CHAPTER XXII

June 1st, Maples, Avonlea

Gil,

How you holding up? Your missed on this end of the Island. By all I am sure.

About that set back, what do you say to reconsidering, you being my best man. Cant think of another fellow I want to stand up with me, and am rather wanting to please myself than please the bridesmaid to be honest. Not mentioned this to Diana, she doesnt know a thing about it. Besides which theres still another year till then. You might get hitched before I do.

To that end let me advise you, next time you set your cap be quick about it. All this waiting aint good for a man. Neither is the rust on that bit of wheat I put down in April. All that grind come to nothing. Looking at a burn back, which means resting that stretch of earth and an even smaller harvest. What was that your uncle used on his back field? Was it cow horn? His corns coming up like Mrs. Harmon Andrews nose. Word is theres some rich fellow sniffing round Jane. And they say the world has used up all its miracles.

Still hoping you get yours, ol boy.

Best, Fred

June 4th, Orchard Slope, Avonlea, 1885

Dear Gilbert

Congratulations on getting top of your class! You and Anne, what a pair! Don't work yourself too hard now. Anne came back to us quite worn out, all quiet and dreamy ~ you know how she gets. Perhaps she's thinking up a new story. Do you know anything about it? I would ask her but I suspect I meddled once too often in that provence.

Now you're a writer too! Fred showed me the clipping of the article you wrote for that big Kingsport paper. Did that man really live on nothing but goose livers for twenty years? I happen to know you are in for a big batch of something yourself. Something beginning with a G and a J. Your Mama must have planted out another ten bushes since you left. She does miss you, Gil. Are you writing as often as you should? She was terribly sad you wanted to sell your horse.

I should warn you there is someone else in Avonlea who is all upset over you. Minnie-May just cried buckets when your folks came to fetch Domino. I've never seen her so insensed. Maybe it was better that you missed this summer after all. But we sure do miss you, Gil. ALL of us.

Take care, and write more often. Of course, if you're spending your time writing to one particular person I suppose I can overlook it!

Love from Fred and yours truly,

Diana

June 20th, The Palisades, Avonlea

Dearest Gil,

That Kingsport rag must be working you to the bone if you never have time to write your oldest chums. Alice told Gertie who told me you that you wrote a story for the paper about some Bluenose marrying a goose! Is that the sort of trash they've got you writing over there? You don't want to drag the Blythe name down, now. Just because you're doing all sorts academically, don't think you can't fall flat on your face. I'm saying this to you as a friend, Gil. I always wanted what was best for you. Always.

Everyone is still making a fuss about our Rollings Reliable winner. Which goes to show how little has happened since then. You don't know if Anne intends to write another, do you? I only ask so that I can be sure to be out of town ~ last time was such a bore. Even Anne looks bored, and she thinks birdsong is a major symphony. But what have I always said? Simple things please simple minds.

Speaking of which, apparently Billy Andrews is interested in buying your horse. So long, old grey nag! I should advise you against it, however, even though it will be awfully hard to find someone in these parts who would purchase an animal that couldn't earn its keep. What on earth possessed you to buy it in the first place? Such an unlovable, ugly creature. Though it's certainly far more handsome now, I doubt it's as strong, and Nettie Andrews will be wanting a draft horse to get her about. What a weight she put on after having Billy Junior. She's dumpier than her husband ~ and that is saying something.

How is your cousin? Is he still in N.B? Is his address still 29 Gladhaven Street, do I have that right? Even if I am the last person on your list of people to reply to, be a gentleman and confirm that at least. Because I haven't heard from him for months. You Blythes, you really do try a girl's patience.

I must leave this now, you're not the only one I write to, you know. But send me a line or two ~ when you can spare the time from your goose-wife stories, of course ~ because I care about you, Gil. Deeply.

The very fondest of regards,

Josie

June 22nd, New Line Road, West Grafton

Dear Gil,

Worry not, I won't be mentioning April. Though before I continue I should mention I only know the little I do because of Phil, not because of anyone else. And while Phil's discretion may be impossible to rely on, her love for a certain girl is not, so it's not unreasonable to expect her to remain silent on the matter. Goodness, a silent Phil. I wish she had invited me to Mount Holly. What I wouldn't give to see that!

