A/N: Hi, guys. I know it's been a long, long time, but this story is still very much in progress. Right about now I have about three hours of free time per weekday and I usually spend it on schoolwork. But I'm very hopeful that 2015 will be the year that I finally finish this story. For those who asked in previous reviews, I do plan on continuing this story until the end of Anne of the Island, and might perhaps include an epilogue of Anne and Gilbert's wedding. As of right now that looks like it'll be five more chapters (including this one). This is the part of Take Notice that I've really been looking forward to writing, so I've combed over this chapter in the hopes of making it absolutely perfect. Anywho, here's an 8,000 word chapter to make up for the wait. Happy reading!
vi. "And, without further ado, we present to you, as the founding members of the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, these tokens of our respect for your relentless service to the A.V.I.S. Your leadership and guidance will be sorely missed in the coming years, but your impact will never be forgotten."
Moody Spurgeon MacPherson bowed with a flourish that quite contracted his solemn voice at the conclusion of his speech as Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley were presented with their 'tokens of respect' from the fellow members of the A.V.I.S. It was quite unexpected, and the pair couldn't help but feel flattered in the face of such gratitude and celebration. For Anne, the A.V.I.S. had purchased a volume of Shakespeare's plays, and for Gilbert, they had bought a brand new fountain pen, fancier than any utensil he had ever used. Gilbert was surprised and pleasantly pleased at the presentation of gifts, but not so much as Anne—he knew how much the A.V.I.S. meant to her—and he could see the light glazing of tears welling in her gray eyes.
The Pyes had promised to host a farewell party in the honor of Anne, Gilbert, and Charlie Sloane; the next morning, the three of them would be off to Kingsport, where they would begin the next chapter of their lives. Gilbert suspected that the Pyes only hosted the party out of pride and not out of any pure affection for himself or Anne, but he did not begrudge them for it. Indeed, it was quite a party: all of their old schoolmates, along with members of the A.V.I.S., attended the party.
After they received the 'tokens of respect', dinner was served. A delicious feast was spread out before them, ripe with all of the delectable food that the end of summer inevitably serves up. Gilbert filled his plate greedily and then suggested to Anne that they eat on the verandah, to which Anne readily agreed, and told Gilbert that the moonlight was so beautiful tonight and that she would so love to soak in its splendor as she ate.
It was an undeniably beautiful night…the weather was temperate and there were only a few wispy clouds to mar the starlit sky. They ate in silence for a quite some time, both pairs of eyes searching the moonlit grounds and absorbing its beauty. Gilbert always enjoyed these moments of solace with Anne, when neither would speak…their camaraderie had transcended asinine comments made to fill an awkward silence, and they could sit together in a comfortable silence without attempting to break it. Yet there comes a time, as always, when the silence cannot go on much longer, and one must speak, or the two would remain silently enraptured forever. Last time, Gilbert had made the mistake of speaking first, and he was aptly punished for it, as Anne would not allow him a word in edgewise afterwards. To be sure, Gilbert was a fast learner, and so he would let Anne speak first this time.
"It's so bittersweet," she said at last, casting her gaze down to her nearly empty plate, "to be leaving all of this behind. I almost feel as though I'm abandoning Avonlea and everyone in it."
"But we aren't," said Gilbert, his voice strong and reassuring. "We're merely taking a holiday from the Island—a glorious holiday during which we'll work hard and learn all there is to learn, and then we'll return to Avonlea with all of our garnered knowledge. Like a trunk packed with souvenirs after a tour through Europe."
Anne let out a chuckle and Gilbert smiled. "I suppose when one thinks of it that way, it sounds like a swashbuckling adventure." She paused then, and let out a tiny sigh, casting her plate aside. "Wasn't it so wonderful of the A.V.I.S. to present us with gifts?"
"Yes," agreed Gilbert. "You can visit far-off kingdoms through Shakespeare even without taking a tour through Europe. One can't say the same about a fountain pen."
"Oh…I visit far-off kingdoms every day," his redheaded companion admitted. "But your fountain pen is quite practical, Gilbert. You'll take many a scholarship using that pen."
Gilbert laughed, but in his heart he hoped it was true. "Yes, it's sensible and rather useful, but not so entertaining as your book of plays."
"Plays are entertaining to read and watch but somewhat superfluous in college…at least compared to a fountain pen."
"I suppose," replied Gilbert, "that in terms of practicality a pen will win every time. But a book of Shakespeare provides endless entertainment, prevents boredom, and will help you rise to the top of our English courses. It isn't very superfluous you look at it that way, is it?"
"No-o-o," agreed Anne. "Gilbert, why are we even debating over this? You do like your gift, don't you?"
"I do," affirmed Gilbert. Then his voice grew softer, and his eyes grazed upon Anne's pale face. "I suppose I just enjoy talking with you more."
