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Joyce left Dr. Blythe's side for a moment. He was dying, but a commontion
downstairs was attracting her attention. She walked slowly, softly,
downstairs. It was a windless day--so if she wasn't careful, she might be
heard.

"Rilla, what is it?" Ken asked. Rilla, usually so put together, was shaken
and unnerved. Other Blythes, Merediths, and Fords were gathering around her.

"I thought I saw Mother and Walter walking outside," Rilla was upset that
Dad was dying--but to be this upset to imagine she saw Walter.

Nobody said anything. They had been raised to have active and fertile
imaginations, but all of them knew where fantasy stopped and reality began.
Even Walter, visionary poet that he was, established boundaries between the
real and the imagined. And, yet, here was Rilla--who had never seen ghosts
except for in her childhood fancy--stating that she had seen their long dead
Mother and brother.

Shirley broke the silence. Joyce was wondering what he planned to say. "I
thought I sense Mother's presence, too. But, perhaps, it is only because Dad
is dying."

Shirley really wanted to say--yes, Mum and Walter are here. They are with
us. But it wasn't yet the time.

~ ~ ~ ~

Joyce went back up to Dr. Blythe. She could never think of him as Dad. She
knew him as Doctor, be it though she tried to think of him as the loving
father she knew he was.

Anne had passed away so many, many years ago. Gilbert wished she was with
him, but that was impossible. Gilbert didn't rule out the possibility of
ghosts--but he had never seen on either. He was therefore more inclined to
be skeptical and believe that ghosts probably didn't exist. His mind was
still so active, so alert--not ready to die, even though his body was
prepared for death's embrace.

"Father," Joyce said hesitantly. Shirley would find grace within the chaos
downstairs but Joyce needed to focus on Dr. Blythe--Dad.

Silence ensued. Dr. Blythe stared into the shadowy room. Well, I must be
near death. Lucid minds don't hear voices--or (trick of the light, or lack
of it) see a girl, a woman actually, walking to him.

"Father, it's me. Don't you recognize me?" This was so different from when
Mum had died. Joyce didn't know who to feel sorrier for--herself or Dr.
Blythe-Dad.

~~~~~~

"Well, I have to check on Dad," Jem said. He, Shirley, Rilla, and Faith were
in the kitchen. The poignant and spooky scene from just a little while ago
was still on their minds.

"Shirley, you seem contented," Faith said as she ladled some soup into a
bowl for Dad to eat. He was dying--but not ready to die, so he still needed
nourishment.

"Yes, I am."

"Why?"

Shirley was rather startled to find Rilla looking at him very keen eyed and
rather---suspicious? Shirley, so scientically inclined, had changed since
Mother's death. Not in a bad way, but difficult to understand since Shirley
was Walter's opposite. Walter the poet, Shirley the scientist. Walter had
visions whereas Shirley had always insisted that the reality that you could
see what was there was to see. Rilla was suddenly bothered by why what
change had occurred in Shirley. And why did it matter to her so much
tonight?

Shirley could see her frustrations. But he simply answered, "Mum and Dad
will be reunited again."

~~~~~~

Outside, Anne and Walter had wandered down into Rainbow Valley where they
now sat talking.

"I've been to many places, but Rainbow Valley still fills me with the most
contentment." As Walter spoke he could feel his spirit being permeated with
idealism and youth that he had long ago forgotten.

Rainbow Valley, even after two World Wars, a changing economy and different
happenings on the Island, was somehow immune to the ravages of time. It was
as though Merlin himself had blessed it as a sacred spot of land.

Anne sighed. There were advantages to being a ghost---but she could see but
never speak to her children. And it wasn't considered wise to materialize
either. Anne hated being invisible though. On occassion, like tonight, she
was able to materialize without fear of being seen. Everybody was inside
preparing for Gil's death. So she thought nobody had seen her.

A local legend had sprung up in recent years that a young, red-haired woman
of about marriage age could be seen dancing, laughing, and walking along the
fabled Four Winds shore. Sometimes a blond-haired woman could be seen as
well. The old folk claimed it was Anne Blythe and Leslie Ford--but the young
ones knew better. (Hadn't old Dr. Blythe always told them that ghosts
probably didn't exist? It must have something to do with age and memory, the
wise youth of the Glen S. Mary and Four Winds Point decided.)

~~~~~

"Mother," Walter started and then stopped. Anne was pulled out of her
reverie. Leslie and Owen were down by the shore, keeping vigil. Captain Jim
was at the lighthouse. Gilbert was the last of the old stock to die, so
everybody who had passed on before him was waiting, waiting, for when he
passed over. Perhaps all of the Glen was active tonight.

"What Walter?" Anne asked.

"It's taking Dad such a long time to die."

"Well, you know how he is. Even when he finally retired, he never really
gave up being a doctor. And that was only a few short years ago."

~~~~~~

Gilbert decided not to mention to Jem and Faith that he had seen--something.
Gilbert felt bad that he couldn't just die---that he was fascinated by the
process of his own death. Well--at least his little clan understood.

Gilbert ate what little soup he could. For the past few years since he had
retired, the ancient medicine man was just literally expected to drop dead
from old, old, old age, but that never seemed to happen. Old Dr. Blythe
became more frail and more housebound but didn't die. Maybe he wasn't dying
right now either. After all, he had lived so long--why die now?

"Not much of an appetite tonight," Faith said softly.

"A mummy doesn't need much to live on," Gilbert said slyly.

