"An Epoch in Anne's Life:" The Charlottetown Exhibition
Diana Barry’s Aunt Josephine asks Anne Shirley and Diana to stay with her to enjoy the Charlottetown Exhibition, a huge fair that features prizes for domestic work, livestock, and horses. The horse races are an exciting feature of the Exhibition. Should Anne bet on the horses or not?
Marilla agreed to let Anne go to town, and it was arranged that Mr. Barry should take the girls in on the following Tuesday. As Charlottetown was thirty miles away and Mr. Barry wished to go and return the same day, it was necessary to make a very early start. But Anne counted it all joy, and was up before sunrise on Tuesday morning. A glance from her window assured her that the day would be fine, for the eastern sky behind the firs of the Haunted Wood was all silvery and cloudless. Through the gap in the trees a light was shining in the western gable of Orchard Slope, a token that Diana was also up.
Anne was dressed by the time Matthew had the fire on and had the breakfast ready when Marilla came down, but for her own part was much too excited to eat. After breakfast the jaunty new cap and jacket was donned, and Anne hastened over the brook and up through the firs to Orchard Slope. Mr. Barry and Diana were waiting for her, and they were soon on the road.
It was a long drive, but Anne and Diana enjoyed every minute of it. It was delightful to rattle along over the moist roads in the early red sunlight that was creeping across the shorn harvest fields. The air was fresh and crisp, and little smoke-blue mists curled through the valleys and floated off from the hills. Sometimes the road went through woods where maples were beginning to hang out scarlet banners; sometimes it crossed rivers on bridges that made Anne’s flesh cringe with the old, half-delighted fear; sometimes it wound along a harbour shore and passed by a little cluster of weather-gray fishing huts; again it mounted to hills whence a far sweep of curving upland or misty blue sky could be seen; but wherever it went there was much of interest to discuss. It was almost noon when they reached town and found their way to “Beechwood.” It was quite a fine old mansion, set back from the street in a seclusion of green elms and branching beeches. Miss Barry met them at the door with a twinkle in her sharp black eyes.
On Wednesday Miss Barry took them to the Exhibition grounds and kept them there all day.
“It was splendid,” Anne related to Marilla later on. “I never imagined anything so interesting. I don’t really know which department was the most interesting. I think I liked the horses and the flowers and the fancy work best. Josie Pye took first prize for knitted lace. I was real glad she did. And I was glad that I felt glad, for it shows I’m improving, don’t you think, Marilla, when I can rejoice in Josie’s success? Mr. Harmon Andrews took second prize for Gravenstein apples and Mr. Bell took first prize for a pig. Diana said she thought it was ridiculous for a Sunday school superintendent to take a prize in pigs, but I don’t see why. Do you? She said she would always think of it after this when he was praying so solemnly. Clara Louise MacPherson took a prize for painting, and Mrs. Lynde got first prize for home-made butter and cheese. So Avonlea was pretty well represented, wasn’t it? Mrs. Lynde was there that day, and I ever knew how much I really liked her until I saw her familiar face among all those strangers. There were thousands of people there, Marilla. It made me feel dreadfully insignificant. And Miss Barry took us up to the grandstand to see the horse-races. Mrs. Lynde wouldn’t go; she said horse-racing was an abomination, and she being a church member, thought it her bounden duty to set a good example by staying away. But there were so many there I don’t believe Mrs. Lynde’s absence would ever be noticed. I don’t think, though, that I ought to go very often to horse-races, because they are awfully fascinating. Diana got so excited that she offered to bet me ten cents that the red horse would win. I didn’t believe he would, but I refused to bet, because I wanted to tell Mrs. Allan all about everything, and I felt sure it wouldn’t do to tell her that. It’s always wrong to do anything you can’t tell the minister’s wife. It’s as good as an extra conscience to have a minister’s wife for your friend. And I was very glad I didn’t bet, because the red horse did win, and I would have lost ten cents. So you see that virtue was its own reward. We saw a man go up in a balloon. I’d love to go up in a balloon, Marilla; it would be simply thrilling; and we saw a man selling fortunes. You paid him ten cents and a little bird picked out your fortune for you. Miss Barry gave Diana and me ten cents each to have our fortunes told. Mine was that I would marry a dark-complected man who was very wealthy, and I would go across water to live. I looked carefully at all the dark men I saw after that, but I didn’t care much for any of them, and anyhow I suppose it’s too early to be looking out for him yet. Oh, it was a never-to-be forgotten day, Marilla. I was so tired I couldn’t sleep at night. Miss Barry put us in the spare room, according to promise. It was an elegant room, Marilla, but somehow sleeping in a spare room isn’t what I used to think it was. That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”
Thursday the girls had a drive in the park, and in the evening Miss Barry took them to a concert in the Academy of Music, where a noted prima donna was to sing. To Anne the evening was a glittering vision of delight.
Friday brought going-home time, and Mr. Barry drove in for the girls.
Anne and Diana found the drive home as pleasant as the drive in—pleasanter, indeed, since there was the delightful consciousness of home waiting at the end of it. It was sunset when they passed through White Sands and turned into the shore road. Beyond, the Avonlea hills came out darkly against the saffron sky. Behind them the moon was rising out of the sea that grew all radiant and transfigured in her light. Every little cove along the curving road was a marvel of dancing ripples. The waves broke with a soft swish on the rocks below them, and the tang of the sea was in the strong, fresh air.
“Oh, but it’s good to be alive and to be going home,” breathed Anne. (322-30)
From L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, L. C. Page, 1908.
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