Prince Edward Island: Ernest and Myrtle Webb, and Mistress Pat. L.M.몽고메리 자료

Prince Edward Island: Ernest and Myrtle Webb, and Mistress Pat.

Publication: Kindred Spirits
Publication Date: 22-Jun-2000
Author: Mary Beth Cavert

-- Dedication in Mistress Pat

Maud's youth was also preserved on the Webb farm, now known as Green Gables. Ernest and Myrtle Webb and their children are the only family to be mentioned in a dedication. However, Montgomery was also close to another set of children in the following generation, the Campbell's of Park Corner. Maud had dedicated three books to her Campbell cousins, Frederica and Stella and was keenly interested in the destiny of their nieces and nephews who lived with their mother, Ella, at the farm they called Silver Bush. It was a place she considered home.

To the children of both of these families, she was Aunt Maud, whose visits and gifts of books were much anticipated. The Webb girls and their brother shared a common heritage with Aunt Maud -- growing up in Cavendish. The four girls played in the same places on their farm that their mother and her cousin, Maud Montgomery had loved -- the brook, Deep Hollow and Lovers Lane.

They shared with her an appreciation for the thrill of finding "sixteen different kinds of moss" and observing that the "daintiest and stateliest of ferns were gathered in clusters for their afternoon gossip."

Myrtle Macneill was Maud's third cousin. She was nine years younger and moved to Cavendish from Havelock, New Brunswick in 1894, when she was 11, with her mother Ada.

They lived with Ada's aunt and uncle, a brother and sister named David and Margaret Macneill in a house built by their father, David Macneill, Sr. When Myrtle was 18, her mother married a widower, Walter Simpson (Ada was adored by her grandchildren, but they avoided her stem husband -- he was called The Man). Myrtle remained on the Macneill farm with David and Margaret when her mother moved away.

About this time, in 1900 or 1901, she met Maud Montgomery at the Alexander Macneill farm across the road. They were not well-acquainted earlier because Maud had been away teaching or studying for the six years since Myrtle had come to Cavendish as a little girl. The friendship started when Myrtle brought a bouquet of Shirley poppies to Maud one evening. Myrtle and her 27 year-old cousin shared more than a love of flowers and a fondness for walks along the Cavendish lanes. They were both young women living with older relatives who had taken them in, and, like Maud, Myrtle was often hurt by the sarcasm of her Aunt Margaret. They became friends as well as neighbours for the next ten years. When Myrtle married, her husband became Maud's friend too.

Myrtle's Aunt Sadie lived in O'Leary and her visits to Sadie and Artemus Macneill probably account for her meeting Ernest Cecil Webb who also lived there. She married Ernest in 1905 and stayed in O'Leary. In March, 1907, Ernest and Myrtle returned to Cavendish to run the farm and care for David and Margaret. They both loved the place. It gradually became the Webb farm -- they cleaned it up and carefully preserved its beauty. Both Ernest and Myrtle loved gardening and all the grounds around the house were planted with vegetables and flowers and laced with pathways. They shared their surplus of seedlings with neighbours. While still in Cavendish, Maud watched the Webb family grow -- a first daughter, Ina, died after a few months. Marion was born in 1907 and brother Keith in 1909. Marion was particularly dear to her heart because she knew her so well as a young child. A few months after Maud's marriage and re-location to Ontario, in 1911, another daughter, Anita Maud, joined the family. Two more girls were born, Lorraine in 1917, and Pauline in 1920.

Ernest, with twinkling blue eyes was a quiet man, more likely to chuckle than to laugh. Early in the morning, he and his wife would go together to the brook below the farm to catch trout for the family breakfast. In the evening, he read aloud to the family. He was known to be very punctual and would call up the stairs to hurry his girls along a full half hour before they needed to leave for church. Ernest turned down a membership in the local Orange Lodge, an organization with an anti-papist stance, out of respect for his Catholic neighbours. Ernest enjoyed taking a role in the community concerts and the young people of the area frequently met in the Webb kitchen. They always had company for Sunday dinner. Kind and thoughtful Myrtle was, unlike Anne Shirley, a quiet and private person, hard to draw out. She would not talk about her childhood. She was affectionate but had the air of Macneill pride, dignity and propriety about her.

