Beloved people!

I bet you all wondered if this day would ever come! So did I.

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was done writing. It hurt so much to put your work before strangers and to have them utterly decimate it- and no, I'm not talking about this kindly world, where we write about stories for the sheer love of it. The real world. It destroyed some faith in myself that I could even do this- not even for my own sake. Any time I sat down to finish CM I felt- well, hopeless. So I stopped trying.

The funny thing is that you never stop receiving the emails, even if you don't check the FF site. So I've read every criticism, every review, every message telling me that you want more, that this story is ridiculous, bad, etc. Some have kept me awake at night- some made me cry, and others made me sit down here and try to write, just one more time.

I want to thank those who have been following, encouraging, favouriting and commenting. It's made some darker days brighter for me, and kept me believing that one day I could get back to writing again. Even the critical comments- because somehow, you gave my work your time. That's a huge compliment in itself.

Thank you also to the beloved writers on here giving us new things to read and a way to forget the woes of the present. Kwak, FkaJ, Alinya, Carrots, Lizzy, MrsVonTrapp and Kslchen, I drop everything when I see your names come up on my phone, even if I don't have the time to review. Please keep writing, wonderful storytellers, and I will endeavor to get back to doing so as well.

Love to you all,


Chapter 42

Phil stood next to Jo on the doorstep of Patty's Place one Friday evening in late April, her look glowering. Anne and Gilbert were donning their hats and light coats, chatting amiably with Moody and a young theological student who had accompanied him that night. Aunt Jimsie was scolding Stella for something or other, and Prissy was reading a note she had pulled from her pocket- oh, it all looked so very normal for a Friday night.

"Phil, dear?"

"What?" she finally snapped, and then pulled herself up at the shocked looks on everyone's faces. "Goodness, I- I do apologise for my tone. Is no one else finding the night rather warm?"

Anne stepped out onto the veranda with a curious glance at the sky. "It's a little overcast, Phil. Are you feeling well?"

"Me? Oh, I'm fine," Phil said, smiling brightly now. "And how are you, Mrs. Blythe?"

Gilbert exchanged a fleeting glance with his wife, whose auburn eyebrows had risen in the air. "Phil, we covered all this some hours ago."

"The situation may have changed since then," Phil said carelessly, her eyes carefully tracking the murmured asides from Stella and Priss, to the young men doffing their hats to Aunt Jimsie, and walking off down the pathway. Her frustration rose as Anne pulled her close for a careless hug, telling her to behave and to take herself to bed like a good girl. Phil pulled away from Jo suddenly and spoke.

"I would like all of your attention."

In the silence that followed, only Stella ventured- "I think you have it."

"What on earth is going on with all of you?" Phil spluttered, surprising them all completely. "Priss is getting telegrams at odd times that she only shows Stella- Stella casually announcing that she is taking tea with Royal Gardiner, of all people- a tea organised by you, Anne!" She rounded on Anne then. "And you told me that nothing was wrong with you- and yet I saw you running out of class twice this week!" she said, indignantly. "You stepped on me, in fact- and then told me that nothing ailed you! Gilbert is always off running around the streets of Kingsport as soon as classes are done, and neither of you have come over here on any night but Friday in weeks! And WHY am I tripping over Moody Spurgeon, of all people in our living room as often as I am? And if I have one more person tell me not to worry and just think about my wedding then I am going to scream loudly enough to bring the constable around here!"

There was a shocked silence then, and Phil's brown eyes darted around the group, as if daring any one to be the first.

"Phil, you've been under rather a lot of stress yourself," Anne said gently. "I'm sure people only wish to take care of you."

"Is that the reason I'm being kept in the dark?" she asked the group, her small hands clenched. "Do you think that I am so lost in this upcoming wedding that I can't see what is going on with the people around me?"

"It's really not what it seems, Phil. I'm sure that everyone is fine-"

"Or not," Prissy said logically. "You have been anxious lately, Phil. Did you want us making it worse?"

Phil 's ire cooled slightly at the pressure of Jo's hand on hers. "I don't need coddling," she stated. "I understand that there are big things going on in all of our lives- but we only have a short time together, now. I would like to know that if something was happening, that you would tell me what it was. And I am insanely curious!"

Anne chuckled. "And yet sometimes timing is important, Phil." There was a moment where Anne's eyes met Gilbert's. "We are coming for dinner on Sunday, aren't we?" she asked, a hidden twinkle in her eyes.

"Hmm. Sunday might work." He gave his most devilish grin to Phil. "We'll have to see."

