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The Greatest Works of L. M. Montgomery

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Chapter VI

Table of Contents

Saturday and Monday were full of gay doings at Green Gables. The plum pudding was concocted and the Christmas tree brought home. Katherine and Anne and Davy and Dora went to the woods for it … a beautiful little fir to whose cutting down Anne was only reconciled by the fact that it was in a little clearing of Mr. Harrison’s which was going to be stumped and plowed in the spring anyhow.

They wandered about, gathering creeping spruce and ground pine for wreaths … even some ferns that kept green in a certain deep hollow of the woods all winter … until day smiled back at night over white-bosomed hills and they came back to Green Gables in triumph … to meet a tall young man with hazel eyes and the beginnings of a mustache which made him look so much older and maturer that Anne had one awful moment of wondering if it were really Gilbert or a stranger.

Katherine, with a little smile that tried to be sarcastic but couldn’t quite succeed, left them in the parlor and played games with the twins in the kitchen all the evening. To her amazement she found she was enjoying it. And what fun it was to go down cellar with Davy and find that there were really such things as sweet apples still left in the world.

Katherine had never been in a country cellar before and had no idea what a delightful, spooky, shadowy place it could be by candlelight. Life already seemed warmer. For the first time it came home to Katherine that life might be beautiful, even for her.

Davy made enough noise to wake the Seven Sleepers, at an unearthly hour Christmas morning, ringing an old cowbell up and down the stairs. Marilla was horrified at his doing such a thing when there was a guest in the house, but Katherine came down laughing. Somehow, an odd camaraderie had sprung up between her and Davy. She told Anne candidly that she had no use for the impeccable Dora but that Davy was somehow tarred with her own brush.

They opened the parlor and distributed the gifts before breakfast because the twins, even Dora, couldn’t have eaten anything if they hadn’t. Katherine, who had not expected anything except, perhaps, a duty gift from Anne, found herself getting presents from every one. A gay, crocheted afghan from Mrs. Lynde … a sachet of orris root from Dora … a paper-knife from Davy … a basketful of tiny jars of jam and jelly from Marilla … even a little bronze chessy cat for a paper-weight from Gilbert.

And, tied under the tree, curled up on a bit of warm and woolly blanket, a dear little browneyed puppy, with alert, silken ears and an ingratiating tail. A card tied to his neck bore the legend, “From Anne, who dares, after all, to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

Katherine gathered his wriggling little body up in her arms and spoke shakily.

“Anne … he’s a darling! But Mrs. Dennis won’t let me keep him. I asked her if I might get a dog and she refused.”

“I’ve arranged it all with Mrs. Dennis. You’ll find she won’t object. And, anyway, Katherine, you’re not going to be there long. You must find a decent place to live, now that you’ve paid off what you thought were your obligations. Look at the lovely box of stationery Diana sent me. Isn’t it fascinating to look at the blank pages and wonder what will be written on them?”

Mrs. Lynde was thankful it was a white Christmas … there would be no fat graveyards when Christmas was white … but to Katherine it seemed a purple and crimson and golden Christmas. And the week that followed was just as beautiful. Katherine had often wondered bitterly just what it would be like to be happy and now she found out. She bloomed out in the most astonishing way. Anne found herself enjoying their companionship.

“To think I was afraid she would spoil my Christmas holiday!” she reflected in amazement.

“To think,” said Katherine to herself, “that I was on the verge of refusing to come here when Anne invited me!”

They went for long walks … through Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood, where the very silence seemed friendly … over hills where the light snow whirled in a winter dance of goblins … through old orchards full of violet shadows … through the glory of sunset woods. There were no birds to chirp or sing, no brooks to gurgle, no squirrels to gossip. But the wind made occasional music that had in quality what it lacked in quantity.

“One can always find something lovely to look at or listen to,” said Anne.

