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VIII - Marilla Adopts Twins
MRS. RACHEL LYNDE was sitting at her kitchen window, knitting a quilt, just as she had been sitting one evening several years previously when Matthew Cuthbert had driven down over the hill with what Mrs. Rachel called “his imported orphan.” But that had been in springtime; and this was late autumn, and all the woods were leafless and the fields sere and brown. The sun was just setting with a great deal of purple and golden pomp behind the dark woods west of Avonlea when a buggy drawn by a comfortable brown nag came down the hill. Mrs. Rachel peered at it eagerly.
“There’s Marilla getting home from the funeral,” she said to her husband, who was lying on the kitchen lounge. Thomas Lynde lay more on the lounge nowadays than he had been used to do, but Mrs. Rachel, who was so sharp at noticing anything beyond her own household, had not as yet noticed this. “And she’s got the twins with her,…yes, there’s Davy leaning over the dashboard grabbing at the pony’s tail and Marilla jerking him back. Dora’s sitting up on the seat as prim as you please. She always looks as if she’d just been starched and ironed. Well, poor Marilla is going to have her hands full this winter and no mistake. Still, I don’t see that she could do anything less than take them, under the circumstances, and she’ll have Anne to help her. Anne’s tickled to death over the whole business, and she has a real knacky way with children, I must say. Dear me, it doesn’t seem a day since poor Matthew brought Anne herself home and everybody laughed at the idea of Marilla brought up a child. And now she has adopted twins. You’re never safe from being surprised till you’re dead.” The fat pony jogged over the bridge in Lynde’s Hollow and along the Green Gables lane. Marilla’s face was rather grim. It was ten miles from East Grafton and Davy Keith seemed to be possessed with a passion for perpetual motion. It was beyond Marilla’s power to make him sit still and she had been in an agony the whole way lest he fall over the back of the wagon and break his neck, or tumble over the dashboard under the pony’s heels. In despair she finally threatened to whip him soundly when she got him home. Whereupon Davy climbed into her lap, regardless of the reins, flung his chubby arms about her neck and gave her a bearlike hug.
“I don’t believe you mean it,” he said, smacking her wrinkled cheek affectionately. “You don’t look like a lady who’d whip a little boy just ’cause he couldn’t keep still. Didn’t you find it awful hard to keep still when you was only’s old as me?” “No, I always kept still when I was told,” said Marilla, trying to speak sternly, albeit she felt her heart waxing soft within her under Davy’s impulsive caresses.
“Well, I s’pose that was ’cause you was a girl,” said Davy, squirming back to his place after another hug. “You was a girl once, I s’pose, though it’s awful funny to think of it. Dora can sit still…but there ain’t much fun in it I don’t think. Seems to me it must be slow to be a girl. Here, Dora, let me liven you up a bit.” Davy’s method of “livening up” was to grasp Dora’s curls in his fingers and give them a tug. Dora shrieked and then cried.
“How can you be such a naughty boy and your poor mother just laid in her grave this very day?” demanded Marilla despairingly.
“But she was glad to die,” said Davy confidentially. “I know, ’cause she told me so. She was awful tired of being sick. We’d a long talk the night before she died. She told me you was going to take me and Dora for the winter and I was to be a good boy. I’m going to be good, but can’t you be good running round just as well as sitting still? And she said I was always to be kind to Dora and stand up for her, and I’m going to.” “Do you call pulling her hair being kind to her?”
“Well, I ain’t going to let anybody else pull it,” said Davy, doubling up his fists and frowning. “They’d just better try it. I didn’t hurt her much…she just cried ’cause she’s a girl. I’m glad I’m a boy but I’m sorry I’m a twin. When Jimmy Sprott’s sister conterdicks him he just says, ‘I’m oldern you, so of course I know better,’ and that settles her. But I can’t tell Dora that, and she just goes on thinking different from me. You might let me drive the gee-gee for a spell, since I’m a man.” Altogether, Marilla was a thankful woman when she drove into her own yard, where the wind of the autumn night was dancing with the brown leaves. Anne was at the gate to meet them and lift the twins out. Dora submitted calmly to be kissed, but Davy responded to Anne’s welcome with one of his hearty hugs and the cheerful announcement, “I’m Mr. Davy Keith.” At the supper table Dora behaved like a little lady, but Davy’s manners left much to be desired.
“I’m so hungry I ain’t got time to eat p’litely,” he said when Marilla reproved him. “Dora ain’t half as hungry as I am. Look at all the ex’cise I took on the road here. That cake’s awful nice and plummy. We haven’t had any cake at home for ever’n ever so long, ’cause mother was too sick to make it and Mrs. Sprott said it was as much as she could do to bake our bread for us. And Mrs. Wiggins never puts any plums in her cakes. Catch her! Can I have another piece?” Marilla would have refused but Anne cut a generous second slice. However, she reminded Davy that he ought to say “Thank you” for it. Davy merely grinned at her and took a huge bite. When he had finished the slice he said, “If you’ll give me another piece I’ll say ‘thank you’ for it.” “No, you have had plenty of cake,” said Marilla in a tone which Anne knew and Davy was to learn to be final.
