A September day on Prince Edward
Island hills; a crisp wind blowing
up over the sand dunes from the
sea; a long red road, winding
through fields and woods, now
looping itself about a corner
of thick set spruces, now threading
a plantation of young maples
with great feathery sheets of
ferns beneath them, now dipping
down into a hollow where a brook
flashed out of the woods and
into them again, now basking
in open sunshine between ribbons
of golden-rod and smoke-blue
asters; air athrill with the
pipings of myriads of crickets,
those glad little pensioners
of the summer hills; a plump
brown pony ambling along the
road; two girls behind him, full
to the lips with the simple,
priceless joy of youth and life.
"Oh, this is a day left over
from Eden, isn't it, Diana?".
. .and Anne sighed for sheer
happiness. "The air has magic
in it. Look at the purple in
the cup of the harvest valley,
Diana. And oh, do smell the dying
fir! It's coming up from that
little sunny hollow where Mr.
Eben Wright has been cutting
fence poles. Bliss is it on such
a day to be alive; but to smell
dying fir is very heaven. That's
two thirds Wordsworth and one
third Anne Shirley. It doesn't
seem possible that there should
be dying fir in heaven, does
it? And yet it doesn't seem to
me that heaven would be quite
perfect if you couldn't get a
whiff of dead fir as you went
through its woods. Perhaps we'll
have the odor there without the
death. Yes, I think that will
be the way. That delicious aroma
must be the souls of the firs.
. .and of course it will be just
souls in heaven."
"Trees haven't souls," said
practical Diana, "but the smell
of dead fir is certainly lovely.
I'm going to make a cushion and
fill it with fir needles. You'd
better make one too, Anne."
"I think I
shall. . .and use it for my
naps. I'd be certain
to dream I was a dryad or a woodnymph
then. But just this minute I'm
well content to be Anne Shirley,
Avonlea schoolma'am, driving
over a road like this on such
a sweet, friendly day."
"It's a lovely day but we have
anything but a lovely task before
us," sighed Diana. "Why on earth
did you offer to canvass this
road, Anne? Almost all the cranks
in Avonlea live along it, and
we'll probably be treated as
if we were begging for ourselves.
It's the very worst road of all."
"That is why
I chose it. Of course Gilbert
and Fred would
have taken this road if we had
asked them. But you see, Diana,
I feel myself responsible for
the A.V.I.S., since I was the
first to suggest it, and it seems
to me that I ought to do the
most disagreeable things. I'm
sorry on your account; but you
needn't say a word at the cranky
places. I'll do all the talking.
. . Mrs. Lynde would say I was
well able to. Mrs. Lynde doesn't
know whether to approve of our
enterprise or not. She inclines
to, when she remembers that Mr.
and Mrs. Allan are in favor of
it; but the fact that village
improvement societies first originated
in the States is a count against
it. So she is halting between
two opinions and only success
will justify us in Mrs. Lynde's
eyes. Priscilla is going to write
a paper for our next Improvement
meeting, and I expect it will
be good, for her aunt is such
a clever writer and no doubt
it runs in the family. I shall
never forget the thrill it gave
me when I found out that Mrs.
Charlotte E. Morgan was Priscilla's
aunt. It seemed so wonderful
that I was a friend of the girl
whose aunt wrote `Edgewood Days'
and `The Rosebud Garden.'"
Mrs. Morgan live?"
And Priscilla says she is coming
to the Island
for a visit next summer, and
if it is possible Priscilla is
going to arrange to have us meet
her. That seems almost too good
to be true --but it's something
pleasant to imagine after you
go to bed."
Village Improvement Society
was an organized fact.
Gilbert Blythe was president,
Fred Wright vice-president, Anne
Shirley secretary, and Diana
Barry treasurer. The "Improvers," as
they were promptly christened,
were to meet once a fortnight
at the homes of the members.
It was admitted that they could
not expect to affect many improvements
so late in the season; but they
meant to plan the next summer's
campaign, collect and discuss
ideas, write and read papers,
and, as Anne said, educate the
public sentiment generally.
There was some disapproval,
of course, and. . .which the
Improvers felt much more keenly.
. .a good deal of ridicule. Mr.
Elisha Wright was reported to
have said that a more appropriate
name for the organization would
be Courting Club. Mrs. Hiram
Sloane declared she had heard
the Improvers meant to plough
up all the roadsides and set
them out with geraniums. Mr.
Levi Boulter warned his neighbors
that the Improvers would insist
that everybody pull down his
house and rebuild it after plans
approved by the society. Mr.
James Spencer sent them word
that he wished they would kindly
shovel down the church hill.
Eben Wright told Anne that he
wished the Improvers could induce
old Josiah Sloane to keep his
whiskers trimmed. Mr. Lawrence
Bell said he would whitewash
his barns if nothing else would
please them but he would NOT
hang lace curtains in the cowstable
windows. Mr. Major Spencer asked
Clifton Sloane, an Improver who
drove the milk to the Carmody
cheese factory, if it was true
that everybody would have to
have his milk-stand hand-painted
next summer and keep an embroidered
centerpiece on it.
In spite of. . .or perhaps,
human nature being what it is,
because of. . .this, the Society
went gamely to work at the only
improvement they could hope to
bring about that fall. At the
second meeting, in the Barry
parlor, Oliver Sloane moved that
they tart a subscription to re-shingle
and paint the hall; Julia Bell
seconded it, with an uneasy feeling
that she was doing something
not exactly ladylike. Gilbert
put the motion, it was carried
unanimously, and Anne gravely
recorded it in her minutes. The
next thing was to appoint a committee,
and Gertie Pye, determined not
to let Julia Bell carry off all
the laurels, boldly moved that
Miss Jane Andrews be chairman
of said committee. This motion
being also duly seconded and
carried, Jane returned the compliment
by appointing Gertie on the committee,
along with Gilbert, Anne, Diana,
and Fred Wright. The committee
chose their routes in private
conclave. Anne and Diana were
told off for the Newbridge road,
Gilbert and Fred for the White
Sands road, and Jane and Gertie
for the Carmody road.
"Because," explained Gilbert
to Anne, as they walked home
together through the Haunted
Wood, "the Pyes all live along
that road and they won't give
a cent unless one of themselves
The next Saturday
Anne and Diana started out.
to the end of the road and canvassed
homeward, calling first on the "Andrew
"If Catherine is alone we may
get something," said Diana, "but
if Eliza is there we won't."
Eliza was there.
. .very much so. . .and looked
than usual. Miss Eliza was one
of those people who give you
the impression that life is indeed
a vale of tears, and that a smile,
never to speak of a laugh, is
a waste of nervous energy truly
reprehensible. The Andrew girls
had been "girls" for fifty odd
years and seemed likely to remain
girls to the end of their earthly
pilgrimage. Catherine, it was
said, had not entirely given
up hope, but Eliza, who was born
a pessimist, had never had any.
They lived in a little brown
house built in a sunny corner
scooped out of Mark Andrew's
beech woods. Eliza complained
that it was terrible hot in summer,
but Catherine was wont to say
it was lovely and warm in winter.
Eliza was sewing patchwork,
not because it was needed but
simply as a protest against the
frivolous lace Catherine was
crocheting. Eliza listened with
a frown and Catherine with a
smile, as the girls explained
their errand. To be sure, whenever
Catherine caught Eliza's eye
she discarded the smile in guilty
confusion; but it crept back
the next moment.
"If I had money to waste," said
Eliza grimly, "I'd burn it up
and have the fun of seeing a
blaze maybe; but I wouldn't give
it to that hall, not a cent.
It's no benefit to the settlement.
. .just a place for young folks
to meet and carry on when they's
better be home in their beds."
"Oh, Eliza, young folks must
have some amusement," protested
"I don't see
the necessity. We didn't gad
about to halls
and places when we were young,
Catherine Andrews. This world
is getting worse every day"
"I think it's getting better," said
"YOU think!" Miss Eliza's voice
expressed the utmost contempt. "It
doesn't signify what you THINK,
Catherine Andrews. Facts is facts."
"Well, I always
like to look on the bright
any bright side."
"Oh, indeed there is," cried
Anne, who couldn't endure such
heresy in silence." Why, there
are ever so many bright sides,
Miss Andrews. It's really a beautiful
"You won't have such a high
opinion of it when you've lived
as long in it as I have," retorted
Miss Eliza sourly, "and you won't
be so enthusiastic about improving
it either. How is your mother,
Diana? Dear me, but she has failed
of late. She looks terrible run
down. And how long is it before
Marilla expects to be stone blind,
"The doctor thinks her eyes
will not get any worse if she
is very careful," faltered Anne.
Eliza shook her head.
talk like that just to keep
people cheered up.
I wouldn't have much hope if
I was her. It's best to be prepared
for the worst."
"But oughtn't we be prepared
for the best too?" pleaded Anne. "It's
just as likely to happen as the
"Not in my experience, and
I've fifty-seven years to set
against your sixteen," retorted
Eliza. "Going, are you? Well,
I hope this new society of yours
will be able to keep Avonlea
from running any further down
hill but I haven't much hope
Anne and Diana got themselves
thankfully out, and drove away
as fast as the fat pony could
go. As they rounded the curve
below the beech wood a plump
figure came speeding over Mr.
Andrews' pasture, waving to them
excitedly. It was Catherine Andrews
and she was so out of breath
that she could hardly speak,
but she thrust a couple of quarters
into Anne's hand.
"That's my contribution to
painting the hall," she gasped. "I'd
like to give you a dollar but
I don't dare take more from my
egg money for Eliza would find
it out if I did. I'm real interested
in your society and I believe
you're going to do a lot of good.
I'm an optimist. I HAVE to be,
living with Eliza. I must hurry
back before she misses me. .
.she thinks I'm feeding the hens.
I hope you'll have good luck
canvassing, and don't be cast
down over what Eliza said. The
world IS getting better. . .it
The next house was Daniel Blair's.
"Now, it all depends on whether
his wife is home or not," said
Diana, as they jolted along a
deep-rutted lane. "If she is
we won't get a cent. Everybody
says Dan Blair doesn't dare have
his hair cut without asking her
permission; and it's certain
she's very close, to state it
moderately. She says she has
to be just before she's generous.
But Mrs. Lynde says she's so
much `before' that generosity
never catches up with her at
Anne related their experience
at the Blair place to Marilla
"We tied the horse and then
rapped at the kitchen door. Nobody
came but the door was open and
we could hear somebody in the
pantry, going on dreadfully.
We couldn't make out the words
but Diana says she knows they
were swearing by the sound of
them. I can't believe that of
Mr. Blair, for he is always so
quiet and meek; but at least
he had great provocation, for
Marilla, when that poor man came
to the door, red as a beet, with
perspiration streaming down his
face, he had on one of his wife's
big gingham aprons. `I can't
get this durned thing off,' he
said, `for the strings are tied
in a hard knot and I can't bust
'em, so you'll have to excuse
me, ladies.' We begged him not
to mention it and went in and
sat down. Mr. Blair sat down
too; he twisted the apron around
to his back and rolled it up,
but he did look so ashamed and
worried that I felt sorry for
him, and Diana said she feared
we had called at an inconvenient
time. `Oh, not at all,' said
Mr. Blair, trying to smile. .
.you know he is always very polite.
. .'I'm a little busy. . .getting
ready to bake a cake as it were.
My wife got a telegram today
that her sister from Montreal
is coming tonight and she's gone
to the train to meet her and
left orders for me to make a
cake for tea. She writ out the
recipe and told me what to do
but I've clean forgot half the
directions already. And it says, "flavor
according to taste." What does
that mean? How can you tell?
And what if my taste doesn't
happen to be other people's taste?
Would a tablespoon of vanilla
be enough for a small layer cake?"
"I felt sorrier
than ever for the poor man.
He didn't seem
to be in his proper sphere at
all. I had heard of henpecked
husbands and now I felt that
I saw one. It was on my lips
to say, `Mr. Blair, if you'll
give us a subscription for the
hall I'll mix up your cake for
you.' But I suddenly thought
it wouldn't be neighborly to
drive too sharp a bargain with
a fellow creature in distress.
So I offered to mix the cake
for him without any conditions
at all. He just jumped at my
offer. He said he'd been used
to making his own bread before
he was married but he feared
cake was beyond him, and yet
he hated to disappoint his wife.
He got me another apron, and
Diana beat the eggs and I mixed
the cake. Mr. Blair ran about
and got us the materials. He
had forgotten all about his apron
and when he ran it streamed out
behind him and Diana said she
thought she would die to see
it. He said he could bake the
cake all right. . .he was used
to that. . .and then he asked
for our list and he put down
four dollars. So you see we were
rewarded. But even if he hadn't
given a cent I'd always feel
that we had done a truly Christian
act in helping him."
Theodore White's was the next
stopping place. Neither Anne
nor Diana had ever been there
before, and they had only a very
slight acquaintance with Mrs.
Theodore, who was not given to
hospitality. Should they go to
the back or front door? While
they held a whispered consultation
Mrs. Theodore appeared at the
front door with an armful of
newspapers. Deliberately she
laid them down one by one on
the porch floor and the porch
steps, and then down the path
to the very feet of her mystified
"Will you please wipe your
feet carefully on the grass and
then walk on these papers?" she
said anxiously. "I've just swept
the house all over and I can't
have any more dust tracked in.
The path's been real muddy since
the rain yesterday."
