Chronicles of Avonlea
VII. Aunt Olivia's Beau
Aunt Olivia told Peggy and me about him on the afternoon we went over to help her
gather her late roses for pot-pourri. We found her strangely quiet and preoccupied. As a
rule she was fond of mild fun, alert to hear East Grafton gossip, and given to sudden
little trills of almost girlish laughter, which for the time being dispelled the atmosphere of
gentle old- maidishness which seemed to hang about her as a garment. At such
moments we did not find it hard to believe--as we did at other times--that Aunt Olivia
had once been a girl herself.
This day she picked the roses absently, and shook the fairy petals into her little sweet-
grass basket with the air of a woman whose thoughts were far away. We said nothing,
knowing that Aunt Olivia's secrets always came our way in time. When the rose-leaves
were picked, we carried them in and upstairs in single file, Aunt Olivia bringing up the
rear to pick up any stray rose-leaf we might drop. In the south-west room, where there
was no carpet to fade, we spread them on newspapers on the floor. Then we put our
sweet-grass baskets back in the proper place in the proper closet in the proper room.
What would have happened to us, or to the sweet-grass baskets, if this had not been
done I do not know. Nothing was ever permitted to remain an instant out of place in
Aunt Olivia's house.
When we went downstairs, Aunt Olivia asked us to go into the parlour. She had
something to tell us, she said, and as she opened the door a delicate pink flush spread
over her face. I noted it, with surprise, but no inkling of the truth came to me--for nobody
ever connected the idea of possible lovers or marriage with this prim little old maid,
Aunt Olivia's parlour was much like herself--painfully neat. Every article of furniture
stood in exactly the same place it had always stood. Nothing was ever suffered to be
disturbed. The tassels of the crazy cushion lay just so over the arm of the sofa, and the
crochet antimacassar was always spread at precisely the same angel over the
horsehair rocking chair. No speck of dust was ever visible; no fly ever invaded that
Aunt Olivia pulled up a blind, to let in what light could sift finely through the vine leaves,
and sat down in a high-backed old chair that had appertained to her great-grandmother.
She folded her hands in her lap, and looked at us with shy appeal in her blue-gray eyes.
Plainly she found it hard to tell us her secret, yet all the time there was an air of pride
and exultation about her; somewhat, also, of a new dignity. Aunt Olivia could never be
self-assertive, but if it had been possible that would have been her time for it.
"Have you ever heard me speak of Mr. Malcolm MacPherson?" asked Aunt Olivia.