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Anne of Green Gables


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CHAPTER XXV.
Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves


MATTHEW was having a bad ten minutes of it. He had come into the kitchen, in the twilight of a cold, gray December evening, and had sat down in the woodbox corner to take off his heavy boots, unconscious of the fact that Anne and a bevy of her schoolmates were having a practice of “The Fairy Queen” in the sitting room. Presently they came trooping through the hall and out into the kitchen, laughing and chattering gaily. They did not see Matthew, who shrank bashfully back into the shadows beyond the woodbox with a boot in one hand and a bootjack in the other, and he watched them shyly for the aforesaid ten minutes as they put on caps and jackets and talked about the dialogue and the concert. Anne stood among them, bright eyed and animated as they; but Matthew suddenly became conscious that there was something about her different from her mates. And what worried Matthew was that the difference impressed him as being something that should not exist. Anne had a brighter face, and bigger, starrier eyes, and more delicate features than the other; even shy, unobservant Matthew had learned to take note of these things; but the difference that disturbed him did not consist in any of these respects. Then in what did it consist?

Matthew was haunted by this question long after the girls had gone, arm in arm, down the long, hard-frozen lane and Anne had betaken herself to her books. He could not refer it to Marilla, who, he felt, would be quite sure to sniff scornfully and remark that the only difference she saw between Anne and the other girls was that they sometimes kept their tongues quiet while Anne never did. This, Matthew felt, would be no great help.

He had recourse to his pipe that evening to help him study it out, much to Marilla’s disgust. After two hours of smoking and hard reflection Matthew arrived at a solution of his problem. Anne was not dressed like the other girls!

The more Matthew thought about the matter the more he was convinced that Anne never had been dressed like the other girls—never since she had come to Green Gables. Marilla kept her clothed in plain, dark dresses, all made after the same unvarying pattern. If Matthew knew there was such a thing as fashion in dress it was as much as he did; but he was quite sure that Anne’s sleeves did not look at all like the sleeves the other girls wore. He recalled the cluster of little girls he had seen around her that evening—all gay in waists of red and blue and pink and white—and he wondered why Marilla always kept her so plainly and soberly gowned.

Of course, it must be all right. Marilla knew best and Marilla was bringing her up. Probably some wise, inscrutable motive was to be served thereby. But surely it would do no harm to let the child have one pretty dress—something like Diana Barry always wore. Matthew decided that he would give her one; that surely could not be objected to as an unwarranted putting in of his oar. Christmas was only a fortnight off. A nice new dress would be the very thing for a present. Matthew, with a sigh of satisfaction, put away his pipe and went to bed, while Marilla opened all the doors and aired the house.

The very next evening Matthew betook himself to Carmody to buy the dress, determined to get the worst over and have done with it. It would be, he felt assured, no trifling ordeal. There were some things Matthew could buy and prove himself no mean bargainer; but he knew he would be at the mercy of shopkeepers when it came to buying a girl’s dress.

After much cogitation Matthew resolved to go to Samuel Lawson’s store instead of William Blair’s. To be sure, the Cuthberts always had gone to William Blair’s; it was almost as much a matter of conscience with them as to attend the Presbyterian church and vote Conservative. But William Blair’s two daughters frequently waited on customers there and Matthew held them in absolute dread. He could contrive to deal with them when he knew exactly what he wanted and could point it out; but in such a matter as this, requiring explanation and consultation, Matthew felt that he must be sure of a man behind the counter. So he would go to Lawson’s, where Samuel or his son would wait on him.

Alas! Matthew did not know that Samuel, in the recent expansion of his business, had set up a lady clerk also; she was a niece of his wife’s and a very dashing young person indeed, with a huge, drooping pompadour, big, rolling brown eyes, and a most extensive and bewildering smile. She was dressed with exceeding smartness and wore several bangle bracelets that glittered and rattled and tinkled with every movement of her hands. Matthew was covered with confusion at finding her there at all; and those bangles completely wrecked his wits at one fell swoop.

“What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Cuthbert?” Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.

“Have you any—any—any—well now, say any garden rakes?” stammered Matthew.

Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.

“I believe we have one or two left over,” she said, “but they’re upstairs in the lumber room. I’ll go and see.” During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another effort.

When Miss Harris returned with the rake and cheerfully inquired: “Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?” Matthew took his courage in both hands and replied: “Well now, since you suggest it, I might as well—take—that is—look at—buy some—some hayseed.”

Miss Harris had heard Matthew Cuthbert called odd. She now concluded that he was entirely crazy.

“We only keep hayseed in the spring,” she explained loftily. “We’ve none on hand just now.”

