Hello, dear readers!
While I've written my last two stories, I've come across numerous passages in the Anne books that sparked my imagination, and it made me realize how little interaction there really is between Anne and Gilbert. So, I'm going to try to fill in some of what happened between the lines. The stories will start either with a quote from a book or an empty space that just asks to be filled.
Thank you to L.M. Montgomery for creating such delightful characters and leaving so much "scope for the imagination" in her stories.
A Row on the Pond
"There's Gilbert coming up the lane," said Marilla. "If he wants you to go for a row on the pond mind you put on your coat and rubbers. There's a heavy dew tonight."
- From Anne of Avonlea, Chapter XVII: A Chapter of Accidents
"I'm beginning to think there's no sense in seeking out romance in Avonlea," Anne told Gilbert with a bit of an uncharacteristic scowl on her face. "It's the dearest place in the world, but I should have known something would prevent Mrs. Morgan from coming here."
Gilbert, as foretold by Marilla, had gone to Green Gables to see if Anne wanted to go out on the pond. But he also wanted to hear about how the visit of Anne's favorite authoress had gone, if for no other reason than his enjoyment of watching Anne as she soared in happiness.
But one look at the disappointed look on Anne's pale face told him all had not gone well with the much anticipated meal. As they walked to the Lake of Shining Waters, she told him her tale of woe, complete with sprained ankle, ruined pies, too-sweet peas, broken platter and inadequate conversation.
By the time they made it to the pond, the twilight had turned completely to moonlight. The reflection of the stars on the water glowed around them as Gilbert began rowing them in the dory.
He had just been thinking perhaps the romance of the evening would cure Anne's woes when her pronouncement that there was no romance in Avonlea sunk his hopes to the bottom of Barry's Pond.
"But, Anne, look around," Gilbert entreated her. "How can you look at that sky and not see the magic in the moonlight? And I know you can imagine the dryads' convergence at the base of those trees along the shore. You know there is romance here."
For a moment, her starry eyes flashed, and he knew she was conjuring up a conversation of the dryads to which he referred. The thought of nymphs of any kind were irresistible to her. But then her eyes dulled again, and the scowl reappeared.
"Hmmph. Well, I'm certain none of Mrs. Morgan's heroines ever had to wear rubbers when they went out on a moonlight row," she said, kicking a boot out from under her skirts.
Gilbert nearly despaired of saving her spirit for the evening.
To make it worse, he was beginning to despair of Anne ever seeing him as romantic enough for her. Certainly, he understood how amazing it was that she was there with him as they circled the pond. A year earlier, she wouldn't even speak to him, after all.
They had become friends so easily after she finally forgave him. Despite their years of silence, there had been no awkwardness but just a familiarity and kinship that filled their studies and rambles through Avonlea.
Somehow, though, Gilbert already sensed Anne did not see him in the same way he saw her. He knew he was in love with her, and those feelings grew more and more each moment he spent with her. He loved how he could talk to her about his ambitions and dreams and she understood. He loved making her laugh. He loved the way she'd argue with him, never trying to match his thoughts as the other girls did.
Or, rather, as the other girls used to do. Gilbert had no time for any of them: their nervous giggles, the fluttering of their lashes, the coquettish glances and the way they would act helpless around him. Only Anne, with her stubborn independence and fanciful visions and keen intelligence, seemed an enjoyable person with whom to spend his free moments. He had little time anymore for even Charlie and Fred and Moody and the rest of the fellows he'd grown up with.
But more than once he doubted the wisdom of trying to court a girl who refused to see him as a suitor at all. For he preferred to believe Anne was simply oblivious to his intentions, as it was more comfortable than believing she was dismissive of them. And certainly this night, it seemed she was insensible not only to Gilbert's romantic leanings toward her but also of all romance not derived from novels.
"But, Anne, you know Mrs. Morgan's characters aren't real people. Certainly if any of them lived here and wished to be out on such a damp night, beautiful though it may be, they'd put on rubbers, too. You know there is romance here," he said, trying desperately to think of some such example. "Maybe, maybe you're just looking in the wrong places for it."
Anne shook her head and studied her reflection in the still water below them.
"No, everything is just too commonplace here. I can't imagine any of the things in Mrs. Morgan's stories happening here, and I can't imagine anyone in Avonlea in them, either. We're all just too normal."
Gilbert was heartened momentarily by Anne's inclusion of herself with everyone else. But he knew no reflection of that on his part would improve her mood. So he said nothing and just continued to row, the occasional plop of the oars against the water the only sound on the pond.
"You know what happened with Davy and the pies reminded me … Davy reminds me a little of me when I was younger," he said. "I was quite prone to trouble, too. I remember once Mother made a cake for a Ladies' Aid supper. It looked delicious, and I thought she'd never notice if I just scraped a little frosting off the side. Of course, she couldn't help but notice when I came out of the kitchen with frosting all over my face."
He watched Anne as they circled the pond in the moonlight, her glowering countenance slowly softening as she watched the dark water below.
"I never would have guessed you to be as mischievous as Davy. I mean, other than our first meeting, you always seemed quite well behaved compared to the other boys."
