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Chapter 17

  • Anne's luck held. The Women's Missionary Auxiliary asked her if she woul_all on Mrs. George Churchill for her yearly contribution to the society. Mrs.
  • Churchill seldom went to church and was not a member of the Auxiliary, but she
  • "believed in missions" and always gave a generous sum if anyone called an_sked her for it. People enjoyed doing this so little that the members had t_ake their turn at it and this year the turn was Anne's.
  • She walked down one evening, taking a daisied trail across lots which led ove_he sweet, cool loveliness of a hill-top to the road where the Churchill far_ay, a mile from the Glen. It was rather a dull road, with grey snake fence_unning up steep little slopes … yet it had homelights … a brook … the smel_f hayfields that run down to the sea … gardens. Anne stopped to look at ever_arden she passed. Her interest in gardens was perennial. Gilbert was wont t_ay that Anne _had_ to buy a book if the word "garden" were in the title.
  • A lazy boat idled down the harbour and far out a vessel was becalmed. Ann_lways watched an outward bound ship with a little quickening of her pulses.
  • She understood Captain Franklin Drew when she heard him say once, as he wen_n board his vessel at the wharf, "God, how sorry I am for the folks we leav_n shore!"
  • The big Churchill house, with the grim iron lacework around its flat mansar_oof, looked down on the harbour and the dunes. Mrs. Churchill greeted he_olitely, if none too effusively, and ushered her into a gloomy and splendi_arlour, the dark, brown-papered walls of which were hung with innumerabl_rayons of departed Churchills and Elliotts. Mrs. Churchill sat down on _reen plush sofa, folded her long thin hands, and gazed steadily at he_aller.
  • Mary Churchill was tall and gaunt and austere. She had a prominent chin, deep- set blue eyes like Alden's, and a wide, compressed mouth. She never waste_ords and she never gossipped. So Anne found it rather difficult to work up t_er objective naturally, but she managed it through the medium of the ne_inister across the harbour whom Mrs. Churchill did not like.
  • "He is not a spiritual man," said Mrs. Churchill coldly.
  • "I have heard that his sermons are remarkable," said Anne.
  • "I heard one and do not wish to hear more. My soul sought food and was given _ecture. He believes the Kingdom of Heaven can be taken by brains. It cannot."
  • "Speaking of ministers … they have a very clever one at Lowbridge now. I thin_e is interested in my young friend, Stella Chase. Gossip says it will be _atch."
  • "Do you mean a marriage?" said Mrs. Churchill.
  • Anne felt snubbed but reflected that you had to swallow things like that whe_ou were interfering in what didn't concern you.
  • "I think it would be a very suitable one, Mrs. Churchill. Stella is especiall_itted for a minister's wife. I've been telling Alden he mustn't try to spoi_t."
  • "Why?" asked Mrs. Churchill, without the flicker of an eyelid.
  • "Well … really … you know … I'm afraid Alden would stand no chance whatever.
  • Mr. Chase doesn't think anyone good enough for Stella. All Alden's friend_ould hate to see him dropped suddenly like an old glove. He's too nice a bo_or that."
  • "No girl ever dropped my son," said Mrs. Churchill, compressing her thin lips.
  • "It was always the other way about. He found them out, for all their curls an_iggles, their wrigglings and mincings. My son can marry any woman he chooses, Mrs. Blythe … _any_ woman."
  • "Oh?" said Anne's tongue. Her tone said, "Of course I am too polite t_ontradict you but you have not changed my opinion." Mary Churchill understoo_nd her white, shrivelled face warmed a little as she went out of the room t_et her missionary contribution.
  • "You have the most wonderful view here," said Anne, when Mrs. Churchil_shered her to the door.
  • Mrs. Churchill gave the gulf a glance of disapproval.
  • "If you felt the bite of the east wind in winter, Mrs. Blythe, you might no_hink so much of the view. It's cool enough tonight. I should think you'd b_fraid of catching cold in that thin dress. Not but what it's a pretty one.
  • You are young enough still to care for gauds and vanities. I have ceased t_eel any interest in such transitory things."
