I've chosen to write my first-ever story, combining my years of travel industry experience with my adoration of Anne and Gilbert. These are the tales of their trip to Europe in 1905, during which they celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary otherwise dubbed (by Gilbert) as their second honeymoon. At the end of Anne of Ingleside, Anne and Gilbert were breaking through a rough patch in their marriage.
I hope that you enjoy the read and please know that I am always looking for inspiration or ideas, so feel free to PM me or leave them in the comments section. Thank you!
Dr. Gilbert Blythe was lost in the flash of a memory. How many times had he and Anne traveled back and forth from Avonlea to Redmond together? How many times had he found himself lovesick and gazing over at her while she admired and exclaimed their journey? Now here they were, traveling again - as in olden days. Being a busy Doctor meant that they were rarely able to travel together. Anne would return to Green Gables with the children but so often Gilbert would have to remain in the Glen to care for his patients. Fifteen years into their marriage they were finally presented with an opportunity to rest...and reconnect. No patients. No children. No housekeeper. Only a few days of medical congress and then a much deserved holiday.
Anne was standing near the railing of the ship looking out over the Charlottetown port. Gilbert had been inquiring with the porter regarding luggage delivery and allowed himself to gaze at her as he had done so many times before. He was in awe - she was his. It was also in that moment that he noticed his wife attempting to school her features. At Carmody she was able to say goodbye to everyone and board the train with less emotion than she had expected but as soon as they boarded the ship...the final leg of their journey to Europe...it was all coming to the surface.
He approached her gently.
"Well, we're off," he remarked sentimentally as he wrapped a strong arm around her lower back and nudged her towards his side. This comment and action combined brought forth her unshed tears.
"Oh, Gil. How are we able to leave the children?"
Gilbert paused, knowing very well that he had also had some moments of sadness in their farewell. However, he was propelled forward by the knowledge of having the next two weeks to give Anne his undivided attention.
"Oh, Anne," he murmured, "they will be just fine. You know that between Marilla, Diana, and Mrs. Lynde they will be kept happy and safe. They'll likely be so busy that they won't even know we're away."
Anne bristled and turned to him.
"Gilbert Blythe! We will be gone nearly three months! Of course they'll notice! We could miss so much! Why, Rilla has her first loose tooth! Gilbert, we're going to miss it!"
Gilbert placed his hands on her shoulders, lowering his head to look her squarely in the eyes. He sighed at the tears which were escaping them. He reached into his pocket, procuring his handkerchief and giving it to his wife.
"Anne-girl, Marilla has Rilla's tooth well at hand. I even left a coin to place under her pillow. Remember sweetheart, we gave them the addresses of our last few accommodations so that we can receive their letters. I'm certain they will be able to tell us all about it. Of course they'll miss us - I will miss them! But Anne, you and I deserve a holiday. You're tired, darling. You need rest...and an adventure."
Anne's tears had slowed by now. Gilbert could always talk sense to her. She also felt a pang of guilt for her silly outburst. He had
been even more tired and over-worked. Her dear, sweet man was more deserving of this holiday. Still, she gave a faint pout and whimper.
"Oh but Gil, Walter is so sensitive. What if -"
"Sweetheart. They are in good hands. It's not as if this is a one-way journey. We are coming home and our babies will all be there to welcome us home again. Now, the porter said the luggage would be delivered to our cabin within the hour and we need to eat. Shall we go to the dining room for tea and dinner?"
Anne rubbed her nose with the hanky, nodded and consented her arm to Gilberts. Gilbert leaned down to kiss into her hair and whispered, "This is going to be an incredible journey, Anne. I promise."
Together they walked to the elegant dining hall and shared a delicious meal, during which Gilbert muttered, "No wonder my patients come home several pounds heavier after a holiday!" This comment elicited a girlish giggle from Anne which once again caused Gilbert to question the here and now. Could it be that he was sitting across from Anne Shirley? No, no - they had seven children together. This was definitely not Miss Shirley! He couldn't help but reply with his own goofy schoolboy grin. Ahh but it was good to hear that laugh again.
As the meal wound down, the yawns picked up. Gilbert stood to help his wife out of her seat and clasped her hand as they moved towards the long hallways. They entered into their cabin to find their luggage stowed in the corner of the cozy room. So exhausted were they that they opted to leave the unpacking for the next morning and instead quickly changed into their nightwear. Anne and Gilbert collapsed onto the bed with a sigh. For a moment they lay quietly on their backs next to each other. Gilbert then reached out his hand to hold hers and rolled onto his side, bringing her hand to his lips. They looked contentedly at each other.
