Tomorrow, Saturday, we'll be airing this year's edition of The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, with a plethora of special guests, including one of my favorite singers Carol Welsman. Did you know Carol's brother John Welsman composed the music for the CBC's Anne of Green Gables sorta-sequel Road to Avonlea? It's a small world.
Which brings us to the first part of our final Christmas story by L M Montgomery: a return visit to Green Gables for one of the author's actual sequels, Anne of Windy Poplars. UK readers may know it better under LM's original title, Anne of Windy Willows: The US publisher demanded an arboreal substitution because he thought Windy Willows to close to The Wind in the Willows. The London publisher had no such problem, notwithstanding the local origins of Wind in the Willows. "Windy poplars" aren't as mellifluous as willows, but, title-wise, preferable to windy hemlocks.
Candace Samuelson, who joined The Mark Steyn Club earlier this month, has been enjoying getting to know the lie of the land:
Listened to one of your Anne of Green Gables Christmas stories and really enjoyed it. Merry Christmas!
And to you too, Candace. Hope you like our final selection. Paul Cathey, a Colorado Steyn Club member, is appreciative of our theme music, "See Amid the Winter's Snow":
Mark, the delicate piano rendering of this year's theme is so beautiful at the beginning of the story it brought tears to my eyes. I don't know how you manage the music for the Tales, but you have "done all things well." I am immeasurably enriched through my association with this bright fellowship.
My grandparents were a half generation later than L.M. Montgomery, and change was slower then than now. So her things were their things and their things were my parents' things. These stories have reminded me of the cultural heritage I received as a child, and despite the hideous chaos that "Christmas" has now become, there is still the breath of Eden in the aroma of a warm mince pie.
"Her things were their things" is a very good way of putting it: The woker we get, the more we have only the things of the hyper-present, which is very impoverishing. As for the music, picking it out for each tale is one of the small pleasures of my life: You can hear more of the orchestral accompaniment, and more of my thinking on it, in this anthology.
And with that on to tonight's excerpt from Anne of Windy Poplars. Anne Shirley is now about a decade older than in the original story, and is a young teacher in Prince Edward Island's second largest city. In fact, she is more than a teacher, and the very principal of Summerside High, having beaten out an older and more experienced rival. Katherine Brooke remains deeply bitter about Anne and much else, but the irrepressible Miss Shirley determines nevertheless that peace on earth and goodwill to all men includes her implacable foe:
"The old porch thermometer says it's zero and the new side-door one says it's ten above," remarked Anne, one frosty December night. "So I don't know whether to take my muff or not."
"Better go by the old thermometer," said Rebecca Dew cautiously. "It's probably more used to our climate. Where are you going this cold night, anyway?"
"I'm going round to Temple Street to ask Katherine Brooke to spend the Christmas holidays with me at Green Gables."
"You'll spoil your holidays, then," said Rebecca Dew solemnly. "She'd go about snubbing the angels, that one . . . that is, if she ever condescended to enter heaven. And the worst of it is, she's proud of her bad manners . . . thinks it shows her strength of mind no doubt!"
But Miss Dew is in for a surprise:
"So she's going?" said Rebecca Dew as she filled Anne's hot-water bottle. "Well, Miss Shirley, I hope you'll never try to induce me to turn Mohammedan . . . because you'd likely succeed.
There's a thought. As to how Miss Brooke enjoys her Christmas, members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read the first excerpt from Anne of Windy Poplars simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier L M Montgomery stories can be found here - and a selection of our other Christmas tales from Dickens to Steyn can be heard here.
Alternatively, there are bargains galore at the Steyn store in our Steynamite Christmas Specials. And do join me tomorrow, Saturday, for both The Mark Steyn Christmas Show and the concluding episode of Christmas at Green Gables.