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1 “How white the moonlight is tonight!” said Anne Blythe to herself, as she went up the walk of the Wright garden to Diana Wright’s front door, where little cherry-blossom petals were coming down on the salty, breeze-stirred air.
She paused for a moment to look about her on hills and woods she had loved in olden days and still loved. Dear Avonlea! Glen St. Mary was home to her now and had been home for many years but Avonlea had something that Glen St.
Mary could never have. Ghosts of herself met her at every turn . . . the fields she had roamed in welcomed her . . . unfading echoes of the old sweet life were all about her . . . every spot she looked upon had some lovely memory. There were haunted gardens here and there where bloomed all the roses of yesteryear. Anne always loved to come home to Avonlea even when, as now, the reason for her visit had been a sad one. She and Gilbert had come up for the funeral of his father and Anne had stayed for a week. Marilla and Mrs. Lynde could not bear to have her go away too soon.
Her old porch gable room was always kept for her and when Anne had gone to it the night of her arrival she found that Mrs. Lynde had put a big, homey bouquet of spring flowers in it for her . . . a bouquet that, when Anne buried her face in it, seemed to hold all the fragrance of unforgotten years. The Anne-who-used-to-be was waiting there for her. Deep, dear old gladnesses stirred in her heart. The gable room was putting its arms around her . . . enclosing her . . . enveloping her.
She looked lovingly at her old bed with the apple-leaf spread Mrs. Lynde had knitted and the spotless pillows trimmed with deep lace Mrs. Lynde had crocheted . . . at Marilla’s braided rugs on the floor . . . at the mirror that had reflected the face of the little orphan, with her unwritten child’s forehead, who had cried herself to sleep there that first night so long ago. Anne forgot that she was the joyful mother of five children . . . with Susan Baker again knitting mysterious bootees at Ingleside. She was Anne of Green Gables once more.3 Mrs. Lynde found her still staring dreamily in the mirror when she came in, bringing clean towels.
“It’s real good to have you home again, Anne, that’s what. It’s nine years since you went away, but Marilla and I can’t seem to get over missing you. It’s not so lonesome now since Davy got married . . . Millie is a real nice little thing . . . such pies! . . . though she’s curious as a chipmunk about everything. But I’ve always said and always will say that there’s nobody like you.”
“Ah, but this mirror can’t be tricked, Mrs. Lynde. It’s telling me plainly, ‘You’re not as young as you once were,’” said Anne whimsically.
“You’ve kept your complexion very well,” said Mrs. Lynde consolingly. “Of course you never had much colour to lose.”
“At any rate, I’ve never a hint of a second chin yet,” said Anne gaily. “And my old room remembers me, Mrs. Lynde. I’m glad . . . it would hurt me so if I ever came back and found it had forgotten me. And it’s wonderful to see the moon rising over the Haunted Wood again.”
“It looks like a great big piece of gold in the sky, doesn’t it?” said Mrs. Lynde, feeling that she was taking a wild, poetical flight and thankful that Marilla wasn’t there to hear.
“Look at those pointed firs coming out against it . . . and the birches in the hollow still holding their arms up to the silver sky. They’re big trees now . . . they were just baby things when I came here . . . that does make me feel a bit old.”
“Trees are like children,” said Mrs. Lynde. “It’s dreadful the way they grow up the minute you turn your back on them. Look at Fred Wright . . . he’s only thirteen but he’s nearly as tall as his father. There’s a hot chicken pie for supper and I made some of my lemon biscuits for you. You needn’t be a mite afraid to sleep in that bed. I aired the sheets today . . . and Marilla didn’t know I did it and gave them another airing . . . and Millie didn’t know either of us did and gave them a third. I hope Mary Maria Blythe will get out tomorrow . . . she always enjoys a funeral so.”
“Aunt Mary Maria . . . Gilbert always calls her that although she is only his father’s cousin . . . always calls me ‘Annie,’” shuddered Anne. “And the first time she saw me after I was married she said, ‘It’s so strange Gilbert picked you. He could have had so many nice girls.’ Perhaps that’s why I’ve never liked her . . . and I know Gilbert doesn’t either, though he’s too clannish to admit it.”4 “Will Gilbert be staying up long?”
“No. He has to go back tomorrow night. He left a patient in a very critical condition.”
“Oh, well, I suppose there isn’t much to keep him in Avonlea now, since his mother went last year. Old Mr. Blythe never held up his head after her death . . . just hadn’t anything left to live for. The Blythes were always like that . . . always set their affections too much on earthly things. It’s real sad to think there are none of them left in Avonlea. They were a fine old stock. But then . . . there’s any amount of Sloanes. The Sloanes are still Sloanes, Anne, and will be for ever and ever, world without end, amen.”
“Let there be as many Sloanes as there will, I’m going out after supper to walk all over the old orchard by moonlight. I suppose I’ll have to go to bed finally . . . though I’ve always thought sleeping on moonlight nights a waste of time . . . but I’m going to wake early to see the first faint morning light steal over the Haunted Wood. The sky will turn to coral and the robins will be strutting around . . . perhaps a little grey sparrow will light on the windowsill . . . and there’ll be gold and purple pansies to look at . . .”
“But the rabbits has et up all the June lily bed,” said Mrs. Lynde sadly, as she waddled downstairs, feeling secretly relieved that there need be no more talk about the moon. Anne had always been a bit queer that way. And there did not any longer seem to be much use in hoping she would outgrow it.
Diana came down the walk to meet Anne. Even in the moonlight you saw that her hair was still black and her cheeks rosy and her eyes bright. But the moonlight could not hide that she was something stouter than in years agone . . . and Diana had never been what Avonlea folks called “skinny.”
“Don’t worry, darling . . . I haven’t come to stay. . . .”
“As if I’d worry over that,” said Diana reproachfully. “You know I’d far rather spend the evening with you than go to the reception. I feel I haven’t seen half enough of you and now you’re going back day after tomorrow. But Fred’s brother, you know . . . we’ve just got to go.”5
“Of course you have. And I just ran up for a moment. I came the old way, Di . . . past the Dryad’s Bubble . . . through the Haunted Wood . . . past your bowery old garden . . . and along by Willowmere. I even stopped to watch the willows upside down in the water as we always used to do. They’ve grown so.”
“Everything has,” said Diana with a sigh. “When I look at young Fred! We’ve all changed so . . . except you. You never change, Anne. How do you keep so slim?
Look at me!”
“A bit matronish of course,” laughed Anne. “But you’ve escaped the middle-aged spread so far, Di. As for my not changing . . . well, Mrs. H. B. Donnell agrees with you. She told me at the funeral that I didn’t look a day older. But Mrs.
Harmon Andrews doesn’t. She said, ‘Dear me, Anne, how you’ve failed!’ It’s all in the beholder’s eye . . . or conscience. The only time I feel I’m getting along a bit is when I look at the pictures in the magazines. The heroes and heroines in them are beginning to look too young to me. But never mind, Di . . . we’re going to be girls again tomorrow. That’s what I’ve come up to tell you. We’re going to take an afternoon and evening off and visit all our old haunts . . . every one of them.
We’ll walk over the spring fields and through those ferny old woods. We’ll see all the old familiar things we loved and hills where we’ll find our youth again.
Nothing ever seems impossible in spring, you know. We’ll stop feeling parental and responsible and be as giddy as Mrs. Lynde really thinks me still in her heart of hearts. There’s really no fun in being sensible all the time, Diana.”
“My, how like you that sounds! And I’d love to. But . . .”
“There aren’t any buts. I know you’re thinking, ‘Who’ll get the men’s supper?’”
“Not exactly. Anne Cordelia can get the men’s supper as well as I can, if she is only eleven,” said Diana proudly. “She was going to, anyway. I was going to the Ladies’ Aid. But I won’t. I’ll go with you. It will be like having a dream come true. You know, Anne, lots of evenings I sit down and just pretend we’re little girls again. I’ll take our supper with us . . .”
“And we’ll eat it back in Hester Gray’s garden . . . I suppose Hester Gray’s garden is still there?”
“I suppose so,” said Diana doubtfully. “I’ve never been there since I was married.
Anne Cordelia explores a lot . . . but I always tell her she mustn’t go too far from home. She loves prowling about the woods . . . and one day when I scolded her for talking to herself in the garden she said she wasn’t talking to herself . . . she was talking to the spirit of the flowers. You know that dolls’ tea-set with the tiny6 pink rosebuds you sent her for her ninth birthday. There isn’t a piece broken . . . she’s so careful. She only uses it when the Three Green People come to tea with her. I can’t get out of her who she thinks they are. I declare in some ways, Anne, she’s far more like you than she is like me.”
“Perhaps there’s more in a name than Shakespeare allowed. Don’t grudge Anne Cordelia her fancies, Diana. I’m always sorry for children who don’t spend a few years in fairyland.”
“Olivia Sloane is our teacher now,” said Diana doubtfully. “She’s a B.A., you know, and just took the school for a year to be near her mother. She says children should be made to face realities.”
“Have I lived to hear you taking up with Sloanishness, Diana Wright?”
“No . . . no . . . NO! I don’t like her a bit . . . She has such round staring blue eyes like all that clan. And I don’t mind Anne Cordelia’s fancies. They’re pretty . . . just like yours used to be. I guess she’ll get enough ‘reality’ as life goes on.”
“Well, it’s settled then. Come down to Green Gables about two and we’ll have a drink of Marilla’s red currant wine . . . she makes it now and then in spite of the minister and Mrs. Lynde . . . just to make us feel real devilish.”
“Do you remember the day you set me drunk on it?” giggled Diana, who did not mind “devilish” as she would if anybody but Anne used it. Everybody knew Anne didn’t really mean things like that. It was just her way.
“We’ll have a real do-you-remember day tomorrow, Diana. I won’t keep you any longer . . . there’s Fred coming with the buggy. Your dress is lovely.”
“Fred made me get a new one for the wedding. I didn’t feel we could afford it since we built the new barn, but he said he wasn’t going to have his wife looking like someone that was sent for and couldn’t go when everybody else would be dressed within an inch of her life. Wasn’t that just like a man?”
“Oh, you sound just like Mrs. Elliott at the Glen,” said Anne severely. “You want to watch that tendency. Would you like to live in a world where there were no men?”
“It would be horrible,” admitted Diana. “Yes, yes, Fred, I’m coming.
Oh, all right! Till tomorrow then, Anne.”7
Anne paused by the Dryad’s Bubble on her way back. She loved that old brook so. Every trill of her childhood’s laughter that it had ever caught, it had held and now seemed to give out again to her listening ears. Her old dreams . . . she could see them reflected in the clear Bubble . . . old vows . . . old whispers . . . the brook kept them all and murmured of them . . . but there was no one to listen save the wise old spruces in the Haunted Wood that had been listening so long.8 2 “Such a lovely day . . . made for us,” said Diana. “I’m afraid it’s a pet day, though . . . there’ll be rain tomorrow.”
“Never mind. We’ll drink its beauty today, even if its sunshine is gone tomorrow.
We’ll enjoy each other’s friendship today even if we are to be parted tomorrow.
Look at those long, golden-green hills . . . those mist-blue valleys.
They’re ours, Diana . . . I don’t care if that furthest hill is registered in Abner Sloan’s name . . . it’s ours today. There’s a west wind blowing . . . I always feel adventurous when a west wind blows . . . and we’re going to have a perfect ramble.”
They had. All the old dear spots were revisited: Lover’s Lane, the Haunted Wood, Idlewild, Violet Vale, the Birch Path, Crystal Lake. There were some changes.
The little ring of birch saplings in Idlewild, where they had had a playhouse long ago, had grown into big trees; the Birch Path, long untrodden, was matted with bracken; the Crystal Lake had entirely disappeared, leaving only a damp mossy hollow. But Violet Vale was purple with violets and the seedling apple tree Gilbert had once found far back in the woods was a huge tree peppered over with tiny, crimson-tipped blossom-buds.
They walked bareheaded. Annie’s hair still gleamed like polished mahogany in the sunlight and Diana’s was still glossy black. They exchanged gay and understanding, warm and friendly, glances. Sometimes they walked in silence . . . Anne always maintained that two people as sympathetic as she and Diana could feel each other’s thoughts. Sometimes they peppered their conversation with do-you-remembers. “Do you remember the day you fell through the Cobb duckhouse on the Tory Road?” . . . “Do you remember when we jumped on Aunt Josephine?” . . . “Do you remember our Story Club?” . . . “Do you remember Mrs. Morgan’s visit when you stained your nose red?” . . . “Do you remember how we signalled to each other from our windows with candles?” . . . “Do you remember the fun we had at Miss Lavender’s wedding and Charlotta’s blue bows?” . . . “Do you remember the Improvement Society?” It almost seemed to them they could hear their old peals of laughter echoing down the years.
The A. V. I. S. was, it seemed, dead. It had petered out soon after Anne’s marriage.9
“They just couldn’t keep it up, Anne. The young people in Avonlea now are not what they were in our day.”
“Don’t talk as if ‘our day’ were ended, Diana. We’re only fifteen years old and kindred spirits. The air isn’t just full of light . . . it is light. I’m not sure that I haven’t sprouted wings.”
“I feel just that way, too,” said Diana, forgetting that she had tipped the scale at one hundred and fifty-five that morning. “I often feel that I’d love to be turned into a bird for a little while. It must be wonderful to fly.”
Beauty was all around them. Unsuspected tintings glimmered in the dark demesnes of the woods and glowed in their alluring by-ways. The spring sunshine sifted through the young green leaves. Gay trills of song were everywhere. There were little hollows where you felt as if you were bathing in a pool of liquid gold. At every turn some fresh spring scent struck their faces . . . spice ferns . . . fir balsam . . . the wholesome odour of newly ploughed fields.
There was a lane curtained with wild-cherry blossoms . . . a grassy old field full of tiny spruce trees just starting in life and looking like elvish things that had squatted down among the grasses . . . brooks not yet “too broad for leaping” . . . star-flowers under the firs . . . sheets of curly young ferns . . . and a birch tree whence some vandal had torn away the white-skin wrapper in several places, exposing the tints of the bark below. Anne looked at it so long that Diana wondered. She did not see what Anne did . . . tints ranging from purest creamy white, through exquisite golden tones, growing deeper and deeper until the inmost layer revealed the deepest richest brown as if to tell that all birches, so maiden-like and cool exteriorly, had yet warm-hued feelings.
“The primeval fire of earth at their hearts,” murmured Anne.
And finally, after traversing a little wood glen full of toadstools, they found Hester Gray’s garden. Not so much changed. It was still very sweet with dear flowers. There were still plenty of June lilies, as Diana called the narcissi. The row of cherry trees had grown older but was a drift of snowy bloom. You could still find the central rose walk, and the old dyke was white with strawberry blossoms and blue with violets and green with baby fern. They ate their picnic supper in a corner of it, sitting on some old mossy stones, with a lilac tree behind them flinging purple banners against a low-hanging sun. Both were hungry and both did justice to their own good cooking.
“How nice things taste out of doors!” sighed Diana comfortably. “That chocolate cake of yours, Anne . . . well, words fail me, but I must get the recipe. Fred10 would adore it. He can eat anything and stay thin. I’m always saying I’m not going to eat any more cake . . . because I’m getting fatter every year. I’ve such a horror of getting like great-aunt Sarah . . . she was so fat she always had to be pulled up when she had sat down. But when I see a cake like that . . . and last night at the reception . . . well, they would all have been so offended if I didn’t eat.”
“Did you have a nice time?”
“Oh, yes, in a way. But I fell into Fred’s Cousin Henrietta’s clutches . . . and it’s such a delight to her to tell all about her operations and her sensations while going through them and how soon her appendix would have burst if she hadn’t had it out. ‘I had fifteen stitches put in it. Oh, Diana, the agony I suffered!’ Well, she enjoyed it if I didn’t. And she hassuffered, so why shouldn’t she have the fun of talking about it now? Jim was so funny . . . I don’t know if Mary Alice liked it altogether. . . . Well, just one teeny piece . . . may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, I suppose . . . a mere sliver can’t make much difference. . . . One thing he said . . . that the very night before the wedding he was so scared he felt he’d have to take the boat-train. He said all grooms felt just the same if they’d be honest about it. You don’t suppose Gilbert and Fred felt like that, do you, Anne?”
“I’m sure they didn’t.”
“That’s what Fred said when I asked him. He said all he was scared of was that I’d change my mind at the last moment like Rose Spencer. But you can never really tell what a man may be thinking. Well, there’s no use worrying over it now.
What a lovely time we’ve had this afternoon! We seem to have lived so many old happinesses over. I wish you didn’t have to go tomorrow, Anne.”
“Can’t you come down for a visit to Ingleside sometime this summer, Diana?
Before . . . well, before I’ll not be wanting visitors for a while.”
“I’d love to. But it seems impossible to get away from home in the summer.
There’s always so much to do.”
“Rebecca Dew is coming at long last, of which I’m glad . . . and I’m afraid Aunt Mary Maria is, too. She hinted as much to Gilbert. He doesn’t want her any more than I do . . . but she is ‘a relation’ and so his latchstring must be always out for her.”
“Perhaps I’ll get down in the winter. I’d love to see Ingleside again. You have a lovely home, Anne . . . and a lovely family.”11
“Ingleside is nice . . . and I do love it now. I once thought I would never love it. I hated it when we went there first . . . hated it for its very virtues. They were an insult to my dear House of Dreams. I remember saying piteously to Gilbert when we left it, ‘We’ve been so happy here. We’ll never be so happy anywhere else.’ I revelled in a luxury of homesickness for a while. Then . . . I found little rootlets of affection for Ingleside beginning to sprout out. I fought against it . . . I really did . . . but at last I had to give in and admit I loved it. And I’ve loved it better every year since. It isn’t too old a house . . . too old houses are sad. And it isn’t too young . . . too young houses are crude. It’s just mellow. I love every room in it. Every one has some fault but also some virtue . . . something that distinguishes it from all the others . . . gives it a personality. I love all those magnificent trees on the lawn. I don’t know who planted them but every time I go upstairs I stop on the landing . . . you know that quaint window on the landing with the broad deep seat . . . and sit there looking out for a moment and say, ‘God bless the man who planted those trees whoever he was.’ We’ve really too many trees about the house but we wouldn’t give up one.”
