For those new to the story this is my attempt to imagine what Anne wrote beyond those dot dot dots in her letters to Gilbert – and what his replies might be. I'm using Anne of Windy Willows (also known as Anne of Windy Poplars) and my previous stories, The Windy Willows Love Letters and Redmond Diaries, as source material. Please give them a read, too!
Dedicated to PelirrojaBiu & DianaStorm09, Alinya & FKAJ. With love and gratitude to L.M.M. ~ Everything is hers, only this idea is mine
MORE WINDY WILLOWS LOVE LETTERS
"The public and the publisher won't allow me to write of a girl how she really is... you have to depict this sweet, inspired young thing – really a child grown older – to whom the basic realities of life and reactions to them are quite unknown. LOVE must scarcely be hinted at – yet – girls often have some very livid love affairs."
L.M. Montgomery, 1924
"Because when you are imagining you may as well imagine something worth while."
Windy Willows, Spook's Lane
September 14th, 1888
Hello Gilbert Blythe,
I can hardly reconcile myself to the fact that our beautiful two months are over. They were beautiful, weren't they, dearest? And now it will only be TWO years before we never need say goodbye to each other again. For ~
"Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge..."
Just not at Ambleside. Diana wrote to tell me that dear little house was sold last Tuesday to some second cousins of the Sloanes ~ as if Avonlea was in need of more!
A thousand pardons, Serene Sir, for the sour grapes that have just spilled across this page. I always knew, Gilbert (truly I did) there was no way we could have bought that place. But wasn't it nice to dream? There was something so right about it ~ the name for one. It had a mossy stepping-stone path you couldn't help but amble toward; with slender sister birches shading your way, and a glossy red door beckoning all-comers to the vine smothered porch.
We pressed our noses against the window and peered into the empty house. And I could see OUR table settled next to the fireplace. OUR geraniums jostling along the sill. OUR marmalade cat curled up on a chair... Then all of a sudden, I saw YOU on the other side of the glass.
Trust a Blythe to discover a way inside!
I knew we had no right to trespass, but I hardly needed convincing. Nor do I regret my wicked ways. It was such a delicious moment fused with a rare pairing of practicality and danger. We tiptoed round each room picturing where we would place our furniture. Shushing each other and snickering as we crept up the stairs until all semblance of discretion was abandoned, and we fell into debate about which bedroom we preferred.
I was (still am) taken with east room facing the lane, with its intricate stained-glass window of roses and irises. How the rising son would have painted sapphire and ruby light upon the walls; the way the clear glass lozenges strewed tiny rainbows in hidden places. I think I waxed lyrical about that image for quite some time, because the next thing I knew you had grasped my hand and led me to the bedroom at the back of the house which looked onto the garden. Then you lay down on the linseed scented floor and said to me ~
"Coloured glass is all very well... but imagine waking up to THAT every morning."
I lay down next to you expecting to see a view of unsurpassed beauty, when I realised you meant waking up next to ME!
"Good morning, Mrs Blythe," you said, positioning your nicely rounded bicep under my neck.
"Good morning Mr Blythe- er, Dr Blythe- ah, Gilbert are you a doctor in this particular dream?"
"That depends," you answered, "are those drapes at the window made of muslin or velvet?"
I studied the bare window and furnished them over and over in the space it took you to weave your fingers with mine.
"Velvet," I said, decidedly. "In a soft gold that puddles on the floor."
"Then I'm definitely a doctor."
You began to laugh, and I thought I would too, but instead I felt serious.
"Tell me true, Gilbert, are you becoming a doctor so that you can buy me velvet drapes and stained-glass windows?"
"That depends, too," you said. "Some days I feel I'm building this bridge of knowledge in my head, and I enjoy its construction so much I never want to get to the other side. I'm not really thinking of you at the moment ~ nor me ~ but something greater than us. Then there are times when I'm dissecting a mouse brain or writing a paper at two in the morning or trying not to notice what the Fox and Miss Swales are getting up to, and I have to remind myself exactly why I chose this path. And it's not the noble idea of service and discovery that spurs me on. It's you. You in that House of Dreams you write about. The idea of a home and the promise of you, I feel like I can't have one without the other. A house with endless rooms to love you endlessly..."
Then my lovely muscle pillow was rudely removed, and you hauled me up. Not in order to see if Ambleside was actually blessed with endless rooms, or even because the thrill of being alone in an empty house no longer equalled the trouble we would get into if we were discovered. But because you never seemed able to sit with me for more than ten minutes together before my hand would be grabbed and I would be led off to some fresh destination.
The summer we shared. I really have learned what it is to be Gilbert Blythe's girl. Ever pulling me hither and thither. Ever looking back at me with the words, "Not much further, just through this hedge, over this rock face, into this copse." You made Avonlea NEW to me, Gilbert. I know I'm only some upstart Bluenose, but I would have said I knew all there was to know about the dear old place. Then you offered it up to me like treasure, so that I feel I have been covered with riches. Our golden days hanging from my limbs like baubles on a Christmas tree; sometimes knocking me about, sometimes ringing through me sweetly. And I have no choice but to stop what I'm doing and hold each memory up to the light.
And I remember, Gilbert...
I remember EVERYTHING.
When I returned for to Summerside for the new term, I never wanted to reach my destination. I only wanted to sit there with my head against the window of the train, running over each moment with you as the wheels ran over the tracks. Each memory coming to me like another station on the line. Instead of coal smoke in my mouth I tasted the red dust of the Mi'kmaq grounds. Instead of hot tar I smelled the salt of the estuaries. Instead of the click of the track I could feel the satisfying crunch of crab shells breaking beneath my boots... That scorching day in June when we came back from the shore with sunburned noses and Rachel demanded to know where we'd been for four hours together! Though I think the string of fish you offered her more than made up for it.
"Gutted and scaled to boot!" she said, in impressed tones. Clearly calculating that the time it would have taken us to catch and clean them meant there would have been no time for canoodling.
"Now whenever we need an alibi," I said to you later, "we need only pay a visit to the fishmonger."
"Fishmonger? Not in this lifetime!" you cried. "If we do nothing else this summer, Anne, I hope to show you the location of every decent fishing hole this side of Charlottetown."
"I realise you will be privileging me with some extremely precious information ~" I began.
"There's a fair chance the Bell boys will never talk to me again," you said. "I had to commit to the full initiation before I was allowed to know the best location for eels."
(Which if memory serves included a naked dive into a waterhole choked with duck weed.)
I wanted to tell you that needn't betray the secrets of your fishing cronies on my account, Gilbert. That I was more than satisfied with a long picnic or a rambling stroll or an evening under the Virgin's unseeing eye. But I knew what you were really doing was showing me your secret world: offering it to me as you though you offered up yourself.
The split pine. The echo wall. The end of the world cliff. The White Sands cave.
Dearest love, I know the reason why you could never sit in one place with me for more than ten minutes together. It's because of the cave, isn't it? What happened in the cave... or didn't happen... or nearly happened...
Oh, I want to scrub this out and start over, except I know whatever letter I write I will always be trying NOT to bring up that dusty red cavern cut into the western shore.
The one thing we said we wouldn't talk about.
But did we say we wouldn't write about it?
Well, I won't, not yet. Right now, I am more than satisfied to THINK about it. Remember... imagine... dream... It strikes me as ridiculous that I am almost content to be away from you. It gives me the blissful opportunity of dreaming about you instead...
September 18th, 1888
Harvey House, Redmond
My ever optimistic Anne-girl,
Trust YOU to see our separation in such light. I thought The Fox's company might offer some distraction but now I see some benefit to having a room to myself. It occurs to me that I should tell you I am not in the same room I was in last term. It's only quaking first years who are banished to the top floor of Harvey House, while the second and third years are free to haunt the remainder of the building.
I say 'haunt' because we've been told not to expect more than a few hours sleep between classes, labs and rounds this year. I definitely recall seeing many a fellow sprawled out on a trolley and curled up outside the lecture halls vying for a few minutes sleep. I suppose I should feel daunted by what lies ahead this year, but I don't. I am excited to see how far I can push myself. I feel as though first year was merely a practice run and now the serious work begins. And I'm hungry for it, Anne, never had such an appetite.
