Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XIX

Full text Chapter XIX

Chapter XIX

A Concert a Catastrophe and a Confession


MARILLA, can I go
over to see Diana just for a minute?" asked Anne, running breathlessly
down from the east gable one February evening.


"I don't see what you want to be traipsing about after dark for," said
Marilla shortly. "You and Diana walked home from school together and then
stood down there in the snow for half an hour more, your tongues going the
whole blessed time, clickety-clack. So I don't think you're very badly off
to see her again."


"But she wants to see me," pleaded Anne. "She has something very important
to tell me."


"How do you know she has?"


"Because she just signaled to me from her window. We have arranged a way
to signal with our candles and cardboard. We set the candle on the window
sill and make flashes by passing the cardboard back and forth. So many
flashes mean a certain thing. It was my idea, Marilla."


"I'll warrant you it was," said Marilla emphatically. "And the next thing
you'll be setting fire to the curtains with your signaling nonsense."


"Oh, we're very careful, Marilla. And it's so interesting. Two flashes
mean, 'Are you there?' Three mean 'yes' and four 'no.' Five mean, 'Come
over as soon as possible, because I have something important to reveal.'
Diana has just signaled five flashes, and I'm really suffering to know
what it is."


"Well, you needn't suffer any longer," said Marilla sarcastically. "You
can go, but you're to be back here in just ten minutes, remember that."


Anne did remember it and was back in the stipulated time, although
probably no mortal will ever know just what it cost her to confine the
discussion of Diana's important communication within the limits of ten
minutes. But at least she had made good use of them.


"Oh, Marilla, what do you think? You know tomorrow is Diana's birthday.
Well, her mother told her she could ask me to go home with her from school
and stay all night with her. And her cousins are coming over from
Newbridge in a big pung sleigh to go to the Debating Club concert at the
hall tomorrow night. And they are going to take Diana and me to the
concert—if you'll let me go, that is. You will, won't you, Marilla?
Oh, I feel so excited."


"You can calm down then, because you're not going. You're better at home
in your own bed, and as for that club concert, it's all nonsense, and
little girls should not be allowed to go out to such places at all."


"I'm sure the Debating Club is a most respectable affair," pleaded Anne.


"I'm not saying it isn't. But you're not going to begin gadding about to
concerts and staying out all hours of the night. Pretty doings for
children. I'm surprised at Mrs. Barry's letting Diana go."


"But it's such a very special occasion," mourned Anne, on the verge of
tears. "Diana has only one birthday in a year. It isn't as if birthdays
were common things, Marilla. Prissy Andrews is going to recite 'Curfew
Must Not Ring Tonight.' That is such a good moral piece, Marilla, I'm sure
it would do me lots of good to hear it. And the choir are going to sing
four lovely pathetic songs that are pretty near as good as hymns. And oh,
Marilla, the minister is going to take part; yes, indeed, he is; he's
going to give an address. That will be just about the same thing as a
sermon. Please, mayn't I go, Marilla?"


"You heard what I said, Anne, didn't you? Take off your boots now and go
to bed. It's past eight."


"There's just one more thing, Marilla," said Anne, with the air of
producing the last shot in her locker. "Mrs. Barry told Diana that we
might sleep in the spare-room bed. Think of the honor of your little Anne
being put in the spare-room bed."


"It's an honor you'll have to get along without. Go to bed, Anne, and
don't let me hear another word out of you."


When Anne, with tears rolling over her cheeks, had gone sorrowfully
upstairs, Matthew, who had been apparently sound asleep on the lounge
during the whole dialogue, opened his eyes and said decidedly:


"Well now, Marilla, I think you ought to let Anne go."


"I don't then," retorted Marilla. "Who's bringing this child up, Matthew,
you or me?"


"Well now, you," admitted Matthew.


"Don't interfere then."


"Well now, I ain't interfering. It ain't interfering to have your own
opinion. And my opinion is that you ought to let Anne go."


