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Chapter 12 An Explanation and a Dare

  • The Rev. Dr. Cooper preached in Glen St. Mary the next evening and th_resbyterian Church was crowded with people from near and far. The Reveren_octor was reputed to be a very eloquent speaker; and, bearing in mind the ol_ictum that a minister should take his best clothes to the city and his bes_ermons to the country, he delivered a very scholarly and impressiv_iscourse. But when the folks went home that night it was not of Dr. Cooper'_ermon they talked. They had completely forgotten all about it.
  • Dr. Cooper had concluded with a fervent appeal, had wiped the perspiratio_rom his massive brow, had said "Let us pray" as he was famed for saying it,
  • and had duly prayed. There was a slight pause. In Glen St. Mary church the ol_ashion of taking the collection after the sermon instead of before stil_eld—mainly because the Methodists had adopted the new fashion first, and Mis_ornelia and Elder Clow would not hear of following where Methodists had led.
  • Charles Baxter and Thomas Douglas, whose duty it was to pass the plates, wer_n the point of rising to their feet. The organist had got out the music o_er anthem and the choir had cleared its throat. Suddenly Faith Meredith ros_n the manse pew, walked up to the pulpit platform, and faced the amaze_udience.
  • Miss Cornelia half rose in her seat and then sat down again. Her pew wa_ar back and it occurred to her that whatever Faith meant to do or say woul_e half done or said before she could reach her. There was no use making th_xhibition worse than it had to be. With an anguished glance at Mrs. Dr.
  • Blythe, and another at Deacon Warren of the Methodist Church, Miss Corneli_esigned herself to another scandal.
  • "If the child was only dressed decently itself," she groaned in spirit.
  • Faith, having spilled ink on her good dress, had serenely put on an old on_f faded pink print. A caticornered rent in the skirt had been darned wit_carlet tracing cotton and the hem had been let down, showing a bright stri_f unfaded pink around the skirt. But Faith was not thinking of her clothes a_ll. She was feeling suddenly nervous. What had seemed easy in imagination wa_ather hard in reality. Confronted by all those staring questioning eye_aith's courage almost failed her. The lights were so bright, the silence s_wesome. She thought she could not speak after all. But she MUST—her fathe_UST be cleared of suspicion. Only—the words would NOT come.
  • Una's little pearl-pure face gleamed up at her beseechingly from the mans_ew. The Blythe children were lost in amazement. Back under the gallery Fait_aw the sweet graciousness of Miss Rosemary West's smile and the amusement o_iss Ellen's. But none of these helped her. It was Bertie Shakespeare Drew wh_aved the situation. Bertie Shakespeare sat in the front seat of the galler_nd he made a derisive face at Faith. Faith promptly made a dreadful one bac_t him, and, in her anger over being grimaced at by Bertie Shakespeare, forgo_er stage fright. She found her voice and spoke out clearly and bravely.
  • "I want to explain something," she said, "and I want to do it now becaus_verybody will hear it that heard the other. People are saying that Una and _tayed home last Sunday and cleaned house instead of going to Sunday School.
  • Well, we did—but we didn't mean to. We got mixed up in the days of the week.
  • It was all Elder Baxter's fault"—sensation in Baxter's pew—"because he wen_nd changed the prayer-meeting to Wednesday night and then we thought Thursda_as Friday and so on till we thought Saturday was Sunday. Carl was laid u_ick and so was Aunt Martha, so they couldn't put us right. We went to Sunda_chool in all that rain on Saturday and nobody came. And then we thought we'_lean house on Monday and stop old cats from talking about how dirty the mans_as"—general sensation all over the church—"and we did. I shook the rugs i_he Methodist graveyard because it was such a convenient place and not becaus_ meant to be disrespectful of the dead. It isn't the dead folks who have mad_he fuss over this—it's the living folks. And it isn't right for any of you t_lame my father for this, because he was away and didn't know, and anyhow w_hought it was Monday. He's just the best father that ever lived in the worl_nd we love him with all our hearts."
  • Faith's bravado ebbed out in a sob. She ran down the steps and flashed ou_f the side door of the church. There the friendly starlit, summer nigh_omforted her and the ache went out of her eyes and throat. She felt ver_appy. The dreadful explanation was over and everybody knew now that he_ather wasn't to blame and that she and Una were not so wicked as to hav_leaned house knowingly on Sunday.
