But they were very fond of the Avonlea places for all that. A visit to Green Gables was always considered a great treat. Aunt Marilla was very good to them, and so was Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who was spending the leisure of her old age in knitting cotton-warp quilts against the day when Anne’s daughters should need a “setting-out.” There were jolly playmates there, too—“Uncle” Davy’s children and “Aunt” Diana’s children. They knew all the spots their mother had loved so well in her girlhood at old Green Gables—the long Lover’s Lane, that was pink-hedged in wild-rose time, the always neat yard, with its willows and poplars, the Dryad’s Bubble, lucent and lovely as of yore, the Lake of Shining Waters, and Willowmere. The twins had their mother’s old porch-gable room, and Aunt Marilla used to come in at night, when she thought they were asleep, to gloat over them. But they all knew she loved Jem the best.
Jem was at present busily occupied in frying a mess of small trout which he had just caught in the pond. His stove consisted of a circle of red stones, with a fire kindled in it, and his culinary utensils were an old tin can, hammered out flat, and a fork with only one tine left. Nevertheless, ripping good meals had before now been thus prepared.
Jem was the child of the House of Dreams. All the others had been born at Ingleside. He had curly red hair, like his mother’s, and frank hazel eyes, like his father’s; he had his mother’s fine nose and his father’s steady, humorous mouth. And he was the only one of the family who had ears nice enough to please Susan. But he had a standing feud with Susan because she would not give up calling him Little Jem. It was outrageous, thought thirteen-year-old Jem. Mother had more sense.
“I’m not little any more, Mother,” he had cried indignantly, on his eighth birthday. “I’m awful big.”
Mother had sighed and laughed and sighed again; and she never called him Little Jem again—in his hearing at least.
He was and always had been a sturdy, reliable little chap. He never broke a promise. He was not a great talker. His teachers did not think him brilliant, but he was a good, all-round student. He never took things on faith; he always liked to investigate the truth of a statement for himself. Once Susan had told him that if he touched his tongue to a frosty latch all the skin would tear off it. Jem had promptly done it, “just to see if it was so.” He found it was “so,” at the cost of a very sore tongue for several days. But Jem did not grudge suffering in the interests of science. By constant experiment and observation he learned a great deal and his brothers and sisters thought his extensive knowledge of their little world quite wonderful. Jem always knew where the first and ripest berries grew, where the first pale violets shyly wakened from their winter’s sleep, and how many blue eggs were in a given robin’s nest