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Chapter XXVII


CHAPTER XXVII

Vanity and Vexation of Spirit


Marilla, walking home one late April evening from an Aid meeting,
realized that the winter was over and gone with the thrill of
delight that spring never fails to bring to the oldest and
saddest as well as to the youngest and merriest.  Marilla was not
given to subjective analysis of her thoughts and feelings.  She
probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids and their
missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under
these reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields
smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long,
sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the
brook, of still, crimson-budded maples around a mirrorlike wood
pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses
under the gray sod.  The spring was abroad in the land and
Marilla's sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because
of its deep, primal gladness.

Her eyes dwelt affectionately on Green Gables, peering through
its network of trees and reflecting the sunlight back from its
windows in several little coruscations of glory.  Marilla, as she
picked her steps along the damp lane, thought that it was really
a satisfaction to know that she was going home to a briskly
snapping wood fire and a table nicely spread for tea, instead of
to the cold comfort of old Aid meeting evenings before Anne had
come to Green Gables.

Consequently, when Marilla entered her kitchen and found the fire
black out, with no sign of Anne anywhere, she felt justly
disappointed and irritated.  She had told Anne to be sure and
have tea ready at five o'clock, but now she must hurry to take
off her second-best dress and prepare the meal herself against
Matthew's return from plowing.

"I'll settle Miss Anne when she comes home," said Marilla grimly,
as she shaved up kindlings with a carving knife and with more vim
than was strictly necessary.  Matthew had come in and was waiting
patiently for his tea in his corner.  "She's gadding off somewhere
with Diana, writing stories or practicing dialogues or some such
tomfoolery, and never thinking once about the time or her duties.
She's just got to be pulled up short and sudden on this sort of thing.
I don't care if Mrs. Allan does say she's the brightest and sweetest
child she ever knew.  She may be bright and sweet enough, but her head
is full of nonsense and there's never any knowing what shape it'll
break out in next.  Just as soon as she grows out of one freak
she takes up with another.  But there!  Here I am saying the very
thing I was so riled with Rachel Lynde for saying at the Aid today.
I was real glad when Mrs. Allan spoke up for Anne, for if she hadn't
I know I'd have said something too sharp to Rachel before everybody.
Anne's got plenty of faults, goodness knows, and far be it from
me to deny it.  But I'm bringing her up and not Rachel Lynde, who'd
pick faults in the Angel Gabriel himself if he lived in Avonlea.
Just the same, Anne has no business to leave the house like this when
I told her she was to stay home this afternoon and look after things.
I must say, with all her faults, I never found her disobedient or
untrustworthy before and I'm real sorry to find her so now."

"Well now, I dunno," said Matthew, who, being patient and wise
and, above all, hungry, had deemed it best to let Marilla talk
her wrath out unhindered, having learned by experience that she
got through with whatever work was on hand much quicker if not
delayed by untimely argument.  "Perhaps you're judging her too
hasty, Marilla.  Don't call her untrustworthy until you're sure
she has disobeyed you.  Mebbe it can all be explained--Anne's a
great hand at explaining."

"She's not here when I told her to stay," retorted Marilla.  "I
reckon she'll find it hard to explain THAT to my satisfaction.
Of course I knew you'd take her part, Matthew.  But I'm bringing
her up, not you."

It was dark when supper was ready, and still no sign of Anne,
coming hurriedly over the log bridge or up Lover's Lane,
breathless and repentant with a sense of neglected duties.
Marilla washed and put away the dishes grimly.  Then, wanting a
candle to light her way down the cellar, she went up to the
east gable for the one that generally stood on Anne's table.
Lighting it, she turned around to see Anne herself lying on the bed,
face downward among the pillows.

"Mercy on us," said astonished Marilla, "have you been asleep, Anne?"

"No," was the muffled reply.

"Are you sick then?" demanded Marilla anxiously, going over to the bed.

Anne cowered deeper into her pillows as if desirous of hiding herself
forever from mortal eyes.

