The Way of the Winning of Anne by Lucy Maud
Jerome Irving had been courting Anne Stockard
for fifteen years. He had begun when she was
twenty and he was twenty-five, and now that
Jerome was forty, and Anne, in a village where
everybody knew everybody else's age, had to own to being
thirty-five, the courtship did not seem any nearer a climax
than it had at the beginning. But that was not Jerome's fault,
At the end of the first year he had asked Anne to marry
him, and Anne had refused. Jerome was disappointed, but he
kept his head and went on courting Anne just the same; that
is he went over to Esek Stockard's house every Saturday
night and spent the evening, he walked home with Anne from
prayer meeting and singing school and parties when she
would let him, and asked her to go to all the concerts and
socials and quilting frolics that came off. Anne never would
go, of course, but Jerome faithfully gave her the chance. Old
Esek rather favoured Jerome's suit, for Anne was the plainest
of his many daughters, and no other fellow seemed at all anxious
to run Jerome off the track; but she took her own way
with true Stockard firmness, and matters were allowed to
drift on at the will of time or chance.
Three years later Jerome tried his luck again, with precisely
the same result, and after that he had asked Anne regularly
once a year to marry him, and just as regularly Anne said
no a little more brusquely and a little more decidedly every
year. Now, in the mellowness of a fifteen-year-old courtship,
Jerome did not mind it at all. He knew that everything comes
to the man who has patience to wait.
Time, of course, had not stood still with Anne and Jerome,
or with the history of Deep Meadows. At the Stockard homestead
the changes had been many and marked. Every year or
two there had been a wedding in the big brick farmhouse, and
one of old Esek's girls had been the bride each time. Julia and
Grace and Celia and Betty and Theodosia and Clementina
Stockard were all married and gone. But Anne had never had
another lover. There had to be an old maid in every big family
she said, and she was not going to marry Jerome Irving just for
the sake of having Mrs. on her tombstone.
Old Esek and his wife had been put away in the Deep
Meadows burying-ground. The broad, fertile Stockard acres
passed into Anne's possession. She was a good business-woman,
and the farm continued to be the best in the district.
She kept two hired men and a servant girl, and the sixteen-year-old
of her oldest sister lived with her. There
were few visitors at the Stockard place now, but Jerome
"dropped in" every Saturday night with clockwork regularity
and talked to Anne about her stock and advised her regarding
the rotation of her crops and the setting out of her orchards.
And at ten o'clock he would take his hat and cane and tell
Anne to be good to herself, and go home.
Anne had long since given up trying to discourage him;
she even accepted attentions from him now that she had used
to refuse. He always walked home with her from evening
meetings and was her partner in the games at quilting parties.
It was great fun for the young folks. "Old Jerome and Anne"
were a standing joke in Deep Meadows. But the older people
had ceased to expect anything to come of it.
Anne laughed at Jerome as she had always done, and
would not have owned for the world that she could have
missed him. Jerome was useful, she admitted, and a comfortable
friend; and she would have liked him well enough if he
would only omit that ridiculous yearly ceremony of proposal.
It was Jerome's fortieth birthday when Anne refused him
again. He realized this as he went down the road in the
moonlight, and doubt and dismay began to creep into his
heart. Anne and he were both getting old—there was no
disputing that fact. It was high time that he brought her to
terms if he was ever going to. Jerome was an easy-going
mortal and always took things placidly, but he did not mean
to have all those fifteen years of patient courting go for nothing
He had thought Anne would get tired of saying no,
sooner or later, and say yes, if for no other reason than to
have a change; but getting tired did not seem to run in the
Stockard blood. She had said no that night just as coolly and
decidedly and unsentimentally as she said it fifteen years
before. Jerome had the sensation of going around in a circle
and never getting any further on. He made up his mind that
something must be done, and just as he got to the brook that
divides Deep Meadows West from Deep Meadows Central
an idea struck him; it was a good idea and amused him. He
laughed aloud and slapped his thigh, much to the amusement
of two boys who were sitting unnoticed on the railing
of the bridge.
"There's old Jerome going home from seeing Anne
Stockard," said one. "Wonder what on earth he's laughing at.
Seems to me if I couldn't get a wife without hoeing a fifteen-year
row, I'd give up trying."
But, then, the speaker was a Hamilton, and the Hamiltons
never had any perseverance.
Jerome, although a well-to-do man, owning a good farm,
had, so to speak, no home of his own. The old Irving homestead
belonged to his older brother, who had a wife and family.
Jerome lived with them and was so used to it he didn't
At forty a lover must not waste time. Jerome thought out
the details that night, and next day he opened the campaign.
But it was not until the evening after that that Anne Stockard
heard the news. It was her niece, Octavia, who told her. The
latter had been having a chat up the lane with Sam Mitchell,
and came in with a broad smile on her round, rosy face and a
twinkle in her eyes.
"I guess you've lost your beau this time, Aunt Anne. It
looks as if he meant to take you at your word at last."
"What on earth do you mean?" asked Anne, a little sharply.