Despite themselves, Jem and Faith couldn't help but laugh. Gilbert was
relieved too. Even if he was going insane, he still had a sense of humor.

~~~~~

"Shirley, he didn't recognize me," Joyce whispered softly. She and Shirley
were outside on the porch. Shirley was strangely moved to the tears rolling
down Joyce's semi-transparent face.

"He--he, didn't forget you. He just is--so different--than Mum." Shirley
wasn't exactly sure how one could comfort a ghost.

"Shirley!!!" Rilla startled Shirley. He hadn't heard her come outside.

"What do you mean by what you just said? Dad loved you. You know that."

Rilla was indignified. Everything this entire day seemed slightly
off-balance. Shirley wasn't helping her in the least by responding to her
words with an unrepressed, full-face grin.

"Come with me, Rilla."

Rilla, something more than exasperated, threw up her hands. She might as
well follow Shirley---but goodness, what was wrong with her today? Or, more
precisely, what was wrong with the rest of the world today?

~~~~~

"I remember the Christmas that Dad dressed up as Santa. Wasn't Aunt Mary
Maria with us that year?" Walter asked, smiling as he recalled that lovely
day so long ago.

"Yes, she was." Anne laughed. "She's probably tormenting the angels in
heaven right now."

They were watching a sunset. Sunsets in Rainbow Valley were unlike any where
else. The gold, pink and orange were more brilliant than that of the finest
jewels on earth.

"Mum, Walter." Shirley's voice beckoned to them as the sun sank lower into
the sky. Walter and Anne smiled. They always enjoyed talking to Shirley when
they made their 'visitations.'

Something was different this time. Rilla was accompaning Shirley.

"Shirley--is your father.." Anne let her face finish her question. Curiosity
was also entering her mind as to why Rilla was there.

~~~~~~

Joyce hadn't followed Shirley and Rilla. She went back upstairs to Dr.
Blythe-Dad. She brushed by Jem and Faith as they were leaving Dad's room.

"Did you feel something?" Faith asked, looking around.

"It must have been the wind," said Jem.

"But it hasn't been windy all day," Faith reminded Jem.

Jem and Faith looked at one another. No, it couldn't be. They dismissed the
thought from their mind--or tried to. They snuck back to the door.

~~~~

"Mother? Walter? Am I dreaming? Have I gone mad?" Rilla asked.

"No, you are neither. You really do see us. Your brother has seen us for
years. Well, at least since I died." Anne smiled.

She opened her arms. Surprisingly, Rilla discovered she actually was
embracing Anne. And then Walter.

"This has been my secret for so many years." Shirley sighed. Now, it was his
no longer.

"So Dad is really dying tonight?" Rilla asked. She discovered that no leap
of faith she had to take to believe, to feel, to know what she was seeing
and hearing. The faith was already withing her. And it was somehow
comforting to have it.

~~~~~

Joyce was startled. Susan and Miss Cornelia were there.

"Now, Mr. Dr. Dear, you know Joyce is not some figment of your imagination,
so why do you cruelly treat her so?"

Gilbert had never been bewildered. Now, he was so flummoxed that he wasn't
sure what to do.

"You know how men are, Miss Baker. Not to criticize you, Doctor. We are on
the other side, however. You'll join us when you stop being so stubborn."

"And that you may tie to."

~~~~~

"So there really are ghosts?" Rilla asked as she and Shirley made their way
back up to Ingleside. "Do the others know?"

"They'll find out in their own time."

~~~~

"Father, it is me. Mother can explain." Actually Joyce could explain as she
had done so long ago at Mum's deathbed, but somehow she couldn't bring
herself to explain to Dad.

"Is it my time to die?" Gilbert asked.

"Yes, tonight." Then, after a silence, "if you'll only let yourself go."

Gilbert couldn't help but laugh. Yes--he had been holding out, but it was
really was his turn to pass on.

~~~~

Rilla rushed past the other Blythes, Merediths and Fords and headed
upstairs. As she was just about to enter Dad's room, she nearly crashed into
Faith and Jem.

"Is Father still alive? I need to speak to him." Her voice was a fuzzy
balance between frantic and calm.

"Come in, Rilla, and bring the two eavesdroppers in with you,' Miss Cornelia
called.

Faith, Jem, and Rilla walked in. They looked at Gilbert. They looked around
the room--Susan, Miss Cornelia, and someone who looked familiar enough to be
like family.

"I'm Joyce," Joyce answered to Jem, Faith, and Rilla's curious and
fascinated stares.

~~~~~

So they talked and talked. Gilbert felt more at ease than he had for several
years. But where was Anne? And Walter?

Joyce, almost as if she mind-read him, answered, "Mum is down in Rainbow
Valley, waiting for you. Walter is there with her."

Gilbert smiled. He knew now for sure that he wasy dying. He fell silence for
what was left of the night. Twice, Jem and Faith felt sure he had passed on,
but then Gilbert would become restless and stir.

~~~~~

Finally, just before the birth of dawn, Gilbert spoke again. "Tell the young
ones that I was wrong." But his voice was so faint that nobody could
determine what he had said. Then, his soul left his body.

His spirit pervaded Ingleside as his body limped into a permanent sleep. But
his soul traveled down to Rainbow Valley.

Anne smiled when she saw Gilbert. Walter, on the meanwhile, disappeared so
Anne could be with Gilbert first.

"I've been waiting very patiently, Gil." She gave him a coy look.

"Well, now, you know how I felt waiting all those years for you to love me."
He bounced back with an enthusiasm of voice and excitement that he hadn't
felt in years.

Then, suddenly, Gilbert glanced back at Ingleside.

"Will I ever seem them again?"

"Yes, you will. But your journey has just begun."

THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END