"You'd think I ought to let Anne go to the moon if she took the notion,
I've no doubt" was Marilla's amiable rejoinder. "I might have let her
spend the night with Diana, if that was all. But I don't approve of this
concert plan. She'd go there and catch cold like as not, and have her head
filled up with nonsense and excitement. It would unsettle her for a week.
I understand that child's disposition and what's good for it better than
you, Matthew."


"I think you ought to let Anne go," repeated Matthew firmly. Argument was
not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was.
Marilla gave a gasp of helplessness and took refuge in silence. The next
morning, when Anne was washing the breakfast dishes in the pantry, Matthew
paused on his way out to the barn to say to Marilla again:


"I think you ought to let Anne go, Marilla."


For a moment Marilla looked things not lawful to be uttered. Then she
yielded to the inevitable and said tartly:


"Very well, she can go, since nothing else 'll please you."


Anne flew out of the pantry, dripping dishcloth in hand.


"Oh, Marilla, Marilla, say those blessed words again."


"I guess once is enough to say them. This is Matthew's doings and I wash
my hands of it. If you catch pneumonia sleeping in a strange bed or coming
out of that hot hall in the middle of the night, don't blame me, blame
Matthew. Anne Shirley, you're dripping greasy water all over the floor. I
never saw such a careless child."


"Oh, I know I'm a great trial to you, Marilla," said Anne repentantly. "I
make so many mistakes. But then just think of all the mistakes I don't
make, although I might. I'll get some sand and scrub up the spots before I
go to school. Oh, Marilla, my heart was just set on going to that concert.
I never was to a concert in my life, and when the other girls talk about
them in school I feel so out of it. You didn't know just how I felt about
it, but you see Matthew did. Matthew understands me, and it's so nice to
be understood, Marilla."


Anne was too excited to do herself justice as to lessons that morning in
school. Gilbert Blythe spelled her down in class and left her clear out of
sight in mental arithmetic. Anne's consequent humiliation was less than it
might have been, however, in view of the concert and the spare-room bed.
She and Diana talked so constantly about it all day that with a stricter
teacher than Mr. Phillips dire disgrace must inevitably have been their
portion.


Anne felt that she could not have borne it if she had not been going to
the concert, for nothing else was discussed that day in school. The
Avonlea Debating Club, which met fortnightly all winter, had had several
smaller free entertainments; but this was to be a big affair, admission
ten cents, in aid of the library. The Avonlea young people had been
practicing for weeks, and all the scholars were especially interested in
it by reason of older brothers and sisters who were going to take part.
Everybody in school over nine years of age expected to go, except Carrie
Sloane, whose father shared Marilla's opinions about small girls going out
to night concerts. Carrie Sloane cried into her grammar all the afternoon
and felt that life was not worth living.


For Anne the real excitement began with the dismissal of school and
increased therefrom in crescendo until it reached to a crash of positive
ecstasy in the concert itself. They had a "perfectly elegant tea;" and
then came the delicious occupation of dressing in Diana's little room
upstairs. Diana did Anne's front hair in the new pompadour style and Anne
tied Diana's bows with the especial knack she possessed; and they
experimented with at least half a dozen different ways of arranging their
back hair. At last they were ready, cheeks scarlet and eyes glowing with
excitement.


True, Anne could not help a little pang when she contrasted her plain
black tam and shapeless, tight-sleeved, homemade gray-cloth coat with
Diana's jaunty fur cap and smart little jacket. But she remembered in time
that she had an imagination and could use it.


Then Diana's cousins, the Murrays from Newbridge, came; they all crowded
into the big pung sleigh, among straw and furry robes. Anne reveled in the
drive to the hall, slipping along over the satin-smooth roads with the
snow crisping under the runners. There was a magnificent sunset, and the
snowy hills and deep-blue water of the St. Lawrence Gulf seemed to rim in
the splendor like a huge bowl of pearl and sapphire brimmed with wine and
fire. Tinkles of sleigh bells and distant laughter, that seemed like the
mirth of wood elves, came from every quarter.


