3 książki za 35 oszczędź od 50%

The Greatest Works of L. M. Montgomery

Tekst
0
Recenzje
Książka nie jest dostępna w twoim regionie
Oznacz jako przeczytane
Czcionka:Mniejsze АаWiększe Aa

Chapter XXXI.
Carl Does Penance

Table of Contents

“I don’t see why we should be punished at all,” said Faith, rather sulkily. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We couldn’t help being frightened. And it won’t do father any harm. It was just an accident.”

“You were cowards,” said Jerry with judicial scorn, “and you gave way to your cowardice. That is why you should be punished. Everybody will laugh at you about this, and that is a disgrace to the family.”

“If you knew how awful the whole thing was,” said Faith with a shiver, “you would think we had been punished enough already. I wouldn’t go through it again for anything in the whole world.”

“I believe you’d have run yourself if you’d been there,” muttered

Carl.

“From an old woman in a cotton sheet,” mocked Jerry. “Ho, ho, ho!”

“It didn’t look a bit like an old woman,” cried Faith. “It was just a great, big, white thing crawling about in the grass just as Mary Vance said Henry Warren did. It’s all very fine for you to laugh, Jerry Meredith, but you’d have laughed on the other side of your mouth if you’d been there. And how are we to be punished? I don’t think it’s fair, but let’s know what we have to do, Judge Meredith!”

“The way I look at it,” said Jerry, frowning, “is that Carl was the most to blame. He bolted first, as I understand it. Besides, he was a boy, so he should have stood his ground to protect you girls, whatever the danger was. You know that, Carl, don’t you?”

“I s’pose so,” growled Carl shamefacedly.

“Very well. This is to be your punishment. Tonight you’ll sit on Mr. Hezekiah Pollock’s tombstone in the graveyard alone, until twelve o’clock.”

Carl gave a little shudder. The graveyard was not so very far from the old Bailey garden. It would be a trying ordeal, but Carl was anxious to wipe out his disgrace and prove that he was not a coward after all.

“All right,” he said sturdily. “But how’ll I know when it is twelve?”

“The study windows are open and you’ll hear the clock striking. And mind you that you are not to budge out of that graveyard until the last stroke. As for you girls, you’ve got to go without jam at supper for a week.”

Faith and Una looked rather blank. They were inclined to think that even Carl’s comparatively short though sharp agony was lighter punishment than this long drawn-out ordeal. A whole week of soggy bread without the saving grace of jam! But no shirking was permitted in the club. The girls accepted their lot with such philosophy as they could summon up.

That night they all went to bed at nine, except Carl, who was already keeping vigil on the tombstone. Una slipped in to bid him good night. Her tender heart was wrung with sympathy.

“Oh, Carl, are you much scared?” she whispered.

“Not a bit,” said Carl airily.

“I won’t sleep a wink till after twelve,” said Una. “If you get lonesome just look up at our window and remember that I’m inside, awake, and thinking about you. That will be a little company, won’t it?”

“I’ll be all right. Don’t you worry about me,” said Carl.

But in spite of his dauntless words Carl was a pretty lonely boy when the lights went out in the manse. He had hoped his father would be in the study as he so often was. He would not feel alone then. But that night Mr. Meredith had been summoned to the fishing village at the harbour mouth to see a dying man. He would not likely be back until after midnight. Carl must dree his weird alone.

A Glen man went past carrying a lantern. The mysterious shadows caused by the lantern-light went hurtling madly over the graveyard like a dance of demons or witches. Then they passed and darkness fell again. One by one the lights in the Glen went out. It was a very dark night, with a cloudy sky, and a raw east wind that was cold in spite of the calendar. Far away on the horizon was the low dim lustre of the Charlottetown lights. The wind wailed and sighed in the old fir-trees. Mr. Alec Davis’ tall monument gleamed whitely through the gloom. The willow beside it tossed long, writhing arms spectrally. At times, the gyrations of its boughs made it seem as if the monument were moving, too.

Carl curled himself up on the tombstone with his legs tucked under him. It wasn’t precisely pleasant to hang them over the edge of the stone. Just suppose — just suppose — bony hands should reach up out of Mr. Pollock’s grave under it and clutch him by the ankles. That had been one of Mary Vance’s cheerful speculations one time when they had all been sitting there. It returned to haunt Carl now. He didn’t believe those things; he didn’t even really believe in Henry Warren’s ghost. As for Mr. Pollock, he had been dead sixty years, so it wasn’t likely he cared who sat on his tombstone now. But there is something very strange and terrible in being awake when all the rest of the world is asleep. You are alone then with nothing but your own feeble personality to pit against the mighty principalities and powers of darkness. Carl was only ten and the dead were all around him — and he wished, oh, he wished that the clock would strike twelve. Would it NEVER strike twelve? Surely Aunt Martha must have forgotten to wind it.

