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2 (Extracts from various letters from the same to the same.)
“Do you know where I go to read your letters? Across the road into the grove.
There is a little dell there where the sun dapples the ferns. A brook meanders through it; there is a twisted mossy tree-trunk on which I sit, and the most delightful row of young sister birches. After this, when I have a dream of a certain kind . . . a golden-green, crimson-veined dream . . . a very dream of dreams . . . I shall please my fancy with the belief that it came from my secret dell of birches and was born of some mystic union between the slenderest, airiest of the sisters and the crooning brook. I love to sit there and listen to the silence of the grove. Have you ever noticed how many different silences there are, Gilbert?
The silence of the woods . . . of the shore . . . of the meadows . . . of the night . . . of the summer afternoon. All different because all the undertones that thread them are different. I’m sure if I were totally blind and insensitive to heat and cold I could easily tell just where I was by the quality of the silence about me.
“School has been ‘keeping’ for two weeks now and I’ve got things pretty well organized. But Mrs. Braddock was right . . . the Pringles are my problem. And as yet I don’t see exactly how I’m going to solve it in spite of my lucky clovers. As Mrs. Braddock says, they are as smooth as cream . . . and as slippery.
“The Pringles are a kind of clan who keeps tabs on each other and fight a good bit among themselves but stand shoulder to shoulder in regard to any outsider. I have come to the conclusion that there are just two kinds of people in Summerside . . . those who are Pringles and those who aren’t.
“My room is full of Pringles and a good many students who bear another name have Pringle blood in them. The ring-leader of them seems to be Jen Pringle, a green-eyed bantling who looks as Becky Sharp must have looked at fourteen. I believe she is deliberately organizing a subtle campaign of insubordination and disrespect, with which I am going to find it hard to cope. She has a knack of making irresistibly comic faces and when I hear a smothered ripple of laughter running over the room behind my back I know perfectly well what has caused it, but so far I haven’t been able to catch her out in it. She has brains, too . . . the15 little wretch! . . . can write compositions that are fourth cousins to literature and is quite brilliant in mathematics . . . woe is me! There is a certain sparkle in everything she says or does and she has a sense of humorous situations which would be a bond of kinship between us if she hadn’t started out by hating me. As it is, I fear it will be a long time before Jen and I can laugh together over anything.
“Myra Pringle, Jen’s cousin, is the beauty of the school . . . and apparently stupid.
She does perpetrate some amusing howlers . . . as, for instance, when she said today in history class that the Indians thought Champlain and his men were gods or ‘something inhuman.’
“Socially the Pringles are what Rebecca Dew calls ‘the e-light’ of Summerside.
Already I have been invited to two Pringle homes for supper . . . because it is the proper thing to invite a new teacher to supper and the Pringles are not going to omit the required gestures. Last night I was at James Pringle’s . . . the father of the aforesaid Jen. He looks like a college professor but is in reality stupid and ignorant. He talked a great deal about ‘discipline,’ tapping the tablecloth with a finger the nail of which was not impeccable and occasionally doing dreadful things to grammar. The Summerside High had always required a firm hand . . . an experienced teacher, male preferred. He was afraid I was a leetle too young . . . ‘a fault which time will cure all too soon,’ he said sorrowfully. I didn’t say anything because if I had said anything I might have said too much. So I was as smooth and creamy as any Pringle of them all could have been and contented myself with looking limpidly at him and saying inside of myself, ‘You cantankerous, prejudiced old creature!’
“Jen must have got her brains from her mother . . . whom I found myself liking.
Jen, in her parents’ presence, was a model of decorum. But though her words were polite her tone was insolent. Every time she said ‘Miss Shirley’ she contrived to make it sound like an insult. And every time she looked at my hair I felt that it was just plain carroty red. No Pringle, I am certain, would ever admit it was auburn.
“I liked the Morton Pringles much better . . . though Morton Pringle never really listens to anything you say. He says something to you and then, while you’re replying, he is busy thinking out his next remark.
“Mrs. Stephen Pringle . . . the Widow Pringle . . . Summerside abounds in widows . . . wrote me a letter yesterday . . . a nice, polite, poisonous letter. Millie has too much home work . . . Millie is a delicate child and must not be overworked. Mr. Bell never gave her home work. She is a sensitive child that16 must be understood. Mr. Bell understood her so well! Mrs. Stephen is sure I will, too, if I try!