They talked of “cabbages and kings,” and hitched their wagons to stars, and came home with appetites that taxed even the Green Gables pantry. One day it stormed and they couldn’t go out. The east wind was beating around the eaves and the gray gulf was roaring. But even a storm at Green Gables had charms of its own. It was cozy to sit by the stove and dreamily watch the firelight flickering over the ceiling while you munched apples and candy. How jolly supper was with the storm wailing outside!

One night Gilbert took them to see Diana and her new baby daughter.

“I never held a baby in my life before,” said Katherine as they drove home. “For one thing, I didn’t want to, and for another I’d have been afraid of it going to pieces in my grasp. You can’t imagine how I felt … so big and clumsy with that tiny, exquisite thing in my arms. I know Mrs. Wright thought I was going to drop it every minute. I could see her striving heroically to conceal her terror. But it did something to me … the baby I mean … I haven’t decided just what.”

“Babies are such fascinating creatures,” said Anne dreamily. “They are what I heard somebody at Redmond call ‘terrific bundles of potentialities.’ Think of it, Katherine … Homer must have been a baby once … a baby with dimples and great eyes full of light … he couldn’t have been blind then, of course.”

“What a pity his mother didn’t know he was to be Homer,” said Katherine.

“But I think I’m glad Judas’ mother didn’t know he was to be Judas,” said Anne softly. “I hope she never did know.”

There was a concert in the hall one night, with a party at Abner Sloane’s after it, and Anne persuaded Katherine to go to both.

“I want you to give us a reading for our program, Katherine. I’ve heard you read beautifully.”

“I used to recite … I think I rather liked doing it. But the summer before last I recited at a shore concert which a party of summer resorters got up … and I heard them laughing at me afterwards.”

“How do you know they were laughing at you?”

“They must have been. There wasn’t anything else to laugh at.”

Anne hid a smile and persisted in asking for the reading.

“Give Genevra for an encore. I’m told you do that splendidly. Mrs. Stephen Pringle told me she never slept a wink the night after she heard you give it.”

“No; I’ve never liked Genevra. It’s in the reading, so I try occasionally to show the class how to read it. I really have no patience with Genevra. Why didn’t she scream when she found herself locked in? When they were hunting everywhere for her, surely somebody would have heard her.”

Katherine finally promised the reading but was dubious about the party. “I’ll go, of course. But nobody will ask me to dance and I’ll feel sarcastic and prejudiced and ashamed. I’m always miserable at parties … the few I’ve ever gone to. Nobody seems to think I can dance … and you know I can fairly well, Anne. I picked it up at Uncle Henry’s, because a poor bit of a maid they had wanted to learn, too, and she and I used to dance together in the kitchen at night to the music that went on in the parlor. I think I’d like it … with the right kind of partner.”

“You won’t be miserable at this party, Katherine. You won’t be outside looking in. There’s all the difference in the world, you know, between being inside looking out and outside looking in. You have such lovely hair, Katherine. Do you mind if I try a new way of doing it?”

Katherine shrugged.

“Oh, go ahead. I suppose my hair does look dreadful … but I’ve no time to be always primping. I haven’t a party dress. Will my green taffeta do?”

“It will have to do … though green is the one color above all others that you should never wear, my Katherine. But you’re going to wear a red, pintucked chiffon collar I’ve made for you. Yes, you are. You ought to have a red dress, Katherine.”

“I’ve always hated red. When I went to live with Uncle Henry, Aunt Gertrude always made me wear aprons of bright Turkey-red. The other children in school used to call out ‘Fire,’ when I came in with one of those aprons on. Anyway, I can’t be bothered with clothes.”

“Heaven grant me patience! Clothes are very important,” said Anne severely, as she braided and coiled. Then she looked at her work and saw that it was good. She put her arm about Katherine’s shoulders and turned her to the mirror.

“Don’t you truly think we are a pair of quite goodlooking girls?” she laughed. “And isn’t it really nice to think people will find some pleasure in looking at us? There are so many homely people who would actually look quite attractive if they took a little pains with themselves. Three Sundays ago in church … you remember the day poor old Mr. Milvain preached and had such a terrible cold in his head that nobody could make out what he was saying? … well, I passed the time making the people around me beautiful. I gave Mrs. Brent a new nose, I waved Mary Addison’s hair and gave Jane Marden’s a lemon rinse … I dressed Emma Dill in blue instead of brown … I dressed Charlotte Blair in stripes instead of checks … I removed several moles … and I shaved off Thomas Anderson’s long, sandy Piccadilly weepers. You couldn’t have known them when I got through with them. And, except perhaps for Mrs. Brent’s nose, they could have done everything I did, themselves. Why, Katherine, your eyes are just the color of tea … amber tea. Now, live up to your name this evening … a brook should be sparkling … limpid … merry.”

 

“Everything I’m not.”

“Everything you’ve been this past week. So you can be it.”

“That’s only the magic of Green Gables. When I go back to Summerside, twelve o’clock will have struck for Cinderella.”

“You’ll take the magic back with you. Look at yourself … looking for once as you ought to look all the time.”

Katherine gazed at her reflection in the mirror as if rather doubting her identity.

“I do look years younger,” she admitted. “You were right … clothes do do things to you. Oh, I know I’ve been looking older than my age. I didn’t care. Why should I? Nobody else cared. And I’m not like you, Anne. Apparently you were born knowing how to live. And I don’t know anything about it … not even the A B C. I wonder if it’s too late to learn. I’ve been sarcastic so long, I don’t know if I can be anything else. Sarcasm seemed to me to be the only way I could make any impression on people. And it seems to me, too, that I’ve always been afraid when I was in the company of other people … afraid of saying something stupid … afraid of being laughed at.”

“Katherine Brooke, look at yourself in that mirror; carry that picture of yourself with you … magnificent hair framing your face instead of trying to pull it backward … eyes sparkling like dark stars … a little flush of excitement on your cheeks … and you won’t feel afraid. Come, now. We’re going to be late, but fortunately all the performers have what I heard Dora referring to as ‘preserved’ seats.”

Gilbert drove them to the hall. How like old times it was … only Katherine was with her in place of Diana. Anne sighed. Diana had so many other interests now. No more running round to concerts and parties for her.

But what an evening it was! What silvery satin roads with a pale green sky in the west after a light snowfall! Orion was treading his stately march across the heavens, and hills and fields and woods lay around them in a pearly silence.

Katherine’s reading captured her audience from the first line, and at the party she could not find dances for all her would-be partners. She suddenly found herself laughing without bitterness. Then home to Green Gables, warming their toes at the sitting-room fire by the light of two friendly candles on the mantel; and Mrs. Lynde tiptoeing into their room, late as it was, to ask them if they’d like another blanket and assure Katherine that her little dog was snug and warm in a basket behind the kitchen stove.

“I’ve got a new outlook on life,” thought Katherine as she drifted off to slumber. “I didn’t know there were people like this.”

“Come again,” said Marilla when she left.

Marilla never said that to any one unless she meant it.

“Of course she’s coming again,” said Anne. “For weekends … and for weeks in the summer. We’ll build bonfires and hoe in the garden … and pick apples and go for the cows … and row on the pond and get lost in the woods. I want to show you Little Hester Gray’s garden, Katherine, and Echo Lodge and Violet Vale when it’s full of violets.”

Chapter VII

Table of Contents

“Windy Poplars,

“January 5th,

“The street where ghosts (should) walk.

“MY ESTEEMED FRIEND:

“That isn’t anything Aunt Chatty’s grandmother wrote. It’s only something she would have written if she’d thought of it.

“I’ve made a New Year resolution to write sensible love-letters. Do you suppose such a thing is possible?

“I have left dear Green Gables but I have returned to dear Windy Poplars. Rebecca Dew had a fire lighted in the tower room for me and a hot-water bottle in the bed.

“I’m so glad I like Windy Poplars. It would be dreadful to live in a place I didn’t like … that didn’t seem friendly to me … that didn’t say, ‘I’m glad you’re back.’ Windy Poplars does. It’s a bit old-fashioned and a bit prim, but it likes me.

“And I was glad to see Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty and Rebecca Dew again. I can’t help seeing their funny sides but I love them well for all that.

“Rebecca Dew said such a nice thing to me yesterday.

“‘Spook’s Lane has been a different place since you came here, Miss Shirley.’

“I’m glad you liked Katherine, Gilbert. She was surprisingly nice to you. It’s amazing to find how nice she can be when she tries. And I think she is just as much amazed at it herself as any one else. She had no idea it would be so easy.

“It’s going to make so much difference in school, having a Vice you can really work with. She is going to change her boardinghouse, and I have already persuaded her to get that velvet hat and have not yet given up hope of persuading her to sing in the choir.

“Mr. Hamilton’s dog came down yesterday and chivied Dusty Miller. ‘This is the last straw,’ said Rebecca Dew. And with her red cheeks redder still, her chubby back shaking with anger, and in such a hurry that she put her hat on hindside before and never knew it, she toddled up the road and gave Mr. Hamilton quite a large piece of her mind. I can just see his foolish, amiable face while he was listening to her.

“‘I do not like That Cat,’ she told me, ‘but he is OURS and no Hamilton dog is going to come here and give him impudence in his own back yard. “He only chased your cat in fun,” said Jabez Hamilton. “The Hamilton ideas of fun are different from the MacComber ideas of fun or the MacLean ideas of fun or, if it comes to that, the Dew ideas of fun,” I told him. “Tut, tut, you must have had cabbage for dinner, Miss Dew,” said he. “No,” I said, “but I could have had. Mrs. Captain MacComber didn’t sell all her cabbages last fall and leave her family without any because the price was so good. There are some people,” sez I, “that can’t hear anything because of the jingle in their pocket.” And I left that to sink in. But what could you expect from a Hamilton? Low scum!’

“There is a crimson star hanging low over the white Storm King. I wish you were here to watch it with me. If you were, I really think it would be more than a moment of esteem and friendship.”

“January 12th.

“Little Elizabeth came over two nights ago to find out if I could tell her what peculiar kind of terrible animals Papal bulls were, and to tell me tearfully that her teacher had asked her to sing at a concert the public school is getting up but that Mrs. Campbell put her foot down and said ‘no’ most decidedly. When Elizabeth attempted to plead, Mrs. Campbell said,

“‘Have the goodness not to talk back to me, Elizabeth, if you please.’

“Little Elizabeth wept a few bitter tears in the tower room that night and said she felt it would make her Lizzie forever. She could never be any of her other names again.

“‘Last week I loved God, this week I don’t,’ she said defiantly.

“All her class were taking part in the program and she felt ‘like a leopard.’ I think the sweet thing meant she felt like a leper and that was sufficiently dreadful. Darling Elizabeth must not feel like a leper.

“So I manufactured an errand to The Evergreens next evening. The Woman … who might really have lived before the flood, she looks so ancient … gazed at me coldly out of great gray, expressionless eyes, showed me grimly into the drawing-room and went to tell Mrs. Campbell that I had asked for her.

“I don’t think there has been any sunshine in that drawing-room since the house was built. There was a piano, but I’m sure it could never have been played on. Stiff chairs, covered with silk brocade, stood against the wall … All the furniture stood against the wall except a central marble-topped table, and none of it seemed to be acquainted with the rest.

“Mrs. Campbell came in. I had never seen her before. She has a fine, sculptured old face that might have been a man’s, with black eyes and black bushy brows under frosty hair. She has not quite eschewed all vain adornment of the body, for she wore large black onyx earrings that reached to her shoulders. She was painfully polite to me and I was painlessly polite to her. We sat and exchanged civilities about the weather for a few moments … both, as Tacitus remarked a few thousand years ago, ‘with countenances adjusted to the occasion.’ I told her, truthfully, that I had come to see if she would lend me the Rev. James Wallace Campbell’s Memoirs for a short time, because I understood there was a good deal about the early history of Prince County in them which I wished to make use of in school.

“Mrs. Campbell thawed quite markedly and summoning Elizabeth, told her to go up to her room and bring down the Memoirs. Elizabeth’s face showed signs of tears and Mrs. Campbell condescended to explain that it was because little Elizabeth’s teacher had sent another note begging that she be allowed to sing at the concert, and that she, Mrs. Campbell, had written a very stinging reply which little Elizabeth would have to carry to her teacher the next morning.

“‘I do not approve of children of Elizabeth’s age singing in public,’ said Mrs. Campbell. ‘It tends to make them bold and forward.’

“As if anything could make little Elizabeth bold and forward!

“‘I think perhaps you are wise, Mrs. Campbell,’ I remarked in my most patronizing tone. ‘In any event Mabel Phillips is going to sing, and I am told that her voice is really so wonderful that she will make all the others seem as nothing. No doubt it is much better that Elizabeth should not appear in competition with her.’

“Mrs. Campbell’s face was a study. She may be Campbell outside but she is Pringle at the core. She said nothing, however, and I knew the psychological moment for stopping. I thanked her for the Memoirs and came away.

“The next evening when little Elizabeth came to the garden gate for her milk, her pale, flowerlike face was literally a-star. She told me that Mrs. Campbell had told her she might sing after all, if she were careful not to let herself get puffed up about it.

“You see, Rebecca Dew had told me that the Phillips and the Campbell clans have always been rivals in the matter of good voices!

“I gave Elizabeth a bit of a picture for Christmas to hang above her bed … just a light-dappled woodland path leading up a hill to a quaint little house among some trees. Little Elizabeth says she is not so frightened now to go to sleep in the dark, because as soon as she gets into bed she pretends that she is walking up the path to the house and that she goes inside and it is all lighted and her father is there.

“Poor darling! I can’t help detesting that father of hers!”

“January 19th.

“There was a dance at Carry Pringle’s last night. Katherine was there in a dark red silk with the new side flounces and her hair had been done by a hairdresser. Would you believe it, people who had known her ever since she came to teach in Summerside actually asked one another who she was when she came into the room. But I think it was less the dress and hair that made the difference than some indefinable change in herself.

“Always before, when she was out with people, her attitude seemed to be, ‘These people bore me. I expect I bore them and I hope I do.’ But last night it was as if she had set lighted candles in all the windows of her house of life.

“I’ve had a hard time winning Katherine’s friendship. But nothing worth while is ever easy come by and I have always felt that her friendship would be worth while.

“Aunt Chatty has been in bed for two days with a feverish cold and thinks she may have the doctor tomorrow, in case she is taking pneumonia. So Rebecca Dew, her head tied up in a towel, has been cleaning the house madly all day to get it in perfect order before the doctor’s possible visit. Now she is in the kitchen ironing Aunt Chatty’s white cotton nighty with the crochet yoke, so that it will be ready for her to slip over her flannel one. It was spotlessly clean before, but Rebecca Dew thought it was not quite a good color from lying in the bureau drawer.”

 

“January 28th.

“January so far has been a month of cold gray days, with an occasional storm whirling across the harbor and filling Spook’s Lane with drifts. But last night we had a silver thaw and today the sun shone. My maple grove was a place of unimaginable splendors. Even the commonplaces had been made lovely. Every bit of wire fencing was a wonder of crystal lace.

“Rebecca Dew has been poring this evening over one of my magazines containing an article on ‘Types of Fair Women,’ illustrated by photographs.

“‘Wouldn’t it be lovely, Miss Shirley, if some one could just wave a wand and make everybody beautiful?’ she said wistfully. ‘Just fancy my feelings, Miss Shirley, if I suddenly found myself beautiful! But then’ … with a sigh … ‘if we were all beauties who would do the work?’”