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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily. She and Diana Barry had been pickingapples in the Green Gables orchard, but were now resting from their labors in a sunny corner, where airy fleets of thistledown drifted by on the wings of a wind that was still summer-sweet with the incense of ferns in the Haunted Wood.
But everything in the landscape around them spoke of autumn. The sea was roaring hollowly in the distance, the fields were bare and sere, scarfed with golden rod, the brook valley below Green Gables overflowed with asters of ethereal purple, and the Lake of Shining Waters wasblue—blue—blue; not the changeful blue of spring, nor the pale azure of summer, but a clear, steadfast, serene blue, as if the water were past all moods and tenses of emotion and had settled down to a tranquility unbroken by fickle dreams.
“It has been anice summer,” said Diana, twisting the new ring on her left hand with a smile. “And Miss Lavendar’s wedding seemed to come as a sort of crown to it. I suppose Mr. and Mrs. Irving are on the Pacific coast now.”
“It seems to me they have been gone long enough to go around the world,” sighed Anne.
“I can’t believe it is only a week since they were married. Everything has changed. Miss Lavendar and Mr. and Mrs. Allan gone—how lonely the manse looks with the shutters all closed! I went past it last night, and itmade me feel as if everybody in it had died.”
“We’ll never get another minister as nice as Mr. Allan,” said Diana, with gloomy conviction. “I suppose we’ll have all kinds of supplies this winter, and half the Sundays no preaching at all. And you and Gilbert gone—it will be awfully dull.”
“Fred will be here,” insinuated Anne slyly.
“When is Mrs. Lynde going to move up?” asked Diana, as if she had not heard Anne’s remark.
“Tomorrow. I’m glad she’s coming—but it will be another change. Marilla and I cleared everything out of the spare room yesterday. Do you know, I hated to do it? Of course, it was silly—but it did seem as if we were committing sacrilege. That old spare room has always seemed like a shrine to me. When I was a child I thought it the most wonderful apartment in the world. You remember what a consuming desire I had to sleep in a spare room bed—but not the Green Gables spare room. Oh, no, never there! It would have been too terrible—I couldn’t have slept a wink from awe. I never WALKED through thatroom when Marilla sent me in on an errand—no, indeed, I tiptoed through it and held my breath, as if I were in church, and felt relieved when I got out of it. The pictures of George Whitefield and the Duke of Wellington hung there, one on each side of themirror, and frowned so sternly at me all the time I was in, especially if I dared peep in the mirror, which was the only one in the house that didn’t twist my face a little. I always wondered how Marilla dared houseclean that room. And now it’s not only cleaned but stripped bare. George Whitefield and the Duke have been relegated to the upstairs hall. ‘So passes the glory of this world,’”concluded Anne, with a laugh in which there was a little note of regret. It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.
“I’ll be so lonesome when you go,” moaned Diana for the hundredth time. “And to think you go next week!”
“But we’re together still,” said Anne cheerily. “We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy. I hatethe thought of going myself—home and I are such good friends. Talk of being lonesome! It’s I who should groan. YOU’LL be here with any number of your old friends—AND Fred! While I shall be alone among strangers, not knowing a soul!”
“EXCEPT Gilbert—AND Charlie Sloane,” said Diana, imitating Anne’s italics and slyness.
“Charlie Sloane will be a great comfort, of course,” agreed Anne sarcastically; whereupon both those irresponsible damsels laughed. Diana knew exactly what Anne thought of Charlie Sloane; but, despite sundry confidential talks, she did not know just what Anne thought of Gilbert Blythe. To be sure, Anne herself did not know that.
“The boys may be boarding at the other end of Kingsport, for all I know,” Anne went on. “I am glad I’m going to Redmond, and I am sure I shall like it after a while. But for the first few weeks I know I won’t. I shan’t even have the comfort of looking forward to the weekend visit home, as I had when I went to Queen’s. Christmas will seem like a thousand years away.”
“Everything is changing—or going to change,” said Diana sadly. “I have a feeling that things will never be the same again, Anne.”
“We have come to a parting of the ways, I suppose,” said Anne thoughtfully. “We had to come to it. Do you think, Diana, that being grown-up is really as nice as we used to imagine it would be when we were children?”
“I don’t know—there are SOME nice things about it,” answered Diana, again caressing her ring with that little smile which always had the effect of making Anne feel suddenly left out and inexperienced. “But there are so many puzzling things, too. Sometimes I feel as if being grown-up just frightened me—and then I would give anything to be a little girl again.”
