Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XVI

Full text Chapter XVI

Chapter XVI

Diana is Invited to Tea with Tragic Results


OCTOBER was a
beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as
golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson
and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of
dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in
aftermaths.


Anne reveled in the world of color about her.


"Oh, Marilla," she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with
her arms full of gorgeous boughs, "I'm so glad I live in a world where
there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September
to November, wouldn't it? Look at these maple branches. Don't they give
you a thrill—several thrills? I'm going to decorate my room with
them."


"Messy things," said Marilla, whose aesthetic sense was not noticeably
developed. "You clutter up your room entirely too much with out-of-doors
stuff, Anne. Bedrooms were made to sleep in."


"Oh, and dream in too, Marilla. And you know one can dream so much better
in a room where there are pretty things. I'm going to put these boughs in
the old blue jug and set them on my table."


"Mind you don't drop leaves all over the stairs then. I'm going on a
meeting of the Aid Society at Carmody this afternoon, Anne, and I won't
likely be home before dark. You'll have to get Matthew and Jerry their
supper, so mind you don't forget to put the tea to draw until you sit down
at the table as you did last time."


"It was dreadful of me to forget," said Anne apologetically, "but that was
the afternoon I was trying to think of a name for Violet Vale and it
crowded other things out. Matthew was so good. He never scolded a bit. He
put the tea down himself and said we could wait awhile as well as not. And
I told him a lovely fairy story while we were waiting, so he didn't find
the time long at all. It was a beautiful fairy story, Marilla. I forgot
the end of it, so I made up an end for it myself and Matthew said he
couldn't tell where the join came in."


"Matthew would think it all right, Anne, if you took a notion to get up
and have dinner in the middle of the night. But you keep your wits about
you this time. And—I don't really know if I'm doing right—it
may make you more addlepated than ever—but you can ask Diana to come
over and spend the afternoon with you and have tea here."


"Oh, Marilla!" Anne clasped her hands. "How perfectly lovely! You are
able to imagine things after all or else you'd never have understood how
I've longed for that very thing. It will seem so nice and grown-uppish. No
fear of my forgetting to put the tea to draw when I have company. Oh,
Marilla, can I use the rosebud spray tea set?"


"No, indeed! The rosebud tea set! Well, what next? You know I never use
that except for the minister or the Aids. You'll put down the old brown
tea set. But you can open the little yellow crock of cherry preserves.
It's time it was being used anyhow—I believe it's beginning to work.
And you can cut some fruit cake and have some of the cookies and snaps."


"I can just imagine myself sitting down at the head of the table and
pouring out the tea," said Anne, shutting her eyes ecstatically. "And
asking Diana if she takes sugar! I know she doesn't but of course I'll ask
her just as if I didn't know. And then pressing her to take another piece
of fruit cake and another helping of preserves. Oh, Marilla, it's a
wonderful sensation just to think of it. Can I take her into the spare
room to lay off her hat when she comes? And then into the parlor to sit?"


"No. The sitting room will do for you and your company. But there's a
bottle half full of raspberry cordial that was left over from the church
social the other night. It's on the second shelf of the sitting-room
closet and you and Diana can have it if you like, and a cooky to eat with
it along in the afternoon, for I daresay Matthew 'll be late coming in to
tea since he's hauling potatoes to the vessel."


Anne flew down to the hollow, past the Dryad's Bubble and up the spruce
path to Orchard Slope, to ask Diana to tea. As a result just after Marilla
had driven off to Carmody, Diana came over, dressed in her
second-best dress and looking exactly as it is proper to look when asked
out to tea. At other times she was wont to run into the kitchen without
knocking; but now she knocked primly at the front door. And when Anne,
dressed in her second best, as primly opened it, both little girls shook
hands as gravely as if they had never met before. This unnatural solemnity
lasted until after Diana had been taken to the east gable to lay off her
hat and then had sat for ten minutes in the sitting room, toes in
position.


"How is your mother?" inquired Anne politely, just as if she had not seen
Mrs. Barry picking apples that morning in excellent health and spirits.


"She is very well, thank you. I suppose Mr. Cuthbert is hauling potatoes
to the lily sands this afternoon, is he?" said Diana, who had
ridden down to Mr. Harmon Andrews's that morning in Matthew's cart.


"Yes. Our potato crop is very good this year. I hope your father's crop is
good too."


"It is fairly good, thank you. Have you picked many of your apples yet?"


"Oh, ever so many," said Anne forgetting to be dignified and jumping up
quickly. "Let's go out to the orchard and get some of the Red Sweetings,
Diana. Marilla says we can have all that are left on the tree. Marilla is
a very generous woman. She said we could have fruit cake and cherry
preserves for tea. But it isn't good manners to tell your company what you
are going to give them to eat, so I won't tell you what she said we could
have to drink. Only it begins with an R and a C and it's bright red color.
I love bright red drinks, don't you? They taste twice as good as any other
color."


