Nan and Di were going to school. They started the last week in August.
"Will we know _everything_ by night, Mummy?" asked Di solemnly the firs_orning.
Now, in early September, Anne and Susan had got used to it, and even too_leasure in seeing the two mites trip off every morning, so tiny and carefre_nd neat, thinking going to school quite an adventure. They always took a_pple in their basket for teacher and they wore frocks of pink and blu_uffled gingham. Since they did not look in the least alike they were neve_ressed alike. Diana, with her red hair, could not wear pink, but it suite_an, who was much the prettier of the Ingleside twins. She had brown eyes,
brown hair and a lovely complexion, of which she was quite aware even a_even. A certain starriness had gone to the fashioning of her. She held he_ead proudly, with her little saucy chin a wee bit in evidence, and so wa_lready thought rather "stuck-up."
"She'll imitate all her mother's tricks and poses," said Mrs. Alec Davies.
"She has all her airs and graces already, if you ask me."
The twins were dissimilar in more than looks. Di, in spite of her physica_esemblance to her mother, was very much her father's child, so far a_isposition and qualities went. She had the beginnings of his practical bent,
his plain common sense, his twinkling sense of humour. Nan had inherited i_ull her mother's gift of imagination and was already making life interestin_or herself in her own way. For example, she had had no end of excitement thi_ummer making bargains with God, the gist of the matter being, "If you'll d_uch-and-such a thing I'll do such-and-such a thing."
All the Ingleside children had been started in life with the old classic, "No_ lay me" … then promoted to "Our Father" … then encouraged to make their ow_mall petitions also in whatever language they chose. What gave Nan the ide_hat God might be induced to grant her petitions by promises of good behaviou_r displays of fortitude would be hard to say. Perhaps a certain rather youn_nd pretty Sunday School teacher was indirectly responsible for it by he_requent admonitions that if they were not good girls God would not do this o_hat for them. It was easy to turn this idea inside out and come to th_onclusion that if you _were_ this or that, _did_ this or that, you had _ight to expect that God would do the things you wanted. Nan's first "bargain"
in the spring had been so successful that it outweighed some failures and sh_ad gone on all summer. Nobody knew of it, not even Di. Nan hugged her secre_nd took to praying at sundry times and in divers places, instead of only a_ight. Di did not approve of this and said so.
"Don't mix God up with _everything,"_ she told Nan severely. "You make Him to_common."_
Anne, overhearing this, rebuked her and said, "God _is_ in everything, dear.
He is the Friend who is always near us to give strength and courage. And Na_s quite right in praying to Him and where she wants to." Though, if Anne ha_nown the truth about her small daughter's devotions, she would have bee_ather horrified.
Nan had said one night in May, "If you'll make my tooth grow in before Am_aylor's party next week, dear God, I'll take every dose of castor-oil Susa_ives me without a bit of fuss."
The very next day the tooth, whose absence had made such an unsightly and to_rolonged gap in Nan's pretty mouth, had appeared and by the day of the part_as fully through. What more certain sign could you want than that? Nan kep_er side of the compact faithfully and Susan was amazed and delighted wheneve_he administered castor-oil after that. Nan took it without a grimace o_rotest, though she sometimes wished she had set a time limit … say for thre_onths.
God did not always respond. But when she asked Him to send her a specia_utton for her button-string … collecting buttons had broken out everywher_mong the Glen small girls like the measles … assuring Him that if He did sh_ould never make a fuss when Susan set the chipped plate for her … the butto_ame the very next day, Susan having found one on an old dress in the attic. _eautiful red button set with tiny diamonds, or what Nan believed to b_iamonds. She was the envied of all because of that elegant button and when D_efused the chipped plate that night Nan said virtuously, "Give it to me,
Susan. I'll _always_ take it after this." Susan thought she was angelicall_nselfish and said so. Whereupon Nan both looked and felt smug. She got a fin_ay for the Sunday School picnic, when everyone predicted rain the nigh_efore, by promising to brush her teeth every morning without being told. He_ost ring was restored on the condition that she kept her fingernail_crupulously clean; and when Walter handed over his picture of a flying ange_hich Nan had long coveted she ate the fat with the lean uncomplainingly a_inner thereafter.
When, however, she asked God to make her battered and patched Teddy Bear youn_gain, promising to keep her bureau drawer tidy, something struck a snag.
Teddy did not grow young though Nan looked for the miracle anxiously ever_orning and wished God would hurry. Finally she resigned herself to Teddy'_ge. After all, he was a nice old bear and it would be awfully hard to kee_hat old bureau drawer tidy. When Dad brought her home a new Teddy Bear sh_idn't really like it and, though with sundry misgivings of her smal_onscience, decided she need not take any special pains with the burea_rawer. Her faith returned when, having prayed that the missing eye of he_hina cat would be restored, the eye was in its place next morning, thoug_omewhat askew, giving the cat a rather cross-eyed aspect. Susan had found i_hen sweeping and stuck it in with glue, but Nan did not know this an_heerfully carried out her promise of walking fourteen times around the bar_n all fours. What good walking fourteen times around the barn on all four_ould do God or anybody else Nan did not stop to consider. But she hated doin_t … the boys were always wanting her and Di to pretend they were some kind o_nimals in Rainbow Valley … and perhaps there was some vague thought in he_udding mind that penance might be pleasing to the mysterious Being who gav_r withheld at pleasure. At any rate, she thought out several weird stunt_hat summer, causing Susan to wonder frequently where on earth children go_he notions they did.
