Of the many comforts in Suzy's life, one she had not known until coming to Ingleside was the quiet joy of taking tea with one's grandmother. One of Anne Blythe's habits – something she did to show each grandchild how special they were to her – was to have a pot of tea in the garden and give her guest her undivided attention. Suzy and Grandmother set up their tea late in the evening before the sunset. The scent of lilacs was heavy on the breeze, and each breath made Suzy feel as calm as the cloudless sky above them.
"Sunset is the nicest time of day in my garden" sighed Grandmother. "If one were to be strict in planning a garden, I would want all white flowers, so they would dazzle during the day and shine pink during the sunset. Of course, the most beautiful and enjoyable gardens are wild and unplanned!"
Suzy felt she could listen to Grandmother's sweet voice all evening, but she did have something she wanted to ask in confidence and was sure that Grandmother would not laugh.
"Have you ever made a match between two people?" Suzy asked a bit shyly. "How does one become a matchmaker?"
Grandmother did laugh softly, but Suzy did not feel that she was laughing at her. "Darling, I learned my lesson long ago. I promised Gilbert that I would make no more matches. I will tell you this: One cannot force a match, but they can guide one that was meant to be but needs an outside hand to move it." Anne knew which match Suzy spoke of, and guarded her true thoughts on the matter so as not to unnecessarily hurt the girl. She knew herself what it was to be motherless and the tender hidden hopes of family that motherless girls carried.
Suzy did not have a chance to ask another question, because their tea was interupted by Persis Ford. Both Grandmother and Suzy were shocked, neither of them had seen Persis ever look anything less than sleek and collected, but the woman who stood before them had hair that had come loose from its pins and a face that looked red from running. Anne recalled that even as a small girl Persis had been fastidious about her grooming, and had never been this disheveled.
"Persis!" Grandmother exclaimed. "Sit down! What is wrong, dearest? Suzy, please go into the kitchen and get a third tea cup."
Suzy dashed inside, worried for her aunt. Oh, she hoped that nothing had happened to Uncle Carl! When she returned to the garden, Persis was crying. Grandmother handed her a napkin, and she wiped her eyes before speaking.
"Carl's eyesight has been getting worse – even with glasses his good eye is weak – so we thought to adopt a boy. We never had our own children, and now that we are back for good from Japan, I thought it would be perfect. Carl is going to be teaching Biology at the Lowbridge school next year, and we thought a boy could do chores and help with the house and yard, and Carl and I could raise him to be strong and smart. We – we could be a family. Last week, Carl and I went to the orphanage in Charlottetown and we met a boy, fourteen years old, named Henry. He was to come on the train today, and..." Persis started to cry again.
"Did he not arrive?" Grandmother asked gently. "I've heard of orphanages making such mistakes. We can call them in the morning and have this sorted."
"No, no" Persis sobbed. "He did arrive, but they sent a girl with him! The mistress of the orphanage didn't tell us that he had a twin sister and they wouldn't be separated. Henry didn't say a word, because he was afraid that we wouldn't take him, like every family before. I don't know if we can send them back...I wasn't expecting two!"
The other day Freddie had told Suzy a joke about a postmaster's wife who was expecting a baby, and felt that the delivery of babies was like the delivery of a package from the Sears catalogue. The woman had birthed twins, and Persis' lament had been the punchline, but instead of being funny, it was grim.
"There is nothing more terrifying to an orphan than the idea that they can be sent away" Grandmother said with a steel in her voice that Suzy had never heard before. "Suzy, I am sorry to cut tea short, but I would like to speak with Persis in confidence. Will you have tea with me tomorrow night?"
Disappointed at being sent away just as the conversation had become thrilling, Suzy walked down to Rainbow Valley hoping to cajole Walt into reading to her (Suzy had never heard a reading voice so rich and engrossing) or to find Cecilia. She was surprised to find their gathering place empty and quiet. Cecilia and Aunt Nan had gone to a mission quilt circle in Lowbridge, Walt was staying in Four Winds for the night, and Frankie was holed up in Reverend Meredith's study reading War and Peace. The only sound was the tinkling of the bells hung in the Tree Lovers branches and a soft cry that grew into shuddering sobs. It hurt Suzy to hear the sad sound, so she followed it to a rock partially obscured by a leafy cluster of ferns.
"Are you all right?" Suzy asked, and regretted her choice in words. Of course the girl sitting on the rock was upset and something had to be terribly wrong to cause that many tears.
"Have you ever been totally, utterly unwanted?" the girl wailed. "Of course not. You look like you have a family, and a mother and a father, and and and..." Her words dissolved into gulps of air.
