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HOME > Classical Novels > Further Chronicles of Avonlea > X. THE SON OF HIS MOTHER
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 Thyra Carewe was waiting for Chester to come home. She sat by the west window of the kitchen, looking out into the of the shadows with the expectant immovability that characterized her. She never or fidgeted. Into whatever she did she put the whole force of her nature. If it was sitting still, she sat still.  
"A stone image would be twitchedly beside Thyra," said Mrs. Cynthia White, her neighbor across the lane. "It gets on my nerves, the way she sits at that window sometimes, with no more motion than a statue and her great eyes burning down the lane. When I read the commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' I declare I always think of Thyra. She worships that son of hers far ahead of her Creator. She'll be punished for it yet."
Mrs. White was watching Thyra now, knitting furiously, as she watched, in order to lose no time. Thyra's hands were folded idly in her lap. She had not moved a muscle since she sat down. Mrs. White complained it gave her the weeps.
"It doesn't seem natural to see a woman sit so still," she said. "Sometimes the thought comes to me, 'what if she's had a stroke, like her old Uncle Horatio, and is sitting there stone dead!'"
The evening was cold and autumnal. There was a red spot out at sea, where the sun had set, and, above it, over a chill, clear, saffron sky, were reefs of purple-black clouds. The river, below the Carewe homestead, was livid. Beyond it, the sea was dark and brooding. It was an evening to make most people shiver and forebode an early winter; but Thyra loved it, as she loved all stern, harshly beautiful things. She would not light a lamp because it would out the of sea and sky. It was better to wait in the darkness until Chester came home.
He was late to-night. She thought he had been detained over-time at the harbor, but she was not anxious. He would come straight home to her as soon as his business was completed—of that she felt sure. Her thoughts went out along the harbor road to meet him. She could see him plainly, coming with his free stride through the sandy hollows and over the windy hills, in the harsh, cold light of that forbidding sunset, strong and handsome in his youth, with her own deeply chin and his father's dark gray, eyes. No other woman in Avonlea had a son like hers—her only one. In his brief absences she after him with a passion that had in it something of physical pain, so intense was it. She thought of Cynthia White, knitting across the road, with contemptuous pity. That woman had no son—nothing but pale-faced girls. Thyra had never wanted a daughter, but she pitied and despised all sonless women.
Chester's dog suddenly and piercingly on the doorstep outside. He was tired of the cold stone and wanted his warm corner behind the stove. Thyra smiled grimly when she heard him. She had no intention of letting him in. She said she had always disliked dogs, but the truth, although she would not glance at it, was that she hated the animal because Chester loved him. She could not share his love with even a dumb . She loved no living creature in the world but her son, and fiercely demanded a like concentrated affection from him. Hence it pleased her to hear his dog .
It was now quite dark; the stars had begun to shine out over the shorn harvest fields, and Chester had not come. Across the lane Cynthia White had pulled down her blind, in despair of out-watching Thyra, and had lighted a lamp. Lively shadows of little girl-shapes passed and repassed on the pale oblong of light. They made Thyra conscious of her exceeding loneliness. She had just that she would walk down the lane and wait for Chester on the bridge, when a thunderous knock came at the east kitchen door.
She recognized August Vorst's knock and lighted a lamp in no great haste, for she did not like him. He was a gossip and Thyra hated gossip, in man or woman. But August was privileged.
She carried the lamp in her hand, when she went to the door, and its upward-striking light gave her face a ghastly appearance. She did not mean to ask August in, but he pushed past her cheerfully, not waiting to be invited. He was a midget of a man, of foot and of back, with a white, boyish face, despite his middle age and deep-set, black eyes.
He pulled a newspaper from his pocket and handed it to Thyra. He was the unofficial mail-carrier of Avonlea. Most of the people gave him a trifle for bringing their letters and papers from the office. He earned small sums in various other ways, and so to keep the life in his body. There was always in August's gossip. It was said that he made more in Avonlea in a day than was made otherwise in a year, but people tolerated him by reason of his infirmity. To be sure, it was the they gave to inferior creatures, and August felt this. Perhaps it accounted for a good deal of his . He hated most those who were kindest to him, and, of these, Thyra Carewe above all. He hated Chester, too, as he hated strong, shapely creatures. His time had come at last to wound them both, and his shone through his body and pinched features like an lamp. Thyra perceived it and felt something in it. She to the rocking-chair, as she might have pointed out a mat to a dog.
August crawled into it and smiled. He was going to make her presently, this woman who looked down upon him as some venomous creeping thing she to crush with her foot.
"Did you see anything of Chester on the road?" asked Thyra, giving August the very opening he desired. "He went to the harbor after tea to see Joe Raymond about the loan of his boat, but it's the time he should be back. I can't think what keeps the boy."
