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The Pointing of Duty
Anne leaned back in her chair one mild October evening and sighed. She was
sitting at a table covered with text books and exercises, but the closely
written sheets of paper before her had no apparent connection with studies
or school work.
"What is the matter?" asked Gilbert, who had arrived at the open kitchen
door just in time to hear the sigh.
Anne colored, and thrust her writing out of sight under some school
"Nothing very dreadful. I was just trying to write out some of my
thoughts, as Professor Hamilton advised me, but I couldn't get them to
please me. They seem so still and foolish directly they're written down on
white paper with black ink. Fancies are like shadows . . . you can't cage
them, they're such wayward, dancing things. But perhaps I'll learn the
secret some day if I keep on trying. I haven't a great many spare moments,
you know. By the time I finish correcting school exercises and
compositions, I don't always feel like writing any of my own."
"You are getting on splendidly in school, Anne. All the children like
you," said Gilbert, sitting down on the stone step.
"No, not all. Anthony Pye doesn't and WON'T like me. What is worse, he
doesn't respect me . . . no, he doesn't. He simply holds me in contempt
and I don't mind confessing to you that it worries me miserably. It isn't
that he is so very bad . . . he is only rather mischievous, but no worse
than some of the others. He seldom disobeys me; but he obeys with a
scornful air of toleration as if it wasn't worthwhile disputing the point
or he would . . . and it has a bad effect on the others. I've tried every
way to win him but I'm beginning to fear I never shall. I want to, for
he's rather a cute little lad, if he IS a Pye, and I could like him if
he'd let me."
"Probably it's merely the effect of what he hears at home."
"Not altogether. Anthony is an independent little chap and makes up his
own mind about things. He has always gone to men before and he says girl
teachers are no good. Well, we'll see what patience and kindness will do.
I like overcoming difficulties and teaching is really very interesting
work. Paul Irving makes up for all that is lacking in the others. That
child is a perfect darling, Gilbert, and a genius into the bargain. I'm
persuaded the world will hear of him some day," concluded Anne in a tone
"I like teaching, too," said Gilbert. "It's good training, for one thing.
Why, Anne, I've learned more in the weeks I've been teaching the young
ideas of White Sands than I learned in all the years I went to school
myself. We all seem to be getting on pretty well. The Newbridge people
like Jane, I hear; and I think White Sands is tolerably satisfied with
your humble servant . . . all except Mr. Andrew Spencer. I met Mrs. Peter
Blewett on my way home last night and she told me she thought it her duty
to inform me that Mr. Spencer didn't approve of my methods."
"Have you ever noticed," asked Anne reflectively, "that when people say it
is their duty to tell you a certain thing you may prepare for something
disagreeable? Why is it that they never seem to think it a duty to tell
you the pleasant things they hear about you? Mrs. H. B. DonNELL called at
the school again yesterday and told me she thought it HER duty to inform
me that Mrs. Harmon Andrew didn't approve of my reading fairy tales to the
children, and that Mr. Rogerson thought Prillie wasn't coming on fast
enough in arithmetic. If Prillie would spend less time making eyes at the
boys over her slate she might do better. I feel quite sure that Jack
Gillis works her class sums for her, though I've never been able to catch
"Have you succeeded in reconciling Mrs. DonNELL's hopeful son to his
"Yes," laughed Anne, "but it was really a difficult task. At first, when I
called him 'St. Clair' he would not take the least notice until I'd spoken
two or three times; and then, when the other boys nudged him, he would
look up with such an aggrieved air, as if I'd called him John or Charlie
and he couldn't be expected to know I meant him. So I kept him in after
school one night and talked kindly to him. I told him his mother wished me
to call him St. Clair and I couldn't go against her wishes. He saw it when
it was all explained out . . . he's really a very reasonable little fellow
. . . and he said <i>I</i> could call him St. Clair but that he'd 'lick
the stuffing' out of any of the boys that tried it. Of course, I had to
rebuke him again for using such shocking language. Since then <i>I</i>
call him St. Clair and the boys call him Jake and all goes smoothly. He
informs me that he means to be a carpenter, but Mrs. DonNELL says I am to
make a college professor out of him."
The mention of college gave a new direction to Gilbert's thoughts, and
they talked for a time of their plans and wishes . . . gravely, earnestly,
hopefully, as youth loves to talk, while the future is yet an untrodden
path full of wonderful possibilities.
