Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XX

Full text Chapter XX

Chapter XX

A Good Imagination Gone Wrong


SPRING had come
once more to Green Gables—the beautiful capricious, reluctant
Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of
sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection
and growth. The maples in Lover's Lane were red budded and little curly
ferns pushed up around the Dryad's Bubble. Away up in the barrens, behind
Mr. Silas Sloane's place, the Mayflowers blossomed out, pink and white
stars of sweetness under their brown leaves. All the school girls and boys
had one golden afternoon gathering them, coming home in the clear, echoing
twilight with arms and baskets full of flowery spoil.


"I'm so sorry for people who live in lands where there are no Mayflowers,"
said Anne. "Diana says perhaps they have something better, but there
couldn't be anything better than Mayflowers, could there, Marilla? And
Diana says if they don't know what they are like they don't miss them. But
I think that is the saddest thing of all. I think it would be tragic,
Marilla, not to know what Mayflowers are like and not to miss them.
Do you know what I think Mayflowers are, Marilla? I think they must be the
souls of the flowers that died last summer and this is their heaven. But
we had a splendid time today, Marilla. We had our lunch down in a big
mossy hollow by an old well—such a romantic spot. Charlie
Sloane dared Arty Gillis to jump over it, and Arty did because he wouldn't
take a dare. Nobody would in school. It is very fashionable to
dare. Mr. Phillips gave all the Mayflowers he found to Prissy Andrews and
I heard him to say 'sweets to the sweet.' He got that out of a book, I
know; but it shows he has some imagination. I was offered some Mayflowers
too, but I rejected them with scorn. I can't tell you the person's name
because I have vowed never to let it cross my lips. We made wreaths of the
Mayflowers and put them on our hats; and when the time came to go home we
marched in procession down the road, two by two, with our bouquets and
wreaths, singing 'My Home on the Hill.' Oh, it was so thrilling, Marilla.
All Mr. Silas Sloane's folks rushed out to see us and everybody we met on
the road stopped and stared after us. We made a real sensation."


"Not much wonder! Such silly doings!" was Marilla's response.


After the Mayflowers came the violets, and Violet Vale was empurpled with
them. Anne walked through it on her way to school with reverent steps and
worshiping eyes, as if she trod on holy ground.


"Somehow," she told Diana, "when I'm going through here I don't really
care whether Gil—whether anybody gets ahead of me in class or not.
But when I'm up in school it's all different and I care as much as ever.
There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why
I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever
so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."


One June evening, when the orchards were pink blossomed again, when the
frogs were singing silverly sweet in the marshes about the head of the
Lake of Shining Waters, and the air was full of the savor of clover fields
and balsamic fir woods, Anne was sitting by her gable window. She had been
studying her lessons, but it had grown too dark to see the book, so she
had fallen into wide-eyed reverie, looking out past the boughs of the Snow
Queen, once more bestarred with its tufts of blossom.


In all essential respects the little gable chamber was unchanged. The
walls were as white, the pincushion as hard, the chairs as stiffly and
yellowly upright as ever. Yet the whole character of the room was altered.
It was full of a new vital, pulsing personality that seemed to pervade it
and to be quite independent of schoolgirl books and dresses and ribbons,
and even of the cracked blue jug full of apple blossoms on the table. It
was as if all the dreams, sleeping and waking, of its vivid occupant had
taken a visible although unmaterial form and had tapestried the bare room
with splendid filmy tissues of rainbow and moonshine. Presently Marilla
came briskly in with some of Anne's freshly ironed school aprons. She hung
them over a chair and sat down with a short sigh. She had had one of her
headaches that afternoon, and although the pain had gone she felt weak and
"tuckered out," as she expressed it. Anne looked at her with eyes limpid
with sympathy.


"I do truly wish I could have had the headache in your place, Marilla. I
would have endured it joyfully for your sake."


"I guess you did your part in attending to the work and letting me rest,"
said Marilla. "You seem to have got on fairly well and made fewer mistakes
than usual. Of course it wasn't exactly necessary to starch Matthew's
handkerchiefs! And most people when they put a pie in the oven to warm up
for dinner take it out and eat it when it gets hot instead of leaving it
to be burned to a crisp. But that doesn't seem to be your way evidently."


Headaches always left Marilla somewhat sarcastic.


"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Anne penitently. "I never thought about that pie
from the moment I put it in the oven till now, although I felt instinctively
that there was something missing on the dinner table. I was firmly
resolved, when you left me in charge this morning, not to imagine
anything, but keep my thoughts on facts. I did pretty well until I put the
pie in, and then an irresistible temptation came to me to imagine I was an
enchanted princess shut up in a lonely tower with a handsome knight riding
to my rescue on a coal-black steed. So that is how I came to forget the
pie. I didn't know I starched the handkerchiefs. All the time I was
ironing I was trying to think of a name for a new island Diana and I have
discovered up the brook. It's the most ravishing spot, Marilla. There are
two maple trees on it and the brook flows right around it. At last it
struck me that it would be splendid to call it Victoria Island because we
found it on the Queen's birthday. Both Diana and I are very loyal. But I'm
sorry about that pie and the handkerchiefs. I wanted to be extra good
today because it's an anniversary. Do you remember what happened this day
last year, Marilla?"


"No, I can't think of anything special."


