Aunt Martha might be, and was, a very poor housekeeper; the Rev. John Kno_eredith might be, and was, a very absent-minded, indulgent man. But it coul_ot be denied that there was something very homelike and lovable about th_len St. Mary manse in spite of its untidiness. Even the critical housewive_f the Glen felt it, and were unconsciously mellowed in judgment because o_t. Perhaps its charm was in part due to accidental circumstances—th_uxuriant vines clustering over its gray, clap-boarded walls, the friendl_cacias and balm-of-gileads that crowded about it with the freedom of ol_cquaintance, and the beautiful views of harbour and sand-dunes from its fron_indows. But these things had been there in the reign of Mr. Meredith'_redecessor, when the manse had been the primmest, neatest, and drearies_ouse in the Glen. So much of the credit must be given to the personality o_ts new inmates. There was an atmosphere of laughter and comradeship about it;
the doors were always open; and inner and outer worlds joined hands. Love wa_he only law in Glen St. Mary manse.
The people of his congregation said that Mr. Meredith spoiled his children.
Very likely he did. It is certain that he could not bear to scold them. "The_ave no mother," he used to say to himself, with a sigh, when some unusuall_laring peccadillo forced itself upon his notice. But he did not know the hal_f their goings-on. He belonged to the sect of dreamers. The windows of hi_tudy looked out on the graveyard but, as he paced up and down the room,
reflecting deeply on the immortality of the soul, he was quite unaware tha_erry and Carl were playing leap-frog hilariously over the flat stones in tha_bode of dead Methodists. Mr. Meredith had occasional acute realizations tha_is children were not so well looked after, physically or morally, as they ha_een before his wife died, and he had always a dim sub-consciousness tha_ouse and meals were very different under Aunt Martha's management from wha_hey had been under Cecilia's. For the rest, he lived in a world of books an_bstractions; and, therefore, although his clothes were seldom brushed, an_lthough the Glen housewives concluded, from the ivory-like pallor of hi_lear-cut features and slender hands, that he never got enough to eat, he wa_ot an unhappy man.
If ever a graveyard could be called a cheerful place, the old Methodis_raveyard at Glen St. Mary might be so called. The new graveyard, at the othe_ide of the Methodist church, was a neat and proper and doleful spot; but th_ld one had been left so long to Nature's kindly and gracious ministries tha_t had become very pleasant.
It was surrounded on three sides by a dyke of stones and sod, topped by _ray and uncertain paling. Outside the dyke grew a row of tall fir trees wit_hick, balsamic boughs. The dyke, which had been built by the first settler_f the Glen, was old enough to be beautiful, with mosses and green thing_rowing out of its crevices, violets purpling at its base in the early sprin_ays, and asters and golden-rod making an autumnal glory in its corners.
Little ferns clustered companionably between its stones, and here and there _ig bracken grew.
On the eastern side there was neither fence nor dyke. The graveyard ther_traggled off into a young fir plantation, ever pushing nearer to the grave_nd deepening eastward into a thick wood. The air was always full of the harp-
like voices of the sea, and the music of gray old trees, and in the sprin_ornings the choruses of birds in the elms around the two churches sang o_ife and not of death. The Meredith children loved the old graveyard.
Blue-eyed ivy, "garden-spruce," and mint ran riot over the sunken graves.
Blueberry bushes grew lavishly in the sandy corner next to the fir wood. Th_arying fashions of tombstones for three generations were to be found there,
from the flat, oblong, red sandstone slabs of old settlers, down through th_ays of weeping willows and clasped hands, to the latest monstrosities of tall
"monuments" and draped urns. One of the latter, the biggest and ugliest in th_raveyard, was sacred to the memory of a certain Alec Davis who had been bor_ Methodist but had taken to himself a Presbyterian bride of the Douglas clan.
She had made him turn Presbyterian and kept him toeing the Presbyterian mar_ll his life. But when he died she did not dare to doom him to a lonely grav_n the Presbyterian graveyard over-harbour. His people were all buried in th_ethodist cemetery; so Alec Davis went back to his own in death and his wido_onsoled herself by erecting a monument which cost more than any of th_ethodists could afford. The Meredith children hated it, without just knowin_hy, but they loved the old, flat, bench-like stones with the tall grasse_rowing rankly about them. They made jolly seats for one thing. They were al_itting on one now. Jerry, tired of leap frog, was playing on a jew's-harp.
Carl was lovingly poring over a strange beetle he had found; Una was trying t_ake a doll's dress, and Faith, leaning back on her slender brown wrists, wa_winging her bare feet in lively time to the jew's-harp.
Jerry had his father's black hair and large black eyes, but in him th_atter were flashing instead of dreamy. Faith, who came next to him, wore he_eauty like a rose, careless and glowing. She had golden-brown eyes, golden-
brown curls and crimson cheeks. She laughed too much to please her father'_ongregation and had shocked old Mrs. Taylor, the disconsolate spouse o_everal departed husbands, by saucily declaring—in the church-porch a_hat—"The world ISN'T a vale of tears, Mrs. Taylor. It's a world of laughter."
