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7 One Friday evening, at the end of a mild, sunny December day Anne went out to Lowvale to attend a turkey supper. Wilfred Bryce’s home was in Lowvale, where he lived with an uncle, and he had asked her shyly if she would go out with him after school, go to the turkey supper in the church and spend Saturday at his home. Anne agreed, hoping that she might be able to influence the uncle to let Wilfred keep on going to High School. Wilfred was afraid that he would not be able to go back after New Year. He was a clever, ambitious boy and Anne felt a special interest in him.
It could not be said that she enjoyed her visit overmuch, except in the pleasure it gave Wilfred. His uncle and aunt were a rather odd and uncouth pair. Saturday morning was windy and dark, with showers of snow, and at first Anne wondered how she was going to put in the day. She felt tired and sleepy after the late hours of the turkey supper; Wilfred had to help thrash; and there was not even a book in sight. Then she thought of the battered old seaman’s chest she had seen in the back of the hall upstairs and recalled Mrs. Stanton’s request. Mrs. Stanton was writing a history of Prince County and had asked Anne if she knew of, or could find, any old diaries or documents that might be helpful.
“The Pringles, of course, have lots that I could use,” she told Anne. “But I can’t ask them. You know the Pringles and Stantons have never been friends.”
“I can’t ask them either, unfortunately,” said Anne.
“Oh, I’m not expecting you to. All I want is for you to keep your eyes open when you are visiting round in other people’s homes and if you find or hear of any old diaries or maps or anything like that, try to get the loan of them for me. You’ve no idea what interesting things I’ve found in old diaries . . . little bits of real life that make the old pioneers live again. I want to get things like that for my book as well as statistics and genealogical tables.”
Anne asked Mrs. Bryce if they had any such old records. Mrs. Bryce shook her head.
“Not as I knows on. In course . . .” brightening up . . . “there’s old Uncle Andy’s chist up there. There might be something in it. He used to sail with old Captain Abraham Pringle. I’ll go out and ask Duncan if ye kin root in it.”46 Duncan sent word back that she could “root” in it all she liked and if she found any “dockymints” she could have them. He’d been meaning to burn the hull contents anyway and take the chest for a tool-box. Anne accordingly rooted, but all she found was an old yellowed diary or “log” which Andy Bryce seemed to have kept all through his years at sea. Anne beguiled the stormy forenoon away by reading it with interest and amusement. Andy was learned in sea lore and had gone on many voyages with Captain Abraham Pringle, whom he evidently admired immensely. The diary was full of ill-spelled, ungrammatical tributes to the Captain’s courage and resourcefulness, especially in one wild enterprise of beating round the Horn. But his admiration had not, it seemed, extended to Abraham’s brother Myrom, who was also a captain but of a different ship.
“Up to Myrom Pringle’s tonight. His wife made him mad and he up and throwed a glass of water in her face.”
“Myrom is home. His ship was burned and they took to the boats. Nearly starved.
In the end they et up Jonas Selkirk, who had shot himself. They lived on him till the Mary G.picked them up. Myrom told me this himself. Seemed to think it a good joke.”
Anne shivered over this last entry, which seemed all the more horrifying for Andy’s unimpassioned statement of the grim facts. Then she fell into a reverie.
There was nothing in the book that could be of any use to Mrs. Stanton, but wouldn’t Miss Sarah and Miss Ellen be interested in it since it contained so much about their adored old father? Suppose she sent it to them? Duncan Bryce had said she could do as she liked with it.
No, she wouldn’t. Why should she try to please them or cater to their absurd pride, which was great enough now without any more food? They had set themselves to drive her out of the school and they were succeeding. They and their clan had beaten her.
Wilfred took her back to Windy Poplars that evening, both of them feeling happy. Anne had talked Duncan Bryce into letting Wilfred finish out his year in High School.
“Then I’ll manage Queen’s for a year and after that teach and educate myself,”
said Wilfred. “How can I ever repay you, Miss Shirley? Uncle wouldn’t have listened to any one else, but he likes you. He said to me out in the barn, ‘Redhaired women could always do what they liked with me.’ But I don’t think it was your hair, Miss Shirley, although it is so beautiful. It was just . . . you.”47 At two o’clock that night Anne woke up and decided that she would send Andy Bryce’s diary to Maplehurst. After all, she had a bit of liking for the old ladies.
And they had so little to make life warm . . . only their pride in their father. At three she woke again and decided she wouldn’t. Miss Sarah pretending to be deaf, indeed! At four she was in the swithers again. Finally she determined she would send it to them. She wouldn’t be petty. Anne had a horror of being petty . . . like the Pyes.
Having settled this, Anne went to sleep for keeps, thinking how lovely it was to wake up in the night and hear the first snowstorm of the winter around your tower and then snuggle down in your blankets and drift into dreamland again.
Monday morning she wrapped up the old diary carefully and sent it to Miss Sarah with a little note.
“DEAR MISS PRINGLE:
“I wonder if you would be interested in this old diary. Mr. Bryce gave it to me for Mrs. Stanton, who is writing a history of the county, but I don’t think it would be of any use to her and I thought you might like to have it.
“That’s a horribly stiff note,” thought Anne, “but I can’t write naturally to them.
And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they sent it haughtily back to me.”