The orchard, with its great sweeping boughs that bent to the ground with
fruit, proved so delightful that the little girls spent most of the
afternoon in it, sitting in a grassy corner where the frost had spared the
green and the mellow autumn sunshine lingered warmly, eating apples and
talking as hard as they could. Diana had much to tell Anne of what went on
in school. She had to sit with Gertie Pye and she hated it; Gertie
squeaked her pencil all the time and it just made her—Diana's—blood
run cold; Ruby Gillis had charmed all her warts away, true's you live,
with a magic pebble that old Mary Joe from the Creek gave her. You had to
rub the warts with the pebble and then throw it away over your left
shoulder at the time of the new moon and the warts would all go. Charlie
Sloane's name was written up with Em White's on the porch wall and Em
White was awful mad about it; Sam Boulter had "sassed" Mr. Phillips
in class and Mr. Phillips whipped him and Sam's father came down to the
school and dared Mr. Phillips to lay a hand on one of his children again;
and Mattie Andrews had a new red hood and a blue crossover with tassels on
it and the airs she put on about it were perfectly sickening; and Lizzie
Wright didn't speak to Mamie Wilson because Mamie Wilson's grown-up sister
had cut out Lizzie Wright's grown-up sister with her beau; and everybody
missed Anne so and wished she's come to school again; and Gilbert Blythe—


But Anne didn't want to hear about Gilbert Blythe. She jumped up hurriedly
and said suppose they go in and have some raspberry cordial.


Anne looked on the second shelf of the room pantry but there was no bottle
of raspberry cordial there. Search revealed it away back on the top shelf.
Anne put it on a tray and set it on the table with a tumbler.


"Now, please help yourself, Diana," she said politely. "I don't believe
I'll have any just now. I don't feel as if I wanted any after all those
apples."


Diana poured herself out a tumblerful, looked at its bright-red hue
admiringly, and then sipped it daintily.


"That's awfully nice raspberry cordial, Anne," she said. "I didn't know
raspberry cordial was so nice."


"I'm real glad you like it. Take as much as you want. I'm going to run out
and stir the fire up. There are so many responsibilities on a person's
mind when they're keeping house, isn't there?"


When Anne came back from the kitchen Diana was drinking her second
glassful of cordial; and, being entreated thereto by Anne, she offered no
particular objection to the drinking of a third. The tumblerfuls were
generous ones and the raspberry cordial was certainly very nice.


"The nicest I ever drank," said Diana. "It's ever so much nicer than Mrs.
Lynde's, although she brags of hers so much. It doesn't taste a bit like
hers."


"I should think Marilla's raspberry cordial would prob'ly be much nicer
than Mrs. Lynde's," said Anne loyally. "Marilla is a famous cook. She is
trying to teach me to cook but I assure you, Diana, it is uphill work.
There's so little scope for imagination in cookery. You just have to go by
rules. The last time I made a cake I forgot to put the flour in. I was
thinking the loveliest story about you and me, Diana. I thought you were
desperately ill with smallpox and everybody deserted you, but I went
boldly to your bedside and nursed you back to life; and then I took the
smallpox and died and I was buried under those poplar trees in the
graveyard and you planted a rosebush by my grave and watered it with your
tears; and you never, never forgot the friend of your youth who sacrificed
her life for you. Oh, it was such a pathetic tale, Diana. The tears just
rained down over my cheeks while I mixed the cake. But I forgot the flour
and the cake was a dismal failure. Flour is so essential to cakes, you
know. Marilla was very cross and I don't wonder. I'm a great trial to her.
She was terribly mortified about the pudding sauce last week. We had a
plum pudding for dinner on Tuesday and there was half the pudding and a
pitcherful of sauce left over. Marilla said there was enough for another
dinner and told me to set it on the pantry shelf and cover it. I meant to
cover it just as much as could be, Diana, but when I carried it in I was
imagining I was a nun—of course I'm a Protestant but I imagined I
was a Catholic—taking the veil to bury a broken heart in cloistered
seclusion; and I forgot all about covering the pudding sauce. I thought of
it next morning and ran to the pantry. Diana, fancy if you can my extreme
horror at finding a mouse drowned in that pudding sauce! I lifted the
mouse out with a spoon and threw it out in the yard and then I washed the
spoon in three waters. Marilla was out milking and I fully intended to ask
her when she came in if I'd give the sauce to the pigs; but when she did
come in I was imagining that I was a frost fairy going through the woods
turning the trees red and yellow, whichever they wanted to be, so I never
thought about the pudding sauce again and Marilla sent me out to pick
apples. Well, Mr. and Mrs. Chester Ross from Spencervale came here that
morning. You know they are very stylish people, especially Mrs. Chester
Ross. When Marilla called me in dinner was all ready and everybody was at
the table. I tried to be as polite and dignified as I could be, for I
wanted Mrs. Chester Ross to think I was a ladylike little girl even if I
wasn't pretty. Everything went right until I saw Marilla coming with the
plum pudding in one hand and the pitcher of pudding sauce warmed up,
in the other. Diana, that was a terrible moment. I remembered everything
and I just stood up in my place and shrieked out 'Marilla, you mustn't use
that pudding sauce. There was a mouse drowned in it. I forgot to tell you
before.' Oh, Diana, I shall never forget that awful moment if I live to be
a hundred. Mrs. Chester Ross just looked at me and I thought I
would sink through the floor with mortification. She is such a perfect
housekeeper and fancy what she must have thought of us. Marilla turned red
as fire but she never said a word—then. She just carried that sauce
and pudding out and brought in some strawberry preserves. She even offered
me some, but I couldn't swallow a mouthful. It was like heaping coals of
fire on my head. After Mrs. Chester Ross went away, Marilla gave me a
dreadful scolding. Why, Diana, what is the matter?"


