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    Chapter XXXV

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    Chapter 35
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    CHAPTER XXXV

    The Winter at Queen's

    Anne's homesickness wore off, greatly helped in the wearing
    by her weekend visits home. As long as the open weather lasted
    the Avonlea students went out to Carmody on the new branch
    railway every Friday night. Diana and several other Avonlea
    young folks were generally on hand to meet them and they all
    walked over to Avonlea in a merry party. Anne thought those
    Friday evening gypsyings over the autumnal hills in the crisp
    golden air, with the homelights of Avonlea twinkling beyond,
    were the best and dearest hours in the whole week.

    Gilbert Blythe nearly always walked with Ruby Gillis and carried
    her satchel for her. Ruby was a very handsome young lady,
    now thinking herself quite as grown up as she really was;
    she wore her skirts as long as her mother would let her and
    did her hair up in town, though she had to take it down
    when she went home. She had large, bright-blue eyes, a
    brilliant complexion, and a plump showy figure. She laughed
    a great deal, was cheerful and good-tempered, and enjoyed the
    pleasant things of life frankly.

    "But I shouldn't think she was the sort of girl Gilbert would like,"
    whispered Jane to Anne. Anne did not think so either, but she would
    not have said so for the Avery scholarship. She could not help
    thinking, too, that it would be very pleasant to have such a friend
    as Gilbert to jest and chatter with and exchange ideas about books
    and studies and ambitions. Gilbert had ambitions, she knew, and
    Ruby Gillis did not seem the sort of person with whom such could
    be profitably discussed.

    There was no silly sentiment in Anne's ideas concerning Gilbert.
    Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely
    possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends
    she would not have cared how many other friends he had
    nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship;
    girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness
    that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round
    out one's conceptions of companionship and furnish broader
    standpoints of judgment and comparison. Not that Anne could
    have put her feelings on the matter into just such clear definition.
    But she thought that if Gilbert had ever walked home with her
    from the train, over the crisp fields and along the ferny byways,
    they might have had many and merry and interesting conversations
    about the new world that was opening around them and their hopes
    and ambitions therein. Gilbert was a clever young fellow, with
    his own thoughts about things and a determination to get the best
    out of life and put the best into it. Ruby Gillis told Jane Andrews
    that she didn't understand half the things Gilbert Blythe said;
    he talked just like Anne Shirley did when she had a thoughtful fit
    on and for her part she didn't think it any fun to be bothering about
    books and that sort of thing when you didn't have to. Frank Stockley
    had lots more dash and go, but then he wasn't half as good-looking as
    Gilbert and she really couldn't decide which she liked best!

    In the Academy Anne gradually drew a little circle of friends about her,
    thoughtful, imaginative, ambitious students like herself. With the
    "rose-red" girl, Stella Maynard, and the "dream girl," Priscilla Grant,
    she soon became intimate, finding the latter pale spiritual-looking
    maiden to be full to the brim of mischief and pranks and fun,
    while the vivid, black-eyed Stella had a heartful of wistful
    dreams and fancies, as aerial and rainbow-like as Anne's own.

    After the Christmas holidays the Avonlea students gave
    up going home on Fridays and settled down to hard work.
    By this time all the Queen's scholars had gravitated into
    their own places in the ranks and the various classes had
    assumed distinct and settled shadings of individuality.
    Certain facts had become generally accepted. It was admitted
    that the medal contestants had practically narrowed down to
    three--Gilbert Blythe, Anne Shirley, and Lewis Wilson; the
    Avery scholarship was more doubtful, any one of a certain six
    being a possible winner. The bronze medal for mathematics
    was considered as good as won by a fat, funny little up-country
    boy with a bumpy forehead and a patched coat.

    Ruby Gillis was the handsomest girl of the year at the Academy;
    in the Second Year classes Stella Maynard carried off the palm
    for beauty, with small but critical minority in favor of Anne Shirley.
    Ethel Marr was admitted by all competent judges to have the most
    stylish modes of hair-dressing, and Jane Andrews--plain, plodding,
    conscientious Jane--carried off the honors in the domestic science course.
    Even Josie Pye attained a certain preeminence as the sharpest-
    tongued young lady in attendance at Queen's. So it may be
    fairly stated that Miss Stacy's old pupil's held their own in
    the wider arena of the academical course.