"Oh, Diana," breathed Anne, squeezing Diana's mittened hand under the fur
robe, "isn't it all like a beautiful dream? Do I really look the same as
usual? I feel so different that it seems to me it must show in my looks."


"You look awfully nice," said Diana, who having just received a compliment
from one of her cousins, felt that she ought to pass it on. "You've got
the loveliest color."


The program that night was a series of "thrills" for at least one listener
in the audience, and, as Anne assured Diana, every succeeding thrill was
thrillier than the last. When Prissy Andrews, attired in a new pink-silk
waist with a string of pearls about her smooth white throat and real
carnations in her hair—rumor whispered that the master had sent all
the way to town for them for her—"climbed the slimy ladder, dark
without one ray of light," Anne shivered in luxurious sympathy; when the
choir sang "Far Above the Gentle Daisies" Anne gazed at the ceiling as if
it were frescoed with angels; when Sam Sloane proceeded to explain and
illustrate "How Sockery Set a Hen" Anne laughed until people sitting near
her laughed too, more out of sympathy with her than with amusement at a
selection that was rather threadbare even in Avonlea; and when Mr.
Phillips gave Mark Antony's oration over the dead body of Caesar in the
most heart-stirring tones—looking at Prissy Andrews at the end of
every sentence—Anne felt that she could rise and mutiny on the spot
if but one Roman citizen led the way.


Only one number on the program failed to interest her. When Gilbert Blythe
recited "Bingen on the Rhine" Anne picked up Rhoda Murray's library book
and read it until he had finished, when she sat rigidly stiff and
motionless while Diana clapped her hands until they tingled.


It was eleven when they got home, sated with dissipation, but with the
exceeding sweet pleasure of talking it all over still to come. Everybody
seemed asleep and the house was dark and silent. Anne and Diana tiptoed
into the parlor, a long narrow room out of which the spare room opened. It
was pleasantly warm and dimly lighted by the embers of a fire in the
grate.


"Let's undress here," said Diana. "It's so nice and warm."


"Hasn't it been a delightful time?" sighed Anne rapturously. "It must be
splendid to get up and recite there. Do you suppose we will ever be asked
to do it, Diana?"


"Yes, of course, someday. They're always wanting the big scholars to
recite. Gilbert Blythe does often and he's only two years older than us.
Oh, Anne, how could you pretend not to listen to him? When he came to the
line,


he looked right down at you."


"Diana," said Anne with dignity, "you are my bosom friend, but I cannot
allow even you to speak to me of that person. Are you ready for bed? Let's
run a race and see who'll get to the bed first."


The suggestion appealed to Diana. The two little white-clad figures flew
down the long room, through the spare-room door, and bounded on the bed at
the same moment. And then—something—moved beneath them, there
was a gasp and a cry—and somebody said in muffled accents:


"Merciful goodness!"


Anne and Diana were never able to tell just how they got off that bed and
out of the room. They only knew that after one frantic rush they found
themselves tiptoeing shiveringly upstairs.


"Oh, who was it—what was it?" whispered Anne, her teeth
chattering with cold and fright.


"It was Aunt Josephine," said Diana, gasping with laughter. "Oh, Anne, it
was Aunt Josephine, however she came to be there. Oh, and I know she will
be furious. It's dreadful—it's really dreadful—but did you
ever know anything so funny, Anne?"


"Who is your Aunt Josephine?"


"She's father's aunt and she lives in Charlottetown. She's awfully old—seventy
anyhow—and I don't believe she was ever a little girl. We
were expecting her out for a visit, but not so soon. She's awfully prim
and proper and she'll scold dreadfully about this, I know. Well, we'll
have to sleep with Minnie May—and you can't think how she kicks."


Miss Josephine Barry did not appear at the early breakfast the next
morning. Mrs. Barry smiled kindly at the two little girls.


"Did you have a good time last night? I tried to stay awake until you came
home, for I wanted to tell you Aunt Josephine had come and that you would
have to go upstairs after all, but I was so tired I fell asleep. I hope
you didn't disturb your aunt, Diana."


