The ballroom was larger than Anne had thought it would be, and beautifully decorated. Almost every inch of it was white with the exception of a few red and green decorations. Anne felt sort of out of place in her blue dress, and Diana noticed how her friend fiddled with it.
“This place looks lovely!” She said. “I think it makes your dress stand out wonderfully. I wish I had worn blue instead of white.”
Anne gave a small smile. “Thank you. Perhaps, at the next celebration, we could switch dresses.”
Diana led Anne to the master of the house, Robert Andrews, who stood proudly next to the table that held the snacks.
“Hello, Mr. Andrews,” Diana greeted.
“Hello, Miss Barry. Miss Shirley.” He nodded to each of the girls.
“Your house looks beautiful tonight, Mr. Andrews! The ceiling looks divine with the white ribbons hanging down. It makes me feel like I’m in a snow covered forest where a fairy has made all the snow stop falling just as it was about to hit me!” Anne said cheerfully.
Mr. Andrews stared at her with disconcerted eyes. “Yes, well, I assume that’s what we were going for. Well, take these dance cards and make sure to have something to eat. I daresay the Boulter’s have brought enough food to feed all of Avonlea!” He anxiously handed them dance cards.
Diana and Anne made their way to the other side of the ballroom, giggling about the powder Mr. Andrews had on the corners of his mouth.
“He must really like the cookies Mrs. Boutler had made,” Diana teased.
“I bet he’ll eat them all before we even get a chance.” Anne added.
“Hello, Diana,” Peter Allen stood in front of them. “May I sign your dance card?”
“Sure, Peter.” She handed the card to Peter, watching as he signed the third slot, and quickly took it back. The girls continued on.
“I really didn’t want him to. Peter always steps on my feet. Ugh,” Diana groaned. “The Pye’s are here.” She motioned toward the door.
The four Pye children stood in a clump in front of the door, each wearing a different shade of green. Josie Pye, leading the pack with the darkest shade, caught Diana and Anne’s eyes and sneered at them before making her way into the crowd of people.
“She’s probably looking for Gilbert,” Diana said, watching Anne’s face for any reaction. “Maybe you’d want to find him first.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Anne asked defensively.
“I don’t know, I thought you’d want to dance with him,” Diana said.
“Well, you were wrong. I won’t dance with him unless he asks me. Just to be polite. It will be strictly platonic and non-romantical altogether,” Anne declared.
Diana rolled her eyes.
“Can we sign your dance card, Diana?” Noah White asked for himself and his brother. Diana handed Noah her dance card, who signed the second slot and handed it off to his brother who signed the fourth. Anne was uncomfortably aware of how much Diana was enjoying the attention.
“Thank you,” Diana turned to Anne. “I think you should give Gil a chance! All he ever does is pine over you.”
“You mean pine over Josie Pye. We are merely friends, if you could even call us that.”
“Yet, you admitted you were jealous.”
“I did not!” Anne stated. “I was pointing out a fact. Josie wants him to court her and that is exactly what he is doing.”
“Say what you want, but Josie is alone and Gilbert is making his way over here now.”
Anne’s back straightened. She suddenly found her heart beating immensely fast. She stared at Diana. “He is?”
“Yes.” Diana grinned. “What if he asks you to dance?”
“As I said, I will dance with him to be polite,” Anne exhaled. “I am not letting him sign my dance card, though. I want to save it as a memory and I don’t need his name on it.”
“You’re hopeless, Anne.”
“Hello, Anne,” Charlie Sloane said, stepping into the girl’s conversation. “Hello, Diana.”
“Hello, Charlie,” Diana returned. Anne merely smiled, trying to glance over his shoulder to see if Gilbert was still heading their way.
“Uhm, Anne? I was wondering, if you wanted, I could sign your dance card?” Charlie shrugged. “I’d like to dance with you.”
Anne’s eyes widened. “Well…” Anne caught sight of Gilbert and Josie in the middle of the dance floor, watching as she shoved her dance card into his hands. Gilbert glanced over to Anne, who furrowed her eyebrows. “Of course, Charlie, I would love to.”
“Really? Great!” He exclaimed. Anne made a point to theatrically hand her card to Charlie in hopes Gilbert would have seen it. “I’ll only sign two slots as to not take up too much time. If you’d like to dance more afterward, I’d be willing.”
“Thank you, Charlie.”
“Hello, girls. How are you?” Gilbert had appeared beside Charlie and stood in front of Diana, smiling brightly at the girls. Anne put her arms behind her back and dropped the dance card on the floor. If Gilbert had wanted to sign it, he’d have to find it first.
“I’m great, how about you?” Diana said.
“I’m well, thank you,” Gilbert replied. “Anne?”
“Fine.” Anne crossed her arms.
“Diana, I was wondering if I could sign your dance card?” Gilbert asked.
