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Chronicles of Avonlea

Chronicles of Avonlea

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Hurrying of Ludovic

  • Anne Shirley was curled up on the window-seat of Theodora Dix's sitting-roo_ne Saturday evening, looking dreamily afar at some fair starland beyond th_ills of sunset. Anne was visiting for a fortnight of her vacation at Ech_odge, where Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Irving were spending the summer, and sh_ften ran over to the old Dix homestead to chat for awhile with Theodora. The_ad had their chat out, on this particular evening, and Anne was givin_erself over to the delight of building an air-castle. She leaned her shapel_ead, with its braided coronet of dark red hair, against the window-casing, and her gray eyes were like the moonlight gleam of shadowy pools.
  • Then she saw Ludovic Speed coming down the lane. He was yet far from th_ouse, for the Dix lane was a long one, but Ludovic could be recognized as fa_s he could be seen. No one else in Middle Grafton had such a tall, gently- stooping, placidly-moving figure. In every kink and turn of it there was a_ndividuality all Ludovic's own.
  • Anne roused herself from her dreams, thinking it would only be tactful to tak_er departure. Ludovic was courting Theodora. Everyone in Grafton knew that, or, if anyone were in ignorance of the fact, it was not because he had not ha_ime to find out. Ludovic had been coming down that lane to see Theodora, i_he same ruminating, unhastening fashion, for fifteen years!
  • When Anne, who was slim and girlish and romantic, rose to go, Theodora, wh_as plump and middle-aged and practical, said, with a twinkle in her eye:
  • "There isn't any hurry, child. Sit down and have your call out. You've see_udovic coming down the lane, and, I suppose, you think you'll be a crowd. Bu_ou won't. Ludovic rather likes a third person around, and so do I. It spur_p the conversation as it were. When a man has been coming to see you straigh_long, twice a week for fifteen years, you get rather talked out by spells."
  • Theodora never pretended to bashfulness where Ludovic was concerned. She wa_ot at all shy of referring to him and his dilatory courtship. Indeed, i_eemed to amuse her.
  • Anne sat down again and together they watched Ludovic coming down the lane, gazing calmly about him at the lush clover fields and the blue loops of th_iver winding in and out of the misty valley below.
  • Anne looked at Theodora's placid, finely-moulded face and tried to imagin_hat she herself would feel like if she were sitting there, waiting for a_lderly lover who had, seemingly, taken so long to make up his mind. But eve_nne's imagination failed her for this.
  • "Anyway," she thought, impatiently, "if I wanted him I think I'd find some wa_f hurrying him up. Ludovic SPEED! Was there ever such a misfit of a name?
  • Such a name for such a man is a delusion and a snare."
  • Presently Ludovic got to the house, but stood so long on the doorstep in _rown study, gazing into the tangled green boskage of the cherry orchard, tha_heodora finally went and opened the door before he knocked. As she brough_im into the sitting-room she made a comical grimace at Anne over hi_houlder.
  • Ludovic smiled pleasantly at Anne. He liked her; she was the only young gir_e knew, for he generally avoided young girls—they made him feel awkward an_ut of place. But Anne did not affect him in this fashion. She had a way o_etting on with all sorts of people, and, although they had not known her ver_ong, both Ludovic and Theodora looked upon her as an old friend.
  • Ludovic was tall and somewhat ungainly, but his unhesitating placidity gav_im the appearance of a dignity that did not otherwise pertain to him. He ha_ drooping, silky, brown moustache, and a little curly tuft of imperial,—_ashion which was regarded as eccentric in Grafton, where men had clean-shave_hins or went full-bearded. His eyes were dreamy and pleasant, with a touch o_elancholy in their blue depths.
  • He sat down in the big bulgy old armchair that had belonged to Theodora'_ather. Ludovic always sat there, and Anne declared that the chair had come t_ook like him.
  • The conversation soon grew animated enough. Ludovic was a good talker when h_ad somebody to draw him out. He was well read, and frequently surprised Ann_y his shrewd comments on men and matters out in the world, of which only th_aint echoes reached Deland River. He had also a liking for religiou_rguments with Theodora, who did not care much for politics or the making o_istory, but was avid of doctrines, and read everything pertaining thereto.
  • When the conversation drifted into an eddy of friendly wrangling betwee_udovic and Theodora over Christian Science, Anne understood that he_sefulness was ended for the time being, and that she would not be missed.
  • "It's star time and good-night time," she said, and went away quietly.
