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Dramatis Personae of Anne of Green Gables. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.
Dramatis Personae: Anne/Narrator: read by Arielle Lipshaw
Marilla Cuthbert: read by Elizabeth Klett Matthew Cuthbert: read by Bruce Pirie
Mrs. Rachel Lynde: read by Amy Gramour Diana Barry: read by Sally McConnell
Gilbert Blythe: read by mb Stationmaster: read by Phil Chenevert
Mrs. Spencer: read by Sally McConnell Flora Jane Spencer: read by sherlock85
Mrs. Blewett: read by Tricia G Mrs. Barry: read by Linette Geisel
Mr. Phillips: read by David Lawrence Jimmy Glover/Boys: read by Peter Bishop
Ruby Gillis: read by ESFJ Girl Doctor: read by Phil Chenevert
Miss Josephine Barry: read by ashleyspence Mrs. Allan: read by Sarah Jennings
Josie Pye: read by rashada Carrie Sloane: read by Laura Payne
Miss Lucilla Harris: read by Sally McConnell Jane Andrews: read by Elizabeth Barr
Miss Stacy: read by Amy Gramour Moody Spurgeon McPherson: read by Peter Bishop
Lady: read by Availle CHAPTER I. Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Surprised
MRS. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow,
fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source
away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate,
headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and
cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little
stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard
for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window,
keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she
noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the
whys and wherefores thereof.
There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their
neighbor’s business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of
those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into
the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she
“ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop
of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found
abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting “cotton warp” quilts—she
had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices—and keeping
a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill
beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St.
Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass
over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.
She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window
warm and bright; the orchard on the slope below the house was in a bridal flush of pinky-white
bloom, hummed over by a myriad of bees. Thomas Lynde—a meek little man whom Avonlea people
called “Rachel Lynde’s husband”—was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field
beyond the barn; and Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his on the big red brook
field away over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel knew that he ought because she had heard him
tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair’s store over at Carmody
that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course,
for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in
his whole life.
And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly
driving over the hollow and up the hill; moreover, he wore a white collar and his best suit of
clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea; and he had the buggy
and the sorrel mare, which betokened that he was going a considerable distance. Now,
where was Matthew Cuthbert going and why was he going there?
Had it been any other man in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel, deftly putting this and that together,
might have given a pretty good guess as to both questions. But Matthew so rarely went
from home that it must be something pressing and unusual which was taking him; he was the
shyest man alive and hated to have to go among strangers or to any place where he might have
to talk. Matthew, dressed up with a white collar and driving in a buggy, was something
that didn’t happen often. Mrs. Rachel, ponder as she might, could make nothing of it and
her afternoon’s enjoyment was spoiled.
“I’ll just step over to Green Gables after tea and find out from Marilla where he’s
gone and why,” the worthy woman finally concluded. “He doesn’t generally go to
town this time of year and he never visits; if he’d run out of turnip seed he wouldn’t
dress up and take the buggy to go for more; he wasn’t driving fast enough to be going
for a doctor. Yet something must have happened since last night to start him off. I’m clean
puzzled, that’s what, and I won’t know a minute’s peace of mind or conscience until
I know what has taken Matthew Cuthbert out of Avonlea today.”
Accordingly after tea Mrs. Rachel set out; she had not far to go; the big, rambling,
orchard-embowered house where the Cuthberts lived was a scant quarter of a mile up the
road from Lynde’s Hollow. To be sure, the long lane made it a good deal further. Matthew
Cuthbert’s father, as shy and silent as his son after him, had got as far away as
he possibly could from his fellow men without actually retreating into the woods when he
founded his homestead. Green Gables was built at the furthest edge of his cleared land and
there it was to this day, barely visible from the main road along which all the other Avonlea
houses were so sociably situated. Mrs. Rachel Lynde did not call living in such a place
living at all.
“It’s just staying, that’s what,” she said as she stepped along the deep-rutted,
grassy lane bordered with wild rose bushes. “It’s no wonder Matthew and Marilla are
both a little odd, living away back here by themselves. Trees aren’t much company, though
dear knows if they were there’d be enough of them. I’d ruther look at people. To be
sure, they seem contented enough; but then, I suppose, they’re used to it. A body can
get used to anything, even to being hanged, as the Irishman said.”
With this Mrs. Rachel stepped out of the lane into the backyard of Green Gables. Very green
and neat and precise was that yard, set about on one side with great patriarchal willows
and the other with prim Lombardies. Not a stray stick nor stone was to be seen, for
Mrs. Rachel would have seen it if there had been. Privately she was of the opinion that
Marilla Cuthbert swept that yard over as often as she swept her house. One could have eaten
a meal off the ground without over-brimming the proverbial peck of dirt.
Mrs. Rachel rapped smartly at the kitchen door and stepped in when bidden to do so.
The kitchen at Green Gables was a cheerful apartment—or would have been cheerful if
it had not been so painfully clean as to give it something of the appearance of an unused
parlor. Its windows looked east and west; through the west one, looking out on the back
yard, came a flood of mellow June sunlight; but the east one, whence you got a glimpse
of the bloom white cherry-trees in the left orchard and nodding, slender birches down
in the hollow by the brook, was greened over by a tangle of vines. Here sat Marilla Cuthbert,
when she sat at all, always slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing
and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously; and here
she sat now, knitting, and the table behind her was laid for supper.
Mrs. Rachel, before she had fairly closed the door, had taken a mental note of everything
that was on that table. There were three plates laid, so that Marilla must be expecting some
one home with Matthew to tea; but the dishes were everyday dishes and there was only crab-apple
preserves and one kind of cake, so that the expected company could not be any particular
company. Yet what of Matthew’s white collar and the sorrel mare? Mrs. Rachel was getting
fairly dizzy with this unusual mystery about quiet, unmysterious Green Gables.
“Good evening, Rachel,” Marilla said briskly. “This is a real fine evening, isn’t it?
Won’t you sit down? How are all your folks?”
Something that for lack of any other name might be called friendship existed and always
had existed between Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel, in spite of—or perhaps because of—their
dissimilarity.
Marilla was a tall, thin woman, with angles and without curves; her dark hair showed some
gray streaks and was always twisted up in a hard little knot behind with two wire hairpins
stuck aggressively through it. She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid
conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth which, if
it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense
of humor.
“We’re all pretty well,” said Mrs. Rachel. “I was kind of afraid you weren’t, though,
when I saw Matthew starting off today. I thought maybe he was going to the doctor’s.”
Marilla’s lips twitched understandingly. She had expected Mrs. Rachel up; she had known
that the sight of Matthew jaunting off so unaccountably would be too much for her neighbor’s
curiosity.
“Oh, no, I’m quite well although I had a bad headache yesterday,” she said. “Matthew
went to Bright River. We’re getting a little boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia and
he’s coming on the train tonight.”
