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    Chapter XXXVII

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    Chapter 37
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    The Reaper Whose Name Is Death

    "Matthew--Matthew--what is the matter? Matthew, are you sick?"

    It was Marilla who spoke, alarm in every jerky word. Anne
    came through the hall, her hands full of white narcissus,--it
    was long before Anne could love the sight or odor of white
    narcissus again,--in time to hear her and to see Matthew
    standing in the porch doorway, a folded paper in his hand,
    and his face strangely drawn and gray. Anne dropped her flowers
    and sprang across the kitchen to him at the same moment as
    Marilla. They were both too late; before they could reach him
    Matthew had fallen across the threshold.

    "He's fainted," gasped Marilla. "Anne, run for Martin--
    quick, quick! He's at the barn."

    Martin, the hired man, who had just driven home from
    the post office, started at once for the doctor, calling at
    Orchard Slope on his way to send Mr. and Mrs. Barry over.
    Mrs. Lynde, who was there on an errand, came too. They
    found Anne and Marilla distractedly trying to restore
    Matthew to consciousness.

    Mrs. Lynde pushed them gently aside, tried his pulse,
    and then laid her ear over his heart. She looked at their
    anxious faces sorrowfully and the tears came into her eyes.

    "Oh, Marilla," she said gravely. "I don't think--we can do
    anything for him."

    "Mrs. Lynde, you don't think--you can't think Matthew is-- is--"
    Anne could not say the dreadful word; she turned sick and pallid.

    "Child, yes, I'm afraid of it. Look at his face. When you've
    seen that look as often as I have you'll know what it means."

    Anne looked at the still face and there beheld the seal of
    the Great Presence.

    When the doctor came he said that death had been instantaneous
    and probably painless, caused in all likelihood by some sudden shock.
    The secret of the shock was discovered to be in the paper Matthew
    had held and which Martin had brought from the office that morning.
    It contained an account of the failure of the Abbey Bank.

    The news spread quickly through Avonlea, and all day
    friends and neighbors thronged Green Gables and came
    and went on errands of kindness for the dead and living.
    For the first time shy, quiet Matthew Cuthbert was a
    person of central importance; the white majesty of death
    had fallen on him and set him apart as one crowned.

    When the calm night came softly down over Green Gables
    the old house was hushed and tranquil. In the parlor lay
    Matthew Cuthbert in his coffin, his long gray hair framing
    his placid face on which there was a little kindly smile
    as if he but slept, dreaming pleasant dreams. There were
    flowers about him--sweet old-fashioned flowers which his mother
    had planted in the homestead garden in her bridal days and
    for which Matthew had always had a secret, wordless love.
    Anne had gathered them and brought them to him, her anguished,
    tearless eyes burning in her white face. It was the last thing
    she could do for him.

    The Barrys and Mrs. Lynde stayed with them that night.
    Diana, going to the east gable, where Anne was standing
    at her window, said gently:

    "Anne dear, would you like to have me sleep with you tonight?"

    "Thank you, Diana." Anne looked earnestly into her friend's face.
    "I think you won't misunderstand me when I say I want to be alone.
    I'm not afraid. I haven't been alone one minute since it happened--
    and I want to be. I want to be quite silent and quiet and try to
    realize it. I can't realize it. Half the time it seems to me that
    Matthew can't be dead; and the other half it seems as if he must
    have been dead for a long time and I've had this horrible
    dull ache ever since."

    Diana did not quite understand. Marilla's impassioned grief,
    breaking all the bounds of natural reserve and lifelong habit
    in its stormy rush, she could comprehend better than Anne's
    tearless agony. But she went away kindly, leaving Anne alone
    to keep her first vigil with sorrow.

    Anne hoped that the tears would come in solitude. It seemed
    to her a terrible thing that she could not shed a tear for
    Matthew, whom she had loved so much and who had been
    so kind to her, Matthew who had walked with her last
    evening at sunset and was now lying in the dim room
    below with that awful peace on his brow. But no tears
    came at first, even when she knelt by her window in the
    darkness and prayed, looking up to the stars beyond the
    hills--no tears, only the same horrible dull ache of
    misery that kept on aching until she fell asleep,
    worn out with the day's pain and excitement.

    In the night she awakened, with the stillness and the
    darkness about her, and the recollection of the day came
    over her like a wave of sorrow. She could see Matthew's
    face smiling at her as he had smiled when they parted at
    the gate that last evening--she could hear his voice saying,
    "My girl--my girl that I'm proud of." Then the tears came
    and Anne wept her heart out. Marilla heard her and crept
    in to comfort her.

    "There--there--don't cry so, dearie. It can't bring him back.
    It--it--isn't right to cry so. I knew that today, but I
    couldn't help it then. He'd always been such a good,
    kind brother to me--but God knows best."

    "Oh, just let me cry, Marilla," sobbed Anne. "The tears
    don't hurt me like that ache did. Stay here for a little
    while with me and keep your arm round me--so. I couldn't
    have Diana stay, she's good and kind and sweet--but it's
    not her sorrow--she's outside of it and she couldn't come
    close enough to my heart to help me. It's our sorrow--
    yours and mine. Oh, Marilla, what will we do without him?"

    "We've got each other, Anne. I don't know what I'd do
    if you weren't here--if you'd never come. Oh, Anne, I
    know I've been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe--
    but you mustn't think I didn't love you as well as Matthew
    did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It's
    never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but
    at times like this it's easier. I love you as dear as if
    you were my own flesh and blood and you've been my joy and
    comfort ever since you came to Green Gables."

