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.
Marilla didn’t tell Matthew about the incident that evening. However, when Anne was still stubbornly closed up in her room the next morning, Marilla had to explain the child’s absence from the breakfast table.
Marilla told Matthew the whole story, making sure to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.
“It’s a good thing Rachel Lynde got told off like that. She’s a terrible old gossip and she’s always meddling,” Matthew said.
“Matthew Cuthbert, I’m shocked. You know that Anne’s behavior was dreadful. You can’t take her side! Next you’ll say that she shouldn’t be punished at all!”
“Well, no. Not exactly,” said Matthew uneasily. “I think she should be punished a little. But don’t be too hard on her, Marilla. Remember, she hasn’t ever had anyone to teach her right from wrong. You’re… you’re going to give her something to eat, aren’t you?”
“Oh, come on. I’m not trying to starve her into good behavior,” said Marilla indignantly. “She’ll have regular meals and I’ll carry them up to her myself. But she’ll stay up there until she’s willing to apologize to Mrs. Rachel. And that’s final, Matthew.”
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were very silent meals because Anne was still in her room. After each meal, Marilla carried a well-filled tray to the east gable. But when she came back for the tray each time, the food had hardly been touched. Matthew eyed the last tray with a troubled expression. Had Anne eaten anything at all?
When Marilla went out that evening to bring the cows back in from the pasture, Matthew, who had been waiting for an opportunity, slipped back into the house like a silent burglar and crept up the stairs. As a general rule, Matthew always hung out in the kitchen or in his little bedroom, only going to the living room if there was a visitor or something. But he rarely went upstairs in his own house. In fact, the last time he went upstairs was four years ago when he helped Marilla put up new wallpaper.
He tiptoed along the hall and stood for several minutes outside the door of the east gable before he summoned the courage to tap on the door with his fingers and then open it to look inside.
Anne was sitting on the yellow chair by the window. She was gazing mournfully out into the garden. She looked so small and unhappy, and the sight made Matthew’s heart hurt. He softly closed the door behind him and tiptoed over to her.
“Anne,” he whispered, as if he was afraid of being overheard, “how are you feeling, Anne?”
Anne smiled wearily. “Pretty well. I imagine a lot, and that helps me pass the time. Of course, it’s rather lonely. But then, I might as well get used to that.
Anne smiled again, and she put on a brave face as if she planned to face many years of solitary confinement.
Matthew remembered that he didn’t have much time to say what he needed to say because he was worried that Marilla would return early.
“Well now, Anne, don’t you think you should just do it and get it over with?” he whispered. “You’ll have to do it eventually, you know, because Marilla is a dreadfully determined woman. Dreadfully determined, Anne. Do it right away and get it over with.”
“Do you mean apologize to Mrs. Rachel?”
“Yes—apologize—that’s the right word,” said Matthew eagerly. “Just smooth it over. That’s what I want to say.”
“I suppose I could do that to make you happy,” said Anne thoughtfully. “It would be true enough to say I am sorry, because I AM sorry now. I wasn’t a bit sorry last night. I was so mad—right down to my bones. And I stayed mad all night. I know I did because I woke up three times in the middle of the night and I was just furious every time. But this morning, the anger was over. I just wasn’t in a temper anymore. I felt only a dreadful sort of emptiness. I felt so ashamed of myself. But I just couldn’t think of going and telling Mrs. Rachel that. It would be so humiliating. I made up my mind to stay shut up in here forever rather than do that. But still… I’d do anything for you… if you really wanted me to…”
“Well now, of course I do. It’s so lonely downstairs without you. Just go and smooth things over. That’s a good girl.”
“Very well,” said Anne. “I’ll tell Marilla as soon as she comes in that I’ve repented.”
“That’s right. That’s right, Anne. But don’t tell Marilla I said anything about it. She might think I was trying to meddle and I promised not to do that.”
“Wild horses couldn’t drag the secret from me,” promised Anne seriously.
Matthew immediately left the room, scared at his own success. He fled hastily to the farthest corner of the horse pasture so that Marilla wouldn’t suspect what he had been up to.