  • Inside the church people gazed blankly at each other, but Thomas Dougla_ose and walked up the aisle with a set face. HIS duty was clear; th_ollection must be taken if the skies fell. Taken it was; the choir sang th_nthem, with a dismal conviction that it fell terribly flat, and Dr. Coope_ave out the concluding hymn and pronounced the benediction with considerabl_ess unction than usual. The Reverend Doctor had a sense of humour and Faith'_erformance tickled him. Besides, John Meredith was well known in Presbyteria_ircles.
  • Mr. Meredith returned home the next afternoon, but before his coming Fait_ontrived to scandalize Glen St. Mary again. In the reaction from Sunda_vening's intensity and strain she was especially full of what Miss Corneli_ould have called "devilment" on Monday. This led her to dare Walter Blythe t_ide through Main Street on a pig, while she rode another one.
  • The pigs in question were two tall, lank animals, supposed to belong t_ertie Shakespeare Drew's father, which had been haunting the roadside by th_anse for a couple of weeks. Walter did not want to ride a pig through Gle_t. Mary, but whatever Faith Meredith dared him to do must be done. They tor_own the hill and through the village, Faith bent double with laughter ove_er terrified courser, Walter crimson with shame. They tore past the ministe_imself, just coming home from the station; he, being a little less dreamy an_bstracted than usual—owing to having had a talk on the train with Mis_ornelia who always wakened him up temporarily—noticed them, and thought h_eally must speak to Faith about it and tell her that such conduct was no_eemly. But he had forgotten the trifling incident by the time he reache_ome. They passed Mrs. Alec Davis, who shrieked in horror, and they passe_iss Rosemary West who laughed and sighed. Finally, just before the pig_wooped into Bertie Shakespeare Drew's back yard, never to emerge therefro_gain, so great had been the shock to their nerves—Faith and Walter jumpe_ff, as Dr. and Mrs. Blythe drove swiftly by.
  • "So that is how you bring up your boys," said Gilbert with mock severity.
  • "Perhaps I do spoil them a little," said Anne contritely, "but, oh,
  • Gilbert, when I think of my own childhood before I came to Green Gables _aven't the heart to be very strict. How hungry for love and fun I was—a_nloved little drudge with never a chance to play! They do have such goo_imes with the manse children."
  • "What about the poor pigs?" asked Gilbert.
  • Anne tried to look sober and failed.
  • "Do you really think it hurt them?" she said. "I don't think anything coul_urt those animals. They've been the plague of the neighbourhood this summe_nd the Drews WON'T shut them up. But I'll talk to Walter—if I can keep fro_aughing when I do it."
  • Miss Cornelia came up to Ingleside that evening to relieve her feeling_ver Sunday night. To her surprise she found that Anne did not view Faith'_erformance in quite the same light as she did.
  • "I thought there was something brave and pathetic in her getting up ther_efore that churchful of people, to confess," she said. "You could see she wa_rightened to death—yet she was bound to clear her father. I loved her fo_t."
  • "Oh, of course, the poor child meant well," sighed Miss Cornelia, "but jus_he same it was a terrible thing to do, and is making more talk than th_ouse-cleaning on Sunday. THAT had begun to die away, and this has started i_ll up again. Rosemary West is like you—she said last night as she left th_hurch that it was a plucky thing for Faith to do, but it made her feel sorr_or the child, too. Miss Ellen thought it all a good joke, and said she hadn'_ad as much fun in church for years. Of course THEY don't care—they ar_piscopalians. But we Presbyterians feel it. And there were so many hote_eople there that night and scores of Methodists. Mrs. Leander Crawford cried,
  • she felt so bad. And Mrs. Alec Davis said the little hussy ought to b_panked."
  • "Mrs. Leander Crawford is always crying in church," said Susa_ontemptuously. "She cries over every affecting thing the minister says. Bu_ou do not often see her name on a subscription list, Mrs. Dr. dear. Tear_ome cheaper. She tried to talk to me one day about Aunt Martha being such _irty housekeeper; and I wanted to say, 'Every one knows that YOU have bee_een mixing up cakes in the kitchen wash-pan, Mrs. Leander Crawford!' But _id not say it, Mrs. Dr. dear, because I have too much respect for myself t_ondescend to argue with the likes of her. But I could tell worse things tha_HAT of Mrs. Leander Crawford, if I was disposed to gossip. And as for Mrs.
  • Alec Davis, if she had said that to me, Mrs. Dr. dear, do you know what _ould have said? I would have said, 'I have no doubt you would like to span_aith, Mrs. Davis, but you will never have the chance to spank a minister'_aughter either in this world or in that which is to come.'"
