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“I’m so different,” sighed Hazel.
It was really dreadful to be so different from other people . . . and yet rather wonderful, too, as if you were a being strayed from another star. Hazel would not have been one of the common herd for anything . . . no matter what she suffered by reason of her differentness.
“Everybody is different,” said Anne amusedly.
“You are smiling.” Hazel clasped a pair of very white, very dimpled hands and gazed adoringly at Anne. She emphasized at least one syllable in every word she uttered. “You have such a fascinating smile . . . such a haunting smile. I knew the moment I first saw you that you would understand everything. We are on the same plane. Sometimes I think I must be psychic, Miss Shirley. I always know so instinctively the moment I meet any one whether I’m going to like them or not. I felt at once that you were sympathetic . . . that you would understand. It’s so sweet to be understood. Nobody understands me, Miss Shirley . . . nobody. But when I saw you, some inner voice whispered to me, ‘She will understand . . . with her you can be your real self.’ Oh, Miss Shirley, let’s be real . . . let’s always be real. Oh, Miss Shirley, do you love me the leastest, tiniest bit?”
“I think you’re a dear,” said Anne, laughing a little and ruffling Hazel’s golden curls with her slender fingers. It was quite easy to be fond of Hazel.
Hazel had been pouring out her soul to Anne in the tower room, from which they could see a young moon hanging over the harbor and the twilight of a late May evening filling the crimson cups of the tulips below the windows.
“Don’t let’s have any light yet,” Hazel had begged, and Anne had responded, “No . . . it’s lovely here when the dark is your friend, isn’t it? When you turn on the light, it makes the dark your enemy . . . and it glowers in at you resentfully.”
“I can think things like that but I can never express them so beautifully,” moaned Hazel in an anguish of rapture. “You talk in the language of the violets, Miss Shirley.”157
Hazel couldn’t have explained in the least what she meant by that, but it didn’t matter. It sounded so poetic.
The tower room was the only peaceful room in the house. Rebecca Dew had said that morning, with a hunted look, “We must get the parlor and spare-room papered before the Ladies’ Aid meets here,” and had forthwith removed all the furniture from both to make way for a paper-hanger who then refused to come until the next day. Windy Poplars was a wilderness of confusion, with one sole oasis in the tower room.
Hazel Marr had a notorious “crush” on Anne. The Marrs were new-comers in Summerside, having moved there from Charlottetown during the winter. Hazel was an “October blonde,” as she liked to describe herself, with hair of golden bronze and brown eyes, and, so Rebecca Dew declared, had never been much good in the world since she found out she was pretty. But Hazel was popular, especially among the boys, who found her eyes and curls a quite irresistible combination.
Anne liked her. Earlier in the evening she had been tired and a trifle pessimistic, with the fag that comes with late afternoon in a schoolroom, but she felt rested now; whether as a result of the May breeze, sweet with apple blossom, blowing in at the window, or of Hazel’s chatter, she could not have told. Perhaps both.
Somehow, to Anne, Hazel recalled her own early youth, with all its raptures and ideals and romantic visions.
Hazel caught Anne’s hand and pressed her lips to it reverently.
“I hate all the people you have loved before me, Miss Shirley. I hate all the other people you love now. I want to possess you exclusively.”
“Aren’t you a bit unreasonable, honey? You love other people besides me. How about Terry, for example?”
“Oh, Miss Shirley! It’s that I want to talk to you about. I can’t endure it in silence any longer . . . I cannot. I must talk to some one about it . . . some one who understands. I went out the night before last and walked round and round the pond all night . . . well, nearly . . . till twelve, anyhow. I’ve suffered everything . . . everything.”
Hazel looked as tragic as a round, pink-and-white face, long-lashed eyes and a halo of curls would let her.158
“Why, Hazel dear, I thought you and Terry were so happy . . . that everything was settled.”
Anne could not be blamed for thinking so. During the preceding three weeks, Hazel had raved to her about Terry Garland, for Hazel’s attitude was, what was the use of having a beau if you couldn’t talk to some one about him?
“Everybody thinks that,” retorted Hazel with great bitterness. “Oh, Miss Shirley, life seems so full of perplexing problems. I feel sometimes as if I wanted to lie down somewhere . . . anywhere . . . and fold my hands and never think again.”
“My dear girl, what has gone wrong?”