Christmas was always anticipated at the Webb farm because it was the time when Aunt Maud's box of books arrived. She sent a variety of publishers samples, which were, in Marion's word, "devoured!" The Baptist minister stopped by after church to pick out a detective book from the box for his "treat-of-the-week" Monday reading.

As the oldest daughter, Marion had many responsibilities around the farm. One duty was to guide the blind Aunt Margaret to the outhouse. Another task was to wash the dishes while Margaret dried them. Even without eyesight, Margaret could still detect a spot on a dish before she handed it back to Marion. Aunt Margaret lived with the Webbs until her death in 1924.

When Marion Webb was about 16, she wrote a school essay that gave Aunt Maud great pleasure. By now LMM was a famous author and readers all over the world knew about the places around Green Gables and wanted to know more. She sent Marion's essay, titled Our Woods, to a Toronto paper. Montgomery encouraged the paper to print it in their "Circle of Young Canada" feature. She explained that she held it dear because it "reproduced the emotions she felt as a child" when she walked in those old Cavendish woods:

... There is something so powerful

in a spruce woods that

seems to draw you on and on.

On a quiet evening just after

sundown, when you are

passing a few birches, with

their white ribbons waving in

the breeze, cannot you almost

see the fairies dancing among

the pink bells and ferns?

... a stormy night is more

thrilling than a quiet evening.

When you look up the tree's

great trunk, `way up to the top;

and see and hear them tossing

and clashing against one

another, it seems to show you

that a great power, greater

than any earthly monarch,

still rules over all.

Maud's visits to the Webbs were quiet and cozy, especially after Maud's children were older, and it felt natural to be at her friends' home, where they walked along the shore, roamed the woodlands, read and did needlework. It seems unnecessary to add that Myrtle was also a good cook.

In the late 1920s, the Webbs began to visit Maud at her home in Norval, Ontario. In one instance, Maud sent money for Myrtle to come. She wrote that "It was not generosity -- just selfishness" because Myrtle was a delightful companion. On these visits, they went to gardens and particularly enjoyed the campus at Guelph University, a few miles away. During the 1930's, Myrtle had several severe health problems, mostly with her gall bladder, and at one time Maud believed that Myrtle was dying of cancer of the pancreas. While Myrtle was sick, Maud tried to help heal her mentally by employing a technique she read about in "The Law of Psychic Phenomena." Every night when she went to bed, she willed her mind to make Myrtle recover. For whatever reason, Myrtle's health improved and she lived for many years.

Marion Webb stayed with the Macdonalds for two months in 1927 and several times over the next seven years. Marion met Murray Laird during these visits and married him in the Norval Manse on October 4, 1934 (Maud finished her book, Mistress Pat, a month later and wrote its dedication "To Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Webb and their family"). Ewan Macdonald performed the ceremony and Maud was one of the witnesses. The Lairds honeymooned in Muskoka before they settled in Norval.

Marion Webb Laird and her brother, Keith, raised their families in Norval and their parents stayed at home on Prince Edward Island. Ernest and Myrtle Webb managed their farm until 1936 when it was bought by Parks Canada. They continued to live there as park wardens until Ernest was required to retire in 1945 at age 65. They moved to another home in Cavendish. Ernest died in 1950 and Myrtle in 1969. They, and their children, lived out their lives as, in Maud's words, "a fine little family." To Marion Webb's daughter, Elaine Crawford, it was called living out life with "characteristic beautiful grace.

(This article was originally presented in a paper entitled "To the Friends of Anne ", and we thank the author for her kind permission to reprint it here. -- Eds.)

* From <Kindred Spirits> Magazine; June, 2000
Copyright 2000 Kindred Spirits, Anne of Green Gables Society

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