As these remaining chapters concern the time alluded to by Montgomery at the beginning of chapter 8 there are no quotes for this story to lead into. The quote below is what Anne was thinking when she thought about her honeymoon – and conveys more in those few lines than my thousands could ever say... But I had fun trying.
Time and Tide
"There was a certain tang of romance and adventure in the atmosphere of their new home which Anne had never found in Avonlea. There, although she had lived in sight of the sea, it had not entered intimately into her life. In Four Winds it surrounded her and called to her constantly... the sea called ever to the dwellers on the shore, and even those who might not answer its call felt the thrill and unrest and mystery and possibilities of it."
from chapter eight; Miss Cornelia Bryant Comes to Call, Anne's House of Dreams
An intense heat hummed through the window of a little white cottage in the Four Winds harbour. On the deep wooden bench fitted into it, amongst sun-faded cushions and Mrs Lynde's famous tobacco striped quilt, lay a woman whose hair would seem to welcome the sun's attention. But she did not. The hastily drawn blinds hinted at her impatience and the cushion on her face positively shouted the fact. Anne Blythe was not ready to greet the new day.
She had a hazy memory of being carried inside by her husband at some point that morning. In another week Anne would have known by the way the shadows hit the house that the hour was nine. But being new to these environs she had little idea how much time had passed since then, what time it was now, or even what season – it seemed to far too hot for September! She rubbed her eyes and squinted crossly at the curtains. They were as faded as the cushions and as well used to this bright light as the girl underneath them was not.
Rumbling to her side she looked upon the floor and spied a sight that Faerie itself might have left her, such was its power to enchant. A tall glass of elderflower cordial, twelve perfect cherries in a sky blue bowl, and a cut glass vase of poppies. Their petals seemed to gape at Anne indecently and another unwelcome flash went through her as she blushed hotly at the sight of them.
The cordial soon took its effect and though it was not as cold as she might have wished Anne was soon revived, plumped up on the cushions and crushing red fruit in her mouth. Her thoughts turned to Gilbert as she popped a smooth red globe between her lips and curled her tongue around it, crushing it between her teeth and sucking on the stone. She was about to deposit it into the little bowl when she noticed Gilbert's note.
Darling Wife, it said, in his lovely, loose scrawl – he had written her title in capitals Anne noticed, and she broke out in a silly lovestruck grin. Gone exploring, he continued, Didn't want to wake you when you look so – here a blot of ink where the author had spent a moment considering the right word, incandescent!
Anne blushed again, then lay back to let this flush of heat take full effect. So this is what it meant to be loved. It came as a sudden flood and poured through every part of her. At once hot and sensuous so that now she could barely hold her head up under the blaze of all that bliss. Yet also sweetly chilling; for how could it be in all this heat that her skin was now covered in goosebumps?
The next cherry did not make it to her mouth but was drawn like a fingertip along her throat and collarbone and traced down her ribs. She let the quilt fall to her hips as the cherry laid a sweet trail around each breast like the memory of a lover's tongue. Anne brought the fruit to her mouth again and sucked it till it glistened. It was crushed a little in her mouth and she licked at a dark red drip, before circling the cherry around one nipple then the other. It felt maddening, wondrous – the tips of her breasts so tender, almost bruised after Gilbert's mouth had lingered there. The memory of his tousled head bobbing at her chest as he sucked and kissed her playing over in her mind, as the cherry played on her body. Somehow the uneaten fruit found its way to the floor and her hands went further down her body. Down past her belly, past her hip. Down, down below the arrow-straight, exacting lines of Mrs Rachel Lynde's prizewinning quilt.
When Anne awoke again she was glad of those faded blinds at the window, for the quilt was crumpled between her thighs, the rest of her laid bare upon the window seat. She wrapped the blanket round her, a small frown on her face. The light in the house was no longer casting the short, sharp shadows of midday, but the lazy, languorous ones of a sultry afternoon. And where was Gilbert?