She gazed at the others, and caught a reluctant smile between Stella and Priss. "So, is Sunday the time for all the tall tales then?" Stella asked.

Phil's nose rose in the air, and she folded her arms. "Yes. And Aunt Jimsie is letting me cook. Don't be late," she said snootily, before turning to stomp inside. The door closed and the others looked to a dumbfounded Jo, who could only shrug.

"You'll be here on Sunday , I assume?" Gilbert asked, grinning.

"I wouldn't dare miss it."

The door opened just then, and Phil stomped back down to take Jo's suit lapels in her hands, and to proceed to kiss the good reverend goodbye in a thoroughly inappropriate- and yet obviously welcome way. When he emerged a minute later Jonas blinked as the door shut behind his beloved again, and he cleared his throat somewhat sheepishly. Stella and Priss were giggling, and a chuckling Gilbert clapped Jo on the shoulder.

"It's sure not to be boring," was all he said.

The previous weeks had been a little unsettled, Anne supposed.

Exams had finished the previous week for all except Gilbert, who had one more left before the Cooper Prize would be decided. He'd taken to pacing the floor muttering various chemical properties under his breath, none of which helped Anne with her own work. She'd taken to sitting on the little veranda with her manuscript and pencil, muttering her own nonsensical sentences and changing two words back and forth on the paper, when really, she knew that either would do. There were letters that arrived almost daily from various educational bodies that either she or Gilbert would snatch up, hourly raids on the tin of oatmeal cookies Anne kept on the shelf- and one or two unsettling new habits- such as the one that kept Gilbert standing outside the outhouse that Monday morning.

"Anne, we have class soon."

"Then go without me!"

"I am not going unless you do!"

"Then you will need to wait till I'm-"

Gilbert flinched at the volley of sounds emanating from the outhouse then, and sighed. They'd been lucky for the first month, it seemed- and in vain, Anne had tried to assure him that all was well indeed.

The door opened then and a rather seedy Anne stepped out, reaching for the glass of water that Gilbert held. "See? Much better," she said, her voice raspy.

"Oh yes, much better-"

Anne adjusted her yellow blouse with a sigh. "If I do this now, then I will have no more problems for the rest of the day," she said pragmatically. "It's when I fight being sick that I end up running out of class in a panic."

Gilbert took her hand in his, and they walked back to the veranda, where he stood waiting for her to complete her toilette inside. He paused to look around at their little garden in the morning sunshine, an enormous smile on his face. Their baby, throwing days and nights into chaos, before they were even big enough to be in the world.

Talk about the baby had been almost incoherent, in those first days- Gilbert's big hands that insisted on mapping what he could not yet feel, much to Anne's amusement, with him happily rambling to her more than she had ever heard him do before.

"A baby."

"Yes, darling."

"I- I just- a baby, sweetheart."

Anne chuckled. "I am sure that he-"

"Or SHE- heavens, Anne; a little girl. With your hair." Then there would be a dreamy silence before: "She is never allowed to go to college!"

"Gilbert Blythe, I beg your pardon-"

"Look at what happened to you here!"

"I was an active participant in that, you idiot!"

And then much later the same night-

"And then going home! How do we do that? How would you take a baby home to Avonlea?"

"Do you want me to say a soup tureen?"

"I'm being serious! Do we need a- a basket of some kind?"

"It's not a pressing concern, dearest. The baby is quite comfortably tucked away right now."

"I'm just curious about later; I mean, we've never traveled on a train with a baby before. A child I could understand, they could walk-"

"Gilbert, you're delirious- go to sleep."

"And it isn't like you can just carry the baby all the way to Avonlea-"

"Gilbert, don't you have a paper due in the morning?"

"No, I finished that yesterday. Don't you think-?"

"My love, if you do not close your tired eyes and go to sleep now, the baby and I will be sleeping on the sofa tonight."

After a few days, Gilbert's nervous energy receded leaving behind exuberant happiness in its wake. He'd watched Anne closely at first, not quite knowing if she needed to be treated more gently- only to find that she carried on much as she ever did, with a spring in her step and a smile on her lips- and the ability to run like a deer when she needed to be sick. Night was the time of the day when all classes were done, and they would curl up in bed together and talk about the baby, and their plans for the future. They had agreed that it was better to say nothing just yet- and so the most delightful secret was kept to themselves within the walls of the little Mushroom.

On the Saturday evening after Phil's outburst, Gilbert sat on the old sofa, watching Anne. She stood by the mantle in her light nightgown with a letter in one hand, and he smiled dreamily at the way her slim profile showed against the flames.

