Part 4 out of 5
"Anne, are you and Gilbert Blythe as good friends as you used to be?"
asked Miss Lavendar quietly.
"I am just as much Gilbert's friend as ever I was, Miss Lavendar."
Miss Lavendar shook her head.
"I see something's gone wrong, Anne. I'm going to be impertinent
and ask what. Have you quarrelled?"
"No; it's only that Gilbert wants more than friendship and I can't
give him more."
"Are you sure of that, Anne?"
"I'm very, very sorry."
"I wonder why everybody seems to think I ought to marry Gilbert Blythe,"
said Anne petulantly.
"Because you were made and meant for each other, Anne -- that is why.
You needn't toss that young head of yours. It's a fact."
"Dear Anne -- spelled -- with -- an -- E," wrote Phil, "I must
prop my eyelids open long enough to write you. I've neglected
you shamefully this summer, honey, but all my other correspondents
have been neglected, too. I have a huge pile of letters to answer,
so I must gird up the loins of my mind and hoe in. Excuse my
mixed metaphors. I'm fearfully sleepy. Last night Cousin Emily
and I were calling at a neighbor's. There were several other
callers there, and as soon as those unfortunate creatures left,
our hostess and her three daughters picked them all to pieces.
I knew they would begin on Cousin Emily and me as soon as the door
shut behind us. When we came home Mrs. Lilly informed us that the
aforesaid neighbor's hired boy was supposed to be down with scarlet
fever. You can always trust Mrs. Lilly to tell you cheerful things
like that. I have a horror of scarlet fever. I couldn't sleep when
I went to bed for thinking of it. I tossed and tumbled about,
dreaming fearful dreams when I did snooze for a minute; and at
three I wakened up with a high fever, a sore throat, and a
raging headache. I knew I had scarlet fever; I got up in a
panic and hunted up Cousin Emily's 'doctor book' to read up
the symptoms. Anne, I had them all. So I went back to bed,
and knowing the worst, slept like a top the rest of the night.
Though why a top should sleep sounder than anything else I
never could understand. But this morning I was quite well,
so it couldn't have been the fever. I suppose if I did catch
it last night it couldn't have developed so soon. I can remember
that in daytime, but at three o'clock at night I never can be logical.
"I suppose you wonder what I'm doing at Prospect Point. Well, I
always like to spend a month of summer at the shore, and father
insists that I come to his second-cousin Emily's `select
boardinghouse' at Prospect Point. So a fortnight ago I came as
usual. And as usual old `Uncle Mark Miller' brought me from the
station with his ancient buggy and what he calls his `generous
purpose' horse. He is a nice old man and gave me a handful of
pink peppermints. Peppermints always seem to me such a religious
sort of candy -- I suppose because when I was a little girl
Grandmother Gordon always gave them to me in church. Once I
asked, referring to the smell of peppermints, `Is that the odor
of sanctity?' I didn't like to eat Uncle Mark's peppermints
because he just fished them loose out of his pocket, and had to
pick some rusty nails and other things from among them before he
gave them to me. But I wouldn't hurt his dear old feelings for
anything, so I carefully sowed them along the road at intervals.
When the last one was gone, Uncle Mark said, a little rebukingly,
`Ye shouldn't a'et all them candies to onct, Miss Phil. You'll
likely have the stummick-ache.'
"Cousin Emily has only five boarders besides myself -- four old
ladies and one young man. My right-hand neighbor is Mrs. Lilly.
She is one of those people who seem to take a gruesome pleasure
in detailing all their many aches and pains and sicknesses.
You cannot mention any ailment but she says, shaking her head, `Ah,
I know too well what that is' -- and then you get all the details.
Jonas declares he once spoke of locomotor ataxia in hearing and
she said she knew too well what that was. She suffered from it
for ten years and was finally cured by a traveling doctor.
"Who is Jonas? Just wait, Anne Shirley. You'll hear all about
Jonas in the proper time and place. He is not to be mixed up
with estimable old ladies.
"My left-hand neighbor at the table is Mrs. Phinney. She always
speaks with a wailing, dolorous voice -- you are nervously expecting
her to burst into tears every moment. She gives you the impression
that life to her is indeed a vale of tears, and that a smile, never
to speak of a laugh, is a frivolity truly reprehensible. She has a
worse opinion of me than Aunt Jamesina, and she doesn't love me hard
to atone for it, as Aunty J. does, either.
"Miss Maria Grimsby sits cati-corner from me. The first day I
came I remarked to Miss Maria that it looked a little like rain
-- and Miss Maria laughed. I said the road from the station was
very pretty -- and Miss Maria laughed. I said there seemed to be
a few mosquitoes left yet -- and Miss Maria laughed. I said that
Prospect Point was as beautiful as ever -- and Miss Maria laughed.
If I were to say to Miss Maria, `My father has hanged himself,
my mother has taken poison, my brother is in the penitentiary,
and I am in the last stages of consumption,' Miss Maria would laugh.
She can't help it -- she was born so; but is very sad and awful.
"The fifth old lady is Mrs. Grant. She is a sweet old thing;
but she never says anything but good of anybody and so she is a
very uninteresting conversationalist.
"And now for Jonas, Anne.
"That first day I came I saw a young man sitting opposite me at
the table, smiling at me as if he had known me from my cradle.
I knew, for Uncle Mark had told me, that his name was Jonas Blake,
that he was a Theological Student from St. Columbia, and that he had
taken charge of the Point Prospect Mission Church for the summer.
"He is a very ugly young man -- really, the ugliest young man
I've ever seen. He has a big, loose-jointed figure with absurdly
long legs. His hair is tow-color and lank, his eyes are green,
and his mouth is big, and his ears -- but I never think about his
ears if I can help it.
"He has a lovely voice -- if you shut your eyes he is adorable --
and he certainly has a beautiful soul and disposition.
"We were good chums right way. Of course he is a graduate of
Redmond, and that is a link between us. We fished and boated
together; and we walked on the sands by moonlight. He didn't
look so homely by moonlight and oh, he was nice. Niceness fairly
exhaled from him. The old ladies -- except Mrs. Grant -- don't
approve of Jonas, because he laughs and jokes -- and because he
evidently likes the society of frivolous me better than theirs.
"Somehow, Anne, I don't want him to think me frivolous. This is
ridiculous. Why should I care what a tow-haired person called
Jonas, whom I never saw before thinks of me?
"Last Sunday Jonas preached in the village church. I went,
of course, but I couldn't realize that Jonas was going to preach.
The fact that he was a minister -- or going to be one -- persisted
in seeming a huge joke to me.
"Well, Jonas preached. And, by the time he had preached ten
minutes, I felt so small and insignificant that I thought I must
be invisible to the naked eye. Jonas never said a word about
women and he never looked at me. But I realized then and there
what a pitiful, frivilous, small-souled little butterfly I was,
and how horribly different I must be from Jonas' ideal woman.
SHE would be grand and strong and noble. He was so earnest
and tender and true. He was everything a minister ought to be.
I wondered how I could ever have thought him ugly -- but he
really is! -- with those inspired eyes and that intellectual
brow which the roughly-falling hair hid on week days.
"It was a splendid sermon and I could have listened to it forever,
and it made me feel utterly wretched. Oh, I wish I was like YOU, Anne.
"He caught up with me on the road home, and grinned as cheerfully
as usual. But his grin could never deceive me again. I had seen
the REAL Jonas. I wondered if he could ever see the REAL PHIL --
whom NOBODY, not even you, Anne, has ever seen yet.
"`Jonas,' I said -- I forgot to call him Mr. Blake. Wasn't it dreadful?
But there are times when things like that don't matter -- `Jonas, you
were born to be a minister. You COULDN'T be anything else.'
"`No, I couldn't,' he said soberly. `I tried to be something
else for a long time -- I didn't want to be a minister. But I
came to see at last that it was the work given me to do -- and
God helping me, I shall try to do it.'
"His voice was low and reverent. I thought that he would do his
work and do it well and nobly; and happy the woman fitted by
nature and training to help him do it. SHE would be no feather,
blown about by every fickle wind of fancy. SHE would always know
what hat to put on. Probably she would have only one. Ministers
never have much money. But she wouldn't mind having one hat or
none at all, because she would have Jonas.
"Anne Shirley, don't you dare to say or hint or think that I've
fallen in love with Mr. Blake. Could I care for a lank, poor,
ugly theologue -- named Jonas? As Uncle Mark says, `It's impossible,
and what's more it's improbable.'
"P.S. It is impossible -- but I am horribly afraid it's true.
I'm happy and wretched and scared. HE can NEVER care for me,
I know. Do you think I could ever develop into a passable
minister's wife, Anne? And WOULD they expect me to lead
in prayer? P G."
Enter Prince Charming
"I'm contrasting the claims of indoors and out," said Anne, looking
from the window of Patty's Place to the distant pines of the park.
"I've an afternoon to spend in sweet doing nothing, Aunt Jimsie.
Shall I spend it here where there is a cosy fire, a plateful of
delicious russets, three purring and harmonious cats, and two
impeccable china dogs with green noses? Or shall I go to the park,
where there is the lure of gray woods and of gray water lapping
on the harbor rocks?"
"If I was as young as you, I'd decide in favor of the park," said
Aunt Jamesina, tickling Joseph's yellow ear with a knitting needle.
"I thought that you claimed to be as young as any of us, Aunty,"
"Yes, in my soul. But I'll admit my legs aren't as young as yours.
You go and get some fresh air, Anne. You look pale lately."
"I think I'll go to the park," said Anne restlessly. "I don't
feel like tame domestic joys today. I want to feel alone and
free and wild. The park will be empty, for every one will be at
the football match."
"Why didn't you go to it?"
"`Nobody axed me, sir, she said' -- at least, nobody but that
horrid little Dan Ranger. I wouldn't go anywhere with him;
but rather than hurt his poor little tender feelings I said I
wasn't going to the game at all. I don't mind. I'm not in
the mood for football today somehow."
"You go and get some fresh air," repeated Aunt Jamesina, "but take
your umbrella, for I believe it's going to rain. I've rheumatism
in my leg."
