Matthew faces his fears for the sake of his Anne, and it is precious.
Matthew is caught by surprise as Anne and her classmates finish a rehearsal for the concert, so he’s stuck in a corner watching them as they leave.
Anne stood among them, bright-eyed and animated as they; but Matthew suddenly became conscious that there was something about her different from her mates. And what worried Matthew was that the difference impressed him as being something that should not exist. Anne had a brighter face, and bigger, starrier eyes, and more delicate features than the others; even shy, unobservant Matthew had learned to take note of these things; but the difference that disturbed him did not consist in any of these respects. Then in what did it consist?
[…] After two hours of smoking and hard reflection, Matthew arrived at a solution to his problem. Anne was not dressed like the other girls!
The more Matthew thought about the matter, the more he was convinced that Anne never had been dressed like the other girls – never since she had come to Green Gables. Marilla kept her clothed in plain, dark dresses, all made after the same unvarying pattern. If Matthew knew that there was such a thing as fashion in dress it is as much as he did; but he was quite sure that Anne’s sleeves did not look at all like the sleeves the other girls wore. He recalled the cluster of little girls he had seen around her that evening – all gay in waists of red and blue and pink and white – and wondered why Marilla always kept her so plainly and soberly gowned.
And so, Mattew resolves to get Anne a pretty dress for Christmas – he reasons that such a gift wouldn’t really be “putting in his oar”, but nevertheless conceals it from Marilla.
He attempts to make good on his resolution the next time he goes into town, but is foiled by his inability to talk sensibly to women – he goes to a different store than usual, meaning to ensure that there’s a man behind the counter to consult, but he’s caught off guard by a newly-hired lady clerk. Long story short, he goes home with twenty pounds of brown sugar, a rake, and no progress on the dress.
So he tries a different approach.
When Matthew came to think matter over he decided that a woman was required to cope with the situation. Marilla was out of the question. Matthew was sure she would throw cold water on his project at once. Remained only Mrs. Lynde; for no other woman in Avonlea would Matthew have dared ask advice. To Mrs. Lynde he went accordingly, and that good lady promptly took the matter out of the harassed man’s hands.
Mrs. Lynde is discreet enough to say that she’ll sew the dress at her house only because Anne’s more likely to catch wind of the project if Marilla does it.
“Well now, I’m much obliged,” said Matthew, “and – and – I dunno – but I’d like – I think they make the sleeves different nowadays to what they used to be. If it wouldn’t be asking too much I – I’d like them made in the new way.”
“Puffs? Of course. I’ll make it up in the very latest fashion,” said Mrs. Lynde.
As expected, Marilla isn’t thrilled by the idea when she finds out about it, but the dress is already made and ready to give to Anne, so she grudgingly accepts it.
Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.
[…] “That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why – why Anne, don’t you like it? Well now – well now.”
For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
“Like it! Oh Matthew!” Anne laid her dress over the chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me that this must be a happy dream.”
And to complete her happiness (and the outfit), Diana delivers a gift from her Aunt Josephine to the “Anne-girl”: A pair of beaded slippers.
So the Christmas concert goes off without a hitch. Matthew and Marilla are in attendance, and Marilla declares that there was no real harm in the scheme after all. Marilla tells Matthew that she was proud of Anne (but doesn’t tell her so), but Matthew did tell her that, so it comes out even.
“We must see what we can do for her one of these days, Marilla. I guess she’ll need something more than Avonlea school by and by.”
“There’s time enough to think of that,” said Marilla. “She’s only thirteen in March. Though tonight it struck me she was growing quite a big girl. […] She’s quick to learn and I guess the best thing we can do for her will be to send her to Queen’s after a spell. But nothing need be said about that for a year or two yet.”
Until next time…