Chapter 2 - Dreams and Wishes
"Oh Diana, I hate to see the summer end!" Anne Shirley exclaimed wistfully to Diana Barry, as the two young women strolled arm-in-arm across the footbridge.
"Summer end!" Diana jolted in surprise, slowing her steps and turning to her friend. "Why Anne, it's only June! The summer has hardly begun yet!"
"Yes, I know," Anne acknowledged on a sigh, as she braced her arms on the bridge railing and looked out dreamily over the placid pond waters. "But oh, what a bitter blow it is just knowing all this etheral beauty shall dissolve and leave a gloominess to smother the happiness of our carefree days. It is a trial to my wounded spirit," Anne recited in a dramatically mournful way, and if truth be told, not without a degree of pleasure.
"Anne, you really are a peculiar girl," Diana observed tolerantly with a smile. But then she was used to Anne's sometimes strange ways of acting and talking. "Of course I'd be sad too if it really were the fall and my beau was leaving Avonlea to go back to his studies," Diana observed slyly. "I'm so lucky that's not the case with Fred."
"Diana Barry! Gilbert Blythe is not my beau!" Anne came out of her mournful rapture to protest hotly, a crimson colour sufusing her face at the reference to Gilbert and his medical studies at Dalhousie.
"But Anne, I never even mentioned Gilbert's name," Diana protested with false innocence and a teasing smile.
Anne rolled her eyes at her friend's trickery. She was so used to everyone assuming Gilbert was her beau that maybe she had been a mite quick to disavow even such a remote hint as Diana had made.
"Although...," Diana drew the word out in slow thoughtfulness. "Now that you mention it, won't you be sorry to see Gilbert leave in the fall?" she asked carefully.
"Certainly not," Anne replied haughtily, raising her chin just a little at the mere suggestion. Stopping to think on it a moment, Anne's expression softened. "Well, no more than I would be sorry to see any friend leave. But Diana, it's not what everyone thinks. Gil and I are just good friends. You have no idea how tiresome it is to have everyone keep thinking he is my beau," Anne said, with sincere mournfulness this time. Was it just two weeks ago he had proposed? Anne mused. Thank goodness he had come to his senses and they had gone on being friends just the same after her refusal. They'd gone to Charlie Sloane's bonfire and the church picnic, along with Diana and Fred and all their other friends, and there had been no untoward awkwardness. No real harm had been done then by Gil's proposal. Anne didn't reflect on the fact that if nothing had changed so very much since Gil's proposal why she hadn't told Diana about it. Maybe she couldn't bear more discussion on the topic, maybe it was something more. Questions she feared would be asked that she couldn't answer. But she didn't want to think on it. No, it was quite simple really, Anne decided, and just as it should be. Gil and she would chum around for the summer and he would go off to medical school in the fall, and she would return to her post at the Avonlea school. She would be sorry to see him go, just as she would be sorry to see any friend leave, she told herself firmly.
"Oh Diana, look!" Anne exclaimed suddenly as her attention was captured by a bright patch of colour in the distance. "The flowers are in bloom on the Island of Dreams and Wishes!" she declared in delight, recounting their girlhood name for a small patch of terrain surrounded on all sides by shallow murky water. In truth, Dreams and Wishes was a fitting name since the delightful array of colourful blooms could only be viewed from a distance-it certainly was a dream and a wish to ever collect them since the water surrounding the small patch of land was too shallow to row upon and too muddy to wade through. Grasping Diana's hand, Anne enthusiastically ran the rest of the way across the footbridge towards the small spot in the distance, pulling her friend along behind her.
"Oh isn't it just breathtaking!" Anne sighed rapturously, stopping at the edge of the murky water to survey the sight.
"Yes, lovely," Diana agreed. "It's too bad we can't pick them. I'm sure they'd smell divine," she sighed with disappointment. Surely there were no finer blooms in all of Avonlea than the ones on the small island undisturbed and protected by their very inaccessibility.
Suddenly Anne's eyes lit up. Bending down she quickly grabbed the hem of her skirt and straightened, tucking the edge tightly into her waistband and baring her stockinged legs.
"Anne Shirley! What are you doing?!" Diana shrieked in shock as Anne crouched and began to remove her shoes.
Anne turned her face up from her task and grinned in delight. "Getting some of those flowers!" she announced with determination, popping her second shoe off her foot. All these years those wonderful blooms had teased them from a distance. Not any longer. Today they would be hers. Standing, she turned and began to wade into the murky, muddy water.