Almost immediately, whatever rapport the pair had going between them in the previous half-hour vanished, and a rosy hue invaded Anne's cheeks. Gilbert realized his mistake at her reaction, but alas, it was too late to take back…and he wouldn't, given the chance. Anne mightn't like his sentimental comments, but every word he spoke was the truth.
"We should probably go in," Anne rambled quickly, rising from her perch on the verandah chair. "The others will be missing us by now, and anyhow, we mustn't stay outside when they've thrown such a lovely party for us—it would be extremely rude, don't you think, Gil? And they'll so want to say their good-byes to us…"
Anne continued babbling on until they entered the Pye household once again, thronged by their old friends. Then she disappeared, creating as much distance between herself and Gilbert as possible. Gilbert sighed, wondering again if he could ever earn her affections…and then scolded himself for being so reckless once again. He thought about intercepting Anne again to make amends, but quickly renounced this idea when he saw that she was carelessly talking with Charlie Sloane.
"Gilbert!" a soprano voice exclaimed, and Gilbert turned to find Ruby Gillis smiling at him. "We've scarcely talked all evening."
Gilbert saw Anne turn at the sound of Ruby's voice, and knew that she was watching them. "My, you're right, Ruby. Come, let's catch up."
"Oh, you will walk home with me, won't you?" asked Ruby. "You're leaving tomorrow and I feel like we haven't had the opportunity to say a proper good-bye."
Gilbert's first instinct was to deny her invitation, but when he glanced over at Anne (with whom he would've preferred to walk home), he saw that she was gazing seriously up at Charlie and determinedly looking anywhere but at Gilbert. "I would be delighted to, Ruby. Now, tell me all about your plans for the fall."
Ruby chattered on as they exited the party, following just behind Anne, who had granted Charlie permission to walk her home. Ruby delighted in telling Gilbert all of her fancies, as he hadn't shown so much attention to her since Queen's, and Gilbert, for Anne's sake, pretended to be as interested in Ruby's tales as she was in telling them.
"Oh, do you remember how you used to tease all the girls, Gil?" asked Ruby playfully as they walked underneath the stars. Gilbert could still see Anne and Charlie ahead of them, but they would be veering off of the main road soon to go down to Green Gables. Gilbert nodded his head at Ruby's comment, thinking of one particular instance that had ended in a broken slate and writing lines on the chalkboard. "Remember how you used to pin my braid to the back of my chair?"
Gilbert pretended to be affronted. "I remember no such thing, Ruby," was his equally lighthearted answer. "I was always a perfect gentlemen."
"Well, now you are," laughed Ruby. "Oh, this has been a perfectly lovely evening."
"Yes," agreed Gilbert, although he was thinking of a moonlit meal on the verandah with a certain redhead.
"Keep in touch while you're away, Gil," Ruby reminded Gilbert, just as they reached the gate of the Gillis ranch. "I do love writing letters. It makes me feel so important."
Gilbert held a sneaking suspicion that Ruby wrote plenty of letters to young suitors across the Island and concluded that she must have a whole room to store her old correspondences in, but agreed nonetheless. Ruby would be another link to home, and she was great fun to talk to, even if she wasn't Anne.
After bidding her farewell, Gilbert left Ruby and set off for his own home. He had one more full day in Avonlea, and he planned to spend it with his family—and with Anne, if she let him.
The next evening found Gilbert loitering through the Haunted Wood, as Anne called it so fondly, and crossing the log bridge that led to Green Gables. He was pleasantly surprised when Anne emerged from Green Gables before he had even reached the gate—so she had been waiting for him!
As he neared the redhead, he noticed a tender darkness beneath her eyes, a symptom of a poor night's sleep. "You look tired, Anne," he stated rather obviously, joining her on the Green Gables porch.
"I am tired," she admitted, somewhat sheepishly, "and, worse than that, I'm disgruntled. I'm tired because I've been packing my trunk and sewing all day. But I'm disgruntled because six women have been here to say good-bye to me, and every one of the six managed to say something that seemed to take the color right out of life and leave it as grey and dismal and cheerless as a November morning."
"Spiteful old cats!"
"Oh, no, they weren't," argued Anne, her eyes growing wide. "That is just the trouble. If they had been spiteful cats I wouldn't have minded them. But they are nice, kind, motherly souls, who like me and whom I like, and that is why what they said, or hinted, had such undue weight with me. They let me know they thought I was crazy going to Redmond and trying to take a B.A., and ever since I've been wondering if I am."
"You're just tired, Anne," Gilbert reassured his companion at the conclusion of her tragic tales. It did indeed sound like she'd had more than one weary encounter with well-intentioned busybodies. "Come, forget it and take a walk with me—a ramble back through the woods beyond the marsh. There should be something there I want to show you."
Gilbert held his breath for a moment, afraid that after the previous night's debacle Anne mightn't accept his invitation. But, to his immense relief, she said, "Should be! Don't you know if it is there?"