“I suppose we’ll get used to being grownup in time,” said Annecheerfully. “There won’t be so many unexpected things about it by and by—though, after all, I fancy it’s the unexpected things that give spice to life. We’re eighteen, Diana. In two more years we’ll be twenty. When I was ten I thought twenty was a green old age. In no time you’ll be a staid, middle-aged matron, and I shall be nice, old maid Aunt Anne, coming to visit you on vacations. You’ll always keep a corner for me, won’t you, Di darling? Not the spare room, of course—old maids can’t aspire to spare rooms, and I shall be as ‘umble as Uriah Heep, and quite content with a little over-the-porch or off-the-parlor cubby hole.”
“What nonsense you do talk, Anne,” laughed Diana. “You’ll marry somebody splendid and handsome and rich—and no spare room in Avonlea will be half gorgeous enough for you—and you’ll turn up your nose at all the friends of your youth.”
“That would be a pity; my nose is quite nice, but I fear turning it up would spoil it,” said Anne, patting that shapely organ. “I haven’t so many good features that I could afford tospoil those I have; so, even if I should marry the King of the Cannibal Islands, I promise you I won’t turn up my nose at you, Diana.”
With another gay laugh the girls separated, Diana to return to Orchard Slope, Anne to walk tothe Post Office. She found a letter awaiting her there, and when Gilbert Blythe overtook her on the bridge over the Lake of Shining Waters she was sparkling with the excitement of it.
“Priscilla Grant is going to Redmond, too,” she exclaimed. “Isn’t that splendid? I hoped she would, but she didn’t think her father would consent. He has, however, and we’re to board together. I feel that I can face an army with banners—or all the professors of Redmond in one fell phalanx—with a chum like Priscilla by my side.”
“I think we’ll like Kingsport,” said Gilbert. “It’s a nice old burg, they tell me, and has the finest natural park in the world. I’ve heard that the scenery in it is magnificent.”
“I wonder if it will be—can be—any more beautiful than this,” murmured Anne, looking around her with the loving, enraptured eyes of those to whom “home” must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.
They were leaning on the bridge of the old pond, drinking deep of the enchantment of the dusk, just at the spot where Anne had climbed from her sinking Dory on the day Elaine floated down to Camelot. The fine, empurpling dye of sunset still stained the western skies, but the moon was rising and the water lay like a great, silverdream in her light. Remembrance wove a sweet and subtle spell over the two young creatures.
“You are very quiet, Anne,” said Gilbert at last.
“I’m afraid to speak or move for fear all this wonderful beauty will vanish just like a broken silence,” breathedAnne.
Gilbert suddenly laid his hand over the slender white one lying on the rail of the bridge. His hazel eyes deepened into darkness, his still boyish lips opened to say something of the dream and hope that thrilled his soul. But Anne snatched her handaway and turned quickly. The spell of the dusk was broken for her.
“I must go home,” she exclaimed, with a rather overdone carelessness. “Marilla had a headache this afternoon, and I’m sure the twins will be in some dreadful mischief by this time. I reallyshouldn’t have stayed away so long.”
She chattered ceaselessly and inconsequently until they reached the Green Gables lane. Poor Gilbert hardly had a chance to get a word in edgewise. Anne felt rather relieved when they parted. There had been a new, secret self-consciousness in her heart with regard to Gilbert, ever since that fleeting moment of revelation in the garden of Echo Lodge. Something alien had intruded into the old, perfect, school-day comradeship—something that threatened to mar it.
“I never felt glad to see Gilbert go before,” she thought, half-resentfully, half-sorrowfully, as she walked alone up the lane. “Our friendship will be spoiled if he goes on with this nonsense. It mustn’t be spoiled—I won’t let it. Oh, WHY can’t boys be just sensible!”
Anne had an uneasy doubt that it was not strictly “sensible” that she should still feel on her hand the warm pressure of Gilbert’s, as distinctly as she had felt it for the swift second his had rested there; and still less sensible that the sensation was far from being anunpleasant one—very different from that which had attended a similar demonstration on Charlie Sloane’s part, when she had been sitting out a dance with him at a White Sands party three nights before. Anne shivered over the disagreeablerecollection. But all problems connected with infatuated swains vanished from her mind when she entered the homely, unsentimental atmosphere of the Green Gables kitchen where an eight-year-old boy was crying grievously on the sofa.
“What is the matter, Davy?” asked Anne, taking him up in her arms. “Where are Marilla and Dora?”
