Text - "Rainbow Valley" Lucy Maud Montgomery

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Perhaps its charm was in part due to
accidental circumstances-the luxuriant vines clustering over its
gray, clap-boarded walls, the friendly acacias and balm-of-gileads that
crowded about it with the freedom of old acquaintance, and the beautiful
views of harbour and sand-dunes from its front windows. But these things
had been there in the reign of Mr. Meredith's predecessor, when the
manse had been the primmest, neatest, and dreariest house in the Glen.
So much of the credit must be given to the personality of its new
inmates. There was an atmosphere of laughter and comradeship about it;
the doors were always open; and inner and outer worlds joined hands.
Love was the only law in Glen St. Mary manse.

The people of his congregation said that Mr. Meredith spoiled his
children. Very likely he did. It is certain that he could not bear to
scold them. 'They have no mother,' he used to say to himself, with a
sigh, when some unusually glaring peccadillo forced itself upon his
notice. But he did not know the half of their goings-on. He belonged
to the sect of dreamers. The windows of his study looked out on the
graveyard but, as he paced up and down the room, reflecting deeply on
the immortality of the soul, he was quite unaware that Jerry and Carl
were playing leap-frog hilariously over the flat stones in that abode of
dead Methodists. Mr. Meredith had occasional acute realizations that his
children were not so well looked after, physically or morally, as they
had been before his wife died, and he had always a dim sub-consciousness
that house and meals were very different under Aunt Martha's management
from what they had been under Cecilia's. For the rest, he lived in a
world of books and abstractions; and, therefore, although his clothes
were seldom brushed, and although the Glen housewives concluded, from
the ivory-like pallor of his clear-cut features and slender hands, that
he never got enough to eat, he was not an unhappy man.

If ever a graveyard could be called a cheerful place, the old Methodist
graveyard at Glen St. Mary might be so called. The new graveyard, at the
other side of the Methodist church, was a neat and proper and doleful
spot; but the old one had been left so long to Nature's kindly and
gracious ministries that it had become very pleasant.

It was surrounded on three sides by a dyke of stones and sod, topped
by a gray and uncertain paling. Outside the dyke grew a row of tall fir
trees with thick, balsamic boughs. The dyke, which had been built by the
first settlers of the Glen, was old enough to be beautiful, with mosses
and green things growing out of its crevices, violets purpling at its
base in the early spring days, and asters and golden-rod making an
autumnal glory in its corners. Little ferns clustered companionably
between its stones, and here and there a big bracken grew.

On the eastern side there was neither fence nor dyke. The graveyard
there straggled off into a young fir plantation, ever pushing nearer to
the graves and deepening eastward into a thick wood. The air was always
full of the harp-like voices of the sea, and the music of gray old
trees, and in the spring mornings the choruses of birds in the elms
around the two churches sang of life and not of death. The Meredith
children loved the old graveyard.

Blue-eyed ivy, 'garden-spruce,' and mint ran riot over the sunken
graves. Blueberry bushes grew lavishly in the sandy corner next to the
fir wood. The varying fashions of tombstones for three generations were
to be found there, from the flat, oblong, red sandstone slabs of old
settlers, down through the days of weeping willows and clasped hands, to
the latest monstrosities of tall 'monuments' and draped urns. One of
the latter, the biggest and ugliest in the graveyard, was sacred to the
memory of a certain Alec Davis who had been born a Methodist but had
taken to himself a Presbyterian bride of the Douglas clan. She had made
him turn Presbyterian and kept him toeing the Presbyterian mark all his
life. But when he died she did not dare to doom him to a lonely grave in
the Presbyterian graveyard over-harbour. His people were all buried in
the Methodist cemetery; so Alec Davis went back to his own in death and
his widow consoled herself by erecting a monument which cost more than
any of the Methodists could afford. The Meredith children hated it,
without just knowing why, but they loved the old, flat, bench-like
stones with the tall grasses growing rankly about them. They made jolly
seats for one thing. They were all sitting on one now. Jerry, tired of
leap frog, was playing on a jew's-harp. Carl was lovingly poring over a
strange beetle he had found; Una was trying to make a doll's dress, and
Faith, leaning back on her slender brown wrists, was swinging her bare
feet in lively time to the jew's-harp.

Jerry had his father's black hair and large black eyes, but in him the
latter were flashing instead of dreamy. Faith, who came next to him,
wore her beauty like a rose, careless and glowing. She had golden-brown
eyes, golden-brown curls and crimson cheeks. She laughed too much to
please her father's congregation and had shocked old Mrs. Taylor,
the disconsolate spouse of several departed husbands, by saucily
declaring-in the church-porch at that-'The world ISN'T a vale of
tears, Mrs. Taylor. It's a world of laughter.'

