We spend this chapter getting acquainted with Matthew and the orphan delivered to him who is decidedly not a boy.
“I’m not expecting a girl,” Matthew said blankly. “It’s a boy I’ve come for He should be here. Mrs. Alexander Spencer was to bring him over from Nova Scotia for me.”
[…] “Guess there’s some mistake,” he said. “Mrs. Spencer came off the train with that girl and gave her into my charge. Said you and your sister were adopting her from an orphan asylum and that you would be along presently. That’s all I know about it – and I haven’t got anymore orphans concealed hereabouts.”
As it turns out, Matthew is terrified of little girls in general, mostly because they’re generally scared of odd old men.
[The] unfortunate Matthew was left to do that which was harder for him than bearding a lion in its den – walk up to a girl – a strange girl – an orphan girl – and demand of her why she wasn’t a boy. Matthew groaned in spirit as he turned and shuffled gently down the platform towards her.
Matthew is just a big sweetheart. But he’s at least relieved from the burden of speaking by the obliging orphan, as she greets him by name and subsequently informs him of her plans to spend the night in a wild cherry tree should the need arise.
Matthew had taken the little scrawny hand awkwardly in his; then and there he decided what to do. He could not tell this child with the glowing eyes that there had been a mistake; he would take her home and let Marilla do that.
On the one hand, I totally get that impulse, but that isn’t a good foot to start coparenting on (even if it’s supposed to be only a temporary arrangement).
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel so good to be alive – it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can stop, when I make up my mind to, although it’s difficult.”
Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. Like most quiet folks he liked talkative people when they were willing to do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep up his end of it. But he had never expected to enjoy the society of a little girl. Women were bad enough in all conscience, but little girls were worse. He detested the way they has of sidling past him timidly, with sideways glances, as if they expected him to gobble them up at a mouthful if they ventured to say a word, This was the Avonlea type of well-bred little girl. But this freckled witch was very different, and although he found it rather difficult for his slower intelligence to keep up with her brisk mental processes he thought that he “kind of liked her chatter”. So he said as shyly as usual:
“Oh, you can talk as much as you like. I don’t mind.”
Montgomery gets quiet people. And, it would seem, talkative people as well.
The girl shows a penchant for naming things when she finds the preexisting names lack sufficient imagination, hence “the Avenue” becomes “the White Way of Delight”, and “Barry’s pond” changes to “the Lake of Shining Waters”.
“Do you know, my arm must be black and blue from the elbow up, for I’ve pinched myself so many times today. Every little while a horrible sickening feeling would come over me and I’d be so afraid that it was all a dream. Then I’d pinch myself to see if it was real – until suddenly I remembered that even supposing it was dream I’d better go on dreaming as long as I could; so I stopped pinching. But it is real and we’re nearly home.”
This is one of our first hints that her life hasn’t been so pleasant up until now (that and the fact that she’s an orphan). This is the price of getting her hopes up, Matthew!
Until next time…