Well, it's been a while.

I'm happy to be here again, writing to you! My life has been changing quite rapidly in my absence. I graduated, got accepted to my dream M.A. studies, have been working my fingers to the bone. But that doesn't mean I've forsaken to world of LMM!

This story has been in my head for years now. I'm going to take it really slow this time. No rushing, no lick-and-promise writing. Research. As much insight as possible. Breathing life into new characters, bringing up some of the old friends. That's more or less where I want to take it.

Some points in the story are references to its prequel, Nan of Avonlea. You can read about them in the last couple of chapters (approximately five). Or you can just skip that. I hope to make flashbacks enough of a background. They won't be that important, anyway. Everything is going to change throughout the course of this story.

Because this story is supposed to be different. I suspect some of you (maybe even most of you) may not like it all that much. I want to make my characters come to life, show their weaknesses, shake their principles and beliefs. Because my vision of WWI is closer to the one from TBAQ than RoI. Therefore my characters, my narration are going to differ quite considerably from what you might expect from a LMM fanfiction.

This chapter is telling rather than showing. It's an introduction to Di, to the way she is going to be portrayed here. I would love to hear your opinions, also- or even especially- the negative ones. As always, I would be more than grateful for indicating any mistakes that escaped my notice. I'm still not a native. ;-)

Oh, and- I do sincerely hope that I'm not too late for some of my 'previous' readers. I've missed all of you.

As she opened the window, sun rays fell into the room, accompanied by slight puffs of salty breeze. She watched them pick up glints here and there on the narrow, shimmering ribbon of the brook in the Valley as she basked in the warmth for a little while. Baby Rilla was going to have splendid weather for her first dance, and thanks be, as she would have never forgiven the universe if it had been otherwise.

But then, not everything had to be about Baby Rilla's first dance, did it? Even though she certainly thought so, frantically running about all day long, hauling Miss Oliver behind,

"Like a chicken with its head cut off," Shirley had hit the nail on the head, mumbling into Nan's ear at breakfast that morning.

It wasn't that she irritated Di, not exactly. As the eldest daughter, she even felt a touch of mother-hen pride and just a little sliver of wicked amusement. But- she was a little bitter.

"Which is never good before a dance," she said to herself.

She tore off a card in the calendar. August 4th, 1914. Di couldn't help a feeling it was going to be a special day. She was not one to fall for superstitions and misgivings; that share of the Blythe- or maybe rather, Shirley- ancestry had definitely fallen into Nan's lap. But there was something in the air; even her sensible, practical nature had to admit it. Something different, something- unforeseeable.

Not that the dance itself was all that stirring. She sighed with resignation, thinking of the company that was to be expected. The old gang of the Rainbow Valley days- Rilla, Miss Oliver and Shirley coming buckshee- among the Glen St. Mary and Mowbray Narrows young fry, whose faces were all well-known and familiar- and as workaday, commonplace and trivial as they could possibly be.

She had spent a whole year at home, teaching in Mowbray Narrows and commuting back to Glen St. Mary with Dad after his daily rounds. Ten repetitive, monotonous months. She had always been rather lonely in the glen if Merediths and her own siblings were not to be counted and it had certainly come to bear in their absence. Her only real good chum was Laura Douglas nee Carr, who had recently had a baby girl- a little thing just as plain, freckled and sandy- haired as her mother, although Di had sworn her to be an indescribable sweetling, of course- and, accordingly, had very little time for their nice, longish talks. Una Meredith, surprisingly, was also very busy. All the alternative choices were not quite acceptable. Take Irene Howard with her spiteful, vanity- driven, lackadaisical conduct. Or Ethel Reese, forever trying to investigate her about whether Ken Ford was going to grace the Four Winds with his presence that summer. She still chuckled at the reminiscence of the poor boy's desperate attempts to put her off the scent.

As for the male part of the company- Di could not be surprised in this department, either. Their merits had been fairly well mapped out to her- and not very impressive. They were still the same boys with whom she had gone to school; Harry Lewison who had once stained her new muslin dress with ink and Dan Reese who never addressed her with any other denomination than 'Ginger'. The odds of being swept off her feet by a surge of romantic emotions were not very high.

Still, one does want to look her best at parties, especially among the good-looking lot of Ingleside and the manse. Her new pale green organdy would have been just perfect for that - Dad was such a dear to buy it for her in Lowbridge to make sure she wouldn't feel 'unduly countrified' among 'Kingsport's spiteful cats'! But Rilla had burst into her room at noon, with despair-filled eyes, confessing that she had planned to wear green to the dance- her first grown-up dance- could Di maybe change?

Di was not a bad sister and it was rather funny to observe Rilla trying to strike the right balance between asking politely and threatening- but she had to resent the fact that brown silk was not quite as fit for a summer party. And not half as good with accentuating the milky whiteness of her skin. But she hoped that the night could still be enjoyable, with Walter by her side and Faith and Nan finally back. Although the latter was not that much of a comfort, really, since they were both bound to disappear into thin air with Jem and Jerry after a dance or two.

That was a surprising new touch to their connections, as well. Not so much so in the case of Faith and Jem maybe, but- Di couldn't help but wonder what possible reason Nan could have to fall for Jerry Meredith, of all people! Di had found the recent mishap with Ken and Jerry rather funny; her clever, learned, witty Nan had turned out to be as helpless and confused in the realm of sweethearting as possible. Di had seen fit to intervene, for the sake of both her sisters- although Baby Rilla, rather comically, was still of the persuasion that nobody noticed how infatuated she was- and the relations of the Blythe family with Fords and Merediths. The former were a bit strained now, as Ken showed up more sparsely those days. But it would pass, Nan assured her all the time, as she came into her room, time and time again, to discuss the whole confusion. Diana was inclined to think she was right; she and Ken were like two peas in a pot, they never really quarreled. A tad of hurt pride and awkwardness, that was all- nothing that time and a few friendly gestures couldn't mend. And Nan was so deliriously happy that she was both a delight and a laughing-stock to watch.

Di could not understand it, personally. Granted, Jerry had 'turned out fine', as Mrs. Elliot would say, with all the attributes of an eligible bachelor, but he was still- well, Jerry. A boy from Glen St. Mary, a childhood chum with a very teasing manner and just that one bit of erudition too much for his own good. To tell the truth, she did not expect the charm to last very long in Kingsport, especially given the surprisingly vivid and clear memory of the dashing student who had helped Nan with her suitcase when she came back home from Avonlea. He was definitely more of the dreamy, romantic hero she saw Nan with. She just couldn't help thinking Jerry was not one for her- that perhaps Faith and Jem had served as some sort of an incentive- for no one in Glen St. Mary or Four Winds seemed right for either one of them.

Somehow, Diana had always imagined that both for her twin and for herself, life would begin for real after leaving home and settling in a more sophisticated place. She loved Ingleside dearly, of course she did! But she had always thought- known- that their lives would be shaped away from it and its countryside ways.

Di had unknowingly put herself in the position of an observer, feeling oddly suspended for a while. Having no ardent interest in the life of Glen St. Mary, she had resolved to prepare herself for Redmond to the best of her abilities. She had been learning unrelentingly the whole time; in fact, she had grown a little tired of all the old wisdoms of Plato. But there was- always had been- a touch of twin rivalry between her and Nan in the academic sphere and she was determined to do her very best. As for the other aspects of their life in Kingsport- she just couldn't wait to rush head- first into everything! Oh, how they would take college by storm! She was not intimidated in the least, as Nan had confessed to be; no, she was raring to go! They would surround themselves with artists, musicians, Canada's future writers, poets for Walter- and some social reformers for Nan, too! They would all be brash and broad-minded, full of innovatory ideas, as all students should rightfully be. A boisterous and ambitious group of slight rakes, that's how she saw them, all incredibly winsome- and one exceptional gentleman especially so-