At length she turned and dropped onto the seat beside him, the letter Gilbert had given her in her hands.

"Do you really want to apply for this?" she asked, her grey eyes searching.

"Especially in light of what we just learned? In a heartbeat." He gave her a thoughtful look, his hand moving to her belly. "I still can't picture it, yet."


His large hands splayed against her waist experimentally, making her giggle. "Irresponsible 'us' with a baby."

"Oh, I can," Anne said, laughing. "Babies are impulsive, and unexpected- and that just seems made for us, don't you think?"

"Well, this little one was made for us," Gilbert stated, his grin unsettlingly smug. "By us, even."

Anne laughed, poking him. "Goodness, Di is right! You men do take great delight in your accomplishment."

"It's nothing compared to what you will do." He was serious in a moment then, his hazel eyes holding her own. "Are you afraid?"

Pink lips twisted as she watched her husband, concern deep in his eyes. She settled beside him with a pensive sigh. "No. I mean, I hardly think it will be the most pleasant day's work I ever accomplish-"

"I should think not-"

"But infinitely worth it. Birth is a miraculous thing, Gil."

There was a long pause. "Tell me about it?" An auburn eyebrow quirked at him, and he grimaced. "I'm asking because I know that you've been there. I haven't."

"Not many first-time fathers have, I imagine." Her voice was gentle, trying to feel out the best way to approach this. "I- was present for the birth of four of the Hammond twins." He carded his hand through her long curls, watching her closely as a slight smile crept over her face. "The other children were always sent to the neighbours when the time came- and it was just Old Mrs. Finlay, and myself there. Mr. Hammond was usually nowhere to be seen until the children were a few hours old, and sound asleep in the crib. He usually came back a little worse for wear- I suspect that he had his own ways of celebrating." She soothed away the scowl on his face, her look calm. "It's a hard process, my love. Men do not usually stay."

"Just watch me," he growled. "We've done everything else together- why would this be any different?"

Anne's gaze was thoughtful. "I imagine that it's a burden to see pain, and to not be able to do anything about it. And it is incredibly messy."

"Then what of the miraculous part?" he said stubbornly. "You'd have me miss that?"

Anne chuckled. "No. But I seem to remember you telling me that if I was ever hurt, that you would knock down buildings to get to me."

"I would."

"And you don't think that a frightened husband could cause some chaos in a birthing room?"

"I'm staying."

She turned to rest against his broad chest, long arms tight around her waist as they watched the firelight together. "It's chaotic- and frightening- and yet to see a babe brought into the world, messy and indignant at being thrust into a much colder place- their little fists clenched, bawling at the top of their lungs- it's a miracle."

Gilbert let out a breath, understanding what she did not say- that when life came, and not death, one could hardly argue about the method of arriving. He didn't realise how tightly he was holding onto Anne until she moved, turning her face to kiss him.

"I'll be fine," she whispered, with a little smile. "I'm tougher than I look, remember?"

Gilbert ran his hand down her slim arms with a sigh, circling her fine wrist between his thumb and finger. "I know that." There was silence in the little house until he added placidly- "And you have a mean right hook."

His words shook the solemnity from their house, and in no time at all Anne was sitting cross-legged on the sofa facing her husband, re-reading the letter he had handed her earlier that night. "An all boy's school, Gil! Won't you have fun corralling all of that energy?"

"Trenton is a champion athletic school, Anne. I fancy I know how they work it all off."

"Multi-disciplinary- meaning, of course, that you will cover whatever they need you to cover-"

"Yes, one moment I could be teaching Latin and French, the next, Mathematics-"

Anne continued to read, occasionally pausing to re-read certain sections. "It's only a ten minute walk from the school to Redmond, it has modern facilities-"

"We could still live here." There was a little smile on his face as he looked around at their tiny home. There was a moment then, when Gilbert's smile slipped. "Are you really prepared to give up the Island over this, Anne-girl?"

Anne tipped her head thoughtfully. "I don't really see it as 'giving-up', Gil."

"I always thought that we would return there, with our family, one day."

"And we yet may do that."

"Do you really want to live in Kingsport?"

Anne pushed herself up from the sofa, her look adorably exasperated. "We've been living in Kingsport for the past four years- what do you imagine would change?"

Gilbert frowned, getting up as she walked on light feet into the kitchen, and found the kettle. "We've only been living here because of college."

"You brought me here," she said crossly. "You married me and brought me home, to this house. Kingsport is home, Gilbert." He rolled his eyes, however she was quicker to cut him off. "I love our Island, you know I do- but our home is together, wherever we happen to make it. Phil is already trying to get us to agree to attend Jo's parish on Patterson Street."

He watched her rifle through the cupboards looking for something, and sighed. "I know that. The thing is-"

"That keeping physical ties to Redmond- to any university- means living off the Island," Anne said absently, after pouncing on the cookie tin as though starved. "Do you remember the night you told me about wanting to teach?" she asked, sternly, waving an oatmeal cookie at him.

"Of course."

"You said that we might make our home anywhere- and that perhaps we could spend our summers on the Island."

Gilbert pulled her close, and set the cookie tin down beside them. "Is that enough for you, sweetheart?"

She smiled, her eyes loving. "Yes. Our children will still know Avonlea. If this is the school you want, then you should apply for it."

"Are you quite sure that you are prepared to tell everyone tomorrow?" Gilbert asked, his eyes shrewd. "You know that we don't have to- no matter what Phil says. We have the right to keep some things to ourselves. We didn't want everyone to know until we were sure."

"And we now are. Not to mention that this-" here she shook the letter, "is far more certainty than we had before."

On Sunday evening the same group of friends gathered together again- and if there were some tension around the little dining room as the group ate and praised Phil for her work, then all ignored it for a time. Gilbert found the whole thing immensely amusing- especially since he was sure that the most surprising news belonged to their own house. His eyes flickered over to Anne beside him, talking to Aunt Jimsie about some bulbs she had been given that morning, from their landlady. She looked so pretty that night, he thought, smiling. Her eyes were sparkling, her cheeks pink- and her hand, slyly brushing up against his thigh, making him twitch in his seat.

Cheeky, narrowed hazel eyes told her. She only winked at him, before turning back to resume her conversation. He looked around the table curiously, then. Phil was watching everyone carefully, Stella and Priss were conversing quietly- he had seen them doing that more lately, he supposed.

Half an hour later, the group were were squashed into the little living room's armchairs and sofas. Aunt Jimsie sat in her chair with her knitting, her little eyes twinkling as she beheld the group. Phil sat beside Jo, fidgeting impatiently as she watched her friends. Tall Priscilla appeared to be trying to shrink into the background while Stella poked her side knowingly. As for young Mr. and Mrs. Blythe-

"So, who wants to start?" Phil said suddenly.

"I think that you should, Phil."

"Me? Why? I don't have any secrets from any of you!"

"Perhaps not- but we have been concerned about you," Stella said mildly. "I've never seen you look as solemn as you have of late."

"Is it unusual to be serious about exams?"

"When you can pass them without studying, yes." Prissy added. "You said that you wanted to prove to Jo how clever you were-"

"That's why you've been working so hard?" Jo looked horrified by this, and Phil glared at Priscilla.

"No!" she protested, before wilting. "Well- perhaps in the beginning, I might have." At the silence in the room, she rolled her eyes.

"Look, I came to Redmond to escape Mother's matrimonial traps, ostensibly. Is it so strange after four years to want to prove that I belonged here for my own sake?"

"Not strange," Gilbert commented. "Although you've led most of your classes-"

"While having the most magnificent social life," Anne added, smiling.

"-And that should tell you something."

There was a quiet moment when Jo spoke to her alone. "You never had anything to prove to me," he said gently. "You know that I had enough trouble getting through college on my own."

Phil shrugged, her brown eyes serious. "I wanted to be proud of myself as well."

"And you should be!" Stella interjected indignantly. "Honours in Mathematics is hardly easy to attain."

"Don't I know it," Gilbert grumbled, earning a sly grin from his wife.

"Well, now I just need to wait for the results like the rest of you," Phil stated firmly. Her eyes narrowed then at the girls, who were whispering together yet again. "Don't think that I didn't notice how you turned this around on me. What is going on with the two of you?"

Prissy shrugged helplessly. "I- don't really know where to start."

"The telegrams?" Stella suggested.

"Oh. Well, yes," she replied, lamely. "The telegrams were from my family."

Phil stiffened. "Isn't your mother doing well?"

Prissy smiled, then. "She's fine. She had a bad run, last year, it's true- Pneumonia and then a few months in the sanatorium. She's been much better, lately- and at home since December. So much so, that I asked if they would mind- very much- if I didn't come back to the Island right away after college."

This surprise had everyone in the room agog- apart from Stella.

"And- are you planning to teach? Or travel?" Anne asked, bewildered.

"Teaching," she said, firmly. "I've been conversing with my parents via letter, of course- until something came up that needed a rather swift answer. The telegram was telling me that I had my parents' blessing to proceed."

"With what?" Phil said, sounding strangled.

"For that I need to pass you over to Stella."

All eyes turned to the black-eyed girl, who grinned. "You are leaving out a rather big detail."

"It can wait. Call it enhancing dramatic tension," Priscilla replied, laughing, watching all eyes in the room swivel between the two of them.

Stella took up the tale, then. "You know that my brother has been wanting me to go to Vancouver-"

"For the mountains, yes," Anne said, smiling.

"Well, I have decided that I don't want to do that."

This caused another eruption of murmuring in the room, which a wild-eyed Phil shushed.

"I came across a different opportunity- thanks to Anne."

The attention moved to Anne, this time. "Don't look at me, this isn't my story."

"But it starts with you."

Anne looked at Gilbert beside her, who smiled in true contentment. He gestured for her to continue.

"Lately, I have been spending time at the Kingsport orphanage."

Phil stared hard at Anne. "Yes, we already knew that."

"I've been reading to the children a few times a week."

"And, it's been quite hard on her."

The girls looked to Gilbert then, looking quite serious.

"It has," Anne agreed, her smile wistful. "They're such darlings- and they all need a chance." She felt Gilbert slip his hand into her own and squeezed it. "Roy asked me to officially join the board of the asylum."

There was a hubbub of noise then, and Phil seemed the most affected by this. "With that group of snobby, rich businessmen, and entitled Bluenoses?"

"Anne chucked. "The very same. They aren't wholly bad, Phil."

"Oh, I know those families- mine is one of them," she said vehemently. "They don't know how to change."

"Which is why I am there." The silence that met this was absolute, and she gave Gilbert a little smile. "It involves a meeting once a month- a charity event here and there, and a lot of afternoon teas with influential people."

"A lot of tea," Gilbert added, grinning. "College means that I am late every time we are asked to go to the Gardiner's house."

"And Mrs. Gardiner adores Gilbert now- she wouldn't think about meeting me without him."

Phil sat back, studying the pair. "So- the Blythes have tea with Royal Gardner's family."

"Yes. Roy has warmed up considerably- and Dorothy is a dear."

"What does this have to do with Stella?"

Stella sat back, smiling slightly before speaking. "Stella was asked to be part of a conversation with several other teachers- including Prissy."

"And Anne and myself," Gilbert added. "We were asked to discuss the ways schooling needed to be changed to accommodate the needs of the children of the orphanage. So we did, last month. And that was the end of it- or so we thought."

"And can that explain me coming across Stella and Mr. Gardiner in the tearooms on Thursday?" Phil asked, her voice somewhat higher than usual.

"I- in a way," she said, somewhat guiltily.

"Are you courting Royal Gardiner?"

"Oh, don't be daft," Stella scoffed. "He has plenty of eligible young ladies in his circle, I can assure you. He asked Anne to arrange a meeting with me last week- although she didn't know precisely why. No, he wanted to talk to me about a position."

This had everyone sitting up straight, and Stella smiled. "Roy is proposing to the board that it would be in the students' best interests to have their very own school."

"I suggested that months ago!" Anne said shocked.

"Which is why he didn't need to get your approval for the plan- that will go to the entire board next week. He's met with most of the other board members individually, and so far, all are in agreement."

Anne smiled, still somewhat amazed. "He told me there was a plan- one that I would be sure to like," she said, chuckling. "Of course I would- it was mine."

"He didn't want to promise you anything until he knew that it would go ahead," Stella said to Anne quietly. "He knows that this is very personal for you."

Anne turned to her husband, with tears in her eyes. "They listened."

He smiled at her. "Because you had the courage to say something."

Anne turned back to Stella then, wiping her eyes with a chuckle. "I admit, you have me surprised, Miss Maynard. They want you to teach?"

"They want me to run the school," she said, smiling. "We need to make sure that there isn't the stigma of an asylum school- and to make it as normal a school as possible. There will be scholarships students can apply for to take their education further, and staff to ensure that the children are well placed when they leave the orphanage- whenever they leave."

Phil turned to Priscilla. "And- and this position you accepted- is this with Stella? You- you're staying in Kingsport too?" At her nod Phil gave an elated cry, throwing herself bodily at the girls to hug them both of at once.

Stella laughed, somehow managing to push Phil off her lap. "This, this is why we didn't want to tell you too early! We didn't want to get your hopes up of having us here longer."

