سال دوم - فصل 06

مجموعه: آن شرلی با موهای قرمز / : آن در ویندی پاپلز / فصل 23

آن شرلی با موهای قرمز

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سال دوم - فصل 06

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6 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 candle-light. 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 tiny138 jars of jam and jelly from Marilla . . . even a little bronze chessy cat for a paperweight from Gilbert.

And, tied under the tree, curled up on a bit of warm and woolly blanket, a dear little brown-eyed 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.139 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?”140

“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, pin-tucked 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.”141

“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 good-looking 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.”142

“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.”

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