And then it struck eleven — only eleven! He must stay yet another hour in that grim place. If only there were a few friendly stars to be seen! The darkness was so thick it seemed to press against his face. There was a sound as of stealthy passing footsteps all over the graveyard. Carl shivered, partly with prickling terror, partly with real cold.

Then it began to rain — a chill, penetrating drizzle. Carl’s thin little cotton blouse and shirt were soon wet through. He felt chilled to the bone. He forgot mental terrors in his physical discomfort. But he must stay there till twelve — he was punishing himself and he was on his honour. Nothing had been said about rain — but it did not make any difference. When the study clock finally struck twelve a drenched little figure crept stiffly down off Mr. Pollock’s tombstone, made its way into the manse and upstairs to bed. Carl’s teeth were chattering. He thought he would never get warm again.

He was warm enough when morning came. Jerry gave one startled look at his crimson face and then rushed to call his father. Mr. Meredith came hurriedly, his own face ivory white from the pallor of his long night vigil by a death bed. He had not got home until daylight. He bent over his little lad anxiously.

“Carl, are you sick?” he said.

“That — tombstone — over here,” said Carl, “it’s — moving — about — it’s coming — at — me — keep it — away — please.”

Mr. Meredith rushed to the telephone. In ten minutes Dr. Blythe was at the manse. Half an hour later a wire was sent to town for a trained nurse, and all the Glen knew that Carl Meredith was very ill with pneumonia and that Dr. Blythe had been seen to shake his head.

Gilbert shook his head more than once in the fortnight that followed. Carl developed double pneumonia. There was one night when Mr. Meredith paced his study floor, and Faith and Una huddled in their bedroom and cried, and Jerry, wild with remorse, refused to budge from the floor of the hall outside Carl’s door. Dr. Blythe and the nurse never left the bedside. They fought death gallantly until the red dawn and they won the victory. Carl rallied and passed the crisis in safety. The news was phoned about the waiting Glen and people found out how much they really loved their minister and his children.

“I haven’t had one decent night’s sleep since I heard the child was sick,” Miss Cornelia told Anne, “and Mary Vance has cried until those queer eyes of hers looked like burnt holes in a blanket. Is it true that Carl got pneumonia from straying out in the graveyard that wet night for a dare?”

“No. He was staying there to punish himself for cowardice in that affair of the Warren ghost. It seems they have a club for bringing themselves up, and they punish themselves when they do wrong. Jerry told Mr. Meredith all about it.”

“The poor little souls,” said Miss Cornelia.

Carl got better rapidly, for the congregation took enough nourishing things to the manse to furnish forth a hospital. Norman Douglas drove up every evening with a dozen fresh eggs and a jar of Jersey cream. Sometimes he stayed an hour and bellowed arguments on predestination with Mr. Meredith in the study; oftener he drove on up to the hill that overlooked the Glen.

When Carl was able to go again to Rainbow Valley they had a special feast in his honour and the doctor came down and helped them with the fireworks. Mary Vance was there, too, but she did not tell any ghost stories. Miss Cornelia had given her a talking on that subject which Mary would not forget in a hurry.

Chapter XXXII.
Two Stubborn People

Table of Contents

Rosemary West, on her way home from a music lesson at Ingleside, turned aside to the hidden spring in Rainbow Valley. She had not been there all summer; the beautiful little spot had no longer any allurement for her. The spirit of her young lover never came to the tryst now; and the memories connected with John Meredith were too painful and poignant. But she had happened to glance backward up the valley and had seen Norman Douglas vaulting as airily as a stripling over the old stone dyke of the Bailey garden and thought he was on his way up the hill. If he overtook her she would have to walk home with him and she was not going to do that. So she slipped at once behind the maples of the spring, hoping he had not seen her and would pass on.

