Hello Letter readers,
If you're new to this story you might like to read The Windy Willow Love Letters and More Windy Willows Love Letters first. In this final installment Gilbert is now in his final year at Med school and the countdown to their wedding begins. But first we have a misunderstanding from the previous story to unravel...
With love and gratitude to L.M.M. ~everything is hers, only this idea is mine.
THE LAST OF THE WINDY WILLOWS LOVE LETTERS
'I was afraid Gilbert would insist on rushing off to the ends of the earth when he got through college, and dragging you with him.'
'If everyone stayed where they were born places would soon be filled up, Mrs Lynde.'
'Oh, I'm not going to argue with you, Anne. I am not a B.A.'
Chapter III Anne's House of Dreams
Green Gables, Avonlea
July 1st, 1889
My dearest Gilbert,
So I am home and learning how to be Anne of Green Gables again. Anne with tight sleeved gingham frocks and wide staring eyes that never want to close lest they miss the flight of a single blossom petal. I'm not describing myself so much as the gold haired urchin who has come with me. She insists on being introduced as Miss Elizabeth and how can I refuse when I longed to be called Cordelia at her age? I am seeing the Island through eleven year old eyes again, laughing with an eleven year old soul and I think... I think my publishers were right, Gil. I am going (more to the point, I have begun) to rewrite Iona of Harris Island as a children's book. Though I bristle at that description, as though books for children were less important than books for everyone else. I want this to be a real adventure, with as many scrapes and dreams as I can cram into each page ~ and you know I can cram in a lot! But a child longs to read such things, don't you think? About people who suck all the marrow from life instead of dutifully nibbling their portion.
It's why I love you, after all.
I'm sorry to make you wait so long for that sentence. Even sorrier to make you doubt how unstoppable my love for you is. How has it happened that we are standing again in the land of crossed purposes, wanting to make sense of each other and failing horribly? I won't put words in your mouth (a mouth that is very much missed) and explain you away. Your actions need no explanation, Gil. It's me who has been nonsensical.
I once wrote to you that I have a lot of catching up to do. It's no secret that you loved me the longer, so I felt bound to love you the fiercer; gorging on you with an appetite that only grew, not wanting to see it was me who was being consumed. All I could think of was getting into your arms, and remaining there for as long as I could in whatever way I could manage. There was no music I wanted to hear but the sigh you made as I kissed your neck, no heat that could touch me but what I felt when I pressed my whole self against you. There were no days except the days between your letters, no dreams except the ones where I lay by your side. Everything else I would tick off like a to-do list, I can scarcely remember Sam's christening at all.
I felt so ashamed as I read your letter because I realised I had stopped seeing what was possible of the world, only what was inevitable. While you have been spending what little free time you had imagining the tangle your life would be in if you were Walter Shirley, or Mr Rasmussen, or even Fred, I've been dreaming away in my tower thinking only of how much I longed for you. I'm not even sure what I expected to happen that evening at Patterson St. I would say I wanted to be as close as two people can be, forgetting we are not only two souls, but two bodies.
I told myself the night was all that mattered. But really it is the morning. The morning where we have nowhere to be but with each other and nothing to keep us apart. To have to watch you scramble for your clothes and leave through an open window, I couldn't bear it, Gilbert. I would have lived each day after in regret, knowing I'd made a candle of the sun.
Perhaps I wouldn't have realised this if you hadn't removed yourself from my reach. It forced me to confront the woman I am when there is no Gilbert to take up all my thoughts. I am relearning her ambitions, dusting off her dreams, and remembering the girl I used to be when I wasn't so sure of us. She doesn't need protecting, Gil. That is to say, I don't. I can and do take care of myself, and I want so much to take care of you. Instead, I feel I am adding to your troubles.
I hate to think of you staring at the ceiling of some hotel with the unpromising name of Three Weeds, wondering IF I love you. I never knew such a tiny word could inflict such hurt. The only way I can write this now is to tell myself that the IF you wrote wasn't a questioning if, but a conditional one. So let the proof of my love be in the writing. And since this will not reach you for the best part of a month then I shall make it such a letter, one that beats with the heart of an Avonlea Summer. Only not for too long. I want to send this as soon as I may so that you have the chance to write back to me before this season has done all she means to do, and beckons her Autumn sister.
