Anne stopped, partly because she was out of breath after her vehement speech and partly because she could not trust herself to speak further in view of Miss Cornelia’s face. That good lady was staring helplessly at Anne, apparently engulfed in billows of new ideas. But she came up with a gasp and struck out for shore gallantly.
“Anne Blythe, I wish you would call that meeting and say just that! You’ve made me ashamed of myself, for one, and far be it from me to refuse to admit it. Of course, that is how we should have talked—especially to the Methodists. And it’s every word of it true—every word. We’ve just been shutting our eyes to the big worth-while things and squinting them on the little things that don’t really matter a pin’s worth. Oh, Anne dearie, I can see a thing when it’s hammered into my head. No more apologizing for Cornelia Marshall! I shall hold my head up after this, believe me—though I may talk things over with you as usual just to relieve my feelings if the Merediths do any more startling stunts. Even that letter I felt so bad about—why, it’s only a good joke after all, as Norman says. Not many girls would have been cute enough to think of writing it—and all punctuated so nicely and not one word misspelled. Just let me hear any Methodist say one word about it—though all the same I’ll never forgive Joe Vickers—believe me! Where are the rest of your small fry to-night?”
“Walter and the twins are in Rainbow Valley. Jem is studying in the garret.”
“They are all crazy about Rainbow Valley. Mary Vance thinks it’s the only place in the world. She’d be off up here every evening if I’d let her. But I don’t encourage her in gadding. Besides, I miss the creature when she isn’t around, Anne dearie. I never thought I’d get so fond of her. Not but what I see her faults and try to correct them. But she has never said one saucy word to me since she came to my house and she is a great help—for when all is said and done, Anne dearie, I am not so young as I once was, and there is no sense denying it. I was fifty-nine my last birthday. I don’t feel it, but there is no gainsaying the Family Bible.”
In spite of Miss Cornelia’s new point of view she could not help feeling a little disturbed over the next performance of the manse children. In public she carried off the situation splendidly, saying to all the gossips the substance of what Anne had said in daffodil time, and saying it so pointedly and forcibly that her hearers found themselves feeling rather foolish and began to think that, after all, they were making too much of a childish prank. But in private Miss Cornelia allowed herself the relief of bemoaning it to Anne.
“Anne dearie, they had a concert in the graveyard last Thursday evening, while the Methodist prayer meeting was going on. There they sat, on Hezekiah Pollock’s tombstone, and sang for a solid hour. Of course, I understand it was mostly hymns they sang, and it wouldn’t have been quite so bad if they’d done nothing else. But I’m told they finished up with Polly Wolly Doodle at full length—and that just when Deacon Baxter was praying.”