Anne of Avonlea – Chapter 3: Mr Harrison at Home

Mr. Harrison’s house was an old-fashioned, low-eaved, whitewashed structure, set against a thick spruce grove.

Mr. Harrison himself was sitting on his vineshaded veranda, in his shirt sleeves, enjoying his evening pipe. When he realized who was coming up the path he sprang suddenly to his feet, bolted into the house, and shut the door. This was merely the uncomfortable result of his surprise, mingled with a good deal of shame over his outburst of temper the day before. But it nearly swept the remnant of her courage from Anne’s heart.

“If he’s so cross now what will he be when he hears what I’ve done,” she reflected miserably, as she rapped at the door.

But Mr. Harrison opened it, smiling sheepishly, and invited her to enter in a tone quite mild and friendly, if somewhat nervous. He had laid aside his pipe and donned his coat; he offered Anne a very dusty chair very politely, and her reception would have passed off pleasantly enough if it had not been for the telltale of a parrot who was peering through the bars of his cage with wicked golden eyes. No sooner had Anne seated herself than Ginger exclaimed,

“Bless my soul, what’s that redheaded snippet coming here for?”

It would be hard to say whose face was the redder, Mr. Harrison’s or Anne’s.

“Don’t you mind that parrot,” said Mr. Harrison, casting a furious glance at Ginger. “He’s . . . he’s always talking nonsense. I got him from my brother who was a sailor. Sailors don’t always use the choicest language, and parrots are very imitative birds.”

“So I should think,” said poor Anne, the remembrance of her errand quelling her resentment. She couldn’t afford to snub Mr. Harrison under the circumstances, that was certain. When you had just sold a man’s Jersey cow offhand, without his knowledge or consent you must not mind if his parrot repeated uncomplimentary things. Nevertheless, the “redheaded snippet” was not quite so meek as she might otherwise have been.

“I’ve come to confess something to you, Mr. Harrison,” she said resolutely. “It’s . . . it’s about . . . that Jersey cow.”

“Bless my soul,” exclaimed Mr. Harrison nervously, “has she gone and broken into my oats again? Well, never mind . . . never mind if she has. It’s no difference . . . none at all, I . . . I was too hasty yesterday, that’s a fact. Never mind if she has.”

“Oh, if it were only that,” sighed Anne. “But it’s ten times worse. I don’t . . .”

“Bless my soul, do you mean to say she’s got into my wheat?”

“No . . . no . . . not the wheat. But . . .”

“Then it’s the cabbages! She’s broken into my cabbages that I was raising for Exhibition, hey?”

“It’s not the cabbages, Mr. Harrison. I’ll tell you everything . . . that is what I came for—but please don’t interrupt me. It makes me so nervous. Just let me tell my story and don’t say anything till I get through—and then no doubt you’ll say plenty,” Anne concluded, but in thought only.

“I won’t say another word,” said Mr. Harrison, and he didn’t. But Ginger was not bound by any contract of silence and kept ejaculating, “Redheaded snippet” at intervals until Anne felt quite wild.

“I shut my Jersey cow up in our pen yesterday. This morning I went to Carmody and when I came back I saw a Jersey cow in your oats. Diana and I chased her out and you can’t imagine what a hard time we had. I was so dreadfully wet and tired and vexed—and Mr. Shearer came by that very minute and offered to buy the cow. I sold her to him on the spot for twenty dollars. It was wrong of me. I should have waited and consulted Marilla, of course. But I’m dreadfully given to doing things without thinking—everybody who knows me will tell you that. Mr. Shearer took the cow right away to ship her on the afternoon train.”

“Redheaded snippet,” quoted Ginger in a tone of profound contempt.

At this point Mr. Harrison arose and, with an expression that would have struck terror into any bird but a parrot, carried Ginger’s cage into an adjoining room and shut the door. Ginger shrieked, swore, and otherwise conducted himself in keeping with his reputation, but finding himself left alone, relapsed into sulky silence.

“Excuse me and go on,” said Mr. Harrison, sitting down again. “My brother the sailor never taught that bird any manners.”

“I went home and after tea I went out to the milking pen. Mr. Harrison,” . . . Anne leaned forward, clasping her hands with her old childish gesture, while her big gray eyes gazed imploringly into Mr. Harrison’s embarrassed face . . . “I found my cow still shut up in the pen. It was your cow I had sold to Mr. Shearer.”

“Bless my soul,” exclaimed Mr. Harrison, in blank amazement at this unlooked-for conclusion. “What a very extraordinary thing!”

“Oh, it isn’t in the least extraordinary that I should be getting myself and other people into scrapes,” said Anne mournfully. “I’m noted for that. You might suppose I’d have grown out of it by this time . . . I’ll be seventeen next March . . . but it seems that I haven’t. Mr. Harrison, is it too much to hope that you’ll forgive me? I’m afraid it’s too late to get your cow back, but here is the money for her . . . or you can have mine in exchange if you’d rather. She’s a very good cow. And I can’t express how sorry I am for it all.”

“Tut, tut,” said Mr. Harrison briskly, “don’t say another word about it, miss. It’s of no consequence . . . no consequence whatever. Accidents will happen. I’m too hasty myself sometimes, miss . . . far too hasty. But I can’t help speaking out just what I think and folks must take me as they find me. If that cow had been in my cabbages now . . . but never mind, she wasn’t, so it’s all right. I think I’d rather have your cow in exchange, since you want to be rid of her.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Harrison. I’m so glad you are not vexed. I was afraid you would be.”

“And I suppose you were scared to death to come here and tell me, after the fuss I made yesterday, hey? But you mustn’t mind me, I’m a terrible outspoken old fellow, that’s all . . . awful apt to tell the truth, no matter if it is a bit plain.”

“So is Mrs. Lynde,” said Anne, before she could prevent herself.

“Who? Mrs. Lynde? Don’t you tell me I’m like that old gossip,” said Mr. Harrison irritably. “I’m not . . . not a bit. What have you got in that box?”

“A cake,” said Anne archly. In her relief at Mr. Harrison’s unexpected amiability her spirits soared upward feather-light. “I brought it over for you . . . I thought perhaps you didn’t have cake very often.”