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    Chapter VI

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    Chapter 6
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    Marilla Makes Up Her Mind

    Get there they did, however, in due season. Mrs. Spencer
    lived in a big yellow house at White Sands Cove, and she
    came to the door with surprise and welcome mingled on
    her benevolent face.

    "Dear, dear," she exclaimed, "you're the last folks I was
    looking for today, but I'm real glad to see you. You'll put
    your horse in? And how are you, Anne?"

    "I'm as well as can be expected, thank you," said Anne
    smilelessly. A blight seemed to have descended on her.

    "I suppose we'll stay a little while to rest the mare,"
    said Marilla, "but I promised Matthew I'd be home early.
    The fact is, Mrs. Spencer, there's been a queer mistake
    somewhere, and I've come over to see where it is. We
    send word, Matthew and I, for you to bring us a boy from
    the asylum. We told your brother Robert to tell you we
    wanted a boy ten or eleven years old."

    "Marilla Cuthbert, you don't say so!" said Mrs. Spencer
    in distress. "Why, Robert sent word down by his
    daughter Nancy and she said you wanted a girl--didn't
    she Flora Jane?" appealing to her daughter who had come
    out to the steps.

    "She certainly did, Miss Cuthbert," corroborated Flora
    Jane earnestly.

    I'm dreadful sorry," said Mrs. Spencer. "It's too bad;
    but it certainly wasn't my fault, you see, Miss Cuthbert.
    I did the best I could and I thought I was following your
    instructions. Nancy is a terrible flighty thing. I've
    often had to scold her well for her heedlessness."

    "It was our own fault," said Marilla resignedly. "We
    should have come to you ourselves and not left an important
    message to be passed along by word of mouth in that
    fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only
    thing to do is to set it right. Can we send the child
    back to the asylum? I suppose they'll take her back,
    won't they?"

    "I suppose so," said Mrs. Spencer thoughtfully, "but I
    don't think it will be necessary to send her back. Mrs.
    Peter Blewett was up here yesterday, and she was saying
    to me how much she wished she'd sent by me for a little
    girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know,
    and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very
    girl for you. I call it positively providential."

    Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had
    much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly
    good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands,
    and she did not even feel grateful for it.

    She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small,
    shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous
    flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. "A terrible
    worker and driver," Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged
    servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess,
    and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a
    qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her
    tender mercies.

    "Well, I'll go in and we'll talk the matter over," she said.

    "And if there isn't Mrs. Peter coming up the lane this
    blessed minute!" exclaimed Mrs. Spencer, bustling her
    guests through the hall into the parlor, where a deadly
    chill struck on them as if the air had been strained so long
    through dark green, closely drawn blinds that it had lost
    every particle of warmth it had ever possessed. "That is
    real lucky, for we can settle the matter right away. Take
    the armchair, Miss Cuthbert. Anne, you sit here on the
    ottoman and don't wiggle. Let me take your hats. Flora
    Jane, go out and put the kettle on. Good afternoon, Mrs.
    Blewett. We were just saying how fortunate it was you
    happened along. Let me introduce you two ladies. Mrs.
    Blewett, Miss Cuthbert. Please excuse me for just a moment.
    I forgot to tell Flora Jane to take the buns out of the oven."

    Mrs. Spencer whisked away, after pulling up the blinds.
    Anne sitting mutely on the ottoman, with her hands
    clasped tightly in her lap, stared at Mrs Blewett as one
    fascinated. Was she to be given into the keeping of this
    sharp-faced, sharp-eyed woman? She felt a lump coming up in
    her throat and her eyes smarted painfully. She was beginning
    to be afraid she couldn't keep the tears back when Mrs. Spencer
    returned, flushed and beaming, quite capable of taking any and
    every difficulty, physical, mental or spiritual, into
    consideration and settling it out of hand.

    "It seems there's been a mistake about this little girl,
    Mrs. Blewett," she said. "I was under the impression that
    Mr. and Miss Cuthbert wanted a little girl to adopt. I was
    certainly told so. But it seems it was a boy they wanted.
    So if you're still of the same mind you were yesterday, I
    think she'll be just the thing for you."

    Mrs. Blewett darted her eyes over Anne from head to foot.

    "How old are you and what's your name?" she demanded.

    "Anne Shirley," faltered the shrinking child, not daring
    to make any stipulations regarding the spelling thereof,
    "and I'm eleven years old."

    "Humph! You don't look as if there was much to you.
    But you're wiry. I don't know but the wiry ones are the
    best after all. Well, if I take you you'll have to be a
    good girl, you know--good and smart and respectful. I'll
    expect you to earn your keep, and no mistake about that.
    Yes, I suppose I might as well take her off your hands, Miss
    Cuthbert. The baby's awful fractious, and I'm clean worn out
    attending to him. If you like I can take her right home now."

    Marilla looked at Anne and softened at sight of the
    child's pale face with its look of mute misery--the misery
    of a helpless little creature who finds itself once more
    caught in the trap from which it had escaped. Marilla felt
    an uncomfortable conviction that, if she denied the appeal
    of that look, it would haunt her to her dying day. More-
    over, she did not fancy Mrs. Blewett. To hand a sensitive,
    "highstrung" child over to such a woman! No, she could
    not take the responsibility of doing that!

    "Well, I don't know," she said slowly. "I didn't say that
    Matthew and I had absolutely decided that we wouldn't
    keep her. In fact I may say that Matthew is disposed to
    keep her. I just came over to find out how the mistake had
    occurred. I think I'd better take her home again and talk
    it over with Matthew. I feel that I oughtn't to decide on
    anything without consulting him. If we make up our mind
    not to keep her we'll bring or send her over to you
    tomorrow night. If we don't you may know that she is
    going to stay with us. Will that suit you, Mrs. Blewett?"

    "I suppose it'll have to," said Mrs. Blewett ungraciously.

    During Marilla's speech a sunrise had been dawning on
    Anne's face. First the look of despair faded out; then came
    a faint flush of hope; here eyes grew deep and bright as
    morning stars. The child was quite transfigured; and, a
    moment later, when Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Blewett went
    out in quest of a recipe the latter had come to borrow she
    sprang up and flew across the room to Marilla.

    "Oh, Miss Cuthbert, did you really say that perhaps you would
    let me stay at Green Gables?" she said, in a breathless whisper,
    as if speaking aloud might shatter the glorious possibility.
    "Did you really say it? Or did I only imagine that you did?"

    "I think you'd better learn to control that imagination of
    yours, Anne, if you can't distinguish between what is real
    and what isn't," said Marilla crossly. "Yes, you did hear
    me say just that and no more. It isn't decided yet and
    perhaps we will conclude to let Mrs. Blewett take you after
    all. She certainly needs you much more than I do."

    "I'd rather go back to the asylum than go to live with her," said
    Anne passionately. "She looks exactly like a--like a gimlet."

    Marilla smothered a smile under the conviction that Anne
    must be reproved for such a speech.

    "A little girl like you should be ashamed of talking so
    about a lady and a stranger," she said severely. "Go back
    and sit down quietly and hold your tongue and behave as a
    good girl should."

    "I'll try to do and be anything you want me, if you'll
    only keep me," said Anne, returning meekly to her ottoman.

    When they arrived back at Green Gables that evening
    Matthew met them in the lane. Marilla from afar had noted
    him prowling along it and guessed his motive. She was
    prepared for the relief she read in his face when he saw
    that she had at least brought back Anne back with her. But
    she said nothing, to him, relative to the affair, until they
    were both out in the yard behind the barn milking the
    cows. Then she briefly told him Anne's history and the
    result of the interview with Mrs. Spencer.

    "I wouldn't give a dog I liked to that Blewett woman,"
    said Matthew with unusual vim."

    "I don't fancy her style myself," admitted Marilla, "but
    it's that or keeping her ourselves, Matthew. And since
    you seem to want her, I suppose I'm willing--or have to
    be. I've been thinking over the idea until I've got kind of
    used to it. It seems a sort of duty. I've never brought up
    a child, especially a girl, and I dare say I'll make a
    terrible mess of it. But I'll do my best. So far as I'm
    concerned, Matthew, she may stay."

    Matthew's shy face was a glow of delight.

    "Well now, I reckoned you'd come to see it in that light,
    Marilla," he said. "She's such an interesting little thing."

    "It'd be more to the point if you could say she was a
    useful little thing," retorted Marilla, "but I'll make it
    my business to see she's trained to be that. And mind,
    Matthew, you're not to go interfering with my methods.
    Perhaps an old maid doesn't know much about bringing up
    a child, but I guess she knows more than an old bachelor.
    So you just leave me to manage her. When I fail it'll be
    time enough to put your oar in."

    "There, there, Marilla, you can have your own way," said
    Matthew reassuringly. "Only be as good and kind to her
    as you can without spoiling her. I kind of think she's
    one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get
    her to love you."

    Marilla sniffed, to express her contempt for Matthew's
    opinions concerning anything feminine, and walked off to
    the dairy with the pails.

    "I won't tell her tonight that she can stay," she reflected,
    as she strained the milk into the creamers. "She'd be so
    excited that she wouldn't sleep a wink. Marilla Cuthbert,
    you're fairly in for it. Did you ever suppose you'd see
    the day when you'd be adopting an orphan girl? It's
    surprising enough; but not so surprising as that Matthew
    should be at the bottom of it, him that always seemed
    to have such a mortal dread of little girls. Anyhow,
    we've decided on the experiment and goodness only knows
    what will come of it."
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 6
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