Anne and Diana shared a confused look. Anne nodded to her friend.
“Uh, sure! Yes,” Diana gave him her card.
“I’m going to see Peter,” Charlie announced. “I’ll see you for our dance, Anne.” Charlie took Anne’s hand in his and kissed her knuckles. Diana heard Gilbert take a deep breath.
“Bye, Charlie,” Anne muttered.
“I promised Josie the second dance, so is it alright if I take your first slot?” Gilbert asked Diana, trying and failing to not glance at Anne.
“Sure,” Diana said.
Gilbert signed his name at the top of the card and handed it back to Diana. “I didn’t know Charlie was courting you, Anne.”
“Oh, no, Charlie and I are friends," Anne said simply. "He just wanted to dance.”
“I don’t know, he talks about you a lot,” Gilbert jested.
Anne scoffed. “If Charlie was courting me I’m sure he would’ve told me by now.”
“Somebody could be trying to court you without telling you.”
“Is that what you’ve done to poor Josie? Obviously you need practice in courting.”
“Well, obviously you’ve gone blind,” He mocked.
Anne’s lips pursed. “Diana, I’m feeling a bit hungry. I’m going to get something to eat.”
“I’ll come with you,” Diana said.
“Good evening, Mr. Blythe.” Anne stuck her nose in the air and began walking toward the dessert table.
Diana caught up to her friend. “Anne, don’t you think that was a bit mean?”
Anne sighed. “Yes, but I cannot apologize. I’d rather my hair be green again before I told Gilbert Blythe I’m sorry. I only hope nobody magical had heard my wish, or it might come true.”
“Hello, Anne! Hello, Diana!” Moody greeted when the girls arrived at the desserts.
“Hello, Moody!” They said together.
“Mrs. Boulter made a delicious pudding. You should try some!” Moody spooned a mouthful from a bowl and swallowed.
“I think I’ll have some later. My stomach is in knots.” Anne explained. “Diana will have to eat for me.”
Diana graciously took a small strawberry tart and popped it into her mouth.
“Oh, do you have dance cards?” Moody wondered, putting his bowl of pudding on the table. “I’m in a race with James to get the most dances!”
“Sure, Moody, you can sign mine,” Diana happily handed him her card.
Anne reached in the pockets of her dress before regret fell on her face. “I forgot my dance card!" She groaned.
“It’s alright, we can help you find it!” Moody suggested, wiping the chocolate from the corners of his mouth.
“I’d really like that. It’ll be like we’re pirates hunting for my lost treasure!”
“Yes! I always love when you imagine games, Anne,” Moody told her.
Anne smiled. “Moody, you can have a peg leg, and Diana can have an eyepatch, and I’ll have a bird who sits on my shoulder and speaks!”
“I’ll go ask around if anyone’s picked one up,” Diana proposed.
“I’ll look around this side of the room, near the desserts,” Moody said.
“I’ll go to where I lost it in the first place,” Anne laughed.
“We can meet back here when we’re done, okay, Anne?” Diana asked.
“That’s Captain Anne to you, mate!” Anne turned to Moody. “Diana’s my first mate.”
The three went their separate ways, Anne pushing through the crowd to get back to the other side of the room. Anne tried to squeeze between two people, but ended up tripping over someone’s foot and barreling into the person in front of her.
“I am so sor- Oh. Josie,” Anne grumbled.
“Thanks a lot, Anne. I probably have some sort of disease now that you’ve touched me.” Josie and the other girls she had been talking to laughed.
Anne clenched her fists. “With a face like that, it’d be a miracle if you weren’t already sick.”
The other girls covered their mouths to hide from Josie that they were now laughing at her. Josie seethed. “You’re just jealous that Gilbert asked me to dance right away.”
“You wish,” Anne retorted.
“Oh, I know,” Josie crossed her arms. “I see that way you look at him, Anne Shirley. I just don’t want you to think he likes you back. Gilbert would never want to chance his children having red hair.”
Anne took a step forward. “It’s fine with me if he decides to court you. It’s not the first mistake he’s ever made.”
Josie’s mouth gaped. “How-”
“Unlike you, I have a future where I don’t need to be a bride. You can have Gilbert Blythe, Josie,” Anne insisted.
Anne took off before Josie could say anything else. Why did everyone in Avonlea think that she wanted Gilbert Blythe? She reached the table where she and Diana had stood, and unfortunately noticed the empty floor. She scanned the corner for any sign of her dance card.
Anne bent down and lifted the table cloth, searching underneath. She was on her hands and knees to peer down the long table when she felt the cloth lift off her back.
“What are we looking for?” Asked a voice.
Anne glanced over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Nothing.”
“So, you just enjoy looking under tables?” Gilbert questioned. “Can I join you?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m done looking.” She crawled out from the table. Gilbert offered her his hand, but she pretended as though she didn’t notice and stood up by herself. “Goodbye, Mr. Blythe.”
