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The Annals of Ann

Kate Trimble Sharber

  Produced by Melissa McDaniel and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at (This file wasproduced from images generously made available by TheInternet Archive)

  Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.



  The Annals of Ann








  My Cousin Eunice is a grown young lady and she keeps a diary, whichput the notion into my head of keeping one too.

  There are two kinds of people that keep diaries, married ones andsingle ones. The single ones fill theirs full of poetry; the marriedones tell how much it costs to keep house.

  Not being extra good in grammar and spelling, I thought I'd copy a fewpages out of Cousin Eunice's diary this morning as a pattern to keepmine by, but I was disappointed. Nearly every page I turned to in herswas filled full of poetry, which stuff never did make good sense tome, besides the trouble it puts you to by having to start every linewith a fresh capital.

  Cousin Eunice says nearly all famous people keep a diary for folks toread after they're dead. I always did admire famous people, especiallyLord Byron and Columbus. And I've often thought I should like to be afamous person myself when I get grown. I don't care so much aboutgraduating in white mull, trimmed in lace, as some girls do, for thereally famous never graduate. They get expelled from college forwriting little books saying there ain't any devil. But I should _love_to be a beautiful opera singer, with a jasmine flower at my throat,and a fresh duke standing at the side door of the theater every night,begging me to marry him. Or I'd like to rescue a ship full of drowningpeople, then swim back to shore and calmly squeeze the salt water outof my bathing suit, so the papers would all be full of it the nextmorning.

  Things don't turn out the way you expect them to, though, and Ineedn't count too much on these things. I might catch cold in myvoice, or cramps in the sea and never get famous; but I'm going tokeep this diary anyhow, and just hand it down to my grandchildren, fornearly _every_ lady can count on _them_, whether she's famous orinfamous.

  Maybe some rainy day, a hundred years from now, a little girl willfind this book in the attic, all covered with dust, and will sit downand read it, while the rain sounds soft and pattery on the outside,and her mother calls and calls without getting an answer. This is notat all the right way to do, but what can they expect of you when yourattic is such a very delicious place? Ours is high enough not to bumpyour head, even if you are as tall as my friend, Rufe Clayborne, andwhere a part of the window-pane is broken out an apple-tree sends in aperky little branch. Just before Easter every year I spend nearly allmy time up here at this window, for the apple blossoms seem to have somany things to say to me; lovely things, that I can _feel_, but cannot hear, and if I could write them down this would be the mostbeautiful book in the world. And great sheets of rain come sometimes;you can see them coming from the hills back of Mr. Clayborne's house,but the apple blossoms don't mind the wetting.

  When I wrote "Mr. Clayborne" just then it reminded me of CousinEunice's diary. That was _one_ sensible word which was on every page.Sometimes it was mixed up close along with the poetry, but I alwaysknew who she meant, for he is my best friend and the grandest youngman I've ever seen out of a book. His other name is Rufe, and he's aneditor when he's in the city. But before he got to be an editor he wasborn across the creek from our farm, and we've always been greatfriends. His father and mine are also friends, always quarreling aboutwhose bird-dogs and hotbeds are the best; and our mothers talk a heapabout "original sin" and chow-chow pickle.

  Maybe my grandchildren would like to know a few little things aboutme at the time I started keeping this diary for their sakes, so I'llstop now and tell them as quickly as I can, for I never did think justmy own self was so interesting. If they have any imagination they cantell pretty well what kind of a person I was anyhow from the grandportrait I'm going to have painted for them in the gown I wear whenI'm presented at court.

  Well, I was born in the year--but if I tell that you will know exactlyhow old I am, that is if you can count things better than I can.Anyhow, when I read a thing I'd rather they didn't tell just how oldthe heroine is. Then you can have her any age you like best. Maybe ifI were to tell exactly how many birthdays I've had you would always besaying, like mother and Mammy Lou, "You're a mighty big girl to bedoing such silly things." Or like Rufe says sometimes, "Ann, you'reentirely too young to be interested in such subjects as that." So youwill have to be satisfied when I tell you that I'm at the "gawkyage." And a person is never surprised at anything that a girl at the"gawky age" does.

  I am little enough still to love puppies and big enough to loveWashington Irving. You might think these don't mix well, but they do.On rainy mornings I like to take a puppy under one arm and _TheAlhambra_ under the other, with eight or ten apples in my lap, andclimb up in the loft to enjoy the greatest pleasure of my life. Isling _The Alhambra_ up on the hay first, then ease the puppy up andtake the hem of my skirt between my teeth so the apples won't spillout while I go up after them. But I never even look at hay whenthere's a pile of cottonseed to wallow in.

