A Solemn Vow and Promise
"We have to do this properly," Rilla intoned. "It must be official."
"What should we do?" asked Carl.
They were standing in Rainbow Valley, by the little maple-shaded spring, hidden from casual onlookers by the exuberant greenery of late spring. Their solemn purpose demanded due ceremony, and Rilla had once heard Mother say that eternal vows should be sworn over running water.
"I will stand on this side of the spring and you stand on the other. Then we must clasp hands over the water and pledge our oath." Rilla's hazel eyes were shining, her tone as dignified as a roly-poly little miss of ten years could muster.
Carl swallowed. "What must we say?"
Rilla reached for Carl's hands. "I'll go first. Then you say it and put my name in."
Carl let Rilla take his hands in hers, gulped again, and steeled himself.
"I, Bertha Marilla Blythe, do solemnly swear that I will never, ever marry Carl Meredith. Now you."
Carl nodded. "I, Thomas Carlyle Meredith, do solemnly swear . . ."
Before Carl could finish his vow, there was a rustling in the rushes and a figure emerged. Carl and Rilla leapt apart, dropping their linked hands.
It was only Shirley. He had his fishing gear with him and must have wanted a drink from the spring. Shirley took in the scene, a skeptical look on his tanned face.
"Shirley!" Rilla exclaimed, surprised into shrillness. "What are you doing here?"
Shirley looked her up and down coolly. "What are you doing here?"
Rilla tossed her ruddy curls with ostentatious unconcern. "Carl and I are making a vow. Now go away."
"Wait!" cried Carl. "Umm, Shirley . . . could be our witness! You said it should be done properly, Rilla. And a witness would make it official."
"What exactly am I witnessing?" Shirley asked, his brows ascending to a lofty height.
"Carl and I . . ." Rilla said, blushing furiously, "Carl and I are never, ever going to get married."
"To one another," Carl clarified.
Shirley squinted at them. "Is this because Alice Clow crossed your names out at school today?"
"Yeth," said Rilla, pink to the ears and going pinker.
"Well, alright, then," Shirley said, setting down his tackle. "What must I do?"
"Just stand there," Rilla ordered. "We'll swear our oath and you listen. And if one of us ever tries to break it, you must remind us that we swore it good and proper and must never, ever be forsworn."
Shirley folded his arms over his chest and nodded.
"We'd better begin again from the beginning," Rilla said, offering her hands to Carl.
Carl looked beseechingly at Shirley, who had of trick of keeping his face impassive even when a twinkle of hilarity sparkled deep down in his brown eyes.
Rilla was oblivious. "I, Bertha Marilla Blythe, do solemnly swear that I will never, ever marry Carl Meredith."
Carl took a deep breath. "I, Thomas Carlyle Meredith, do solemnly swear that I will never, ever marry Rilla Blythe."
"Good," said Rilla, releasing Carl from her grasp. "It's official now, and no going back."
"Never," Carl agreed.
Shirley retrieved his fishing rod and said nothing. But he held out his net to Carl, who took it gratefully.
"Well, I guess that's settled, Rilla," Carl said in parting. "And you can tell Alice Clow all about it if you like."
"I'll go right now," Rilla agreed.
Rilla tripped off toward the Glen street, leaving Carl and Shirley to their fishing, quite satisfied that the solemn vow and promise would hold for all eternity.
*Rilla and Carl "used to talk together of almost everything and were teased about each other at school; but one evening when they were about ten years of age they had solemnly promised, by the old spring in Rainbow Valley, that they would never marry each other. Alice Clow had 'crossed out' their names on her slate in school that day and it came out that 'both married.' They did not like the idea at all, hence the mutual vow in Rainbow Valley. There was nothing like an ounce of prevention." Rilla of Ingleside, Chapter 17: "The Weeks Wear By"