Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXVI

Full text Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVI

The Story Club is Formed


JUNIOR Avonlea
found it hard to settle down to humdrum existence again. To Anne in
particular things seemed fearfully flat, stale, and unprofitable after the
goblet of excitement she had been sipping for weeks. Could she go back to
the former quiet pleasures of those faraway days before the concert? At
first, as she told Diana, she did not really think she could.


"I'm positively certain, Diana, that life can never be quite the same
again as it was in those olden days," she said mournfully, as if referring
to a period of at least fifty years back. "Perhaps after a while I'll get
used to it, but I'm afraid concerts spoil people for everyday life. I
suppose that is why Marilla disapproves of them. Marilla is such a
sensible woman. It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still,
I don't believe I'd really want to be a sensible person, because they are
so unromantic. Mrs. Lynde says there is no danger of my ever being one,
but you can never tell. I feel just now that I may grow up to be sensible
yet. But perhaps that is only because I'm tired. I simply couldn't sleep
last night for ever so long. I just lay awake and imagined the concert
over and over again. That's one splendid thing about such affairs—it's
so lovely to look back to them."


Eventually, however, Avonlea school slipped back into its old groove and
took up its old interests. To be sure, the concert left traces. Ruby
Gillis and Emma White, who had quarreled over a point of precedence in
their platform seats, no longer sat at the same desk, and a promising
friendship of three years was broken up. Josie Pye and Julia Bell did not
"speak" for three months, because Josie Pye had told Bessie Wright that
Julia Bell's bow when she got up to recite made her think of a chicken
jerking its head, and Bessie told Julia. None of the Sloanes would have
any dealings with the Bells, because the Bells had declared that the
Sloanes had too much to do in the program, and the Sloanes had retorted
that the Bells were not capable of doing the little they had to do
properly. Finally, Charlie Sloane fought Moody Spurgeon MacPherson,
because Moody Spurgeon had said that Anne Shirley put on airs about her
recitations, and Moody Spurgeon was "licked"; consequently Moody
Spurgeon's sister, Ella May, would not "speak" to Anne Shirley all the
rest of the winter. With the exception of these trifling frictions, work
in Miss Stacy's little kingdom went on with regularity and smoothness.


The winter weeks slipped by. It was an unusually mild winter, with so
little snow that Anne and Diana could go to school nearly every day by way
of the Birch Path. On Anne's birthday they were tripping lightly down it,
keeping eyes and ears alert amid all their chatter, for Miss Stacy had
told them that they must soon write a composition on "A Winter's Walk in
the Woods," and it behooved them to be observant.


"Just think, Diana, I'm thirteen years old today," remarked Anne in an
awed voice. "I can scarcely realize that I'm in my teens. When I woke this
morning it seemed to me that everything must be different. You've been
thirteen for a month, so I suppose it doesn't seem such a novelty to you
as it does to me. It makes life seem so much more interesting. In two more
years I'll be really grown up. It's a great comfort to think that I'll be
able to use big words then without being laughed at."


"Ruby Gillis says she means to have a beau as soon as she's fifteen," said
Diana.


"Ruby Gillis thinks of nothing but beaus," said Anne disdainfully. "She's
actually delighted when anyone writes her name up in a take-notice for all
she pretends to be so mad. But I'm afraid that is an uncharitable speech.
Mrs. Allan says we should never make uncharitable speeches; but they do
slip out so often before you think, don't they? I simply can't talk about
Josie Pye without making an uncharitable speech, so I never mention her at
all. You may have noticed that. I'm trying to be as much like Mrs. Allan
as I possibly can, for I think she's perfect. Mr. Allan thinks so too.
Mrs. Lynde says he just worships the ground she treads on and she doesn't
really think it right for a minister to set his affections so much on a
mortal being. But then, Diana, even ministers are human and have their
besetting sins just like everybody else. I had such an interesting talk
with Mrs. Allan about besetting sins last Sunday afternoon. There are just
a few things it's proper to talk about on Sundays and that is one of them.
My besetting sin is imagining too much and forgetting my duties. I'm
striving very hard to overcome it and now that I'm really thirteen perhaps
I'll get on better."


