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5 Anne did not know that a wistful little Elizabeth was watching out of one of the mansard windows of The Evergreens as she drove away from Windy Poplars . . . an Elizabeth with tears in her eyes who felt as if everything that made life worth living had gone out of her life for the time being and that she was the very Lizziest of Lizzies. But when the livery sleigh vanished from her sight around the corner of Spook’s Lane Elizabeth went and knelt down by her bed.
“Dear God,” she whispered, “I know it isn’t any use to ask You for a merry Christmas for me because Grandmother and The Woman couldn’t be merry, but please let my dear Miss Shirley have a merry, merry Christmas and bring her back safe to me when it’s over.
“Now,” said Elizabeth, getting up from her knees, “I’ve done all that I can.”
Anne was already tasting Christmas happiness. She fairly sparkled as the train left the station. The ugly streets slipped past her . . . she was going home . . . home to Green Gables. Out in the open country the world was all golden-white and pale violet, woven here and there with the dark magic of spruces and the leafless delicacy of birches. The low sun behind the bare woods seemed rushing through the trees like a splendid god, as the train sped on. Katherine was silent but did not seem ungracious.
“Don’t expect me to talk,” she had warned Anne curtly.
“I won’t. I hope you don’t think I’m one of those terrible people who make you feel that you have to talk to them all the time. We’ll just talk when we feel like it.
I admit I’m likely to feel like it a good part of the time, but you’re under no obligation to take any notice of what I’m saying.”
Davy met them at Bright River with a big two-seated sleigh full of furry robes . . . and a bear hug for Anne. The two girls snuggled down in the back seat. The drive from the station to Green Gables had always been a very pleasant part of Anne’s week-ends home. She always recalled her first drive home from Bright River with Matthew. That had been in spring and this was December, but everything along the road kept saying to her, “Do you remember?” The snow crisped under the runners; the music of the bells tinkled through the ranks of tall pointed firs, snow-laden. The White Way of Delight had little festoons of stars131 tangled in the trees. And on the last hill but one they saw the great gulf, white and mystical under the moon but not yet ice-bound.
“There’s just one spot on this road where I always feel suddenly . . . ‘I’m home,’” said Anne. “It’s the top of the next hill, where we’ll see the lights of Green Gables. I’m just thinking of the supper Marilla will have ready for us. I believe I can smell it here. Oh, it’s good . . . good . . . good to be home again!”
At Green Gables every tree in the yard seemed to welcome her back . . . every lighted window was beckoning. And how good Marilla’s kitchen smelled as they opened the door. There were hugs and exclamations and laughter. Even Katherine seemed somehow no outsider, but one of them. Mrs. Rachel Lynde had set her cherished parlor lamp on the supper-table and lighted it. It was really a hideous thing with a hideous red globe, but what a warm rosy becoming light it cast over everything! How warm and friendly were the shadows! How pretty Dora was growing! And Davy really seemed almost a man.
There was news to tell. Diana had a small daughter . . . Josie Pye actually had a young man . . . and Charlie Sloane was said to be engaged. It was all just as exciting as news of empire could have been. Mrs. Lynde’s new patchwork quilt, just completed, containing five thousand pieces, was on display and received its meed of praise.
“When you come home, Anne,” said Davy, “everything seems to come alive.”
“Ah, this is how life should be,” purred Dora’s kitten.
“I’ve always found it hard to resist the lure of a moonlight night,” said Anne after supper. “How about a snow-shoe tramp, Miss Brooke? I think that I’ve heard that you snowshoe.”
“Yes . . . it’s the only thing I can do . . . but I haven’t done it for six years,” said Katherine with a shrug.
Anne rooted out her snow-shoes from the garret and Davy shot over to Orchard Slope to borrow an old pair of Diana’s for Katherine. They went through Lover’s Lane, full of lovely tree shadows, and across fields where little fir trees fringed the fences and through woods which were full of secrets they seemed always on the point of whispering to you but never did . . . and through open glades that were like pools of silver.132
They did not talk or want to talk. It was as if they were afraid to talk for fear of spoiling something beautiful. But Anne had never felt so near Katherine Brooke before. By some magic of its own the winter night had brought them together . . . almost together but not quite.
When they came out to the main road and a sleigh flashed by, bells ringing, laughter tinkling, both girls gave an involuntary sigh. It seemed to both that they were leaving behind a world that had nothing in common with the one to which they were returning . . . a world where time was not . . . which was young with immortal youth . . . where souls communed with each other in some medium that needed nothing so crude as words.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Katherine so obviously to herself that Anne made no response.