"Don't you dare laugh," warned
Anne in a whisper, as they marched
along the newspapers. "And I
implore you, Diana, not to look
at me, no matter what she says,
or I shall not be able to keep
a sober face."
extended across the hall and
into a prim, fleckless
parlor. Anne and Diana sat down
gingerly on the nearest chairs
and explained their errand. Mrs.
White heard them politely, interrupting
only twice, once to chase out
an adventurous fly, and once
to pick up a tiny wisp of grass
that had fallen on the carpet
from Anne's dress. Anne felt
wretchedly guilty; but Mrs. White
subscribed two dollars and paid
the money down. . ."to prevent
us from having to go back for
it," Diana said when they got
away. Mrs. White had the newspapers
gathered up before they had their
horse untied and as they drove
out of the yard they saw her
busily wielding a broom in the
"I've always heard that Mrs.
Theodore White was the neatest
woman alive and I'll believe
it after this," said Diana, giving
way to her suppressed laughter
as soon as it was safe.
"I am glad she has no children," said
Anne solemnly. "It would be dreadful
beyond words for them if she
At the Spencers' Mrs. Isabella
Spencer made them miserable by
saying something ill-natured
about everyone in Avonlea. Mr.
Thomas Boulter refused to give
anything because the hall, when
it had been built, twenty years
before, hadn't been built on
the site he recommended. Mrs.
Esther Bell, who was the picture
of health, took half an hour
to detail all her aches and pains,
and sadly put down fifty cents
because she wouldn't be there
that time next year to do it.
. .no, she would be in her grave.
reception, however, was at
Simon Fletcher's. When
they drove into the yard they
saw two faces peering at them
through the porch window. But
although they rapped and waited
patiently and persistently nobody
came to the door. Two decidedly
ruffled and indignant girls drove
away from Simon Fletcher's. Even
Anne admitted that she was beginning
to feel discouraged. But the
tide turned after that. Several
Sloane homesteads came next,
where they got liberal subscriptions,
and from that to the end they
fared well, with only an occasional
snub. Their last place of call
was at Robert Dickson's by the
pond bridge. They stayed to tea
here, although they were nearly
home, rather than risk offending
Mrs. Dickson, who had the reputation
of being a very "touchy" woman.
While they were there old Mrs.
James White called in.
"I've just been down to Lorenzo's," she
announced. "He's the proudest
man in Avonlea this minute. What
do you think? There's a brand
new boy there. . .and after seven
girls that's quite an event,
I can tell you." Anne pricked
up her ears, and when they drove
away she said.
straight to Lorenzo White's."
"But he lives on the White
Sands road and it's quite a distance
out of our, way" protested Diana. "Gilbert
and Fred will canvass him."
"They are not going around
until next Saturday and it will
be too late by then," said Anne
firmly. "The novelty will be
worn off. Lorenzo White is dreadfully
mean but he will subscribe to
ANYTHING just now. We mustn't
let such a golden opportunity
slip, Diana." The result justified
Anne's foresight. Mr. White met
them in the yard, beaming like
the sun upon an Easter day. When
Anne asked for a subscription
he agreed enthusiastically.
Just put me down for a dollar
the highest subscription you've
"That will be five dollars.
. .Mr. Daniel Blair put down
four," said Anne, half afraid.
But Lorenzo did not flinch.
"Five it is.
. .and here's the money on
the spot. Now, I
want you to come into the house.
There's something in there worth
seeing. . . something very few
people have seen as yet. Just
come in and pass YOUR opinion."
"What will we say if the baby
isn't pretty?" whispered Diana
in trepidation as they followed
the excited Lorenzo into the
"Oh, there will certainly be
something else nice to say about
it," said Anne easily. "There
always is about a baby."
The baby WAS pretty, however,
and Mr. White felt that he got
his five dollars' worth of the
girls' honest delight over the
plump little newcomer. But that
was the first, last, and only
time that Lorenzo White ever
subscribed to anything.
Anne, tired as she was, made
one more effort for the public
weal that night, slipping over
the fields to interview Mr. Harrison,
who was as usual smoking his
pipe on the veranda with Ginger
beside him. Strickly speaking
he was on the Carmody road; but
Jane and Gertie, who were not
acquainted with him save by doubtful
report, had nervously begged
Anne to canvass him.
Mr. Harrison, however, flatly
refused to subscribe a cent,
and all Anne's wiles were in
"But I thought you approved
of our society, Mr. Harrison," she
"So I do. .
.so I do. . .but my approval
doesn't go as deep
as my pocket, Anne."
"A few more experiences such
as I have had today would make
me as much of a pessimist as
Miss Eliza Andrews," Anne told
her reflection in the east gable
mirror at bedtime.