"In four more years we'll be able to put our hair up," said Diana. "Alice
Bell is only sixteen and she is wearing hers up, but I think that's
ridiculous. I shall wait until I'm seventeen."


"If I had Alice Bell's crooked nose," said Anne decidedly, "I wouldn't—but
there! I won't say what I was going to because it was extremely
uncharitable. Besides, I was comparing it with my own nose and that's
vanity. I'm afraid I think too much about my nose ever since I heard that
compliment about it long ago. It really is a great comfort to me. Oh,
Diana, look, there's a rabbit. That's something to remember for our woods
composition. I really think the woods are just as lovely in winter as in
summer. They're so white and still, as if they were asleep and dreaming
pretty dreams."


"I won't mind writing that composition when its time comes," sighed Diana.
"I can manage to write about the woods, but the one we're to hand in
Monday is terrible. The idea of Miss Stacy telling us to write a story out
of our own heads!"


"Why, it's as easy as wink," said Anne.


"It's easy for you because you have an imagination," retorted Diana, "but
what would you do if you had been born without one? I suppose you have
your composition all done?"


Anne nodded, trying hard not to look virtuously complacent and failing
miserably.


"I wrote it last Monday evening. It's called 'The Jealous Rival; or In
Death Not Divided.' I read it to Marilla and she said it was stuff and
nonsense. Then I read it to Matthew and he said it was fine. That is the
kind of critic I like. It's a sad, sweet story. I just cried like a child
while I was writing it. It's about two beautiful maidens called Cordelia
Montmorency and Geraldine Seymour who lived in the same village and were
devotedly attached to each other. Cordelia was a regal brunette with a
coronet of midnight hair and duskly flashing eyes. Geraldine was a queenly
blonde with hair like spun gold and velvety purple eyes."


"I never saw anybody with purple eyes," said Diana dubiously.


"Neither did I. I just imagined them. I wanted something out of the
common. Geraldine had an alabaster brow too. I've found out what an
alabaster brow is. That is one of the advantages of being thirteen. You
know so much more than you did when you were only twelve."


"Well, what became of Cordelia and Geraldine?" asked Diana, who was
beginning to feel rather interested in their fate.


"They grew in beauty side by side until they were sixteen. Then Bertram
DeVere came to their native village and fell in love with the fair
Geraldine. He saved her life when her horse ran away with her in a
carriage, and she fainted in his arms and he carried her home three miles;
because, you understand, the carriage was all smashed up. I found it
rather hard to imagine the proposal because I had no experience to go by.
I asked Ruby Gillis if she knew anything about how men proposed because I
thought she'd likely be an authority on the subject, having so many
sisters married. Ruby told me she was hid in the hall pantry when Malcolm
Andres proposed to her sister Susan. She said Malcolm told Susan that his
dad had given him the farm in his own name and then said, 'What do you
say, darling pet, if we get hitched this fall?' And Susan said, 'Yes—no—I
don't know—let me see'—and there they were, engaged as quick
as that. But I didn't think that sort of a proposal was a very romantic
one, so in the end I had to imagine it out as well as I could. I made it
very flowery and poetical and Bertram went on his knees, although Ruby
Gillis says it isn't done nowadays. Geraldine accepted him in a speech a
page long. I can tell you I took a lot of trouble with that speech. I
rewrote it five times and I look upon it as my masterpiece. Bertram gave
her a diamond ring and a ruby necklace and told her they would go to
Europe for a wedding tour, for he was immensely wealthy. But then, alas,
shadows began to darken over their path. Cordelia was secretly in love
with Bertram herself and when Geraldine told her about the engagement she
was simply furious, especially when she saw the necklace and the diamond
ring. All her affection for Geraldine turned to bitter hate and she vowed
that she should never marry Bertram. But she pretended to be Geraldine's
friend the same as ever. One evening they were standing on the bridge over
a rushing turbulent stream and Cordelia, thinking they were alone, pushed
Geraldine over the brink with a wild, mocking, 'Ha, ha, ha.' But Bertram
saw it all and he at once plunged into the current, exclaiming, 'I will
save thee, my peerless Geraldine.' But alas, he had forgotten he couldn't
swim, and they were both drowned, clasped in each other's arms. Their
bodies were washed ashore soon afterwards. They were buried in the one
grave and their funeral was most imposing, Diana. It's so much more
romantic to end a story up with a funeral than a wedding. As for Cordelia,
she went insane with remorse and was shut up in a lunatic asylum. I
thought that was a poetical retribution for her crime."


