Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXIX

Full text Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXIX

An Epoch in Anne's Life


ANNE was bringing
the cows home from the back pasture by way of Lover's Lane. It was a
September evening and all the gaps and clearings in the woods were brimmed
up with ruby sunset light. Here and there the lane was splashed with it,
but for the most part it was already quite shadowy beneath the maples, and
the spaces under the firs were filled with a clear violet dusk like airy
wine. The winds were out in their tops, and there is no sweeter music on
earth than that which the wind makes in the fir trees at evening.


The cows swung placidly down the lane, and Anne followed them dreamily,
repeating aloud the battle canto from Marmion—which had also
been part of their English course the preceding winter and which Miss
Stacy had made them learn off by heart—and exulting in its rushing
lines and the clash of spears in its imagery. When she came to the lines


she stopped in ecstasy to shut her eyes that she might the better fancy
herself one of that heroic ring. When she opened them again it was to
behold Diana coming through the gate that led into the Barry field and
looking so important that Anne instantly divined there was news to be
told. But betray too eager curiosity she would not.


"Isn't this evening just like a purple dream, Diana? It makes me so glad
to be alive. In the mornings I always think the mornings are best; but
when evening comes I think it's lovelier still."


"It's a very fine evening," said Diana, "but oh, I have such news, Anne.
Guess. You can have three guesses."


"Charlotte Gillis is going to be married in the church after all and Mrs.
Allan wants us to decorate it," cried Anne.


"No. Charlotte's beau won't agree to that, because nobody ever has been
married in the church yet, and he thinks it would seem too much like a
funeral. It's too mean, because it would be such fun. Guess again."


"Jane's mother is going to let her have a birthday party?"


Diana shook her head, her black eyes dancing with merriment.


"I can't think what it can be," said Anne in despair, "unless it's that
Moody Spurgeon MacPherson saw you home from prayer meeting last night. Did
he?"


"I should think not," exclaimed Diana indignantly. "I wouldn't be likely
to boast of it if he did, the horrid creature! I knew you couldn't guess
it. Mother had a letter from Aunt Josephine today, and Aunt Josephine
wants you and me to go to town next Tuesday and stop with her for the
Exhibition. There!"


"Oh, Diana," whispered Anne, finding it necessary to lean up against a
maple tree for support, "do you really mean it? But I'm afraid Marilla
won't let me go. She will say that she can't encourage gadding about. That
was what she said last week when Jane invited me to go with them in their
double-seated buggy to the American concert at the White Sands Hotel. I
wanted to go, but Marilla said I'd be better at home learning my lessons
and so would Jane. I was bitterly disappointed, Diana. I felt so
heartbroken that I wouldn't say my prayers when I went to bed. But I
repented of that and got up in the middle of the night and said them."


"I'll tell you," said Diana, "we'll get Mother to ask Marilla. She'll be
more likely to let you go then; and if she does we'll have the time of our
lives, Anne. I've never been to an Exhibition, and it's so aggravating to
hear the other girls talking about their trips. Jane and Ruby have been
twice, and they're going this year again."


"I'm not going to think about it at all until I know whether I can go or
not," said Anne resolutely. "If I did and then was disappointed, it would
be more than I could bear. But in case I do go I'm very glad my new coat
will be ready by that time. Marilla didn't think I needed a new coat. She
said my old one would do very well for another winter and that I ought to
be satisfied with having a new dress. The dress is very pretty, Diana—navy
blue and made so fashionably. Marilla always makes my dresses fashionably
now, because she says she doesn't intend to have Matthew going to Mrs.
Lynde to make them. I'm so glad. It is ever so much easier to be good if
your clothes are fashionable. At least, it is easier for me. I suppose it
doesn't make such a difference to naturally good people. But Matthew said
I must have a new coat, so Marilla bought a lovely piece of blue
broadcloth, and it's being made by a real dressmaker over at Carmody. It's
to be done Saturday night, and I'm trying not to imagine myself walking up
the church aisle on Sunday in my new suit and cap, because I'm afraid it
isn't right to imagine such things. But it just slips into my mind in
spite of me. My cap is so pretty. Matthew bought it for me the day we were
over at Carmody. It is one of those little blue velvet ones that are all
the rage, with gold cord and tassels. Your new hat is elegant, Diana, and
so becoming. When I saw you come into church last Sunday my heart swelled
with pride to think you were my dearest friend. Do you suppose it's wrong
for us to think so much about our clothes? Marilla says it is very sinful.
But it is such an interesting subject, isn't it?"


Marilla agreed to let Anne go to town, and it was arranged that Mr. Barry
should take the girls in on the following Tuesday. As Charlottetown was
thirty miles away and Mr. Barry wished to go and return the same day, it
was necessary to make a very early start. But Anne counted it all joy, and
was up before sunrise on Tuesday morning. A glance from her window assured
her that the day would be fine, for the eastern sky behind the firs of the
Haunted Wood was all silvery and cloudless. Through the gap in the trees a
light was shining in the western gable of Orchard Slope, a token that
Diana was also up.


