Annie gets the best of it

I had long outgrown unwholesome feeling as to my father’s death, and so had Annie; though Lizzie (who must have loved him least) still entertained some evil will, and longing for a punishment. Therefore I was surprised (and indeed, startled would not be too much to say, the moon being somewhat fleecy), to see our Annie sitting there as motionless as the tombstone, and with all her best fallals upon her, after stowing away the dishes.

My nerves, however, are good and strong, except at least in love matters, wherein they always fail me, and when I meet with witches; and therefore I went up to Annie, although she looked so white and pure; for I had seen her before with those things on, and it struck me who she was.

“What are you doing here, Annie?” I inquired rather sternly, being vexed with her for having gone so very near to frighten me.

“Nothing at all,” said our Annie shortly. And indeed it was truth enough for a woman. Not that I dare to believe that women are such liars as men say; only that I mean they often see things round the corner, and know not which is which of it. And indeed I never have known a woman (though right enough in their meaning) purely and perfectly true and transparent, except only my Lorna; and even so, I might not have loved her, if she had been ugly.

‘Why, how so?’ said I; ‘Miss Annie, what business have you here, doing nothing at this time of night? And leaving me with all the trouble to entertain our guests!’

‘You seem not to me to be doing it, John,’ Annie answered softly; ‘what business have you here doing nothing, at this time of night?’

I was taken so aback with this, and the extreme impertinence of it, from a mere young girl like Annie, that I turned round to march away and have nothing more to say to her. But she jumped up, and caught me by the hand, and threw herself upon my bosom, with her face all wet with tears.

‘Oh, John, I will tell you. I will tell you. Only don’t be angry, John.’

‘Angry! no indeed,’ said I; ‘what right have I to be angry with you, because you have your secrets? Every chit of a girl thinks now that she has a right to her secrets.’

‘And you have none of your own, John; of course you have none of your own? All your going out at night—’

‘We will not quarrel here, poor Annie,’ I answered, with some loftiness; ‘there are many things upon my mind, which girls can have no notion of.’

‘And so there are upon mine, John. Oh, John, I will tell you everything, if you will look at me kindly, and promise to forgive me. Oh, I am so miserable!’

Now this, though she was behaving so badly, moved me much towards her; especially as I longed to know what she had to tell me. Therefore I allowed her to coax me, and to kiss me, and to lead me away a little, as far as the old yew-tree; for she would not tell me where she was.

But even in the shadow there, she was very long before beginning, and seemed to have two minds about it, or rather perhaps a dozen; and she laid her cheek against the tree, and sobbed till it was pitiful; and I knew what mother would say to her for spoiling her best frock so.

‘Now will you stop?’ I said at last, harder than I meant it, for I knew that she would go on all night, if any one encouraged her: and though not well acquainted with women, I understood my sisters; or else I must be a born fool—except, of course, that I never professed to understand Eliza.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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