"Mrs. Raymond came down last night and, with tears in her eyes, begged me to forgive her for her 'hasty behavior.' 'If you knew a mother's heart, Miss Shirley, you would not find it hard to forgive.'
"I didn't find it hard to forgive as it was … there is really something about Mrs. Raymond I can't help liking and she was a duck about the Dramatic Club.
Just the same I did _not_ say, 'Any Saturday you want to be away, I'll look after your offspring.' One learns by experience … even a person so incorrigibly optimistic and trustful as myself.
"I find that a certain section of Summerside society is at present very much exercised over the loves of Jarvis Morrow and Dovie Westcott … who, as Rebecca Dew says, have been engaged for over a year but can't get any 'forrader.' Aunt Kate, who is a distant aunt of Dovie's … to be exact, I think she's the aunt of a second cousin of Dovie's on the mother's side … is deeply interested in the affair because she thinks Jarvis is such an excellent match for Dovie … and also, I suspect, because she hates Franklin Westcott and would like to see him routed, horse, foot and artillery. Not that Aunt Kate would admit she
'hated' anybody, but Mrs. Franklin Westcott was a very dear girlhood friend of hers and Aunt Kate solemnly avers that he murdered her.
_"I_ am interested in it, partly because I'm very fond of Jarvis and moderately fond of Dovie and partly, I begin to suspect, because I am an inveterate meddler in other people's business … always with excellent intentions, of course.
"The situation is briefly this:—Franklin Westcott is a tall, somber, hard- bitten merchant, close and unsociable. He lives in a big, old-fashioned house called Elmcroft just outside the town on the upper harbor road. I have met him once or twice but really know very little about him, except that he has an uncanny habit of saying something and then going off into a long chuckle of soundless laughter. He has never gone to church since hymns came in and he insists on having all his windows open even in winter storms. I confess to a sneaking sympathy with him in this, but I am probably the only person in Summerside who would. He has got into the habit of being a leading citizen and nothing municipal dares to be done without his approval.
"His wife is dead. It is common report that she was a slave, unable to call her soul her own. Franklin told her, it is said, when he brought her home that he would be master.
"Dovie, whose real name is Sibyl, is his only child … a very pretty, plump, lovable girl of nineteen, with a red mouth always falling a little open over her small white teeth, glints of chestnut in her brown hair, alluring blue eyes and sooty lashes so long you wonder if they can be real. Jen Pringle says it is her eyes Jarvis is really in love with. Jen and I have actually talked the affair over. Jarvis is her favorite cousin.
"(In passing, you wouldn't believe how fond Jen is of me … and I of Jen. She's really the cutest thing.)
"Franklin Westcott has never allowed Dovie to have any beaus and when Jarvis Morrow began to 'pay her attention,' he forbade him the house and told Dovie there was to be no more 'running round with that fellow.' But the mischief had been done. Dovie and Jarvis were already fathoms deep in love.
"Everybody in town is in sympathy with the lovers. Franklin Westcott is really unreasonable. Jarvis is a successful young lawyer, of good family, with good prospects, and a very nice, decent lad in himself.
"'Nothing could be more suitable,' declares Rebecca Dew. 'Jarvis Morrow could have _any_ girl he wanted in Summerside. Franklin Westcott has just made up his mind that Dovie is to be an old maid. He wants to be sure of a housekeeper when Aunt Maggie dies.'
"'Isn't there any one who has any influence with him?' I asked.
"'Nobody can argue with Franklin Westcott. He's too sarcastical. And if you get the better of him he throws a tantrum. I've never seen him in one of his tantrums but I've heard Miss Prouty describe how he acted one time she was there sewing. He got mad over something … nobody knew what. He just grabbed everything in sight and flung it out of the window. Milton's poems went flying clean over the fence into George Clarke's lily pond. He's always kind of had a grudge at life. Miss Prouty says her mother told her that the yelps of him when he was born passed anything she ever heard. I suppose God has some reason for making men like that, but you'd wonder. No, I can't see any chance for Jarvis and Dovie unless they elope. It's a kind of low-down thing to do, though there's been a terrible lot of romantic nonsense talked about eloping.
But this is a case where anybody would excuse it.'
"I don't know what to do but I must do something. I simply can't sit still and see people make a mess of their lives under my very nose, no matter how many tantrums Franklin Westcott takes. Jarvis Morrow is not going to wait forever … rumor has it that he is getting out of patience already and has been seen savagely cutting Dovie's name out of a tree on which he had cut it. There is an attractive Palmer girl who is reported to be throwing herself at his head, and his sister is said to have said that his mother has said that _her_ son has no need to dangle for years at any girl's apron-string.
"Really, Gilbert, I'm quite unhappy about it.
"It's moonlight tonight, beloved … moonlight on the poplars of the yard … moonlit dimples all over the harbor where a phantom ship is drifting outwards … moonlight on the old graveyard … on my own private valley … on the Storm King. And it will be moonlight in Lover's Lane and on the Lake of Shining Waters and the old Haunted Wood and Violet Vale. There should be fairy dances on the hills tonight. But, Gilbert dear, moonlight with no one to share it is just … just _moonshine._
"I wish I could take little Elizabeth for a walk. She loves a moonlight walk.
We had some delightful ones when she was at Green Gables. But at home Elizabeth never sees moonlight except from the window.
"I am beginning to be a little worried about her, too. She is going on ten now and those two old ladies haven't the least idea what she needs, spiritually and emotionally. As long as she has good food and good clothes, they cannot imagine her needing anything more. And it will be worse with every succeeding year. What kind of girlhood will the poor child have?"