  • But she had to stop to laugh when she was well out of sight of the house, in _reen meadow bestarred with the white and gold of daisies. A wind, odour- freighted, blew daintily across it. Anne leaned against a white birch tree i_he corner and laughed heartily, as she was apt to do whenever she thought o_udovic and Theodora. To her eager youth, this courtship of theirs seemed _ery amusing thing. She liked Ludovic, but allowed herself to be provoked wit_im.
  • "The dear, big, irritating goose!" she said aloud. "There never was such _ovable idiot before. He's just like the alligator in the old rhyme, wh_ouldn't go along, and wouldn't keep still, but just kept bobbing up an_own."
  • Two evenings later, when Anne went over to the Dix place, she and Theodor_rifted into a conversation about Ludovic. Theodora, who was the mos_ndustrious soul alive, and had a mania for fancy work into the bargain, wa_usying her smooth, plump fingers with a very elaborate Battenburg lac_entre-piece. Anne was lying back in a little rocker, with her slim hand_olded in her lap, watching Theodora. She realized that Theodora was ver_andsome, in a stately, Juno-like fashion of firm, white flesh, large, clearly-chiselled outlines, and great, cowey, brown eyes. When Theodora wa_ot smiling, she looked very imposing. Anne thought it likely that Ludovi_eld her in awe.
  • "Did you and Ludovic talk about Christian Science ALL Saturday evening?" sh_sked.
  • Theodora overflowed into a smile.
  • "Yes, and we even quarrelled over it. At least  _I_  did. Ludovic wouldn'_uarrel with anyone. You have to fight air when you spar with him. I hate t_quare up to a person who won't hit back."
  • "Theodora," said Anne coaxingly, "I am going to be curious and impertinent.
  • You can snub me if you like. Why don't you and Ludovic get married?"
  • Theodora laughed comfortably.
  • "That's the question Grafton folks have been asking for quite a while, _eckon, Anne. Well, I'd have no objection to marrying Ludovic. That's fran_nough for you, isn't it? But it's not easy to marry a man unless he asks you.
  • And Ludovic has never asked me."
  • "Is he too shy?" persisted Anne. Since Theodora was in the mood, she meant t_ift this puzzling affair to the bottom.
  • Theodora dropped her work and looked meditatively out over the green slopes o_he summer world.
  • "No, I don't think it is that. Ludovic isn't shy. It's just his way—the Spee_ay. The Speeds are all dreadfully deliberate. They spend years thinking ove_ thing before they make up their minds to do it. Sometimes they get so muc_n the habit of thinking about it that they never get over it—like old Alde_peed, who was always talking of going to England to see his brother, bu_ever went, though there was no earthly reason why he shouldn't. They're no_azy, you know, but they love to take their time."
  • "And Ludovic is just an aggravated case of Speedism," suggested Anne.
  • "Exactly. He never hurried in his life. Why, he has been thinking for the las_ix years of getting his house painted. He talks it over with me every littl_hile, and picks out the colour, and there the matter stays. He's fond of me, and he means to ask me to have him sometime. The only question is—will th_ime ever come?"
  • "Why don't you hurry him up?" asked Anne impatiently.
  • Theodora went back to her stitches with another laugh.
  • "If Ludovic could be hurried up, I'm not the one to do it. I'm too shy. I_ounds ridiculous to hear a woman of my age and inches say that, but it i_rue. Of course, I know it's the only way any Speed ever did make out to ge_arried. For instance, there's a cousin of mine married to Ludovic's brother.
  • I don't say she proposed to him out and out, but, mind you, Anne, it wasn'_ar from it. I couldn't do anything like that. I DID try once. When I realize_hat I was getting sere and mellow, and all the girls of my generation wer_oing off on either hand, I tried to give Ludovic a hint. But it stuck in m_hroat. And now I don't mind. If I don't change Dix to Speed until I take th_nitiative, it will be Dix to the end of life. Ludovic doesn't realize that w_re growing old, you know. He thinks we are giddy young folks yet, with plent_f time before us. That's the Speed failing. They never find out they're aliv_ntil they're dead."
  • "You're fond of Ludovic, aren't you?" asked Anne, detecting a note of rea_itterness among Theodora's paradoxes.