If Marilla had said that Matthew had gone to Bright River to meet a kangaroo from Australia
Mrs. Rachel could not have been more astonished. She was actually stricken dumb for five seconds.
It was unsupposable that Marilla was making fun of her, but Mrs. Rachel was almost forced
to suppose it.
“Are you in earnest, Marilla?” she demanded when voice returned to her.
“Yes, of course,” said Marilla, as if getting boys from orphan asylums in Nova Scotia
were part of the usual spring work on any well-regulated Avonlea farm instead of being
an unheard of innovation.
Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points.
A boy! Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of all people adopting a boy! From an orphan asylum!
Well, the world was certainly turning upside down! She would be surprised at nothing after
this! Nothing!
“What on earth put such a notion into your head?” she demanded disapprovingly.
This had been done without her advice being asked, and must perforce be disapproved.
“Well, we’ve been thinking about it for some time—all winter in fact,” returned
Marilla. “Mrs. Alexander Spencer was up here one day before Christmas and she said
she was going to get a little girl from the asylum over in Hopeton in the spring. Her
cousin lives there and Mrs. Spencer has visited here and knows all about it. So Matthew and
I have talked it over off and on ever since. We thought we’d get a boy. Matthew is getting
up in years, you know—he’s sixty—and he isn’t so spry as he once was. His heart
troubles him a good deal. And you know how desperate hard it’s got to be to get hired
help. There’s never anybody to be had but those stupid, half-grown little French boys;
and as soon as you do get one broke into your ways and taught something he’s up and off
to the lobster canneries or the States. At first Matthew suggested getting a Home boy.
But I said ‘no’ flat to that. ‘They may be all right—I’m not saying they’re
not—but no London street Arabs for me,’ I said. ‘Give me a native born at least.
There’ll be a risk, no matter who we get. But I’ll feel easier in my mind and sleep
sounder at nights if we get a born Canadian.’ So in the end we decided to ask Mrs. Spencer
to pick us out one when she went over to get her little girl. We heard last week she was
going, so we sent her word by Richard Spencer’s folks at Carmody to bring us a smart, likely
boy of about ten or eleven. We decided that would be the best age—old enough to be of
some use in doing chores right off and young enough to be trained up proper. We mean to
give him a good home and schooling. We had a telegram from Mrs. Alexander Spencer today—the
mail-man brought it from the station—saying they were coming on the five-thirty train
tonight. So Matthew went to Bright River to meet him. Mrs. Spencer will drop him off there.
Of course she goes on to White Sands station herself.”
Mrs. Rachel prided herself on always speaking her mind; she proceeded to speak it now, having
adjusted her mental attitude to this amazing piece of news.
“Well, Marilla, I’ll just tell you plain that I think you’re doing a mighty foolish
thing—a risky thing, that’s what. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re
bringing a strange child into your house and home and you don’t know a single thing about
him nor what his disposition is like nor what sort of parents he had nor how he’s likely
to turn out. Why, it was only last week I read in the paper how a man and his wife up
west of the Island took a boy out of an orphan asylum and he set fire to the house at night—set
it on purpose, Marilla—and nearly burnt them to a crisp in their beds. And I know
another case where an adopted boy used to suck the eggs—they couldn’t break him
of it. If you had asked my advice in the matter—which you didn’t do, Marilla—I’d have said
for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”
This Job’s comforting seemed neither to offend nor to alarm Marilla. She knitted steadily
on.
“I don’t deny there’s something in what you say, Rachel. I’ve had some qualms myself.
But Matthew was terrible set on it. I could see that, so I gave in. It’s so seldom Matthew
sets his mind on anything that when he does I always feel it’s my duty to give in. And
as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world.
There’s risks in people’s having children of their own if it comes to that—they don’t
always turn out well. And then Nova Scotia is right close to the Island. It isn’t as
if we were getting him from England or the States. He can’t be much different from
ourselves.”
“Well, I hope it will turn out all right,” said Mrs. Rachel in a tone that plainly indicated
her painful doubts. “Only don’t say I didn’t warn you if he burns Green Gables
down or puts strychnine in the well—I heard of a case over in New Brunswick where an orphan
asylum child did that and the whole family died in fearful agonies. Only, it was a girl
in that instance.”
“Well, we’re not getting a girl,” said Marilla, as if poisoning wells were a purely
feminine accomplishment and not to be dreaded in the case of a boy. “I’d never dream
of taking a girl to bring up. I wonder at Mrs. Alexander Spencer for doing it. But there,
she wouldn’t shrink from adopting a whole orphan asylum if she took it into her head.”
Mrs. Rachel would have liked to stay until Matthew came home with his imported orphan.
But reflecting that it would be a good two hours at least before his arrival she concluded
to go up the road to Robert Bell’s and tell the news. It would certainly make a sensation
second to none, and Mrs. Rachel dearly loved to make a sensation. So she took herself away,
somewhat to Marilla’s relief, for the latter felt her doubts and fears reviving under the
influence of Mrs. Rachel’s pessimism.
“Well, of all things that ever were or will be!” ejaculated Mrs. Rachel when she was
safely out in the lane. “It does really seem as if I must be dreaming. Well, I’m
sorry for that poor young one and no mistake. Matthew and Marilla don’t know anything
about children and they’ll expect him to be wiser and steadier that his own grandfather,
if so be’s he ever had a grandfather, which is doubtful. It seems uncanny to think of
a child at Green Gables somehow; there’s never been one there, for Matthew and Marilla
were grown up when the new house was built—if they ever were children, which is hard to
believe when one looks at them. I wouldn’t be in that orphan’s shoes for anything.
My, but I pity him, that’s what.”
So said Mrs. Rachel to the wild rose bushes out of the fulness of her heart; but if she
could have seen the child who was waiting patiently at the Bright River station at that
very moment her pity would have been still deeper and
more profound.
CHAPTER II. Matthew Cuthbert is surprised MATTHEW Cuthbert and the sorrel mare jogged
comfortably over the eight miles to Bright River. It was a pretty road, running along
between snug farmsteads, with now and again a bit of balsamy fir wood to drive through
or a hollow where wild plums hung out their filmy bloom. The air was sweet with the breath
of many apple orchards and the meadows sloped away in the distance to horizon mists of pearl
and purple; while
“The little birds sang as if it were The one day of summer in all the year.”
Matthew enjoyed the drive after his own fashion, except during the moments when he met women
and had to nod to them—for in Prince Edward island you are supposed to nod to all and
sundry you meet on the road whether you know them or not.
Matthew dreaded all women except Marilla and Mrs. Rachel; he had an uncomfortable feeling
that the mysterious creatures were secretly laughing at him. He may have been quite right
in thinking so, for he was an odd-looking personage, with an ungainly figure and long
iron-gray hair that touched his stooping shoulders, and a full, soft brown beard which he had
worn ever since he was twenty. In fact, he had looked at twenty very much as he looked
at sixty, lacking a little of the grayness.
