By the end of August Anne was herself again, looking forward to a happ_utumn. Small Bertha Marilla grew in beauty day by day and was a centre o_orship to adoring brothers and sisters.
"I thought a baby would be something that yelled all the time," said Jem, rapturously letting the tiny fingers cling around his. "Bertie Shakespear_rew told me so."
"I am not doubting that the Drew babies yell all the time, Jem dear," sai_usan. "Yell at the thought of having to be Drews, I presume. But Berth_arilla is an _Ingleside_ baby, Jem dear."
"I wish I had been born at Ingleside, Susan," said Jem wistfully. He alway_elt sorry he hadn't been. Di cast it up to him at times.
"Don't you find life here rather dull?" an old Queen's classmate fro_harlottetown had asked Anne rather patronizingly one day.
Dull! Anne almost laughed in her caller's face. Ingleside dull! With _elicious baby bringing new wonders every day … with visits from Diana an_ittle Elizabeth and Rebecca Dew to be planned for … with Mrs. Sam Ellison o_he Upper Glen on Gilbert's hands with a disease only three people in th_orld had ever been known to have before … with Walter starting to school … with Nan drinking a whole bottle of perfume from Mother's dressing-table … they thought it would kill her but she was never a whit the worse … with _trange black cat having the unheard-of number of ten kittens in the bac_orch … with Shirley locking himself in the bathroom and forgetting how t_nlock it … with the Shrimp getting rolled up in a sheet of fly-paper … wit_unt Mary Maria setting the curtains of her room on fire in the dead of nigh_hile prowling with a candle, and rousing the household with appallin_creams. Life dull!
For Aunt Mary Maria was still at Ingleside. Occasionally she would sa_athetically, "Whenever you are tired of me just let me know … I'm used t_ooking after myself." There was only one thing to say to that and of cours_ilbert always said it. Though he did not say it quite as heartily as a_irst. Even Gilbert's "clannishness" was beginning to wear a little thin; h_as realizing rather helplessly … "man-like" as Miss Cornelia sniffed … tha_unt Mary Maria was by way of becoming a bit of a problem in his household. H_had_ ventured one day to give a slight hint as to how houses suffered if lef_oo long without inhabitants; and Aunt Mary Maria agreed with him, calml_emarking that she was thinking of selling her Charlottetown house.
"Not a bad idea," encouraged Gilbert. "And I know a very nice little cottag_n town for sale … a friend of mine is going to California … it's very lik_hat one you admired so much where Mrs. Sarah Newman lives … "
"But lives _alone,"_ sighed Aunt Mary Maria.
"She likes it," said Anne hopefully.
"There's something wrong with anyone who likes living alone, Anne," said Aun_ary Maria.
Susan repressed a groan with difficulty.
Diana came for a week in September. Then Little Elizabeth came … Littl_lizabeth no longer … tall, slender, beautiful Elizabeth now. But still wit_he golden hair and wistful smile. Her father was returning to his office i_aris and Elizabeth was going with him to keep his house. She and Anne too_ong walks around the storied shores of the old harbour, coming home beneat_ilent, watchful autumn stars. They relived the old Windy Poplars life an_etraced their steps in the map of fairyland which Elizabeth still had an_eant to keep forever.
"Hanging on the wall of my room wherever I go," she said.
One day a wind blew through the Ingleside garden … the first wind of autumn.
That night the rose of the sunset was a trifle austere. All at once the summe_ad grown old. The turn of the season had come.
"It's early for fall," said Aunt Mary Maria in a tone that implied the fal_ad insulted her.
But the fall was beautiful, too. There was the joy of winds blowing in from _arkly blue gulf and the splendour of harvest moons. There were lyric aster_n the Hollow and children laughing in an apple-laden orchard, clear seren_venings on the high hill pastures of the Upper Glen and silvery mackere_kies with dank birds flying across them; and, as the days shortened, littl_rey mists stealing over the dunes and up the harbour.
With the falling leaves Rebecca Dew came to Ingleside to make a visit promise_or years. She came for a week but was prevailed upon to stay two … none bein_o urgent as Susan. Susan and Rebecca Dew seemed to discover at first sigh_hat they were kindred spirits … perhaps because they both loved Anne … perhaps because they both hated Aunt Mary Maria.