  As to my ways, I'm sorry to say that I'm what mother calls a "peculiarchild." Mammy says I'm "the curiousest mixtry she ever seen." That'sbecause I ask "Why?" very often and then lots of times don't exactlybelieve that things are that way when they're told to me. One day atSunday-school, when I was about four, the teacher was telling aboutJonah. Mother often told me tales, some that I called "make-believe,"and others that I called "_so_ tales." When the teacher got through Ispoke up and asked her if that was a "so tale." She said yes, it was,but I horrified every other child in the class by speaking up againand saying, "Well, me don't believe it!"

  Old as I am now, I don't see how Jonah's constitution could have stoodit, but I've got sense enough to believe many a thing that I can't seenor smell nor feel. An old man out in the mountains that had neverbeen anywhere might say he didn't believe in electricity, but thatwouldn't keep your electric light bill from being more than youthought it ought to be at the end of the month.

  Speaking of bills reminds me of father. Father is not a rich man, buthis folks used to be before the war. That's the way with so manypeople around here, they have more ancestry than anything else.Still, we have perfectly lovely smelling old leather books in ourlibrary, and when cotton goes high we go up to the city and take asuite of rooms with a bath.

  I am telling you all this, my grandchildren, to let you know that youhave blue blood in your veins, but you mustn't let yours get too blue.Father says it takes a dash of red blood mixed with blue, liketurpentine with paint, to make it go.

  Still, I hope the old place will be just as beautiful when mygrandchildren get old enough to appreciate it as it is now, and not besold and turned into a sanitarium, or a girls' school. The walls ofthe house are a soft grayish white, like a dear old grandmother'shair; and the mycravella roses in the far corner of the yard put_such_ notions into your head! There are rows of cedar trees down thewalk, planted before Andrew Jackson's time; and at night there are thestars. I love stars, especially Venus; but there are a lot of othersthat I don't know the names of.

  Inside, the house is cool and shady; and you can always find a placeto lie down and read. Cousin Eunice says so many people spoil theirhouses by selecting carpets and wall-paper that look lik
e they want tofight. But ours is not like that. Some corners in our library looklike _Ladies' Own Journal_ pictures.

  Cousin Eunice doesn't belong to our house, but I wish she did, forshe's as beautiful as a magazine cover. And I think we have the nicesthome in the world. Besides being old and big and far back in the yard,there's always the smell of apples up-stairs. And I'm sure mother isthe nicest lady in the world. She wants everybody to have a good time,and no matter whether you're a man, a young lady, or a little girl,she lets you scatter your pipes, love-letters and doll-rags from thefront gate to the backest chicken-coop without ever fussing. Motheradmires company greatly. She doesn't have to perspire over themherself, though, for she has Mammy Lou to do all the cooking andDilsey to make up the beds. So she invited Cousin Eunice to spend thesummer with us and asked Bertha, a cousin on the other side, to comeat the same time, for she said girls _love_ to be together. We soonfound out, though, that some girls do and some don't.

  Cousin Eunice said I might always express my frank opinion of peopleand things in my diary, so I take pleasure in starting in on Bertha.Bertha, she is a _cat_! Even Rufe called her one the night she gothere. Not a straight-out cat, exactly, but he called her a kitten!

  You see, when Bertha was down here on a little visit last year she andRufe had up a kind of summer engagement. A summer engagement is wherethe girl wears the man's fraternity pin instead of a ring. And whenshe came again this time it didn't take them two hours to get summerengaged again, it being moonlight on the front porch and Berthalooking real soft and purry.

  Then the very next week Cousin Eunice came! And poor Rufe! We allfelt _so_ sorry for him, for, from the _first_ minute he looked at herhe was in love; and it's a terrible thing to be in love and engaged atthe same time, when one is with _one_ girl and the other to another!And it was so plain that the eyes of the _potatoes_ could see it! ButBertha hadn't an idea of giving up anybody as good-looking as Rufe toanother somebody as good-looking as Cousin Eunice, which mother saidwas a shame, and _she_ never did such a thing when _she_ was a girl;but Mammy Lou said it was no more than Rufe deserved for not beingmore careful.

