Mr. and Ms. Cuthbert are grumpy middle-aged siblings who need help on their farm on Prince Edward Island. They decide to adopt a boy, but what they get instead is an outspoken girl named Anne.
When Marilla put Anne to bed that night, she said stiffly:
“Now, Anne, I noticed last night that you threw your clothes all over the floor when you took them off. That is a very untidy habit, and I can’t allow it at all. As soon as you take off any piece of clothing, fold it neatly and place it on the chair. I don’t want a little girl who isn’t neat.”
“I was so upset last night that I didn’t think about my clothes at all,” said Anne. “I’ll fold them nicely tonight. They always made us do that at the asylum. Half the time, though, I’d forget. You see, I’d be in such a hurry to get into the nice, quiet bed and imagine things.”
“You’ll have to remember a little better if you stay here,” admonished Marilla. She watched Anne fold up her clothes and put them on the chair. “There. That looks good. Say your prayers now and get into bed.”
“I never say any prayers,” said Anne.
Marilla looked horrified and astonished.
“Anne, what do you mean? Were you never taught to say your prayers? God always wants little girls to say their prayers. Don’t you know who God is, Anne?”
“God is a spirit. God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth,” recited Anne promptly.
Marilla looked relieved.
“So you do know something then. Thank goodness! You’re not quite a heathen. Where did you learn that?”
“Oh, at the asylum Sunday school. They made us learn a lot of verses. I liked learning them. There is something splendid about some of the words. ‘Infinite, eternal and unchangeable.’ Isn’t that grand? It just rolls so nicely, like the song of a big organ. You couldn’t quite call it poetry, I suppose, but it sounds a lot like it, doesn’t it?”
“We’re not talking about poetry, Anne. We are talking about saying your prayers. Don’t you know it’s a terribly wicked thing not to say your prayers every night? I’m afraid that you are a very bad little girl.”
“Well, if you had red hair, you’d understand that it is easier to be bad than to be good,” said Anne reproachfully. “People who don’t have red hair don’t know what trouble is. Mrs. Thomas told me that God made my hair red on purpose, and I’ve never cared about Him since. And anyhow, I’d always be too tired at night to bother saying prayers. People who have to look after twins can’t be expected to say their prayers. Be honest, do you really think they can?”
Marilla decided that Anne’s religious training must be started at once. Plainly, there was no time to be lost.
“You must say your prayers while you are under my roof, Anne.”
“Why, of course, if you want me to,” said Anne cheerfully. “I’d do anything to please you. But you’ll have to tell me what to say this time. After I get into bed, I’ll imagine and make up a real nice prayer to repeat every night. I believe that it will be quite interesting if you give me some time.”
“You must kneel down,” said Marilla with some embarrassment.
Marilla knelt down and Anne knelt down next to her.
“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray, this is what I’d do: I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky. Up, up, up into that lovely blue sky that looks as if its blueness is endless. And then, I’d just feel a prayer. Well, I’m ready now. What should I say?”
Marilla felt more embarrassed than ever. She had intended to teach Anne the classic children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But she had enough sense to realize that this simple prayer was meant for children of religious families. Anne, however, was a freckled little girl who didn’t seem to care at all about God’s love. Of course, how could she understand God’s love if she had never felt human love?
“You’re old enough to pray for yourself, Anne,” she said finally. “Just thank God for your blessings and ask Him humbly for the things you want.”
“Well, I’ll do my best,” promised Anne. She buried her face in Marilla’s lap. “Gracious Heavenly Father—that’s the way the ministers always say it in church, so I suppose it’s alright in private prayer, isn’t it?” she interjected, lifting her head for a moment.
“Gracious Heavenly Father, I thank you for the White
Way of Delight and the Lake of Shining Waters and Bonny
And the Snow Queen. I’m really extremely grateful for
them. And that’s all the blessings I can think of just
now to thank you for. As for the things I want,
they’re so numerous that it would take a great deal of
time to name them all so I will only mention the two
most important. Please let me stay at Green Gables
and please let me be good-looking when I grow up.
She lifted her head. “I’m done. Did I do alright?” she asked eagerly. “I could have made it much more flowery if I’d had a little more time to think it over.”
Poor Marilla nearly collapsed listening to the child’s prayer. She kept herself together by remembering that Anne was not trying to be disrespectful, but that she simply was ignorant about religion. She couldn’t blame Anne.
Marilla got up and tucked the child into bed, mentally vowing to teach Anne a prayer the very next day. She was leaving the room with the candle when Anne called her to come back.
“I’ve just thought of it now. I should have said, ‘Amen’ in place of ‘yours respectfully,’ shouldn’t I? That’s the way the ministers do it. I’d forgotten it. But I felt that a prayer should be finished off in some way, so I put in another phrase. Do you think it will make any difference?”
“I… I don’t think it will,” said Marilla. “Go to sleep now like a good child. Goodnight.”
“I can only say goodnight tonight with a clear conscience,” said Anne, snuggling into her blanket and pillows.
Marilla went back to the kitchen, set the candle firmly on the table, and glared at Matthew.
“Matthew Cuthbert, it’s about time somebody adopted that child and taught her something. She’s one step away from becoming a heathen. Will you believe that she never said a prayer in her life until tonight? I’ll send her to the minister tomorrow and borrow some books. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. And she’ll go to Sunday school just as soon as I can get some suitable clothes made for her. I foresee that I’ll have my hands full. Well, well, we can’t get through this world without a little trouble. I’ve had a pretty easy life so far, but my time has come at last. I suppose I’ll just have to make the best of it.”
About this story:
Anne of Green Gables was written in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Here, it is rewritten by Judy Shinohara for advanced English learners to enjoy.
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