Gilbert's mother died in the first, beautiful week of spring. No sooner had they laid her to rest in the old, lovely Avonlea graveyard than John Blythe's health began to fail. Gilbert went down to make a diagnosis and returned, grim about the mouth. His father hadn't long to live.
John and Laura Blythe had never had a grand, sweeping love – but over the years it had mellowed into a warm, comfortable thing, like an old quilt. And so Gilbert's father told him that he had gotten used to living with his wife – had grown so used to living with her that he dared not live without her.
It was a matter of days – no more. He was fading quickly. Gilbert told Anne wearily as she met him coming up the Ingleside lane in the cool twilight. Anne was stricken. She had always loved old, merry John Blythe. He had treated her like a beloved daughter. Mr. Blythe had never minded that she was a scrawny, red-headed orphan, as so many others had. Anne's gray eyes grew fond with remembrance and then sorrowful at the thought that she would not meet John Blythe again – not on this side of the veil.
"Is there – anything – we can do for him, Gilbert?"
"No. Marilla and Mrs. Lynde have promised to go over and take care of him during the day – and I've hired a nurse to stay with him at night. It's good of them to do it, Anne. Marilla was sitting up with him when I left and Father looked as happy as I've ever seen him."
Anne swallowed the lump in her throat. She thought of the old rumour that Marilla had once been engaged to John Blythe – decades ago – a lifetime ago. Dear Marilla! And poor Father Blythe! She could not speak. Gilbert noticed this and so he spoke instead.
"He said to tell you, Anne, that he couldn't have been fonder of you if you were the daughter of a queen, and anyhow, that you always carried yourself like one so it was easy to imagine you were. He talked about the children. I told him that little Shirley looks like him about the eyes and mouth, and Father was so pleased. He mentioned especially that he wants Nan to have Mother's old Delft candlesticks – they are the only valuable thing he owns – because Nan reminds him of Mother so. And Jem is to have his pocketwatch and roll-top desk. He gave the watch to me for safekeeping now. I've it in my pocket. And – Anne – "
"Yes?" Anne managed to choke. Her eyes were very sad and gray.
"He has given us the farm – the old Blythe homestead – and he says that we may live there after he is gone."
Anne turned her head to the shadows. A disturbing play of emotions was crossing over it. Hope – surprise – and regret. She thought suddenly that it would be – so nice – to live in Avonlea once more! For her children to grow up haunting the places where the ghost of Anne of Green Gables dwelt – for she still must be there, mustn't she? A slender little russet-haired waif with starry gray eyes and a woefully freckled face – and a head of dreams. She must be dipping her feet in the Birch Lake – playing in Idlewild – roaming through Hester Gray's garden – right now – always. A wave of homesickness washed over Anne, and regret that she was not still that little waif.
Diana would be near – how Anne missed Diana, so often. And her children could play with Little Fred and Small Anne Cordelia and baby Jack. They would go to Avonlea school, and Mrs. Rachel – and Marilla – Anne thought of the delight Marilla would have if they were to go to live in the old Blythe homestead and were near always. But – but –
Gilbert answered the question that she could not utter. "Doc Johnson was down to see Father – and he told me he was thinking of retiring – would definitely retire if he could only find a doctor to come and take his place."
"Do you want to go back to Avonlea, Gilbert?" asked Anne.
"I've been thinking of it, since Father mentioned the whole thing. I don't know, Anne. I get a hankering for the old place, sometimes. Don't you?"
Anne did not say. She only asked, "Did you tell your Father we would take it?"
"I told him I would discuss it with you. But – I think it's best if we don't decide anything until – well, until after. Don't you?"
"Yes," said Anne, her eyes like twin flames.
Gilbert went back the next morning on the first train. He said he would call when it was all over and they would make arrangements. Anne kissed him good-bye on the verandah and watched him go. Then she looked around her with a curious detached feeling. This lovely old spot! This house! Anne remembered how she had not wanted to live here, once. But could it be possible now they would go back to Avonlea and leave it?
She suddenly felt as if she must go out into the misty, sunrise-morning. It was early and everyone was still asleep – not even Susan was up. No one would miss her. So – she went! Out into the morning fog without even bothering with her wrap.
How ghostly the Glen seemed in the hour of sunrise! A strange light touched it, it seemed dearer than ever. Every spot she passed was a friend. How can you leave us? They wondered. The Glen Pond sparked to entice her. The little valley Jem had discovered seemed to enfold her as she walked through it. Anne made her way past all the places she loved and wended her way down the road to Four Winds.
Here were places even dearer. She passed the light – remembered Captain Jim. She passed Miss Cornelia's dear, prim, neat green house. And suddenly she was in the garden of the House of Dreams.
The House of Dreams – where Gilbert had brought her as a bride. Where Joyce had lived her one, sweet day. Where Jem had been born and where Anne had tasted happiness again after she thought all hope was lost. She sat down on the porch of the sleeping house – beloved friends were sleeping within.
"My body grew up at Green Gables," thought Anne, "But my soul grew up here."
She spent an hour there that she told no one about – an hour haunted by memories. She smiled over some – cried over others. And then she stood as the first light crept over the harbour. She knew what she must do.
She had a quiet, pensive day. Gilbert did not call. At eventide, he was back. He had taken the train up. It was all over, he said. His father had died shortly after he arrived. John Blythe had gone gently. Before he died, he had spent a short while alone with Marilla and then he had takend Gilbert's hand and told him that he was proud of them. And then Death had come to him. But John Blythe smiled as he took his last breath, for Death had not come as a foe, but as a friend.
Gilbert looked tired. Anne took him in her arms.
"Oh, Gilbert!" she cried. "I am sorry – so sorry – my darling! But it is good to have you home."
"Home," said Gilbert. "Why, Anne – this place is home, isn't it? We couldn't go back to Avonlea – this is our home. This dear house in this dear Glen. Isn't it?"
"It is," breathed Anne. "And, oh – you don't want to go back to Green Gables, Gilbert?"
"I thought I would – but I think – I think we would find it very changed, Anne. Without Father – and when Mrs. Rachel and Marilla go – and we've put down roots here, haven't we, Anne-girl? It would hurt us horribly to be torn up and transplanted, even if it was to a dear place that we loved."
"I feel the same way," said Anne.
"Of course we'll go back for the funeral and we'll always have lovely visits," Gilbert mused.
"But at the end of them – Anne – we'll come home."
"Oh, Gilbert," sighed Anne. "I'm so glad you feel as I do."
"And how do you feel, dear one?" he found it in him to smile.
"I feel," said Anne, with gathering sweetness in her eyes and voice, "That it was lovely to be Anne of Green Gables. Perhaps the loveliest thing that has ever happened to me – except for one."
"To be Anne of Glen St. Mary," said Anne. "Of this town – this place – and these people – all that I love. Oh, it's so wonderful to be surrounded by love – and loved ones. I am Anne of the Glen, Gilbert – I am to the tips of my toes – and I could never be anything else."