Don't think that I'm not happy, however. Oh, the Island in summer! One week in Avonlea wasn't nearly enough for this Priss. How you must miss it. I hate to think of you skulking about Kingsport. Phil says it's a perfect graveyard once school is over, excepting all the families who descend on our beloved parks as though they were their own. How queer to think that the fountain Millicent Johns fell into after one schnapps too many (actually I think even one schnapps is too many) is the same one that now holds children's sailing boats. Is it as dull as all that? What about this new place Charlie convinced you to sublet, I've heard you're on the fourth floor. Is it wretchedly hot for you up there? I only ask because I'm spending a good amount of time in my attic at the moment. Four of my cousins have come to stay and it's the only place I can be alone.

I don't think people who grow up on the cities know what it means to be alone. They see it as some sort of punishment, but I think they confuse it with being lonely. I don't know about you but I can feel lonelier in a crowd that I do on a bare stretch of shore. Not that I get to the shore very often, but I soon shall. When my cousins move on next week I will be going with them, to White Sands. Yes, your old stomping ground. And who do you think will be joining me there, but Stella!

You'd think after sharing all year and half a bed with the girl I would be sick of the sight of her, but I'm strangely looking forward to it. In fact, I find it hard to sleep at night without hearing her snuffly noises next to me. Does that make her a kindred spirit – can you please pretend I didn't write that? As fond as I am of you, Gil, I can't be doing with writing this out again. I expect you'll be hearing from Stella soon. Since I have already broken my word not to mention a certain someone, let me add that I haven't mentioned April to my little Maynard, but once I see her it may well come up. Unlike Philippa Gordon, however, you can rely on us without question.

Oh, it's too bad. But let's think on better things. Like that murder in Hyatt Place. How much can you tell me about it? It was a shame they didn't give that story to you. I'm sure you long to write a journalistic masterpiece, but make of it what you can. You always do.

Yours, Priss

June 30. Orchard Sloap. Avonlea

Dear Gilbert Blith

Please dont sell Domino. Speshally to Netty Andrews, shes just bound to brake his back. Milty Bolter is buying teeth, rekon I cud get you two dollars or more once mine all fall out. Howsa bout each time I loose a tooth I send the munny to you? Also I have kittens. We cud do a swop? Also my sister wont let you come to her wedding less you let me have Domino.

Yours inseerly, Minnie-May Barry

...

July 7th, Ripley's Lodge, White Sands

Greetings Gilbert,

How are you? Yes that dreaded question. Never fear, you may curse yourself purple from where you are, knowing little Stella won't be able to hear you.

White Sands is a treat. Sorry to rub salt in the wound but you know I'd be lying if I told you anything else. Of course, the tourists are exasperating – and before you say anything, I do not consider myself a tourist! You can take a girl out of the Island... Don't forget that, Gil.

Priss is a dear, but she will go on about her old pupils – and yours, and Anne's. Forever walking the Strand exclaiming, "Goodness that couldn't be Malcolm Frame! Dear me hasn't little Tessa grown! Look at Jim Wilson, I hardly recognised him in long pants!" She does make one feel old. I hardly give my kiddies a thought and I was teaching twice as long. Perhaps there's something in that.

Are you in touch with any of your old lot? We had a few wander up to Priss (the sweet, dimpled girl sort) asking how dear Mr. Blythe is, and what is he doing now, and how they never had a teacher as wonderful (or as handsome) as you. Weren't you pulled up on one or two occasions because of your 'progressive' teaching methods? Muriel Stacey has quite the reputation now. Considering how well you and Anne did, you'd think the Board of Education would be wanting to adopt more of her theories rather than throw them out. I'm so glad to be out of teaching! I can't believe Anne is considering making a career of it once her B.A. is got. All her literary ambitions are as ashes in her mouth.

