Authors: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Tags: #Classics, #Young Adult, #Childrens, #Historical, #Romance
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Webb
The First Year
The Second Year
The Third Year
The Fourth Year
The Fifth Year
The Sixth Year
The Seventh Year
The Eighth Year
The Ninth Year
The Tenth Year
The Eleventh Year
The First Year
There were hundreds of trees, big and little, on the Silver Bush farm and every tree was a personal friend of Pat’s. It was anguish to her when one of them, even some gnarled old spruce in the woods at the back, was cut down. Nobody had ever been able to convince Pat that it was not murder to cut a tree down … justifiable homicide perhaps, since there had to be fires and lumber, but homicide nevertheless.
And no tree was ever cut in the grove of white birches behind the house. THAT would have been sacrilege. Occasionally one blew down in an autumn storm and was mourned by Pat until time turned it into a beautiful mossy log with ferns growing thickly all along it.
Everybody at Silver Bush loved the birch grove, though to none of them did it mean what it meant to Pat. For her it LIVED. She not only knew the birches but they knew her: the fern-sweet solitudes, threaded with shadows, knew her: the wind in the boughs always made her a glad salutation. From the first beginnings of memory she had played in it and wandered in it and dreamed in it. She could not remember the time it had not held her imagination in thrall and dominated her life. In childhood it had been peopled by the leprechauns and green folk of Judy Plum’s stories: and now that those dear and lovely beliefs had drifted away from her like faint and beckoning wraiths their old magic still haunted the silver bush. It could never be to Pat just the ordinary grove of white-skinned trees and ferny hollows it was to other people. But then, Pat, so her family always said, was just a little different from other people, too. She had been different when she was a big-eyed child … different when she was a brown, skinny little imp in her early teens … and still different, now that she was twenty and ought, so Judy Plum felt, to be having beaus.
There HAD been a boy or two in Pat’s past but Judy considered them mere experiments. Pat, however, did not seem to want beaus, in spite of Judy’s sly hints. All she really wanted, or seemed to want, was to “run” Silver Bush and take care of mother … who was a bit of an invalid … and see that as few changes as possible came into existence there. If she could have been granted a fairy wish it would be that she might wave a wand and make everything remain exactly the same for at least a hundred years.
She loved her home with a passion. She was deeply loyal to it … to its faults as well as its virtues … though she would never admit it had any faults. Every small thing about it gave her the keenest joy. If she went away for a visit she was homesick until she could return to it.
“Silver Bush isn’t her house … it’s her religion,” Uncle Brian had once said teasingly.
Every room in it meant something … had some vital message for her. It had the look that houses wear when they have been loved for years. It was a house where nobody ever seemed to be in a hurry … a house from which nobody ever went away without feeling better in some way … a house in which there was always laughter. There had been so much laughter at Silver Bush that the very walls seemed soaked in it. It was a house where you felt welcome the moment you stepped into it. It took you in … rested you. The very chairs clamoured to be sat upon, so hospitable was it. And it was overrun by beautiful cats … fat, fluffy fellows basking on the window sills or huddles of silk-soft kittens sleeping on the warm sandstone slabs in the old family graveyard beyond the orchard. People came from all over the Island to get a Silver Bush cat. Pat hated to give them away but of course something had to be done, since the kitten crop never failed.
“Tom Baker was here for a kitten to-day,” said Judy.
“‘What brade is it?’ sez he, solemn-like. That fam’ly av Bakers never did be having too much sinse. ‘Oh, oh, no brade at all,’ sez I. ‘Our cats do be just common or garden cats,’ sez I. ‘But we give them a good home and talk to thim now and thin as inny self-respicting cat likes to be talked to,’ sez I, ‘wid a bit av a compliment thrown in once in a while. And so they do their bist for us in the matter av kittens as well as all ilse. Sure and I do be forgetting what a rat looks like,’ sez I. I was faling a bit unwilling to give him the kitten. They’ll trate it well, I’m having no manner av doubt, but they’ll niver remimber to pass the time av day wid it.”
“Our cats own us anyway,” said Cuddles lazily. “Aunt Edith says it’s absurd the way we spoil them. She says there are lots of poor Christians don’t have the life our cats have and she thinks it awful that we let them sleep at the foot of our beds.”
