Anne's House of Dreams
7. The Schoolmaster's Bride
"Who was the first bride who came to this house, Captain Jim?" Anne asked, as they
sat around the fireplace after supper.
"Was she a part of the story I've heard was connected with this house?" asked Gilbert.
"Somebody told me you could tell it, Captain Jim."
"Well, yes, I know it. I reckon I'm the only person living in Four Winds now that can
remember the schoolmaster's bride as she was when she come to the Island. She's
been dead this thirty year, but she was one of them women you never forget."
"Tell us the story," pleaded Anne. "I want to find out all about the women who have lived
in this house before me."
"Well, there's jest been three--Elizabeth Russell, and Mrs. Ned Russell, and the
schoolmaster's bride. Elizabeth Russell was a nice, clever little critter, and Mrs. Ned
was a nice woman, too. But they weren't ever like the schoolmaster's bride.
"The schoolmaster's name was John Selwyn. He came out from the Old Country to
teach school at the Glen when I was a boy of sixteen. He wasn't much like the usual run
of derelicts who used to come out to P.E.I. to teach school in them days. Most of them
were clever, drunken critters who taught the children the three R's when they were
sober, and lambasted them when they wasn't. But John Selwyn was a fine, handsome
young fellow. He boarded at my father's, and he and me were cronies, though he was
ten years older'n me. We read and walked and talked a heap together. He knew about
all the poetry that was ever written, I reckon, and he used to quote it to me along shore
in the evenings. Dad thought it an awful waste of time, but he sorter endured it, hoping
it'd put me off the notion of going to sea. Well, nothing could do THAT--mother come of
a race of sea-going folk and it was born in me. But I loved to hear John read and recite.
It's almost sixty years ago, but I could repeat yards of poetry I learned from him. Nearly
Captain Jim was silent for a space, gazing into the glowing fire in a quest of the
bygones. Then, with a sigh, he resumed his story.
"I remember one spring evening I met him on the sand-hills. He looked sorter uplifted--
jest like you did, Dr. Blythe, when you brought Mistress Blythe in tonight. I thought of
him the minute I seen you. And he told me that he had a sweetheart back home and
that she was coming out to him. I wasn't more'n half pleased, ornery young lump of
selfishness that I was; I thought he wouldn't be as much my friend after she came. But
I'd enough decency not to let him see it. He told me all about her. Her name was Persis
Leigh, and she would have come out with him if it hadn't been for her old uncle. He was
sick, and he'd looked after her when her parents died and she wouldn't leave him. And