"Only old people should have rheumatism, Aunty."
"Anybody is liable to rheumatism in her legs, Anne. It's only
old people who should have rheumatism in their souls, though.
Thank goodness, I never have. When you get rheumatism in your
soul you might as well go and pick out your coffin."
It was November -- the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds,
deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.
Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she
said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.
Anne was not wont to be troubled with soul fog. But, somehow, since
her return to Redmond for this third year, life had not mirrored
her spirit back to her with its old, perfect, sparkling clearness.
Outwardly, existence at Patty's Place was the same pleasant
round of work and study and recreation that it had always been.
On Friday evenings the big, fire-lighted livingroom was crowded by
callers and echoed to endless jest and laughter, while Aunt Jamesina
smiled beamingly on them all. The "Jonas" of Phil's letter came often,
running up from St. Columbia on the early train and departing on the late.
He was a general favorite at Patty's Place, though Aunt Jamesina shook her
head and opined that divinity students were not what they used to be.
"He's VERY nice, my dear," she told Phil, "but ministers ought to be
graver and more dignified."
"Can't a man laugh and laugh and be a Christian still?" demanded Phil.
"Oh, MEN -- yes. But I was speaking of MINISTERS, my dear,"
said Aunt Jamesina rebukingly." And you shouldn't flirt so with
Mr. Blake -- you really shouldn't."
"I'm not flirting with him," protested Phil.
Nobody believed her, except Anne. The others thought she was amusing
herself as usual, and told her roundly that she was behaving very badly.
"Mr. Blake isn't of the Alec-and-Alonzo type, Phil," said Stella severely.
"He takes things seriously. You may break his heart."
"Do you really think I could?" asked Phil. "I'd love to think so."
"Philippa Gordon! I never thought you were utterly unfeeling.
The idea of you saying you'd love to break a man's heart!"
"I didn't say so, honey. Quote me correctly. I said I'd like to think
I COULD break it. I would like to know I had the POWER to do it."
"I don't understand you, Phil. You are leading that man on deliberately
-- and you know you don't mean anything by it."
"I mean to make him ask me to marry him if I can," said Phil calmly.
"I give you up," said Stella hopelessly.
Gilbert came occasionally on Friday evenings. He seemed
always in good spirits, and held his own in the jests and
repartee that flew about. He neither sought nor avoided Anne.
When circumstances brought them in contact he talked to her
pleasantly and courteously, as to any newly-made acquaintance.
The old camaraderie was gone entirely. Anne felt it keenly;
but she told herself she was very glad and thankful that Gilbert
had got so completely over his disappointment in regard to her.
She had really been afraid, that April evening in the orchard,
that she had hurt him terribly and that the wound would be
long in healing. Now she saw that she need not have worried.
Men have died and the worms have eaten them but not for love.
Gilbert evidently was in no danger of immediate dissolution.
He was enjoying life, and he was full of ambition and zest.
For him there was to be no wasting in despair because a woman
was fair and cold. Anne, as she listened to the ceaseless badinage
that went on between him and Phil, wondered if she had only imagined
that look in his eyes when she had told him she could never care for him.
There were not lacking those who would gladly have stepped into
Gilbert's vacant place. But Anne snubbed them without fear and
without reproach. If the real Prince Charming was never to come
she would have none of a substitute. So she sternly told herself
that gray day in the windy park.
Suddenly the rain of Aunt Jamesina's prophecy came with a swish
and rush. Anne put up her umbrella and hurried down the slope.
As she turned out on the harbor road a savage gust of wind tore
along it. Instantly her umbrella turned wrong side out. Anne
clutched at it in despair. And then -- there came a voice
close to her.
"Pardon me -- may I offer you the shelter of my umbrella?"
Anne looked up. Tall and handsome and distinguished-looking
-- dark, melancholy, inscrutable eyes -- melting, musical,
sympathetic voice -- yes, the very hero of her dreams stood
before her in the flesh. He could not have more closely
resembled her ideal if he had been made to order.
"Thank you," she said confusedly.
"We'd better hurry over to that little pavillion on the point,"
suggested the unknown. "We can wait there until this shower
is over. It is not likely to rain so heavily very long."
The words were very commonplace, but oh, the tone! And the smile
which accompanied them! Anne felt her heart beating strangely.
Together they scurried to the pavilion and sat breathlessly down
under its friendly roof. Anne laughingly held up her false umbrella.
"It is when my umbrella turns inside out that I am convinced of
the total depravity of inanimate things," she said gaily.
The raindrops sparkled on her shining hair; its loosened rings
curled around her neck and forehead. Her cheeks were flushed,
her eyes big and starry. Her companion looked down at her
admiringly. She felt herself blushing under his gaze.
Who could he be? Why, there was a bit of the Redmond white and
scarlet pinned to his coat lapel. Yet she had thought she knew,
by sight at least, all the Redmond students except the Freshmen.
And this courtly youth surely was no Freshman.
"We are schoolmates, I see," he said, smiling at Anne's colors.
"That ought to be sufficient introduction. My name is Royal Gardner.
And you are the Miss Shirley who read the Tennyson paper at the
Philomathic the other evening, aren't you?"
"Yes; but I cannot place you at all," said Anne, frankly.
"Please, where DO you belong?"
"I feel as if I didn't belong anywhere yet. I put in my Freshman
and Sophomore years at Redmond two years ago. I've been in
Europe ever since. Now I've come back to finish my Arts course."
"This is my Junior year, too," said Anne.
"So we are classmates as well as collegemates. I am reconciled
to the loss of the years that the locust has eaten," said her
companion, with a world of meaning in those wonderful eyes of his.
The rain came steadily down for the best part of an hour. But
the time seemed really very short. When the clouds parted and a
burst of pale November sunshine fell athwart the harbor and the
pines Anne and her companion walked home together. By the time
they had reached the gate of Patty's Place he had asked
permission to call, and had received it. Anne went in with
cheeks of flame and her heart beating to her fingertips. Rusty,
who climbed into her lap and tried to kiss her, found a very
absent welcome. Anne, with her soul full of romantic thrills,
had no attention to spare just then for a crop-eared pussy cat.
That evening a parcel was left at Patty's Place for Miss Shirley.
It was a box containing a dozen magnificent roses. Phil pounced
impertinently on the card that fell from it, read the name and
the poetical quotation written on the back.
"Royal Gardner!" she exclaimed. "Why, Anne, I didn't know you
were acquainted with Roy Gardner!"
"I met him in the park this afternoon in the rain," explained Anne
hurriedly. "My umbrella turned inside out and he came to my rescue
"Oh!" Phil peered curiously at Anne." And is that exceedingly
commonplace incident any reason why he should send us longstemmed
roses by the dozen, with a very sentimental rhyme? Or why we
should blush divinest rosy-red when we look at his card? Anne,
thy face betrayeth thee."
"Don't talk nonsense, Phil. Do you know Mr. Gardner?"
"I've met his two sisters, and I know of him. So does everybody
worthwhile in Kingsport. The Gardners are among the richest,
bluest, of Bluenoses. Roy is adorably handsome and clever.
Two years ago his mother's health failed and he had to leave
college and go abroad with her -- his father is dead. He must
have been greatly disappointed to have to give up his class, but
they say he was perfectly sweet about it. Fee -- fi -- fo -- fum,
Anne. I smell romance. Almost do I envy you, but not quite.
After all, Roy Gardner isn't Jonas."
"You goose!" said Anne loftily. But she lay long awake that night,
nor did she wish for sleep. Her waking fancies were more alluring
than any vision of dreamland. Had the real Prince come at last?
Recalling those glorious dark eyes which had gazed so deeply into
her own, Anne was very strongly inclined to think he had.
The girls at Patty's Place were dressing for the reception which
the Juniors were giving for the Seniors in February. Anne surveyed
herself in the mirror of the blue room with girlish satisfaction.
She had a particularly pretty gown on. Originally it had been
only a simple little slip of cream silk with a chiffon overdress.
But Phil had insisted on taking it home with her in the Christmas
holidays and embroidering tiny rosebuds all over the chiffon.
Phil's fingers were deft, and the result was a dress which was
the envy of every Redmond girl. Even Allie Boone, whose frocks
came from Paris, was wont to look with longing eyes on that rosebud
concoction as Anne trailed up the main staircase at Redmond in it.
Anne was trying the effect of a white orchid in her hair.
Roy Gardner had sent her white orchids for the reception,
and she knew no other Redmond girl would have them that night
-- when Phil came in with admiring gaze.
"Anne, this is certainly your night for looking handsome.
Nine nights out of ten I can easily outshine you. The tenth
you blossom out suddenly into something that eclipses me altogether.
How do you manage it?"
"It's the dress, dear. Fine feathers."
"`Tisn't. The last evening you flamed out into beauty you
wore your old blue flannel shirtwaist that Mrs. Lynde made you.
If Roy hadn't already lost head and heart about you he certainly
would tonight. But I don't like orchids on you, Anne. No; it
isn't jealousy. Orchids don't seem to BELONG to you. They're
too exotic -- too tropical -- too insolent. Don't put them in
your hair, anyway."
"Well, I won't. I admit I'm not fond of orchids myself. I don't
think they're related to me. Roy doesn't often send them -- he
knows I like flowers I can live with. Orchids are only things
you can visit with."
"Jonas sent me some dear pink rosebuds for the evening -- but --
he isn't coming himself. He said he had to lead a prayer-meeting
in the slums! I don't believe he wanted to come. Anne, I'm
horribly afraid Jonas doesn't really care anything about me. And
I'm trying to decide whether I'll pine away and die, or go on and
get my B.A. and be sensible and useful."
"You couldn't possibly be sensible and useful, Phil, so you'd
better pine away and die," said Anne cruelly.
"Silly Phil! You know quite well that Jonas loves you."
"But -- he won't TELL me so. And I can't MAKE him. He LOOKS it,
I'll admit. But speak-to-me-only-with-thine-eyes isn't a really
reliable reason for embroidering doilies and hemstitching
tablecloths. I don't want to begin such work until I'm really
engaged. It would be tempting Fate."
