سال سوم - فصل 04
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4 Mr. Grand had talked himself out and bowed himself away. Anne stood for a moment on the door-stone, wondering uneasily where her charges were. Up the street and in at the gate came a wrathful lady, leading a forlorn and still sobbing atom of humanity by the hand.
“Miss Shirley, where is Mrs. Raymond?” demanded Mrs. Trent.
“Mrs. Raymond is . . .”
“I insist on seeing Mrs. Raymond. She shall see with her own eyes what her children have done to poor, helpless, innocent Ivy. Look at her, Miss Shirley . . . just look at her!”
“Oh, Mrs. Trent . . . I’m so sorry! It is all my fault. Mrs. Raymond is away . . . and I promised to look after them . . . but Mr. Grand came . . .”
“No, it isn’t your fault, Miss Shirley. I don’t blame you. No one can cope with those diabolical children. The whole street knows them. If Mrs. Raymond isn’t here, there is no point in my remaining. I shall take my poor child home. But Mrs. Raymond shall hear of this . . . indeed she shall. Listen to that, Miss Shirley.
Are they tearing each other limb from limb?”
“That” was a chorus of shrieks, howls and yells that came echoing down the stairs. Anne ran upwards. On the hall floor was a twisting, writhing, biting, tearing, scratching mass. Anne separated the furious twins with difficulty and, holding each firmly by a squirming shoulder, demanded the meaning of such behavior.
“She says I’ve got to be Ivy Trent’s beau,” snarled Gerald.
“So he has got to be,” screamed Geraldine.
“I won’t be!”
“You’ve got to be!”188
“Children!” said Anne. Something in her tone quelled them. They looked at her and saw a Miss Shirley they had not seen before. For the first time in their young lives they felt the force of authority.
“You, Geraldine,” said Anne quietly, “will go to bed for two hours. You, Gerald, will spend the same length of time in the hall closet. Not a word. You have behaved abominably and you must take your punishment. Your mother left you in my charge and you will obey me.”
“Then punish us together,” said Geraldine, beginning to cry.
“Yes . . . you’ve no right to sep’rate us . . . we’ve never been sep’rated,” muttered Gerald.
“You will be now.” Anne was still very quiet. Meekly Geraldine took off her clothes and got into one of the cots in their room. Meekly Gerald entered the hall closet. It was a large airy closet with a window and a chair and nobody could have called the punishment an unduly severe one. Anne locked the door and sat down with a book by the hall window. At least, for two hours she would know a little peace of mind.
A peep at Geraldine a few minutes later showed her to be sound asleep, looking so lovely in her sleep that Anne almost repented her sternness. Well, a nap would be good for her, anyway. When she wakened she should be permitted to get up, even if the two hours had not expired.
At the end of an hour Geraldine was still sleeping. Gerald had been so quiet that Anne decided that he had taken his punishment like a man and might be forgiven.
After all, Ivy Trent was a vain little monkey and had probably been very irritating.
Anne unlocked the closet door and opened it.
There was no Gerald in the closet. The window was open and the roof of the side porch was just beneath it. Anne’s lips tightened. She went downstairs and out into the yard. No sign of Gerald. She explored the woodshed and looked up and down the street. Still no sign.
She ran through the garden and through the gate into the lane that led through a patch of scrub woodland to the little pond in Mr. Robert Creedmore’s field.
Gerald was happily poling himself about on it in the small flat Mr. Creedmore kept there. Just as Anne broke through the trees Gerald’s pole, which he had stuck189 rather deep in the mud, came away with unexpected ease at his third tug and Gerald promptly shot heels over head backward into the water.
Anne gave an involuntary shriek of dismay, but there was no real cause for alarm. The pond at its deepest would not come up to Gerald’s shoulders and where he had gone over, it was little deeper than his waist. He had somehow got on his feet and was standing there rather foolishly, with his aureole plastered drippingly down on his head, when Anne’s shriek was re-echoed behind her, and Geraldine, in her nightgown, tore through the trees and out to the edge of the little wooden platform to which the flat was commonly moored.
With a despairing shriek of “Gerald!” she took a flying leap that landed her with a tremendous splash by Gerald’s side and almost gave him another ducking.
“Gerald, are you drowned?” cried Geraldine. “Are you drowned, darling?”
“No . . . no . . . darling,” Gerald assured her through his chattering teeth.
They embraced and kissed passionately.
“Children, come in here this minute,” said Anne.
They waded to the shore. The September day, warm in the morning, had turned cold and windy in the late afternoon. They shivered terribly . . . their faces were blue. Anne, without a word of censure, hurried them home, got off their wet clothes and got them into Mrs. Raymond’s bed, with hot-water bottles at their feet. They still continued to shiver. Had they got a chill? Were they headed for pneumonia?
“You should have taken better care of us, Miss Shirley,” said Gerald, still chattering.
“‘Course you should,” said Geraldine.
A distracted Anne flew downstairs and telephoned for the doctor. By the time he came the twins had got warm, and he assured Anne that they were in no danger.
If they stayed in bed till tomorrow they would be all right.
He met Mrs. Raymond coming up from the station on the way back, and it was a pale, almost hysterical lady who presently rushed in.
“Oh, Miss Shirley, how could you have let my little treasures get into such danger!”190
“That’s just what we told her, Mother,” chorused the twins.
“I trusted you . . . I told you . . .”
“I hardly see how I was to blame, Mrs. Raymond,” said Anne, with eyes as cold as gray mist. “You will realize this, I think, when you are calmer. The children are quite all right . . . I simply sent for the doctor as a precautionary measure. If Gerald and Geraldine had obeyed me, this would not have happened.”
“I thought a teacher would have a little authority over children,” said Mrs.
“Over children perhaps . . . but not young demons,” thought Anne. She said only, “Since you are here, Mrs. Raymond, I think I will go home. I don’t think I can be of any further service and I have some school work to do this evening.”
As one child the twins hurled themselves out of bed and flung their arms around her.
“I hope there’ll be a funeral every week,” cried Gerald. “‘Cause I like you, Miss Shirley, and I hope you’ll come and look after us every time Mother goes away.”
“So do I,” said Geraldine.
“I like you ever so much better than Miss Prouty.”
“Oh, ever so much,” said Geraldine.
“Will you put us in a story?” demanded Gerald.
“Oh, do,” said Geraldine.
“I’m sure you meant well,” said Mrs. Raymond tremulously.
“Thank you,” said Anne icily, trying to detach the twins’ clinging arms.
“Oh, don’t let’s quarrel about it,” begged Mrs. Raymond, her enormous eyes filling with tears. “I can’t endure quarreling with anybody.”
“Certainly not.” Anne was at her stateliest and Anne could be very stately. “I don’t think there is the slightest necessity for quarreling. I think Gerald and191 Geraldine have quite enjoyed the day, though I don’t suppose poor little Ivy Trent did.”
Anne went home feeling years older.
“To think I ever thought Davy was mischievous,” she reflected.
She found Rebecca in the twilight garden gathering late pansies.
“Rebecca Dew, I used to think the adage, ‘Children should be seen and not heard,’
entirely too harsh. But I see its points now.”
“My poor darling. I’ll get you a nice supper,” said Rebecca Dew. And did not say, “I told you so.”
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