  • "If poor Faith had only been decently dressed," lamented Miss Corneli_gain, "it wouldn't have been quite that bad. But that dress looked dreadful,
  • as she stood there upon the platform."
  • "It was clean, though, Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan. "They ARE clea_hildren. They may be very heedless and reckless, Mrs. Dr. dear, and I am no_aying they are not, but they NEVER forget to wash behind their ears."
  • "The idea of Faith forgetting what day was Sunday," persisted Mis_ornelia. "She will grow up just as careless and impractical as her father,
  • believe ME. I suppose Carl would have known better if he hadn't been sick. _on't know what was wrong with him, but I think it very likely he had bee_ating those blueberries that grew in the graveyard. No wonder they made hi_ick. If I was a Methodist I'd try to keep my graveyard cleaned up at least."
  • "I am of the opinion that Carl only ate the sours that grow on the dyke,"
  • said Susan hopefully. "I do not think ANY minister's son would eat blueberrie_hat grew on the graves of dead people. You know it would not be so bad, Mrs.
  • Dr. dear, to eat things that grew on the dyke."
  • "The worst of last night's performance was the face Faith made made a_omebody in the congregation before she started in," said Miss Cornelia.
  • "Elder Clow declares she made it at him. And DID you hear that she was see_iding on a pig to-day?"
  • "I saw her. Walter was with her. I gave him a little—a VERY little—scoldin_bout it. He did not say much, but he gave me the impression that it had bee_is idea and that Faith was not to blame."
  • "I do not not believe THAT, Mrs. Dr. dear," cried Susan, up in arms. "Tha_s just Walter's way—to take the blame on himself. But you know as well as _o, Mrs. Dr. dear, that that blessed child would never have thought of ridin_n a pig, even if he does write poetry."
  • "Oh, there's no doubt the notion was hatched in Faith Meredith's brain,"
  • said Miss Cornelia. "And I don't say that I'm sorry that Amos Drew's old pig_id get their come-uppance for once. But the minister's daughter!"
  • "AND the doctor's son!" said Anne, mimicking Miss Cornelia's tone. Then sh_aughed. "Dear Miss Cornelia, they're only little children. And you KNO_hey've never yet done anything bad—they're just heedless and impulsive—as _as myself once. They'll grow sedate and sober—as I've done."
  • Miss Cornelia laughed, too.
  • "There are times, Anne dearie, when I know by your eyes that YOUR sobernes_s put on like a garment and you're really aching to do something wild an_oung again. Well, I feel encouraged. Somehow, a talk with you always doe_ave that effect on me. Now, when I go to see Barbara Samson, it's just th_pposite. She makes me feel that everything's wrong and always will be. But o_ourse living all your life with a man like Joe Samson wouldn't be exactl_heering."
  • "It is a very strange thing to think that she married Joe Samson after al_er chances," remarked Susan. "She was much sought after when she was a girl.
  • She used to boast to me that she had twenty-one beaus and Mr. Pethick."
  • "What was Mr. Pethick?"
  • "Well, he was a sort of hanger-on, Mrs. Dr. dear, but you could not exactl_all him a beau. He did not really have any intentions. Twenty-one beaus—an_e that never had one! But Barbara went through the woods and picked up th_rooked stick after all. And yet they say her husband can make better bakin_owder biscuits than she can, and she always gets him to make them whe_ompany comes to tea."
  • "Which reminds ME that I have company coming to tea to-morrow and I must g_ome and set my bread," said Miss Cornelia. "Mary said she could set it and n_oubt she could. But while I live and move and have my being I set my ow_read, believe me."
  • "How is Mary getting on?" asked Anne.
  • "I've no fault to find with Mary," said Miss Cornelia rather gloomily.
  • "She's getting some flesh on her bones and she's clean and respectful—thoug_here's more in her than I can fathom. She's a sly puss. If you dug for _housand years you couldn't get to the bottom of that child's mind, believ_E! As for work, I never saw anything like her. She EATS it up. Mrs. Wiley ma_ave been cruel to her, but folks needn't say she made Mary work. Mary's _orn worker. Sometimes I wonder which will wear out first—her legs or he_ongue. I don't have enough to do to keep me out of mischief these days. I'l_e real glad when school opens, for then I'll have something to do again. Mar_oesn't want to go to school, but I put my foot down and said that go sh_ust. I shall NOT have the Methodists saying that I kept her out of schoo_hile I lolled in idleness."