Diana had stood up very unsteadily; then she sat down again, putting her
hands to her head.


"I'm—I'm awful sick," she said, a little thickly. "I—I—must
go right home."


"Oh, you mustn't dream of going home without your tea," cried Anne in
distress. "I'll get it right off—I'll go and put the tea down this
very minute."


"I must go home," repeated Diana, stupidly but determinedly.


"Let me get you a lunch anyhow," implored Anne. "Let me give you a bit of
fruit cake and some of the cherry preserves. Lie down on the sofa for a
little while and you'll be better. Where do you feel bad?"


"I must go home," said Diana, and that was all she would say. In vain Anne
pleaded.


"I never heard of company going home without tea," she mourned. "Oh,
Diana, do you suppose that it's possible you're really taking the
smallpox? If you are I'll go and nurse you, you can depend on that. I'll
never forsake you. But I do wish you'd stay till after tea. Where do you
feel bad?"


"I'm awful dizzy," said Diana.


And indeed, she walked very dizzily. Anne, with tears of disappointment in
her eyes, got Diana's hat and went with her as far as the Barry yard
fence. Then she wept all the way back to Green Gables, where she
sorrowfully put the remainder of the raspberry cordial back into the
pantry and got tea ready for Matthew and Jerry, with all the zest gone out
of the performance.


The next day was Sunday and as the rain poured down in torrents from dawn
till dusk Anne did not stir abroad from Green Gables. Monday afternoon
Marilla sent her down to Mrs. Lynde's on an errand. In a very short space
of time Anne came flying back up the lane with tears rolling down her
cheeks. Into the kitchen she dashed and flung herself face downward on the
sofa in an agony.


"Whatever has gone wrong now, Anne?" queried Marilla in doubt and dismay.
"I do hope you haven't gone and been saucy to Mrs. Lynde again."


No answer from Anne save more tears and stormier sobs!


"Anne Shirley, when I ask you a question I want to be answered. Sit right
up this very minute and tell me what you are crying about."


Anne sat up, tragedy personified.


"Mrs. Lynde was up to see Mrs. Barry today and Mrs. Barry was in an awful
state," she wailed. "She says that I set Diana drunk Saturday and
sent her home in a disgraceful condition. And she says I must be a
thoroughly bad, wicked little girl and she's never, never going to let
Diana play with me again. Oh, Marilla, I'm just overcome with woe."


Marilla stared in blank amazement.


"Set Diana drunk!" she said when she found her voice. "Anne are you or
Mrs. Barry crazy? What on earth did you give her?"


"Not a thing but raspberry cordial," sobbed Anne. "I never thought
raspberry cordial would set people drunk, Marilla—not even if they
drank three big tumblerfuls as Diana did. Oh, it sounds so—so—like
Mrs. Thomas's husband! But I didn't mean to set her drunk."


"Drunk fiddlesticks!" said Marilla, marching to the sitting room pantry.
There on the shelf was a bottle which she at once recognized as one
containing some of her three-year-old homemade currant wine for which she
was celebrated in Avonlea, although certain of the stricter sort, Mrs.
Barry among them, disapproved strongly of it. And at the same time Marilla
recollected that she had put the bottle of raspberry cordial down in the
cellar instead of in the pantry as she had told Anne.


She went back to the kitchen with the wine bottle in her hand. Her face
was twitching in spite of herself.


"Anne, you certainly have a genius for getting into trouble. You went and
gave Diana currant wine instead of raspberry cordial. Didn't you know the
difference yourself?"


