Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXX

Full text Chapter XXX

Chapter XXX

The Queens Class is Organized


MARILLA laid her
knitting on her lap and leaned back in her chair. Her eyes were tired, and
she thought vaguely that she must see about having her glasses changed the
next time she went to town, for her eyes had grown tired very often of
late.


It was nearly dark, for the full November twilight had fallen around Green
Gables, and the only light in the kitchen came from the dancing red flames
in the stove.


Anne was curled up Turk-fashion on the hearthrug, gazing into that joyous
glow where the sunshine of a hundred summers was being distilled from the
maple cordwood. She had been reading, but her book had slipped to the
floor, and now she was dreaming, with a smile on her parted lips.
Glittering castles in Spain were shaping themselves out of the mists and
rainbows of her lively fancy; adventures wonderful and enthralling were
happening to her in cloudland—adventures that always turned out
triumphantly and never involved her in scrapes like those of actual life.


Marilla looked at her with a tenderness that would never have been
suffered to reveal itself in any clearer light than that soft mingling of
fireshine and shadow. The lesson of a love that should display itself
easily in spoken word and open look was one Marilla could never learn. But
she had learned to love this slim, gray-eyed girl with an affection all
the deeper and stronger from its very undemonstrativeness. Her love made
her afraid of being unduly indulgent, indeed. She had an uneasy feeling
that it was rather sinful to set one's heart so intensely on any human
creature as she had set hers on Anne, and perhaps she performed a sort of
unconscious penance for this by being stricter and more critical than if
the girl had been less dear to her. Certainly Anne herself had no idea how
Marilla loved her. She sometimes thought wistfully that Marilla was very
hard to please and distinctly lacking in sympathy and understanding. But
she always checked the thought reproachfully, remembering what she owed to
Marilla.


"Anne," said Marilla abruptly, "Miss Stacy was here this afternoon when
you were out with Diana."


Anne came back from her other world with a start and a sigh.


"Was she? Oh, I'm so sorry I wasn't in. Why didn't you call me, Marilla?
Diana and I were only over in the Haunted Wood. It's lovely in the woods
now. All the little wood things—the ferns and the satin leaves and
the crackerberries—have gone to sleep, just as if somebody had
tucked them away until spring under a blanket of leaves. I think it was a
little gray fairy with a rainbow scarf that came tiptoeing along the last
moonlight night and did it. Diana wouldn't say much about that, though.
Diana has never forgotten the scolding her mother gave her about imagining
ghosts into the Haunted Wood. It had a very bad effect on Diana's
imagination. It blighted it. Mrs. Lynde says Myrtle Bell is a blighted
being. I asked Ruby Gillis why Myrtle was blighted, and Ruby said she
guessed it was because her young man had gone back on her. Ruby Gillis
thinks of nothing but young men, and the older she gets the worse she is.
Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn't do to drag them
into everything, does it? Diana and I are thinking seriously of promising
each other that we will never marry but be nice old maids and live
together forever. Diana hasn't quite made up her mind though, because she
thinks perhaps it would be nobler to marry some wild, dashing, wicked
young man and reform him. Diana and I talk a great deal about serious
subjects now, you know. We feel that we are so much older than we used to
be that it isn't becoming to talk of childish matters. It's such a solemn
thing to be almost fourteen, Marilla. Miss Stacy took all us girls who are
in our teens down to the brook last Wednesday, and talked to us about it.
She said we couldn't be too careful what habits we formed and what ideals
we acquired in our teens, because by the time we were twenty our
characters would be developed and the foundation laid for our whole future
life. And she said if the foundation was shaky we could never build
anything really worth while on it. Diana and I talked the matter over
coming home from school. We felt extremely solemn, Marilla. And we decided
that we would try to be very careful indeed and form respectable habits
and learn all we could and be as sensible as possible, so that by the time
we were twenty our characters would be properly developed. It's perfectly
appalling to think of being twenty, Marilla. It sounds so fearfully old
and grown up. But why was Miss Stacy here this afternoon?"


"That is what I want to tell you, Anne, if you'll ever give me a chance to
get a word in edgewise. She was talking about you."