“Oh, certainly—certainly—just as you say,” stammered unhappy Matthew, seizing the rake and making for the door. At the threshold he recollected that he had not paid for it and he turned miserably back. While Miss Harris was counting out his change he rallied his powers for a final desperate attempt.

“Well now—if it isn’t too much trouble—I might as well—that is—I’d like to look at—at—some sugar.”

“White or brown?” queried Miss Harris patiently.

“Oh—well now—brown,” said Matthew feebly.

“There’s a barrel of it over there,” said Miss Harris, shaking her bangles at it. “It’s the only kind we have.”

“I’ll—I’ll take twenty pounds of it,” said Matthew, with beads of perspiration standing on his forehead.

Matthew had driven halfway home before he was his own man again. It had been a gruesome experience, but it served him right, he thought, for committing the heresy of going to a strange store. When he reached home he hid the rake in the tool house, but the sugar he carried in to Marilla.

“Brown sugar!” exclaimed Marilla. “Whatever possessed you to get so much? You know I never use it except for the hired man’s porridge or black fruit cake. Jerry’s gone and I’ve made my cake long ago. It’s not good sugar, either—it’s coarse and dark—William Blair doesn’t usually keep sugar like that.”

“I—I thought it might come in handy sometime,” said Matthew, making good his escape.

When Matthew came to think the matter over he decided that a woman was required to cope with the situation. Marilla was out of the question. Matthew felt sure she would throw cold water on his project at once. Remained only Mrs. Lynde; for of no other woman in Avonlea would Matthew have dared to ask advice. To Mrs. Lynde he went accordingly, and that good lady promptly took the matter out of the harassed man’s hands.

“Pick out a dress for you to give Anne? To be sure I will. I’m going to Carmody tomorrow and I’ll attend to it. Have you something particular in mind? No? Well, I’ll just go by my own judgment then. I believe a nice rich brown would just suit Anne, and William Blair has some new gloria in that’s real pretty. Perhaps you’d like me to make it up for her, too, seeing that if Marilla was to make it Anne would probably get wind of it before the time and spoil the surprise? Well, I’ll do it. No, it isn’t a mite of trouble. I like sewing. I’ll make it to fit my niece, Jenny Gillis, for she and Anne are as like as two peas as far as figure goes.”

“Well now, I’m much obliged,” said Matthew, “and—and—I dunno—but I’d like—I think they make the sleeves different nowadays to what they used to be. If it wouldn’t be asking too much I—I’d like them made in the new way.”

“Puffs? Of course. You needn’t worry a speck more about it, Matthew. I’ll make it up in the very latest fashion,” said Mrs. Lynde. To herself she added when Matthew had gone:

“It’ll be a real satisfaction to see that poor child wearing something decent for once. The way Marilla dresses her is positively ridiculous, that’s what, and I’ve ached to tell her so plainly a dozen times. I’ve held my tongue though, for I can see Marilla doesn’t want advice and she thinks she knows more about bringing children up than I do for all she’s an old maid. But that’s always the way. Folks that has brought up children know that there’s no hard and fast method in the world that’ll suit every child. But them as never have think it’s all as plain and easy as Rule of Three—just set your three terms down so fashion, and the sum ‘ll work out correct. But flesh and blood don’t come under the head of arithmetic and that’s where Marilla Cuthbert makes her mistake. I suppose she’s trying to cultivate a spirit of humility in Anne by dressing her as she does; but it’s more likely to cultivate envy and discontent. I’m sure the child must feel the difference between her clothes and the other girls’. But to think of Matthew taking notice of it! That man is waking up after being asleep for over sixty years.”

Marilla knew all the following fortnight that Matthew had something on his mind, but what it was she could not guess, until Christmas Eve, when Mrs. Lynde brought up the new dress. Marilla behaved pretty well on the whole, although it is very likely she distrusted Mrs. Lynde’s diplomatic explanation that she had made the dress because Matthew was afraid Anne would find out about it too soon if Marilla made it.

“So this is what Matthew has been looking so mysterious over and grinning about to himself for two weeks, is it?” she said a little stiffly but tolerantly. “I knew he was up to some foolishness. Well, I must say I don’t think Anne needed any more dresses. I made her three good, warm, serviceable ones this fall, and anything more is sheer extravagance. There’s enough material in those sleeves alone to make a waist, I declare there is. You’ll just pamper Anne’s vanity, Matthew, and she’s as vain as a peacock now. Well, I hope she’ll be satisfied at last, for I know she’s been hankering after those silly sleeves ever since they came in, although she never said a word after the first. The puffs have been getting bigger and more ridiculous right along; they’re as big as balloons now. Next year anybody who wears them will have to go through a door sideways.”

Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables.

“Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green—they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!”

Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.

“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why—why—Anne, don’t you like it? Well now—well now.”

