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    Chapter II

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    Chapter 2
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    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.
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    Chapter 2
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