“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily. She and Diana Barry had been picking apples in the Green Gables orchard, but were now resting from their labors in a sunny corner, where airy fleets of thistledown drifted by on the wings of a wind that was still summer-sweet with the incense of ferns in the Haunted Wood.
I love Anne of the Island. It isn't my absolute favorite of the series, but, it is oh-so-good. In this one Anne goes away to college, makes new friends, receives a handful of marriage proposals, and corresponds with folks from Avonlea.
Anne does mature, but, in some ways it is slow in coming. Particularly in terms of her seeing the obvious: Gilbert is her soul mate. But perhaps because it is so long in coming, it makes for quite a satisfying conclusion.
The best way to show you how much I adore this one, is perhaps to share my favorite quotes:
It is never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.
We mustn’t let next week rob us of this week’s joy.
But FEELING is so different from KNOWING. My common sense tells me all you can say, but there are times when common sense has no power over me. Common nonsense takes possession of my soul.
Exaggeration is merely a flight of poetic fancy.
Facts are stubborn things, but as some one has wisely said, not half so stubborn as fallacies.
“All life lessons are not learned at college,” she thought. “Life teaches them everywhere.”
We are never half so interesting when we have learned that language is given us to enable us to conceal our thoughts.
“People who send word they are coming on Saturday shouldn’t come on Friday,” said Aunt Jamesina.
“Words aren’t made — they grow,” said Anne.
“Will you please define what gumption is, Aunt Jimsie?” asked Phil. “No, I won’t, young woman. Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”Fun with Anne:
Talk of being lonesome! It’s I who should groan. YOU’LL be here with any number of your old friends — AND Fred! While I shall be alone among strangers, not knowing a soul!” “EXCEPT Gilbert — AND Charlie Sloane,” said Diana, imitating Anne’s italics and slyness. “Charlie Sloane will be a great comfort, of course,” agreed Anne sarcastically; whereupon both those irresponsible damsels laughed. Diana knew exactly what Anne thought of Charlie Sloane; but, despite sundry confidential talks, she did not know just what Anne thought of Gilbert Blythe.
“Miss Ada’s cushions are really getting on my nerves,” said Anne. “She finished two new ones last week, stuffed and embroidered within an inch of their lives. There being absolutely no other cushionless place to put them she stood them up against the wall on the stair landing. They topple over half the time and if we come up or down the stairs in the dark we fall over them. Last Sunday, when Dr. Davis prayed for all those exposed to the perils of the sea, I added in thought ‘and for all those who live in houses where cushions are loved not wisely but too well!’ There! we’re ready, and I see the boys coming through Old St. John’s. Do you cast in your lot with us, Phil?”
“You LOVE it,” said Miss Patty with emphasis. “Does that mean that you really LOVE it? Or that you merely like the looks of it? The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they DO mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. THEN a girl did not say she LOVED turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.” Anne’s conscience bore her up. “I really do love it,” she said gently. “I’ve loved it ever since I saw it last fall. My two college chums and I want to keep house next year instead of boarding, so we are looking for a little place to rent; and when I saw that this house was to let I was so happy.”
“No, I shall never try to write a story again,” declared Anne, with the hopeless finality of nineteen when a door is shut in its face. “I wouldn’t give up altogether,” said Mr. Harrison reflectively. “I’d write a story once in a while, but I wouldn’t pester editors with it. I’d write of people and places like I knew, and I’d make my characters talk everyday English; and I’d let the sun rise and set in the usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If I had to have villains at all, I’d give them a chance, Anne — I’d give them a chance. There are some terrible bad men in the world, I suppose, but you’d have to go a long piece to find them — though Mrs. Lynde believes we’re all bad. But most of us have got a little decency somewhere in us. Keep on writing, Anne.”
