Anne of Windy Willows (Poplars) is a story set during the three years Anne and Gilbert lived apart during their engagement. The biggest criticism about it is that there isn't enough Gilbert in it, and this is my attempt to remedy that.
This story covers their first year apart. It features some details from Maud's original book (Pringles, Katherine Brook, the play, etc) and other details from my own series, Redmond Diaries. (I am footnoting those, incase you haven't read them).
Thanks to AlinyaAlethia who introduced me to the joy of epistolary writing, and to FKAJ for her trippy encouragement.
As always my love and gratitude to L.M.M. ~ everything is hers, only this idea is mine.
THE WINDY WILLOWS LOVE LETTERS
Harvey House, Redmond, Kingsport, N.S.
September 18th, 1887
– let me begin that again.
Dearest, loveliest Anne,
As you see I have the right sort of pen, I don't think I'll ever have it out of my hand. How long has it been since I've held one of your letters? Years, I'd say. And it felt like years. You call your latest merciless? Tell me you'll always be that unforgiving.
So Rachel Lynde succeeded in accompanying you to Summerside after all. Was it really to see an old friend as she said, or because she suspected I'd hidden myself behind a Pringle topiary? I keep expecting to see you here, catch a glimpse of your hair or that black tam you used to wear. The tang of excitement I felt when we both lived in Kingsport is absent without you.
As you so generously described your surroundings, your room particularly (I am irrationally jealous of that blue doughnut cushion lazing about your window seat) it's only fair I provide you with a picture of my own. And while I lack gigantic beds and turrets I think I can be as satisfied here as you are in your new found home.
I've been placed in Harvey (be sure to add that to my address, I don't want to wait a day longer for your letters than I need to.) It's the oldest hall on campus, by which I mean it's cold and dark. This isn't helped by all the trees that surround it, but I hardly mind. I need them about me as much as you do. The way you described tree shadows, Anne, as a living tapestry, is exactly right. My window looks out to a sprawling beech. A fine old gent he is too, though he has suffered the indignity of a Moody style haircut and had half his branches removed. I can picture my younger self shimmying down it after curfew, looking for trouble. But being a respectable medical student of 25 – engaged to a published author and B.A. no less – I don't expect to miss those branches overly much. Unless you had a hankering to climb up to me. You're rather fond of beeches, aren't you?
At this moment I am sitting on a very narrow, very squeaky bed. It was originally next to my desk but I have since shoved it under the window. In the middle of the room on a tired old rug is a velvet armchair, which looks a lot like the one you had in your room at Patty's Place – minus the blood. That reminds me, above the fireplace looms a gigantic painting of an eminent McDonald. He has that much hair sprouting out of his nose and ears I can't help hope the same fate awaits his great (great?) grandson. I was gratified to hear that weasel has slunk off to B.C. which means both my nose and his are safe for the foreseeable. There is second chair on the other side of the hearth and a second bed in the opposite corner, both currently empty. A Mr Edvard Rasmussen arrives tomorrow from Christine's hometown in Halifax, and that's all I know of the man. Not that I'm bothered, the Cooper prize is not my only accomplishment. I also survived of two years co-habitation with Charlie Sloane.
A letter from Fred arrived with the first post which mentioned old Charlie had a falling out with his Pandora. Poor fellow. It seems she had little idea about his intentions and assumed he was courting her cousin – the woman Charlie called 'the chaperone'. I hope he doesn't think of renewing his addresses to a certain headmistress of Summerside highschool. You keep that pearl ring right where I put it, Miss Shirley.
Anne, I want to ask something. I've never known you to hide your true feelings before, but we've never been engaged before. And as you will have gathered by this awkward letter I am forcing myself not to throw into the fire, I am struggling to put this new world into words and wonder if you are too. So please, tell me if your engagement ring is truly all you wanted? Mother meant well when she offered it, meant more than you might comprehend, and I know you meant well by agreeing to wear it. But now you've had time to get used to seeing it everyday are you certain you don't wish for something new? I used to imagine giving you something green, a peridot perhaps. I now realise I have just revealed an extremely sentimental and (given the odds) extremely optimistic dream of mine. I believe this letter writing will put me in all sorts of deep water. But I can keep up with the current if you can.
The bell is sounding the quarter hour, meaning I must get back into a collar and tie for yet another interview with another Head of Department. They are all insisting on meeting yours truly. It wouldn't surprise me if my classmates thought my name was Cooper.
I thought I would have finished this letter by now. I can't explain why my words are coming so slowly, but don't ever take it to mean you are not –
always and ever in my thoughts,
P.S. Because I know you like them.
It's just before midnight and I have given myself the challenge of writing as much as I can before the bell strikes twelve. Collar and tie are off again, buttons all undone. If you ever write to Mother please let her know I must have put on ten pounds from all the dinners I've attended this week. She's more likely to believe it coming from you.
