Anne had moments of reflection when the children were abed and she was curled up in her own bed exhausted by her day. It was hard work minding the three boys, though Gilbert rebuffed her attention. Fair enough she thought, he was only a few months years younger than she.
She had been languishing in the Halifax children's asylum for some time wishing she could be placed out. Maybe a prince will pluck me away from all this. She'd imagine the scene as she sat by the dingy window at night looking out at the stars. He would come to the window on a pure black horse, its mane so long it nearly touched the ground. Pawing the ground and neighing softly it would stand still while she jumped out of the window her white nightgown billowing all around until she landed in the prince's arms and they'd gallop away together. More prosaically she just hoped some nice family would ask for her and take her away from all this.
So she was delighted when Mrs Blythe met her one afternoon. Many of the women who came looked at Anne and the other girls with a cold expression in their eyes and talked over and about her as if she were a dumb mute. Mrs Blythe did not, she crouched down in front of Anne and talked to her directly, "we live on a ship, Anne. I need help with my sons. How would you feel about coming out to sea with us? It'll be hard work and sometimes dangerous, but I can promise you it will never be dull and you'll always have enough food and warm clothes." Anne nodded at her eagerly and gathered up her meagre belongings before walking out the gate of the hated institution.
There were times she thought she might have made a mistake; when seawater was lashing the deck and pouring down into the cabins and the scream of the storm made you feel as though the ship might be torn to pieces at any moment. But Mrs Blythe though strict was not unfair. She expected Anne to earn her keep, but she was not cruel or malignant about it. Anne was never whipped; Mrs Blythe's look of disappointment was enough to keep her in line, but her imagination did get away from her at times.
Sometimes it was too enticing to join the boys in their play and they too forgot that she was their servant and treated her more like their sister. Anne preferred that, but it made difficult when she was required show authority. More likely than not they'd just laugh in her face. Mrs Blythe would come and help her then. Later she would remind Anne that it was better to maintain some distance. It was difficult because Anne loved being part of this family. She would rather put up with some disobedience than lose that privilege.
Marilla understood the dilemma. She may not have been an orphan like poor Anne, but her younger self would have done anything to have a happy family again. When she was little her big brother Michael was the centre of their family and in hindsight kept them together. He went off the canneries to earn his keep one winter when the farm work slowed down. He promised to come home in the spring and hugged his mother and Marilla farewell. They watched him walk down the laneway, his belongings tied up in a scarf slung over his shoulder. Marilla watched him until his small figure turned a corner and just like that he was gone. They never saw him again. He was killed in an industrial accident two months later. A letter from the cannery arrived with his meagre belongings and pay owing, less his funeral costs. Her mother collapsed and really, Marilla reflected, never recovered.
It's its eyes that Anne first notices. Tiny black beads with a dash of white where the sun catches the iris surrounded by the most glamorous long eyelashes. A little hand reaches out to hers at the marketplace in Bari as it grimaces and chatters. Anne holds its hand in hers for a brief moment feeling the near humanity, like and yet not. Anne has never seen a monkey before but she knows what it is. Marilla's a few strides ahead but when she turns to confer with Anne about the next thing to buy she finds she is nowhere to be seen. Marilla shakes her head in consternation. The girl is inclined to get lost, especially here at a market with so many distractions. She looks around, not panicked but keen to find her. At least Anne's red hair acts as a sentinel. There she is, Marilla turns around and watches Anne's fascination with the little thing. Hmm, she doesn't ask for much this girl and she works hard. Marilla walks up to the stall holder one hand on her burgeoning stomach and asks, "how much?"
The man grins, his tanned face breaks into a gap tooth grin and his eyes sparkle as if he's weighing up how much he can get for the animal. The monkey brings in money for sure, but he has grown tired of its constant chattering and at home it cries in its cage and cowers when he approaches. He hates its simpering ways and really would love to get rid of it, but only at the right price of course. He names a figure, Marilla frowns and says that's too much. They turn away, Anne more reluctantly though she knows better than to complain, as the serving girl she has no rights. "Shh," says Marilla soothingly. "Watch."
"Madame," the seller calls ingratiatingly. "Come, we haggle." In his limited experience pregnant woman are easily swayed, he figures its because they want to get home and off their feet.