"I never tasted it," said Anne. "I thought it was the cordial. I meant to
be so—so—hospitable. Diana got awfully sick and had to go
home. Mrs. Barry told Mrs. Lynde she was simply dead drunk. She just
laughed silly-like when her mother asked her what was the matter and went
to sleep and slept for hours. Her mother smelled her breath and knew she
was drunk. She had a fearful headache all day yesterday. Mrs. Barry is so
indignant. She will never believe but what I did it on purpose."


"I should think she would better punish Diana for being so greedy as to
drink three glassfuls of anything," said Marilla shortly. "Why, three of
those big glasses would have made her sick even if it had only been
cordial. Well, this story will be a nice handle for those folks who are so
down on me for making currant wine, although I haven't made any for three
years ever since I found out that the minister didn't approve. I just kept
that bottle for sickness. There, there, child, don't cry. I can't see as
you were to blame although I'm sorry it happened so."


"I must cry," said Anne. "My heart is broken. The stars in their courses
fight against me, Marilla. Diana and I are parted forever. Oh, Marilla, I
little dreamed of this when first we swore our vows of friendship."


"Don't be foolish, Anne. Mrs. Barry will think better of it when she finds
you're not to blame. I suppose she thinks you've done it for a silly joke
or something of that sort. You'd best go up this evening and tell her how
it was."


"My courage fails me at the thought of facing Diana's injured mother,"
sighed Anne. "I wish you'd go, Marilla. You're so much more dignified than
I am. Likely she'd listen to you quicker than to me."


"Well, I will," said Marilla, reflecting that it would probably be the
wiser course. "Don't cry any more, Anne. It will be all right."


Marilla had changed her mind about it being all right by the time she got
back from Orchard Slope. Anne was watching for her coming and flew to the
porch door to meet her.


"Oh, Marilla, I know by your face that it's been no use," she said
sorrowfully. "Mrs. Barry won't forgive me?"


"Mrs. Barry indeed!" snapped Marilla. "Of all the unreasonable women I
ever saw she's the worst. I told her it was all a mistake and you weren't
to blame, but she just simply didn't believe me. And she rubbed it well in
about my currant wine and how I'd always said it couldn't have the least
effect on anybody. I just told her plainly that currant wine wasn't meant
to be drunk three tumblerfuls at a time and that if a child I had to do
with was so greedy I'd sober her up with a right good spanking."


Marilla whisked into the kitchen, grievously disturbed, leaving a very
much distracted little soul in the porch behind her. Presently Anne
stepped out bareheaded into the chill autumn dusk; very determinedly and
steadily she took her way down through the sere clover field over the log
bridge and up through the spruce grove, lighted by a pale little moon
hanging low over the western woods. Mrs. Barry, coming to the door in
answer to a timid knock, found a white-lipped eager-eyed suppliant on the
doorstep.


Her face hardened. Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and
dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always
hardest to overcome. To do her justice, she really believed Anne had made
Diana drunk out of sheer malice prepense, and she was honestly anxious to
preserve her little daughter from the contamination of further intimacy
with such a child.


"What do you want?" she said stiffly.


Anne clasped her hands.


"Oh, Mrs. Barry, please forgive me. I did not mean to—to—intoxicate
Diana. How could I? Just imagine if you were a poor little orphan girl
that kind people had adopted and you had just one bosom friend in all the
world. Do you think you would intoxicate her on purpose? I thought it was
only raspberry cordial. I was firmly convinced it was raspberry cordial.
Oh, please don't say that you won't let Diana play with me any more. If
you do you will cover my life with a dark cloud of woe."


This speech which would have softened good Mrs. Lynde's heart in a
twinkling, had no effect on Mrs. Barry except to irritate her still more.
She was suspicious of Anne's big words and dramatic gestures and imagined
that the child was making fun of her. So she said, coldly and cruelly:


"I don't think you are a fit little girl for Diana to associate with.
You'd better go home and behave yourself."


Anne's lips quivered.


"Won't you let me see Diana just once to say farewell?" she implored.


"Diana has gone over to Carmody with her father," said Mrs. Barry, going
in and shutting the door.


Anne went back to Green Gables calm with despair.


"My last hope is gone," she told Marilla. "I went up and saw Mrs. Barry
myself and she treated me very insultingly. Marilla, I do not think
she is a well-bred woman. There is nothing more to do except to pray and I
haven't much hope that that'll do much good because, Marilla, I do not
believe that God Himself can do very much with such an obstinate person as
Mrs. Barry."


"Anne, you shouldn't say such things" rebuked Marilla, striving to
overcome that unholy tendency to laughter which she was dismayed to find
growing upon her. And indeed, when she told the whole story to Matthew
that night, she did laugh heartily over Anne's tribulations.


But when she slipped into the east gable before going to bed and found
that Anne had cried herself to sleep an unaccustomed softness crept into
her face.


"Poor little soul," she murmured, lifting a loose curl of hair from the
child's tear-stained face. Then she bent down and kissed the flushed cheek
on the pillow.