Trotting along behind her, close to her heels, was quite the most forlorn specimen of the cat tribe she had ever beheld. The animal was well past kitten-hood, lank, thin, disreputable looking. Pieces of both ears were lacking, one eye was temporarily out of repair, and one jowl ludicrously swollen. As for color, if a once black cat had been well and thoroughly singed the result would have resembled the hue of this waif’s thin, draggled, unsightly fur. Anne “shooed,” but the cat would not “shoo.” As long as she stood he sat back on his haunches and gazed at her reproachfully out of his one good eye; when she resumed her walk he followed. Anne resigned herself to his company until she reached the gate of Patty’s Place, which she coldly shut in his face, fondly supposing she had seen the last of him. But when, fifteen minutes later, Phil opened the door, there sat the rusty-brown cat on the step. More, he promptly darted in and sprang upon Anne’s lap with a half-pleading, half-triumphant “miaow.” “Anne,” said Stella severely, “do you own that animal?” “No, I do NOT,” protested disgusted Anne. “The creature followed me home from somewhere. I couldn’t get rid of him. Ugh, get down. I like decent cats reasonably well; but I don’t like beasties of your complexion.” Pussy, however, refused to get down. He coolly curled up in Anne’s lap and began to purr. “He has evidently adopted you,” laughed Priscilla. “I won’t BE adopted,” said Anne stubbornly.
“It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana’s being married,” sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana’s room. “I don’t see what’s horrible about it, when she’s doing so well,” said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. “Fred Wright has a fine farm and he is a model young man.” “He certainly isn’t the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana once wanted to marry,” smiled Anne. “Fred is extremely good.” “That’s just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?” “Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he COULD be wicked and WOULDN’T.
Fun with Davy
“When I’m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.” “All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.”
“But if you DID want to catch a man how would you go about it? I want to know,” persisted Davy, for whom the subject evidently possessed a certain fascination. “You’d better ask Mrs. Boulter,” said Anne thoughtlessly. “I think it’s likely she knows more about the process than I do.” “I will, the next time I see her,” said Davy gravely. “Davy! If you do!” cried Anne, realizing her mistake. “But you just told me to,” protested Davy aggrieved.
Dear anne, please write and tell marilla not to tie me to the rale of the bridge when I go fishing the boys make fun of me when she does. Its awful lonesome here without you but grate fun in school. Jane andrews is crosser than you. I scared mrs. lynde with a jacky lantern last nite. She was offel mad and she was mad cause I chased her old rooster round the yard till he fell down ded. I didn’t mean to make him fall down ded. What made him die, anne, I want to know. mrs. lynde threw him into the pig pen she mite of sold him to mr. blair. mr. blair is giving 50 sense apeace for good ded roosters now. I herd mrs. lynde asking the minister to pray for her. What did she do that was so bad, anne, I want to know.
“I — I want to say a bad word, Anne,” blurted out Davy, with a desperate effort. “I heard Mr. Harrison’s hired boy say it one day last week, and ever since I’ve been wanting to say it ALL the time — even when I’m saying my prayers.” “Say it then, Davy.” Davy lifted his flushed face in amazement. “But, Anne, it’s an AWFUL bad word.” “SAY IT!” Davy gave her another incredulous look, then in a low voice he said the dreadful word. The next minute his face was burrowing against her. “Oh, Anne, I’ll never say it again — never. I’ll never WANT to say it again. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t s’pose it was so — so — I didn’t s’pose it was like THAT.” “No, I don’t think you’ll ever want to say it again, Davy — or think it, either. And I wouldn’t go about much with Mr. Harrison’s hired boy if I were you.” “He can make bully war-whoops,” said Davy a little regretfully. “But you don’t want your mind filled with bad words, do you, Davy — words that will poison it and drive out all that is good and manly?” “No,” said Davy, owl-eyed with introspection. “Then don’t go with those people who use them. And now do you feel as if you could say your prayers, Davy?”
“Our new teacher is a man. He does things for jokes. Last week he made all us third-class boys write a composishun on what kind of a wife we’d like to have and the girls on what kind of a husband. He laughed fit to kill when he read them. This was mine. I thought youd like to see it. “‘The kind of a wife I’d like to Have. “‘She must have good manners and get my meals on time and do what I tell her and always be very polite to me. She must be fifteen yers old. She must be good to the poor and keep her house tidy and be good tempered and go to church regularly. She must be very handsome and have curly hair. If I get a wife that is just what I like Ill be an awful good husband to her. I think a woman ought to be awful good to her husband. Some poor women haven’t any husbands. “‘THE END.’”
Mrs. Lynde was awful mad the other day because I asked her if she was alive in Noah’s time. I dident mean to hurt her feelings. I just wanted to know. Was she, Anne?