"Mr. Blake is afraid to ask you to marry him, Phil. He is poor
and can't offer you a home such as you've always had. You know
that is the only reason he hasn't spoken long ago."
"I suppose so," agreed Phil dolefully. "Well" -- brightening up
-- "if he WON'T ask me to marry him I'll ask him, that's all.
So it's bound to come right. I won't worry. By the way,
Gilbert Blythe is going about constantly with Christine Stuart.
Did you know?"
Anne was trying to fasten a little gold chain about her throat.
She suddenly found the clasp difficult to manage. WHAT was the
matter with it -- or with her fingers?
"No," she said carelessly." Who is Christine Stuart?"
"Ronald Stuart's sister. She's in Kingsport this winter studying
music. I haven't seen her, but they say she's very pretty and
that Gilbert is quite crazy over her. How angry I was when you
refused Gilbert, Anne. But Roy Gardner was foreordained for you.
I can see that now. You were right, after all."
Anne did not blush, as she usually did when the girls assumed
that her eventual marriage to Roy Gardner was a settled thing.
All at once she felt rather dull. Phil's chatter seemed trivial
and the reception a bore. She boxed poor Rusty's ears.
"Get off that cushion instantly, you cat, you! Why don't you
stay down where you belong?"
Anne picked up her orchids and went downstairs, where Aunt Jamesina
was presiding over a row of coats hung before the fire to warm.
Roy Gardner was waiting for Anne and teasing the Sarah-cat while
he waited. The Sarah-cat did not approve of him. She always
turned her back on him. But everybody else at Patty's Place liked
him very much. Aunt Jamesina, carried away by his unfailing and
deferential courtesy, and the pleading tones of his delightful voice,
declared he was the nicest young man she ever knew, and that Anne
was a very fortunate girl. Such remarks made Anne restive. Roy's
wooing had certainly been as romantic as girlish heart could desire,
but -- she wished Aunt Jamesina and the girls would not take things
so for granted. When Roy murmured a poetical compliment as he helped
her on with her coat, she did not blush and thrill as usual; and he
found her rather silent in their brief walk to Redmond. He thought
she looked a little pale when she came out of the coeds' dressing room;
but as they entered the reception room her color and sparkle suddenly
returned to her. She turned to Roy with her gayest expression.
He smiled back at her with what Phil called "his deep, black,
velvety smile." Yet she really did not see Roy at all. She was
acutely conscious that Gilbert was standing under the palms just
across the room talking to a girl who must be Christine Stuart.
She was very handsome, in the stately style destined to become
rather massive in middle life. A tall girl, with large dark-blue
eyes, ivory outlines, and a gloss of darkness on her smooth hair.
"She looks just as I've always wanted to look," thought Anne
miserably. "Rose-leaf complexion -- starry violet eyes -- raven
hair -- yes, she has them all. It's a wonder her name isn't
Cordelia Fitzgerald into the bargain! But I don't believe her
figure is as good as mine, and her nose certainly isn't."
Anne felt a little comforted by this conclusion.
March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs,
bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each
followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in
an elfland of moonshine.
Over the girls at Patty's Place was falling the shadow of April
examinations. They were studying hard; even Phil had settled down
to text and notebooks with a doggedness not to be expected of her.
"I'm going to take the Johnson Scholarship in Mathematics," she
announced calmly. "I could take the one in Greek easily, but I'd
rather take the mathematical one because I want to prove to Jonas
that I'm really enormously clever."
"Jonas likes you better for your big brown eyes and your crooked
smile than for all the brains you carry under your curls," said Anne.
"When I was a girl it wasn't considered lady-like to know anything
about Mathematics," said Aunt Jamesina. "But times have changed.
I don't know that it's all for the better. Can you cook, Phil?"
"No, I never cooked anything in my life except a gingerbread and
it was a failure -- flat in the middle and hilly round the edges.
You know the kind. But, Aunty, when I begin in good earnest to
learn to cook don't you think the brains that enable me to win a
mathematical scholarship will also enable me to learn cooking
just as well?"
"Maybe," said Aunt Jamesina cautiously. "I am not decrying the
higher education of women. My daughter is an M.A. She can cook,
too. But I taught her to cook BEFORE I let a college professor
teach her Mathematics."
In mid-March came a letter from Miss Patty Spofford, saying that
she and Miss Maria had decided to remain abroad for another year.
"So you may have Patty's Place next winter, too," she wrote.
"Maria and I are going to run over Egypt. I want to see the
Sphinx once before I die."
"Fancy those two dames `running over Egypt'! I wonder if they'll
look up at the Sphinx and knit," laughed Priscilla.
"I'm so glad we can keep Patty's Place for another year," said
Stella. "I was afraid they'd come back. And then our jolly
little nest here would be broken up -- and we poor callow
nestlings thrown out on the cruel world of boardinghouses again."
"I'm off for a tramp in the park," announced Phil, tossing her
book aside. "I think when I am eighty I'll be glad I went for a
walk in the park tonight."
"What do you mean?" asked Anne.
"Come with me and I'll tell you, honey."
They captured in their ramble all the mysteries and magics of a
March evening. Very still and mild it was, wrapped in a great,
white, brooding silence -- a silence which was yet threaded
through with many little silvery sounds which you could hear if
you hearkened as much with your soul as your ears. The girls
wandered down a long pineland aisle that seemed to lead right out
into the heart of a deep-red, overflowing winter sunset.
"I'd go home and write a poem this blessed minute if I only knew how,"
declared Phil, pausing in an open space where a rosy light was staining
the green tips of the pines. "It's all so wonderful here -- this great,
white stillness, and those dark trees that always seem to be thinking."
"`The woods were God's first temples,'" quoted Anne softly.
"One can't help feeling reverent and adoring in such a place.
I always feel so near Him when I walk among the pines."
"Anne, I'm the happiest girl in the world," confessed Phil suddenly.
"So Mr. Blake has asked you to marry him at last?" said Anne calmly.
"Yes. And I sneezed three times while he was asking me.
Wasn't that horrid? But I said `yes' almost before he finished
-- I was so afraid he might change his mind and stop. I'm besottedly
happy. I couldn't really believe before that Jonas would ever care
for frivolous me."
"Phil, you're not really frivolous," said Anne gravely. "'Way
down underneath that frivolous exterior of yours you've got a
dear, loyal, womanly little soul. Why do you hide it so?"
"I can't help it, Queen Anne. You are right -- I'm not frivolous
at heart. But there's a sort of frivolous skin over my soul and
I can't take it off. As Mrs. Poyser says, I'd have to be hatched
over again and hatched different before I could change it. But
Jonas knows the real me and loves me, frivolity and all. And I
love him. I never was so surprised in my life as I was when I
found out I loved him. I'd never thought it possible to fall in
love with an ugly man. Fancy me coming down to one solitary
beau. And one named Jonas! But I mean to call him Jo. That's
such a nice, crisp little name. I couldn't nickname Alonzo."
"What about Alec and Alonzo?"
"Oh, I told them at Christmas that I never could marry either of
them. It seems so funny now to remember that I ever thought it
possible that I might. They felt so badly I just cried over both
of them -- howled. But I knew there was only one man in the
world I could ever marry. I had made up my own mind for once and
it was real easy, too. It's very delightful to feel so sure, and
know it's your own sureness and not somebody else's."
"Do you suppose you'll be able to keep it up?"
"Making up my mind, you mean? I don't know, but Jo has given me
a splendid rule. He says, when I'm perplexed, just to do what I
would wish I had done when I shall be eighty. Anyhow, Jo can
make up his mind quickly enough, and it would be uncomfortable
to have too much mind in the same house."
"What will your father and mother say?"
"Father won't say much. He thinks everything I do right.
But mother WILL talk. Oh, her tongue will be as Byrney as
her nose. But in the end it will be all right."
"You'll have to give up a good many things you've always had,
when you marry Mr. Blake, Phil."
"But I'll have HIM. I won't miss the other things. We're to be
married a year from next June. Jo graduates from St. Columbia
this spring, you know. Then he's going to take a little mission
church down on Patterson Street in the slums. Fancy me in the
slums! But I'd go there or to Greenland's icy mountains with him."
"And this is the girl who would NEVER marry a man who wasn't rich,"
commented Anne to a young pine tree.
"Oh, don't cast up the follies of my youth to me. I shall be
poor as gaily as I've been rich. You'll see. I'm going to learn
how to cook and make over dresses. I've learned how to market
since I've lived at Patty's Place; and once I taught a Sunday
School class for a whole summer. Aunt Jamesina says I'll ruin
Jo's career if I marry him. But I won't. I know I haven't much
sense or sobriety, but I've got what is ever so much better --
the knack of making people like me. There is a man in
Bolingbroke who lisps and always testifies in prayer-meeting.
He says, 'If you can't thine like an electric thtar thine like
a candlethtick.' I'll be Jo's little candlestick."
"Phil, you're incorrigible. Well, I love you so much that
I can't make nice, light, congratulatory little speeches.
But I'm heart-glad of your happiness."
"I know. Those big gray eyes of yours are brimming over with
real friendship, Anne. Some day I'll look the same way at you.
You're going to marry Roy, aren't you, Anne?"
"My dear Philippa, did you ever hear of the famous Betty Baxter,
who `refused a man before he'd axed her'? I am not going to
emulate that celebrated lady by either refusing or accepting any
one before he `axes' me."
"All Redmond knows that Roy is crazy about you," said Phil candidly."
And you DO love him, don't you, Anne?"
"I -- I suppose so," said Anne reluctantly. She felt that she ought
to be blushing while making such a confession; but she was not;
on the other hand, she always blushed hotly when any one said
anything about Gilbert Blythe or Christine Stuart in her hearing.
Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stuart were nothing to her --
absolutely nothing. But Anne had given up trying to analyze
the reason of her blushes. As for Roy, of course she was in
love with him -- madly so. How could she help it? Was he not
her ideal? Who could resist those glorious dark eyes, and that
pleading voice? Were not half the Redmond girls wildly envious?
And what a charming sonnet he had sent her, with a box of violets,
on her birthday! Anne knew every word of it by heart. It was very
good stuff of its kind, too. Not exactly up to the level of Keats or
Shakespeare -- even Anne was not so deeply in love as to think that.