“Nothing . . . and everything. Oh, Miss Shirley, can I tell you all about it . . . can I pour out my whole soul to you?”
“Of course, dear.”
“I have really no place to pour out my soul,” said Hazel pathetically. “Except in my journal, of course. Will you let me show you my journal some day, Miss Shirley? It is a self-revelation. And yet I cannot write out what burns in my soul.
It . . . it stifles me!” Hazel clutched dramatically at her throat.
“Of course I’d like to see it if you want me to. But what is this trouble between you and Terry?”
“Oh, Terry!! Miss Shirley, will you believe me when I tell you that Terry seems like a stranger to me? A stranger! Some one I’d never seen before,” added Hazel, so that there might be no mistake.
“But, Hazel . . . I thought you loved him . . . you said . . .”
“Oh, I know. I thought I loved him, too. But now I know it was all a terrible mistake. Oh, Miss Shirley, you can’t dream how difficult my life is . . . how impossible.”
“I know something about it,” said Anne sympathetically, remembering Roy Gardiner.
“Oh, Miss Shirley, I’m sure I don’t love him enough to marry him. I realize that now . . . now that it is too late. I was just moonlighted into thinking I loved him.
If it hadn’t been for the moon I’m sure I would have asked for time to think it159 over. But I was swept off my feet . . . I can see that now. Oh, I’ll run away . . . I’ll do something desperate!”
“But, Hazel dear, if you feel you’ve made a mistake, why not just tell him . . .”
“Oh, Miss Shirley, I couldn’t! It would kill him. He simply adores me. There isn’t any way out of it really. And Terry’s beginning to talk of getting married. Think of it . . . a child like me . . . I’m only eighteen. All the friends I’ve told about my engagement as a secret are congratulating me . . . and it’s such a farce. They think Terry is a great catch because he comes into ten thousand dollars when he is twenty-five. His grandmother left it to him. As if I cared about such a sordid thing as money! Oh, Miss Shirley, why is it such a mercenary world . . . why?”
“I suppose it is mercenary in some respects, but not in all, Hazel. And if you feel like this about Terry . . . we all make mistakes . . . it’s very hard to know our own minds sometimes. . . .”
“Oh, isn’t it? I knew you’d understand. I did think I cared for him, Miss Shirley.
The first time I saw him I just sat and gazed at him the whole evening. Waves went over me when I met his eyes. He was so handsome . . . though I thought even then that his hair was too curly and his eyelashes too white. That should have warned me. But I always put my soul into everything, you know . . . I’m so intense. I felt little shivers of ecstasy whenever he came near me. And now I feel nothing . . . nothing! Oh, I’ve grown old these past few weeks, Miss Shirley . . . old! I’ve hardly eaten anything since I got engaged.
Mother could tell you. I’m sure I don’t love him enough to marry him. Whatever else I may be in doubt about, I know that.”
“Then you shouldn’t . . .”
“Even that moonlight night he proposed to me, I was thinking of what dress I’d wear to Joan Pringle’s fancy dress party. I thought it would be lovely to go as Queen of the May in pale green, with a sash of darker green and a cluster of pale pink roses in my hair. And a May-pole decked with tiny roses and hung with pink and green ribbons. Wouldn’t it have been fetching? And then Joan’s uncle had to go and die and Joan couldn’t have the party after all, so it all went for nothing.
But the point is . . . I really couldn’t have loved him when my thoughts were wandering like that, could I?”
“I don’t know . . . our thoughts play us curious tricks some times.”160 “I really don’t think I ever want to get married at all, Miss Shirley. Do you happen to have an orangewood stick handy? Thanks. My half-moons are getting ragged. I might as well do them while I’m talking. Isn’t it just lovely to be exchanging confidences like this? It’s so seldom one gets the opportunity . . . the world intrudes itself so. Well, what was I talking of . . . oh, yes, Terry. What am I to do, Miss Shirley? I want your advice. Oh, I feel like a trapped creature!”
“But, Hazel, it’s so very simple . . .”
“Oh, it isn’t simple at all, Miss Shirley! It’s dreadfully complicated. Mamma is so outrageously pleased, but Aunt Jean isn’t. She doesn’t like Terry, and everybody says she has such good judgment. I don’t want to marry anybody. I’m ambitious . . . I want a career. Sometimes I think I’d like to be a nun. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be the bride of heaven? I think the Catholic church is so picturesque, don’t you? But of course I’m not a Catholic . . . and anyway, I suppose you could hardly call it a career. I’ve always felt I’d love to be a nurse.