Little dreamy Una was not given to laughter. Her braids of straight, dead-
black hair betrayed no lawless kinks, and her almond-shaped, dark-blue eye_ad something wistful and sorrowful in them. Her mouth had a trick of fallin_pen over her tiny white teeth, and a shy, meditative smile occasionally crep_ver her small face. She was much more sensitive to public opinion than Faith,
and had an uneasy consciousness that there was something askew in their way o_iving. She longed to put it right, but did not know how. Now and then sh_usted the furniture—but it was so seldom she could find the duster because i_as never in the same place twice. And when the clothes-brush was to be foun_he tried to brush her father's best suit on Saturdays, and once sewed on _issing button with coarse white thread. When Mr. Meredith went to church nex_ay every female eye saw that button and the peace of the Ladies' Aid wa_pset for weeks.
Carl had the clear, bright, dark-blue eyes, fearless and direct, of hi_ead mother, and her brown hair with its glints of gold. He knew the secret_f bugs and had a sort of freemasonry with bees and beetles. Una never like_o sit near him because she never knew what uncanny creature might be secrete_bout him. Jerry refused to sleep with him because Carl had once taken a youn_arter snake to bed with him; so Carl slept in his old cot, which was so shor_hat he could never stretch out, and had strange bed-fellows. Perhaps it wa_ust as well that Aunt Martha was half blind when she made that bed.
Altogether they were a jolly, lovable little crew, and Cecilia Meredith'_eart must have ached bitterly when she faced the knowledge that she mus_eave them.
"Where would you like to be buried if you were a Methodist?" asked Fait_heerfully.
This opened up an interesting field of speculation.
"There isn't much choice. The place is full," said Jerry. "I'D like tha_orner near the road, I guess. I could hear the teams going past and th_eople talking."
"I'd like that little hollow under the weeping birch," said Una. "Tha_irch is such a place for birds and they sing like mad in the mornings."
"I'd take the Porter lot where there's so many children buried. I like lot_f company," said Faith. "Carl, where'd you?"
"I'd rather not be buried at all," said Carl, "but if I had to be I'd lik_he ant-bed. Ants are AWF'LY int'resting."
"How very good all the people who are buried here must have been," sai_na, who had been reading the laudatory old epitaphs. "There doesn't seem t_e a single bad person in the whole graveyard. Methodists must be better tha_resbyterians after all."
"Maybe the Methodists bury their bad people just like they do cats,"
suggested Carl. "Maybe they don't bother bringing them to the graveyard a_ll."
"Nonsense," said Faith. "The people that are buried here weren't any bette_han other folks, Una. But when anyone is dead you mustn't say anything of hi_ut good or he'll come back and ha'nt you. Aunt Martha told me that. I aske_ather if it was true and he just looked through me and muttered, 'True? True?
What is truth? What IS truth, O jesting Pilate?' I concluded from that it mus_e true."
"I wonder if Mr. Alec Davis would come back and ha'nt me if I threw a ston_t the urn on top of his tombstone," said Jerry.
"Mrs. Davis would," giggled Faith. "She just watches us in church like _at watching mice. Last Sunday I made a face at her nephew and he made on_ack at me and you should have seen her glare. I'll bet she boxed HIS ear_hen they got out. Mrs. Marshall Elliott told me we mustn't offend her on an_ccount or I'd have made a face at her, too!"
"They say Jem Blythe stuck out his tongue at her once and she would neve_ave his father again, even when her husband was dying," said Jerry. "I wonde_hat the Blythe gang will be like."
"I liked their looks," said Faith. The manse children had been at th_tation that afternoon when the Blythe small fry had arrived. "I liked Jem'_ooks ESPECIALLY."
"They say in school that Walter's a sissy," said Jerry.
"I don't believe it," said Una, who had thought Walter very handsome.
"Well, he writes poetry, anyhow. He won the prize the teacher offered las_ear for writing a poem, Bertie Shakespeare Drew told me. Bertie's mothe_hought HE should have got the prize because of his name, but Bertie said h_ouldn't write poetry to save his soul, name or no name."
"I suppose we'll get acquainted with them as soon as they begin going t_chool," mused Faith. "I hope the girls are nice. I don't like most of th_irls round here. Even the nice ones are poky. But the Blythe twins loo_olly. I thought twins always looked alike, but they don't. I think the red-
haired one is the nicest."
"I liked their mother's looks," said Una with a little sigh. Una envied al_hildren their mothers. She had been only six when her mother died, but sh_ad some very precious memories, treasured in her soul like jewels, o_wilight cuddlings and morning frolics, of loving eyes, a tender voice, an_he sweetest, gayest laugh.
"They say she isn't like other people," said Jerry.
"Mrs. Elliot says that is because she never really grew up," said Faith.
"She's taller than Mrs. Elliott."
"Yes, yes, but it is inside—Mrs. Elliot says Mrs. Blythe just stayed _ittle girl inside."
"What do I smell?" interrupted Carl, sniffing.
They all smelled it now. A most delectable odour came floating up on th_till evening air from the direction of the little woodsy dell below the mans_ill.
"That makes me hungry," said Jerry.
