“Did anybody ever see such a temper!”
Mrs. Lynde was prevented from visiting the Cuthberts for a couple weeks by a most inconvenient illness, but she promptly does her neighborly duty as soon as she’s able to walk over.
“I’ve been hearing some surprising things about you and Matthew.”
“I don’t suppose you are any more surprised than I am myself,” said Marilla. “I’m getting over my surprise now.”
It turns out Rachel is bit miffed that she wasn’t consulted about the adoption scheme (especially with the gender mixup), so she’s more inclined to find fault with the whole situation when she finally meets Anne.
“Well, they didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s sure and certain,” was Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s emphatic comment. Mrs. Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind without fear or favour. “She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla. Come here, child, and let me have a look at you. Lawful heart, did anyone ever see such freckles? And hair as red as carrots!”
Mrs. Lynde just so happens to touch on Anne’s sore spot of her red hair, and she’s not about to take that from a complete stranger.
“I hate you,” she cried in a choked voice, stamping her foot on the floor. “I hate you – I hate you – I hate you -” a louder stamp with each assertion of hatred. “How dare you call me skinny and ugly? How dare you say I’m freckled and redheaded? You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling woman! […] How dare you say such things about me?” she repeated vehemently. “How would you like to have such things said about you? How would you like to be told that you are fat and clumsy and probably hadn’t a spark of imagination in you? I don’t care if I do hurt your feelings by saying so! I hope I hurt them. You have hurt mine worse than they ever were hurt before even by Mrs. Thomas’ intoxicated husband. And I’ll never forgive you for it, never, never!”
Marilla promptly sends Anne to her room, and she retreats crying.
“Well, I don’t envy you your job bringing that up, Marilla,” said Mrs. Rachel with unspeakable solemnity.
Marilla opened her lips to say she knew not what of apology or deprecation. What she did say was a surprise to herself then and ever afterwards.
“You shouldn’t have twitted her about her looks, Rachel.”
Rachel takes offense at this, even when Marilla makes it clear that she means to punish Anne for her outburst. This is an important point in setting up boundaries and attitudes even with her friends. Marilla makes sure that Anne is treated like a member of the family, not just an “orphan”. But after Rachel leaves, she worries about she’ll surely say about Anne after a scene like that.
She goes up to Anne’s room, and Anne reminds Marilla of a time when some relatives called her “homely”, and how much that scarred her, so Marilla is more kind and sympathetic to her plight.
“I don’t say that I think Mrs. Lynde was exactly right in saying what she did to you, Anne,” she admitted in a softer tone. “Rachel is too outspoken. But that is no excuse for such behavior on your part. She was a stranger and an elderly person and my visitor – all three very good reasons why you should have been respectful to her. You were rude and saucy and -” Marilla had a saving inspiration of punishment – “you must go to her and tell her you are very sorry for your bad temper and ask her to forgive you.”
“I can never do that,” said Anne determinedly and darkly. “You can punish me in any way you like, Marilla. You can shut me up in a dark, damp dungeon inhabited by snakes and toads and feed me only on bread and water and I shall not complain. But I cannot ask Mrs. Lynde to forgive me.”
“We’re not in the habit of shutting people up in dark, damp dungeons,” said Marilla dryly, “especially as they’re rather scarce in Avonlea.”
Marilla hits on a fitting punishment, and also conveniently a way to reconcile with Mrs. Lynde…but it could take a while for Anne to be receptive to the idea, even if she’s confined to her room until she relents.
Next time: Anne’s apology…