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Chapter II


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 Junebells
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.

Lucy Maud Montgomery