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The Story Club is Discovered

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Gilbert finds out about the Story Club accidentally. He's walking down the lane on Friday afternoon, behind Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis, thinking mostly about geometry and maybe a little, in the back of his mind, of the way Anne Shirley's chin goes up just a tiny bit when he answers a question she can't and how it must mean she can't help but acknowledge he exists, after all, even if she still seems determined to snub him until the end of time.

The girls are deep in conversation that he doesn't intend to overhear at all, much less eavesdrop on - until he catches Ruby saying Anne's name excitedly and every last equation and angle falls straight out of his head. He speeds up without meaning to, just a half pace, just enough to bring him close enough to hear better.

"--and Anne's latest story was really so good," Ruby's saying, "simply wonderful, though I do wonder if George is really a romantic enough name for such a fine beau. I think I should rather have called him Percival Reginald, or something. And I would have put in some more courting before the final bit where he discovers the truth and begs for her hand. Not that it wasn't good as it was, only I do so love it when they linger more..."

"Well," Jane says stolidly, "he can't be called Percival Reginald, you know; his name has to begin with G, otherwise the mystery of the handkerchief in the garden wouldn't have worked out at all."

"Oh," Ruby says, and laughs cheerfully. "You're right, I suppose. G, then; oh, well, let's see. Geoffrey Tristan should do the trick. I'll bring it up to Anne tomorrow, I suppose, or I should say Rosamond. No; on the other hand, perhaps I'll keep him all to myself! I think I have a new idea coming on already - I'll be early finishing for Monday's club meeting after all, if it keeps up and I can just get it all written down tonight. And I know you won't steal him from me, will you, Jane?"

"No, you may keep him, and I shan't tell Anne or Diana; I think George is a perfectly fine name for Anne's story. Though if I told Diana he'd only be dreadfully murdered in any case."

"Poor Geoffrey!" Ruby's giggle promises more gossip, but Gilbert, suddenly lagging behind again, doesn't hear what she says next, and not only for distance.

There's a queer sort of noise in his ears, like far-off thunder, and his feet feel tangled up and too heavy to keep up with the girls; he stands still in the middle of the lane for far too long before picking himself up and heading grimly home to his chores and studying.

 

That night he can't sleep, his mind racing where his body dawdles. The worst of it is that girl talk should be nothing to him, he knows that, and yet - and yet. It's one thing to be ignored by Anne Shirley when Anne has hardly any more time for Charlie Sloane or Moody Spurgeon than she does for him. But until that afternoon, Gilbert had never had a single thought of setting himself against Diana Barry or Ruby Gillis. Why, they're girls, and so is Anne, and he's certainly not, and that ought to be that.

But George, or Geoffrey Tristan, or whoever, that changes everything. He knows, deep down, that it's silly and ridiculous and petty to find himself so annoyed over stories - fiction and lies and whatnot - but he is, fiercely and passionately. If Anne won't be friends with him, well, that's fine, but to find that she's dreaming up other boys to take his place! It won't do. It won't.

He sleeps, finally, to uneasy dreams he can't remember the next morning, an awful stressy ache in his jaw that his mother's toothache medicine doesn't help a bit, an and uneasy, twisting knot in the pit of his stomach.

The toothache fades by the afternoon, but the grudge against what's-his-name doesn't at all, even when he takes to the fencepost outside to rest his mind. By the evening, he feels sick to his toes with it, and also like he'd rather die than admit that he feels anything at all, or that the simple sight of the pen and paper on his desk makes him wonder whether Gilbert could possibly be considered a romantic name, and whether, if it was and if she weren't so stubbornly snubbing him, Anne might put it into a story. That would be something to read, for sure, a hundred times better than a take-notice. The sweet dream of it warms him a little, driving out the last of the lingering nauseous pangs from earlier.

 

Gilbert spends longer than he ought to watching Anne during church the next morning; not enough to be noticed, but enough to make him feel properly guilty. He can't help it, though, any more than he can help imagining the piece she recites in Sunday school is something else entirely. After she's finished and sat back down with a brilliant glow of pride hovering about her, he decides privately that he'd listen to a story about anything, really, so long as it was Anne reading it out. Even - even about George.

The problem is, of course, that Anne is the most stubborn girl on Prince Edward Island, and Gilbert is as sure as he is of anything that there's no chance of him being invited to any club of Anne's in an entire month of Sundays.

He broods on it all through the month, watching the girls with a keenly investigative thoughtful eye, noting papers tucked into lunchbaskets on Monday mornings and the discreet removal of Anne, Diana, Ruby, Jane, and Julie from the crowd of other girls on those same days.

The miracle happens in the form of another accident, though maybe a Providential one; he had after all been paying quite close attention, otherwise he might not have noticed the thick fold of paper slip from Anne's books as she left the school. It doesn't star George, and Gilbert is reluctantly forced to admit that his name, while it suits him fine, hasn't got a patch on Fitzwilliam Lionel, and there isn't any kind of mystery, handkerchief or otherwise, and the whole thing is girlish and makes him feel like he's somehow eavesdropping on something he oughtn't just by reading it. But at least Fitzwilliam is romancing Geraldine Claudette, who is a dark alabaster-browed goody-goody, instead of -- well. Well, he's not jealous, not really, and that's that.

He has no reason to be.