"About me?" Anne looked rather scared. Then she flushed and exclaimed:


"Oh, I know what she was saying. I meant to tell you, Marilla, honestly I
did, but I forgot. Miss Stacy caught me reading Ben Hur in school
yesterday afternoon when I should have been studying my Canadian history.
Jane Andrews lent it to me. I was reading it at dinner hour, and I had
just got to the chariot race when school went in. I was simply wild to
know how it turned out—although I felt sure Ben Hur must win,
because it wouldn't be poetical justice if he didn't—so I spread the
history open on my desk lid and then tucked Ben Hur between the desk and
my knee. I just looked as if I were studying Canadian history, you know,
while all the while I was reveling in Ben Hur. I was so interested in it
that I never noticed Miss Stacy coming down the aisle until all at once I
just looked up and there she was looking down at me, so reproachful-like.
I can't tell you how ashamed I felt, Marilla, especially when I heard
Josie Pye giggling. Miss Stacy took Ben Hur away, but she never said a
word then. She kept me in at recess and talked to me. She said I had done
very wrong in two respects. First, I was wasting the time I ought to have
put on my studies; and secondly, I was deceiving my teacher in trying to
make it appear I was reading a history when it was a storybook instead. I
had never realized until that moment, Marilla, that what I was doing was
deceitful. I was shocked. I cried bitterly, and asked Miss Stacy to
forgive me and I'd never do such a thing again; and I offered to do
penance by never so much as looking at Ben Hur for a whole week, not even
to see how the chariot race turned out. But Miss Stacy said she wouldn't
require that, and she forgave me freely. So I think it wasn't very kind of
her to come up here to you about it after all."


"Miss Stacy never mentioned such a thing to me, Anne, and its only your
guilty conscience that's the matter with you. You have no business to be
taking storybooks to school. You read too many novels anyhow. When I was a
girl I wasn't so much as allowed to look at a novel."


"Oh, how can you call Ben Hur a novel when it's really such a religious
book?" protested Anne. "Of course it's a little too exciting to be proper
reading for Sunday, and I only read it on weekdays. And I never read any
book now unless either Miss Stacy or Mrs. Allan thinks it is a proper book
for a girl thirteen and three-quarters to read. Miss Stacy made me promise
that. She found me reading a book one day called, The Lurid Mystery of the
Haunted Hall. It was one Ruby Gillis had lent me, and, oh, Marilla, it was
so fascinating and creepy. It just curdled the blood in my veins. But Miss
Stacy said it was a very silly, unwholesome book, and she asked me not to
read any more of it or any like it. I didn't mind promising not to read
any more like it, but it was agonizing to give back that book
without knowing how it turned out. But my love for Miss Stacy stood the
test and I did. It's really wonderful, Marilla, what you can do when
you're truly anxious to please a certain person."


"Well, I guess I'll light the lamp and get to work," said Marilla. "I see
plainly that you don't want to hear what Miss Stacy had to say. You're
more interested in the sound of your own tongue than in anything else."


"Oh, indeed, Marilla, I do want to hear it," cried Anne contritely. "I
won't say another word—not one. I know I talk too much, but I am
really trying to overcome it, and although I say far too much, yet if you
only knew how many things I want to say and don't, you'd give me some
credit for it. Please tell me, Marilla."


"Well, Miss Stacy wants to organize a class among her advanced students
who mean to study for the entrance examination into Queen's. She intends
to give them extra lessons for an hour after school. And she came to ask
Matthew and me if we would like to have you join it. What do you think
about it yourself, Anne? Would you like to go to Queen's and pass for a
teacher?"


"Oh, Marilla!" Anne straightened to her knees and clasped her hands. "It's
been the dream of my life—that is, for the last six months, ever
since Ruby and Jane began to talk of studying for the Entrance. But I
didn't say anything about it, because I supposed it would be perfectly
useless. I'd love to be a teacher. But won't it be dreadfully expensive?
Mr. Andrews says it cost him one hundred and fifty dollars to put Prissy
through, and Prissy wasn't a dunce in geometry."