When he reached Bright River there was no sign of any train; he thought he was too early,
so he tied his horse in the yard of the small Bright River hotel and went over to the station
house. The long platform was almost deserted; the only living creature in sight being a
girl who was sitting on a pile of shingles at the extreme end. Matthew, barely noting
that it was a girl, sidled past her as quickly as possible without looking at her. Had he
looked he could hardly have failed to notice the tense rigidity and expectation of her
attitude and expression. She was sitting there waiting for something or somebody and, since
sitting and waiting was the only thing to do just then, she sat and waited with all
her might and main.
Matthew encountered the stationmaster locking up the ticket office preparatory to going
home for supper, and asked him if the five-thirty train would soon be along.
“The five-thirty train has been in and gone half an hour ago,” answered that brisk official.
“But there was a passenger dropped off for you—a little girl. She’s sitting out there
on the shingles. I asked her to go into the ladies’ waiting room, but she informed me
gravely that she preferred to stay outside. ‘There was more scope for imagination,’
she said. She’s a case, I should say.”
“I’m not expecting a girl,” said Matthew blankly. “It’s a boy I’ve come for.
He should be here. Mrs. Alexander Spencer was to bring him over from Nova Scotia for
me.”
The stationmaster whistled.
“Guess there’s some mistake,” he said. “Mrs. Spencer came off the train with that
girl and gave her into my charge. Said you and your sister were adopting her from an
orphan asylum and that you would be along for her presently. That’s all I know about
it—and I haven’t got any more orphans concealed hereabouts.”
“I don’t understand,” said Matthew helplessly, wishing that Marilla was at hand to cope with
the situation.
“Well, you’d better question the girl,” said the station-master carelessly. “I dare
say she’ll be able to explain—she’s got a tongue of her own, that’s certain.
Maybe they were out of boys of the brand you wanted.”
He walked jauntily away, being hungry, and the unfortunate Matthew was left to do that
which was harder for him than bearding a lion in its den—walk up to a girl—a strange
girl—an orphan girl—and demand of her why she wasn’t a boy. Matthew groaned in
spirit as he turned about and shuffled gently down the platform towards her.
She had been watching him ever since he had passed her and she had her eyes on him now.
Matthew was not looking at her and would not have seen what she was really like if he had
been, but an ordinary observer would have seen this: A child of about eleven, garbed
in a very short, very tight, very ugly dress of yellowish-gray wincey. She wore a faded
brown sailor hat and beneath the hat, extending down her back, were two braids of very thick,
decidedly red hair. Her face was small, white and thin, also much freckled; her mouth was
large and so were her eyes, which looked green in some lights and moods and gray in others.
So far, the ordinary observer; an extraordinary observer might have seen that the chin was
very pointed and pronounced; that the big eyes were full of spirit and vivacity; that
the mouth was sweet-lipped and expressive; that the forehead was broad and full; in short,
our discerning extraordinary observer might have concluded that no commonplace soul inhabited
the body of this stray woman-child of whom shy Matthew Cuthbert was so ludicrously afraid.
Matthew, however, was spared the ordeal of speaking first, for as soon as she concluded
that he was coming to her she stood up, grasping with one thin brown hand the handle of a shabby,
old-fashioned carpet-bag; the other she held out to him.
“I suppose you are Mr. Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables?” she said in a peculiarly
clear, sweet voice. “I’m very glad to see you. I was beginning to be afraid you
weren’t coming for me and I was imagining all the things that might have happened to
prevent you. I had made up my mind that if you didn’t come for me to-night I’d go
down the track to that big wild cherry-tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay
all night. I wouldn’t be a bit afraid, and it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree
all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think? You could imagine you were dwelling
in marble halls, couldn’t you? And I was quite sure you would come for me in the morning,
if you didn’t to-night.”
Matthew had taken the scrawny little hand awkwardly in his; then and there he decided
what to do. He could not tell this child with the glowing eyes that there had been a mistake;
he would take her home and let Marilla do that. She couldn’t be left at Bright River
anyhow, no matter what mistake had been made, so all questions and explanations might as
well be deferred until he was safely back at Green Gables.
“I’m sorry I was late,” he said shyly. “Come along. The horse is over in the yard.
Give me your bag.”
“Oh, I can carry it,” the child responded cheerfully. “It isn’t heavy. I’ve got
all my worldly goods in it, but it isn’t heavy. And if it isn’t carried in just a
certain way the handle pulls out—so I’d better keep it because I know the exact knack
of it. It’s an extremely old carpet-bag. Oh, I’m very glad you’ve come, even if
it would have been nice to sleep in a wild cherry-tree. We’ve got to drive a long piece,
haven’t we? Mrs. Spencer said it was eight miles. I’m glad because I love driving.
Oh, it seems so wonderful that I’m going to live with you and belong to you. I’ve
never belonged to anybody—not really. But the asylum was the worst. I’ve only been
in it four months, but that was enough. I don’t suppose you ever were an orphan in
an asylum, so you can’t possibly understand what it is like. It’s worse than anything
you could imagine. Mrs. Spencer said it was wicked of me to talk like that, but I didn’t
mean to be wicked. It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn’t it? They were
good, you know—the asylum people. But there is so little scope for the imagination in
an asylum—only just in the other orphans. It was pretty interesting to imagine things
about them—to imagine that perhaps the girl who sat next to you was really the daughter
of a belted earl, who had been stolen away from her parents in her infancy by a cruel
nurse who died before she could confess. I used to lie awake at nights and imagine things
like that, because I didn’t have time in the day. I guess that’s why I’m so thin—I
am dreadful thin, ain’t I? There isn’t a pick on my bones. I do love to imagine I’m
nice and plump, with dimples in my elbows.”
With this Matthew’s companion stopped talking, partly because she was out of breath and partly
because they had reached the buggy. Not another word did she say until they had left the village
and were driving down a steep little hill, the road part of which had been cut so deeply
into the soft soil, that the banks, fringed with blooming wild cherry-trees and slim white
birches, were several feet above their heads.
The child put out her hand and broke off a branch of wild plum that brushed against the
side of the buggy.
“Isn’t that beautiful? What did that tree, leaning out from the bank, all white and lacy,
make you think of?” she asked.
“Well now, I dunno,” said Matthew.
“Why, a bride, of course—a bride all in white with a lovely misty veil. I’ve never
seen one, but I can imagine what she would look like. I don’t ever expect to be a bride
myself. I’m so homely nobody will ever want to marry me—unless it might be a foreign
missionary. I suppose a foreign missionary mightn’t be very particular. But I do hope
that some day I shall have a white dress. That is my highest ideal of earthly bliss.