For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”

“Well, well, let us have breakfast,” interrupted Marilla. “I must say, Anne, I don’t think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There’s a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It’s brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in.”

“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”

When the commonplace breakfast was over Diana appeared, crossing the white log bridge in the hollow, a gay little figure in her crimson ulster. Anne flew down the slope to meet her.

“Merry Christmas, Diana! And oh, it’s a wonderful Christmas. I’ve something splendid to show you. Matthew has given me the loveliest dress, with such sleeves. I couldn’t even imagine any nicer.”

“I’ve got something more for you,” said Diana breathlessly. “Here—this box. Aunt Josephine sent us out a big box with ever so many things in it—and this is for you. I’d have brought it over last night, but it didn’t come until after dark, and I never feel very comfortable coming through the Haunted Wood in the dark now.”

Anne opened the box and peeped in. First a card with “For the Anne-girl and Merry Christmas,” written on it; and then, a pair of the daintiest little kid slippers, with beaded toes and satin bows and glistening buckles.

“Oh,” said Anne, “Diana, this is too much. I must be dreaming.”

“I call it providential,” said Diana. “You won’t have to borrow Ruby’s slippers now, and that’s a blessing, for they’re two sizes too big for you, and it would be awful to hear a fairy shuffling. Josie Pye would be delighted. Mind you, Rob Wright went home with Gertie Pye from the practice night before last. Did you ever hear anything equal to that?”

All the Avonlea scholars were in a fever of excitement that day, for the hall had to be decorated and a last grand rehearsal held.

The concert came off in the evening and was a pronounced success. The little hall was crowded; all the performers did excellently well, but Anne was the bright particular star of the occasion, as even envy, in the shape of Josie Pye, dared not deny.

“Oh, hasn’t it been a brilliant evening?” sighed Anne, when it was all over and she and Diana were walking home together under a dark, starry sky.

“Everything went off very well,” said Diana practically. “I guess we must have made as much as ten dollars. Mind you, Mr. Allan is going to send an account of it to the Charlottetown papers.”

“Oh, Diana, will we really see our names in print? It makes me thrill to think of it. Your solo was perfectly elegant, Diana. I felt prouder than you did when it was encored. I just said to myself, ‘It is my dear bosom friend who is so honored.’”

“Well, your recitations just brought down the house, Anne. That sad one was simply splendid.”

“Oh, I was so nervous, Diana. When Mr. Allan called out my name I really cannot tell how I ever got up on that platform. I felt as if a million eyes were looking at me and through me, and for one dreadful moment I was sure I couldn’t begin at all. Then I thought of my lovely puffed sleeves and took courage. I knew that I must live up to those sleeves, Diana. So I started in, and my voice seemed to be coming from ever so far away. I just felt like a parrot. It’s providential that I practiced those recitations so often up in the garret, or I’d never have been able to get through. Did I groan all right?”

“Yes, indeed, you groaned lovely,” assured Diana.

“I saw old Mrs. Sloane wiping away tears when I sat down. It was splendid to think I had touched somebody’s heart. It’s so romantic to take part in a concert, isn’t it? Oh, it’s been a very memorable occasion indeed.”

“Wasn’t the boys’ dialogue fine?” said Diana. “Gilbert Blythe was just splendid. Anne, I do think it’s awful mean the way you treat Gil. Wait till I tell you. When you ran off the platform after the fairy dialogue one of your roses fell out of your hair. I saw Gil pick it up and put it in his breast pocket. There now. You’re so romantic that I’m sure you ought to be pleased at that.”

“It’s nothing to me what that person does,” said Anne loftily. “I simply never waste a thought on him, Diana.”

That night Marilla and Matthew, who had been out to a concert for the first time in twenty years, sat for a while by the kitchen fire after Anne had gone to bed.

“Well now, I guess our Anne did as well as any of them,” said Matthew proudly.

“Yes, she did,” admitted Marilla. “She’s a bright child, Matthew. And she looked real nice too. I’ve been kind of opposed to this concert scheme, but I suppose there’s no real harm in it after all. Anyhow, I was proud of Anne tonight, although I’m not going to tell her so.”

“Well now, I was proud of her and I did tell her so ‘fore she went upstairs,” said Matthew. “We must see what we can do for her some of these days, Marilla. I guess she’ll need something more than Avonlea school by and by.”

“There’s time enough to think of that,” said Marilla. “She’s only thirteen in March. Though tonight it struck me she was growing quite a big girl. Mrs. Lynde made that dress a mite too long, and it makes Anne look so tall. She’s quick to learn and I guess the best thing we can do for her will be to send her to Queen’s after a spell. But nothing need be said about that for a year or two yet.”

“Well now, it’ll do no harm to be thinking it over off and on,” said Matthew. “Things like that are all the better for lots of thinking over.”