"I love you so much, Anne. I don't think you'll ever fully comprehend it. You may as well be the air that I breathe. I'm so sorry you ever doubted it. I promi-"
Anne's shushing fingers found their way to his lips.
"I know, Gilbert, and thank you. I love you just as much - please know it. It goes both ways, this. I was feeling ungrateful and I am so sorry for it." Anne rolled to face him and leaned in to kiss those lips. They were for her - only her - and Anne wasn't sure if she'd ever felt more grateful.
Several minutes later they pulled apart briefly to resume their old sleeping position of which they fell into so comfortably during their honeymoon. In the fifteen years since it had been disrupted on several occasions by ringing telephones, midnight arrivals, hungry babies, and sick children. They both fell asleep with a smile knowing that they could spend the entire night as they were.
The following morning made an eventual appearance some nine hours later, the gentle rocking of the ship lulling both Anne and Gilbert into the most sound slumber they had each had in years. Anne awoke first, quietly disentangling herself from her husband to slip out of bed and into her silk robe. She tip-toed to the small washroom in their cabin and then turned her attention to the luggage. She began to slowly, cautiously unpack and organize their belongings while occasionally glancing at her husband, hoping to allow him more sleep. Thirty minutes later the opening of a squeaky drawer woke Gilbert.
"I'm sorry, dearest. I was hoping to let you sleep more."
Gilbert let out a large yawn and an even bigger stretch of his arms before sitting up in the bed.
"Good morning, Anne-Girl. How did you sleep?" was his reply.
"Oh, just like a baby. And you?"
"I don't think I can remember the last time I slept so well," another yawn escaped towards the end of his sentence, "How long have you been up?"
"Not long, I thought I'd start to get ourselves a bit organized before breakfast. There's quite a bit here that could use pressing, Gil. I thought perhaps it could be sent out before we are gone for the morning."
"That sounds like a good plan. The porter said that there's a laundry card here in the cabin. We are to place it on the hallway door knob when we leave and they'll come by to get it," he said, swinging his legs out of the bed. "Here, let me help with the rest."
"Thank you but I'm nearly finished. Why don't you wash up and get dressed? Your shaving kit is in the washroom and I've hung what doesn't need pressing. I'll finish up here."
"As you say, Mrs. Blythe," he said before giving her a quick kiss.
Another twenty minutes later, Gilbert exited the washroom to find his wife dressed and in the midst of twisting her hair into a low chignon. Once finished she moved to locate the laundry card and filled it in. They both scanned the small room, making sure they had what they needed.
"Have you got the key, Anne?"
Anne nodded and walked past her husband through the door he held open. They took their time making their way to the breakfast room - the new light of the day seemingly caused the ship to appear differently than it had the night before. When they reached their destination they were seated next to a British couple. Polite introductions were made before Anne and Gilbert learnt that they had spent the fall and winter in Nova Scotia visiting their son and his wife - and their fifth grandchild. Quiet conversation continued through the leisurely breakfast and once completed Anne had suggested that she and Gilbert take a tour of the ship.
They wandered arm in arm and found the cigar lounge, the library, and another tea room. Eventually they found themselves on an observation deck and stood watching the horizon. Anne clutched her sweater to her and hugged into Gilbert for warmth.
"Goodness, Gilbert! Why on earth would there be an international medical congress in February?"
Gilbert let out a chuckle. "It's the same month every year, Anne. Perhaps they don't take Canadians traveling on a boat into consideration. We are apparently known for being strong because of our ability to encounter all four seasons in a single day."
"Well, at least it means we can be back at home for the summer. I would be even less impressed if the conference were in July!" Anne tried to push away thoughts of home and continued, "Maybe we will see the first signs of flowers while we're in the Netherlands, dear."
"Ah yes, I'm sure we will. Your birthday is while we're away too, sweetheart. Is there anything in particular you'd like to do or see, Anne?"
Anne shivered under the cold winds. "Nothing I can immediately think of, Gil. I suppose it depends on where we are."
"I think by that time we will either be in Berlin or Prague. But, let's get you out of this cold. Where to, Anne?"
"Let's go back to the library, please, Gil."
There they perused the varied selections of books. Anne was feeling as if she had found buried treasure. The challenge of packing a limited number of items for such a long journey had meant that she was unable to bring many books. She laughed inwardly at the recent newspapers from all over Eastern Canada and the States.
