March 15th, 1894; St John's Street, Kingsport.
Priscilla Reports #51
There is a light around Anne Shirley. Perhaps she doesn't have red hair at all but simply glows with her own brilliance. I already knew of her capacity for hard work but that is nothing to her talent for squeezing every drop out of life. Running headlong into every possibility Kingsport can offer; life drawing, choir, poetry, amateur dramatics – and that was only this term. How is it possible that she can doodle her days away, yet still be favourite to win the Thorburn?
Gil might have offered serious competition but as soon as Anne set her sights on the English scholarship Gilbert resolved to win the Philology prize. I seriously think he could win both, but these days Gilbert and serious have no time for each other. In fact, time is something he is also short of. I wonder if he has one of those clocks I read about in 'Kingsport Chronicles' that allow one to travel back to yesterday? I don't know how else he is managing it. If he isn't competing in one thing or chairing another, he is escorting someone to something else.
When I say someone, I mean Anne. The two of them are inseparable – though I'm usually included in all their antics, which now runs to the final debate against St Stephen's! I really haven't time to prepare, exams are next week. But what does that matter? Mr. Rawley is to marry in April just as I am to return home for the summer. And every moment I spend with my chums is one where I am not imagining myself storming the church and declaring I have just cause why Nate shouldn't marry Miss Dixon after all.
Stella wrote that I should burn Nate's letters and send back the charred remains. Anne just held me close, soothed my tears, and declared me a third in whatever she and Gilbert do together. Phil thinks it terribly old fashioned the way I 'chaperone' Anne everywhere. Last evening, she announced it a mystery how we Island folk ever managed to populate P.E.I. and said she wouldn't be surprised if we built our marriage beds for three as well! Anne looked quite deadly, until Gil replied, "Well if you miss out in the Kepler prize, Phil, you can always lay claim to putting the pert in pretty!" Then he and Anne fell about laughing, making words from the phrase pretty Philippa Gordon.
I can hear them laughing now. I told them I was going to fetch my copy of Plato's Republic, but what I really wanted to do was escape them both for a moment. Passions were rising as neither could agree which philosopher said 'that children these days have bad manners, contempt for authority, and disrespect for their elders'. It is going toward some argument they are hoping to make in our debate next week. I can't follow it. One moment they are invoking Eden and the next footwear. Sometimes it can be terrific fun and suddenly I feel so irrelevant and would rather be alone. No, it is more than that. I am filled with envy. I want that ease Anne and Gil have – with their course work and with each other.
I have read over this latest entry and am thoroughly ashamed of my miserable self. I had only just written how excluded I felt when Anne rushed into the room, wrapped her arms about me, and declared that she and Gil were determined to drag me out for coffee and cake. There was barely time to secure my hat before I found myself marching through drizzly streets with Gilbert on one arm, Anne on the other, our cheeks pink and our chatter echoing up the lane.
Gil spotted a For Rent sign opposite Backshall's, but it was only for two rooms. I was almost tempted to inquire. The charms of Miss Ada's cushions and my sunless back room are beginning to wear thin. As is my hope of us ever finding a house to rent in Kingsport come September. I feel I must prepare Anne for the eventuality that Stella's idea of us sharing a place together will likely be shelved under 'might have beens'. But Anne has such faith in the enterprise. No matter how many houses we leave in disappointment, nothing can extinguish her belief that our perfect little palace still waits for us.
To think my dear chum came to me last year wide eyed and homesick. Now she is the one tugging me by the hand and reminding me of all the sweet possibilities we have yet to discover. What would I do without her?
23rd March, St John's, with a crumpled head, in my crumpled bed... and not one regret!
To the victor, the spoils! And I am certainly spoiled today. My whole head feels like a pat of butter left out in the sun. Not quite the way one who has been nineteen for almost three weeks ought to behave. Yet I can't regret any of it, Ida. We had such a lustrous evening last night, I felt as though all of Kingsport were mine!
Forgive me for being such a fat head, I warn you this morning I feel so undone I can barely keep my pen in my hand. But I also have the most wondrous news to relay and hope it might stop swirling inside me if I attempt to pin it down.
I WON THE THORBURN SCHOLARSHIP, IDA! I WON IT! I WON IT!
