Anne had come to visit Cole and Aunt Jo one more time, as they both hoped it would help to soothe her frazzled nerves after her last, heart-wrenching visit and would be a welcome treat before studying for the Queen’s entrance examination overtook all of her time. Marilla had relented to allow her to travel without a chaperone, having received assurances from Aunt Jo that someone would be there to collect her at the train station. Anne was saddened that Diana was not permitted to come along on this weekend jaunt, her mother being quite put out with one of Diana’s recent outbursts about finishing school. Still, Cole revealed in his last letter that they would be having a party on her first night with a few of Aunt Jo’s dearest friends and a contingent of Cole’s art school classmates. Anne couldn’t wait to find out if Cole had represented the colorful cast of characters at his school with accuracy.
. . .
Roy Gardner might take a certain pride in his troublemaker reputation, but he did have some principles. Principle one – he didn’t set out to deceive anyone (well, unless they deserved it). Principle two – he didn’t take liberties with unwilling partners (willing partners not being difficult to find in certain circles). Principle three – he did everything in his power to make those he loved feel his admiration as much as possible. He may have not even reached twenty, but he felt that as a real man he must maintain certain standards.
So by the time he finished his first delightful evening with Anne Shirley-Cuthbert in Aunt Jo’s well-appointed salon, he was resolved to live out his third principle to the fullest, even if he was somewhat regretful that principle two would prevent him from ever discovering if her rosy lips tasted as intoxicating as they looked. In fact, doing so would also violate principle one, because he had already promised his school chum Cole to treat Anne, whom Cole had repeatedly stressed he loved as much as anyone in the world, with utmost respect and caution. Roy would never break that promise, even if he wished, from the moment he laid eyes on her, that he could. Oh well, his principles wouldn’t stop him from telling her that her hair was like a lustrous, fiery waterfall and insisting that she should try a new, upswept style that was sure to show off every hint of bronze and ruby to its full potential.
Anne received his open admiration with a hint of shock, then collapsed into giggles. “Cole told me that you are an irrepressible flirt,” she said, eyes sparkling. “It’s like you’re reciting the pages of a novel. I thought only I did those things.”
“I’ve already spent two hours in your wonderful company. This is me holding myself back,” he replied smoothly, allowing his eyes to rove briefly over her tresses. “Surely you know that what I say is the truth.”
“Well, my hair may finally have darkened to auburn as I had hoped, but I still expect to get by in life with my wits, as I am far too plain to rely on my looks.” She finished her declaration matter-of-factly, expecting neither pity nor argument. She believed it to be true, and in fact was rather proud that at least she had her wits to recommend her.
At least with her wits, she stood a chance to achieve her dream of being a bride of adventure, thinking herself far too argumentative and difficult to be a bride of any other kind. Perhaps if one day I learned not to put my foot in it when I’m speaking, she thought wryly. Since she had never managed such a feat before, though, it seemed unlikely. She realized with a start that she was woolgathering, and Roy Gardner was watching her, speechless.
“Please tell me what fool ever gave you the notion that you are plain, and I will skewer him through.”
Anne laughed. “It’s been quite a few fools, actually.”
“How fortunate that I am an excellent swordsman, then, with boundless energy. I shall skewer them all.” His face turned serious. “You shouldn’t believe any of them. Whatever they said, it’s just flatly wrong.” His casual grin returned quickly. “I should know about beauty. I am an art student, after all.”
. . .
Roy Gardner was by Anne’s side every moment that weekend, and they, along with Cole, occupied themselves with every amusement they could find. It was really best that Marilla never learned of Anne’s penchant for signing up for any wild idea Roy put into their heads, including the fact that she and Cole snuck out of Aunt Jo’s house on Saturday night because Roy insisted that the sunrise over the water was too incredible to miss. He and Anne were instant friends, and after he promised to write to her he faithfully sent two or three letters every week. Marilla began to wonder a bit at the sudden attention she was receiving, but Anne brushed it off so she said nothing further after a few pointed questions.
Occasionally, he would shock her with his bold admiration and libertine approach to love, declaring on the first night they met that he would probably have 100 lovers in his lifetime. He delighted in regaling her with stories of shocking love affairs (frankly, he left out most of the more scandalous details) and matchmaking. Anne learned quickly not to let Marilla see the contents of the letters, for she didn’t think Marilla would entirely approve. Certainly, Marilla might wonder at Roy’s constant praise, for Anne knew that referring to her as “his fiery haired goddess” did not actually imply anything meaningful at all, but it was hard to convey Roy's manner of expressing himself without knowing him.
She told him of her plans to help when Mary was dying, of the upcoming fair, of her righteous anger at Billy Andrews and her article. He read each letter with unfailing admiration for her passion and love of friends and family. He, in turn, took every opportunity to share that admiration with her.
It is a shame though, he wrote after admitting in one letter that he had been expelled from a previous boarding school for all manner of scandalous activities, preventing him from remaining in the august social world of Toronto. If it thought for a minute that I could be a proper husband to anyone I’d make you my wife in a second. Alas, rest assured that I am doing the best thing for you by loving you only as my stunning, creative, unfailingly sweet friend.
Anne laughed aloud reading that one. She couldn’t help but respond the next time she wrote.
Yes, I rather think you wouldn’t be able to make a proper husband if you have to make the time for 100 lovers! Have you considered, at least, restricting your activities in Charlottetown so that you can remain, if only for my sake?
He was flirtatious with everyone but wrote and said such fantastically exaggerated statements that she couldn’t help but be amused, assuming he meant only about 10 percent of the things he said. He was dear to her all the same, and she was grateful to have another caring chum to soothe her heart, even if she didn’t wish to tame him into husband material.