I just love pretty clothes. And I’ve never had a pretty dress in my life that I can remember—but
of course it’s all the more to look forward to, isn’t it? And then I can imagine that
I’m dressed gorgeously. This morning when I left the asylum I felt so ashamed because
I had to wear this horrid old wincey dress. All the orphans had to wear them, you know.
A merchant in Hopeton last winter donated three hundred yards of wincey to the asylum.
Some people said it was because he couldn’t sell it, but I’d rather believe that it
was out of the kindness of his heart, wouldn’t you? When we got on the train I felt as if
everybody must be looking at me and pitying me. But I just went to work and imagined that
I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress—because when you are imagining you
might as well imagine something worth while—and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes,
and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots. I felt cheered up right away and I enjoyed
my trip to the Island with all my might. I wasn’t a bit sick coming over in the boat.
Neither was Mrs. Spencer although she generally is. She said she hadn’t time to get sick,
watching to see that I didn’t fall overboard. She said she never saw the beat of me for
prowling about. But if it kept her from being seasick it’s a mercy I did prowl, isn’t
it? And I wanted to see everything that was to be seen on that boat, because I didn’t
know whether I’d ever have another opportunity. Oh, there are a lot more cherry-trees all
in bloom! This Island is the bloomiest place. I just love it already, and I’m so glad
I’m going to live here. I’ve always heard that Prince Edward Island was the prettiest
place in the world, and I used to imagine I was living here, but I never really expected
I would. It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it? But those red roads
are so funny. When we got into the train at Charlottetown and the red roads began to flash
past I asked Mrs. Spencer what made them red and she said she didn’t know and for pity’s
sake not to ask her any more questions. She said I must have asked her a thousand already.
I suppose I had, too, but how you going to find out about things if you don’t ask questions?
And what does make the roads red?”
“Well now, I dunno,” said Matthew.
“Well, that is one of the things to find out sometime. Isn’t it splendid to think
of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s
such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything,
would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much?
People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll
stop. I can stop when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”
Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. Like most quiet folks he liked talkative
people when they were willing to do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep
up his end of it. But he had never expected to enjoy the society of a little girl. Women
were bad enough in all conscience, but little girls were worse. He detested the way they
had of sidling past him timidly, with sidewise glances, as if they expected him to gobble
them up at a mouthful if they ventured to say a word. That was the Avonlea type of well-bred
little girl. But this freckled witch was very different, and although he found it rather
difficult for his slower intelligence to keep up with her brisk mental processes he thought
that he “kind of liked her chatter.” So he said as shyly as usual:
“Oh, you can talk as much as you like. I don’t mind.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. I know you and I are going to get along together fine. It’s such
a relief to talk when one wants to and not be told that children should be seen and not
heard. I’ve had that said to me a million times if I have once. And people laugh at
me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express
them, haven’t you?”
“Well now, that seems reasonable,” said Matthew.
“Mrs. Spencer said that my tongue must be hung in the middle. But it isn’t—it’s
firmly fastened at one end. Mrs. Spencer said your place was named Green Gables. I asked
her all about it. And she said there were trees all around it. I was gladder than ever.
I just love trees. And there weren’t any at all about the asylum, only a few poor weeny-teeny
things out in front with little whitewashed cagey things about them. They just looked
like orphans themselves, those trees did. It used to make me want to cry to look at
them. I used to say to them, ‘Oh, you poor little things! If you were out in a great
big woods with other trees all around you and little mosses and June bells growing over
your roots and a brook not far away and birds singing in you branches, you could grow, couldn’t
you? But you can’t where you are. I know just exactly how you feel, little trees.’
I felt sorry to leave them behind this morning. You do get so attached to things like that,
don’t you? Is there a brook anywhere near Green Gables? I forgot to ask Mrs. Spencer
that.”
“Well now, yes, there’s one right below the house.”
“Fancy. It’s always been one of my dreams to live near a brook. I never expected I would,
though. Dreams don’t often come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did? But
just now I feel pretty nearly perfectly happy. I can’t feel exactly perfectly happy because—well,
what color would you call this?”
She twitched one of her long glossy braids over her thin shoulder and held it up before
Matthew’s eyes. Matthew was not used to deciding on the tints of ladies’ tresses,
but in this case there couldn’t be much doubt.
“It’s red, ain’t it?” he said.
The girl let the braid drop back with a sigh that seemed to come from her very toes and
to exhale forth all the sorrows of the ages.
“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly. “Now you see why I can’t be perfectly
happy. Nobody could who has red hair. I don’t mind the other things so much—the freckles
and the green eyes and my skinniness. I can imagine them away. I can imagine that I have
a beautiful rose-leaf complexion and lovely starry violet eyes. But I cannot imagine that
red hair away. I do my best. I think to myself, ‘Now my hair is a glorious black, black
as the raven’s wing.’ But all the time I know it is just plain red and it breaks
my heart. It will be my lifelong sorrow. I read of a girl once in a novel who had a lifelong
sorrow but it wasn’t red hair. Her hair was pure gold rippling back from her alabaster
brow. What is an alabaster brow? I never could find out. Can you tell me?”
“Well now, I’m afraid I can’t,” said Matthew, who was getting a little dizzy. He
felt as he had once felt in his rash youth when another boy had enticed him on the merry-go-round
at a picnic.
“Well, whatever it was it must have been something nice because she was divinely beautiful.
Have you ever imagined what it must feel like to be divinely beautiful?”
“Well now, no, I haven’t,” confessed Matthew ingenuously.
“I have, often. Which would you rather be if you had the choice—divinely beautiful
or dazzlingly clever or angelically good?”
“Well now, I—I don’t know exactly.”
“Neither do I. I can never decide. But it doesn’t make much real difference for it
isn’t likely I’ll ever be either. It’s certain I’ll never be angelically good.
Mrs. Spencer says—oh, Mr. Cuthbert! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert!! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert!!!”
That was not what Mrs. Spencer had said; neither had the child tumbled out of the buggy nor
had Matthew done anything astonishing. They had simply rounded a curve in the road and
found themselves in the “Avenue.”
The “Avenue,” so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five
hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted
years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom.
Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted
sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.
Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands
clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they
had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke.
Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunset west, with eyes that saw visions trooping
splendidly across that glowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little village
where dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious faces peered from the windows,
they drove, still in silence. When three more miles had dropped away behind them the child
had not spoken. She could keep silence, it was evident, as energetically as she could
talk.
“I guess you’re feeling pretty tired and hungry,” Matthew ventured to say at last,
accounting for her long visitation of dumbness with the only reason he could think of. “But
we haven’t very far to go now—only another mile.”
She came out of her reverie with a deep sigh and looked at him with the dreamy gaze of
a soul that had been wondering afar, star-led.
“Oh, Mr. Cuthbert,” she whispered, “that place we came through—that white place—what
was it?”