It’s such a romantic profession, don’t you think? Smoothing fevered brows and all that . . . and some handsome millionaire patient falling in love with you and carrying you off to spend a honeymoon in a villa on the Riviera, facing the morning sun and the blue Mediterranean. I’ve seen myself in it. Foolish dreams, perhaps, but, oh, so sweet. I can’t give them up for the prosaic reality of marrying Terry Garland and settling down in Summerside!”
Hazel shivered at the very idea and scrutinized a half-moon critically.
“I suppose . . .” began Anne.
“We haven’t anything in common, you know, Miss Shirley. He doesn’t care for poetry and romance, and they’re my very life. Sometimes I think I must be a reincarnation of Cleopatra . . . or would it be Helen of Troy? . . . one of those languorous, seductive creatures, anyhow. I have such wonderful thoughts and feelings . . . I don’t know where I get them if that isn’t the explanation. And Terry is so terribly matter-of-fact . . . he can’t be a reincarnation of anybody. What he said when I told him about Vera Fry’s quill pen proves that, doesn’t it?”
“But I never heard of Vera Fry’s quill pen,” said Anne patiently.
“Oh, haven’t you? I thought I’d told you. I’ve told you so much. Vera’s fiance gave her a quill pen he’d made out of a feather he’d picked up that had fallen from a crow’s wing. He said to her, ‘Let your spirit soar to heaven with it whenever you use it, like the bird who once bore it.’ Wasn’t that just wonderful? But Terry said the pen would wear out very soon, especially if Vera wrote as much as she161 talked, and anyway he didn’t think crows ever soared to heaven. He just missed the meaning of the whole thing completely . . . it’s very essence.”
“What was its meaning?”
“Oh . . . why . . . why . . . soaring, you know . . . getting away from the clods of earth. Did you notice Vera’s ring? A sapphire. I think sapphires are too dark for engagement rings. I’d rather have your dear, romantic little hoop of pearls. Terry wanted to give me my ring right away . . . but I said not yet a while . . . it would seem like a fetter . . . so irrevocable,you know. I wouldn’t have felt like that if I’d really loved him, would I?”
“No, I’m afraid not . . .”
“It’s been so wonderful to tell somebody what I really feel like. Oh, Miss Shirley, if I could only find myself free again . . . free to seek the deeper meaning of life!
Terry wouldn’t understand what I meant if I said that to him. And I know he has a temper . . . all the Garlands have. Oh, Miss Shirley . . . if you would just talk to him . . . tell him what I feel like . . . he thinks you’re wonderful . . . he’d be guided by what you say.”
“Hazel, my dear little girl, how could I do that?”
“I don’t see why not.” Hazel finished the last new moon and laid the orangewood stick down tragically. “If you can’t, there isn’t any help anywhere. But I can never, never, NEVER marry Terry Garland.”
“If you don’t love Terry, you ought to go to him and tell him so . . . no matter how badly it will make him feel. Some day you’ll meet some one you can really love, Hazel dear . . . you won’t have any doubts then . . . you’ll know.”
“I shall never love anybody again,” said Hazel, stonily calm. “Love brings only sorrow. Young as I am I have learned that. This would make a wonderful plot for one of your stories, wouldn’t it, Miss Shirley? I must be going . . . I’d no idea it was so late. I feel so much better since I’ve confided in you . . . ‘touched your soul in shadowland,’ as Shakespeare says.”
“I think it was Pauline Johnson,” said Anne gently.
“Well, I knew it was somebody . . . somebody who had lived. I think I shall sleep tonight, Miss Shirley. I’ve hardly slept since I found myself engaged to Terry, without the leastnotion how it had all come about.”162
Hazel fluffed out her hair and put on her hat, a hat with a rosy lining to its brim and rosy blossoms around it. She looked so distractingly pretty in it that Anne kissed her impulsively. “You’re the prettiest thing, darling,” she said admiringly.
Hazel stood very still.
Then she lifted her eyes and stared clear through the ceiling of the tower room, clear through the attic above it, and sought the stars.