"Well, what choice did I have? Who knows what might have struck me in the head if I hadn't shaped up?" Gilbert said with a sideways grin that revealed that maybe he wasn't quite done with mischief.
Anne rolled her eyes, but — he was relieved to see — she smiled, too.
Minutes passed in a silence neither felt the need to fill, until a giggle finally escaped Anne's lips.
"What's so funny now?" Gilbert asked, a smile creeping on his face as he watched Anne's cheerful outlook returning.
"I was just picturing Davy covered in pie. That boy is a perfect magnet for trouble, even when he isn't looking for it. And an optimist besides! He thought to ask Marilla if he could finish it off, since it was ruined."
Gilbert grinned at her, relieved at Anne's change of mood. He watched her for a moment and admired the sparkle the laughter returned to her eye and the soft flush on her cheeks and the way her hair shined against the moonlight.
"You know, I'm surprised you said you noticed I was well-behaved back when we were younger. I never knew you paid any attention to me at all back then," Gilbert said. "You certainly didn't seem to even know I was there."
Anne giggled, and Gilbert marveled at the silvery laughter echoing across the pond. Nothing had ever sounded as lovely to him as her laugh — and knowing that he had brought it about.
"Oh, I knew you were there. Otherwise I would have had the top of the class all to myself," Anne said looking out across the pond, now golden in the moonlight. "And of course, since no one else would ignore your existence, I had to hear about you from everyone else in Avonlea. You simply wouldn't go away altogether."
"Would you have wanted me to?"
"Oh, then I would have been quite happy," Anne answered quickly with a giggle. "But I suppose I wouldn't want you to now."
Gilbert did his best to control his smile and to not show how his heart was swelling with pride. That Anne viewed him as a friend he knew, but in her teasing answer he detected maybe she felt more affection for him than he realized.
They chatted lightly as he paddled them around the pond until finally the moon was high in the sky and Gilbert reluctantly headed for shore. He helped her out onto the ground and thrilled to the feel of her soft skin against his. He wondered for a moment if she would let him continue holding her hand. The question was answered quickly as she pulled away as always — but perhaps not as quickly as other times, he told himself.
As they walked back to Green Gables, Anne no longer looked as disgusted or as downhearted as she did when he arrived there. Gilbert thought how happy it would make him to be able to simply make her happy all the time.
"So, the world isn't such a bad place after all?" he asked as they got to the gate.
"Oh, of course not. There's laughter and beauty and fun … and good friends," she smiled a little shyly. "Thank you, Gilbert, for cheering me up. I'm not quite in the depths of despair anymore."
He pondered for a moment how to respond. What would Anne do, for instance, if he took her hand again and kissed it? Or if he tried to hug her?
Gilbert knew well enough the evening he had managed to salvage would be lost again if he did anything like that, so he simply bid her good evening and turned to go.
But before he had gone four steps beyond the gate, he turned again.
"Just, don't completely give up on finding romance here, Anne," he said. "You wouldn't be you then."
Anne nodded and smiled and waved as he turned to go.
Gilbert whistled as he walked home and let himself imagine a future when Anne might see the romance in an evening beneath the moonlight with him — a future where she wouldn't pull away at the touch of his hand. It seemed impossible, but again he reminded himself that simply talking to her seemed impossible such a short time ago.
"Doesn't hurt to dream," he said to himself.
More than one time in the coming years Gilbert would doubt the sentiment that it doesn't hurt to dream. For there certainly were painful times in that span, when it seemed as if that dream was a lost cause.
But six years later, he found himself back in that dory with Anne, whose sentiments had changed considerably since that long-ago night. "Isn't it just beautiful out here?" she asked him with a dreamy smile. "I always think the world bursts with romance on a night like this, with the moon and the stars shining on the water, and the crickets chirping their songs."
"Always?" Gilbert asked incredulously. "I certainly remember a night much like this one when you spent a half of an hour at least telling me there was no romance to be found in Avonlea."
Anne looked at him with a furrowed brow and narrowed eyes. It seemed impossible to her, the memory of that brief disappointment so faded among the bigger hurts and greater triumphs that came after.
"Remember, after Mrs. Morgan didn't show up, the first summer after you taught here?"
Anne laughed, the disillusionment of that day coming back to her. "Oh, I was young and foolish then, though," she said, holding her hands out to him as he stopped rowing. "I've learned a good deal in the intervening years."
Gilbert took the proffered hands and shaking his head mockingly. "To think it took you all those years to learn what I already knew back then."
"And what exactly did you know?"
Gilbert thought for a moment. "I knew that wherever you were there would be no shortage of romance and allurement and wonder. And I always figured if you would look just a little closer you'd see what right in front of you," he said, leaning forward to press a gentle kiss on her nose.
Anne smiled at him, a soft, loving smile she certainly hadn't given him that night years earlier. "I guess this is one time I'll just let you be right then."
Stay tuned for my next story here, which will focus on the Anne of Windy Poplars' days and just might feature a cameo appearance by a certain melancholy gentleman …