 

But Norman had seen her and, what was more, was in pursuit of her. He had been wanting for some time to have talk with Rosemary, but she had always, so it seemed, avoided him. Rosemary had never, at any time, liked Norman Douglas very well. His bluster, his temper, his noisy hilarity, had always antagonized her. Long ago she had often wondered how Ellen could possibly be attracted to him. Norman Douglas was perfectly aware of her dislike and he chuckled over it. It never worried Norman if people did not like him. It did not even make him dislike them in return, for he took it as a kind of extorted compliment. He thought Rosemary a fine girl, and he meant to be an excellent, generous brotherin-law to her. But before he could be her brotherin-law he had to have a talk with her, so, having seen her leaving Ingleside as he stood in the doorway of a Glen store, he had straightway plunged into the valley to overtake her.

Rosemary was sitting pensively on the maple seat where John Meredith had been sitting on that evening nearly a year ago. The tiny spring shimmered and dimpled under its fringe of ferns. Ruby-red gleams of sunset fell through the arching boughs. A tall clump of perfect asters grew at her side. The little spot was as dreamy and witching and evasive as any retreat of fairies and dryads in ancient forests. Into it Norman Douglas bounced, scattering and annihilating its charm in a moment. His personality seemed to swallow the place up. There was simply nothing there but Norman Douglas, big, red-bearded, complacent.

“Good evening,” said Rosemary coldly, standing up.

“‘Evening, girl. Sit down again — sit down again. I want to have a talk with you. Bless the girl, what’s she looking at me like that for? I don’t want to eat you — I’ve had my supper. Sit down and be civil.”

“I can hear what you have to say quite as well here,” said

Rosemary.

“So you can, girl, if you use your ears. I only wanted you to be comfortable. You look so durned uncomfortable, standing there. Well, I’LL sit anyway.”

Norman accordingly sat down in the very place John Meredith had once sat. The contrast was so ludicrous that Rosemary was afraid she would go off into a peal of hysterical laughter over it. Norman cast his hat aside, placed his huge, red hands on his knees, and looked up at her with his eyes a-twinkle.

“Come, girl, don’t be so stiff,” he said, ingratiatingly. When he liked he could be very ingratiating. “Let’s have a reasonable, sensible, friendly chat. There’s something I want to ask you. Ellen says she won’t, so it’s up to me to do it.”

Rosemary looked down at the spring, which seemed to have shrunk to the size of a dewdrop. Norman gazed at her in despair.

“Durn it all, you might help a fellow out a bit,” he burst forth.

“What is it you want me to help you say?” asked Rosemary scornfully.

“You know as well as I do, girl. Don’t be putting on your tragedy airs. No wonder Ellen was scared to ask you. Look here, girl, Ellen and I want to marry each other. That’s plain English, isn’t it? Got that? And Ellen says she can’t unless you give her back some tomfool promise she made. Come now, will you do it? Will you do it?”

“Yes,” said Rosemary.

Norman bounced up and seized her reluctant hand.

“Good! I knew you would — I told Ellen you would. I knew it would only take a minute. Now, girl, you go home and tell Ellen, and we’ll have a wedding in a fortnight and you’ll come and live with us. We shan’t leave you to roost on that hilltop like a lonely crow — don’t you worry. I know you hate me, but, Lord, it’ll be great fun living with some one that hates me. Life’ll have some spice in it after this. Ellen will roast me and you’ll freeze me. I won’t have a dull moment.”

Rosemary did not condescend to tell him that nothing would ever induce her to live in his house. She let him go striding back to the Glen, oozing delight and complacency, and she walked slowly up the hill home. She had known this was coming ever since she had returned from Kingsport, and found Norman Douglas established as a frequent evening caller. His name was never mentioned between her and Ellen, but the very avoidance of it was significant. It was not in Rosemary’s nature to feel bitter, or she would have felt very bitter. She was coldly civil to Norman, and she made no difference in any way with Ellen. But Ellen had not found much comfort in her second courtship.

She was in the garden, attended by St. George, when Rosemary came home. The two sisters met in the dahlia walk. St. George sat down on the gravel walk between them and folded his glossy black tail gracefully around his white paws, with all the indifference of a well-fed, well-bred, well-groomed cat.

“Did you ever see such dahlias?” demanded Ellen proudly. “They are just the finest we’ve ever had.”

Rosemary had never cared for dahlias. Their presence in the garden was her concession to Ellen’s taste. She noticed one huge mottled one of crimson and yellow that lorded it over all the others.

“That dahlia,” she said, pointing to it, “is exactly like Norman

Douglas. It might easily be his twin brother.”