A dull thump snatched her out of her animated fits of imagination. It was Nan's signal for Di to come downstairs. It always took the younger Ingleside twin longer to get ready, with her time-consuming rites of brushing her hair fifty times- no more and no less- and putting cream on her face- Mother's old trick, that even Susan used. Di had caught her red-handed once, on one of her late night prowling trips to the pantry, her face smeared all white. How ridiculously flustered she had been! Di herself never had the patience nor the bent to deal with all the beauty enhancing procedures which her sister went about so conscientiously. It just took too much time and she far preferred to have another go at one of the novellas printed in 'The Daily Enterprise' in the privacy of her own room. She would have died if someone had seen her reading them, for she was perfectly aware of their poor quality. She would be especially mortified if Walter found out, but she quite enjoyed them after all the 'ologies and isms' she had forced herself to study- it was her guilty pleasure nobody had to know about. She locked the paper in the desk drawer, glad to still have a few pages to go through after she came back, and went downstairs, to the hall.

No matter how hard she would try, she couldn't fault the girl she found in the hallway mirror. Except for the dress, naturally.

She examined her face closely. She was told, time and time again, to look extraordinarily similar to her Mother- but she knew that similarity was very superficial. Her features lacked a certain bit of subtleness, her movements the elusive, almost imperceptible poise and her eyes the dreamy luster. She felt, sometimes, that she was Mother's shell, an infelicitous copy created by a cursory gesture, next to a masterpiece. Put very brusquely, she did not have the inner charm to elucidate her looks; she was far too sensible and practical for that. Thanks be she had taken Mother's height and her pretty nose; but there was one bit of her ancestry she had never resigned herself to.

Father loved her hair and so did Walter. But Di detested every single lock. And it seemed to be getting worse with time. It once had merely a swirl to it, just like Mother's, curling at its ends. But with time, it seemed to have developed a personality of its own- and a very boisterous one. It was positively frizzy, unmanagable and red with the vivid, marigold- like redness. Not quite like little Rilla's sleek brown-tinted waves and certainly not like Nan's dark, glossy cascade.

But now, for once, it looked decent. With the aid of Nan's nimble fingers and some mysterious concoction drawn from a small glass jar, it had straightened itself and now smoothly fell down her arms in thick waves, lending her face a tangible contour. The four freckles which had crept up on her nose through the summer were not visible against it. Her eyes were lucidly greenish, not quite green enough to be really striking but still undeniably alluring. Di smiled as she took a step back to fix her skirt.

A lightsome patter played on the staircase, behind her back. Di turned around, but Nan was already next to her, playfully brushing against her hip with her own one, pushing her aside.

"Make some space, popinjay," she said teasingly. "May I remind you there's only one mirror in this house big enough to show the whole silhouette- and it has to go round for three daughters."

Di watched as Nan carefully slipped back a few lustrous, unruly strands. She had had her hair trimmed by a hairdresser in Charlottetown just the other day and Di had to admit she looked delightful with this new fluffy forelock.

Had she ever been jealous of Nan's appearance? Why, of course! How could she not be, when her sister drew both the Blythe looks and the Shirley nose out of the genetic pool? But she was, at the same time, the most ardent admirer of Nan's beauty- with the exception of Jerry Meredith, maybe.

Faith Meredith may have been beautiful with the queenly, classical sort of beauty and Persis Ford was downright gorgeous with her blue eyes, golden hair and dimpled smile. But, in Di's eyes at least, Nan's beauty overshadowed them both, precisely because it was of a subtler, more delicate kind. She had always thought her sister looked like an elphin changeling among them, with that flower-like face of hers, porcelain skin and dark fans of eyelashes. So yes, Di was jealous at times. Having an especially lovely sister while being only relatively attractive yourself necessities jealousy. But she was envious in her smart, sensible way, without resentment, bitterness and rivalry.

Nan was in white muslin. She wrapped a pearlstring around her simple bun, then fixed her rose posy. Jerry always sent Nan roses and somehow they always managed to go perfectly with her dress choice for the occasion. Di had to smirk; Nan might have been enamored, but she wasn't taking any chances.

Diana looked into the mirror which now showed them both. Then she heaved a meaningful sigh. Nan froze, her hands pressed to her cheeks.