Both Rachel Lynde's and Susan's admonishing comments regarding Yankees rang through her head. If Anne were to ever get bored she could read through the scandalous news stories for entertainment. They spent the remainder of the morning snuggled into the library, lost in their chosen stories. A rather loud grumble coming from Gilbert's abdomen alerted them to the present time. Realizing it was now past lunch time, they marked their places in their books and returned to their cabin to drop them off.
On their short walk to the cabin a young boy of about Shirley's age ran past them, distantly followed by a younger boy and their parents. Anne's breath caught as she felt that pang of homesickness once again.
Gilbert had laughed and remarked, "Oh those boys need to run off some of their energy," to which Anne replied, "The poor things - stuck on this ship with no real fun. Their Mother and Father could arrange a scavenger hunt..."
"Well, it's fairly likely we will encounter them again at some point. I am sure that they are looking for ways to keep them entertained, Anne. We could suggest it to them."
"I think I will, if the opportunity comes up."
Gilbert brought her closer to his side and quietly said, "Trust you to think of them, sweetheart. I don't think anyone would be able to take the schoolmarm or the Mother out of you."
Ironically and coincidentally, at dinner that evening they were seated next to this family. The Paterson family were fellow Canadians, albeit 1st generation citizens, and were returning to Scotland to visit an ailing family member. The eldest boy, whom turned out to be exactly Shirley's age, was lamenting his boredom to Anne and Gilbert despite his mother's prods to use his manners. The younger boy was four and hugged into his father's side, still too afraid to speak to these strange people. The topic of organizing a scavenger hunt came up, an idea that Mrs. Paterson instantly agreed with. Anne had volunteered herself and Gilbert to assist with the efforts, offering to assist with coming up with objects and clues. The details were settled - the next morning Anne would meet with Mrs. Paterson to create the scavenger hunt while the men chaperoned the busy boys. The same afternoon the big event was to occur.
The next day came and the plans were in place. Anne and Gilbert has chosen to take a leisurely stroll while the scavenger hunt was in action and they both grinned several times as both boys raced around the ship searching, their parents attempting to keep up.
A few days into their trans-Atlantic crossing, Anne and Gilbert had retired to their cabin for an afternoon rest. The morning had been rough for a lot of passengers - the churning ocean water caused churning stomachs. Most everyone was wandering around green with sea-sickness. Gilbert had observed that neither he nor Anne were feeling the effects of it and remarked that perhaps it was due to the fact that they were Islanders or perhaps because of their extensive experience with sailing upon open waters. The exhaustion and rigours of travel had finally dissipated.
Gilbert was sitting on the bed a book in his hand. Anne had made her way to the small desk and was busy writing letters, her pen and heart unable to wait until they could post them in England.
"It's so strange to write a letter while sailing on the ocean, only to send it back over again," she had remarked.
There was silence in the cabin for several minutes while they both focused on their task. The silence was broken by sounds being emitted from the cabin next door. Faint thumping sounds could be heard, followed by a series of low moans. Evidently the Blythes were not the only ones feeling healthy. Anne's eyes widened and she spun herself in her chair to face Gilbert. He had heard the noise as well but being a physician was rather unaffected by them. A small smile played upon his mouth at Anne's reaction, though.
"Gilbert, do we sound like that?!"
"I'm not certain, Anne-girl. Would you perhaps like to find out?' answered Gilbert, a mischievous twinkle now in his eye.
Anne laughed, stood up and made her way to the bed, sitting across his lap with her legs dangling over the side. She kissed him a few times before Gilbert pulled away slightly.
"Anne...did you bring-"
"Yes, give me just a few minutes." Anne slid off his lap and onto the floor, making her way to the washroom.
Dr. Gilbert Blythe was generally known for being a conservative man but tried to be open to new ideas and treatments. New advances were always being made and it was a disservice to both himself and to his patients to offer out-dated ideas. After Rilla was conceived, knowing Anne's health concerns, he and Anne had a rather difficult discussion. In the end it was decided that the need for intimacy surpassed the concern of conceiving again, under the assumption that precautions were to be taken.
Gilbert remained seated on the bed, eyeing up his book that lay on the nightstand beside him. Anne's process in the washroom could sometimes take several minutes and he had left his book during a particularly interesting point in the plot. He considered picking it up again but thought perhaps he was better off not to. This notion was confirmed when he heard the washroom door open and Anne made her way back onto his lap.
Dr. and Mrs. Blythe were unreachable for a good amount of time that afternoon.
