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The Greatest Works of L. M. Montgomery

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Chapter XLI

Table of Contents

“Had a nice evening?” asked Gilbert, more absently than ever as he helped her on the train.

“Oh, lovely,” said Anne … who felt that she had, in Jane Welsh Carlyle’s splendid phrase, “spent the evening under a harrow.”

“What made you do your hair that way?” said Gilbert still absently.

“It’s the new fashion.”

“Well, it doesn’t suit you. It may be all right for some hair but not for yours.”

“Oh, it is too bad my hair is red,” said Anne icily.

Gilbert thought he was wise in dropping a dangerous subject. Anne, he reflected, had always been a bit sensitive about her hair. He was too tired to talk, anyway. He leaned his head back on the car seat and shut his eyes. For the first time Anne noticed little glints of grey in the hair above his ears. But she hardened her heart.

They walked silently home from the Glen station by the short-cut to Ingleside. The air was filled with the breath of spruce and spice fern. The moon was shining over dew-wet fields. They passed an old deserted house with sad and broken windows that had once danced with light. “Just like my life,” thought Anne. Everything seemed to have for her some dreary meaning now. The dim white moth that fluttered past them on the lawn was, she thought sadly, like a ghost of faded love. Then she caught her foot in a croquet hoop and nearly fell headlong into a clump of phlox. What on earth did the children mean by leaving it there? She would tell them what she thought about it tomorrow!

Gilbert only said, “O-o-o-ps!” and steadied her with a hand. Would he have been so casual about it if it had been Christine who had tripped while they were puzzling out the meaning of moonrises?

Gilbert rushed off to his office the moment they were inside the house and Anne went silently up to their room, where the moonlight was lying on the floor, still and silver and cold. She went to the open window and looked out. It was evidently the Carter Flaggs’ dog’s night to howl and he was putting his heart into it. The lombardy leaves glistened like silver in the moonlight. The house about her seemed whispering tonight … whispering sinisterly, as if it were no longer her friend.

Anne felt sick and cold and empty. The gold of life had turned to withered leaves. Nothing had any meaning any longer. Everything seemed remote and unreal.

Far down the tide was keeping its world-old tryst with the shore. She could … now that Norman Douglas had cut down his spruce bush … see her little House of Dreams. How happy they had been there … when it was enough just to be together in their own home, with their visions, their caresses, their silences! All the colour of the morning in their lives … Gilbert looking at her with that smile in his eyes he kept for her alone … finding every day a new way of saying, “I love you” … sharing laughter as they shared sorrow.

And now … Gilbert had grown tired of her. Men had always been like that … always would be. She had thought Gilbert was an exception but now she knew the truth. And how was she going to adjust her life to it?

“There are the children, of course,” she thought dully. “I must go on living for them. And nobody must know … nobody. I will not be pitied.”

What was that? Somebody was coming up the stairs, three steps at a time, as Gilbert used to do long ago in the House of Dreams … as he had not done for a long time now. It couldn’t be Gilbert … it was!

He burst into the room … he flung a little packet on the table … he caught Anne by the waist and waltzed her round and round the room like a crazy schoolboy, coming to rest at last breathlessly in a silver pool of moonlight.

“I was right, Anne … thank God, I was right! Mrs. Garrow is going to be all right … the specialist has said so.”

“Mrs. Garrow? Gilbert, have you gone crazy?”

“Didn’t I tell you? Surely I told you … well, I suppose it’s been such a sore subject I just couldn’t talk of it. I’ve been worried to death about it for the past two weeks … couldn’t think of anything else, waking or sleeping. Mrs. Garrow lives in Lowbridge and was Parker’s patient. He asked me in for a consultation … I diagnosed her case differently from him … we almost fought … I was sure I was right … I insisted there was a chance … we sent her to Montreal … Parker said she’d never come back alive … her husband was ready to shoot me on sight. When she was gone I went to bits … perhaps I was mistaken … perhaps I’d tortured her needlessly. I found the letter in my office when I went in … I was right … they’ve operated … she has an excellent chance of living. Anne girl, I could jump over the moon! I’ve shed twenty years.”

Anne had either to laugh or cry … so she began to laugh. It was lovely to be able to laugh again … lovely to feel like laughing. Everything was suddenly all right.