"Haggle?" Anne whispers.
Marilla turns around slowly and looks the man up and down then names a price lower than the one she had offered before. If he wants to sell and she's pretty sure he will, then she wants the power in this bargain. There follows a quick bargaining process which Anne follows her eyes flickering back and forth between them. The man has the monkey dangling by its chain and its desperately trying to climb it to stop being strangled. Eventually the man throws up his hands "basta" and hands the chain to Anne with a quick flick of his hands. A crowd has formed around them and they shout obscenities to the man. He has been bested and they know it, no need to be rude about it though.
"What shall we call it?" Marilla says as they walk away, the monkey now balancing on Anne's shoulder with his crimson coat and peaked hat matching her hair.
"Goliath," says Anne confidently.
Marilla laughs, "because he's so small?"
"He thinks he's big though. See how he carries himself, like he's the king of the world," explains Anne. Marilla smiles at them both; the monkey might prove amusing. She wonders how John will react.
As nice as it is to walk on dry land, Marilla feels a small tug at her heart when she returns to the ship. Home, that's home her heart says. The crew greet them when they walk up the gangplank and make a big fuss of the monkey laughing kindly at its name. Despite their initial misgivings about having a redhead on board, they've all grown fond of Anne.
Goliath jumps off Anne's shoulder and chattering wildly climbs up the rigging in a red flash.
"What's on earth's that? John roars as the Mate chivvies the men back to work.
"I bought it for Anne," explains Marilla watching the animal scurry around high in the rigging looking completely at home already.
Anne is caught between admiration and concern for the little thing, but it seems more comfortable up there than most of the crew. "Anne," one of them calls. "Get rid of it, it's driving us crazy up here." The Mate glares at Anne as if there's anything she can do about it.
"Goliath!" she calls. The monkey ignores her. He's delighted with this new game, freedom at last and of course he doesn't know his name yet. They watch its crimson coat come and go through the rigging way up high.
Hearing the fracas the boys have come out from the cabin to watch the sport and they all stand around watching Anne try to cajole the animal down from the heights. Everyone has an idea and they take care to share it with her, their voices growing increasingly strident. "Anne," the men call down desperately.
John turns his attention to Marilla who shrugs her shoulders.
The crew are getting increasingly annoyed as Goliath chatters in their faces. They don't want to hurt the thing, especially since they like Anne, but they're rather afraid of its teeth. "Goliath! Goliath!" Anne calls up to him but he ignores her. It's frightening down there with a multitude of strangers' faces upturned yelling at him. Anne turns to the others and tells them to hush. John has a face like thunder when Anne looks at him fleetingly, there's no help from that quarter. She calls, she cajoles, she clicks her fingers and her tongue; the monkey stays aloft.
Marilla makes her way to the galley and rummages around for a treat. In the end it is she who saves the day. Turns out Goliath will do anything, anything for a peanut. She holds one on the flat of her palm and gently calls to it. Fast as anything the animal jumps down down down, hand over foot over tail and grabs the nut in both hands, cracks it with his teeth and chatters away exuberantly as he nibbles. Anne is able to put his chain back on and when he is safely on her shoulder again John rebukes her, "don't let it off again, d'you hear. It stays in your cabin or on that chain."
Anne leans into Marilla's side her eyes brimming with tears. She respects the Captain as they all do and hates to upset him.
Marilla protectively wraps her arm around her, "it was an accident, John. She'll be more careful next time."
"See to it that you are," he says sternly and wanders back down the deck shaking his head at the absurdity of it all.
"Take it inside, Anne," says Marilla kindly. "I'll go and talk to him."
"It was my idea, John," she says to him gently. "She doesn't ask for much."
"She shouldn't have asked for this then either."
"She didn't, she was transfixed. You should have seen her in the market. Anne talks so much it was just unusual to see her stillness. I decided to see if we could buy it. It was my decision, not hers."
"We have so little time, the men are busy, we just can't waste time with a monkey. What good is it? How much will it eat?" He knows he sounds ridiculous as soon as he mentions food. The thing is tiny, it can hardly make a dent on their food supplies.
