Anne Comes to Joy in a Surprising Fashion
Summer was a fine time in Avonlea. While there were always chores to be done, somehow they seemed easier when the sunlight danced in through the windows of Green Gables. And while it did make Anne yearn to be out of doors instead of washing up the breakfast dishes or tidying up her bedroom, she found ways of keeping her tasks from seeming too onerous.
“I just imagine,” she told Diana frankly, “that I’m a princess who’s been shut away in a tower by a fairy that I accidentally insulted, and there I must remain until I’ve washed five hundred plates or darned six hundred pairs of stockings or swept and mopped the chamber floors a thousand times. Only I’ve lost count, so I must keep at them until the fairy tells me I’ve done my penance.”
Diana laughed at that. “I can’t think that Miss Cuthbert would care to be considered a fairy!” she exclaimed.
“I did consider that,” Anne admitted, “but imagining that I’m a shut-away princess in an enchanted tower is ever so romantic that I simply can’t bear to give up the daydream. And if it wasn’t a fairy who’s so imprisoned me, why it could only be a witch. And it would be far more disrespectful to imagine Marilla as a witch than as a fairy!”
While Diana agreed wholeheartedly with that statement, she still thought it not quite proper to imagine Marilla as a fairy. To be fair, it was hardly the child’s fault. Imagining anything at all, beyond the rewards awaiting each saint and the punishments in store for each sinner, was not encouraged in the Barry household. Diana, it must be owned, envied Anne—not only her gift of imagination, but her freedom to indulge it. For while Marilla might sniff at Anne’s talent for fantasy and call it stuff and nonsense, she was quick to take up her young ward’s cause should any other denizen of Avonlea dismiss it so.
“Would it spoil your imaginings,” Diana ventured, “if I were to do the drying up? That way, we can go out of doors so much sooner."
Anne generously passed Diana the tea towel. “It wouldn’t spoil them in the slightest, Diana. For you see, my fairy guardian has taken pity upon me and sent an elf companion to ensure that I need not await my liberty for long.”
The newly-christened elf companion donned a spare apron at once and tied the strings behind her with a giggle.
“Those look like chanterelles to me,” Diana said, pointing to a small clump of golden mushrooms. “Mother adores chanterelles.”
“Should we take her some?” Anne asked, already stooping down to pluck them.
Diana sighed. “I would, but there are some toadstools that look so like mushrooms that you have to be quite the expert to tell them apart. And after Mrs. Lynde told Mother at tea about a Carmody boy who ate the wrong sort and was fortunate that all he got was a bad stomach-ache, Mother made me promise not to go foraging on my own.”
Anne, it must be owned, shuddered theatrically. “I should think not,” she murmured, rising at once. “Do you know, Diana,” she said brightly, “that today marks three years to the day since Matthew brought me to Green Gables?”
“Does it?” Diana asked vaguely. “I was away when you first came to Avonlea, if you recall. I don’t believe you ever told me the date you arrived.” She looked away for a moment with a twitch that seemed almost guilty.
“Well, it was today,” Anne asserted. “Today’s date, that is.” She sighed. “I thought about asking Marilla if we could have a small celebration, but of course I know she’d think it was too frivolous. After all, she didn’t think it was proper for me to have a birthday party last March, even though both Jane and Ruby invited me to theirs.” She sighed. “And Josie looked so smug when she handed me the invitation to hers,” she added, for Josie Pye would be turning fourteen in a mere two weeks’ time. “She made it excruciatingly clear that I ought to count myself fortunate that she’d asked me at all, since I would be unable to reciprocate.”
Diana shook her head in sympathy. “I shouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you decided not to attend,” she proclaimed.
Anne smiled. “Dear Diana,” she replied, “as certain as I am that I’d have a far more enjoyable day if I didn’t have to abide Josie’s sour expressions and cutting taunts, I know full well that she would only choose to regale me with tales of the high time I’d missed at her first opportunity. At least if I go, I’ll know for myself that it won’t be nearly as much fun as she’d have me believe.” She sighed. “And besides, her mother does make the very best raspberry ice cream.” She smiled. “I may not have the highest regard for Josie Pye, but I must admit to a fondness for her ice cream.”
“Should we be heading back yet?” Anne asked. “The sun’s almost directly overhead.”
Diana hesitated. “Why don’t we go by way of the pond? I mean,” she added with an apologetic smile, “the Lake of Shining Waters? It will take us a little bit longer, but I think the pond is ever so… romantic… at this time of year.”
Anne laughed. “Then, the Lake of Shining Waters it shall be,” she agreed heartily.
“I’m so sorry, Anne!” Diana was murmuring, as the two girls made their way to Green Gables’ kitchen door nearly two hours later. “I didn’t think bluebead lilies would be blooming so early. Jane said they usually don’t appear for another two weeks!”
Anne shook her head, smiling. “It’s all right, Diana,” she replied. “Usually it’s me who gets so caught up in the beauty about us that I lose track of time. I suppose it’s only fair for you to have a turn at it once in a while.”
“I could explain to Mrs. Cuthbert that it’s my fault you’re late getting back,” Diana offered.
Anne laughed. “Never you mind,” she said gamely. “I’m forever getting into scrapes. I think Marilla actually expects them of me. And I could have gone back on my own, so it is partly my fault.” She assumed a pious expression that might have looked exaggerated to one who didn’t know the true depths of her sincerity. “I’ll simply own up to it and accept the scolding that’s sure to follow. It won’t last long.”
She paused on the doorstep to assume a penitent expression before she lifted the latch and went inside. For a moment, she thought that the kitchen was empty. And then, a loud chorus exclaimed, “SURPRISE!”
As Anne’s friends poured laughing into the kitchen from the parlour beyond, Anne’s eyes grew wide. The kitchen walls were festooned with paper garlands. Its table was set with a creamy yellow lace cloth. And as for the delicacies that were spread upon it… There was Marilla’s prized sponge cake topped with fresh berries. Here was a whole platter of her plum puffs. Another plate of molasses-ginger cookies.
Anne looked wildly at Diana, who promptly began to giggle, even as she flung an arm about her best friend’s waist.
“I tried to stall her as long as I could, Mrs. Cuthbert!” she exclaimed. “But it was harder than I thought!”
“No matter,” Marilla said crisply, as walked up the cellar steps carrying a large bowl. “As it happens, you’re right on time.” She set the bowl down on the table right by the pile of glass bowls. And now Anne’s poor eyes looked as though they might leap from her freckled face. The bowl was filled with peppermint ice cream. “The cellar may be the coolest place in the house, but any longer and this might have melted.”
Anne’s lip trembled as she whispered in awe, “Oh, Marilla.”
Marilla smiled fondly. “Mind,” she cautioned, “I still don’t hold with birthday parties. There’s no cause to celebrate having lived another year, especially not when one’s your age. But,” her voice softened with uncharacteristic warmth, “commemorating the day you came to us is quite another matter. It was Providence brought you to us.” Here she cast her eyes heavenward for a moment. “He knew we needed you, even if I didn’t. And I’m that thankful you’re with us.”
Anne started forward, a tremulous smile flooding her face even while her eyes filled with tears. And when she flung her arms about Marilla, it took her a moment to realize that Marilla was hugging her back, stiffly and tentatively at first, but then fiercely. It was only for a moment—Marilla had never been a demonstrative woman—but it was a moment that seemed to linger far longer than the time that actually passed. “All right. Enough of that,” Marilla said finally, with a catch in her voice that blunted its usual sharpness. “As the guest of honor, you’d best dish out that ice cream to your guests while it’s still hard.”
“Yes, Marilla,” Anne said demurely, as she moved to the table. “And thank you. I think peppermint is ever so much more scrumptious than raspberry in an ice cream.” She smiled at each of her friends in turn. “Thank you, all. This is… quite the surprise.”
Marilla turned to the pantry to take out the last of the food—and to ensure that neither Anne nor any of her friends would see the suspicious moisture welling up in the corner of her own eye. Three years ago, she thought, Anne’s arrival at Green Gables had been ‘quite the surprise’—the first of many, in fact. And Marilla knew deep in the very core of her being that she wouldn’t have had it any other way.