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CHAPTER XII A Jonah Day
It really began the night before with a restless, wakeful vigil of grumbling
toothache.
When Anne arose in the dull, bitter winter morning she felt that life was flat, stale,
and unprofitable. She went to school in no angelic mood.
Her cheek was swollen and her face ached.
The schoolroom was cold and smoky, for the fire refused to burn and the children were
huddled about it in shivering groups. Anne sent them to their seats with a
sharper tone than she had ever used before.
Anthony Pye strutted to his with his usual impertinent swagger and she saw him whisper
something to his seat-mate and then glance at her with a grin.
Never, so it seemed to Anne, had there been so many squeaky pencils as there were that
morning; and when Barbara Shaw came up to the desk with a sum she tripped over the
coal scuttle with disastrous results.
The coal rolled to every part of the room, her slate was broken into fragments, and
when she picked herself up, her face, stained with coal dust, sent the boys into
roars of laughter.
Anne turned from the second reader class which she was hearing.
"Really, Barbara," she said icily, "if you cannot move without falling over something
you'd better remain in your seat.
It is positively disgraceful for a girl of your age to be so awkward."
Poor Barbara stumbled back to her desk, her tears combining with the coal dust to
produce an effect truly grotesque.
Never before had her beloved, sympathetic teacher spoken to her in such a tone or
fashion, and Barbara was heartbroken.
Anne herself felt a prick of conscience but it only served to increase her mental
irritation, and the second reader class remember that lesson yet, as well as the
unmerciful infliction of arithmetic that followed.
Just as Anne was snapping the sums out St. Clair Donnell arrived breathlessly.
"You are half an hour late, St. Clair," Anne reminded him frigidly.
"Why is this?"
"Please, miss, I had to help ma make a pudding for dinner 'cause we're expecting
company and Clarice Almira's sick," was St. Clair's answer, given in a perfectly
respectful voice but nevertheless provocative of great mirth among his mates.
"Take your seat and work out the six problems on page eighty-four of your
arithmetic for punishment," said Anne.
St. Clair looked rather amazed at her tone but he went meekly to his desk and took out
his slate. Then he stealthily passed a small parcel to
Joe Sloane across the aisle.
Anne caught him in the act and jumped to a fatal conclusion about that parcel.
Old Mrs. Hiram Sloane had lately taken to making and selling "nut cakes" by way of
adding to her scanty income.
The cakes were specially tempting to small boys and for several weeks Anne had had not
a little trouble in regard to them.
On their way to school the boys would invest their spare cash at Mrs. Hiram's,
bring the cakes along with them to school, and, if possible, eat them and treat their
mates during school hours.
Anne had warned them that if they brought any more cakes to school they would be
confiscated; and yet here was St. Clair Donnell coolly passing a parcel of them,
wrapped up in the blue and white striped paper Mrs. Hiram used, under her very eyes.
"Joseph," said Anne quietly, "bring that parcel here."
Joe, startled and abashed, obeyed.
He was a fat urchin who always blushed and stuttered when he was frightened.
Never did anybody look more guilty than poor Joe at that moment.
"Throw it into the fire," said Anne.
Joe looked very blank. "P...p...p...lease, m...m...miss," he
began. "Do as I tell you, Joseph, without any
words about it."
"B...b...but m...m...miss...th...th ...they're ..." gasped Joe in desperation.
"Joseph, are you going to obey me or are you NOT?" said Anne.
A bolder and more self-possessed lad than Joe Sloane would have been overawed by her
tone and the dangerous flash of her eyes. This was a new Anne whom none of her pupils
had ever seen before.
Joe, with an agonized glance at St. Clair, went to the stove, opened the big, square
front door, and threw the blue and white parcel in, before St. Clair, who had sprung
to his feet, could utter a word.
Then he dodged back just in time. For a few moments the terrified occupants
of Avonlea school did not know whether it was an earthquake or a volcanic explosion
that had occurred.
The innocent looking parcel which Anne had rashly supposed to contain Mrs. Hiram's nut
cakes really held an assortment of firecrackers and pinwheels for which Warren
Sloane had sent to town by St. Clair
Donnell's father the day before, intending to have a birthday celebration that
evening.
The crackers went off in a thunderclap of noise and the pinwheels bursting out of the
door spun madly around the room, hissing and spluttering.
Anne dropped into her chair white with dismay and all the girls climbed shrieking
upon their desks.
Joe Sloane stood as one transfixed in the midst of the commotion and St. Clair,
helpless with laughter, rocked to and fro in the aisle.
Prillie Rogerson fainted and Annetta Bell went into hysterics.
It seemed a long time, although it was really only a few minutes, before the last
pinwheel subsided.
Anne, recovering herself, sprang to open doors and windows and let out the gas and
smoke which filled the room.
Then she helped the girls carry the unconscious Prillie into the porch, where
Barbara Shaw, in an agony of desire to be useful, poured a pailful of half frozen
water over Prillie's face and shoulders before anyone could stop her.
It was a full hour before quiet was restored ...but it was a quiet that might
be felt.
Everybody realized that even the explosion had not cleared the teacher's mental
atmosphere. Nobody, except Anthony Pye, dared whisper a
word.
Ned Clay accidentally squeaked his pencil while working a sum, caught Anne's eye and
wished the floor would open and swallow him up.
The geography class were whisked through a continent with a speed that made them
dizzy. The grammar class were parsed and analyzed
within an inch of their lives.
Chester Sloane, spelling "odoriferous" with two f's, was made to feel that he could
never live down the disgrace of it, either in this world or that which is to come.
Anne knew that she had made herself ridiculous and that the incident would be
laughed over that night at a score of tea- tables, but the knowledge only angered her
further.
In a calmer mood she could have carried off the situation with a laugh but now that was
impossible; so she ignored it in icy disdain.
When Anne returned to the school after dinner all the children were as usual in
their seats and every face was bent studiously over a desk except Anthony
Pye's.
He peered across his book at Anne, his black eyes sparkling with curiosity and
mockery.
Anne twitched open the drawer of her desk in search of chalk and under her very hand
a lively mouse sprang out of the drawer, scampered over the desk, and leaped to the
floor.
Anne screamed and sprang back, as if it had been a snake, and Anthony Pye laughed
aloud. Then a silence fell...a very creepy,
uncomfortable silence.
Annetta Bell was of two minds whether to go into hysterics again or not, especially as
she didn't know just where the mouse had gone.
But she decided not to.
Who could take any comfort out of hysterics with a teacher so white-faced and so
blazing-eyed standing before one? "Who put that mouse in my desk?" said Anne.
Her voice was quite low but it made a shiver go up and down Paul Irving's spine.
Joe Sloane caught her eye, felt responsible from the crown of his head to the sole of
his feet, but stuttered out wildly,
"N...n...not m...m...me t...t...teacher, n ...n...not m...m...me."
Anne paid no attention to the wretched Joseph.
She looked at Anthony Pye, and Anthony Pye looked back unabashed and unashamed.
"Anthony, was it you?" "Yes, it was," said Anthony insolently.
Anne took her pointer from her desk.
It was a long, heavy hardwood pointer. "Come here, Anthony."
It was far from being the most severe punishment Anthony Pye had ever undergone.
Anne, even the stormy-souled Anne she was at that moment, could not have punished any
child cruelly.
But the pointer nipped keenly and finally Anthony's bravado failed him; he winced and
the tears came to his eyes. Anne, conscience-stricken, dropped the
pointer and told Anthony to go to his seat.
She sat down at her desk feeling ashamed, repentant, and bitterly mortified.
Her quick anger was gone and she would have given much to have been able to seek relief
in tears.
So all her boasts had come to this...she had actually whipped one of her pupils.
How Jane would triumph! And how Mr. Harrison would chuckle!
But worse than this, bitterest thought of all, she had lost her last chance of
winning Anthony Pye. Never would he like her now.
Anne, by what somebody has called "a Herculaneum effort," kept back her tears
until she got home that night.
Then she shut herself in the east gable room and wept all her shame and remorse and
disappointment into her pillows...wept so long that Marilla grew alarmed, invaded the
room, and insisted on knowing what the trouble was.
"The trouble is, I've got things the matter with my conscience," sobbed Anne.
"Oh, this has been such a Jonah day, Marilla.
I'm so ashamed of myself. I lost my temper and whipped Anthony Pye."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Marilla with decision.
"It's what you should have done long ago." "Oh, no, no, Marilla.
And I don't see how I can ever look those children in the face again.
I feel that I have humiliated myself to the very dust.
You don't know how cross and hateful and horrid I was.
I can't forget the expression in Paul Irving's eyes...he looked so surprised and
disappointed.
Oh, Marilla, I HAVE tried so hard to be patient and to win Anthony's liking...and
now it has all gone for nothing."
Marilla passed her hard work-worn hand over the girl's glossy, tumbled hair with a
wonderful tenderness. When Anne's sobs grew quieter she said,
very gently for her,
"You take things too much to heart, Anne. We all make mistakes...but people forget
them. And Jonah days come to everybody.
As for Anthony Pye, why need you care if he does dislike you?
He is the only one." "I can't help it.
I want everybody to love me and it hurts me so when anybody doesn't.
And Anthony never will now. Oh, I just made an idiot of myself today,
Marilla.
I'll tell you the whole story." Marilla listened to the whole story, and if
she smiled at certain parts of it Anne never knew.
When the tale was ended she said briskly,
"Well, never mind. This day's done and there's a new one
coming tomorrow, with no mistakes in it yet, as you used to say yourself.
Just come downstairs and have your supper.
You'll see if a good cup of tea and those plum puffs I made today won't hearten you
up."
"Plum puffs won't minister to a mind diseased," said Anne disconsolately; but
Marilla thought it a good sign that she had recovered sufficiently to adapt a
quotation.
The cheerful supper table, with the twins' bright faces, and Marilla's matchless plum
puffs...of which Davy ate four... did "hearten her up" considerably after all.
She had a good sleep that night and awakened in the morning to find herself and
the world transformed.
It had snowed softly and thickly all through the hours of darkness and the
beautiful whiteness, glittering in the frosty sunshine, looked like a mantle of
charity cast over all the mistakes and humiliations of the past.
"Every morn is a fresh beginning, Every morn is the world made new,"
sang Anne, as she dressed.
Owing to the snow she had to go around by the road to school and she thought it was
certainly an impish coincidence that Anthony Pye should come ploughing along
just as she left the Green Gables lane.
She felt as guilty as if their positions were reversed; but to her unspeakable
astonishment Anthony not only lifted his cap...which he had never done before...but
said easily,
"Kind of bad walking, ain't it? Can I take those books for you, teacher?"
Anne surrendered her books and wondered if she could possibly be awake.
Anthony walked on in silence to the school, but when Anne took her books she smiled
down at him...not the stereotyped "kind" smile she had so persistently assumed for
his benefit but a sudden outflashing of good comradeship.
Anthony smiled...no, if the truth must be told, Anthony GRINNED back.
A grin is not generally supposed to be a respectful thing; yet Anne suddenly felt
that if she had not yet won Anthony's liking she had, somehow or other, won his
respect.
Mrs. Rachel Lynde came up the next Saturday and confirmed this.
"Well, Anne, I guess you've won over Anthony Pye, that's what.
He says he believes you are some good after all, even if you are a girl.
Says that whipping you gave him was 'just as good as a man's.'"
"I never expected to win him by whipping him, though," said Anne, a little
mournfully, feeling that her ideals had played her false somewhere.
"It doesn't seem right.
I'm sure my theory of kindness can't be wrong."
"No, but the Pyes are an exception to every known rule, that's what," declared Mrs.
Rachel with conviction.
Mr. Harrison said, "Thought you'd come to it," when he heard it, and Jane rubbed it
in rather unmercifully.
CHAPTER XIII A Golden Picnic
Anne, on her way to Orchard Slope, met Diana, bound for Green Gables, just where
the mossy old log bridge spanned the brook below the Haunted Wood, and they sat down
by the margin of the Dryad's Bubble, where
tiny ferns were unrolling like curly-headed green pixy folk wakening up from a nap.
"I was just on my way over to invite you to help me celebrate my birthday on Saturday,"
said Anne.
"Your birthday? But your birthday was in March!"
"That wasn't my fault," laughed Anne. "If my parents had consulted me it would
never have happened then.
I should have chosen to be born in spring, of course.
It must be delightful to come into the world with the mayflowers and violets.
You would always feel that you were their foster sister.
But since I didn't, the next best thing is to celebrate my birthday in the spring.
Priscilla is coming over Saturday and Jane will be home.
We'll all four start off to the woods and spend a golden day making the acquaintance
of the spring.
We none of us really know her yet, but we'll meet her back there as we never can
anywhere else. I want to explore all those fields and
lonely places anyhow.
I have a conviction that there are scores of beautiful nooks there that have never
really been SEEN although they may have been LOOKED at.
We'll make friends with wind and sky and sun, and bring home the spring in our
hearts."
"It SOUNDS awfully nice," said Diana, with some inward distrust of Anne's magic of
words. "But won't it be very damp in some places
yet?"
"Oh, we'll wear rubbers," was Anne's concession to practicalities.
"And I want you to come over early Saturday morning and help me prepare lunch.
I'm going to have the daintiest things possible... things that will match the
spring, you understand...little jelly tarts and lady fingers, and drop cookies frosted
with pink and yellow icing, and buttercup cake.
And we must have sandwiches too, though they're NOT very poetical."
Saturday proved an ideal day for a picnic...a day of breeze and blue, warm,
sunny, with a little rollicking wind blowing across meadow and orchard.
Over every sunlit upland and field was a delicate, flower-starred green.
Mr. Harrison, harrowing at the back of his farm and feeling some of the spring witch-
work even in his sober, middle-aged blood, saw four girls, basket laden, tripping
across the end of his field where it joined a fringing woodland of birch and fir.
Their blithe voices and laughter echoed down to him.
"It's so easy to be happy on a day like this, isn't it?"
Anne was saying, with true Anneish philosophy.
"Let's try to make this a really golden day, girls, a day to which we can always
look back with delight. We're to seek for beauty and refuse to see
anything else.
'Begone, dull care!' Jane, you are thinking of something that
went wrong in school yesterday." "How do you know?" gasped Jane, amazed.
"Oh, I know the expression...I've felt it often enough on my own face.
But put it out of your mind, there's a dear.
It will keep till Monday ...or if it doesn't so much the better.
Oh, girls, girls, see that patch of violets!
There's something for memory's picture gallery.
When I'm eighty years old...if I ever am...I shall shut my eyes and see those
violets just as I see them now.
That's the first good gift our day has given us."
"If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet," said Priscilla.
Anne glowed.
"I'm so glad you SPOKE that thought, Priscilla, instead of just thinking it and
keeping it to yourself.
This world would be a much more interesting place...although it IS very interesting
anyhow... if people spoke out their real thoughts."
"It would be too hot to hold some folks," quoted Jane sagely.
"I suppose it might be, but that would be their own faults for thinking nasty things.
Anyhow, we can tell all our thoughts today because we are going to have nothing but
beautiful thoughts. Everybody can say just what comes into her
head.
THAT is conversation. Here's a little path I never saw before.
Let's explore it."
The path was a winding one, so narrow that the girls walked in single file and even
then the fir boughs brushed their faces.
Under the firs were velvety cushions of moss, and further on, where the trees were
smaller and fewer, the ground was rich in a variety of green growing things.
"What a lot of elephant's ears," exclaimed Diana.
"I'm going to pick a big bunch, they're so pretty."
"How did such graceful feathery things ever come to have such a dreadful name?" asked
Priscilla.
"Because the person who first named them either had no imagination at all or else
far too much," said Anne, "Oh, girls, look at that!"
"That" was a shallow woodland pool in the center of a little open glade where the
path ended.
Later on in the season it would be dried up and its place filled with a rank growth of
ferns; but now it was a glimmering placid sheet, round as a saucer and clear as
crystal.
A ring of slender young birches encircled it and little ferns fringed its margin.
"HOW sweet!" said Jane.
"Let us dance around it like wood-nymphs," cried Anne, dropping her basket and
extending her hands.
But the dance was not a success for the ground was boggy and Jane's rubbers came
off. "You can't be a wood-nymph if you have to
wear rubbers," was her decision.
"Well, we must name this place before we leave it," said Anne, yielding to the
indisputable logic of facts. "Everybody suggest a name and we'll draw
lots.
Diana?" "Birch Pool," suggested Diana promptly.
"Crystal Lake," said Jane.
Anne, standing behind them, implored Priscilla with her eyes not to perpetrate
another such name and Priscilla rose to the occasion with "Glimmer-glass."
Anne's selection was "The Fairies' Mirror."
The names were written on strips of birch bark with a pencil Schoolma'am Jane
produced from her pocket, and placed in Anne's hat.
Then Priscilla shut her eyes and drew one.
"Crystal Lake," read Jane triumphantly. Crystal Lake it was, and if Anne thought
that chance had played the pool a shabby trick she did not say so.
Pushing through the undergrowth beyond, the girls came out to the young green seclusion
of Mr. Silas Sloane's back pasture.
Across it they found the entrance to a lane striking up through the woods and voted to
explore it also. It rewarded their quest with a succession
of pretty surprises.
First, skirting Mr. Sloane's pasture, came an archway of wild cherry trees all in
bloom.
The girls swung their hats on their arms and wreathed their hair with the creamy,
fluffy blossoms.
Then the lane turned at right angles and plunged into a spruce wood so thick and
dark that they walked in a gloom as of twilight, with not a glimpse of sky or
sunlight to be seen.
"This is where the bad wood elves dwell," whispered Anne.
"They are impish and malicious but they can't harm us, because they are not allowed
to do evil in the spring.
There was one peeping at us around that old twisted fir; and didn't you see a group of
them on that big freckly toadstool we just passed?
The good fairies always dwell in the sunshiny places."
"I wish there really were fairies," said Jane.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have three wishes granted you...or even only one?
What would you wish for, girls, if you could have a wish granted?
I'd wish to be rich and beautiful and clever."
"I'd wish to be tall and slender," said Diana.
"I would wish to be famous," said Priscilla.
Anne thought of her hair and then dismissed the thought as unworthy.
"I'd wish it might be spring all the time and in everybody's heart and all our
lives," she said. "But that," said Priscilla, "would be just
wishing this world were like heaven."
"Only like a part of heaven. In the other parts there would be summer
and autumn...yes, and a bit of winter, too. I think I want glittering snowy fields and
white frosts in heaven sometimes.
Don't you, Jane?" "I...I don't know," said Jane
uncomfortably.
Jane was a good girl, a member of the church, who tried conscientiously to live
up to her profession and believed everything she had been taught.
But she never thought about heaven any more than she could help, for all that.
"Minnie May asked me the other day if we would wear our best dresses every day in
heaven," laughed Diana.
"And didn't you tell her we would?" asked Anne.
"Mercy, no! I told her we wouldn't be thinking of
dresses at all there."
"Oh, I think we will...a LITTLE," said Anne earnestly.
"There'll be plenty of time in all eternity for it without neglecting more important
things.
I believe we'll all wear beautiful dresses...or I suppose RAIMENT would be a
more suitable way of speaking.
I shall want to wear pink for a few centuries at first...it would take me that
long to get tired of it, I feel sure. I do love pink so and I can never wear it
in THIS world."
Past the spruces the lane dipped down into a sunny little open where a log bridge
spanned a brook; and then came the glory of a sunlit beechwood where the air was like
transparent golden wine, and the leaves
fresh and green, and the wood floor a mosaic of tremulous sunshine.
Then more wild cherries, and a little valley of lissome firs, and then a hill so
steep that the girls lost their breath climbing it; but when they reached the top
and came out into the open the prettiest surprise of all awaited them.
Beyond were the "back fields" of the farms that ran out to the upper Carmody road.
Just before them, hemmed in by beeches and firs but open to the south, was a little
corner and in it a garden ...or what had once been a garden.
A tumbledown stone dyke, overgrown with mosses and grass, surrounded it.
Along the eastern side ran a row of garden cherry trees, white as a snowdrift.
There were traces of old paths still and a double line of rosebushes through the
middle; but all the rest of the space was a sheet of yellow and white narcissi, in
their airiest, most lavish, wind-swayed bloom above the lush green grasses.
"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" three of the girls cried.
Anne only gazed in eloquent silence.
"How in the world does it happen that there ever was a garden back here?" said
Priscilla in amazement. "It must be Hester Gray's garden," said
Diana.
"I've heard mother speak of it but I never saw it before, and I wouldn't have supposed
that it could be in existence still. You've heard the story, Anne?"
"No, but the name seems familiar to me."
"Oh, you've seen it in the graveyard. She is buried down there in the poplar
corner.
You know the little brown stone with the opening gates carved on it and 'Sacred to
the memory of Hester Gray, aged twenty- two.'
Jordan Gray is buried right beside her but there's no stone to him.
It's a wonder Marilla never told you about it, Anne.
To be sure, it happened thirty years ago and everybody has forgotten."
"Well, if there's a story we must have it," said Anne.
"Let's sit right down here among the narcissi and Diana will tell it.
Why, girls, there are hundreds of them...they've spread over everything.
It looks as if the garden were carpeted with moonshine and sunshine combined.
This is a discovery worth making.
To think that I've lived within a mile of this place for six years and have never
seen it before! Now, Diana."
"Long ago," began Diana, "this farm belonged to old Mr. David Gray.
He didn't live on it...he lived where Silas Sloane lives now.
He had one son, Jordan, and he went up to Boston one winter to work and while he was
there he fell in love with a girl named Hester Murray.
She was working in a store and she hated it.
She'd been brought up in the country and she always wanted to get back.
When Jordan asked her to marry him she said she would if he'd take her away to some
quiet spot where she'd see nothing but fields and trees.
So he brought her to Avonlea.
Mrs. Lynde said he was taking a fearful risk in marrying a Yankee, and it's certain
that Hester was very delicate and a very poor housekeeper; but mother says she was
very pretty and sweet and Jordan just worshipped the ground she walked on.
Well, Mr. Gray gave Jordan this farm and he built a little house back here and Jordan
and Hester lived in it for four years.
She never went out much and hardly anybody went to see her except mother and Mrs.
Lynde.
Jordan made her this garden and she was crazy about it and spent most of her time
in it. She wasn't much of a housekeeper but she
had a knack with flowers.
And then she got sick. Mother says she thinks she was in
consumption before she ever came here. She never really laid up but just grew
weaker and weaker all the time.
Jordan wouldn't have anybody to wait on her.
He did it all himself and mother says he was as tender and gentle as a woman.
Every day he'd wrap her in a shawl and carry her out to the garden and she'd lie
there on a bench quite happy.
They say she used to make Jordan kneel down by her every night and morning and pray
with her that she might die out in the garden when the time came.
And her prayer was answered.
One day Jordan carried her out to the bench and then he picked all the roses that were
out and heaped them over her; and she just smiled up at him ...and closed her
eyes...and that," concluded Diana softly, "was the end."
"Oh, what a dear story," sighed Anne, wiping away her tears.
"What became of Jordan?" asked Priscilla.
"He sold the farm after Hester died and went back to Boston.
Mr. Jabez Sloane bought the farm and hauled the little house out to the road.
Jordan died about ten years after and he was brought home and buried beside Hester."
"I can't understand how she could have wanted to live back here, away from
everything," said Jane.
"Oh, I can easily understand THAT," said Anne thoughtfully.
"I wouldn't want it myself for a steady thing, because, although I love the fields
and woods, I love people too.
But I can understand it in Hester. She was tired to death of the noise of the
big city and the crowds of people always coming and going and caring nothing for
her.
She just wanted to escape from it all to some still, green, friendly place where she
could rest. And she got just what she wanted, which is
something very few people do, I believe.
She had four beautiful years before she died...four years of perfect happiness, so
I think she was to be envied more than pitied.
And then to shut your eyes and fall asleep among roses, with the one you loved best on
earth smiling down at you...oh, I think it was beautiful!"
"She set out those cherry trees over there," said Diana.
"She told mother she'd never live to eat their fruit, but she wanted to think that
something she had planted would go on living and helping to make the world
beautiful after she was dead."
"I'm so glad we came this way," said Anne, the shining-eyed.
"This is my adopted birthday, you know, and this garden and its story is the birthday
gift it has given me.
Did your mother ever tell you what Hester Gray looked like, Diana?"
"No...only just that she was pretty."
"I'm rather glad of that, because I can imagine what she looked like, without being
hampered by facts.
I think she was very slight and small, with softly curling dark hair and big, sweet,
timid brown eyes, and a little wistful, pale face."
The girls left their baskets in Hester's garden and spent the rest of the afternoon
rambling in the woods and fields surrounding it, discovering many pretty
nooks and lanes.
When they got hungry they had lunch in the prettiest spot of all...on the steep bank
of a gurgling brook where white birches shot up out of long feathery grasses.
The girls sat down by the roots and did full justice to Anne's dainties, even the
unpoetical sandwiches being greatly appreciated by hearty, unspoiled appetites
sharpened by all the fresh air and exercise they had enjoyed.
Anne had brought glasses and lemonade for her guests, but for her own part drank cold
brook water from a cup fashioned out of birch bark.
The cup leaked, and the water tasted of earth, as brook water is apt to do in
spring; but Anne thought it more appropriate to the occasion than lemonade.
"Look do you see that poem?" she said suddenly, pointing.
"Where?" Jane and Diana stared, as if expecting to
see Runic rhymes on the birch trees.
"There...down in the brook...that old green, mossy log with the water flowing
over it in those smooth ripples that look as if they'd been combed, and that single
shaft of sunshine falling right athwart it, far down into the pool.
Oh, it's the most beautiful poem I ever saw."
"I should rather call it a picture," said Jane.
"A poem is lines and verses." "Oh dear me, no."
Anne shook her head with its fluffy wild cherry coronal positively.
"The lines and verses are only the outward garments of the poem and are no more really
it than your ruffles and flounces are YOU, Jane.
The real poem is the soul within them ...and that beautiful bit is the soul of an
unwritten poem. It is not every day one sees a soul...even
of a poem."
"I wonder what a soul...a person's soul...would look like," said Priscilla
dreamily.
"Like that, I should think," answered Anne, pointing to a radiance of sifted sunlight
streaming through a birch tree. "Only with shape and features of course.
I like to fancy souls as being made of light.
And some are all shot through with rosy stains and quivers...and some have a soft
glitter like moonlight on the sea...and some are pale and transparent like mist at
dawn."
"I read somewhere once that souls were like flowers," said Priscilla.
"Then your soul is a golden narcissus," said Anne, "and Diana's is like a red, red
rose.
Jane's is an apple blossom, pink and wholesome and sweet."
"And your own is a white violet, with purple streaks in its heart," finished
Priscilla.
Jane whispered to Diana that she really could not understand what they were talking
about. Could she?
The girls went home by the light of a calm golden sunset, their baskets filled with
narcissus blossoms from Hester's garden, some of which Anne carried to the cemetery
next day and laid upon Hester's grave.
Minstrel robins were whistling in the firs and the frogs were singing in the marshes.
All the basins among the hills were brimmed with topaz and emerald light.
"Well, we have had a lovely time after all," said Diana, as if she had hardly
expected to have it when she set out. "It has been a truly golden day," said
Priscilla.
"I'm really awfully fond of the woods myself," said Jane.
Anne said nothing. She was looking afar into the western sky
and thinking of little Hester Gray.
CHAPTER XIV A Danger Averted
Anne, walking home from the post office one Friday evening, was joined by Mrs. Lynde,
who was as usual cumbered with all the cares of church and state.
"I've just been down to Timothy Cotton's to see if I could get Alice Louise to help me
for a few days," she said.
"I had her last week, for, though she's too slow to stop quick, she's better than
nobody. But she's sick and can't come.
Timothy's sitting there, too, coughing and complaining.
He's been dying for ten years and he'll go on dying for ten years more.
That kind can't even die and have done with it...they can't stick to anything, even to
being sick, long enough to finish it.
They're a terrible shiftless family and what is to become of them I don't know, but
perhaps Providence does."
Mrs. Lynde sighed as if she rather doubted the extent of Providential knowledge on the
subject. "Marilla was in about her eyes again
Tuesday, wasn't she?
What did the specialist think of them?" she continued.
"He was much pleased," said Anne brightly.
"He says there is a great improvement in them and he thinks the danger of her losing
her sight completely is past. But he says she'll never be able to read
much or do any fine hand-work again.
How are your preparations for your bazaar coming on?"
The Ladies' Aid Society was preparing for a fair and supper, and Mrs. Lynde was the
head and front of the enterprise.
"Pretty well...and that reminds me. Mrs. Allan thinks it would be nice to fix
up a booth like an old-time kitchen and serve a supper of baked beans, doughnuts,
pie, and so on.
We're collecting old-fashioned fixings everywhere.
Mrs. Simon Fletcher is going to lend us her mother's braided rugs and Mrs. Levi Boulter
some old chairs and Aunt Mary Shaw will lend us her cupboard with the glass doors.
I suppose Marilla will let us have her brass candlesticks?
And we want all the old dishes we can get.
Mrs. Allan is specially set on having a real blue willow ware platter if we can
find one. But nobody seems to have one.
Do you know where we could get one?"
"Miss Josephine Barry has one. I'll write and ask her if she'll lend it
for the occasion," said Anne. "Well, I wish you would.
I guess we'll have the supper in about a fortnight's time.
Uncle Abe Andrews is prophesying rain and storms for about that time; and that's a
pretty sure sign we'll have fine weather."
The said "Uncle Abe," it may be mentioned, was at least like other prophets in that he
had small honor in his own country.
He was, in fact, considered in the light of a standing joke, for few of his weather
predictions were ever fulfilled.
Mr. Elisha Wright, who labored under the impression that he was a local wit, used to
say that nobody in Avonlea ever thought of looking in the Charlottetown dailies for
weather probabilities.
No; they just asked Uncle Abe what it was going to be tomorrow and expected the
opposite. Nothing daunted, Uncle Abe kept on
prophesying.
"We want to have the fair over before the election comes off," continued Mrs. Lynde,
"for the candidates will be sure to come and spend lots of money.
The Tories are bribing right and left, so they might as well be given a chance to
spend their money honestly for once."
Anne was a red-hot Conservative, out of loyalty to Matthew's memory, but she said
nothing. She knew better than to get Mrs. Lynde
started on politics.
She had a letter for Marilla, postmarked from a town in British Columbia.
"It's probably from the children's uncle," she said excitedly, when she got home.
"Oh, Marilla, I wonder what he says about them."
"The best plan might be to open it and see," said Marilla curtly.
A close observer might have thought that she was excited also, but she would rather
have died than show it.
Anne tore open the letter and glanced over the somewhat untidy and poorly written
contents.
"He says he can't take the children this spring...he's been sick most of the winter
and his wedding is put off. He wants to know if we can keep them till
the fall and he'll try and take them then.
We will, of course, won't we Marilla?" "I don't see that there is anything else
for us to do," said Marilla rather grimly, although she felt a secret relief.
"Anyhow they're not so much trouble as they were...or else we've got used to them.
Davy has improved a great deal."
"His MANNERS are certainly much better," said Anne cautiously, as if she were not
prepared to say as much for his morals.
Anne had come home from school the previous evening, to find Marilla away at an Aid
meeting, Dora asleep on the kitchen sofa, and Davy in the sitting room closet,
blissfully absorbing the contents of a jar
of Marilla's famous yellow plum preserves...
"company jam," Davy called it...which he had been forbidden to touch.
He looked very guilty when Anne pounced on him and whisked him out of the closet.
"Davy Keith, don't you know that it is very wrong of you to be eating that jam, when
you were told never to meddle with anything in THAT closet?"
"Yes, I knew it was wrong," admitted Davy uncomfortably, "but plum jam is awful nice,
Anne. I just peeped in and it looked so good I
thought I'd take just a weeny taste.
I stuck my finger in ..." Anne groaned ...
"and licked it clean.
And it was so much gooder than I'd ever thought that I got a spoon and just SAILED
IN."
Anne gave him such a serious lecture on the sin of stealing plum jam that Davy became
conscience stricken and promised with repentant kisses never to do it again.
"Anyhow, there'll be plenty of jam in heaven, that's one comfort," he said
complacently. Anne nipped a smile in the bud.
"Perhaps there will...if we want it," she said, "But what makes you think so?"
"Why, it's in the catechism," said Davy. "Oh, no, there is nothing like THAT in the
catechism, Davy."
"But I tell you there is," persisted Davy. "It was in that question Marilla taught me
last Sunday. 'Why should we love God?'
It says, 'Because He makes preserves, and redeems us.'
Preserves is just a holy way of saying jam."
"I must get a drink of water," said Anne hastily.
When she came back it cost her some time and trouble to explain to Davy that a
certain comma in the said catechism question made a great deal of difference in
the meaning.
"Well, I thought it was too good to be true," he said at last, with a sigh of
disappointed conviction.
"And besides, I didn't see when He'd find time to make jam if it's one endless
Sabbath day, as the hymn says. I don't believe I want to go to heaven.
Won't there ever be any Saturdays in heaven, Anne?"
"Yes, Saturdays, and every other kind of beautiful days.
And every day in heaven will be more beautiful than the one before it, Davy,"
assured Anne, who was rather glad that Marilla was not by to be shocked.
Marilla, it is needless to say, was bringing the twins up in the good old ways
of theology and discouraged all fanciful speculations thereupon.
Davy and Dora were taught a hymn, a catechism question, and two Bible verses
every Sunday.
Dora learned meekly and recited like a little machine, with perhaps as much
understanding or interest as if she were one.
Davy, on the contrary, had a lively curiosity, and frequently asked questions
which made Marilla tremble for his fate.
"Chester Sloane says we'll do nothing all the time in heaven but walk around in white
dresses and play on harps; and he says he hopes he won't have to go till he's an old
man, 'cause maybe he'll like it better then.
And he thinks it will be horrid to wear dresses and I think so too.
Why can't men angels wear trousers, Anne?
Chester Sloane is interested in those things, 'cause they're going to make a
minister of him.
He's got to be a minister 'cause his grandmother left the money to send him to
college and he can't have it unless he is a minister.
She thought a minister was such a 'spectable thing to have in a family.
Chester says he doesn't mind much...though he'd rather be a blacksmith...but he's
bound to have all the fun he can before he begins to be a minister, 'cause he doesn't
expect to have much afterwards.
I ain't going to be a minister. I'm going to be a storekeeper, like Mr.
Blair, and keep heaps of candy and bananas.
But I'd rather like going to your kind of a heaven if they'd let me play a mouth organ
instead of a harp. Do you s'pose they would?"
"Yes, I think they would if you wanted it," was all Anne could trust herself to say.
The A.V.I.S. met at Mr. Harmon Andrews' that evening and a full attendance had been
requested, since important business was to be discussed.
The A.V.I.S. was in a flourishing condition, and had already accomplished
wonders.
Early in the spring Mr. Major Spencer had redeemed his promise and had stumped,
graded, and seeded down all the road front of his farm.
A dozen other men, some prompted by a determination not to let a Spencer get
ahead of them, others goaded into action by Improvers in their own households, had
followed his example.
The result was that there were long strips of smooth velvet turf where once had been
unsightly undergrowth or brush.
The farm fronts that had not been done looked so badly by contrast that their
owners were secretly shamed into resolving to see what they could do another spring.
The triangle of ground at the cross roads had also been cleared and seeded down, and
Anne's bed of geraniums, unharmed by any marauding cow, was already set out in the
center.
Altogether, the Improvers thought that they were getting on beautifully, even if Mr.
Levi Boulter, tactfully approached by a carefully selected committee in regard to
the old house on his upper farm, did
bluntly tell them that he wasn't going to have it meddled with.
At this especial meeting they intended to draw up a petition to the school trustees,
humbly praying that a fence be put around the school grounds; and a plan was also to
be discussed for planting a few ornamental
trees by the church, if the funds of the society would permit of it...for, as Anne
said, there was no use in starting another subscription as long as the hall remained
blue.
The members were assembled in the Andrews' parlor and Jane was already on her feet to
move the appointment of a committee which should find out and report on the price of
said trees, when Gertie Pye swept in,
pompadoured and frilled within an inch of her life.
Gertie had a habit of being late ... "to make her entrance more effective,"
spiteful people said.
Gertie's entrance in this instance was certainly effective, for she paused
dramatically on the middle of the floor, threw up her hands, rolled her eyes, and
exclaimed, "I've just heard something perfectly awful.
What DO you think?
Mr. Judson Parker IS GOING TO RENT ALL THE ROAD FENCE OF HIS FARM TO A PATENT MEDICINE
COMPANY TO PAINT ADVERTISEMENTS ON." For once in her life Gertie Pye made all
the sensation she desired.
If she had thrown a bomb among the complacent Improvers she could hardly have
made more. "It CAN'T be true," said Anne blankly.
"That's just what I said when I heard it first, don't you know," said Gertie, who
was enjoying herself hugely.
"I said it couldn't be true ...that Judson Parker wouldn't have the HEART to do it,
don't you know. But father met him this afternoon and asked
him about it and he said it WAS true.
Just fancy! His farm is side-on to the Newbridge road
and how perfectly awful it will look to see advertisements of pills and plasters all
along it, don't you know?"
The Improvers DID know, all too well. Even the least imaginative among them could
picture the grotesque effect of half a mile of board fence adorned with such
advertisements.
All thought of church and school grounds vanished before this new danger.
Parliamentary rules and regulations were forgotten, and Anne, in despair, gave up
trying to keep minutes at all.
Everybody talked at once and fearful was the hubbub.
"Oh, let us keep calm," implored Anne, who was the most excited of them all, "and try
to think of some way of preventing him."
"I don't know how you're going to prevent him," exclaimed Jane bitterly.
"Everybody knows what Judson Parker is. He'd do ANYTHING for money.
He hasn't a SPARK of public spirit or ANY sense of the beautiful."
The prospect looked rather unpromising.
Judson Parker and his sister were the only Parkers in Avonlea, so that no leverage
could be exerted by family connections.
Martha Parker was a lady of all too certain age who disapproved of young people in
general and the Improvers in particular.
Judson was a jovial, smooth-spoken man, so uniformly goodnatured and bland that it was
surprising how few friends he had.
Perhaps he had got the better in too many business transactions...which seldom makes
for popularity.
He was reputed to be very "sharp" and it was the general opinion that he "hadn't
much principle."
"If Judson Parker has a chance to 'turn an honest penny,' as he says himself, he'll
never lose it," declared Fred Wright. "Is there NOBODY who has any influence over
him?" asked Anne despairingly.
"He goes to see Louisa Spencer at White Sands," suggested Carrie Sloane.
"Perhaps she could coax him not to rent his fences."
"Not she," said Gilbert emphatically.
"I know Louisa Spencer well. She doesn't 'believe' in Village
Improvement Societies, but she DOES believe in dollars and cents.
She'd be more likely to urge Judson on than to dissuade him."
"The only thing to do is to appoint a committee to wait on him and protest," said
Julia Bell, "and you must send girls, for he'd hardly be civil to boys ...but I won't
go, so nobody need nominate me."
"Better send Anne alone," said Oliver Sloane.
"She can talk Judson over if anybody can." Anne protested.
She was willing to go and do the talking; but she must have others with her "for
moral support."
Diana and Jane were therefore appointed to support her morally and the Improvers broke
up, buzzing like angry bees with indignation.
Anne was so worried that she didn't sleep until nearly morning, and then she dreamed
that the trustees had put a fence around the school and painted "Try Purple Pills"
all over it.
The committee waited on Judson Parker the next afternoon.
Anne pleaded eloquently against his nefarious design and Jane and Diana
supported her morally and valiantly.
Judson was sleek, suave, flattering; paid them several compliments of the delicacy of
sunflowers; felt real bad to refuse such charming young ladies ...but business was
business; couldn't afford to let sentiment stand in the way these hard times.
"But I'll tell what I WILL do," he said, with a twinkle in his light, full eyes.
"I'll tell the agent he must use only handsome, tasty colors ...red and yellow
and so on. I'll tell him he mustn't paint the ads BLUE
on any account."
The vanquished committee retired, thinking things not lawful to be uttered.
"We have done all we can do and must simply trust the rest to Providence," said Jane,
with an unconscious imitation of Mrs. Lynde's tone and manner.
"I wonder if Mr. Allan could do anything," reflected Diana.
Anne shook her head. "No, it's no use to worry Mr. Allan,
especially now when the baby's so sick.
Judson would slip away from him as smoothly as from us, although he HAS taken to going
to church quite regularly just now.
That is simply because Louisa Spencer's father is an elder and very particular
about such things."
"Judson Parker is the only man in Avonlea who would dream of renting his fences,"
said Jane indignantly.
"Even Levi Boulter or Lorenzo White would never stoop to that, tightfisted as they
are. They would have too much respect for public
opinion."
Public opinion was certainly down on Judson Parker when the facts became known, but
that did not help matters much.
Judson chuckled to himself and defied it, and the Improvers were trying to reconcile
themselves to the prospect of seeing the prettiest part of the Newbridge road
defaced by advertisements, when Anne rose
quietly at the president's call for reports of committees on the occasion of the next
meeting of the Society, and announced that Mr. Judson Parker had instructed her to
inform the Society that he was NOT going to
rent his fences to the Patent Medicine Company.
Jane and Diana stared as if they found it hard to believe their ears.
Parliamentary etiquette, which was generally very strictly enforced in the
A.V.I.S., forbade them giving instant vent to their curiosity, but after the Society
adjourned Anne was besieged for explanations.
Anne had no explanation to give.
Judson Parker had overtaken her on the road the preceding evening and told her that he
had decided to humor the A.V.I.S. in its peculiar prejudice against patent medicine
advertisements.
That was all Anne would say, then or ever afterwards, and it was the simple truth;
but when Jane Andrews, on her way home, confided to Oliver Sloane her firm belief
that there was more behind Judson Parker's
mysterious change of heart than Anne Shirley had revealed, she spoke the truth
also.
Anne had been down to old Mrs. Irving's on the shore road the preceding evening and
had come home by a short cut which led her first over the low-lying shore fields, and
then through the beech wood below Robert
Dickson's, by a little footpath that ran out to the main road just above the Lake of
Shining Waters...known to unimaginative people as Barry's pond.
Two men were sitting in their buggies, reined off to the side of the road, just at
the entrance of the path.
One was Judson Parker; the other was Jerry Corcoran, a Newbridge man against whom, as
Mrs. Lynde would have told you in eloquent italics, nothing shady had ever been
PROVED.
He was an agent for agricultural implements and a prominent personage in matters
political.
He had a finger... some people said ALL his fingers...in every political pie that was
cooked; and as Canada was on the eve of a general election Jerry Corcoran had been a
busy man for many weeks, canvassing the
county in the interests of his party's candidate.
Just as Anne emerged from under the overhanging beech boughs she heard Corcoran
say, "If you'll vote for Amesbury, Parker...well, I've a note for that pair of
harrows you've got in the spring.
I suppose you wouldn't object to having it back, eh?"
"We...ll, since you put it in that way," drawled Judson with a grin, "I reckon I
might as well do it.
A man must look out for his own interests in these hard times."
Both saw Anne at this moment and conversation abruptly ceased.
Anne bowed frostily and walked on, with her chin slightly more tilted than usual.
Soon Judson Parker overtook her. "Have a lift, Anne?" he inquired genially.
"Thank you, no," said Anne politely, but with a fine, needle-like disdain in her
voice that pierced even Judson Parker's none too sensitive consciousness.
His face reddened and he twitched his reins angrily; but the next second prudential
considerations checked him.
He looked uneasily at Anne, as she walked steadily on, glancing neither to the right
nor to the left. Had she heard Corcoran's unmistakable offer
and his own too plain acceptance of it?
Confound Corcoran! If he couldn't put his meaning into less
dangerous phrases he'd get into trouble some of these long-come-shorts.
And confound redheaded school-ma'ams with a habit of popping out of beechwoods where
they had no business to be.
If Anne had heard, Judson Parker, measuring her corn in his own half bushel, as the
country saying went, and cheating himself thereby, as such people generally do,
believed that she would tell it far and wide.
Now, Judson Parker, as has been seen, was not overly regardful of public opinion; but
to be known as having accepted a bribe would be a nasty thing; and if it ever
reached Isaac Spencer's ears farewell
forever to all hope of winning Louisa Jane with her comfortable prospects as the
heiress of a well-to-do farmer.
Judson Parker knew that Mr. Spencer looked somewhat askance at him as it was; he could
not afford to take any risks.
"Ahem...Anne, I've been wanting to see you about that little matter we were discussing
the other day. I've decided not to let my fences to that
company after all.
A society with an aim like yours ought to be encouraged."
Anne thawed out the merest trifle. "Thank you," she said.
"And...and...you needn't mention that little conversation of mine with Jerry."
"I have no intention of mentioning it in any case," said Anne icily, for she would
have seen every fence in Avonlea painted with advertisements before she would have
stooped to bargain with a man who would sell his vote.
"Just so...just so," agreed Judson, imagining that they understood each other
beautifully.
"I didn't suppose you would. Of course, I was only stringing Jerry...he
thinks he's so all-fired cute and smart. I've no intention of voting for Amesbury.
I'm going to vote for Grant as I've always done...you'll see that when the election
comes off. I just led Jerry on to see if he would
commit himself.
And it's all right about the fence ...you can tell the Improvers that."
"It takes all sorts of people to make a world, as I've often heard, but I think
there are some who could be spared," Anne told her reflection in the east gable
mirror that night.
"I wouldn't have mentioned the disgraceful thing to a soul anyhow, so my conscience is
clear on THAT score. I really don't know who or what is to be
thanked for this.
I did nothing to bring it about, and it's hard to believe that Providence ever works
by means of the kind of politics men like Judson Parker and Jerry Corcoran have."
CHAPTER XV The Beginning of Vacation
Anne locked the schoolhouse door on a still, yellow evening, when the winds were
purring in the spruces around the playground, and the shadows were long and
lazy by the edge of the woods.
She dropped the key into her pocket with a sigh of satisfaction.
The school year was ended, she had been reengaged for the next, with many
expressions of satisfaction....only Mr. Harmon Andrews told her she ought to use
the strap oftener...and two delightful
months of a well-earned vacation beckoned her invitingly.
Anne felt at peace with the world and herself as she walked down the hill with
her basket of flowers in her hand.
Since the earliest mayflowers Anne had never missed her weekly pilgrimage to
Matthew's grave.
Everyone else in Avonlea, except Marilla, had already forgotten quiet, shy,
unimportant Matthew Cuthbert; but his memory was still green in Anne's heart and
always would be.