CHAPTER XXVI.
The Story Club Is Formed


JUNIOR Avonlea found it hard to settle down to humdrum existence again. To Anne in particular things seemed fearfully flat, stale, and unprofitable after the goblet of excitement she had been sipping for weeks. Could she go back to the former quiet pleasures of those faraway days before the concert? At first, as she told Diana, she did not really think she could.

“I’m positively certain, Diana, that life can never be quite the same again as it was in those olden days,” she said mournfully, as if referring to a period of at least fifty years back. “Perhaps after a while I’ll get used to it, but I’m afraid concerts spoil people for everyday life. I suppose that is why Marilla disapproves of them. Marilla is such a sensible woman. It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still, I don’t believe I’d really want to be a sensible person, because they are so unromantic. Mrs. Lynde says there is no danger of my ever being one, but you can never tell. I feel just now that I may grow up to be sensible yet. But perhaps that is only because I’m tired. I simply couldn’t sleep last night for ever so long. I just lay awake and imagined the concert over and over again. That’s one splendid thing about such affairs—it’s so lovely to look back to them.”

Eventually, however, Avonlea school slipped back into its old groove and took up its old interests. To be sure, the concert left traces. Ruby Gillis and Emma White, who had quarreled over a point of precedence in their platform seats, no longer sat at the same desk, and a promising friendship of three years was broken up. Josie Pye and Julia Bell did not “speak” for three months, because Josie Pye had told Bessie Wright that Julia Bell’s bow when she got up to recite made her think of a chicken jerking its head, and Bessie told Julia. None of the Sloanes would have any dealings with the Bells, because the Bells had declared that the Sloanes had too much to do in the program, and the Sloanes had retorted that the Bells were not capable of doing the little they had to do properly. Finally, Charlie Sloane fought Moody Spurgeon MacPherson, because Moody Spurgeon had said that Anne Shirley put on airs about her recitations, and Moody Spurgeon was “licked”; consequently Moody Spurgeon’s sister, Ella May, would not “speak” to Anne Shirley all the rest of the winter. With the exception of these trifling frictions, work in Miss Stacy’s little kingdom went on with regularity and smoothness.

The winter weeks slipped by. It was an unusually mild winter, with so little snow that Anne and Diana could go to school nearly every day by way of the Birch Path. On Anne’s birthday they were tripping lightly down it, keeping eyes and ears alert amid all their chatter, for Miss Stacy had told them that they must soon write a composition on “A Winter’s Walk in the Woods,” and it behooved them to be observant.

“Just think, Diana, I’m thirteen years old today,” remarked Anne in an awed voice. “I can scarcely realize that I’m in my teens. When I woke this morning it seemed to me that everything must be different. You’ve been thirteen for a month, so I suppose it doesn’t seem such a novelty to you as it does to me. It makes life seem so much more interesting. In two more years I’ll be really grown up. It’s a great comfort to think that I’ll be able to use big words then without being laughed at.”

“Ruby Gillis says she means to have a beau as soon as she’s fifteen,” said Diana.

“Ruby Gillis thinks of nothing but beaus,” said Anne disdainfully. “She’s actually delighted when anyone writes her name up in a take-notice for all she pretends to be so mad. But I’m afraid that is an uncharitable speech. Mrs. Allan says we should never make uncharitable speeches; but they do slip out so often before you think, don’t they? I simply can’t talk about Josie Pye without making an uncharitable speech, so I never mention her at all. You may have noticed that. I’m trying to be as much like Mrs. Allan as I possibly can, for I think she’s perfect. Mr. Allan thinks so too. Mrs. Lynde says he just worships the ground she treads on and she doesn’t really think it right for a minister to set his affections so much on a mortal being. But then, Diana, even ministers are human and have their besetting sins just like everybody else. I had such an interesting talk with Mrs. Allan about besetting sins last Sunday afternoon. There are just a few things it’s proper to talk about on Sundays and that is one of them. My besetting sin is imagining too much and forgetting my duties. I’m striving very hard to overcome it and now that I’m really thirteen perhaps I’ll get on better.”

“In four more years we’ll be able to put our hair up,” said Diana. “Alice Bell is only sixteen and she is wearing hers up, but I think that’s ridiculous. I shall wait until I’m seventeen.”

“If I had Alice Bell’s crooked nose,” said Anne decidedly, “I wouldn’t—but there! I won’t say what I was going to because it was extremely uncharitable. Besides, I was comparing it with my own nose and that’s vanity. I’m afraid I think too much about my nose ever since I heard that compliment about it long ago. It really is a great comfort to me. Oh, Diana, look, there’s a rabbit. That’s something to remember for our woods composition. I really think the woods are just as lovely in winter as in summer. They’re so white and still, as if they were asleep and dreaming pretty dreams.”