The new minister was here to tea last night. He took three pieces of pie. If I did that Mrs. Lynde would call me piggy. And he et fast and took big bites and Marilla is always telling me not to do that. Why can ministers do what boys can’t? I want to know.
The mention of age evidently gave a new turn to Davy’s thoughts for after a few moments of reflection, he whispered solemnly: “Anne, I’m going to be married.” “When?” asked Anne with equal solemnity. “Oh, not until I’m grown-up, of course.” “Well, that’s a relief, Davy. Who is the lady?” “Stella Fletcher; she’s in my class at school. And say, Anne, she’s the prettiest girl you ever saw. If I die before I grow up you’ll keep an eye on her, won’t you?” “Davy Keith, do stop talking such nonsense,” said Marilla severely.
Fun with Mrs. Lynde:
Mrs. Lynde’s letter was full of church news. Having broken up housekeeping, Mrs. Lynde had more time than ever to devote to church affairs and had flung herself into them heart and soul. She was at present much worked up over the poor “supplies” they were having in the vacant Avonlea pulpit. “I don’t believe any but fools enter the ministry nowadays,” she wrote bitterly. “Such candidates as they have sent us, and such stuff as they preach! Half of it ain’t true, and, what’s worse, it ain’t sound doctrine. The one we have now is the worst of the lot. He mostly takes a text and preaches about something else. And he says he doesn’t believe all the heathen will be eternally lost. The idea! If they won’t all the money we’ve been giving to Foreign Missions will be clean wasted, that’s what! Last Sunday night he announced that next Sunday he’d preach on the axe-head that swam. I think he’d better confine himself to the Bible and leave sensational subjects alone. Things have come to a pretty pass if a minister can’t find enough in Holy Writ to preach about, that’s what.
“Poor Atossa laid in her coffin peaceful enough,” said Mrs. Lynde solemnly. “I never saw her look so pleasant before, that’s what. Well, there weren’t many tears shed over her, poor old soul. The Elisha Wrights are thankful to be rid of her, and I can’t say I blame them a mite.” “It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world and not leave one person behind you who is sorry you are gone,” said Anne, shuddering. “Nobody except her parents ever loved poor Atossa, that’s certain, not even her husband,” averred Mrs. Lynde. “She was his fourth wife. He’d sort of got into the habit of marrying. He only lived a few years after he married her. The doctor said he died of dyspepsia, but I shall always maintain that he died of Atossa’s tongue, that’s what. Poor soul, she always knew everything about her neighbors, but she never was very well acquainted with herself. Well, she’s gone anyhow; and I suppose the next excitement will be Diana’s wedding.”Anne and Gilbert:
“I hope no great sorrow ever will come to you, Anne,” said Gilbert, who could not connect the idea of sorrow with the vivid, joyous creature beside him, unwitting that those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and that the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply.
“But there must — sometime,” mused Anne. “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 brave 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.
As a companion, Anne honestly acknowledged nobody could be so satisfactory as Gilbert; she was very glad, so she told herself, that he had evidently dropped all nonsensical ideas — though she spent considerable time secretly wondering why.
But Gilbert’s visits were not what they once were. Anne almost dreaded them. It was very disconcerting to look up in the midst of a sudden silence and find Gilbert’s hazel eyes fixed upon her with a quite unmistakable expression in their grave depths; and it was still more disconcerting to find herself blushing hotly and uncomfortably under his gaze, just as if — just as if — well, it was very embarrassing. Anne wished herself back at Patty’s Place, where there was always somebody else about to take the edge off a delicate situation. At Green Gables Marilla went promptly to Mrs. Lynde’s domain when Gilbert came and insisted on taking the twins with her. The significance of this was unmistakable and Anne was in a helpless fury over it.