“I do not doubt Mrs. Stephen thinks I made Adam Pringle’s nose bleed in class today by reason of which he had to go home. And I woke up last night and couldn’t go to sleep again because I remembered an i I hadn’t dotted in a question I wrote on the board. I’m certain Jen Pringle would notice it and a whisper will go around the clan about it.
“Rebecca Dew says that all the Pringles will invite me to supper, except the old ladies at Maplehurst, and then ignore me forever afterwards. As they are the ‘elight,’ this may mean that socially I may be banned in Summerside. Well, we’ll see. The battle is on but is not yet either won or lost. Still, I feel rather unhappy over it all. You can’t reason with prejudice. I’m still just as I used to be in my childhood . . . I can’t bear to have people not liking me. It isn’t pleasant to think that the families of half my pupils hate me. And for no fault of my own. It is the injustice that stings me. There go more italics! But a few italics really do relieve your feelings.
“Apart from the Pringles I like my pupils very much. There are some clever, ambitious, hard-working ones who are really interested in getting an education.
Lewis Allen is paying for his board by doing housework at his boarding-house and isn’t a bit ashamed of it. And Sophy Sinclair rides bareback on her father’s old gray mare six miles in and six miles out every day. There’s pluck for you! If I can help a girl like that, am I to mind the Pringles?
“The trouble is . . . if I can’t win the Pringles I won’t have much chance of helping anybody.
“But I love Windy Poplars. It isn’t a boardinghouse . . . it’s a home! And they like me . . . even Dusty Miller likes me, though he sometimes disapproves of me and shows it by deliberately sitting with his back turned towards me, occasionally cocking a golden eye over his shoulder at me to see how I’m taking it. I don’t pet him much when Rebecca Dew is around because it really does irritate her. By day he is a homely, comfortable, meditative animal . . . but he is decidedly a weird creature at night. Rebecca says it is because he is never allowed to stay out after dark. She hates to stand in the back yard and call him. She says the neighbors will all be laughing at her. She calls in such fierce, stentorian tones that she really can be heard all over the town on a still night shouting for ‘Puss . . . puss . . . PUSS!’ The widows would have a conniption if Dusty Miller wasn’t in when they went to bed. ‘Nobody knows what I’ve gone through on account of That Cat. . . nobody,’ Rebecca has assured me.17
“The widows are going to wear well. Every day I like them better. Aunt Kate doesn’t believe in reading novels, but informs me that she does not propose to censor my reading-matter. Aunt Chatty loves novels. She has a ‘hidy-hole’ where she keeps them . . . she smuggles them in from the town library . . . together with a pack of cards for solitaire and anything else she doesn’t want Aunt Kate to see.
It is in a chair seat which nobody but Aunt Chatty knows is more than a chair seat. She has shared the secret with me, because, I strongly suspect, she wants me to aid and abet her in the aforesaid smuggling. There shouldn’t really be any need for hidy-holes at Windy Poplars, for I never saw a house with so many mysterious cupboards. Though to be sure, Rebecca Dew won’t let them be mysterious. She is always cleaning them out ferociously. ‘A house can’t keep itself clean,’ she says sorrowfully when either of the widows protests. I am sure she would make short work of a novel or a pack of cards if she found them.
They are both a horror to her orthodox soul. Rebecca Dew says cards are the devil’s books and novels even worse. The only things Rebecca ever reads, apart from her Bible, are the society columns of the MontrealGuardian. She loves to pore over the houses and furniture and doings of millionaires.
“‘Just fancy soaking in a golden bathtub, Miss Shirley,’ she said wistfully.
“But she’s really an old duck. She has produced from somewhere a comfortable old wing chair of faded brocade that just fits my kinks and says, ‘This is your chair. We’ll keep it foryou.’ And she won’t let Dusty Miller sleep on it lest I get hairs on my school skirt and give the Pringles something to talk about.
