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Anne of Green Gables is a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children's novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town.Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Montgomery wrote numerous sequels, and since her death, another sequel has been published, as well as an authorized prequel. The original book is taught to students around the world.
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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 Cuthbertplace; 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 thestrongest 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; andMatthew 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 busyday, 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 rarelywentfrom 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 henevervisits; if he’d run out of turnip seed he wouldn’t dressup 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 untilI 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 placelivingat all.
“It’s juststaying, 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 afraidyouweren’t, though, when I saw Matthew starting off today. Ithought 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 quitewell 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 andMrs. 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 gotto 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 mindand 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 iton 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 setshis 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 asylumchild 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,shewouldn’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 everwerechildren, 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.
MATTHEW Cuthbert and the sorrel mare jogged comfortably over theeight miles to Bright River. It was a pretty road, running alongbetween snug farmsteads, withnow and again a bit of balsamy firwood to drive through or a hollow where wild plums hung out theirfilmy bloom. The air was sweet with the breath of many appleorchards and the meadows sloped away in the distance to horizonmists of pearl and purple; while
“The little birds sang as if itwere The one day of summer in all theyear.”
Matthew enjoyed the drive after his own fashion, except duringthe moments when he met women and had to nod to them—for inPrince Edward island you are supposed to nod to all and sundry youmeet on the road whether you know them or not.
Matthew dreaded all women except Marilla and Mrs. Rachel; he hadan uncomfortable feeling that the mysterious creatures weresecretly laughing at him. He may have been quite right in thinkingso, for he was an odd-looking personage, with an ungainly figureand long iron-gray hair that touched his stooping shoulders, and afull, 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; hethought he was too early, so he tied his horse in the yard of thesmall Bright River hotel and went over to the station house. Thelong platformwas almost deserted; the only living creature in sightbeing a girl who was sitting on a pile of shingles at the extremeend. Matthew, barely noting that itwasa girl, sidled past her asquickly as possible without looking at her. Had he looked he couldhardly have failed to notice the tense rigidity and expectation ofher attitude and expression. She was sitting there waiting forsomething or somebody and, since sitting and waiting was the onlything to do just then, she sat and waited with all her might andmain.
Matthew encountered the stationmaster locking up the ticketoffice preparatory to going home for supper, and asked him if thefive-thirty train wouldsoon be along.
“The five-thirty train has been in and gone half an hourago,” answered that brisk official. “But there was apassenger dropped off for you—a little girl. She’ssitting out there on the shingles. I asked her to go into theladies’ waiting room, but she informed me gravely that shepreferred to stay outside. ‘There was more scope forimagination,’ she said. She’s a case, I shouldsay.”
“I’m not expecting a girl,” said Matthewblankly. “It’s a boy I’ve come for. He should behere. Mrs. Alexander Spencer was to bring him over from Nova Scotiafor me.”
The stationmaster whistled.
“Guess there’s some mistake,” he said.“Mrs. Spencer came off the train with that girl and gave herinto my charge. Said you and your sister were adopting her from anorphanasylum and that you would be along for her presently.That’s all I know about it—and I haven’t got anymore 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,” saidthe station-master carelessly. “I dare say she’ll beable to explain—she’s got a tongue of her own,that’s certain. Maybe they were out of boys of the brand youwanted.”
He walked jauntily away, being hungry, and theunfortunateMatthew was left to do that which was harder for him than beardinga lion in its den—walk up to a girl—a strangegirl—an orphan girl—and demand of her why shewasn’t a boy. Matthew groaned in spirit as he turned aboutand shuffled gently downthe platform towards her.
She had been watching him ever since he had passed her and shehad her eyes on him now. Matthew was not looking at her and wouldnot have seen what she was really like if he had been, but anordinary observer would have seen this:A child of about eleven,garbed in a very short, very tight, very ugly dress ofyellowish-gray wincey. She wore a faded brown sailor hat andbeneath the hat, extending down her back, were two braids of verythick, decidedly red hair. Her face was small, white and thin, alsomuch freckled; her mouth was large and so were her eyes, whichlooked green in some lights and moods and gray in others.
So far, the ordinary observer; an extraordinary observer mighthave seen that the chin was very pointed and pronounced; that thebig eyes were full of spirit and vivacity; that the mouth wassweet-lipped and expressive; that the forehead was broad and full;in short, our discerning extraordinary observer might haveconcluded that no commonplace soul inhabited the bodyof this straywoman-child of whom shy Matthew Cuthbert was so ludicrouslyafraid.