“There is something I want to say to you.” “Oh, don’t say it,” cried Anne, pleadingly. “Don’t — PLEASE, Gilbert.” “I must. Things can’t go on like this any longer. Anne, I love you. You know I do. I — I can’t tell you how much. Will you promise me that some day you’ll be my wife?” “I — I can’t,” said Anne miserably. “Oh, Gilbert — you — you’ve spoiled everything.” “Don’t you care for me at all?” Gilbert asked after a very dreadful pause, during which Anne had not dared to look up. “Not — not in that way. I do care a great deal for you as a friend. But I don’t love you, Gilbert.” “But can’t you give me some hope that you will — yet?” “No, I can’t,” exclaimed Anne desperately. “I never, never can love you — in that way — Gilbert. You must never speak of this to me again.” There was another pause — so long and so dreadful that Anne was driven at last to look up. Gilbert’s face was white to the lips. And his eyes — but Anne shuddered and looked away. There was nothing romantic about this. Must proposals be either grotesque or — horrible? Could she ever forget Gilbert’s face? “Is there anybody else?” he asked at last in a low voice. “No — no,” said Anne eagerly. “I don’t care for any one like THAT — and I LIKE you better than anybody else in the world, Gilbert. And we must — we must go on being friends, Gilbert.”
“Do you call it idiotic to refuse to marry a man I don’t love?” said Anne coldly, goaded to reply. “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” “Phil,” pleaded Anne, “please go away and leave me alone for a little while. My world has tumbled into pieces. I want to reconstruct it.” “Without any Gilbert in it?” said Phil, going. A world without any Gilbert in it! Anne repeated the words drearily. Would it not be a very lonely, forlorn place? Well, it was all Gilbert’s fault. He had spoiled their beautiful comradeship. She must just learn to live without it.
Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stuart were nothing to her — absolutely nothing. But Anne had given up trying to analyze the reason of her blushes. As for Roy, of course she was in love with him — madly so. How could she help it? Was he not her ideal? Who could resist those glorious dark eyes, and that pleading voice? Were not half the Redmond girls wildly envious? And what a charming sonnet he had sent her, with a box of violets, on her birthday! Anne knew every word of it by heart. It was very good stuff of its kind, too. Not exactly up to the level of Keats or Shakespeare — even Anne was not so deeply in love as to think that.
Yet just before she left Patty’s Place for Convocation she flung Roy’s violets aside and put Gilbert’s lilies-of-the-valley in their place. She could not have told why she did it. Somehow, old Avonlea days and dreams and friendships seemed very close to her in this attainment of her long-cherished ambitions. She and Gilbert had once picturedout merrily the day on which they should be capped and gowned graduates in Arts. The wonderful day had come and Roy’s violets had no place in it. Only her old friend’s flowers seemed to belong to this fruition of old-blossoming hopes which he had once shared.
The Arts graduates gave a graduation dance that night. When Anne dressed for it she tossed aside the pearl beads she usually wore and took from her trunk the small box that had come to Green Gables on Christmas day. In it was a thread-like gold chain with a tiny pink enamel heart as a pendant. On the accompanying card was written, “With all good wishes from your old chum, Gilbert.” Anne, laughing over the memory the enamel heart conjured up the fatal day when Gilbert had called her “Carrots” and vainly tried to make his peace with a pink candy heart, had written him a nice little note of thanks. But she had never worn the trinket. Tonight she fastened it about her white throat with a dreamy smile.
There is a book of Revelation in every one’s life, as there is in the Bible. Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert — had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her.
And the knowledge had come too late — too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind — so foolish — she would have had the right to go to him now. But he would never know that she loved him — he would go away from this life thinking that she did not care. Oh, the black years of emptiness stretching before her! She could not live through them — she could not! She cowered down by her window and wished, for the first time in her gay young life, that she could die, too. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that. He did not love Christine Stuart — never had loved Christine Stuart. Oh, what a fool she had been not to realize what the bond was that had held her to Gilbert — to think that the flattered fancy she had felt for Roy Gardner had been love. And now she must pay for her folly as for a crime.
He had come quite often to Green Gables after his recovery, and something of their old comradeship had returned. But Anne no longer found it satisfying. The rose of love made the blossom of friendship pale and scentless by contrast. And Anne had again begun to doubt if Gilbert now felt anything for her but friendship. In the common light of common day her radiant certainty of that rapt morning had faded.
“Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. Something in his tone — something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place — made Anne’s heart beat wildly. But she made answer lightly. “Of course. Everybody has. It wouldn’t do for us to have all our dreams fulfilled. We would be as good as dead if we had nothing left to dream about. What a delicious aroma that low-descending sun is extracting from the asters and ferns. I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” Gilbert was not to be thus sidetracked. “I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends — and YOU!”
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews