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  • 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 overbrimming 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