reese away from Mina at last.
Harold always had a wishbone in place of a backbone and faint heart never won fair lady as the Good Book says. Well, we have enough for two quilts and some over to thread needles.”
The quilts were set up on the broad verandah and everyone was busy with fingers and tongues. Anne and Susan were deep in preparations for supper in the kitchen, and Walter, who had been kept home from school that day because of a slight sore throat, was squatted on the verandah steps, screened from view of the quilters by a curtain of vines. He always liked to listen to older people talking.
They said such surprising, mysterious things . . . things you could think over afterwards and weave into the very stuff of drama, things that reflected the colours and shadows, the comedies and tragedies, the jests and the sorrows, of every Four Winds clan.
Of all the women present Walter liked Mrs. Myra Murray best, with her easy infectious laugh and the jolly little wrinkles round her eyes. She could tell the simplest story and make it seem dramatic and vital; she gladdened life wherever she went; and she did look so pretty in her cherry-red velvet, with the smooth ripples in her black hair, and the little red drops in her ears. Mrs. Tom Chubb, who was thin as a needle, he liked least . . . perhaps because he had once heard her calling him “a sickly child.” He thought Mrs. Allan Milgrave looked just like a sleek grey hen and that Mrs. Grant Clow was like nothing so much as a barrel on legs. Young Mrs. David Ransome, with her taffy-coloured hair, was very handsome, “too handsome for a farm,” Susan had said when Dave married her.
The young bride, Mrs. Morton MacDougall, looked like a sleepy white poppy.
Edith Bailey, the Glen dressmaker, with her misty silvery curls and humorous black eyes, didn’t look as if she should be “an old maid.” He liked Mrs. Meade, the oldest woman there, who had gentle, tolerant eyes and listened far more than she talked, and he did not like Celia Reese, with her sly amused look as if she were laughing at everybody.191
The quilters had not really started talking yet . . . they were discussing the weather and deciding whether to quilt in fans or diamonds, so Walter was thinking of the beauty of the ripened day, the big lawn with its magnificent trees, and the world that looked as if some great kind Being had put golden arms about it. The tinted leaves were drifting slowly down but the knightly hollyhocks were still gay against the brick wall and the poplars wove sorcery of aspen along the path to the barn. Walter was so absorbed in the loveliness around him that the quilting conversation was in full swing before he was recalled to consciousness of it by Mrs. Simon Millison’s pronouncement.
“That clan were noted for their sensational funerals. Will any of you who were there ever forget what happened at Peter Kirk’s funeral?”
Walter pricked up his ears. This sounded interesting. But much to his disappointment Mrs. Simon did not go on to tell what had happened. Everybody must either have been at the funeral or heard the story.
(“But why are they all looking so uncomfortable about it?”)
“There is no doubt that everything Clara Wilson said about Peter was true, but he is in his grave, poor man, so let us leave him there,” said Mrs. Tom Chubb selfrighteously . . . as if somebody had proposed exhuming him.
“Mary Anna is always saying such clever things,” said Mrs. Donald Reese. “Do you know what she said the other day when we were starting to Margaret Hollister’s funeral? ‘Ma,’ she said, ‘will there be any ice-cream at the funeral?’”
A few women exchanged furtive amused smiles. Most of them ignored Mrs.
Donald. It was really the only thing to do when she began dragging Mary Anna into the conversation as she invariably did, in season and out of season. If you gave her the least encouragement she was maddening. “Do you know what Mary Anna said?” was a standing catchword in the Glen.
“Talking of funerals,” said Celia Reese, “there was a queer one in Mowbray Narrows when I was a girl. Stanton Lane had gone out West and word came back that he had died. His folks wired to have the body sent home, so it was, but Wallace MacAllister, the undertaker, advised them against opening the casket.
The funeral had just got off to a good start when in walked Stanton Lane himself, hale and hearty. It was never found out who the corpse really was.”
“What did they do with him?” queried Agatha Drew.192
“Oh, they buried him. Wallace said it couldn’t be put off. But you couldn’t rightly call it a funeral with everyone so happy over Stanton’s return. Mr. Dawson changed the last hymn from ‘Take Comfort, Christians,’ to ‘Sometimes a Light Surprises,’ but most people thought he’d better have left well enough alone.”
“Do you know what Mary Anna said to me the other day? She said, ‘Ma, do the ministers know everything?’”
“Mr. Dawson always lost his head in a crisis,” said Jane Burr. “The Upper Glen was part of his charge then and I remember one Sunday he dismissed the congregation and then remembered that the collection hadn’t been taken up. So what does he do but grab a collection plate and run round the yard with it. To be sure,” added Jane, “people gave that day who never gave before or after. They didn’t like to refuse the minister. But it was hardly dignified of him.”
“What I had against Mr. Dawson,” said Miss Cornelia, “was the unmerciful length of his prayers at a funeral. It actually came to such a pass that people said they envied the corpse. He surpassed himself at Letty Grant’s funeral. I saw her mother was on the point of fainting so I gave him a good poke in the back with my umbrella and told him he’d prayed long enough.”
“He buried my poor Jarvis,” said Mrs. George Carr, tears dropping down. She always cried when she spoke of her husband although he had been dead for twenty years.
“His brother was a minister, too,” said Christine Marsh. “He was in the Glen when I was a girl. We had a concert in the hall one night and as he was one of the speakers he was sitting on the platform. He was as nervous as his brother and he kept fidgeting his chair further and further back and all at once he went, chair and all, clean over the edge on the bank of flowers and house-plants we had arranged around the base. All that could be seen of him was his feet sticking up above the platform. Somehow, it always spoiled his preaching for me after that. His feet were so big.”
“The Lane funeral might have been a disappointment,” said Emma Pollock, “but at least it was better than not having any funeral at all. You remember the Cromwell mix-up?”
There was a chorus of reminiscent laughter. “Let us hear the story,” said Mrs.
Campbell. “Remember, Mrs. Pollock, I’m a stranger here and all the family sagas are quite unknown to me.”193
Emma didn’t know what “sagas” meant but she loved to tell a story.
“Abner Cromwell lived over near Lowbridge on one of the biggest farms in that district and he was an M.P.P. in those days. He was one of the biggest frogs in the Tory puddle and acquainted with everybody of any importance on the Island.
He was married to Julie Flagg, whose mother was a Reese and her grandmother was a Clow so they were connected with almost every family in Four Winds as well. One day a notice came out in the Daily Enterprise . . . Mr. Abner Cromwell had died suddenly at Lowbridge and his funeral would be held at two o’clock the next afternoon. Somehow the Abner Cromwells missed seeing the notice . . . and of course there were no rural telephones in those days. The next morning Abner left for Halifax to attend a Liberal convention. At two o’clock people began arriving for the funeral, coming early to get a good seat, thinking there’d be such a crowd on account of Abner being such a prominent man. And a crowd there was, believe you me. For miles around the roads were just a string of buggies and people kept pouring in till about three. Mrs. Abner was just about crazy trying to make them believe her husband wasn’t dead. Some wouldn’t believe her at first.
She said to me in tears that they seemed to think she’d made away with the corpse. And when they were convinced they acted as if they thought Abner ought to be dead. And they tramped all over the lawn flower-beds she was so proud of.
Any number of distant relations arrived, too, expecting supper and beds for the night and she hadn’t much cooked . . . Julie was never very forehanded, that has to be admitted. When Abner arrived home two days afterwards he found her in bed with nervous prostration and she was months getting over it. She didn’t eat a thing for six weeks . . . well, hardly anything. I heard she said if there really had been a funeral she couldn’t have been more upset. But I never believed she really did say it.”
“You can’t be sure,” said Mrs. William MacCreery. “People do say such awful things. When they’re upset the truth pops out. Julie’s sister Clarice actually went and sang in the choir as usual the first Sunday after her husband was buried.”
“Not even a husband’s funeral could damp Clarice down long,” said Agatha Drew. “There was nothing solid about her. Always dancing and singing.”
“I used to dance and sing . . . on the shore, where nobody heard me,” said Myra Murray.
“Ah, but you’ve grown wiser since then,” said Agatha.
“No-o-o, foolisher,” said Myra Murray slowly. “Too foolish now to dance along the shore.”194
“At first,” said Emma, not to be cheated out of a complete story, “they thought the notice had been put in for a joke . . . because Abner had lost his election a few days before . . . but it turned out it was for an Amasa Cromwell, living away in the back woods the other side of Lowbridge . . . no relation at all. He had really died. But it was a long time before people forgave Abner the disappointment, if they ever did.”
“Well, it was a little inconvenient driving all that distance, right in planting time, too, and finding you had your journey for your pains,” said Mrs. Tom Chubb defensively.
“And people like funerals as a rule,” said Mrs. Donald Reese with spirit. “We’re all like children, I guess. I took Mary Anna to her uncle Gordon’s funeral and she enjoyed it so. ‘Ma, couldn’t we dig him up and have the fun of burying him over again?’ she said.”
They did laugh at this . . . everybody except Mrs. Elder Baxter, who primmed up her long thin face and jabbed the quilt mercilessly. Nothing was sacred nowadays. Everyone laughed at everything. But she, an elder’s wife, was not going to countenance any laughter connected with a funeral.