“Wait a minute, Anne,” Gilbert grabbed her arm, and pulled her back. “Let me help you. What are you looking for?”
Anne avoided looking at his eyes. “If you must know, I seem to have misplaced my dance card. Moody needs to sign it so he can win a game with James.”
“Well, lucky for you, I happened to find your card,” Gilbert said smugly, holding it up between two fingers. “Unfortunately I saw that only Charlie had been able to sign it.”
Anne put her hands on her hips. “Well, yes, I lost it before anyone else could ask me to sign it.”
“Good evening, everyone!” Mr. Andrews announced near the front of the room on a stage. Behind him sat about eight people in an orchestra, tuning their instruments for the first song. “I’m glad we are able to come together and celebrate the summer’s end! We are going to start the first dance now!”
Gilbert leaned toward Anne. “Well, I graciously took the liberty of going around and getting it filled out for you.”
Anne gawked. “You did what?” She asked, stunned.
“I got every spot filled.”
“Now,” Mr. Andrews bellowed. “Ladies, if you would look at the first name on your dance card, you may now find your partner. If you do not have a partner, I’m sure you can find someone standing around!” Many people in the room laughed.
“Gilbert!” Anne cried. “You know I can’t dance! Why would you do that?”
Gilbert ignored her and opened the card. “Let’s see... you have the first two dances with Charlie Sloane. And- oh! Look at that. Every other slot is taken by me.” He turned the card to face her, and sure enough, slots 3-10 had the name Gilbert Blythe written next to them.
“Anne, are you ready to dance?” Charlie asked, taking Anne’s hand.
Anne stared at her dance card, speechless. She nodded to Charlie, who began to lead her to the dance floor. Anne glanced over her shoulder at Gilbert, who had found Diana and was showing her the card. He beamed proudly.
The music began, and an uptempo song played. Charlie put a hand on Anne’s waist, and waited for her to put her hand on his shoulder. He led them in a fast dance that would have been fun if Anne had focused on the steps rather than try to see what Gilbert was doing every time they turned.
He must’ve been joking, right? He just hadn’t wanted anyone to fill out her card. It was all a mean prank, and afterwards he would walk up to Anne and laugh at her for not having any dance partners. Unless, he hadn’t been joking. That made Anne even more nervous. Eight dances with Gilbert Blythe, who knew she couldn’t dance very well, who knew she didn’t have the best opinion of him, and who continuously tried to befriend her. She didn’t know if she could make it past the fourth dance.
Charlie couldn’t help but notice Anne’s absentmindedness, and eventually gave up on trying to get her attention. When the song ended, they released each other and bowed.
“You have the second dance as well,” Anne reminded him.
Charlie shrugged. “You don’t have to dance with me if you don’t want to, Anne.”
“What? Of course I want to dance with you, Charlie! It’s just…” Anne trailed off when she caught sight of Gilbert and Josie Pye. She had said something and they both laughed, and Josie glared in the direction of Anne. “My mind is where it shouldn’t be.”
“I’ve always admired that about you,” Charlie explained. “I like when your mind wanders.”
The music to the second song begun, a slower tune than last time but still upbeat. Anne and Charlie bowed to each other and went back to their position. Anne refrained from looking at Gilbert this time. She didn’t want to even think about Josie putting her hands on him.
Charlie spun Anne delicately. When she returned, Anne raised her arm.
“What are you doing?” Charlie wondered.
“You could spin as well,” Anne joked.
“I don’t think I should,” Charlie said anxiously. “Only girls are supposed to spin.”
Anne sighed and put her hand back on Charlie’s shoulder. She tried to be polite and not point out that she was very aware Charlie was staring at her.
“Anne, I… I really like you.”
Anne’s eyes widened. “Oh, yeah?”
Charlie laughed awkwardly. “I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve been trying to court for the last couple months.”
“Oh, uh… I didn’t notice.” Anne admitted.
“And I wanted to know if- ACK!”
“Sorry!” Anne apologized. She hadn’t even realized she had stepped on his foot.
“It’s okay!” He reassured her, closing his eyes to fight through the pain.
Anne hoped the song would be over soon. She wanted Gilbert to come over here and get her away from Charlie, even if the whole ordeal was a prank.
“Anyways,” Charlie said, spinning Anne around. “I’ve liked you for so long, and I always thought you liked Gilbert.”
Anne sighed. “Why does everyone think I like Gilbert?”
“I guess it doesn’t matter, I mean, now that he’s courting with Josie Pye.”
“He… He is?” Anne looked at Gilbert and Josie. She couldn’t see Gilbert’s face, but Josie was staring at her with an evil grin. She stepped closer to Gilbert. “I didn’t know that was real.”
“That’s what Josie’s been saying, anyway,” Charlie said. “But I’d like to know if, uhm… If we could be in a courtship?”