Diana preserved a discreet silence, but she and Anne exchanged furtive
smiles of guilty amusement across the table. Anne hurried home after
breakfast and so remained in blissful ignorance of the disturbance which
presently resulted in the Barry household until the late afternoon, when
she went down to Mrs. Lynde's on an errand for Marilla.


"So you and Diana nearly frightened poor old Miss Barry to death last
night?" said Mrs. Lynde severely, but with a twinkle in her eye. "Mrs.
Barry was here a few minutes ago on her way to Carmody. She's feeling real
worried over it. Old Miss Barry was in a terrible temper when she got up
this morning—and Josephine Barry's temper is no joke, I can tell you
that. She wouldn't speak to Diana at all."


"It wasn't Diana's fault," said Anne contritely. "It was mine. I suggested
racing to see who would get into bed first."


"I knew it!" said Mrs. Lynde, with the exultation of a correct guesser. "I
knew that idea came out of your head. Well, it's made a nice lot of
trouble, that's what. Old Miss Barry came out to stay for a month, but she
declares she won't stay another day and is going right back to town
tomorrow, Sunday and all as it is. She'd have gone today if they could
have taken her. She had promised to pay for a quarter's music lessons for
Diana, but now she is determined to do nothing at all for such a tomboy.
Oh, I guess they had a lively time of it there this morning. The Barrys
must feel cut up. Old Miss Barry is rich and they'd like to keep on the
good side of her. Of course, Mrs. Barry didn't say just that to me, but
I'm a pretty good judge of human nature, that's what."


"I'm such an unlucky girl," mourned Anne. "I'm always getting into scrapes
myself and getting my best friends—people I'd shed my heart's blood
for—into them too. Can you tell me why it is so, Mrs. Lynde?"


"It's because you're too heedless and impulsive, child, that's what. You
never stop to think—whatever comes into your head to say or do you
say or do it without a moment's reflection."


"Oh, but that's the best of it," protested Anne. "Something just flashes
into your mind, so exciting, and you must out with it. If you stop to
think it over you spoil it all. Haven't you never felt that yourself, Mrs.
Lynde?"


No, Mrs. Lynde had not. She shook her head sagely.


"You must learn to think a little, Anne, that's what. The proverb you need
to go by is 'Look before you leap'—especially into spare-room beds."


Mrs. Lynde laughed comfortably over her mild joke, but Anne remained
pensive. She saw nothing to laugh at in the situation, which to her eyes
appeared very serious. When she left Mrs. Lynde's she took her way across
the crusted fields to Orchard Slope. Diana met her at the kitchen door.


"Your Aunt Josephine was very cross about it, wasn't she?" whispered Anne.


"Yes," answered Diana, stifling a giggle with an apprehensive glance over
her shoulder at the closed sitting-room door. "She was fairly dancing with
rage, Anne. Oh, how she scolded. She said I was the worst-behaved girl she
ever saw and that my parents ought to be ashamed of the way they had
brought me up. She says she won't stay and I'm sure I don't care. But
Father and Mother do."


"Why didn't you tell them it was my fault?" demanded Anne.


"It's likely I'd do such a thing, isn't it?" said Diana with just scorn.
"I'm no telltale, Anne Shirley, and anyhow I was just as much to blame as
you."


"Well, I'm going in to tell her myself," said Anne resolutely.


Diana stared.


"Anne Shirley, you'd never! why—she'll eat you alive!"


"Don't frighten me any more than I am frightened," implored Anne. "I'd
rather walk up to a cannon's mouth. But I've got to do it, Diana. It was
my fault and I've got to confess. I've had practice in confessing,
fortunately."


"Well, she's in the room," said Diana. "You can go in if you want to. I
wouldn't dare. And I don't believe you'll do a bit of good."


With this encouragement Anne bearded the lion in its den—that is to
say, walked resolutely up to the sitting-room door and knocked faintly. A
sharp "Come in" followed.