“The whole three are very much interested in my circlet of pearls . . . and what it signifies. Aunt Kate showed me her engagement ring (she can’t wear it because it has grown too small) set with turquoises. But poor Aunt Chatty owned to me with tears in her eyes that she had never had an engagement ring . . . her husband thought it ‘an unnecessary expenditure.’ She was in my room at the time, giving her face a bath in buttermilk. She does it every night to preserve her complexion, and has sworn me to secrecy because she doesn’t want Aunt Kate to know it.
“‘She would think it ridiculous vanity in a woman of my age. And I am sure Rebecca Dew thinks that no Christian woman should try to be beautiful. I used to slip down to the kitchen to do it after Kate had gone to sleep but I was always afraid of Rebecca Dew coming down. She has ears like a cat’s even when she is asleep. If I could just slip in here every night and do it . . . oh, thank you, my dear.’
“I have found out a little about our neighbors at The Evergreens. Mrs. Campbell (who was a Pringle!) is eighty. I haven’t seen her but from what I can gather she18 is a very grim old lady. She has a maid, Martha Monkman, almost as ancient and grim as herself, who is generally referred to as ‘Mrs. Campbell’s Woman.’ And she has her great-granddaughter, little Elizabeth Grayson, living with her.
Elizabeth . . . on whom I have never laid eyes in spite of my two weeks’ sojourn . . . is eight years old and goes to the public school by ‘the back way’ . . . a short cut through the back yards . . . so I never encounter her, going or coming. Her mother, who is dead, was a granddaughter of Mrs. Campbell, who brought her up also . . . Her parents being dead. She married a certain Pierce Grayson, a ‘Yankee,’ as Mrs. Rachel Lynde would say. She died when Elizabeth was born and as Pierce Grayson had to leave America at once to take charge of a branch of his firm’s business in Paris, the baby was sent home to old Mrs. Campbell. The story goes that he ‘couldn’t bear the sight of her’ because she had cost her mother’s life, and has never taken any notice of her. This of course may be sheer gossip because neither Mrs. Campbell nor the Woman ever opens her lips about him.
“Rebecca Dew says they are far too strict with little Elizabeth and she hasn’t much of a time of it with them.
“‘She isn’t like other children . . . far too old for eight years. The things that she says sometimes! “Rebecca,” she sez to me one day, “suppose just as you were ready to get into bed you felt your ankle nipped?” No wonder she’s afraid to go to bed in the dark. And they make her do it. Mrs. Campbell says there are to be no cowards in her house. They watch her like two cats watching a mouse, and boss her within an inch of her life. If she makes a speck of noise they nearly pass out.
It’s “hush, hush” all the time. I tell you that child is being hush-hushed to death.
And what is to be done about it?’
“I feel that I’d like to see her. She seems to me a bit pathetic. Aunt Kate says she is well looked after from a physical point of view . . . what Aunt Kate really said was, ‘They feed and dress her well’ . . . but a child can’t live by bread alone. I can never forget what my own life was before I came to Green Gables.
“I’m going home next Friday evening to spend two beautiful days in Avonlea.
The only drawback will be that everybody I see will ask me how I like teaching in Summerside.
“But think of Green Gables now, Gilbert . . . the Lake of Shining Waters with a blue mist on it . . . the maples across the brook beginning to turn scarlet . . . the ferns golden brown in the Haunted Wood . . . and the sunset shadows in Lover’s19 Lane, darling spot. I find it in my heart to wish I were there now with . . . with . . . guess whom?
“Do you know, Gilbert, there are times when I strongly suspect that I love you!”
“HONORED AND RESPECTED SIR:–
“That is how a love letter of Aunt Chatty’s grandmother began. Isn’t it delicious?
What a thrill of superiority it must have given the grandfather! Wouldn’t you really prefer it to ‘Gilbert darling, etc.’? But, on the whole, I think I’m glad you’re not the grandfather . . . or A grandfather. It’s wonderful to think we’re young and have our whole lives before us . . .together . . . isn’t it?”