"I absolutely hate it when you do that," she said caustically.

"Make an effort and look just a tiny bit worse, then."

"I am!" Nan cried despairingly and pointed at a single blemish on her peaches and cream complexion. Not big enough to be noticed by anyone else than Nan herself, of course. "A pimple, today! Even cream didn't help- and it's so dreadfully visible! I'm so desperate I could strike another deal with God."

"Nan Blythe!" Diana said with mock indignation.

"Well, he did help me with my missing tooth once, remember? Before Amy Taylor's birthday party," her sister laughed light-heartedly. She fixed her dress again, then suddenly blurted out, "You really have no reason to sigh, Di. You look perfectly lovely."

"Hm. Thank you. But it doesn't change the fact that nobody will notice my perfect loveliness when I'm next to you."

"You know that's not true. You're also perfectly aware that Harry Lewison is head over heels for you, you wicked thing!"

Diana waved her hand dismissively, as Nan was scanning her figure.

"But this dress is no good," she pronounced authoritatively. "That is, it's lovely and it suits you. But it's just not– not- right. Not today."

"Well, what else should I do?" Di asked with a touch of irritation, as Nan had touched a sore spot. "I wanted to wear my new green one, but apparently Rilla holds the monopoly for everything from olive to mint."

Nan nodded in understanding.

"I am going to wear my silver slippers from Aunt Leslie, though, whether or not our dear Baby wears hers!" Di said defiantly.

Nan smirked knowingly and lifted her skirt a little to reveal her feet, clad in the said footgear. Then she knitted her brow, thinking intensely.

"Brown silk just does not ring well next to a dance at the light. That just begs for muslin- or white lace," she pronounced with solemnity and all of a sudden snapped her fingers, beaming with joy, having found a solution. Di had to smile. "Preferably the Chantilly type, like the one Aunt Leslie sent me recently!"

There, the camel's back broke. Nan was tall now- and she had always been very slender, with narrow waist and well balanced arms. Di, on the other hand, had always slanted towards plumpness- and a year worth of the Susan diet had taken its toll, much to her dismay. She almost stomped her foot.

"Nan, you know perfectly well it won't fit me. I couldn't possibly squeeze myself into it."

"No need to get in a huff!" Nan retorted. Di wondered fleetingly where she took such expressions from, Mr. Douglas? "You didn't let me finish. It's a bit loose for me, and I haven't had it taken in yet. So you will squeeze yourself into it alright!"

Despite her protests, Nan dragged her upstairs and made her change. And when Di stood in front of the mirror again, she had to admit her sister had been right. She was utterly transformed.

"We'll both be wearing white, though. Quite proper if we are to fit our roles of Cinderella's ugly sisters for the night."

Nan laughed before rushing into Dad's study to come back with an orchid bud.

"Don't tell on me!" she said, winking. "There. It wouldn't have gone with the brown one, but it's perfect now. You have just the looks for the little extravagant bits, and you're the only one of us, too."

She observed the result with apparent self-satisfaction.

"Really, Di Blythe, you could be such a bijou if only you-"

"What, learned how to dress properly?" Di cut in caustically. Nan's face froze in an unstrung expression before wincing visibly.

"I was going to say 'believed in yourself'," she said slowly. "Are you really going to act towards me as all the other girls do? Imputing how shallow and conceited I am? Di, you know that's what I hate most- you know that's what hurts me most!"

There was a querulous note to her voice, and Di felt terrible. She had let her own insecurities get the better of her and there was the result. She knew that Nan's strained contacts with the female part of Glen St. Mary's lot would always rankle and so she rushed with the apology.

"Nan, I didn't mean it to sound like that! I'm sorry- I really am. You know I don't think that about you- you must know that. I've told you too many times not to worry about those idiots."

Nan shot her a brief, but meaningful look. She didn't answer; the doorbell rang and she rushed to open it.

"I could be perfectly happy now if I knew I was going to actually dance," Faith Meredith chirped as she went inside, Una- quiet as ever- a few steps behind her. "It's a night made for dancing and I am not going to hide how jealous I am of you both. And Una here tells me I have no right to be, since there will be taffy pull and plenty of work in the kitchen for us. Fancy that! Why, Di, you look bully!"