“Marilla’s putting Dora to bed,” sobbed Davy, “and I’m crying ‘cause Dora fell down the outside cellar steps, heels over head, and scraped all the skin off her nose, and—”
“Oh, well,don’t cry about it, dear. Of course, you are sorry for her, but crying won’t help her any. She’ll be all right tomorrow. Crying never helps any one, Davy-boy, and—”
“I ain’t crying ‘cause Dora fell down cellar,” said Davy, cutting short Anne’s wellmeant preachment with increasing bitterness. “I’m crying, cause I wasn’t there to see her fall. I’m always missing some fun or other, seems to me.”
“Oh, Davy!” Anne choked back an unholy shriek of laughter. “Would you call it fun to see poor little Dora fall downthe steps and get hurt?”
“She wasn’t MUCH hurt,” said Davy, defiantly. “‘Course, if she’d been killed I’d have been real sorry, Anne. But the Keiths ain’t so easy killed. They’re like the Blewetts, I guess. Herb Blewett fell off the hayloft last Wednesday,and rolled right down through the turnip chute into the box stall, where they had a fearful wild, cross horse, and rolled right under his heels. And still he got out alive, with only three bones broke. Mrs. Lynde says there are some folks you can’t kill with a meat-axe. Is Mrs. Lynde coming here tomorrow, Anne?”
“Yes, Davy, and I hope you’ll be always very nice and good to her.”
“I’ll be nice and good. But will she ever put me to bed at nights, Anne?”
“‘Cause,” said Davy very decidedly, “ifshe does I won’t say my prayers before her like I do before you, Anne.”
“‘Cause I don’t think it would be nice to talk to God before strangers, Anne. Dora can say hers to Mrs. Lynde if she likes, butIwon’t. I’ll wait till she’s gone and thensay ‘em. Won’t that be all right, Anne?”
“Yes, if you are sure you won’t forget to say them, Davy-boy.”
“Oh, I won’t forget, you bet. I think saying my prayers is great fun. But it won’t be as good fun saying them alone as saying them to you. I wish you’dstay home, Anne. I don’t see what you want to go away and leave us for.”
“I don’t exactly WANT to, Davy, but I feel I ought to go.”
“If you don’t want to go you needn’t. You’re grown up. WhenI’m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.”
“All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.”
“I won’t,” said Davy flatly. “Catch me! I have to do things I don’t want to now ‘cause you and Marilla’ll send me to bed if I don’t. But when I grow up you can’t dothat, and there’ll be nobody to tell me not to do things. Won’t I have the time! Say, Anne, Milty Boulter says his mother says you’re going to college to see if you can catch a man. Are you, Anne? I want to know.”
For a second Anne burned with resentment.Then she laughed, reminding herself that Mrs. Boulter’s crude vulgarity of thought and speech could not harm her.
“No, Davy, I’m not. I’m going to study and grow and learn about many things.”
“‘Shoes and ships and sealing wax And cabbages and kings,’”
“But if you DID want to catch a man how would you go about it? I want to know,” persisted Davy, for whom the subject evidently possessed a certain fascination.
“You’d better ask Mrs. Boulter,” said Anne thoughtlessly. “Ithink it’s likely she knows more about the process than I do.”
“I will, the next time I see her,” said Davy gravely.
“Davy! If you do!” cried Anne, realizing her mistake.
“But you just told me to,” protested Davy aggrieved.
“It’s time you went to bed,” decreed Anne, by way of getting out of the scrape.
After Davy had gone to bed Anne wandered down to Victoria Island and sat there alone, curtained with fine-spun, moonlit gloom, while the water laughed around her in a duet of brook and wind. Anne had always loved that brook. Many a dream had she spun over its sparkling water in days gone by. She forgot lovelorn youths, and the cayenne speeches of malicious neighbors, and all the problems of her girlish existence. In imagination she sailed over storied seas that wash the distant shining shores of “faery lands forlorn,” where lost Atlantis and Elysium lie, with the evening star for pilot, to the land of Heart’s Desire. And she was richer in those dreams than in realities; for things seen pass away, but the thingsthat are unseen are eternal.
The following week sped swiftly, crowded with innumerable“last things,” as Anne called them. Good-bye calls hadto be made and received, being pleasant or otherwise, according towhethercallers and called-upon were heartily in sympathy withAnne’s hopes, or thought she was too much puffed-up overgoing to college and that it was their duty to “take her downa peg or two.”