“Well now, you must mean the Avenue,” said Matthew after a few moments’ profound
reflection. “It is a kind of pretty place.”
“Pretty? Oh, pretty doesn’t seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don’t
go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful—wonderful. It’s the first thing I ever saw that couldn’t
be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here”—she put one hand on her breast—“it
made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that,
Mr. Cuthbert?”
“Well now, I just can’t recollect that I ever had.”
“I have it lots of time—whenever I see anything royally beautiful. But they shouldn’t
call that lovely place the Avenue. There is no meaning in a name like that. They should
call it—let me see—the White Way of Delight. Isn’t that a nice imaginative name? When
I don’t like the name of a place or a person I always imagine a new one and always think
of them so. There was a girl at the asylum whose name was Hepzibah Jenkins, but I always
imagined her as Rosalia DeVere. Other people may call that place the Avenue, but I shall
always call it the White Way of Delight. Have we really only another mile to go before we
get home? I’m glad and I’m sorry. I’m sorry because this drive has been so pleasant
and I’m always sorry when pleasant things end. Something still pleasanter may come after,
but you can never be sure. And it’s so often the case that it isn’t pleasanter. That
has been my experience anyhow. But I’m glad to think of getting home. You see, I’ve
never had a real home since I can remember. It gives me that pleasant ache again just
to think of coming to a really truly home. Oh, isn’t that pretty!”
They had driven over the crest of a hill. Below them was a pond, looking almost like
a river so long and winding was it. A bridge spanned it midway and from there to its lower
end, where an amber-hued belt of sand-hills shut it in from the dark blue gulf beyond,
the water was a glory of many shifting hues—the most spiritual shadings of crocus and rose
and ethereal green, with other elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Above
the bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and maple and lay all darkly translucent
in their wavering shadows. Here and there a wild plum leaned out from the bank like
a white-clad girl tip-toeing to her own reflection. From the marsh at the head of the pond came
the clear, mournfully-sweet chorus of the frogs. There was a little gray house peering
around a white apple orchard on a slope beyond and, although it was not yet quite dark, a
light was shining from one of its windows.
“That’s Barry’s pond,” said Matthew.
“Oh, I don’t like that name, either. I shall call it—let me see—the Lake of Shining
Waters. Yes, that is the right name for it. I know because of the thrill. When I hit on
a name that suits exactly it gives me a thrill. Do things ever give you a thrill?”
Matthew ruminated.
“Well now, yes. It always kind of gives me a thrill to see them ugly white grubs that
spade up in the cucumber beds. I hate the look of them.”
“Oh, I don’t think that can be exactly the same kind of a thrill. Do you think it
can? There doesn’t seem to be much connection between grubs and lakes of shining waters,
does there? But why do other people call it Barry’s pond?”
“I reckon because Mr. Barry lives up there in that house. Orchard Slope’s the name
of his place. If it wasn’t for that big bush behind it you could see Green Gables
from here. But we have to go over the bridge and round by the road, so it’s near half
a mile further.”
“Has Mr. Barry any little girls? Well, not so very little either—about my size.”
“He’s got one about eleven. Her name is Diana.”
“Oh!” with a long indrawing of breath. “What a perfectly lovely name!”
“Well now, I dunno. There’s something dreadful heathenish about it, seems to me.
I’d ruther Jane or Mary or some sensible name like that. But when Diana was born there
was a schoolmaster boarding there and they gave him the naming of her and he called her
Diana.”
“I wish there had been a schoolmaster like that around when I was born, then. Oh, here
we are at the bridge. I’m going to shut my eyes tight. I’m always afraid going over
bridges. I can’t help imagining that perhaps just as we get to the middle, they’ll crumple
up like a jack-knife and nip us. So I shut my eyes. But I always have to open them for
all when I think we’re getting near the middle. Because, you see, if the bridge did
crumple up I’d want to see it crumple. What a jolly rumble it makes! I always like the
rumble part of it. Isn’t it splendid there are so many things to like in this world?
There we’re over. Now I’ll look back. Good night, dear Lake of Shining Waters. I
always say good night to the things I love, just as I would to people. I think they like
it. That water looks as if it was smiling at me.”
When they had driven up the further hill and around a corner Matthew said:
“We’re pretty near home now. That’s Green Gables over—”
“Oh, don’t tell me,” she interrupted breathlessly, catching at his partially raised
arm and shutting her eyes that she might not see his gesture. “Let me guess. I’m sure
I’ll guess right.”
She opened her eyes and looked about her. They were on the crest of a hill. The sun
had set some time since, but the landscape was still clear in the mellow afterlight.
To the west a dark church spire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley
and beyond a long, gently-rising slope with snug farmsteads scattered along it. From one
to another the child’s eyes darted, eager and wistful. At last they lingered on one
away to the left, far back from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in the twilight
of the surrounding woods. Over it, in the stainless southwest sky, a great crystal-white
star was shining like a lamp of guidance and promise.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” she said, pointing.
Matthew slapped the reins on the sorrel’s back delightedly.
“Well now, you’ve guessed it! But I reckon Mrs. Spencer described it so’s you could
tell.”
“No, she didn’t—really she didn’t. All she said might just as well have been
about most of those other places. I hadn’t any real idea what it looked like. But just
as soon as I saw it I felt it was home. Oh, it seems as if I must be in a dream. Do you
know, my arm must be black and blue from the elbow up, for I’ve pinched myself so many
times today. Every little while a horrible sickening feeling would come over me and I’d
be so afraid it was all a dream. Then I’d pinch myself to see if it was real—until
suddenly I remembered that even supposing it was only a dream I’d better go on dreaming
as long as I could; so I stopped pinching. But it is real and we’re nearly home.”
With a sigh of rapture she relapsed into silence. Matthew stirred uneasily. He felt glad that
it would be Marilla and not he who would have to tell this waif of the world that the home
she longed for was not to be hers after all. They drove over Lynde’s Hollow, where it
was already quite dark, but not so dark that Mrs. Rachel could not see them from her window
vantage, and up the hill and into the long lane of Green Gables. By the time they arrived
at the house Matthew was shrinking from the approaching revelation with an energy he did
not understand. It was not of Marilla or himself he was thinking of the trouble this mistake
was probably going to make for them, but of the child’s disappointment. When he thought
of that rapt light being quenched in her eyes he had an uncomfortable feeling that he was
going to assist at murdering something—much the same feeling that came over him when he
had to kill a lamb or calf or any other innocent little creature.
The yard was quite dark as they turned into it and the poplar leaves were rustling silkily
all round it.
“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,” she whispered, as he lifted her to the ground.
“What nice dreams they must have!”
Then, holding tightly to the carpet-bag which contained “all her worldly goods,” she
followed him into the house.