I am not supposed to know until closer to Convocation. The news came to me during the deliberation of our final debate against St Stephen's. Neil Macdonald (have I mentioned him to you, Ida? He is a Senior and an editor for the Redmond Rave, as well as being a first rate dear) ran all the way to Waverley House to let me know. Gilbert won the Mercer scholarship too! Though Neil neglected to share that piece of news at first, it was Phil who wheedled it out of him. Oh, Ida, I don't know who I am happier for!
You know how determined I was not to touch a penny of Marilla's money to cover my costs for Sophomore year. I even plucked up the courage to talk to Margaret Burton. She said if I was as clever with a pen as I was with my tongue I could certainly write something good enough for a magazine. Imagine that Ida! Imagine being able to pay for my tuition through writing? Oh, I hugged her with all my heart. Then Neil arrived just as the judges declared that Redmond had won the debate and I hugged everybody. Gil swept me up in his arms and twirled me so fiercely I thought my skirts would fly over my head! But I didn't care, I am just so happy for him! He had been talking about taking work near his cousins in N.B. this summer, but felt his father had more need of him on the farm. Now all that worry has dissolved into nothing. Oof, I wish my headache would do the same!
I want to say it's Phil's fault. Well, it was her champagne. Why she had a crate of the stuff I didn't dare to ask. Miss Eglantine even joined us for a toast. I believe that one was "to the Island." I must admit our little lot have done very well! Considering Priss had almost no time to prepare for the debate she performed like a champion! This is the first time Redmond has had a mixed team. Traditionally the final is given to the men, but Gilbert ~ flexing his powers as Freshman president no doubt ~ argued that since the women's team had more victories this year, at least one of us should represent Redmond in the final.
I never dreamed we could actually win it. When we discovered the proposition ~ that things can only get better ~ I was brimful of conviction. Until we drew the negative and I realised I would have to argue that things cannot get any better. The whole idea went against every fibre of my being, Ida. How could I argue that? When our second speaker came down with bronchitis I almost wished for a dose myself, until Priss declared she would fill the breach.
"We may not agree with the argument given us," she said, "but we must give it our all. This isn't just for Redmond now, this is for the Island!"
Oh, we have had the most killing fun thinking of ways things cannot ever, get better. We harked back to past glories, to Shakespeare, the Ancients, even Eden itself. Of course, St Stephen's replied precisely as we expected they would, cataloguing every industrial triumph; the railways, the telegram, advances in medicine, and we knew it would come to the most desperate and daring of replies.
All I can say is I am glad that the last word was left to Gilbert. I shall never forget the expression on his face as he looked over at me with eyes that said, Do you dare me, Miss Shirley? I couldn't stop grinning because I knew exactly what Gilbert was about to do ~ and didn't I love him for it ~ as he slowly, carefully, and with the sternest of faces, removed his boot and dropped it with a thud upon the lectern.
"My boot is a thing," he said. Ida, he was so serious, as though he was some famed explorer revealing his great discovery to the world. "Would you agree that this is a thing?" St Stephen's had no option but to agree, their clever faces going pale with woeful realisation. The audience, however, took a little longer to understand Gilbert's meaning. "It's old, it's worn," he declared, and then put his nose right up to it and took a deep sniff, "and smells like a wet dog. Now let us stand here for a moment and observe... if it gets any better?" Then he just stood there taking these good long sniffs and gravely shaking his head, "No, still not better ...still not better…"
Ida, I was a wreck by then, the insides of my cheeks were ragged. The exasperating boy made it ten times worse by winking at me, before taking the boot over to St Stephen's and asking if they would care to smell it themselves.
"No takers?" Gilbert said, straight-faced. "Could that be because this thing is not getting better?"
What could they say? They could either look like fools and argue that Gilbert Blythe's boot improved by the minute or admit that he was right. I could scarcely sum up for laughing!
For the remainder of the evening it was boots, boots, boots! There was a moment where I thought we would be made to sip our champagne from them. To be honest, Ida, I rather wondered if it hadn't been strained through one. Champagne has such a mushroomy taste, not unpleasant but give this Island girl a crispy, cold cider any day. Except today. Though I haven't spied my sorry self in the mirror, I can guess I look as pale and crumpled as the sheets I am buried in.