  • "Laws, yes," said Theodora candidly. She did not think it worth while to blus_ver so settled a fact. "I think the world and all of Ludovic. And h_ertainly does need somebody to look after HIM. He's neglected—he look_rayed. You can see that for yourself. That old aunt of his looks after hi_ouse in some fashion, but she doesn't look after him. And he's coming now t_he age when a man needs to be looked after and coddled a bit. I'm lonesom_ere, and Ludovic is lonesome up there, and it does seem ridiculous, doesn'_t? I don't wonder that we're the standing joke of Grafton. Goodness knows, _augh at it enough myself. I've sometimes thought that if Ludovic could b_ade jealous it might spur him along. But I never could flirt and there'_obody to flirt with if I could. Everybody hereabouts looks upon me a_udovic's property and nobody would dream of interfering with him."
  • "Theodora," cried Anne, "I have a plan!"
  • "Now, what are you going to do?" exclaimed Theodora.
  • Anne told her. At first Theodora laughed and protested. In the end, sh_ielded somewhat doubtfully, overborne by Anne's enthusiasm.
  • "Well, try it, then," she said, resignedly. "If Ludovic gets mad and leave_e, I'll be worse off than ever. But nothing venture, nothing win. And ther_s a fighting chance, I suppose. Besides, I must admit I'm tired of his dilly- dallying."
  • Anne went back to Echo Lodge tingling with delight in her plot. She hunted u_rnold Sherman, and told him what was required of him. Arnold Sherman listene_nd laughed. He was an elderly widower, an intimate friend of Stephen Irving, and had come down to spend part of the summer with him and his wife in Princ_dward Island. He was handsome in a mature style, and he had a dash o_ischief in him still, so that he entered readily enough into Anne's plan. I_mused him to think of hurrying Ludovic Speed, and he knew that Theodora Di_ould be depended on to do her part. The comedy would not be dull, whateve_ts outcome.
  • The curtain rose on the first act after prayer meeting on the next Thursda_ight. It was bright moonlight when the people came out of church, an_verybody saw it plainly. Arnold Sherman stood upon the steps close to th_oor, and Ludovic Speed leaned up against a corner of the graveyard fence, a_e had done for years. The boys said he had worn the paint off that particula_lace. Ludovic knew of no reason why he should paste himself up against th_hurch door. Theodora would come out as usual, and he would join her as sh_ent past the corner.
  • This was what happened, Theodora came down the steps, her stately figur_utlined in its darkness against the gush of lamplight from the porch. Arnol_herman asked her if he might see her home. Theodora took his arm calmly, an_ogether they swept past the stupefied Ludovic, who stood helplessly gazin_fter them as if unable to believe his eyes.
  • For a few moments he stood there limply; then he started down the road afte_is fickle lady and her new admirer. The boys and irresponsible young me_rowded after, expecting some excitement, but they were disappointed. Ludovi_trode on until he overtook Theodora and Arnold Sherman, and then fell meekl_n behind them.
  • Theodora hardly enjoyed her walk home, although Arnold Sherman laid himsel_ut to be especially entertaining. Her heart yearned after Ludovic, whos_huffling footsteps she heard behind her. She feared that she had been ver_ruel, but she was in for it now. She steeled herself by the reflection tha_t was all for his own good, and she talked to Arnold Sherman as if he wer_he one man in the world. Poor, deserted Ludovic, following humbly behind, heard her, and if Theodora had known how bitter the cup she was holding to hi_ips really was, she would never have been resolute enough to present it, n_atter for what ultimate good.
  • When she and Arnold turned in at her gate, Ludovic had to stop. Theodor_ooked over her shoulder and saw him standing still on the road. His forlor_igure haunted her thoughts all night. If Anne had not run over the next da_nd bolstered up her convictions, she might have spoiled everything b_rematurely relenting.
  • Ludovic, meanwhile, stood still on the road, quite oblivious to the hoots an_omments of the vastly amused small boy contingent, until Theodora and hi_ival disappeared from his view under the firs in the hollow of her lane. The_e turned about and went home, not with his usual leisurely amble, but with _erturbed stride which proclaimed his inward disquiet.
  • He felt bewildered. If the world had come suddenly to an end or if the lazy, meandering Grafton River had turned about and flowed up hill, Ludovic coul_ot have been more astonished. For fifteen years he had walked home fro_eetings with Theodora; and now this elderly stranger, with all the glamour of
  • "the States" hanging about him, had coolly walked off with her under Ludovic'_ery nose. Worse—most unkindest cut of all—Theodora had gone with hi_illingly; nay, she had evidently enjoyed his company. Ludovic felt th_tirring of a righteous anger in his easy-going soul.
  • When he reached the end of his lane, he paused at his gate, and looked at hi_ouse, set back from the lane in a crescent of birches. Even in the moonlight, its weather-worn aspect was plainly visible. He thought of the "palatia_esidence" rumour ascribed to Arnold Sherman in Boston, and stroked his chi_ervously with his sunburnt fingers. Then he doubled up his fist and struck i_martly on the gate-post.
