Anne of the Island
XIV. The Summons
Anne was sitting with Ruby Gillis in the Gillis' garden after the day had crept lingeringly
through it and was gone. It had been a warm, smoky summer afternoon. The world was
in a splendor of out-flowering. The idle valleys were full of hazes. The woodways were
pranked with shadows and the fields with the purple of the asters.
Anne had given up a moonlight drive to the White Sands beach that she might spend
the evening with Ruby. She had so spent many evenings that summer, although she
often wondered what good it did any one, and sometimes went home deciding that she
could not go again.
Ruby grew paler as the summer waned; the White Sands school was given up--"her
father thought it better that she shouldn't teach till New Year's"--and the fancy work she
loved oftener and oftener fell from hands grown too weary for it. But she was always
gay, always hopeful, always chattering and whispering of her beaux, and their rivalries
and despairs. It was this that made Anne's visits hard for her. What had once been silly
or amusing was gruesome, now; it was death peering through a wilful mask of life. Yet
Ruby seemed to cling to her, and never let her go until she had promised to come again
soon. Mrs. Lynde grumbled about Anne's frequent visits, and declared she would catch
consumption; even Marilla was dubious.
"Every time you go to see Ruby you come home looking tired out," she said.
"It's so very sad and dreadful," said Anne in a low tone. "Ruby doesn't seem to realize
her condition in the least. And yet I somehow feel she needs help--craves it--and I want
to give it to her and can't. All the time I'm with her I feel as if I were watching her
struggle with an invisible foe--trying to push it back with such feeble resistance as she
has. That is why I come home tired."
But tonight Anne did not feel this so keenly. Ruby was strangely quiet. She said not a
word about parties and drives and dresses and "fellows." She lay in the hammock, with
her untouched work beside her, and a white shawl wrapped about her thin shoulders.
Her long yellow braids of hair--how Anne had envied those beautiful braids in old
schooldays!--lay on either side of her. She had taken the pins out--they made her head
ache, she said. The hectic flush was gone for the time, leaving her pale and childlike.
The moon rose in the silvery sky, empearling the clouds around her. Below, the pond
shimmered in its hazy radiance. Just beyond the Gillis homestead was the church, with
the old graveyard beside it. The moonlight shone on the white stones, bringing them out
in clear-cut relief against the dark trees behind.
"How strange the graveyard looks by moonlight!" said Ruby suddenly. "How ghostly!"
she shuddered. "Anne, it won't be long now before I'll be lying over there. You and