She picked up the remains of her little breakfast, the petals of the poppies so blown they hardly made the journey to the kitchen. Anne tidied it all away wondering vaguely what kind of meal might be made of the sketchy supplies left by Mrs Doctor Dave and in Mrs Barry's hamper. Then two strong hands gripped her tightly about the waist and pulled her back into his broad, hot chest. She felt his lightly whiskered jaw graze against her temple and saw the damp, brown skin at his throat. He smelled of clean sweat from a hard day's work in the sun, of sea-salt and something else, something almost sweet. Would that he might greet her like this every day of their marriage.
'Good afternoon,' Anne said with a light little laugh.
'I think you mean good evening, Mrs Blythe!'
'No! Gilbert, it can't be.'
Her first day alone with her husband and she had spent it sleeping. It certainly would be Phil's turn to laugh.
'Not quite, it's almost four. Listen, Anne-girl, I've had a such a rare day. Come back with me now, come and bathe –'
'Bathe?' Anne felt dizzy at the suggestion, and Gilbert spinning her round, lifting her up and placing her on the table top hardly helped. The quilt fell to her hips once more. 'Where?'
'I discovered a marvellous place out by the grove of birch trees as you enter Four Winds. When you cross the road there's a small inlet where a fresh water stream feeds into the sea. When I found it all I could think of was you. The pool there is small and sheltered, and the tide is coming in so it will be good and deep. You must come, A –'
The last words to leave his lips petered out in confusion.
'Gilbert, what is it?'
Gilbert cupped his hand under her breast.
'Anne, did I – did I do that?'
Anne looked down. Her nipples were smeared with scarlet juice from her luscious luncheon with the cherry! She hurriedly grabbed at the quilt, her face as red as the stain on her chest.
'I must have dripped some juice on myself,' she murmured.
'You were supposed to eat them!' he laughed and kissed her cherry stained mouth. 'Though now I think about it,' Gilbert added, he bent his head down and brought her nipple to his mouth, 'I think I like your idea better," and he popped it between his lips like a ripened fruit. Anne slid her hands along the edge of the table and then grasped at his hair, teasing the curls on his head as he teased her and feeling slightly unsure if she had woken at all.
As he moved his mouth to her other breast Anne caught sight of something herself, and she guided his head up again. He stared at her with a dreamy happiness and she noticed his eyelids had the swollen look of one who has not been to bed. It made his lashes seem longer and he looked sweetly sleepy.
'Beautiful boy,' Anne said, tenderly, 'may I ask you what that dreadful mark is on your neck – surely that can't be cherry juice?'
Gilbert brought his fingers straight to the spot directly under his right ear.
'Why this, Mrs Blythe? That bruise was made by you, by that unstoppable mouth of yours!'
'Oh, my sweet girl, you haven't seen the half of it.'
Gilbert tugged at his shirt and whipped it over her head. Another bruise of a similar size and colour was there between his collarbone and his neck. There were pale pink lines scratched into his shoulder, and again just above his hip.
You should see my back!'
'Gilbert, I –'
'I love you, too,' he kissed the top of her head. 'Now, come bathe with me.'
Anne brought his hands up to her lips and kissed them lovingly, when another curious sight confronted her.
'I couldn't have made your fingertips red, tell me I'm not responsible for that?'
Gilbert whipped them away quickly and wiped them on the front of this trousers.
'Must have been when I picked those cherries,' he answered lightly, 'now go get dressed while I rustle up some grub.'
Anne scampered up the stairs and into their bedroom. Neither the mattress nor the bedclothes had been returned, having been stored for now and without much care onto the spare room floor. The floor of this room was also strewn in a haphazard fashion, the contents from one of Anne's trunks thrown hastily about.
'Gilbert?' Anne called down the stairs, peering into her sewing box curiously, 'have you been mending while I was asleep?'