“That’s just like Fred. He worships that big willow south of the house. It spoils the view from the parlour windows, as I’ve told him again and again, but he only says, ‘Would you cut a lovely thing like that down even if it does shut out the view?’ So the willow stays . . . and it is lovely. That’s why we’ve called our place Lone Willow Farm. I love the name Ingleside. It’s such a nice, homey name.”
“That’s what Gilbert said. We had quite a time deciding on a name. We tried out several but they didn’t seem to belong. But when we thought of Ingleside we knew it was the right one. I’m glad we have a nice big roomy house . . . we need it with our family. The children love it, too, small as they are.”
“They’re such darlings.” Diana slyly cut herself another “sliver” of the chocolate cake. “I think my own are pretty nice . . . but there’s really something about yours . . . and your twins! That I do envy you. I’ve always wanted twins.”
“Oh, I couldn’t get away from twins . . . they’re my destiny. But I’m disappointed mine don’t look alike . . . not one bit alike. Nan’s pretty, though, with her brown hair and eyes and her lovely complexion. Di is her father’s favourite, because she has green eyes and red hair . . . red hair with a swirl to it. Shirley is the apple of Susan’s eye . . . I was ill so long after he was born and she looked after him till I really believe she thinks he is her own. She calls him her ‘little brown boy’ and spoils him shamefully.”
“And he’s still so small you can creep in to find if he has kicked off the clothes and tuck him in again,” said Diana enviously. “Jack’s nine, you know, and he12 doesn’t want me to do that now. He says he’s too big. And I loved so to do it! Oh, I wish children didn’t grow up so soon.”
“None of mine have got to that stage yet . . . though I’ve noticed that since Jem began to go to school he doesn’t want to hold my hand any more when we walk through the village,” said Anne with a sigh. “But he and Walter and Shirley all want me to tuck them in yet. Walter sometimes makes quite a ritual of it.”
“And you don’t have to worry yet over what they’re going to be. Now, Jack is crazy to be a soldier when he grows up . . . a soldier! Just fancy!”
“I wouldn’t worry over that. He’ll forget about it when another fancy seizes him.
War is a thing of the past. Jem imagines he is going to be a sailor . . . like Captain Jim . . . and Walter is by way of being a poet. He isn’t like any of the others. But they all love trees and they all love playing in ‘the Hollow,’ as it’s called–a little valley just below Ingleside with fairy paths and a brook. A very ordinary place . . . just ‘the Hollow’ to others but to them fairyland. They’ve all got their faults . . . but they’re not such a bad little gang . . . and luckily there’s always enough love to go round. Oh, I’m glad to think that this time tomorrow night I’ll be back at Ingleside, telling my babies stories at bedtime and giving Susan’s calceolarias and ferns their meed of praise. Susan has ‘luck’ with ferns. No one can grow them like her. I can praise her ferns honestly . . . but the calceolarias, Diana! They don’t look like flowers to me at all. But I never hurt Susan’s feeling by telling her so. I always get around it somehow. Providence has never failed yet. Susan is such a duck . . . I can’t imagine what I’d do without her. And I remember once calling her ‘an outsider.’ Yes, it’s lovely to think of going home and yet I’m sad to leave Green Gables, too. It’s so beautiful here . . . with Marilla . . . and you. Our friendship has always been a very lovely thing, Diana.”
“Yes . . . and we’ve always . . . I mean . . . I never could say things like you, Anne . . . but we have kept our old ‘solemn vow and promise,’ haven’t we?”
“Always . . . and always will.”
Anne’s hand found its way into Diana’s. They sat for a long time in a silence too sweet for words. Long, still evening shadows fell over the grasses and the flowers and the green reaches of the meadows beyond. The sun went down . . . grey-pink shades of sky deepened and paled behind the pensive trees . . . the spring twilight took possession of Hester Gray’s garden where nobody ever walked now. Robins were sprinkling the evening air with flute-like whistles. A great star came out over the white cherry trees.13
“The first star is always a miracle,” said Anne dreamily.
“I could sit here forever,” said Diana. “I hate the thought of leaving it.”
“So do I . . . but after all we’ve only been pretending to be fifteen. We’ve got to remember our family cares. How those lilacs smell! Has it ever occurred to you, Diana, that there is something not quite . . . chaste . . . in the scent of lilac blossoms? Gilbert laughs at such a notion . . . he loves them . . . but to me they always seem to be remembering some secret,too-sweet thing.”
“They’re too heavy for the house, I always think,” said Diana. She picked up the plate which held the remainder of the chocolate cake . . . looked at it longingly . . . shook her head and packed it in the basket with an expression of great nobility and self-denial on her face.
“Wouldn’t it be fun, Diana, if now, as we went home, we were to meet our old selves running along Lover’s Lane?”
Diana gave a little shiver.
“No-o-o, I don’t think that would be funny, Anne. I hadn’t noticed it was getting so dark. It’s all right to fancy things in daylight, but . . .”
They went quietly, silently, lovingly home together, with the sunset glory burning on the old hills behind them and their old unforgotten love burning in their hearts.14
3 Anne ended a week that had been full of pleasant days by taking flowers to Matthew’s grave the next morning and in the afternoon she took the train from Carmody home. For a time she thought of all the old loved things behind her and then her thoughts ran ahead of her to the loved things before her. Her heart sang all the way because she was going home to a joyous house . . . a house where every one who crossed its threshold knew it was a home . . . a house that was filled all the time with laughter and silver mugs and snapshots and babies . . . precious things with curls and chubby knees . . . and rooms that would welcome her . . . where the chairs waited patiently and the dresses in her closet were expecting her . . . where little anniversaries were always being celebrated and little secrets were always being whispered.
“It’s lovely to feel you like going home,” thought Anne, fishing out of her purse a certain letter from a small son over which she had laughed gaily the night before, reading it proudly to the Green Gables folks . . . the first letter she had ever received from any of her children. It was quite a nice little letter for a seven-yearold who had been going to school only a year to write, even though Jem’s spelling was a bit uncertain and there was a big blob of ink in one corner.
“Di cryed and cryed all night because Tommy Drew told her he was going to burn her doll at the steak. Susan tells us nice tails at night but she isn’t you, mummy. She let me help her sow the beats last night.”
“How could I have been happy for a whole week away from them all?” thought the chatelaine of Ingleside self-reproachfully.
“How nice to have someone meet you at the end of a journey!” she cried, as she stepped off the train at Glen St. Mary into Gilbert’s waiting arms. She could never be sure Gilbert would meet her . . . somebody was always dying or being born . . . but no homecoming ever seemed just right to Anne unless he did. And he had on such a nice new light-grey suit!(How glad I am I put on this frilly eggshell blouse with my brown suit, even if Mrs. Lynde thought I was crazy to wear it travelling. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have looked so nice for Gilbert.) Ingleside was all lighted up, with gay Japanese lanterns hanging on the veranda.
Anne ran gaily along the walk bordered by daffodils.
“Ingleside, I’m here!” she called.15
They were all around her . . . laughing, exclaiming, jesting . . . with Susan Baker smiling properly in the background. Everyone of the children had a bouquet picked specially for her, even the two-year-old Shirley.
“Oh, this is a nice welcome home! Everything about Ingleside looks so happy.
It’s splendid to think my family are so glad to see me.”
“If you ever go away from home again, Mummy,” said Jem solemnly, “I’ll go and take appensitis.”
“How do you go about taking it?” asked Walter.
“S-s-sh!” Jem nudged Walter secretly and whispered, “There’s a pain somewhere, I know . . . but I just want to scare Mummy so she won’t go away.”
Anne wanted to do a hundred things first . . . hug everybody . . . run out in the twilight and gather some of her pansies . . . you found pansies everywhere at Ingleside . . . pick up the little well-worn doll lying on the rug . . . hear all the juicy tidbits of gossip and news, everyone contributing something. How Nan had got the top off a tube of vaseline up her nose when the doctor was out on a case and Susan had all but gone distracted . . . “I assure you it was an anxious time, Mrs. Dr. dear” . . . how Mrs. Jud Palmer’s cow had eaten fifty-seven wire nails and had to have a vet from Charlottetown . . . how absent-minded Mrs. Fenner Douglas had gone to church bare-headed . . . how Dad had dug all the dandelions out of the lawn . . . “between babies, Mrs. Dr. dear . . . he’s had eight while you were away” . . . how Mr. Tom Flagg had dyed his moustache . . . “and his wife only dead two years” . . . how Rose Maxwell of the Harbour Head had jilted Jim Hudson of the Upper Glen and he had sent her a bill for all he had spent on her . . . what a splendid turn-out there had been at Mrs. Amasa Warren’s funeral . . . how Carter Flagg’s cat had had a piece bitten right out of the root of its tail . . . how Shirley had been found in a stable standing right under one of the horses . . . “Mrs. Dr. dear, never shall I be the same woman again” . . . how there was sadly too much reason to fear that the blue plum trees were developing black knot . . . how Di had gone about the whole day singing, “Mummy’s coming home today, home today, home today” to the tune of “Merrily We Roll Along” . . . how the Joe Reeses had a kitten that was cross-eyed because it had been born with its eyes open . . . how Jem had inadvertently sat on some fly-paper before he had put his little trousers on . . . and how the Shrimp had fallen into the soft-water puncheon.16
“He was nearly drowned, Mrs. Dr. dear, but luckily the doctor heard his howls in the nick of time and pulled him out by his hind-legs.” (What is the nick of time, Mummy?)