Gilbert laughed. "No. I only know that it should be, from something I saw there in the spring. Come on. We'll pretend we are two children again and we'll go the way of the wind."
They sauntered off together from the direction whence Gilbert came—across the creek and through the Haunted Wood, which brought back more than a few memories for Anne as they tromped through the ancient burial grounds she had once imagined the Wood to be.
The Haunted Wood cleared not long after Anne finished reminiscing over a ghostly incident, revealing a small valley basking in the glow of the sun, for it was not blockaded by the shadows of towering pines. With a satisfied smile, Gilbert saw that the surprise he'd envisioned for Anne was still there.
"Ah, here it is," he told her.
He watched as Anne beheld the sight before her—"An apple tree!" she exclaimed, her face dawning with unexpected pleasure. "And away back here!"
"Yes." Gilbert smiled down at his companion, who was flushed with excitement at his finding. "A veritable apple-bearing tree, too, here in the very midst of pines and beeches, a mile away from any orchard. I was here one day last spring and found it, all white with blossom. So I resolved I'd come again in the fall and see if it had been apples. See, it's loaded. They look good, too—tawny as russets but with a dusky red cheek. Most wild seedlings are green and uninviting."
Anne stared up at the branches of the golden tree, heavy with the weight of the ripe apples. "I suppose it sprang years ago from some chance-sown seed. And how it has grown and flourished and held its here, all alone among aliens, the brave determined thing!"
Gilbert knew they could not stand there much longer without growing tired and returning home, so he said, "Here's a fallen tree with a cushion of moss. Sit down, Anne—it will for a woodland throne. I'll climb for some apples. They all grow high—the tree had to reach up to the sunlight."
Gilbert had not climbed a tree in years, but when he was a younger lad—especially when he found the monotony of his time in New Brunswick too much to handle—he'd become well acquainted with trees and their branches, and the way they bent underneath his weight. Still, some awkwardness was not to be avoided as he hoisted himself upwards, particularly as he picked the large apples from their stems. Yet his little struggle proved worthwhile when he sat down with Anne, and the two of them bit into the delicious fruit.
"The fatal apple of Eden couldn't have had a rarer flavor," commented Anne appropriately.
Yet all good times must come to and end, and the evening had gloriously wound down. Anne and Gilbert returned to Green Gables by way of Lover's Lane, but before they left their sacred apple tree, Gilbert asked, "Do you feel as disgruntled now as when you started out, Anne?"
"Not I," she answered merrily. "Those apples have been as manna to a hungry soul. I feel that I shall love Redmond and have a splendid four years there."
Gilbert was pleased with her answer, but could not stop himself from asking, "And after those four years—what?" For Gilbert knew what he wanted at the end of those four years—medical school, a career…and Anne.
Anne, however, did not take Gilbert's question with the full weight it had been given. "Oh, there's another bend in the road at the end. I've no idea what may be around it—I don't want to have. It's nicer not to know."
And despite Anne's ambiguous answer, as they walked home together, Gilbert felt wholly satisfied that Anne's dour evening had been turned around by him. There was hope for him yet, he felt.
It rained on the morning Gilbert left Avonlea; showers of storm clouds had washed away the beauty of the previous evening. Gilbert, who had worked long and hard to reach this blessed day, took no note of it other than mild annoyance, which was more than he could say for Charlie, who was grumbling ceaselessly about the weather as they drove to Bright River. Gilbert's parents had promised to drive the two of them to the train station come rain, sleet, or hail, so they could see their boy off. It was only then that Gilbert thought of how much he would miss them—his parents, who had given him every opportunity to succeed within their means. They had been there for him his entire life, and now Gilbert must embark on this monumental journey without them!
A wave of homesickness suddenly hit Gilbert, before he'd even left home, and he felt as though he was already on the ferry that would carry him to Nova Scotia. Charlie, sitting beside him, was no help as he continued to mutter about the weather. It was bad omen, he said, and the rest of the year would reflect it. Gilbert tried to ignore him, but as the weather wore on, it became tougher and tougher to block out Charlie's dull musings.
The Blythe buggy came to a stop just outside of the tiny station, and John Blythe hopped out of the carriage lithely, despite his growing age and the obstinate weather. After helping his wife out of the carriage, he grabbed the boys' luggage and handed it to them once they joined him on the ground.
"Well, Gil," he said rather unsentimentally, handing over his son's trunk, "this is it."
Gilbert nodded, feeling as though to speak would bring tears to his eyes. He didn't want to leave his family—not yet. So he merely dropped his trunk to the ground and wrapped his arms around the elder Blythe.
"I'm so proud of you," his father whispered hoarsely, and Gilbert again felt that strangled need to cry, but he couldn't…not here, at Bright River, with Charlie watching on. "My boy."