"Just what keeps most men—leaving out creatures like me—at some time or other in their lives. A girl—a pretty girl, Thyra. It pleases me to look at her. Even a hunchback can use his eyes, eh? Oh, she's a rare one!"
"What is the man talking about?" said Thyra wonderingly.
"Damaris Garland, to be sure. Chester's down at Tom Blair's now, talking to her—and looking more than his tongue says, too, of that you may be sure. Well, well, we were all young once, Thyra—all young once, even crooked little August Vorst. Eh, now?"
"What do you mean?" said Thyra.
She had sat down in a chair before him, with her hands folded in her lap. Her face, always pale, had not changed; but her lips were white. August Vorst saw this and it pleased him. Also, her eyes were worth looking at, if you liked to hurt people—and that was the only pleasure August took in life. He would drink this cup of revenge for her long years of disdainful kindness—ah, he would drink it slowly to prolong its sweetness. by sip—he rubbed his long, thin, white hands together—sip by sip, tasting each mouthful.
"Eh, now? You know well enough, Thyra."
"I know nothing of what you would be at, August Vorst. You speak of my son and Damaris—was that the name?—Damaris Garland as if they were something to each other. I ask you what you mean by it?"
"Tut, tut, Thyra, nothing very terrible. There's no need to look like that about it. Young men will be young men to the end of time, and there's no harm in Chester's to look at a lass, eh, now? Or in talking to her either? The little baggage, with the red lips of her! She and Chester will make a pretty pair. He's not so ill-looking for a man, Thyra."
"I am not a very patient woman, August," said Thyra coldly. "I have asked you what you mean, and I want a straight answer. Is Chester down at Tom Blair's while I have been sitting here, alone, waiting for him?"
August nodded. He saw that it would not be wise to trifle longer with Thyra.
"That he is. I was there before I came here. He and Damaris were sitting in a corner by themselves, and very well-satisfied they seemed to be with each other. Tut, tut, Thyra, don't take the news so. I thought you knew. It's no secret that Chester has been going after Damaris ever since she came here. But what then? You can't tie him to your forever, woman. He'll be finding a mate for himself, as he should. Seeing that he's straight and well-shaped, no doubt Damaris will look with favor on him. Old Martha Blair declares the girl loves him better than her eyes."
Thyra made a sound like a strangled moan in the middle of August's speech. She heard the rest of it immovably. When it came to an end she stood and looked down upon him in a way that silenced him.
"You've told the news you came to tell, and gloated over it, and now get you gone," she said slowly.
"Now, Thyra," he began, but she interrupted him threateningly.
"Get you gone, I say! And you need not bring my mail here any longer. I want no more of your misshapen body and lying tongue!"
August went, but at the door he turned for a parting stab.
"My tongue is not a lying one, Mrs. Carewe. I've told you the truth, as all Avonlea knows it. Chester is mad about Damaris Garland. It's no wonder I thought you knew what all the settlement can see. But you're such a jealous, odd body, I suppose the boy hid it from you for fear you'd go into a tantrum. As for me, I'll not forget that you've turned me from your door because I chanced to bring you news you'd no fancy for."
Thyra did not answer him. When the door closed behind him she locked it and blew out the light. Then she threw herself face downward on the sofa and burst into wild tears. Her very soul ached. She wept as and unreasoningly as youth weeps, although she was not young. It seemed as if she was afraid to stop weeping lest she should go mad thinking. But, after a time, tears failed her, and she began bitterly to go over, word by word, what August Vorst had said.
That her son should ever cast eyes of love on any girl was something Thyra had never thought about. She would not believe it possible that he should love any one but herself, who loved him so much. And now the possibility invaded her mind as subtly and coldly and remorselessly as a sea-fog stealing landward.
Chester had been born to her at an age when most women are letting their children slip from them into the world, with some natural tears and heartaches, but content to let them go, after enjoying their sweetest years. Thyra's late-come motherhood was all the more intense and because of its very lateness. She had been very ill when her son was born, and had lain helpless for long weeks, during which other women had tended her baby for her. She had never been able to forgive them for this.
Her husband had died before Chester was a year old. She had laid their son in his dying arms and received him back again with a last . To Thyra that moment had something of a sacrament in it. It was as if the child had been doubly given to her, with a right to him that nothing could take away or .
Marrying! She had never thought of it in connection with him. He did not come of a marrying race. His father had been sixty when he had married her, Thyra Lincoln, likewise well on in life. Few of the Lincolns or Carewes had married young, many not at all. And, to her, Chester was her baby still. He belonged solely to her.
And now another woman had dared to look upon him with eyes of love. Damaris Garland! Thyra now remembered seeing her. She was a new-comer in Avonlea, having come to live with her uncle and aunt after the death of her mother. Thyra had met her on the bridge one day a month . Yes, a man might think she was pretty—a low-browed girl, with a wave of reddish-gold hair, and lips blossoming out against the strange, milk-whiteness of her skin. Her eyes, too—Thyra recalled them—hazel in , deep, and laughter-brimmed.
