Anne’s brows furrowed together in confusion. What are they doing, she thought. “It’s burning so fierce. Why are the doors and windows still open?”
She watched the men and boys of Avonlea throw bucket after bucket of water on the flames, which were only growing by the second. Everyone winced when the heat burst through a window, sending glass shards flying through the air. She gently passed a crying Ruby Gillis to Diana and began slowly walking toward the smoldering building.
“Anne?” Diana called, and then a second time more frantically when she realized what her friend was doing. “Anne, please!” The redhead continued forward, stopping only for a moment to douse several blankets with water. As she slowly inched closer to the side, she felt the heat on her face and bare arms. Anne willed herself not to lose her nerve when Diana cried out again as she slipped through the door leading into the kitchen. She closed her eyes and envisions the orphanage’s fire manual, and read through all the rules that she remembered.
“Diana, where’s Anne? Where’s my Anne?” Marilla Cuthbert demanded when she returned to only find two girls instead of three. Diana pointed a weak finger toward the Gillis house, “I tried to stop her, Miss. Cuthbert.” Marilla tried to be mad at Diana, for not protecting Anne but how could she be? Of course, Anne would be the one to run into the fire, no one, not Diana, or even herself would have been able to prevent her from doing so.
The other mothers had gathered around their daughters just then, “Marilla, where do you think you’re going?” Mrs. Barry exclaimed as she placed a gentle hand on the older woman’s shoulder.
“Anne ran inside. I-I have to go get her. Let me go! I need to get Anne! Let me go!” Marilla shrieked and fought the grip of Mrs. Barry.
“Miss. Cuthbert, it will do nobody any good if anyone else ventures into that house. Anne is very a smart girl, we have to have faith in her capabilities and trust that she does too.” It was a very strange comment to come out of the mouth of Mrs. Barry, who had harbored an intense grudge against the orphan ever since her arrival, but it was no secret that the girl from Nova Scotia had maneuvered her way into the hearts of the people of Avonlea.
Taking fast labored breaths, Marilla leaned into Mrs. Barry’s embrace and began to pray.
Gilbert Blythe had been one of the first to arrive on the scene of the fire. Immediately, he sprung into action and grabbed a ladder from one of the neighbor’s carts and scaled the side of the house. The others followed his determined demeanor and charged toward the river to fill and refill their buckets. “Get more up buckets up here!” Gilbert shouted down from his spot on the roof. He bent down and wrapped his fingers around the handle of the incoming bucket, careful not to spill any water from the sides. In one swift, he tossed the contents into Mrs. and Mr. Gillis’s room, where the fire was the most fierce.
Just as he parted his lips to call for another bucket, his voice caught in his throat as the sound of footsteps echoed through the hallway. Gilbert’s mind raced, whipping his head around quickly, his eyes scanned the crowd to make sure all of his friends were accounted for. Moody, Charlie, and Cole were all helping Matthew fix the fire wagon. Tilly and Jane had joined Diana and Ruby, who were clustered in a small group with their mothers.
“Where is she?” He whispered under his breath. And then he made the heart-wrenching revelation. Who else would run into the fire? Who else would have the sheer guts and bravery besides her?
“Anne!” He cried distraughtly, his heart rammed against his ribs when there wasn’t an immediate response. Seconds later, the thin, wiry frame darted into the room. The pair froze, Gilbert willed his eyes to show everything he couldn’t seem to find the words to say. Come with me, you’re scaring everyone right now including me. Please, I can’t lose you too. But Anne conveyed no emotion in her gaze, the tips of her lips turned up in what Gilbert thought to be a reassuring smile.
“I’m not done yet, Gilbert.” With that, she pulled the door shut with a slam and her footsteps were a faint a sound until Gilbert couldn’t hear them anymore. He wanted to climb through the window then and there and go after her but whatever Anne had done, it slowed the fire down. Instead, he put all of his worry and frustration that he felt towards a certain redhead and turned that into drive, the sooner the fire was out, the sooner she would be safe.
Anne pulled the final bedroom door and shoved her last blanket into the bottom of the door frame. She lost her balance as she stood up, her feet tripping other each other. Her fingers found the wall to steady herself and she guided herself through the haze back towards the stairs. Smoke swirled around her, intertwining itself with her clothes and finding its way down her nose and throat. A cough wretched itself through her throat so feverishly, Anne’s hand left the wall to cover her mouth. One followed after another until Anne found herself hunched down and even more faint then before. This time when she tried to walk again, she found herself at the top of the stairs just another coughing rage through her, the force along with her deteriorated state sent her toppling down the stairs. Her head took the most of the fall, as did her right shoulder, both convulsing with pain when Anne landed at the bottom of the stairs. Mustering her strength, Anne pushed herself off the floor and stumbled her way through the final feet before being met with the fresh, cold November air.