Gilbert said good-bye to his mother next, and she repeated the same sentiments as his father, and again Gilbert resisted the tears that threatened at his eyes. Charlie stood there awkwardly, as his parents hadn't trekked out to Bright River to see their son off, and was relieved when the Blythes turned to him to shake his hand.
Then, at last, it was time to turn and leave, to walk over to the train platform and await their futures.
Anne arrived at the last minute, just as the train whistle blew, announcing its imminent departure, and she hastened to get on it. Her mood matched the weather, and Charlie's 'Sloanishness,' as Mrs. Lynde was wont to call it, only seemed to dampen it. And even when their ferry pulled out of the Charlottetown harbor and the sun began to shine—a good omen, Gilbert thought—her mood seemed to remain stagnant, and Gilbert, watching the Island coastline grown smaller and smaller, could only think to say, "Well, we're off."
Anne sighed. "Yes, I feel like Byron's 'Childe Harold'—only it isn't really my 'native shore' that I'm watching. Nova Scotia is that, I suppose. But one's native shore is the land one loves the best, and that's good old P.E.I. for me. I can't believe I didn't always live here. Those eleven years before I came seem like a bad dream. It's seven years since I crossed on this boat—the evening Mrs. Spencer brought me over from Hopetown. I can see myself, in that dreadful old wincey dress and faded sailor hat, exploring decks and cabins with enraptured curiosity. It was a fine evening; and how those red Island shores did gleam in the sunshine. Now I'm crossing the strait again. Oh, Gilbert, I do hope I'll like Redmond and Kingsport, but I'm sure I won't!"
When it came to certain matters, young Mr. Blythe was a very pragmatic person. He knew that, once settled down, he and Anne would enjoy Redmond immensely; it was just the sort of environment for academics like themselves. "Where's all your philosophy gone, Anne?" he asked.
"It's all submerged under a great, swamping wave of loneliness and homesickness," replied Anne miserably. "I've longed for three years to go to Redmond—and now I'm going—and I wish I weren't!" A pause, and then—"Never mind! I shall be cheerful and philosophical again after I have just one good cry. I must have that, 'as a went'—and I'll have to wait until I get into my boardinghouse bed tonight, wherever it may be, before I can have it. Then Anne will be herself again."
Gilbert himself felt the same…perhaps one good night of sleep was all he needed to acclimate to Kingsport and Redmond. For nearly four years he'd dreamed of college, and now the time had come, and he hadn't a clue of what to expect. Thankfully, though, Warren Williams—his old mate from Queen's—was meeting he and Charlie at the Kingsport train station, and he would be there to show Gilbert the proverbial college ropes.
It wasn't until nine in the evening that their train pulled into the Kingsport station, which seemed to Gilbert to be stuffed to the brim with people. It was in stark opposition to Bright River or Carmody, which always seemed deserted underneath the Island sunlight. As they exited the train, Gilbert turned to Anne and offered to carry her luggage, but she rejected, saying, "I carried my own dreadfully old carpetbag on my first trip to Avonlea, and I intend to carry my own bag to Kingsport."
In the hustle and bustle of the station, Gilbert somehow lost Anne, and although he looked after her red hair and tall, slender form for a moment, he was obligated to search for Warren, as well, for if he didn't meet his old chum now then Gilbert knew that he would be stuck at the station for much longer.
He quickly found his friend; it wasn't difficult—Warren was tall and broad, and stood out amongst crowds due to his general disposition. Warren was just as he had been in Queen's: the kind of person that people simply gravitated to.
When Warren spotted Gilbert—and Charlie beside him—he walked over and clapped his old friend on the shoulder. It had been almost two years since the two had seen one another…Warren would be starting his junior year at Redmond…although they had kept in touch through letters. "Gil!" said Warren happily. "It feels like years since we've seen each other. You'll have to tell me everything you've been up to on the Island."
Warren greeted Charlie presently, and upon witnessing Anne once more, Gilbert suggested that they say one last good-bye to Anne, who had joined up with Priscilla Grant in the time that she'd been missing. She looked overwhelmed and exhausted from the long move, but her eyes remained sparkling in the company of her old Queen's chum.
"The elusive Anne Shirley!" Warren exclaimed upon hearing Gilbert's suggestion. "Yes, let's go say hello, and afterwards we must get back to my buggy. I don't like leaving it out long at such a crowded place."
Gilbert felt suddenly annoyed at his old friend's eagerness to greet Anne—and why should he? After all, it had been years since Warren had last seen Anne, and so he was compelled by mere politeness to say hello, especially when in the presence of her friends. But still, a bitterness crept into Gilbert's heart that he tried desperately to keep out. If only Anne—but no…he couldn't let himself think like that. Not yet.
The trio of friends walked over to Anne, who laughed, cheered by the companionship of her old Queen's chum. Warren greeted Anne warmly, and Gilbert followed with a promise to call on her and Priscilla as soon as possible. Anne informed him quite delightfully that she would be boarding near a graveyard; it seemed rather gruesome to Gilbert, yet he promised the two girls that he would explore it with them. Any further conversation was halted when Warren announced that it was time to fetch the carriage.