She was in the pantry counting eggs, and Octavia's interruption
made her lose her count. "Now I can't remember
whether it was six or seven dozen I said last. I shall have to
count them all over again. I wish, Octavia, that you could
think of something besides beaus all the time."
"Well, but listen," persisted Octavia wickedly. "Jerome
Irving was at the social at the Cherry Valley parsonage last
night, and he had Harriet Warren there—took her there, and
drove her home again."
"I don't believe it," cried Anne, before she thought. She
dropped an egg into the basket so abruptly that the shell
"Oh, it's true enough. Sam Mitchell told me; he was there
and saw him. Sam says he looked quite beaming, and was
dressed to kill, and followed Harriet around like her shadow.
I guess you won't have any more bother with him, Aunt
In the process of picking the broken egg out of the whole
ones Anne had recovered her equanimity. She gave a careful
"Well, it's to be hoped so. Goodness knows it's time he
tried somebody else. Go and change your dress for milking,
Octavia, and don't spend quite so much time gossiping up the
lane with Sam Mitchell. He always was a fetch-and-carry.
Young girls oughtn't to be so pert."
When the subdued Octavia had gone, Anne tossed the broken
eggshell out of the pantry window viciously enough.
"There's no fool like an old fool. Jerome Irving always was
an idiot. The idea of his going after Harriet Warren! He's old
enough to be her father. And a Warren, too! I've seen the time
an Irving wouldn't be seen on the same side of the road with a
Warren. Well, anyhow, I don't care, and he needn't suppose I
will. It will be a relief not to have him hanging around any
It might have been a relief, but Anne felt strangely lonely
as she walked home alone from prayer meeting the next
night. Jerome had not been there. The Warrens were Methodists
and Anne rightly guessed that he had gone to the
Methodist prayer meeting at Cherry Valley.
"Dancing attendance on Harriet," she said to herself
When she got home she looked at her face in the glass
more critically than she had done for years. Anne Stockard at
her best had never been pretty. When young she had been
called "gawky." She was very tall and her figure was lank and
angular. She had a long, pale face and dusky hair. Her eyes had
been good—a glimmering hazel, large and long-lashed. They
were pretty yet, but the crow's feet about them were plainly
visible. There were brackets around her mouth too, and her
cheeks were hollow. Anne suddenly realized, as she had never
realized before, that she had grown old—that her youth was
left far behind. She was an old maid, and Harriet Warren was
young, and pretty. Anne's long, thin lips suddenly quivered.
"I declare, I'm a worse fool than Jerome," she said angrily.
When Saturday night came Jerome did not. The corner of
the big, old-fashioned porch where he usually sat looked bare
and lonely. Anne was short with Octavia and boxed the cat's
ears and raged at herself. What did she care if Jerome Irving
never came again? She could have married him years ago if
she had wanted to—everybody knew that!
At sunset she saw a buggy drive past her gate. Even at that
distance she recognized Harriet Warren's handsome, high-coloured
profile. It was Jerome's new buggy and Jerome was
driving. The wheel spokes flashed in the sunlight as they
crept up the hill. Perhaps they dazzled Anne's eyes a little; at
least, for that or some other reason she dabbed her hand
viciously over them as she turned sharply about and went
upstairs. Octavia was practising her music lesson in the parlour
below and singing in a sweet shrill voice. The hired men
were laughing and talking in the yard. Anne slammed down
her window and banged her door and then lay down on her
bed; she said her head ached.
The Deep Meadows people were amused and made joking
remarks to Anne, which she had to take amiably because she
had no excuse for resenting them. In reality they stung her
pride unendurably. When Jerome had gone she realized that
she had no other intimate friend and that she was a very
lonely woman whom nobody cared about. One night—it was
three weeks afterward—she met Jerome and Harriet squarely.
She was walking to church with Octavia, and they were driving
in the opposite direction. Jerome had his new buggy and
crimson lap robe. His horse's coat shone like satin and had
rosettes of crimson on his bridle. Jerome was dressed
extremely well and looked quite young, with his round,
ruddy, clean-shaven face and clear blue eyes.
Harriet was sitting primly and consciously by his side; she
was a very handsome girl with bold eyes and was somewhat
overdressed. She wore a big flowery hat and a white lace veil
and looked at Anne with a supercilious smile.
Anne felt dowdy and old; she was very pale. Jerome lifted
his hat and bowed pleasantly as they drove past. Suddenly
Harriet laughed out. Anne did not look back, but her face
crimsoned darkly. Was that girl laughing at her? She trembled
with anger and a sharp, hurt feeling. When she got home that
night she sat a long while by her window.
Jerome was gone—and he let Harriet Warren laugh at her
and he would never come back to her. Well, it did not matter,
but she had been a fool. Only it had never occurred to her that
Jerome could act so.
"If I'd thought he would I mightn't have been so sharp
with him," was as far as she would let herself go even in
When four weeks had elapsed Jerome came over one
Saturday night. He was fluttered and anxious, but hid it in a
Anne was taken by surprise. She had not thought he would
ever come again, and was off her guard. He had come around
the porch corner abruptly as she stood there in the dusk, and
she started very perceptibly.
"Good evening, Anne," he said, easily and unblushingly.