  But anyway, Cousin Eunice and Bertha hadn't been together two daysbefore they hated each other so they wouldn't use the same powder rag!They just couldn't bear the sight of each other because they couldboth bear the sight of Rufe so well. This was a disappointment to me,for I had hoped they would go into each other's rooms at night andbrush their hair, half undressed, and have as good a time as thepictures of ladies in underwear catalogues always seem to be having.But they are not at all friendly. They have never even asked eachother what make of corsets they wear, nor who operated on them forappendicitis. Bertha talks a great deal about Rufe and how devoted hewas to her last summer, but Cousin Eunice won't talk at all whenBertha's around. She sits still and looks dumb and superior as atrained nurse does when you are trying to find out what it is that thepatient has got.

  Cousin Eunice has a right to act superior, though, for while othergirls are spending their time embroidering chafing-dish aprons she isstudying books written by a man with a name like a sneeze. Let me getone of the books to see how it is spelled. N-i-e-t-z-s-c-h-e! There! Igot it down at last! And Cousin Eunice doesn't have just a plainparlor at home to receive her beaux in; she has a studio. A studio isa room full of things that catch dust. And the desire of her life isto write a little brown-backed book that people will fill full ofpencil marks and always carry around with them in their suit-cases.She doesn't neglect her outside looks, though, just because her mindis so full of great thoughts. No indeed! Her fountain pen jostlesagainst her looking-glass in her hand-bag, and her note-book getsdusted over with pink powder.

  Now, Bertha is entirely different! No matter how the sun is shiningoutside she spends all her mornings up in her room shining herfinger-nails; and she wears _pounds_ and _pounds_ of hair on the backof her head. Father says the less a girl has on the inside the moreshe will stick on the outside of her head, and lots of men can't tellthe difference. Bertha certainly isn't at a loss for lovers. She getsa great many letters from a "commercial traveler." A "commercialtraveler" is a man who writes to his girl on different hotel paperevery day. These letters are a great comfort to her spirit when Rufeacts so loving around Cousin Eunice; and she always has one stickingin her belt when Rufe is near by, with the name of the hotel showing.

  Every night just before or just after supper I always go out to thekitchen and tell Mammy Lou all the news I've seen or heard that day.She laughs when I tell her about how Bertha is trying to hold on toRufe.

  "'Tain't a speck o' use," she said to-night so emphatically that I wasafraid the omelette would fall. "Why, a camel can dance a Virginnyreel in the eye of a needle quicker than a gal can sick a man back tolovin' her after he's done took a notion to change the picture hewears in his watch!"

  Mammy told the truth, I'm sure, for Bertha has worn all her prettiestdresses and done her hair two new ways, trying to get him back; but heis still "coldly polite," which I think is the meanest way on earth totreat a person. Not that Bertha doesn't deserve it, for she knew theywere just joking about that summer engagement, but she still wearsthe fraternity pin, which of course causes Cousin Eunice to be "coldlypolite" to Rufe; and altogether we don't really need a refrigerator inthe house this summer.

  Mammy Lou and I had been trying to think up a plan to thaw out theatmosphere, but this morning a way was provided, and I greatly enjoyedbeing "an humble instrument," as Brother Sheffield says.

  Everything was draggy this morning. Bertha was down in the parlorsinging "popular songs" very loud as I came down the steps with mydiary in my hand. I _despise_ popular songs! As I went past thekitchen door on my way to the big pear tree which I meant to climb andwrite in my book I saw that Mammy Lou was having the time of her lifetelling Cousin Eunice all about when Rufe was a baby. She had calledher in there to get some fresh buttermilk, and Cousin Eunice wasdrinking glass after glass of it with such a rapt look on her face Iknew she didn't realize that she couldn't get on her tight clothestill mid-afternoon.

  "Of _course_ he's a extry fine young man!" mammy said, dipping foranother glassful. "There never was nary finer baby--an' wasn't I_right there_ when Mr. Rufe was born?"

  "Sure enough!" Cousin Eunice said, looking entranced.

  This wasn't much more entertaining to me than Bertha's singing, for Ihad heard it all so many times before, so I went out to the pear treeand climbed up, but I couldn't think of even one word that would be ofinterest to my grandchildren. So I just wrote my name over and overagain on the fly-pages. I wonder what makes them call them"fly-pages?" Then I closed my book and climbed down again. I startedback to the house by the side way, and met Rufe coming up the walktoward the front door.

  "Hello, Rufe," I said, running to meet him and walking with him to thefront steps. "I'm so glad to see you. Everything is so draggy thismorning. Won't you sit on the steps and talk to me a while? Or are youin a hurry?"

  "I'm always in a hurry when I'm going to your house," he answered witha look in the direction of Cousin Eunice's window. "And my visitsalways seem as short as a wedding journey when the bridegroom's salaryis small."