But it was very tolerable magazine verse. And it was addressed to HER --
not to Laura or Beatrice or the Maid of Athens, but to her, Anne Shirley.
To be told in rhythmical cadences that her eyes were stars of the morning
-- that her cheek had the flush it stole from the sunrise -- that her
lips were redder than the roses of Paradise, was thrillingly romantic.
Gilbert would never have dreamed of writing a sonnet to her eyebrows.
But then, Gilbert could see a joke. She had once told Roy a funny story
-- and he had not seen the point of it. She recalled the chummy laugh
she and Gilbert had had together over it, and wondered uneasily if life
with a man who had no sense of humor might not be somewhat uninteresting
in the long run. But who could expect a melancholy, inscrutable hero to
see the humorous side of things? It would be flatly unreasonable.
A June Evening
"I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was
always June," said Anne, as she came through the spice and bloom
of the twilit orchard to the front door steps, where Marilla and
Mrs. Rachel were sitting, talking over Mrs. Samson Coates' funeral,
which they had attended that day. Dora sat between them, diligently
studying her lessons; but Davy was sitting tailor-fashion on the grass,
looking as gloomy and depressed as his single dimple would let him.
"You'd get tired of it," said Marilla, with a sigh.
"I daresay; but just now I feel that it would take me a long
time to get tired of it, if it were all as charming as today.
Everything loves June. Davy-boy, why this melancholy November
face in blossom-time?"
"I'm just sick and tired of living," said the youthful pessimist.
"At ten years? Dear me, how sad!"
"I'm not making fun," said Davy with dignity. "I'm dis -- dis --
discouraged" -- bringing out the big word with a valiant effort.
"Why and wherefore?" asked Anne, sitting down beside him.
"'Cause the new teacher that come when Mr. Holmes got sick give
me ten sums to do for Monday. It'll take me all day tomorrow to
do them. It isn't fair to have to work Saturdays. Milty Boulter
said he wouldn't do them, but Marilla says I've got to. I don't
like Miss Carson a bit."
"Don't talk like that about your teacher, Davy Keith," said
Mrs. Rachel severely. "Miss Carson is a very fine girl.
There is no nonsense about her."
"That doesn't sound very attractive," laughed Anne. "I like
people to have a little nonsense about them. But I'm inclined
to have a better opinion of Miss Carson than you have. I saw her
in prayer-meeting last night, and she has a pair of eyes that
can't always look sensible. Now, Davy-boy, take heart of grace.
`Tomorrow will bring another day' and I'll help you with the sums
as far as in me lies. Don't waste this lovely hour `twixt light
and dark worrying over arithmetic."
"Well, I won't," said Davy, brightening up. "If you help me
with the sums I'll have 'em done in time to go fishing with Milty.
I wish old Aunt Atossa's funeral was tomorrow instead of today.
I wanted to go to it 'cause Milty said his mother said Aunt Atossa
would be sure to rise up in her coffin and say sarcastic things to
the folks that come to see her buried. But Marilla said she didn't."
"Poor Atossa laid in her coffin peaceful enough," said Mrs. Lynde
solemnly. "I never saw her look so pleasant before, that's what.
Well, there weren't many tears shed over her, poor old soul.
The Elisha Wrights are thankful to be rid of her, and I can't
say I blame them a mite."
"It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world and not
leave one person behind you who is sorry you are gone," said Anne, shuddering.
"Nobody except her parents ever loved poor Atossa, that's certain, not even
her husband," averred Mrs. Lynde. "She was his fourth wife. He'd sort of got
into the habit of marrying. He only lived a few years after he married her.
The doctor said he died of dyspepsia, but I shall always maintain that he died
of Atossa's tongue, that's what. Poor soul, she always knew everything about
her neighbors, but she never was very well acquainted with herself. Well,
she's gone anyhow; and I suppose the next excitement will be Diana's wedding."
"It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana's being married,"
sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the
Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana's room.
"I don't see what's horrible about it, when she's doing so well,"
said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. "Fred Wright has a fine farm and
he is a model young man."
"He certainly isn't the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana
once wanted to marry," smiled Anne. "Fred is extremely good."
"That's just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry
a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?"
"Oh, no. I wouldn't want to marry anybody who was wicked,
but I think I'd like it if he COULD be wicked and WOULDN'T.
Now, Fred is HOPELESSLY good."
"You'll have more sense some day, I hope," said Marilla.
Marilla spoke rather bitterly. She was grievously disappointed.
She knew Anne had refused Gilbert Blythe. Avonlea gossip buzzed
over the fact, which had leaked out, nobody knew how. Perhaps
Charlie Sloane had guessed and told his guesses for truth.
Perhaps Diana had betrayed it to Fred and Fred had been indiscreet.
At all events it was known; Mrs. Blythe no longer asked Anne,
in public or private, if she had heard lately from Gilbert, but
passed her by with a frosty bow. Anne, who had always liked Gilbert's
merry, young-hearted mother, was grieved in secret over this.
Marilla said nothing; but Mrs. Lynde gave Anne many exasperated
digs about it, until fresh gossip reached that worthy lady,
through the medium of Moody Spurgeon MacPherson's mother,
that Anne had another "beau" at college, who was rich and
handsome and good all in one. After that Mrs. Rachel held
her tongue, though she still wished in her inmost heart that
Anne had accepted Gilbert. Riches were all very well;
but even Mrs. Rachel, practical soul though she was, did not
consider them the one essential. If Anne "liked" the Handsome
Unknown better than Gilbert there was nothing more to be said;
but Mrs. Rachel was dreadfully afraid that Anne was going to
make the mistake of marrying for money. Marilla knew Anne too
well to fear this; but she felt that something in the universal
scheme of things had gone sadly awry.
"What is to be, will be," said Mrs. Rachel gloomily, "and what isn't
to be happens sometimes. I can't help believing it's going to happen
in Anne's case, if Providence doesn't interfere, that's what."
Mrs. Rachel sighed. She was afraid Providence wouldn't interfere;
and she didn't dare to.
Anne had wandered down to the Dryad's Bubble and was curled up
among the ferns at the root of the big white birch where she and
Gilbert had so often sat in summers gone by. He had gone into
the newspaper office again when college closed, and Avonlea
seemed very dull without him. He never wrote to her, and Anne
missed the letters that never came. To be sure, Roy wrote twice
a week; his letters were exquisite compositions which would have
read beautifully in a memoir or biography. Anne felt herself
more deeply in love with him than ever when she read them; but
her heart never gave the queer, quick, painful bound at sight of
his letters which it had given one day when Mrs. Hiram Sloane
had handed her out an envelope addressed in Gilbert's black,
upright handwriting. Anne had hurried home to the east gable and
opened it eagerly -- to find a typewritten copy of some college
society report -- "only that and nothing more." Anne flung the
harmless screed across her room and sat down to write an
especially nice epistle to Roy.
Diana was to be married in five more days. The gray house at
Orchard Slope was in a turmoil of baking and brewing and boiling
and stewing, for there was to be a big, old-timey wedding. Anne,
of course, was to be bridesmaid, as had been arranged when they
were twelve years old, and Gilbert was coming from Kingsport to
be best man. Anne was enjoying the excitement of the various
preparations, but under it all she carried a little heartache.
She was, in a sense, losing her dear old chum; Diana's new home
would be two miles from Green Gables, and the old constant
companionship could never be theirs again. Anne looked up at
Diana's light and thought how it had beaconed to her for many years;
but soon it would shine through the summer twilights no more.
Two big, painful tears welled up in her gray eyes.
"Oh," she thought, "how horrible it is that people have to grow
up -- and marry -- and CHANGE!"
"After all, the only real roses are the pink ones," said Anne, as
she tied white ribbon around Diana's bouquet in the westwardlooking
gable at Orchard Slope. "They are the flowers of love and faith."
Diana was standing nervously in the middle of the room, arrayed
in her bridal white, her black curls frosted over with the film
of her wedding veil. Anne had draped that veil, in accordance
with the sentimental compact of years before.
"It's all pretty much as I used to imagine it long ago, when I
wept over your inevitable marriage and our consequent parting,"
she laughed. "You are the bride of my dreams, Diana, with
the `lovely misty veil'; and I am YOUR bridesmaid. But, alas!
I haven't the puffed sleeves -- though these short lace ones are
even prettier. Neither is my heart wholly breaking nor do I
exactly hate Fred."
"We are not really parting, Anne," protested Diana. "I'm not
going far away. We'll love each other just as much as ever.
We've always kept that `oath' of friendship we swore long ago,
"Yes. We've kept it faithfully. We've had a beautiful
friendship, Diana. We've never marred it by one quarrel or
coolness or unkind word; and I hope it will always be so.
But things can't be quite the same after this. You'll have
other interests. I'll just be on the outside. But `such is
life' as Mrs. Rachel says. Mrs. Rachel has given you one of
her beloved knitted quilts of the `tobacco stripe' pattern,
and she says when I am married she'll give me one, too."
"The mean thing about your getting married is that I won't be
able to be your bridesmaid," lamented Diana.
"I'm to be Phil's bridesmaid next June, when she marries
Mr. Blake, and then I must stop, for you know the proverb
`three times a bridesmaid, never a bride,' " said Anne,
peeping through the window over the pink and snow of the
blossoming orchard beneath. "Here comes the minister, Diana."
"Oh, Anne," gasped Diana, suddenly turning very pale and
beginning to tremble. "Oh, Anne -- I'm so nervous -- I can't
go through with it -- Anne, I know I'm going to faint."
"If you do I'll drag you down to the rainwater hogshed and drop
you in," said Anne unsympathetically. "Cheer up, dearest.
Getting married can't be so very terrible when so many
people survive the ceremony. See how cool and composed
I am, and take courage."
"Wait till your turn comes, Miss Anne. Oh, Anne, I hear father
coming upstairs. Give me my bouquet. Is my veil right? Am I
"You look just lovely. Di, darling, kiss me good-bye for the
last time. Diana Barry will never kiss me again."
"Diana Wright will, though. There, mother's calling. Come."