"I guess you needn't worry about that part of it. When Matthew and I took
you to bring up we resolved we would do the best we could for you and give
you a good education. I believe in a girl being fitted to earn her own
living whether she ever has to or not. You'll always have a home at Green
Gables as long as Matthew and I are here, but nobody knows what is going
to happen in this uncertain world, and it's just as well to be prepared.
So you can join the Queen's class if you like, Anne."


"Oh, Marilla, thank you." Anne flung her arms about Marilla's waist and
looked up earnestly into her face. "I'm extremely grateful to you and
Matthew. And I'll study as hard as I can and do my very best to be a
credit to you. I warn you not to expect much in geometry, but I think I
can hold my own in anything else if I work hard."


"I dare say you'll get along well enough. Miss Stacy says you are bright
and diligent." Not for worlds would Marilla have told Anne just what Miss
Stacy had said about her; that would have been to pamper vanity. "You
needn't rush to any extreme of killing yourself over your books. There is
no hurry. You won't be ready to try the Entrance for a year and a half
yet. But it's well to begin in time and be thoroughly grounded, Miss Stacy
says."


"I shall take more interest than ever in my studies now," said Anne
blissfully, "because I have a purpose in life. Mr. Allan says everybody
should have a purpose in life and pursue it faithfully. Only he says we
must first make sure that it is a worthy purpose. I would call it a worthy
purpose to want to be a teacher like Miss Stacy, wouldn't you, Marilla? I
think it's a very noble profession."


The Queen's class was organized in due time. Gilbert Blythe, Anne Shirley,
Ruby Gillis, Jane Andrews, Josie Pye, Charlie Sloane, and Moody Spurgeon
MacPherson joined it. Diana Barry did not, as her parents did not intend
to send her to Queen's. This seemed nothing short of a calamity to Anne.
Never, since the night on which Minnie May had had the croup, had she and
Diana been separated in anything. On the evening when the Queen's class
first remained in school for the extra lessons and Anne saw Diana go
slowly out with the others, to walk home alone through the Birch Path and
Violet Vale, it was all the former could do to keep her seat and refrain
from rushing impulsively after her chum. A lump came into her throat, and
she hastily retired behind the pages of her uplifted Latin grammar to hide
the tears in her eyes. Not for worlds would Anne have had Gilbert Blythe
or Josie Pye see those tears.


"But, oh, Marilla, I really felt that I had tasted the bitterness of
death, as Mr. Allan said in his sermon last Sunday, when I saw Diana go
out alone," she said mournfully that night. "I thought how splendid it
would have been if Diana had only been going to study for the Entrance,
too. But we can't have things perfect in this imperfect world, as Mrs.
Lynde says. Mrs. Lynde isn't exactly a comforting person sometimes, but
there's no doubt she says a great many very true things. And I think the
Queen's class is going to be extremely interesting. Jane and Ruby are just
going to study to be teachers. That is the height of their ambition. Ruby
says she will only teach for two years after she gets through, and then
she intends to be married. Jane says she will devote her whole life to
teaching, and never, never marry, because you are paid a salary for
teaching, but a husband won't pay you anything, and growls if you ask for
a share in the egg and butter money. I expect Jane speaks from mournful
experience, for Mrs. Lynde says that her father is a perfect old crank,
and meaner than second skimmings. Josie Pye says she is just going to
college for education's sake, because she won't have to earn her own
living; she says of course it is different with orphans who are living on
charity—they have to hustle. Moody Spurgeon is going to be a
minister. Mrs. Lynde says he couldn't be anything else with a name like
that to live up to. I hope it isn't wicked of me, Marilla, but really the
thought of Moody Spurgeon being a minister makes me laugh. He's such a
funny-looking boy with that big fat face, and his little blue eyes, and
his ears sticking out like flaps. But perhaps he will be more intellectual
looking when he grows up. Charlie Sloane says he's going to go into
politics and be a member of Parliament, but Mrs. Lynde says he'll never
succeed at that, because the Sloanes are all honest people, and it's only
rascals that get on in politics nowadays."