The A.V.I.S. gave a farewell party in honor of Anne and Gilbertone evening at the home of Josie Pye, choosing that place, partlybecause Mr. Pye’s house was large and convenient, partlybecause it was strongly suspected that the Pye girls would havenothing to do with the affair if their offer of the house for thepartywas not accepted. It was a very pleasant little time, for thePye girls were gracious, and said and did nothing to mar theharmony of the occasion—which was not according to theirwont. Josie was unusually amiable—so much so that she evenremarked condescendingly to Anne,
“Your new dress is rather becoming to you, Anne. Really,you look ALMOST PRETTY in it.”
“How kind of you to say so,” responded Anne, withdancing eyes. Her sense of humor was developing, and the speechesthat would have hurt her at fourteen were becoming merely food foramusement now. Josie suspected that Anne was laughing at her behindthose wicked eyes; but she contented herself with whispering toGertie, as they went downstairs, that Anne Shirley would put onmore airs than ever now that she was going tocollege—you’d see!
All the “old crowd” was there, full of mirth andzest and youthful lightheartedness. Diana Barry, rosy and dimpled,shadowed by the faithful Fred; Jane Andrews, neat and sensible andplain; Ruby Gillis, looking her handsomest and brightest in a creamsilk blouse, with red geraniums in her golden hair; Gilbert Blytheand Charlie Sloane, both trying to keep as near the elusive Anne aspossible; Carrie Sloane, looking pale and melancholy because, so itwas reported, her father would not allow Oliver Kimball to comenear the place; Moody Spurgeon MacPherson, whose round face andobjectionable ears were as round and objectionable as ever; andBilly Andrews, who sat in a corner all the evening, chuckled whenany one spoke to him, and watched Anne Shirley with a grin ofpleasure on his broad, freckled countenance.
Anne had known beforehand of the party, but she had not knownthat she and Gilbert were, as the founders of the Society, to bepresented with a very complimentary “address” and“tokens of respect”—in her case a volume ofShakespeare’s plays, in Gilbert’s a fountain pen. Shewas so taken by surprise and pleased by the nice things said in theaddress, read in Moody Spurgeon’s most solemn and ministerialtones, that the tears quite drowned the sparkle of her big grayeyes. She had worked hard and faithfully for the A.V.I.S., and itwarmed the cockles of her heart that the members appreciated herefforts so sincerely. And they were all so nice and friendly andjolly—even thePye girls had their merits; at that moment Anneloved all the world.
She enjoyed the evening tremendously, but the end of it ratherspoiled all. Gilbert again made the mistake of saying somethingsentimental to her as they ate their supper on the moonlitverandah;and Anne, to punish him, was gracious to Charlie Sloane and allowedthe latter to walk home with her. She found, however, that revengehurts nobody quite so much as the one who tries to inflict it.Gilbert walked airily off with Ruby Gillis, andAnne could hear themlaughing and talking gaily as they loitered along in the still,crisp autumn air. They were evidently having the best of goodtimes, while she was horribly bored by Charlie Sloane, who talkedunbrokenly on, and never, even by accident,said one thing that wasworth listening to. Anne gave an occasional absent“yes” or “no,” and thought how beautifulRuby had looked that night, how very goggly Charlie’s eyeswere in the moonlight—worse even than by daylight—andthat the world, somehow, wasn’t quite such a nice place asshe had believed it to be earlier in the evening.
“I’m just tired out—that is what is the matterwith me,” she said, when she thankfully found herself alonein her own room. And she honestly believed it was. But a certainlittle gush of joy, as from some secret, unknown spring, bubbled upin her heart the next evening, when she saw Gilbert striding downthrough the Haunted Wood and crossing the old log bridge with thatfirm, quick step of his. So Gilbert was not going to spend thislast evening with Ruby Gillis after all!
“You look tired, Anne,” he said.
“I am tired, and, worse than that, I’m disgruntled.I’m tired because I’ve been packing my trunk and sewingall day. But I’m disgruntled because six women have been hereto say good-bye to me, and every one of the six managed to saysomething that seemed to take the color right out of life and leaveit as gray and dismal and cheerless as a Novembermorning.”
“Spiteful old cats!” was Gilbert’s elegantcomment.