Notice I will not pretend that Anne does not exist. Priss practically had me in a headlock trying to make me promise that I would. But I'm too tiny for that beanpole to keep hold of me for long. Besides, you are just going to have to get used to it, dear boy. What is that saying: Man plans and God laughs.

Well here is another before I go, just for good measure –

You will love again.

Buck up, Gilbert Blythe

Stella

15th July, 1884, Sloane House, Sloane Lane, Avonlea, P.E.I.

Dear Gilbert,

Upon receiving a letter from my dear neighbour, Pandora Selvidge, I was reminded of something I particularly wanted to mention to you. This pertains to certain pencil measurements up the wall where the bed has been positioned. It is possible they have escaped your notice, in which case read no further. If, however, you had questions about them let me make it clear I was simply charting certain points (those points being in the 5-7 inch range – sometimes 8 I'll have you know) for a building project I was embarking upon. Nothing more than that.

I would also prefer it if you would refrain from sleeping on your right side so as not to look at those said measurements. It does not sit well on my conscience to know you should be studying them.

I hope you are heeding my request not to perform any push-ups or other strenuous activity whilst you stay in my room. As we are no longer in a sharing arrangement I do not think I should have to tolerate your sweat upon my floor.

Hope you are well. I assume you are expecting me to pass on Anne's regards but I cannot as I never see her. You may pass on my regards to Miss Selvidge. Of course, it would be impolite not to pass on your own, just make sure that is all you offer. She is very devoted to me. Extremely devoted.

Regards, C. Sloane

...

20th July, Allwinds, Avonlea

Dear Gil,

Your mother is wanting me to write you. She's under the impression that if you see my handwriting on the envelope you're more likely to open it. Used to be we could count on a letter from you every Wednesday, but it's nigh on three weeks since we heard from you, son. It's not like you to act so scattered. I appreciate you want to write to Anne now, and try to reason with Ma that you're not her little lad anymore. But when I tell you she has made up ten dozen batches of gooseberry jam you might understand how set she is on hearing from you.

She wants to add a post script now. I'll write more another time as I fancy hers will take up the rest of this bit of paper. Before I forget, George's corn is getting to be over twenty foot tall!

Love, Pup

...

Gilbert dear,

Ignore your father, I merely observed we hadn't heard from you a while. I know you're kept busy – the hours you work at that paper. Which reminds me, when did you last see the sunshine? I do wish you might have found work closer to home so that you could come over on weekends. Summer's not the same without you, that's a fact.

You'll be pleased to know I saw young Anne today. I know the look you'll give me, but I can't resist telling you that whenever I mention your name she goes ten shades of red. Fortunately it suits her. I have attempted to have her over for quilting circle but both times she was obliged to help out at Green Gables. Such a dutiful girl – and those Sloanes say she doesn't know one end of a needle from the other. Sour grapes, I call it. I hear tell Charlie Sloane is courting some little neighbour of yours. Does she seem the Island sort?

Now Gilbert there is one thing on my mind, this you selling Domino. We haven't had a hint of interest and I wonder if it isn't Providential. I'm sure we can stretch to his keep. After all we haven't your great big stomach to fill every day now, do we? You made such efforts with the poor creature. I look at him now and can scarce believe it's the same starved beast you bought from that big place down in Kensington. The nips and bruises you got – and the extra mending you caused me! When he struck you that time, when was it '82? '83? I would have sold him for glue the next minute. But you never gave in, and I've always been proud of you for that. Yes, I know I say that about everything you do, don't roll your eyes. I also know you want to do your bit for Pup, but the money Domino would bring in is so negligible. People need creatures that can pull ploughs, Gilbert, or at least a cart. That horse is only ever going to be fit for one thing, and that's you, dear. Give it some thought, and write me a line when you can.

All love to you sweet boy,

Mam

...

Dorchester Street, Kingsport; July 31st

P.S. Forgot to mention sis is throwing in her place at the Royal College of Music – that didn't last long. The old man is at his wits end, thinking of putting her in Redmond. That being so, Blythe, what do you say to keeping an eye on the little minx? You really are the only fellow I'd trust her with.

Ronald Stuart

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