Anne Severn and the Fieldings (Chapter 2, page 1 of 12)


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Chapter 2

i For the next two years Anne came again and again, staying four months at
Wyck and four months in London with Grandmamma Severn and Aunt Emily,
and four months with Grandpapa Everitt at the Essex Farm.

When she was twelve they sent her to school in Switzerland for three
years. Then back to Wyck, after eight months of London and Essex in
between.

Only the times at Wyck counted for Anne. Her calendar showed them clear
with all their incidents recorded; thick black lines blotted out the
other days, as she told them off, one by one. Three years and eight
months were scored through in this manner.

Anne at fifteen was a tall girl with long hair tied in a big black bow
at the cape of her neck. Her vague nose had settled into the
forward-raking line that made her the dark likeness of her father. Her
body was slender but solid; the strong white neck carried her head high
with the poise of a runner. She looked at least seventeen in her
clean-cut coat and skirt. Probably she wouldn't look much older for
another fifteen years.

Robert Fielding stared with incredulity at this figure which had pursued
him down the platform at Wyck and now seized him by the arm.

"Is it--is it Anne?"

"Of course it is. Why, didn't you expect me?"

"I think I expected something smaller and rather less grown-up."

"I'm not grown-up. I'm the same as ever."

"Well, you're not little Anne any more."

She squeezed his arm, hanging on it in her old loving way. "No. But I'm
still me. And I'd have known _you_ anywhere."

"What? With my grey hair?"

"I love your grey hair."

It made him handsome, more lovable than ever. Anne loved it as she loved
his face, tanned and tightened by sun and wind, the long hard-drawn
lines, the thin, kind mouth, the clear, greenish brown eyes, quick and
kind.

Colin stood by the dogcart in the station yard. Colin was changed. He
was no longer the excited child who came rushing to you. He stood for
you to come to him, serious and shy. His child's face was passing from
prettiness to a fine, sombre beauty.

"What's happened to Col-Col? He's all different?"

"Is he? Wait," Uncle Robert said, "till you've seen Jerrold."

"Oh, is Jerrold going to be different, too?"

"I'm afraid he'll _look_ a little different."

"I don't care," she said. "He'll _be_ him."

She wanted to come back and find everybody and everything the same,
looking exactly as she had left them. What they had once been for her
they must always be.

They drove slowly up Wyck Hill. The tree-tops meeting overhead made a
green tunnel. You came out suddenly into the sunlight at the top. The
road was the same. They passed by the Unicorn Inn and the Post Office,
through the narrow crooked street with the church and churchyard at the
turn; and so into the grey and yellow Market Square with the two tall
elms standing up on the little green in the corner. They passed the
Queen's Head; the powder-blue sign hung out from the yellow front the
same as ever. Next came the fountain and the four forked roads by the
signpost, then the dip of the hill to the left and the grey ball-topped
stone pillars of the Park gates on the right.

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