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In the Park
“What are you going to do with yourselves today, girls?” asked Philippa, popping into Anne’s room one Saturday afternoon.
“We are going for a walk in the park,” answered Anne. “I ought to stay in and finish my blouse. But I couldn’t sew on a day like this. There’s something in the air that gets into my blood and makes a sort of glory in my soul. My fingers would twitch and I’d sew a crooked seam. So it’s ho for the park and the pines.”
“Does we’ include any one but yourself and Priscilla?”
“Yes, it includes Gilbert and Charlie, and we’ll be very glad if it will include you, also.”
“But,” said Philippa dolefully, “if I go I’ll have to be gooseberry, and that will be a new experience for Philippa Gordon.”
“Well, new experiences are broadening. Come along, and you’ll be able to sympathize with all poor souls who have to play gooseberry often. But where are all the victims?”
“Oh, I was tired of them all and simply couldn’t be bothered with any of them today. Besides, I’ve been feeling a little blue – just a pale, elusive azure. It isn’t serious enough for anything darker. I wrote Alec and Alonzo last week. I put the letters into envelopes and addressed them, but I didn’t seal them up. That evening something funny happened. That is, Alec would think it funny, but Alonzo wouldn’t be likely to. I was in a hurry, so I snatched Alec’s letter – as I thought – out of the envelope and scribbled down a postscript. Then I mailed both letters. I got Alonzo’s reply this morning. Girls, I had put that postscript to his letter and he was furious. Of course he’ll get over it – and I don’t care if he doesn’t – but it spoiled my day. So I thought I’d come to you darlings to get cheered up. After the football season opens I won’t have any spare Saturday afternoons. I adore football. I’ve got the most gorgeous cap and sweater striped in Redmond colors to wear to the games. To be sure, a little way off I’ll look like a walking barber’s pole. Do you know that that Gilbert of yours has been elected Captain of the Freshman football team?”
“Yes, he told us so last evening,” said Priscilla, seeing that outraged Anne would not answer. “He and Charlie were down. We knew they were coming, so we painstakingly put out of sight or out of reach all Miss Ada’s cushions. That very elaborate one with the raised embroidery I dropped on the floor in the corner behind the chair it was on. I thought it would be safe there. But would you believe it? Charlie Sloane made for that chair, noticed the cushion behind it, solemnly fished it up, and sat on it the whole evening. Such a wreck of a cushion as it was! Poor Miss Ada asked me today, still smiling, but oh, so reproachfully, why I had allowed it to be sat upon. I told her I hadn’t – that it was a matter of predestination coupled with inveterate Sloanishness and I wasn’t a match for both combined.”
“Miss Ada’s cushions are really getting on my nerves,” said Anne. “She finished two new ones last week, stuffed and embroidered within an inch of their lives. There being absolutely no other cushionless place to put them she stood them up against the wall on the stair landing. They topple over half the time and if we come up or down the stairs in the dark we fall over them. Last Sunday, when Dr. Davis prayed for all those exposed to the perils of the sea, I added in thought and for all those who live in houses where cushions are loved not wisely but too well!’ There! we’re ready, and I see the boys coming through Old St. John’s. Do you cast in your lot with us, Phil?”
“I’ll go, if I can walk with Priscilla and Charlie. That will be a bearable degree of gooseberry. That Gilbert of yours is a darling, Anne, but why does he go around so much with Goggle-eyes?”
Anne stiffened. She had no great liking for Charlie Sloane; but he was of Avonlea, so no outsider had any business to laugh at him.
“Charlie and Gilbert have always been friends,” she said coldly. “Charlie is a nice boy. He’s not to blame for his eyes.”
“Don’t tell me that! He is! He must have done something dreadful in a previous existence to be punished with such eyes. Pris and I are going to have such sport with him this afternoon. We’ll make fun of him to his face and he’ll never know it.”
Doubtless, “the abandoned P’s,” as Anne called them, did carry out their amiable intentions. But Sloane was blissfully ignorant; he thought he was quite a fine fellow to be walking with two such coeds, especially Philippa Gordon, the class beauty and belle. It must surely impress Anne. She would see that some people appreciated him at his real value.
Gilbert and Anne loitered a little behind the others, enjoying the calm, still beauty of the autumn afternoon under the pines of the park, on the road that climbed and twisted round the harbor shore.
“The silence here is like a prayer, isn’t it?” said Anne, her face upturned to the shining sky. “How I love the pines! They seem to strike their roots deep into the romance of all the ages. It is so comforting to creep away now and then for a good talk with them. I always feel so happy out here.”
“And so in mountain solitudes o’ertaken As by some spell divine, Their cares drop from them like the needles shaken From out the gusty pine,’”
“They make our little ambitions seem rather petty, don’t they, Anne?”
“I think, if ever any great sorrow came to me, I would come to the pines for comfort,” said Anne dreamily.
“I hope no great sorrow ever will come to you, Anne,” said Gilbert, who could not connect the idea of sorrow with the vivid, joyous creature beside him, unwitting that those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.