The girl had gone past her with a smile that brought out many dimples. There was a certain quality in her beauty, as if it itself somewhat too in the beholder's eye. Thyra had turned and looked after the , young creature, wondering who she might be.
And to-night, while she, his mother, waited for him in darkness and loneliness, he was down at Blair's, talking to this girl! He loved her; and it was past doubt that she loved him. The thought was more bitter than death to Thyra. That she should dare! Her anger was all against the girl. She had laid a to get Chester and he, like a fool, was in it, thinking, man-fashion, only of her great eyes and red lips. Thyra thought of Damaris' beauty.
"She shall not have him," she said, with slow emphasis. "I will never give him up to any other woman, and, least of all, to her. She would leave me no place in his heart at all—me, his mother, who almost died to give him life. He belongs to me! Let her look for the son of some other woman—some woman who has many sons. She shall not have my only one!"
She got up, wrapped a shawl about her head, and went out into the darkly golden evening. The clouds had cleared away, and the moon was shining. The air was chill, with a bell-like clearness. The by the river as she walked by them and out upon the bridge. Here she paced up and down, peering with troubled eyes along the road beyond, or leaning over the rail, looking at the sparkling silver ribbon of moonlight that garlanded the waters. Late travelers passed her, and wondered at her presence and . Carl White saw her, and told his wife about her when he got home.
"Striding to and fro over the bridge like mad! At first I thought it was old, crazy May Blair. What do you suppose she was doing down there at this hour of the night?"
"Watching for Ches, no doubt," said Cynthia. "He ain't home yet. Likely he's at Blairs'. I do wonder if Thyra suspicions that he goes after Damaris. I've never dared to hint it to her. She'd be as liable to fly at me, tooth and claw, as not."
"Well, she picks out a precious queer night for moon-gazing," said Carl, who was a jolly soul and took life as he found it. "It's bitter cold—there'll be a hard frost. It's a pity she can't get it grained into her that the boy is grown up and must have his fling like the other lads. She'll go out of her mind yet, like her old grandmother Lincoln, if she doesn't ease up. I've a notion to go down to the bridge and reason a bit with her."
"Indeed, and you'll do no such thing!" cried Cynthia. "Thyra Carewe is best left alone, if she is in a tantrum. She's like no other woman in Avonlea—or out of it. I'd as soon with a tiger as her, if she's rampaging about Chester. I don't envy Damaris Garland her life if she goes in there. Thyra'd sooner strangle her than not, I guess."
"You women are all terrible hard on Thyra," said Carl, good-naturedly. He had been in love with Thyra, himself, long ago, and he still liked her in a friendly fashion. He always stood up for her when the Avonlea women ran her down. He felt troubled about her all night, recalling her as she paced the bridge. He wished he had gone back, in spite of Cynthia.
When Chester came home he met his mother on the bridge. In the faint, yet , moonlight they looked curiously alike, but Chester had the milder face. He was very handsome. Even in the of her pain and Thyra yearned over his beauty. She would have liked to put up her hands and his face, but her voice was very hard when she asked him where he had been so late.
"I called in at Tom Blair's on my way home from the harbor," he answered, trying to walk on. But she held him back by his arm.
"Did you go there to see Damaris?" she demanded fiercely.
Chester was uncomfortable. Much as he loved his mother, he felt, and always had felt, an of her and an impatient dislike of her dramatic ways of speaking and . He reflected, resentfully, that no other young man in Avonlea, who had been paying a friendly call, would be met by his mother at midnight and held up in such fashion to account for himself. He tried vainly to loosen her hold upon his arm, but he understood quite well that he must give her an answer. Being straight-forward by nature and upbringing, he told the truth, with more anger in his tone than he had ever shown to his mother before.
"Yes," he said shortly.
Thyra released his arm, and struck her hands together with a sharp cry. There was a savage note in it. She could have Damaris Garland at that moment.
"Don't go on so, mother," said Chester, impatiently. "Come in out of the cold. It isn't fit for you to be here. Who has been with you? What if I did go to see Damaris?"
"Oh—oh—oh!" cried Thyra. "I was waiting for you—alone—and you were thinking only of her! Chester, answer me—do you love her?"
The blood rolled rapidly over the boy's face. He muttered something and tried to pass on, but she caught him again. He forced himself to speak gently.
"What if I do, mother? It wouldn't be such a dreadful thing, would it?"
"And me? And me?" cried Thyra. "What am I to you, then?"
"You are my mother. I wouldn't love you any the less because I cared for another, too."
"I won't have you love another," she cried. "I want all your love—all! What's that baby-face to you, compared to your mother? I have the best right to you. I won't give you up."
Chester realized that there was no arguing with such a mood. He walked on, resolved to set the matter aside until she might be more reasonable. But Thyra would not have it so. She followed on afte............
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