Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXIII

Full text Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIII

Anne Comes to Grief in an Affair of Honor


ANNE had to live
through more than two weeks, as it happened. Almost a month having elapsed
since the liniment cake episode, it was high time for her to get into
fresh trouble of some sort, little mistakes, such as absentmindedly
emptying a pan of skim milk into a basket of yarn balls in the pantry
instead of into the pigs' bucket, and walking clean over the edge of the
log bridge into the brook while wrapped in imaginative reverie, not really
being worth counting.


A week after the tea at the manse Diana Barry gave a party.


"Small and select," Anne assured Marilla. "Just the girls in our class."


They had a very good time and nothing untoward happened until after tea,
when they found themselves in the Barry garden, a little tired of all
their games and ripe for any enticing form of mischief which might present
itself. This presently took the form of "daring."


Daring was the fashionable amusement among the Avonlea small fry just
then. It had begun among the boys, but soon spread to the girls, and all
the silly things that were done in Avonlea that summer because the doers
thereof were "dared" to do them would fill a book by themselves.


First of all Carrie Sloane dared Ruby Gillis to climb to a certain point
in the huge old willow tree before the front door; which Ruby Gillis,
albeit in mortal dread of the fat green caterpillars with which said tree
was infested and with the fear of her mother before her eyes if she should
tear her new muslin dress, nimbly did, to the discomfiture of the
aforesaid Carrie Sloane. Then Josie Pye dared Jane Andrews to hop on her
left leg around the garden without stopping once or putting her right foot
to the ground; which Jane Andrews gamely tried to do, but gave out at the
third corner and had to confess herself defeated.


Josie's triumph being rather more pronounced than good taste permitted,
Anne Shirley dared her to walk along the top of the board fence which
bounded the garden to the east. Now, to "walk" board fences requires more
skill and steadiness of head and heel than one might suppose who has never
tried it. But Josie Pye, if deficient in some qualities that make for
popularity, had at least a natural and inborn gift, duly cultivated, for
walking board fences. Josie walked the Barry fence with an airy unconcern
which seemed to imply that a little thing like that wasn't worth a "dare."
Reluctant admiration greeted her exploit, for most of the other girls
could appreciate it, having suffered many things themselves in their
efforts to walk fences. Josie descended from her perch, flushed with
victory, and darted a defiant glance at Anne.


Anne tossed her red braids.


"I don't think it's such a very wonderful thing to walk a little, low,
board fence," she said. "I knew a girl in Marysville who could walk the
ridgepole of a roof."


"I don't believe it," said Josie flatly. "I don't believe anybody could
walk a ridgepole. You couldn't, anyhow."


"Couldn't I?" cried Anne rashly.


"Then I dare you to do it," said Josie defiantly. "I dare you to climb up
there and walk the ridgepole of Mr. Barry's kitchen roof."


Anne turned pale, but there was clearly only one thing to be done. She
walked toward the house, where a ladder was leaning against the kitchen
roof. All the fifth-class girls said, "Oh!" partly in excitement, partly
in dismay.


"Don't you do it, Anne," entreated Diana. "You'll fall off and be killed.
Never mind Josie Pye. It isn't fair to dare anybody to do anything so
dangerous."


"I must do it. My honor is at stake," said Anne solemnly. "I shall walk
that ridgepole, Diana, or perish in the attempt. If I am killed you are to
have my pearl bead ring."


Anne climbed the ladder amid breathless silence, gained the ridgepole,
balanced herself uprightly on that precarious footing, and started to walk
along it, dizzily conscious that she was uncomfortably high up in the
world and that walking ridgepoles was not a thing in which your
imagination helped you out much. Nevertheless, she managed to take several
steps before the catastrophe came. Then she swayed, lost her balance,
stumbled, staggered, and fell, sliding down over the sun-baked roof and
crashing off it through the tangle of Virginia creeper beneath—all
before the dismayed circle below could give a simultaneous, terrified
shriek.


If Anne had tumbled off the roof on the side up which she had ascended
Diana would probably have fallen heir to the pearl bead ring then and
there. Fortunately she fell on the other side, where the roof extended
down over the porch so nearly to the ground that a fall therefrom was a
much less serious thing. Nevertheless, when Diana and the other girls had
rushed frantically around the house—except Ruby Gillis, who remained
as if rooted to the ground and went into hysterics—they found Anne
lying all white and limp among the wreck and ruin of the Virginia creeper.


"Anne, are you killed?" shrieked Diana, throwing herself on her knees
beside her friend. "Oh, Anne, dear Anne, speak just one word to me and
tell me if you're killed."


To the immense relief of all the girls, and especially of Josie Pye, who,
in spite of lack of imagination, had been seized with horrible visions of
a future branded as the girl who was the cause of Anne Shirley's early and
tragic death, Anne sat dizzily up and answered uncertainly:


"No, Diana, I am not killed, but I think I am rendered unconscious."


"Where?" sobbed Carrie Sloane. "Oh, where, Anne?" Before Anne could answer
Mrs. Barry appeared on the scene. At sight of her Anne tried to scramble
to her feet, but sank back again with a sharp little cry of pain.


"What's the matter? Where have you hurt yourself?" demanded Mrs. Barry.


"My ankle," gasped Anne. "Oh, Diana, please find your father and ask him
to take me home. I know I can never walk there. And I'm sure I couldn't
hop so far on one foot when Jane couldn't even hop around the garden."


Marilla was out in the orchard picking a panful of summer apples when she
saw Mr. Barry coming over the log bridge and up the slope, with Mrs. Barry
beside him and a whole procession of little girls trailing after him. In
his arms he carried Anne, whose head lay limply against his shoulder.


