For those of you who have read Anne of the Island, the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series, my story begins subsequent to chapter 40, "A Book of Revelation" and is in place of chapter 41, "Love takes up the Glass of Time". The only change I made is that before learning of Gilbert's illness, Anne is staying with her friend Stella rather than at Echo Lodge with Miss Lavender. This is an indispensable change for several reasons, as you will find out.
For those who haven't read Anne of the Island, a little background information is necessary. Gilbert Blythe has been in love with Anne Shirley since they were young. They were enemies at first, and then became friends. They went off to Redmond College together, where Gilbert proposed to Anne sophomore year. Anne refused, citing the fact that she didn't see him that way and didn't want to ruin their friendship; however, her rejection in effect did just that. The next year, Royal Gardiner, a rich, handsome student exactly like her dream Prince Charming, swept Anne off her feet. He courted her, and asked her to marry him at the end of senior year. Anne surprised everyone, including herself, by declining. Afterwards she realized she didn't really love him, it was just a "flattered fancy" because he was like her ideal. Meanwhile, Gilbert, aside from almost working himself to death in school, was taking around a pretty girl named Christine Stuart. Rumor had it they were on the point of a betrothal. Anne returned to Green Gables disillusioned, then went away for two weeks, only to come back to discover that Gilbert Blythe is dying. She then realizes that she is in love with him, and always has been, and they belong together. Finally, at the point after which my story begins, Anne finds out that Gilbert's health has taken a turn for the better, and he will live.
Anne sat down, her back leaning against a tall tree in the Green Gables orchard. Dusky circles ringed her green-grey eyes, signifying the fact that she hadn't slept much since that fateful night, a week ago. Happiness that Gilbert had recovered consumed her; yet reality had set in since her moment of revelation. She was no longer quite so certain that the stars of that white night hadn't played a trick on her. Did she and Gilbert belong together? What about Christine Stuart? Redmond gossip ran that their engagement was imminent. To be sure, everyone had said the same thing about she and Roy, but that was-different.
She picked up her sewing, attempting to focus on the minute stitches. She had so much to do today-she couldn't stop to ponder these tough questions. She had to finish this dress; oh, and iron all her Redmond clothes, now hanging merrily on the line. They'd been kept in a suitcase throughout her fortnight-long trip with Stella. For that reason she had put on an old brown dress she had worn during her schoolma'am days. She hadn't had time to do her hair that morning, so she just pinned the braids she'd worn to bed up around her ears. "I almost look like I'm seventeen again," she thought with a laugh. Then Anne sighed. If she could be seventeen again, what would she do differently?
Gilbert rounded the corner into the lane that led to Green Gables. He whistled to himself, but more out of apprehension than general enjoyment of life. He hadn't really talked to Anne since Diana's wedding last summer. Sure, he had spoken quite affably with her throughout the year; several times, in fact, but not a real conversation. Whenever he was around her, ever since the day she'd refused him sophomore year, he put a mask on, so to speak. He had not dared hope, not since Gardiner came into the picture. Who in their right mind would refuse him? No one, especially not Anne, since Gardiner was point-for-point the ideal Anne had always so frustratingly described to him. Sometimes-most of the time-he thought he shouldn't interfere; after all, Gardiner was rich, and could give Anne the life she deserved. Besides, they were in love with each other-weren't they? There were a few, scattered moments, however, that caused him to doubt it. Hadn't Anne worn the flowers that he, Gilbert, had given her at Commencement? And he still remembered the times, long ago now, it seemed, where she would blush tellingly under his gaze. Only the blush hadn't been so telling, after all. Or had it? He recalled the turning point in his slow recovery, a short epistle from Phil telling him "there was really nothing between Anne and Roy" and advising him to "try again". He had recuperated rapidly after that, but now faced with the prospect of seeing Anne, was not so sure. Was Phil telling the truth? Did she just want to give him good news so he'd recover faster? Did she not like Gardiner, and thus was trying to get him to break up the match? Or did she, Gilbert thought sardonically, like the majority of the world besides Anne, think they were meant to be together and was trying to pull it off?
He stopped suddenly upon entering the orchard. Anne was sitting, ignorant of his presence, under a tree, steady in her concentration over the tiny stitches. He looked at her-she was so lovely, with the sun and the brown dress bringing out russet tints in her hair. A little pale, yes, but a soft flush gradually began to creep up her face.
Anne felt the usual prickle on the neck she got when aware someone was behind her. All of a sudden, the back of her neck started to feel hot. She flushed, and turned around, knowing very well who was there.
She fixed her eyes upon Gilbert's for a moment, then reddened and looked down. Were her senses tricking her, or was he looking at her in a very, well, memorable way? His face had a rather pallid look, and he seemed somehow older, as if his illness had made him put his childhood behind him forever. Anne abruptly remembered what she was wearing, and she blushed deeper. To be caught by Gilbert Blythe in such a get-up as this! It seemed like the essence of one of her nightmares.
Gilbert, oblivious of Anne's embarrassment, opened his mouth but could not speak. Everything he tried to say suddenly seemed stupid and commonplace.
Anne broke the stillness. "Gilbert," she said, "I - I'm so glad you're well. I only found out you were ill a week ago, and then they told me you were dying-I - I couldn't go to you-I prayed for you-but, th-that night you took the turn-Pacifique, he told me, and I was so happy," she continued brokenly.