(Several pages omitted. Anne’s pen being evidently neither sharp, stub nor rusty.) “I’m sitting on the window seat in the tower looking out into the trees waving against an amber sky and beyond them to the harbor. Last night I had such a lovely walk with myself. I really had to go somewhere for it was just a trifle dismal at Windy Poplars. Aunt Chatty was crying in the sitting-room because her feelings had been hurt and Aunt Kate was crying in her bedroom because it was the anniversary of Captain Amasa’s death and Rebecca Dew was crying in the kitchen for no reason that I could discover. I’ve never seen Rebecca Dew cry before. But when I tried tactfully to find out what was wrong she pettishly wanted to know if a body couldn’t enjoy a cry when she felt like it. So I folded my tent and stole away, leaving her to her enjoyment.
“I went out and down the harbor road. There was such a nice frosty, Octobery smell in the air, blent with the delightful odor of newly plowed fields. I walked on and on until twilight had deepened into a moonlit autumn night. I was alone but not lonely. I held a series of imaginary conversations with imaginary20 comrades and thought out so many epigrams that I was agreeably surprised at myself. I couldn’t help enjoying myself in spite of my Pringle worries.
“The spirit moves me to utter a few yowls regarding the Pringles. I hate to admit it but things are not going any too well in Summerside High. There is no doubt that a cabal has been organized against me.
“For one thing, home work is never done by any of the Pringles or half Pringles.
And there is no use in appealing to the parents. They are suave, polite, evasive. I know all the pupils who are not Pringles like me but the Pringle virus of disobedience is undermining the morale of the whole room. One morning I found my desk turned inside out and upside down. Nobody knew who did it, of course.
And no one could or would tell who left on it another day the box out of which popped an artificial snake when I opened it. But every Pringle in the school screamed with laughter over my face. I suppose I did look wildly startled.
“Jen Pringle comes late for school half the time, always with some perfectly water-tight excuse, delivered politely, with an insolent tilt to her mouth. She passes notes in class under my very nose. I found a peeled onion in the pocket of my coat when I put it on today. I should love to lock that girl up on bread and water until she learned how to behave herself.
“The worst thing to date was the caricature of myself I found on the blackboard one morning . . . done in white chalk with scarlet hair. Everybody denied doing it, Jen among the rest, but I knew Jen was the only pupil in the room who could draw like that. It was done well. My nose . . . which, as you know, has always been my one pride and joy . . . was humpbacked and my mouth was the mouth of a vinegary spinster who had been teaching a school full of Pringles for thirty years. But it was me. I woke up at three o’clock that night and writhed over the recollection. Isn’t it queer that the things we writhe over at night are seldom wicked things? Just humiliating ones.
“All sorts of things are being said. I am accused of ‘marking down’ Hattie Pringle’s examination papers just because she is a Pringle. I am said to ‘laugh when the children make mistakes.’ (Well, I did laugh when Fred Pringle defined a centurion as ‘a man who had lived a hundred years.’ I couldn’t help it.) “James Pringle is saying, ‘There is no discipline in the school . . . no discipline whatever.’ And a report is being circulated that I am a ‘foundling.’
“I am beginning to encounter the Pringle antagonism in other quarters. Socially as well as educationally, Summerside seems to be under the Pringle thumb. No21 wonder they are called the Royal Family. I wasn’t invited to Alice Pringle’s walking party last Friday. And when Mrs. Frank Pringle got up a tea in aid of a church project (Rebecca Dew informs me that the ladies are going to ‘build’ the new spire!), I was the only girl in the Presbyterian church who was not asked to take a table. I have heard that the minister’s wife, who is a newcomer in Summerside, suggested asking me to sing in the choir and was informed that all the Pringles would drop out of it if she did. That would leave such a skeleton that the choir simply couldn’t carry on.
“Of course I’m not the only one of the teachers who has trouble with pupils.
When the other teachers send theirs up to me to be ‘disciplined’ . . . how I hate that word! . . . half of them are Pringles. But there is never any complaint made about them.
“Two evenings ago I kept Jen in after school to do some work she had deliberately left undone. Ten minutes later the carriage from Maplehurst drew up before the school house and Miss Ellen was at the door . . . a beautifully dressed, sweetly smiling old lady, with elegant black lace mitts and a fine hawk-like nose, looking as if she had just stepped out of an 1840 band-box. She was so sorry but could she have Jen? She was going to visit friends in Lowvale and had promised to take Jen. Jen went off triumphantly and I realized afresh the forces arrayed against me.