There came an evening in the kitchen when, as the rain dripped down on th_ead leaves outside and the wind cried around the eaves and corners o_ngleside, Susan poured out all her woes to sympathetic Rebecca Dew. Th_octor and his wife had gone out to make a call, the small fry were all cos_n their beds, and Aunt Mary Maria fortunately out of the way with a headache … "just like a band of iron round my brain," she had moaned.
"Anyone," remarked Rebecca Dew, opening the oven door and depositing her fee_omfortably in the oven, "who eats as much fried mackerel as that woman di_or supper _deserves_ to have a headache. I do not deny I ate my share … for _ill say, Miss Baker, I never knew anyone who could fry mackerel like you … but I did _not_ eat four pieces."
"Miss Dew dear," said Susan earnestly, laying down her knitting and gazin_mploringly into Rebecca's little black eyes, "you have seen something of wha_ary Maria Blythe is like in the time you have been here. But you do not kno_he half … no, nor yet the quarter. Miss Dew dear, I feel that I can trus_ou. May I open my heart to you in strict confidence?"
"You may, Miss Baker."
"That woman came here in June and it is my opinion she means to stay here th_est of her life. Everyone in this house detests her … even the doctor has n_se for her now, hide it as he will and does. But he is clannish and says hi_ather's cousin must not be made to feel unwelcome in his house. I hav_egged," said Susan, in a tone which seemed to imply she had done it on he_nees, "I have begged Mrs. Dr. to put her foot down and say Mary Maria Blyth_ust go. But Mrs. Dr. is too softhearted … and so we are helpless, Miss Dew … completely helpless."
"I wish _I_ had the handling of her," said Rebecca Dew, who had smarte_onsiderably herself under some of Aunt Mary Maria's remarks. "I know as wel_s anyone, Miss Baker, that we must not violate the sacred proprieties o_ospitality, but I assure you, Miss Baker, that I would let her have i_traight."
_"I_ could handle her if I did not know my place, Miss Dew. _I_ never forge_hat I am not mistress here. Sometimes, Miss Dew, I say solemnly to myself,
'Susan Baker, are you or are you not a door-mat?' But you know how my hand_re tied. I _cannot_ desert Mrs. Dr. and I _must not_ add to her troubles b_ighting with Mary Maria Blythe. I shall continue to endeavour to do my duty.
Because, Miss Dew dear," said Susan solemnly, "I could cheerfully die fo_ither the doctor or his wife. We were such a happy family before she cam_ere, Miss Dew. But she is making our lives miserable and what is to be th_utcome I cannot tell, being no prophetess, Miss Dew. Or rather, I _can_ tell.
We will all be driven into lunatic asylums. It is not any one thing, Miss Dew … it is scores of them, Miss Dew … hundreds of them, Miss Dew. You can endur_ne mosquito, Miss Dew … but think of millions of them!"
Rebecca Dew thought of them with a mournful shake of her head.
"She is always telling Mrs. Dr. how to run her house and what clothes sh_hould wear. She is always watching me … and she says she never saw suc_uarrelsome children. Miss Dew dear, you have seen for yourself that ou_hildren _never_ quarrel … well, hardly ever … "
"They are among the most admirable children I have ever seen, Miss Baker."
"She snoops and pries … "
"I have caught her at it myself, Miss Baker."
"She's always getting offended and heart-broken over something but neve_ffended enough to up and leave. She just sits around looking lonely an_eglected until poor Mrs. Dr. is almost distracted. Nothing suits her. If _indow is open she complains of draughts. If they are all shut she says sh_does_ like a little fresh air once in a while. She cannot bear onions … sh_annot even bear the smell of them. She says they make her sick. So Mrs. Dr.
says we must not use any. Now," said Susan grandly, "it may be a common tast_o like onions, Miss Dew dear, but we all plead guilty to it at Ingleside."
"I am very partial to onions myself," admitted Rebecca Dew.
"She cannot bear cats. She says cats give her the creeps. It does not make an_ifference whether she sees them or not. Just to know there is one about th_lace is enough for her. So that poor Shrimp hardly dare show his face in th_ouse. I have never altogether liked cats myself, Miss Dew, but I maintai_hey have a right to wave their own tails. And it is, 'Susan, never forge_hat I cannot eat eggs, please,' or 'Susan, how often must I tell you I canno_at cold toast?' or 'Susan, _some_ people may be able to drink stewed tea bu_ am not in that fortunate class.' Stewed tea, Miss Dew! As if I ever offere_nyone stewed tea!"
"Nobody could ever suppose it of you, Miss Baker."
"If there is a question that should not be asked she will ask it. She i_ealous because the doctor tells things to his wife before he tells them t_er … and she is always trying to pick news out of him about his patients.
Nothing aggravates him so much, Miss Dew. A doctor must know how to hold hi_ongue, as you are well aware. And her tantrums about fire! 'Susan Baker,' sh_ays to me, 'I hope you never light a fire with coal-oil. Or leave oily rag_ying around, Susan. They have been known to cause spontaneous combustion i_ess than an hour. How would you like to stand and watch this house burn down, Susan, knowing it was your fault?' Well, Miss Dew dear, I had my laugh on he_ver _that._ It was that very night she set her curtains on fire and the yell_f her are ringing in my ears yet. And just when the poor doctor had got t_leep after having been up for two nights! What infuriates me most, Miss Dew, is that before she goes anywhere she goes into my pantry and _counts th_ggs._ It takes all my philosophy to refrain from saying, 'Why not count th_poons, too?' Of course the children hate her. Mrs. Dr. is just about worn ou_eeping them from showing it. She actually slapped Nan one day when the docto_nd Mrs. Dr. were both away … _slapped_ her … just because Nan called her 'Mr_efusaleh' … having heard that imp of a Ken Ford saying it."
"I'd have slapped _her,"_ said Rebecca Dew viciously.
"I told her if she ever did the like again I _would_ slap her. 'An occasiona_panking we do have at Ingleside,' I told her, 'but slapping never, so pu_hat in pickle.' She was sulky and offended for a week but at least she ha_ever dared to lay a finger on one of them since. She loves it when thei_arents punish them, though. 'If _I_ was your mother,' she says to Little Je_ne evening. 'Oh ho, you won't ever be anybody's mother,' said the poor child … driven to it, Miss Dew, absolutely driven to it. The doctor sent him to be_ithout his supper, but who would you suppose, Miss Dew, saw that some wa_muggled up to him later on?"
"Ah, now, _who?"_ chortled Rebecca Dew, entering into the spirit of the tale.
"It would have broken your heart, Miss Dew, to hear the prayer he put u_fterwards … all off his own bat, 'O God, please forgive me for bein_mpertinent to Aunt Mary Maria. And O God, please help me to be always ver_olite to Aunt Mary Maria.' It brought the tears into my eyes, the poor lamb.
I do _not_ hold with irreverence or impertinence from youth to age, Miss De_ear, but I must admit that when Bertie Shakespeare Drew threw a spit-ball a_er one day … it just missed her nose by an inch, Miss Dew … I waylaid him a_he gate on his way home and gave him a bag of doughnuts. Of course I did no_ell him why. He was tickled over it … for doughnuts do not grow on trees, Miss Dew, and Mrs. Second Skimmings never makes them. Nan and Di … I would no_reathe this to a soul but you, Miss Dew … the doctor and his wife never drea_f it or they would put a stop to it … Nan and Di have named their old chin_oll with the split head after Aunt Mary Maria and whenever she scolds the_hey go out and drown her … the doll I mean … in the rainwater hogshead.
Many's the jolly drowning we have had, I can assure you. But you could no_elieve what that woman did the other night, Miss Dew."
"I'd believe anything of her, Miss Baker."
"She would not eat a bite of supper because her feelings had been hurt ove_omething, but she went into the pantry before she went to bed and _ate up _unch I had left for the poor doctor …_ every crumb, Miss Dew dear. I hop_ou will not think me an infidel, Miss Dew, but I cannot understand why th_ood Lord does not get tired of some people."
"You must not allow yourself to lose your sense of humour, Miss Baker," sai_ebecca Dew firmly.
"Oh, I am very well aware that there is a comical side to a toad under _arrow, Miss Dew. But the question is, does the toad see it? I am sorry t_ave bothered you with all this, Miss Dew dear, but it has been a grea_elief. I cannot say these things to Mrs. Dr. and I have been feeling latel_hat if I did not find an outlet I would _burst."_
"How well I know that feeling, Miss Baker."
"And now, Miss Dew dear," said Susan, getting up briskly, "what do you say t_ cup of tea before bed? And a cold chicken leg, Miss Dew?"
"I have never denied," said Rebecca Dew, taking her well-baked feet out of th_ven, "that while we should not forget the Higher Things of Life good food i_ pleasant thing in moderation."