CHAPTER III. Marilla Cuthbert is Surprised MARILLA came briskly forward as Matthew opened
the door. But when her eyes fell on the odd little figure in the stiff, ugly dress, with
the long braids of red hair and the eager, luminous eyes, she stopped short in amazement.
“Matthew Cuthbert, who’s that?” she ejaculated. “Where is the boy?”
“There wasn’t any boy,” said Matthew wretchedly. “There was only her.”
He nodded at the child, remembering that he had never even asked her name.
“No boy! But there must have been a boy,” insisted Marilla. “We sent word to Mrs.
Spencer to bring a boy.”
“Well, she didn’t. She brought her. I asked the station-master. And I had to bring
her home. She couldn’t be left there, no matter where the mistake had come in.”
“Well, this is a pretty piece of business!” ejaculated Marilla.
During this dialogue the child had remained silent, her eyes roving from one to the other,
all the animation fading out of her face. Suddenly she seemed to grasp the full meaning
of what had been said. Dropping her precious carpet-bag she sprang forward a step and clasped
her hands.
“You don’t want me!” she cried. “You don’t want me because I’m not a boy! I
might have expected it. Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful
to last. I might have known nobody really did want me. Oh, what shall I do? I’m going
to burst into tears!”
Burst into tears she did. Sitting down on a chair by the table, flinging her arms out
upon it, and burying her face in them, she proceeded to cry stormily. Marilla and Matthew
looked at each other deprecatingly across the stove. Neither of them knew what to say
or do. Finally Marilla stepped lamely into the breach.
“Well, well, there’s no need to cry so about it.”
“Yes, there is need!” The child raised her head quickly, revealing a tear-stained
face and trembling lips. “You would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to
a place you thought was going to be home and found that they didn’t want you because
you weren’t a boy. Oh, this is the most tragical thing that ever happened to me!”
Something like a reluctant smile, rather rusty from long disuse, mellowed Marilla’s grim
expression.
“Well, don’t cry any more. We’re not going to turn you out-of-doors to-night. You’ll
have to stay here until we investigate this affair. What’s your name?”
The child hesitated for a moment.
“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.
“Call you Cordelia? Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s
such a perfectly elegant name.”
“I don’t know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn’t your name, what is?”
“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name, “but, oh, please
do call me Cordelia. It can’t matter much to you what you call me if I’m only going
to be here a little while, can it? And Anne is such an unromantic name.”
“Unromantic fiddlesticks!” said the unsympathetic Marilla. “Anne is a real good plain sensible
name. You’ve no need to be ashamed of it.”
“Oh, I’m not ashamed of it,” explained Anne, “only I like Cordelia better. I’ve
always imagined that my name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years. When I
was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you
call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”
“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty
smile as she picked up the teapot.
“Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced
can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n
looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call
me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.”
“Very well, then, Anne spelled with an E, can you tell us how this mistake came to be
made? We sent word to Mrs. Spencer to bring us a boy. Were there no boys at the asylum?”
“Oh, yes, there was an abundance of them. But Mrs. Spencer said distinctly that you
wanted a girl about eleven years old. And the matron said she thought I would do. You
don’t know how delighted I was. I couldn’t sleep all last night for joy. Oh,” she added
reproachfully, turning to Matthew, “why didn’t you tell me at the station that you
didn’t want me and leave me there? If I hadn’t seen the White Way of Delight and
the Lake of Shining Waters it wouldn’t be so hard.”
“What on earth does she mean?” demanded Marilla, staring at Matthew.
“She—she’s just referring to some conversation we had on the road,” said Matthew hastily.
“I’m going out to put the mare in, Marilla. Have tea ready when I come back.”
“Did Mrs. Spencer bring anybody over besides you?” continued Marilla when Matthew had
gone out.
“She brought Lily Jones for herself. Lily is only five years old and she is very beautiful
and had nut-brown hair. If I was very beautiful and had nut-brown hair would you keep me?”
“No. We want a boy to help Matthew on the farm. A girl would be of no use to us. Take
off your hat. I’ll lay it and your bag on the hall table.”
Anne took off her hat meekly. Matthew came back presently and they sat down to supper.
But Anne could not eat. In vain she nibbled at the bread and butter and pecked at the
crab-apple preserve out of the little scalloped glass dish by her plate. She did not really
make any headway at all.
“You’re not eating anything,” said Marilla sharply, eying her as if it were a serious
shortcoming. Anne sighed.
“I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair. Can you eat when you are in the depths of
despair?”
“I’ve never been in the depths of despair, so I can’t say,” responded Marilla.
“Weren’t you? Well, did you ever try to imagine you were in the depths of despair?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Then I don’t think you can understand what it’s like. It’s a very uncomfortable
feeling indeed. When you try to eat a lump comes right up in your throat and you can’t
swallow anything, not even if it was a chocolate caramel. I had one chocolate caramel once
two years ago and it was simply delicious. I’ve often dreamed since then that I had
a lot of chocolate caramels, but I always wake up just when I’m going to eat them.
I do hope you won’t be offended because I can’t eat. Everything is extremely nice,
but still I cannot eat.”
“I guess she’s tired,” said Matthew, who hadn’t spoken since his return from
the barn. “Best put her to bed, Marilla.”
Marilla had been wondering where Anne should be put to bed. She had prepared a couch in
the kitchen chamber for the desired and expected boy. But, although it was neat and clean,
it did not seem quite the thing to put a girl there somehow. But the spare room was out
of the question for such a stray waif, so there remained only the east gable room. Marilla
lighted a candle and told Anne to follow her, which Anne spiritlessly did, taking her hat
and carpet-bag from the hall table as she passed. The hall was fearsomely clean; the
little gable chamber in which she presently found herself seemed still cleaner.
Marilla set the candle on a three-legged, three-cornered table and turned down the bedclothes.
“I suppose you have a nightgown?” she questioned.
Anne nodded.
“Yes, I have two. The matron of the asylum made them for me. They’re fearfully skimpy.
There is never enough to go around in an asylum, so things are always skimpy—at least in
a poor asylum like ours. I hate skimpy night-dresses. But one can dream just as well in them as
in lovely trailing ones, with frills around the neck, that’s one consolation.”
“Well, undress as quick as you can and go to bed. I’ll come back in a few minutes
for the candle. I daren’t trust you to put it out yourself. You’d likely set the place
on fire.”
When Marilla had gone Anne looked around her wistfully. The whitewashed walls were so painfully
bare and staring that she thought they must ache over their own bareness. The floor was
bare, too, except for a round braided mat in the middle such as Anne had never seen
before. In one corner was the bed, a high, old-fashioned one, with four dark, low-turned
posts. In the other corner was the aforesaid three-corner table adorned with a fat, red
velvet pin-cushion hard enough to turn the point of the most adventurous pin. Above it
hung a little six-by-eight mirror. Midway between table and bed was the window, with
an icy white muslin frill over it, and opposite it was the wash-stand. The whole apartment
was of a rigidity not to be described in words, but which sent a shiver to the very marrow
of Anne’s bones. With a sob she hastily discarded her garments, put on the skimpy
nightgown and sprang into bed where she burrowed face downward into the pillow and pulled the
clothes over her head. When Marilla came up for the light various skimpy articles of raiment
scattered most untidily over the floor and a certain tempestuous appearance of the bed
were the only indications of any presence save her own.
