Anne of Green Gables

by: L. M. Montgomery

Chapter XXXIII

Full text Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIII

The Hotel Concert


PUT on your white
organdy, by all means, Anne," advised Diana decidedly.


They were together in the east gable chamber; outside it was only twilight—a
lovely yellowish-green twilight with a clear-blue cloudless sky. A big
round moon, slowly deepening from her pallid luster into burnished silver,
hung over the Haunted Wood; the air was full of sweet summer sounds—sleepy
birds twittering, freakish breezes, faraway voices and laughter. But in
Anne's room the blind was drawn and the lamp lighted, for an important
toilet was being made.


The east gable was a very different place from what it had been on that
night four years before, when Anne had felt its bareness penetrate to the
marrow of her spirit with its inhospitable chill. Changes had crept in,
Marilla conniving at them resignedly, until it was as sweet and dainty a
nest as a young girl could desire.


The velvet carpet with the pink roses and the pink silk curtains of Anne's
early visions had certainly never materialized; but her dreams had kept
pace with her growth, and it is not probable she lamented them. The floor
was covered with a pretty matting, and the curtains that softened the high
window and fluttered in the vagrant breezes were of pale-green art muslin.
The walls, hung not with gold and silver brocade tapestry, but with a
dainty apple-blossom paper, were adorned with a few good pictures given
Anne by Mrs. Allan. Miss Stacy's photograph occupied the place of honor,
and Anne made a sentimental point of keeping fresh flowers on the bracket
under it. Tonight a spike of white lilies faintly perfumed the room like
the dream of a fragrance. There was no "mahogany furniture," but there was
a white-painted bookcase filled with books, a cushioned wicker rocker, a
toilet table befrilled with white muslin, a quaint, gilt-framed mirror
with chubby pink Cupids and purple grapes painted over its arched top,
that used to hang in the spare room, and a low white bed.


Anne was dressing for a concert at the White Sands Hotel. The guests had
got it up in aid of the Charlottetown hospital, and had hunted out all the
available amateur talent in the surrounding districts to help it along.
Bertha Sampson and Pearl Clay of the White Sands Baptist choir had been
asked to sing a duet; Milton Clark of Newbridge was to give a violin solo;
Winnie Adella Blair of Carmody was to sing a Scotch ballad; and Laura
Spencer of Spencervale and Anne Shirley of Avonlea were to recite.


As Anne would have said at one time, it was "an epoch in her life," and
she was deliciously athrill with the excitement of it. Matthew was in the
seventh heaven of gratified pride over the honor conferred on his Anne and
Marilla was not far behind, although she would have died rather than admit
it, and said she didn't think it was very proper for a lot of young folks
to be gadding over to the hotel without any responsible person with them.


Anne and Diana were to drive over with Jane Andrews and her brother Billy
in their double-seated buggy; and several other Avonlea girls and boys
were going too. There was a party of visitors expected out from town, and
after the concert a supper was to be given to the performers.


Anne sighed and yielded. Diana was beginning to have a reputation for
notable taste in dressing, and her advice on such subjects was much sought
after. She was looking very pretty herself on this particular night in a
dress of the lovely wild-rose pink, from which Anne was forever debarred;
but she was not to take any part in the concert, so her appearance was of
minor importance. All her pains were bestowed upon Anne, who, she vowed,
must, for the credit of Avonlea, be dressed and combed and adorned to the
Queen's taste.


"Pull out that frill a little more—so; here, let me tie your sash;
now for your slippers. I'm going to braid your hair in two thick braids,
and tie them halfway up with big white bows—no, don't pull out a
single curl over your forehead—just have the soft part. There is no
way you do your hair suits you so well, Anne, and Mrs. Allan says you look
like a Madonna when you part it so. I shall fasten this little white house
rose just behind your ear. There was just one on my bush, and I saved it
for you."


"Shall I put my pearl beads on?" asked Anne. "Matthew brought me a string
from town last week, and I know he'd like to see them on me."