Marilla can see that the monkey is not the problem. She leaves him then and makes her way back to the galley to fetch him a cup of coffee. "What is it?" She asks him gently. He explains that he's had word from the owners. They want to talk to him when they get to London. He's to report to their office when they arrive. "Why couldn't they just put it in a letter?" Marilla asks. She wishes she hadn't when she sees the look of anguish on his face. There can be no displays of affection in front of the men so she says, "come," as she pulls his arm. "Come, you can leave them for a minute." John looks at her about to rebuff her, then runs out of will. With a quick call to the First Mate to keep an eye on things he follows Marilla to their cabin.
The Mate watches them leave, relieved. He's not sure what's up but the Captain was out of sorts. He never thought he'd say it but he's pleased the Captain has his wife aboard. Far from being bad luck she's helping the situation.
Marilla eases John's coat off him and makes him lie down on the bed. She lays down next to him and cuddles into his side, making circles with her forefinger on his chest just so, the way he likes it.
"What do you think they'll say?"
"I don't know, I just don't know. That's the problem. It could be anything. It could be a special cargo, or I could be out of a job. Maybe they're unhappy I have you all on board?" He sobs then, he's realising how much he loves having them all around. How joyous he feels when Gilbert asks to read the sextant or even watching the smaller boys at play; and of course there's Marilla. The love of his life. He thought he could live without her, see her only a few times a year but he's never been happier since she's been on board. There's a steady strength about her that he's come to rely upon.
"Sh, sh," she soothes him. "All will be well. If the worst comes to worst the boys, Anne and I will disembark and live on land somewhere."
"No," he turns his face towards her. "I can never part from you again. If it comes to that we'll return to Avonlea and I'll farm."
"You hate farming," she says with a smile.
"I hate the thought of being parted from you more," John says as he gathers her into his arms. They lay together for a while longer relishing the moment. John is nearly asleep when he hears a yell from outside. With a sigh he gets to his feet and Marilla helps him with his coat. She watches him go and with a small prayer makes her way out to the children.
"Good news, Mar. You'll like this," John burst into their cabin shocked as he always was by the sight of Marilla's round form. Usually she was so slight but when she was large with child she looked as though she had a big rubber ball inside. Marilla turned to him her bright blue eyes dulled somewhat. It had been a hard night, she found it hard to get much sleep at this stage of her pregnancies.
John strode over to her, the picture of health she thought wearily. It was so easy for men. A brief moment of passion and their work was done, while hers was just beginning. She rubbed her face and let him take her hand. "What is it?"
"The owners have a cargo for Montreal. They want us to take it. It's a new market for them, they need the best," he said with a grin.
"Montreal, that would mean…" her face lit up and he marvelled to see the transformation. "Was that was the letter was about in Italy?"
"That's right we'd sail up the Gulf of St Lawrence, right past Prince Edward Island. I don't know why they made such a song and dance about it. They could have just let me know when I got here."
Home. It had been been too long since Marilla had spied her beloved island.
"How wonderful, do you think?" she barely dared ask the question.
"That we could stay a week or two? I don't know? I suppose it depends how long the passage takes. Maybe I'll let you all off and continue to Montreal on my own? How would that be do you think?"
Now that Marilla had time to think she wasn't sure what their reception would be like. Would she be greeted with open arms after all this time? "I'll think about it," she said more cautiously. John came to her and gave her a hug with arms outstretched, gone were the days of being able to hug her close. "Of course, think about it. I suppose it'll be too early won't it?" he said rubbing her stomach, "you won't be ready to meet the world yet will you little one?"
Marilla gazed down at herself, "I doubt it. We'll probably be back out to sea by then," she said with a sigh. She really was quite worried about giving birth on board, but did not like to concern John. All will be well, she said to herself, as much to put her mind at ease as anything else.
A fortnight later as they entered the vast Gulf of St Lawrence Marilla bent down to pick up her handkerchief when she felt a low sharp pain across her abdomen. She gave a quick intake of breath and broke out into a sudden sweat. Leaning on the back of the chair she straightened up hoping that it was just an intense early pain such as she sometimes got with her earlier pregnancies. But no, here was another one, deeper longer and more pronounced. The shock of it forced her to fall to her knees and cry out suddenly. It was Johnny who found her prostrate on the floor with her petticoats crumpled all around, panting. She briefly looked up at him her face screwed up in agony, mouthing the word 'help'. He took one look at her and ran to find Anne and his father.