“I won’t mind writing that composition when its time comes,” sighed Diana. “I can manage to write about the woods, but the one we’re to hand in Monday is terrible. The idea of Miss Stacy telling us to write a story out of our own heads!”

“Why, it’s as easy as wink,” said Anne.

“It’s easy for you because you have an imagination,” retorted Diana, “but what would you do if you had been born without one? I suppose you have your composition all done?”

Anne nodded, trying hard not to look virtuously complacent and failing miserably.

“I wrote it last Monday evening. It’s called ‘The Jealous Rival; or In Death Not Divided.’ I read it to Marilla and she said it was stuff and nonsense. Then I read it to Matthew and he said it was fine. That is the kind of critic I like. It’s a sad, sweet story. I just cried like a child while I was writing it. It’s about two beautiful maidens called Cordelia Montmorency and Geraldine Seymour who lived in the same village and were devotedly attached to each other. Cordelia was a regal brunette with a coronet of midnight hair and duskly flashing eyes. Geraldine was a queenly blonde with hair like spun gold and velvety purple eyes.”

“I never saw anybody with purple eyes,” said Diana dubiously.

“Neither did I. I just imagined them. I wanted something out of the common. Geraldine had an alabaster brow too. I’ve found out what an alabaster brow is. That is one of the advantages of being thirteen. You know so much more than you did when you were only twelve.”

“Well, what became of Cordelia and Geraldine?” asked Diana, who was beginning to feel rather interested in their fate.

“They grew in beauty side by side until they were sixteen. Then Bertram DeVere came to their native village and fell in love with the fair Geraldine. He saved her life when her horse ran away with her in a carriage, and she fainted in his arms and he carried her home three miles; because, you understand, the carriage was all smashed up. I found it rather hard to imagine the proposal because I had no experience to go by. I asked Ruby Gillis if she knew anything about how men proposed because I thought she’d likely be an authority on the subject, having so many sisters married. Ruby told me she was hid in the hall pantry when Malcolm Andres proposed to her sister Susan. She said Malcolm told Susan that his dad had given him the farm in his own name and then said, ‘What do you say, darling pet, if we get hitched this fall?’ And Susan said, ‘Yes—no—I don’t know—let me see’—and there they were, engaged as quick as that. But I didn’t think that sort of a proposal was a very romantic one, so in the end I had to imagine it out as well as I could. I made it very flowery and poetical and Bertram went on his knees, although Ruby Gillis says it isn’t done nowadays. Geraldine accepted him in a speech a page long. I can tell you I took a lot of trouble with that speech. I rewrote it five times and I look upon it as my masterpiece. Bertram gave her a diamond ring and a ruby necklace and told her they would go to Europe for a wedding tour, for he was immensely wealthy. But then, alas, shadows began to darken over their path. Cordelia was secretly in love with Bertram herself and when Geraldine told her about the engagement she was simply furious, especially when she saw the necklace and the diamond ring. All her affection for Geraldine turned to bitter hate and she vowed that she should never marry Bertram. But she pretended to be Geraldine’s friend the same as ever. One evening they were standing on the bridge over a rushing turbulent stream and Cordelia, thinking they were alone, pushed Geraldine over the brink with a wild, mocking, ‘Ha, ha, ha.’ But Bertram saw it all and he at once plunged into the current, exclaiming, ‘I will save thee, my peerless Geraldine.’ But alas, he had forgotten he couldn’t swim, and they were both drowned, clasped in each other’s arms. Their bodies were washed ashore soon afterwards. They were buried in the one grave and their funeral was most imposing, Diana. It’s so much more romantic to end a story up with a funeral than a wedding. As for Cordelia, she went insane with remorse and was shut up in a lunatic asylum. I thought that was a poetical retribution for her crime.”

“How perfectly lovely!” sighed Diana, who belonged to Matthew’s school of critics. “I don’t see how you can make up such thrilling things out of your own head, Anne. I wish my imagination was as good as yours.”

“It would be if you’d only cultivate it,” said Anne cheeringly. “I’ve just thought of a plan, Diana. Let you and me have a story club all our own and write stories for practice. I’ll help you along until you can do them by yourself. You ought to cultivate your imagination, you know. Miss Stacy says so. Only we must take the right way. I told her about the Haunted Wood, but she said we went the wrong way about it in that.”

This was how the story club came into existence. It was limited to Diana and Anne at first, but soon it was extended to include Jane Andrews and Ruby Gillis and one or two others who felt that their imaginations needed cultivating. No boys were allowed in it—although Ruby Gillis opined that their admission would make it more exciting—and each member had to produce one story a week.