“In my pessimistic moods I think the Pringles are a compound of Sloanes and Pyes. But I know they’re not. I feel that I could like them if they were not my enemies. They are, for the most part, a frank, jolly, loyal set. I could even like Miss Ellen. I’ve never seen Miss Sarah. Miss Sarah has not left Maplehurst for ten years.
“‘Too delicate . . . or thinks she is,’ says Rebecca Dew with a sniff. ‘But there ain’t anything the matter with her pride. All the Pringles are proud but those two old girls pass everything. You should hear them talk about their ancestors. Well, their old father, Captain Abraham Pringle, was a fine old fellow. His brother Myrom wasn’t quite so fine, but you don’t hear the Pringles talking much about him. But I’m desprit afraid you’re going to have a hard time with them all. When they make up their mind about anything or anybody they’ve never been known to change it. But keep your chin up, Miss Shirley . . . keep your chin up.’
“‘I wish I could get Miss Ellen’s recipe for pound cake,’ sighed Aunt Chatty.
‘She’s promised it to me time and again but it never comes. It’s an old English family recipe. They’re soexclusive about their recipes.’22
“In wild fantastic dreams I see myself compelling Miss Ellen to hand that recipe over to Aunt Chatty on bended knee and make Jen mind her p’s and q’s. The maddening thing is that I could easily make Jen do it myself if her whole clan weren’t backing her up in her deviltry.”
(Two pages omitted.)
“Your obedient servant,
“P.S. That was how Aunt Chatty’s grandmother signed her love letters.”
“We heard today that there had been a burglary at the other end of the town last night. A house was entered and some money and a dozen silver spoons stolen. So Rebecca Dew has gone up to Mr. Hamilton’s to see if she can borrow a dog. She will tie him on the back veranda and she advises me to lock up my engagement ring!
“By the way, I found out why Rebecca Dew cried. It seems there had been a domestic convulsion. Dusty Miller had ‘misbehaved again’ and Rebecca Dew told Aunt Kate she would really have to do something about That Cat. He was wearing her to a fiddle-string. It was the third time in a year and she knew he did it on purpose. And Aunt Kate said that if Rebecca Dew would always let the cat out when he meowed there would be no danger of his misbehaving.
“‘Well, this is the last straw,’ said Rebecca Dew.
“The Pringle situation grows a little more acute every week. Something very impertinent was written across one of my books yesterday and Homer Pringle turned handsprings all the way down the aisle when leaving school. Also, I got an anonymous letter recently full of nasty innuendoes. Somehow, I don’t blame Jen for either the book or the letter. Imp as she is, there are things she wouldn’t stoop to. Rebecca Dew is furious and I shudder to think what she would do to the Pringles if she had them in her power. Nero’s wish isn’t to be compared to it. I23 really don’t blame her, for there are times when I feel myself that I could cheerfully hand any and all of the Pringles a poisoned philter of Borgia brewing.
“I don’t think I’ve told you much about the other teachers. There are two, you know . . . the Vice-principal, Katherine Brooke of the Junior Room, and George MacKay of the Prep. Of George I have little to say. He is a shy, good-natured lad of twenty, with a slight, delicious Highland accent suggestive of low shielings and misty islands . . . his grandfather ‘was Isle of Skye’ . . . and does very well with the Preps. So far as I know him I like him. But I’m afraid I’m going to have a hard time liking Katherine Brooke.
“Katherine is a girl of, I think, about twenty-eight, though she looks thirty-five. I have been told she cherished hopes of promotion to the Principalship and I suppose she resents my getting it, especially when I am considerably her junior.
She is a good teacher . . . a bit of a martinet . . . but she is not popular with any one. And doesn’t worry over it! She doesn’t seem to have any friends or relations and boards in a gloomy-looking house on grubby little Temple Street. She dresses very dowdily, never goes out socially and is said to be ‘mean.’ She is very sarcastic and her pupils dread her biting remarks. I am told that her way of raising her thick black eyebrows and drawling at them reduces them to a pulp. I wish I could work it on the Pringles. But I really shouldn’t like to govern by fear as she does. I want my pupils to love me.