"Oh Anne, are you sure this is a good idea?" Diana called worriedly but it was too late. Anne was already making her way slowly across to the island. "Well, be careful!" Diana shouted.
"Diana, don't worry, I know what I'm doing!" Anne shouted over her shoulder confidently as she took the next slow sloggy step, leaning forward slightly to keep her balance. It really was a rather unusual sensation, she confessed to herself, each step bringing her into progressively thicker mud. The mud oozed between her stockinged toes as she pressed her weight down from side to side, a slight sucking sound as she pulled each foot out from its muddy tomb.
Anne hadn't gone more that about ten steps when she decided her impulsive idea maybe wasn't such a good idea after all. The little island with the colourful blooms was still a long ways off yet, at least thirty yards, and each step into the vile mud was becoming more unpleasant than the last. Covered in mud way past her knees, she was just about to call back to Diana her decision to return when her right foot sank further down into the mud than any of the previous steps. Why it was almost as if the mud had reached up and pulled her foot downwards, Anne thought, her mind suddenly filled with visions of ghouls and goblins and other subterrainian creatures that might inhabit the murky waters of a little-known Avonlea pond. Deciding quite precipitously to abandon her plan, Anne turned, only to find her foot not co-operating with her mind. For she couldn't lift her foot out of the mud, it was too firmly entrenched. It, and she, was stuck.
"Anne, what's the matter?" Diana called worriedly when Anne came to a standstill.
"Diana, I'm stuck," Anne replied.
"Stuck?" Diana asked uncomprehendingly, as if she couldn't figure out what that particular word was doing in the middle of Anne's fine excursion.
"Yes, s - t - u ...," Anne began to spell, before stopping and sighing. If she just had something to pull on, something to pull herself out with. But here in the middle of the mud there WAS nothing, she thought, looking about helplessly.
"Anne, I'm coming in to help you," Diana announced, beginning to draw her own skirts upwards out of the way.
"Diana, don't!" Anne cautioned, forestalling her friend's generous offer of assistance, generous since she knew that if she herself found the mud distasteful Diana would find it doubly so. "There's no sense both of us getting stuck with no one around to help. You must go...," Anne stopped at the sound of a wagon and horse approaching.
"Oh look it's Gilbert Blythe!" Diana exclaimed in happy relief as Anne groaned aloud. Not Gilbert! Why, oh why, oh why...
"Diana...and Anne!" Gilbert said in surprise as he drew nearer and whoaed the horse to a standstill. "Whatever are you doing?" he asked, surveying the scene before him.
"Anne is stuck in the mud, Gilbert," Diana was quick to explain the obvious while Anne remained silent, her head tilted upwards in defeated resignation and mortification as she avoided Gilbert's eyes. Why, oh why, oh why...
"Hmm," was Gilbert's non-committal response, as he quickly got down from the wagon and looked about him, spotting a downed tree branch. He picked it up and carried it to the edge of the muddy water, wading in a few feet before extending the branch out towards Anne. "Okay Anne, try to grab the branch and pull yourself out," he instructed, digging the heels of his workboots into the less gooey mud of the shoreline.
Unable to help it, Anne turned to look longingly at the blooms across the way, blooms that must now forever remain out of reach, before turning to do as Gilbert instructed. The tree branch provided adequate anchorage as she carefully pulled herself from the muddy water and inched her way along its length back towards Gilbert. When she was within arms length of him, Gilbert suddenly reached out to hook one of his arms around her waist as he swung her back up to the safety of the shore. Dropping the branch into the muddy water, he joined Anne and Diana on dry land and kept his eyes averted upward in gentlemanly respectfulness as if overcome by a sudden interest in analyzing the clouds. Both Anne and Diana eyed him quizzically for a moment at his strange demeanour, before Diana suddenly nudged Anne sharply in her side and pointed to her dress, the hem of which was still tucked into her waistband and exposing her stockinged legs. Quickly, Anne righted the material, clearing her throat to announce herself once again properly, if muddily, attired. Gilbert lowered his head and met Anne's eyes.
"Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Blythe," Anne rushed to say in exaggerated formality, hoping to forestall any questions he might pose about her strange situation. Really what could she say? I was trying to get to the island to pick some flowers? It sounded ridiculous in her own mind. And for some reason, at that particular moment, that last thing she wanted was for Gilbert Blythe to think her ridiculous.
"You're quite welcome, Miss Shirley," Gilbert replied, equally formal although with a hint of amusement in his hazel eyes. "I've had a lot of experience with cows getting stuck in the mud so it was fortunate I happened by to assist you."