I confess I didn't spend much time recollecting our summer on the journey here. Most of my time was taken up reading over the papers Professor Reid sent me, including one by a Philadelphian surgeon named Macy who has perfected a surgical technique to cure hernias. Apparently, it's all down to the depth and length of the stitches. I couldn't help thinking that if Mam or Mrs Lynde had been encouraged to become surgeons they would have hit on this discovery years sooner. But imagine what it will mean, Anne. Every harvest some poor farmhand is bent double, never to lift more than a pound of potatoes over his shoulder again. Now this affliction is a thing of the past. It's nothing less than a marvel. And yours truly is now part of this marvellous world. Up to my neck – just the way I like it.
Our summer, Anne. Firstly, do you know it still astounds me to write "our" anything, let alone an entire summer. The time we spent together feels precious to me too, though unlike you I almost always stop myself remembering those moments. I expect this will sound superstitious, but I can't help thinking that if I dwell in dreams too long I'll use them up or wear them out. Something always tells me to stop. I think that's half the reason I was always wanting to show you something secret or take you somewhere new. I wanted to make as many memories with you as I could before the two of us parted again.
That's another word I can't get enough of. US. US at the echo wall hollering, "Anne Shirley loves Gilbert Blythe!" "Gilbert Blythe loves Anne Shirley!" until our voices went hoarse. US on Mi'kmak land, standing barefoot on sun warmed rocks and trying to ignore how hungry we were by eating the wind. US racing up the split pine trunk to see who could get to the canopy first. US paddling out in Davy's cedar canoe – and quickly paddling back when we realised we were in for a repeat of your Elaine escapade.
Growing up without brothers and sisters I never had someone to share my secrets with, nor did I especially miss it. But sharing those places with you, Anne, seeing it through your eyes, I suddenly saw the benefit of any extra pair of hands – and an extra-ordinary imagination. WHERE were the people that once lived on that sacred ground? WHICH storm was the one that split the pine in two? HOW did that rare species of speckled trout come to live in a small pond miles from any water source? The way you wonder over things I'd never thought of before. Avonlea became new to me too.
What amazed me most weren't the rare places we explored but ordinary things. Attending parties with you, walking into church with you, how you always saved a place for me at a gathering. The way we danced together. No longer was I restricted to one or two sedate waltzes before I had to give way to some other fellow. Now I was wheeling you round for hours at a time.
You must know I am thinking of the night we danced to The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Everyone else had shifted away to the edges of the garden. There was just you and me and that fiddle goading us on until sweat beaded our brows and your hair stuck to your cheeks. You were so shining eyed and beautiful, skipping and jumping in time with me. I thought my lungs would burst yet never once thought of stopping, even when I realised that everyone one else had. I felt your damp dress under my hands, the way my shirt had stuck to my back, and we stood there, face to face with our chests heaving, unable to say a word.
Ever since I've wanted to know what you were thinking in that instant. (We never said we wouldn't talk about that.)
About our afternoon in the cave, I suppose there's no harm in us writing about it. Though I don't know what you expect I might say. It was all so obvious, on my part at least. I am still going red weeks later remembering just how obvious I was.
I stand corrected. I no longer believe that remembering our summer will wear those memories out. If anything, they seem even more alive. I almost wish I hadn't discovered this. The Fox is due back any moment and then I will have to lay those thoughts of you – of US – out of reach once more. So, with your permission, Miss Shirley, I'll conclude this letter now, open my window, and summon your sweet self to my side while I may.
P.S. That kiss you sent me just arrived.
* opening sentence to 'before' and closing sentence of Anne's letter to Gilbert, from chapter 18, Anne of Windy Willows
* 'whither thou goest...' from the Book of Ruth 1:16
* 'endless rooms to love you endlessly' from chapter 2, The Windy Willows Love Letters
* the Mi'kmak people are indigenous to Prince Edward Island
* reference to the Virgin first mentioned in chapter 14, Redmond Diaries -the second year
Thank you for reading :o)