Marilla makes up her mind

Words: 1000+

Skills: Character Traits Context Clues Summary

Grades: 4th 5th 6th

Topics: Realistic Fiction

Genres: Prose

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CCSS: Reading: Literature

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Marilla Makes Up Her Mind


by Lucy Maud Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables

Chapter VI passage: Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic tale "Anne of Green Gables" follows young Anne Shirley, an orphan, as she starts a new life with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, siblings on a Nova Scotian farm. In this passage, Anne is about to be returned to the orphanage because the Cuthberts wanted a boy. Students will read the text and answer questions on the characters and the language.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Marilla Makes Up Her Mind

by Lucy Maud Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables
Anne Shirley is a young orphan who has been sent to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert who are growing old. They are brother and sister and had wanted a boy from the orphanage to help Matthew on the farm. Anne arrived instead. Marilla is determined Anne should be sent back to the orphanage. She has taken Anne back to Mrs. Spencer who made the arrangements with the orphans' home. Marilla and Mrs. Spencer are trying to figure out how this happened. Nancy is Mrs. Spencer's niece.

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“I’m dreadful sorry,” said Mrs. Spencer. “It’s too bad; but it certainly wasn’t my fault, you see, Miss Cuthbert. I did the best I could and I thought I was following your instructions. Nancy is a terrible flighty thing. I’ve often had to scold her well for her heedlessness.”

“It was our own fault,” said Marilla resignedly. “We should have come to you ourselves and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth in that fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do 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 sent by me for a little girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very girl for you. I call it positively providential.”

Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands, and she did not even feel grateful for it.

She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. “A terrible worker and driver,” Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her tender mercies.

“Well, I’ll go in and we’ll talk the matter over,” she said.

“And if there isn’t Mrs. Peter coming up the lane this blessed minute!” exclaimed Mrs. Spencer, bustling her guests through the hall into the parlor, where a deadly chill struck on them as if the air had been strained so long through dark green, closely drawn blinds that it had lost every particle of warmth it had ever possessed. “That is real lucky, for we can settle the matter right away. Take the armchair, Miss Cuthbert. Anne, you sit here on the ottoman and don’t wiggle. Let me take your hats. Flora Jane, go out and put the kettle on. Good afternoon, Mrs. Blewett. We were just saying how fortunate it was you happened along. Let me introduce you two ladies. 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 whisked away, after pulling up the blinds. Anne sitting mutely on the ottoman, with her hands clasped tightly in her lap, stared at Mrs Blewett as one fascinated. Was she to be given into the keeping of this sharp-faced, sharp-eyed woman? She felt a lump coming up in her throat and her eyes smarted painfully. She was beginning to be afraid she couldn’t keep the tears back when Mrs. Spencer returned, flushed and beaming, quite capable of taking any and every difficulty, physical, mental or spiritual, into consideration and settling it out of hand.

“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 a little girl to adopt. I was certainly told so. But it seems it was a boy they wanted. So if you’re still of the same mind you were yesterday, I think she’ll be just the thing for you.”

Mrs. Blewett darted her eyes over Anne from head to foot.

“How old are you and what’s your name?” she demanded.

“Anne Shirley,” faltered the shrinking child, not daring to make any stipulations regarding the spelling thereof, “and I’m eleven years old.”

“Humph! You don’t look as if there was much to you. But you’re wiry. I don’t know but the wiry ones are 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 keep, and no mistake about that. Yes, I suppose I might as well take her off your hands, Miss Cuthbert. The baby’s awful fractious, and I’m clean worn out attending to him. If you like I can take her right home now.”

Marilla looked at Anne and softened at sight of the child’s pale face with its look of mute misery—the misery of a helpless little creature who finds itself once more caught in the trap from which it had escaped. Marilla felt an uncomfortable conviction that, if she denied the appeal of that look, it would haunt her to her dying day. More-over, she did not fancy Mrs. Blewett. To hand a sensitive, “highstrung” child over to such a woman! No, she could not take the responsibility of 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 may say that Matthew is disposed to keep her. I just came over 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 oughtn’t to decide on anything without consulting him. If we make up our mind not to keep her we’ll bring or send her over to you tomorrow night. If we don’t you may know that she is going to stay with us. Will that suit you, Mrs. Blewett?”

“I suppose it’ll have to,” said Mrs. Blewett ungraciously.

During Marilla’s speech a sunrise had been dawning on Anne’s face. First the look of despair faded out; then came a faint flush of hope; her eyes grew deep and bright as morning stars. The child was quite transfigured; and, a moment later, when Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Blewett went out in quest of a recipe the latter had come to borrow she sprang 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, as if speaking aloud might shatter the glorious possibility. “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 isn’t decided yet and perhaps we will conclude to let 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 to live with her,” said Anne passionately.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. What does superfluous mean here: "a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones"?



2. Briefly describe Mrs. Blewett as a person. Use quotations from the text to support your description.



3. How does Anne feel about going with Mrs. Blewett?



4. Why do you think Marilla does not immediately send Anne with Mrs. Blewett?