Diana pursed up her lips, put her black head on one side critically, and
finally pronounced in favor of the beads, which were thereupon tied around
Anne's slim milk-white throat.


"There's something so stylish about you, Anne," said Diana, with unenvious
admiration. "You hold your head with such an air. I suppose it's your
figure. I am just a dumpling. I've always been afraid of it, and now I
know it is so. Well, I suppose I shall just have to resign myself to it."


"But you have such dimples," said Anne, smiling affectionately into the
pretty, vivacious face so near her own. "Lovely dimples, like little dents
in cream. I have given up all hope of dimples. My dimple-dream will never
come true; but so many of my dreams have that I mustn't complain. Am I all
ready now?"


"All ready," assured Diana, as Marilla appeared in the doorway, a gaunt
figure with grayer hair than of yore and no fewer angles, but with a much
softer face. "Come right in and look at our elocutionist, Marilla. Doesn't
she look lovely?"


Marilla emitted a sound between a sniff and a grunt.


"She looks neat and proper. I like that way of fixing her hair. But I
expect she'll ruin that dress driving over there in the dust and dew with
it, and it looks most too thin for these damp nights. Organdy's the most
unserviceable stuff in the world anyhow, and I told Matthew so when he got
it. But there is no use in saying anything to Matthew nowadays. Time was
when he would take my advice, but now he just buys things for Anne
regardless, and the clerks at Carmody know they can palm anything off on
him. Just let them tell him a thing is pretty and fashionable, and Matthew
plunks his money down for it. Mind you keep your skirt clear of the wheel,
Anne, and put your warm jacket on."


Then Marilla stalked downstairs, thinking proudly how sweet Anne looked,
with that


and regretting that she could not go to the concert herself to hear her
girl recite.


"I wonder if it is too damp for my dress," said Anne anxiously.


"Not a bit of it," said Diana, pulling up the window blind. "It's a
perfect night, and there won't be any dew. Look at the moonlight."


"I'm so glad my window looks east into the sun rising," said Anne, going
over to Diana. "It's so splendid to see the morning coming up over those
long hills and glowing through those sharp fir tops. It's new every
morning, and I feel as if I washed my very soul in that bath of earliest
sunshine. Oh, Diana, I love this little room so dearly. I don't know how
I'll get along without it when I go to town next month."


"Don't speak of your going away tonight," begged Diana. "I don't want to
think of it, it makes me so miserable, and I do want to have a good time
this evening. What are you going to recite, Anne? And are you nervous?"


"Not a bit. I've recited so often in public I don't mind at all now. I've
decided to give 'The Maiden's Vow.' It's so pathetic. Laura Spencer is
going to give a comic recitation, but I'd rather make people cry than
laugh."


"What will you recite if they encore you?"


"They won't dream of encoring me," scoffed Anne, who was not without her
own secret hopes that they would, and already visioned herself telling
Matthew all about it at the next morning's breakfast table. "There are
Billy and Jane now—I hear the wheels. Come on."


Billy Andrews insisted that Anne should ride on the front seat with him,
so she unwillingly climbed up. She would have much preferred to sit back
with the girls, where she could have laughed and chattered to her heart's
content. There was not much of either laughter or chatter in Billy. He was
a big, fat, stolid youth of twenty, with a round, expressionless face, and
a painful lack of conversational gifts. But he admired Anne immensely, and
was puffed up with pride over the prospect of driving to White Sands with
that slim, upright figure beside him.


Anne, by dint of talking over her shoulder to the girls and occasionally
passing a sop of civility to Billy—who grinned and chuckled and
never could think of any reply until it was too late—contrived to
enjoy the drive in spite of all. It was a night for enjoyment. The road
was full of buggies, all bound for the hotel, and laughter, silver clear,
echoed and reechoed along it. When they reached the hotel it was a blaze
of light from top to bottom. They were met by the ladies of the concert
committee, one of whom took Anne off to the performers' dressing room
which was filled with the members of a Charlottetown Symphony Club, among
whom Anne felt suddenly shy and frightened and countrified. Her dress,
which, in the east gable, had seemed so dainty and pretty, now seemed
simple and plain—too simple and plain, she thought, among all the
silks and laces that glistened and rustled around her. What were her pearl
beads compared to the diamonds of the big, handsome lady near her? And how
poor her one wee white rose must look beside all the hothouse flowers the
others wore! Anne laid her hat and jacket away, and shrank miserably into
a corner. She wished herself back in the white room at Green Gables.