"You'll be boarding with Claude Buck," Warren explained to Gilbert and Charlie as they exited the station. His buggy was parked out front, and they clambered into eagerly. Travel could be extremely exhausting, and the two Island boys were keen to arrive at their new home. "He's an old bachelor—bit podgy, really, but you'll like him. He won't bother you much—he minds his own. But he's a great cook, and he'll prepare you a feast every night."
Warren had boarded with Claude Buck two years before, and had written many a meticulous letter to Gilbert during that year detailing the various meals he had been served. Many of them had made Gilbert's mouth salivate, despite the fact that his own mother was quite a satisfactory cook. He thought back to two years ago, when Gilbert had opened Warren's letters with a sense of dread…anxiously hoping that some day he would join Warren…and now he would be the one writing about Claude Buck's masterful cooking!
As the carriage rambled through the cobblestone streets of Kingsport, Warren described the routines of new freshmen for Gilbert and Charlie. It all sounded rather overwhelming, but Gilbert was merely glad that he had made it so far. Avonlea, despite its charms and pleasant memories, was behind him; Redmond…and the future…stretched out before Gilbert, ready to be conquered.
The next morning brought with it the task of registering as students. Gilbert woke early, found Claude was already up and preparing breakfast, and then woke Charlie, who snores echoed throughout their shared room. If yesterday's travels hadn't been so taxing, Gilbert mightn't have slept through his friend's racket. As it were, however, Gilbert felt as rested as one could be, considering the next four years of college lay before him.
He and Charlie found themselves in the entrance hall of Redmond, where a rather large crowd had begun to gather for registration. The freshman invariably stood out…awkward, unsure glances and airs of uncertainty marked them as 'freshies'…and the other classes walked by confidently, staring disdainfully at the underclassmen as they passed. Gilbert, determined not to become an object of disdain for any upperclassmen, held his head high and easily found the table where the new freshman were to register for classes, and Charlie trailed behind him as they made their way to it.
When Gilbert proudly held his new schedule in hand, declaring himself to be an official student of Redmond University, he glanced around the room in hopes of finding Anne—yet instead, he found a group of Sophomores taunting the unsuspecting Freshman…much in a manner Gilbert used to tease the girls of Avonlea school. At the same moment, Warren found Gilbert.
"Don't mind the Sophs," Warren announced upon seeing Gilbert's reaction to the upperclassmen. "The Sophmores and the Freshman have a fierce rivalry at Redmond. You're lucky that I'm a Junior, Gil, or I don't think I could be your friend."
"It seems a little immature," comment Gilbert, who watched a group of freshies gather at the stairs. Anne was still nowhere to be found.
"It's all in good fun," Warren assured his chum. The Sophomores had begun to disperse, having conquered registration. "Trust me, Gilbert, you'll find out at the Arts Rush. That's when the real competition begins."
Beside Gilbert, Charlie gulped…nervousness pervaded his lanky body and the tips of his ears had begun to turn red. The Sophomores had obviously left an impression on the Sloane boy, as his eyes seemed to stick out further than ever. "Competition?"
Warren nodded. "The Arts Rush is a contest between the Freshman and the Sophomores…and the Sophs have won it the last three years. Say, Gil, I bet you can lead the Freshies to victory this year…after all, you've got me on your side, and I was a winning Sophomore last year."
"When is it?"
"In three weeks," said Warren. "Rest assured, the Sophs had already started planning for it."
Gilbert and Charlie stayed at registration for a few minutes more, both hoping to see a familiar red-headed freshette. Gilbert did happen upon a very pretty brunette with a crooked smile, who batted her eyelashes coquettishly when he walked past. He noticed a good portion of the Freshmen and Sophomores vied for her attention, and a few stooped so far as to give Gilbert angry glares, but the Blythe boy did not mind. After all, brunettes had never really appealed to him.
Gilbert found that the information Warren had relayed to him regarding the upcoming Arts Rush stayed with him…perhaps, he thought, if the Freshmen could band together like the Sophomores, they would have a fighting chance at winning the rush. After all, the Sophomores had had a year to bond and prepare, unlike the awkward freshman, merely thrown together at the beginning of the academic year. If Gilbert could find a way to bring all of the Freshmen together, they could surely beat the Sophomores with any inside information Warren could give him.
Yet the beginning of classes soon interrupted Gilbert's internal planning, for his attention was drawn to academics instead of war tactics. He found that his Freshman classes were particularly easy…the studying he'd done with Anne over the past two years had prepared him for the coursework…yet Gilbert feared becoming complacent and falling behind. He'd fallen behind in Avonlea after returning from New Brunswick with his father, and it was feeling he did not want to repeat.