“He seems to have recovered nicely from it,” said Anne, stroking the glossy black-and-white curves of a contented pussy with huge jowls, purring on a chair in the firelight. It was never quite safe to sit down on a chair at Ingleside without first making sure there wasn’t a cat in it. Susan, who had not cared much for cats to begin with, vowed she had to learn to like them in self-defense. As for the Shrimp, Gilbert had called him that a year ago when Nan had brought the miserable, scrawny kitten home from the village where some boys had been torturing it, and the name clung, though it was very inappropriate now.
“But . . . Susan! What has become of Gog and Magog? Oh . . . they haven’t been broken, have they?”
“No, no, Mrs. Dr. dear,” exclaimed Susan, turning a deep brick-red from shame and dashing out of the room. She returned shortly with the two china dogs which always presided at the hearth of Ingleside. “I do not see how I could have forgotten to put them back before you came. You see, Mrs. Dr. dear, Mrs.
Charles Day from Charlottetown called here the day after you left . . . and you know how very precise and proper she is. Walter thought he ought to entertain her and he started in by pointing out the dogs to her. ‘This one is God and this is My God,’ he said, poor innocent child. I was horrified . . . though I thought that die I would to see Mrs. Day’s face. I explained as best I could, for I did not want her to think us a profane family, but I decided I would just put the dogs away in the china closet, out of sight, till you got back.”
“Mummy, can’t we have supper soon?” said Jem pathetically. “I’ve got a gnawful feeling in the pit of my stomach. And oh, Mummy, we’ve made everybody’s favourite dish!”
“We, as the flea said to the elephant, have done that very thing,” said Susan with a grin. “We thought that your return should be suitably celebrated, Mrs. Dr. dear.
And now where is Walter? It is his week to ring the gong for meals, bless his heart.”
Supper was a gala meal . . . and putting all the babies to bed afterwards was a delight. Susan even allowed her to put Shirley to bed, seeing what a very special occasion it was.
“This is no common day, Mrs. Dr. dear,” she said solemnly.17
“Oh, Susan, there is no such thing as a common day. Every day has something about it no other day has. Haven’t you noticed?”
“How true that is, Mrs. Dr. dear. Even last Friday now, when it rained all day, and was so dull, my big pink geranium showed buds at last after refusing to bloom for three long years. And have you noticed the calceolarias, Mrs. Dr.
“Noticed them! I never saw such calceolarias in my life, Susan. How do you manage it?” (There, I’ve made Susan happy and haven’t told a fib. I never did see such calceolarias . . . thank heaven!)
“It is the result of constant care and attention, Mrs. Dr. dear. But there is something I think I ought to speak of. I think Walter suspects something. No doubt some of the Glen children have said things to him. So many children nowadays know so much more than is fitting. Walter said to me the other day, very thoughtful-like, ‘Susan,’ he said, ‘are babiesvery expensive?’ I was a bit dumfounded, Mrs. Dr. dear, but I kept my head. ‘Some folks think they are luxuries,’ I said, ‘but at Ingleside we think they are necessities.’ And I reproached myself with having complained aloud about the shameful price of things in all the Glen stores. I am afraid it worried the child. But if he says anything to you, Mrs. Dr. dear, you will be prepared.”
“I’m sure you handled the situation beautifully, Susan,” said Anne gravely. “And I think it is time they all knew what we are hoping for.”
But the best of all was when Gilbert came to her, as she stood at her window, watching a fog creeping in from the sea, over the moonlit dunes and the harbour, right into the long narrow valley upon which Ingleside looked down and in which nestled the village of Glen St. Mary.
“To come back at the end of a hard day and find you! Are you happy, Annest of Annes?”
“Happy!” Anne bent to sniff a vaseful of apple blossoms Jem had set on her dressing-table. She felt surrounded and encompassed by love. “Gilbert dear, it’s been lovely to be Anne of Green Gables again for a week, but it’s a hundred times lovelier to come back and be Anne of Ingleside.”18
4 “Absolutely not,” said Dr. Blythe, in a tone Jem understood.
Jem knew there was no hope of Dad’s changing his mind or that Mother would try to change it for him. It was plain to be seen that on this point Mother and Dad were as one. Jem’s hazel eyes darkened with anger and disappointment as he looked at his cruel parents . . . glared at them . . . all the more glaringly that they were so maddeningly indifferent to his glares and went on eating their supper as if nothing at all were wrong and out of joint. Of course Aunt Mary Maria noticed his glares . . . nothing ever escaped Aunt Mary Maria’s mournful, pale-blue eyes . . . but she only seemed amused at them.
Bertie Shakespeare Drew had been up playing with Jem all the afternoon . . . Walter having gone down to the old House of Dreams to play with Kenneth and Persis Ford . . . and Bertie Shakespeare had told Jem that all the Glen boys were going down to the Harbour Mouth that evening to see Captain Bill Taylor tatoo a snake on his cousin Joe Drew’s arm. He, Bertie Shakespeare, was going and wouldn’t Jem come too? It would be such fun. Jem was at once crazy to go; and now he had been told that it was utterly out of the question.
“For one reason among many,” said Dad, “it’s much too far for you to go down to the Harbour Mouth with those boys. They won’t get back till late and your bedtime is supposed to be at eight, son.”
“I was sent to bed at seven every night of my life when I was a child,” said Aunt Mary Maria.
“You must wait till you are older, Jem, before you go so far away in the evenings,” said Mother.
“You said that last week,” cried Jem indignantly, “and I am older now. You’d think I was a baby! Bertie’s going and I’m just as old as him.”
“There’s measles around,” said Aunt Mary Maria darkly. “You might catch measles, James.”
Jem hated to be called James. And she always did it.19
“I want to catch measles,” he muttered rebelliously. Then, catching Dad’s eye instead, subsided. Dad would never let anyone “talk back” to Aunt Mary Maria.
Jem hated Aunt Mary Maria. Aunt Diana and Aunt Marilla were such ducks of aunts but an aunt like Aunt Mary Maria was something wholly new in Jem’s experience.
“All right,” he said defiantly, looking at Mother so that nobody could suppose he was talking to Aunt Mary Maria, “if you don’t want to love me you don’t have to.
But will you like it if I just go away ‘n’ shoot tigers in Africa?”
“There are no tigers in Africa, dear,” said Mother gently.
“Lions, then!” shouted Jem. They were determined to put him in the wrong, were they? They were bound to laugh at him, were they? He’d show them! “You can’t say there’s no lions in Africa. There’s millions of lions in Africa. Africa’s just full of lions!”
Mother and Father only smiled again, much to Aunt Mary Maria’s disapproval.
Impatience in children should never be condoned.
“Meanwhile,” said Susan, torn between her love for and sympathy with Little Jem and her conviction that Dr. and Mrs. Dr. were perfectly right in refusing to let him go away down to the Harbour Mouth with that village gang to that disreputable, drunken old Captain Bill Taylor’s place, “here is your gingerbread and whipped cream, Jem dear.”
Gingerbread and whipped cream was Jem’s favourite dessert. But tonight it had no charm to soothe his stormy soul.
“I don’t want any!” he said sulkily. He got up and marched away from the table, turning at the door to hurl a final defiance.
“I ain’t going to bed till nine o’clock, anyhow. And when I’m grown up I’m never going to bed. I’m going to stay up all night . . . every night . . . and get tattooed all over. I’m just going to be as bad as bad can be. You’ll see.”
“‘I’m not’ would be so much better than ‘ain’t,’ dear,” said Mother.
Could nothing make them feel?
“I suppose nobody wants my opinion, Annie, but if I had talked to my parents like that when I was a child I would have been whipped within an inch of my20 life,” said Aunt Mary Maria. “I think it is a great pity the birch rod is so neglected now in some homes.”
“Little Jem is not to blame,” snapped Susan, seeing that Dr. and Mrs. Dr. were not going to say anything. But if Mary Maria Blythe was going to get away with that, she, Susan would know the reason why. “Bertie Shakespeare Drew put him up to it, filling him up with what fun it would be to see Joe Drew tatooed. He was here all the afternoon and sneaked into the kitchen and took the best aluminum saucepan to use as a helmet. Said they were playing soldiers. Then they made boats out of shingles and got soaked to the bone sailing them in the Hollow brook. And after that they went hopping about the yard for a solid hour, making the weirdest noises, pretending they were frogs. Frogs! No wonder Little Jem is tired out and not himself. He is the best-behaved child that ever lived when he is not worn to a frazzle, and that you may tie to.”
Aunt Mary Maria said nothing aggravatingly. She never talked to Susan Baker at meal-times, thus expressing her disapproval over Susan being allowed to “sit with the family” at all.