I miss you, Anne. I have just read over your letter again and want to thank you for writing something so bursting with life and with you. Especially considering the beating your knuckles took after mistaking that man's bald head for an arm rest. What is it with you and heads? I spent a minute thinking up some revenge upon the fellow, then a lot longer thinking of you tucked up in your turret at Windy Willows under the doting eye of Kate, Chatty and Rebecca Dew (you're right, Rebecca must have her Dew.)
What I think about most is whether you are thinking about me.
It will seem impossible to a woman of letters like yourself, but the writing of that last sentence took me long past midnight. I should go to bed, but don't ever think that because my reply is shorter I have less to say.
Windy Willows, Spooks Lane, Summerside, P.E.I.
...to wish I was there now with... with... guess whom?
Do you know, Gilbert, there are times when I strongly believe I love you!
Your letter was just now delivered by the highly observant Rebecca Dew, who not only discovered me in my secret (no longer!) dappled grove, but deduced that you are left handed. I can well imagine her holding my mail up to a good strong light before passing it on to me. Don't laugh, Gilbert, but perhaps you should get into the habit of putting your letters inside two envelopes!
Let me admit something to you now (though a clever fellow like yourself may have already guessed) that I began writing the letter you hold in your hands long before I received your reply. I'm afraid I like writing to you far too much to actually require a response before I start anew. This may be due to the fact that I miss our conversations, and our rambles, and all the time that was lost to us. Though I have I sneaking suspicion it is simply because I miss you.
Firstly, I am relieved to hear you survived my first letter ~ shall I tell you how often I nestle into that blue doughnut cushion with unseemly abandon? I haven't fallen out of bed again, but the year is yet young. "Never say never", as Aunt Kate likes to say. Secondly, I must address the question you had about my little circlet. It may take some time, however, so if you were wanting to go off to do something worthy and useful then go right ahead. We shall wait for you, this letter and I. Because as someone else I know likes to say ~
Waiting for things is half the pleasure of them.
You write that I must be used to my ring by now. I have to tell you there moments I am so astonished to see it on my hand it brings me to tears (you were right about pearls, I think.) Because whenever I look at it, and I am quite as shameless as Diana on that score and find myself caressing and admiring it a thousand times a day, I can't help but remember the moment you put it there. Then I remember how I close I was to losing you, and then, most miraculously of all that you (still!) love me. How many years have passed since we first met? I am sure you know, but allow me tell you the answer is twelve. Twelve years! And concerning those years I have something else to share that you may not know. There are exactly fifteen tiny pearls encircling my ring.
When you mentioned there was something your mother wanted me to have, I assumed it would be a recipe (requiring indecent amounts of gooseberries no doubt) or perhaps a photograph. I have three already, but Josie is draped all over your shoulder at the AVIS farewell, and you don't look like you at Diana's wedding. The best is from Convocation, but that picture features the enormous head of Doctor Meade, and even though I have trimmed him from the newsprint his right ear still intrudes upon your beautiful face. Promise me you'll send a photograph of your own sweet self ~ and soon!
I never expected you to show me a ring. That it was your grandmother's ~ whose infamous marriage advice I am all but forced to ignore, being neither able to keep an eye on you or feed you! ~ is especially wonderful. Coming from such venerable old stock as Blythes, you can't know what it means to me. Besides my parents' letters I own nothing that holds any memory. Truly I am a blank slate. Not that I could say that to your mother ~ though I imagine it might make your father laugh.
Do you think one day she might love me as I love her? Yes, I love her. How could I fail to love the woman who brought you into the world? How could I fail to adore her family's ring. Your ring. The moment I saw it I knew I would never take it off, not for any peridot, let alone a diamond. Every part of it seems meant for me, especially the man who placed it on my finger.
It became real then, didn't it? Everything around us seemed to disappear ~ the parlour, your parents and all those cats, the fact that you would be leaving for Redmond the next morning ~ yet it all felt terribly, wonderfully real. I am going to be your wife! And as much as I wish we might begin our married life tomorrow, I think I will need these three years to get used to the idea. How did it happen, Gilbert? Tell me the story of us.
I eagerly await your reply, (if you dare to burn your letters, Gilbert Blythe, you shall discover how truly merciless I can be!) and ask you to brace yourself for the letter I am already composing in my head.
Ever and always yours,
MRS (FUTURE) BLYTHE
P.S. Because I suspect you like them too. Is Mr Rasmussen arrived from Halifax, is he acquainted with Miss Stuart ~ does she still intend to marry?
* first two lines of Anne's letter taken from the last two lines of a letter from Anne's to Gilbert in chapter two of Anne of Windy Willows
* the references to the MacDonald weasel, the chair, and the bloody nose, are from RD2, chapter XVII
* the answer to the beech tree question is in RD3, chapter XXVII
Thank you for reading. A bit of a stilted beginning, but I reasoned those two would be very much feeling their way, just like I am.