Still, the knowledge that while the Freshman class struggled with their new course load, the Sophomores continued to plot their victory nagged at Gilbert. He'd easily integrated himself into Redmond social life with Warren by his side, but the Freshman class remained as segregated as it had on the first day of school. The Sophomores worked as a unit; the Freshmen were separate entities.
He brought up his conundrum to Anne during the school day, when the two crossed paths on campus. It seemed odd that the two only saw each other when crossing paths after working and learning together for so many years.
"Anne," said Gilbert after the redhead greeted him on her way to English Literature, "have you heard of the Arts Rush?"
"Only what Phil has told me," answered Anne. "She's really much more involved in these social things than I am…it does sound delightfully fun though. I'm told it's rare for the Freshman class to win, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we did?"
Anne had befriended the pretty brunette Gilbert had happened upon at registration, and because of this, she and Priscilla found themselves in the thick of Redmond social life. It seemed that every student knew Anne—or, at the very least, knew of the redheaded girl that Philippa Gordon befriended. Because of this, Gilbert found himself asking for Anne's assistance in banding the Freshmen together, to which she eagerly agreed.
With the help of Philippa—who galvanized the freshettes—Anne and Gilbert organized a 'secret' meeting of the Freshman class during the evening. As word of the meeting carried throughout campus, the secrecy was lost, but Anne insisted on titling it the 'secret meeting,' for as she told Gilbert, "Everything seems infinitely more romantic when secrecy is attached to it."
Gilbert told his fellow Freshmen of his plans for the Arts Rush at the meeting, which had the effect he'd desired. The Freshmen, elated at the thought of victory, banded together to plan their defeat of the Sophomores. And whence the third weekend of school commenced, bringing with it the Arts Rush, the Freshmen fought their way to victory, leaving a demoralized Sophomore class in their wake. Gilbert, rather unexpectedly, found himself elected as president of the Freshman class, who felt that he deserved the title more than anyone else. Very quickly, he found himself admired by both freshies and freshettes alike.
When Gilbert returned to his boarding house one evening after classes, he found that he had a letter from home. The handwriting was unfamiliar to him…his mother's handwriting was much more elegant compared to the cushioned cursive that adorned the letter…but when he opened it he found a flighty epistle from Ruby Gillis. It was a welcome reminder of his home, for Gilbert had found that in his busy first month he hadn't time to miss Avonlea. And he did miss it, dear town that it was, and he found that he even missed Ruby Gillis's companionship. Gilbert knew that she'd always had small feelings for him, but they weren't serious, for Ruby was never serious about any boy. Yet he entertained her because he enjoyed her flights of fancy, and she was quite pretty to look at. So after reading through her letter—and laughing at her pointed mentions of various beaux—he sat down and composed his own letter back to her.
Two days later, Warren sought out Gilbert and asked if his brown-haired friend had ever played football. To be sure, Gilbert had, but he was far from experienced in the sport. He'd never played an actual match before, and he certainly had never been on an athletic team, despite his build. Gilbert told his friend as much, but Warren seemed convinced that Gilbert would do well on offense.
It was because of his friend's encouragement that Gilbert tried out for the Freshman team. Although he'd rarely played football before, he had much more experience than the other boys who tried out alongside him. It was this, combined with his charisma, which resulted in Gilbert not only making the team, but being elected captain as well.
News of his captaincy spread quickly throughout the Freshman class. Boys and girls alike strode up to congratulate Gilbert, and he found himself invited to more than social event that evening. Yet Gilbert had already promised Anne that he and Charlie would call on her and Priscilla at their boardinghouse; and no matter how enticing the invite to any party was, he much rather preferred to spend his evening chatting with Anne.
When he Charlie arrived at Anne's and Priscilla's, they discovered that every possible place to sit was curiously devoid of any cushion. Charlie, his goggle-eyes wide at the thought of sitting on cold, hard wood for more than hour, immediately began searching the room for any trace of a cushion; Gilbert, instead, turned to Anne and pointed out that the cushions seemed to have put on a disappearing act.
"It does appear so, doesn't it?" responded the redhead, who stifled a chuckle as Charlie continued to hunt for comfort. "Alas, they haven't. Miss Ada is quite particular about her handiwork: she absolutely adores making cushions but hates it when anyone sits upon them. So whenever Pris and I decide that we'd like to have company, we hide away the dratted cushions so that we mightn't attract Miss Ada's ire."
"A wise decision, considering you've a Sloane for a guest this evening," said Gilbert. No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than Charlie had extracted one such cushion from behind a cushion-less chair. With a smug grin—for Charlie was proud that he'd managed to find the one cushion in the room before Gilbert had even a chance to begin looking—Charlie fluffed the pillow, placed it on the chair, and dumped himself atop it. Anne's mouth widened into a gasp, but she muffled it with a hand before any noise could come out; Gilbert stifled his own laughter, and Priscilla stared at Charlie with an expression of utmost horror. Charlie seemed wholly unaffected by the various reactions he'd elicited, and immediately began querying Anne about her classes. His three companions, with nothing else to do, settled in their own cushion-less chairs as Anne answered the Sloane boy.
