Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXVII

Full text Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVII

Vanity and Vexation of Spirit


Marilla, walking home one late April evening from an Aid meeting, realized
that the winter was over and gone with the thrill of delight that spring
never fails to bring to the oldest and saddest as well as to the youngest
and merriest. Marilla was not given to subjective analysis of her thoughts
and feelings. She probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids
and their missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under
these reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking
into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir
shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still, crimson-budded
maples around a mirrorlike wood pool, of a wakening in the world and a
stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod. The spring was abroad in the
land and Marilla's sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because
of its deep, primal gladness.


Her eyes dwelt affectionately on Green Gables, peering through its network
of trees and reflecting the sunlight back from its windows in several
little coruscations of glory. Marilla, as she picked her steps along the
damp lane, thought that it was really a satisfaction to know that she was
going home to a briskly snapping wood fire and a table nicely spread for
tea, instead of to the cold comfort of old Aid meeting evenings before
Anne had come to Green Gables.


Consequently, when Marilla entered her kitchen and found the fire black
out, with no sign of Anne anywhere, she felt justly disappointed and
irritated. She had told Anne to be sure and have tea ready at five
o'clock, but now she must hurry to take off her second-best dress and
prepare the meal herself against Matthew's return from plowing.


"I'll settle Miss Anne when she comes home," said Marilla grimly, as she
shaved up kindlings with a carving knife and with more vim than was
strictly necessary. Matthew had come in and was waiting patiently for his
tea in his corner. "She's gadding off somewhere with Diana, writing
stories or practicing dialogues or some such tomfoolery, and never
thinking once about the time or her duties. She's just got to be pulled up
short and sudden on this sort of thing. I don't care if Mrs. Allan does
say she's the brightest and sweetest child she ever knew. She may be
bright and sweet enough, but her head is full of nonsense and there's
never any knowing what shape it'll break out in next. Just as soon as she
grows out of one freak she takes up with another. But there! Here I am
saying the very thing I was so riled with Rachel Lynde for saying at the
Aid today. I was real glad when Mrs. Allan spoke up for Anne, for if she
hadn't I know I'd have said something too sharp to Rachel before
everybody. Anne's got plenty of faults, goodness knows, and far be it from
me to deny it. But I'm bringing her up and not Rachel Lynde, who'd pick
faults in the Angel Gabriel himself if he lived in Avonlea. Just the same,
Anne has no business to leave the house like this when I told her she was
to stay home this afternoon and look after things. I must say, with all
her faults, I never found her disobedient or untrustworthy before and I'm
real sorry to find her so now."


"Well now, I dunno," said Matthew, who, being patient and wise and, above
all, hungry, had deemed it best to let Marilla talk her wrath out
unhindered, having learned by experience that she got through with
whatever work was on hand much quicker if not delayed by untimely
argument. "Perhaps you're judging her too hasty, Marilla. Don't call her
untrustworthy until you're sure she has disobeyed you. Mebbe it can all be
explained—Anne's a great hand at explaining."


"She's not here when I told her to stay," retorted Marilla. "I reckon
she'll find it hard to explain that to my satisfaction. Of course I
knew you'd take her part, Matthew. But I'm bringing her up, not you."


It was dark when supper was ready, and still no sign of Anne, coming
hurriedly over the log bridge or up Lover's Lane, breathless and repentant
with a sense of neglected duties. Marilla washed and put away the dishes
grimly. Then, wanting a candle to light her way down the cellar, she went
up to the east gable for the one that generally stood on Anne's table.
Lighting it, she turned around to see Anne herself lying on the bed, face
downward among the pillows.


"Mercy on us," said astonished Marilla, "have you been asleep, Anne?"


"No," was the muffled reply.


"Are you sick then?" demanded Marilla anxiously, going over to the bed.


Anne cowered deeper into her pillows as if desirous of hiding herself
forever from mortal eyes.


"No. But please, Marilla, go away and don't look at me. I'm in the depths
of despair and I don't care who gets head in class or writes the best
composition or sings in the Sunday-school choir any more. Little things
like that are of no importance now because I don't suppose I'll ever be
able to go anywhere again. My career is closed. Please, Marilla, go away
and don't look at me."


"Did anyone ever hear the like?" the mystified Marilla wanted to know.
"Anne Shirley, whatever is the matter with you? What have you done? Get
right up this minute and tell me. This minute, I say. There now, what is
it?"


Anne had slid to the floor in despairing obedience.


"Look at my hair, Marilla," she whispered.


Accordingly, Marilla lifted her candle and looked scrutinizingly at Anne's
hair, flowing in heavy masses down her back. It certainly had a very
strange appearance.


"Anne Shirley, what have you done to your hair? Why, it's green!"


Green it might be called, if it were any earthly color—a queer,
dull, bronzy green, with streaks here and there of the original red to
heighten the ghastly effect. Never in all her life had Marilla seen
anything so grotesque as Anne's hair at that moment.


"Yes, it's green," moaned Anne. "I thought nothing could be as bad as red
hair. But now I know it's ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla,
you little know how utterly wretched I am."


"I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find out," said
Marilla. "Come right down to the kitchen—it's too cold up here—and
tell me just what you've done. I've been expecting something queer for
some time. You haven't got into any scrape for over two months, and I was
sure another one was due. Now, then, what did you do to your hair?"


"I dyed it."


"Dyed it! Dyed your hair! Anne Shirley, didn't you know it was a wicked
thing to do?"


"Yes, I knew it was a little wicked," admitted Anne. "But I thought it was
worth while to be a little wicked to get rid of red hair. I counted the
cost, Marilla. Besides, I meant to be extra good in other ways to make up
for it."


"Well," said Marilla sarcastically, "if I'd decided it was worth while to
dye my hair I'd have dyed it a decent color at least. I wouldn't have dyed
it green."


"But I didn't mean to dye it green, Marilla," protested Anne dejectedly.
"If I was wicked I meant to be wicked to some purpose. He said it would
turn my hair a beautiful raven black—he positively assured me that
it would. How could I doubt his word, Marilla? I know what it feels like
to have your word doubted. And Mrs. Allan says we should never suspect
anyone of not telling us the truth unless we have proof that they're not.
I have proof now—green hair is proof enough for anybody. But I
hadn't then and I believed every word he said implicitly."


"Who said? Who are you talking about?"


"The peddler that was here this afternoon. I bought the dye from him."


"Anne Shirley, how often have I told you never to let one of those
Italians in the house! I don't believe in encouraging them to come around
at all."


"Oh, I didn't let him in the house. I remembered what you told me, and I
went out, carefully shut the door, and looked at his things on the step.
Besides, he wasn't an Italian—he was a German Jew. He had a big box
full of very interesting things and he told me he was working hard to make
enough money to bring his wife and children out from Germany. He spoke so
feelingly about them that it touched my heart. I wanted to buy something
from him to help him in such a worthy object. Then all at once I saw the
bottle of hair dye. The peddler said it was warranted to dye any hair a
beautiful raven black and wouldn't wash off. In a trice I saw myself with
beautiful raven-black hair and the temptation was irresistible. But the
price of the bottle was seventy-five cents and I had only fifty cents left
out of my chicken money. I think the peddler had a very kind heart, for he
said that, seeing it was me, he'd sell it for fifty cents and that was
just giving it away. So I bought it, and as soon as he had gone I came up
here and applied it with an old hairbrush as the directions said. I used
up the whole bottle, and oh, Marilla, when I saw the dreadful color it
turned my hair I repented of being wicked, I can tell you. And I've been
repenting ever since."


"Well, I hope you'll repent to good purpose," said Marilla severely, "and
that you've got your eyes opened to where your vanity has led you, Anne.
Goodness knows what's to be done. I suppose the first thing is to give
your hair a good washing and see if that will do any good."


Accordingly, Anne washed her hair, scrubbing it vigorously with soap and
water, but for all the difference it made she might as well have been
scouring its original red. The peddler had certainly spoken the truth when
he declared that the dye wouldn't wash off, however his veracity might be
impeached in other respects.


"Oh, Marilla, what shall I do?" questioned Anne in tears. "I can never
live this down. People have pretty well forgotten my other mistakes—the
liniment cake and setting Diana drunk and flying into a temper with Mrs.
Lynde. But they'll never forget this. They will think I am not
respectable. Oh, Marilla, 'what a tangled web we weave when first we
practice to deceive.' That is poetry, but it is true. And oh, how Josie
Pye will laugh! Marilla, I cannot face Josie Pye. I am the
unhappiest girl in Prince Edward Island."


Anne's unhappiness continued for a week. During that time she went nowhere
and shampooed her hair every day. Diana alone of outsiders knew the fatal
secret, but she promised solemnly never to tell, and it may be stated here
and now that she kept her word. At the end of the week Marilla said
decidedly:


"It's no use, Anne. That is fast dye if ever there was any. Your hair must
be cut off; there is no other way. You can't go out with it looking like
that."


Anne's lips quivered, but she realized the bitter truth of Marilla's
remarks. With a dismal sigh she went for the scissors.


"Please cut it off at once, Marilla, and have it over. Oh, I feel that my
heart is broken. This is such an unromantic affliction. The girls in books
lose their hair in fevers or sell it to get money for some good deed, and
I'm sure I wouldn't mind losing my hair in some such fashion half so much.
But there is nothing comforting in having your hair cut off because you've
dyed it a dreadful color, is there? I'm going to weep all the time you're
cutting it off, if it won't interfere. It seems such a tragic thing."


Anne wept then, but later on, when she went upstairs and looked in the
glass, she was calm with despair. Marilla had done her work thoroughly and
it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely as possible. The
result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly as may be. Anne
promptly turned her glass to the wall.


"I'll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows," she
exclaimed passionately.


Then she suddenly righted the glass.


"Yes, I will, too. I'd do penance for being wicked that way. I'll look at
myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am. And I won't try
to imagine it away, either. I never thought I was vain about my hair, of
all things, but now I know I was, in spite of its being red, because it
was so long and thick and curly. I expect something will happen to my nose
next."


Anne's clipped head made a sensation in school on the following Monday,
but to her relief nobody guessed the real reason for it, not even Josie
Pye, who, however, did not fail to inform Anne that she looked like a
perfect scarecrow.


"I didn't say anything when Josie said that to me," Anne confided that
evening to Marilla, who was lying on the sofa after one of her headaches,
"because I thought it was part of my punishment and I ought to bear it
patiently. It's hard to be told you look like a scarecrow and I wanted to
say something back. But I didn't. I just swept her one scornful look and
then I forgave her. It makes you feel very virtuous when you forgive
people, doesn't it? I mean to devote all my energies to being good after
this and I shall never try to be beautiful again. Of course it's better to
be good. I know it is, but it's sometimes so hard to believe a thing even
when you know it. I do really want to be good, Marilla, like you and Mrs.
Allan and Miss Stacy, and grow up to be a credit to you. Diana says when
my hair begins to grow to tie a black velvet ribbon around my head with a
bow at one side. She says she thinks it will be very becoming. I will call
it a snood—that sounds so romantic. But am I talking too much,
Marilla? Does it hurt your head?"


"My head is better now. It was terrible bad this afternoon, though. These
headaches of mine are getting worse and worse. I'll have to see a doctor
about them. As for your chatter, I don't know that I mind it—I've
got so used to it."


Which was Marilla's way of saying that she liked to hear it.