  • Anne felt fairly well satisfied with the interview as she went home throug_he dim green twilight.
  • "Of course one can't count on Mrs. Churchill," she told a flock of starling_ho were holding a parliament in a little field scooped out of the woods, "bu_ think I worried her a little. I could see she didn't like having peopl_hink Alden _could_ be jilted. Well, I've done what in me lies with al_oncerned except Mr. Chase and I don't see what I can do with him when I don'_ven know him. I wonder if he has the slightest notion that Alden and Stell_re sweethearting. Not likely. Stella would never dare take Alden to th_ouse, of course. Now, what _am_ I to do about Mr. Chase?"
  • It was really uncanny … the way things helped her out. One evening Mis_ornelia came along and asked Anne to accompany her to the Chase home.
  • "I'm going down to ask Richard Chase for a contribution to the new churc_itchen stove. Will you come with me, dearie, just as a moral support? I hat_o tackle him alone."
  • They found Mr. Chase standing on his front steps, looking, with his long leg_nd his long nose, rather like a meditative crane. He had a few shinin_trands of hair brushed over the top of his bald head and his little grey eye_winkled at them. He happened to be thinking that if that was the doctor'_ife with old Cornelia she had a mighty good figure. As for Cousin Cornelia, twice removed, she was a bit too solidly built and had about as much intellec_s a grasshopper, but she wasn't a bad old cat at all if you always rubbed he_he right way.
  • He invited them courteously into his small library, where Miss Corneli_ettled into a chair with a little grunt.
  • "It's dreadful hot tonight. I'm afraid we'll have a thunderstorm. Mercy on us, Richard, that cat is bigger than ever!"
  • Richard Chase had a familiar in the shape of a yellow cat of abnormal siz_hich now climbed up on his knee. He stroked it tenderly.
  • "Thomas the Rhymer gives the world assurance of a cat," he said. "Don't you, Thomas? Look at your Aunt Cornelia, Rhymer. Observe the baleful glances she i_asting at you out of orbs created to express only kindness and affection."
  • "Don't you call me that beast's Aunt Cornelia!" protested Mrs. Elliot_harply. "A joke is a joke but that is carrying things too far."
  • "Wouldn't you rather be the Rhymer's aunt than Neddy Churchill's aunt?"
  • queried Richard Chase plaintively. "Neddy is a glutton and a wine-bibber, isn't he? I've heard you giving a catalogue of his sins. Wouldn't you rathe_e aunt to a fine upstanding cat like Thomas with a blameless record wher_hiskey and tabbies are concerned?"
  • "Poor Ned is a human being," retorted Miss Cornelia. "I don't like cats. Tha_s the only fault I have to find with Alden Churchill. He has got th_trangest liking for cats, too. Lord knows where he got it … both his fathe_nd mother loathed them."
  • "What a sensible young man he must be!"
  • "Sensible! Well, he's sensible enough … except in the matter of cats and hi_ankering after evolution … another thing he didn't inherit from his mother."
  • "Do you know, Mrs. Elliott," said Richard Chase solemnly, "I have a secre_eaning towards evolution myself."
  • "So you've told me before. Well, believe what you want to, Dick Chase … jus_ike a man. Thank God, nobody could ever make _me_ believe that I descende_rom a monkey."
  • "You don't look it, I confess, you comely woman. I see no simian resemblance_n your rosy, comfortable, eminently gracious physiognomy. Still, your great- grandmother a million times removed swung herself from branch to branch by he_ail. Science proves that, Cornelia … take it or leave it."
  • "I'll leave it, then. I'm not going to argue with you on that or any point.
  • I've got my own religion and no ape-ancestors figure in it. By the way, Richard, Stella doesn't look so well this summer as I'd like to see her."
  • "She always feels the hot weather a good deal. She'll pick up when it'_ooler."
  • "I hope so. Lisette picked up every summer but the last, Richard … don'_orget that. Stella has her mother's constitution. It's just as well she isn'_ikely to marry."
  • "Why isn't she likely to marry? I ask from curiosity, Cornelia … ran_uriosity. The processes of feminine thought are intensely interesting to me.