Davy winked at Anne, and then, leaning over the table, snatched Dora’s first piece of cake, from which she had just taken one dainty little bite, out of her very fingers and, opening his mouth to the fullest extent, crammed the whole slice in. Dora’s lip trembled and Marilla was speechless with horror. Anne promptly exclaimed, with her best “schoolma’am” air, “Oh, Davy, gentlemen don’t do things like that.” “I know they don’t,” said Davy, as soon as he could speak, “but I ain’t a gemplum.”
“But don’t you want to be?” said shocked Anne.
“Course I do. But you can’t be a gemplum till you grow up.”
“Oh, indeed you can,” Anne hastened to say, thinking she saw a chance to sow good seed betimes. “You can begin to be a gentleman when you are a little boy. And gentlemen never snatch things from ladies…or forget to say thank you…or pull anybody’s hair.” “They don’t have much fun, that’s a fact,” said Davy frankly. “I guess I’ll wait till I’m grown up to be one.”
Marilla, with a resigned air, had cut another piece of cake for Dora. She did not feel able to cope with Davy just then. It had been a hard day for her, what with the funeral and the long drive. At that moment she looked forward to the future with a pessimism that would have done credit to Eliza Andrews herself.
The twins were not noticeably alike, although both were fair. Dora had long sleek curls that never got out of order. Davy had a crop of fuzzy little yellow ringlets all over his round head. Dora’s hazel eyes were gentle and mild; Davy’s were as roguish and dancing as an elf’s. Dora’s nose was straight, Davy’s a positive snub; Dora had a “prunes and prisms” mouth, Davy’s was all smiles; and besides, he had a dimple in one cheek and none in the other, which gave him a dear, comical, lopsided look when he laughed. Mirth and mischief lurked in every corner of his little face.
“They’d better go to bed,” said Marilla, who thought it was the easiest way to dispose of them. “Dora will sleep with me and you can put Davy in the west gable. You’re not afraid to sleep alone, are you, Davy?”
“No; but I ain’t going to bed for ever so long yet,” said Davy comfortably.
“Oh, yes, you are.” That was all the much-tried Marilla said, but something in her tone squelched even Davy. He trotted obediently upstairs with Anne.
“When I’m grown-up the very first thing I’m going to do is stay up all night just to see what it would be like,” he told her confidentially.
In after-years Marilla never thought of that first week of the twins’ sojourn at Green Gables without a shiver. Not that it really was so much worse than the weeks that followed it; but it seemed so by reason of its novelty. There was seldom a waking minute of any day when Davy was not in mischief or devising it; but his first notable exploit occurred two days after his arrival, on Sunday morning…a fine, warm day, as hazy and mild as September. Anne dressed him for church while Marilla attended to Dora. Davy at first objected strongly to having his face washed.
“Marilla washed it yesterday…and Mrs. Wiggins scoured me with hard soap the day of the funeral. That’s enough for one week. I don’t see the good of being so awful clean. It’s lots more comfable being dirty.”
“Paul Irving washes his face every day of his own accord,” said Anne astutely.
Davy had been an inmate of Green Gables for little over forty-eight hours; but he already worshiped Anne and hated Paul Irving, whom he had heard Anne praising enthusiastically the day after his arrival. If Paul Irving washed his face every day, that settled it. He, Davy Keith, would do it too, if it killed him. The same consideration induced him to submit meekly to the other details of his toilet, and he was really a handsome little lad when all was done. Anne felt an almost maternal pride in him as she led him into the old Cuthbert pew.
Davy behaved quite well at first, being occupied in casting covert glances at all the small boys within view and wondering which was Paul Irving. The first two hymns and the Scripture reading passed off uneventfully. Mr. Allan was praying when the sensation came.
Lauretta White was sitting in front of Davy, her head slightly bent and her fair hair hanging in two long braids, between which a tempting expanse of white neck showed, encased in a loose lace frill. Lauretta was a fat, placid-looking child of eight, who had conducted herself irreproachably in church from the very first day her mother carried her there, an infant of six months.
Davy thrust his hand into his pocket and produced…a caterpillar, a furry, squirming caterpillar. Marilla saw and clutched at him but she was too late. Davy dropped the caterpillar down Lauretta’s neck.
Right into the middle of Mr. Allan’s prayer burst a series of piercing shrieks. The minister stopped, appalled, and opened his eyes. Every head in the congregation flew up. Lauretta White was dancing up and down in her pew, clutching frantically at the back of her dress.
“Ow…mommer…mommer…ow…take it off…ow…get it out…ow…that bad boy put it down my neck…ow…mommer…it’s going further down…ow…ow…ow…”
Mrs. White rose and with a set face carried the hysterical, writhing Lauretta out of church. Her shrieks died away in the distance and Mr. Allan proceeded with the service. But everybody felt that it was a failure that day. For the first time in her life Marilla took no notice of the text and Anne sat with scarlet cheeks of mortification.