"What is Gilbert Blythe going to be?" queried Marilla, seeing that Anne
was opening her Caesar.


"I don't happen to know what Gilbert Blythe's ambition in life is—if
he has any," said Anne scornfully.


There was open rivalry between Gilbert and Anne now. Previously the
rivalry had been rather one-sided, but there was no longer any doubt that
Gilbert was as determined to be first in class as Anne was. He was a
foeman worthy of her steel. The other members of the class tacitly
acknowledged their superiority, and never dreamed of trying to compete
with them.


Since the day by the pond when she had refused to listen to his plea for
forgiveness, Gilbert, save for the aforesaid determined rivalry, had
evinced no recognition whatever of the existence of Anne Shirley. He
talked and jested with the other girls, exchanged books and puzzles with
them, discussed lessons and plans, sometimes walked home with one or the
other of them from prayer meeting or Debating Club. But Anne Shirley he
simply ignored, and Anne found out that it is not pleasant to be ignored.
It was in vain that she told herself with a toss of her head that she did
not care. Deep down in her wayward, feminine little heart she knew that
she did care, and that if she had that chance of the Lake of Shining
Waters again she would answer very differently. All at once, as it seemed,
and to her secret dismay, she found that the old resentment she had
cherished against him was gone—gone just when she most needed its
sustaining power. It was in vain that she recalled every incident and
emotion of that memorable occasion and tried to feel the old satisfying
anger. That day by the pond had witnessed its last spasmodic flicker. Anne
realized that she had forgiven and forgotten without knowing it. But it
was too late.


And at least neither Gilbert nor anybody else, not even Diana, should ever
suspect how sorry she was and how much she wished she hadn't been so proud
and horrid! She determined to "shroud her feelings in deepest oblivion,"
and it may be stated here and now that she did it, so successfully that
Gilbert, who possibly was not quite so indifferent as he seemed, could not
console himself with any belief that Anne felt his retaliatory scorn. The
only poor comfort he had was that she snubbed Charlie Sloane,
unmercifully, continually, and undeservedly.


Otherwise the winter passed away in a round of pleasant duties and
studies. For Anne the days slipped by like golden beads on the necklace of
the year. She was happy, eager, interested; there were lessons to be
learned and honor to be won; delightful books to read; new pieces to be
practiced for the Sunday-school choir; pleasant Saturday afternoons at the
manse with Mrs. Allan; and then, almost before Anne realized it, spring
had come again to Green Gables and all the world was abloom once more.


Studies palled just a wee bit then; the Queen's class, left behind in
school while the others scattered to green lanes and leafy wood cuts and
meadow byways, looked wistfully out of the windows and discovered that
Latin verbs and French exercises had somehow lost the tang and zest they
had possessed in the crisp winter months. Even Anne and Gilbert lagged and
grew indifferent. Teacher and taught were alike glad when the term was
ended and the glad vacation days stretched rosily before them.


"But you've done good work this past year," Miss Stacy told them on the
last evening, "and you deserve a good, jolly vacation. Have the best time
you can in the out-of-door world and lay in a good stock of health and
vitality and ambition to carry you through next year. It will be the tug
of war, you know—the last year before the Entrance."


"Are you going to be back next year, Miss Stacy?" asked Josie Pye.


Josie Pye never scrupled to ask questions; in this instance the rest of
the class felt grateful to her; none of them would have dared to ask it of
Miss Stacy, but all wanted to, for there had been alarming rumors running
at large through the school for some time that Miss Stacy was not coming
back the next year—that she had been offered a position in the grade
school of her own home district and meant to accept. The Queen's class
listened in breathless suspense for her answer.


"Yes, I think I will," said Miss Stacy. "I thought of taking another
school, but I have decided to come back to Avonlea. To tell the truth,
I've grown so interested in my pupils here that I found I couldn't leave
them. So I'll stay and see you through."


"Hurrah!" said Moody Spurgeon. Moody Spurgeon had never been so carried
away by his feelings before, and he blushed uncomfortably every time he
thought about it for a week.