Miss Josephine Barry, thin, prim, and rigid, was knitting fiercely by the
fire, her wrath quite unappeased and her eyes snapping through her
gold-rimmed glasses. She wheeled around in her chair, expecting to see
Diana, and beheld a white-faced girl whose great eyes were brimmed up with
a mixture of desperate courage and shrinking terror.


"Who are you?" demanded Miss Josephine Barry, without ceremony.


"I'm Anne of Green Gables," said the small visitor tremulously, clasping
her hands with her characteristic gesture, "and I've come to confess, if
you please."


"Confess what?"


"That it was all my fault about jumping into bed on you last night. I
suggested it. Diana would never have thought of such a thing, I am sure.
Diana is a very ladylike girl, Miss Barry. So you must see how unjust it
is to blame her."


"Oh, I must, hey? I rather think Diana did her share of the jumping at
least. Such carryings on in a respectable house!"


"But we were only in fun," persisted Anne. "I think you ought to forgive
us, Miss Barry, now that we've apologized. And anyhow, please forgive
Diana and let her have her music lessons. Diana's heart is set on her
music lessons, Miss Barry, and I know too well what it is to set your
heart on a thing and not get it. If you must be cross with anyone, be
cross with me. I've been so used in my early days to having people cross
at me that I can endure it much better than Diana can."


Much of the snap had gone out of the old lady's eyes by this time and was
replaced by a twinkle of amused interest. But she still said severely:


"I don't think it is any excuse for you that you were only in fun. Little
girls never indulged in that kind of fun when I was young. You don't know
what it is to be awakened out of a sound sleep, after a long and arduous
journey, by two great girls coming bounce down on you."


"I don't know, but I can imagine," said Anne eagerly. "I'm
sure it must have been very disturbing. But then, there is our side of it
too. Have you any imagination, Miss Barry? If you have, just put yourself
in our place. We didn't know there was anybody in that bed and you nearly
scared us to death. It was simply awful the way we felt. And then we
couldn't sleep in the spare room after being promised. I suppose you are
used to sleeping in spare rooms. But just imagine what you would feel like
if you were a little orphan girl who had never had such an honor."


All the snap had gone by this time. Miss Barry actually laughed—a
sound which caused Diana, waiting in speechless anxiety in the kitchen
outside, to give a great gasp of relief.


"I'm afraid my imagination is a little rusty—it's so long since I
used it," she said. "I dare say your claim to sympathy is just as strong
as mine. It all depends on the way we look at it. Sit down here and tell
me about yourself."


"I am very sorry I can't," said Anne firmly. "I would like to, because you
seem like an interesting lady, and you might even be a kindred spirit
although you don't look very much like it. But it is my duty to go home to
Miss Marilla Cuthbert. Miss Marilla Cuthbert is a very kind lady who has
taken me to bring up properly. She is doing her best, but it is very
discouraging work. You must not blame her because I jumped on the bed. But
before I go I do wish you would tell me if you will forgive Diana and stay
just as long as you meant to in Avonlea."


"I think perhaps I will if you will come over and talk to me
occasionally," said Miss Barry.


That evening Miss Barry gave Diana a silver bangle bracelet and told the
senior members of the household that she had unpacked her valise.


"I've made up my mind to stay simply for the sake of getting better
acquainted with that Anne-girl," she said frankly. "She amuses me, and at
my time of life an amusing person is a rarity."


Marilla's only comment when she heard the story was, "I told you so." This
was for Matthew's benefit.


Miss Barry stayed her month out and over. She was a more agreeable guest
than usual, for Anne kept her in good humor. They became firm friends.


When Miss Barry went away she said:


"Remember, you Anne-girl, when you come to town you're to visit me and
I'll put you in my very sparest spare-room bed to sleep."


"Miss Barry was a kindred spirit, after all," Anne confided to Marilla.
"You wouldn't think so to look at her, but she is. You don't find it right
out at first, as in Matthew's case, but after a while you come to see it.
Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to
find out there are so many of them in the world."