"Ah, the ever so flattering surprise in your voice," Diana sneered good-naturedly. "Not to mention the elegant vocabulary of your compliment. I must connote really well in your mind."

Faith giggled, amused, and turned to Nan again.

"I have no doubts putting myself in your hands now," she handed over a little bag with hairstyling paraphernalia.

"You mean to tell me you did have doubts?" Nan cried with pretended rancor and they all laughed. "Come, I have just the thing for you."

They settled in the Ingleside parlor, and as Nan was too focused brushing Faith's lovely, golden tresses and Di too enraptured gazing at them longingly, Una got a word in edgeways.

"I wasn't going to come," she said. "Baby Bruce is not feeling quite right today and I wanted-"

"To deny yourself another pleasure because of him," Faith cut in. "It's a good job Mother Rosemary forced you to go. You've made a perfect slave of yourself, Una."

"It would have been a shame if nobody saw you in this dress, too," Nan said with a smile.

Di agreed with her; Una was not one to be seen on Glen St. Mary's gatherings very often. She knew that better than anybody else, having spent the year at home. They rarely got to see her in anything else than her simple, though very neat cotton dresses. She now looked quite bewitching in her dark blue taffeta, her hair braided into a perfect imitation of Mrs. Meredith's simple updo. She was still quite plain, Di thought, but her almond-shaped, indigo eyes had an utterly new and quite intriguing look about them, as if she knew all the secrets in the world. She told her that, for she had a feeling Una would not get many compliments- unrightly so- as nobody ever seemed to think of her in that way.

Diana had some suspicions about Una. Being too quiet and angelic to be involved in any sweethearting business, as it seemed so brusque with regard to her, did not mean Una herself did not harbor any secret feelings. She was too honest to to hide anything, really, and Di wondered at times why her beautiful eyes shone so peculiarly whenever Walter entered the room. Her cheeks took on a slight shade of pink when he spoke to her and she grew even more abashed and quiet than usual. It might have been very intuitive, as Walter did enjoy her wordless, soothing presence in his reconvalescence.

"Una has to be in the background, somewhere," he had told Di once. "Otherwise, nothing seems to be quite right."

She sighed a little then and did not respond. In the background- and only that. For the one who was always on Walter's pedestal was- Faith, unfortunately. Di could not help but think Walter's ardent love for beauty was what had led him astray in this case. She had every reason to think Una loved him- and Una was most capable of the selfless, loyal, enduring kind of love. Faith, on the other hand-

Faith was lovely, of course, inside and out. 'Pride of the community', Mrs. Elliot called her. But she seemed a bit too earthbound for Walter- too loud, too boisterous. And next to her quiet sister, all her qualities suddenly seemed slightly less valuable- although Di would not be caught dead verbalizing that opinion. What was really crucial was the fact that she belonged to Jem and Jem alone. But she knew about Walter's feelings perfectly well, girls like her always know. It was obvious by the way she had been trying to avoid him ever since she came back from Kingsport.

Di was snatched out of her reverie by Faith herself, laughing wildly at something Nan had whispered into her ear. They had grown very close in the past few weeks, due to the similarity of their plights. It seemed that when they were not with Jem and Jerry, they were together, giggling over confessions about them-

Ah, there it was again. That little sliver of resentment which Di felt at times. Nan had been away for so long that every twin in her right mind would think they would be inseparable after she finally came back home. Di had thought so, anyway. But Nan seemed to be growing apart, keeping so many secrets- Jerry's, Jem's, her own ones. The four 'lovebirds', as Glen St. Mary had grown to call them, had taken to spend time in their own company and it left her feeling very isolated. To be fair, Nan did try to spend as much time with her as possible.

"Penciling me in," Di thought, as it was obvious she was not a priority in her sister's agenda at the moment. Perhaps for that reason Di had taken against Faith a little; that, and also because of her perfect listlessness regarding Walter's feelings. She was happy for Jem! But she couldn't help feeling Faith would become a wedge between her brothers. That estranged her, although she was perfectly aware that it was unfounded and quite wrongful. Oh, but knowing was so much different than feeling!

