Blossoming Madonna

Author's Note: Hello! Have you guessed from the title what this fanfic is about? Well, whether you have or not, here is an excerpt regarding Ken Ford from Rilla of Ingleside, which I grudgingly confess I do not own. Also note that any and all underlined parts are lifted from Rilla of Ingleside, or from any one of the other Anne books. In this chapter only Mia Kirk belongs to me. I shan't post any other disclaimers throughout the story for fear of annoying you dear readers.

Kenneth was a tall lad, very good looking, with a certain careless grace of bearing that somehow made all the other boys seem stiff and awkward by contrast. He was reported to be awesomely clever, with the glamour of a far-away city and a big university hanging around him. He had also the reputation of being a bit of a lady-killer. But that probably accrued to him from his possession of a laughing, velvety voice which no girl could hear without a heartbeat, and a dangerous way of listening as if she were saying something that he had longed all his life to hear.

For me, this fanfic is and will be harder to write than my last and first, for instead of dwelling almost completely on profound emotions as I did in The Tears from Courcelette, this will incorporate more of happenings than the aforementioned did. However, I hope that you'll find it entertaining and as intriguing, due to its alternative point-of-view, as I did.

I do hope you enjoy and review!

Love, Evening. :)

Chapter 1: When the River is Clean

Kenneth Ford was walking down to Ingleside, having rowed down from Martin West's over-harbour, where he was staying for the summer. Despite the slight limp that betrayed his almost completely healed ankle, he whistled while looking around him with appreciation in his brilliant dark-grey eyes taken from his father, as was the thick brown hair framing his fine face. Despite living in the invigorating city of Toronto, nothing pleased Ken more than his visits to quaint old P.E.I., especially Four Winds and Glen St. Mary, the former being from whence his mother and his grandmother had hailed. At the moment, the sky was a lively golden with soft pools of white and blue, the fields around him were such a shade of green as one finds nowhere else but the country, and flowers sprang everywhere and anywhere, singing songs of praise to June.

"Ken!" called a girl from behind him. Ken, with his tall, carelessly graceful bearing, could not usually walk through the Glen—or anywhere he was known, for that matter—without having his name called, usually by a girl in a practised casual tone—not that he minded in the least.

He turned around with an unintentionally but not unknowingly breath-taking smile on his face, to which Ethel Reese responded by waving at him from across the road before hurrying over to him.

"Will you be here all summer, Ken?" she asked, her eyes coolly trained on his in a manner that suggested that it did not matter to her at all.

"Yes, I believe I will," he answered in a lilting honey-toned voice, then added meaningly, "I would miss the company of a certain few very terribly if I don't."

Ethel blushed under his gaze, and Ken thought mercilessly how red that made her whole face look, not unlike the touch of scarlet always present somewhere on his mother. She didn't, in all honesty, blush like some fortunate girls did, with the light, delicate flush of blood in their cheeks lighting up their pale faces and transforming them into pretty pink summer roses. She affected, however, a light, chirpy tone as she bid him goodbye and hurried off to gloat to Mia Kirk, with a Reese-like smirk on her face, about how Ken was staying, he had told her, for the summer because of her.

Ken continued whistling his tune as he continued down the road to the doctor's house, his scholar's hands shoved deep in his pockets. He didn't know yet what he wanted to be after Redmond for, as he always waved the thought away dismissively, there were two years left in his education, and plenty of time to decide. Little did he know that he, among so many others, would not get the chance to decide, or to carry out their decisions, until the next five years were over, for in the very moment he ran into the young fry of Ingleside and the manse, who had secretly planned a picnic in honour of Ken's first visit to the Glen for a long time, Fate was brewing in her all-knowing pot an unchangeable concoction that would touch and change the lives of every soul that shined—or faltered—in her all-seeing mirror.