Following the simple, old-fashioned way in vogue then, Anne went
down to the parlor on Gilbert's arm. They met at the top of the
stairs for the first time since they had left Kingsport, for
Gilbert had arrived only that day. Gilbert shook hands courteously.
He was looking very well, though, as Anne instantly noted, rather thin.
He was not pale; there was a flush on his cheek that had burned into it
as Anne came along the hall towards him, in her soft, white dress with
lilies-of-the-valley in the shining masses of her hair. As they entered
the crowded parlor together a little murmur of admiration ran around the
room. "What a fine-looking pair they are," whispered the impressible
Mrs. Rachel to Marilla.
Fred ambled in alone, with a very red face, and then Diana swept
in on her father's arm. She did not faint, and nothing untoward
occurred to interrupt the ceremony. Feasting and merry-making
followed; then, as the evening waned, Fred and Diana drove away
through the moonlight to their new home, and Gilbert walked with
Anne to Green Gables.
Something of their old comradeship had returned during the
informal mirth of the evening. Oh, it was nice to be walking
over that well-known road with Gilbert again!
The night was so very still that one should have been able to hear
the whisper of roses in blossom -- the laughter of daisies -- the
piping of grasses -- many sweet sounds, all tangled up together.
The beauty of moonlight on familiar fields irradiated the world.
"Can't we take a ramble up Lovers' Lane before you go in?" asked
Gilbert as they crossed the bridge over the Lake of Shining Waters,
in which the moon lay like a great, drowned blossom of gold.
Anne assented readily. Lovers' Lane was a veritable path in a
fairyland that night -- a shimmering, mysterious place, full of
wizardry in the white-woven enchantment of moonlight. There had
been a time when such a walk with Gilbert through Lovers' Lane
would have been far too dangerous. But Roy and Christine had
made it very safe now. Anne found herself thinking a good deal
about Christine as she chatted lightly to Gilbert. She had met
her several times before leaving Kingsport, and had been charmingly
sweet to her. Christine had also been charmingly sweet. Indeed,
they were a most cordial pair. But for all that, their acquaintance
had not ripened into friendship. Evidently Christine was not a
"Are you going to be in Avonlea all summer?" asked Gilbert.
"No. I'm going down east to Valley Road next week. Esther
Haythorne wants me to teach for her through July and August.
They have a summer term in that school, and Esther isn't feeling well.
So I'm going to substitute for her. In one way I don't mind.
Do you know, I'm beginning to feel a little bit like a stranger
in Avonlea now? It makes me sorry -- but it's true. It's quite
appalling to see the number of children who have shot up into big
boys and girls -- really young men and women -- these past two years.
Half of my pupils are grown up. It makes me feel awfully old to see
them in the places you and I and our mates used to fill."
Anne laughed and sighed. She felt very old and mature and wise
-- which showed how young she was. She told herself that she
longed greatly to go back to those dear merry days when life was
seen through a rosy mist of hope and illusion, and possessed an
indefinable something that had passed away forever. Where was it
now -- the glory and the dream?
"`So wags the world away,' " quoted Gilbert practically, and a
trifle absently. Anne wondered if he were thinking of Christine.
Oh, Avonlea was going to be so lonely now -- with Diana gone!
Mrs. Skinner's Romance
Anne stepped off the train at Valley Road station and looked
about to see if any one had come to meet her. She was to board
with a certain Miss Janet Sweet, but she saw no one who answered
in the least to her preconception of that lady, as formed from
Esther's letter. The only person in sight was an elderly woman,
sitting in a wagon with mail bags piled around her. Two hundred
would have been a charitable guess at her weight; her face was
as round and red as a harvest-moon and almost as featureless.
She wore a tight, black, cashmere dress, made in the fashion of
ten years ago, a little dusty black straw hat trimmed with bows
of yellow ribbon, and faded black lace mits.
"Here, you," she called, waving her whip at Anne. "Are you the
new Valley Road schoolma'am?"
"Well, I thought so. Valley Road is noted for its good-looking
schoolma'ams, just as Millersville is noted for its humly ones.
Janet Sweet asked me this morning if I could bring you out. I
said, `Sartin I kin, if she don't mind being scrunched up some.
This rig of mine's kinder small for the mail bags and I'm some
heftier than Thomas!' Just wait, miss, till I shift these bags a
bit and I'll tuck you in somehow. It's only two miles to Janet's.
Her next-door neighbor's hired boy is coming for your trunk tonight.
My name is Skinner -- Amelia Skinner."
Anne was eventually tucked in, exchanging amused smiles with herself
during the process.
"Jog along, black mare," commanded Mrs. Skinner, gathering up the
reins in her pudgy hands. "This is my first trip on the mail rowte.
Thomas wanted to hoe his turnips today so he asked me to come.
So I jest sot down and took a standing-up snack and started.
I sorter like it. O' course it's rather tejus. Part of the
time I sits and thinks and the rest I jest sits. Jog along,
black mare. I want to git home airly. Thomas is terrible
lonesome when I'm away. You see, we haven't been married very long."
"Oh!" said Anne politely.
"Just a month. Thomas courted me for quite a spell, though. It
was real romantic." Anne tried to picture Mrs. Skinner on
speaking terms with romance and failed.
"Oh?" she said again.
"Yes. Y'see, there was another man after me. Jog along, black mare.
I'd been a widder so long folks had given up expecting me to marry again.
But when my darter -- she's a schoolma'am like you -- went out West to
teach I felt real lonesome and wasn't nowise sot against the idea.
Bime-by Thomas began to come up and so did the other feller --
William Obadiah Seaman, his name was. For a long time I couldn't
make up my mind which of them to take, and they kep' coming and coming,
and I kep' worrying. Y'see, W.O. was rich -- he had a fine place and
carried considerable style. He was by far the best match. Jog along,
"Why didn't you marry him?" asked Anne.
"Well, y'see, he didn't love me," answered Mrs. Skinner, solemnly.
Anne opened her eyes widely and looked at Mrs. Skinner. But there was
not a glint of humor on that lady's face. Evidently Mrs. Skinner saw
nothing amusing in her own case.
"He'd been a widder-man for three yers, and his sister kept house for him.
Then she got married and he just wanted some one to look after his house.
It was worth looking after, too, mind you that. It's a handsome house.
Jog along, black mare. As for Thomas, he was poor, and if his house
didn't leak in dry weather it was about all that could be said for it,
though it looks kind of pictureaskew. But, y'see, I loved Thomas, and
I didn't care one red cent for W.O. So I argued it out with myself.
`Sarah Crowe,' say I -- my first was a Crowe -- `you can marry
your rich man if you like but you won't be happy. Folks can't
get along together in this world without a little bit of love.
You'd just better tie up to Thomas, for he loves you and you love
him and nothing else ain't going to do you.' Jog along, black mare.
So I told Thomas I'd take him. All the time I was getting ready
I never dared drive past W.O.'s place for fear the sight of that
fine house of his would put me in the swithers again. But now I
never think of it at all, and I'm just that comfortable and happy
with Thomas. Jog along, black mare."
"How did William Obadiah take it?" queried Anne.
"Oh, he rumpussed a bit. But he's going to see a skinny old maid
in Millersville now, and I guess she'll take him fast enough.
She'll make him a better wife than his first did. W.O. never
wanted to marry her. He just asked her to marry him 'cause his
father wanted him to, never dreaming but that she'd say `no.'
But mind you, she said 'yes.' There was a predicament for you.
Jog along, black mare. She was a great housekeeper, but most
awful mean. She wore the same bonnet for eighteen years. Then she
got a new one and W.O. met her on the road and didn't know her.
Jog along, black mare. I feel that I'd a narrer escape. I might
have married him and been most awful miserable, like my poor
cousin, Jane Ann. Jane Ann married a rich man she didn't care
anything about, and she hasn't the life of a dog. She come to
see me last week and says, says she, `Sarah Skinner, I envy you.
I'd rather live in a little hut on the side of the road with a
man I was fond of than in my big house with the one I've got.'
Jane Ann's man ain't such a bad sort, nuther, though he's so
contrary that he wears his fur coat when the thermometer's
at ninety. The only way to git him to do anything is to coax
him to do the opposite. But there ain't any love to smooth
things down and it's a poor way of living. Jog along, black mare.
There's Janet's place in the hollow -- `Wayside,' she calls it.
Quite pictureaskew, ain't it? I guess you'll be glad to git
out of this, with all them mail bags jamming round you."
"Yes, but I have enjoyed my drive with you very much," said
"Git away now!" said Mrs. Skinner, highly flattered. "Wait till
I tell Thomas that. He always feels dretful tickled when I git
a compliment. Jog along, black mare. Well, here we are. I hope
you'll git on well in the school, miss. There's a short cut to
it through the ma'sh back of Janet's. If you take that way be
awful keerful. If you once got stuck in that black mud you'd be
sucked right down and never seen or heard tell of again till the
day of judgment, like Adam Palmer's cow. Jog along, black mare."
Anne to Philippa
"Anne Shirley to Philippa Gordon, greeting.
"Well-beloved, it's high time I was writing you. Here am I,
installed once more as a country `schoolma'am' at Valley Road,
boarding at `Wayside,' the home of Miss Janet Sweet. Janet is a
dear soul and very nicelooking; tall, but not over-tall; stoutish,
yet with a certain restraint of outline suggestive of a thrifty
soul who is not going to be overlavish even in the matter of
avoirdupois. She has a knot of soft, crimpy, brown hair with
a thread of gray in it, a sunny face with rosy cheeks, and big,
kind eyes as blue as forget-me-nots. Moreover, she is one of those
delightful, old-fashioned cooks who don't care a bit if they ruin
your digestion as long as they can give you feasts of fat things.
"I like her; and she likes me -- principally, it seems, because
she had a sister named Anne who died young.
"`I'm real glad to see you,' she said briskly, when I landed in her yard.
`My, you don't look a mite like I expected. I was sure you'd be dark --
my sister Anne was dark. And here you're redheaded!'
"For a few minutes I thought I wasn't going to like Janet as much
as I had expected at first sight. Then I reminded myself that I
really must be more sensible than to be prejudiced against any
one simply because she called my hair red. Probably the word
`auburn' was not in Janet's vocabulary at all.