  He dusted off the step, though, and sat down; and I told him thatCousin Eunice was drinking buttermilk in her kimono and wouldn't be ina mood to dress for another hour. Then I told him what a hard time I'dhad trying to think up something interesting to write in my diary. Hesaid, looking again toward Cousin Eunice's window, that there was only_one_ thing in the world to write about! But he supposed I was tooyoung to know anything about that. I spoke up promptly and told him agirl never _got_ too young to know about love.

  "Love!" he said, trying to look surprised. "Who mentioned love?"

  Just then I heard the flutteration of a silk petticoat on the porchbehind the vines, but Rufe was gazing so hard at the blue hills on thefar side of town that he didn't hear it. So, without saying anythingto him, I leaned over far enough to look under the banisters, and sawthe bottom of Bertha'
s skirt and a skein of blue silk thread lying onthe floor. So I knew she was sitting there working on that everlastingchafing-dish apron. Then Satan put an idea into my head. I think itwas Satan.

  "Rufe," I said, talking very loud and quick, so Bertha would just_have_ to hear me, "what's the difference between a kitten and a cat?"

  Rufe at last got his eyes unfixed from the blue hills and just staredat me foolishly for a second.

  "Am I the parent of a child that I should have to answer foolquestions?" he said.

  "But the night she came you called Bertha a _kitten_!" I reminded him,and he looked worse surprised. "And since I've heard her called a_cat_! How long does it take a kitten to grow into a cat?"

  "Oh, I see! Well, I'm better versed in feline ways now than I was thatnight; so I might state that sometimes you discover that a kitten is acat! There isn't any difference!"

  We heard a clattering noise behind the vines just then, which I knewwas Bertha dropping her embroidery scissors. Rufe jumped, for he hadno idea anybody was hearing our conversation; and I know he wouldn'thave said what he did about cats except he _thought_ I was too littleto understand such figures of speech. Then he got up to go in and seewho it was. And I decided to disappear around the corner of the house.I didn't altogether disappear before I heard her say indeed he _had_meant to call her a cat; and he said indeed he hadn't, but she hadn'tbeen "square" with him, and they talked and talked until I got uneasythat Cousin Eunice would be coming through the hall and hear them. SoI hurried on back to head her off. But Satan, or whoever it was, putme up to a good job in that, for the next time I saw Rufe he waswearing his fraternity pin and a happy smile. And Bertha had red spotson her face, even as late as dinner-time, like consumption that lovelyheroines die of.

  I've been too disappointed lately to write in my diary. Somehow, Ithink like Rufe, that there's only one thing worth writing about, andthere's been very little in that line going on around here lately.Poor Rufe is having a harder time now than he had when Bertha was onhis hands, for Cousin Eunice has taken it into her head to show himthat she doesn't have to accept him the minute he gets untangled froma summer flirtation. Those were her very words.

  She and I go for long walks with him every morning, down through theravine; and they read poetry that sounds so good you feel likesomebody's scratching your back. And she wears her best-fittingshirtwaists. One good thing about Cousin Eunice is that her clothesnever look like she'd sat up late the night before to make them. Andwhen she's expecting him at night her eyes shine like they had beengreased; and I can tell from the way she breathes quick when she hearsthe gate open that she loves him. Yes, she adores the sound of hisrubber heels on the front porch; but she won't give in to him. She'spunishing him for the Bertha part of it. Mother says she's veryfoolish, for men will be men, especially on nights in June; but MammyLou says she's exactly right; and I reckon mammy knows best, for she'sbeen married a heap more times than mother ever has.

  "The longer you keep a man feelin' like he's on a red-hot stove thebetter he loves you," Mammy Lou told Cousin Eunice to-night, as shewas powdering her face for the last time before going down-stairs andtrying to keep us from seeing that she was listening for a footstep onthe gravel walk. "An' a husban's got to be treated jus' like a lover!A good, heavy poker's a fine thing to make a husban' know 'isplace--an' Lawk! a lazy husban's like a greasy churn--you have to givehim a thorough scaldin' to do any good!"

  This morning at the breakfast table, after father had helped theplates to chicken, saving two gizzards for me, he said: "Times havechanged since I was a young man!"

  As this wasn't exactly the first time we had heard such a remark noneof us paid any attention to it until we saw mother trying to make himhush. Then we knew he must be starting to say something funny aboutCousin Eunice and Rufe, for mother always stops him on this subjectwhenever she can, because she doesn't want Bertha's feelings hurt. ButBertha never seems to mind. She's decided to marry the commercialtraveler, I'm almost sure, although her people say he's not "steady."Steady means staying still, so who ever heard of a traveling man whowas steady?