Matthew, however, was spared the ordeal of speaking first, foras 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 GreenGables?” she said in a peculiarly clear, sweet voice.“I’m very glad to see you. I was beginning to be afraidyou weren’t coming for me and I was imagining all the thingsthat might have happened to prevent you. I had made up my mind thatif you didn’t come for me to-night I’d go down thetrack to that big wild cherry-tree at the bend, and climb up intoit to stay all night. I wouldn’t be abit afraid, and it wouldbe lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom inthe moonshine, don’t you think? You could imagine you weredwelling in marble halls, couldn’t you? And I was quite sureyou would come for me in the morning, if you didn’tto-night.”
Matthew had taken the scrawny little hand awkwardly in his; thenand there he decided what to do. He could not tell this child withthe glowing eyes that there had been a mistake; he would take herhome and let Marilla do that. She couldn’t be left at BrightRiver anyhow, no matter what mistake had been made, so allquestions and explanations might as well be deferred until he wassafely back at Green Gables.
“I’m sorry I was late,” he said shyly.“Come along. The horse is over in the yard.Give me yourbag.”
“Oh, I can carry it,” the child respondedcheerfully. “It isn’t heavy. I’ve got all myworldly goods in it, but it isn’t heavy. And if itisn’t carried in just a certain way the handle pullsout—so I’d better keep it because I know theexact knackof it. It’s an extremely old carpet-bag. Oh, I’m veryglad you’ve come, even if it would have been nice to sleep ina wild cherry-tree. We’ve got to drive a long piece,haven’t we? Mrs. Spencer said it was eight miles. I’mglad because I love driving. Oh, it seems so wonderful thatI’m going to live with you and belong to you. I’venever belonged to anybody—not really. But the asylum was theworst. I’ve only been in it four months, but that was enough.I don’t suppose you ever were an orphan inan asylum, so youcan’t possibly understand what it is like. It’s worsethan anything you could imagine. Mrs. Spencer said it was wicked ofme 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 solittle scope for the imagination in an asylum—only just inthe other orphans. It was pretty interesting to imagine thingsabout them—to imagine that perhaps the girl who sat next toyou was really the daughter of a belted earl, who had been stolenaway from her parents in her infancy by a cruel nurse who diedbefore she could confess. I used to lie awake at nights and imaginethings like that, because I didn’t have time in the day. Iguess that’s why I’mso thin—Iamdreadful thin,ain’t I? There isn’t a pick on my bones. I do love toimagine I’m nice and plump, with dimples in myelbows.”
With this Matthew’s companion stopped talking, partlybecause she was out of breath and partly because they had reachedthe buggy. Not another word did she say until they had left thevillage and were driving down a steep little hill, the road part ofwhich 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 plumthat brushed against the side of the buggy.
“Isn’t that beautiful? What did that tree, leaningout from the bank, all white and lacy, make you thinkof?” sheasked.
“Well now, I dunno,” said Matthew.
“Why, a bride, of course—a bride all in white with alovely misty veil. I’ve never seen one, but I can imaginewhat she would look like. I don’t ever expect to be a bridemyself. I’m so homely nobody willever want to marryme—unless it might be a foreign missionary. I suppose aforeign missionary mightn’t be very particular. But I do hopethat some day I shall have a white dress. That is my highest idealof earthly bliss. I just love pretty clothes. And I’ve neverhad a pretty dress in my life that I can remember—but ofcourse it’s all the more to look forward to, isn’t it?And then I can imagine that I’m dressed gorgeously. Thismorning when I left the asylum I felt so ashamed because I had towear this horrid old wincey dress. All the orphans had to wearthem, you know. A merchant in Hopeton last winter donated threehundred yards of wincey to the asylum. Some people said it wasbecause he couldn’t sell it, but I’d rather believethat 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 atme and pitying me. But I just went to work and imagined that I hadon the most beautiful pale blue silk dress—because whenyouareimagining you might aswell imagine somethingworthwhile—and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, anda gold watch, and kid gloves and boots. I felt cheered up rightaway and I enjoyed my trip to the Island with all my might. Iwasn’t a bit sick coming over in the boat. Neither was Mrs.Spencer although she generally is. She said she hadn’t timeto 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 itkept her from being seasick it’s a mercy I didprowl,isn’t it? And I wanted to see everything that was to beseen on that boat, because I didn’t know whether I’dever have another opportunity. Oh, there are a lot morecherry-trees all in bloom! This Island is the bloomiest place. Ijust love it already, andI’m so glad I’m going to livehere. I’ve always heard that Prince Edward Island was theprettiest place in the world, and I used to imagine I was livinghere, but I never really expected I would. It’s delightfulwhen your imaginations come true, isn’t it?But those redroads are so funny. When we got into the train at Charlottetown andthe red roads began to flash past I asked Mrs. Spencer what madethem red and she said she didn’t know and for pity’ssake not to ask her any more questions. She said I musthave askedher a thousand already. I suppose I had, too, but how you going tofind out about things if you don’t ask questions? Andwhatdoesmake 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 tofind out about? It just makes me feel glad to bealive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’tbe half so interesting if we know all abouteverything, would it?There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there? But amI talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would yourather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. Icanstopwhen I make up my mind to it, although it’sdifficult.”
Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. Likemost quiet folks he liked talkative people when they were willingto do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep up hisend of it. But he had never expected to enjoy the society of alittle girl. Women were bad enough in all conscience, but littlegirls were worse. He detested the way they had of sidling past himtimidly, with sidewise glances, as if they expected him to gobblethem up at a mouthful if they ventured to say a word. That was theAvonlea type of well-bred little girl. But this freckled witch wasvery different, and although he found it rather difficult for hisslower intelligence to keep up with her brisk mental processes hethought that he “kind of liked her chatter.” So he saidas shyly as usual:
“Oh, you can talk as much as you like. I don’tmind.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. I know you and I are going to getalong together fine. It’s such a relief to talk when onewants to and not be told that children should be seen andnot heard.I’ve had that said to me a million times if I have once. Andpeople laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have bigideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’tyou?”
“Well now, that seems reasonable,” said Matthew.
“Mrs. Spencer said that my tongue must be hung in themiddle. But it isn’t—it’s firmly fastened at oneend. Mrs. Spencer said your place was named Green Gables. I askedher all about it. And she said there were trees all around it. Iwas gladder than ever. I justlove trees. And there weren’tany at all about the asylum, only a few poor weeny-teeny things outin front with little whitewashed cagey things about them. They justlooked like orphansthemselves, those trees did. It used to make mewant to cry to look at them. I used to say to them, ‘Oh,youpoorlittle things! If you were out in a great big woods withother trees all around you and little mosses and June bells growingover your roots and a brook not far away and birds singing in youbranches, you couldgrow, couldn’t you? But you can’twhere you are. I know just exactly how you feel, littletrees.’ I felt sorry to leave them behind this morning. Youdo get so attached to things like that, don’t you? Is there abrook anywhere near Green Gables? I forgot to ask Mrs. Spencerthat.”
“Well now, yes, there’s one right below thehouse.”
“Fancy. It’s always been one of my dreams to livenear a brook. I never expected I would, though. Dreams don’toften come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?But justnow I feel pretty nearly perfectly happy. I can’tfeel exactly perfectly happy because—well, what color wouldyou call this?”
She twitched one of her long glossy braids over her thinshoulder and held it up before Matthew’s eyes. Matthew wasnot used to deciding on the tints of ladies’ tresses, but inthis 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 comefrom her very toes and to exhale forth all the sorrows of theages.
“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly.“Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobodycould who has red hair. I don’t mind the other things somuch—the freckles and the green eyes and my skinniness. I canimagine them away. I can imagine that I have a beautiful rose-leafcomplexion and lovely starry violet eyes. But Icannotimagine thatred hair away. I do my best. I think to myself, ‘Now my hairis a glorious black, black as the raven’s wing.’ Butall the time Iknowit is just plain red and it breaks myheart. Itwill be my lifelong sorrow. I read of a girl once in a novel whohad a lifelong sorrow but it wasn’t red hair. Her hair waspure gold rippling back from her alabaster brow. What is analabaster brow? I never could find out. Can you tell me?”
“Well now, I’m afraid I can’t,” saidMatthew, who was getting a little dizzy. He felt as he had oncefelt in his rash youth when another boy had enticed him on themerry-go-round at a picnic.