Gilbert had finally made up his mind that he was going to be a doctor.
"It's a splendid profession," he said enthusiastically. "A fellow has to
fight something all through life . . . didn't somebody once define man as
a fighting animal? . . . and I want to fight disease and pain and
ignorance . . . which are all members one of another. I want to do my
share of honest, real work in the world, Anne . . . add a little to the
sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since
it began. The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I
want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live
after me. It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with
his obligations to the race."
"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't
exactly want to make people KNOW more . . . though I know that IS the
noblest ambition . . . but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time
because of me . . . to have some little joy or happy thought that would
never have existed if I hadn't been born."
"I think you're fulfilling that ambition every day," said Gilbert
And he was right. Anne was one of the children of light by birthright.
After she had passed through a life with a smile or a word thrown across
it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time
being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report.
Finally Gilbert rose regretfully.
"Well, I must run up to MacPhersons'. Moody Spurgeon came home from
Queen's today for Sunday and he was to bring me out a book Professor Boyd
is lending me."
"And I must get Marilla's tea. She went to see Mrs. Keith this evening and
she will soon be back."
Anne had tea ready when Marilla came home; the fire was crackling
cheerily, a vase of frost-bleached ferns and ruby-red maple leaves adorned
the table, and delectable odors of ham and toast pervaded the air. But
Marilla sank into her chair with a deep sigh.
"Are your eyes troubling you? Does your head ache?" queried Anne
"No. I'm only tired . . . and worried. It's about Mary and those children
. . . Mary is worse . . . she can't last much longer. And as for the
twins, <i>I</i> don't know what is to become of them."
"Hasn't their uncle been heard from?"
"Yes, Mary had a letter from him. He's working in a lumber camp and
'shacking it,' whatever that means. Anyway, he says he can't possibly take
the children till the spring. He expects to be married then and will have
a home to take them to; but he says she must get some of the neighbors to
keep them for the winter. She says she can't bear to ask any of them. Mary
never got on any too well with the East Grafton people and that's a fact.
And the long and short of it is, Anne, that I'm sure Mary wants me to take
those children . . . she didn't say so but she LOOKED it."
"Oh!" Anne clasped her hands, all athrill with excitement. "And of course
you will, Marilla, won't you?"
"I haven't made up my mind," said Marilla rather tartly. "I don't rush
into things in your headlong way, Anne. Third cousinship is a pretty slim
claim. And it will be a fearful responsibility to have two children of six
years to look after . . . twins, at that."
Marilla had an idea that twins were just twice as bad as single children.
"Twins are very interesting . . . at least one pair of them," said Anne.
"It's only when there are two or three pairs that it gets monotonous. And
I think it would be real nice for you to have something to amuse you when
I'm away in school."
"I don't reckon there'd be much amusement in it . . . more worry and
bother than anything else, I should say. It wouldn't be so risky if they
were even as old as you were when I took you. I wouldn't mind Dora so much
. . . she seems good and quiet. But that Davy is a limb."
Anne was fond of children and her heart yearned over the Keith twins. The
remembrance of her own neglected childhood was very vivid with her still.
She knew that Marilla's only vulnerable point was her stern devotion to
what she believed to be her duty, and Anne skillfully marshalled her
arguments along this line.
"If Davy is naughty it's all the more reason why he should have good
training, isn't it, Marilla? If we don't take them we don't know who will,
nor what kind of influences may surround them. Suppose Mrs. Keith's next
door neighbors, the Sprotts, were to take them. Mrs. Lynde says Henry
Sprott is the most profane man that ever lived and you can't believe a
word his children say. Wouldn't it be dreadful to have the twins learn
anything like that? Or suppose they went to the Wiggins'. Mrs. Lynde says
that Mr. Wiggins sells everything off the place that can be sold and
brings his family up on skim milk. You wouldn't like your relations to be
starved, even if they were only third cousins, would you? It seems to me,
Marilla, that it is our duty to take them."
"I suppose it is," assented Marilla gloomily. "I daresay I'll tell Mary
I'll take them. You needn't look so delighted, Anne. It will mean a good
deal of extra work for you. I can't sew a stitch on account of my eyes, so
you'll have to see to the making and mending of their clothes. And you
don't like sewing."
"I hate it," said Anne calmly, "but if you are willing to take those
children from a sense of duty surely I can do their sewing from a sense of
duty. It does people good to have to do things they don't like . . . in