Chapter 20 - Lost Margaret
Anne found that she could go on living; the day came when she even smiled again over one of Miss Cornelia's speeches. But there was something in the smile that had never been in Anne's smile before and would never be absent from it again.
On the first day she was able to go for a drive Gilbert took her down to Four Winds Point, and left her there while he rowed over the channel to see a patient at the fishing village. A rollicking wind was scudding across the harbor and the dunes, whipping the water into white-caps and washing the sandshore with long lines of silvery breakers.
"I'm real proud to see you here again, Mistress Blythe," said Captain Jim. "Sit down--sit down. I'm afeared it's mighty dusty here today--but there's no need of looking at dust when you can look at such scenery, is there?"
"I don't mind the dust," said Anne, "but Gilbert says I must keep in the open air. I think I'll go and sit on the rocks down there."
"Would you like company or would you rather be alone?"
"If by company you mean yours I'd much rather have it than be alone," said Anne, smiling. Then she sighed. She had never before minded being alone. Now she dreaded it. When she was alone now she felt so dreadfully alone.
"Here's a nice little spot where the wind can't get at you," said Captain Jim, when they reached the rocks. "I often sit here. It's a great place jest to sit and dream."
"Oh--dreams," sighed Anne. "I can't dream now, Captain Jim--I'm done with dreams."
"Oh, no, you're not, Mistress Blythe--oh, no, you're not," said Captain Jim meditatively. "I know how you feel jest now--but if you keep on living you'll get glad again, and the first thing you know you'll be dreaming again--thank the good Lord for it! If it wasn't for our dreams they might as well bury us. How'd we stand living if it wasn't for our dream of immortality? And that's a dream that's BOUND to come true, Mistress Blythe. You'll see your little Joyce again some day."
"But she won't be my baby," said Anne, with trembling lips. "Oh, she may be, as Longfellow says, `a fair maiden clothed with celestial grace'--but she'll be a stranger to me."
"God will manage better'n THAT, I believe," said Captain Jim.
They were both silent for a little time. Then Captain Jim said very softly:
"Mistress Blythe, may I tell you about lost Margaret?"
"Of course," said Anne gently. She did not know who "lost Margaret" was, but she felt that she was going to hear the romance of Captain Jim's life.
"I've often wanted to tell you about her," Captain Jim went on.
"Do you know why, Mistress Blythe? It's because I want somebody to remember and think of her sometime after I'm gone. I can't bear that her name should be forgotten by all living souls. And now nobody remembers lost Margaret but me."
Then Captain Jim told the story--an old, old forgotten story, for it was over fifty years since Margaret had fallen asleep one day in her father's dory and drifted--or so it was supposed, for nothing was ever certainly known as to her fate--out of the channel, beyond the bar, to perish in the black thundersquall which had come up so suddenly that long-ago summer afternoon. But to Captain Jim those fifty years were but as yesterday when it is past.
"I walked the shore for months after that," he said sadly, "looking to find her dear, sweet little body; but the sea never give her back to me. But I'll find her sometime, Mistress Blythe--I'll find her sometime . She's waiting for me. I wish I could tell you jest how she looked, but I can't. I've seen a fine, silvery mist hanging over the bar at sunrise that seemed like her--and then again I've seen a white birch in the woods back yander that made me think of her. She had pale, brown hair and a little white, sweet face, and long slender fingers like yours, Mistress Blythe, only browner, for she was a shore girl. Sometimes I wake up in the night and hear the sea calling to me in the old way, and it seems as if lost Margaret called in it. And when there's a storm and the waves are sobbing and moaning I hear her lamenting among them. And when they laugh on a gay day it's HER laugh--lost Margaret's sweet, roguish, little laugh. The sea took her from me, but some day I'll find her. Mistress Blythe. It can't keep us apart forever."
"I am glad you have told me about her," said Anne. "I have often wondered why you had lived all your life alone."
"I couldn't ever care for anyone else. Lost Margaret took my heart with her--out there," said the old lover, who had been faithful for fifty years to his drowned sweetheart. "You won't mind if I talk a good deal about her, will you, Mistress Blythe? It's a pleasure to me--for all the pain went out of her memory years ago and jest left its blessing. I know you'll never forget her, Mistress Blythe. And if the years, as I hope, bring other little folks to your home, I want you to promise me that you'll tell THEM the story of lost Margaret, so that her name won't be forgotten among humankind."