They went down the road and up the long Green Gables lane but just before they reached the yard gate, they both paused as by a common impulse and stood in silence, leaning against the old mossy fence and looked at the brooding, motherly old house seen dimly through its veil of trees. How beautiful Green Gables was on a winter night!
Below it the Lake of Shining Waters was locked in ice, patterned around its edges with tree shadows. Silence was everywhere, save for the staccato clip of a horse trotting over the bridge. Anne smiled to recall how often she had heard that sound as she lay in her gable room and pretended to herself that it was the gallop of fairy horses passing in the night.
Suddenly another sound broke the stillness.
“Katherine . . . you’re . . . why, you’re not crying!”
Somehow, it seemed impossible to think of Katherine crying. But she was. And her tears suddenly humanized her. Anne no longer felt afraid of her.
“Katherine . . . dear Katherine . . . what is the matter? Can I help?”
“Oh . . . you can’t understand!” gasped Katherine. “Things have always been made easy for you. You . . . you seem to live in a little enchanted circle of beauty and romance. ‘I wonder what delightful discovery I’ll make today’ . . . that seems to be your attitude to life, Anne. As for me, I’ve forgotten how to live . . . no, I never knew how. I’m . . . I’m like a creature caught in a trap. I can never get out . . . and it seems to me that somebody is always poking sticks at me through the133 bars. And you . . . you have more happiness than you know what to do with . . . friends everywhere, a lover! Not that I want a lover . . . I hate men . . . but if I died tonight, not one living soul would miss me. How would you like to be absolutely friendless in the world?”
Katherine’s voice broke in another sob.
“Katherine, you say you like frankness. I’m going to be frank. If you are as friendless as you say, it is your own fault. I’ve wanted to be friends with you. But you’ve been all prickles and stings.”
“Oh, I know . . . I know. How I hated you when you came first! Flaunting your circlet of pearls . . .”
“Katherine, I didn’t ‘flaunt’ it!”
“Oh, I suppose not. That’s just my natural hatefulness. But it seemed to flaunt itself . . . not that I envied you your beau . . . I’ve never wanted to be married . . . I saw enough of that with father and mother . . . but I hated your being over me when you were younger than I . . . I was glad when the Pringles made trouble for you. You seemed to have everything I hadn’t . . . charm . . . friendship . . . youth.
Youth! I never had anything but starved youth. You know nothing about it. You don’t know . . . you haven’t the least idea what it is like not to be wanted by any one . . . any one!”
“Oh, haven’t I?” cried Anne.
In a few poignant sentences she sketched her childhood before coming to Green Gables.
“I wish I’d known that,” said Katherine. “It would have made a difference. To me you seemed one of the favorites of fortune. I’ve been eating my heart out with envy of you. You got the position I wanted . . . oh, I know you’re better qualified than I am, but there it was. You’re pretty . . . at least you make people believe you’re pretty. My earliest recollection is of some one saying, ‘What an ugly child!’
You come into a room delightfully . . . oh, I remember how you came into school that first morning. But I think the real reason I’ve hated you so is that you always seemed to have some secret delight . . . as if every day of life was an adventure.
In spite of my hatred there were times when I acknowledged to myself that you might just have come from some far-off star.”134
“Really, Katherine, you take my breath with all these compliments. But you don’t hate me any longer, do you? We can be friends now.”
“I don’t know . . . I’ve never had a friend of any kind, much less one of anything like my own age. I don’t belong anywhere . . . never have belonged. I don’t think I know how to bea friend. No, I don’t hate you any longer . . . I don’t know how I feel about you . . . oh, I suppose it’s your noted charm beginning to work on me. I only know that I feel I’d like to tell you what my life has been like. I could never have told you if you hadn’t told me about your life before you came to Green Gables. I want you to understand what has made me as I am. I don’t know why I should want you to understand . . . but I do.”
“Tell me, Katherine dear. I do want to understand you.”
“You do know what it is like not to be wanted, I admit . . . but not what it is like to know that your father and mother don’t want you. Mine didn’t. They hated me from the moment I was born . . . and before . . . and they hated each other. Yes, they did. They quarreled continually . . . just mean, nagging, petty quarrels. My childhood was a nightmare. They died when I was seven and I went to live with Uncle Henry’s family. They didn’t want me either. They all looked down on me because I was ‘living on their charity.’ I remember all the snubs I got . . . every one. I can’t remember a single kind word. I had to wear my cousins’ castoff clothes. I remember one hat in particular . . . it made me look like a mushroom.