Little dreamy Una was not given to laughter. Her braids of straight,
dead-black hair betrayed no lawless kinks, and her almond-shaped,
dark-blue eyes had something wistful and sorrowful in them. Her mouth
had a trick of falling open over her tiny white teeth, and a shy,
meditative smile occasionally crept over her small face. She was
much more sensitive to public opinion than Faith, and had an uneasy
consciousness that there was something askew in their way of living. She
longed to put it right, but did not know how. Now and then she dusted
the furniture-but it was so seldom she could find the duster because it
was never in the same place twice. And when the clothes-brush was to be
found she tried to brush her father's best suit on Saturdays, and once
sewed on a missing button with coarse white thread. When Mr. Meredith
went to church next day every female eye saw that button and the peace
of the Ladies' Aid was upset for weeks.

Carl had the clear, bright, dark-blue eyes, fearless and direct, of his
dead mother, and her brown hair with its glints of gold. He knew the
secrets of bugs and had a sort of freemasonry with bees and beetles. Una
never liked to sit near him because she never knew what uncanny creature
might be secreted about him. Jerry refused to sleep with him because
Carl had once taken a young garter snake to bed with him; so Carl slept
in his old cot, which was so short that he could never stretch out, and
had strange bed-fellows. Perhaps it was just as well that Aunt Martha
was half blind when she made that bed. Altogether they were a jolly,
lovable little crew, and Cecilia Meredith's heart must have ached
bitterly when she faced the knowledge that she must leave them.

'Where would you like to be buried if you were a Methodist?' asked Faith

This opened up an interesting field of speculation.

'There isn't much choice. The place is full,' said Jerry. 'I'd like that
corner near the road, I guess. I could hear the teams going past and the
people talking.'

'I'd like that little hollow under the weeping birch,' said Una. 'That
birch is such a place for birds and they sing like mad in the mornings.'

'I'd take the Porter lot where there's so many children buried. I like
lots of company,' said Faith. 'Carl, where'd you?'

'I'd rather not be buried at all,' said Carl, 'but if I had to be I'd
like the ant-bed. Ants are awfly int'resting.'

'How very good all the people who are buried here must have been,' said
Una, who had been reading the laudatory old epitaphs. 'There doesn't
seem to be a single bad person in the whole graveyard. Methodists must
be better than Presbyterians after all.'

'Maybe the Methodists bury their bad people just like they do cats,'
suggested Carl. 'Maybe they don't bother bringing them to the graveyard
at all.'

'Nonsense,' said Faith. 'The people that are buried here weren't any
better than other folks, Una. But when anyone is dead you mustn't say
anything of him but good or he'll come back and ha'nt you. Aunt Martha
told me that. I asked father if it was true and he just looked through
me and muttered, ‘True? True? What is truth? What IS truth, O jesting
Pilate?' I concluded from that it must be true.'

'I wonder if Mr. Alec Davis would come back and ha'nt me if I threw a
stone at the urn on top of his tombstone,' said Jerry.

'Mrs. Davis would,' giggled Faith. 'She just watches us in church like
a cat watching mice. Last Sunday I made a face at her nephew and he made
one back at me and you should have seen her glare. I'll bet she boxed
HIS ears when they got out. Mrs. Marshall Elliott told me we mustn't
offend her on any account or I'd have made a face at her, too!'

'They say Jem Blythe stuck out his tongue at her once and she would
never have his father again, even when her husband was dying,' said
Jerry. 'I wonder what the Blythe gang will be like.'

'I liked their looks,' said Faith. The manse children had been at the
station that afternoon when the Blythe small fry had arrived. 'I liked
Jem's looks especially.'

'They say in school that Walter's a sissy,' said Jerry.

'I don't believe it,' said Una, who had thought Walter very handsome.

'Well, he writes poetry, anyhow. He won the prize the teacher offered
last year for writing a poem, Bertie Shakespeare Drew told me. Bertie's
mother thought he should have got the prize because of his name, but
Bertie said he couldn't write poetry to save his soul, name or no name.'

'I suppose we'll get acquainted with them as soon as they begin going to
school,' mused Faith. 'I hope the girls are nice. I don't like most of
the girls round here. Even the nice ones are poky. But the Blythe twins
look jolly. I thought twins always looked alike, but they don't. I think
the red-haired one is the nicest.'