“Well, whatever it was it must have been something nicebecause shewas divinely beautiful. Have you ever imagined what itmust feel like to be divinely beautiful?”
“Well now, no, I haven’t,” confessed Matthewingenuously.
“I have, often. Which would you rather be if you had thechoice—divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever or angelicallygood?”
“Well now, I—I don’t know exactly.”
“Neither do I. I can never decide. But it doesn’tmake much real difference for it isn’t likely I’ll everbe 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 childtumbled out of the buggy nor had Matthew done anything astonishing.They had simply rounded a curve in the road and found themselves inthe “Avenue.”
The “Avenue,” so called by the Newbridge people, wasa stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completelyarched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted yearsago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy ofsnowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purpletwilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like agreat rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.
Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back inthe buggy, herthin hands clasped before her, her face liftedrapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passedout and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she nevermoved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunsetwest, witheyes that saw visions trooping splendidly across thatglowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little villagewhere dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious facespeered from the windows, they drove, still in silence. When threemoremiles had dropped away behind them the child had not spoken.She could keep silence, it was evident, as energetically as shecould talk.
“I guess you’re feeling pretty tired andhungry,” Matthew ventured to say at last, accounting for herlong visitationof dumbness with the only reason he could think of.“But we haven’t very far to go now—only anothermile.”
She came out of her reverie with a deep sigh and looked at himwith the dreamy gaze of a soul that had been wondering afar,star-led.
“Oh, Mr. Cuthbert,” she whispered, “that placewe came through—that white place—what wasit?”
“Well now, you must mean the Avenue,” said Matthewafter a few moments’ profound reflection. “It is a kindof pretty place.”
“Pretty? Oh,prettydoesn’t seem the right word touse. Nor beautiful, either. They don’t go far enough. Oh, itwas wonderful—wonderful. It’s the first thing I eversaw that couldn’t be improved upon by imagination. It justsatisfies me here”—she put one hand on herbreast—“it made a queer funny ache and yet it was apleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr.Cuthbert?”
“Well now, I just can’t recollect that I everhad.”
“I have it lots of time—whenever I see anythingroyally beautiful. But they shouldn’t call that lovely placethe Avenue. Thereis no meaning in a name like that. They shouldcall it—let me see—the White Way of Delight.Isn’t that a nice imaginative name? When I don’t likethe name of a place or a person I always imagine a new one andalways think of them so. There was a girl at the asylum whose namewas Hepzibah Jenkins, but I always imagined her as Rosalia DeVere.Other people may call that place the Avenue, but I shall alwayscall it the White Way of Delight. Have we really only another mileto go before we get home? I’m glad and I’m sorry.I’m sorry because this drive has been so pleasant andI’m always sorry when pleasant things end. Something stillpleasanter may come after, but you can never be sure. Andit’s so often the case that it isn’t pleasanter. Thathas been my experience anyhow. But I’m glad to think ofgetting home. You see, I’ve never had a real home since I canremember. It gives me that pleasant ache again just to think ofcoming to a really truly home. Oh, isn’t thatpretty!”
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 bridgespanned it midway and from there to its lower end, where anamber-hued belt of sand-hills shut it in from the dark blue gulfbeyond, the water was a glory of manyshifting hues—the mostspiritual shadings of crocus and rose and ethereal green, withother elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Abovethe bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and mapleand lay all darkly translucent in their wavering shadows. Here andthere a wild plum leaned out from the bank like a white-clad girltip-toeing to her own reflection. From the marsh at the head of thepond came the clear, mournfully-sweet chorus of the frogs. Therewas a little gray house peering around a white apple orchard on aslope beyond and, although it was not yet quite dark, a light wasshining from one of its windows.
“That’s Barry’s pond,” said Matthew.
“Oh, I don’t like that name, either. I shall callit—let me see—the Lake ofShining Waters. Yes, that isthe right name for it. I know because of the thrill. When I hit ona name that suits exactly it gives me a thrill. Do things ever giveyou a thrill?”
“Well now, yes. It always kind of gives me a thrill toseethem ugly white grubs that spade up in the cucumber beds. I hatethe look of them.”
“Oh, I don’t think that can be exactly the same kindof a thrill. Do you think it can? There doesn’t seem to bemuch connection between grubs and lakes of shining waters,doesthere? But why do other people call it Barry’spond?”