She deliberately picked up Anne’s clothes, placed them neatly on a prim yellow chair,
and then, taking up the candle, went over to the bed.
“Good night,” she said, a little awkwardly, but not unkindly.
Anne’s white face and big eyes appeared over the bedclothes with a startling suddenness.
“How can you call it a good night when you know it must be the very worst night I’ve
ever had?” she said reproachfully.
Then she dived down into invisibility again.
Marilla went slowly down to the kitchen and proceeded to wash the supper dishes. Matthew
was smoking—a sure sign of perturbation of mind. He seldom smoked, for Marilla set
her face against it as a filthy habit; but at certain times and seasons he felt driven
to it and them Marilla winked at the practice, realizing that a mere man must have some vent
for his emotions.
“Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish,” she said wrathfully. “This is what comes
of sending word instead of going ourselves. Richard Spencer’s folks have twisted that
message somehow. One of us will have to drive over and see Mrs. Spencer tomorrow, that’s
certain. This girl will have to be sent back to the asylum.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Matthew reluctantly.
“You suppose so! Don’t you know it?”
“Well now, she’s a real nice little thing, Marilla. It’s kind of a pity to send her
back when she’s so set on staying here.”
“Matthew Cuthbert, you don’t mean to say you think we ought to keep her!”
Marilla’s astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had expressed a predilection
for standing on his head.
“Well, now, no, I suppose not—not exactly,” stammered Matthew, uncomfortably driven into
a corner for his precise meaning. “I suppose—we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
“I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
“Matthew Cuthbert, I believe that child has bewitched you! I can see as plain as plain
that you want to keep her.”
“Well now, she’s a real interesting little thing,” persisted Matthew. “You should
have heard her talk coming from the station.”
“Oh, she can talk fast enough. I saw that at once. It’s nothing in her favour, either.
I don’t like children who have so much to say. I don’t want an orphan girl and if
I did she isn’t the style I’d pick out. There’s something I don’t understand about
her. No, she’s got to be despatched straight-way back to where she came from.”
“I could hire a French boy to help me,” said Matthew, “and she’d be company for
you.”
“I’m not suffering for company,” said Marilla shortly. “And I’m not going to
keep her.”
“Well now, it’s just as you say, of course, Marilla,” said Matthew rising and putting
his pipe away. “I’m going to bed.”
To bed went Matthew. And to bed, when she had put her dishes away, went Marilla, frowning
most resolutely. And up-stairs, in the east gable, a lonely, heart-hungry, friendless
child cried herself
to sleep.
CHAPTER IV. Morning at Green Gables IT was broad daylight when Anne awoke and
sat up in bed, staring confusedly at the window through which a flood of cheery sunshine was
pouring and outside of which something white and feathery waved across glimpses of blue
sky.
For a moment she could not remember where she was. First came a delightful thrill, as
something very pleasant; then a horrible remembrance. This was Green Gables and they didn’t want
her because she wasn’t a boy!
But it was morning and, yes, it was a cherry-tree in full bloom outside of her window. With
a bound she was out of bed and across the floor. She pushed up the sash—it went up
stiffly and creakily, as if it hadn’t been opened for a long time, which was the case;
and it stuck so tight that nothing was needed to hold it up.
Anne dropped on her knees and gazed out into the June morning, her eyes glistening with
delight. Oh, wasn’t it beautiful? Wasn’t it a lovely place? Suppose she wasn’t really
going to stay here! She would imagine she was. There was scope for imagination here.
A huge cherry-tree grew outside, so close that its boughs tapped against the house,
and it was so thick-set with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen. On both sides
of the house was a big orchard, one of apple-trees and one of cherry-trees, also showered over
with blossoms; and their grass was all sprinkled with dandelions. In the garden below were
lilac-trees purple with flowers, and their dizzily sweet fragrance drifted up to the
window on the morning wind.
Below the garden a green field lush with clover sloped down to the hollow where the brook
ran and where scores of white birches grew, upspringing airily out of an undergrowth suggestive
of delightful possibilities in ferns and mosses and woodsy things generally. Beyond it was
a hill, green and feathery with spruce and fir; there was a gap in it where the gray
gable end of the little house she had seen from the other side of the Lake of Shining
Waters was visible.
Off to the left were the big barns and beyond them, away down over green, low-sloping fields,
was a sparkling blue glimpse of sea.
Anne’s beauty-loving eyes lingered on it all, taking everything greedily in. She had
looked on so many unlovely places in her life, poor child; but this was as lovely as anything
she had ever dreamed.
She knelt there, lost to everything but the loveliness around her, until she was startled
by a hand on her shoulder. Marilla had come in unheard by the small dreamer.
“It’s time you were dressed,” she said curtly.
Marilla really did not know how to talk to the child, and her uncomfortable ignorance
made her crisp and curt when she did not mean to be.
Anne stood up and drew a long breath.
“Oh, isn’t it wonderful?” she said, waving her hand comprehensively at the good
world outside.
“It’s a big tree,” said Marilla, “and it blooms great, but the fruit don’t amount
to much never—small and wormy.”
“Oh, I don’t mean just the tree; of course it’s lovely—yes, it’s radiantly lovely—it
blooms as if it meant it—but I meant everything, the garden and the orchard and the brook and
the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on
a morning like this? And I can hear the brook laughing all the way up here. Have you ever
noticed what cheerful things brooks are? They’re always laughing. Even in winter-time I’ve
heard them under the ice. I’m so glad there’s a brook near Green Gables. Perhaps you think
it doesn’t make any difference to me when you’re not going to keep me, but it does.
I shall always like to remember that there is a brook at Green Gables even if I never
see it again. If there wasn’t a brook I’d be haunted by the uncomfortable feeling that
there ought to be one. I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in
the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings? But I feel very sad. I’ve
just been imagining that it was really me you wanted after all and that I was to stay
here for ever and ever. It was a great comfort while it lasted. But the worst of imagining
things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”
“You’d better get dressed and come down-stairs and never mind your imaginings,” said Marilla
as soon as she could get a word in edgewise. “Breakfast is waiting. Wash your face and
comb your hair. Leave the window up and turn your bedclothes back over the foot of the
bed. Be as smart as you can.”
Anne could evidently be smart to some purpose for she was down-stairs in ten minutes’
time, with her clothes neatly on, her hair brushed and braided, her face washed, and
a comfortable consciousness pervading her soul that she had fulfilled all Marilla’s
requirements. As a matter of fact, however, she had forgotten to turn back the bedclothes.