“I shall never, never forget this wonderful moment, Miss Shirley,” she murmured rapturously. “I feel that my beauty . . . if I have any . . . has been consecrated. Oh, Miss Shirley, you don’t know how really terrible it is to have a reputation for beauty and to be always afraid that when people meet you they will not think you as pretty as you were reported to be.
It’s torture. Sometimes I just die of mortification because I fancy I can see they’re disappointed. Perhaps it’s only my imagination . . . I’m so imaginative . . . too much so for my own good, I fear. I imagined I was in love with Terry, you see.
Oh, Miss Shirley, can you smell the apple-blossom fragrance?”
Having a nose, Anne could.
“Isn’t it just divine? I hope heaven will be all flowers. One could be good if one lived in a lily, couldn’t one?”
“I’m afraid it might be a little confining,” said Anne perversely.
“Oh, Miss Shirley, don’t . . . don’t be sarcastic with your little adorer. Sarcasm just shrivels me up like a leaf.”
“I see she hasn’t talked you quite to death,” said Rebecca Dew, when Anne had come back after seeing Hazel to the end of Spook’s Lane. “I don’t see how you put up with her.”
“I like her, Rebecca, I really do. I was a dreadful little chatterbox when I was a child. I wonder if I sounded as silly to the people who had to listen to me as Hazel does sometimes.”
“I didn’t know you when you was a child but I’m sure you didn’t,” said Rebecca.
“Because you would mean what you said no matter how you expressed it and Hazel Marr doesn’t. She’s nothing but skim milk pretending to be cream.”163 “Oh, of course she dramatizes herself a bit as most girls do, but I think she means some of the things she says,” said Anne, thinking of Terry. Perhaps it was because she had a rather poor opinion of the said Terry that she believed Hazel was quite in earnest in all she said about him. Anne thought Hazel was throwing herself away on Terry in spite of the ten thousand he was “coming into.” Anne considered Terry a good-looking, rather weak youth who would fall in love with the first pretty girl who made eyes at him and would, with equal facility, fall in love with the next one if Number One turned him down or left him alone too long.
Anne had seen a good deal of Terry that spring, for Hazel had insisted on her playing gooseberry frequently; and she was destined to see more of him, for Hazel went to visit friends in Kingsport and during her absence Terry rather attached himself to Anne, taking her out for rides and “seeing her home” from places. They called each other “Anne” and “Terry,” for they were about the same age, although Anne felt quite motherly towards him. Terry felt immensely flattered that “the clever Miss Shirley” seemed to like his companionship and he became so sentimental the night of May Connelly’s party, in a moonlit garden, where the shadows of the acacias blew crazily about, that Anne amusedly reminded him of the absent Hazel.
“Oh, Hazel!” said Terry. “That child!”
“You’re engaged to ‘that child,’ aren’t you?” said Anne severely.
“Not really engaged . . . nothing but some boy-and-girl nonsense. I . . . I guess I was just swept off my feet by the moonlight.”
Anne did a bit of rapid thinking. If Terry really cared so little for Hazel as this, the child was far better freed from him. Perhaps this was a heaven-sent opportunity to extricate them both from the silly tangle they had got themselves into and from which neither of them, taking things with all the deadly seriousness of youth, knew how to escape.
“Of course,” went on Terry, misinterpreting her silence. “I’m in a bit of a predicament, I’ll own. I’m afraid Hazel has taken me a little bit too seriously, and I don’t just know the best way to open her eyes to her mistake.”
Impulsive Anne assumed her most maternal look.
“Terry, you are a couple of children playing at being grown up. Hazel doesn’t really care anything more for you than you do for her. Apparently the moonlight164 affected both of you.She wants to be free but is afraid to tell you so for fear of hurting your feelings. She’s just a bewildered, romantic girl and you’re a boy in love with love, and some day you’ll both have a good laugh at yourselves.”
(“I think I’ve put that very nicely,” thought Anne complacently.) Terry drew a long breath.
“You’ve taken a weight off my mind, Anne. Hazel’s a sweet little thing, of course, I hated to think of hurting her, but I’ve realized my . . . our . . . mistake for some weeks. When one meets a woman . . . the woman . . . you’re not going in yet, Anne? Is all this good moonlight to be wasted? You look like a white rose in the moonlight . . . Anne. . . .”
But Anne had flown.
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