Anne choked up. She was very angry, or thought she was.
Jerome appeared not to notice her lack of welcome. He sat
coolly down in his old place. His heart was beating like a
hammer, but Anne did not know that.
"I suppose," she said cuttingly, "that you're on your way
down to the bridge. It's almost a pity for you to waste time
stopping here at all, any more than you have of late. No doubt
Harriet'll be expecting you."
A gleam of satisfaction flashed over Jerome's face. He
looked shrewdly at Anne, who was not looking at him, but
was staring uncompromisingly out over the poppy beds. A
jealous woman always gives herself away. If Anne had been
indifferent she would not have given him that slap in the face.
"I dunno's she will," he replied coolly. "I didn't say for sure
whether I'd be down tonight or not. It's so long since I had a
chat with you I thought I'd drop in for a spell. But of course if
I'm not wanted I can go where I will be."
Anne could not get back her self-control. Her nerves were
"all strung up," as she would have said. She had a feeling that
she was right on the brink of a "scene," but she could not help
"I guess it doesn't matter much what I want," she said
stonily. "At any rate, it hasn't seemed that way lately. You
don't care, of course. Oh, no! Harriet Warren is all you care
about. Well, I wish you joy of her."
Jerome looked puzzled, or pretended to. In reality he was
hugging himself with delight.
"I don't just understand you, Anne," he said hesitatingly
"You appear to be vexed about something."
"I? Oh, no, I'm not, Mr. Irving. Of course old friends don't
count now. Well, I've no doubt new ones will wear just as
"If it's about my going to see Harriet," said Jerome easily
"I don't see as how it can matter much to you. Goodness
knows, you took enough pains to show me you didn't want
me. I don't blame you. A woman has a right to please herself,
and a man ought to have sense to take his answer and go. I
hadn't, and that's where I made my mistake. I don't mean to
pester you any more, but we can be real good friends, can't
we? I'm sure I'm as much your friend as ever I was."
Now, I hold that this speech of Jerome's, delivered in a
cool, matter-of-fact tone, as of a man stating a case with dispassionate
fairness, was a masterpiece. It was the last
cleverly executed movement of the campaign. If it failed to
effect a capitulation, he was a defeated man. But it did not fail.
Anne had got to that point where an excited woman must
go mad or cry. Anne cried. She sat flatly down on a chair and
burst into tears.
Jerome's hat went one way and his cane another. Jerome
himself sprang across the intervening space and dropped into
the chair beside Anne. He caught her hand in his and threw
his arm boldly around her waist.
"Goodness gracious, Anne! Do you care after all? Tell me
"I don't suppose it matters to you if I do," sobbed Anne. "It
hasn't seemed to matter, anyhow."
"Anne, look here! Didn't I come after you for fifteen years?
It's you I always have wanted and want yet, if I can get you. I
don't care a rap for Harriet Warren or anyone but you. Now
that's the truth right out, Anne."
No doubt it was, and Anne was convinced of it. But she
had to have her cry out—on Jerome's shoulder—and it soothed
her nerves wonderfully. Later on Octavia, slipping noiselessly
up the steps in the dusk, saw a sight that transfixed her
with astonishment. When she recovered herself she turned
and fled wildly around the house, running bump into Sam
Mitchell, who was coming across the yard from a twilight
conference with the hired men.
"Goodness, Tavy, what's the matter? Y' look 'sif y'd seen a
Octavia leaned up against the wall in spasms of mirth.
"Oh, Sam," she gasped, "old Jerome Irving and Aunt Anne
are sitting round there in the dark on the front porch and he
had his arms around her, kissing her! And they never saw nor
heard me, no more'n if they were deaf and blind!"
Sam gave a tremendous whistle and then went off into a
shout of laughter whose echoes reached even to the gloom of
the front porch and the ears of the lovers. But they did not
know he was laughing at them and would not have cared if
they had. They were too happy for that.
There was a wedding that fall and Anne Stockard was the
bride. When she was safely his, Jerome confessed all and was
"But it was kind of mean to Harriet," said Anne rebukingly,
"to go with her and get her talked about and then drop
her as you did. Don't you think so yourself, Jerome?"
Her husband's eyes twinkled.
"Well, hardly that. You see, Harriet's engaged to that Johnson
fellow out west. 'Tain't generally known, but I knew it
and that's why I picked on her. I thought it probable that she'd
be willing enough to flirt with me for a little diversion, even if
I was old. Harriet's that sort of a girl. And I made up my mind
that if that didn't fetch it nothing would and I'd give up for
good and all. But it did, didn't it, Anne?"
"I should say so. It was horrid of you, Jerome—but I daresay
it's just as well you did or I'd likely never have found out that
I couldn't get along without you. I did feel dreadful. Poor
Octavia could tell you I was as cross as X. How did you come
to think of it, Jerome?"
"A fellow had to do something," said Jerome oracularly,
"and I'd have done most anything to get you, Anne, that's a
fact. And there it was—courting fifteen years and nothing to
show for it. I dunno, though, how I did come to think of it.
Guess it was a sort of inspiration. Anyhow, I've got you and
that's what I set out to do in the beginning."