“It’s extremely interesting,” Anne told Marilla. “Each girl has to read her story out loud and then we talk it over. We are going to keep them all sacredly and have them to read to our descendants. We each write under a nom-de-plume. Mine is Rosamond Montmorency. All the girls do pretty well. Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much lovemaking into her stories and you know too much is worse than too little. Jane never puts any because she says it makes her feel so silly when she had to read it out loud. Jane’s stories are extremely sensible. Then Diana puts too many murders into hers. She says most of the time she doesn’t know what to do with the people so she kills them off to get rid of them. I mostly always have to tell them what to write about, but that isn’t hard for I’ve millions of ideas.”

“I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet,” scoffed Marilla. “You’ll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”

“But we’re so careful to put a moral into them all, Marilla,” explained Anne. “I insist upon that. All the good people are rewarded and all the bad ones are suitably punished. I’m sure that must have a wholesome effect. The moral is the great thing. Mr. Allan says so. I read one of my stories to him and Mrs. Allan and they both agreed that the moral was excellent. Only they laughed in the wrong places. I like it better when people cry. Jane and Ruby almost always cry when I come to the pathetic parts. Diana wrote her Aunt Josephine about our club and her Aunt Josephine wrote back that we were to send her some of our stories. So we copied out four of our very best and sent them. Miss Josephine Barry wrote back that she had never read anything so amusing in her life. That kind of puzzled us because the stories were all very pathetic and almost everybody died. But I’m glad Miss Barry liked them. It shows our club is doing some good in the world. Mrs. Allan says that ought to be our object in everything. I do really try to make it my object but I forget so often when I’m having fun. I hope I shall be a little like Mrs. Allan when I grow up. Do you think there is any prospect of it, Marilla?”

“I shouldn’t say there was a great deal” was Marilla’s encouraging answer. “I’m sure Mrs. Allan was never such a silly, forgetful little girl as you are.”

“No; but she wasn’t always so good as she is now either,” said Anne seriously. “She told me so herself—that is, she said she was a dreadful mischief when she was a girl and was always getting into scrapes. I felt so encouraged when I heard that. Is it very wicked of me, Marilla, to feel encouraged when I hear that other people have been bad and mischievous? Mrs. Lynde says it is. Mrs. Lynde says she always feels shocked when she hears of anyone ever having been naughty, no matter how small they were. Mrs. Lynde says she once heard a minister confess that when he was a boy he stole a strawberry tart out of his aunt’s pantry and she never had any respect for that minister again. Now, I wouldn’t have felt that way. I’d have thought that it was real noble of him to confess it, and I’d have thought what an encouraging thing it would be for small boys nowadays who do naughty things and are sorry for them to know that perhaps they may grow up to be ministers in spite of it. That’s how I’d feel, Marilla.”

“The way I feel at present, Anne,” said Marilla, “is that it’s high time you had those dishes washed. You’ve taken half an hour longer than you should with all your chattering. Learn to work first and talk afterwards.”


CHAPTER XXVII.
Vanity and Vexation of Spirit


MARILLA, walking home one late April evening from an Aid meeting, realized that the winter was over and gone with the thrill of delight that spring never fails to bring to the oldest and saddest as well as to the youngest and merriest. Marilla was not given to subjective analysis of her thoughts and feelings. She probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids and their missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under these reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still, crimson-budded maples around a mirrorlike wood pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod. The spring was abroad in the land and Marilla’s sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because of its deep, primal gladness.

Her eyes dwelt affectionately on Green Gables, peering through its network of trees and reflecting the sunlight back from its windows in several little coruscations of glory. Marilla, as she picked her steps along the damp lane, thought that it was really a satisfaction to know that she was going home to a briskly snapping wood fire and a table nicely spread for tea, instead of to the cold comfort of old Aid meeting evenings before Anne had come to Green Gables.

Consequently, when Marilla entered her kitchen and found the fire black out, with no sign of Anne anywhere, she felt justly disappointed and irritated. She had told Anne to be sure and have tea ready at five o’clock, but now she must hurry to take off her second-best dress and prepare the meal herself against Matthew’s return from plowing.