"Why do you suppose, Mrs. Dr. dear, that Nan must go twice around the living-
room every day without walking on the floor?"
"Without walking on the floor! How does she manage it, Susan?"
"By jumping from one piece of furniture to the other, including the fender.
She slipped on that yesterday and pitched head-first into the coal-scuttle.
Mrs. Dr. dear, do you suppose she needs a dose of worm medicine?"
That year was always referred to in the Ingleside chronicles as the one i_hich Dad _almost_ had pneumonia and Mother _had_ it. One night, Anne, wh_lready had a nasty cold, went with Gilbert to a party in Charlottetown …
wearing a new and very becoming dress and Jem's string of pearls. She looke_o well in it that all the children who had come in to see her before she lef_hought it was wonderful to have a mother you could be so proud of.
"Such a nice swishy pettycoat," sighed Nan. "When I grow up will I have taft_etticoats like that, Mummy?"
"I doubt if girls will be wearing petticoats at all by that time," said Dad.
"I'll back water, Anne, and admit that dress is a stunner even if I didn'_pprove of the sequins. Now, don't try to vamp me, woman. I've paid you al_he compliments I'm going to tonight. Remember what we read in the _Medica_ournal_ today … 'Life is nothing more than delicately balanced organi_hemistry,' and let it make you humble and modest. Sequins, indeed! Taffet_etticoat, forsooth. We're nothing but 'a fortuitous concatenation of atoms.'
The great Dr. Von Bemburg says so."
"Don't quote that horrible Von Bemburg to me. He must have a bad case o_hronic indigestion. _He_ may be a concatenation of atoms, but _I_ am not."
In a few days thereafter Anne was a very sick "concatenation of atoms" an_ilbert a very anxious one. Susan went about looking harassed and tired, an_he trained nurse came and went with an anxious face, and a nameless shado_uddenly swooped and spread and darkened at Ingleside. The children were no_old of the seriousness of their mother's illness and even Jem did not realiz_t fully. But they all felt the chill and the fear and went softly an_nhappily. For once there was no laughter in the maple grove and no games i_ainbow Valley. But the worst of all was that they were not allowed to se_other. No Mother meeting them with smiles when they came home, no Mothe_lipping in to kiss them goodnight, no Mother to soothe and sympathize an_nderstand, no Mother to laugh over jokes with … nobody ever laughed lik_other. It was far worse than when she was away, because then you knew she wa_oming back … and now you knew … just _nothing._ Nobody would tell yo_nything … they just put you off.
Nan came home from school very pale over something Amy Taylor had told her.
"Susan, is Mother … Mother isn't … she isn't going to _die,_ Susan?"
"Of course not," said Susan, too sharply and quickly. Her hands trembled a_he poured out Nan's glass of milk. "Who has been talking to you?"
"Amy. She said … oh, Susan, she said she thought Mother would make such _weet-looking corpse!"
"Never you mind what she said, my pet. The Taylors all have wagging tongues.
Your blessed Mother is sick enough but she is going to pull through and tha_ou may tie to. Do you not know that your father is at the helm?"
"God wouldn't let Mother die, would he, Susan?" asked a white-lipped Walter,
looking at her with the grave intentness that made it very hard for Susan t_tter her comforting lies. She was terribly afraid they _were_ lies. Susan wa_ badly frightened woman. The nurse had shaken her head that afternoon. Th_octor had refused to come down to supper.
"I suppose the Almighty knows what He's about," muttered Susan as she washe_he supper dishes … and broke three of them … but for the first time in he_onest, simple life she doubted it.
Nan wandered unhappily around. Dad was sitting by the library table with hi_ead in his hands. The nurse went in and Nan heard her say she thought th_risis would come that night.
"What is a crisis?" she asked Di.
"I think it is what a butterfly hatches out of," said Di cautiously. "Let'_sk Jem."
Jem knew, and told them before he went upstairs to shut himself in his room.
Walter had disappeared … he was lying face downward under the White Lady i_ainbow Valley … and Susan had taken Shirley and Rilla off to bed. Nan wen_ut alone and sat down on the steps. Behind her in the house was a terribl_naccustomed quiet. Before her the Glen was brimming with evening sunshine,
but the long red road was misty with dust and the bent grasses in the harbou_ields were burned white in the drouth. It had not rained for weeks and th_lowers drooped in the garden … the flowers Mother had loved.
Nan was thinking deeply. Now, if ever, was the time to bargain with God. Wha_ould she promise to do if He made Mother well? It must be somethin_remendous … something that would make it worth His while. Nan remembered wha_icky Drew had said to Stanley Reese in school one day, "I dare you to wal_hrough the graveyard after night." Nan had shuddered at the time. How coul_anybody_ walk through the graveyard after night … how could anyone eve_think_ of it? Nan had a horror of the graveyard not a soul in Inglesid_uspected. Amy Taylor had once told her it was full of dead people … "and the_on't always _stay_ dead," said Amy darkly and mysteriously. Nan could hardl_ring herself to walk past it alone in broad daylight.
Far away the trees on a misty golden hill were touching the sky. Nan had ofte_hough if she could get to that hill she could touch the sky, too. God live_ust on the other side of it … He might hear you better there. But she coul_ot get to that hill … she must just do the best she could here at Ingleside.
She clasped her little sunburned paws and lifted her tear-stained face to th_ky.
"Dear God," she whispered, "if you make Mother get well I'll _walk through th_raveyard after night._ O dear God, _please, please._ And if You do this _on't bother You for ever so long again."