Once Charlie had finished detailing his rather mundane day, Anne turned her attention to Gilbert and asked him how his own day went; when he told that he'd not only made the Freshman football team but had been elected captain, her face positively lit up with pride, which she attributed to their old Island camaraderie. "You'll come to my matches, won't you, Anne?" Gilbert asked, hopeful at her reaction to his news. The ardor with which he asked this question put off his companion, who answered quite uncertainly.
"Well…I don't know," she answered lamely, and Gilbert's own expression dimmed. "I'm positive Phil will want to go to all of the matches, and Pris and I will probably tag a long to a few of them."
Anne changed the subject promptly and began weaving a tale of her mathematics professor; Gilbert took his cue and went along with Anne's story, as he'd become used to her abrupt subject changes whenever he gave her even a hint of his true feelings. It was at moments such as these when doubt crept into our hero's heart. Sometimes he wondered if he would ever be able to make Anne Shirley care for him so.
The next afternoon found Gilbert and Anne in the cemetery of Old St. John's; the friends had decided to take a stroll through a nearby park. They trailed behind Priscilla and Phil, who were bestowing all of their attention upon an unsuspecting Sloane. Gilbert and Anne watched from a distance as the two girls stained Charlie's cheeks red. Autumn had reached Redmond; leaves crackled underneath shoes as the students walked past the graves of valiant heroes, laid to rest underneath the shade of the towering poplars.
Gilbert, at Anne's side, remained silent as his companion absorbed the autumnal environment. It wasn't until Anne turned her eyes towards the sky and declared her adoration for trees that Gilbert opened his mouth to quote Bret Harte passage that he knew Anne like particularly.
"I think, if ever any great sorrow came to me," Anne announced, her voice quiet still, "I would come to the pines for comfort."
Gilbert could hardly imagine any sorrow ever coming to Anne; she brought life and happiness with her wherever she went. Yet if he had known the recesses of her past—her unwanted, unloved past—he mightn't have been so quick to assume such a thing. "I hope no great sorrow will ever come to you, Anne," said the gentleman truthfully.
Anne, as obstinate as ever, replied: "But there must—sometime. Life seems like a cup of glory held to my lips just now. But there must be some bitterness in it—there is in every cup. I shall taste mine some day. Well, I hope I shall be strong and brace to meet it. And I hope it won't be through my own fault that it will come. Do you remember what Dr. Davis said last Sunday evening—that the sorrows God sent us brought comfort and strength with them, while the sorrows we brought on ourselves, through folly or wickedness, were by far the hardest to bear? But we mustn't talk of sorrow on an afternoon like this. It's meant for the sheer joy of living, isn't it?"
Yet Gilbert, undeterred, softly said, "If I had my way I'd shut everything out of your life but happiness and pleasure, Anne."
"You would be very unwise," Anne was quick to counter. Her words rushed out before Gilbert had the opportunity to interrupt. "I'm sure no life can be properly developed and rounded out without some trial and sorrow—though I suppose it is only when we are pretty comfortable that we admit it. Come—the others have got to the pavilion and are beckoning to us."
Gilbert did not want to take his eyes off of Anne, but he did so dutifully. Charlie, Priscilla, and Phil were indeed at the pavilion, and Phil leaned over the railing to wave enthusiastically at them. Anne sprung ahead, happy for the excuse to be free of Gilbert's sentiments, and with a sigh, Gilbert followed behind.
They watched the sun sink beneath the horizon from the canopy of the old park pavilion; it was situation upon the crest of a small hill which allowed them a beautiful view of Kingsport, from the harbor to the island that emerged from it and lighthouse which sat atop it. The lighthouse beacon rotated slowly, the light flashing upon Gilbert and friends every minute. There was something incredibly soothing and sturdy about a lighthouse…Gilbert felt that nothing bad could truly happen as long as a lighthouse kept watch over the harbor.
Philippa sighed contentedly. "Did you ever see such a strong-looking place? I don't want William's Island especially, but I'm sure I couldn't get it if I did. Look at that sentry on the summit of the fort, right beside the flag. Doesn't he look as if he had stepped out of a romance?"
"Speaking of romance, we've been looking for heather," said Priscilla, turning towards Anne; the redhead loved to discover floral gold mines wherever she went. "But, of course, we couldn't find any. It's too late in the season, I suppose."
"Heather!" exclaimed Anne, delighted at the thought. "Heather doesn't grow in America, does it?"
This comment caused Phil to nod her head. "There are just two patches of it in the whole continent," said she; "one right here in the park, and one somewhere else in Nova Scotia, I forget where. The famous Highland Regiment, the Black Watch, camped here one year, and, when the men shook out the straw of their beds in the spring, some seeds of heather took root."