Anne looked at Charlie. He smiled kindly at her, and spun her again.
Anne had never thought of Charlie to be the person she would want to start a family with. He was quiet and shy, the exact opposite of Anne. She remembered the time they had been paired to study together, how she had done all the talking while he sat and did whatever she said. That wasn’t what she wanted in a partner. She needed someone to bounce ideas off of, who wasn’t afraid to give their own opinion every now and then. Charlie Sloane was someone who would make sure Anne was happy, but would do anything she wanted whenever she said.
The second song had ended, Anne and Charlie bowed, and Charlie took a step forward, waiting for her response. He looked as though he were about to kiss her at any second, as though he thought she would say yes.
“Anne, are you ready?” Gilbert appeared suddenly, his hand held out toward Anne.
“Blythe, can you give us a minute?” Charlie insisted. “Anne, do you have a response?”
“Actually, it’s time for the third dance. Which I have.” Gilbert held up Anne’s dance card, which Charlie eyed skeptically.
“Will you dance with me again?” Charlie tried, holding out his hand.
“You already had your dances with her,” Gilbert put the card in his vest pocket. He held his hand out to her as well. The music for the next song started to play.
Anne looked between the two; Charlie Sloane, the pushover, and Gilbert Blythe, her competition. If she chose Charlie, she would’ve had to give him an answer, which she ultimately didn’t have at the moment.
“I’m sorry, Charlie, I’ve already promised Gilbert,” Anne said, placing her hand in Gilbert’s.
“You promised him eight dances?” Charlie challenged.
“Yes,” Gilbert bragged. He led her to an open space on the floor closer to the stage and placed his arm on her waist.
A chill ran up Anne’s spine. She cautiously put her hand on his shoulder.
“Sorry it took me so long to get over there,” Gilbert told her. “Josie wouldn’t let go of me.”
“Oh.” Was all Anne could say.
They danced in silence for a while. Anne stared at her feet as to not step on his foot as she did Charlie’s, and didn’t notice Gilbert staring at her concentrated expression and taking it all in.
Anne noticed how much shorter Gilbert was than Charlie. She didn’t have to reach all the way up to reach his shoulder, and didn’t feel as though she was being lifted off the ground every time they turned. However, Gilbert was much more intimidating. When she looked up at him, she felt as though she would suddenly burst into flames.
“Look, Anne, I wanted to apologize for earlier,” Gilbert said all of a sudden as the fourth song began.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like when people think I’m courting Josie,” Gilbert stated, breathing a laugh. “I was upset because I thought you did too."
Anne smiled coyly. “I would tell you I'm sorry but my hair might turn green.”
“Nothing, nevermind,” Anne shook her head.
Gilbert spun Anne, much smoother than Charlie, she noted.
“What did you and Charlie talk about?” Gilbert wondered out loud.
“He wants to be in a courtship with me.”
“What? He does? But he knows I…” Gilbert shook his head. “What did you say?”
“I didn’t say anything. I don’t think I’d want to be in a courtship right now. There’s so much I want to do before I even think about starting a family.”
Gilbert pressed his lips together. Then he smiled. “That’s good to hear. I’ve been thinking the same thing. I want to study to become a doctor, so I have no plans to court for a while.”
“Not even with Josie Pye?” Anne teased.
“Maybe I’ll save a couple minutes for her.” Gilbert shrugged.
Gilbert spun Anne again, and when she returned she raised her arm. Gilbert allowed her to spin him, laughing as he came back around. They shared a smile as the fifth dance began.
The song started with a bang, and the rest of the chorus played at an immensely fast pace. Gilbert spun Anne feverishly, lifting her off the ground when the rest of the adults lifted their partners. They clapped at the same time as the others, and the room became a sort of orchestrated dance. By the end, everyone who had been dancing were sweating and laughing as a chorus.
Gilbert grabbed Anne’s hand. “I’m really glad you’re letting me spend the rest of the night with you,” He said in her ear over the chatter.
“Me too,” Anne admitted, her face flushing.
“Anne!” Diana interrupted, running up to the pair with Tillie and Jane behind her.
“What’s wrong?” Anne asked.
“Ruby ran out of the ballroom crying!” Diana told her. She eyed Anne’s hand in Gilbert’s.
“Is she okay? What happened?”
“We don’t know,” Tillie said. “She burst into tears and left.”
Anne turned to Gilbert. “I have to see if she’s alright.”
“Are you coming back?”
“I’m not sure,” Anne said.
Gilbert raised her hand to his lips, but Anne pulled away. “I thought you said you weren't courting.” She tried to hide her smile.
Gilbert raised his hands in defensive. “I didn’t mean anything of it, Miss Shirley.”
“I think I know why Ruby left,” Jane whispered to Diana.
“C’mon,” Anne said to her friends, following them out of the ballroom.