II

Gilbert trudged back up the Green Gables lane, whistling again. He would have to do what he could to appear indifferent before Anne. Certainly, he thought dryly, he had experience at that. He gasped as he glimpsed Anne through the trees. Clearly, she had taken more pains with her dress than yesterday; he didn't know whether to be exultant over that or not.

Anne wore a green dress, not a pastel shade like at the wedding, but a deeper, truer green; one that brought out the starry flecks in her eyes and complemented her hair perfectly. It, too, was an old dress; one from freshman year that Anne recalled that Gilbert had said he liked especially. Her hair, done up in the newest fashion, was softly framing her face. Christine Stuart would not outdo her there, at least.

Gilbert, his eyes taking all of this in, thought she had never looked so lovely. Well, Roy Gardiner was getting a prize.

Anne, glancing sidelong at Gilbert as they walked down the path, thought he was not so pale as the day before. His cheeks were rather flushed, and his eyes retained some of the old spark.

They talked amiably on the trek to Echo Lodge, of recollection of the days of their youth; some subjects, however, were noticeably left alone. Something of their old comradeship returned; to Anne, though, that paled in comparison to the roses of love.

Their hands accidentally brushed together once. Anne blushed as what seemed to her like an electric shock moved through her body. Gilbert glanced involuntarily at her left hand-then did a double take and stared at it again. It appeared to be a normal, lily-white hand, but what made it so extraordinary to Gilbert was the conspicuous lack of a ring on her fourth finger. Certainly Roy Gardiner wasn't so strapped for cash that he couldn't afford or had to save up for an engagement ring. Then what of the absence? Anne couldn't have refused him. Right? But a faint glimmer of hope began to burn in Gilbert's heart.