“But there must – sometime,” mused Anne. “Life seems like a cup of glory held to my lips just now. But there must be some bitterness in it – there is in every cup. I shall taste mine some day. Well, I hope I shall be strong and brave to meet it. And I hope it won’t be through my own fault that it will come. Do you remember what Dr. Davis said last Sunday evening – that the sorrows God sent us brought comfort and strength with them, while the sorrows we brought on ourselves, through folly or wickedness, were by far the hardest to bear? But we mustn’t talk of sorrow on an afternoon like this. It’s meant for the sheer joy of living, isn’t it?”
“If I had my way I’d shut everything out of your life but happiness and pleasure, Anne,” said Gilbert in the tone that meant “danger ahead.”
“Then you would be very unwise,” rejoined Anne hastily. “I’m sure no life can be properly developed and rounded out without some trial and sorrow – though I suppose it is only when we are pretty comfortable that we admit it. Come – the others have got to the pavilion and are beckoning to us.”
They all sat down in the little pavilion to watch an autumn sunset of deep red fire and pallid gold. To their left lay Kingsport, its roofs and spires dim in their shroud of violet smoke. To their right lay the harbor, taking on tints of rose and copper as it stretched out into the sunset. Before them the water shimmered, satin smooth and silver gray, and beyond, clean shaven William’s Island loomed out of the mist, guarding the town like a sturdy bulldog. Its lighthouse beacon flared through the mist like a baleful star, and was answered by another in the far horizon.
“Did you ever see such a strong-looking place?” asked Philippa. “I don’t want William’s Island especially, but I’m sure I couldn’t get it if I did. Look at that sentry on the summit of the fort, right beside the flag. Doesn’t he look as if he had stepped out of a romance?”
“Speaking of romance,” said Priscilla, “we’ve been looking for heather – but, of course, we couldn’t find any. It’s too late in the season, I suppose.”
“Heather!” exclaimed Anne. “Heather doesn’t grow in America, does it?”
“There are just two patches of it in the whole continent,” said Phil, “one right here in the park, and one somewhere else in Nova Scotia, I forget where. The famous Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, camped here one year, and, when the men shook out the straw of their beds in the spring, some seeds of heather took root.”
“Oh, how delightful!” said enchanted Anne.
“Let’s go home around by Spofford Avenue,” suggested Gilbert. “We can see all the handsome houses where the wealthy nobles dwell.’ Spofford Avenue is the finest residential street in Kingsport. Nobody can build on it unless he’s a millionaire.”
“Oh, do,” said Phil. “There’s a perfectly killing little place I want to show you, Anne. IT wasn’t built by a millionaire. It’s the first place after you leave the park, and must have grown while Spofford Avenue was still a country road. It DID grow – it wasn’t built! I don’t care for the houses on the Avenue. They’re too brand new and plateglassy. But this little spot is a dream – and its name – but wait till you see it.”
They saw it as they walked up the pine-fringed hill from the park. Just on the crest, where Spofford Avenue petered out into a plain road, was a little white frame house with groups of pines on either side of it, stretching their arms protectingly over its low roof. It was covered with red and gold vines, through which its green-shuttered windows peeped. Before it was a tiny garden, surrounded by a low stone wall. October though it was, the garden was still very sweet with dear, old-fashioned, unworldly flowers and shrubs – sweet may, southern-wood, lemon verbena, alyssum, petunias, marigolds and chrysanthemums. A tiny brick wall, in herring-bone pattern, led from the gate to the front porch. The whole place might have been transplanted from some remote country village; yet there was something about it that made its nearest neighbor, the big lawn-encircled palace of a tobacco king, look exceedingly crude and showy and ill-bred by contrast. As Phil said, it was the difference between being born and being made.
“It’s the dearest place I ever saw,” said Anne delightedly. “It gives me one of my old, delightful funny aches. It’s dearer and quainter than even Miss Lavendar’s stone house.”
“It’s the name I want you to notice especially,” said Phil. “Look – in white letters, around the archway over the gate. Patty’s Place.’ Isn’t that killing? Especially on this Avenue of Pinehursts and Elmwolds and Cedarcrofts? Patty’s Place,’ if you please! I adore it.”
“Have you any idea who Patty is?” asked Priscilla.
“Patty Spofford is the name of the old lady who owns it, I’ve discovered. She lives there with her niece, and they’ve lived there for hundreds of years, more or less – maybe a little less, Anne. Exaggeration is merely a flight of poetic fancy. I understand that wealthy folk have tried to buy the lot time and again – it’s really worth a small fortune now, you know – but Patty’ won’t sell upon any consideration. And there’s an apple orchard behind the house in place of a back yard – you’ll see it when we get a little past – a real apple orchard on Spofford Avenue!”
“I’m going to dream about Patty’s Place’ tonight,” said Anne. “Why, I feel as if I belonged to it. I wonder if, by any chance, we’ll ever see the inside of it.”
“It isn’t likely,” said Priscilla.
Anne smiled mysteriously.
“No, it isn’t likely. But I believe it will happen. I have a queer, creepy, crawly feeling – you can call it a presentiment, if you like – that Patty’s Place’ and I are going to be better acquainted yet.”
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