"I haven't a mother, and my father is away working in Halifax" Suzy said, sitting on a rock facing the girl. "I am not utterly alone, but I do know what it is to be lonely, even a bit. Are you the girl who came to stay with the Merediths?"
She nodded, and her tears stopped so she could introduce herself. "My name is Ella MacCrae. I was hoping I could be Ella Meredith, Mr. Meredith seemed so jolly when he met us at the train station. He told us we could call him Uncle Carl if Dad didn't suit, but I think Mrs. Meredith wants to send me back...she was expecting only Henry. There was a room for him and new books and clothes and everything! I can't bear if it happens again, we've been denied so many times...people only seem to want boys!" With that, she buried her face in her hands and whimpered.
"I don't think Aunt Persis will do any such thing" Suzy said, feeling a sudden rush of confidence. "I think perhaps she was overwhelmed. She likes things to be in order, you can tell by looking at her. When you arrived, she had no room or clothes for you and maybe felt she had failed somehow." Suzy surveyed Ella, looking at her flimsy grey dress and shoes that had once been sturdy but were now worn down. She had pretty hair, not bright carrot red like Freddie and Frankie's, but the colour of a new copper penny. "Come to Ingleside with me, and we'll have some cookies and milk in the kitchen. Our cook, Cass, makes the best macaroons. We can find you a dress, too." She thought of two old dresses of Merry's that hung in her wardrobe, one yellow and the other green. They weren't flattering colours on Suzy, but would look very smart on Ella.
The pair arose from their rocks, each feeling lighter and more sure of their place in Glen St. Mary. "If the Merediths are your aunt and uncle, is your name Meredith too?" asked Ella shyly. "Or is your name the same as Mrs. Meredith's before she was married?"
"I'm Suzy Blythe" she said. "Uncle Carl and Aunt Persis are dear friends of my father, and Aunt Persis' brother is married to my Aunt Rilla, and two of Uncle Carl's siblings are married to an uncle and aunt of mine." Just trying to graph all of the Blythe and Meredith connections still made Suzy's head swim, and she had been living with them! "They aren't my aunt and uncle by blood, but I love them fiercely." It was a revelation to Suzy. By saying those words, she realized that she loved the whole clan, perhaps even Trudy and Gilly! Oh, that wouldn't do! Her face burned and she had a difficult time keeping up her end of the conversation as they walked to Ingleside.
"If I stay, can I call you my cousin?" Ella wanted to know. "I don't expect to stay, but it would be so comforting to believe that I had a cousin."
Suzy was touched, and could barely say "Yes" before hiding her smile as she took two glasses from the cupboard.
After being fortified with cookies and milk, Suzy led Ella to the wash basin so she could clean the tears from her face. The two dresses were brought out for approval, a ribbon was found to match the green dress and Ella's hair was tied low at her neck in a lovely twist that Phoebe favoured and had shown Suzy how to execute.
Suzy peeked out the window and saw that Grandmother and Aunt Persis were still in the garden, though it was nearly dark. "We should go and speak with them before it gets too late" Suzy tried to emulate Grandmother's gentle tone, with a dash of Aunt Di's kind sensibility.
"Oh! I couldn't!" Ella gasped.
"I'll be with you" Suzy said firmly. "I'll stand my ground until there is a way for you and Henry to stay." She must have looked very brave, because Ella acquiesed.
There wasn't much ground to be stood. Persis rushed over to them. "Ella!" she said. "I'm surprised to see you here!"
"Not as surprised as you were earlier" Ella said wryly, managing narrowly to stay out of smart-aleck territory. "Or as surprised as I was to find that you had only asked for Henry." Suzy was proud of Ella's bravery in the face of going back to the orphanage.
Persis sighed. "We had only asked for Henry, and I admit that I fumbled and behaved poorly today. I was shocked, to be honest. We hadn't prepared for a girl, and I felt terrible that your brother had nice things waiting for him, and you hadn't. I wasn't prepared. Some call me a perfectionist, and I suppose it may be true. If you can forgive the awful first impression I must have given you, I do want for you to stay."
Ella's eyes grew luminous. "Truly?"
Persis smiled widely, and opened her arms to Ella. "Truly. Give me a chance, and I know we could be friends." They embraced, and Persis made plans to include Ella in their home. "Tonight you will sleep in one of the spare rooms, and we can decorate it as you please to make it yours." They left the garden, chattering about wallpaper and linens.
"I'd like to know how you did it" Grandmother said, satisfied with the outcome. "Of course Persis would never have sent her back, but where did you find Ella and how did you get her to come here?"
"You can guide a match that was meant to be with an outside hand if it needs one to move it" Suzy winked, and put her arm around Grandmother's shoulder. "It's becoming dewy out. Let's go inside and take a cup o' in the kitchen, as Norman would say."