Anne Arrives in Avonlea
One fine spring afternoon in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel Lynde sat by her kitchen window. She often sat there because she could see the Avonlea road very well from there.
A man with a horse and buggy came up the road. It was Mrs. Lynde’s neighbor, Matthew Cuthbert.
«Where’s Matthew going?» thought Mrs. Lynde in surprise. «It’s half past three in the afternoon and he has a lot of work on his farm. Where’s he going and why is he going there?»
Matthew Cuthbert lived with his sister, Marilla, in Green Gables, a large old house near Mrs. Lynde’s home. Later, Mrs. Lynde walked to Green Gables.
Marilla Cuthbert was busy in the kitchen. She was a tall, thin woman with gray hair. Marilla wasn’t young or pretty, and she didn’t smile very much. But she had a kind heart. She wasn’t surprised by Mrs. Lynde’s visit.
«Hello, Marilla,» said Mrs. Lynde. «I saw Matthew on the road. Where’s he going?»
«To Bright River Station,» answered Marilla. «We’re getting a little boy from an orphanage in Nova Scotia. He’s coming on the train this afternoon.»
Mrs. Lynde couldn’t speak. Then she said, «An orphan boy! Why do you want an orphan boy?»
«Matthew is sixty years old,» answered Marilla. «His heart isn’t very strong. He wants a boy to help him on the farm.
«We heard about Mrs. Spencer at White Sands. She’s getting a little girl from the orphanage. Matthew and I want a little boy. Mrs. Spencer went to the orphanage today. She’s bringing a boy back on the train and she’s going to leave him at the station. Matthew will meet him there.»
«I think you’re doing a very stupid thing, Marilla,» said Mrs. Lynde. «You’re bringing a strange boy into your house. You don’t know anything about him.
«I read a story in the newspaper about an orphan. This child lived with a Canadian family. The child lit a fire one night and the family died in the fire. But it was a girl, not a boy.»
«But we’re not getting a girl,» said Marilla. «We don’t want a girl. We’re getting a boy.»
Bright River Station was about twelve kilometers from Avonlea. Matthew drove there slowly in the buggy. When he arrived at Bright River, it was late. He couldn’t see a train.
There was only one person at the station, a little girl about eleven years old. She was very thin with large gray eyes and long red hair. She wore a short, ugly dress and carried an old bag.
When she saw Matthew, she smiled. Then she put out her hand. «Are you Mr. Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables?» she asked. «I’m from the orphanage. Mrs. Spencer brought me here.»
Matthew took the child’s hand. «There’s a mistake,» he thought. «This is a girl, not a boy!»
«When you weren’t here at the station,» said the child, «I thought, ‘I can sleep in that big tree tonight. I know he’ll come in the morning.’ I know it’s a long way to your house. Mrs. Spencer told me. But I love driving. And I’m going to have a home with you. That’s wonderful. I never had a home.»
«I was late,» said Matthew slowly. «I’m sorry.» He took the little girl’s bag and they walked to the buggy. «I can’t leave this child at the station,» he thought. «I’ll take her back to Green Gables. Marilla can tell her about the mistake.»
The girl got into the buggy and Matthew drove home. The child talked and talked. Matthew listened. He was a quiet man and he was usually afraid of little girls. But he liked listening to this girl’s conversation.
«Look at those trees with the beautiful white flowers,» said the girl. «I love the color white. I’d like a beautiful white dress. I never had a pretty dress. They only gave us ugly clothes at the orphanage. I know I’m going to be very happy with you. But one thing makes me sad. Look at my hair. What color is it?»
«Isn’t it red?» asked Matthew.
«Yes,» said the little girl sadly. «It’s red. I hate my red hair.»
It was evening when they arrived at Green Gables. Marilla came to the door and looked at the child in surprise.
«Who’s this, Matthew?» she asked. «Where’s the boy?»
«There wasn’t a boy,» said Matthew unhappily. «There was only her. I couldn’t leave her at the station.»
«No boy!» said Marilla. «But we asked Mrs. Spencer for a boy!»
«You don’t want me!» cried the child suddenly. «You don’t want me because I’m not a boy! Oh, what shall I do?»
«Don’t cry,» said Marilla. «We can’t send you back to the orphanage tonight. You’ll have to stay here. What’s your name?»
The child stopped crying. «Can you call me Cordelia?» she asked.
«Cordelia! Is that your name?» asked Marilla in surprise.
«No,» said the child sadly. «But Cordelia is a prettier name than mine. My name is Anne Shirley. Anne with an ‘e’. But please call me Cordelia.»
«No,» said Marilla, but she smiled. «Anne is a very good name. Now come and eat something, Anne.»
Anne sat down at the table but she couldn’t eat anything. So Marilla took her upstairs to a small bedroom. Anne took off her clothes and got sadly into bed.
Marilla went downstairs and washed the plates. Matthew sat in a chair. He didn’t say very much.
«I’ll drive to Mrs. Spencer’s house tomorrow,» said Marilla, «and I’ll ask her about this mistake. We’ll have to send this child back.»
«She’s a very nice little girl,» said Matthew slowly, «and very interesting. She likes to talk. And she wants to stay with us.»
Marilla was very surprised. «But, Matthew, she can’t stay here,» she said. «A girl can’t help you on the farm.»
«But maybe we can help her,» answered Matthew quietly.
«I’m going to send her back to the orphanage,» said Marilla. «I don’t want an orphan girl.»
«All right, Marilla,» said Matthew. «I’m going to bed now.»
Marilla put the plates away and went to bed, too. And in the room upstairs, the little orphan girl cried and cried.