When they got home Marilla put Davy to bed and made him stay there for the rest of the day. She would not give him any dinner but allowed him a plain tea of bread and milk. Anne carried it to him and sat sorrowfully by him while he ate it with an unrepentant relish. But Anne’s mournful eyes troubled him.
“I s’pose,” he said reflectively, “that Paul Irving wouldn’t have dropped a caterpillar down a girl’s neck in church, would he?”
“Indeed he wouldn’t,” said Anne sadly.
“Well, I’m kind of sorry I did it, then,” conceded Davy. “But it was such a jolly big caterpillar…I picked him up on the church steps just as we went in. It seemed a pity to waste him. And say, wasn’t it fun to hear that girl yell?” Tuesday afternoon the Aid Society met at Green Gables. Anne hurried home from school, for she knew that Marilla would need all the assistance she could give. Dora, neat and proper, in her nicely starched white dress and black sash, was sitting with the members of the Aid in the parlor, speaking demurely when spoken to, keeping silence when not, and in every way comporting herself as a model child. Davy, blissfully dirty, was making mud pies in the barnyard.
“I told him he might,” said Marilla wearily. “I thought it would keep him out of worse mischief. He can only get dirty at that. We’ll have our teas over before we call him to his. Dora can have hers with us, but I would never dare to let Davy sit down at the table with all the Aids here.” When Anne went to call the Aids to tea she found that Dora was not in the parlor. Mrs. Jasper Bell said Davy had come to the front door and called her out. A hasty consultation with Marilla in the pantry resulted in a decision to let both children have their teas together later on.
Tea was half over when the dining room was invaded by a forlorn figure. Marilla and Anne stared in dismay, the Aids in amazement. Could that be Dora…that sobbing nondescript in a drenched, dripping dress and hair from which the water was streaming on Marilla’s new coin-spot rug?
“Dora, what has happened to you?” cried Anne, with a guilty glance at Mrs. Jasper Bell, whose family was said to be the only one in the world in which accidents never occurred.
“Davy made me walk the pigpen fence,” wailed Dora. “I didn’t want to but he called me a fraid-cat. And I fell off into the pigpen and my dress got all dirty and the pig runned right over me. My dress was just awful but Davy said if I’d stand under the pump he’d wash it clean, and I did and he pumped water all over me but my dress ain’t a bit cleaner and my pretty sash and shoes is all spoiled.” Anne did the honors of the table alone for the rest of the meal while Marilla went upstairs and redressed Dora in her old clothes. Davy was caught and sent to bed without any supper. Anne went to his room at twilight and talked to him seriously…a method in which she had great faith, not altogether unjustified by results. She told him she felt very bad over his conduct.
“I feel sorry now myself,” admitted Davy, “but the trouble is I never feel sorry for doing things till after I’ve did them. Dora wouldn’t help me make pies ’cause she was afraid of messing her clo’es, and that made me hopping mad. I s’pose Paul Irving wouldn’t have made his sister walk a pigpen fence if he knew she’d fall in?” “No, he would never dream of such a thing. Paul is a perfect little gentleman.”
Davy screwed his eyes tight shut and seemed to meditate on this for a time. Then he crawled up and put his arms about Anne’s neck, snuggling his flushed little face down on her shoulder.
“Anne, don’t you like me a little bit, even if I ain’t a good boy like Paul?”
“Indeed I do,” said Anne sincerely. Somehow, it was impossible to help liking Davy. “But I’d like you better still if you weren’t so naughty.”
“I…did something else today,” went on Davy in a muffled voice. “I’m sorry now but I’m awful scared to tell you. You won’t be very cross, will you? And you won’t tell Marilla, will you?”
“I don’t know, Davy. Perhaps I ought to tell her. But I think I can promise you I won’t if you promise me that you will never do it again, whatever it is.”
“No, I never will. Anyhow, it’s not likely I’d find any more of them this year. I found this one on the cellar steps.”
“Davy, what is it you’ve done?”
“I put a toad in Marilla’s bed. You can go and take it out if you like. But say, Anne, wouldn’t it be fun to leave it there?”
“Davy Keith!” Anne sprang from Davy’s clinging arms and flew across the hall to Marilla’s room. The bed was slightly rumpled. She threw back the blankets in nervous haste and there in very truth was the toad, blinking at her from under a pillow.
“How can I carry that awful thing out?” moaned Anne with a shudder. The fire shovel suggested itself to her and she crept down to get it while Marilla was busy in the pantry. Anne had her own troubles carrying that toad downstairs, for it hopped off the shovel three times and once she thought she had lost it in the hall. When she finally deposited it in the cherry orchard she drew a long breath of relief.
“If Marilla knew she’d never feel safe getting into bed again in her life. I’m so glad that little sinner repented in time. There’s Diana signaling to me from her window. I’m glad…I really feel the need of some diversion, for what with Anthony Pye in school and Davy Keith at home my nerves have had about all they can endure for one day.”
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