Ellen’s dark-browed face flushed. She admired the dahlia in question, but she knew Rosemary did not, and that no compliment was intended. But she dared not resent Rosemary’s speech — poor Ellen dared not resent anything just then. And it was the first time Rosemary had ever mentioned Norman’s name to her. She felt that this portended something.

“I met Norman Douglas in the valley,” said Rosemary, looking straight at her sister, “and he told me you and he wanted to be married — if I would give you permission.”

“Yes? What did you say?” asked Ellen, trying to speak naturally and offhandedly, and failing completely. She could not meet Rosemary’s eyes. She looked down at St. George’s sleek back and felt horribly afraid. Rosemary had either said she would or she wouldn’t. If she would Ellen would feel so ashamed and remorseful that she would be a very uncomfortable bride-elect; and if she wouldn’t — well, Ellen had once learned to live without Norman Douglas, but she had forgotten the lesson and felt that she could never learn it again.

“I said that as far as I was concerned you were at full liberty to marry each other as soon as you liked,” said Rosemary.

“Thank you,” said Ellen, still looking at St. George.

Rosemary’s face softened.

“I hope you’ll be happy, Ellen,” she said gently.

“Oh, Rosemary,” Ellen looked up in distress, “I’m so ashamed — I don’t deserve it — after all I said to you—”

“We won’t speak about that,” said Rosemary hurriedly and decidedly.

“But — but,” persisted Ellen, “you are free now, too — and it’s not too late — John Meredith—”

“Ellen West!” Rosemary had a little spark of temper under all her sweetness and it flashed forth now in her blue eyes. “Have you quite lost your senses in EVERY respect? Do you suppose for an instant that I am going to go to John Meredith and say meekly, ‘Please, sir, I’ve changed my mind and please, sir, I hope you haven’t changed yours.’ Is that what you want me to do?”

“No — no — but a little — encouragement — he would come back—”

“Never. He despises me — and rightly. No more of this, Ellen. I bear you no grudge — marry whom you like. But no meddling in my affairs.”

“Then you must come and live with me,” said Ellen. “I shall not leave you here alone.”

“Do you really think that I would go and live in Norman Douglas’s house?”

“Why not?” cried Ellen, half angrily, despite her humiliation.

Rosemary began to laugh.

“Ellen, I thought you had a sense of humour. Can you see me doing it?”

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t. His house is big enough — you’d have your share of it to yourself — he wouldn’t interfere.”

“Ellen, the thing is not to be thought of. Don’t bring this up again.”

“Then,” said Ellen coldly, and determinedly, “I shall not marry him. I shall not leave you here alone. That is all there is to be said about it.”

“Nonsense, Ellen.”

“It is not nonsense. It is my firm decision. It would be absurd for you to think of living here by yourself — a mile from any other house. If you won’t come with me I’ll stay with you. Now, we won’t argue the matter, so don’t try”

“I shall leave Norman to do the arguing,” said Rosemary.

“I’LL deal with Norman. I can manage HIM. I would never have asked you to give me back my promise — never — but I had to tell Norman why I couldn’t marry him and he said HE would ask you. I couldn’t prevent him. You need not suppose you are the only person in the world who possesses self-respect. I never dreamed of marrying and leaving you here alone. And you’ll find I can be as determined as yourself.”

Rosemary turned away and went into the house, with a shrug of her shoulders. Ellen looked down at St. George, who had never blinked an eyelash or stirred a whisker during the whole interview.

“St. George, this world would be a dull place without the men, I’ll admit, but I’m almost tempted to wish there wasn’t one of ‘em in it. Look at the trouble and bother they’ve made right here, George — torn our happy old life completely up by the roots, Saint. John Meredith began it and Norman Douglas has finished it. And now both of them have to go into limbo. Norman is the only man I ever met who agrees with me that the Kaiser of Germany is the most dangerous creature alive on this earth — and I can’t marry this sensible person because my sister is stubborn and I’m stubborner. Mark my words, St. George, the minister would come back if she raised her little finger. But she won’t George — she’ll never do it — she won’t even crook it — and I don’t dare meddle, Saint. I won’t sulk, George; Rosemary didn’t sulk, so I’m determined I won’t either, Saint; Norman will tear up the turf, but the long and short of it is, St. George, that all of us old fools must just stop thinking of marrying. Well, well, ‘despair is a free man, hope is a slave,’ Saint. So now come into the house, George, and I’ll solace you with a saucerful of cream. Then there will be one happy and contented creature on this hill at least.”

To koniec darmowego fragmentu. Czy chcesz czytać dalej?