Diana squinted at the figure that was walking from the Gillis house and felt a wave of relief surge through her. “It’s Anne! She’s okay, she did it! She put out the fire!”
“Diana, stay here! It’s far too dangerous to go any closer” Mrs. Barry said sternly.
“If Anne can run into the fire, I can surely help her walk from it, Mother,” Diana answered firmly and unwrapped the blanket from her shoulders before she broke into a run to get to her friend.
Anne all but collapsed into her arms, Diana wrapped her arms as tightly as she could around her bosom friend’s torso. “What were you thinking?” She exclaimed exasperatedly, pulling back from the embrace. “Running into the flames like that?”
“Fire needs oxygen, closing windows and doors deprives it. Did it work?” Anne mumbled meekly.
Diana nodded, a proud smile spread across her lips, "It did. You put the fire out." The brunette noticed Anne wince and her face twist with discomfort when a round of congratulating shouts broke out. It was then, Diana remembered the blanket that she held in her hands and noticed that a tremble had taken over Anne's body. Diana leaned forward and swept the blanket across Anne's shoulders. The blanket wasn't very thick, the result of sewing two fabrics together so it didn't hold much weight to it but the weight that it did hold seemed to be the breaking the point of Anne's resolve. Upon drawing Diana drawing her hands back, Anne's cerulean eyes rolled back into her head and her legs gave out from underneath her and her body crumbled to the ground. A scream ripped through Diana's lips.
There had been few moments in his life where Gilbert went on autopilot. When his dad died, he did the only thing that he could think of, something that would hopefully connect him to his now late father, travel. So, only a few weeks after the funeral and squaring everything away at his house, Gilbert was on the first steamer out. The second time happened when he delivered a Trinidian woman's breech baby, he didn't have time to doubt whether he could do it or not so he believed with all his might that he could and let that guide him through the process. The third time, he didn't move right away like he had the other times. Hearing Diana Berry's ear-piercing scream froze him in his place. It took Bash jostling him out of his trance to get him back to reality. "Blythe, get over there!"
His legs carried him to the other side of the house, where Diana was crying over a pale and ashen Anne, who wasn't moving. "Diana, what happened?" He prayed that his voice wouldn't crack. Diana recounted why Anne had run into the house and how she collapsed. Gilbert carefully and gently ran his hands over Anne's body, checking for any injuries. He just about cried when a whimper left her lips when he came to her head and shoulder. Gilbert instructed Diana to go and fetch both Marilla and Matthew and inform them of the situation. He slid an arm under Anne's knees and the other just under her shoulders, and gathered the redhead in his arms. Having her this close, Gilbert tried to focus on the pressing matters at hand, her health, the injuries to her head and shoulder and whatever amount of smoke she had inhaled, not the curve of her cheekbone or the constellations that her freckles formed on her face.
The Cuthbert siblings were on Gilbert the second they laid eyes on him. They were her guardians, Gilbert knew that but he couldn't help but feel uneasy at the prospect of leaving her alone with people who lacked the information on how to properly treat for head injuries. His internship with the doctor in Carmondy had taught him more than he could comprehend at times but he was beyond thankful for it. "What do you mean she can't come home?" Marilla snapped when Gilbert suggested that Anne be brought to his house instead.
"Miss. Cuthbert, please take no offense in me suggesting that. To put it simply, my house in a much closer proximity than Green Gables and given Anne's state and how much remain unknown about it, I don't want to put her head under any unnecessary stress."
Marilla opened her mouth, most likely to refute his suggestion but Matthew beat her to it, "I say we listen to the doctor-in-training on this one, Marilla. I remember hearing stories about what a head injury can do and it looks like Gilbert, here is the best suited to prevent that from happening to Anne." Reluctantly, Marilla grumbled in agreement but insisted that they would be over first thing in the morning. As Gilbert turned to make his way back to his horse and wagon, where Bash was undoubtedly waiting, Matthew took ahold of his shoulder, "Listen, boy, I trust in your skills, I do. I, uh, heard what you did for that women during your time away. But I got to ask, you will do everything you know how to do help her right? I've come to love her very much during her time with us and, uh, I just want to make sure we're doing what's best for her."
Gilbert responded with hesitation, "I can wholeheartedly reassure you that I know how to help Anne." He paused when Anne shifted in his arms, changing her position so that she was closer to him. Gilbert fought the smile that itched at his lips, though he sighed in relief; she felt safe with him. "You're not the only one who has come to love her during her time here, Mr. Cuthbert."