“I suppose that is why you forgot this was our anniversary?” she taunted him.

Gilbert released her long enough to pounce on the little packet he had dropped on the table.

“I didn’t forget it. Two weeks ago I sent to Toronto for this. And it didn’t come till tonight. I felt so small this morning when I hadn’t a thing to give you that I didn’t mention the day … thought you’d forgotten it, too … hoped you had. When I went into the office there was my present along with Parker’s letter. See how you like it.”

It was a little diamond pendant. Even in the moonlight it sparkled like a living thing.

“Gilbert … and I …”

“Try it on. I wish it had come this morning … then you’d have had something to wear to the dinner besides that old enamel heart. Though it did look rather nice snuggling in that pretty white hollow in your throat, darling. Why didn’t you leave on that green dress, Anne? I liked it … it reminded me of that dress with the rosebuds on it you used to wear at Redmond.”

(“So he had noticed the dress! So he still remembered the old Redmond one he had admired so much!”)

Anne felt like a released bird … she was flying again. Gilbert’s arms were around her … his eyes were looking into hers in the moonlight.

“You do love me, Gilbert? I’m not just a habit with you? You haven’t said you loved me for so long.”

“My dear, dear love! I didn’t think you needed words to know that. I couldn’t live without you. Always you give me strength. There’s a verse somewhere in the Bible that is meant for you … ‘She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.’”

Life which had seemed so grey and foolish a few moments before was golden and rose and splendidly rainbowed again. The diamond pendant slipped to the floor, unheeded for the moment. It was beautiful … but there were so many things lovelier … confidence and peace and delightful work … laughter and kindness … that old safe feeling of a sure love.

“Oh, if we could keep this moment for ever, Gilbert!”

“We’re going to have some moments. It’s time we had a second honeymoon. Anne, there’s going to be a big medical congress in London next February. We’re going to it … and after it we’ll see a bit of the Old World. There’s a holiday coming to us. We’ll be nothing but lovers again … it will be just like being married over again. You haven’t been like yourself for a long time. (“So he had noticed.”) You’re tired and overworked … you need a change. (“You too, dearest. I’ve been so horribly blind.”) I’m not going to have it cast up to me that doctors’ wives never get a pill. We’ll come back rested and fresh, with our sense of humour completely restored. Well, try your pendant on and let’s get to bed. I’m half dead for sleep … haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for weeks, what with twins and worry over Mrs. Garrow.”

“What on earth were you and Christine talking about so long in the garden tonight?” asked Anne, peacocking before the mirror with her diamonds.

Gilbert yawned.

“Oh, I don’t know. Christine just gabbled on. But here is one fact she presented me with. A flea can jump two hundred times its own length. Did you know that, Anne?”

(“They were talking of fleas when I was writhing with jealousy. What an idiot I’ve been!”)

“How on earth did you come to be talking of fleas?”

“I can’t remember … perhaps it was Dobermann pinschers suggested it.”

“Dobermann pinschers! What are Dobermann pinschers?”

“A new kind of dog. Christine seems to be a dog connoisseur. I was so obsessed with Mrs. Garrow that I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying. Now and then I caught a word about complexes and repressions … that new psychology that’s coming up … and art … and gout and politics … and frogs.”

“Frogs!”

“Some experiments a Winnipeg research man is making. Christine was never very entertaining, but she’s a worse bore than ever. And malicious! She never used to be malicious.”

“What did she say that was so malicious?” asked Anne innocently.

“Didn’t you notice? Oh, I suppose you wouldn’t catch on … you’re so free from that sort of thing yourself. Well, it doesn’t matter. That laugh of hers got on my nerves a bit. And she’s got fat. Thank goodness, you haven’t got fat, Anne-girl.”

“Oh, I don’t think she is so very fat,” said Anne charitably. “And she certainly is a very handsome woman.”

“So-so. But her face has got hard … she’s the same age as you but she looks ten years older.”

 

“And you talking to her about immortal youth!”

Gilbert grinned guiltily.

“One has to say something civil. Civilization can’t exist without a little hypocrisy. Oh, well, Christine isn’t a bad old scout, even if she doesn’t belong to the race of Joseph. It’s not her fault that the pinch of salt was left out of her. What’s this?”