“Oh, no, they weren’t,” said Anne seriously.“That is just the trouble. If they had been spiteful cats Iwouldn’t have minded them. But they are all nice, kind,motherly souls, who like me and whom I like, and that is why whatthey said, or hinted, had such undue weight with me. They let mesee they thought I was crazy going to Redmond and trying to take aB.A., and ever since I’ve been wondering if I am. Mrs. PeterSloane sighed and said she hoped my strength would hold out till Igot through; and at once I saw myself a hopeless victim of nervousprostration at the end of my third year; Mrs. Eben Wright said itmust cost an awful lot to put in four years at Redmond; and I feltall over me that it was unpardonable of me to squanderMarilla’s money and my own on such a folly.Mrs. Jasper Bellsaid she hoped I wouldn’t let college spoil me, as it didsome people; and I felt in my bones that the end of my four Redmondyears would see me a most insufferable creature, thinking I knew itall, and looking down on everything and everybody in Avonlea; Mrs.Elisha Wright said she understood that Redmond girls, especiallythose who belonged to Kingsport, were ‘dreadful dressy andstuck-up,’ and she guessed I wouldn’t feel much at homeamong them; and I saw myself, a snubbed, dowdy, humiliated countrygirl, shuffling through Redmond’s classic halls incoppertoned boots.”
Anne ended with a laugh and a sigh commingled. With hersensitive nature all disapproval had weight, even the disapprovalof those for whose opinions she had scantrespect. For the timebeing life was savorless, and ambition had gone out like a snuffedcandle.
“You surely don’t care for what they said,”protested Gilbert. “You know exactly how narrow their outlookon life is, excellent creatures though they are. To do anythingTHEY have never done is anathema maranatha. You are the firstAvonlea girl who has ever gone to college; and you know that allpioneers are considered to be afflicted with moonstruckmadness.”
“Oh, I know. But FEELING is so different from KNOWING. Mycommon sense tells me all you can say, but there are times whencommon sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possessionof my soul. Really, after Mrs. Elisha went away I hardly had theheart to finish packing.”
“You’re just tired, Anne. Come,forget it all andtake a walk with me—a ramble back through the woods beyondthe marsh. There should be something there I want to showyou.”
“Should be! Don’t you know if it isthere?”
“No. I only know it should be, from something I saw therein spring. Come on. We’ll pretend we are two children againand we’ll go the way of the wind.”
They started gaily off. Anne, remembering the unpleasantness ofthe preceding evening, was very nice to Gilbert; and Gilbert, whowas learning wisdom, took care to be nothingsave the schoolboycomrade again. Mrs. Lynde and Marilla watched them from the kitchenwindow.
“That’ll be a match some day,” Mrs. Lynde saidapprovingly.
Marilla winced slightly. In her heart she hoped it would, but itwent against her grain to hear thematter spoken of in Mrs.Lynde’s gossipy matter-of-fact way.
“They’re only children yet,” she saidshortly.
Mrs. Lynde laughed good-naturedly.
“Anne is eighteen; I was married when I was that age. Weold folks, Marilla, are too much given to thinking children nevergrow up, that’s what. Anne is a young woman andGilbert’s a man, and he worships the ground she walks on, asany one can see. He’s a fine fellow, and Anne can’t dobetter. I hope she won’t get any romantic nonsense into herhead at Redmond. I don’t approve of them coeducational placesand never did, that’s what. I don’t believe,”concluded Mrs. Lynde solemnly, “that the students at suchcolleges ever do much else than flirt.”
“They must study a little,” said Marilla, with asmile.
“Precious little,” sniffed Mrs. Rachel.“However, I think Anne will. She never was flirtatious. Butshe doesn’t appreciate Gilbert at his full value,that’s what. Oh, I know girls! Charlie Sloane is wild abouther, too, but I’d never advise her to marry a Sloane. TheSloanes are good, honest, respectable people, of course. But whenall’s said and done, they’re SLOANES.”
Marilla nodded. To an outsider, the statement that Sloanes wereSloanes might not be very illuminating, but she understood. Everyvillage has such a family; good, honest,respectable people they maybe, but SLOANES they are and must ever remain, though they speakwith the tongues of men and angels.
Gilbert and Anne, happily unconscious that their future was thusbeing settled by Mrs. Rachel, were saunteringthrough the shadows ofthe Haunted Wood. Beyond, the harvest hills were basking in anamber sunset radiance, under a pale, aerial sky of rose and blue.The distant spruce groves were burnished bronze, and their longshadows barred the upland meadows. But around them a little windsang among the fir tassels, and in it there was the note ofautumn.
“This wood really is haunted now—by oldmemories,” said Anne, stooping to gather a spray of ferns,bleached to waxen whiteness by frost. “It seems to me thatthe little girls Diana and I used to be play here still, and sit bythe Dryad’s Bubble in the twilights, trysting with theghosts. Do you know, I can never go up this path in the duskwithout feeling a bit of the old fright and shiver? There was oneespeciallyhorrifying phantom which we created—the ghost ofthe murdered child that crept up behind you and laid cold fingerson yours. I confess that, to this day, I cannot help fancying itslittle, furtive footsteps behind me when I come here afternightfall. I’m not afraid of the White Lady or the headlessman or the skeletons, but I wish I had never imagined thatbaby’s ghost into existence. How angry Marilla and Mrs. Barrywere over that affair,” concluded Anne, with reminiscentlaughter.