“Oh, oh, see there now, ye’ve sint Gintleman Tom off mad,” said Judy reprovingly. “Cats always do be knowing what ye’re saying av thim. And Gintleman Tom’s that sensitive.”
Cuddles idly watched Gentleman Tom … Judy’s lank, black cat who was so old that he had forgotten to die, Sid said … stalk indignantly off through the ferns of the path. She and Pat and Judy were spending the hours of the late summer afternoon in the silver bush. They had fallen into the habit of doing their odd jobs there, where bird music occasionally dripped through the leafy silence or a squirrel chattered or wood winds wove their murmurous spells. Pat went there to write her letters and Cuddles studied her lessons. Often mother brought her knitting and sewing. It was a lovely place to work in … though Cuddles seldom worked while there. She generally left that to Pat and Judy. The latter was sitting on a mossy log, stoning cherries for preserving and the former was making new apple-green curtains for the dining room. Cuddles, observing that it was a poor place that couldn’t support one lady, put her hands on the grass behind her and leaned back on them, looking up at the opal-hued sky between the tree-tops.
“Bold-and-Bad won’t leave us,” she said. “HE isn’t so touchy.”
“Oh, oh, ye cudn’t be hurting that cat’s falings, by rason that he hasn’t got inny,” said Judy, with a somewhat scornful glance at the big grey cat sitting on the log by Pat, blinking eyes of pale jade with a black line down their centre at a dog with a sleek, golden-brown back who was happily gnawing a rather malodorous bone behind the log, occasionally pausing to gaze up in Pat’s face adoringly and wistfully. Then Pat would stroke his head and pull his pointed ears, whereat Bold-and-Bad would look more remote than ever. Bold-and-Bad always considered “the dog McGinty,” as Judy called him, an interloper. Hilary Gordon had left him with Pat nearly two years ago, when he went away to college in Toronto. At first McGinty had nearly broken his heart but he knew Pat loved him and eventually he perked up a bit and gave Bold-and-Bad as good as he sent. An armed truce existed between them, for Bold-and-Bad had not forgotten what Pat did to him the day he scratched McGinty’s nose. McGinty would always have been friends but Bold-and-Bad was simply not having any.
“Oh, oh, what wid all these cherries to be stoned afore supper I do be wishing we had a ghost like they had at Castle McDermott in the ould days,” said Judy, with an exaggerated sigh. “That was a ghost now … a rale useful, industrious cratur. The odd jobs he’d do ye wudn’t be belaving … stirring the porridge and peeling the pittaties and scouring the brasses … he wasn’t above turning his hand to innything. Sorra the day the ould lord lift a bit av money on the kitchen dresser for him, saying the labourer was worthy av his hire. He niver come again … his falings having been hurt be the same. Oh, oh, it cost the McDermott the kape av another maid. Ye niver know where ye are whin ye’re dealing wid the craturs. Sure and that’s the disadvantage av ghosts. Some wud have been offinded if they hadn’t been thanked. But a ghost like that wud be rale handy once in a while at Silver Bush, wudn’t it now, Cuddles, darlint?”
Luckily Judy did not see Pat and Cuddles exchanging smiles. They had begun to share with each other their amused delight in Judy’s stories, which had replaced the credulity of early childhood. There had been a time when both Pat and Cuddles would have believed implicity in the industrious McDermott ghost.
“Judy, if that yarn is a gentle hint for me to get busy and help you stone those cherries I’m not going to take it,” said Cuddles with a grin. “I hate sewing and preserving. Pat is the domestic type … I’m not. When I’m here I just like to squat on the grass and listen to you talking. I’ve got my blue dress on and cherry juice stains. Besides, I’ve got pains in my stomach … I really have … every now and then.”
“If ye WILL ate liddle grane apples ye must put up wid pains in yer stomach,” said Judy, as remorselessly as cause and effect. “Though whin I was a girleen it wasn’t thought rale good manners to talk av yer insides so plain, Cuddles.”
