“Well, I ain’t going. I can read and write and cipher up to fractions. That’s all I want. You fellows go and I’ll stay home. You needn’t be scared I’ll steal anything. I swear I’m honest.”
Mary employed herself while the others were at school in cleaning up the manse. In a few days it was a different place. Floors were swept, furniture dusted, everything straightened out. She mended the spare-room bed-tick, she sewed on missing buttons, she patched clothes neatly, she even invaded the study with broom and dustpan and ordered Mr. Meredith out while she put it to rights. But there was one department with which Aunt Martha refused to let her interfere. Aunt Martha might be deaf and half blind and very childish, but she was resolved to keep the commissariat in her own hands, in spite of all Mary’s wiles and stratagems.
“I can tell you if old Martha’d let me cook you’d have some decent meals,” she told the manse children indignantly. “There’d be no more ’ditto’—and no more lumpy porridge and blue milk either. What does she do with all the cream?”
“She gives it to the cat. He’s hers, you know,” said Faith.
“I’d like to cat her, “exclaimed Mary bitterly. “I’ve no use for cats anyhow. They belong to the old Nick. You can tell that by their eyes. Well, if old Martha won’t, she won’t, I s’pose. But it gits on my nerves to see good vittles spoiled.”
When school came out they always went to Rainbow Valley. Mary refused to play in the graveyard. She declared she was afraid of ghosts.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” declared Jem Blythe.
“Oh, ain’t there?”
“Did you ever see any?”
“Hundreds of ’em,” said Mary promptly.
“What are they like?” said Carl.
“Awful-looking. Dressed all in white with skellington hands and heads,” said Mary.
“What did you do?” asked Una.
“Run like the devil,” said Mary. Then she caught Walter’s eyes and blushed. Mary was a good deal in awe of Walter. She declared to the manse girls that his eyes made her nervous.
“I think of all the lies I’ve ever told when I look into them,” she said, “and I wish I hadn’t.”
Jem was Mary’s favourite. When he took her to the attic at Ingleside and showed her the museum of curios that Captain Jim Boyd had bequeathed to him she was immensely pleased and flattered. She also won Carl’s heart entirely by her interest in his beetles and ants. It could not be denied that Mary got on rather better with the boys than with the girls. She quarrelled bitterly with Nan Blythe the second day.