Anne of Green Gables
Title: Anne of Green Gables
Writer: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Chapter XXVIII – An Unfortunate Lily Maid (an excerpt)
[Note: The “flat” in this scene refers to a flat-bottomed rowboat used for duck-hunting.]
It was Anne’s idea that they dramatize Elaine. They had studied Tennyson’s poem in school the preceding winter, the Superintendent of Education having prescribed it in the English course for the Prince Edward Island schools. They had analyzed and parsed it and torn it to pieces in general until it was a wonder there was any meaning at all left in it for them, but at least the fair lily maid and Lancelot and Guinevere and King Arthur had become very real people to them, and Anne was devoured by secret regret that she had not been born in Camelot. Those days, she said, were so much more romantic than the present.
Anne’s plan was hailed with enthusiasm. The girls had discovered that if the flat were pushed off from the landing place it would drift down with the current under the bridge and finally strand itself on another headland lower down which ran out at a curve in the pond. They had often gone down like this and nothing could be more convenient for playing Elaine.
“Well, I’ll be Elaine,” said Anne, yielding reluctantly, for, although she would have been delighted to play the principal character, yet her artistic sense demanded fitness for it and this, she felt, her limitations made impossible. “Ruby, you must be King Arthur and Jane will be Guinevere and Diana must be Lancelot. But first you must be the brothers and the father. We can’t have the old dumb servitor because there isn’t room for two in the flat when one is lying down. We must pall the barge all its length in blackest samite. That old black shawl of your mother’s will be just the thing, Diana.”
The black shawl having been procured, Anne spread it over the flat and then lay down on the bottom, with closed eyes and hands folded over her breast.
“Oh, she does look really dead,” whispered Ruby Gillis nervously, watching the still, white little face under the flickering shadows of the birches. “It makes me feel frightened, girls. Do you suppose it’s really right to act like this? Mrs. Lynde says that all play-acting is abominably wicked.”
“Ruby, you shouldn’t talk about Mrs. Lynde,” said Anne severely. “It spoils the effect because this is hundreds of years before Mrs. Lynde was born. Jane, you arrange this. It’s silly for Elaine to be talking when she’s dead.”
Jane rose to the occasion. Cloth of gold for coverlet there was none, but an old piano scarf of yellow Japanese crepe was an excellent substitute. A white lily was not obtainable just then, but the effect of a tall blue iris placed in one of Anne’s folded hands was all that could be desired.
“Now, she’s all ready,” said Jane. “We must kiss her quiet brows and, Diana, you say, `Sister, farewell forever,’ and Ruby, you say, `Farewell, sweet sister,’ both of you as sorrowfully as you possibly can. Anne, for goodness sake smile a little. You know Elaine `lay as though she smiled.’ That’s better. Now push the flat off.”
The flat was accordingly pushed off, scraping roughly over an old embedded stake in the process. Diana and Jane and Ruby only waited long enough to see it caught in the current and headed for the bridge before scampering up through the woods, across the road, and down to the lower headland where, as Lancelot and Guinevere and the King, they were to be in readiness to receive the lily maid.
For a few minutes Anne, drifting slowly down, enjoyed the romance of her situation to the full. Then something happened not at all romantic. The flat began to leak.
prescribe (verb): to order someone to use or do something
parse (verb): to examine very closely
reluctant (adjective): unsure
servitor (noun): one who attends the needs of another
pall (verb): to cover
samite (noun): a type of silk fabric
procure (verb): to acquire with much effort
abominable (adjective): unpleasant
embed (verb): to fix firmly
Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian novelist. “Anne of Green Gables” was published in 1908, and is in the public domain.