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    Chapter XXIV

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    Chapter 24
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    CHAPTER XXIV

    Miss Stacy and Her Pupils Get Up a Concert

    It was October again when Anne was ready to go back to school--a
    glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the
    valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of
    autumn had poured them in for the sun to drain--amethyst, pearl,
    silver, rose, and smoke-blue. The dews were so heavy that the
    fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps
    of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run
    crisply through. The Birch Path was a canopy of yellow and the
    ferns were sear and brown all along it. There was a tang in the
    very air that inspired the hearts of small maidens tripping,
    unlike snails, swiftly and willingly to school; and it WAS jolly
    to be back again at the little brown desk beside Diana, with Ruby
    Gillis nodding across the aisle and Carrie Sloane sending up
    notes and Julia Bell passing a "chew" of gum down from the back
    seat. Anne drew a long breath of happiness as she sharpened her
    pencil and arranged her picture cards in her desk. Life was
    certainly very interesting.

    In the new teacher she found another true and helpful friend.
    Miss Stacy was a bright, sympathetic young woman with the happy
    gift of winning and holding the affections of her pupils and
    bringing out the best that was in them mentally and morally.
    Anne expanded like a flower under this wholesome influence and
    carried home to the admiring Matthew and the critical Marilla
    glowing accounts of schoolwork and aims.

    "I love Miss Stacy with my whole heart, Marilla. She is so
    ladylike and she has such a sweet voice. When she pronounces
    my name I feel INSTINCTIVELY that she's spelling it with an E.
    We had recitations this afternoon. I just wish you could have
    been there to hear me recite 'Mary, Queen of Scots.' I just put
    my whole soul into it. Ruby Gillis told me coming home that the
    way I said the line, 'Now for my father's arm,' she said, 'my
    woman's heart farewell,' just made her blood run cold."

    "Well now, you might recite it for me some of these days, out in
    the barn," suggested Matthew.

    "Of course I will," said Anne meditatively, "but I won't be able
    to do it so well, I know. It won't be so exciting as it is when
    you have a whole schoolful before you hanging breathlessly on
    your words. I know I won't be able to make your blood run cold."

    "Mrs. Lynde says it made HER blood run cold to see the boys
    climbing to the very tops of those big trees on Bell's hill after
    crows' nests last Friday," said Marilla. "I wonder at Miss Stacy
    for encouraging it."

    "But we wanted a crow's nest for nature study," explained Anne.
    "That was on our field afternoon. Field afternoons are splendid,
    Marilla. And Miss Stacy explains everything so beautifully. We
    have to write compositions on our field afternoons and I write
    the best ones."

    "It's very vain of you to say so then. You'd better let your
    teacher say it."

    "But she DID say it, Marilla. And indeed I'm not vain about it.
    How can I be, when I'm such a dunce at geometry? Although I'm
    really beginning to see through it a little, too. Miss Stacy
    makes it so clear. Still, I'll never be good at it and I
    assure you it is a humbling reflection. But I love writing
    compositions. Mostly Miss Stacy lets us choose our own subjects;
    but next week we are to write a composition on some remarkable
    person. It's hard to choose among so many remarkable people who
    have lived. Mustn't it be splendid to be remarkable and have
    compositions written about you after you're dead? Oh, I would
    dearly love to be remarkable. I think when I grow up I'll be a
    trained nurse and go with the Red Crosses to the field of battle
    as a messenger of mercy. That is, if I don't go out as a foreign
    missionary. That would be very romantic, but one would have to
    be very good to be a missionary, and that would be a stumbling
    block. We have physical culture exercises every day, too. They
    make you graceful and promote digestion."

    "Promote fiddlesticks!" said Marilla, who honestly thought it was
    all nonsense.

    But all the field afternoons and recitation Fridays and physical
    culture contortions paled before a project which Miss Stacy
    brought forward in November. This was that the scholars of
    Avonlea school should get up a concert and hold it in the hall on
    Christmas Night, for the laudable purpose of helping to pay for a
    schoolhouse flag. The pupils one and all taking graciously to
    this plan, the preparations for a program were begun at once.
    And of all the excited performers-elect none was so excited as
    Anne Shirley, who threw herself into the undertaking heart and
    soul, hampered as she was by Marilla's disapproval. Marilla
    thought it all rank foolishness.

    "It's just filling your heads up with nonsense and taking time
    that ought to be put on your lessons," she grumbled. "I don't
    approve of children's getting up concerts and racing about to
    practices. It makes them vain and forward and fond of gadding."

    "But think of the worthy object," pleaded Anne. "A flag will
    cultivate a spirit of patriotism, Marilla."

    "Fudge! There's precious little patriotism in the thoughts of any
    of you. All you want is a good time."

    "Well, when you can combine patriotism and fun, isn't it all
    right? Of course it's real nice to be getting up a concert.
    We're going to have six choruses and Diana is to sing a solo.
    I'm in two dialogues--'The Society for the Suppression of Gossip'
    and 'The Fairy Queen.' The boys are going to have a dialogue
    too. And I'm to have two recitations, Marilla. I just tremble
    when I think of it, but it's a nice thrilly kind of tremble. And
    we're to have a tableau at the last--'Faith, Hope and Charity.'
    Diana and Ruby and I are to be in it, all draped in white with
    flowing hair. I'm to be Hope, with my hands clasped--so--and my
    eyes uplifted. I'm going to practice my recitations in the
    garret. Don't be alarmed if you hear me groaning. I have to
    groan heartrendingly in one of them, and it's really hard to get
    up a good artistic groan, Marilla. Josie Pye is sulky because
    she didn't get the part she wanted in the dialogue. She wanted
    to be the fairy queen. That would have been ridiculous, for who
    ever heard of a fairy queen as fat as Josie? Fairy queens must
    be slender. Jane Andrews is to be the queen and I am to be one
    of her maids of honor. Josie says she thinks a red-haired fairy
    is just as ridiculous as a fat one, but I do not let myself mind
    what Josie says. I'm to have a wreath of white roses on my hair
    and Ruby Gillis is going to lend me her slippers because I
    haven't any of my own. It's necessary for fairies to have
    slippers, you know. You couldn't imagine a fairy wearing boots,
    could you? Especially with copper toes? We are going to
    decorate the hall with creeping spruce and fir mottoes with pink
    tissue-paper roses in them. And we are all to march in two by
    two after the audience is seated, while Emma White plays a march
    on the organ. Oh, Marilla, I know you are not so enthusiastic
    about it as I am, but don't you hope your little Anne will
    distinguish herself?"

    "All I hope is that you'll behave yourself. I'll be heartily
    glad when all this fuss is over and you'll be able to settle
    down. You are simply good for nothing just now with your head
    stuffed full of dialogues and groans and tableaus. As for your
    tongue, it's a marvel it's not clean worn out."

    Anne sighed and betook herself to the back yard, over which a
    young new moon was shining through the leafless poplar boughs
    from an apple-green western sky, and where Matthew was splitting
    wood. Anne perched herself on a block and talked the concert
    over with him, sure of an appreciative and sympathetic listener
    in this instance at least.

    "Well now, I reckon it's going to be a pretty good concert. And
    I expect you'll do your part fine," he said, smiling down into
    her eager, vivacious little face. Anne smiled back at him.
    Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars
    many a time and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her
    up. That was Marilla's exclusive duty; if it had been his he
    would have been worried over frequent conflicts between
    inclination and said duty. As it was, he was free to, "spoil
    Anne"--Marilla's phrasing--as much as he liked. But it was not
    such a bad arrangement after all; a little "appreciation"
    sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious
    "bringing up" in the world.
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