Anne and Susan had thrashed that out before Aunt Mary Maria had come. Susan, who “knew her place,” never sat or expected to sit with the family when there was company at Ingleside.
“But Aunt Mary Maria isn’t company,” said Anne. “She’s just one of the family . . . and so are you, Susan.”
In the end Susan gave in, not without a secret satisfaction that Mary Maria Blythe would see that she was no common hired girl. Susan had never met Aunt Mary Maria, but a niece of Susan’s, the daughter of her sister Matilda, had worked for her in Charlottetown and had told Susan all about her.
“I am not going to pretend to you, Susan, that I’m overjoyed at the prospect of a visit from Aunt Mary Maria, especially just now,” said Anne frankly. “But she has written Gilbert asking if she may come for a few weeks . . . and you know how the doctor is about such things. . . .”
“As he has a perfect right to be,” said Susan staunchly. “What is a man to do but stand by his own flesh and blood? But as for a few weeks . . . well, Mrs. Dr. dear, I do not want to look on the dark side of things . . . but my sister Matilda’s sisterin-law came to visit her for a few weeks and stayed for twenty years.”21 “I don’t think we need dread anything like that, Susan,” smiled Anne. “Aunt Mary Maria has a very nice home of her own in Charlottetown. But she is finding it very big and lonely. Her mother died two years ago, you know . . . she was eighty-five and Aunt Mary Maria was very good to her and misses her very much. Let’s make her visit as pleasant as we can, Susan.”
“I will do what in me lies, Mrs. Dr. dear. Of course we must put another board in the table, but after all is said and done it is better to be lengthening the table than shortening it down.”
“We mustn’t have flowers on the table, Susan, because I understand they give her asthma. And pepper makes her sneeze, so we’d better not have it. She is subject to frequent bad headaches, too, so we must really try not to be noisy.”
“Good grief! Well, I have never noticed you and the doctor making much noise.
And if I want to yell I can go to the middle of the maple bush; but if our poor children have to keep quiet all the time because of Mary Maria Blythe’s headaches . . . you will excuse me for saying I think it is going a little too far, Mrs. Dr. dear.”
“It’s just for a few weeks, Susan.”
“Let us hope so. Oh, well, Mrs. Dr. dear, we just have to take the lean streaks with the fat in this world,” was Susan’s final word.
So Aunt Mary Maria came, demanding immediately upon her arrival if they had had the chimneys cleaned recently. She had, it appeared, a great dread of fire.
“And I’ve always said that the chimneys of this house aren’t nearly tall enough. I hope my bed has been well aired, Annie. Damp bed linen is terrible.”
She took possession of the Ingleside guest-room . . . and incidentally of all the other rooms in the house except Susan’s. Nobody hailed her arrival with frantic delight. Jem, after one look at her, slipped out to the kitchen and whispered to Susan, “Can we laugh while she’s here, Susan?” Walter’s eyes brimmed with tears at sight of her and he had to be hustled ignominiously out of the room. The twins did not wait to be hustled but ran of their own accord. Even the Shrimp, Susan averred went and had a fit in the back yard. Only Shirley stood his ground, gazing fearlessly at her out of his round brown eyes from the safe anchorage of Susan’s lap and arm. Aunt Mary Maria thought the Ingleside children had very bad manners. But what could you expect when they had a mother who “wrote for the papers” and a father who thought they were perfection just because they were his children, and a hired girl like Susan Baker who never knew her place? 22 But she, Mary Maria Blythe, would do her best for poor Cousin John’s grandchildren as long as she was at Ingleside.
“Your grace is much too short, Gilbert,” she said disapprovingly at her first meal.
“Would you like me to say grace for you while I am here? It will be a better example to your family.”
Much to Susan’s horror Gilbert said he would and Aunt Mary Maria said grace at supper. “More like a prayer than a grace,” Susan sniffed over her dishes. Susan privately agreed with her niece’s description of Mary Maria Blythe. “She always seems to be smelling a bad smell, Aunt Susan. Not an unpleasant odour . . . just a bad smell.” Gladys had a way of putting things, Susan reflected. And yet, to anyone less prejudiced than Susan Miss Mary Maria Blythe was not ill-looking for a lady of fifty-five. She had what she believed were “aristocratic features,”
framed by always sleek grey crimps which seemed to insult daily Susan’s spiky little knob of grey hair. She dressed very nicely, wore long jet earrings in her ears and fashionably high-boned net collars on her lean throat.
“At least, we do not need to be ashamed of her appearance,” reflected Susan. But what Aunt Mary Maria would have thought if she had known Susan was consoling herself on such grounds must be left to the imagination.23 5 Anne was cutting a vaseful of June lilies for her room and another of Susan’s peonies for Gilbert’s desk in the library . . . the milky-white peonies with the blood-red flecks at their hearts, like a god’s kiss. The air was coming alive after the unusually hot June day and one could hardly tell whether the harbour were silver or gold.
“There’s going to be a wonderful sunset tonight, Susan,” she said, looking in at the kitchen window as she passed it.
“I cannot admire the sunset until I have got my dishes washed, Mrs. Dr. dear,”
“It will be gone by that time, Susan. Look at that enormous white cloud towering up over the Hollow, with its rosy-pink top. Wouldn’t you like to fly up and light on it?”
Susan had a vision of herself flying up over the glen, dishcloth in hand, to that cloud. It did not appeal to her. But allowances must be made for Mrs. Dr. just now.
“There’s a new, vicious kind of bug eating the rose-bushes,” went on Anne. “I must spray them tomorrow. I’d like to do it tonight . . . this is just the kind of evening I love to work in the garden. Things are growing tonight. I hope there’ll be gardens in heaven, Susan . . . gardens we can work in, I mean, and help things to grow.”
“But not bugs surely,” protested Susan.
“No-o-o, I suppose not. But a completed garden wouldn’t really be any fun, Susan. You have to work in a garden yourself or you miss its meaning. I want to weed and dig and transplant and change and plan and prune. And I want the flowers I love in heaven . . . I’d rather my own pansies than the asphodel, Susan.”
“Why cannot you put in the evening as you want to?” broke in Susan, who thought Mrs. Dr. was really going a little wild.24
“Because the doctor wants me to go for a drive with him. He is going to see poor old Mrs. John Paxton. She is dying . . . he can’t do her any good . . . he has done everything he can . . . but she does like to have him drop in.”
“Oh, well, Mrs. Dr. dear, we all know that nobody can die or be born without him hereabouts and it is a nice evening for a drive. I think I will take a walk down to the village myself and replenish our pantry after I put the twins and Shirley to bed and manure Mrs. Aaron Ward. She isn’t blooming as she ought to. Miss Blythe has just gone upstairs, sighing at every step, saying one of her headaches is coming on, so there will be a little peace and quiet for the evening at least.”
“See that Jem goes to bed in good time, will you, Susan?” said Anne as she went away through the evening that was like a cup of fragrance that has spilled over.
“He’s really much tireder than he thinks he is. And he never wants to go to bed.
Walter is not coming home tonight, Leslie asked if he might stay there.”
Jem was sitting on the steps of the side door, one bare foot hooked over his knee, scowling viciously at things in general and at an enormous moon behind the Glen church spire in particular. Jem didn’t like such big moons.
“Take care your face doesn’t freeze like that,” Aunt Mary Maria had said as she passed him on her way into the house.
Jem scowled more blackly than ever. He didn’t care if his face did freeze like that. He hoped it would. “Go ‘way and don’t come tagging after me all the time,”
he told Nan, who had crept out to him after Father and Mother had driven away.
“Cross-patch!” said Nan. But before she trotted off she laid down on the step beside him the red candy lion she had brought out to him.
Jem ignored it. He felt more abused than ever. He wasn’t being used right.
Everybody picked on him. Hadn’t Nan that very morning said, “You weren’t born at Ingleside like the rest of us.” Di had et his chocolate rabbit that forenoon though she knew it was his rabbit. Even Walter had deserted him, going away to dig wells in the sand with Ken and Persis Ford. Great fun that! And he wanted so much to go with Bertie to see the tattooing. Jem was sure he had never wanted anything so much in his life before. He wanted to see the wonderful, full-rigged ship that Bertie said was always on Captain Bill’s mantelpiece. It was a mean shame, that’s what it was.
Susan brought him out a big slice of cake covered with maple frosting and nuts, but, “No, thank you,” said Jem stonily. Why hadn’t she saved some of the25 gingerbread and cream for him? S’pose the rest of them had et it all. Pigs! He plunged into a deeper gulf of gloom. The gang would be on their way to the Harbour Mouth by now. He just couldn’t bear the thought. He’d got to do something to get square with folks. S’posin’ he sliced Di’s sawdust giraffe open on the living-room rug? That would make old Susan mad . . . Susan with her nuts, when she knew he hated nuts in frosting. S’posin’ he went and drew a moustache on that picture of the cherub on the calendar in her room? He had always hated that fat, pink, smiling cherub because it looked just like Sissy Flagg who had told round school that Jem Blythe was her beau. Hers! Sissy Flagg! But Susan thought that cherub lovely.
