Avonlea's Brightest Son

Author: Laurie

Author email: laurie078

Spoilers: AoGG

Rating: PG

Summary: After spending three years out west while his father recuperated his health, Gilbert Blythe's life had finally returned to normalcy. With a crack of the slate, however, the Cuthberts' adopted orphan Anne Shirley turned his complacent routine of school, chores and good-natured torment upside-down. Anne's influence, if antagonistic, launches the matter-of-fact Gilbert on a journey of discovery: of self, of Anne, and of the allure of things unseen.

Author's Note: This narrative is an attempt to trace the events of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables from a Gilbert-centric, although omniscient, perspective. Thus all the rules and events of canon apply. Naturally, L.M. Montgomery couldn't include every detail of Anne's life; the new events that I will describe are also an attempt to fill in the blanks of what she left out.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucy Maud Montgomery and her heirs, and various publishers, including but not limited to Scholastic Inc., and Bantam Books. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended. Only the few characters you do not recognize belong to me. I have taken the most liberties, out of necessity, with the Blythe family, and have striven to keep everyone else strictly in character as dictated by L.M. Montgomery. At times I will extract and build on passages from canon; all of these will be cited from the Scholastic Inc. Apple Paperbacks edition.

Review Responses: Thank you all so much for your wonderful reviews! I'm glad to know that there are others out there as interested in adding depth to Gilbert's character as I am. I tried to include as many references/occurrences from canon as I could to integrate/ground it in the Anne of Green Gables "reality"…let me know if you find any errors or sticking points.

*Someone Out There Cares – Thanks for the citation suggestion…I revised the last chapter with asterisks and will use them for subsequent chapters. It's definitely less distracting.

*Una Meredith – I hadn't thought of the John/Cecilia Meredith/Blythe parallel until you pointed it out! Wow. Maybe I've internalized L.M. Montgomery even more thoroughly, deeply and *subconsciously* than I thought. Once I hit on the name Cecilia nothing else sounded *right*. V. odd.

*Benrie – I'm sorry you thought the story was a bit "nothing"-ish so far; I did intend for Chapter 1 to be more background and less action. I want to establish Gilbert as a character in his own right, separate from his relationships with Anne.

Chapter Summary: In which Gilbert doesn't go to school the next day. This shorter, interlude-y episode has missing Readers, broken fences and giggling girls, but alas, no Anne (yet). I was originally going to chronicle the slate incident in this chapter, but then I discovered the passage in the epigraph below, which indicates that my original chronology was missing a day that existed in AoGG. So this chapter is my version of that day.

Chapter 2: An Unwelcome Delay

"'I got up yesterday spelling 'ebullition'. Josie Pye was head and, mind you, she peeped in her book.'[said Anne.]"…

"'Those Pye girls are cheats all around,' said Diana indignantly. 'Gertie Pye actually went and put her milk bottle in my place in the brook yesterday. Did you ever? I don't speak to her now.'"

Anne of Green Gables, "A Tempest in the School Teapot"

[Author's Note: The premise behind this chapter is that although Gilbert "only came home Saturday night" (italics mine), from the above references of Anne and Diana to "yesterday," he must not have been in school on Monday.]

Late September 1876

Late that evening, Gilbert was frantically tearing up the bedroom he'd spent a good deal of the afternoon setting in order. "Mother!" he called. "Mother!"

Finally he gave up and rushed out of the room. "Mother!" he called again. "Do you know where my Reader is? I thought I had it in my room but I can't find it!"

"MOTHER!" he yelled, running through the hall. "MY READER, DO YOU—"

Mid-yell, he came face to face with Cecilia herself as she rounded the stairway corner, an armful of folded clothing in hand.

"Ahh!" she yelped, startled. The clothes plummeted to the floor.

"—know where it is?" Gilbert finished lamely. He hurriedly bent over to retrieve the clothes.

"And now your father's shirts are covered in dust as well," Cecilia said resignedly.

"Sorry." Gilbert handed her the shirts he'd picked up in a decidedly unfolded jumble. "I just wondered if you'd seen my Reader anywhere – you know, the book I had on the train?"

"No, I don't think so…did you look in your bedroom?"

Gilbert followed her back to his bedroom. "Yes, and I didn't—"

"Well, no wonder," Cecilia said with some annoyance. "Look at this mess! I thought you were going to straighten—"

"And I did," Gilbert broke in, "but it got a bit disorganized again when I started searching for the book."

Presently John appeared in the doorframe. "What's all this ruckus?" he asked. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"Yes, but I can't find my Reader," Gilbert said, lifting up the rug and peering underneath it.

"What's the rush?"

"Well, I'll need it for tomorrow, Father," he answered impatiently.

As Gilbert bent down to look under the bed, a dreadful notion suddenly consumed his thoughts. What if the book had fallen into the chamber pot? He widened his eyes in horror and lifted the cover.

"—West Grafton tomorrow," John was saying.

Gilbert looked up with relief, the awful circumstance duly dispelled. "What?"

"Aha!" Cecilia cried. "Udolpho!"

His mother picked up the sleeping cat from under the bedside table, revealing a battered volume in the process. "Is that the Reader you were looking for?" she asked, smiling.

Udolpho meowed groggily.

Gilbert grabbed the book, brushing several orange cat hairs off the cover. "Wow, Udolpho got a lot bigger this summer," he said sheepishly. "I wonder what Aunt Edith fed her."

"Actually, I think it was Mae who did the feeding."

"Well, no wonder then," Gilbert said. He liked his elder cousin Mae exceedingly, much better, in fact, than Andrew, but she had a tendency to overdo things. Udolpho had been a scrawny kitten when she'd attached herself to Gilbert two years ago in the Alberta boardinghouse, and even after Gilbert smuggled her with him on the journey back to the Island, where he'd ensured she had food aplenty, she had always been a rather wiry cat. Not so anymore.

"Udolpho," he said sternly, taking the lately fattened feline from his mother, "no more hiding my books. I know we have a lot to discuss, what with me being away all summer, but that will have to wait until I get home from school tomorrow." He grinned at his parents.

"Gilbert," John said, "weren't you listening to a word I said?"

"Errr…"

"You remember, I assume, that Uncle George mentioned he secured another ox for us, from Mr. Johnson in West Grafton?"

"Oh, right, yes…"

"We-e-ell," John said, "the reason he did that is because one of ours died during the summer."

"Yes, I know, but it was really old, right? I mean, we expected it, didn't we?"

"Well, yes, but the point is that we need another ox for the harvest, Gil."

"Oh."

"Which is why you're coming with me tomorrow to West Grafton, so we can get her from Mr. Johnson and drive her back."

Comprehension began to dawn on Gilbert. "But…but…can't you take Andrew, Father?"

"He has his own farm to run now—"

"Well, how about Pacifique?" Gilbert asked in desperation. "I've missed three weeks of school already, I can't—"

"There's no reason for me to pull Pacifique away from his duties with your uncle George when I have you to help me."

"I'm already behind in school, I—"

"This is one day, Gilbert," John said testily. "Your cousin Andrew never complained like this. And when I was your age, I used to beg my father to take me on errands with him."

"Besides, Gil, you've always made it up with flying colors before," Cecilia said soothingly, rather mixing her metaphors.

Gilbert knew when he had lost. "All right," he said, with only a trace of sullenness in his voice.

"I'll wake you up tomorrow before dawn," said John, tousling his son's hair. "That way we'll get an early start and you'll have time to mend the fence when we get back."

"Splendid," Gilbert replied, under his breath.

"Did you see the state of it?" his father continued, unhearing. "No doubt it was that no-good cow of Andrew Bell's, running loose again…"

"Good night, Gil," Cecilia said, exiting the room behind her husband. "Try to straighten up this room up before bed, eh? Again," she added after a beat, smiling.

Gilbert managed a weak smile in return as he closed the door.

Sighing, he turned to his cat. "You understand, don't you Udolpho?" he asked, picking her up and stroking between her ears. She purred in agreement. "I thought so."

The next day passed with excruciating slowness, or so it seemed to Gilbert. The trip to and from West Grafton went smoothly enough, though he enjoyed it much less than he usually did an excursion with his father. He took pains to keep up his end of the conversation, however, lest John suspect he was still disappointed about missing school.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time they returned and Gilbert set out to mend the fence along the Newbridge road.

"Stupid cow," he muttered to himself, surveying the broken boards. "I'll bet Andrew Bell's fences are fine, he probably just left the gate open as usual…"

"Good afternoon, Mr. Bell," he said cheerily, suddenly spotting the man himself walking up the road. "Lovely day, isn't it?"

"Couldn't have asked for a better," said Mr. Bell. He stopped at the roadside and surveyed the broken boards. "My, that's some nasty split in your fence there, Gilbert. You think your dog chewed it up?"

Gilbert coughed to cover up his incredulity. The Blythes' dog, Zip, was a small mutt that could no more bite through the substantial picket fence than Gilbert could himself.

"Um, well now, maybe," he responded rather shakily, trying with all his might not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the suggestion.

"Well, you better keep an eye on him," Mr. Bell admonished. "Tell your father I said hello, there's a good boy." He tipped his hat and walked off.

"Chewed up by our dog!" Gilbert snorted. "Maybe if Zip had teeth the size and shape of a cow's hooves!"

Whether dog- or cow-induced, however, Gilbert still had to mend the breach in the fence before sunset, so he crouched down and began to hammer away.

Sometime later, a voice interrupted his pounding. "Gilbert Blythe, I thought you were back."

He looked up to see Diana Barry standing above him on the road.

"Oh, hello crowhead," he said easily.

She glared at him.

He put down his hammer. "My father and I went down to West Grafton today," he said. "For an ox."

"Oh," said Diana, clearly neither interested nor comprehending.

"That's why I wasn't in school," Gilbert added, by way of clarification.

"Oh, of course," she nodded. "I'm on my way to the Post Office." She brandished a letter. "My parents wrote to Great-aunt Josephine again asking her to visit. I don't know why they're so keen on her coming. She's just awful fussy. But then again, I suppose I do know."

"She's rich?" Gilbert guessed.

"Awfully. You know, sometimes I wish we could pick our relations rather than being stuck with them. But then again, I'm sure all your aunts and uncles are nice."

"Oh, ho!" Gilbert said. "I mean, for the most part they are; Aunt Edith and Uncle George are great, and Aunt Emily, who I stayed with this summer, is a duck – but then," he shuddered, "there's Aunt Mary Maria."

"Who's that?" asked Diana.

"She's not even an aunt, really," Gilbert went on, "just Father's cousin. She's only in her thirties somewhere, I think – but you'd imagine she was sixty the way she carries on about her age when Father teases her."

"Is she married?"

"No-oo, I suppose that's why then." Suddenly Gilbert realized he perhaps oughtn't to be talking about a member of the Blythe family this way to an outsider. Hastily he added, "Actually, she's not so bad, just a bit…pessimistic."

"It's understandable in an old maid," Diana said. "Maybe that's why Aunt Josephine is so picky about everything. I hope I won't end up like that." She trembled at the thought.

"I'm sure you won't," said Gilbert. He meant merely to be comforting, but then Diana met his eyes and blushed.

He looked away awkwardly and grabbed his hammer. "I should probably be getting back to this," he said. "I'll see you in school tomorrow, crowhead."

She rushed off, affecting annoyance but still blushing. "Bye, Gil!"

The incident probably wouldn't have left an impression on Gilbert if it hadn't subsequently been compounded by another ten times worse.

He heard the giggles before he saw their sources. "Gil Blythe, how nice to see you!" simpered Josie Pye, clambering down from the road, her sister Gertie not far behind. "We were just talking about you, you know." Josie rested her elbows on the fence posts and beamed up at him.

"Josie, Gertie," he nodded distractedly, rather nervous about the slight sway of the fence under Josie's weight.

"How was your summer, Gilbert?" Gertie asked. "You must have had such fun, off in New Brunswick visiting."

"It was nice, thanks," he answered cordially. "And yours?"

"Oh, it was deathly dull," Josie said. "The Sunday school picnic was a bit of fun, I suppose, and of course the boys had their baseball games…"

"They were just dreadful without you, Gil," Gertie interjected.

"Of course Jerry Bell bragged all the time like they weren't," Josie said, "but honestly it was embarrassing to watch, the way those White Sands boys just crushed us."

"Speaking of Jerry, we just came from the Bells'," said Gertie. "Julia was telling us about the long, personal conversation you two had on Sunday."

"Oh…," he hesitated, trying to rack his brains for evidence of such an interview. Had he ever had a "long, personal" conversation with Julia Bell, let alone yesterday? "I suppose I did talk to her for a bit after church," he recollected to himself, "but Jerry and Charlie were there too, weren't they?" He knit his brows in confusion.

Josie and Gertie were observing his silence and facial expressions with ill-contained glee. "I knew she was lying," Josie said triumphantly.

"She was so happy when that 'Take Notice' went up last spring, for all she pretended to be so mad," added Gertie. "I'll bet she put it there herself!"

"I'm sure she didn't," Gilbert said placidly. "She didn't completely make it up, you know, yesterday I was talking with her and her brother about what's been going on in school lately."

"Oh, well," Josie said, trying not to look disappointed. "School hasn't been so interesting either. And it's dreadfully easy! Why, I've been head in spelling so long that today I decided to be charitable and let Anne Shirley have a turn."

Gertie giggled. "And Anne put on such airs about being head. It's perfectly silly for a girl her age only in the fourth book."

Gilbert shook his head. He was fairly certain they weren't being intentionally malicious – well, at least, not to him – but the lack of tact was rather astounding.

"You know what I call perfectly silly? How completely attached Anne and Diana Barry have become! She calls Diana 'her bosom friend,'" Josie giggled.

At the mention of Diana Gertie became indignant. "Have you ever heard the like? Diana got all mad today, saying I put my milk in her 'spot' in the brook. You know I've had that spot by the rock for years!"

Josie nodded. "She's just being spiteful, is all. Why, Diana's been bitter ever since she heard that we were to have music lessons and her father can't afford them."

"That's rather uncharitable, I'm sure Diana's not—" Gilbert began.

"So how's the fence coming, Gilbert?" Gertie asked, not listening. "I hope you haven't been working too hard."

"Nope, I haven't," Gilbert responded quickly, sensing an out. "But I really should, since Father wants this done before nightfall. If you'll excuse me…?"

"Oh, of course," Josie said. "We'll see you tomorrow, Gil."

She smiled sweetly as she and Gertie linked arms and walked off. "Now we'll have something to tell Julia," he could hear one of them saying.

Gilbert shook his head in amazement. First Julia, then Diana, and now Josie and Gertie? What had happened to the Avonlea girls over the summer? They certainly hadn't seemed this…well, silly, before he left last spring. He hadn't even been to school yet and was already rather bothered and confounded (as well as flattered, though he didn't admit such to himself) by the antics of his female classmates.

Finally free from interruption, Gilbert finished mending the fence before it grew too dusky to see the nails. Before he made his way inside, however, he threw one last dark look in the general direction of Mr. Andrew Bell's farmhouse. "Our dog indeed," he muttered.

Author's Note: Don't worry, Anne will definitely make an entrance in the next chapter. And what an entrance it will be…(!) As always, reviews are welcome and much appreciated!