Chapter 1

August, 1891

The crosswalk on Queen Street West was as the saying goes busy like Piccadilly Circus. Not that Gilbert Blythe could account for the crowds of Piccadilly Circus, as he had not yet gone beyond the gentle shores of Canada. While he sometimes dreamt of crossing the great Atlantic ocean to walk in lands he read fastidiously through his youth, these dreams never included manoeuvring through throngs of people.

On one side of the street a building loomed with its signage - Eatons. Behind him a similar building bellowed the title of Simpsons. Both stores selling the exact same goods, in the same style, and manner. Each entry was flanked by men ready to open doors for eager cliental wanting to empty their purses in exchange for something vogue. It was the exact reason why Gilbert was there. Truthfully the trek to what felt like the clogged arteries of Toronto was not made of his own choice rather it was done under gentle instruction of his wife.

His own town of Amherst, Nova Scotia was smaller than Toronto. While it did not have a rambunctious pedestrian like Toronto's Yonge Street, it felt like the town could one day soon. Constructions were springing up like the shoots of flowers, new endeavours built on dreams and wishes. Amherst was full of promise and prosperity. The hyped up atmosphere was at times draining, but it did provide handsome Gilbert Blythe with a robust business as a doctor. A growing parade of upper middle class individuals filled his list of patients. They hung on every word of advice he made bragging to anyone when he made a visit. Some of Amherst complained he was too confident and cocky. This was usually whispered behind closed doors by those not able to get onto his patient list.

When the move to Amherst had been decided Gilbert was anything but confident. The prospect of having to establish himself was daunting. It hung like a dark cloud during the early visits to his fiancee's hometown. Over time the cloud retreated with the help of kind words from his sweetheart and the known truth her family was part of high social standing. He was not a fool. Gilbert comfortably aware that association would help. Once they were married in the Anglican Church where his wife's grandfather Edward Barron Chandler a noted politician was baptised, Gilbert's standing in the town was sealed.

He never dreamed living across the Northumberland Strait would be his fate in life. The rail journeys between the Island and mainland always passed through Amherst. Most of the time he rarely knew the train had stopped to pick up passengers for he had always been chatting away nonsensical with the rest of the crew heading back to Redmond College or to their Island home. It wasn't until after graduation from his B.A, and the beginning of his medical degree in Kingsport, that the town of Amherst became more than a mark on the map.

For three years the stretch of railway between Kingsport and his fiancees home town was a worn passage. The last Saturday of each month he would travel the distance alighting on the station platform with a sense that he should keeping moving until he arrived at his Island. He never did and his visits to Avonlea became less and less.

The door into Eaton's was opened for him. Gilbert looked around feeling slight overwhelm by the scene. A sprawling space of opulence and opportunity laid out in such a manner that one could not stand still, and he began walking looking from counter to counter. A young woman dressed in black approached him offering assistance. Gilbert quickly identified the staff form the customers, their simple dress almost made them disappear amongst the pops of colour and rich fabrics worn by the customers. He handed her the page from the Eaton catalogue and with a quick nod Gilbert was guided to the far side of the room where the jewellery cabinets were.

When Gilbert mentioned to his wife an old professor invited him to attend a medical conference in Toronto she did not bat an eyelid. The only mention of his trip came with the request for a pendant to match her engagement ring. She circled the pendant in the catalogue telling her husband that it would take longer by mail.

Her engagement ring was shopped for in the same way with her circling the style of ring, filling out an order form and handing it to Gilbert. He joked at the time she was lucky he was on a scholarship. Even now this new pendant was going to mean more hours at work and less at home. If she was unhappy with a husband constantly away, he never knew.

He had wanted to buy her engagement ring in Carmody from a man known for selling well priced but also well made rings. Stones of emeralds, rubies and diamonds were fitted with care into bands of gold. But his speciality was pearls from the island, made of sand and sea. Gilbert thought it would have been romantic to have something made near his hometown as a token of his love. Instead, it was to be Eatons.

As Gilbert began to pay for his wife's new jewel a sound of applause erupted from somewhere in the building. Glancing of his shoulder he watched people moving towards the staircase. Once his transaction was over the store woman bided him a good day and hurried towards the crowd. Having completed his errand Gilbert was eager to remove himself from the scurry of people.