'Huh? Oh, yes,' he called back. 'The, ah, buttons on my shirt came loose last night.'
'I never knew you could sew?' she responded, an incredulous tone in her voice.
He peered up at her from the stairwell pulling his shirt down over his chest.
'Anne, I can sew a man back together. I can certainly sew on a button!'
Making dinner and sewing! Anne thought to herself – just wait till I tell Diana!
'The day was beautiful and the way was beautiful,' Anne said merrily.
She sat on the soft patch of grass by the pool and unrolled her stockings.
Gilbert was tucking into the meagre offerings he had thrown together which consisted of yesterday's cake, soft fruit and hard cheese. Anne smiled at him fondly, knowing she could not have come up with much better. He lay back, one hand cradling his head as he licked lemon icing from the other, watching Anne as she drew her skirts over her bare legs.
'Why did you ever put those things on, Anne-girl?'
'Habit, I suppose. Though it was your idea to get dressed. I'd be happy to float about in a sheet everyday.'
Oh, that she would, thought Gilbert, very satisfied to be playing satyr to her dryad.
'No one would ever know if you went about barelegged –'
'You'd know, Gilbert Blythe! And that's enough for me!'
Anne leaned over him and licked a buttery peak of icing off his thumb. Gilbert shivered. After the delights of last night he had assumed that exquisite tension would finally be gone from him. But through the long, hot hours of the day did it slowly and inexorably coil tightly inside him. He wanted her. By the hour, the minute, and in every way.
'Time for a dip, I think.'
Gilbert stood up and peeled off his shirt. Anne's lips pressed in wordless awe at the sight of those scratches upon his back and he threw the shirt over her head.
'Anne Blythe, the look on your face. Anyone would think you'd never seen a naked man before.'
He kicked off his shoes and slipped off his suspenders, every movement he made reminding him of those sweet hours he had spent in bed with Anne. His body remembered too it seemed and he turned away from her.
'Oh, I've seen many a naked man,' Anne said easily.
The playful smile became a laugh as she watched Gilbert almost trip over his own trousers. He disguised the wobble by dropping to his knees, and the look on his face was astonishment.
Anne fell back into the grass, giggling.
'It's nothing shocking. Just at the swimming hole on the Wright's side of the Lake of Shining Waters – where you boys used to go.'
'You, Fred...' the flush on her cheek growing stronger with every name she began to recount. 'Er... Charlie ...Moody, Tommy, Rob...'
'And you saw me?'
'I, I was never sure, we saw something. You were all swimming and jumping and diving around. It was hard to keep track of who was who, you all looked like otters than anything else. This was a long time ago, I was only fifteen –'
'Making me eighteen! Who else was there?'
'Well, Ruby of course – it was her idea – me and Diana, sometimes the Pye girls would insist on following –'
'Sometimes! How many times did you do down to the hole?'
'We never went down to the hole, you great goose! If we happened to be there and we happened to hear you we sometimes watched a while. It wasn't that interesting, oh, and once,' Anne burst into fresh laughter, 'Reverend Allan was there. Only we didn't look that time,' she said, trying to stifle a snort, 'we just recognised his voice.'
'That's right, he liked to sing 'Figaro' when he bathed,' Gilbert said, falling by her side on the grass.
'Oh, Gilbert!' Anne said, a bright glint in her eye. 'Remember when Mrs Harmon Andrews suggested we perform The Barber of Seville as an operetta instead of our usual recitals? The look on Mrs Allan's face – she'd obviously had a midnight swim or two with her husband!'
Gilbert rolled onto his stomach watching his wife give in to almost painful rolls of laughter – was there anything Anne did that didn't make him love her even more? She sighed and wiped her eyes.
'But you know I rather envied her.'
'His singing wasn't that good, Anne. Whenever we saw him approach the swimming-hole emptied fairly swiftly,' said Gilbert, dryly.