Gilbert was silent.
"And - and, I hadn't, um, seen you in a long time, so I, uh, felt bad," Anne finished lamely.
"Thank you-for praying for me. Perhaps that's what did it, for the doctor said he hadn't seen anyone survive such a close shave in a long time," he said nonchalantly.
Anne smiled slightly. "Maybe now I'll have utmost faith in the powers of heavenly prayer. But goodness, Gilbert, you nearly killed yourself at college. I saw you once and you were awfully pale. Congratulations on the Cooper prize, though."
"Thanks-although I'm not sure it was worth nearly expiring for," he said ruefully. "I figured I needed to strive for something, since I wasn't caught up in the social whirlwind like some people."
Anne glared at him, then thought to herself that he'd certainly found enough time to take Christine to all the major events on the social calendar.
Then, seeing Gilbert's eyes on her dress, she read them wrongly and said quickly, "Oh, I-my dresses are all hanging on the line, and I had nothing to wear but this old one. Today was just supposed to be a getting-stuff-done day."
"Oh, no," Gilbert responded. "I was just thinking how your dress reminds me of that old one you wore to that one concert."
"My old brown gloria." Anne replied dreamily. "My first pretty dress."
Gilbert continued recklessly, "That was the night I picked up the flower you dropped and put it in my pocket."
Anne blushed, and looked away.
Gilbert silently cursed himself. Now, in the presence of his long-sought ideal, he could see what a fool he was being. Of course she was marrying Roy Gardiner. Phil must have been lying to him. But he wouldn't ask her-or anyone else. Why ask about such an apparent thing? Anne's blushes-of course, he must have read them erroneously. Obviously they were just the blushes of an uncomfortable friend embarrassed by her other friend's stupid lovesick attentions. Yes, that must be it. It all made sense now. Well, he would not strive after her-he would not pursue. He had asked her a question and she had given an answer-he would accept it. He had the Blythe pride to consider-and Blythes did not philander.
Gilbert proceeded to steer the conversation in another direction, and chatted quite pleasantly with her about non-dangerous subjects for about a half an hour. He expertly veiled the love in his eyes, and fooled Anne so well, as he had before, that she thought she must have imagined that look into them.
Anne sighed inwardly. Clearly she had been ridiculously mistaken. Well, one could never be quite sane in the wee hours of the night. Gilbert Blythe had no notion of her. Talking to her just the same as before-as if they were casual acquaintances! Well, fine then. He must have just been infatuated sophomore year, like Mrs. Harmon Andrews said. Very likely he was engaged to Christine. Well, she wouldn't ask him about it-she wouldn't. Of course there were no such thing as soulmates. Miss Lavender-and Phil, they were a little foolishly romantic. Wait, now, what was that? Anne came back from her reverie as Gilbert broke the silence.
"Did you want to go for a walk this afternoon? We could go to Hester Gray's garden by way of the Birch Path and Lover's Lane, and stop by all the old haunts?"
"Oh, I wish I could, Gilbert," Anne responded slowly, "but I have to finish this dress for Alice Penhallow's wedding tonight. I just got the material from Carmody yesterday. I was thinking of wearing it with these flowers" gesturing "in my hair. Won't that be sweet?"
A vision of Anne, in the pale green dress with starflowers in her ruddy hair, presented itself to Gilbert and made him catch his breath. But he just said lightly, "Are you to be bridesmaid in the wedding, Anne?"
"Oh, heavens, no. I'm not quite that well acquainted with Alice. Besides, I've been bridesmaid to both Diana and Phil already. You remember the old adage? Three times a bridesmaid…" Anne smiled.
"Never a bride," finished Gilbert, also smiling. Privately he thought, though, that Anne didn't really need to worry about the proverb, considering she had Gardiner.
"Oh!" Anne exclaimed. "I know. Diana and I were supposed to walk down to Miss Lavender's-rather, Mrs. Irving's-tomorrow, since they are home for the summer, but little Fred has a cold and she can't (or won't, I'm not sure which) leave him. Why don't you come with me, and we can have our jaunt?"
"All right. I just had an inkling to see Echo Lodge, anyway. I imagine Paul has grown-probably about as tall as you now, huh?"
"Probably as tall as you!" laughed Anne. "He is 16, and you know his father is all of six feet."
"Well, tomorrow then," said Gilbert, taking his leave through the orchard lane.
Anne watched him go, then put her head in her hands.
"Oh, what a fool I am!" she groaned inwardly. "What a stupid little fool. Christine-of course he's marrying Christine, her of the radiant loveliness. I hope he couldn't read my face. At least I didn't say anything-not to him, or anyone."
She went back to her sewing, but her thoughts were not on the needle and thread. Rather, she was assessing past events in her mind. How could she have been so blind? Looking back, it must have been crystal-clear to everyone but herself (and Roy, poor, stupid Roy) that she was in love with Gilbert. She remembered blushing under his gaze, the queer beat her heart gave when she saw him coming up the lane, the pleasant sensation after he touched her, the bitter jealousy she had felt of Christine, Ruby, even Phil; well, she couldn't go back and fix it. She would have to move on.