I finished this book a month ago, but it seems much more appropriate now as I listen to the wind howl outside the drafty windows of my chilly room…
Anne of Windy Poplars, book #4 in the Green Gables series, follows Anne for the 3 years she spends in nearby Summerside as the school principal. It’s a temporary job, she’s waiting for Gilbert to finish med school so they can get married and find their House O’ Dreams, but as usual she leaves a permanent mark on everyone in town, through her usual (mis)adventures.
I think the movies skipped over this book entirely, but I found it to be one of my faves so far. Now that the romance aspect is solidified, I could relax and watch Anne as she alternated between presenting herself as an adult to the outside world and continuing to be the lighthearted girl she really is in the letters she writes to Gilbert:
“I fell in love with it at once. You know there are houses which impress upon you at first sight for some reason you can’t define. Windy Poplars is like that…The little green side door, which we reached by a darling path of thin, flat sandstones sunk at intervals in the grass, was… friendly and inviting. The path was edged by very prim, well-ordered beds of ribbon grass and bleeding-heart and tiger-lilies and sweet-William and southernwood and bride’s bouquet and red-and-white daisies…There was a rose plot in a far corner and between Windy Poplars and the gloomy house next a brick wall all overgrown with Virginia creeper, with an arched trellis above a faded green door in the middle of it. A vine ran right across it, so it was plain it hadn’t been opened for some time. It was really only half a door, for its top half is merely an open oblong through which we could catch a glimpse of a jungly garden on the other side.”
“The whole place was engoldened by the light that came through the corn-colored curtains and there was the rarest tapestry on the whitewashed walls where the shadow patterns of the aspens outside fell…living tapestry, always changing and quivering. Somehow it seemed such a happy room. I felt as if I were the richest girl in the world.”
“The views from my windows are lovely…From my west window I can see all over the harbor to distant, misty shores…From the north window I can see into the grove of birch and maple across the road. You know I’ve always been a tree worshiper…Beyond the grove and the graveyard is a lovable valley with the glossy red ribbon of a road winding through it…And beyond it again is my blue hill. I’m naming it Storm King…the ruling passion, etc. I can be so alone up here when I want to be. You know it’s lovely to be alone once in a while.”
“Across the road into the grove. There is a little dell there where the sun dapples the ferns. A brook meanders through it; there is a twisted mossy tree-trunk on which I sit, and the most delightful row of young sister birches. After this, when I have dreams of a certain kind…a golden-green, crimson-veined dream…a very dream of dreams…I shall please my fancy with the belief that it came from my secret dell of birches and was born of some mystic union between the slenderest, airiest of the sisters and the crooning brook.”
“I went out and down the harbor road. There was such a nice frosty, Octobery smell in the air, blent with the delightful odor of newly ploughed fields. I walked on and on until twilight had deepened into a moonlit autumn night. I was alone but not lonely.”
“A fog is creeping up the harbor tonight, blotting out the red road that little Elizabeth wants to explore. Weeds and leaves are burning in all the town gardens and the combination of smoke and fog is making Spook’s Lane an eerie, fascinating, enchanted place. It is growing late and my bed says, ‘I have sleep for you.’”
Anne, sitting at her tower window one late November evening, with her pen at her lip and dreams in her eyes, looked out on a twilight world and suddenly thought she would like a walk to the old graveyard. She had never visited it yet, preferring the birch and maple grove or the harbor road for her evening rambles. But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.
“Since my own romance is in flower I am all the more interested in other people’s. A nice interest, you know. Not curious or malicious but just glad there’s such a lot of happiness spread about.”
“It’s spring! Perhaps you…don’t know it. But I am aware of it from the crown of my head to the tip of my toes…even the most unlovely streets are transfigured by arms of bloom reaching over old board fences and a ribbon of dandelions in the grass that borders the sidewalks….Everything is calling ‘spring’ to me…the little laughing brooks, the blue hazes on the Storm King, the maples in the grove where I go to read your letters, the white cherry trees along Spook’s Lane…even the old graveyard itself, where all sorts of flowers planted at the heads of the graves are budding into leaf and bloom, as if to say, ‘Even here life is triumphant over death.’”
She slipped through the hall to a back door that opened almost on the bay, and flitted down a flight of rocky steps to the shore, past a little grove of pointed firs. How divine the cool salt air was after the sultry evening! How exquisite the silver patterns of moonlight on the bay! How dream-like that ship which had sailed at the rising of the moon and was now approaching the harbor bar! It was a night when you might expect to stray into a dance of mermaids.