"We had only bread and molasses for supper and cold ditto for dinner," sai_na plaintively.
Aunt Martha's habit was to boil a large slab of mutton early in the wee_nd serve it up every day, cold and greasy, as long as it lasted. To thi_aith, in a moment of inspiration, had give the name of "ditto", and by thi_t was invariably known at the manse.
"Let's go and see where that smell is coming from," said Jerry.
They all sprang up, frolicked over the lawn with the abandon of youn_uppies, climbed a fence, and tore down the mossy slope, guided by the savor_ure that ever grew stronger. A few minutes later they arrived breathlessly i_he sanctum sanctorum of Rainbow Valley where the Blythe children were jus_bout to give thanks and eat.
They halted shyly. Una wished they had not been so precipitate: but D_lythe was equal to that and any occasion. She stepped forward, with _omrade's smile.
"I guess I know who you are," she said. "You belong to the manse, don'_ou?"
Faith nodded, her face creased by dimples.
"We smelled your trout cooking and wondered what it was."
"You must sit down and help us eat them," said Di.
"Maybe you haven't more than you want yourselves," said Jerry, lookin_ungrily at the tin platter.
"We've heaps—three apiece," said Jem. "Sit down."
No more ceremony was necessary. Down they all sat on mossy stones. Merr_as that feast and long. Nan and Di would probably have died of horror ha_hey known what Faith and Una knew perfectly well—that Carl had two young mic_n his jacket pocket. But they never knew it, so it never hurt them. Where ca_olks get better acquainted than over a meal table? When the last trout ha_anished, the manse children and the Ingleside children were sworn friends an_llies. They had always known each other and always would. The race of Josep_ecognized its own.
They poured out the history of their little pasts. The manse children hear_f Avonlea and Green Gables, of Rainbow Valley traditions, and of the littl_ouse by the harbour shore where Jem had been born. The Ingleside childre_eard of Maywater, where the Merediths had lived before coming to the Glen, o_na's beloved, one-eyed doll and Faith's pet rooster.
Faith was inclined to resent the fact that people laughed at her fo_etting a rooster. She liked the Blythes because they accepted it withou_uestion.
"A handsome rooster like Adam is just as nice a pet as a dog or cat, _hink," she said. "If he was a canary nobody would wonder. And I brought hi_p from a little, wee, yellow chicken. Mrs. Johnson at Maywater gave him t_e. A weasel had killed all his brothers and sisters. I called him after he_usband. I never liked dolls or cats. Cats are too sneaky and dolls are DEAD."
"Who lives in that house away up there?" asked Jerry.
"The Miss Wests—Rosemary and Ellen," answered Nan. "Di and I are going t_ake music lessons from Miss Rosemary this summer."
Una gazed at the lucky twins with eyes whose longing was too gentle fo_nvy. Oh, if she could only have music lessons! It was one of the dreams o_er little hidden life. But nobody ever thought of such a thing.
"Miss Rosemary is so sweet and she always dresses so pretty," said Di. "He_air is just the colour of new molasses taffy," she added wistfully—for Di,
like her mother before her, was not resigned to her own ruddy tresses.
"I like Miss Ellen, too," said Nan. "She always used to give me candie_hen she came to church. But Di is afraid of her."
"Her brows are so black and she has such a great deep voice," said Di. "Oh,
how scared of her Kenneth Ford used to be when he was little! Mother says th_irst Sunday Mrs. Ford brought him to church Miss Ellen happened to be there,
sitting right behind them. And the minute Kenneth saw her he just screamed an_creamed until Mrs. Ford had to carry him out."
"Who is Mrs. Ford?" asked Una wonderingly.
"Oh, the Fords don't live here. They only come here in the summer. An_hey're not coming this summer. They live in that little house 'way, 'way dow_n the harbour shore where father and mother used to lie. I wish you could se_ersis Ford. She is just like a picture."
"I've heard of Mrs. Ford," broke in Faith. "Bertie Shakespeare Drew told m_bout her. She was married fourteen years to a dead man and then he came t_ife."
"Nonsense," said Nan. "That isn't the way it goes at all. Berti_hakespeare can never get anything straight. I know the whole story and I'l_ell it to you some time, but not now, for it's too long and it's time for u_o go home. Mother doesn't like us to be out late these damp evenings."
Nobody cared whether the manse children were out in the damp or not. Aun_artha was already in bed and the minister was still too deeply lost i_peculations concerning the immortality of the soul to remember the mortalit_f the body. But they went home, too, with visions of good times coming i_heir heads.
"I think Rainbow Valley is even nicer than the graveyard," said Una. "And _ust love those dear Blythes. It's SO nice when you can love people because s_ften you CAN'T. Father said in his sermon last Sunday that we should lov_verybody. But how can we? How could we love Mrs. Alec Davis?"
"Oh, father only said that in the pulpit," said Faith airily. "He has mor_ense than to really think it outside."
The Blythe children went up to Ingleside, except Jem, who slipped away fo_ few moments on a solitary expedition to a remote corner of Rainbow Valley.
Mayflowers grew there and Jem never forgot to take his mother a bouquet a_ong as they lasted.