It was still worse on the platform of the big concert hall of the hotel,
where she presently found herself. The electric lights dazzled her eyes,
the perfume and hum bewildered her. She wished she were sitting down in
the audience with Diana and Jane, who seemed to be having a splendid time
away at the back. She was wedged in between a stout lady in pink silk and
a tall, scornful-looking girl in a white-lace dress. The stout lady
occasionally turned her head squarely around and surveyed Anne through her
eyeglasses until Anne, acutely sensitive of being so scrutinized, felt
that she must scream aloud; and the white-lace girl kept talking audibly
to her next neighbor about the "country bumpkins" and "rustic belles" in
the audience, languidly anticipating "such fun" from the displays of local
talent on the program. Anne believed that she would hate that white-lace
girl to the end of life.


Unfortunately for Anne, a professional elocutionist was staying at the
hotel and had consented to recite. She was a lithe, dark-eyed woman in a
wonderful gown of shimmering gray stuff like woven moonbeams, with gems on
her neck and in her dark hair. She had a marvelously flexible voice and
wonderful power of expression; the audience went wild over her selection.
Anne, forgetting all about herself and her troubles for the time, listened
with rapt and shining eyes; but when the recitation ended she suddenly put
her hands over her face. She could never get up and recite after that—never.
Had she ever thought she could recite? Oh, if she were only back at Green
Gables!


At this unpropitious moment her name was called. Somehow Anne—who
did not notice the rather guilty little start of surprise the white-lace
girl gave, and would not have understood the subtle compliment implied
therein if she had—got on her feet, and moved dizzily out to the
front. She was so pale that Diana and Jane, down in the audience, clasped
each other's hands in nervous sympathy.


Anne was the victim of an overwhelming attack of stage fright. Often as
she had recited in public, she had never before faced such an audience as
this, and the sight of it paralyzed her energies completely. Everything
was so strange, so brilliant, so bewildering—the rows of ladies in
evening dress, the critical faces, the whole atmosphere of wealth and
culture about her. Very different this from the plain benches at the
Debating Club, filled with the homely, sympathetic faces of friends and
neighbors. These people, she thought, would be merciless critics. Perhaps,
like the white-lace girl, they anticipated amusement from her "rustic"
efforts. She felt hopelessly, helplessly ashamed and miserable. Her knees
trembled, her heart fluttered, a horrible faintness came over her; not a
word could she utter, and the next moment she would have fled from the
platform despite the humiliation which, she felt, must ever after be her
portion if she did so.


But suddenly, as her dilated, frightened eyes gazed out over the audience,
she saw Gilbert Blythe away at the back of the room, bending forward with
a smile on his face—a smile which seemed to Anne at once triumphant
and taunting. In reality it was nothing of the kind. Gilbert was merely
smiling with appreciation of the whole affair in general and of the effect
produced by Anne's slender white form and spiritual face against a
background of palms in particular. Josie Pye, whom he had driven over, sat
beside him, and her face certainly was both triumphant and taunting. But
Anne did not see Josie, and would not have cared if she had. She drew a
long breath and flung her head up proudly, courage and determination
tingling over her like an electric shock. She would not fail before
Gilbert Blythe—he should never be able to laugh at her, never,
never! Her fright and nervousness vanished; and she began her recitation,
her clear, sweet voice reaching to the farthest corner of the room without
a tremor or a break. Self-possession was fully restored to her, and in the
reaction from that horrible moment of powerlessness she recited as she had
never done before. When she finished there were bursts of honest applause.
Anne, stepping back to her seat, blushing with shyness and delight, found
her hand vigorously clasped and shaken by the stout lady in pink silk.