“In spite of the fact that she has apparently no trouble in making them toe the line she is constantly sending some of them up to me . . . especially Pringles. I know she does it purposely and I feel miserably certain that she exults in my difficulties and would be glad to see me worsted.
“Rebecca Dew says that no one can make friends with her. The widows have invited her several times to Sunday supper . . . the dear souls are always doing that for lonely people, and always have the most delicious chicken salad for them . . . but she never came. So they have given it up because, as Aunt Kate says, ‘there are limits.’
“There are rumors that she is very clever and can sing and recite . . . ‘elocute,’ a la Rebecca Dew . . . but will not do either. Aunt Chatty once asked her to recite at a church supper.
“‘We thought she refused very ungraciously,’ said Aunt Kate.
“‘Just growled,’ said Rebecca Dew.24
“Katherine has a deep throaty voice . . . almost a man’s voice . . . and it does sound like a growl when she isn’t in good humor.
“She isn’t pretty but she might make more of herself. She is dark and swarthy, with magnificent black hair always dragged back from her high forehead and coiled in a clumsy knot at the base of her neck. Her eyes don’t match her hair, being a clear, light amber under her black brows. She has ears she needn’t be ashamed to show and the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen. Also, she has a well-cut mouth. But she dresses terribly. Seems to have a positive genius for getting the colors and lines she should not wear. Dull dark greens and drab grays, when she is too sallow for greens and grays, and stripes which make her tall, lean figure even taller and leaner. And her clothes always look as if she’d slept in them.
“Her manner is very repellent . . . as Rebecca Dew would say, she always has a chip on her shoulder. Every time I pass her on the stairs I feel that she is thinking horrid things about me. Every time I speak to her she makes me feel I’ve said the wrong thing. And yet I’m very sorry for her . . . though I know she would resent my pity furiously. And I can’t do anything to help her because she doesn’t want to be helped. She is really hateful to me. One day, when we three teachers were all in the staff room, I did something which, it seems, transgressed one of the unwritten laws of the school, and Katherine said cuttingly, ‘Perhaps you think you are above rules, Miss Shirley.’ At another time, when I was suggesting some changes which I thought would be for the good of the school, she said with a scornful smile, ‘I’m not interested in fairy tales.’ Once, when I said some nice things about her work and methods, she said, ‘And what is to be the pill in all this jam?’
“But the thing that annoyed me most . . . well, one day when I happened to pick up a book of hers in the staff room and glanced at the flyleaf I said, “‘I’m glad you spell your name with a K. Katherine is so much more alluring than Catherine, just as K is ever so much gypsier a letter than smug C.’
“She made no response, but the next note she sent up was signed ‘Catherine Brooke’!
“I sneezed all the way home.
“I really would give up trying to be friends with her if I hadn’t a queer, unaccountable feeling that under all her bruskness and aloofness she is actually starved for companionship.25
“Altogether, what with Katherine’s antagonism and the Pringle attitude, I don’t know just what I’d do if it wasn’t for dear Rebecca Dew and your letters . . . and little Elizabeth.
“Because I’ve got acquainted with little Elizabeth. And she is a darling.
“Three nights ago I took the glass of milk to the wall door and little Elizabeth herself was there to get it instead of the Woman, her head just coming above the solid part of the door, so that her face was framed in the ivy. She is small, pale, golden and wistful. Her eyes, looking at me through the autumn twilight, are large and golden-hazel. Her silver-gold hair was parted in the middle, sleeked plainly down over her head with a circular comb, and fell in waves on her shoulders. She wore a pale blue gingham dress and the expression of a princess of elf-land. She had what Rebecca Dew calls ‘a delicate air,’ and gave me the impression of a child who was more or less undernourished . . . not in body, but in soul. More of a moonbeam than a sunbeam.
“‘And this is Elizabeth?’ I said.
“‘Not tonight,’ she answered gravely. ‘This is my night for being Betty because I love everything in the world tonight. I was Elizabeth last night and tomorrow night I’ll prob’ly be Beth. It all depends on how I feel.’
“There was the touch of the kindred spirit for you. I thrilled to it at once.
“‘How very nice to have a name you can change so easily and still feel it’s your own.’