“I reckon because Mr. Barry lives up there in that house.Orchard Slope’s the name of his place. If it wasn’t forthat big bush behind it you could see Green Gables from here. Butwe have to go over the bridge and round by the road, so it’snear half a mile further.”
“Has Mr. Barry any little girls? Well, not so very littleeither—about my size.”
“He’s got one about eleven. Her name isDiana.”
“Oh!” with a long indrawing of breath. “What aperfectlylovely name!”
“Well now, I dunno. There’s something dreadfulheathenish about it, seems to me. I’d ruther Jane or Mary orsome sensible name like that. But when Diana was born there was aschoolmaster boarding there and they gave him the naming of herandhe called her Diana.”
“I wish there had been a schoolmaster like that aroundwhen I was born, then. Oh, here we are at the bridge. I’mgoing to shut my eyes tight. I’m always afraid going overbridges. I can’t help imagining that perhaps just as we gettothe middle, they’ll crumple up like a jack-knife and nipus. So I shut my eyes. But I always have to open them for all whenI think we’re getting near the middle. Because, you see, ifthe bridgedidcrumple up I’d want toseeit crumple. What ajolly rumble it makes! I always like the rumble part of it.Isn’t it splendid there are so many things to like in thisworld? There we’re over. Now I’ll look back. Goodnight, dear Lake of Shining Waters. I always say good night to thethings I love, just as I wouldto people. I think they like it. Thatwater looks as if it was smiling at me.”
When they had driven up the further hill and around a cornerMatthew said:
“We’re pretty near home now. That’s GreenGables over—”
“Oh, don’t tell me,” she interruptedbreathlessly, catching at his partially raised arm and shutting hereyes 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 crestof a hill. The sun had set some time since, butthe landscape wasstill clear in the mellow afterlight. To the west a dark churchspire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley andbeyond a long, gently-rising slope with snug farmsteads scatteredalong it. From one to another the child’s eyes darted, eagerand wistful. At last they lingered on one away to the left, farback from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in thetwilight of the surrounding woods. Over it, in the stainlesssouthwest sky, a great crystal-white star was shining like a lampof guidance and promise.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” she said,pointing.
Matthew slapped the reins on the sorrel’s backdelightedly.
“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. Allshe said might just as well have been about most of those otherplaces. I hadn’t any real idea what it looked like. But justas soon as I saw it I felt it was home. Oh, it seems as if I mustbe in a dream. Do you know, my arm must be black and blue from theelbow up, for I’ve pinched myself so many times today. Everylittle while a horrible sickening feeling would come over me andI’d be so afraid it was all a dream. Then I’d pinchmyself to see if it was real—until suddenly I rememberedthateven supposing it was only a dream I’d better go on dreamingas long as I could; so I stopped pinching. But itisreal andwe’re nearly home.”
With a sigh of rapture she relapsed into silence. Matthewstirred uneasily. He felt glad that it would be Marilla and not hewho would have to tell this waif of the world that the home shelonged for was not to be hers after all. They drove overLynde’s Hollow, where it was already quite dark, but not sodark that Mrs. Rachel could not see them from her windowvantage,and up the hill and into the long lane of Green Gables. By the timethey arrived at the house Matthew was shrinking from theapproaching revelation with an energy he did not understand. It wasnot of Marilla or himself he was thinking of the trouble thismistake was probably going to make for them, but of thechild’s disappointment. When he thought of that rapt lightbeing quenched in her eyes he had an uncomfortable feeling that hewas going to assist at murdering something—much the samefeeling that came over him when he had to kill a lamb or calf orany other innocent little creature.
The yard was quite dark as they turned into it and the poplarleaves were rustling silkily all round it.
“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,” shewhispered, as he lifted her to the ground. “What nice dreamsthey must have!”
Then, holding tightly to the carpet-bag which contained“all her worldly goods,” she followed him into thehouse.
MARILLA camebriskly forward as Matthew opened the door. But whenher eyes fell on the odd little figure in the stiff, ugly dress,with the long braids of red hair and the eager, luminous eyes, shestopped short in amazement.
“Matthew Cuthbert, who’s that?” sheejaculated. “Where is the boy?”
“There wasn’t any boy,” said Matthewwretchedly. “There was onlyher.”
He nodded at the child, remembering that he had never even askedher name.
“No boy! But theremusthave been a boy,” insistedMarilla. “We sent word to Mrs. Spencer to bring aboy.”
“Well, she didn’t. She broughther. I asked thestation-master. And I had to bring her home. She couldn’t beleft 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 eyesroving from one to the other, all the animation fading out of herface. Suddenly she seemed to grasp the full meaning of what hadbeen said.Dropping her precious carpet-bag she sprang forward astep and clasped her hands.
“You don’t want me!” she cried. “Youdon’t want me because I’m not a boy! I might haveexpected it. Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was alltoo beautiful to last. I might have known nobody really did wantme. Oh, what shall I do? I’m going to burst intotears!”
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, sheproceeded to cry stormily. Marilla and Matthew looked at each otherdeprecatingly across the stove. Neither of them knew what to say ordo. Finally Marilla stepped lamely into the breach.
“Well, well, there’s no need to cry so aboutit.”
“Yes, thereisneed!” The child raised her headquickly, revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips.“Youwould cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to aplace you thought was going to be home and found that theydidn’t want you because you weren’t a boy. Oh, this isthe mosttragicalthing 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 toturn you out-of-doors to-night. You’ll have to stay hereuntil we investigate this affair. What’s yourname?”
The child hesitated for a moment.
“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she saideagerly.
“Callyou Cordelia? Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would loveto be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegantname.”
“I don’t know what on earth you mean. If Cordeliaisn’t your name, what is?”
“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the ownerof that name, “but, oh, please do call me Cordelia. Itcan’t matter much to you what you call me if I’m onlygoing to be here a little while, can it? And Anne is such anunromantic name.”
“Unromantic fiddlesticks!” said the unsympatheticMarilla. “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 thatmy name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years.When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I likeCordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Annespelled with an E.”
“What difference does it make how it’sspelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as shepicked up the teapot.
“Oh, it makessucha difference. Itlooksso much nicer. Whenyou hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it inyourmind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looksdreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. Ifyou’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try toreconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.”
“Very well, then, Anne spelledwith an E, can you tell ushow this mistake came to be made? We sent word to Mrs. Spencer tobring us a boy. Were there no boys at the asylum?”
“Oh, yes, there was an abundance of them. But Mrs. Spencersaiddistinctlythat you wanted a girl about elevenyears old. And thematron said she thought I would do. You don’t know howdelighted I was. I couldn’t sleep all last night for joy.Oh,” she added reproachfully, turning to Matthew, “whydidn’t you tell me at the station that you didn’t wantme and leave me there? If I hadn’t seen the White Way ofDelight and the Lake of Shining Waters it wouldn’t be sohard.”
“What on earth does she mean?” demanded Marilla,staring at Matthew.
“She—she’s just referring to some conversationwe had on the road,” said Matthewhastily. “I’mgoing out to put the mare in, Marilla. Have tea ready when I comeback.”
“Did Mrs. Spencer bring anybody over besides you?”continued Marilla when Matthew had gone out.
“She brought Lily Jones for herself. Lily is only fiveyears old and sheis very beautiful and had nut-brown hair. If I wasvery beautiful and had nut-brown hair would you keep me?”
“No. We want a boy to help Matthew on the farm. A girlwould be of no use to us. Take off your hat. I’ll lay it andyour bag on the hall table.”
Anne took off her hat meekly. Matthew came back presently andthey sat down to supper. But Anne could not eat. In vain shenibbled at the bread and butter and pecked at the crab-applepreserve out of the little scalloped glass dish by her plate. Shedid notreally make any headway at all.
“You’re not eating anything,” said Marillasharply, eying her as if it were a serious shortcoming. Annesighed.
“I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair. Canyou eat when you are in the depths of despair?”
“I’ve never been inthe depths of despair, so Ican’t say,” responded Marilla.
“Weren’t you? Well, did you ever try toimagineyouwere in the depths of despair?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Then I don’t think you can understand whatit’s like. It’s a very uncomfortable feelingindeed.When you try to eat a lump comes right up in your throat andyou can’t swallow anything, not even if it was a chocolatecaramel. I had one chocolate caramel once two years ago and it wassimply delicious. I’ve often dreamed since then that I had alot ofchocolate caramels, but I always wake up just when I’mgoing to eat them. I do hope you won’t be offended because Ican’t eat. Everything is extremely nice, but still I cannoteat.”
“I guess she’s tired,” said Matthew, whohadn’t spoken since his return from the barn. “Best puther to bed, Marilla.”
Marilla had been wondering where Anne should be put to bed. Shehad prepared a couch in the kitchen chamber for the desired andexpected boy. But, although it was neat and clean, it did not seemquite the thingto put a girl there somehow. But the spare room wasout of the question for such a stray waif, so there remained onlythe east gable room. Marilla lighted a candle and told Anne tofollow her, which Anne spiritlessly did, taking her hat andcarpet-bag fromthe hall table as she passed. The hall wasfearsomely clean; the little gable chamber in which she presentlyfound herself seemed still cleaner.
Marilla set the candle on a three-legged, three-cornered tableand turned down the bedclothes.
“I suppose youhave a nightgown?” she questioned.
“Yes, I have two. The matron of the asylum made them forme. They’re fearfully skimpy. There is never enough to goaround in an asylum, so things are always skimpy—at least ina poor asylum like ours. I hateskimpy night-dresses. But one candream just as well in them as in lovely trailing ones, with frillsaround 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. Idaren’t trustyou to put it out yourself. You’d likelyset the place on fire.”
When Marilla had gone Anne looked around her wistfully. Thewhitewashed walls were so painfully bare and staring that shethought they must ache over their own bareness. The floor wasbare,too, except for a round braided mat in the middle such as Annehad never seen before. In one corner was the bed, a high,old-fashioned one, with four dark, low-turned posts. In the othercorner was the aforesaid three-corner table adorned with a fat, redvelvet pin-cushion hard enough to turn the point of the mostadventurous pin. Above it hung a little six-by-eight mirror. Midwaybetween table and bed was the window, with an icy white muslinfrill over it, and opposite it was the wash-stand. The wholeapartment was of a rigidity not to be described in words, but whichsent a shiver to the very marrow of Anne’s bones. With a sobshe hastily discarded her garments, put on the skimpy nightgown andsprang into bed where she burrowed face downward into the pillowand pulled the clothes over her head. When Marilla came up for thelight various skimpy articles ofraiment scattered most untidilyover the floor and a certain tempestuous appearance of the bed werethe only indications of any presence save her own.
Shedeliberately picked up Anne’s clothes, placed themneatly on a prim yellow chair, and then, taking up the candle, wentover to the bed.
“Good night,” she said, a little awkwardly, but notunkindly.
Anne’s white face and big eyes appeared over thebedclothes with a startling suddenness.
“How can you call it agoodnight when you know it must bethe very worst night I’ve ever had?” she saidreproachfully.
Then she dived down into invisibility again.
Marilla went slowly down to the kitchen and proceeded to washthe supper dishes. Matthew was smoking—a sure sign ofperturbation of mind. He seldom smoked, for Marilla set her faceagainst it as a filthy habit; but at certain times and seasons hefelt driven to it and them Marilla winked at the practice,realizingthat a mere man must have some vent for his emotions.
“Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish,” she saidwrathfully. “This is what comes of sending word instead ofgoing ourselves. Richard Spencer’s folks have twisted thatmessage somehow. One of us will have to drive over and see Mrs.Spencer tomorrow, that’s certain. This girl will have to besent back to the asylum.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Matthew reluctantly.
“Yousupposeso! 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 seton staying here.”
“Matthew Cuthbert, you don’t mean to say you thinkwe ought to keep her!”
Marilla’s astonishment could not have been greater ifMatthew 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 hisprecise meaning. “I suppose—we could hardly be expectedto keep her.”
“I should say not. What good would she be tous?”
“We might be some good toher,” said Matthew suddenlyand 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 littlething,” persisted Matthew. “You should have heard hertalk 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 likechildren who have so much to say. I don’t want an orphan girland 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 shecame from.”
“I could hire a French boy to help me,” saidMatthew, “and she’d be company for you.”
“I’m not suffering for company,” said Marillashortly. “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 dishesaway, went Marilla, frowning most resolutely. And up-stairs, in theeast gable, a lonely, heart-hungry, friendless child cried herselfto sleep.
IT was broad daylight when Anne awoke and sat up in bed, staringconfusedly at the window through which a flood of cheery sunshinewas pouring and outside of which something white and feathery wavedacross glimpses of blue sky.
For a moment she could not remember where she was. First came adelightful thrill, as something very pleasant; then a horribleremembrance. This was Green Gables and they didn’t want herbecause she wasn’t a boy!
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