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Further Chronicles of Avonlea

VI. The Brother Who Failed
The Monroe family were holding a Christmas reunion at the old Prince Edward Island
homestead at White Sands. It was the first time they had all been together under one
roof since the death of their mother, thirty years before. The idea of this Christmas
reunion had originated with Edith Monroe the preceding spring, during her tedious
convalescence from a bad attack of pneumonia among strangers in an American city,
where she had not been able to fill her concert engagements, and had more spare time
in which to feel the tug of old ties and the homesick longing for her own people than she
had had for years. As a result, when she recovered, she wrote to her second brother,
James Monroe, who lived on the homestead; and the consequence was this gathering
of the Monroes under the old roof-tree. Ralph Monroe for once laid aside the cares of
his railroads, and the deceitfulness of his millions, in Toronto and took the long-
promised, long-deferred trip to the homeland. Malcolm Monroe journeyed from the far
western university of which he was president. Edith came, flushed with the triumph of
her latest and most successful concert tour. Mrs. Woodburn, who had been Margaret
Monroe, came from the Nova Scotia town where she lived a busy, happy life as the wife
of a rising young lawyer. James, prosperous and hearty, greeted them warmly at the old
homestead whose fertile acres had well repaid his skillful management.
They were a merry party, casting aside their cares and years, and harking back to
joyous boyhood and girlhood once more. James had a family of rosy lads and lasses;
Margaret brought her two blue-eyed little girls; Ralph's dark, clever-looking son
accompanied him, and Malcolm brought his, a young man with a resolute face, in which
there was less of boyishness than in his father's, and the eyes of a keen, perhaps a
hard bargainer. The two cousins were the same age to a day, and it was a family joke
among the Monroes that the stork must have mixed the babies, since Ralph's son was
like Malcolm in face and brain, while Malcolm's boy was a second edition of his uncle
Ralph.
To crown all, Aunt Isabel came, too--a talkative, clever, shrewd old lady, as young at
eighty-five as she had been at thirty, thinking the Monroe stock the best in the world,
and beamingly proud of her nephews and nieces, who had gone out from this humble,
little farm to destinies of such brilliance and influence in the world beyond.
I have forgotten Robert. Robert Monroe was apt to be forgotten. Although he was the
oldest of the family, White Sands people, in naming over the various members of the
Monroe family, would add, "and Robert," in a tone of surprise over the remembrance of
his existence.
He lived on a poor, sandy little farm down by the shore, but he had come up to James'
place on the evening when the guests arrived; they had all greeted him warmly and
joyously, and then did not think about him again in their laughter and conversation.
Robert sat back in a corner and listened with a smile, but he never spoke. Afterwards he
 
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