"C-cows?" Anne choked on the word. He dared to compare her situation to ?! Anne's grey eyes darkened ominously.
His mouth twitching with a supressed smile, Gilbert asked, "Can I offer you ladies a ride home?"
"Why yes, that would be..." Diana started before Anne pulled on her arm.
"No thank you, we prefer to walk," Anne announced, turning to leave. Gilbert stepped into her path, stalling her.
"Anne," he began, his voice suddenly serious, all traces of teasing momentarily curtailed. "Anne, promise me you won't do that again," he said, his voice low and intimate.
"Do what?" Anne raised her eyes to his.
"That," Gilbert replied, waving his hand back towards the muddy water, as Anne blushed in embarrassment over the reminder of her folly. "You could have gotten yourself in serious trouble, Anne," he said, concern in his voice.
"I'm quite aware how foolish I was, Gilbert," Anne confessed to the second button on his shirt, for some reason unable to meet his eyes. "You needn't worry I'll repeat myself."
"Good," Gilbert said approvingly, his tone once again light and teasing, the sudden seriousness and concern now masked. "You know, I might not be around the next time you need rescuing," he teased, a slight reference to another past occasion when he had pulled her from a watery predicament.
Anne grumbled a low "hmm" as she turned away and headed off.
"Don't forget your shoes!" Gilbert called after her as Anne groaned aloud, turning back to hastily snatch the footware from the ground without so much as a glance in Gilbert's direction.
Diana offered up an apologetic shrug. "Goodbye Gilbert," she said, following on Anne's heels.
Not moving from his spot, Gilbert Blythe watched the pair until they fairly receded in the distance. Turning back, he looked across the muddy water, eyeing the colourful blooms across the way with a thoughtful expression.
"ANNE!" Diana Barry called loudly as she pounded on the front door of Green Gables the next morning. She'd only come by for a quick visit with Anne before she headed on into town and had been greeted by an unexpected scene on the Cuthbert porch. "Anne, come see!" she yelled through the screen door.
"Diana Barry, whatever is the..." Anne Shirley called back as she raced to meet her friend at the door, stopping when she swung the door open and saw what Diana was pointing to so excitedly.
There, sitting on the front verandah floor, were three buckets full of the most colourful June blooms either of them had ever seen. "What...?" Anne breathed in astonishment, while Diana stood grinning in excitement. There was only one place on all of Avonlea that such blooms existed, only this was maybe the first time anyone had ever seen them up close before.
"There's a note!" Diana pointed out gleefully. Anne reached into one of the buckets and retrieved the slip of paper. She unfolded it and read the words to herself...
I know you are a woman of your word and that you'll honour your
promise NOT to wade through dangerous waters in the future. Please accept these flowers not only in lieu of what you were forced to forgo yesterday but also as an insurance that such an undertaking needn't be attempted at your peril.
"Well?" Diana prompted nosily after a moment.
"They're from Gilbert," Anne informed her, looking up in astonishment.
"Oh Anne! How romantic!" Diana enthused.
Anne shook herself out of her astonishment. "It's nothing of the kind. He just...he just wanted to make sure I didn't try to cross the muddy water again," she countered in confusion, the explanation falling flat on her own ears. How did Gilbert even know she was even trying to get to the flowers? Quickly she looked up at her friend. "Diana, you didn't...?" she asked, suddenly suspicious. "Diana, you didn't tell him, did you?" she accused.
"Anne, of course I didn't!" Diana said reproachfully. "When would I have?" she demanded to know. Both she and Anne had last seen Gilbert yesterday and there had not been an occasion to tell him then what Anne was up to.
Anne puzzled on it. Was it possible Gilbert deduced on his own what she'd been after when she'd gotten herself stuck in the mud? Was it possible he knew her so well then?
"Oh Anne, he must have crossed over several times to get you so many blooms, don't you think?" Diana mused appreciatively.
"I don't know, maybe," Anne replied hesitantly, not sure just what to think.
"Anne, I have to go. I told Mother I'd was just stopping by for a minute. She's waiting for me at the crossroad," Diana announced apologetically.
Rousing herself, Anne bid her friend goodbye and watched her hurry down the front lane. When she was at last out of sight, Anne bent low and pulled a red bloom from the nearest bucket, lifting the delicate blossom to inhale its sweet perfume as she reflected on this most curious and confusing of events.
Gilbert Blythe had crossed muddy waters to pluck three bucketsful of blooms from the Island of Dreams and Wishes for her.
Dreams and Wishes indeed.