When you’ve seen that look as often as I have, you’ll know what it means.
With a title like that, there’s no point beating around the bush. The chapter opens with Matthew having a heart attack.
Anne came through the hall, her hands full of white narcissus, – it was a long time before Anne could love the sight or odor of white narcissus again, – in time to […] see Matthew standing in the porch doorway, a folded paper in his hand, and his face strangely drawn and gray. Anne dropped her flowers and sprang across the kitchen to him at the same moment as Marilla. They were both too late; before they could reach him Matthew had fallen across the threshold.
Mrs. Lynde first pronounces him dead, then the doctor comes around to confirm that he died more or less instantly – evidently from the shock of news of the failure of his bank.
The news spread quickly through Avonlea, and all day friends and neighbors thronged Green Gables and came and went on errands of kindness for the dead and living. For the first time shy, quiet Matthew Cuthbert was a person of central importance; the white majesty of death had fallen on him and set him apart as one crowned.
Diana asks if Anne would like to have her sleep in her bedroom with her, but Anne politely declines.
“I think you won’t misunderstand me when I say I want to be alone. I’m not afraid. I haven’t been alone one minute since it happened – and I want to be. I want to be quite silent and quiet and try to realize it. I can’t realize it. Half the time it seems to me that Matthew can’t be dead; and the other half it seems as if he must have been dead for a long time and I’ve had this horrible dull ache ever since.”
Diana did not quite understand. Marilla’s impassioned grief, breaking all the bounds of natural reserve and lifelong habit in its stormy rush, she could comprehend better than Anne’s tearless agony. […]
Anne hoped that tears would come in solitude. It seemed to her a terrible thing that she could not shed a tear for Matthew, whom she had loved so much and who had been so kind to her, Matthew who had walked with her last evening at sunset and was now lying in the dim room below with that awful peace on his brow. But no tears came at first, even when she knelt by her window in the darkness and prayed, looking up to the stars beyond the hills – no tears, only the same horrible dull ache of misery that kept on aching until she fell asleep, worn out with the day’s pain and excitement.
I’ve had a similar experience with grief – I push myself to look after others’ emotional needs, so when my grandmother died, there was often more a dull ache of misery than actual tears, especially when I was alone.
In the night she awakened, with the stillness and the darkness about her, and the recollection of the day came over her like a wave of sorrow. She could see Matthew’s face smiling at her as he had smiled when they parted at the gate last evening – she could hear his voice saying, “My girl – my girl that I’m proud of.” Then the tears came and Anne wept her heart out. Marilla heard her and crept in to comfort her. […]
“Oh, just let me cry, Marilla,” sobbed Anne. “The tears don’t hurt me like that ache did. Stay here for a little while with me and keep your arm around me – so. I couldn’t have Diana stay, she’s good and kind and sweet – but it’s not her sorrow – she’s outside of it and she couldn’t come close enough to my heart to help me. It’s our sorrow – yours and mine. Oh, Marilla, what will we do without him?”
“We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here – if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe – but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as much as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flash and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”
When you’re already crying anyway, it becomes so much easier to express your feelings.
In the following days, after Matthew’s been buried, Anne’s surprised to find that life moves on – and so does she.
“It seems like disloyalty to Matthew, somehow, to find pleasure in these things now that he has gone,” she said wistfully to Mrs. Allen one evening when they were together in the manse garden. “I miss him so much – all the time – and yet, Mrs. Allen, the world and life seem very beautiful and interesting to me for all. Today Diana said something funny and I found myself laughing. I thought when it happened that I would never laugh again. and it somehow seems as if I oughtn’t to.”
“When Matthew was here he liked to hear you laugh and he liked to know you found pleasure in the pleasant things around you,” said Mrs. Allen gently. “He is just away now; and he likes to know it is just the same. I am sure we should not shut our hearts against the healing influences that nature offers us. But I understand your feeling. I think we all experience the same thing. We resent the thought that anything can please us when someone we love is no longer here to share the pleasure with us, and we almost feel as if we were unfaithful to our sorrow when we find our interest in life returning to us.”
I’ve never experienced this particular aspect of grief – but I have felt this way about depression. I’ve been depressed, and a part of me felt like if that was a real feeling, I was obligated to be miserable. But wallowing in misery doesn’t help. Happiness is a feeling just as true, and much easier to live with.
Anne talks about her classmates, and then Marilla mentions Gilbert, because he caught her attention at church, and she mentions that his father was actually a beau of hers back in the day.
“Oh, Marilla – what happened? – why didn’t you – “
“We had a quarrel. I wouldn’t forgive him when he asked me to. I meant to, after awhile – but I was too sulky and angry and I wanted to punish him first. He never came back – the Blythes were all mighty independent. But I always felt – rather sorry. I’ve always kind of wished I’d forgiven him when I had the chance.”
Next time: The bend in the road…