“My anniversary remembrance for you. And I want a cent for it … I’m not taking any risks. Such tortures as I’ve endured this evening! I was eaten up with jealousy of Christine.”

Gilbert looked genuinely astonished. It had never occurred to him that Anne could be jealous of anybody.

“Why, Anne-girl, I never thought you had it in you.”

“Oh, but I have. Why, years ago I was madly jealous of your correspondence with Ruby Gillis.”

“Did I ever correspond with Ruby Gillis? I’d forgotten. Poor Ruby! But what about Roy Gardner? The pot mustn’t call the kettle black.”

“Roy Gardner? Philippa wrote me not long ago that she’d seen him and he’d got positively corpulent. Gilbert, Dr. Murray may be a very eminent man in his profession but he looks just like a lath and Dr. Fowler looked like a doughnut. You looked so handsome … and finished … beside them.”

“Oh, thanks … thanks. That’s something like a wife should say. By way of returning the compliment I thought you looked unusually well tonight, Anne, in spite of that dress. You had a little colour and your eyes were gorgeous. Ah-h-h, that’s good! No place like bed when you’re all in. There’s another verse in the Bible … queer how those old verses you learn in Sunday School come back to you through life! … ‘I will lay me down in peace and sleep.’ In peace … and sleep … goo’night.”

Gilbert was asleep almost before he finished the word. Dearest tired Gilbert! Babies might come and babies might go but none should disturb his rest that night. The telephone might ring its head off.

Anne was not sleepy. She was too happy to sleep just yet. She moved softly about the room, putting things away, braiding her hair, looking like a beloved woman. Finally she slipped on a negligee and went across the hall to the boys’ room. Walter and Jem in their bed and Shirley in his cot were all sound asleep. The Shrimp, who had outlived generations of pert kittens and become a family habit, was curled up at Shirley’s feet. Jem had fallen asleep while reading “The Life Book of Captain Jim” … it was open on the spread. Why, how long Jem looked lying under the bedclothes! He would soon be grown up. What a sturdy reliable little chap he was! Walter was smiling in his sleep as someone who knew a charming secret. The moon was shining on his pillow through the bars of the leaded window … casting the shadow of a clearly defined cross on the wall above his head. In long after years Annie was to remember that and wonder if it were an omen of Courcelette … of a cross-marked grave “somewhere in France.” But tonight it was only a shadow … nothing more. The rash had quite gone from Shirley’s neck. Gilbert had been right. He was always right.

Nan and Diana and Rilla were in the next room … Diana with darling little damp red curls all over her head and one little sunburned hand under her cheek, and Nan with long fans of lashes brushing hers. The eyes behind those blue-veined lids were hazel like her father’s. And Rilla was sleeping on her stomach. Anne turned her right side up but her buttoned eyes never opened.

They were all growing so fast. In just a few short years they would be all young men and women … youth tiptoe … expectant … a-star with its sweet wild dreams … little ships sailing out of safe harbour to unknown ports. The boys would go away to their life work and the girls … ah, the mist-veiled forms of beautiful brides might be seen coming down the old stairs at Ingleside. But they would be still hers for a few years yet … hers to love and guide … to sing the songs that so many mothers had sung. Hers … and Gilbert’s.

She went out and down the hall to the oriel window. All her suspicions and jealousies and resentments had gone where old moons go. She felt confident and gay and blithe.

“Blythe! I feel Blythe,” she said, laughing at the foolish little pun. “I feel exactly as I did that morning Pacifique told me Gilbert had ‘got de turn.’”

Below her was the mystery and loveliness of a garden at night. The faraway hills, dusted with moonlight, were a poem. Before many months she would be seeing moonlight on the far dim hills of Scotland … over Melrose … over ruined Kenilworth … over the church by the Avon where Shakespeare slept … perhaps even over the Colosseum … over the Acropolis … over sorrowful rivers flowing by dead empires.

The night was cool; soon the sharper, cooler nights of autumn would come; then the deep snow … the deep white snow … the deep cold snow of winter … nights wild with wind and storm. But who would care? There would be the magic of firelight in gracious rooms … hadn’t Gilbert spoken not long ago of apple logs he was getting to burn in the fireplace? They would glorify the grey days that were bound to come. What would matter drifted snow and biting wind when love burned clear and bright, with spring beyond? And all the little sweetnesses of life sprinkling the road.