Anne rolled her eyes. 'I envied Mrs Allan her freedom! We girls were never allowed near the swimming-hole. All those baking hot days in all those stiff, starched up clothes.'
'Like these ones?' Gilbert asked, fingering the collar at her throat.
He realised now in his rush to see Anne in that little chemise he had missed the pleasure of undressing his bride. Anne looked up at him, recognising that look in his eyes. She made a small nod and he began to slowly unbutton her.
When the last button came away in his hands he opened her blouse and saw the much sturdier metal fastenings of her corset. He smoothed his hands over the stiff, satin faced fabric feeling Anne's body fluttering inside.
'You need to pull it together so the little metal loops pass over the buttons,' Anne explained.
'It looks fairly straightforward,' Gilbert responded.
He was remembering the times he had cut these garments from women at the hospital – though nothing could induce him to say this to Anne. She noticed a pensive look pass over his face.
'What is it?'
'I was thinking about how you can bear to wear such a thing?' he replied.
It was opened now and the familiar and very lovely shape of his wife in a chemise lay breathing softly before him.
'I don't have a choice anymore than you have a choice to wear a tie.'
'Let's not then, let's – if we can help it at all – let's not be bound by these things. At least while we honeymoon. I want to put my arms around you, Anne, and feel that it's you beneath my hands.'
'You are positively scandalous –'
'But will you?'
'I was the one who wanted to go about in a sheet all day, remember?'
Gilbert stood up and slid down his underpants, kicking them to his pile of clothing and launching off the grassy bank into the water. Anne loved to see how comfortable he was in his body. There was no shyness or awkwardness, he moved and lived as though he knew who he was. Anne knew immediately it had been Gilbert she had admired at the swimming hole. She had not recognised his face – they were all so far away and with their hair flattened and darkened in the water it had been hard to distinguish them. It was the way he carried his body, even then, which made him seem in every way beautiful.
He dove down and when he emerged a short time later had a questioning look on his face. He swam over to the edge of the pool smoothing his hair back, before resting his arms against the grassy bank. Sweet, clear water dripped over his face and down his neck, running over the muscles in his arms. He was, he was, beautiful!
'Anne, you're not undressed yet,' Gilbert said, 'the water is unbelievably good.'
Anne unfastened her skirts and shuffled them down her legs. She stood up shyly in her drawers and chemise.
'I don't have a costume.'
'It may have escaped your notice, Anne, but neither do I.'
It had definitely not escaped Anne's notice. She went over to him and sat at the edge of the bank, dipping her legs into the water. It felt velvet soft against her skin and fresh rather than cold. She had decided she was going to wear her underwear. It was terribly improper, but on a twilit deserted shore she felt fairly certain her immodesty would go unremarked upon. Then Anne felt the water on her skin, saw her husband dive amongst it freely as she had never been able to do, and decided to remove everything, too. She stood up, threw off her remaining garments and jumped headlong into the pool.
So began the delectable joys that only swimming by the light of a moon can bring. Water splashing like starlight; water caressing every inch and intimate part of one's body; water anointing the swimmer with intoxicating beauty – eyes are brighter, larger, lips moist, skin silken, limbs weightless and glowing. The ducking and splashing turn to fingertip flurries, and then to embraces where legs can wrap as freely as arms. Kisses once diluted in the wash of waves become stronger and more heated, as though needing a place to anchor. A place that could hold them as strongly as they held each other.
Anne was lifted onto the banks of the pool, the leaves of grass springy and ticklish under her shining, wet skin. She leaned back on her hands and arched her back, coming back into her body, feeling and loving its strength and its flex. Gilbert's chin nestled into a little cradle where her two knees pressed together, gazing in disbelief that the lovely, glistening goddess before him was real, was his wife, was Anne.
He slid his hands over her thighs, his face dividing her demure little knees. Anne felt his whiskers prickle against her inner thighs – and felt wild speculation pricking inside her. His hands were at her hips pulling her closer to him, her legs inching slowly apart.