"Oh, Marilla, it was the day I came to Green Gables. I shall never forget
it. It was the turning point in my life. Of course it wouldn't seem so
important to you. I've been here for a year and I've been so happy. Of
course, I've had my troubles, but one can live down troubles. Are you
sorry you kept me, Marilla?"


"No, I can't say I'm sorry," said Marilla, who sometimes wondered how she
could have lived before Anne came to Green Gables, "no, not exactly sorry.
If you've finished your lessons, Anne, I want you to run over and ask Mrs.
Barry if she'll lend me Diana's apron pattern."


"Oh—it's—it's too dark," cried Anne.


"Too dark? Why, it's only twilight. And goodness knows you've gone over
often enough after dark."


"I'll go over early in the morning," said Anne eagerly. "I'll get up at
sunrise and go over, Marilla."


"What has got into your head now, Anne Shirley? I want that pattern to cut
out your new apron this evening. Go at once and be smart too."


"I'll have to go around by the road, then," said Anne, taking up her hat
reluctantly.


"Go by the road and waste half an hour! I'd like to catch you!"


"I can't go through the Haunted Wood, Marilla," cried Anne desperately.


Marilla stared.


"The Haunted Wood! Are you crazy? What under the canopy is the Haunted
Wood?"


"The spruce wood over the brook," said Anne in a whisper.


"Fiddlesticks! There is no such thing as a haunted wood anywhere. Who has
been telling you such stuff?"


"Nobody," confessed Anne. "Diana and I just imagined the wood was haunted.
All the places around here are so—so—commonplace. We
just got this up for our own amusement. We began it in April. A haunted
wood is so very romantic, Marilla. We chose the spruce grove because it's
so gloomy. Oh, we have imagined the most harrowing things. There's a white
lady walks along the brook just about this time of the night and wrings
her hands and utters wailing cries. She appears when there is to be a
death in the family. And the ghost of a little murdered child haunts the
corner up by Idlewild; it creeps up behind you and lays its cold fingers
on your hand—so. Oh, Marilla, it gives me a shudder to think of it.
And there's a headless man stalks up and down the path and skeletons
glower at you between the boughs. Oh, Marilla, I wouldn't go through the
Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I'd be sure that white things
would reach out from behind the trees and grab me."


"Did ever anyone hear the like!" ejaculated Marilla, who had listened in
dumb amazement. "Anne Shirley, do you mean to tell me you believe all that
wicked nonsense of your own imagination?"


"Not believe exactly," faltered Anne. "At least, I don't believe it
in daylight. But after dark, Marilla, it's different. That is when ghosts
walk."


"There are no such things as ghosts, Anne."


"Oh, but there are, Marilla," cried Anne eagerly. "I know people who have
seen them. And they are respectable people. Charlie Sloane says that his
grandmother saw his grandfather driving home the cows one night after he'd
been buried for a year. You know Charlie Sloane's grandmother wouldn't
tell a story for anything. She's a very religious woman. And Mrs. Thomas's
father was pursued home one night by a lamb of fire with its head cut off
hanging by a strip of skin. He said he knew it was the spirit of his
brother and that it was a warning he would die within nine days. He
didn't, but he died two years after, so you see it was really true. And
Ruby Gillis says—"


"Anne Shirley," interrupted Marilla firmly, "I never want to hear you
talking in this fashion again. I've had my doubts about that imagination
of yours right along, and if this is going to be the outcome of it, I
won't countenance any such doings. You'll go right over to Barry's, and
you'll go through that spruce grove, just for a lesson and a warning to
you. And never let me hear a word out of your head about haunted woods
again."


Anne might plead and cry as she liked—and did, for her terror was
very real. Her imagination had run away with her and she held the spruce
grove in mortal dread after nightfall. But Marilla was inexorable. She
marched the shrinking ghost-seer down to the spring and ordered her to
proceed straightaway over the bridge and into the dusky retreats of
wailing ladies and headless specters beyond.


"Oh, Marilla, how can you be so cruel?" sobbed Anne. "What would you feel
like if a white thing did snatch me up and carry me off?"


"I'll risk it," said Marilla unfeelingly. "You know I always mean what I
say. I'll cure you of imagining ghosts into places. March, now."


Anne marched. That is, she stumbled over the bridge and went shuddering up
the horrible dim path beyond. Anne never forgot that walk. Bitterly did
she repent the license she had given to her imagination. The goblins of
her fancy lurked in every shadow about her, reaching out their cold,
fleshless hands to grasp the terrified small girl who had called them into
being. A white strip of birch bark blowing up from the hollow over the
brown floor of the grove made her heart stand still. The long-drawn wail
of two old boughs rubbing against each other brought out the perspiration
in beads on her forehead. The swoop of bats in the darkness over her was
as the wings of unearthly creatures. When she reached Mr. William Bell's
field she fled across it as if pursued by an army of white things, and
arrived at the Barry kitchen door so out of breath that she could hardly
gasp out her request for the apron pattern. Diana was away so that she had
no excuse to linger. The dreadful return journey had to be faced. Anne
went back over it with shut eyes, preferring to take the risk of dashing
her brains out among the boughs to that of seeing a white thing. When she
finally stumbled over the log bridge she drew one long shivering breath of
relief.


"Well, so nothing caught you?" said Marilla unsympathetically.


"Oh, Mar—Marilla," chattered Anne, "I'll b-b-be contt-tented with
c-c-commonplace places after this."