“Anne Shirley to Philippa Gordon, greeting.
“Well-beloved, it’s high time I was writing you. Here am I, installed once more as a country ‘schoolma’am’ at Valley Road, boarding at ‘Wayside,’ the home of Miss Janet Sweet. Janet is a dear soul and very nicelooking; tall, but not over-tall; stoutish, yet with a certain restraint of outline suggestive of a thrifty soul who is not going to be overlavish even in the matter of avoirdupois. She has a knot of soft, crimpy, brown hair with a thread of gray in it, a sunny face with rosy cheeks, and big, kind eyes as blue as forget-me-nots. Moreover, she is one of those delightful, old-fashioned cooks who don’t care a bit if they ruin your digestion as long as they can give you feasts of fat things.
“I like her; and she likes me—principally, it seems, because she had a sister named Anne who died young.
“‘I’m real glad to see you,’ she said briskly, when I landed in her yard. ‘My, you don’t look a mite like I expected. I was sure you’d be dark—my sister Anne was dark. And here you’re redheaded!’
“For a few minutes I thought I wasn’t going to like Janet as much as I had expected at first sight. Then I reminded myself that I really must be more sensible than to be prejudiced against any one simply because she called my hair red. Probably the word ‘auburn’ was not in Janet’s vocabulary at all.
“‘Wayside’ is a dear sort of little spot. The house is small and white, set down in a delightful little hollow that drops away from the road. Between road and house is an orchard and flower-garden all mixed up together. The front door walk is bordered with quahog clam-shells—’cow-hawks,’ Janet calls them; there is Virginia Creeper over the porch and moss on the roof. My room is a neat little spot ‘off the parlor’—just big enough for the bed and me. Over the head of my bed there is a picture of Robby Burns standing at Highland Mary’s grave, shadowed by an enormous weeping willow tree. Robby’s face is so lugubrious that it is no wonder I have bad dreams. Why, the first night I was here I dreamed I COULDN’T LAUGH.
“The parlor is tiny and neat. Its one window is so shaded by a huge willow that the room has a grotto-like effect of emerald gloom. There are wonderful tidies on the chairs, and gay mats on the floor, and books and cards carefully arranged on a round table, and vases of dried grass on the mantel-piece. Between the vases is a cheerful decoration of preserved coffin plates—five in all, pertaining respectively to Janet’s father and mother, a brother, her sister Anne, and a hired man who died here once! If I go suddenly insane some of these days ‘know all men by these presents’ that those coffin-plates have caused it.
“But it’s all delightful and I said so. Janet loved me for it, just as she detested poor Esther because Esther had said so much shade was unhygienic and had objected to sleeping on a feather bed. Now, I glory in feather-beds, and the more unhygienic and feathery they are the more I glory. Janet says it is such a comfort to see me eat; she had been so afraid I would be like Miss Haythorne, who wouldn’t eat anything but fruit and hot water for breakfast and tried to make Janet give up frying things. Esther is really a dear girl, but she is rather given to fads. The trouble is that she hasn’t enough imagination and HAS a tendency to indigestion.
“Janet told me I could have the use of the parlor when any young men called! I don’t think there are many to call. I haven’t seen a young man in Valley Road yet, except the next-door hired boy—Sam Toliver, a very tall, lank, tow-haired youth. He came over one evening recently and sat for an hour on the garden fence, near the front porch where Janet and I were doing fancy-work. The only remarks he volunteered in all that time were, ‘Hev a peppermint, miss! Dew now-fine thing for carARRH, peppermints,’ and, ‘Powerful lot o’ jump-grasses round here ternight. Yep.’
“But there is a love affair going on here. It seems to be my fortune to be mixed up, more or less actively, with elderly love affairs. Mr. and Mrs. Irving always say that I brought about their marriage. Mrs. Stephen Clark of Carmody persists in being most grateful to me for a suggestion which somebody else would probably have made if I hadn’t. I do really think, though, that Ludovic Speed would never have got any further along than placid courtship if I had not helped him and Theodora Dix out.
“In the present affair I am only a passive spectator. I’ve tried once to help things along and made an awful mess of it. So I shall not meddle again. I’ll tell you all about it when we meet.”