Before he could move two paces a familiar voice echoed across the room.

A burst of applause was followed by a sweet sing-song laugh, then more applause.

He did not need to see the red hair, or her face, to know it was Anne.

She stood at the bottom of a marble stair case addressing the crowd of people. Her attire was like something from Eatons; a dress made of rich purple velvet hugged the bone coloured blouse with a dramatic frilled collar. A matching purple velvet hat sat atop coiffed hair in the latest fashion. Gilbert had not seen Anne since Convocation four years ago. He had never returned to Avonlea during the summer after their final year of studies. Choosing to remain in Kingsport where he could earn a decent wage.

Gilbert could admit honestly Anne had rarely crossed his mind in the last four years. He had moved on from her rejection, funnelled the sadness into his school work that led to many achievements. Truthfully he was a happy man. He told Charlie Sloane that if it weren't for Anne turning him down the wouldn't have been easily won Cooper Prize and the dream of medical school, would have been just that, a dream.

Just as Gilbert was about to take a step back to leave Anne looked up catching his eye. Gilbert wished he had gone into Simpsons instead of Eatons, now he felt obliged to stay.

Anne continued to read but her concentration had been disrupted, like a leaf ripped from its tree during an unexpected gust. The visit to Eatons was rudimentary nothing out of the ordinary. It had never crossed her mind that she would see an old friend amongst the crowd. She could feel Owen Ford was looking at her with unease aware of her slip up. This was the third recitation she had given in two days, the other two were flawless displays.

The recitation ended with a long ovation. The clerks organised eager fans into a line for Anne to meet. She would glance up occasionally checking to see if Gilbert was still there.

He stood to the side watching the scene unfold as Anne greeted the crowd. She was polite, warm, engaging, leaving each person with a small spring in their step. He was not surprised to see the effect, it was a practised charm she had since childhood. No matter who met her, they were doomed to fall for her.

The last of the crowd departed leaving a clear path to where he stood. Anne looked over her shoulder towards Owen. She saw he was busily talking to a gentlemen deciding now would be a good time to sneak over to Gilbert before she was pulled off to some other meeting. When she turned to face Gilbert, he was flicking through her book. She suddenly felt small, nervous, biting on her lip wondering if he approved.

"What good fate has brought you to Toronto so that we may run into one another?" Anne asked as she removed the book from his hands, "did you come to buy my book?"

She was greeted with a large smile, his dark eyes softening as they met her own. "I don't know, but it is nice to see you Miss published author." He had not changed much, except his hair. There was not much curl left. Instead it was smoothed down, looking more like a business man than the rugged Island boy she remembered him as.

"A Canadian agent wrote to me last year asking if I would like to compile a series I wrote for the Womens Home Journal into a book." She looked back at Owen. "An honour, but with it comes a rather exhausting tour of meeting and greeting. Do you live in Toronto? Last I heard you were in Amherst."

Gilbert felt a lump in his throat bewildered she kept up with him. "Not, not Toronto. This city is too big and crowded for me. Amherst is the largest city I can stand. I am here for a medical conference."

"Excuse me, Anne I hate to disturb you."

"This is Mr. Blythe, a very old friend whom I have not seen for some time. We grew up together. Mr Blythe, this is Mr. Ford my agent."

"Lovely to meet you. Nice to see both of you got off the Island." Owen said shaking his hand.

"Are you of the Island too?" asked Gilbert.

"No, though I do have ties there. It's nice for a visit, but can be a bit of a bore. Anne, your driver is here to take you back to the hotel. I have an appointment, then we will meet for supper? Gilbert if you are not busy, you should come dine with us."

Anne turned to Gilbert, smiling jubilantly at Owen's suggestion. "Yes, please come Gilbert, it would be lovely to have you. It's been too long."

Her head was tilted, familiar large grey eyes crinkled from her smile, pale eyebrows raised in excitement. There was no sign on her face that said she was not inviting him out of politeness. He wondered if his own face betrayed the apprehension he felt. Unable to think of an excuse, Gilbert agreed.