"`Wayside' is a dear sort of little spot. The house is small
and white, set down in a delightful little hollow that drops
away from the road. Between road and house is an orchard and
flower-garden all mixed up together. The front door walk is
bordered with quahog clam-shells -- `cow-hawks,' Janet calls them;
there is Virginia Creeper over the porch and moss on the roof.
My room is a neat little spot `off the parlor' -- just big
enough for the bed and me. Over the head of my bed there is a
picture of Robby Burns standing at Highland Mary's grave,
shadowed by an enormous weeping willow tree. Robby's face is
so lugubrious that it is no wonder I have bad dreams. Why, the
first night I was here I dreamed I COULDN'T LAUGH.
"The parlor is tiny and neat. Its one window is so shaded by a
huge willow that the room has a grotto-like effect of emerald gloom.
There are wonderful tidies on the chairs, and gay mats on the floor,
and books and cards carefully arranged on a round table, and vases
of dried grass on the mantel-piece. Between the vases is a cheerful
decoration of preserved coffin plates -- five in all, pertaining
respectively to Janet's father and mother, a brother, her sister Anne,
and a hired man who died here once! If I go suddenly insane some of
these days `know all men by these presents' that those coffin-plates
have caused it.
"But it's all delightful and I said so. Janet loved me for it,
just as she detested poor Esther because Esther had said so much
shade was unhygienic and had objected to sleeping on a feather bed.
Now, I glory in feather-beds, and the more unhygienic and feathery
they are the more I glory. Janet says it is such a comfort to see
me eat; she had been so afraid I would be like Miss Haythorne, who
wouldn't eat anything but fruit and hot water for breakfast and tried
to make Janet give up frying things. Esther is really a dear girl,
but she is rather given to fads. The trouble is that she hasn't
enough imagination and HAS a tendency to indigestion.
"Janet told me I could have the use of the parlor when any young
men called! I don't think there are many to call. I haven't
seen a young man in Valley Road yet, except the next-door
hired boy -- Sam Toliver, a very tall, lank, tow-haired youth.
He came over one evening recently and sat for an hour on the
garden fence, near the front porch where Janet and I were doing
fancy-work. The only remarks he volunteered in all that time
were, `Hev a peppermint, miss! Dew now-fine thing for carARRH,
peppermints,' and, `Powerful lot o' jump-grasses round here
"But there is a love affair going on here. It seems to be my
fortune to be mixed up, more or less actively, with elderly love
affairs. Mr. and Mrs. Irving always say that I brought about
their marriage. Mrs. Stephen Clark of Carmody persists in being
most grateful to me for a suggestion which somebody else would
probably have made if I hadn't. I do really think, though, that
Ludovic Speed would never have got any further along than placid
courtship if I had not helped him and Theodora Dix out.
"In the present affair I am only a passive spectator. I've tried
once to help things along and made an awful mess of it. So I
shall not meddle again. I'll tell you all about it when we meet."
Tea with Mrs. Douglas
On the first Thursday night of Anne's sojourn in Valley Road
Janet asked her to go to prayer-meeting. Janet blossomed out
like a rose to attend that prayer-meeting. She wore a pale-blue,
pansy-sprinkled muslin dress with more ruffles than one would ever
have supposed economical Janet could be guilty of, and a white
leghorn hat with pink roses and three ostrich feathers on it.
Anne felt quite amazed. Later on, she found out Janet's motive
in so arraying herself -- a motive as old as Eden.
Valley Road prayer-meetings seemed to be essentially feminine.
There were thirty-two women present, two half-grown boys, and one
solitary man, beside the minister. Anne found herself studying
this man. He was not handsome or young or graceful; he had
remarkably long legs -- so long that he had to keep them coiled
up under his chair to dispose of them -- and he was stoopshouldered.
His hands were big, his hair wanted barbering, and his moustache
was unkempt. But Anne thought she liked his face; it was kind and
honest and tender; there was something else in it, too -- just what,
Anne found it hard to define. She finally concluded that this man had
suffered and been strong, and it had been made manifest in his face.
There was a sort of patient, humorous endurance in his expression
which indicated that he would go to the stake if need be, but would
keep on looking pleasant until he really had to begin squirming.
When prayer-meeting was over this man came up to Janet and said,
"May I see you home, Janet?"
Janet took his arm -- "as primly and shyly as if she were no more
than sixteen, having her first escort home," Anne told the girls
at Patty's Place later on.
"Miss Shirley, permit me to introduce Mr. Douglas," she said stiffly.
Mr. Douglas nodded and said, "I was looking at you in prayer-meeting,
miss, and thinking what a nice little girl you were."
Such a speech from ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have
annoyed Anne bitterly; but the way in which Mr. Douglas said it made
her feel that she had received a very real and pleasing compliment.
She smiled appreciatively at him and dropped obligingly behind on
the moonlit road.
So Janet had a beau! Anne was delighted. Janet would make a paragon
of a wife -- cheery, economical, tolerant, and a very queen of cooks.
It would be a flagrant waste on Nature's part to keep her a permanent
"John Douglas asked me to take you up to see his mother," said
Janet the next day. "She's bed-rid a lot of the time and never
goes out of the house. But she's powerful fond of company and
always wants to see my boarders. Can you go up this evening?"
Anne assented; but later in the day Mr. Douglas called on his
mother's behalf to invite them up to tea on Saturday evening.
"Oh, why didn't you put on your pretty pansy dress?" asked Anne,
when they left home. It was a hot day, and poor Janet, between
her excitement and her heavy black cashmere dress, looked as if
she were being broiled alive.
"Old Mrs. Douglas would think it terrible frivolous and unsuitable,
I'm afraid. John likes that dress, though," she added wistfully.
The old Douglas homestead was half a mile from "Wayside" cresting
a windy hill. The house itself was large and comfortable, old
enough to be dignified, and girdled with maple groves and orchards.
There were big, trim barns behind it, and everything bespoke prosperity.
Whatever the patient endurance in Mr. Douglas' face had meant it hadn't,
so Anne reflected, meant debts and duns.
John Douglas met them at the door and took them into the
sitting-room, where his mother was enthroned in an armchair.
Anne had expected old Mrs. Douglas to be tall and thin, because
Mr. Douglas was. Instead, she was a tiny scrap of a woman, with
soft pink cheeks, mild blue eyes, and a mouth like a baby's.
Dressed in a beautiful, fashionably-made black silk dress,
with a fluffy white shawl over her shoulders, and her snowy
hair surmounted by a dainty lace cap, she might have posed
as a grandmother doll.
"How do you do, Janet dear?" she said sweetly. "I am so glad to
see you again, dear." She put up her pretty old face to be kissed.
"And this is our new teacher. I'm delighted to meet you. My son
has been singing your praises until I'm half jealous, and I'm sure
Janet ought to be wholly so."
Poor Janet blushed, Anne said something polite and conventional,
and then everybody sat down and made talk. It was hard work,
even for Anne, for nobody seemed at ease except old Mrs. Douglas,
who certainly did not find any difficulty in talking. She made
Janet sit by her and stroked her hand occasionally. Janet sat
and smiled, looking horribly uncomfortable in her hideous dress,
and John Douglas sat without smiling.
At the tea table Mrs. Douglas gracefully asked Janet to pour
the tea. Janet turned redder than ever but did it. Anne wrote
a description of that meal to Stella.
"We had cold tongue and chicken and strawberry preserves, lemon
pie and tarts and chocolate cake and raisin cookies and pound cake
and fruit cake -- and a few other things, including more pie
-- caramel pie, I think it was. After I had eaten twice as much
as was good for me, Mrs. Douglas sighed and said she feared she
had nothing to tempt my appetite.
"`I'm afraid dear Janet's cooking has spoiled you for any other,'
she said sweetly. `Of course nobody in Valley Road aspires to
rival HER. WON'T you have another piece of pie, Miss Shirley?
You haven't eaten ANYTHING.'
"Stella, I had eaten a helping of tongue and one of chicken,
three biscuits, a generous allowance of preserves, a piece of
pie, a tart, and a square of chocolate cake!"
After tea Mrs. Douglas smiled benevolently and told John to
take "dear Janet" out into the garden and get her some roses.
"Miss Shirley will keep me company while you are out --
won't you?" she said plaintively. She settled down in her
armchair with a sigh.
"I am a very frail old woman, Miss Shirley. For over twenty
years I've been a great sufferer. For twenty long, weary years
I've been dying by inches."
"How painful!" said Anne, trying to be sympathetic and succeeding
only in feeling idiotic.
"There have been scores of nights when they've thought I could
never live to see the dawn," went on Mrs. Douglas solemnly.
"Nobody knows what I've gone through -- nobody can know but
myself. Well, it can't last very much longer now. My weary
pilgrimage will soon be over, Miss Shirley. It is a great
comfort to me that John will have such a good wife to look after
him when his mother is gone -- a great comfort, Miss Shirley."
"Janet is a lovely woman," said Anne warmly.
"Lovely! A beautiful character," assented Mrs. Douglas. "And a
perfect housekeeper -- something I never was. My health would
not permit it, Miss Shirley. I am indeed thankful that John has
made such a wise choice. I hope and believe that he will be happy.
He is my only son, Miss Shirley, and his happiness lies very near
"Of course," said Anne stupidly. For the first time in her life
she was stupid. Yet she could not imagine why. She seemed to
have absolutely nothing to say to this sweet, smiling, angelic
old lady who was patting her hand so kindly.
"Come and see me soon again, dear Janet," said Mrs. Douglas
lovingly, when they left. "You don't come half often enough.
But then I suppose John will be bringing you here to stay all the
time one of these days." Anne, happening to glance at John
Douglas, as his mother spoke, gave a positive start of dismay.
He looked as a tortured man might look when his tormentors gave
the rack the last turn of possible endurance. She felt sure he
must be ill and hurried poor blushing Janet away.
"Isn't old Mrs. Douglas a sweet woman?" asked Janet, as they
went down the road.
"M -- m," answered Anne absently. She was wondering why John
Douglas had looked so.