"My dear, you did splendidly," she puffed. "I've been crying like a baby,
actually I have. There, they're encoring you—they're bound to have
you back!"


"Oh, I can't go," said Anne confusedly. "But yet—I must, or Matthew
will be disappointed. He said they would encore me."


"Then don't disappoint Matthew," said the pink lady, laughing.


Smiling, blushing, limpid eyed, Anne tripped back and gave a quaint, funny
little selection that captivated her audience still further. The rest of
the evening was quite a little triumph for her.


When the concert was over, the stout, pink lady—who was the wife of
an American millionaire—took her under her wing, and introduced her
to everybody; and everybody was very nice to her. The professional
elocutionist, Mrs. Evans, came and chatted with her, telling her that she
had a charming voice and "interpreted" her selections beautifully. Even
the white-lace girl paid her a languid little compliment. They had supper
in the big, beautifully decorated dining room; Diana and Jane were invited
to partake of this, also, since they had come with Anne, but Billy was
nowhere to be found, having decamped in mortal fear of some such
invitation. He was in waiting for them, with the team, however, when it
was all over, and the three girls came merrily out into the calm, white
moonshine radiance. Anne breathed deeply, and looked into the clear sky
beyond the dark boughs of the firs.


Oh, it was good to be out again in the purity and silence of the night!
How great and still and wonderful everything was, with the murmur of the
sea sounding through it and the darkling cliffs beyond like grim giants
guarding enchanted coasts.


"Hasn't it been a perfectly splendid time?" sighed Jane, as they drove
away. "I just wish I was a rich American and could spend my summer at a
hotel and wear jewels and low-necked dresses and have ice cream and
chicken salad every blessed day. I'm sure it would be ever so much more
fun than teaching school. Anne, your recitation was simply great, although
I thought at first you were never going to begin. I think it was better
than Mrs. Evans's."


"Oh, no, don't say things like that, Jane," said Anne quickly, "because it
sounds silly. It couldn't be better than Mrs. Evans's, you know, for she
is a professional, and I'm only a schoolgirl, with a little knack of
reciting. I'm quite satisfied if the people just liked mine pretty well."


"I've a compliment for you, Anne," said Diana. "At least I think it must
be a compliment because of the tone he said it in. Part of it was anyhow.
There was an American sitting behind Jane and me—such a
romantic-looking man, with coal-black hair and eyes. Josie Pye says he is
a distinguished artist, and that her mother's cousin in Boston is married
to a man that used to go to school with him. Well, we heard him say—didn't
we, Jane?—'Who is that girl on the platform with the splendid Titian
hair? She has a face I should like to paint.' There now, Anne. But what
does Titian hair mean?"


"Being interpreted it means plain red, I guess," laughed Anne. "Titian was
a very famous artist who liked to paint red-haired women."


"Did you see all the diamonds those ladies wore?" sighed Jane.
"They were simply dazzling. Wouldn't you just love to be rich, girls?"


"We are rich," said Anne staunchly. "Why, we have sixteen years to
our credit, and we're happy as queens, and we've all got imaginations,
more or less. Look at that sea, girls—all silver and shadow and
vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we
had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn't change into
any of those women if you could. Would you want to be that white-lace girl
and wear a sour look all your life, as if you'd been born turning up your
nose at the world? Or the pink lady, kind and nice as she is, so stout and
short that you'd really no figure at all? Or even Mrs. Evans, with that
sad, sad look in her eyes? She must have been dreadfully unhappy sometime
to have such a look. You know you wouldn't, Jane Andrews!"


"I don't know—exactly," said Jane unconvinced. "I think
diamonds would comfort a person for a good deal."


"Well, I don't want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by
diamonds all my life," declared Anne. "I'm quite content to be Anne of
Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads. I know Matthew gave me as
much love with them as ever went with Madame the Pink Lady's jewels."