Phil was bawling in relief by then, retreating back to Jo for the comfort of his arms. He smiled at the girls over her curly head. "We're very happy for you both," he added unnecessarily.

Stella let out an explosive sigh and slumped against the sofa. "As am I. It may not be forever- but if it's approved we have a chance to start this school with the right foundations- and hope that we can pass it on to others to care for it as we will."

Gilbert looked down at Anne, seeing that her eyes were swimming as well. "So we won't lose everyone yet," he said quietly.

Phil sat up then, her look sharp. "Why? Do you know something yet?" she asked urgently.

Gilbert grinned. "I've applied for a position at Trenton," he said. "There are a few schools open to me- although that's the one I'd like best."

Phil had returned to her tears, now coming to hug Anne. "I'm so glad, sweetie," she said, unsteadily. "I wasn't prepared to let the two of you go so soon."


"Well, yes, Anne and Prissy and Stella- although I suppose that Gilbert makes it four."

"Then you have five."

Phil looked at Gilbert, perplexed. "Are you just listing numbers for the sake of it?"

"In the interest of being accurate, I am telling you that there is one more to add to the equation."

There was confused silence for a short time, before a laughing Jo took pity on the befuddled girls. "I am assuming that after we held a wedding, almost two years ago- we are now planning for a christening. Am I right?"

Anne's cheeks were pink, as she beheld the girl's open mouths, now looking to her for confirmation. "Yes. In November," she said, softly. "We are having a baby sometime in November. The doctor confirmed it yesterday."

There were ecstatic cries and congratulations flowing then, and even Aunt Jimsie could be heard telling all triumphantly that she knew something like this would happen before the end of college. Stella squeezed Anne so tightly that Gilbert protested that smothering his wife was hardly healthy for her or the baby; while she proclaimed the Mushroom to be the most blessed place on earth. She added that it was all due to the girls that Anne had accepted Gilbert's proposal in the first place- and Phil immediately suggested that the baby should be named for her- either boy or girl, she declared.

"No, James," Gilbert said, smugly. "After the fellow who almost trampled me to death eighteen months ago. He started it."

"You will not name that baby Jamesina if it is a girl!"

An electrified silence rang through the room at Aunt Jimsie's statement, and one by one, all began to laugh, even Aunt Jimsie, who at last wiped away tears of mirth from her eyes.

"I declare, I am exhausted from all of this new information," the older lady sighed. "It is high time for me to retire from chaperon duty, I think. Is there anything else anyone would care to add?"

Priscilla had flushed, her lips stubbornly buttoned in the face of Stella poking her in the ribs. "It can wait until-"

At this moment, the door knocker sounded. Gilbert chuckled at the bemused girls, who all seemed to look around the circle, wondering who else it could be- all except Prissy, he noticed. He waved them down when they rose and went to answer the door himself.

To his surprise, Moody stood on the doorstep, looking dumbstruck to see his old chum at the door. "Oh- Gil- I-"

He stood holding a small posy of roses, red ones. But for who?

Gilbert turned to see that the girls had not moved, except for a fiery-cheeked Priscilla, who walked to the door resolutely. Moody seemed to melt in relief when she pushed a gaping Gilbert out of the way, accepting the roses that Moody handed her.

"I'm a bit early," he said, sheepishly.

"Good," was all Priscilla said. She led him inside and turned to meet the faces of her friends, her look daring anyone to comment. Only Phil seemed to be able to speak.

"You mean- Moody- and you?"

There was a look between the pair that made the room instantly smile, and Priscilla took Moody's hand in her own. "Yes. And with my parent's blessing."

Amongst the hubbub that followed, Anne rested her red head against Gilbert's shoulder, her shoulders shaking with laughter.

"And to think that I thought that our news was the biggest!" she whispered.

Gilbert grinned at her, looking over to see Moody talking with Aunt Jimsie and Stella, who had a big smile on her face. "We're all staying in Kingsport now," he said quietly. "Are you happy, Anne-est of Annes?"

Not in the least concerned about those nearby, Anne stole a kiss from her husband, and snuggled into his arms. "Deliriously so. And as for Prissy, I had no idea. I wonder what gave him the courage to speak?"

Gilbert gave the ebullient room around him a grin, at the Kingsport family that had formed around them. From Phil, now busy making plans for them all; Jo, clapping a dazed Moody on the back, and reminding him that Theological School was only another year after his degree, to Stella and Priscilla discussing what sort of house they would need to find the following year.

"We'll likely never know."