Puffed Sleeves for Anne?
Marilla Cuthbert has always dressed her charge, Anne Shirley, in plain, unfashionable dresses. Shy Matthew Cuthbert ventures out to try to buy Anne a pretty dress at the general store in Carmody—without letting Marilla know.
The very next evening Matthew betook himself to Carmody to buy the dress, determined to get the worst over and have done with it. It would be, he felt assured, no trifling ordeal. There were some things Matthew could buy and prove himself no mean bargainer; but he knew he would be at the mercy of shopkeepers when it came to buying a girl’s dress.
After much cogitation Matthew resolved to go to Samuel Lawson’s store instead of William Blair’s; it was almost as much a matter of conscience with them as to attend the Presbyterian church and vote Conservative. But William Blair’s two daughters frequently waited on customers there and Matthew held them in absolute dread. He could contrive to deal with them when he knew exactly what he wanted and could point it out; but in such a matter as this, requiring explanation and consultation, Matthew felt that he must be sure of a man behind the counter. So he would go to Lawson’s, where Samuel or his son would wait on him.
Alas! Matthew did not know that Samuel, in the recent expansion of his business, had set up a lady clerk also; she was a niece of his wife’s and a very dashing young person indeed, with a huge, drooping pompadour, big, rolling brown eyes, and a most extensive and bewildering smile. She was dressed with extensive smartness and wore several bangle bracelets that glittered and rattled and tinkled with every movement of her hands. Matthew was covered with confusion at finding her there at all; and those bangles completely wrecked his wits at one fell swoop.
“What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Cuthbert?” Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.
“Have you any—any—any—well now, say any garden rakes?” stammered Matthew.
Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.
“I believe we have one or two left over,” she said, “but they’re upstairs in the lumber-room. I’ll go and see.”
During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another effort.
When Miss Harris returned with the rake and cheerfully inquired: “Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?” Matthew took his courage in both hands and replied: “Well now, since you suggest it, I might as well—take—that is—look at—buy some—some hayseed.”
Miss Harris had heard Matthew Cuthbert called odd. She now concluded that he was entirely crazy.
“We only keep hayseed in the spring,” she explained loftily. “We’ve none on hand just now.”
“Oh, certainly—certainly—just as you say,” stammered unhappy Matthew, seizing the rake and making for the door. At the threshold he recollected that he had not paid for it and he turned miserably back. While Miss Harris was counting out his change he rallied his powers for a final desperate attempt.
“Well now—if it isn’t too much trouble—I might as well—that is—I’d like to look at—at—some sugar.”
“White or brown?” queried Miss Harris patiently.
“Oh—well now—brown,” said Matthew feebly.
“There’s a barrel of it over there,” said Miss Harris, shaking her bangles at it. “It’s the only kind we have.”
“I’ll—I’ll take twenty pounds of it,” said Matthew, with beads of perspiration standing on his forehead.
Matthew had driven half-way home before he was his own man again. It had been a gruesome experience, but it served him right, he thought, for committing the heresy of going to a strange store. (273-76)
From L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, L. C. Page, 1908