Chapter 20 Summary
Anne has always felt proud of her fertile imagination. It is the one gift about which she feels very confident. However, one night when Marilla asks Anne to walk over to Diana’s house to borrow a pattern from Diana’s mother, Anne becomes agitated. She tells Marilla she would rather go the next morning, if that is possible. When Marilla insists that she needs the pattern that night, Anne agrees to go, but she says she will have to walk along the road, which will take an extra half-hour. Marilla finds this incredible and asks why Anne cannot merely walk through the wood that connects their houses. At first Anne says it is too dark. Marilla points out that it is only twilight. There is enough light remaining in the sky to help her see clearly. Anne continues to refuse. She begs to be allowed to wait until the morning, promising that she will rise with the sun. Then Anne implores Marilla to not insist that she go through the “Haunted Wood.”
On hearing Anne refer to the small patch of trees as the Haunted Wood, Marilla stops talking and stares at Anne. She asks Anne if she is crazy. Marilla wants to know which part of the woods is haunted. Anne tells her it is the spruce tree near the brook. Marilla cannot believe what she is hearing. She demands that Anne tell her who has been filling her head with these strange ideas. Anne finally confesses that no one has been telling her stories—except herself and Diana. They have spent hours making up tall tales to pass the time. Everything around Avonlea, Anne says, is so ordinary that she and Diana decided to pretend differently. They told one another stories that frightened them so much that now they are afraid of going in the woods.
Marilla is beside herself. She cannot believe Anne has duped herself. Marilla tells Anne that she has always questioned all the time that Anne has wasted indulging her imagination. Now Marilla demands that all this talk must stop. She insists that Anne march right over to Diana’s house without any further delay. Not only does she have to go immediately but she must go through the woods. This will teach Anne to not let her imagination take over her life.
Marilla takes Anne to the edge of the woods and waits for Anne to go forward. When Anne asks how Marilla would feel if a ghost snatched and took her away, Marilla responds dryly that she will deal with that when and if the time comes. When Anne finally reaches the other side of the woods, she looks back at Marilla and, with her teeth chattering, promises to be content with ordinary things from now on.