Mr. and Ms. Cuthbert are grumpy middle-aged siblings who need help on their farm on Prince Edward Island. They decide to adopt a boy, but what they get instead is an outspoken girl named Anne.
They eventually arrived. Mrs. Spencer lived in a big yellow house at White Sands Cove. When she came to the door, surprise and welcome were mingled in her expression.
“Dear, dear,” she exclaimed, “you’re the last folks I expected today, but I’m really glad to see you. You should bring your horse into the barn. And how are you, Anne?”
“I’m as well as can be expected, thank you,” said Anne without smiling.
“I suppose we will stay a little while to rest the horse,” said Marilla, “but I promised Matthew that I’d be home early. The fact is, Mrs. Spencer, there’s been a mistake somewhere, and I’ve come over to figure it out. We sent a message, 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 who was ten or eleven years old.”
“Goodness!” said Mrs. Spencer in distress. “Oh, Robert passed the message through his daughter Nancy, who said you wanted a girl—didn’t she, Flora Jane?” she said, turning to her daughter who had just come outside.
“She certainly did, Miss Cuthbert,” said Flora Jane earnestly.
“I’m dreadfully sorry,” said Mrs. Spencer. “It’s too bad, but it certainly wasn’t my fault, you see. I did the best I could and I thought I was following your instructions. Nancy is a terribly irresponsible girl. I’ve often had to scold her for her recklessness.”
“It was our own fault,” said Marilla. “We should have come to you directly and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do now 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 gotten a little girl from the asylum to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and it’s difficult for her to get help. Anne would be perfect for her.”
Marilla seemed skeptical. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get rid of an unwelcome orphan, but she didn’t feel grateful.
She knew Mrs. Blewett only by sight. She was a small, serious-faced woman without an extra bit of fat on her bones. She was said to be “a terrible worker and driver,” and the servant girls that she fired told tales of her temper and greed. They also said that her children were troublesome. Marilla felt a bit of guilt at the thought of giving Anne to someone like that.
“Well, let’s go inside and talk about this matter,” she said.
“Oh look! Isn’t that Mrs. Blewett coming up the lane right now!” exclaimed Mrs. Spencer. “That is really lucky. We can settle the matter right away. Take a seat on this armchair, Miss Cuthbert. Anne, you sit here on the ottoman and don’t wiggle. Let me take your hats. Flora Jane, put the kettle on the stove. Good afternoon, Mrs. Blewett. We were just saying how fortunate it was that you came. Let me introduce you. 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 walked away. Anne sat mutely on the ottoman, with her hands clasped tightly in her lap, and stared at Mrs. Blewett. Was she going to be given to this sharp-faced, sharp-eyed woman? She felt a lump coming up her throat and her eyes stung painfully. She was beginning to be afraid that she couldn’t hold the tears back. Mrs. Spencer returned, flushed and smiling.
“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 to adopt a little girl. I was certainly told so. But it seems that it was a boy that they wanted. So if you’re still thinking of getting a girl, I think this girl would be good for you.”
Mrs. Blewett’s eyes darted over Anne from head to foot.
“How old are you and what’s your name?” she demanded.
“Anne Shirley,” faltered the shrinking child, not even daring to mention the spelling, “and I’m eleven years old.”
“Hmph! You don’t look like much. But you’re skinny. I don’t know why but the skinny ones are usually 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 stay. Keep that in mind. Yes, I suppose I’ll take this girl off your hands, Miss Cuthbert. The new baby is awfully needy and I’m exhausted taking care of him. If you like, I can take the girl home right now.”
Marilla looked at Anne and softened at the sight of the child’s pale face with a look of mute misery—the misery of a helpless little creature who has been caught in the same trap over and over again. Marilla had an uncomfortable feeling that if she gave up the child now, she would regret it until her dying day. Moreover, she didn’t like Mrs. Blewett. Handing over a sensitive, “high-strung” child to such a woman! No, she could not be responsible for 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 think that Matthew wants to keep her. I just came over here 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 shouldn’t decide on anything without consulting him. If we make up our mind not to keep her, we’ll bring her back to you tomorrow night. We will decide by tomorrow. Is that alright with you, Mrs. Blewett?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Blewett ungraciously.
As they spoke, a sunrise has been slowly dawning on Anne’s face. First, the look of despair faded out. Then, a faint flush of hope came. And now, her eyes were as bright as the sun. A moment later, when Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Blewett went into the kitchen to check the food, Anne jumped 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. “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 hasn’t been decided yet and we might end up letting 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 live with her,” said Anne passionately. “She looks exactly like a… like a screwdriver.”
Marilla almost let out a smile, but she had to reprimand Anne for such talk. “A little girl like you should be ashamed of talking that way about a lady that you don’t even know,” she said severely. “Sit back down quietly and hold your tongue. Behave like a good girl.”
“I’ll try to do anything you ask, as long as you 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 had watched him from afar and she could see him prowling down the road. She watched his expression change to relief when he saw that Anne was with her. But Marilla didn’t say anything to Matthew about the situation. She waited until they were alone.
When they were out in the yard behind the barn milking the cows, she briefly told him about Anne’s history and what Mrs. Spencer had said.
“I wouldn’t give a dog to that Blewett woman,” said Matthew.
“I don’t really like her, either,” admitted Marilla, “but either we give Anne to her or we keep Anne ourselves. And since you seem to want her, I suppose I’m willing. I’ve been thinking it over and… now it just seems like it’s our duty to keep her. I’ve never brought up a child, especially a girl, and I bet I’ll make a terrible mess of things. But I’ll do my best. As far as I’m concerned, Matthew, she may stay.”
Matthew’s shy face glowed with delight.
“Well now, I reckoned that you’d come around to it,” he said. “She’s such an interesting little thing.”
“It’d be better if she was a /useful/ little thing,” retorted Marilla, “but I’ll make sure that she gets trained. And Matthew, you’d better not try to interfere with my methods. Perhaps an old childless woman doesn’t know much about bringing up a child, but I think I’d be better at it than an old bachelor. Just leave me to manage her. I’ll ask for your help only if I fail.”
“There, there, Marilla. You can have your own way,” said Matthew reassuringly. “But please be as good and kind to her as you can without spoiling her. I think she’s one of those children that can put up with anything as long as she gets enough love.”
Marilla sniffed to express her contempt for Matthew’s opinions on childcare. She walked away from him and brought the pails of milk to the dairy storage room.
“I won’t tell her tonight that she can stay,” Marilla said to herself as she strained the milk. “She’d be so excited that she wouldn’t sleep a wink. Oh Marilla, you’re in for it now! Did you ever think you’d adopt an orphan girl? And even more surprising: Did you think Matthew would be the one to ask to keep her? Matthew has always dreaded little girls. Anyhow, we’ve made the decision. I wonder how all this will turn out.”
About this story:
Anne of Green Gables was written in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Here, it is rewritten by Judy Shinohara for advanced English learners to enjoy.