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|Anne of the Island||Lucy Maud Montgomery|
John Douglas Speaks at Last
|Page 2 of 3||
Anne's illusions concerning proposals had suffered so much of late years that there were few of them left. So she could laugh wholeheartedly over this one, not feeling any secret sting. She mimicked poor Sam to Janet that night, and both of them laughed immoderately over his plunge into sentiment.
One afternoon, when Anne's sojourn in Valley Road was drawing to a close, Alec Ward came driving down to "Wayside" in hot haste for Janet.
"They want you at the Douglas place quick," he said. "I really believe old Mrs. Douglas is going to die at last, after pretending to do it for twenty years."
Janet ran to get her hat. Anne asked if Mrs. Douglas was worse than usual.
"She's not half as bad," said Alec solemnly, "and that's what makes me think it's serious. Other times she'd be screaming and throwing herself all over the place. This time she's lying still and mum. When Mrs. Douglas is mum she is pretty sick, you bet."
"You don't like old Mrs. Douglas?" said Anne curiously.
"I like cats as IS cats. I don't like cats as is women," was Alec's cryptic reply.
Janet came home in the twilight.
"Mrs. Douglas is dead," she said wearily. "She died soon after I got there. She just spoke to me once -- `I suppose you'll marry John now?' she said. It cut me to the heart, Anne. To think John's own mother thought I wouldn't marry him because of her! I couldn't say a word either -- there were other women there. I was thankful John had gone out."
Janet began to cry drearily. But Anne brewed her a hot drink of ginger tea to her comforting. To be sure, Anne discovered later on that she had used white pepper instead of ginger; but Janet never knew the difference.
The evening after the funeral Janet and Anne were sitting on the front porch steps at sunset. The wind had fallen asleep in the pinelands and lurid sheets of heat-lightning flickered across the northern skies. Janet wore her ugly black dress and looked her very worst, her eyes and nose red from crying. They talked little, for Janet seemed faintly to resent Anne's efforts to cheer her up. She plainly preferred to be miserable.
Suddenly the gate-latch clicked and John Douglas strode into the garden. He walked towards them straight over the geranium bed. Janet stood up. So did Anne. Anne was a tall girl and wore a white dress; but John Douglas did not see her.
"Janet," he said, "will you marry me?"
The words burst out as if they had been wanting to be said for twenty years and MUST be uttered now, before anything else.
Janet's face was so red from crying that it couldn't turn any redder, so it turned a most unbecoming purple.
"Why didn't you ask me before?" she said slowly.
"I couldn't. She made me promise not to -- mother made me promise not to. Nineteen years ago she took a terrible spell. We thought she couldn't live through it. She implored me to promise not to ask you to marry me while she was alive. I didn't want to promise such a thing, even though we all thought she couldn't live very long -- the doctor only gave her six months. But she begged it on her knees, sick and suffering. I had to promise."
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|Anne of the Island
Lucy Maud Montgomery
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