“I’ll settle Miss Anne when she comes home,” said Marilla grimly, as she shaved up kindlings with a carving knife and with more vim than was strictly necessary. Matthew had come in and was waiting patiently for his tea in his corner. “She’s gadding off somewhere with Diana, writing stories or practicing dialogues or some such tomfoolery, and never thinking once about the time or her duties. She’s just got to be pulled up short and sudden on this sort of thing. I don’t care if Mrs. Allan does say she’s the brightest and sweetest child she ever knew. She may be bright and sweet enough, but her head is full of nonsense and there’s never any knowing what shape it’ll break out in next. Just as soon as she grows out of one freak she takes up with another. But there! Here I am saying the very thing I was so riled with Rachel Lynde for saying at the Aid today. I was real glad when Mrs. Allan spoke up for Anne, for if she hadn’t I know I’d have said something too sharp to Rachel before everybody. Anne’s got plenty of faults, goodness knows, and far be it from me to deny it. But I’m bringing her up and not Rachel Lynde, who’d pick faults in the Angel Gabriel himself if he lived in Avonlea. Just the same, Anne has no business to leave the house like this when I told her she was to stay home this afternoon and look after things. I must say, with all her faults, I never found her disobedient or untrustworthy before and I’m real sorry to find her so now.”

“Well now, I dunno,” said Matthew, who, being patient and wise and, above all, hungry, had deemed it best to let Marilla talk her wrath out unhindered, having learned by experience that she got through with whatever work was on hand much quicker if not delayed by untimely argument. “Perhaps you’re judging her too hasty, Marilla. Don’t call her untrustworthy until you’re sure she has disobeyed you. Mebbe it can all be explained—Anne’s a great hand at explaining.”

“She’s not here when I told her to stay,” retorted Marilla. “I reckon she’ll find it hard to explain that to my satisfaction. Of course I knew you’d take her part, Matthew. But I’m bringing her up, not you.”

It was dark when supper was ready, and still no sign of Anne, coming hurriedly over the log bridge or up Lover’s Lane, breathless and repentant with a sense of neglected duties. Marilla washed and put away the dishes grimly. Then, wanting a candle to light her way down the cellar, she went up to the east gable for the one that generally stood on Anne’s table. Lighting it, she turned around to see Anne herself lying on the bed, face downward among the pillows.

“Mercy on us,” said astonished Marilla, “have you been asleep, Anne?”

“No,” was the muffled reply.

“Are you sick then?” demanded Marilla anxiously, going over to the bed.

Anne cowered deeper into her pillows as if desirous of hiding herself forever from mortal eyes.

“No. But please, Marilla, go away and don’t look at me. I’m in the depths of despair and I don’t care who gets head in class or writes the best composition or sings in the Sunday-school choir any more. Little things like that are of no importance now because I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to go anywhere again. My career is closed. Please, Marilla, go away and don’t look at me.”

“Did anyone ever hear the like?” the mystified Marilla wanted to know. “Anne Shirley, whatever is the matter with you? What have you done? Get right up this minute and tell me. This minute, I say. There now, what is it?”

Anne had slid to the floor in despairing obedience.

“Look at my hair, Marilla,” she whispered.

Accordingly, Marilla lifted her candle and looked scrutinizingly at Anne’s hair, flowing in heavy masses down her back. It certainly had a very strange appearance.

“Anne Shirley, what have you done to your hair? Why, it’s green!”

Green it might be called, if it were any earthly color—a queer, dull, bronzy green, with streaks here and there of the original red to heighten the ghastly effect. Never in all her life had Marilla seen anything so grotesque as Anne’s hair at that moment.

“Yes, it’s green,” moaned Anne. “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it’s ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am.”

“I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find out,” said Marilla. “Come right down to the kitchen—it’s too cold up here—and tell me just what you’ve done. I’ve been expecting something queer for some time. You haven’t got into any scrape for over two months, and I was sure another one was due. Now, then, what did you do to your hair?”

“I dyed it.”

“Dyed it! Dyed your hair! Anne Shirley, didn’t you know it was a wicked thing to do?”

“Yes, I knew it was a little wicked,” admitted Anne. “But I thought it was worth while to be a little wicked to get rid of red hair. I counted the cost, Marilla. Besides, I meant to be extra good in other ways to make up for it.”

“Well,” said Marilla sarcastically, “if I’d decided it was worth while to dye my hair I’d have dyed it a decent color at least. I wouldn’t have dyed it green.”

“But I didn’t mean to dye it green, Marilla,” protested Anne dejectedly. “If I was wicked I meant to be wicked to some purpose. He said it would turn my hair a beautiful raven black—he positively assured me that it would. How could I doubt his word, Marilla? I know what it feels like to have your word doubted. And Mrs. Allan says we should never suspect anyone of not telling us the truth unless we have proof that they’re not. I have proof now—green hair is proof enough for anybody. But I hadn’t then and I believed every word he said implicitly.”

“Who said? Who are you talking about?”

“The peddler that was here this afternoon. I bought the dye from him.”

“Anne Shirley, how often have I told you never to let one of those Italians in the house! I don’t believe in encouraging them to come around at all.”