“Speaking of Abner, do you remember the obituary his brother John wrote for his wife?” asked Mrs. Allan Milgrave. “It started out with, ‘God, for reasons best known to Himself, has been pleased to take my beautiful bride and leave my cousin William’s ugly wife alive.’ Shall I ever forget the fuss it made!”
“How did such a thing ever come to be printed at all?” asked Mrs. Best.
“Why, he was managing editor of the Enterprise then. He worshipped his wife . . . Bertha Morris, she was . . . and he hated Mrs. William Cromwell because she hadn’t wanted him to marry Bertha. She thought Bertha too flighty.”
“But she was pretty,” said Elizabeth Kirk.
“The prettiest thing I ever saw in my life,” agreed Mrs. Milgrave. “Good looks ran in the Morrises. But fickle . . . fickle as a breeze. Nobody ever knew how she came to stay in one mind long enough to marry John. They say her mother kept her up to the notch. Bertha was in love with Fred Reese but he was notorious for flirting. ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ Mrs. Morris told her.”
“I’ve heard that proverb all my life,” said Myra Murray, “and I wonder if it’s true.
Perhaps the birds in the bush could sing and the one in the hand couldn’t.”195 Nobody knew just what to say but Mrs. Tom Chubb said it anyhow.
“You’re always so whimsical, Myra.”
“Do you know what Mary Anna said to me the other day?” said Mrs. Donald.
“She said, ‘Ma, what will I do if nobody ever asks me to marry him?’”
“Us old maids could answer that, couldn’t we?” asked Celia Reese, giving Edith Bailey a nudge with her elbow. Celia disliked Edith because Edith was still rather pretty and not entirely out of the running.
“Gertrude Cromwell was ugly,” said Mrs. Grant Clow. “She had a figure like a slat. But a great housekeeper. She washed every curtain she owned every month and if Bertha washed hers once a year it was as much as ever. And her windowshades were always crooked. Gertrude said it just gave her the shivers to drive past John Cromwell’s house. And yet John Cromwell worshipped Bertha and William just put up with Gertrude. Men are strange. They say William overslept on his wedding morning and dressed in such a tearing hurry he got to the church with old shoes and odd socks on.”
“Well, that was better than Oliver Random,” giggled Mrs. George Carr. “He forgot to have a wedding suit made and his old Sunday suit was simply impossible. It had beenpatched. So he borrowed his brother’s best suit. It only fitted him here and there.”
“And at least William and Gertrude did get married,” said Mrs. Simon. “Her sister Caroline didn’t. She and Ronny Drew quarrelled over what minister they’d have marry them and never got married at all. Ronny was so mad he went and married Edna Stone before he’d time to cool off. Caroline went to the wedding.
She held her head high but her face was like death.”
“But she held her tongue at least,” said Sarah Taylor. “Philippa Abbey didn’t.
When Jim Mowbray jilted her she went to his wedding and said the bitterest things out loud all through the ceremony. They were all Anglicans, of course,”
concluded Sarah Taylor, as if that accounted for any vagaries.
“Did she really go to the reception afterwards wearing all the jewelry Jim had given her while they were engaged?” asked Celia Reese.
“No, she didn’t! I don’t know how such stories get around, I’m sure. You’d think some people never did anything but repeat gossip. I daresay Jim Mowbray lived196 to wish he’d stuck to Philippa. His wife kept him down good and solid . . . though he always had a riotous time in her absence.”
“The only time I ever saw Jim Mowbray was the night the junebugs nearly stampeded the congregation at the anniversary service in Lowbridge,” said Christine Crawford. “And what the junebugs left undone Jim Mowbray contributed. It was a hot night and they had all the windows open. The junebugs just poured in and blundered about in hundreds. They picked up eighty-seven dead bugs on the choir platform the next morning. Some of the women got hysterical when the bugs flew too near their faces. Just across the aisles from me the new minister’s wife was sitting . . . Mrs. Peter Loring. She had on a big lace hat with willow plumes. . . .”
“She was always considered far too dressy and extravagant for a minister’s wife,”
interpolated Mrs. Elder Baxter.
“‘Watch me flick that bug off Mrs. Preacher’s hat,’ I heard Jim Mowbray whisper . . . he was sitting right behind her. He leaned forward and aimed a blow at the bug . . . missed it, but side-swiped the hat and sent it skittering down the aisle clean to the communion railing. Jim almost had a conniption. When the minister saw his wife’s hat come sailing through the air he lost his place in his sermon, couldn’t find it again and gave up in despair. The choir sang the last hymn, dabbing at junebugs all the time. Jim went down and brought the hat back to Mrs.
Loring. He expected a calling down, for she was said to be high-spirited. But she just stuck it on her pretty yellow head again and laughed at him. ‘If you hadn’t done that,’ she said, ‘Peter would have gone on for another twenty minutes and we’d all have been stark staring mad.’ Of course, it was nice of her not to be angry but people thought it wasn’t just the thing for her to say of her husband.”
“But you must remember how she was born,” said Martha Crothers.
“She was Bessy Talbot from up west. Her father’s house caught fire one night and in all the fuss and upheaval Bessy was born . . . out in the garden . . . under the stars.”
“How romantic!” said Myra Murray.
“Romantic! I call it barely respectable.”197
“But think of being born under the stars!” said Myra dreamily. “Why, she ought to have been a child of the stars . . . sparkling . . . beautiful . . . brave . . . true . . . with a twinkle in her eyes.”
“She was all that,” said Martha, “whether the stars were accountable for it or not.
And a hard time she had in Lowbridge where they thought a minister’s wife should be all prunes and prisms. Why, one of the elders caught her dancing around her baby’s cradle one day and he told her she ought not to rejoice over her son until she found out if he was electedor not.”
“Talking of babies, do you know what Mary Anna said the other day, ‘Ma,’ she said, ‘do queens have babies?’”
“That must have been Alexander Wilson,” said Mrs. Allan. “A born crab if ever there was one. He wouldn’t allow his family to speak a word at meal-times, I’ve heard. As for laughing . . . there never was any done in his house.”
“Think of a house without laughter!” said Myra.
“Why, it’s . . . sacrilegious.”
“Alexander used to take spells when he wouldn’t speak to his wife for three days at a time,” continued Mrs. Allan. “It was such a relief to her,” she added.
“Alexander Wilson was a good honest business man at least,” said Mrs. Grant Clow stiffly. The said Alexander was her fourth cousin and the Wilsons were clannish. “He left forty thousand dollars when he died.”
“Such a pity he had to leave it,” said Celia Reese.
“His brother Jeffry didn’t leave a cent,” said Mrs. Clow. “He was the ne’er-dowell of that family, I must admit. Goodness knows he did enough laughing. Spent everything he earned . . . hail-fellow-well-met with everyone . . . and died penniless. What did he get out of life with all his flinging about and laughing?”
“Not much perhaps,” said Myra, “but think of all he put into it. He was always giving . . . cheer, sympathy, friendliness, even money. He was rich in friends at least and Alexander never had a friend in his life.”
“Jeff’s friends didn’t bury him,” retorted Mrs. Allan. “Alexander had to do that . . . and put up a real fine tombstone for him, too. It cost a hundred dollars.”198 “But when Jeff asked him for a loan of one hundred to pay for an operation that might have saved his life, didn’t Alexander refuse it?” asked Celia Drew.
“Come, come, we’re getting too uncharitable,” protested Mrs. Carr. “After all, we don’t live in a world of forget-me-nots and daisies and everyone has some faults.”
“Lem Anderson is marrying Dorothy Clark today,” said Mrs. Millison, thinking it was high time the conversation took a more cheerful line. “And it isn’t a year since he swore he would blow out his brains if Jane Elliott wouldn’t marry him.”
“Young men do say such odd things,” said Mrs. Chubb. “They’ve kept it very close . . . it never leaked out till three weeks ago that they were engaged. I was talking to his mother last week and she never hinted at a wedding so soon. I am not sure that I care much for a woman who can be such a Spinx.”
“I am surprised at Dorothy Clark taking him,” said Agatha Drew. “I thought last spring that she and Frank Clow were going to make a match of it.”
“I heard Dorothy say that Frank was the best match but she really couldn’t abide the thought of seeing that nose sticking out over the sheet every morning when she woke up.”
Mrs. Elder Baxter gave a spinsterish shudder and refused to join in the laughter.
“You shouldn’t say such things before a young girl like Edith,” said Celia, winking around the quilt.
“Is Ada Clark engaged yet?” asked Emma Pollock.
“No, not exactly,” said Mrs. Milison. “Just hopeful. But she’ll land him yet.
Those girls all have a knack of picking husbands. Her sister Pauline married the best farm over the harbour.”
“Pauline is pretty but she is full of silly notions as ever,” said Mrs. Milgrave.
“Sometimes I think she’ll never learn any sense.”
“Oh, yes, she will,” said Myra Murray. “Some day she will have children of her own and she will learn wisdom from them . . . as you and I did.”
“Where are Lem and Dorothy going to live?” asked Mrs. Meade.
“Oh, Lem has bought a farm at the Upper Glen. The old Carey place, you know, where poor Mrs. Roger Carey murdered her husband.”199
“Murdered her husband!”
“Oh, I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, but everybody thought she went a little too far. Yes–weed-killer in his teacup . . . or was it his soup? Everybody knew it but nothing was ever done about it. The spool, please, Celia.”
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