"Oh, I'm so glad," said Anne, with shining eyes. "Dear Stacy, it would be
perfectly dreadful if you didn't come back. I don't believe I could have
the heart to go on with my studies at all if another teacher came here."


When Anne got home that night she stacked all her textbooks away in an old
trunk in the attic, locked it, and threw the key into the blanket box.


"I'm not even going to look at a schoolbook in vacation," she told
Marilla. "I've studied as hard all the term as I possibly could and I've
pored over that geometry until I know every proposition in the first book
off by heart, even when the letters are changed. I just feel tired
of everything sensible and I'm going to let my imagination run riot for
the summer. Oh, you needn't be alarmed, Marilla. I'll only let it run riot
within reasonable limits. But I want to have a real good jolly time this
summer, for maybe it's the last summer I'll be a little girl. Mrs. Lynde
says that if I keep stretching out next year as I've done this I'll have
to put on longer skirts. She says I'm all running to legs and eyes. And
when I put on longer skirts I shall feel that I have to live up to them
and be very dignified. It won't even do to believe in fairies then, I'm
afraid; so I'm going to believe in them with all my whole heart this
summer. I think we're going to have a very gay vacation. Ruby Gillis is
going to have a birthday party soon and there's the Sunday school picnic
and the missionary concert next month. And Mr. Barry says that some
evening he'll take Diana and me over to the White Sands Hotel and have
dinner there. They have dinner there in the evening, you know. Jane
Andrews was over once last summer and she says it was a dazzling sight to
see the electric lights and the flowers and all the lady guests in such
beautiful dresses. Jane says it was her first glimpse into high life and
she'll never forget it to her dying day."


Mrs. Lynde came up the next afternoon to find out why Marilla had not been
at the Aid meeting on Thursday. When Marilla was not at Aid meeting people
knew there was something wrong at Green Gables.


"Matthew had a bad spell with his heart Thursday," Marilla explained, "and
I didn't feel like leaving him. Oh, yes, he's all right again now, but he
takes them spells oftener than he used to and I'm anxious about him. The
doctor says he must be careful to avoid excitement. That's easy enough,
for Matthew doesn't go about looking for excitement by any means and never
did, but he's not to do any very heavy work either and you might as well
tell Matthew not to breathe as not to work. Come and lay off your things,
Rachel. You'll stay to tea?"


"Well, seeing you're so pressing, perhaps I might as well, stay" said Mrs.
Rachel, who had not the slightest intention of doing anything else.


Mrs. Rachel and Marilla sat comfortably in the parlor while Anne got the
tea and made hot biscuits that were light and white enough to defy even
Mrs. Rachel's criticism.


"I must say Anne has turned out a real smart girl," admitted Mrs. Rachel,
as Marilla accompanied her to the end of the lane at sunset. "She must be
a great help to you."


"She is," said Marilla, "and she's real steady and reliable now. I used to
be afraid she'd never get over her featherbrained ways, but she has and I
wouldn't be afraid to trust her in anything now."


"I never would have thought she'd have turned out so well that first day I
was here three years ago," said Mrs. Rachel. "Lawful heart, shall I ever
forget that tantrum of hers! When I went home that night I says to Thomas,
says I, 'Mark my words, Thomas, Marilla Cuthbert 'll live to rue the step
she's took.' But I was mistaken and I'm real glad of it. I ain't one of
those kind of people, Marilla, as can never be brought to own up that
they've made a mistake. No, that never was my way, thank goodness. I did
make a mistake in judging Anne, but it weren't no wonder, for an odder,
unexpecteder witch of a child there never was in this world, that's what.
There was no ciphering her out by the rules that worked with other
children. It's nothing short of wonderful how she's improved these three
years, but especially in looks. She's a real pretty girl got to be, though
I can't say I'm overly partial to that pale, big-eyed style myself. I like
more snap and color, like Diana Barry has or Ruby Gillis. Ruby Gillis's
looks are real showy. But somehow—I don't know how it is but when
Anne and them are together, though she ain't half as handsome, she makes
them look kind of common and overdone—something like them white June
lilies she calls narcissus alongside of the big, red peonies, that's
what."