  "Times have changed, especially about courting," father kept on,pretending that he didn't see mother shaking her head at him. Whenfather gets that twinkle in his eye he can't see anything else. "Nowin _my_ young days when a girl and a fellow looked good to each otherthey usually got engaged at once. But _now_--jumping Jerusalem! Nomatter how deeply in love they are they waste days and days trying toget a 'complete understanding' of each other's nature. They talk abouttheir opinion of everything under the sun, from woman's suffrage toBelshazzar's feast."

  "Lord Byron wrote a piece in the Fifth Reader about Belshazzar'sfeast," I started to remark, but I remembered in time to hush, forI've never been able to mention Lord Byron's name to my family in anypeace since they found that I keep a vase of flowers in front of hispicture all the time. They call him my _beau_--the beautiful creature!

  Father didn't notice my remark, however. He was too busy with hisown. "And instead of exchanging locks of hair, as they used to whenMary and I were young, they give each other limp-backed books thathave 'helped to shape their career,' and beg that they will mark thepassages that impress _them_!"

  "Uncle Dan, you've been eavesdropping!" Cousin Eunice said, looking upfrom her hot biscuit and honey long enough to smile at him, but shedidn't quit eating. It has got out of style to stop eating when you'rein love, for a man admires a healthy-looking girl. I know a young manwho had been going to see a girl for a long time and never didpropose. She was a pretty girl, too, slender and wild-rosy-looking.Well, she took a trip to Germany one summer and drank so much of_something_ fattening over there that the wild-rose look changed toAmerican beauty; and when she came home in the fall the young man wasso delighted with her looks that he turned in and married her beforeChristmas!

  Cousin Eunice knows these people too, and she does all she can to keepher digestion good, even to fresh milk and raw eggs. I hope _I_ canget married without the raw eggs part of it. And she tramps all overthe woods for the sake of her appetite in stylish-looking tan boots.

  As we left the dining-room I noticed that she had on her walking-bootsand a short skirt, so I thought Rufe would be along pretty soon for usto go down to the ravine and read poetry. They always take me alongbecause I soon get enough of the poetry and go off to wade in thebranch, leaving them on their favorite big gray rock.

  Sure enough, Rufe wasn't long about coming, and I saw that hislimp-backed book was labeled "Keats" this morning. Cousin Eunicedidn't have a book. She carried a parasol. A parasol is used to jabholes in the sand when you're being made love to.

  I don't know why I should have felt so, but just as soon as they gotstarted to reading this morning I had a curious feeling, like youhave when the lights burn low on the stage and the orchestra begins_The Flower Song_. The way they looked at each other made under myscalp tingle. Now, if I ever have a granddaughter that doesn't havethis feeling in the presence of _great_ things I shall disinherit herand leave my diamonds to a society for tuberculosis or pure food orfresh air, or some of those charitable things.

  Jabbing holes in the sand with her parasol _Page 26_]

  Before long they branched off from Keats to Shelley, and Rufe didn'tneed a book with him. Just after he had finished a little versebeginning, "I can not give what men call love," I had sense enough toget up and go away from them. Although I have always been crazy to seea proposal, there was something in the atmosphere around that old grayrock that made me feel as if I were treading on sacred ground. (I hateto use expressions like this, that everybody else uses, but I can'tthink of anything else and it's getting too late to sit here by myselfand try.) Anyhow it's the feeling you have when you go into acathedral with stained glass windows. So I went away from them, butnot very far away, just a little distance, to where I have a lovelypile of moss collected on the north side of a big tree. And thesmotheration around my heart kept up.

  It seemed to me the _longest_ time before any
thing happened, forCousin Eunice was jabbing holes in the sand with her parasol like shewas being paid to do it by the hour. Finally, without any ado, he puthis hands on hers and made her stop.

  "Sweetheart," I heard him say, so low that I could hardly hear, for_The Flower Song_ was buzzing through my head so loud. Then he seemedto remember me for he looked around, and, seeing that I was _clear_gone, he said it again, "Sweetheart." She looked up at him when hesaid it, and looked and _looked_! Maybe she never had realized beforejust how big and broad-shouldered and brown-eyed Rufe really is!Neither one of them said anything, but he put both arms around her;and when I saw that they were going to kiss I shut my eyes right tightand stopped up my ears and buried my face in the pile of moss. Eventhen I never felt so much like a yellow dog in my life!