As the days went by, Anne and Gilbert established a daily routine.
In the mornings they'd both wake early, bundling themselves into more than one layer for a walk to the observation deck to catch the sun rising over the ocean. At first they were the only couple out so early, perhaps a few others had the same notion but each morning there were more joining them. Anne and Gilbert privately joked that atleast they had a few mornings of silent rapture to themselves. Once the sun was well over the horizon they would find their cabin again, wash up, and move up to the breakfast room. After their meal they nearly always went to the library, where both Anne and Gilbert did read the highly sensationalized American papers and laughed at the stories, often imagining the reactions of their elders. On some days they'd hunker down together on one of the settees and silently read the same book together. On other days they'd separate into their own corners. Gilbert began to read lines of poetry to Anne again - just as he did when they were first married.
Eventually they'd continue on to the mid-day meal. They had befriended one of the dining hall staff members and he'd often pack them a small picnic which Anne and Gilbert would often take to a secret spot near the stern of the ship. It certainly wasn't the same as picnicking in the woods but under the circumstances, it was the best they could do. From their secret spot they could view the ship's wake. Together they reminisced, laughed, and more than once tears were shed. Most of their visits to this spot ended with Gilbert kissing into Anne's neck and a hasty retreat back to the cabin where they hoped they had privacy.
Other times they'd join a few of their acquaintances for games and afternoon tea. This journey had been one of their only experiences with people of other nationalities and religious backgrounds. Anne was enthralled by their stories and made sure to jot down some of them as inspiration for a short story or poem. Gilbert found his wife blossoming into the Anne of Old Days and her imaginings still brought on goosebumps.
On their first Sunday, they attended service at the small chapel onboard the ship. It was a rather traditional Christian service but they marvelled at the various ways each person chose to praise God. Some would shout out, others would wail, most stayed silent and solemn, some would kneel at the altar. After the service ended, Anne and Gilbert walked back to their cabin.
"It appears that we certainly live a fairly sheltered life, Gilbert. What a sight to behold!" Anne had exclaimed once they were inside the relatively private room.
Gilbert had settled into the chair with another one of the American papers.
"Indeed we do. It's a big world out there. I believe this is only a taste of what's to come though, Anne," here Gilbert paused and cleared his throat, "I was speaking with Mr. Müller today. He was telling me about an increase of nationalism in Europe, particularly in Berlin."
"Really? I do hope it's safe enough for us to visit, Gil. Did he say more?"
"Well, being German himself he hardly would elaborate too much but I did get a sense that we should keep some of our adventures to ourselves, Anne."
Anne signed, concerned. "Well, I guess we will see for ourselves. I think if we feel unsafe we should return home early though, Gilbert."
"Oh no doubt about that, Anne!"
In fact, Mr. Müller had given a more detailed description of the state of Europe, some of which Gilbert knew before planning their journey. Still, Gilbert assumed that Canadians would be safe traveling through the continent.
Three days before their planned arrival into Southampton, Anne and Gilbert attended a thrown-together evening soiree. They enjoyed conversing with their new friends and danced the night away. Late into the night, a tired but unbelievably happy couple half-limped to their cabin. The next morning they awoke and found the sun already high in the sky. Anne stretched and snuggled deeper into Gilbert's embrace.
"This really is a second honeymoon, isn't it?" Anne then had a brilliant idea, "Gilbert, let's order breakfast in bed!"
She sprung from the bed, took Gilbert's order, and marked it down on a card that she had found on the desk. She placed the card on the hallway door knob. Thirty minutes later a knock on their door was answered and the meal delivered. They settled back into their bed, the tray set on the bedside table. They nibbled the food and chatted gaily before finding other ways to pass the morning.
When they finally emerged from their nest, Anne and Gilbert went up to the public area. On their way they passed a small group of solemn people escorting a distraught man into a private room. They gave each other a puzzled look and continued on down the hallway. When the arrived Mrs. Paterson came rushing to Anne. "Oh Anne, did you hear?"
Slowly word had gotten out that the woman of the British couple had passed suddenly in the night. They had several interactions with this couple over the past twelve days and found them to be lovely, sweet, and kind. Anne was especially fond of her and they often chatted about the joys and challenges of motherhood, the elder woman giving thoughtful advice to the younger woman.
Over the next two days, Anne and Gilbert rarely saw her grieving and bewildered husband. How sad it was to lose his partner just two days away from arriving home.
The Blythes slept even closer together those last two nights on the ship.