Nothing of this nature crossed the jolly young people's minds as Jem cried out, "Ken! There you are!" as he came upon the gay little crowd lounging in the Ingleside lawn. The oldest lad scrambled up from his golden-green seat next to Faith Meredith and thumped his laughing friend on his back.

"You kept us waiting, you unfeeling Toronto chap," accused Jem with dancing eyes. "Come, come, delight us with your company!"

Hearty greetings and earnest questions after his family were exchanged before Ken, fresh-cheeked from his walk and bright-eyed from his mirth, sat down underneath a proud tall poplar with Walter and Di for a chat over Susan's strawberry shortcake.

"You are just like your father—just like your father, bless him," avowed Susan as she brought out the freshly-made cake for the picnickers. "To think that I should see his son sitting here, relishing my strawberry shortcake with the same attention he paid to his portion the night he came to the House of Dreams! Won my heart he did; the eagerness he devoured his piece with—why, he told me he had never tasted anything like it," she declared proudly. "They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart, now, is through telling her how she delighted his stomach." Susan grew rather romantic over old reminiscences and fancies as she returned to her kitchen.

"That limp of yours is barely perceptible, really," Di was assuring Ken laughingly while leaning against another poplar next to his. Their branches reached towards the beautiful kings and queens, seeming to always almost—almost—just graze the crowns of their heads with a kiss.

"I might as well hang a placard on my breast announcing to all and sundry that my ankle is getting better, etc., etc.," Ken complained to her, rubbing said troubling ankle a tad ruefully. "People simply cannotrealise the thousands of predecessors they've had asking after this blasted ankle—no, Mrs Blythe, I did not swear," he promised quickly with wickedly twinkling eyes as the mentioned, having just come out to them, raised a quizzical brow at his choice of language.

"I didn't say you did," smiled Anne, choosing to ignore the mischievous arrangement of features on the face of Leslie West's son.

"Oh, but you looked it," he protested, and Anne's smile widened to recall a similar exchange between Phil Blake and herself in their own Redmond days.

"No, dear, I won't stay," Anne replied to the merry-goers' entreats for her to join them. "I came out to see whether all of you will stay to supper, that's all."

Exclamations of acceptances and laughs of carefreeness, amid insertions of "Thank you so much, Mrs Blythe" conveyed everyone's feelings without a murmur of hesitance.

"It's wonderfully perfect to have everyone back, Miss Oliver," sighed Rilla behind Ken, lying happily in her pet of a spot in the hammock under the big Scotch pine with Gertrude sitting on its roots beside her, as was their usual custom whenever one of them took up their respective spot. "The house seemed so empty without them, so much that Mother was even glad that I wasn't pining to go off to Queen's like the rest of them were at fifteen." In all truth, Rilla was not yet fifteen, but she called herself that just the same, for, as she often assured Miss Oliver with a toss of her ruddy curls, being almost fifteen was the same as being fifteen. "Not that," Rilla added hastily, noting that Ken was sitting close to her—her heart thumped to think just how close—"I don't like Greek and Latin, but, as Susan says, 'I do not hanker after things that are of no use to me no matter how hard I try to make them so, Mrs Dr dear,'" laughed Rilla.

"So you're not going to Queen's then, Kid?" Ken asked, having turned to her with raised eyebrows and a provoking grin, although, for Rilla, the latter was just as charming as the inclined face, smothering eyes and melting smile he sometimes bestowed on girls older than she and which she wished he would on her.

Rilla blushed, she thought, in a terribly childish manner, and managed not to stammer. "No," she replied frankly, "the thought doethn't at all tempt me," and quickly turned back to Miss Oliver to comment on the beautiful afternoon, wishing, with exasperation, she could dig a hole under a tree and bury herself in it. Having Ken, a college boy—and not just any college boy, calling her 'Kid' and thinking her a stupid dunce! And lisping in the process! Oh, did afternoons get any more spoiled than this?