"She's been a terrible sufferer," said Janet feelingly.
"She takes terrible spells. It keeps John all worried up.
He's scared to leave home for fear his mother will take a
spell and nobody there but the hired girl."
"He Just Kept Coming and Coming"
Three days later Anne came home from school and found Janet crying.
Tears and Janet seemed so incongruous that Anne was honestly alarmed.
"Oh, what is the matter?" she cried anxiously.
"I'm -- I'm forty today," sobbed Janet.
"Well, you were nearly that yesterday and it didn't hurt,"
comforted Anne, trying not to smile.
"But -- but," went on Janet with a big gulp, "John Douglas won't
ask me to marry him."
"Oh, but he will," said Anne lamely. "You must give him time, Janet
"Time!" said Janet with indescribable scorn. "He has had twenty years.
How much time does he want?"
"Do you mean that John Douglas has been coming to see you for
"He has. And he has never so much as mentioned marriage to me.
And I don't believe he ever will now. I've never said a word to
a mortal about it, but it seems to me I've just got to talk it
out with some one at last or go crazy. John Douglas begun to go
with me twenty years ago, before mother died. Well, he kept
coming and coming, and after a spell I begun making quilts and
things; but he never said anything about getting married, only
just kept coming and coming. There wasn't anything I could do.
Mother died when we'd been going together for eight years.
I thought he maybe would speak out then, seeing as I was left
alone in the world. He was real kind and feeling, and did
everything he could for me, but he never said marry. And that's
the way it has been going on ever since. People blame ME for it.
They say I won't marry him because his mother is so sickly and I
don't want the bother of waiting on her. Why, I'd LOVE to wait on
John's mother! But I let them think so. I'd rather they'd blame
me than pity me! It's so dreadful humiliating that John won't
ask me. And WHY won't he? Seems to me if I only knew his reason
I wouldn't mind it so much."
"Perhaps his mother doesn't want him to marry anybody," suggested Anne.
"Oh, she does. She's told me time and again that she'd love to see
John settled before her time comes. She's always giving him hints --
you heard her yourself the other day. I thought I'd ha' gone through
"It's beyond me," said Anne helplessly. She thought of Ludovic Speed.
But the cases were not parallel. John Douglas was not a man of
"You should show more spirit, Janet," she went on resolutely.
"Why didn't you send him about his business long ago?"
"I couldn't," said poor Janet pathetically. "You see, Anne, I've
always been awful fond of John. He might just as well keep coming
as not, for there was never anybody else I'd want, so it didn't matter."
"But it might have made him speak out like a man," urged Anne.
Janet shook her head.
"No, I guess not. I was afraid to try, anyway, for fear he'd
think I meant it and just go. I suppose I'm a poor-spirited
creature, but that is how I feel. And I can't help it."
"Oh, you COULD help it, Janet. It isn't too late yet. Take a
firm stand. Let that man know you are not going to endure his
shillyshallying any longer. I'LL back you up."
"I dunno," said Janet hopelessly. "I dunno if I could ever get up
enough spunk. Things have drifted so long. But I'll think it over."
Anne felt that she was disappointed in John Douglas. She had
liked him so well, and she had not thought him the sort of man who
would play fast and loose with a woman's feelings for twenty years.
He certainly should be taught a lesson, and Anne felt vindictively
that she would enjoy seeing the process. Therefore she was delighted
when Janet told her, as they were going to prayer-meeting the next night,
that she meant to show some "sperrit."
"I'll let John Douglas see I'm not going to be trodden on any longer."
"You are perfectly right," said Anne emphatically.
When prayer-meeting was over John Douglas came up with his usual request.
Janet looked frightened but resolute.
"No, thank you," she said icily. "I know the road home pretty well alone.
I ought to, seeing I've been traveling it for forty years. So you needn't
trouble yourself, MR. Douglas."
Anne was looking at John Douglas; and, in that brilliant moonlight,
she saw the last twist of the rack again. Without a word he turned
and strode down the road.
"Stop! Stop!" Anne called wildly after him, not caring in the least
for the other dumbfounded onlookers. "Mr. Douglas, stop! Come back."
John Douglas stopped but he did not come back. Anne flew down
the road, caught his arm and fairly dragged him back to Janet.
"You must come back," she said imploringly. "It's all a mistake,
Mr. Douglas -- all my fault. I made Janet do it. She didn't
want to -- but it's all right now, isn't it, Janet?"
Without a word Janet took his arm and walked away. Anne followed
them meekly home and slipped in by the back door.
"Well, you are a nice person to back me up," said Janet sarcastically.
"I couldn't help it, Janet," said Anne repentantly. "I just felt
as if I had stood by and seen murder done. I HAD to run after him."
"Oh, I'm just as glad you did. When I saw John Douglas making
off down that road I just felt as if every little bit of joy and
happiness that was left in my life was going with him. It was an
"Did he ask you why you did it?" asked Anne.
"No, he never said a word about it," replied Janet dully.
John Douglas Speaks at Last
Anne was not without a feeble hope that something might come of
it after all. But nothing did. John Douglas came and took Janet
driving, and walked home from prayer-meeting with her, as he had
been doing for twenty years, and as he seemed likely to do for
twenty years more. The summer waned. Anne taught her school and
wrote letters and studied a little. Her walks to and from school
were pleasant. She always went by way of the swamp; it was a
lovely place -- a boggy soil, green with the greenest of mossy
hillocks; a silvery brook meandered through it and spruces stood
erectly, their boughs a-trail with gray-green mosses, their roots
overgrown with all sorts of woodland lovelinesses.
Nevertheless, Anne found life in Valley Road a little monotonous.
To be sure, there was one diverting incident.
She had not seen the lank, tow-headed Samuel of the peppermints
since the evening of his call, save for chance meetings on the road.
But one warm August night he appeared, and solemnly seated himself
on the rustic bench by the porch. He wore his usual working
habiliments, consisting of varipatched trousers, a blue jean shirt,
out at the elbows, and a ragged straw hat. He was chewing a straw
and he kept on chewing it while he looked solemnly at Anne. Anne
laid her book aside with a sigh and took up her doily. Conversation
with Sam was really out of the question.
After a long silence Sam suddenly spoke.
"I'm leaving over there," he said abruptly, waving his straw in
the direction of the neighboring house.
"Oh, are you?" said Anne politely.
"And where are you going now?"
"Wall, I've been thinking some of gitting a place of my own.
There's one that'd suit me over at Millersville. But ef I rents
it I'll want a woman."
"I suppose so," said Anne vaguely.
There was another long silence. Finally Sam removed his straw
again and said,
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Wh -- a -- t!" gasped Anne.
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Do you mean -- MARRY you?" queried poor Anne feebly.
"Why, I'm hardly acquainted with you," cried Anne indignantly.
"But yeh'd git acquainted with me after we was married," said Sam.
Anne gathered up her poor dignity.
"Certainly I won't marry you," she said haughtily.
"Wall, yeh might do worse," expostulated Sam. "I'm a good worker
and I've got some money in the bank."
"Don't speak of this to me again. Whatever put such an idea into
your head?" said Anne, her sense of humor getting the better of
her wrath. It was such an absurd situation.
"Yeh're a likely-looking girl and hev a right-smart way o' stepping,"
said Sam. "I don't want no lazy woman. Think it over. I won't change
my mind yit awhile. Wall, I must be gitting. Gotter milk the cows."
Anne's illusions concerning proposals had suffered so much of
late years that there were few of them left. So she could laugh
wholeheartedly over this one, not feeling any secret sting. She
mimicked poor Sam to Janet that night, and both of them laughed
immoderately over his plunge into sentiment.
One afternoon, when Anne's sojourn in Valley Road was drawing to a
close, Alec Ward came driving down to "Wayside" in hot haste for Janet.
"They want you at the Douglas place quick," he said. "I really
believe old Mrs. Douglas is going to die at last, after pretending
to do it for twenty years."
Janet ran to get her hat. Anne asked if Mrs. Douglas was worse than usual.
"She's not half as bad," said Alec solemnly, "and that's what
makes me think it's serious. Other times she'd be screaming and
throwing herself all over the place. This time she's lying still
and mum. When Mrs. Douglas is mum she is pretty sick, you bet."
"You don't like old Mrs. Douglas?" said Anne curiously.
"I like cats as IS cats. I don't like cats as is women," was Alec's
Janet came home in the twilight.
"Mrs. Douglas is dead," she said wearily. "She died soon after
I got there. She just spoke to me once -- `I suppose you'll
marry John now?' she said. It cut me to the heart, Anne.
To think John's own mother thought I wouldn't marry him
because of her! I couldn't say a word either -- there were
other women there. I was thankful John had gone out."
Janet began to cry drearily. But Anne brewed her a hot drink of
ginger tea to her comforting. To be sure, Anne discovered later
on that she had used white pepper instead of ginger; but Janet
never knew the difference.
The evening after the funeral Janet and Anne were sitting on the
front porch steps at sunset. The wind had fallen asleep in the
pinelands and lurid sheets of heat-lightning flickered across the
northern skies. Janet wore her ugly black dress and looked her
very worst, her eyes and nose red from crying. They talked
little, for Janet seemed faintly to resent Anne's efforts to
cheer her up. She plainly preferred to be miserable.
Suddenly the gate-latch clicked and John Douglas strode into the
garden. He walked towards them straight over the geranium bed.
Janet stood up. So did Anne. Anne was a tall girl and wore a
white dress; but John Douglas did not see her.
"Janet," he said, "will you marry me?"
The words burst out as if they had been wanting to be said
for twenty years and MUST be uttered now, before anything else.
Janet's face was so red from crying that it couldn't turn any redder,
so it turned a most unbecoming purple.
"Why didn't you ask me before?" she said slowly.
"I couldn't. She made me promise not to -- mother made me
promise not to. Nineteen years ago she took a terrible spell.
We thought she couldn't live through it. She implored me to
promise not to ask you to marry me while she was alive. I didn't
want to promise such a thing, even though we all thought she
couldn't live very long -- the doctor only gave her six months.
But she begged it on her knees, sick and suffering. I had to promise."
