"I beg your pardon?"
"I want dat one! Dat one!"
"You want this apple? Is that what you're saying? How do you ask nicely?"
Susanna's face was bright red with rage, "dat one, dat one. I wantit!"
"Susanna, when you ask nicely, I'll give it to you, until th…" but Susanna's patience had run out and she fell to the floor sobbing. Marilla sighed; each morning it felt, turned out this way. She didn't remember the boys being so dramatic. Much as she wished she could just leave the child on the floor, Marilla supposed she had better take care of her; in any case Susanna's cries were giving Marilla a headache, it was moments like this she found being a single mother the hardest, regardless she said as calmly as she could muster, "come now, I just want you to use your words, darling. What is it you want? Remember your manners."
At that moment Lilly started screaming and Marilla sighed heavily. Why had she ever wanted children, at this precise moment she couldn't think of anywhere she'd rather be less. The image of the waves lapping at the ship came to her momentarily, but it quickly dissipated as Lilly's cries became even more insistent, if that were possible. But the baby was safe for now, albeit not happy and Susanna needed a hug. Ignoring the wailing coming from the other room Marilla pulled her onto her lap. "Here you go darling. It's alright, Mama's here. Hush now, hush." She rocked the child on her lap and stroked her hair as though they had all the time in the world. "Use your words sweetheart and then it'll all be fine."
Eventually when Susanna seemed calm Marilla got to her feet and chopped the apple. "Now you sit here and eat it while I go see to your sister." The baby was apoplectic with rage. Seems to be a bit of that around at present, Marilla thought as she gathered her into her arms. Predictably she was wet. "I'm sorry, darling. Mama's here now. Let's get you sorted and then you can have some lunch."
She wrote about it all to John that afternoon in a rare moment when both children were napping. Despite having a myriad of chores, the act of writing helped calm her mood as though she had someone with whom to share her trials. She screamed when I poured her water and then she screamed because she had none left, John, slamming her cup to the floor. She literally got mad because I gave her the water she'd asked for. I swear this child will be the death of me. Naturally at that moment the baby awoke so I had two of them screaming in unison. I felt like crawling through the floorboards at that point. Were the boys like this? I honestly can't recall. I know I'd be alone during the day anyways, but I miss your strong arms at night. I miss your wise words of counsel or even a ready ear. Matthew is wonderful, but he's my brother, not my lover, nor the father to these children. And Anne is truly helpful when she's around, but of course it often kicks off when she's at school. As tempting as it sometimes is, I refuse to curtail her chance at an education.
At that precise moment Anne was writing her journal instead of composing the essay she had been assigned. Something's up with Mari, I just know it. We've never kept secrets from each other but she's acting very oddly. I don't know what her problem is, but I'll get to the bottom of it eventually, or die trying. I wonder if Goliath can help me, he's a wily wee thing.
For her part Mari was composing a letter to her Rob. Don't cease writing now, it's your letters that keep me going. How I wish I could join you out at sea. I'm too young yet, I know, but that won't stop me longing. Did I ever tell you about the time we met some mermaids? Of course, theyweren't really mermaids, you know, but my employer told me about the myth. I watched them cavort ungainlylike around the ship marvelling that any man could mistake them for something else. I know, better than most that it's not all fun and games out there on the high seas, but oh you do see such wonders. Where else can one be visited by great leviathans or shoals of phosphorescence lighting up the inky depths. I've seen such a small fraction of what's on offer and all it's done is make me long for more. I don't know how to contrive it, Rob, but I so wish we could have a life like Captain and Mrs Blythe at sea together, that is my fervent wish. Write, tell me what you've seen; right now, it's the only hope I have of escaping my miserable land lubber existence.
Anne glanced across at her friend's desk, certain that her mind too, was not on the boring task they had been set. The school master could be relied upon to set the most monumentally dull assignments, guaranteed. Anne glanced around at her classmates. They seemed happy enough, but she and Mari had seen things, done things. Anne sighed, she understood why they had to be land locked, and she'd do anything to help Mrs Blythe, but that didn't mean she had to like it. One day, she clenched her fist, one day she and Goliath would go to sea again. Meanwhile Anne mused, how can Goliath and I get to the bottom of this mystery; what is going on in Mari's mind?
Every morning on her way to school Anne dropped Goliath off at Green Gables. Marilla had been quite firm. "I have enough to contend with, the babies and the housework, I can't take on a monkey." Anne did not mind, this way she got to see Matthew every day and she knew Goliath could not get into more mischief than she could manage. Matthew and the monkey had formed a warm bond, Goliath keeping him company throughout the day, perching on the horses through ploughing or in the barn's rafters during milking.
That was where Anne found them, Goliath leaping from the roof into her arms in one single bound. Anne staggered slightly when she found him in her arms. Hugging him tight she greeted Matthew. "How was your day?" he asked. Unlike him, Anne relished school. Whereas Matthew could only recall miserable hours spent avoiding the master's eye lest he be chastised for his lack of book smarts, Anne in contrast usually spoke of days spent enthralled by all that she was learning.
Not today though, for Anne sighed and nuzzled her face into Goliath's fur. "I dunno Matthew. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting my time."
"Oh," she sighed. "I dunno."
Matthew waited but when there was no further response he left well enough alone. He figured Anne would divulge her feelings sooner rather than later, best to leave it he figured, rather than press. In any case he had things to do. The monkey was good company, but he did slow the work down.
Noise, a pure wall of noise greeted Anne when she returned home so that any thought of Mari's subterfuge was driven straight out of her mind. She and Marilla worked hard to placate and still the children, and prepared dinner over the next couple of hours. Afterwards Anne settled down to her homework. The assignment that she had neglected that day was due in the next morning. It proved even less compelling that night than it had during the day, she wrote a sentence, thought some more, wrote another one and so on; never getting into any sort of flow. Eventually stifling a massive yawn, she set her pen down. "Off to bed?" Marilla asked.
"Mm hm. I'm not very happy with this essay, but it'll have to do."
"I'm sure it's fine Anne. Thank you for your help this afternoon, I was at my wits' end." Anne smiled, too many of her employers would not have made that comment and she appreciated Mrs Blythe for doing so without fanfare. "My, um, pleasure," she replied with a grin.
"Yes, well there's no need to go that far. I'll follow you. I'm rather exhausted myself and I doubt I'll get my eight hours."
"Lilly still waking?"
"Mm hm, why that child thinks five am is time to rouse is beyond me."
"Isn't it odd how children fight off sleep," remarked Anne as she climbed the stairs. "If I told you to take a nap mid-afternoon..."
Marilla scoffed, "indeed. I'd be in my bed like a flash."
Snickering in collegiate wonder the women paused at their respective doors and smiled at each other before entering their private domains.
Her comment to Anne was warranted, Lilly was indeed up a couple of times during the night and Marilla rolled her eyes each time knowing that there was nothing for it but to attend to her needs whilst desperately wishing that her life was otherwise. Rocking Lilly in her arms by the light of the candle, Marilla's mind flicked back to the ship once again. It was happening more and more frequently these days.
Nighttime was often John's worst time. His chest might feel easier during the day so that he could take deep breaths without that familiar niggle but upon laying down at night it would return with a vengeance. Many the night he whiled away those solitary hours dreading his demise and wondering how the family would fare without him. Matthew'll keep her safe, he supposed but she might miss me. Much as he tried to keep optimistic during the day, those thoughts would intrude in the wee sma's.
But gradually oh so gradually it appeared as though he might be recovering as though he might start thinking of the future as though he and Gilbert might return home someday.
"What was it you were trying to say the other day?" Marilla had brought the babies over to visit Matthew. Sometimes it felt as though her house was a prison; today they had slowly made their way over to Green Gables.
"Hm, well it was just." He paused thinking how best to express himself. "It was something Jacob had said, well two things really, but one doesn't really concern you. Still, I'd like to discuss it if you don't mind." Sensing they were in for rather a long chat, Marilla settled down in the straw with the girls at her side. Goliath chittered at them for a moment by way of greeting before he came down from the rafters to say hello. Absentmindedly Matthew started making straw animals to amuse Susanna as he talked. He sighed, looked straight at Marilla and started. "Jacob had several things he wanted to discuss, one I told you about, about his treatment aboard, I think he gained a rather abrupt understanding of his place in the world. You might want to have a chat with him sometime soon. But the other thing is that he's noticed something about Hugh." Marilla made a noise of interest. If Hugh could be kept in rein that would be a good thing. "Funniest thing," Matthew went on handing the latest straw animal over to a delighted Lilly. "I would never have put two and two together m'self. Jacob says the way I shoe the horses reminds him of the sound of their mate's peg leg going up and down the deck. Your lad was well on his way to becoming traumatised by the sound, so I reckon poor Hugh is even more so."
"What? I don't understand. You're not trying to hurt the child, your hammering don't have nothing to do with it, I can't see the connection or how it could harm him."
"Well now, no, neither can I. But you've seen the upshot of it, every time I have to shoe a horse the lad winds up in your kitchen. I suppose we don't have to understand it as such, but we see the effects regardless."
Marilla could not argue with that, how many times had a breathless Hugh arrived in her kitchen. "The horses need shoeing, what do you propose, Matthew?"
"I figure I'll be doing a bit more work during school hours, Marilla, tain't difficult and I suppose he'll have to come to yours during harvest, maybe?"
Marilla nodded, "yes, of course. I don't want you to think he's never welcome, Matthew. But it has been rather constant lately. And how's it all going? I don't get here as often as I'd like."
Enjoying some company for a change, Matthew spent the next few minutes quickly explaining what he was up to, they knew the girls' attention span was short and that their time was limited.
Poor Jacob, Marilla thought as they made their way home. Matthew had carried Lilly part of the way, but now Marilla was encumbered with a child on each hip. He must have got a shock. She made a commitment to speak to him privately that weekend, when Anne was around to help with the children.