A/N Hello! This idea has been rattling around my head for some time now. There is often discussion on the Fan Fiction Forum about Shirley Blythe. Why is he barely mentioned? Why is he never given his own plot? Why is he referred to as 'the little brown boy'? And, perhaps most confusing of all, why does his age keep changing? I am sure there are numerous explanations for this mystery. Here I am offering you four tales - vignettes if you like - as an explanation for the mystery of Shirley Blythe. I hope you enjoy. Do feel free to come up with explanations of your own! With heartfelt thanks to Kslchen, OzDiva, and Alinyaalethia for putting up with me wittering on about this story, reading and providing input and mostly for believing I could do this when I didn't.
1. An Author's Perspective
1.1 In the Publisher's Office
Office of McClelland and Stewart, Publishers, Toronto
"Here's your tea Mrs Macdonald, is there anything else you need?" the office secretary asked.
Maud Macdonald smiled and shook her head to indicate she was fine.
"No? All right then, Mr McClelland will be with you shortly."
Maud sipped her tea and waited for her publisher to arrive. She hoped they would not keep her waiting too long; she had a lot to do when she got back home. She started making a mental list of all she needed to attend to, when the door opening interrupted her thoughts.
"Maud!" Jack McClelland greeted the author warmly "I trust the family are well?"
"Very well thank you Jack," Maud responded.
"Good, good. Thank you for coming to Toronto to meet. We're almost ready to publish Anne of Ingleside, there is just one niggling concern our new editor has picked up."
"Concern?" Maud's voice was even but inside she was in turmoil, she could NOT rewrite this book again!
"Yes," responded Jack, with a slightly embarrassed laugh. "It seems there were a few discrepancies in Shirley's age."
"Shirley's age?" Maud asked, confused. "Anne of Ingleside," she thought, "hardly mentioned Shirley.
"Yes," Jack responded, "you see our editor checked with the next chronological book that we published in '21, Rilla of Ingleside. In the beginning of that book, Shirley and Rilla are described at the beginning a year apart in age, however in Anne of Ingleside Shirley is two before Rilla is born."
"Really," Maude responded, a little bored by someone going into such irrelevant detail.
"Hmmm, yes," Jack continued encouraged "Actually that's not the only issue, it seems Shirley's age also changes in Rilla when he enlists." Jack paused, looked at Maud, then back to the notes he was holding and muttered, almost to himself, "I don't suppose there is a lot we can do about Rilla now, changes at reprint are costly and cause problems with the translations." He paused again then said more loudly, addressing Maud. "We just needed to be sure which of Shirley's ages in Rilla you wanted to use in Anne of Ingleside so that there is only one um …error"
Jack used the word error lightly, writers could, as he knew, be so touchy about their work.
"Jack" said Maude firmly "I thought you said if we made any more changes we'd miss the summer launch."
"That is a very real risk," Jack confirmed "Which is why I wanted to meet in person. We have zero time to make changes, so we either leave it as it is, or we launch six months later, in time for the Christmas sales."
Maude paused. It was frustrating that she had neglected to check his age, but then again, wasn't that the editor's job?
"I'm surprised you've only picked this up now," she said "It is, after all 18 years since Rilla was published!"
"It is a little embarrassing" admitted Jack "As you know we had some issues with our junior editorial staff back then. That's why we restructured the department. At the time we didn't think it effected your work, but clearly this was missed."
Maud nodded understandingly, good staff are hard to find and keep.
"I think it is important that we launch in July as planned." Maud decided "The Public Relations campaign has already started, my fans are expecting it, I would hate to let them down."
"You don't think they'll notice?" Jack asked, he didn't want to have to deal with an author who changed their mind in a few weeks
"Oh no," Maud assured. "Shirley is such a minor character; I'd be surprised if they even noticed. You forget, people read each book individually. It's not like they go back and compare what was said in previous books"
"You're right," a relieved Jack responded, "though can you imagine, fans that picked over ever fact and detail of a book?"
"Nightmare scenario!" Maude agreed. "If the odd person notices, let them make up their own scenarios to explain how it happened."
Jack laughed, "that would be amusing. They could suppose that Anne forgot her own child's birthday…,"
"…or Shirley was adopted…," added Maud joining in the fun,
"…or Gilbert had an illegitimate child, that he added to the family!."added Jack.
"The perfect Gilbert Blythe having an affair? Perish the thought!" Maud smiled, indicating that she enjoyed the joke as much as Jack.
"Is that all?" Maud asked, "I'd like to be on the next train if I could, it leaves in twenty minutes."
"All done" Jack agreed, "we will send you the first print off the press as soon as it's ready."