"There," Nan said all at once, handing over a little mirror. "I do consider myself a prodigy, to skip the false modesty."

Di finally understood why Nan had been casting sideward glances to the mantelpiece the whole time. She had been looking at Artemis of the Silver Bow, recreating her updo. It was very becoming, especially coupled with Faith's maroon georgette.

"Who will you be hunting tonight?" Di snickered a little, as Faith looked at herself with visible approval.

"Try and get a few arrows in Irene Howard, will you?" Nan asked, picking up the remaining hair pins.

"She'll be there?" Faith groaned. "I hoped she would still be in Charlottetown, at her aunt's, having some more dresses done to make us all feel provincial to the core."

"No," Nan informed her grimly. "She is more than sure to be there at our service, dropping little remarks about buying a cow when you can get milk for free. She won't be insinuating anything, naturally."

To take their minds off the matter, Di asked one of her down-to-earth questions.

"And how did your house- hunting go? Did you find anything?"

Faith had one to Kingsport with Jerry to find a flat for the three of them. The twins were initially to stay with Uncle Irving's family, Little Elizabeth- Mrs. Irving now- and their daughter, Anne Lavendar. But Uncle Paul had gotten a Professorship at Kingsport and they had found themselves rather awkwardly accommodated with their future lecturer.

"Not much," Faith shook her head sorrowfully. "It was rather late when you told me about it. Firstly, I almost didn't get my down payment back- but you know how persuasive Jerry can be when dealing with dishonest landlords," Nan almost swelled with pride, and Di had to cover a smirk again.

"And I wouldn't be dragged to that shabby boarding house by wild horses ever again! Then all the other flats were either too small or too expensive. And then- I did find something quite fit for all three of us. It's what Kingsport calls 'the students' crescent', all the houses are rented by our Redmond lot. I have been there visiting friends before. The house seemed comfortable enough, and there were some trees for you in the back garden, Nan, and the distance to the college is sensible enough, just as you would like it, Di."

Both twins looked up hopefully.

"The problem is, there are three bedrooms in the house, one of which has two beds. Two of us would have to live together."

"But- but that's not a problem, is it, Di?" Nan said unhesitatingly. "We shared a room at Queen's, after all."

"Yes- but the third room would be empty then- we'd have to pay for it as the landlord did not agree to look for another tenant for us- and I cannot possibly afford that, even with Jerry's scholarship," Faith spluttered, a guilty glow creeping up her full cheeks. "I could only pay for a little cubicle at the ground floor. And this other room is quite big, so it won't be easy to find a cotenant."

Di and Nan were both quiet for a moment- then they exchanged meaningful glances, which did not escape Faith's notice. She looked at them expectantly.

"We- might have a solution," Nan said haltingly. "I just don't know how you're going to take to our proposal."

"You can find that out very easily, just by telling me," Faith sneered.

"Oh, don't talk like Jerry," Nan bristled up, pouting. "Really, one oversmart Meredith is enough for the world to bear."

They all laughed and then Di said with sudden decision,

"We might have a just the right person to rent the bigger room. Money seems to be no object in her case."

"Is Irene Howard going to Redmond?" Faith asked in horror.

"No- but Persis Ford is," Di said straightforwardly, receiving her share of kicks in the ankle, Nan's way of rebuking her for the lack of diplomacy.

Faith knitted her brow.

"Persis is going to study in Redmond?" she asked disbelievingly. "For why? She could study in Toronto, for crying out loud! And Ken tells me she is already a hit with all the Sophomores and half the Juniors, even though she's only been there once, to fetch a book he'd forgotten."

"Out of sheer contrariness, I suppose," Nan said honestly. "And to go against Aunt Leslie. Her letter came the day you went to Kingsport. She wants to at least begin college somewhere quiet and away from home, because she was bickering with Aunty all the time in Japan."