“You keep on calling me Cuddles,” said Cuddles sulkily. “I’ve asked you all to stop it and not one of you will. Away from home I’m Rae … I like that, but here at Silver Bush everybody ‘Cuddles’ me. It’s so … so babyish … now that I’m thirteen.”
“So it is, Cuddles dear,” agreed Judy. “But I’m too old to be larning new names. I’m guessing ye’ll always be Cuddles to me. And such a tommyshaw as we had finding a name for ye at that! Do ye be minding, Pat? And how upset ye was bekase I wint hunting in the parsley bed for a new baby the night Cuddles was born? Oh, oh, that was the tarrible night at Silver Bush! We niver thought yer mother wud live through it, Patsy dear. To think it do be thirteen years ago!”
“I remember how big and red the moon was that night, rising over the Hill of the Mist,” said Pat dreamily. “Oh, Judy, did you know that the lightning struck the middle lombardy on the Hill of the Mist last week? It killed it and it has to be cut down. I don’t see how I can stand it. I’ve always loved those three trees so. They’ve been there ever since I can remember. Now, McGinty, don’t do it. I know it’s a temptation when his tail hangs down so … that’s right, Bold-and-Bad, tuck it up. And while I think about it, Bold-and-Bad, you needn’t … you really needn’t … bring any more mice to my bedside in the early morning hours, I’ll take your word for it that you caught them.”
“The yells av him whin he’s carrying one upstairs!” said Judy. “It’d break his heart if he cudn’t be showing it off to somebody.”
“I thought you said a moment ago he hadn’t any feelings,” giggled Cuddles.
Judy ignored her and turned to Pat.
“Will we be having a cherry pudding tomorrow, Patsy?”
“Yes, I think so. Oh, do you remember how Joe loved cherry puddings?”
“Oh, oh, there’s not much I do be forgetting about Joe, Patsy dear. Was it Shanghai his last letter was from? I’m not belaving thim yellow Chinese know innything about making cherry puddings. Or plum puddings ather. We’ll have one av thim for Christmas when Joe will be home.”
“I wonder if he really will,” sighed Pat. “He has never been home for Christmas since he went away. He’s always planned to come but something always prevents.”
“Trix Binnie says Joe has had his nose tattooed and that’s the reason he doesn’t come home,” said Cuddles. “She says Captain Dave Binnie saw him last year in Buenos Ayres and didn’t know him, he looked so awful. Do you think there’s any truth in it?”
“Not if a Binnie do be telling it,” said Judy contemptuously. “Don’t be worrying, Cuddles.”
“Oh, I’m not. I rather hoped it was. It would be so interesting. If he IS tattooed I’m going to get him to do me when he comes home.”
There was simply nothing to be said to this. Judy turned again to Pat.
“He’s to be captain by Christmas, didn’t he say? Oh, oh, but that b’y has got on! He’ll be a year younger than yer Uncle Horace was whin he got his ship. I do be minding the time HE come home that summer and brought his monkey wid him.”
“I’m telling ye. The baste took possession. Yer liddle grandmother was nearly out av her wits. And poor ould Jim Appleby … he was niver known to be sober … just a bit less drunk than common was all ye cud be saying at the bist av times … he come down to Silver Bush to buy some pigs and yer Uncle Horace’s monkey was skipping along the top av the pig-pen fince quite careless-like. Yer grandfather said ould Jim turned white … all but his nose … and he sez, sez he, ‘I’ve got ‘em! Ma always said I’d git ‘em and I have. But I’ll niver be touching a drop again.’ He kipt his word for two months but he was that cross and cantankerous his family were rale glad whin he forgot about the monkey. Mrs. Jim did be saying she wished Horace Gardiner wud kape his minagerie widin bounds. If Jim comes it’s a rale reunion we’ll have, Patsy.”
“Yes. Winnie and Frank will be over and we’ll all be together again. We must plan it all out some of these days. I do love planning things.”
“Aunt Edith says it’s no use making plans because something always happens to upset them,” said Cuddles gloomily.
“Niver ye be belaving it, me jewel. And innyhow what if they do be upset? Ye’ve had the fun av planning. Don’t be letting yer Aunt Edith make a … a … what did Siddy be calling it now?”