  • "Theodora needn't think she is going to jilt me in this fashion, after keepin_ompany with me for fifteen years," he said. "I'LL have something to say t_t, Arnold Sherman or no Arnold Sherman. The impudence of the puppy!"
  • The next morning Ludovic drove to Carmody and engaged Joshua Pye to come an_aint his house, and that evening, although he was not due till Saturda_ight, he went down to see Theodora.
  • Arnold Sherman was there before him, and was actually sitting in Ludovic's ow_rescriptive chair. Ludovic had to deposit himself in Theodora's new wicke_ocker, where he looked and felt lamentably out of place.
  • If Theodora felt the situation to be awkward, she carried it off superbly. Sh_ad never looked handsomer, and Ludovic perceived that she wore her secon_est silk dress. He wondered miserably if she had donned it in expectation o_is rival's call. She had never put on silk dresses for him. Ludovic ha_lways been the meekest and mildest of mortals, but he felt quite murderous a_e sat mutely there and listened to Arnold Sherman's polished conversation.
  • "You should just have been here to see him glowering," Theodora told th_elighted Anne the next day. "It may be wicked of me, but I felt real glad. _as afraid he might stay away and sulk. So long as he comes here and sulks _on't worry. But he is feeling badly enough, poor soul, and I'm really eate_p by remorse. He tried to outstay Mr. Sherman last night, but he didn'_anage it. You never saw a more depressed-looking creature than he was as h_urried down the lane. Yes, he actually hurried."
  • The following Sunday evening Arnold Sherman walked to church with Theodora, and sat with her. When they came in Ludovic Speed suddenly stood up in his pe_nder the gallery. He sat down again at once, but everybody in view had see_im, and that night folks in all the length and breadth of Grafton Rive_iscussed the dramatic occurrence with keen enjoyment.
  • "Yes, he jumped right up as if he was pulled on his feet, while the ministe_as reading the chapter," said his cousin, Lorella Speed, who had been i_hurch, to her sister, who had not. "His face was as white as a sheet, and hi_yes were just glaring out of his head. I never felt so thrilled, I declare! _lmost expected him to fly at them then and there. But he just gave a sort o_asp and set down again. I don't know whether Theodora Dix saw him or not. Sh_ooked as cool and unconcerned as you please."
  • Theodora had not seen Ludovic, but if she looked cool and unconcerned, he_ppearance belied her, for she felt miserably flustered. She could not preven_rnold Sherman coming to church with her, but it seemed to her like going to_ar. People did not go to church and sit together in Grafton unless they wer_he next thing to being engaged. What if this filled Ludovic with the narcoti_f despair instead of wakening him up! She sat through the service in miser_nd heard not one word of the sermon.
  • But Ludovic's spectacular performances were not yet over. The Speeds might b_ard to get started, but once they were started their momentum wa_rresistible. When Theodora and Mr. Sherman came out, Ludovic was waiting o_he steps. He stood up straight and stern, with his head thrown back and hi_houlders squared. There was open defiance in the look he cast on his rival, and masterfulness in the mere touch of the hand he laid on Theodora's arm.
  • "May I see you home, Miss Dix?" his words said. His tone said, "I am going t_ee you home whether or no."
  • Theodora, with a deprecating look at Arnold Sherman, took his arm, and Ludovi_arched her across the green amid a silence which the very horses tied to th_torm fence seemed to share. For Ludovic 'twas a crowded hour of gloriou_ife.
  • Anne walked all the way over from Avonlea the next day to hear the news.
  • Theodora smiled consciously.
  • "Yes, it is really settled at last, Anne. Coming home last night Ludovic aske_e plump and plain to marry him,—Sunday and all as it was. It's to be righ_way—for Ludovic won't be put off a week longer than necessary."
  • "So Ludovic Speed has been hurried up to some purpose at last," said Mr.
  • Sherman, when Anne called in at Echo Lodge, brimful with her news. "And yo_re delighted, of course, and my poor pride must be the scapegoat. I shal_lways be remembered in Grafton as the man from Boston who wanted Theodora Di_nd couldn't get her."
  • "But that won't be true, you know," said Anne comfortingly.
  • Arnold Sherman thought of Theodora's ripe beauty, and the mello_ompanionableness she had revealed in their brief intercourse.
  • "I'm not perfectly sure of that," he said, with a half sigh.