Anne Shirley and her friends do find the perfect house to live in while studying at Redmond College (Dalhousie University) in Kingsport (Halifax): Patty’s Place, a small house near the park, on a street that boasts many houses much larger and much grander. (You can read more about Patty’s Place and “Spofford Avenue,” inspired by Young Avenue, in “L.M. Montgomery’s Halifax: The Real Life Inspiration for Anne of the Island,” by Sue Lange, in The Shining Scroll, the newsletter for the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society.)
Gilbert Blythe proposes, Anne rejects him, and not long after that, she meets Royal Gardner for the first time on “a gray day in the windy park.” Her umbrella has blown inside out and he offers his. “Tall and handsome and distinguished-looking – dark, melancholy, inscrutable eyes – melting, musical, sympathetic voice – yes, the very hero of her dreams stood before her in the flesh. He could not have more closely resembled her ideal if he had been made to order.” He suggests that they wait out the rain under the shelter of the pavilion, which gives them nearly an hour of conversation, and before long Anne begins to think he might really be the hero she’s dreamt of.
It isn’t surprising that Anne spends more time in the park than in Old St. John’s cemetery, given that she loves trees so much. On one of her visits with her friends, “The girls wandered down a long pineland aisle that seemed to lead right out into the heart of a deep-red, overflowing winter sunset.” Philippa finds the walk so inspiring, she wishes she knew how to write a poem. “It’s all so wonderful here – ” she says, “this great, white stillness, and those dark trees that always seem to be thinking.”
Instead of writing a poem, Anne quotes – well, misquotes – the first line of William Cullen Bryant’s 1824 poem “A Forest Hymn” in reply: “‘The woods were God’s first temples,’” adding “One can’t help feeling reverent and adoring in such a place. I always feel so near Him when I walk among the pines.” (The first line of the poem is “The groves were God’s first temples.”) On this walk, Philippa tells Anne about her engagement, and her question about whether Anne is going to marry Roy Gardner prompts Anne to think carefully about both Roy and Gilbert. Roy, who wrote a poem for her on her birthday – “very good stuff of its kind”; “very tolerable magazine verse” about eyes like stars and lips “redder than the roses of Paradise” – and Gilbert, who “would never have dreamed of writing a sonnet to her eyebrows.”
At this point in rereading Anne of the Island, I got one of the songs from “Anne and Gilbert: The Musical” stuck in my head: “Gilbert Would Never Compose a Sonnet to My Eyes.” You can listen to part of the song here. The musical is wonderful, and if you happen to be in Charlottetown this summer, you should definitely go to this one (as well as to the more famous, long-running “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical” at the Confederation Centre for the Arts). Even if you aren’t in PEI this summer, you can buy the songs or the whole album (and no, no one’s paying me to promote any of this!).
I especially recommend “Gilbert Loves Anne of Green Gables” and “You’re Island Through and Through” (“If you mind your business and you mind your neighbour’s, too, you’re Island, you’re Island through and through”). And I love the line from Gilbert’s “Saturday Morning” about “marking papers” – the tone in which he says that line takes me right back to my long days, and nights, of marking essays. I saw “Anne and Gilbert” in Summerside during the summer of 2011 and I’d love to see it again. Here’s a photo of the cast performing “You’re Island Through and Through” – on a temporary stage in front of Green Gables itself.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, Part Three of “Anne of Green Gables in Point Pleasant Park.”
Previous posts on L.M. Montgomery and Halifax: