سال دوم - فصل 03

مجموعه: آن شرلی با موهای قرمز / کتاب: آن در ویندی پاپلز / فصل 20

آن شرلی با موهای قرمز

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سال دوم - فصل 03

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3 It was almost three weeks before Lewis found time to develop his pictures. He brought them up to Windy Poplars the first Sunday night he came to supper. Both the house and the Little Fellow came out splendidly. The Little Fellow smiled up from the picture “as real as life,” said Rebecca Dew.

“Why, he looks like you, Lewis!” exclaimed Anne.

“He does that,” agreed Rebecca Dew, squinting at it judicially. “The minute I saw it, his face reminded me of somebody but I couldn’t think who.”

“Why, the eyes . . . the forehead . . . the whole expression . . . are yours, Lewis,”

said Anne.

“It’s hard to believe I was ever such a good-looking little chap,” shrugged Lewis.

“I’ve got a picture of myself somewhere, taken when I was eight. I must hunt it out and compare it. You’d laugh to see it, Miss Shirley. I’m the most sober-eyed kid, with long curls and a lace collar, looking stiff as a ramrod. I suppose I had my head clamped in one of those three-clawed contraptions they used to use. If this picture really resembles me, it must be only a coincidence. The Little Fellow can’t be any relation of mine. I haven’t an relative on the Island . . . now.”

“Where were you born?” asked Aunt Kate.

“N. B. Father and Mother died when I was ten and I came over here to live with a cousin of mother’s . . . I called her Aunt Ida. She died too, you know . . . three years ago.”

“Jim Armstrong came from New Brunswick,” said Rebecca Dew. “He ain’t a real islander . . . wouldn’t be such a crank if he was. We have our peculiarities but we’re civilized.”

“I’m not sure that I want to discover a relation in the amiable Mr. Armstrong,”

grinned Lewis, attacking Aunt Chatty’s cinnamon toast. “However, I think when I get the photograph finished and mounted I’ll take it out to Glencove Road myself and investigate a little. He may be a distant cousin or something. I really know nothing about my mother’s people, if she had any living. I’ve always been under the impression that she hadn’t. Father hadn’t, I know.”119

“If you take the picture out in person, won’t the Little Fellow be a bit disappointed over losing his thrill of getting something through the post-office?”

said Anne.

“I’ll make it up to him . . . I’ll send him something else by mail.”

The next Saturday afternoon Lewis came driving along Spook’s Lane in an antiquated buggy behind a still more antiquated mare.

“I’m going out to Glencove to take little Teddy Armstrong his picture, Miss Shirley. If my dashing turn-out doesn’t give you heart-failure I’d like to have you come, too. I don’t thinkany of the wheels will fall off.”

“Where on earth did you pick up that relic, Lewis?” demanded Rebecca Dew.

“Don’t poke fun at my gallant steed, Miss Dew. Have some respect for age. Mr.

Bender lent me both mare and buggy on condition I’d do an errand for him along the Dawlish Road. I hadn’t time to walk out to Glencove today and back.”

“Time!” said Rebecca Dew. “I could walk there and back myself faster than that animal.”

“And carry a bag of potatoes back for Mr. Bender? You wonderful woman!”

Rebecca Dew’s red cheeks grew even redder.

“It ain’t nice to make fun of your elders,” she said rebukingly. Then, by way of coals of fire . . . “Could you do with a few doughnuts afore you start out?”

The white mare, however, developed surprising powers of locomotion when they were once more out in the open. Anne giggled to herself as they jogged along the road. What would Mrs. Gardiner or even Aunt Jamesina say if they could see her now? Well, she didn’t care. It was a wonderful day for a drive through a land that was keeping its old lovely ritual of autumn, and Lewis was a good companion.

Lewis would attain his ambitions. Nobody else of her acquaintance, she reflected, would dream of asking her to go driving in the Bender buggy behind the Bender mare. But it never occurred to Lewis that there was anything odd about it. What difference how you traveled as long as you got there? The calm rims of the upland hills were as blue, the roads as red, the maples as gorgeous, no matter what vehicle you rode in. Lewis was a philosopher and cared as little what people might say as he did when some of the High School pupils called him “Sissy”

because he did housework for his board. Let them call! Some day the laugh120 would be on the other side. His pockets might be empty but his head wasn’t.

Meanwhile the afternoon was an idyl and they were going to see the Little Fellow again. They told Mr. Bender’s brother-in-law about their errand when he put the bag of potatoes in the back of the buggy.

“Do you mean to say you’ve got a photo of little Teddy Armstrong?” exclaimed Mr. Merrill.

“That I have and a good one.” Lewis unwrapped it and held it proudly out. “I don’t believe a professional photographer could have taken a better.”

Mr. Merrill slapped his leg resoundingly.

“Well, if that don’t beat all! Why, little Teddy Armstrong is dead . . .”

“Dead!” exclaimed Anne in horror. “Oh, Mr. Merrill . . . no . . . don’t tell me . . . that dear little boy . . .”

“Sorry, miss, but it’s a fact. And his father is just about wild and all the worse that he hasn’t got any kind of a picture of him at all. And now you’ve got a good one.

Well, well!”

“It . . . it seems impossible,” said Anne, her eyes full of tears. She was seeing the slender little figure waving his farewell from the dyke.

“Sorry to say it’s only too true. He died nearly three weeks ago. Pneumonia.

Suffered awful but he was just as brave and patient as any one could be, they say.

I dunno what’ll become of Jim Armstrong now. They say he’s like a crazy manjust moping and muttering to himself all the time. ‘If I only had a picture of my Little Fellow,’ he keeps saying.”