"What had your mother against me?" cried Janet.
"Nothing -- nothing. She just didn't want another woman
-- ANY woman -- there while she was living. She said if I
didn't promise she'd die right there and I'd have killed her.
So I promised. And she's held me to that promise ever since,
though I've gone on my knees to her in my turn to beg her
to let me ff."
"Why didn't you tell me this?" asked Janet chokingly.
"If I'd only KNOWN! Why didn't you just tell me?"
"She made me promise I wouldn't tell a soul," said John hoarsely.
"She swore me to it on the Bible; Janet, I'd never have done it
if I'd dreamed it was to be for so long. Janet, you'll never
know what I've suffered these nineteen years. I know I've made
you suffer, too, but you'll marry me for all, won't you, Janet?
Oh, Janet, won't you? I've come as soon as I could to ask you."
At this moment the stupefied Anne came to her senses and realized
that she had no business to be there. She slipped away and did not
see Janet until the next morning, when the latter told her the rest
of the story.
"That cruel, relentless, deceitful old woman!" cried Anne.
"Hush -- she's dead," said Janet solemnly. "If she wasn't -- but she IS.
So we mustn't speak evil of her. But I'm happy at last, Anne. And I
wouldn't have minded waiting so long a bit if I'd only known why."
"When are you to be married?"
"Next month. Of course it will be very quiet. I suppose people
will talk terrible. They'll say I made enough haste to snap John
up as soon as his poor mother was out of the way. John wanted to
let them know the truth but I said, `No, John; after all she was
your mother, and we'll keep the secret between us, and not cast
any shadow on her memory. I don't mind what people say, now that
I know the truth myself. It don't matter a mite. Let it all be
buried with the dead' says I to him. So I coaxed him round to
agree with me."
"You're much more forgiving than I could ever be," Anne said,
"You'll feel differently about a good many things when you get to
be my age," said Janet tolerantly. "That's one of the things we
learn as we grow older -- how to forgive. It comes easier at
forty than it did at twenty."
The Last Redmond Year Opens
"Here we are, all back again, nicely sunburned and rejoicing as a
strong man to run a race," said Phil, sitting down on a suitcase
with a sigh of pleasure. "Isn't it jolly to see this dear old
Patty's Place again -- and Aunty -- and the cats? Rusty has lost
another piece of ear, hasn't he?"
"Rusty would be the nicest cat in the world if he had no ears at all,"
declared Anne loyally from her trunk, while Rusty writhed about her lap
in a frenzy of welcome.
"Aren't you glad to see us back, Aunty?" demanded Phil.
"Yes. But I wish you'd tidy things up," said Aunt Jamesina plaintively,
looking at the wilderness of trunks and suitcases by which the four
laughing, chattering girls were surrounded. "You can talk just as well
later on. Work first and then play used to be my motto when I was a girl."
"Oh, we've just reversed that in this generation, Aunty.
OUR motto is play your play and then dig in. You can do your
work so much better if you've had a good bout of play first."
"If you are going to marry a minister," said Aunt Jamesina,
picking up Joseph and her knitting and resigning herself to the
inevitable with the charming grace that made her the queen of
housemothers, "you will have to give up such expressions as `dig in.'"
"Why?" moaned Phil. "Oh, why must a minister's wife be supposed
to utter only prunes and prisms? I shan't. Everybody on
Patterson Street uses slang -- that is to say, metaphorical
language -- and if I didn't they would think me insufferably
proud and stuck up."
"Have you broken the news to your family?" asked Priscilla,
feeding the Sarah-cat bits from her lunchbasket.
"How did they take it?"
"Oh, mother rampaged. But I stood rockfirm -- even I, Philippa Gordon,
who never before could hold fast to anything. Father was calmer.
Father's own daddy was a minister, so you see he has a soft spot
in his heart for the cloth. I had Jo up to Mount Holly, after mother
grew calm, and they both loved him. But mother gave him some frightful
hints in every conversation regarding what she had hoped for me. Oh,
my vacation pathway hasn't been exactly strewn with roses, girls dear.
But -- I've won out and I've got Jo. Nothing else matters."
"To you," said Aunt Jamesina darkly.
"Nor to Jo, either," retorted Phil. "You keep on pitying him.
Why, pray? I think he's to be envied. He's getting brains,
beauty, and a heart of gold in ME."
"It's well we know how to take your speeches," said Aunt Jamesina
patiently. "I hope you don't talk like that before strangers.
What would they think?"
"Oh, I don't want to know what they think. I don't want to
see myself as others see me. I'm sure it would be horribly
uncomfortable most of the time. I don't believe Burns was
really sincere in that prayer, either."
"Oh, I daresay we all pray for some things that we really don't
want, if we were only honest enough to look into our hearts,"
owned Aunt Jamesina candidly. "I've a notion that such prayers
don't rise very far. _I_ used to pray that I might be enabled to
forgive a certain person, but I know now I really didn't want to
forgive her. When I finally got that I DID want to I forgave her
without having to pray about it."
"I can't picture you as being unforgiving for long," said Stella.
"Oh, I used to be. But holding spite doesn't seem worth while
when you get along in years."
"That reminds me," said Anne, and told the tale of John and Janet.
"And now tell us about that romantic scene you hinted so darkly
at in one of your letters," demanded Phil.
Anne acted out Samuel's proposal with great spirit. The girls
shrieked with laughter and Aunt Jamesina smiled.
"It isn't in good taste to make fun of your beaux," she said
severely; "but," she added calmly, "I always did it myself."
"Tell us about your beaux, Aunty, "en treated Phil. "You must
have had any number of them."
"They're not in the past tense," retorted Aunt Jamesina.
"I've got them yet. There are three old widowers at home
who have been casting sheep's eyes at me for some time.
You children needn't think you own all the romance in the world."
"Widowers and sheep's eyes don't sound very romantic, Aunty."
"Well, no; but young folks aren't always romantic either.
Some of my beaux certainly weren't. I used to laugh at them
scandalous, poor boys. There was Jim Elwood -- he was always in
a sort of day-dream -- never seemed to sense what was going on.
He didn't wake up to the fact that I'd said `no' till a year
after I'd said it. When he did get married his wife fell out of
the sleigh one night when they were driving home from church and
he never missed her. Then there was Dan Winston. He knew too much.
He knew everything in this world and most of what is in the next.
He could give you an answer to any question, even if you asked him
when the Judgment Day was to be. Milton Edwards was real nice and
I liked him but I didn't marry him. For one thing, he took a week
to get a joke through his head, and for another he never asked me.
Horatio Reeve was the most interesting beau I ever had. But when he
told a story he dressed it up so that you couldn't see it for frills.
I never could decide whether he was lying or just letting his
imagination run loose."
"And what about the others, Aunty?"
"Go away and unpack," said Aunt Jamesina, waving Joseph at them by
mistake for a needle. "The others were too nice to make fun of.
I shall respect their memory. There's a box of flowers in
your room, Anne. They came about an hour ago."
After the first week the girls of Patty's Place settled down to a
steady grind of study; for this was their last year at Redmond
and graduation honors must be fought for persistently. Anne
devoted herself to English, Priscilla pored over classics, and
Philippa pounded away at Mathematics. Sometimes they grew tired,
sometimes they felt discouraged, sometimes nothing seemed worth
the struggle for it. In one such mood Stella wandered up to the
blue room one rainy November evening. Anne sat on the floor in a
little circle of light cast by the lamp beside her, amid a
surrounding snow of crumpled manuscript.
"What in the world are you doing?"
"Just looking over some old Story Club yarns. I wanted something
to cheer AND inebriate. I'd studied until the world seemed azure.
So I came up here and dug these out of my trunk. They are so drenched
in tears and tragedy that they are excruciatingly funny."
"I'm blue and discouraged myself," said Stella, throwing herself
on the couch. "Nothing seems worthwhile. My very thoughts are
old. I've thought them all before. What is the use of living
after all, Anne?"
"Honey, it's just brain fag that makes us feel that way, and the weather.
A pouring rainy night like this, coming after a hard day's grind, would
squelch any one but a Mark Tapley. You know it IS worthwhile to live."
"Oh, I suppose so. But I can't prove it to myself just now."
"Just think of all the great and noble souls who have lived and
worked in the world," said Anne dreamily. "Isn't it worthwhile
to come after them and inherit what they won and taught? Isn't
it worthwhile to think we can share their inspiration? And then,
all the great souls that will come in the future? Isn't it
worthwhile to work a little and prepare the way for them --
make just one step in their path easier?"
"Oh, my mind agrees with you, Anne. But my soul remains doleful
and uninspired. I'm always grubby and dingy on rainy nights."
"Some nights I like the rain -- I like to lie in bed and hear it
pattering on the roof and drifting through the pines."
"I like it when it stays on the roof," said Stella. "It doesn't
always. I spent a gruesome night in an old country farmhouse
last summer. The roof leaked and the rain came pattering down on
my bed. There was no poetry in THAT. I had to get up in the
`mirk midnight' and chivy round to pull the bedstead out of the
drip -- and it was one of those solid, old-fashioned beds that
weigh a ton -- more or less. And then that drip-drop, drip-drop
kept up all night until my nerves just went to pieces. You've no
idea what an eerie noise a great drop of rain falling with a
mushy thud on a bare floor makes in the night. It sounds like
ghostly footsteps and all that sort of thing. What are you
laughing over, Anne?"
"These stories. As Phil would say they are killing -- in more senses
than one, for everybody died in them. What dazzlingly lovely heroines
we had -- and how we dressed them! Silks -- satins -- velvets -- jewels
-- laces -- they never wore anything else. Here is one of Jane Andrews'
stories depicting her heroine as sleeping in a beautiful white satin
nightdress trimmed with seed pearls."
"Go on," said Stella. "I begin to feel that life is worth living
as long as there's a laugh in it."
"Here's one I wrote. My heroine is disporting herself at a ball
`glittering from head to foot with large diamonds of the first
water.' But what booted beauty or rich attire? `The paths of
glory lead but to the grave.' They must either be murdered or die
of a broken heart. There was no escape for them."
"Let me read some of your stories."