In the fine blue of the early winter evening Rebecca Dew got the shock of her life. The Maplehurst carriage drove along Spook’s Lane, over the powdery snow, and stopped at the front gate. Miss Ellen got out of it and then . . . to every one’s amazement . . . Miss Sarah, who had not left Maplehurst for ten years.
“They’re coming to the front door,” gasped Rebecca Dew, panic-stricken.
“Where else would a Pringle come to?” asked Aunt Kate.48
“Of course . . . of course . . . but it sticks,” said Rebecca tragically. “It does stick . . . you know it does. And it hasn’t been opened since we house-cleaned last spring. This is the last straw.”
The front door did stick . . . but Rebecca Dew wrenched it open with desperate violence and showed the Maplehurst ladies into the parlor.
“Thank heaven, we’ve had a fire in it today,” she thought, “and all I hope is That Cat hasn’t haired up the sofa. If Sarah Pringle got cat hairs on her dress in our parlor . . .”
Rebecca Dew dared not imagine the consequences. She called Anne from the tower room, Miss Sarah having asked if Miss Shirley were in, and then betook herself to the kitchen, half mad with curiosity as to what on earth was bringing the old Pringle girls to see Miss Shirley.
“If there’s any more persecution in the wind . . .” said Rebecca Dew darkly.
Anne herself descended with considerable trepidation. Had they come to return the diary with icy scorn?
It was little, wrinkled, inflexible Miss Sarah who rose and spoke without preamble when Anne entered the room.
“We have come to capitulate,” she said bitterly. “We can do nothing else . . . of course you knew that when you found that scandalous entry about poor Uncle Myrom. It wasn’t true . . . it couldn’t be true. Uncle Myrom was just taking a rise out of Andy Bryce . . . Andy was so credulous. But everybody outside of our family will be glad to believe it. You knew it would make us all a laughing stock . . . and worse. Oh, you are very clever. We admit that. Jen will apologize and behave herself in future . . . I, Sarah Pringle, assure you of that. If you will only promise not to tell Mrs. Stanton . . . not to tell any one . . . we will do anything . . . anything.”
Miss Sarah wrung her fine lace handkerchief in her little blue-veined hands. She was literally trembling.
Anne stared in amazement . . . and horror. The poor old darlings! They thought she had been threatening them!
“Oh, you’ve misunderstood me dreadfully,” she exclaimed, taking Miss Sarah’s poor, piteous hands. “I . . . I never dreamed you would think I was trying to . . .49 oh, it was just because I thought you would like to have all those interesting details about your splendid father. I never dreamed of showing or telling that other little item to any one. I didn’t think it was of the least importance. And I never will.”
There was a moment’s silence. Then Miss Sarah freed her hands gently, put her handkerchief to her eyes and sat down, with a faint blush on her fine wrinkled face.
“We . . . we have misunderstood you, my dear. And we’ve . . . we’ve been abominable to you. Will you forgive us?”
Half an hour later . . . a half hour which nearly was the death of Rebecca Dew . . . the Misses Pringle went away. It had been a half hour of friendly chat and discussion about the non-combustible items of Andy’s diary. At the front door Miss Sarah . . . who had not had the least trouble with her hearing during the interview . . . turned back for a moment and took a bit of paper, covered with very fine, sharp writing, from her reticule.
“I had almost forgotten . . . we promised Mrs. MacLean our recipe for pound cake some time ago. Perhaps you won’t mind handing it to her? And tell her the sweating process is very important . . . quite indispensable, indeed. Ellen, your bonnet is slightly over one ear. You had better adjust it before we leave. We . . . we were somewhat agitated while dressing.”
Anne told the widows and Rebecca Dew that she had given Andy Bryce’s old diary to the ladies of Maplehurst and that they had come to thank her for it. With this explanation they had to be contented, although Rebecca Dew always felt that there was more behind it than that . . . much more. Gratitude for an old faded, tobacco-stained diary would never have brought Sarah Pringle to the front door of Windy Poplars. Miss Shirley was deep . . . very deep!
“I’m going to open that front door once a day after this,” vowed Rebecca. “Just to keep it in practice. I all but went over flat when it did give way. Well, we’ve got the recipe for the pound cake anyway. Thirty-six eggs! If you’d dispose of That Cat and let me keep hens we might be able to afford it once a year.”
Whereupon Rebecca Dew marched to the kitchen and got square with fate by giving That Cat milk when she knew he wanted liver.
The Shirley-Pringle feud was over. Nobody outside of the Pringles ever knew why, but Summerside people understood that Miss Shirley, single-handed, had,50 in some mysterious way, routed the whole clan, who ate out of her hand from then on. Jen came back to school the next day and apologized meekly to Anne before the whole room. She was a model pupil thereafter and every Pringle student followed her lead. As for the adult Pringles, their antagonism vanished like mist before the sun. There were no more complaints regarding “discipline” or home work. No more of the fine, subtle snubs characteristic of the ilk. They fairly fell over one another trying to be nice to Anne. No dance or skating party was complete without her. For, although the fatal diary had been committed to the flames by Miss Sarah herself, memory was memory and Miss Shirley had a tale to tell if she chose to tell it. It would never do to have that nosey Mrs.
Stanton know that Captain Myrom Pringle had been a cannibal!
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