October 1st, 1899
My Untamed and Untranslatable Love,
“For not my life and years alone I give—all, all I give” to you, Gilbert! Tell me, oh Whitman devotee, could you name the title from which this profound line of verse comes? Close your eyes tight and see if it’s within your recollection. If you guessed Autumn Rivulets, then you guessed correctly! Oh Gilbert, I know I say this about every season, but autumn truly and undeniably is the best time of year. I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. Yet, I’m even gladder to live in a world where there is you. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll strain my heart by taking the intensity of my love and condensing it into articulate words for my letters, so I may have no choice but to completely and utterly let loose.
May it come as some solace to you that while you are peering dazedly at your shoelaces, my own eyes are certainly transfixed out the window and into the eastward flying clouds. I often pretend that as the wind sculpts their shapes and fissures, they’re replicating the image of you when they last flew above your head, that I might catch a brief image of what you looked like. You may not realize it, but the infinite curls of your hair rival even the richest cumulus clouds. In my experience, they are just as soft.
How delighted I was to hear about your interest in sign language! My own limited knowledge of it has already captivated me—how wonderful it is that our own hands, our fingers and palms, can say such vast things! If I may add some suggestions of phrases to learn, you may care to understand me if I sign: “Meet me on Lover’s Lane,” “I love your splendid chin,” or on especially red-blooded days, “Here is where I’d like to be kissed.” I understand these aren’t of a medical nature, but I believe you’ll think they are just as important.
I hope you won’t be alarmed when I say I think we’ll need all the help we can get arranging our rendezvous. It’s likely that you were writing about the all-knowing Rachel Lynde the very moment she received a very interesting missive from Eliza Barry. Poor Diana is horrified that her mother would be the cause of all Avonlea discovering our courtship, but I can hardly blame Diana or her father. After all, they were the ones that brought you to me in the first place, and I would sit through a thousand of Mrs. Lynde’s most caustic lectures if it meant that I could see you for a few moments longer. Thankfully, I was not directly scolded by Mrs. Lynde, but—well, I ought to just tell you how it happened. Worry not, fair lad, this story has a happy ending.
News of our new romantic understanding reached Marilla just two days ago thanks to a particularly...concerned letter Mrs. Lynde sent her. I don’t know this because I’ve spoken to Marilla, but because I stumbled upon Mrs. Lynde during one of my late afternoon walks. She was in Charlottetown on urgent business regarding a pain in her appendix, though she seemed to make a miraculous recovery as soon as she saw me. I impressed myself with the fact that I was able to keep a straight face as she informed me in a mournful tone that, regrettably, she had fulfilled her duty as my godmother. You’re as surprised as I am about that, I’m sure. “Your duty?” I asked her. “Why yes,” replied she, “a godmother’s duty is to bear even the most sorrowful news when it must come to light.” And no, dearest Gilbert, I did not laugh like I wanted to when she listed my various misdemeanors as frolicking around with a man, displaying my stockings to the Charlottetown public, and other “squalid displays.” I’m sure you can imagine her exact expression of horror when I admitted to her that my behaviour that day wasn’t sorrowful at all, but entirely blissful. Marilla may receive another letter about that particular remark.
Please don’t be troubled by Mrs. Lynde’s display. I have already written to Matthew and Marilla to explain my side of things, with no mention of Rachel Lynde. I want them to hear all I have to say from the truest depths of my heart. I know that once I tell them what really happened, sparing a few details, they will be just as glad as we are. Of course, hearing the contents of your own heart will only help our case. Believe me when I say there is nothing to fear. You won my parents over years ago, perhaps even before you’d won me over!
As for the happy ending of this tale, news of our courtship has reached many of the Avonlea folk and everyone (save for poor Charlie) has expressed hearty congratulations. I was worried that in the eyes of some, I wouldn’t measure up to past candidates of your affection, but these worries turned out to be unfounded. It seems that you and I together —Anne and Gilbert, Gilbert and Anne—is the natural way of things. I’m inclined to wholeheartedly agree. It wasn’t until you appeared in the golden sunlight dressed in your travelling clothes that I felt how right it really was—you by my side, us together as equals in support and in love.
But I would be doing you a major disservice if I spared the details of how our Avonlea classmates reacted to our news. In one word: hysterically. Some more than others. I might’ve neglected to mention that while Rachel Lynde was expressing her immense disappointment, the Avonlea girls were standing but a few feet away. The most amusing reaction was Tillie’s, who said nothing, but turned as red as the apples in your orchard. I feared Ruby’s reaction, but all traces of her infatuation with you have disappeared. The dear thing asked for the whole story in narrative form. I spun the loveliest story I could, relishing in every sigh and squeal that accompanied descriptions of kisses and unread love letters. Even Josie was enthralled by our many miscommunications. All that is to say, we have their unparalleled support. By all means, though, if you’d like to discuss the matter with them directly, I can forward the address of Moody and Charlie’s boarding house.