Anne was dressed by the time Matthew had the fire on and had the breakfast
ready when Marilla came down, but for her own part was much too excited to
eat. After breakfast the jaunty new cap and jacket were donned, and Anne
hastened over the brook and up through the firs to Orchard Slope. Mr.
Barry and Diana were waiting for her, and they were soon on the road.


It was a long drive, but Anne and Diana enjoyed every minute of it. It was
delightful to rattle along over the moist roads in the early red sunlight
that was creeping across the shorn harvest fields. The air was fresh and
crisp, and little smoke-blue mists curled through the valleys and floated
off from the hills. Sometimes the road went through woods where maples
were beginning to hang out scarlet banners; sometimes it crossed rivers on
bridges that made Anne's flesh cringe with the old, half-delightful fear;
sometimes it wound along a harbor shore and passed by a little cluster of
weather-gray fishing huts; again it mounted to hills whence a far sweep of
curving upland or misty-blue sky could be seen; but wherever it went there
was much of interest to discuss. It was almost noon when they reached town
and found their way to "Beechwood." It was quite a fine old mansion, set
back from the street in a seclusion of green elms and branching beeches.
Miss Barry met them at the door with a twinkle in her sharp black eyes.


"So you've come to see me at last, you Anne-girl," she said. "Mercy,
child, how you have grown! You're taller than I am, I declare. And you're
ever so much better looking than you used to be, too. But I dare say you
know that without being told."


"Indeed I didn't," said Anne radiantly. "I know I'm not so freckled as I
used to be, so I've much to be thankful for, but I really hadn't dared to
hope there was any other improvement. I'm so glad you think there is, Miss
Barry." Miss Barry's house was furnished with "great magnificence," as
Anne told Marilla afterward. The two little country girls were rather
abashed by the splendor of the parlor where Miss Barry left them when she
went to see about dinner.


"Isn't it just like a palace?" whispered Diana. "I never was in Aunt
Josephine's house before, and I'd no idea it was so grand. I just wish
Julia Bell could see this—she puts on such airs about her mother's
parlor."


"Velvet carpet," sighed Anne luxuriously, "and silk curtains! I've dreamed
of such things, Diana. But do you know I don't believe I feel very
comfortable with them after all. There are so many things in this room and
all so splendid that there is no scope for imagination. That is one
consolation when you are poor—there are so many more things you can
imagine about."


Their sojourn in town was something that Anne and Diana dated from for
years. From first to last it was crowded with delights.


On Wednesday Miss Barry took them to the Exhibition grounds and kept them
there all day.


"It was splendid," Anne related to Marilla later on. "I never imagined
anything so interesting. I don't really know which department was the most
interesting. I think I liked the horses and the flowers and the fancywork
best. Josie Pye took first prize for knitted lace. I was real glad she
did. And I was glad that I felt glad, for it shows I'm improving, don't
you think, Marilla, when I can rejoice in Josie's success? Mr. Harmon
Andrews took second prize for Gravenstein apples and Mr. Bell took first
prize for a pig. Diana said she thought it was ridiculous for a
Sunday-school superintendent to take a prize in pigs, but I don't see why.
Do you? She said she would always think of it after this when he was
praying so solemnly. Clara Louise MacPherson took a prize for painting,
and Mrs. Lynde got first prize for homemade butter and cheese. So Avonlea
was pretty well represented, wasn't it? Mrs. Lynde was there that day, and
I never knew how much I really liked her until I saw her familiar face
among all those strangers. There were thousands of people there, Marilla.
It made me feel dreadfully insignificant. And Miss Barry took us up to the
grandstand to see the horse races. Mrs. Lynde wouldn't go; she said horse
racing was an abomination and, she being a church member, thought it her
bounden duty to set a good example by staying away. But there were so many
there I don't believe Mrs. Lynde's absence would ever be noticed. I don't
think, though, that I ought to go very often to horse races, because they
are awfully fascinating. Diana got so excited that she offered to
bet me ten cents that the red horse would win. I didn't believe he would,
but I refused to bet, because I wanted to tell Mrs. Allan all about
everything, and I felt sure it wouldn't do to tell her that. It's always
wrong to do anything you can't tell the minister's wife. It's as good as
an extra conscience to have a minister's wife for your friend. And I was
very glad I didn't bet, because the red horse did win, and I would
have lost ten cents. So you see that virtue was its own reward. We saw a
man go up in a balloon. I'd love to go up in a balloon, Marilla; it would
be simply thrilling; and we saw a man selling fortunes. You paid him ten
cents and a little bird picked out your fortune for you. Miss Barry gave
Diana and me ten cents each to have our fortunes told. Mine was that I
would marry a dark-complected man who was very wealthy, and I would go
across water to live. I looked carefully at all the dark men I saw after
that, but I didn't care much for any of them, and anyhow I suppose it's
too early to be looking out for him yet. Oh, it was a
never-to-be-forgotten day, Marilla. I was so tired I couldn't sleep at
night. Miss Barry put us in the spare room, according to promise. It was
an elegant room, Marilla, but somehow sleeping in a spare room isn't what
I used to think it was. That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning
to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't
seem half so wonderful to you when you get them."


