"I suppose we ought to talk about the chickens," Marilla said, briskly serving Matthew a slice of fruitcake, then taking one for herself.
There was a certain determined sternness to her voice that put Matthew in mind of Anne so much that he found himself glancing over his shoulder in case Anne might have taken a fancy to leave school, walk all the way home, and appear at the table to be lectured. She had not. He turned back to the table in mild astonishment and picked up his fork, taking a silent bite of cake. It was precisely as it ought to be; the normalcy and the sugar settled his nerves a little, so he had another as he turned his mind to the subject. "Well now," he said, after a few moments' reflection failed to produce anything particularly new or noteworthy about the state of the chickens, "what about them?"
"Anne's been looking after them," Marilla said, pursing her lips slightly after a bite of her own cake. "You remember I set her to doing it in the mornings, instead of helping with the milking."
"That's so," Matthew agreed.
"Well, I think it's done her some good. Now I won't say it's made her sensible, goodness knows it will take more than a few birds for that, even if she's capable of being responsible enough when it suits her to be, but she's done real well with them. I hardly remember the last time she was late getting to her chores. And I don't recall the last time she missed an egg, even when that speckled hen went broody."
"That's so," Matthew said again, though he was rather prepared to agree with anything in the direction of complimentary said about Anne whether it was strictly true or not.
"So I think she ought to have a share of the egg money," Marilla continued, almost as implacably as if she expected an argument from him over it. "She knows the value of hard work perfectly well already, I'll say that much; it's high time she learned to deal with a little money of her own and see the value of saving it. A few cents a week, say. I doubt either of the people she lived with before ever gave her so much as a thanks for her work, let alone anything for herself."
"Well now, that seems reasonable," Matthew said, because it did, and also because it was much less unsettling than some unforeseen Anne-related problem with the chickens themselves. He finished his lunch in a decidedly easier mood. "I dunno but she could come with me when I drive up to Carmody tomorrow."
"Just you mind that you don't teach that girl to spend everything she earns on frippery, Matthew Cuthbert, and ruin what good sense she might be capable of learning," Marilla retorted tartly. But there was the hint of an unwilling smile twitching at the corner of her mouth as she finally set to eating her own dessert, so Matthew didn't worry about it over much.
The next morning after breakfast Matthew brushed the sorrel mare a few minutes longer than was his general habit, out of a lingering feeling that somehow the few pennies Marilla was no doubt lecturing Anne over at that very moment were enough to make the drive to town an event of note. And it must have been some lecture, for despite the delay, he had her hitched and waiting by the time Anne flew out of the kitchen and into the yard.
"Oh, Matthew," she said breathlessly, "did you know? Marilla said I might have some of the chicken money for my own!"
She displayed the pennies with such glowing happiness that Matthew couldn't have found the words to say that he had already known if he'd been given a year to look for them. "Ain't that something," he said instead with a shy smile. "I dunno but you're good with those chickens."
"I never thought I would love chickens," Anne said quite seriously, "especially after Prunella pecked me quite viciously last month when I was only trying to shift the wooden egg to a different nest, but now I forgive her almost entirely. I could be pecked a hundred times over, and scratched to bits, too."
"Well now," Matthew said, "I hope not."
"Oh, I don't think they would, really," Anne said, putting her money safely away into a pocket. "They are good chickens. Mostly. But if I did have to be pecked a hundred times, I'd be glad to know that it was because I was good enough with them to earn money from it. Oh!" - for she had seemed to only then notice the mare and buggy behind Matthew. "But I thought you were only going to Carmody today?"
Matthew nodded. "I thought I'd take her anyway," he said, feeling a little silly for it and giving the mare a pat on the shoulder to busy his hands, then climbing quickly into the buggy. "Well now, if Marilla don't have anything for you to do today, maybe you'd like to come with?"
"I would," Anne said decisively, climbing up next to him. "I was going to go look for spruce cones, but this will be even better. Do you think I might buy something for Marilla? I've never been able to buy anything for anyone before, and do you know, the second I touched the money, I couldn't think of anything else but that wonderful day - oh, you remember - when I met Diana, and you brought home chocolates for me to share with her, just because I said I had one once?"
"I suppose I do," Matthew said cautiously.
"Marilla said they ought to have been peppermints," Anne said thoughtfully. "Because they were wholesomer. So I thought I might get a little bag of mints for her, because I liked it ever so much when you remembered that I liked chocolates; it gave me a wonderful warm feeling right down to my toes, even before I ate a single piece. Do you think that's sensible at all?"
"Well now," Matthew said, taking up the reins and giving the mare a tap, "I dunno but it seems perfectly sensible to me."