Ken, however, did not notice this terrible moment of shame and disgrace in Rilla girlhood, and only noted to himself how like the pretty pink summer roses he had contrasted Ethel Reese's flushed face with her face was, even after her blush had faded, and how melodious her voice was as she chattered inconsequently to Miss Oliver. Rilla Blythe was a pretty little thing, he thought, even though, secretly, he was more subjected to the kind of clever, striking beauty and grace Nan and Di, and even Miss Oliver possessed, however the girls he teased might think otherwise.

"The papers report that France is worried that Germany will soon declare war on them," Walter said presently, his serious brow darkened by an uneasy frown. "And what's worse, they are expecting her to."

"Even if the war comes," said Di gravely, "it can't last for more than two months. It simply can't—it is the twentieth century, after all. War is a thing of the past; Germany knows better than to introduce such a threat to our modern world."

"No," her twin agreed from beside Jerry with a shiver. Nan's nature had not changed since the Rainbow Valley days, and her imagination was just as lively and rampant as her mother's. It was because of this that she, in spite of her ready assertion of her sister's opinion, which was one shared by most people, could not suppress a shudder that came over her at the thought of war, for she could envision all too clearly the horrors of said occurrence, and was thus unable to look at Jerry.

The laughter momentarily subsided from the party as they murmured over this disturbing worry among themselves.

"We'll have to go and help out if war doesbreak out, of course," said the unafraid Jem decidedly, and almost, thought Faith with a horrid wave of fear, eagerly. "Jolly old England won't leave France in the lurch, and when she declares war on Germany, which she will soon after Armageddon, we Canadians can't desert them, either."

"Oh, we'll go, alright," Jerry said with unmistakable eagerness. Nan paled beside him and shared a pained look with Faith.

Walter said nothing. He was thinking of a vision he'd had a long time ago, before he had grasped enough of the troubles of the world to realise what it truly meant. The gaunt piping figure appeared before his eyes again, although this time it was not a vision but a trick of his memory, and he heard with painful clarity the tune floating out from the instrument in his hands, and shuddered. Walter had always been sensitive, inheriting from his parents both the curse of feeling keenly and the gift of enduring it silently. He did not want to live the days when the mutterings of Armageddon would become bold shouts across streets and choked whispers in churches, for his sensitive nature cultivated in him a profound hatred for all things ugly, especially those made ugly by man's actions.

"I will, too, when my turn comes," Carl put in with young twinkling eyes. He was sitting with Shirley and Una. The two boys had only recently returned from Queen's, and the former was, as stated in "Jottings from Glen St. Mary", was to teach at the Harbour Head school until he could earn enough to pay for part of his Redmond career. Shirley nodded in earnest agreement. In two years' time he would turn eighteen and eligible to enlist—and he would. Una's ever-wistful eyes were fixed on the clear sky, made more wistful, if anyone noticed, by the image of Walter clad in khaki in her head.

"I will once this bally ankle heals," Ken said impatiently, twisting the accused transgressor with a vengeance.

"Oh, but the war will be over before any of you has a chance," cried Rilla finally, unable to come to terms with the haunting thought that all these fun-loving boys, who had played with her and teased her for as long as any of them could remember, were destined to go off to fight—fight!—some distant war which, she thought with Susan-esque indignation, had absolutely nothing to do with them.

The others immediately took her for her word, and the various innocent conversations sprung up again, unchanged by the severe discussion as only the talk of youth could be. Gertrude Oliver, whose face had not yet recovered from its paling, looked at them with envy. Even in the warm pools of sunshine and the cool shade of the stately pine, she knew all too well that Armageddon was more likely than not to break out, and last for a much longer time than what most people suspected and chose to believe. The woman with her sad, dark almond-shaped eyes had suffered enough and seen enough of the world in her tender years to realise that Germany, with her new Kaiser, had dangerously high-reaching ambitions that only the conquering of the world could achieve. But she said nothing to disrupt the joyous party, for, she thought regretfully, they would find out soon enough.