Puffed Sleeves: A Gift to Warm the Heart
by Rebecca and Lisa Ripperton
One of our most cherished books that we read aloud as a family was Anne of Green Gables. In fact, we adored Anne so much that we not only read Anne of Green Gables, but also every other L.M. Montgomery book that we could get our hands on! These stories seem to be evergreen, never failing to uplift our spirits and reanimate our imaginations.
We were recently reminded of a scene that many of you will doubtless remember warmly, and so we thought it would be great fun to share it with our readers this December. Hopefully it brings fond and festive memories back to your families, too! May you all know the same joy that Anne felt upon receiving Matthew’s glorious gift this Christmas season.
Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables.
“Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green—they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!”
Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.
Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.
“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why—why—Anne, don’t you like it? Well now—well now.”
For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”
“Well, well, let us have breakfast,” interrupted Marilla. “I must say, Anne, I don’t think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There’s a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It’s brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in.”
This selection is excerpted from the chapter "Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves" from Anne of Green Gables, which follows Matthew from the time of first determining to get Anne a dress, through the difficulties encountered in procuring it, and lastly the joyous giving of it. We recommend Anne of Green Gables for family reading with children ages 11 and above. Don't dismiss it as simply a book for girls. My brother Daniel enjoyed it as much as I did!
Many children's novels feature festive Christmas scenes. See the list that follows. Can you think of any others? Please share them by adding a comment below.