    Two days afterwards they carried Matthew Cuthbert
    over his homestead threshold and away from the fields he
    had tilled and the orchards he had loved and the trees he
    had planted; and then Avonlea settled back to its usual
    placidity and even at Green Gables affairs slipped into
    their old groove and work was done and duties fulfilled
    with regularity as before, although always with the aching
    sense of "loss in all familiar things." Anne, new to grief,
    thought it almost sad that it could be so--that they COULD
    go on in the old way without Matthew. She felt something
    like shame and remorse when she discovered that the
    sunrises behind the firs and the pale pink buds opening in
    the garden gave her the old inrush of gladness when she
    saw them--that Diana's visits were pleasant to her and
    that Diana's merry words and ways moved her to laughter
    and smiles--that, in brief, the beautiful world of blossom
    and love and friendship had lost none of its power to
    please her fancy and thrill her heart, that life still
    called to her with many insistent voices.

    "It seems like disloyalty to Matthew, somehow, to find
    pleasure in these things now that he has gone," she said
    wistfully to Mrs. Allan one evening when they were together
    in the manse garden. "I miss him so much--all the time--
    and yet, Mrs. Allan, the world and life seem very beautiful
    and interesting to me for all. Today Diana said something
    funny and I found myself laughing. I thought when it
    happened I could never laugh again. And it somehow seems
    as if I oughtn't to."

    "When Matthew was here he liked to hear you laugh
    and he liked to know that you found pleasure in the
    pleasant things around you," said Mrs. Allan gently.
    "He is just away now; and he likes to know it just the same.
    I am sure we should not shut our hearts against the healing
    influences that nature offers us. But I can understand
    your feeling. I think we all experience the same thing.
    We resent the thought that anything can please us when someone
    we love is no longer here to share the pleasure with us,
    and we almost feel as if we were unfaithful to our sorrow
    when we find our interest in life returning to us."

    "I was down to the graveyard to plant a rosebush on
    Matthew's grave this afternoon," said Anne dreamily.
    "I took a slip of the little white Scotch rosebush his
    mother brought out from Scotland long ago; Matthew always
    liked those roses the best--they were so small and sweet on
    their thorny stems. It made me feel glad that I could plant
    it by his grave--as if I were doing something that must please
    him in taking it there to be near him. I hope he has roses
    like them in heaven. Perhaps the souls of all those little
    white roses that he has loved so many summers were all there
    to meet him. I must go home now. Marilla is all alone and
    she gets lonely at twilight."

    "She will be lonelier still, I fear, when you go away again
    to college," said Mrs. Allan.

    Anne did not reply; she said good night and went slowly
    back to green Gables. Marilla was sitting on the front
    door-steps and Anne sat down beside her. The door was
    open behind them, held back by a big pink conch shell
    with hints of sea sunsets in its smooth inner convolutions.

    Anne gathered some sprays of pale-yellow honeysuckle and put
    them in her hair. She liked the delicious hint of fragrance,
    as some aerial benediction, above her every time she moved.

    "Doctor Spencer was here while you were away," Marilla said.
    "He says that the specialist will be in town tomorrow
    and he insists that I must go in and have my eyes examined.
    I suppose I'd better go and have it over. I'll be more
    than thankful if the man can give me the right kind of
    glasses to suit my eyes. You won't mind staying here alone
    while I'm away, will you? Martin will have to drive me in
    and there's ironing and baking to do."

    "I shall be all right. Diana will come over for company
    for me. I shall attend to the ironing and baking beautifully--
    you needn't fear that I'll starch the handkerchiefs or flavor
    the cake with liniment."

    Marilla laughed.

    "What a girl you were for making mistakes in them days, Anne.
    You were always getting into scrapes. I did use to think you
    were possessed. Do you mind the time you dyed your hair?"

    "Yes, indeed. I shall never forget it," smiled Anne,
    touching the heavy braid of hair that was wound about her
    shapely head. "I laugh a little now sometimes when I
    think what a worry my hair used to be to me--but I don't
    laugh MUCH, because it was a very real trouble then.
    I did suffer terribly over my hair and my freckles.
    My freckles are really gone; and people are nice enough
    to tell me my hair is auburn now--all but Josie Pye.
    She informed me yesterday that she really thought it
    was redder than ever, or at least my black dress made
    it look redder, and she asked me if people who had red
    hair ever got used to having it. Marilla, I've almost
    decided to give up trying to like Josie Pye. I've made
    what I would once have called a heroic effort to like her,
    but Josie Pye won't BE liked."

    "Josie is a Pye," said Marilla sharply, "so she can't help
    being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve
    some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don't
    know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles.
    Is Josie going to teach?"

    "No, she is going back to Queen's next year. So are
    Moody Spurgeon and Charlie Sloane. Jane and Ruby are
    going to teach and they have both got schools--Jane at
    Newbridge and Ruby at some place up west."

    "Gilbert Blythe is going to teach too, isn't he?"


    "What a nice-looking fellow he is," said Marilla absently.
    "I saw him in church last Sunday and he seemed so tall and manly.
    He looks a lot like his father did at the same age. John Blythe
    was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I.
    People called him my beau."

    Anne looked up with swift interest.

    "Oh, Marilla--and what happened?--why didn't you--"

    "We had a quarrel. I wouldn't forgive him when he asked me to.
    I meant to, after awhile--but I was sulky and angry and I wanted
    to punish him first. He never came back--the Blythes were all
    mighty independent. But I always felt--rather sorry. I've always
    kind of wished I'd forgiven him when I had the chance."

    "So you've had a bit of romance in your life, too," said Anne softly.

    "Yes, I suppose you might call it that. You wouldn't think so
    to look at me, would you? But you never can tell about people
    from their outsides. Everybody has forgot about me and John.
    I'd forgotten myself. But it all came back to me when I saw
    Gilbert last Sunday."
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