I will have to emerge soon, however. Peg has promised me sole use of the kitchen in order to prepare a belated birthday supper for all my friends. I'm making chowder, though it will only have four kinds of seafood. It is just one of the pitiful consequences of being born in March. Not only is every delicious thing always out of season but I am always too busy revising to have time to celebrate properl-
My apologies for that gigantic smear across your page, Ida darling. Wicked Miss Grant just leaped upon me! Now I know how alarmed Josephine Barry must have been ~ though I doubt she felt quite so wretched as I do. But I shall forgive Priss easily enough, for the reason she is so excited is because she made a secret excursion to the fish market this morning and found me some early season clams!
I cannot wait to keep house with her, and Stella and her Aunt Jamesina, of course! It's going to happen, I know it is! I can feel it on the mistrally breeze, hear it from the beaks of newly hatched larks, see it in the sunshine that kisses the green leaves gold. Even now a house, our house, our darling little home, is stretching its beams, opening its shutters, and readying itself for our arrival!
April 17th, Wallace Street, Kingsport
The Rose Notebook
There I was dreading my return to Bolingbrook, having only a head cold and a trifling $100 scholarship to show for it. And nothing to look forward to but Jacinta's gossip, Mother's marriage plans, and Alec and Alonzo's perfect adoration of my perfectly stuffed up nose. But now! Now I am going to live – not visit, live – on Spofford Avenue! And I didn't have to marry anyone to achieve it! If one needs a miracle it seems the only thing required is a redhead. No wonder they were treated with such suspicion in the past. Anne Shirley is blessed with such iridescent luck she is positively occult.
According to Prissy, the dears at Patty's Place were about to give up the idea of renting their house. Then in waltzes Anne and charms them both in an instant. Not only did she manage to secure a reduced rent but a good portion of the furniture as well. Not that I imagine such eccentrics have much in the way of style. But what do I care when I haven't a stick of my own. Nor a dish cloth nor a cushion – perhaps I should nab one from the St John's parlour? Neither can I make a cup of tea without stewing it or heat up a pot of milk without scalding it. Whenever I attempt the latter it ends up with a nasty skin on the top, which the Wallace Street maids peel from the pot and feed to those yawping cats!
Let's hope there are none of those whiskery, pestilent sorts on Spofford Avenue! Oh, let me write it again... Spofford Avenue! I can't wait to see the look on Jacinta's face when I tell her where I shall be living come September! I believe Alec's cousin lives just along from us – or was it Alonzo's uncle? I shall never remember and I couldn't care less. I am nothing but determined to be the very best of housemates. I mean to ask Cook to teach me some simple recipes. Nothing too tedious, perhaps eggs would be the best – who knew how baffling they could be? Both times I attempted to boil one it went grey! Won't those girls be surprised when I fix us all supper. But then I would need to know how to make toast which means I would need to know how to make bread! I think the best thing to do is ask Papa for an increase in my allowance so that I can pay this Jamesina to do all my chores.
I am going to Eaton's now in order to buy Anne a tiny goodbye present. I've spent a fortune on her already but for some reason she has taken to wearing the most trifling, frivolous scarves. Not that I am sorry to see her give up that bulky green thing she used to wear. While a tiny scrap of silk might look becoming on a mild afternoon, the evenings are still so brisk that every time I see Anne's long, bare neck I want to scoop her up and pop her in my fur-lined pocket. Well, I mean to show her that I can be practical too, and will surprise her with the most sensible thing! No mink, no satin lining, just a simple mohair with the tiniest touch of rabbit fur trim. Now how could an Island girl find fault with that!
22nd April, Acton House, Arbour Avenue, Kingsport
I can do this.
I can win the Mercer scholarship, I can score the winning goal. I can do three hundred push-ups and run around the park twice. I can share a room with Charlie Sloane for an entire year and I can share the St John's parlour with five other fellows. I can pack away my life into one trunk and submit to the lingering embraces of a rather affectionate landlady. I can take Anne in my arms and pull her so close I feel her breath in my hair, and still maintain the resolve to put her down. I can look at her and laugh when I want to say I love you.
I can do all that.
The only thing I cannot do is give back her scarf.
Thank you all for reading and your brilliant reviews. I hope you join me for Redmond Diaries–the second year!