I am sitting under our birch tree, the lilies are in bloom and the air is fat with the scent of them. Beside me is Miss Elizabeth, who is writing a letter to her father ~ though we haven't an address for him. Can you imagine doing such a thing to a child? She is never sure from one month to the next where her Papa might be. I used to wonder which was worse, Katherine who never had anyone, or Elizabeth, who has a family but one that wishes she didn't exist. When she arrived in Avonlea she told me she meant to spend every day outdoors so that she could get all the noise inside her, outside her. You may think any child would feel the same, but her idea of noise isn't a battle cry or a skipping chant. It's a sneeze, a prayer, it's brushing the tangles from her hair. How can a child brush her hair too loudly? How can a child be a child in that bleak old mansion she lives in?
I was expecting her to give Davy some competition (this is going to make me sound ancient but Davy has grown so tall, his great big boots seem to be always blocking the back porch and tripping someone up ~ he causes more commotion than he makes these days.) But the loudest sound Elizabeth makes is, "Ohhhh..." She floats about the meadows and orchards with her eyes and her mouth full open, endeavouring to fill all her lonely places with birds eggs and bees wings.
You see why she reminds me of me. Since my return I feel as though I've been following the ghost of my younger self. It's a rare and wonderful bliss to be able to walk our paths, sit under our tree, and not be pierced with the pain of missing you. Elizabeth and I walk pre-Gilbertian lands, sometimes we even discover a patch that is pre-Diana. Yesterday Marilla said that Elizabeth is the only other child she has known who could peer at a flower for more than ten minutes together.
"We're not peering at each other, Miss Cuthbert," my fairy fay said to her, "this rose and I are conversing."
Had I said that at Elizabeth's age I would have been given a stern moral lesson about the dangers of wishing things other than they are, or something suitably improving. Instead Marilla took the trouble to get on her knees and ask what the creamy petalled Ayrshire Queen was whispering to her!
This evening we are dining at The Pines for the last time. I'm unsure if you know this yet but the Wrights offer on the Penhallow place has been accepted. It has the most kingly willow midway down the drive. Alice, Ruby, and I used to weave crowns from its waxy green whips and gleefully dance in Midsummer. Of course, we had to do it at dawn rather than the witching hour. By the time we were old enough to stay out that late, the girls had all grown out of it. But Diana assures me that if Miss Elizabeth ever returns we may camp out there all night. I haven't told Elizabeth this. Knowing how similar we are, there's a fair chance she won't sleep the next year in excitement!
I confess when I wrote that last sentence it wasn't Elizabeth I imagined sleeping outdoors with. Fortunately having that little angel at my elbow all day keeps me from diving headlong into sweet remembrances of you. She's here right now, her hair like sunbeams across my pillow, her eyes in little smiles as she sleeps. At Evergreen she is afraid of the dark and all the murky things that threaten to come out of it, but here she says the night is her friend. I'm sure it wasn't the night that brought her, so much as the bloodcurdling screech Rachel made when she stubbed her bare toe on Davy's boots on the way to the outhouse. Elizabeth appeared at my door looking just like those dimpled cupids you see in advertisements for soap. Her little nightgown falling off her shoulder, her cheeks like rosy apples. She slipped in beside me and twirled the ends of my braid over her lips. I could picture you so clearly, giving me a look as if to say we shouldn't encourage children into our bed, and then nestling next to her wee, warm body and falling into sleep.
How I long for our own family, Gilbert. I want to hold our babies in my arms and know them and love them. I want them to feel they can come to their Mother and share their fears and their woes, and know they won't be laughed at or talked out of them. I will never do that, Gilbert. I know what it's like to have troubles belittled. As though small people's troubles must also be small. A corn cob doll that was given to the dog, a beloved dictionary used to stop up a hole in the wall, the last pane of glass in a battered cabinet kicked in; these were not small things to me, but entire worlds. You can't expect a child to lose their world, and not want to lose themselves, too.
I can't write easily anymore. Elizabeth is gripping my arm as she sleeps, while muttering softly, "Tomorrow, Papa, is it tomorrow, is it tomorrow now?"
I'll see you in my own sweet tomorrow, my love.
Always and all ways,
* Iona of Harris Island first mentioned in chapter 6, The Windy Willows Love Letters
* Sam's christening first mentioned in chapter 8, More Windy Willows Love Letters
* Mr Rasmussen (aka The Fox) is Gilbert's room mate
* the IF Anne refers to occurs in Gilbert's last letter, "...if you love me then please write back.'