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.
For reasons that only Marilla knew, she did not tell Anne right away that they had decided to let her stay at Green Gables. They waited before telling her.
During the morning, Marilla kept the child busy with various tasks and watched over her with a sharp eye while she did them. By noon, she had concluded that Anne was smart and obedient, willing to work and quick to learn. Her most serious shortcoming seemed to be a tendency to fall into daydreams in the middle of a task and forget where she was. She stayed in a daydream until she was sharply reprimanded or some catastrophe occurred.
When Anne had finished washing the lunch dishes, she suddenly confronted Marilla with an expression like she was desperately determined to hear bad news. Her thin little body trembled from head to foot. Her face was flushed red and her eyes dilated until they were almost entirely black. She clasped her hands tightly and said in an imploring voice:
“Oh, please, Miss Cuthbert, will you tell me if you are going to send me away or not? I’ve tried to be patient all morning, but I really feel like I can’t bear it any longer. It’s a dreadful feeling. Please just tell me.”
“You haven’t soaked the dishcloth in clean hot water as I told you to do,” said Marilla. “Just go and do it before you ask any more questions, Anne.”
Anne went and dealt with the dishcloth. Then she returned to Marilla and fixed her eyes on the woman’s face.
“Well,” said Marilla, unable to find any excuse for deferring her explanation any longer, “I suppose I might as well tell you. Matthew and I have decided to keep you—that is, if you will try to be a good little girl and be grateful. Oh? Child, what’s the matter?”
“I’m crying,” said Anne in a tone of bewilderment. “I can’t understand why. I’m as glad as I can be. Oh, GLAD doesn’t seem like the right word at all. I was glad about the White Way and the cherry blossoms. But this! Oh, this is something more than glad. I’m so happy. I’ll try to be so good. It will be uphill work, I expect, because Mrs. Thomas often told me that I was desperately wicked. However, I’ll do my very best. But can you tell me why I’m crying?”
“I suppose it’s because you’re all excited and worked up,” said Marilla disapprovingly. “Sit down on that chair and try to calm yourself. I’m afraid you’re too emotional. You’re so quick to cry or laugh. Yes, you can stay here and we will try to do what’s best for you. You must go to school, but soon it’ll be summer vacation, so it isn’t worth it to start right at the end of the school year. You will attend when it opens up again in September.”
“What should I call you?” asked Anne. “Should I always say Miss Cuthbert? Can I call you Aunt Marilla?”
“No. You’ll call me just plain Marilla. I’m not used to being called Miss Cuthbert and it would make me nervous.”
“It sounds awfully disrespectful to just say Marilla,” protested Anne.
“There’s nothing disrespectful about it if you’re careful to speak respectfully. Everybody, young and old, in Avonlea calls me Marilla, except the minister. He says Miss Cuthbert when he thinks of it.”
“I’d love to call you Aunt Marilla,” said Anne wistfully. “I’ve never had an aunt or any relation at all—not even a grandmother. It would make me feel as if I really belonged to you. Can’t I call you Aunt Marilla?”
“No. I’m not your aunt and I don’t believe in calling people names that don’t belong to them.”
“But we could imagine you were my aunt.”
“I couldn’t,” said Marilla grimly.
“Do you never imagine things different from what they really are?” asked Anne wide-eyed.
“Oh!” Anne drew in a long breath. “Oh, Miss—I mean, Marilla—you’re missing out on so much imagination!”
“I don’t believe in imagining things different from what they really are,” retorted Marilla. “When the Lord puts us in certain circumstances, He doesn’t want us to imagine them away. And that reminds me. Go into the sitting room, Ann—be sure your feet are clean and don’t let any flies in—and bring me out the illustrated card that’s on the mantelpiece. The Lord’s Prayer is on it and you’ll devote your spare time this afternoon to learning it all by heart. There will be no more prayers like the one I heard last night.”
“I guess I was really awkward,” said Anne apologetically, “but, you see, I’ve never had any practice. You couldn’t really expect a person to pray very well the first time she tried, could you? I thought up a splendid prayer after I went to bed, just as I promised you I would. It was nearly as long as a minister’s and so poetic. But would you believe that I couldn’t remember a single word when I woke up this morning? And I’m afraid I’ll never be able to think up another one as good. Somehow, things never are so good when they’re thought up for a second time. Have you ever noticed that?”
“He is something for you to notice, Anne. When I tell you to do something, I want you to obey me at once. You shouldn’t stand here and chat about anything that comes into your head. Just go and do what I told you to do.”
Anne promptly went to the sitting room across the hall. However, she failed to return. After waiting ten minutes, Marilla laid down her knitting and marched into the sitting room with an angry expression. She found Anne standing motionless in front of a picture hanging on the wall between the two windows. Her eyes had drifted off into a daydream. The white and green light strained through the apple trees and vines outside, and it lit up the room and Anne’s figure with a beautiful radiance.
“Anne, what in the world are you thinking about?” demanding Marilla sharply.
Anne came back to earth with a start.
“That,” she said, pointing to the picture. It was a vivid scene of children entitled, “Christ Blessing Little Children.”
“And I was just imagining that I was one of them,” she continued. “That I was the little girl in the blue dress, standing off by herself in the corner as if she didn’t belong to anybody, like me. She looks lonely and said, don’t you think? I guess she didn’t have any father or mother of her own. But she wanted to be blessed, too, so she just crept up shyly on the outside of the crowd, hoping that nobody would notice her—except God. I’m sure I know just how she felt. Her heart must have been beating hard and her hands must have gotten cold, like mine did when I asked you if I could stay. She was afraid He might not notice her. But it’s likely He did, don’t you think? I’ve been trying to imagine it all out—her edging closer and closer all the time until she was quite close to Him; and then He would look at her and put His hand on her hair and oh, such a thrill of joy would run over her! But I wish the artist hadn’t painted Him so sorrowful looking. All His pictures are like that, if you’ve noticed. But I don’t believe God could really have looked so sad or else the children would have been afraid of Him.”
“Anne,” said Marilla, wondering why she hadn’t interrupted Anne’s speech long before, “you shouldn’t talk about God that way. It’s irreverent. Absolutely irreverent.”
Anne’s eyes marveled.
“Oh? I felt just as reverent as I could be. I’m sure I didn’t mean to be irreverent.”
“Well, I don’t suppose you did—but it doesn’t sound right to talk so casually about such things. And another thing, Anne, when I ask you to bring me something, you have to bring it to me at once. Don’t fall into a daydream and imagine all sorts of things in front of pictures. Remember that. Take that card and come right to the kitchen. Now, sit down in the corner and learn that prayer by heart.”
Anne set the card up against the vase full of apple blossoms that she had brought in earlier to decorate the dining table. (Marilla had eyed the decoration, but said nothing about it.) Anne fell into silence studying the card intently for several minutes.
“I like this,” she announced at last. “It’s beautiful. I’ve heard it before. I heard the superintendent of the asylum Sunday school say it once. But I didn’t like it then. He had such a cracked voice and he prayed it so mournfully. I really felt sure that he hated praying. This isn’t poetry, but it makes me feel just the same way poetry does. ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.’ That is just like a line of music. Oh, I’m so glad you thought of making me learn this, Miss—I mean, Marilla.”
“Well, learn it and hold your tongue,” said Marilla sharply.
Anne tipped the vase of apple blossoms near enough to give a soft kiss to a pink bud, and then studied her card diligently for some moments longer.
“Marilla,” she suddenly said, “do you think that I will ever have a best friend in Avonlea?”
“A—a what kind of friend?”
“A best friend. You know, a really close friend who is like a kindred spirit. I can confide my innermost soul to a best friend. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really thought I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once. Perhaps, maybe, I would be able to find a best friend, too. Do you think it’s possible?”
“Diana Barry lives over at Orchard Slope and she’s about your age. She’s a very nice little girl, and maybe she’ll be a playmate for you when she comes home. She’s visiting her aunt over in Carmody now. You’ll have to be careful how you behave yourself, though. Mrs. Barry is a very particular woman. She won’t let Diana play with any little girl who isn’t nice and good.”
Anne looked at Marilla through the apple blossoms, her eyes glowing with interest.
“What is Diana like? Her hair isn’t red, is it? Oh, I hope not. It’s bad enough to have red hair myself, but I positively couldn’t endure a best friend with red hair.”
“Diana is a very pretty little girl. She has black eyes and hair, and her cheeks are rosy. And she is good and smart, which is even better than just being pretty. Children should be smart and good above anything else.”
Marilla was fond of morals. She believed that everything said to a child should include a moral to teach them.
But Anne barely heard the moral of it, and only thought of the delightful possibility of having a pretty best friend without red hair.
“Oh, I’m so glad she’s pretty. Besides being beautiful myself—which is impossible in my case—the next best thing would be to have a beautiful best friend. When I lived with Mrs. Thomas, she had a bookcase in her living room with glass doors. There weren’t any books in it; Mrs. Thomas kept her best dishes in there. And sometimes, she stored jam there, too. One of the doors was broken. Mr. Thomas smashed it one night when he was drunk.
“But the other door was whole and I used to pretend that my reflection in it was another little girl who lived in it. I called her Katie Maurice, and we were very close friends. I used to talk to her every hour, especially on Sunday, and tell her everything. Katie was the comfort and joy of my life. We used to pretend that the bookcase was enchanted and that if I only knew the spell, I could open the door and step right into the room where Katie Maurice lived, which wasn’t a world filled with Mrs. Thomas’ dishes and jam. And then Katie Maurice would have taken me by the hand and led me out into a wonderful place that was filled with flowers and sunshine and fairies. And we would have lived there happily forever.
“When I went to live with Mrs. Hammond, it just broke my heart to leave Katie Maurice behind. She felt dreadful, too. I know she did because she was crying when she kissed me goodbye through the bookcase door. There was no bookcase at Mrs. Hammond’s. But just up the river near the house, there was a long green little valley, and the loveliest echo lived there. It echoed back every word you said, even if you didn’t talk very loudly. So I imagined that it was a little girl called Violetta and we were great friends and I loved her almost as much as I loved Katie Maurice.
“The night before I went to the asylum, I said goodbye to Violetta, and oh, her goodbye came back to me in such a sad, sad voice. I had become so attached to her that I didn’t have the heart to imagine a best friend at the asylum. There wasn’t any room for imagination there, anyway.”
“I’m glad there wasn’t,” Marilla interrupted drily. “I don’t approve of such things. You seem to half believe your own imaginations. You need to have a real live friend to get such nonsense out of your head. But don’t let Mrs. Barry hear you talking about your Katie Maurice or your Violetta. If you do, she’ll think you tell lies.”
“Oh, I won’t. I don’t tell everyone about them—their memories are too sacred for that. But I thought I’d like to have you know about them. Oh, look, here’s a big bee. He just tumbled out of an apple blossom. Just think! What a lovely place to live! In an apple blossom! Can you imagine falling asleep in a blossom while the wind is rocking it? If I wasn’t a human girl, I think I’d like to be a bee and live among the flowers.”
“Yesterday, you wanted to be a seagull,” sniffed Marilla. “I think you are very fickle-minded. I told you to learn that prayer—not talk! But it seems impossible for you to stop talking if you’ve got anybody that will listen to you. So go up to your room and learn it alone.”
“Oh, I know it pretty well now—all except just the last line.”
“Well, never mind that. Just do what I say. Go to your room and finish learning it properly. And stay there until I call you down to help me make tea.”
“Can I take the apple blossoms with me for company?” pleaded Anne.
“No. You don’t want your room cluttered up with flowers. You should have left them on the tree in the first place.”
“I did think about that, too,” said Anne. “I kind of felt that I shouldn’t shorten their lovely lives by picking them—I wouldn’t want to be picked if I were an apple blossom. But the temptation was irresistible. What do you do when you have an irresistible temptation in front of you?”
“Anne, did you hear me tell you to go to your room?”
Anne sighed. She retreated to the east gable and sat down in a chair by the window.
“There. I know this prayer. I memorized that last sentence while walking up the stairs. Now I’m going to imagine things into this room so that they’ll always stay imagined. The floor is covered with a white velvet carpet with pink roses all over it and there are pink silk curtains at the windows. The walls are hung with gold and silver fabric. The furniture is made of mahogany wood. I never saw any mahogany before, but it does sound so luxurious. This is a couch with gorgeous silk cushions, pink and blue and crimson and gold. And I’m lying on the couch gracefully. I can see my reflection in that splendid big mirror hanging on the wall. I am tall and regal. I’m wearing a gown of trailing white lace, with a pearl necklace and pearls in my hair. My hair is midnight black and my skin is a clear ivory. My name is Lady Cordelia Fitzgerald. No, no. That’s too much. I can’t make that seem real.”
She danced up to the little mirror on the table and peered into it. Her pointed freckled face and solemn gray eyes peered back at her.
“You’re only Anne of Green Gables,” she said earnestly, “and I see you, just as you are looking now, whenever I try to imagine I’m the Lady Cordelia. But it’s a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn’t it?”
She bent forward and kissed her own reflection affectionately. Then, she walked across the room to the open window.
“Dear Snow Queen, good afternoon. And good afternoon dear birch trees down in the hollow. And good afternoon, dear gray house up on the hill. I wonder if Diana is going to become my best friend. I hope she will, and I will love her very much. But I can’t ever forget about Katie Maurice and Violetta. They would feel so hurt if I forgot about them and I’d hate to hurt anybody’s feelings, even the feelings of a little bookcase girl or a little echo girl. I must be careful to remember them and send them a kiss every day.”
Anne blew a couple of airy kisses from her fingertips past the cherry blossoms and then, with her chin in her hands, she drifted off into a sea of daydreams.
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.