“I’m pretty hungry this morning,” she announced as she slipped into the chair Marilla
placed for her. “The world doesn’t seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night.
I’m so glad it’s a sunshiny morning. But I like rainy mornings real well, too. All
sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going
to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination. But I’m glad
it’s not rainy today because it’s easier to be cheerful and bear up under affliction
on a sunshiny day. I feel that I have a good deal to bear up under. It’s all very well
to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s
not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”
“For pity’s sake hold your tongue,” said Marilla. “You talk entirely too much
for a little girl.”
Thereupon Anne held her tongue so obediently and thoroughly that her continued silence
made Marilla rather nervous, as if in the presence of something not exactly natural.
Matthew also held his tongue,—but this was natural,—so that the meal was a very silent
one.
As it progressed Anne became more and more abstracted, eating mechanically, with her
big eyes fixed unswervingly and unseeingly on the sky outside the window. This made Marilla
more nervous than ever; she had an uncomfortable feeling that while this odd child’s body
might be there at the table her spirit was far away in some remote airy cloudland, borne
aloft on the wings of imagination. Who would want such a child about the place?
Yet Matthew wished to keep her, of all unaccountable things! Marilla felt that he wanted it just
as much this morning as he had the night before, and that he would go on wanting it. That was
Matthew’s way—take a whim into his head and cling to it with the most amazing silent
persistency—a persistency ten times more potent and effectual in its very silence than
if he had talked it out.
When the meal was ended Anne came out of her reverie and offered to wash the dishes.
“Can you wash dishes right?” asked Marilla distrustfully.
“Pretty well. I’m better at looking after children, though. I’ve had so much experience
at that. It’s such a pity you haven’t any here for me to look after.”
“I don’t feel as if I wanted any more children to look after than I’ve got at
present. You’re problem enough in all conscience. What’s to be done with you I don’t know.
Matthew is a most ridiculous man.”
“I think he’s lovely,” said Anne reproachfully. “He is so very sympathetic. He didn’t
mind how much I talked—he seemed to like it. I felt that he was a kindred spirit as
soon as ever I saw him.”
“You’re both queer enough, if that’s what you mean by kindred spirits,” said
Marilla with a sniff. “Yes, you may wash the dishes. Take plenty of hot water, and
be sure you dry them well. I’ve got enough to attend to this morning for I’ll have
to drive over to White Sands in the afternoon and see Mrs. Spencer. You’ll come with me
and we’ll settle what’s to be done with you. After you’ve finished the dishes go
up-stairs and make your bed.”
Anne washed the dishes deftly enough, as Marilla who kept a sharp eye on the process, discerned.
Later on she made her bed less successfully, for she had never learned the art of wrestling
with a feather tick. But is was done somehow and smoothed down; and then Marilla, to get
rid of her, told her she might go out-of-doors and amuse herself until dinner time.
Anne flew to the door, face alight, eyes glowing. On the very threshold she stopped short, wheeled
about, came back and sat down by the table, light and glow as effectually blotted out
as if some one had clapped an extinguisher on her.
“What’s the matter now?” demanded Marilla.
“I don’t dare go out,” said Anne, in the tone of a martyr relinquishing all earthly
joys. “If I can’t stay here there is no use in my loving Green Gables. And if I go
out there and get acquainted with all those trees and flowers and the orchard and the
brook I’ll not be able to help loving it. It’s hard enough now, so I won’t make
it any harder. I want to go out so much—everything seems to be calling to me, ‘Anne, Anne,
come out to us. Anne, Anne, we want a playmate’—but it’s better not. There is no use in loving
things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving
things, isn’t it? That was why I was so glad when I thought I was going to live here.
I thought I’d have so many things to love and nothing to hinder me. But that brief dream
is over. I am resigned to my fate now, so I don’t think I’ll go out for fear I’ll
get unresigned again. What is the name of that geranium on the window-sill, please?”
“That’s the apple-scented geranium.”
“Oh, I don’t mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn’t
you give it a name? May I give it one then? May I call it—let me see—Bonny would do—may
I call it Bonny while I’m here? Oh, do let me!”
“Goodness, I don’t care. But where on earth is the sense of naming a geranium?”
“Oh, I like things to have handles even if they are only geraniums. It makes them
seem more like people. How do you know but that it hurts a geranium’s feelings just
to be called a geranium and nothing else? You wouldn’t like to be called nothing but
a woman all the time. Yes, I shall call it Bonny. I named that cherry-tree outside my
bedroom window this morning. I called it Snow Queen because it was so white. Of course,
it won’t always be in blossom, but one can imagine that it is, can’t one?”
“I never in all my life saw or heard anything to equal her,” muttered Marilla, beating
a retreat down to the cellar after potatoes. “She is kind of interesting as Matthew says.
I can feel already that I’m wondering what on earth she’ll say next. She’ll be casting
a spell over me, too. She’s cast it over Matthew. That look he gave me when he went
out said everything he said or hinted last night over again. I wish he was like other
men and would talk things out. A body could answer back then and argue him into reason.
But what’s to be done with a man who just looks?”
Anne had relapsed into reverie, with her chin in her hands and her eyes on the sky, when
Marilla returned from her cellar pilgrimage. There Marilla left her until the early dinner
was on the table.
“I suppose I can have the mare and buggy this afternoon, Matthew?” said Marilla.
Matthew nodded and looked wistfully at Anne. Marilla intercepted the look and said grimly:
“I’m going to drive over to White Sands and settle this thing. I’ll take Anne with
me and Mrs. Spencer will probably make arrangements to send her back to Nova Scotia at once. I’ll
set your tea out for you and I’ll be home in time to milk the cows.”
Still Matthew said nothing and Marilla had a sense of having wasted words and breath.
There is nothing more aggravating than a man who won’t talk back—unless it is a woman
who won’t.
Matthew hitched the sorrel into the buggy in due time and Marilla and Anne set off.
Matthew opened the yard gate for them and as they drove slowly through, he said, to
nobody in particular as it seemed:
“Little Jerry Buote from the Creek was here this morning, and I told him I guessed I’d
hire him for the summer.”
Marilla made no reply, but she hit the unlucky sorrel such a vicious clip with the whip that
the fat mare, unused to such treatment, whizzed indignantly down the lane at an alarming pace.
Marilla looked back once as the buggy bounced along and saw that aggravating Matthew leaning
over the gate, looking wistfully after them.
CHAPTER V. Anne’s History DO you know,” said Anne confidentially,
“I’ve made up my mind to enjoy this drive. It’s been my experience that you can nearly
always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must
make it up firmly. I am not going to think about going back to the asylum while we’re
having our drive. I’m just going to think about the drive. Oh, look, there’s one little