S’posin’ he scalped Nan’s doll? S’posin’ he whacked the nose off Gog or Magog . . . or both of them? Maybe that would make Mother see he wasn’t a baby any longer. Just wait till next spring! He had brought her mayflowers for years and years and years . . . ever since he was four . . . but he wouldn’t do it next spring.
S’posin’ he et a lot of the little green apples on the early tree and got nice and sick? Maybe that would scare them. S’posin’ he never washed behind his ears again? S’posin’ he made faces at everybody in church next Sunday? S’posin’ he put a caterpillar on Aunt Mary Maria . . . a big, striped, woolly caterpillar?
S’posin’ he ran away to the harbour and hid in Captain David Reese’s ship and sailed out of the harbour in the morning on his way to South America? Would they be sorry then? S’posin’ he never came back? S’posin’ he went hunting jaggers in Brazil? Would they be sorry then? No, he bet they wouldn’t. Nobody loved him. There was a hole in his pants pocket. Nobody had mended it.
Well, he didn’t care. He’d just show that hole to everybody in the Glen and let people see how neglected he was. His wrongs surged up and overwhelmed him.
Tick-tack . . . tick-tack . . . tick-tack . . . went the old grandfather clock in the hall that had been brought to Ingleside after Grandfather Blythe’s death . . . a deliberate old clock dating from the days when there was such a thing as time.
Generally Jem loved it . . . now he hated it. It seemed to be laughing at him. “Ha, ha, bedtime is coming. The other fellows can go to the Harbour Mouth but you go to bed. Ha, ha . . . ha, ha . . . ha, ha!”
Why did he have to go to bed every night? Yes, why?
Susan came out on her way to the Glen and looked tenderly at the small, rebellious figure.
“You needn’t go to bed till I get back, Little Jem,” she said indulgently.26 “I ain’t going to bed tonight!” said Jem fiercely. “I’m going to run away, that’s what I’m going to do, old Susan Baker. I’m going to go and jump into the pond, old Susan Baker.”
Susan did not enjoy being called old, even by Little Jem. She stalked away in a grim silence. He did need a bit of disciplining. The Shrimp, who had followed her out, feeling a yearning for companionship, squatted down on his black haunches before Jem, but got only a glare for his pains. “Clear out! Sitting there on your bottom, staring like Aunt Mary Maria! Scat! Oh, you won’t, won’t you!
Then take that!”
Jem shied Shirley’s little tin wheelbarrow that was lying handily near, and the Shrimp fled with a plaintive yowl to the sanctuary of the sweetbriar hedge. Look at that! Even the family cat hated him! What was the use of going on living?
He picked up the candy lion. Nan had eaten the tail and most of the hindquarters but it was still quite a lion. Might as well eat it. It might be the last lion he’d ever eat. By the time Jem had finished the lion and licked his fingers he had made up his mind what he was going to do. It was the only thing a fellow could do when a fellow wasn’t allowed to doanything.27
6 “Why in the world is the house lighted up like that?” exclaimed Anne, when she and Gilbert turned in at the gate at eleven o’clock. “Company must have come.”
But there was no company visible when Anne hurried into the house. Nor was anyone else visible. There was a light in the kitchen . . . in the living-room . . . in the library . . . in the dining-room . . . in Susan’s room and the upstairs hall . . . but no sign of an occupant.
“What do you suppose,” began Anne . . . but she was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Gilbert answered . . . listened for a moment, . . . uttered an ejaculation of horror . . . and tore out without even a glance at Anne. Evidently something dreadful had happened and there was no time to be wasted in explanations.
Anne was used to this . . . as the wife of a man who waits on life and death must be. With a philosophical shrug she removed her hat and coat. She felt a trifle annoyed with Susan, who really shouldn’t have gone out and left all the lights blazing and all the doors wide open.
“Mrs. . . . Dr. . . . dear,” said a voice that could not possibly be Susan’s . . . but was.
Anne stared at Susan. Such as Susan . . . hatless . . . her grey hair full of bits of hay . . . her print dress shockingly stained and discoloured. And her face!
“Susan! What has happened? Susan!”
“Little Jem has disappeared.”
“Disappeared!” Anne stared stupidly. “What do you mean? He can’t have disappeared!”
“He has,” gasped Susan, wringing her hands. “He was on the side steps when I went to the Glen. I was back before dark . . . and he was not there. At first . . . I was not scared . . . but I could not find him anywhere. I have searched every room in the house . . . he said he was going to run away . . .”28 “Nonsense! He wouldn’t do that, Susan. You have worked yourself up unnecessarily. He must be somewhere about . . . he has fallen asleep . . . he must be somewhere around.”
“I have looked everywhere . . . everywhere. I have combed the grounds and the outhouses. Look at my dress . . . I remembered he always said it would be such fun to sleep in the hay-loft. So I went there . . . and fell through that hole in the corner into one of the mangers in the stable . . . and lit on a nest of eggs. It is a mercy I did not break a leg . . . if anything can be a mercy when Little Jem is lost.”
Annie still refused to feel perturbed.
“Do you think he could have gone to the Harbour Mouth with the boys, after all, Susan? He has never disobeyed a command before, but . . .”
“No, he did not, Mrs. Dr. dear . . . the blessed lamb did not disobey. I rushed down to Drews’ after I had searched everywhere and Bertie Shakespeare had just got home. He said Jem had not gone with them. The pit seemed to drop out of my stomach. You had trusted him to me and . . . I phoned Paxtons’ and they said you had been there and gone they did not know where.”
“We drove to Lowbridge to call on the Parkers. . . .”
“I phoned everywhere I thought you could be. Then I went back to the village . . . the men have started out to search . . .”
“Oh, Susan, was that necessary?”
“Mrs. Dr. dear, I had looked everywhere . . . everywhere that child could be. Oh, what I have gone through this night! And he said he was going to jump into the pond. . . .”
In spite of herself a queer little shiver ran over Anne. Of course Jem wouldn’t jump into the pond . . . that was nonsense . . . but there was an old dory on it which Carter Flagg used for trouting and Jem might, in his defiant mood of the earlier evening, have tried to row about the pond in it . . . he had often wanted to . . . he might even have fallen into the pond trying to untie the dory. All at once her fear took terrible shape.
“And I haven’t the slightest idea where Gilbert has gone,” she thought wildly.29 “What’s all this fuss about?” demanded Aunt Mary Maria, suddenly appearing on the stairs, her head surrounded by a halo of crimpers and her body encased in a dragon-embroidered dressing-gown. “Can’t a body ever get a quiet night’s sleep in this house?”
“Little Jem has disappeared,” said Susan again, too much in the grip of terror to resent Miss Blythe’s tone. “His mother trusted me . . .”
Anne had gone to search the house for herself. Jem must be somewhere! He was not in his room . . . the bed was undisturbed. . . . He was not in the twins’ room . . . in hers. . . . He was . . . he was nowhere in the house. Anne, after a pilgrimage from garret to cellar, returned to the living-room in a condition that was suddenly akin to panic.
“I don’t want to make you nervous, Annie,” said Aunt Mary Marie, lowering her voice creepily, “but have you looked in the rainwater hogshead? Little Jack MacGregor was drowned in a rainwater hogshead in town last year.”
“I . . . I looked there,” said Susan, with another wring of her hands. “I . . . I took a stick . . . and poked . . .”
Anne’s heart, which had stood still at Aunt Mary Maria’s question, resumed operations. Susan gathered herself together and stopped wringing her hands. She had remembered too late that Mrs. Dr. dear should not be upset.
“Let us calm down and pull together,” she said in a trembling voice. “As you say, Mrs. Dr. dear, he must be somewhere about. He cannot have dissolved into thin air.”
“Have you looked in the coal-bin? And the clock?” asked Aunt Mary Maria.
Susan had looked in the coal-bin but nobody had thought of the clock.
It was quite big enough for a small boy to hide in. Anne, not considering the absurdity of supposing that Jem would crouch there for four hours, rushed to it.
But Jem was not in the clock.
“I had a feeling something was going to happen when I went to bed tonight,” said Aunt Mary Maria, pressing both hands to her temples. “When I read my nightly chapter in the Bible the words, ‘Ye know not what a day may bring forth,’ seemed to stand out from the page as it were. It was a sign. You’d better nerve yourself to bear the worst, Annie. He may have wandered into the marsh. It’s a pity we haven’t a few bloodhounds.”30
With a dreadful effort Anne managed a laugh.
“I’m afraid there aren’t any on the Island, Aunty. If we had Gilbert’s old setter Rex, who got poisoned, he would soon find Jem. I feel sure we are all alarming ourselves for nothing . . .”
“Tommy Spencer in Carmody disappeared mysteriously forty years ago and was never found . . . or was he? Well, if he was, it was only his skeleton. This is no laughing matter, Annie. I don’t know how you can take it so calmly.”
The telephone rang. Anne and Susan looked at each other.
“I can’t . . . I can’t go to the phone, Susan,” said Anne in a whisper.
“I cannot either,” said Susan flatly. She was to hate herself all her days for showing such weakness before Mary Maria Blythe, but she could not help it.
Two hours of terrified searching and distorted imaginations had made Susan a wreck.
