سال دوم - فصل 11

مجموعه: آن شرلی با موهای قرمز / : آن در ویندی پاپلز / فصل 28

آن شرلی با موهای قرمز

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سال دوم - فصل 11

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11

Anne, correcting examination papers in the tower room one mid-June evening, paused to wipe her nose. She had wiped it so often that evening that it was rosyred and rather painful. The truth was that Anne was the victim of a very severe and very unromantic cold in the head. It would not allow her to enjoy the soft green sky behind the hemlocks of The Evergreens, the silver-white moon hanging over the Storm King, the haunting perfume of the lilacs below her window or the frosty, blue-penciled irises in the vase on her table. It darkened all her past and overshadowed all her future.

“A cold in the head in June is an immoral thing,” she told Dusty Miller, who was meditating on the window-sill. “But in two weeks from today I’ll be in dear Green Gables instead of stewing here over examination papers full of howlers and wiping a worn-out nose. Think of it, Dusty Miller.”

Apparently Dusty Miller thought of it. He may also have thought that the young lady who was hurrying along Spook’s Lane and down the road and along the perennial path looked angry and disturbed and un-June-like. It was Hazel Marr, only a day back from Kingsport, and evidently a much disturbed Hazel Marr, who, a few minutes later, burst stormily into the tower room without waiting for a reply to her sharp knock.

“Why, Hazel dear . . .” (Kershoo!) . . . “are you back from Kingsport already? I didn’t expect you till next week.”

“No, I suppose you didn’t,” said Hazel sarcastically. “Yes, Miss Shirley, I am back. And what do I find? That you have been doing your best to lure Terry away from me . . . and all but succeeding.”

“Hazel!” (Kershoo!)

“Oh, I know it all! You told Terry I didn’t love him . . . that I wanted to break our engagement . . . our sacred engagement!”

“Hazel . . . child!” (Kershoo!)

“Oh, yes, sneer at me . . . sneer at everything. But don’t try to deny it. You did it . . . and you did it deliberately.”

“Of course, I did. You asked me to.”

“I . . . asked . . . you . . . to!”

“Here, in this very room. You told me you didn’t love him and could never marry him.”

“Oh, just a mood, I suppose. I never dreamed you’d take me seriously. I thought you would understand the artistic temperament. You’re ages older than I am, of course, but evenyou can’t have forgotten the crazy ways girls talk . . . feel. You who pretended to be my friend!”

“This must be a nightmare,” thought poor Anne, wiping her nose. “Sit down, Hazel . . . do.”

“Sit down!” Hazel flew wildly up and down the room. “How can I sit down . . . how can anybody sit down when her life is in ruins all about her? Oh, if that is what being old does to you . . . jealous of younger people’s happiness and determined to wreck it . . . I shall pray never to grow old.”

Anne’s hand suddenly tingled to box Hazel’s ears with a strange horrible primitive tingle of desire. She slew it so instantly that she would never believe afterwards that she had really felt it. But she did think a little gentle chastisement was indicated.

“If you can’t sit down and talk sensibly, Hazel, I wish you would go away.” (A very violent kershoo.) “I have work to do.” (Sniff . . . sniff . . . snuffle!) “I am not going away till I have told you just what I think of you. Oh, I know I’ve only myself to blame . . . I should have known . . . I did know. I felt instinctively the first time I saw you that you were dangerous. That red hair and those green eyes! But I never dreamed you’d go so far as to make trouble between me and Terry. I thought you were a Christianat least. I never heard of any one doing such a thing. Well, you’ve broken my heart, if that is any satisfaction to you.”

“You little goose . . .”

“I won’t talk to you! Oh, Terry and I were so happy before you spoiled everything. I was so happy . . . the first girl of my set to be engaged. I even had my wedding all planned out . . . four bridesmaids in lovely pale blue silk dresses with black velvet ribbon on the flounces. So chic! Oh, I don’t know if I hate you167 the most or pity you the most! Oh, how couldyou treat me like this . . . after I’ve loved you so . . . trusted you so . . . believed in you so!”