And when Marilla came back to the house, she was pleasantly surprised to hear a voice calling, “Marilla” over the banister.
“Well?” she said, going into the hall.
“I’m sorry I lost my temper and said rude things, and I’m willing to go and tell Mrs. Rachel so.”
“Very well.” Marilla’s voice was crisp because she didn’t want to show her relief. She had been wondering what on earth she would do if Anne did not give in. “I’ll take you down to her house after I milk the cows.”
Accordingly, after milking, Marilla and Anne set down the lane. Marilla was walking tall and triumphantly. Anne was drooping and dejected. But halfway there, Anne’s dejection vanished like magic. She lifted her head high and stepped lightly along with her eyes on the sunset sky. She had an air of exhilaration.
Marilla didn’t like this sudden change. A happy apology would hardly be believable to Mrs. Rachel.
“What are you thinking about, Anne?” she asked sharply.
“I’m imagining what I will say to Mrs. Rachel,” answered Anne dreamily.
The answer should have been satisfactory, but Marilla felt uneasy. She felt like her punishment wasn’t going exactly as she had planned. Anne shouldn’t be looking so joyful and radiant.
Joyful and radiant Anne continued down the lane until they were in the presence of Mrs. Rachel, who was knitting in her chair by the kitchen window. Then, Anne’s radiance vanished. Guilt and repentance appeared all over her face. Before a word was spoken, Anne suddenly got down on her knees in front of the surprised Mrs. Rachel and held out her hands.
“Oh, Mrs. Rachel, I’m so extremely sorry,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “I could never express all my sorrow, even if I used a whole dictionary. You must just imagine it. I have behaved terribly and I’ve disgraced the dearest people, Matthew and Marilla, who have let me stay at Green Gables even though I am not a boy. I’m a dreadfully wicked and ungrateful girl, and I deserve to be punished and cast out of society forever. It was very wicked of me to fly into a temper because you told me the truth. It WAS the truth. Every word you said was true. My hair is red and I am freckled and skinny and ugly. What I said to you was true, too, but I shouldn’t have said it. Oh, Mrs. Rachel, please, please, forgive me. If you don’t forgive me, it will be a lifelong sorrow on a poor little orphan girl. Would you please forgive me, even though I had a dreadful temper? Oh, I’m so sure you couldn’t forgive it. But please, please say you forgive me, Mrs. Rachel.”
Anne clasped her hands together, bowed her head, and waited for Mrs. Rachel’s words of judgment.
There was no doubt that Anne was sincere—every breath of her words seemed to glow with sincerity. Both Marilla and Mrs. Rachel recognized its unmistakable tone. But Marilla understood something else: Anne was actually enjoying the art of it—making her apology as pitiful and flamboyant as possible. This wasn’t the wholesome punishment that Marilla had envisioned. Anne had somehow turned it into an enjoyable challenge.
Mrs. Rachel, not understanding Anne’s true nature, took the apology as completely sincere. She thought that Anne had made such a thorough apology and all of Mrs. Rachel’s resentment vanished from her heart.
“There, there, child. Get up,” she said heartily. “Of course I forgive you. I guess I was a little too hard on you, anyway. But I’m such an outspoken person. You just shouldn’t mind me, that’s all. It can’t be denied that your hair is terribly red, but I knew a girl once—I went to school with her, in fact—whose hair was just as red as yours when she was young, but when she grew up, it darkened to a real beautiful auburn. I wouldn’t be surprised if yours did, too. Not at all surprised.”
“Oh, Mrs. Rachel!” Anne drew in a long breath as she rose to her feet. “You have given me hope! I will always feel grateful to you. Oh, I could endure anything if only my hair would turn a beautiful auburn when I grew up. It would be so much easier to be good if my hair was a beautiful auburn, don’t you think? And now, may I go out into your garden and sit on that bench under the apple trees while you and Marilla are talking? There is so much to pique my imagination out there.”
“Oh, yes, run along, child. And you can pick a bouquet of those white June lilies if you like.”
As the door closed behind Anne, Mrs. Rachel stood up to turn on the light.
“She’s a real odd little thing. Take this chair, Marilla. It’s more comfortable than the one you’re sitting on. I just keep that for the hired boy to sit on. Yes, that Anne is certainly an odd child, but there is something kind of likable about her after all. I don’t feel so surprised that your and Matthew decided to keep her, and I don’t feel so sorry for you anymore. She might turn out fine. Of course, she has a strange way of expressing herself… she’s kind of… strong about it, you know. But she’ll grow out of it now that she’s come to live among society. And then, her temper is pretty quick, I guess. But on the other hand, if a child has a quick temper, they are usually quick to cool down, too. And those types aren’t liars, either. My goodness. It’s much better to have a quick-tempered child than a liar. Overall, Marilla, I kind of like her.”
When Marilla headed home, Anne followed along with a bundle of fragrant white flowers in her hands.
“I apologized pretty well, didn’t I?” she said proudly as they went down the lane. “I thought since I had to do it, I might as well do it thoroughly.”
“You did it thoroughly, that’s for sure,” was Marilla’s comment. Marilla was dismayed at her desire to laugh about the whole thing. She also had an uneasy feeling that she should be scolding Anne for apologizing like that. But then, that was ridiculous! Scold her for a thorough apology? Marilla felt conflicted, so she decided on saying:
“I hope you won’t need to make any more extravagant apologies. I hope you’ll try to control your temper from now on, Anne.”
“That would be much easier if people didn’t tease me about my looks,” said Anne with a sigh. “I don’t get angry about other things, but I’m SO tired of being teased about my hair and it just makes my blood boil. Do you really think my hair will turn a beautiful auburn when I grow up?”
“You shouldn’t think so much about your looks, Anne. I’m afraid you are a very vain little girl.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. How can I be vain when I know I’m ugly?” protested Anne. “I love pretty things, and I hate to look in the mirror and see something that isn’t pretty. It makes me feel so sad. Just like how I feel when I look at any ugly thing. I pity it because it isn’t beautiful.”
“Handsome is as handsome does,” quoted Marilla.
“I’ve heard that before, but what on earth is it supposed to mean?” remarked Anne. “Oh, aren’t these flowers sweet? It was lovely of Mrs. Rachel to give them to me. I have no hard feelings against Mrs. Rachel right now. It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn’t it? Aren’t the stars bright tonight? If you could live in a star, which one would you pick? I’d like that lovely big one over there.”
“Anne, hold your tongue,” said Marilla, thoroughly worn out from trying to follow Anne’s train of thought.
Anne didn’t say anything else until they turned into their own lane. A sweet wind carried the perfume of young ferns. Far up in the shadows, there was a cheerful light gleaming from the kitchen at Green Gables. Anne suddenly came close to Marilla and slipped her hand into the older woman’s hard palm.
“It’s lovely to be going home and know it’s home,” she said. “I love Green Gables already, and I’ve never loved any place before. No place has ever seemed like home to me. Oh, Marilla, I’m so happy. I could pray right now with complete ease.”
Something warm and pleasant welled up in Marilla’s heart at the touch of Anne’s thin little hand in her own. Perhaps it was a maternal feeling. The sweetness of it disturbed her a bit, and she quickly tried to shake off the emotion. She decided to teach Anne another moral.
“If you are a good girl, you’ll always be happy, Anne. And you’ll never find it hard to say your prayers.”
“Saying your prayers isn’t exactly the same as praying,” said Anne thoughtfully. “But I’m going to imagine that I’m the wind that is blowing up there in those treetops. When I get tired of the trees, I’ll imagine I’m gently blowing through the ferns. And then, I’ll blow over to Mrs. Rachel’s garden and twirl through the flowers. And then, I’ll blow over the clover field. And then I’ll blow over the Lake of Shining Waters and make ripples and little sparkling waves. Oh, there is so much room for imagination in the wind! So I can’t talk anymore right now, Marilla.”
“Thank goodness for that,” breathed Marilla in relief.
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.