Aunt Mary Maria stalked to the telephone and took down the receiver, her crimpers making a horned silhouette on the wall which, Susan reflected, in spite of her anguish, looked like the old Nick himself.
“Carter Flagg says they have searched everywhere but found no sign of him yet,”
reported Aunt Mary Maria coolly. “But he says the dory is out in the middle of the pond with no one in it as far as they can ascertain. They are going to drag the pond.”
Susan caught Anne just in time.
“No . . . no . . . I’m not going to faint, Susan,” said Anne through white lips.
“Help me to a chair . . . thanks. We must find Gilbert . . .”
“If James is drowned, Annie, you must remind yourself that he has been spared a lot of trouble in this wretched world,” said Aunt Mary Marie by way of administering further consolation.
“I’m going to get the lantern and search the grounds again,” said Anne, as soon as she could stand up. “Yes, I know you did, Susan . . . but let me . . . let me.
I cannot sit still and wait.”31
“You must put on a sweater then, Mrs. Dr. dear. There is a heavy dew and the air is damp. I will get your red one . . . it is hanging on a chair in the boys’ room.
Wait you here till I bring it.”
Susan hurried upstairs. A few moments later something that could only be described as a shriek echoed through Ingleside. Anne and Aunt Mary Maria rushed upstairs, where they found Susan laughing and crying in the hall, nearer to hysterics than Susan Baker had ever been in her life or ever would be again.
“Mrs. Dr. dear . . . he’s there! Little Jem is there . . . asleep on the window-seat behind the door. I never looked there . . . the door hid it . . . and when he wasn’t in his bed . . .”
Anne, weak with relief and joy, got herself into the room and dropped on her knees by the window-seat. In a little while she and Susan would be laughing over their own foolishness, but now there could be only tears of thankfulness. Little Jem was sound asleep on the window-seat, with an afghan pulled over him, his battered Teddy Bear in his little sunburned hands, and a forgiving Shrimp stretched across his legs. His red curls fell over the cushion. He seemed to be having a pleasant dream and Anne did not mean to waken him. But suddenly he opened his eyes that were like hazel stars and looked at her.
“Jem, darling, why aren’t you in your bed? We’ve . . . we’ve been a little alarmed . . . we couldn’t find you . . . and we never thought of looking here . . .”
“I wanted to lie here ‘cause I could see you and Daddy drive in at the gate when you got home. It was so lonesome I just had to go to bed.”
Mother was lifting him in her arms . . . carrying him to his own bed. It was so nice to be kissed . . . to feel her tucking the sheets about him with those caressing little pats that gave him such a sense of being loved. Who cared about seeing an old snake tattooed, anyhow? Mother was so nice . . . the nicest mother anybody ever had. Everybody in the Glen called Bertie Shakespeare’s mother “Mrs.
Second Skimmings” because she was so mean, and he knew . . . for he’d seen it . . . that she slapped Bertie’s face for every little thing.
“Mummy,” he said sleepily, “of course I’ll bring you mayflowers next spring . . . every spring. You can depend on me.”
“Of course I can, darling,” said Mother.32
“Well, since everyone is over their fit of the fidgets, I suppose we can draw a peaceful breath and go back to our beds,” said Aunt Mary Maria. But there was some shrewish relief in her tone.
“It was very silly of me not to remember the window-seat,” said Anne. “The joke is on us and the doctor will not let us forget it, you may be certain. Susan, please phone Mr. Flagg that we’ve found Jem.”
“And a nice laugh he will have on me,” said Susan happily. “Not that I care . . . he can laugh all he likes since Little Jem is safe.”
“I could do with a cup of tea,” sighed Aunt Mary Maria plaintively, gathering her dragons about her spare form.
“I will get it in a jiffy,” said Susan briskly. “We will all feel the sprightlier for one. Mrs. Dr. dear, when Carter Flagg heard Little Jem was safe he said, ‘Thank God.’ I shall never say a word against that man again, no matter what his prices are. And don’t you think we might have a chicken dinner tomorrow, Mrs. Dr.
dear? Just by way of a little celebration, so to speak. And Little Jem shall have his favourite muffins for breakfast.”
There was another telephone call . . . this time from Gilbert to say that he was taking a badly burned baby from the Harbour Head to the hospital in town and not to look for him till morning.
Anne bent from her window for a thankful goodnight look at the world before going to bed. A cool wind was blowing in from the sea. A sort of moonlit rapture was running through the trees in the Hollow. Anne could even laugh . . . with a quiver behind the laughter . . . over their panic of an hour ago and Aunt Mary Maria’s absurd suggestions and ghoulish memories. Her child was safe . . . Gilbert was somewhere battling to save another child’s life. . . . Dear God, help him and help the mother . . . help all mothers everywhere. We need so much help, with the little sensitive, loving hearts and minds that look to us for guidance and love and understanding.
The friendly enfolding night took possession of Ingleside, and everybody, even Susan . . . who rather felt that she would like to crawl into some nice quiet hole and pull it in after her . . . fell on sleep under its sheltering roof.33 7 “He’ll have plenty of company . . . he won’t be lonesome . . . our four . . . and my niece and nephew from Montreal are visiting us. What one doesn’t think of the others do.”
Big, sonsy, jolly Mrs. Dr. Parker smiled expansively at Walter . . . who returned the smile somewhat aloofly. He wasn’t altogether sure he liked Mrs. Parker in spite of her smiles and jollity. There was too much of her, somehow. Dr. Parker he did like. As for “our four” and the niece and nephew from Montreal, Walter had never seen any of them. Lowbridge, where the Parkers lived, was six miles from the Glen and Walter had never been there, though Dr. and Mrs. Parker and Dr. and Mrs. Blythe visited back and forth frequently. Dr. Parker and Dad were great friends, though Walter had a feeling now and again that Mother could have got along very well without Mrs. Parker. Even at six, Walter, as Anne realized, could see things that other children could not.
Walter was not sure, either, that he really wanted to go to Lowbridge. Some visits were splendid. A trip to Avonlea now . . . ah, there was fun for you! And a night spent with Kenneth Ford at the old House of Dreams was more fun still . . . though that couldn’t really be called visiting, for the House of Dreams always seemed like a second home to the small fry of Ingleside. But to go to Lowbridge for two whole weeks, among strangers, was a very different matter. However, it seemed to be a settled thing. For some reason, which Walter felt but could not understand, Dad and Mummy were pleased over the arrangement. Did they want to get rid of all their children, Walter wondered, rather sadly and uneasily. Jem was away, having been taken to Avonlea two days ago, and he had heard Susan making mysterious remarks about “sending the twins to Mrs. Marshall Elliott when the time came.” What time? Aunt Mary Maria seemed very gloomy over something and had been known to say that she “wished it was all well over.”
What was it she wished over? Walter had no idea. But there was something strange in the air at Ingleside.
“I’ll take him over tomorrow,” said Gilbert.
“The youngsters will be looking forward to it,” said Mrs. Parker.
“It’s very kind of you, I’m sure,” said Anne.
“It’s all for the best, no doubt,” Susan told the Shrimp darkly in the kitchen.34 “It is very obliging of Mrs. Parker to take Walter off our hands, Annie,” said Aunt Mary Maria, when the Parkers had gone. “She told me she had taken quite a fancy to him. Peopledo take such odd fancies, don’t they? Well, perhaps now for at least two weeks I’ll be able to go into the bathroom without tramping on a dead fish.”
“A dead fish, Aunty! You don’t mean . . .”
“I mean exactly what I say, Annie. I always do. A dead fish! Did you ever step on a dead fish with your bare feet?”
“No-o . . . but how . . .”
“Walter caught a trout last night and put it in the bathtub to keep it alive, Mrs. Dr.
dear,” said Susan airily. “If it had stayed there it would have been all right, but somehow it got out and died in the night. Of course, if people will go about on bare feet . . .”
“I make it a rule never to quarrel with anyone,” said Aunt Mary Maria, getting up and leaving the room.
“I am determined she shall not vex me, Mrs. Dr. dear,” said Susan.
“Oh, Susan, she is getting on my nerves a bit . . . but of course I won’t mind so much when all this is over . . . and it must be nasty to tramp on a dead fish . . .”
“Isn’t a dead fish better than a live one, Mummy? A dead fish wouldn’t squirm,”
Since the truth must be told at all costs it must be admitted that the mistress and maid of Ingleside both giggled.
So that was that. But Anne wondered to Gilbert that night if Walter would be quite happy at Lowbridge.
“He’s so very sensitive and imaginative,” she said wistfully.
“Too much so,” said Gilbert, who was tired after having had, to quote Susan, three babies that day. “Why, Anne, I believe that child is afraid to go upstairs in the dark. It will do him worlds of good to give and take with the Parker fry for a few days. He’ll come home a different child.”35
Anne said nothing more. No doubt Gilbert was quite right. Walter was lonesome without Jem; and in view of what had happened when Shirley was born it would be just as well for Susan to have as little on her hands as possible beyond running the house and enduring Aunt Mary Maria . . . whose two weeks had already stretched to four.
Walter was lying awake in his bed trying to escape from the haunting thought that he was to go away next day by giving free rein to fancy. Walter had a very vivid imagination. It was to him a great white charger, like the one in the picture on the wall, on which he could gallop backward or forward in time and space.
The Night was coming down . . . Night, like a tall, dark, bat-winged angel who lived in Mr. Andrew Taylor’s woods on the south hill. Sometimes Walter welcomed her . . . sometimes he pictured her so vividly that he grew afraid of her. Walter dramatized and personified everything in his small world . . . the Wind who told him stories at night . . . the Frost that nipped the flowers in the garden . . . the Dew that fell so silverly and silently . . . the Moon which he felt sure he could catch if he could only go to the top of that faraway purple hill . . . the Mist that came in from the sea . . . the great Sea itself that was always changing and never changed . . . the dark, mysterious Tide. They were all entities to Walter. Ingleside and the Hollow and the maple grove and the Marsh and the harbour shore were full of elves and kelpies and dryads and mermaids and goblins. The black plaster-of-Paris cat on the library mantelpiece was a fairy witch. It came alive at night and prowled about the house, grown to enormous size. Walter ducked his head under the bedclothes and shivered. He was always scaring himself with his own fancies.
Perhaps Aunt Mary Maria was right when she said he was “far too nervous and high-strung,” though Susan would never forgive her for it. Perhaps Aunt Kitty MacGregor of the Upper Glen, who was reported to have “the second sight,” was right when, having once taken a deep look into Walter’s long-lashed, smoky grey eyes, she said he “did be having an old soul in a young body.” It might be that the old soul knew too much for the young brain to understand always.
Walter was told in the morning that Dad would take him to Lowbridge after dinner. He said nothing, but during dinner a choky sensation came over him and he dropped his eyes quickly to hide a sudden mist of tears. Not quickly enough, however.
“You’re not going to cry, Walter?” said Aunt Mary Maria, as if a six-year-old mite would be disgraced forever if he cried. “If there’s anything I do despise it’s a cry-baby. And you haven’t eaten your meat.”36
“All but the fat,” said Walter, blinking valiantly but not yet daring to look up. “I don’t like fat.”
“When I was a child,” said Aunt Mary Maria, “I was not allowed to have likes and dislikes. Well, Mrs. Dr. Parker will probably cure you of some of your notions. She was a Winter, I think . . . or was she a Clark? . . . no, she must have been a Campbell. But the Winters and the Campbells are all tarred with the same brush and they don’t put up with any nonsense.”
“Oh, please, Aunt Mary Maria, don’t frighten Walter about his visit to Lowbridge,” said Anne, a little spark kindling far down in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Annie,” said Aunt Mary Maria with great humility. “I should of course have remembered that I have no right to try to teach your children anything.”
“Drat her hide,” muttered Susan as she went out for the dessert . . . Walter’s favourite Queen pudding.
Anne felt miserably guilty. Gilbert had shot her a slightly reproachful glance as if to imply she might have been more patient with a poor lonely old lady.
Gilbert himself was feeling a bit seedy. The truth, as everyone knew, was that he had been terribly overworked all summer; and perhaps Aunt Mary Maria was more of a strain than he would admit. Anne made up her mind that in the fall, if all was well, she would pack him off willy-nilly for a month’s snipe-shooting in Nova Scotia.
“How is your tea?” she asked Aunt Mary Maria repentantly.
Aunt Mary Maria pursed her lips.
“Too weak. But it doesn’t matter. Who cares whether a poor old woman gets her tea to her liking or not? Some folks, however, think I’m real good company.”
Whatever the connexion between Aunt Mary Maria’s two sentences was, Anne felt she was beyond ferreting it out just then. She had turned very pale.
“I think I’ll go upstairs and lie down,” she said, a trifle faintly, as she rose from the table. “And I think, Gilbert . . . perhaps you’d better not stay long in Lowbridge . . . and suppose you give Miss Carson a ring.”37
She kissed Walter good-bye rather casually and hurriedly . . . very much as if she were not thinking about him at all. Walter would not cry. Aunt Mary Maria kissed him on the forehead . . . Walter hated to be moistly kissed on the forehead . . . and said:
“Mind your table manners at Lowbridge, Walter. Mind you ain’t greedy. If you are, a Big Black Man will come along with a big black bag to pop naughty children into.”
It was perhaps as well that Gilbert had gone out to harness Grey Tom and did not hear this. He and Anne had always made a point of never frightening their children with such ideas or allowing anyone else to do it. Susan did hear it as she cleared the table and Aunt Mary Maria never knew what a narrow escape she had of having the gravy boat and its contents flung at her head.38 8 Generally Walter enjoyed a drive with Dad. He loved beauty, and the roads around Glen St. Mary were beautiful. The road to Lowbridge was a double ribbon of dancing buttercups, with here and there the ferny green rim of an inviting grove. But today Dad didn’t seem to want to talk much and he drove Grey Tom as Walter never remembered seeing him driven before. When they reached Lowbridge he said a few hurried words aside to Mrs. Parker and rushed out without bidding Walter good-bye. Walter had again hard work to keep from crying. It was only too plain that nobody loved him. Mother and Father used to, but they didn’t any longer.
The big, untidy Parker house at Lowbridge did not seem friendly to Walter. But perhaps no house would have seemed that just then. Mrs. Parker took him out to the back yard, where shrieks of noisy mirth were resounding, and introduced him to the children who seemed to fill it. Then she promptly went back to her sewing, leaving them to “get acquainted by themselves” . . . a proceeding that worked very well in nine cases out of ten. Perhaps she could not be blamed for failing to see that little Walter Blythe was the tenth. She liked him . . . her own children were jolly little tads . . . Fred and Opal were inclined to put on Montreal airs, but she felt quite sure they wouldn’t be unkind to anyone. Everything would go swimmingly. She was so glad she could help “poor Anne Blythe” out, even if it was only by taking one of her children off her hands. Mrs. Parker hoped “all would go well.” Anne’s friends were a good deal more worried over her than she was over herself, reminding each other of Shirley’s birth.
A sudden hush had fallen over the back yard . . . a yard which ran off into a big, bowery apple orchard. Walter stood looking gravely and shyly at the Parker children and their Johnson cousins from Montreal. Bill Parker was ten . . . a ruddy, round-faced urchin who “took after” his mother and seemed very old and big in Walter’s eyes. Andy Parker was nine and Lowbridge children could have told you that he was “the nasty Parker one” and was nicknamed “Pig” for reasons good. Walter did not like his looks from the first . . . his short-cropped fair bristles, his impish freckled face, his bulging blue eyes. Fred Johnson was Bill’s age and Walter didn’t like him either, though he was a good-looking chap with tawny curls and black eyes. His nine-year-old sister, Opal, had curls and black eyes, too . . . snapping black eyes. She stood with her arm about tow-headed, eight-year-old Cora Parker and they both looked Walter over condescendingly. If39 it had not been for Alice Parker Walter might very conceivably have turned and fled.
Alice was seven; Alice had the loveliest little ripples of golden curls all over her head; Alice had eyes as blue and soft as the violets in the Hollow; Alice had pink, dimpled cheeks; Alice wore a little frilled yellow dress in which she looked like a dancing buttercup; Alice smiled at him as if she had known him all her life; Alice was a friend.
Fred opened the conversation.
“Hello, sonny,” he said condescendingly.
Walter felt the condescension at once and retreated into himself.
“My name is Walter,” he said distinctly.
Fred turned to the others with a well-done air of amazement. He’d show this country lad!
“He says his name is Walter,” he told Bill with a comical twist of his mouth.
“He says his name is Walter,” Bill told Opal in turn.
“He says his name is Walter,” Opal told the delighted Andy.
“He says his name is Walter,” Andy told Cora.
“He says his name is Walter,” Cora giggled to Alice.
Alice said nothing. She just looked admiringly at Walter and her look enabled him to bear up when all the rest chanted together, “He says his name is Walter,” and then burst into shrieks of derisive laughter.
“What fun the dear little folks are having!” thought Mrs. Parker complacently over her shining.
“I heard Mom say you believed in fairies,” Andy said, leering impudently.
Walter gazed levelly at him. He was not going to be downed before Alice.
“There are fairies,” he said stoutly.40
“There ain’t,” said Andy.
“There are,” said Walter.
“He says there are fairies,” Andy told Fred.
“He says there are fairies,” Fred told Bill . . . and they went through the whole performance again.
It was torture to Walter, who had never been made fun of before and couldn’t take it. He bit his lips to keep the tears back. He must not cry before Alice.
“How would you like to be pinched black and blue?” demanded Andy, who had made up his mind that Walter was a sissy and that it would be good fun to tease him.
“Pig, hush!” ordered Alice terribly . . . very terribly, although very quietly and sweetly and gently. There was something in her tone that even Andy dared not flout.
“‘Course I didn’t mean it,” he muttered shamefacedly.
The wind veered a bit in Walter’s favour and they had a fairly amiable game of tag in the orchard. But when they trouped noisily in to supper Walter was again overwhelmed with homesickness. It was so terrible that for one awful moment he was afraid he was going to cry before them all . . . even Alice, who, however, gave his arm such a friendly little nudge as they sat down that it helped him. But he could not eat anything . . . he simply could not.
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