One evening at sunset, Jane Andrews, Gilbert Blythe, and Anne Shirley were lingering by a fence in the shadow of gently swaying spruce boughs, where a wood cut known as the Birch Path joined the main road. Jane had been up to spend the afternoon with Anne, who walked part of the way home with her; at the fence they met Gilbert, and all three were now talking about the fateful morrow; for that morrow was the first of September and the schools would open. Jane would go to Newbridge and Gilbert to White Sands.
“You both have the advantage of me,” sighed Anne. “You’re going to teach children who don’t know you, but I have to teach my own old schoolmates, and Mrs. Lynde says she’s afraid they won’t respect me as they would a stranger unless I’m very cross from the first. But I don’t believe a teacher should be cross. Oh, it seems to me such a responsibility!”
“I guess we’ll get on all right,” said Jane comfortably. Jane was not troubled by any aspirations to be an influence for good. She meant to earn her salary fairly, please the trustees, and get her name on the School Inspector’s roll of honor. Further ambitions Jane had none. “The main thing will be to keep order and a teacher has to be a little cross to do that. If my pupils won’t do as I tell them I shall punish them.”
“Give them a good whipping, of course.”
“Oh, Jane, you wouldn’t,” cried Anne, shocked. “Jane, you COULDN’T!”
“Indeed, I could and would, if they deserved it,” said Jane decidedly.
“I could NEVER whip a child,” said Anne with equal decision. “I don’t believe in it AT ALL. Miss Stacy never whipped any of us and she had perfect order; and Mr. Phillips was always whipping and he had no order at all. No, if I can’t get along without whipping I shall not try to teach school. There are better ways of managing. I shall try to win my pupils’ affections and then they will WANT to do what I tell them.”
“But suppose they don’t?” said practical Jane.
“I wouldn’t whip them anyhow. I’m sure it wouldn’t do any good. Oh, don’t whip your pupils, Jane dear, no matter what they do.”
“What do you think about it, Gilbert?” demanded Jane. “Don’t you think there are some children who really need a whipping now and then?”
“Don’t you think it’s a cruel, barbarous thing to whip a child … ANY child?” exclaimed Anne, her face flushing with earnestness.
“Well,” said Gilbert slowly, torn between his real convictions and his wish to measure up to Anne’s ideal, “there’s something to be said on both sides. I don’t believe in whipping children MUCH. I think, as you say, Anne, that there are better ways of managing as a rule, and that corporal punishment should be a last resort. But on the other hand, as Jane says, I believe there is an occasional child who can’t be influenced in any other way and who, in short, needs a whipping and would be improved by it. Corporal punishment as a last resort is to be my rule.”
Gilbert, having tried to please both sides, succeeded, as is usual and eminently right, in pleasing neither. Jane tossed her head.
“I’ll whip my pupils when they’re naughty. It’s the shortest and easiest way of convincing them.”
Anne gave Gilbert a disappointed glance.
“I shall never whip a child,” she repeated firmly. “I feel sure it isn’t either right or necessary.”
“Suppose a boy sauced you back when you told him to do something?” said Jane.
“I’d keep him in after school and talk kindly and firmly to him,” said Anne. “There is some good in every person if you can find it. It is a teacher’s duty to find and develop it. That is what our School Management professor at Queen’s told us, you know. Do you suppose you could find any good in a child by whipping him? It’s far more important to influence the children aright than it is even to teach them the three R’s, Professor Rennie says.”
“But the Inspector examines them in the three R’s, mind you, and he won’t give you a good report if they don’t come up to his standard,” protested Jane.
“I’d rather have my pupils love me and look back to me in after years as a real helper than be on the roll of honor,” asserted Anne decidedly.
“Wouldn’t you punish children at all, when they misbehaved?” asked Gilbert.
“Oh, yes, I suppose I shall have to, although I know I’ll hate to do it. But you can keep them in at recess or stand them on the floor or give them lines to write.”