“Little Elizabeth nodded.
“‘I can make so many names out of it. Elsie and Betty and Bess and Elisa and Lisbeth and Beth . . . but not Lizzie. I never can feel like Lizzie.’
“‘Who could?’ I said.
“‘Do you think it silly of me, Miss Shirley? Grandmother and the Woman do.’
“‘Not silly at all . . . very wise and very delightful,’ I said..
“Little Elizabeth made saucer eyes at me over the rim of her glass. I felt that I was being weighed in some secret spiritual balance and presently I realized thankfully that I had not been found wanting. For little Elizabeth asked a favor of me . . . and little Elizabeth does not ask favors of people she does not like.26 “‘Would you mind lifting up the cat and letting me pat him?’ she asked shyly.
“Dusty Miller was rubbing against my legs. I lifted him and little Elizabeth put out a tiny hand and stroked his head delightedly.
“‘I like kittens better than babies,’ she said, looking at me with an odd little air of defiance, as if she knew I would be shocked but tell the truth she must.
“‘I suppose you’ve never had much to do with babies, so you don’t know how sweet they are,’ I said, smiling. ‘Have you a kitten of your own?’
“Elizabeth shook her head.
“‘Oh, no; Grandmother doesn’t like cats. And the Woman hates them. The Woman is out tonight, so that is why I could come for the milk. I love coming for the milk because Rebecca Dew is such an agree’ble person.’
“‘Are you sorry she didn’t come tonight?’ I laughed.
“Little Elizabeth shook her head.
“‘No. You are very agree’ble, too. I’ve been wanting to get ‘quainted with you but I was afraid it mightn’t happen before Tomorrow comes.’
“We stood there and talked while Elizabeth sipped her milk daintily and she told me all about Tomorrow. The Woman had told her that Tomorrow never comes, but Elizabeth knows better. It will come sometime. Some beautiful morning she will just wake up and find it is Tomorrow. Not Today but Tomorrow. And then things will happen . . . wonderful things. She may even have a day to do exactly as she likes in, with nobody watching her . . . though I think Elizabeth feels that is too good to happen even in Tomorrow. Or she may find out what is at the end of the harbor road . . . that wandering, twisting road like a nice red snake, that leads, so Elizabeth thinks, to the end of the world. Perhaps the Island of Happiness is there. Elizabeth feels sure there is an Island of Happiness somewhere where all the ships that never come back are anchored, and she will find it when Tomorrow comes.
“‘And when Tomorrow comes,’ said Elizabeth, ‘I will have a million dogs and forty-five cats. I told Grandmother that when she wouldn’t let me have a kitten, Miss Shirley, and she was angry and said, “I’m not ‘customed to be spoken to like that, Miss Impert’nence.” I was sent to bed without supper . . . but I didn’t mean27 to be impert’nent. And I couldn’t sleep, Miss Shirley, because the Woman told me that she knew a child once that died in her sleep after being impert’nent.’
“When Elizabeth had finished her milk there came a sharp tapping at some unseen window behind the spruces. I think we had been watched all the time. My elf-maiden ran, her golden head glimmering along the dark spruce aisle until she vanished.
“‘She’s a fanciful little creature,’ said Rebecca Dew when I told her of my adventure . . . really, it somehow had the quality of an adventure, Gilbert. ‘One day she said to me, “Are you scared of lions, Rebecca Dew?” “I never met any so I can’t tell you,” sez I. “There will be any amount of lions in Tomorrow,” sez she, “but they will be nice friendly lions.” “Child, you’ll turn into eyes if you look like that,” sez I. She was looking clean through me at something she saw in that Tomorrow of hers. “I’m thinking deep thoughts, Rebecca Dew,” she sez. The trouble with that child is she doesn’t laugh enough.’
“I remembered Elizabeth had never laughed once during our talk. I feel that she hasn’t learned how. The great house is so still and lonely and laughterless. It looks dull and gloomy even now when the world is a riot of autumn color. Little Elizabeth is doing too much listening to lost whispers.
“I think one of my missions in Summerside will be to teach her how to laugh.
“Your tenderest, most faithful friend,
“P.S. More of Aunt Chatty’s grandmother!”
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