"They're much too similar to live in peace, that's that," Di shrugged her shoulders. "Uncle Owen was not very happy to have his little girl go away, but gave his permission eventually. Fathers are naturally more agreeable."

"You'd know, wouldn't you?" Nan smirked at her twin. "Oh, it all seemed so inopportune- but now it would be quite timely, wouldn't it? It's just that- we know you and Persis are not on the best of terms," Nan fidgeted unsteadily, dropping hairpins all around. Una had been picking them up for a while.

But then Faith stood up and impatiently folded her arms across her chest.

"Oh, stop it, both of you!" she admonished.

"Stop what?"

"Walking on eggshells around me, as if I were some overbearing despot, always ordering you about. Of course it's a perfect solution. I don't know Persis much, but I suppose she can't be too bad, you all being such friends with her and Ken being such a chum. And if I'm honest-" Faith suddenly lost much of her momentum, "I am quite ashamed that I never agreed to meet Persis- not for real. I was a goose and- I suppose I was just jealous of her. I mean, Glen St. Mary seethes with legends about her beauty and her wits- and clothes- so I felt a little threatened that you wouldn't like me as much as her. Such a little fool! As long as she doesn't mind living with me, I am not going to object."

The ever impulsive Nan tossed aside her bag- all the hairpins dropping on the floor to poor Una's dismay- and clasped her in a tight embrace.

"Oh, we're going to have so much fun together- you'll love Persis, you'll see!"

If Faith had any doubts about it, she did not voice them and Di felt quite reverent towards her. She had always known Faith felt insecure about Persis- but she would never have expected her to admit it so openly.

"We'll have to write back as soon as possible," she remarked, knowing Nan might be too happy about the prospect to remember such trivialities. "As soon as we come back tonight. That reminds me- what time is it?"

The clamor in the hall harbingered the arrival of the boys. They all piled outside where Nan and Faith received their usual share of compliments; Jem went about them rather vocally, while Jerry somehow managed to express the same admiration in just one look. Walter gallantly attended to the unacccompanied girls.

"You are a night nymph, Una," he said with a wistful smile on his beautiful lips. Then he turned to her- and his eyes shone. "This coiled hair on your head, unrolled, fell down you like a gorgeous snake," he quoted, smiling. "You look just like a blazing snowflake."

Mother came out to wave them out, as always. Susan was behind her, sulking, for the twins had skipped dinner to make sure their dresses would look as good as possible.

"And to leave some space for all the goodies at the lighthouse," Di had explained, but it did not help, as Susan only sulked more to think they put the Lewisons' cakes over her roast.

Rilla emerged from behind them. She was rather lovely in her green dress, but Di couldn't help thinking she looked like a child dressed up as an adult. As the oldest sister, she was quick to forget that she herself had been only slightly older than Rilla when she first went to a party. Nan nudged her with an elbow and her eyes pierced Rilla's hair.

"How does she even lift her head with so many pansies on it?" she whispered and they both giggled a little. It might have seemed vicious, but it was only sheer amusement at Rilla's unflagging efforts to appear older than she was- or even than they were.

"You look very pretty, Rilla," Nan said loudly, a bit repentant, and Di nodded eagerly. 'Baby need not know' had always been the twins' saying.

Jem summoned them all and they left the house, laughing, taking one another by the arm and waving back.

"Don't be mad, Susan!" Nan called over her shoulder. "I won't be able to dance properly if I know you're angry with me!"

Susan sent her a sullen look and graciously waved the dishcloth she was holding.

Di was a little disappointed to see that Walter, having bestowed an ounce of interest on Una for once, renounced her utterly and pulled her to the side. But it was not very strong- Una would walk with Shirley, as usual, and she could selfishly enjoy Walter's company. Goodness knows they both needed a little oasis of time for themselves, with Rilla always following him around.

Di breathed in the resinous air. Rilla might have had the dress, but she was never taking Walter away. Di would have been far more militant in that case. But then, she heaved a little sigh of contentment, she would not have to. Walter bent his head, as he was wont to, when he was about to tell a secret- a secret he wouldn't share with anyone else than her.