“School closed today. Two months of Green Gables and dew-wet, spicy ferns ankle-deep along the brook and lazy, dappling shadows in Lover’s Lane and wild strawberries in Mr. Bell’s pasture and the dark loveliness of firs in the Haunted Wood! My very soul has wings.”
“I’m alone in my tower. Outside there is a still, still night and the silence is velvety. Not even the poplars are stirring. I have just leaned out my window and blown a kiss in the direction of somebody not a hundred miles away…”
Run they did and from its shelter enjoyed the shower as they had enjoyed everything else on that care-free gypsying afternoon. A veiled hush had fallen over the world. All the young breezes that had been whispering and rustling so importantly along the Dawlish Road had folded their wings and become motionless and soundless. Not a leaf stired, not a shadow flickered. The maple leaves at the bend of the road turned wrong side out until the trees looked as if they were turning pale from fear. A huge cool shadow seemed to engulf them like a green wave…the cloud had reached them. Then the rain, with a rush and sweep of wind. The shower pattered sharply down on the leaves, danced along the smoking red road and pelted the roof to the old forge right merrily.
As suddenly as it had come up, it was over and the sun was shining on the wet, glistening trees. Dazzling glimpses of blue sky appeared between the torn white clouds. Far away they could see a hill still dim with rain, but below them the cup of the valley seemed to brim over with peach-tinted mists. The woods around were pranked out with a sparkle and glitter as of springtime, and a bird began to sing in the big maple over the forge as if he were cheated into believing it really was springtime, so amazingly fresh and sweet did the world seem all at once.
The drive from the station to Green Gables had always been a very pleasant part of Anne’s week-ends home. She always recalled her first drive home…with Matthew. That had been spring and this was December, but everything along the road kept saying to her, “Do you remember?”
“One can always find something lovely to look at or listen to,” said Anne.
“January so far has been a month of cold gray days, with an occasional storm whirling across the harbor and filling Spook’s Lane with drifts. But last night we had a silver thaw and today the sun shone. My maple grove was a place of unimaginable splendors. Even the commonplaces had been made lovely. Every bit of wire fencing was a wonder of crystal lace.”
“‘Gilbert, darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such a dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!'”
“Today has been a day dropped out of June into April. The snow is all gone and the fawn meadows and golden hills just sing of spring. I know I heard Pan piping in the little green hollow in my maple bush and my Storm King was bannered with the airiest of purple hazes. We’ve had a great deal of rain lately and I’ve loved sitting in my tower in the still, wet hours of spring twilights. But tonight is a gusty, hurrying night…even the clouds racing over the sky are in a hurry and the moonlight that gushes out between them is in a hurry to flood the world.”
The truth was that Anne was the victim of a very severe and very unromantic cold in the head. It would not allow her to enjoy the soft green sky behind the hemlocks of The Evergreens, the silver-white moon hanging over the Storm King, the haunting perfume of the lilacs below her window, or the frosty, blue-penciled irises in the vase on her table. It darkened all her past and overshadowed all her future. “A cold in the head in June is an immoral thing.”
“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.”
Little Elizabeth just wanted to walk quietly on towards that blueness at the end of the world, drinking in the beauty around her. Every turn and kink of the road revealed new loveliness…and it turned and kinked interminably, following the windings of a tiny river that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. On every side were fields of buttercups and clover where bees buzzed. Now and then they walked through a milky way of daisies. Far out the strait laughed at them in silver-tipped waves. The harbor was like watered silk. Little Elizabeth liked it better that way than when it was like pale blue satin. They drank the wind in. It was a very gentle wind. It purred about them and seemed to coax them on.
“I went to my old graveyard yesterday evening for a last prowl…And I’m saying good-by tonight to the old Storm King, with the sunset on its brow, and my little winding valley full of dusk…For a week after I get back to Green Gables I’m going to be lazy…do absolutely nothing but run free in a green world of summer loveliness. I’ll dream by the Dryad’s Bubble in the twilight. I’ll drift on the Lake of Shining Waters in a shallop shaped from a moonbeam…or in Mr. Barry’s flat, if moonbeam shallops are not in season. I’ll gather starflowers and June bells in the Haunted Wood. I’ll find plots of wild strawberries in Mr. Harrison’s hill pasture. I’ll join the dance of fireflies in Lover’s Lane and visit Hester Gray’s old, forgotten garden…and sit out on the back door-step under the stars and listen to the sea calling in its sleep. And when the week is ended you will be home…and I won’t want anything else.”
Book cover from Amazon