She turned away from the window. In her white gown, with her hair in its two long braids, she looked like the Anne of Green Gables days … of Redmond days … of the House of Dreams days. That inward glow was still shining through her. Through the open doorway came the soft sound of children breathing. Gilbert, who seldom snored, was indubitably snoring now. Anne grinned. She thought of something Christine had said. Poor childless Christine, shooting her little arrows of mockery.

“What a family!” Anne repeated exultantly.

RAINBOW VALLEY

Table of Contents

I. Home Again

II. Sheer Gossip

III. The Ingleside Children

IV. The Manse Children

V. The Advent of Mary Vance

VI. Mary Stays at the Manse

VII. A Fishy Episode

VIII. Miss Cornelia Intervenes

IX. Una Intervenes

X. The Manse Girls Clean House

XI. A Dreadful Discovery

XII. An Explanation And A Dare

XIII. The House on the Hill

XIV. Mrs. Alec Davis Makes A Call

XV. More Gossip

XVI. Tit for Tat

XVII. A Double Victory

XVIII. Mary Brings Evil Tidings

XIX. Poor Adam!

XX. Faith Makes A Friend

XXI. The Impossible Word

XXII. St. George Knows All About It

XXIII. The Good-Conduct Club

XXIV. A Charitable Impulse

XXV. Another Scandal and Another “explanation”

XXVI. Miss Cornelia Gets A New Point Of View

XXVII. A Sacred Concert

XXVIII. A Fast Day

XXIX. A Weird Tale

XXX. The Ghost on the Dyke

XXXI. Carl Does Penance

XXXII. Two Stubborn People

XXXIII. Carl Is — Not — Whipped

XXXIV. Una Visits the Hill

XXXV. “Let the Piper Come”

Chapter I.
Home Again

Table of Contents

It was a clear, apple-green evening in May, and Four Winds Harbour was mirroring back the clouds of the golden west between its softly dark shores. The sea moaned eerily on the sandbar, sorrowful even in spring, but a sly, jovial wind came piping down the red harbour road along which Miss Cornelia’s comfortable, matronly figure was making its way towards the village of Glen St. Mary. Miss Cornelia was rightfully Mrs. Marshall Elliott, and had been Mrs. Marshall Elliott for thirteen years, but even yet more people referred to her as Miss Cornelia than as Mrs. Elliott. The old name was dear to her old friends, only one of them contemptuously dropped it. Susan Baker, the gray and grim and faithful handmaiden of the Blythe family at Ingleside, never lost an opportunity of calling her “Mrs. Marshall Elliott,” with the most killing and pointed emphasis, as if to say “You wanted to be Mrs. and Mrs. you shall be with a vengeance as far as I am concerned.”

Miss Cornelia was going up to Ingleside to see Dr. and Mrs. Blythe, who were just home from Europe. They had been away for three months, having left in February to attend a famous medical congress in London; and certain things, which Miss Cornelia was anxious to discuss, had taken place in the Glen during their absence. For one thing, there was a new family in the manse. And such a family! Miss Cornelia shook her head over them several times as she walked briskly along.

Susan Baker and the Anne Shirley of other days saw her coming, as they sat on the big veranda at Ingleside, enjoying the charm of the cat’s light, the sweetness of sleepy robins whistling among the twilit maples, and the dance of a gusty group of daffodils blowing against the old, mellow, red brick wall of the lawn.

Anne was sitting on the steps, her hands clasped over her knee, looking, in the kind dusk, as girlish as a mother of many has any right to be; and the beautiful gray-green eyes, gazing down the harbour road, were as full of unquenchable sparkle and dream as ever. Behind her, in the hammock, Rilla Blythe was curled up, a fat, roly-poly little creature of six years, the youngest of the Ingleside children. She had curly red hair and hazel eyes that were now buttoned up after the funny, wrinkled fashion in which Rilla always went to sleep.

Shirley, “the little brown boy,” as he was known in the family “Who’s Who,” was asleep in Susan’s arms. He was brown-haired, browneyed and brown-skinned, with very rosy cheeks, and he was Susan’s especial love. After his birth Anne had been very ill for a long time, and Susan “mothered” the baby with a passionate tenderness which none of the other children, dear as they were to her, had ever called out. Dr. Blythe had said that but for her he would never have lived.

