Further Chronicles of Avonlea
XII. In Her Selfless Mood
The raw wind of an early May evening was puffing in and out the curtains of the room
where Naomi Holland lay dying. The air was moist and chill, but the sick woman would
not have the window closed.
"I can't get my breath if you shut everything up so tight," she said. "Whatever comes, I
ain't going to be smothered to death, Car'line Holland."
Outside of the window grew a cherry tree, powdered with moist buds with the promise of
blossoms she would not live to see. Between its boughs she saw a crystal cup of sky
over hills that were growing dim and purple. The outside air was full of sweet,
wholesome springtime sounds that drifted in fitfully. There were voices and whistles in
the barnyard, and now and then faint laughter. A bird alighted for a moment on a cherry
bough, and twittered restlessly. Naomi knew that white mists were hovering in the silent
hollows, that the maple at the gate wore a misty blossom red, and that violet stars were
shining bluely on the brooklands.
The room was a small, plain one. The floor was bare, save for a couple of braided rugs,
the plaster discolored, the walls dingy and glaring. There had never been much beauty
in Naomi Holland's environment, and, now that she was dying, there was even less.
At the open window a boy of about ten years was leaning out over the sill and whistling.
He was tall for his age, and beautiful--the hair a rich auburn with a glistening curl in it,
skin very white and warm-tinted, eyes small and of a greenish blue, with dilated pupils
and long lashes. He had a weak chin, and a full, sullen mouth.
The bed was in the corner farthest from the window; on it the sick woman, in spite of the
pain that was her portion continually, was lying as quiet and motionless as she had
done ever since she had lain down upon it for the last time. Naomi Holland never
complained; when the agony was at its worst, she shut her teeth more firmly over her
bloodless lip, and her great black eyes glared at the blank wall before in a way that gave
her attendants what they called "the creeps," but no word or moan escaped her.
Between the paroxysms she kept up her keen interest in the life that went on about her.
Nothing escaped her sharp, alert eyes and ears. This evening she lay spent on the
crumpled pillows; she had had a bad spell in the afternoon and it had left her very weak.
In the dim light her extremely long face looked corpse-like already. Her black hair lay in
a heavy braid over the pillow and down the counterpane. It was all that was left of her
beauty, and she took a fierce joy in it. Those long, glistening, sinuous tresses must be
combed and braided every day, no matter what came.