Jacob had been sent to the barn to fetch something. He liked it at home, was relieved he'd been found and was settling back into a life that once upon a time he had found dull and pointless. Moving some sacking away he heard soft panting. Straining his ears, he stopped to listen hard. "Who's there?" He peered around and saw a tuft of hair behind the harness. "Hugh? Is that you?" the boy's big brown eyes stared up at him before quickly darting away. "C'mon Hugh it's alright, will you come with me?" Jacob cajoled.
"Found him in the barn, Ma."
"Hugh," said Marilla looking at the boy trembling before her. "Come here, son." Despite having a score of other tasks to finish before she started on dinner Marilla took him into her lap and hugged him close to quell his shaking. Upstairs a baby cried out and she looked at Jacob who said, "I'll go." Relieved she nodded, happy that the boy was maturing in Gilbert's absence.
"We're just off to Uncle Matthew's," Jacob called out. He and Johnny took the well-trodden path with Lilly in his arms Susanna toddling beside. His Ma and Hugh needed some space, and he wanted a chat with Matthew.
"To what do I owe the pleasure," Matthew said calmly over the cow's flank smiling at them all.
Johnny and Susanna sat in the hay rick while Jacob cradled the baby in his lap. "I thought I understood ships, Uncle Matthew," he started without preamble. "I'd spent my life out at sea, so I thought they'd like me. Never realised it was cos of Da." There was a pause when the only sound was that of the jet of milk hitting the bucket Matthew determining that more was to come. "I was kinda proud when they found me but instead a the welcome I 'spected I got thrashed. Then they dumped a load of oakum on my head and laughed when I complained. I grew to dread the sound of the mate walking up the deck cos he'd either give me a beating or a new load of rope to pick. I thought o'that when I met Hugh. We used to pick the stuff together you know." Matthew nodded; he'd noticed.
"Unlike my Mate Hugh's had a peg leg, do ya 'member? You could hear him limping down the deck. I can hear it now the sound of his boot and the tap of the peg echoing down the decking. You know what it reminds me of Uncle Matthew?" The milk stopped as Matthew listened intently. "Sounds stupid but when you shoe a horse you tap the nails in the same."
"Yeah, I dunno how to 'splain it, but it sorta sounds like this," Jacob tapped a post to demonstrate.
Fine lace doilies adorned every surface. Anne felt quite out of place acutely aware of the swish of the stiffly starched waitress' aprons as they sashayed around the tables, and she glanced across at her companions: Mari casually perusing the menu and bright-eyed Goliath regarding everything with his usual curiosity. Smiling with false optimism Anne too regarded her menu taking note of the varied assortment of treats. She glanced up to see a platter of fish pass by safely held in the hands of a waiter. "What's that do you suppose?" she asked Mari wide-eyed. Mari looked up and said casually, "I expect they're spiltched eels. This place is rather famous for them." Anne gulped hard, they looked for all the world like a plate of wet monkey tails. Their waiter brought a pot of tea and having looked askance at Goliath when they arrived did him the honour of bringing him a small cup. When he went to pour Anne said, "that won't be necessary, thank you." And they felt rather than saw their fellow patrons watch spellbound as Goliath played mother, pouring the tea with rapt attention.
Anne hoped she'd never forget the way her buttery pastry melted in her mouth. Goliath enjoyed his too and spent some time picking the crumbs off his fur. It didn't last of course. How could it? After he'd drunk his fill, smacking his lips after each mouthful he went exploring. "We should have kept him on his chain," Anne whispered.
Mari was smiling, "good to shock these old biddies a bit. Best excitement they've had in a month of Sundays, I expect."
By this stage Goliath was suspended by his tail from a light fitting using both hands with the occasional inclusion of a foot to prise open a pot of hot chocolate on the next table. After a distinctive click the pot rolled onto its side the chocolate proving to be more viscus than anyone had expected. With a leap Goliath landed on the floor under the stream and lay on his back, mouth wide open to collect it. He leapt away before Anne had a chance to retrieve him using a convenient shoulder as a springboard, leaving a trail of chocolaty footprints behind him.
Silently so as not to attract attention the girls watch agog wondering what Goliath's next move might be. They watched as he casually made his way over the wires stopping directly above a lady with a large hat adorned with what looked distinctly like fruit. Anne was not fooled but it appeared that Goliath was. Suspending himself by his tail he dropped down for a closer examination and tentatively stuck out one forefinger. "No," Anne whispered concerned that if she made any sudden movements that even more fuss would ensue. His perch must have been slippery because most unusually Goliath's tail started to slip.
Like many of Goliath's mishaps it seemed to Anne and Mari watching as though time went into slow motion as gradually and then suddenly the monkey dropped lower and then landed with a soft plop atop the lady's head. Unsurprisingly she felt the small knock as anyone would if a monkey landed upon them. Reaching up to investigate she let out a short sharp shriek when her fingers touched very much alive furriness.
At that Anne and Mari rushed over to rescue Goliath lest he be harmed. The waiter rushed over too and there was a hubbub as the girls, monkey in hand were unceremoniously thrown out with many rough words. They stood on the pavement feeling very sorry for themselves until the kind voice of the aggrieved lady brought them round. "Don't worry," she said. "I just got a shock is all. Goodness me, who's this the little fellow?" she reached out her hand gently, but Goliath shied away and huddled in Anne's arms.
"He's shy," Anne explained. "Which he very rarely is."
"Got a shock didn't you, poor wee fellow," the lady commented. "What's his name?"
"Goliath," Anne replied, surprised that this elegant lady seemed friendly after they had caused her such a shock.
"Well, it is very nice to make your acquaintance, Goliath. I can safely say you are the first individual of the simian species that I have met, but I am very pleased to do so." Slightly mollified by the lady's kind voice Goliath peeked out from under Anne's arm and allowed himself to be petted. "Oh, but I haven't introduced myself yet. "Goliath, my name is Miss Josephine Barry."
"I thought you looked familiar," Mari interrupted. "You must be related to the Barry's of Avonlea."
"That I am," said Miss Barry. "William Barry is my nephew. How do you know him?"
"I'm Marilla Lynde from Avonlea and this is my friend Anne Shirley," she said as both girls bobbed.
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance. Now I couldn't help but notice that you girls missed out on your afternoon tea. Are you still hungry? You must be quite overwrought at having been so unceremoniously ejected from that establishment."
The girls felt guilty, they had already caused enough fuss so they shook their heads. "Don't be silly, why I doubt you had more than a mouthful. Such a shame too, they're famous for their pastries. Which one did you order, Anne?"
"I um, I'd ordered the Danish pastry, Miss Barry."
"The Danish is my favourite as well. Well it can't be helped. I very much doubt any of us will be welcome again anytime soon. There's another less well known place around the corner. They may be more convivial towards young Goliath." Taking charge Miss Barry led the way, sweeping through an unobtrusive doorway into a small dining room. It was, Anne noticed, far more agreeable and suited to their unique gathering.
The manager made a big fuss over Goliath and welcomed them in, locating a nice little table in a corner. Anne pulled Goliath's leash out of her pocket and made him sit down next to them. Over tea and cakes the ladies became acquainted. Miss Barry was very curious about Goliath and asked Anne to recount the story of how he came to be living with her. Anne was only too happy to oblige capturing the Bari atmosphere in a few short sentences. "I don't know if you are familiar with my, er with Mrs Blythe Miss Barry but she is quite assertive when unsuspecting gentlemen attempt to pull one over her." Mari nodded in agreement. "Goliath's owner was quite shocked when we ended up with the better part of the bargain. And he's been with me ever since," she wound up, stroking Goliath's back. "I wouldn't be without him even if he does cause a bit of mischief at times."
Miss Barry regarded her fondly wondering what her situation was within the Blythe household. Obviously not a daughter, for she did not call Mrs Blythe mother. "What a wonderful story, so you were sailing around the world at that point?"
"Yes that's right but we had to return to the Island and..."
"And I took her place," Mari finished.
Mrs Barry turned her attention to Mari, "goodness. Quite the tag team you two make. Did Goliath swap allegiances, too?"
Mari laughed, "no. He stayed home with Anne."
"And what did you make of life at sea, Marilla?"
Mari would never forget that first week. "It was hard at first," she explained. "But I once I got my sea legs I loved every minute of it."
"Well I see you are quite the adventurers. Well I've never been so pleased to have a small accident at a cafe, you've kept me quite amused. Please come and visit me one day, won't you girls, and you too of course young man," she patted Goliath's head. "Now I must be off. Here is my card, send word next time you're in town."
They watched her leave and grinned. "I thought that was going to be a disaster," said Anne. "But she was lovely."
"The only problem is, I think we may not have enough money for tea," Mari whispered.
But it was fine, Miss Barry had paid the bill.
… and Susanna has a new phrase, "I might if I want, if I want," always repeating the last line. The other day I overheard her muttering it as she systematically dropped cookie crumbs onto the floor. I know we want our daughters to turn into strong women, John, but at times I must admit it can be challenging.
Marilla paused to consider her next phrase. She did not like to whinge too often, but one needed an outlet at times. Dipping her pen in the ink she continued:
Otherwise, we are all well. Little Hugh is a lovely wee chap, there is something troubling him which are yet to get to the bottom of. He winds up here after school more often than not and Matthew has to come and fetch him. Not that it matters, I just set a couple of extra places for them at the dinner table easily as pie.
John read her words avidly. He usually tore through her letters quickly on first read to see how they all were and more lingeringly later. He missed Marilla. He missed them all; he longed to hear Susanna talking, though she wouldn't know him at first. He longed to meet Lilly, to hug his boys but most of all he longed to see to smell to touch his wife. He had only to close his eyes and she'd appear in his mind turning to look at him her nut-brown hair flyaway in the breeze. There had been a special moment on board which drew him back again and again. Before it all went wrong when they were young and happy. Just a snippet of time but she'd turned to him and smiled, such a broad and happy expression of pure, unadulterated joy. He treasured that sight forevermore and even now far, far away stuck out here on the endless prairie it was that image that he most adored.
His imagination would wander to hot nights spent in the cabin when clothing was superfluous, nay torturous and they'd lie with sweat slicked skin trying to avoid each other until he carried her, sheets and all up to their special nook where faint zephyrs caressed them, and they could finally sleep. Turning over in his cold, lonely bed out on the prairie he sighed, deeply shocked when his cough did not follow.