Hazel’s voice broke . . . her eyes filled with tears . . . she collapsed on a rockingchair.

“You can’t have many exclamation points left,” thought Anne, “but no doubt the supply of italics is inexhaustible.”

“This will just about kill poor Momma,” sobbed Hazel. “She was so pleased . . . everybody was so pleased . . . they all thought it an ideal match. Oh, can anything ever again be like it used to be?”

“Wait till the next moonlight night and try,” said Anne gently.

“Oh, yes, laugh, Miss Shirley . . . laugh at my suffering. I have not the least doubt that you find it all very amusing . . . very amusing indeed! You don’t know what suffering is! It is terrible . . . terrible!”

Anne looked at the clock and sneezed.

“Then don’t suffer,” she said unpityingly.

“I will suffer. My feelings are very deep. Of course a shallow soul wouldn’t suffer. But I am thankful I am not shallow whatever else I am. Have you any idea what it means to be in love, Miss Shirley? Really, terribly deeply, wonderfully in love? And then to trust and be deceived? I went to Kingsport so happy . . . loving all the world! I told Terry to be good to you while I was away . . . not to let you be lonesome. I came home last night so happy. And he told me he didn’t love me any longer . . . that it was all a mistake . . . amistake! . . . and that you had told him I didn’t care for him any longer, and wanted to be free!”

“My intentions were honorable,” said Anne, laughing. Her impish sense of humor had come to her rescue and she was laughing as much at herself as at Hazel.

“Oh, how did I live through the night?” said Hazel wildly. “I just walked the floor. And you don’t know . . . you can’t even imagine what I’ve gone through today. I’ve had to sit and listen . . . actually listen . . . to people talking about Terry’s infatuation for you. Oh, people have been watching you! They know what you’ve been doing. And why . . . why! That is what I cannot understand. You had your own lover . . . why couldn’t you have left me mine? What had you against me? What had I ever done to you?”168

“I think,” said Anne, thoroughly exasperated, “that you and Terry both need a good spanking. If you weren’t too angry to listen to reason . . .”

“Oh, I’m not angry, Miss Shirley . . . only hurt . . . terribly hurt,” said Hazel in a voice positively foggy with tears. “I feel that I have been betrayed in everything . . . in friendship as well as in love. Well, they say after your heart is broken you never suffer any more. I hope it’s true, but I fear it isn’t.”

“What has become of your ambition, Hazel? And what about the millionaire patient and the honeymoon villa on the blue Mediterranean?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, Miss Shirley. I’m not a bit ambitious . . . I’m not one of those dreadful new women. My highest ambition was to be a happy wife and make a happy home for my husband. Was . . . was! To think it should be in the past tense! Well, it doesn’t do to trust any one. I’ve learned that. A bitter, bitter lesson!”

Hazel wiped her eyes and Anne wiped her nose, and Dusty Miller glared at the evening star with the expression of a misanthrope.

“You’d better go, I think, Hazel. I’m really very busy and I can’t see that there is anything to be gained by prolonging this interview.”

Hazel walked to the door with the air of Mary Queen of Scots advancing to the scaffold, and turned there dramatically.

“Farewell, Miss Shirley. I leave you to your conscience.”

Anne, left alone with her conscience, laid down her pen, sneezed three times and gave herself a plain talking-to.

“You may be a B.A., Anne Shirley, but you have a few things to learn yet . . . things that even Rebecca Dew could have told you . . . did tell you. Be honest with yourself, my dear girl, and take your medicine like a gallant lady. Admit that you were carried off your feet by flattery. Admit that you really liked Hazel’s professed adoration for you. Admit you found it pleasant to be worshiped. Admit that you liked the idea of being a sort of dea ex machina . . . saving people from their own folly when they didn’t in the least want to be saved from it. And having admitted all this and feeling wiser and sadder and a few thousand years older, pick up your pen and proceed with your examination papers, pausing to note in passing that Myra Pringle thinks a seraph is ‘an animal that abounds in Africa.’”

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