“I suppose you won’t punish the girls by making them sit with the boys?” said Jane slyly.
Gilbert and Anne looked at each other and smiled rather foolishly. Once upon a time, Anne had been made to sit with Gilbert for punishment and sad and bitter had been the consequences thereof.
“Well, time will tell which is the best way,” said Jane philosophically as they parted.
Anne went back to Green Gables by way of Birch Path, shadowy, rustling, fern-scented, through Violet Vale and past Willowmere, where dark and light kissed each other under the firs, and down through Lover’s Lane … spots she and Diana had so named long ago. She walked slowly, enjoying the sweetness of wood and field and the starry summer twilight, and thinking soberly about the new duties she was to take up on the morrow. When she reached the yard at Green Gables Mrs. Lynde’s loud, decided tones floated out through the open kitchen window.
“Mrs. Lynde has come up to give me good advice about tomorrow,” thought Anne with a grimace, “but I don’t believe I’ll go in. Her advice is much like pepper, I think … excellent in small quantities but rather scorching in her doses. I’ll run over and have a chat with Mr. Harrison instead.”
This was not the first time Anne had run over and chatted with Mr. Harrison since the notable affair of the Jersey cow. She had been there several evenings and Mr. Harrison and she were very good friends, although there were times and seasons when Anne found the outspokenness on which he prided himself rather trying. Ginger still continued to regard her with suspicion, and never failed to greet her sarcastically as “redheaded snippet.” Mr. Harrison had tried vainly to break him of the habit by jumping excitedly up whenever he saw Anne coming and exclaiming,
“Bless my soul, here’s that pretty little girl again,” or something equally flattering. But Ginger saw through the scheme and scorned it. Anne was never to know how many compliments Mr. Harrison paid her behind her back. He certainly never paid her any to her face.
“Well, I suppose you’ve been back in the woods laying in a supply of switches for tomorrow?” was his greeting as Anne came up the veranda steps.
“No, indeed,” said Anne indignantly. She was an excellent target for teasing because she always took things so seriously. “I shall never have a switch in my school, Mr. Harrison. Of course, I shall have to have a pointer, but I shall use it for pointing ONLY.”
“So you mean to strap them instead? Well, I don’t know but you’re right. A switch stings more at the time but the strap smarts longer, that’s a fact.”
“I shall not use anything of the sort. I’m not going to whip my pupils.”
“Bless my soul,” exclaimed Mr. Harrison in genuine astonishment, “how do you lay out to keep order then?”
“I shall govern by affection, Mr. Harrison.”
“It won’t do,” said Mr. Harrison, “won’t do at all, Anne. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ When I went to school the master whipped me regular every day because he said if I wasn’t in mischief just then I was plotting it.”
“Methods have changed since your schooldays, Mr. Harrison.”
“But human nature hasn’t. Mark my words, you’ll never manage the young fry unless you keep a rod in pickle for them. The thing is impossible.”
“Well, I’m going to try my way first,” said Anne, who had a fairly strong will of her own and was apt to cling very tenaciously to her theories.
“You’re pretty stubborn, I reckon,” was Mr. Harrison’s way of putting it. “Well, well, we’ll see. Someday when you get riled up … and people with hair like yours are desperate apt to get riled … you’ll forget all your pretty little notions and give some of them a whaling. You’re too young to be teaching anyhow … far too young and childish.”
Altogether, Anne went to bed that night in a rather pessimistic mood. She slept poorly and was so pale and tragic at breakfast next morning that Marilla was alarmed and insisted on making her take a cup of scorching ginger tea. Anne sipped it patiently, although she could not imagine what good ginger tea would do. Had it been some magic brew, potent to confer age and experience, Anne would have swallowed a quart of it without flinching.
“Marilla, what if I fail!”
“You’ll hardly fail completely in one day and there’s plenty more days coming,” said Marilla. “The trouble with you, Anne, is that you’ll expect to teach those children everything and reform all their faults right off, and if you can’t you’ll think you’ve failed.”