The parlour door was closed with something of a crash, as Katherine herded the effervescent Davy in the direction of the kitchen, whither Dora had already sped; Gilbert's moustache striking Dora's girlish heart numb as much as it had evidently affected Anne's. At this point, Gilbert abandoned his seat on the sofa, which he had taken up after Anne's surprisingly chaiste salutation on the porch and the whole party's transition indoors.
Gilbert had feared that the addition of Anne's latest, prickly project into their brief vacation period, would prove a constraint. But in the event, Katherine had proved a delightful surprise. Not at all sarcastic, although he could see how her dry wit could easily veer in that direction, and so clearly well intentioned towards both Anne and Gilbert. The way she had tactfully directed the twins towards the kitchen, to give Gilbert time alone with Anne (Marilla had withdrawn to Mrs Lynde's quarters as soon as the tree cutting party returned), had soothed the surprisingly agitated swain's nerves somewhat.
And he was nervous. Despite the rapturous promises contained in Anne's last missive from Summerside (when she had clearly been wielding very much the right sort of pen) of all the indecorous places Anne would like to kiss him, her response to his first pulling her into his arms was somewhat hesitant. It could be the presence of Katherine and the twins of course, but a Green Gables audience had never before caused Anne to hesitate before hurling herself into his arms. Witness his rapturous welcome on the same porch in the summer, a welcome that had brought another of Mrs Lynde's Thessalonians-based sermons upon their heads! But hesitate Anne did, moreover, she dodged his kiss, turning it merely into a chaste salute on her cheek, before taking up a position in the rocker by the fireplace, leaving Gilbert to occupy the sofa with Dora, until Katherine's break up of the rather prim party.
He crossed the room swiftly, kneeling before her on the hearth rug, the flames casting shadows over his face, making the amber flecks in his hazel eyes leap and sparkle even more than they generally did in the presence of his queen. He raised his hand to Anne's face, softly caressing her cheek.
"Anne-girl, what's the matter? Aren't you just a tiny bit pleased to see me?"
Anne turned to gaze at him, her hand mirroring his, before stopping consideringly over the new growth above his lip. "Humm" she murmured, her grey eyes dancing with lights that reflected both the flames of fire in the hearth and that steadily growing in Gilbert's. She bent and dropped a brief kiss on Gilbert's neck. "Of course I am, dearest of Gilberts, why would you even need to ask?"
At this Gilbert reached up to kiss her, pulling her towards him into a close embrace. "Because you have been some what less than effusive in your welcome, I was starting to fear that Mrs Rachel's strictures in July had hit their mark."
"Gilbert!" Anne admonished him breathily, "As though anything Mrs Lynde could say would have any material impact on how I behave towards you". And she proceeded to demonstrate the veracity of this claim, by planting a steady line of kisses from his neck to his ear.
"Anne?" Murmured Gilbert, tracing yet more kisses along her outstretched neck and, blessing the current fashion for collarless dresses, planting a lingering kiss on her collarbone. "I know you promised that we would kiss in as many improper places as invention would allow, but, given that the door to this parlour may open at any moment, it might be better for all concerned if I restricted myself to proper places tonight. Why are your lips avoiding mine?"
"Don't be ridiculous Gil" said Anne, brushing her lips fleetingly over his, of course you can kiss me anywhere you like", her hands moved slowly down his chest, "you can kiss me everywhere" she murmured hotly.
"Anne!" Exclaimed Gil, "you are not going to distract me so easily. Something is making you avoid kissing me and, as delightful as all these diversionary tactics are, I can not, after a drought of three months, go much longer without a good and proper kiss! What's wrong? Why won't you kiss me?".
Anne sat back on the sofa, looking sheepishly at the braided mat on the floor. "we-ll, Gil, when I saw you standing on the veranda, you looked so grown up, that I wasn't sure I even knew you anymore." She moved forward and dropped a light kiss on his ear. "So I have been looking to make sure you really are you." The already loosened tie was gently pulled aside and discarded and a soft kiss dropped on Gilbert's collarbone, "I recognise you here". Another feather-light kiss landed on Gilbert's bottom lip. "And here".
Gilbert held his breath as Anne's lips lingered tantalisingly over his, anticipating another light touch of Anne's soft lips. He felt the softest of brief touches and then a sudden rush of cold air as Anne pulled back and wriggled out of his arms.
"But I don't recognise you here!" She touched his upper lip, briefly.
"And Gilbert, I couldn't possibly kiss you thinking you are somebody I don't know, that would be truly scandalous! I can kiss you in improper places, I can kiss you in proper places, I can even kiss you improperly in improper places, but I can not kiss you were you do not feel like you!" Anne wailed, dolefully.
Gilbert looked at her, comprehension and amusement flickering across his face. "Anne Shirley, you do beat all," he quoted lovingly. "Just when I was starting to think you had no more hurdles left for me to clear!" He chuckled and looked slyly at her, suddenly looking far more boyish as he did so.
"How old are the twins?" He asked suddenly, apropos of apparently nothing.
"Fourteen" said Anne, looking puzzled at the abrupt change of subject. Davy is turning into quite the young man, Marilla even let's him drive the buggy now.
"He might not be quite old enough" mused Gilbert thoughtfully.
"Well, is is still a demon of mischief, but I'm sure Marilla wouldn't entrust him with the horses if she felt he wasn't able to handle the responsibility" interposed Anne, crossly, confounded by Gilbert's strange show of officiousness. He had never offered an unsolicited opinion on the way Marilla brought up the twins before.
"But it's probably worth checking, all the same" said Gilbert, as if she had said nothing. "I'll be back in a minute, I just need to talk to Davy".
With that Gilbert straightened his tie, tucked in his shirt, and left the room, leaving a confused and annoyed Anne to hastily re-pin her disordered locks and fasten the lose three buttons at the top of her green collarless dress.
It was some 10 minutes later that Gilbert re-entered the parlour to find his impeccably gowned and coiffured fiancé seated primly on the sofa, frostily pouring out the tea that Dora had brought in during his absence.
"What on earth has come over you Gilbert?" Fumed Anne, addressing her furious attention to the tea pot and stirring Gibert's tea fiercely. Davy is perfectly old enough to have charge of the horses, Marilla's horses, mind you, not yours, and you have no cause to be so busy. I am sure Davy did not welcome your checking up on him at all".
"On the contrary," laughed Gilbert, noting Anne's lack of eye contact and seemingly unperturbed by her wrath, "he was pretty flattered by my enquiries and, thanks to the good offices of Milty Boulter, or at least Milty's older brother, was equipped to meet my request."
"What on earth are you talking about Gilbert?" Said Anne, crossly, raising her eyes from the tea things in order to fix on Gilbert the full force of her baleful stare. Her next remarks died on her lips as she continued to stare in astonishment.
"Gilbert! What have you just done?" She gasped.
He moved towards her swiftly, lifting her to her feet and gathering her into his arms. Nuzzling his face close to Anne's he whispered, "I can't have my Anne-girl kissing a man she doesn't know, can I? These lips are promised only to Your Gilbert. And anything that makes Gilbert less than your own Gilbert must be got rid of, so get rid of it I did." He kissed her softly on her pink lips. She sighed and returned the kiss, with greater pressure, pulling him closer to her as she did.
"Do you recognise me now?" He whispered, running his hands through her hair and dislodging several recently rehoused pins. "Oh yes Gilbert", she said, tracing her fingers across his newly shorn upper lip' "this is my Gilbert, who belongs here with me."
Anne's lips claimed Gilbert's possessively. On the table besides them, the tea remained untouched.