“Oh, I didn’t let him in the house. I remembered what you told me, and I went out, carefully shut the door, and looked at his things on the step. Besides, he wasn’t an Italian—he was a German Jew. He had a big box full of very interesting things and he told me he was working hard to make enough money to bring his wife and children out from Germany. He spoke so feelingly about them that it touched my heart. I wanted to buy something from him to help him in such a worthy object. Then all at once I saw the bottle of hair dye. The peddler said it was warranted to dye any hair a beautiful raven black and wouldn’t wash off. In a trice I saw myself with beautiful raven-black hair and the temptation was irresistible. But the price of the bottle was seventy-five cents and I had only fifty cents left out of my chicken money. I think the peddler had a very kind heart, for he said that, seeing it was me, he’d sell it for fifty cents and that was just giving it away. So I bought it, and as soon as he had gone I came up here and applied it with an old hairbrush as the directions said. I used up the whole bottle, and oh, Marilla, when I saw the dreadful color it turned my hair I repented of being wicked, I can tell you. And I’ve been repenting ever since.”

“Well, I hope you’ll repent to good purpose,” said Marilla severely, “and that you’ve got your eyes opened to where your vanity has led you, Anne. Goodness knows what’s to be done. I suppose the first thing is to give your hair a good washing and see if that will do any good.”

Accordingly, Anne washed her hair, scrubbing it vigorously with soap and water, but for all the difference it made she might as well have been scouring its original red. The peddler had certainly spoken the truth when he declared that the dye wouldn’t wash off, however his veracity might be impeached in other respects.

“Oh, Marilla, what shall I do?” questioned Anne in tears. “I can never live this down. People have pretty well forgotten my other mistakes—the liniment cake and setting Diana drunk and flying into a temper with Mrs. Lynde. But they’ll never forget this. They will think I am not respectable. Oh, Marilla, ‘what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.’ That is poetry, but it is true. And oh, how Josie Pye will laugh! Marilla, I cannot face Josie Pye. I am the unhappiest girl in Prince Edward Island.”

Anne’s unhappiness continued for a week. During that time she went nowhere and shampooed her hair every day. Diana alone of outsiders knew the fatal secret, but she promised solemnly never to tell, and it may be stated here and now that she kept her word. At the end of the week Marilla said decidedly:

“It’s no use, Anne. That is fast dye if ever there was any. Your hair must be cut off; there is no other way. You can’t go out with it looking like that.”

Anne’s lips quivered, but she realized the bitter truth of Marilla’s remarks. With a dismal sigh she went for the scissors.

“Please cut it off at once, Marilla, and have it over. Oh, I feel that my heart is broken. This is such an unromantic affliction. The girls in books lose their hair in fevers or sell it to get money for some good deed, and I’m sure I wouldn’t mind losing my hair in some such fashion half so much. But there is nothing comforting in having your hair cut off because you’ve dyed it a dreadful color, is there? I’m going to weep all the time you’re cutting it off, if it won’t interfere. It seems such a tragic thing.”

Anne wept then, but later on, when she went upstairs and looked in the glass, she was calm with despair. Marilla had done her work thoroughly and it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely as possible. The result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly as may be. Anne promptly turned her glass to the wall.

“I’ll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows,” she exclaimed passionately.

Then she suddenly righted the glass.

“Yes, I will, too. I’d do penance for being wicked that way. I’ll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am. And I won’t try to imagine it away, either. I never thought I was vain about my hair, of all things, but now I know I was, in spite of its being red, because it was so long and thick and curly. I expect something will happen to my nose next.”

Anne’s clipped head made a sensation in school on the following Monday, but to her relief nobody guessed the real reason for it, not even Josie Pye, who, however, did not fail to inform Anne that she looked like a perfect scarecrow.

“I didn’t say anything when Josie said that to me,” Anne confided that evening to Marilla, who was lying on the sofa after one of her headaches, “because I thought it was part of my punishment and I ought to bear it patiently. It’s hard to be told you look like a scarecrow and I wanted to say something back. But I didn’t. I just swept her one scornful look and then I forgave her. It makes you feel very virtuous when you forgive people, doesn’t it? I mean to devote all my energies to being good after this and I shall never try to be beautiful again. Of course it’s better to be good. I know it is, but it’s sometimes so hard to believe a thing even when you know it. I do really want to be good, Marilla, like you and Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy, and grow up to be a credit to you. Diana says when my hair begins to grow to tie a black velvet ribbon around my head with a bow at one side. She says she thinks it will be very becoming. I will call it a snood—that sounds so romantic. But am I talking too much, Marilla? Does it hurt your head?”

“My head is better now. It was terrible bad this afternoon, though. These headaches of mine are getting worse and worse. I’ll have to see a doctor about them. As for your chatter, I don’t know that I mind it—I’ve got so used to it.”

Which was Marilla’s way of saying that she liked to hear it.