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
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
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
This had been done without here 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 it into her head."
Mrs. Rachel would have liked to stay until Matthew came home
with his imported orphan. But reflecting that it would be a
good two hours at least before his arrival she concluded to
go up the road to Robert Bell's and tell the news. It would
certainly make a sensation second to none, and Mrs. Rachel
dearly loved to make a sensation. So she took herself away,
somewhat to Marilla's relief, for the latter felt her doubts
and fears reviving under the influence of Mrs. Rachel's pessimism.
"Well, of all things that ever were or will be!"
ejaculated Mrs. Rachel when she was safely out in the lane.
"It does really seem as if I must be dreaming. Well, I'm
sorry for that poor young one and no mistake. Matthew and
Marilla don't know anything about children and they'll
expect him to be wiser and steadier that his own
grandfather, if so be's he ever had a grandfather, which is
doubtful. It seems uncanny to think of a child at Green
Gables somehow; there's never been one there, for Matthew
and Marilla were grown up when the new house was built--if
they ever WERE children, which is hard to believe when one
looks at them. I wouldn't be in that orphan's shoes for
anything. My, but I pity him, that's what."
So said Mrs. Rachel to the wild rose bushes out of the
fulness of her heart; but if she could have seen the child
who was waiting patiently at the Bright River station at
that very moment her pity would have been still deeper and
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