'Gilbert...' she shivered. Her skin, her blood, every part of her becoming more aware, as it always had when she said his name. 'Gilbert, what are you doing?'
She felt the tip of his nose – the softest, almost untraceable touch – upon the wet curls between her legs. Gilbert's breath was hot against her when he answered.
'Discovering goldmines...' he murmured softly, and drew his tongue upon her.
It was the tiniest movement, and then – oh was he really, could she really, did such bliss even exist in the world? – kissed softly and deeply the most tender, secret heart of her. At first Anne could only press her hands against the back of his head, but soon – or was it hours later? – she fell against the cool, soft grass, and Gilbert loved her as the water had loved her; as water made into a man.
She was sweet, silken, and so open, Gilbert need only lift his hips from the edge of the pool and enter her. The way she grasped roughly at his neck and pulled at his hair said as much; that she wanted more than his tongue inside her. Her thighs pressed firmly against his ears, yet even then he could easily discern the sounds of her moaning, gasping – until the loveliest series of ahhs shot from her mouth and entered the night. And then... she was laughing! Laughing and pulling herself up, and pulling him up with her. He was stung with volts of desire when she kissed him, tasting herself on his lips, Gilbert felt he would bore a hole into the bank of the pool. She fell against the ground, panting and shiny eyed. Gilbert hoisted himself up next to her, the air relievedly cool around his torso.
'Oh, sweet boy!' Anne declared to the stars, 'I never, ever expected something like that!'
'I never ever expected to make you laugh!'
'I couldn't help myself... this image of Fred came into my mind –'
'Fred Wright?!' So she had seen him at the swimming-hole. No-one could fail to appreciate the astonishing sight of a naked Fred. 'Dare I ask why?' Gilbert asked.
'Oh, no... I didn't mean... I wasn't... It was me, you see? All those noises I was making... I couldn't help it. I was just so – and you were so – and I could hear myself and I remembered... I didn't want to – it just came to me... something Diana said about Fred...'
'I'm listening,' Gilbert said.
'Oh, well,' Anne suddenly felt as if she shouldn't say anymore, though she knew that she would. "He makes these noises... when he and Diana... and I...'
'I see,' Gilbert said then, biting back a laugh of his own.
The water trickled between his thighs and he shifted them restlessly. Anne still wore a look of unimagined ecstasy and though her body reacted to the growing coolness of the earth and sky, she was not yet aware of it. But under the moonlight Gilbert could see her skin was covered in goosebumps and she made the tiniest shivers. He sat up and reached for the hamper, laying a bath sheet about her.
'Oh, Gilbert, is it really time to go home? I don't think I can manage to get my limbs back into my clothing.'
'Then don't get dressed,' he said – for he only meant to undress her again.
And as the moon pulled the tide away once more, the two scurried laughingly like spirits of night through branches and foliage, up to the road and back to their House of Dreams.
Anne lay back in the water as white, gauzy foam lapped about her breasts and knees and up the coppery lip of the bath. The soft heat of the fire behind her flickered over her hair as she draped it over the side, tiny drips from the longest strands making a small, dark spot on the rug. Her cheeks felt scarlet and so were the tips of her breasts that broke the surface of the water like little floating roses. She reached outside the bath for her glass of red-current wine, knocking over the tin jug, the contents of which had recently been emptied in hot, fragrant quantities over her head by the man curled lazily on the window seat opposite her.
'It's here,' Gilbert said, setting the pitcher upright and handing her the glass.
He poured himself another cup and resumed his place by the window. The curtains were pulled closed with the dextrous use of his toes, as the wine, the water and the lovely, long day, laid him so low that even the blink of an eye felt like too much effort. If it wasn't for the delectable sight of Anne in the copper bath he would certainly have fallen asleep long ago.
Gilbert stretched out his long, lean body and ran his fingers through his damp curls. Anne had insisted he bathe first, having gone to the most trouble to heat the pots of water and fill up the bath whilst she searched for sprigs of rosemary and lavender to scent it. It was a heady perfume she poured in great hot waves over his head. Gilbert had sighed and lain back, his lashes laying in black, spiky fans over his pink cheeks, then Anne had been very liberal and extremely thorough with her little cake of soap. He was satisfied, deeply and in every way.
Every way except one.
It had been a curiously wonderful gift – a very Anne-ish gift – to forgo those wedding night expectations; to be free to reveal themselves to each other slowly, honestly, unashamedly. There was nowhere on her person that Anne forbade him go. She thrilled at the discoveries he made just as much as he did, and wandered her own hands – and her mouth and the silken lengths of her ruddy hair – all over him with an appetite that never seemed to diminish.
Yet in all these unimagined pleasures there was for Gilbert the tiny corner of a thought that would pierce through this mantle of bliss she covered him in. The little word in his head asking nothing more than: Now? It is to be now? Now when Anne would look at him and in her eyes he would see what he hadn't yet seen. One where she was not lost in a thrall of feeling – of his or hers – but spoke only to his heart.
Gilbert knew that feeling. He had experienced it himself only last night, the strongest, deepest need to be inside his wife, to possess her and be possessed by her. It lay inside him and grew with every hour he spent with her, till he felt certain that each time Anne looked into his eyes she could not help but see it plainly written there.
He looked over at Anne, she was rolling the rim of her glass across her lips and tongue. Was she remembering, was she waiting, was she intent on driving his desire for her to unendurable levels? But there was no intent, she had never had such an intent. It was only that Gilbert Blythe had never been able to look upon Anne without wanting something more – in her tight winceyette sleeves or naked and slippery in a deep, copper bath – Gilbert had always, would always, want more from Anne.
He closed his eyes for just a moment, the look of his wife still there in his thoughts. The rhythm of his heart fell to quiet regular beats, his breaths became soft, his limbs and his eyelids were weighted, heavy and still. He slept now and in dreams Anne was there.
Anne licked the last drops of wine from her glass. She supposed its addition to the hamper was the work of Marilla (for Mrs Barry would never have countenanced such a thing!) though it was in fact put there by the sly and knowing hand of Rachel Lynde. She placed the sticky cup on the floor and rose from the bath like Venus from a shell. As she wrapped her body and her hair in the fire-warmed towels she looked lovingly at her husband. Expecting with every movement she made that he would waken, would see her, would whisk her towel from her still damp limbs and carry her off to bed.
When he had loved her with his mouth and his lips and his tongue this glorious eve, Anne had wanted nothing more than for Gilbert to now – yes, yes, now – make love to her there on the bank and under the stars. If he had but stopped and looked at her he would have seen her urgent plea:
I'm not afraid, I want you inside me. Now... now... now.
But he didn't stop and in her nervousness, her hesitance, she had laughed! She had burst out laughing into the night – with her husband's face between her thighs – and told him she was thinking of Fred Wright?! Anne was as perplexed as she was infuriated with herself. Could nothing ever go smoothly for her? Were scrapes and mistakes to be ever hers, even in her marriage bed? Was there even a marriage bed, had she not rejected it out of hand on their first night together?
For there he was, this perfect, patient, adoring man, sleeping the sleep of the spent and exhausted – on a window seat. Curled up and curly haired in a crisp white nightshirt, her own beautiful boy gone to the realm of dreams. She kissed his brow lightly and took the tobacco striped quilt that had been tossed upon their armchair, and tucked it lovingly around him.
Did she hope as her hands lingered at his waist and she kissed him again on an especially ticklish spot that he might waken? Did she smile when he pulled the blanket tightly about him and nestled deeper into the cushions? She did hope and then she did smile. She loved him, she wanted him, but she would wait. Anne may not have always understood herself, but she understood this beauteous world she was borne of.
The tide would always rise again. And Anne would rush to meet it.