The woods around the head of the marsh were full of purplevistas, threaded with gossamers. Past a dour plantation of gnarledspruces and a maple-fringed, sun-warm valley they found the“something” Gilbert was looking for.
“Ah, here it is,” he said with satisfaction.
“An apple tree—and away back here!” exclaimedAnne delightedly.
“Yes, a veritable apple-bearing apple tree, too, here inthe very midst of pines and beeches, a mile away from any orchard.I was here one day last spring and found it, all white withblossom. So I resolved I’d come again in the fall and see ifit had been apples. See, it’s loaded. They look good,too—tawny as russets but with a dusky red cheek. Most wildseedlings are green and uninviting.”
“I suppose it sprang years ago from some chance-sownseed,” saidAnne dreamily. “And how it has grown andflourished and held its own here all alone among aliens, the bravedetermined thing!”
“Here’s a fallen tree with a cushion of moss. Sitdown, Anne—it will serve for a woodland throne. I’llclimb for some apples. They all grow high—the tree had toreach up to the sunlight.”
The apples proved to be delicious. Under the tawny skin was awhite, white flesh, faintly veined with red; and, besides their ownproper apple taste, they had a certain wild, delightful tang noorchard-grown apple ever possessed.
“The fatal apple of Eden couldn’t have had a rarerflavor,” commented Anne. “But it’s time we weregoing home. See, it was twilight three minutes ago and nowit’s moonlight. What a pity we couldn’t have caught themoment oftransformation. But such moments never are caught, Isuppose.”
“Let’s go back around the marsh and home by way ofLover’s Lane. Do you feel as disgruntled now as when youstarted out, Anne?”
“Not I. Those apples have been as manna to a hungry soul.I feelthat I shall love Redmond and have a splendid four yearsthere.”
“And after those four years—what?”
“Oh, there’s another bend in the road at theirend,” answered Anne lightly. “I’ve no idea whatmay be around it—I don’t want to have. It’s nicernot to know.”
Lover’s Lane was a dear place that night, still andmysteriously dim in the pale radiance of the moonlight. Theyloitered through it in a pleasant chummy silence, neither caring totalk.
“If Gilbert were always as he has been this evening hownice andsimple everything would be,” reflected Anne.
Gilbert was looking at Anne, as she walked along. In her lightdress, with her slender delicacy, she made him think of a whiteiris.
“I wonder if I can ever make her care for me,” hethought, with a pang ofself-distrust.
Charlie Sloane, Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley left Avonlea thefollowing Monday morning. Anne had hoped for a fine day. Diana wasto drive her to the station and they wanted this, their lastdrivetogether for some time, to be a pleasant one. But when Annewent to bed Sunday night the east wind was moaning around GreenGables with an ominous prophecy which was fulfilled in the morning.Anne awoke to find raindrops pattering against her window andshadowing the pond’s gray surface with widening rings; hillsand sea were hidden in mist, and the whole world seemed dim anddreary. Anne dressed in the cheerless gray dawn, for an early startwas necessary to catch the boat train; she struggled againstthetears that WOULD well up in her eyes in spite of herself. Shewas leaving the home that was so dear to her, and something toldher that she was leaving it forever, save as a holiday refuge.Things would never be the same again; coming back for vacationswould not be living there. And oh, how dear and beloved everythingwas—that little white porch room, sacred to the dreams ofgirlhood, the old Snow Queen at the window, the brook in thehollow, the Dryad’s Bubble, the Haunted Woods, andLover’s Lane—all thethousand and one dear spots wherememories of the old years bided. Could she ever be really happyanywhere else?
Breakfast at Green Gables that morning was a rather dolefulmeal. Davy, for the first time in his life probably, could not eat,but blubberedshamelessly over his porridge. Nobody else seemed tohave much appetite, save Dora, who tucked away her rationscomfortably. Dora, like the immortal and most prudent Charlotte,who “went on cutting bread and butter” when herfrenzied lover’s body had beencarried past on a shutter, wasone of those fortunate creatures who are seldom disturbed byanything. Even at eight it took a great deal to ruffle Dora’splacidity. She was sorry Anne was going away, of course, but wasthat any reason why she should fail to appreciate a poached egg ontoast? Not at all. And, seeing that Davy could not eat his, Doraate it for him.