 

“I gave him life just as much as you did, Mrs. Dr. dear,” Susan was wont to say. “He is just as much my baby as he is yours.” And, indeed, it was always to Susan that Shirley ran, to be kissed for bumps, and rocked to sleep, and protected from well-deserved spankings. Susan had conscientiously spanked all the other Blythe children when she thought they needed it for their souls’ good, but she would not spank Shirley nor allow his mother to do it. Once, Dr. Blythe had spanked him and Susan had been stormily indignant.

“That man would spank an angel, Mrs. Dr. dear, that he would,” she had declared bitterly; and she would not make the poor doctor a pie for weeks.

She had taken Shirley with her to her brother’s home during his parents’ absence, while all the other children had gone to Avonlea, and she had three blessed months of him all to herself. Nevertheless, Susan was very glad to find herself back at Ingleside, with all her darlings around her again. Ingleside was her world and in it she reigned supreme. Even Anne seldom questioned her decisions, much to the disgust of Mrs. Rachel Lynde of Green Gables, who gloomily told Anne, whenever she visited Four Winds, that she was letting Susan get to be entirely too much of a boss and would live to rue it.

“Here is Cornelia Bryant coming up the harbour road, Mrs. Dr. dear,” said Susan. “She will be coming up to unload three months’ gossip on us.”

“I hope so,” said Anne, hugging her knees. “I’m starving for Glen St. Mary gossip, Susan. I hope Miss Cornelia can tell me everything that has happened while we’ve been away — EVERYTHING — who has got born, or married, or drunk; who has died, or gone away, or come, or fought, or lost a cow, or found a beau. It’s so delightful to be home again with all the dear Glen folks, and I want to know all about them. Why, I remember wondering, as I walked through Westminster Abbey which of her two especial beaux Millicent Drew would finally marry. Do you know, Susan, I have a dreadful suspicion that I love gossip.”

“Well, of course, Mrs. Dr. dear,” admitted Susan, “every proper woman likes to hear the news. I am rather interested in Millicent Drew’s case myself. I never had a beau, much less two, and I do not mind now, for being an old maid does not hurt when you get used to it. Millicent’s hair always looks to me as if she had swept it up with a broom. But the men do not seem to mind that.”

“They see only her pretty, piquant, mocking, little face, Susan.”

“That may very well be, Mrs. Dr. dear. The Good Book says that favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but I should not have minded finding that out for myself, if it had been so ordained. I have no doubt we will all be beautiful when we are angels, but what good will it do us then? Speaking of gossip, however, they do say that poor Mrs. Harrison Miller over harbour tried to hang herself last week.”

“Oh, Susan!”

“Calm yourself, Mrs. Dr. dear. She did not succeed. But I really do not blame her for trying, for her husband is a terrible man. But she was very foolish to think of hanging herself and leaving the way clear for him to marry some other woman. If I had been in her shoes, Mrs. Dr. dear, I would have gone to work to worry him so that he would try to hang himself instead of me. Not that I hold with people hanging themselves under any circumstances, Mrs. Dr. dear.”

“What is the matter with Harrison Miller, anyway?” said Anne impatiently. “He is always driving some one to extremes.”

“Well, some people call it religion and some call it cussedness, begging your pardon, Mrs. Dr. dear, for using such a word. It seems they cannot make out which it is in Harrison’s case. There are days when he growls at everybody because he thinks he is foreordained to eternal punishment. And then there are days when he says he does not care and goes and gets drunk. My own opinion is that he is not sound in his intellect, for none of that branch of the Millers were. His grandfather went out of his mind. He thought he was surrounded by big black spiders. They crawled over him and floated in the air about him. I hope I shall never go insane, Mrs. Dr. dear, and I do not think I will, because it is not a habit of the Bakers. But, if an all-wise Providence should decree it, I hope it will not take the form of big black spiders, for I loathe the animals. As for Mrs. Miller, I do not know whether she really deserves pity or not. There are some who say she just married Harrison to spite Richard Taylor, which seems to me a very peculiar reason for getting married. But then, of course, I am no judge of things matrimonial, Mrs. Dr. dear. And there is Cornelia Bryant at the gate, so I will put this blessed brown baby on his bed and get my knitting.”