"How perfectly lovely!" sighed Diana, who belonged to Matthew's school of
critics. "I don't see how you can make up such thrilling things out of
your own head, Anne. I wish my imagination was as good as yours."


"It would be if you'd only cultivate it," said Anne cheeringly. "I've just
thought of a plan, Diana. Let you and me have a story club all our own and
write stories for practice. I'll help you along until you can do them by
yourself. You ought to cultivate your imagination, you know. Miss Stacy
says so. Only we must take the right way. I told her about the Haunted
Wood, but she said we went the wrong way about it in that."


This was how the story club came into existence. It was limited to Diana
and Anne at first, but soon it was extended to include Jane Andrews and
Ruby Gillis and one or two others who felt that their imaginations needed
cultivating. No boys were allowed in it—although Ruby Gillis opined
that their admission would make it more exciting—and each member had
to produce one story a week.


"It's extremely interesting," Anne told Marilla. "Each girl has to read
her story out loud and then we talk it over. We are going to keep them all
sacredly and have them to read to our descendants. We each write under a
nom-de-plume. Mine is Rosamond Montmorency. All the girls do pretty well.
Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much lovemaking into her
stories and you know too much is worse than too little. Jane never puts
any because she says it makes her feel so silly when she had to read it
out loud. Jane's stories are extremely sensible. Then Diana puts too many
murders into hers. She says most of the time she doesn't know what to do
with the people so she kills them off to get rid of them. I mostly always
have to tell them what to write about, but that isn't hard for I've
millions of ideas."


"I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet," scoffed
Marilla. "You'll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time
that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but
writing them is worse."


"But we're so careful to put a moral into them all, Marilla," explained
Anne. "I insist upon that. All the good people are rewarded and all the
bad ones are suitably punished. I'm sure that must have a wholesome
effect. The moral is the great thing. Mr. Allan says so. I read one of my
stories to him and Mrs. Allan and they both agreed that the moral was
excellent. Only they laughed in the wrong places. I like it better when
people cry. Jane and Ruby almost always cry when I come to the pathetic
parts. Diana wrote her Aunt Josephine about our club and her Aunt
Josephine wrote back that we were to send her some of our stories. So we
copied out four of our very best and sent them. Miss Josephine Barry wrote
back that she had never read anything so amusing in her life. That kind of
puzzled us because the stories were all very pathetic and almost everybody
died. But I'm glad Miss Barry liked them. It shows our club is doing some
good in the world. Mrs. Allan says that ought to be our object in
everything. I do really try to make it my object but I forget so often
when I'm having fun. I hope I shall be a little like Mrs. Allan when I
grow up. Do you think there is any prospect of it, Marilla?"


"I shouldn't say there was a great deal" was Marilla's encouraging answer.
"I'm sure Mrs. Allan was never such a silly, forgetful little girl as you
are."


"No; but she wasn't always so good as she is now either," said Anne
seriously. "She told me so herself—that is, she said she was a
dreadful mischief when she was a girl and was always getting into scrapes.
I felt so encouraged when I heard that. Is it very wicked of me, Marilla,
to feel encouraged when I hear that other people have been bad and
mischievous? Mrs. Lynde says it is. Mrs. Lynde says she always feels
shocked when she hears of anyone ever having been naughty, no matter how
small they were. Mrs. Lynde says she once heard a minister confess that
when he was a boy he stole a strawberry tart out of his aunt's pantry and
she never had any respect for that minister again. Now, I wouldn't have
felt that way. I'd have thought that it was real noble of him to confess
it, and I'd have thought what an encouraging thing it would be for small
boys nowadays who do naughty things and are sorry for them to know that
perhaps they may grow up to be ministers in spite of it. That's how I'd
feel, Marilla."


"The way I feel at present, Anne," said Marilla, "is that it's high time
you had those dishes washed. You've taken half an hour longer than you
should with all your chattering. Learn to work first and talk afterwards."