Promptly on time Diana appeared with horse and buggy, her rosyface glowing above her raincoat. The good-byes had to be said thensomehow. Mrs. Lynde came in from her quarters to give Anne a heartyembrace and warn her to be careful of her health, whatever she did.Marilla, brusque and tearless, pecked Anne’s cheek and saidshe supposed they’d hear from her when she got settled. Acasual observer might have concluded that Anne’s goingmattered very little to her—unless said observer had happenedto get a good look in her eyes. Dora kissed Anne primly andsqueezed out two decorous little tears; but Davy, who had beencrying on the back porch step ever since they rose from the table,refused to say good-bye at all. When he saw Anne coming towards himhe sprang to his feet, bolted up the back stairs, and hid in aclothes closet, out of which he would not come. His muffled howlswere the last sounds Anneheard as she left Green Gables.
It rained heavily all the way to Bright River, to which stationthey had to go, since the branch line train from Carmody did notconnect with the boat train. Charlie and Gilbert were on thestation platform when they reached it, and the train was whistling.Anne had just time to get her ticket and trunk check, say a hurriedfarewell to Diana, and hasten onboard. She wished she were goingback with Diana to Avonlea; she knew she was going to die ofhomesickness. And oh, if only that dismal rain would stop pouringdown as if the whole world were weeping over summer vanished andjoys departed! Even Gilbert’s presence brought her nocomfort, for Charlie Sloane was there, too, and Sloanishness couldbe tolerated only in fine weather. It was absolutely insufferablein rain.
But when the boat steamed out of Charlottetown harbor thingstook a turn for the better. The rain ceased and the sun began toburst out goldenly now and again between the rents in the clouds,burnishing the grayseas with copper-hued radiance, and lighting upthe mists that curtained the Island’s red shores with gleamsof gold foretokening a fine day after all. Besides, Charlie Sloanepromptly became so seasick that he had to go below, and Anne andGilbert were left alone on deck.
“I am very glad that all the Sloanes get seasick as soonas they go on water,” thought Anne mercilessly. “I amsure I couldn’t take my farewell look at the ‘ouldsod’ with Charlie standing there pretending to looksentimentally at it, too.”
“Well, we’re off,” remarked Gilbertunsentimentally.
“Yes, I feel like Byron’s ‘ChildeHarold’—only it isn’t really my ‘nativeshore’ that I’m watching,” said Anne, winking hergray eyes vigorously. “Nova Scotia is that, I suppose. Butone’s native shore is the land one loves the best, andthat’s good old P.E.I. for me. I can’t believe Ididn’t always live here. Those eleven years before I cameseem like a bad dream. It’s seven years since I crossed onthis boat—the evening Mrs. Spencer brought me overfromHopetown. I can see myself, in that dreadful old wincey dress andfaded sailor hat, exploring decks and cabins with enrapturedcuriosity. It was a fine evening; and how those red Island shoresdid gleam in the sunshine. Now I’m crossing the strait again.Oh, Gilbert, I do hope I’ll like Redmond and Kingsport, butI’m sure I won’t!”
“Where’s all your philosophy gone, Anne?”
“It’s all submerged under a great, swamping wave ofloneliness and homesickness. I’ve longed for three years togo to Redmond—and now I’m going—and I wish Iweren’t! Never mind! I shall be cheerful and philosophicalagain after I have just one good cry. I MUST have that, ‘as awent’—and I’ll have to wait until I get into myboardinghouse bed tonight, wherever it may be, before I can haveit. Then Anne will be herself again. I wonder if Davy has come outof the closet yet.”
It was nine that night when their train reached Kingsport, andthey found themselves in the blue-white glare of the crowdedstation. Anne felt horribly bewildered, but a moment later she wasseized by Priscilla Grant, who had come to Kingsport onSaturday.
“Here you are, beloved! And I suppose you’re astired as I was when I got here Saturday night.”
“Tired! Priscilla, don’t talk of it. I’mtired, and green, and provincial, and only about ten years old. Forpity’s sake take your poor, broken-down chum to some placewhere she can hear herself think.”
“I’ll take you right up to our boardinghouse.I’ve a cab ready outside.”
“It’s such a blessing you’re here, Prissy. Ifyou weren’t I think I should just sit down on my suitcase,here and now, and weep bitter tears. What a comfort one familiarface is in a howling wilderness of strangers!”
“Is that Gilbert Blythe over there, Anne? How he has grownup this past year! He was only a schoolboy when I taught inCarmody. And of course that’s Charlie Sloane. HE hasn’tchanged—couldn’t! He looked just like that when he wasborn, and he’ll look like that when he’s eighty. Thisway, dear. We’ll be home in twenty minutes.”
“Home!” groaned Anne. “You mean we’ll bein some horrible boardinghouse, in a still more horrible hallbedroom, looking out on a dingy back yard.”
“It isn’t a horrible boardinghouse, Anne-girl.Here’s our cab. Hop in—the driver will get your trunk.Oh, yes, the boardinghouse—it’s really a very niceplace of its kind, as you’ll admit tomorrow morning when agood night’s sleep has turned your blues rosy pink.It’s a big, old-fashioned, gray stone house on St. JohnStreet, just a nice little constitutional from Redmond. Itused tobe the ‘residence’ of great folk, but fashion hasdeserted St. John Street and its houses only dream now of betterdays. They’re so big that people living in them have to takeboarders just to fill up. At least, that is the reason ourlandladies are very anxious to impress on us. They’redelicious, Anne—our landladies, I mean.”
“How many are there?”
“Two. Miss Hannah Harvey and Miss Ada Harvey. They wereborn twins about fifty years ago.”
“I can’t get away from twins, it seems,”smiled Anne. “Wherever I go they confront me.”
“Oh, they’re not twins now, dear. After they reachedthe age of thirty they never were twins again. Miss Hannah hasgrown old, not too gracefully, and Miss Ada has stayed thirty, lessgracefully still. I don’t know whether Miss Hannah can smileor not; I’ve never caught her at it so far, but Miss Adasmiles all the time and that’s worse. However, they’renice, kind souls, and they take two boarders every year becauseMiss Hannah’s economical soul cannot bear to ‘wasteroom space’—not because they need to or have to, asMiss Ada has told me seven times since Saturday night. As for ourrooms, I admit they are hall bedrooms, and mine does look out onthe back yard. Your room is a front one and looks out on Old St.John’s graveyard, which is just across the street.”
“That sounds gruesome,” shivered Anne. “Ithink I’d rather have the back yard view.”
“Oh, no, you wouldn’t. Wait and see. Old St.John’s is a darling place. It’s been a graveyard solong that it’s ceased to be one and hasbecome one of thesights of Kingsport. I was all through it yesterday for a pleasureexertion. There’s a big stone wall and a row of enormoustrees all around it, and rows of trees all through it, and thequeerest old tombstones, with the queerest and quaintestinscriptions. You’ll go there to study, Anne, see if youdon’t. Of course, nobody is ever buried there now. But a fewyears ago they put up a beautiful monument to the memory of NovaScotian soldiers who fell in the Crimean War. It is just oppositethe entrance gates and there’s ‘scope forimagination’ in it, as you used to say. Here’s yourtrunk at last—and the boys coming to say good night. Must Ireally shake hands with Charlie Sloane, Anne? His hands are alwaysso cold and fishy-feeling. We must ask them to call occasionally.Miss Hannah gravely told me we could have ‘young gentlemencallers’ two evenings in the week, if they went away at areasonable hour; andMiss Ada asked me, smiling, please to be surethey didn’t sit on her beautiful cushions.I promised to seeto it; but goodness knows where else they CAN sit, unless they siton the floor, for there are cushions on EVERYTHING. Miss Ada evenhas an elaborate Battenburg one on top of the piano.”
Anne was laughing by this time. Priscilla’s gay chatterhad the intended effect of cheering her up; homesickness vanishedfor the time being, and did not even return in full force when shefinally found herself alone in her little bedroom. She went to herwindow and looked out. The street below was dim and quiet. Acrossit the moon was shining above the trees in Old St. John’s,just behind the great dark head of the lion on the monument. Annewondered if it could have been only that morning that she had leftGreen Gables. She had the sense of a long passage of time which oneday of change and travel gives.
“I suppose that very moon is looking down on Green Gablesnow,” she mused. “But I won’t think aboutit—that way homesickness lies. I’m not even going tohave my good cry. I’ll put that off to a more convenientseason, and just now I’ll go calmly and sensibly to bed andto sleep.”
Kingsport is a quaint old town, hearking back to early Colonialdays, and wrapped in its ancient atmosphere, as some fine old damein garments fashioned like those of her youth. Here and there itsprouts out into modernity, but at heart it is still unspoiled; itis full of curious relics, and haloed by the romance of manylegends of the past. Once it was a mere frontier station on thefringe of the wilderness, and those were the days when Indians keptlife from being monotonous to the settlers. Then it grew to be abone of contention between the British and the French, beingoccupied now by the one and now by the other, emerging from eachoccupation with some fresh scar of battling nations branded onit.