In which Anne becomes acquainted with the new minister’s wife. And messes stuff up in remarkably creative ways.
The chapter begins by announcing the departure of Mr. Phillips, who despite all the things he did to put himself on Anne’s bad side, got the whole (female) class to weep at his farewell speech.
But the excitement of a new minister (combined with summer vacation) promptly drives out such sorrows.
“Mrs. Allen is perfectly lovely,” [Anne] announced one Sunday afternoon. “She’s taken our class and she’s a splendid teacher. She said right away she didn’t think it was fair for the teacher to ask all the questions, and you know, Marilla, that is exactly what I’ve always thought. She said we could ask her any question we liked, and I asked ever so many. I’m good at asking questions, Marilla.”
“I believe you,” was Marilla’s emphatic comment.
Needless to say, Anne readily accepts Mrs. Allen as a kindred spirit.
Marilla prepares to have the minister and his wife to tea (and she plans to serve a whole pantry full of goodies to boot), and Anne wants to make a cake for the occasion, because she’s actually getting good baking.
“[Cakes] have such a terrible habit of turning out bad when you especially want them to be good,” sighed Anne […]. “However, I suppose I shall just have to trust to Providence and be careful to put in the flour.”
Words to live by!
Anne even convinces Marilla to let her spruce up the table with floral arrangements by shrewdly mentioning that the minister complimented Mrs. Barry on her decor. All seems to be going well – shy Matthew even suffers to speak in the presence of a new woman (but it would be too much to ask that he speak to her). Then they serve the cake.
“Anne Shirley!” [Marilla] exclaimed, “What on earth did you put into that cake?”
As it happens, this mishap was as much Marilla’s fault as Anne’s. She had broken a bottle of anodyne liniment, and filled an old vanilla bottle with it, then neglected to tell anyone. And due to a cold, Anne couldn’t smell the contents.
Anne promptly flees to her gable in disgrace, but when Mrs. Allen sees her distress, she goes up to comfort her like a kindred spirit.
“My dear little girl, you mustn’t cry like this,” she said, genuinely disturbed by Anne’s tragic face. “Why, it’s all just a funny mistake that anybody might make.”
“Oh, no, it takes me to make such a mistake,” said Anne forlornly. “And I wanted to have that cake so nice for you, Mrs. Allen.”
It’s hard when you get so focused on making a thing nice, then mess it all up, but that’s just the sort of thing you have to accept and move past. Mrs. Allen coaxes Anne back downstairs, and the tea is far from a disaster (certainly not as bad as the currant wine incident).
“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
Until next time…