“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”
– Frederico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding
Thursday, February 22, 1900
I expect that you are perplexed at receiving a letter from me, but I am writing due to my increasing unease over a certain redhead of whom we are both very fond. Please, do not be alarmed. She is well. My concern is over her future well-being and happiness.
I am taking a great risk in writing you. Anne will never forgive me if I damage your friendship, which she treasures more than anything. If my assumption about your affection is completely erroneous, I beg your forgiveness for my presumption. I trust, however, that I am correct, for I have watched you watch Anne for years.
Let me be blunt. I believe that you are in love with Anne. While she has never confessed it to me, I believe that she is in love with you, too.
I apologize if I have made you uncomfortable. I must say that if you are not romantically interested in Anne, then you need to train your eyes to regard her differently. Your eyes, Gilbert Blythe, are very expressive, and you never look at another girl the way you gaze at Anne. If I am wrong, then I highly recommend that you to be more circumspect in the future.
Nothing makes Anne happier than receiving your letters. Whenever Mrs. Blackmore delivers one of your letters into her hands, she emits the most adorable squeak and usually secretes herself away to read them. She refuses to share her reactions with the other girls, but she will read them in front of me in the privacy of our room. Gilbert, you make her laugh. I watch her smile, giggle, roll her eyes, and occasionally become incredulous over something you have written. Sometimes she shares an anecdote or general information on your life. She frequently expresses how proud she is of all you are accomplishing in Toronto.
Do you react the same way when you receive her letters? Does she make you laugh and smile like no one else? Were you proud when The Globe finally published her editorial about Ka’kwet’s plight or when you heard that she is the only true contender to earn a full scholarship to Redmond College? Do not answer. I already know.
After the initial excitement over one of your letters subsides, Anne becomes contemplative. She quietly rereads your letter, sometimes more than once. She then often stares out the window. When I ask what is on her mind, she usually shakes herself out of her musings and either changes the subject or starts penning her reply to you. Sometimes, however, she answers vaguely but honestly. She claims homesickness and that she cannot wait to be reunited with her “loved ones” in Avonlea. She might say she is pondering what her future holds. Oh, but Gilbert, the worst was when she recently asked me if she was unlovable. When I objected and reminded her that so many of us love her, she clarified that she meant romantically. She has many young men here who are very interested in her romantically. Calm down. I will address that shortly. My point is that she is truly only concerned with one young man not loving her. When I then attempted to extract a confession of her feelings for you, she stammered, blushed, and denied your letters to her were in any way “romantical,” something she also claimed about your letter from Trinidad, which she hid to keep Ruby from crying on it. I would like to point out that she did not answer my question, and she never has when I have attempted similar inquiries about you. You are one of only two topics about which she will not speak freely.
I mentioned that Anne has suitors. Several perfectly pleasant and eligible young men call on her, and she only gives them polite attention. Do not misunderstand. She is friendly and her usual effervescent self; she cannot help but be who she is. Still, she encourages none of them. I worry, however, that one might eventually wear her down.
His name is Royal Gardner. Yes, you read that correctly. Roy is the living embodiment of Anne’s childhood romantic ideal. He is exceedingly handsome, wealthy, gracious, and loves literature as much as she does. He sends her extravagant floral arrangements every Saturday. He dotes on her and openly praises her intelligence and beauty. Unfortunately, he is humorless. He fails to laugh at her jokes, and the best he can coax out of her is a bland smile. Most importantly, he is not you. She feels nothing for him beyond a mild friendship. He has asked her to court twice. He appears to respect her refusals yet keeps pursuing her in the hopes that he will prove himself worthy enough to eventually sway her. That persistence seems to be taking on an air of entitlement. If he continues in this way, he will likely only succeed in making her angry. If he rethinks his strategy, however…
Our girl has not been in the best of spirits. Due to this recent despondency, I fear that she might eventually give in and accept him because she feels like she should. The other girls hound her and cannot fathom why she has not accepted the court of the most sought-after man at Queens. Anne has been told so many times that she is so lucky and should be grateful for his attention that she has questioned her judgment. “Perhaps I expect too much,” she said to me last week. “What more could I want?”
“Love,” I told her.
When I said this, she looked at your most recent letter that was sitting in front of her on her desk. Her response broke my heart: “I don’t think that’s my destiny.”
Please, Gilbert, you must remember that she bears scars from being unloved and unappreciated for her entire childhood. While Anne loves with all her heart, she has a difficult time always accepting that she is worthy of being loved. Perhaps even worse, she fears it is elusive, that even if someone does love her, it will be taken away. When she has pushed you away, I believe she often wanted to pull you closer, but instead she reacted out of fear and succumbed to her misguided attempt to protect herself from deeper loss.
I know Anne. She hides how she feels about you because she believes you do not return her affection. In an unguarded moment last spring, she told me that you looked like a hero from a novel when riding your horse and that you had “a splendid chin.” Of all the things she could say, a splendid chin? She thinks you are brilliant, handsome, funny, and she misses you terribly. She adores your family and probably hid from you how much she grieved Mary to spare you additional pain. I am not sure what else I can say to convince you.
So, here is why I am writing to you now. Next month, on the Saturday that begins our midterm break, a Queen's tradition called Declaration Day will take place. Its intent is to celebrate young love blossoming in the spring. Young ladies have the dubious pleasure of entertaining any young swains who plan to declare their intentions for their chosen lady love. After new couples and courtships are formed, the new couples are expected to promenade around campus, showing off their new status and new beaus. For those nearing an agreement, I suppose it is a charming tradition. For those not expecting or wanting such declarations, it must be a special kind of torture.
Roy will declare himself to Anne. Again. There are a few others who also might, including Charlie. If nothing else, please spare her from enduring that!
Gilbert, I wish you could see her. As I implied, she has been somewhat melancholy since Christmas. While she is still devoted to her academic pursuits and shines in class, during our free time, she is oddly quiet. Twice I have caught her brushing away tears when she thought she was alone. I believe your parting after Christmas pained her greatly, and she is pining for you. Last month, I asked her if you two had quarreled, which shocked her. She denied it but admitted she missed you and that the two of you had shared the “most delightful” break together. I know you saw her every day over Christmas. I had hoped you two would come to an understanding but was again disappointed.
Am I wrong? Do you really only feel friendship for her? Your lack of action does not inspire confidence, but I hope you will redeem my faith in you.
Because Anne has mentioned it often enough (she is eager to see you), I know you plan to return to Avonlea that week for your own break. Please consider whether you might be ready to declare yourself to Anne either that day or in a letter. I do not care how you do it. Her languishing is difficult to watch. I miss her vibrant spirit, and I do not want that spark to be permanently extinguished. If you do not love her, I beg you to find a way to let her go. She deserves to move on.
If you do love her, Declaration Day begins at noon, and the “Wooing Hours” last until 2, with The Promenade to immediately follow. Even Mrs. Blackmore will relax her usual strict visiting hours for what she keeps calling a diverting tradition.
Look sharp, Gilbert Blythe. You will be the envy of many a man here at Queen's.
Friday, March 2, 1900
Thank you for every word you wrote! If I’m successful, I will owe you for the rest of my life. I’ll see you in three weeks.