  • From what premises or data do you draw the conclusion, in your own delightfu_ffhand way, that Stella is not likely to marry?"
  • "Well, Richard, to put it plainly, she isn't the kind of girl that is ver_opular with men. She's a good, sweet girl, but she doesn't take with men."
  • "She has had admirers. I have spent much of my substance in the purchase an_aintenance of shotguns and bulldogs."
  • "They admired your money-bags, I fancy. They were easily discouraged, weren'_hey? Just one broadside of sarcasm from you and off they went. If they ha_eally wanted Stella they wouldn't have wilted for that any more than for you_maginary bulldog. No, Richard, you might as well admit the fact that Stell_sn't the girl to win desirable beaus. Lisette wasn't, you know. She never ha_ beau till you came along."
  • "But wasn't I worth waiting for? Surely Lisette was a wise young woman. Yo_ould not have me give my daughter to any Tom, Dick or Harry, would you? M_tar, who, in spite of your disparaging remarks, is fit to shine in th_alaces of kings?"
  • "We have no kings in Canada," retorted Miss Cornelia. "I'm not saying Stell_sn't a lovely girl. I'm only saying the men don't seem to see it and, considering her constitution, I think it is just as well. A good thing fo_ou, too. You could never get on without her … you'd be as helpless as a baby.
  • Well, promise us a contribution to the church stove range and we'll be off. _now you're dying to pick up that book of yours."
  • "Admirable, clear-sighted woman! What a treasure you are for a cousin-in-law!
  • I admit it… . I _am_ dying. But no other than yourself would have bee_erspicacious enough to see it or amiable enough to save my life by actin_pon it. How much are you holding me up for?"
  • "You can afford five dollars."
  • "I never argue with a lady. Five dollars it is. Ah, going? She never lose_ime, this unique woman! Once her object is attained she straightway leave_ou in peace. They don't hatch her breed of cats nowadays. Good-evening pear_f in-laws."
  • During the whole call Anne had not uttered one word. Why should she when Mrs.
  • Elliott was doing her work for her so cleverly and unconsciously? But a_ichard Chase bowed them out he suddenly bent forward confidentially.
  • "You've got the finest pair of ankles I've ever seen, Mrs. Blythe, and I'v_een about a bit in my time."
  • "Isn't he dreadful?" gasped Miss Cornelia as they went down the lane. "He'_lways saying outrageous things like that to women. You mustn't mind him, Ann_earie."
  • Anne didn't. She rather liked Richard Chase.
  • "I don't think," she reflected, "that he quite liked the idea of Stella no_eing popular with the men, in spite of the fact that their grandfathers wer_onkeys. I think he'd like to 'show folks,' too. Well I have done all I ca_o. I have interested Alden and Stella in each other; and, between us, Mis_ornelia and I have, I think, made Mrs. Churchill and Mr. Chase rather for th_atch than against it. Now I must just sit tight and see how it turns out."
  • A month later Stella Chase came to Ingleside and again sat down by Anne on th_erandah steps … thinking, as she did so, that she hoped she would look lik_rs. Blythe some day … with that _ripened_ look … the look of a woman who ha_ived fully and graciously.
  • The cool smoky evening had followed a cool, yellowish-grey day in earl_eptember. It was threaded with the gentle moan of the sea.
  • "The sea is unhappy tonight," Walter would say when he heard that sound.
  • Stella seemed absent-minded and quiet. Presently she said abruptly, looking u_t a sorcery of stars that was being woven in the purple night, "Mrs. Blythe, I want to tell you something."
  • "Yes, dear?"
  • "I'm engaged to Alden Churchill," said Stella desperately. "We've been engage_ver since last Christmas. We told Father and Mrs. Churchill right away bu_e've kept it a secret from everyone else just because it was so sweet to hav_uch a secret. We hated to share it with the world. But we are going to b_arried next month."
  • Anne gave an excellent imitation of a woman who had been turned to stone.
  • Stella was still staring at the stars, so she did not see the expression o_rs. Blythe's face. She went on, a little more easily:
  • "Alden and I met at a party in Lowbridge last November. We … loved each othe_rom the very first moment. He said he had always dreamed of me … had alway_een looking for me. He said to himself, 'There is my wife,' when he saw m_ome in at the door. And I … felt just the same. Oh, we are so happy, Mrs.
  • Blythe!"
  • Still Anne said nothing, several times over.
  • "The only cloud on my happiness is your attitude about the matter, Mrs.
  • Blythe. Won't you try to approve? You've been such a dear friend to me since _ame to Glen St. Mary … I've felt as if you were an older sister. And I'l_eel so badly if I think my marriage is against your wish."
  • There was a sound of tears in Stella's voice. Anne recovered her powers o_peech.
  • "Dearest, your happiness is all I've wanted. I like Alden … he's a splendi_ellow … only he _had_ the reputation of being a flirt … "
  • "But he isn't. He was just looking for the right one, don't you see, Mrs.
  • Blythe? And he couldn't find her."
  • "How does your father regard it?"
  • "Oh, Father is greatly pleased. He took to Alden from the start. They used t_rgue for hours about evolution. Father said he always meant to let me marr_hen the right man came along. I feel dreadfully about leaving him, but h_ays young birds have a right to their own nest. Cousin Delia Chase is comin_o keep house for him and Father likes her very much."
  • "And Alden's mother?"
  • "She is quite willing, too. When Alden told her last Christmas that we wer_ngaged she went to the Bible and the very first verse she turned up was, '_an shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife.' She said it wa_erfectly clear then what she ought to do and she consented at once. She i_oing to go to that little house of hers in Lowbridge."
  • "I am glad you won't have to live with that green plush sofa," said Anne.
  • "The sofa? Oh, yes, the furniture is very old-fashioned, isn't it? But she i_aking it with her and Alden is going to refurnish completely. So you se_veryone is pleased, Mrs. Blythe, and won't you give us your good wishes, too?"
  • Anne leaned forward and kissed Stella's cool satin cheek.
  • "I am _very_ glad for you. God bless the days that are coming for you, m_ear."
  • When Stella had gone Anne flew up to her own room to avoid seeing anyone for _ew moments. A cynical, lopsided old moon was coming out from behind som_haggy clouds in the east and the fields beyond seemed to wink slyly an_mpishly at her.
  • She took stock of all the preceding weeks. She had ruined her dining-roo_arpet, destroyed two treasured heirlooms and spoiled her library ceiling; sh_ad been trying to use Mrs. Churchill as a cat's-paw and Mrs. Churchill mus_ave been laughing in her sleeve all the time.
  • "Who," asked Anne of the moon, "has been made the biggest fool of in thi_ffair? I know what Gilbert's opinion will be. All the trouble I've gone to, to bring about a marriage between two people who were already engaged? I'_ured of matchmaking then … absolutely cured. Never will I lift a finger t_romote a marriage if nobody in the world ever gets married again. Well, ther_s one consolation … Jen Pringle's letter today saying she is going to marr_ewis Stedman whom she met at my party. The Bristol candlesticks were no_acrificed entirely in vain. Boys … boys! _Must_ you make such unearthl_oises down there?"
  • "We're owls … we _have_ to hoot," Jem's injured voice proclaimed from the dar_hrubbery. He knew he was making a very good job of hooting. Jem could mimi_he voice of any little wild thing out in the woods. Walter was not so good a_t and he presently ceased being an owl and became a rather disillusione_ittle boy, creeping to Mother for comfort.
  • "Mummy, I thought crickets _sang  …_ and Mr. Carter Flagg said today the_on't … they just make that noise scraping their hind-legs. _Do_ they, Mummy?"
  • "Something like that … I'm not quite sure of the process. But _that_ is thei_ay of singing, you know."
  • "I don't like it. I'll never like to hear them singing again."
  • "Oh, yes, you will. You'll forget about the hind-legs in time and just thin_f their fairy chorus all over the harvest meadows and the autumn hills. Isn'_t bedtime, small son?"
  • "Mummy, will you tell me a bedtime story that will send a cold chill down m_pine? And sit beside me afterwards till I go to sleep?"
  • "What else are mothers for, darling?"