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Chapter 25

  • 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."