"No.  But please, Marilla, go away and don't look at me.  I'm in
the depths of despair and I don't care who gets head in class or
writes the best composition or sings in the Sunday-school choir
any more.  Little things like that are of no importance now
because I don't suppose I'll ever be able to go anywhere again.
My career is closed.  Please, Marilla, go away and don't look at me."

"Did anyone ever hear the like?" the mystified Marilla wanted to know.
"Anne Shirley, whatever is the matter with you?  What have you done?
Get right up this minute and tell me.  This minute, I say.  There now,
what is it?"

Anne had slid to the floor in despairing obedience.

"Look at my hair, Marilla," she whispered.

Accordingly, Marilla lifted her candle and looked scrutinizingly
at Anne's hair, flowing in heavy masses down her back.  It certainly
had a very strange appearance.

"Anne Shirley, what have you done to your hair?  Why, it's GREEN!"

Green it might be called, if it were any earthly color--a queer,
dull, bronzy green, with streaks here and there of the original
red to heighten the ghastly effect.  Never in all her life had
Marilla seen anything so grotesque as Anne's hair at that moment.

"Yes, it's green," moaned Anne.  "I thought nothing could be as
bad as red hair.  But now I know it's ten times worse to have
green hair.  Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am."

"I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find
out," said Marilla.  "Come right down to the kitchen--it's too
cold up here--and tell me just what you've done.  I've been
expecting something queer for some time.  You haven't got into
any scrape for over two months, and I was sure another one was
due.  Now, then, what did you do to your hair?"

"I dyed it."

"Dyed it!  Dyed your hair!  Anne Shirley, didn't you know it was a
wicked thing to do?"

"Yes, I knew it was a little wicked," admitted Anne.  "But I
thought it was worth while to be a little wicked to get rid of
red hair.  I counted the cost, Marilla.  Besides, I meant to be
extra good in other ways to make up for it."

"Well," said Marilla sarcastically, "if I'd decided it was worth
while to dye my hair I'd have dyed it a decent color at least.  I
wouldn't have dyed it green."

"But I didn't mean to dye it green, Marilla," protested Anne
dejectedly.  "If I was wicked I meant to be wicked to some
purpose.  He said it would turn my hair a beautiful raven
black--he positively assured me that it would.  How could I doubt
his word, Marilla?  I know what it feels like to have your word
doubted.  And Mrs. Allan says we should never suspect anyone of
not telling us the truth unless we have proof that they're not.
I have proof now--green hair is proof enough for anybody.  But I
hadn't then and I believed every word he said IMPLICITLY."

"Who said?  Who are you talking about?"

"The peddler that was here this afternoon.  I bought the dye from him."

"Anne Shirley, how often have I told you never to let one of those
Italians in the house!  I don't believe in encouraging them to come
around at all."

"Oh, I didn't let him in the house.  I remembered what you told
me, and I went out, carefully shut the door, and looked at his
things on the step.  Besides, he wasn't an Italian--he was a
German Jew.  He had a big box full of very interesting things and
he told me he was working hard to make enough money to bring his
wife and children out from Germany.  He spoke so feelingly about
them that it touched my heart.  I wanted to buy something from
him to help him in such a worthy object.  Then all at once I saw
the bottle of hair dye.  The peddler said it was warranted to dye
any hair a beautiful raven black and wouldn't wash off.  In a
trice I saw myself with beautiful raven-black hair and the
temptation was irresistible.  But the price of the bottle was
seventy-five cents and I had only fifty cents left out of my
chicken money.  I think the peddler had a very kind heart, for he
said that, seeing it was me, he'd sell it for fifty cents and
that was just giving it away.  So I bought it, and as soon as he
had gone I came up here and applied it with an old hairbrush as
the directions said.  I used up the whole bottle, and oh,
Marilla, when I saw the dreadful color it turned my hair I
repented of being wicked, I can tell you.  And I've been
repenting ever since."