“I’m sorry for that man,” said Mrs. Merrill suddenly. She had not hitherto spoken, standing by her husband, a gaunt, square-built gray woman in wind-whipped calico and check apron. “He’s well-to-do and I’ve always felt he looked down on us because we were poor. But we have our boy . . . and it don’t never matter how poor you are as long as you’ve got something to love.”

Anne looked at Mrs. Merrill with a new respect. Mrs. Merrill was not beautiful, but as her sunken gray eyes met Anne’s, something of spirit kinship was acknowledged between them. Anne had never seen Mrs. Merrill before and never saw her again, but she always remembered her as a woman who had attained to121 the ultimate secret of life. You were never poor as long as you had something to love.

The golden day was spoiled for Anne. Somehow, the Little Fellow had won her heart in their brief meeting. She and Lewis drove in silence down the Glencove Road and up the grassy lane. Carlo was lying on the stone before the blue door.

He got up and came down over to them, as they descended from the buggy, licking Anne’s hand and looking up at her with big wistful eyes as if asking for news of his little playmate. The door was open and in the dim room beyond they saw a man with his head bowed on the table.

At Anne’s knock he started up and came to the door. She was shocked at the change in him. He was hollow-cheeked, haggard and unshaven, and his deep-set eyes flashed with a fitful fire.

She expected a repulse at first, but he seemed to recognize her, for he said listlessly,

“So you’re back? The Little Fellow said you talked to him and kissed him. He liked you. I was sorry I’d been so churlish to you. What is it you want?”

“We want to show you something,” said Anne gently.

“Will you come in and sit down?” he said drearily.

Without a word Lewis took the Little Fellow’s picture from its wrappings and held it out to him. He snatched it up, gave it one amazed, hungry look, then dropped on his chair and burst into tears and sobs. Anne had never seen a man weep so before. She and Lewis stood in mute sympathy until he had regained his self-control.

“Oh, you don’t know what this means to me,” he said brokenly at last. “I hadn’t any picture of him. And I’m not like other folks . . . I can’t recall a face . . . I can’t see faces as most folks can in their mind. It’s been awful since the Little Fellow died. . . . I couldn’t even remember what he looked like. And now you’ve brought me this . . . after I was so rude to you. Sit down . . . sit down. I wish I could express my thanks in some way. I guess you’ve saved my reason . . . maybe my life. Oh, miss, isn’t it like him? You’d think he was going to speak. My dear Little Fellow! How am I going to live without him? I’ve nothing to live for now. First his mother . . . now him.”

“He was a dear little lad,” said Anne tenderly.122

“That he was. Little Teddy . . . Theodore, his mother named him . . . her ‘gift of Gods’ she said he was. And he was so patient and never complained. Once he smiled up in my face and said, ‘Dad, I think you’ve been mistaken in one thing . . . just one. I guess there is a heaven, isn’t there? Isn’t there, Dad?’ I said to him, yes, there was. . . . God forgive me for ever trying to teach him anything else. He smiled again, contented like, and said, ‘Well, Dad, I’m going there and Mother and God are there, so I’ll be pretty well off. But I’m worried about you, Dad.

You’ll be so awful lonesome without me. But just do the best you can and be polite to folks and come to us by and by.’ He made me promise I’d try, but when he was gone I couldn’t stand the blankness of it. I’d have gone mad if you hadn’t brought me this. It won’t be so hard now.”

He talked about his Little Fellow for some time, as if he found relief and pleasure in it. His reserve and gruffness seemed to have fallen from him like a garment.

Finally Lewis produced the small faded photograph of himself and showed it to him.

“Have you ever seen anybody who looked like that, Mr. Armstrong?” asked Anne.

Mr. Armstrong peered at it in perplexity.

“It’s awful like the Little Fellow,” he said at last. “Whose might it be?”

“Mine,” said Lewis, “when I was seven years old. It was because of the strange resemblance to Teddy that Miss Shirley made me bring it to show you. I thought it possible that you and I or the Little Fellow might be some distant relation. My name is Lewis Allen and my father was George Allen. I was born in New Brunswick.”

James Armstrong shook his head. Then he said,

“What was your mother’s name?”

“Mary Gardiner.”

James Armstrong looked at him for a moment in silence.

“She was my half-sister,” he said at last. “I hardly knew her . . . never saw her but once. I was brought up in an uncle’s family after my father’s death. My mother married again and moved away. She came to see me once and brought her little daughter. She died soon after and I never saw my half-sister again. When I came123 over to the Island to live, I lost all trace of her. You are my nephew and the Little Fellow’s cousin.”

This was surprising news to a lad who had fancied himself alone in the world.

Lewis and Anne spent the whole evening with Mr. Armstrong and found him to be a well-read and intelligent man. Somehow, they both took a liking to him. His former inhospitable reception was quite forgotten and they saw only the real worth of the character and temperament below the unpromising shell that had hitherto concealed them.

“Of course the Little Fellow couldn’t have loved his father so much if it hadn’t been so,” said Anne, as she and Lewis drove back to Windy Poplars through the sunset.

When Lewis Allen went the next week-end to see his uncle, the latter said to him, “Lad, come and live with me. You are my nephew and I can do well for you . . . what I’d have done for my Little Fellow if he’d lived. You’re alone in the world and so am I. I need you. I’ll grow hard and bitter again if I live here alone. I want you to help me keep my promise to the Little Fellow. His place is empty. Come you and fill it.”

“Thank you, Uncle; I’ll try,” said Lewis, holding out his hand.

“And bring that teacher of yours here once in a while. I like that girl. The Little Fellow liked her. ‘Dad,’ he said to me, ‘I didn’t think I’d ever like anybody but you to kiss me, but I liked it when she did. There was something in her eyes, Dad.’”

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