This letter was written by Annetta Bell to Anne Shirley while she was the Avonlea schoolteacher. As a writing assignment for her fourth class, she told them to write a letter to her on any subject they liked, address it, and send it, all without any parental supervision. As Anne says in her own words:
"Last week I told the fourth class I wanted them to write me letters about anything they pleased, adding by way of suggestion that they might tell me of some place they had visited or some interesting thing or person they had seen. They were to write the letters on real note paper, seal them in an envelope, and address them to me, all without any assistance from other people. Last Friday morning I found a pile of letters on my desk and that evening I realized afresh that teaching has its pleasures as well as its pains. Those compositions would atone for much."
- An extract from Anne Shirley's letter to Stella Maynard
I think I will write you a letter to tell you how much I love you. I love you with my whole heart and soul and mind. . .with all there is of me to love. . .and I want to serve you for ever. It would be my highest privilege. That is why I try so hard to be good in school and learn my lessuns.
You are so beautiful, my teacher. Your voice is like music and your eyes are like pansies when the dew is on them. You are like a tall stately queen. Your hair is like rippling gold. Anthony Pye says it is red, but you needn't pay any attention to Anthony.
I have only known you for a few months but I cannot realize that there was ever a time when I did not know you . . . when you had not come into my life to bless and hallow it. I will always look back to this year as the most wonderful in my life because it brought you to me. Besides, it's the year we moved to Avonlea from newbridge. My love for you has made my life very rich and it has kept me from much of harm and evil. I owe this all to you, my sweetest teacher.
I shall never forget how sweet you looked the last time I saw you in that black dress with flowers in your hair. I shall see you like that for ever, even when we are both old and grey. You will always be young and fair to me, dearest teacher. I am thinking of you all the time. . .in the morning and at the noontide and at the twilight. I love you when you laugh and when you sigh. . .even when you look disdainful. I never saw you look cross though Anthony Pye says you always look so but I don't wonder you look cross at him for he deserves it. I love you in every dress. . .you seem more adorable in each new dress than the last.
Dearest teacher, good night. The sun has set and the stars are shining. . .stars that are as bright and beautiful as your eyes. I kiss your hands and face, my sweet. May God watch over you and protect you from all harm.
Your afecksionate pupil,
"Annetta Bell's letter was quite long, which surprised me, for writing essays is not Annetta's forte, and hers are generally as brief as st. Clair's. Annetta is a quiet little puss and a model of good behaviour, but there isn't a shadow of orginality in her. Here is her letter. --"
"This extraordinary letter puzzled me not a little. I knew Annetta couldn't have composed it any more than she could fly. When I went to school the next day I took her for a walk down to the brook at recess and asked her to tell me the truth about the letter. Annetta cried and 'fessed up freely. She said she had never written a letter and she didn't know how to, or what to say, but there was bundle of love letters in her mother's top bureau drawer which had been written to her by an old 'beau.'
"'It wasn't father,' sobbed Annetta, 'it was someone who was studying for a minister, and so he could write lovely letters, but ma didn't marry him after all. She said she couldn't make out what he was driving at half the time. But I thought the letters were sweet and that I'd just copy things out of them here and there to write you. I put "teacher" where he put "lady" and I put in something of my own when I could think of it and I changed some words. I put "dress" in place of "mood." I didn't know just what a "mood" was but I s'posed it was something to wear. I didn't s'pose you'd know the difference. I don't see how you found out it wasn't all mine. You must be awful clever, teacher.'
"I told Annetta it was very wrong to copy another person's letter and pass it off as her own. But I'm afraid that all Annetta repented of was being found out.
"'And I do love you, teacher,' she sobbed. 'It was all true, even if the minister wrote it first. I do love you with all my heart.'
"It's very difficult to scold anybody properly under such circumstances."