Anne thrilled at the thought. "Oh, how delightful!"
"Let's go home around by Spofford Avenue," interjected Gilbert, hoping that Anne would be as equally enchanted by the noble houses as she had with the heather. "We can see all 'the handsome houses where the wealthy nobles dwell.' Spofford Avenue is the finest residential street in Kingsport. Nobody can build on it unless he's a millionaire."
Phil agreed upon it immediately; there was a house on Spofford Avenue that suited Anne's fancy perfectly, she claimed. So the friends set off down the ancient, hallowed avenue, passing house filled with grand staircases and marble halls. Anne enchanted in these, but it wasn't until they set upon a small, white house shrouded with pines that she lost herself to fancy.
"It's the dearest place I ever saw," said Anne; she gazed upon the house as one hypnotized, and Gilbert felt proud that, even though Phil had discovered the house first, it had been his suggestion to travel down Spofford Avenue. "It gives me one of my old, delightful funny aches. It's dearer an quainter than even Miss Lavendar's stone house."
Gilbert agreed as Philippa detailed the houses title—Patty's Place—and told Anne of the owner's stout refusal to sell it. Every detailed enthralled the redhead, who…despite sound argument against it, believed that she was meant to live in Patty's Place.
"I'm going to dream about 'Patty's Place' tonight," she told her companions. "Why, I feel as if I belonged to it."
Gilbert and Charlie walked the girls the rest of the way to their boardinghouse before turning towards their own. Now alone, without the company of Priscilla and Phil, Charlie was left to ruminate over the fact that Anne had spent most of her time in the company of his romantic rival. And yet—Priscilla and Philippa, two beautiful girls, had flirted shamelessly with him! Surely he had seemed much more attractive than Gilbert to-day, and Anne probably noticed it.
Gilbert, however, was unaffected by Charlie's moods, and instead kept his mind on little Patty's Place. Indeed it was an enchanting house, looking as though it belonged on a coastal countryside than in the middle of a bustling city, and it seemed perfect for Anne, who delighted in all things quaint and unique and romantic. The house had sparked something in Gilbert's own imagination that he usually pushed back…but the sight of Anne, standing outside her own little home o' dreams, made Gilbert believe that he could one day build his own home o' dreams with her.
Avonlea's own collegiate scholars returned home for the Christmas holidays on a Saturday morning that was much sunnier than the day they'd originally departed for Redmond. John Blythe met his son at the Bright River station and mused that he'd come back older and wiser than his father by the summer. Gilbert, happy to be home, embraced his father and the two—Sloane in tow—set off for Avonlea.
Holidays in Avonlea were always a merry affair; garlands strung up in store doorways added to the effect and snow blanketed the ground. Gilbert found he had much to be thankful for during the holidays, from his parents' continued, unwavering support to his successes during his first semester at Redmond. Thanks to his mother, all and sundry in Avonlea now knew that Gilbert had not only been elected president of the Freshman class and captain of the football team, but also held some of the highest marks of the Freshman class at the close of the semester.
On New Year's morning Gilbert set out for Green Gables, for in the excitement of the holidays he'd found that he hadn't had as much time to spend with Anne. She sat on the verandah of Green Gables when he meandered up the lane, and stood when she saw her old friend.
"'Lo, Anne," he greeted as he walked up the steps of the green gabled house. "I've come to wish you a happy New Year…and, I must confess, for some of Mrs. Lynde's holiday preserves. But first, I wondered if you might be up for a ramble down Lover's Lane."
"I would like nothing more. Snow came last night, and I so desperately wanted to go out and revel in it, but Jane spent the night here, and I wasn't sure if she would have the same aspirations. Jane always seemed much to practical to admire the snow."
"Snow isn't something that Jane would ponder, no," Gilbert agreed. "She would much rather admire a well-run schoolhouse." He watched as Anne grabbed her thick, woolen coat and wound it around her figure. "How was your night with Jane?"
"It was all right," Anne conceded plainly; "although there were parts I wish I could forget."
"Oh, I would tell you, Gilbert, honestly," said the redhead, "but I've been promised to secrecy by Jane out of fear of embarrassment. And not hers, mind you—no, the embarrassment is entirely my own. I almost wish I could tell you, though, for then I could laugh about it and feel much better."
Anne turned her gaze to the snow-draped landscape of Lover's Lane as Gilbert smiled. "Perhaps you could imagine that you told me," suggested he; "and I could pretend that you had. Then you could laugh over it all you wanted and feel better."
Anne agreed to Gilbert's idea, and the two began laughing as if they were both in on the secret as only kindred spirits can do. If an average observer happened to pass by, they would not be remiss in presuming that the boy and girl were not entirely sound; but trained observer would realize that the old friends were ringing in the new year by leaving the problems and sorrows of the old year—however small—behind.
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