Now for the matter of my utter bewilderment. I find it incredibly hard to believe that after all the reading you did during lunches and in the long, quiet afternoons, there are still gaps in your education. Were the city kids truly learning all the bones and nerves in the body while you and I were creating electricity out of potatoes? Your hard work and your passion will carry you above and beyond the “egregious gaps” in your knowledge. And, for what it’s worth, I’d be willing to bet there are things you know that your classmates don’t. Show me any of your peers who know Mi’kmaq medicine as well as you. While we’re surveying, show me anyone else in the entirety of Toronto who exceeds your compassion, your heart for healing, and your love of humanity. In these instances, you are, as you say, the elite.
I wonder if The University Club realizes they are accepting such a spitfire into their midst—an islander through and through! I anxiously await a more detailed report of what such a club entails. When you enter the lofty Toronto gentry as one of their most respected young medical students, remember to spare a thought for your redheaded island love. For now, it sounds like your feet will remain safely on solid ground, otherwise you wouldn’t have defended your fellow boarder with such passion! I’m proud of you for standing up for what is right and for not forgetting where you come from. PEI misses you. No one more than me.
How thankful I am that we don’t share the predicament of poor Ben and his sweetheart in Alberta! If you were that far away, I’m afraid I’d forget where the freckles are on your face and the exact sound of your voice. Spending Christmas alone in Toronto does sound terribly lonely. I know it wouldn’t be the same as spending the holiday with his sweetheart, but maybe we could invite him to our family’s Christmas dinner! One day, I’d love to hear about your stories on the mainland with your father. I might even have stories of my own to share by then.
As for me, I am enjoying the sweet bliss that accompanies the sense of being alive! Your mentions of Paris have brought to life hundreds of images of our future, and I have delighted in every one, hoping that each could come true. Adventure has a habit of finding us, wouldn’t you say? So I don’t suppose we’ll have to actively go looking for it. Even our days spent in quiet peace together will be adventures all of their own. Do you see the same things I do, Gilbert? A white fence, a creek behind the house, a flowerbed like Mary’s, and the sun shining on our house of dreams? Let’s travel, let’s stay in place, let’s do it all. As long as you’re there, I’ll have all I need. (Alright, and maybe a hearty helping of trees nearby. Without them, something vital in me would starve!)
Classes are a constant source of excitement, especially with a few familiar faces in them. There is a fellow who always seems to be getting his degree in Instigating Fights with Anne Shirley-Cuthbert! I promise I am the opposite of disagreeable in class, but then he says something that fuels a passionate fire in me, and I can’t help but raise my hand and rebut. Can you believe there exists such a fellow who would say, “The natives are an uncivilized pack of brute animals?” My heart shatters to know there are people who think that way, and despite my most dedicated efforts, I sometimes fear they will never change. I have been tossing around the idea of perhaps beginning a club of my own, one which supports causes others might be afraid to support. This time I’ll avoid all covert operations. I want others involved. I just don’t know how to go about that quite yet. Any ideas?
Aside from classes and light gossip with my housemates, there is one last task that has taken over the entirety of my thoughts. (That is, when I’m not thinking of you!) I mentioned to you that I was planning on writing some stories, but all I needed to get started was a gripping plot! I don’t have one...yet! But I do have a protagonist. I’ve named her Averil Lester, a name only suitable for the bravest of heroines, though I’ve not a clue what her story should be about. Is she a noblewoman who meets a dastardly sailor, only to melt his heart? But then again, I’ve decided the name of her love interest, Perceval Dalrymple, and he doesn’t sound much like a sailor, does he? Maybe he’s a librarian and Averil is a spy and a thief, hired to steal a valuable book from underneath his nose! No, I don’t suppose magazine companies would care to buy a story like that for their readers. Originally, I had wanted to write a heartbreaking story, as it always sounded so romantic. But after experiencing it firsthand, I decided against it. I feel like I’ve fallen into a pit of mud and can’t get up; I’m stuck!
I’ve tried a few exercises, writing Averil’s words to see if she could tell me what direction to head in, but she will do and say things I never meant her to. Then that spoils all the ideas that came before and I have to write it all over again. Even Perceval has a way of distracting me because he bears a striking resemblance to another dark-haired fellow I know. If you have any thoughts of your own on this matter, I’m in dire need.
I feel as though I’ve focused on ordinary subjects for too long now, and spent no time flirting with my unspeakably handsome sweetheart. But Diana is glaring at me for leaving my candle burning so late, so I will press a kiss just here and hope that the strength of my adoration and pride in you reaches you, wherever you are. Know that my heart is yours, always. I do love you so, Gilbert!
One last Whitman quote for you, my love, to calm your mind and centre my deep affection in your heart and within your grasp: “I will You, in all, Myself, with promise to never desert you, To which I sign my name,”