And they made fun of me whenever I put it on. One day I tore it off and threw it on the fire. I had to wear the most awful old tam to church all the rest of the winter. I never even had a dog . . . and I wanted one so. I had some brains . . . I longed so for a B.A. course . . . but naturally I might just as well have yearned for the moon. However, Uncle Henry agreed to put me through Queen’s if I would pay him back when I got a school. He paid my board in a miserable third-rate boarding-house where I had a room over the kitchen that was ice cold in winter and boiling hot in summer, and full of stale cooking smells in all seasons. And the clothes I had to wear to Queen’s! But I got my license and I got the second room in Summerside High . . . the only bit of luck I’ve ever had. Even since then I’ve been pinching and scrimping to pay Uncle Henry . . . not only what he spent putting me through Queen’s, but what my board through all the years I lived there cost him. I was determined I would not owe him one cent. That is why I’ve boarded with Mrs. Dennis and dressed shabbily. And I’ve just finished paying him. For the first time in my life I feel free. But meanwhile I’ve developed the wrong way. I know I’m unsocial . . . I know I can never think of the right thing to say. I know it’s my own fault that I’m always neglected and overlooked at social functions. I know I’ve made being disagreeable into a fine art. I know I’m sarcastic. I know I’m regarded as a tyrant by my pupils. I know they hate me. Do135 you think it doesn’t hurt me to know it? They always look afraid of me . . . I hate people who look as if they were afraid of me. Oh, Anne . . . hate’s got to be a disease with me. I do want to be like other people . . . and I never can now. That is what makes me so bitter.”
“Oh, but you can!” Anne put her arm about Katherine. “You can put hate out of your mind . . . cure yourself of it. Life is only beginning for you now . . . since at last you’re quite free and independent. And you never know what may be around the next bend in the road.”
“I’ve heard you say that before . . . I’ve laughed at your ‘bend in the road.’ But the trouble is there aren’t any bends in my road. I can see it stretching straight out before me to the sky-line . . . endless monotony. Oh, does life ever frighten you, Anne, with its blankness . . . its swarms of cold, uninteresting people? No, of course it doesn’t. You don’t have to go on teaching all the rest of your life. And you seem to find everybody interesting, even that little round red being you call Rebecca Dew. The truth is, I hate teaching . . . and there’s nothing else I can do.
A school-teacher is simply a slave of time. Oh, I know you like it . . . I don’t see how you can. Anne, I want to travel. It’s the one thing I’ve always longed for. I remember the one and only picture that hung on the wall of my attic room at Uncle Henry’s . . . a faded old print that had been discarded from the other rooms with scorn. It was a picture of palms around a spring in the desert, with a string of camels marching away in the distance. It literally fascinated me. I’ve always wanted to go and find it . . . I want to see the Southern Cross and the Taj Mahal and the pillars of Karnak. I want to know . . . not just believe . . . that the world is round. And I can never do it on a teacher’s salary. I’ll just have to go on forever, prating of King Henry the Eighth’s wives and the inexhaustible resources of the Dominion.”
Anne laughed. It was safe to laugh now, for the bitterness had gone out of Katherine’s voice. It sounded merely rueful and impatient.
“Anyhow, we’re going to be friends . . . and we’re going to have a jolly ten days here to begin our friendship. I’ve always wanted to be friends with you, Katherine . . . spelled with a K! I’ve always felt that underneath all your prickles was something that would make you worth while as a friend.”
“So that is what you’ve really thought of me? I’ve often wondered. Well, the leopard will have a go at changing its spots if it’s at all possible. Perhaps it is. I can believe almost anything at this Green Gables of yours. It’s the first place I’ve ever been in that felt like a home. I should like to be more like other people . . . if it isn’t too late. I’ll even practice a sunny smile for that Gilbert of yours when he136 arrives tomorrow night. Of course I’ve forgotten how to talk to young men . . . if I ever knew. He’ll just think me an old-maid gooseberry. I wonder if, when I go to bed tonight, I’ll feel furious with myself for pulling off my mask and letting you see into my shivering soul like this.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll think, ‘I’m glad she’s found out I’m human.’ We’re going to snuggle down among the warm fluffy blankets, probably with two hot-water bottles, for likely Marilla and Mrs. Lynde will each put one in for us for fear the other has forgotten it. And you’ll feel deliciously sleepy after this walk in the frosty moonshine . . . and first thing you’ll know, it will be morning and you’ll feel as if you were the first person to discover that the sky is blue. And you’ll grow learned in lore of plum puddings because you’re going to help me make one for Tuesday . . . a great big plummy one.”
Anne was amazed at Katherine’s good looks when they went in. Her complexion was radiant after her long walk in the keen air and color made all the difference in the world to her.
“Why, Katherine would be handsome if she wore the right kind of hats and dresses,” reflected Anne, trying to imagine Katherine with a certain dark, richly red velvet hat she had seen in a Summerside shop, on her black hair and pulled over her amber eyes. “I’ve simply got to see what can be done about it.”
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