Thursday the girls had a drive in the park, and in the evening Miss Barry
took them to a concert in the Academy of Music, where a noted prima donna
was to sing. To Anne the evening was a glittering vision of delight.


"Oh, Marilla, it was beyond description. I was so excited I couldn't even
talk, so you may know what it was like. I just sat in enraptured silence.
Madame Selitsky was perfectly beautiful, and wore white satin and
diamonds. But when she began to sing I never thought about anything else.
Oh, I can't tell you how I felt. But it seemed to me that it could never
be hard to be good any more. I felt like I do when I look up to the stars.
Tears came into my eyes, but, oh, they were such happy tears. I was so
sorry when it was all over, and I told Miss Barry I didn't see how I was
ever to return to common life again. She said she thought if we went over
to the restaurant across the street and had an ice cream it might help me.
That sounded so prosaic; but to my surprise I found it true. The ice cream
was delicious, Marilla, and it was so lovely and dissipated to be sitting
there eating it at eleven o'clock at night. Diana said she believed she
was born for city life. Miss Barry asked me what my opinion was, but I
said I would have to think it over very seriously before I could tell her
what I really thought. So I thought it over after I went to bed. That is
the best time to think things out. And I came to the conclusion, Marilla,
that I wasn't born for city life and that I was glad of it. It's nice to
be eating ice cream at brilliant restaurants at eleven o'clock at night
once in a while; but as a regular thing I'd rather be in the east gable at
eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars
were shining outside and that the wind was blowing in the firs across the
brook. I told Miss Barry so at breakfast the next morning and she laughed.
Miss Barry generally laughed at anything I said, even when I said the most
solemn things. I don't think I liked it, Marilla, because I wasn't trying
to be funny. But she is a most hospitable lady and treated us royally."


Friday brought going-home time, and Mr. Barry drove in for the girls.


"Well, I hope you've enjoyed yourselves," said Miss Barry, as she bade
them good-bye.


"Indeed we have," said Diana.


"And you, Anne-girl?"


"I've enjoyed every minute of the time," said Anne, throwing her arms
impulsively about the old woman's neck and kissing her wrinkled cheek.
Diana would never have dared to do such a thing and felt rather aghast at
Anne's freedom. But Miss Barry was pleased, and she stood on her veranda
and watched the buggy out of sight. Then she went back into her big house
with a sigh. It seemed very lonely, lacking those fresh young lives. Miss
Barry was a rather selfish old lady, if the truth must be told, and had
never cared much for anybody but herself. She valued people only as they
were of service to her or amused her. Anne had amused her, and
consequently stood high in the old lady's good graces. But Miss Barry
found herself thinking less about Anne's quaint speeches than of her fresh
enthusiasms, her transparent emotions, her little winning ways, and the
sweetness of her eyes and lips.


"I thought Marilla Cuthbert was an old fool when I heard she'd adopted a
girl out of an orphan asylum," she said to herself, "but I guess she
didn't make much of a mistake after all. If I'd a child like Anne in the
house all the time I'd be a better and happier woman."


Anne and Diana found the drive home as pleasant as the drive in—pleasanter,
indeed, since there was the delightful consciousness of home waiting at
the end of it. It was sunset when they passed through White Sands and
turned into the shore road. Beyond, the Avonlea hills came out darkly
against the saffron sky. Behind them the moon was rising out of the sea
that grew all radiant and transfigured in her light. Every little cove
along the curving road was a marvel of dancing ripples. The waves broke
with a soft swish on the rocks below them, and the tang of the sea was in
the strong, fresh air.


"Oh, but it's good to be alive and to be going home," breathed Anne.


When she crossed the log bridge over the brook the kitchen light of Green
Gables winked her a friendly welcome back, and through the open door shone
the hearth fire, sending out its warm red glow athwart the chilly autumn
night. Anne ran blithely up the hill and into the kitchen, where a hot
supper was waiting on the table.


"So you've got back?" said Marilla, folding up her knitting.


"Yes, and oh, it's so good to be back," said Anne joyously. "I could kiss
everything, even to the clock. Marilla, a broiled chicken! You don't mean
to say you cooked that for me!"


"Yes, I did," said Marilla. "I thought you'd be hungry after such a drive
and need something real appetizing. Hurry and take off your things, and
we'll have supper as soon as Matthew comes in. I'm glad you've got back, I
must say. It's been fearful lonesome here without you, and I never put in
four longer days."


After supper Anne sat before the fire between Matthew and Marilla, and
gave them a full account of her visit.


"I've had a splendid time," she concluded happily, "and I feel that it
marks an epoch in my life. But the best of it all was the coming home."