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    Chapter III

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    Chapter 3
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    CHAPTER III

    Marilla Cuthbert is Surprised

    Marilla came briskly forward as Matthew opened the door.
    But when her eyes fell of the odd little figure in the
    stiff, ugly dress, with the long braids of red hair and the
    eager, luminous eyes, she stopped short in amazement.

    "Matthew Cuthbert, who's that?" she ejaculated. "Where is
    the boy?"

    "There wasn't any boy," said Matthew wretchedly. "There was
    only HER."

    He nodded at the child, remembering that he had never even
    asked her name.

    "No boy! But there MUST have been a boy," insisted Marilla.
    "We sent word to Mrs. Spencer to bring a boy."

    "Well, she didn't. She brought HER. I asked the station-
    master. And I had to bring her home. She couldn't be left
    there, no matter where the mistake had come in."

    "Well, this is a pretty piece of business!" ejaculated Marilla.

    During this dialogue the child had remained silent, her eyes
    roving from one to the other, all the animation fading out
    of her face. Suddenly she seemed to grasp the full meaning
    of what had been said. Dropping her precious carpet-bag she
    sprang forward a step and clasped her hands.

    "You don't want me!" she cried. "You don't want me because
    I'm not a boy! I might have expected it. Nobody ever did
    want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful to last.
    I might have known nobody really did want me. Oh, what shall
    I do? I'm going to burst into tears!"

    Burst into tears she did. Sitting down on a chair by the
    table, flinging her arms out upon it, and burying her face
    in them, she proceeded to cry stormily. Marilla and Matthew
    looked at each other deprecatingly across the stove.
    Neither of them knew what to say or do. Finally Marilla
    stepped lamely into the breach.

    "Well, well, there's no need to cry so about it."

    "Yes, there IS need!" The child raised her head quickly,
    revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips. "YOU
    would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a
    place you thought was going to be home and found that they
    didn't want you because you weren't a boy. Oh, this is the
    most TRAGICAL thing that ever happened to me!"

    Something like a reluctant smile, rather rusty from long
    disuse, mellowed Marilla's grim expression.

    "Well, don't cry any more. We're not going to turn you out-
    of-doors to-night. You'll have to stay here until we
    investigate this affair. What's your name?"

    The child hesitated for a moment.

    "Will you please call me Cordelia?" she said eagerly.

    "CALL you Cordelia? Is that your name?"

    "No-o-o, it's not exactly my name, but I would love to be
    called Cordelia. It's such a perfectly elegant name."

    "I don't know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn't
    your name, what is?"

    "Anne Shirley," reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that
    name, "but, oh, please do call me Cordelia. It can't matter
    much to you what you call me if I'm only going to be here a
    little while, can it? And Anne is such an unromantic name."

    "Unromantic fiddlesticks!" said the unsympathetic Marilla.
    "Anne is a real good plain sensible name. You've no need to
    be ashamed of it."

    "Oh, I'm not ashamed of it," explained Anne, "only I like
    Cordelia better. I've always imagined that my name was
    Cordelia--at least, I always have of late years. When I was
    young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like
    Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me
    Anne spelled with an E."

    "What difference does it make how it's spelled?" asked Marilla
    with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

    "Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much nicer.
    When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in
    your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n
    looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.
    If you'll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to
    reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia."

    "Very well, then, Anne spelled with an E, can you tell us how
    this mistake came to be made? We sent word to Mrs. Spencer
    to bring us a boy. Were there no boys at the asylum?"

    "Oh, yes, there was an abundance of them. But Mrs. Spencer
    said DISTINCTLY that you wanted a girl about eleven years
    old. And the matron said she thought I would do. You don't
    know how delighted I was. I couldn't sleep all last night
    for joy. Oh," she added reproachfully, turning to Matthew,
    "why didn't you tell me at the station that you didn't want
    me and leave me there? If I hadn't seen the White Way of
    Delight and the Lake of Shining Waters it wouldn't be so hard."

    "What on earth does she mean?" demanded Marilla, staring
    at Matthew.

    "She--she's just referring to some conversation we had on
    the road," said Matthew hastily. "I'm going out to put the
    mare in, Marilla. Have tea ready when I come back."

    "Did Mrs. Spencer bring anybody over besides you?"
    continued Marilla when Matthew had gone out.

    "She brought Lily Jones for herself. Lily is only five years
    old and she is very beautiful and had nut-brown hair. If I was
    very beautiful and had nut-brown hair would you keep me?"

    "No. We want a boy to help Matthew on the farm. A girl
    would be of no use to us. Take off your hat. I'll lay it
    and your bag on the hall table."

    Anne took off her hat meekly. Matthew came back presently
    and they sat down to supper. But Anne could not eat. In
    vain she nibbled at the bread and butter and pecked at the
    crab-apple preserve out of the little scalloped glass dish
    by her plate. She did not really make any headway at all.

    "You're not eating anything," said Marilla sharply, eying
    her as if it were a serious shortcoming. Anne sighed.

    "I can't. I'm in the depths of despair. Can you eat when
    you are in the depths of despair?"

    "I've never been in the depths of despair, so I can't say,"
    responded Marilla.

    "Weren't you? Well, did you ever try to IMAGINE you were in
    the depths of despair?"

    "No, I didn't."

    "Then I don't think you can understand what it's like. It's
    very uncomfortable feeling indeed. When you try to eat a lump
    comes right up in your throat and you can't swallow anything,
    not even if it was a chocolate caramel. I had one chocolate
    caramel once two years ago and it was simply delicious. I've
    often dreamed since then that I had a lot of chocolate caramels,
    but I always wake up just when I'm going to eat them. I do hope
    you won't be offended because I can't eat. Everything is
    extremely nice, but still I cannot eat."

    "I guess she's tired," said Matthew, who hadn't spoken since
    his return from the barn. "Best put her to bed, Marilla."

    Marilla had been wondering where Anne should be put to bed.
    She had prepared a couch in the kitchen chamber for the
    desired and expected boy. But, although it was neat and
    clean, it did not seem quite the thing to put a girl there
    somehow. But the spare room was out of the question for
    such a stray waif, so there remained only the east gable
    room. Marilla lighted a candle and told Anne to follow her,
    which Anne spiritlessly did, taking her hat and carpet-bag
    from the hall table as she passed. The hall was fearsomely
    clean; the little gable chamber in which she presently found
    herself seemed still cleaner.

    Marilla set the candle on a three-legged, three-cornered
    table and turned down the bedclothes.

    "I suppose you have a nightgown?" she questioned.

    Anne nodded.

    "Yes, I have two. The matron of the asylum made them for
    me. They're fearfully skimpy. There is never enough to go
    around in an asylum, so things are always skimpy--at least
    in a poor asylum like ours. I hate skimpy night-dresses.
    But one can dream just as well in them as in lovely trailing
    ones, with frills around the neck, that's one consolation."

    "Well, undress as quick as you can and go to bed. I'll come
    back in a few minutes for the candle. I daren't trust you
    to put it out yourself. You'd likely set the place on fire."

    When Marilla had gone Anne looked around her wistfully.
    The whitewashed walls were so painfully bare and staring
    that she thought they must ache over their own bareness.
    The floor was bare, too, except for a round braided mat in
    the middle such as Anne had never seen before. In one corner
    was the bed, a high, old-fashioned one, with four dark, low-
    turned posts. In the other corner was the aforesaid three-
    corner table adorned with a fat, red velvet pin-cushion hard
    enough to turn the point of the most adventurous pin. Above
    it hung a little six-by-eight mirror. Midway between table
    and bed was the window, with an icy white muslin frill over
    it, and opposite it was the wash-stand. The whole apartment
    was of a rigidity not to be described in words, but which
    sent a shiver to the very marrow of Anne's bones. With a
    sob she hastily discarded her garments, put on the skimpy
    nightgown and sprang into bed where she burrowed face
    downward into the pillow and pulled the clothes over her
    head. When Marilla came up for the light various skimpy
    articles of raiment scattered most untidily over the floor
    and a certain tempestuous appearance of the bed were the
    only indications of any presence save her own.

    She deliberately picked up Anne's clothes, placed them
    neatly on a prim yellow chair, and then, taking up the
    candle, went over to the bed.

    "Good night," she said, a little awkwardly, but not unkindly.

    Anne's white face and big eyes appeared over the bedclothes
    with a startling suddenness.

    "How can you call it a GOOD night when you know it must be
    the very worst night I've ever had?" she said reproachfully.

    Then she dived down into invisibility again.

    Marilla went slowly down to the kitchen and proceeded to
    wash the supper dishes. Matthew was smoking--a sure sign of
    perturbation of mind. He seldom smoked, for Marilla set her
    face against it as a filthy habit; but at certain times and
    seasons he felt driven to it and them Marilla winked at the
    practice, realizing that a mere man must have some vent for
    his emotions.

    "Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish," she said
    wrathfully. "This is what comes of sending word instead of
    going ourselves. Richard Spencer's folks have twisted that
    message somehow. One of us will have to drive over and see
    Mrs. Spencer tomorrow, that's certain. This girl will have
    to be sent back to the asylum."

    "Yes, I suppose so," said Matthew reluctantly.

    "You SUPPOSE so! Don't you know it?"

    "Well now, she's a real nice little thing, Marilla. It's kind of
    a pity to send her back when she's so set on staying here."

    "Matthew Cuthbert, you don't mean to say you think we ought
    to keep her!"

    Marilla's astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had
    expressed a predilection for standing on his head.

    "Well, now, no, I suppose not--not exactly," stammered Matthew,
    uncomfortably driven into a corner for his precise meaning.
    "I suppose--we could hardly be expected to keep her."

    "I should say not. What good would she be to us?"

    "We might be some good to her," said Matthew suddenly and
    unexpectedly.

    "Matthew Cuthbert, I believe that child has bewitched you!
    I can see as plain as plain that you want to keep her."

    "Well now, she's a real interesting little thing," persisted
    Matthew. "You should have heard her talk coming from the
    station."

    "Oh, she can talk fast enough. I saw that at once. It's
    nothing in her favour, either. I don't like children who
    have so much to say. I don't want an orphan girl and if I
    did she isn't the style I'd pick out. There's something I
    don't understand about her. No, she's got to be despatched
    straight-way back to where she came from."

    "I could hire a French boy to help me," said Matthew, "and
    she'd be company for you."

    "I'm not suffering for company," said Marilla shortly. "And
    I'm not going to keep her."

    "Well now, it's just as you say, of course, Marilla," said
    Matthew rising and putting his pipe away. "I'm going to bed."

    To bed went Matthew. And to bed, when she had put her
    dishes away, went Marilla, frowning most resolutely. And
    up-stairs, in the east gable, a lonely, heart-hungry,
    friendless child cried herself to sleep.
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