Ruby Gillis is dying of consumption. Anne is the only one she will speak to about her fear of dying.
“I think, Ruby,” she [Anne] began hesitatingly — for it was difficult for Anne to speak to any one of the deepest thoughts of her heart, or the new ideas that had vaguely begun to shape themselves in her mind, concerning the great mysteries of life here and hereafter, superseding her old childish conceptions, and it was hardest of all to speak of them to such as Ruby Gillis — “I think, perhaps, we have very mistaken ideas about heaven — what it is and what it holds for us. I don’t think it can be so very different from life here as most people seem to think. I believe we’ll just go on living, a good deal as we live here — and be OURSELVES just the same — only it will be easier to be good and to — follow the highest. All the hindrances and perplexities will be taken away, and we shall see clearly. Don’t be afraid, Ruby.”
“I can’t help it,”said Ruby pitifully, “Even if what you say about heaven is true — and you can’t be sure — it may be only that imagination of yours — it won’t be JUST the same. It CAN’T be. I want to go on living HERE. I’m so young, Anne. I haven’t had my life, I’ve fought so hard to live — and it isn’t any use — I have to die — and leave EVERYTHING I care for.”
Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She WAS leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life — the things that pass — forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other — from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there — Anne believed — she would learn — but now it was no wonder her soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved.
Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight. The evening had changed something for her. Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different — something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.