At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that
pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She
would have admitted that she liked Anne—nay, that she was very fond
of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne
was dearer to her than anything else on earth.


"Mr. Barry, what has happened to her?" she gasped, more white and shaken
than the self-contained, sensible Marilla had been for many years.


Anne herself answered, lifting her head.


"Don't be very frightened, Marilla. I was walking the ridgepole and I fell
off. I expect I have sprained my ankle. But, Marilla, I might have broken
my neck. Let us look on the bright side of things."


"I might have known you'd go and do something of the sort when I let you
go to that party," said Marilla, sharp and shrewish in her very relief.
"Bring her in here, Mr. Barry, and lay her on the sofa. Mercy me, the
child has gone and fainted!"


It was quite true. Overcome by the pain of her injury, Anne had one more
of her wishes granted to her. She had fainted dead away.


Matthew, hastily summoned from the harvest field, was straightway
dispatched for the doctor, who in due time came, to discover that the
injury was more serious than they had supposed. Anne's ankle was broken.


That night, when Marilla went up to the east gable, where a white-faced
girl was lying, a plaintive voice greeted her from the bed.


"Aren't you very sorry for me, Marilla?"


"It was your own fault," said Marilla, twitching down the blind and
lighting a lamp.


"And that is just why you should be sorry for me," said Anne, "because the
thought that it is all my own fault is what makes it so hard. If I could
blame it on anybody I would feel so much better. But what would you have
done, Marilla, if you had been dared to walk a ridgepole?"


"I'd have stayed on good firm ground and let them dare away. Such
absurdity!" said Marilla.


Anne sighed.


"But you have such strength of mind, Marilla. I haven't. I just felt that
I couldn't bear Josie Pye's scorn. She would have crowed over me all my
life. And I think I have been punished so much that you needn't be very
cross with me, Marilla. It's not a bit nice to faint, after all. And the
doctor hurt me dreadfully when he was setting my ankle. I won't be able to
go around for six or seven weeks and I'll miss the new lady teacher. She
won't be new any more by the time I'm able to go to school. And Gil—everybody
will get ahead of me in class. Oh, I am an afflicted mortal. But I'll try
to bear it all bravely if only you won't be cross with me, Marilla."


"There, there, I'm not cross," said Marilla. "You're an unlucky child,
there's no doubt about that; but as you say, you'll have the suffering of
it. Here now, try and eat some supper."


"Isn't it fortunate I've got such an imagination?" said Anne. "It will
help me through splendidly, I expect. What do people who haven't any
imagination do when they break their bones, do you suppose, Marilla?"


Anne had good reason to bless her imagination many a time and oft during
the tedious seven weeks that followed. But she was not solely dependent on
it. She had many visitors and not a day passed without one or more of the
schoolgirls dropping in to bring her flowers and books and tell her all
the happenings in the juvenile world of Avonlea.


"Everybody has been so good and kind, Marilla," sighed Anne happily, on
the day when she could first limp across the floor. "It isn't very
pleasant to be laid up; but there is a bright side to it, Marilla. You
find out how many friends you have. Why, even Superintendent Bell came to
see me, and he's really a very fine man. Not a kindred spirit, of course;
but still I like him and I'm awfully sorry I ever criticized his prayers.
I believe now he really does mean them, only he has got into the habit of
saying them as if he didn't. He could get over that if he'd take a little
trouble. I gave him a good broad hint. I told him how hard I tried to make
my own little private prayers interesting. He told me all about the time
he broke his ankle when he was a boy. It does seem so strange to think of
Superintendent Bell ever being a boy. Even my imagination has its limits,
for I can't imagine that. When I try to imagine him as a boy I see
him with gray whiskers and spectacles, just as he looks in Sunday school,
only small. Now, it's so easy to imagine Mrs. Allan as a little girl. Mrs.
Allan has been to see me fourteen times. Isn't that something to be proud
of, Marilla? When a minister's wife has so many claims on her time! She is
such a cheerful person to have visit you, too. She never tells you it's
your own fault and she hopes you'll be a better girl on account of it.
Mrs. Lynde always told me that when she came to see me; and she said it in
a kind of way that made me feel she might hope I'd be a better girl but
didn't really believe I would. Even Josie Pye came to see me. I received
her as politely as I could, because I think she was sorry she dared me to
walk a ridgepole. If I had been killed she would had to carry a dark
burden of remorse all her life. Diana has been a faithful friend. She's
been over every day to cheer my lonely pillow. But oh, I shall be so glad
when I can go to school for I've heard such exciting things about the new
teacher. The girls all think she is perfectly sweet. Diana says she has
the loveliest fair curly hair and such fascinating eyes. She dresses
beautifully, and her sleeve puffs are bigger than anybody else's in
Avonlea. Every other Friday afternoon she has recitations and everybody
has to say a piece or take part in a dialogue. Oh, it's just glorious to
think of it. Josie Pye says she hates it but that is just because Josie
has so little imagination. Diana and Ruby Gillis and Jane Andrews are
preparing a dialogue, called 'A Morning Visit,' for next Friday. And the
Friday afternoons they don't have recitations Miss Stacy takes them all to
the woods for a 'field' day and they study ferns and flowers and birds.
And they have physical culture exercises every morning and evening. Mrs.
Lynde says she never heard of such goings on and it all comes of having a
lady teacher. But I think it must be splendid and I believe I shall find
that Miss Stacy is a kindred spirit."


"There's one thing plain to be seen, Anne," said Marilla, "and that is
that your fall off the Barry roof hasn't injured your tongue at all."