Anne of Green Gables

Full Text

Chapter XXXIV

Full Text Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXIV

A Queen's Girl

THE next three
weeks were busy ones at Green Gables, for Anne was getting ready to go to
Queen's, and there was much sewing to be done, and many things to be
talked over and arranged. Anne's outfit was ample and pretty, for Matthew
saw to that, and Marilla for once made no objections whatever to anything
he purchased or suggested. More—one evening she went up to the east
gable with her arms full of a delicate pale green material.

"Anne, here's something for a nice light dress for you. I don't suppose
you really need it; you've plenty of pretty waists; but I thought maybe
you'd like something real dressy to wear if you were asked out anywhere of
an evening in town, to a party or anything like that. I hear that Jane and
Ruby and Josie have got 'evening dresses,' as they call them, and I don't
mean you shall be behind them. I got Mrs. Allan to help me pick it in town
last week, and we'll get Emily Gillis to make it for you. Emily has got
taste, and her fits aren't to be equaled."

"Oh, Marilla, it's just lovely," said Anne. "Thank you so much. I don't
believe you ought to be so kind to me—it's making it harder every
day for me to go away."

The green dress was made up with as many tucks and frills and shirrings as
Emily's taste permitted. Anne put it on one evening for Matthew's and
Marilla's benefit, and recited "The Maiden's Vow" for them in the kitchen.
As Marilla watched the bright, animated face and graceful motions her
thoughts went back to the evening Anne had arrived at Green Gables, and
memory recalled a vivid picture of the odd, frightened child in her
preposterous yellowish-brown wincey dress, the heartbreak looking out of
her tearful eyes. Something in the memory brought tears to Marilla's own

"I declare, my recitation has made you cry, Marilla," said Anne gaily
stooping over Marilla's chair to drop a butterfly kiss on that lady's
cheek. "Now, I call that a positive triumph."

"No, I wasn't crying over your piece," said Marilla, who would have
scorned to be betrayed into such weakness by any poetry stuff. "I just
couldn't help thinking of the little girl you used to be, Anne. And I was
wishing you could have stayed a little girl, even with all your queer
ways. You've grown up now and you're going away; and you look so tall and
stylish and so—so—different altogether in that dress—as
if you didn't belong in Avonlea at all—and I just got lonesome
thinking it all over."

"Marilla!" Anne sat down on Marilla's gingham lap, took Marilla's lined
face between her hands, and looked gravely and tenderly into Marilla's
eyes. "I'm not a bit changed—not really. I'm only just pruned down
and branched out. The real me—back here—is just the
same. It won't make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change
outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you
and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life."

Anne laid her fresh young cheek against Marilla's faded one, and reached
out a hand to pat Matthew's shoulder. Marilla would have given much just
then to have possessed Anne's power of putting her feelings into words;
but nature and habit had willed it otherwise, and she could only put her
arms close about her girl and hold her tenderly to her heart, wishing that
she need never let her go.

Matthew, with a suspicious moisture in his eyes, got up and went
out-of-doors. Under the stars of the blue summer night he walked
agitatedly across the yard to the gate under the poplars.

"Well now, I guess she ain't been much spoiled," he muttered, proudly. "I
guess my putting in my oar occasional never did much harm after all. She's
smart and pretty, and loving, too, which is better than all the rest.
She's been a blessing to us, and there never was a luckier mistake than
what Mrs. Spencer made—if it was luck. I don't believe it was
any such thing. It was Providence, because the Almighty saw we needed her,
I reckon."

The day finally came when Anne must go to town. She and Matthew drove in
one fine September morning, after a tearful parting with Diana and an
untearful practical one—on Marilla's side at least—with
Marilla. But when Anne had gone Diana dried her tears and went to a beach
picnic at White Sands with some of her Carmody cousins, where she
contrived to enjoy herself tolerably well; while Marilla plunged fiercely
into unnecessary work and kept at it all day long with the bitterest kind
of heartache—the ache that burns and gnaws and cannot wash itself
away in ready tears. But that night, when Marilla went to bed, acutely and
miserably conscious that the little gable room at the end of the hall was
untenanted by any vivid young life and unstirred by any soft breathing,
she buried her face in her pillow, and wept for her girl in a passion of
sobs that appalled her when she grew calm enough to reflect how very
wicked it must be to take on so about a sinful fellow creature.

Anne and the rest of the Avonlea scholars reached town just in time to
hurry off to the Academy. That first day passed pleasantly enough in a
whirl of excitement, meeting all the new students, learning to know the
professors by sight and being assorted and organized into classes. Anne
intended taking up the Second Year work being advised to do so by Miss
Stacy; Gilbert Blythe elected to do the same. This meant getting a First
Class teacher's license in one year instead of two, if they were
successful; but it also meant much more and harder work. Jane, Ruby,
Josie, Charlie, and Moody Spurgeon, not being troubled with the stirrings
of ambition, were content to take up the Second Class work. Anne was
conscious of a pang of loneliness when she found herself in a room with
fifty other students, not one of whom she knew, except the tall,
brown-haired boy across the room; and knowing him in the fashion she did,
did not help her much, as she reflected pessimistically. Yet she was
undeniably glad that they were in the same class; the old rivalry could
still be carried on, and Anne would hardly have known what to do if it had
been lacking.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable without it," she thought. "Gilbert looks
awfully determined. I suppose he's making up his mind, here and now, to
win the medal. What a splendid chin he has! I never noticed it before. I
do wish Jane and Ruby had gone in for First Class, too. I suppose I won't
feel so much like a cat in a strange garret when I get acquainted, though.
I wonder which of the girls here are going to be my friends. It's really
an interesting speculation. Of course I promised Diana that no Queen's
girl, no matter how much I liked her, should ever be as dear to me as she
is; but I've lots of second-best affections to bestow. I like the look of
that girl with the brown eyes and the crimson waist. She looks vivid and
red-rosy; there's that pale, fair one gazing out of the window. She has
lovely hair, and looks as if she knew a thing or two about dreams. I'd
like to know them both—know them well—well enough to walk with
my arm about their waists, and call them nicknames. But just now I don't
know them and they don't know me, and probably don't want to know me
particularly. Oh, it's lonesome!"

It was lonesomer still when Anne found herself alone in her hall bedroom
that night at twilight. She was not to board with the other girls, who all
had relatives in town to take pity on them. Miss Josephine Barry would
have liked to board her, but Beechwood was so far from the Academy that it
was out of the question; so Miss Barry hunted up a boarding-house,
assuring Matthew and Marilla that it was the very place for Anne.

"The lady who keeps it is a reduced gentlewoman," explained Miss Barry.
"Her husband was a British officer, and she is very careful what sort of
boarders she takes. Anne will not meet with any objectionable persons
under her roof. The table is good, and the house is near the Academy, in a
quiet neighborhood."

All this might be quite true, and indeed, proved to be so, but it did not
materially help Anne in the first agony of homesickness that seized upon
her. She looked dismally about her narrow little room, with its
dull-papered, pictureless walls, its small iron bedstead and empty
book-case; and a horrible choke came into her throat as she thought of her
own white room at Green Gables, where she would have the pleasant
consciousness of a great green still outdoors, of sweet peas growing in
the garden, and moonlight falling on the orchard, of the brook below the
slope and the spruce boughs tossing in the night wind beyond it, of a vast
starry sky, and the light from Diana's window shining out through the gap
in the trees. Here there was nothing of this; Anne knew that outside of
her window was a hard street, with a network of telephone wires shutting
out the sky, the tramp of alien feet, and a thousand lights gleaming on
stranger faces. She knew that she was going to cry, and fought against it.

"I won't cry. It's silly—and weak—there's the third
tear splashing down by my nose. There are more coming! I must think of
something funny to stop them. But there's nothing funny except what is
connected with Avonlea, and that only makes things worse—four—five—I'm
going home next Friday, but that seems a hundred years away. Oh, Matthew
is nearly home by now—and Marilla is at the gate, looking down the
lane for him—six—seven—eight—oh, there's no use in
counting them! They're coming in a flood presently. I can't cheer up—I
don't want to cheer up. It's nicer to be miserable!"

The flood of tears would have come, no doubt, had not Josie Pye appeared
at that moment. In the joy of seeing a familiar face Anne forgot that
there had never been much love lost between her and Josie. As a part of
Avonlea life even a Pye was welcome.

"I'm so glad you came up," Anne said sincerely.

"You've been crying," remarked Josie, with aggravating pity. "I suppose
you're homesick—some people have so little self-control in that
respect. I've no intention of being homesick, I can tell you. Town's too
jolly after that poky old Avonlea. I wonder how I ever existed there so
long. You shouldn't cry, Anne; it isn't becoming, for your nose and eyes
get red, and then you seem all red. I'd a perfectly scrumptious
time in the Academy today. Our French professor is simply a duck. His
moustache would give you kerwollowps of the heart. Have you anything
eatable around, Anne? I'm literally starving. Ah, I guessed likely Marilla
'd load you up with cake. That's why I called round. Otherwise I'd have
gone to the park to hear the band play with Frank Stockley. He boards same
place as I do, and he's a sport. He noticed you in class today, and asked
me who the red-headed girl was. I told him you were an orphan that the
Cuthberts had adopted, and nobody knew very much about what you'd been
before that."

Anne was wondering if, after all, solitude and tears were not more
satisfactory than Josie Pye's companionship when Jane and Ruby appeared,
each with an inch of Queen's color ribbon—purple and scarlet—pinned
proudly to her coat. As Josie was not "speaking" to Jane just then she had
to subside into comparative harmlessness.

"Well," said Jane with a sigh, "I feel as if I'd lived many moons since
the morning. I ought to be home studying my Virgil—that horrid old
professor gave us twenty lines to start in on tomorrow. But I simply
couldn't settle down to study tonight. Anne, methinks I see the traces of
tears. If you've been crying do own up. It will restore my
self-respect, for I was shedding tears freely before Ruby came along. I
don't mind being a goose so much if somebody else is goosey, too. Cake?
You'll give me a teeny piece, won't you? Thank you. It has the real
Avonlea flavor."

Ruby, perceiving the Queen's calendar lying on the table, wanted to know
if Anne meant to try for the gold medal.

Anne blushed and admitted she was thinking of it.

"Oh, that reminds me," said Josie, "Queen's is to get one of the Avery
scholarships after all. The word came today. Frank Stockley told me—his
uncle is one of the board of governors, you know. It will be announced in
the Academy tomorrow."

An Avery scholarship! Anne felt her heart beat more quickly, and the
horizons of her ambition shifted and broadened as if by magic. Before
Josie had told the news Anne's highest pinnacle of aspiration had been a
teacher's provincial license, First Class, at the end of the year, and
perhaps the medal! But now in one moment Anne saw herself winning the
Avery scholarship, taking an Arts course at Redmond College, and
graduating in a gown and mortar board, before the echo of Josie's words
had died away. For the Avery scholarship was in English, and Anne felt
that here her foot was on native heath.

A wealthy manufacturer of New Brunswick had died and left part of his
fortune to endow a large number of scholarships to be distributed among
the various high schools and academies of the Maritime Provinces,
according to their respective standings. There had been much doubt whether
one would be allotted to Queen's, but the matter was settled at last, and
at the end of the year the graduate who made the highest mark in English
and English Literature would win the scholarship—two hundred and
fifty dollars a year for four years at Redmond College. No wonder that
Anne went to bed that night with tingling cheeks!

"I'll win that scholarship if hard work can do it," she resolved.
"Wouldn't Matthew be proud if I got to be a B.A.? Oh, it's delightful to
have ambitions. I'm so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be
any end to them—that's the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to
one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make
life so interesting."