"Well, I hope you'll repent to good purpose," said Marilla
severely, "and that you've got your eyes opened to where your
vanity has led you, Anne.  Goodness knows what's to be done.  I
suppose the first thing is to give your hair a good washing and
see if that will do any good."

Accordingly, Anne washed her hair, scrubbing it vigorously with
soap and water, but for all the difference it made she might as
well have been scouring its original red.  The peddler had
certainly spoken the truth when he declared that the dye wouldn't
wash off, however his veracity might be impeached in other
respects.

"Oh, Marilla, what shall I do?" questioned Anne in tears.
"I can never live this down.  People have pretty well forgotten
my other mistakes--the liniment cake and setting Diana drunk and
flying into a temper with Mrs. Lynde.  But they'll never forget this.
They will think I am not respectable.  Oh, Marilla, `what a tangled
web we weave when first we practice to deceive.' That is poetry,
but it is true.  And oh, how Josie Pye will laugh!  Marilla, I CANNOT
face Josie Pye.  I am the unhappiest girl in Prince Edward Island."

Anne's unhappiness continued for a week.  During that time she
went nowhere and shampooed her hair every day.  Diana alone of
outsiders knew the fatal secret, but she promised solemnly never
to tell, and it may be stated here and now that she kept her
word.  At the end of the week Marilla said decidedly:

"It's no use, Anne.  That is fast dye if ever there was any.
Your hair must be cut off; there is no other way.  You can't go
out with it looking like that."

Anne's lips quivered, but she realized the bitter truth of
Marilla's remarks.  With a dismal sigh she went for the scissors.

"Please cut it off at once, Marilla, and have it over.  Oh, I
feel that my heart is broken.  This is such an unromantic
affliction.  The girls in books lose their hair in fevers or sell
it to get money for some good deed, and I'm sure I wouldn't mind
losing my hair in some such fashion half so much.  But there is
nothing comforting in having your hair cut off because you've
dyed it a dreadful color, is there?  I'm going to weep all the
time you're cutting it off, if it won't interfere.  It seems such
a tragic thing."

Anne wept then, but later on, when she went upstairs and looked
in the glass, she was calm with despair.  Marilla had done her work
thoroughly and it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely
as possible.  The result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly
as may be.  Anne promptly turned her glass to the wall.

"I'll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows," she
exclaimed passionately.

Then she suddenly righted the glass.

"Yes, I will, too.  I'd do penance for being wicked that way.
I'll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly
I am.  And I won't try to imagine it away, either.  I never
thought I was vain about my hair, of all things, but now I know I
was, in spite of its being red, because it was so long and thick
and curly.  I expect something will happen to my nose next."

Anne's clipped head made a sensation in school on the following
Monday, but to her relief nobody guessed the real reason for it,
not even Josie Pye, who, however, did not fail to inform Anne
that she looked like a perfect scarecrow.

"I didn't say anything when Josie said that to me," Anne confided
that evening to Marilla, who was lying on the sofa after one of
her headaches, "because I thought it was part of my punishment
and I ought to bear it patiently.  It's hard to be told you look
like a scarecrow and I wanted to say something back.  But I didn't.
I just swept her one scornful look and then I forgave her.
It makes you feel very virtuous when you forgive people,
doesn't it?  I mean to devote all my energies to being good after
this and I shall never try to be beautiful again.  Of course it's
better to be good.  I know it is, but it's sometimes so hard to
believe a thing even when you know it.  I do really want to be
good, Marilla, like you and Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy, and grow
up to be a credit to you.  Diana says when my hair begins to grow
to tie a black velvet ribbon around my head with a bow at one
side.  She says she thinks it will be very becoming.  I will call
it a snood--that sounds so romantic.  But am I talking too much,
Marilla?  Does it hurt your head?"

"My head is better now.  It was terrible bad this afternoon,
though.  These headaches of mine are getting worse and worse.
I'll have to see a doctor about them.  As for your chatter, I
don't know that I mind it--I've got so used to it."

Which was Marilla's way of saying that she liked to hear it.

Lucy Maud Montgomery