    Anne worked hard and steadily. Her rivalry with Gilbert
    was as intense as it had ever been in Avonlea school,
    although it was not known in the class at large, but somehow
    the bitterness had gone out of it. Anne no longer wished
    to win for the sake of defeating Gilbert; rather, for the
    proud consciousness of a well-won victory over a worthy foeman.
    It would be worth while to win, but she no longer thought life
    would be insupportable if she did not.

    In spite of lessons the students found opportunities for
    pleasant times. Anne spent many of her spare hours at
    Beechwood and generally ate her Sunday dinners there and
    went to church with Miss Barry. The latter was, as she
    admitted, growing old, but her black eyes were not dim nor
    the vigor of her tongue in the least abated. But she never
    sharpened the latter on Anne, who continued to be a prime
    favorite with the critical old lady.

    "That Anne-girl improves all the time," she said. "I get
    tired of other girls--there is such a provoking and eternal
    sameness about them. Anne has as many shades as a rainbow
    and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts. I don't
    know that she is as amusing as she was when she was a child,
    but she makes me love her and I like people who make me love them.
    It saves me so much trouble in making myself love them."

    Then, almost before anybody realized it, spring had come;
    out in Avonlea the Mayflowers were peeping pinkly out
    on the sere barrens where snow-wreaths lingered; and
    the "mist of green" was on the woods and in the valleys.
    But in Charlottetown harassed Queen's students thought
    and talked only of examinations.

    "It doesn't seem possible that the term is nearly over,"
    said Anne. "Why, last fall it seemed so long to look
    forward to--a whole winter of studies and classes. And here
    we are, with the exams looming up next week. Girls,
    sometimes I feel as if those exams meant everything, but
    when I look at the big buds swelling on those chestnut trees
    and the misty blue air at the end of the streets they don't
    seem half so important."

    Jane and Ruby and Josie, who had dropped in, did not
    take this view of it. To them the coming examinations
    were constantly very important indeed--far more important
    than chestnut buds or Maytime hazes. It was all very well
    for Anne, who was sure of passing at least, to have her
    moments of belittling them, but when your whole future
    depended on them--as the girls truly thought theirs did--
    you could not regard them philosophically.

    "I've lost seven pounds in the last two weeks," sighed
    Jane. "It's no use to say don't worry. I WILL worry.
    Worrying helps you some--it seems as if you were doing
    something when you're worrying. It would be dreadful if I
    failed to get my license after going to Queen's all winter
    and spending so much money."

    "_I_ don't care," said Josie Pye. "If I don't pass this year
    I'm coming back next. My father can afford to send me.
    Anne, Frank Stockley says that Professor Tremaine said
    Gilbert Blythe was sure to get the medal and that Emily Clay
    would likely win the Avery scholarship."

    "That may make me feel badly tomorrow, Josie," laughed
    Anne, "but just now I honestly feel that as long as I know
    the violets are coming out all purple down in the hollow
    below Green Gables and that little ferns are poking their
    heads up in Lovers' Lane, it's not a great deal of difference
    whether I win the Avery or not. I've done my best and I
    begin to understand what is meant by the 'joy of the strife.'
    Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.
    Girls, don't talk about exams! Look at that arch of pale green
    sky over those houses and picture to yourself what it must look
    like over the purply-dark beech-woods back of Avonlea."

    "What are you going to wear for commencement, Jane?"
    asked Ruby practically.

    Jane and Josie both answered at once and the chatter
    drifted into a side eddy of fashions. But Anne, with her
    elbows on the window sill, her soft cheek laid against her
    clasped hands, and her eyes filled with visions, looked out
    unheedingly across city roof and spire to that glorious dome
    of sunset sky and wove her dreams of a possible future from
    the golden tissue of youth's own optimism. All the Beyond
    was hers with its possibilities lurking rosily in the
    oncoming years--each year a rose of promise to be woven into
    an immortal chaplet.
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