Chronicles of Avonlea
II. Old Lady Lloyd
I. The May Chapter
Spencervale gossip always said that "Old Lady Lloyd" was rich and mean and proud.
Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and two-thirds wrong. Old Lady Lloyd was neither
rich nor mean; in reality she was pitifully poor--so poor that "Crooked Jack" Spencer,
who dug her garden and chopped her wood for her, was opulent by contrast, for he, at
least, never lacked three meals a day, and the Old Lady could sometimes achieve no
more than one. But she WAS very proud--so proud that she would have died rather than
let the Spencervale people, among whom she had queened it in her youth, suspect how
poor she was and to what straits was sometimes reduced. She much preferred to have
them think her miserly and odd--a queer old recluse who never went anywhere, even to
church, and who paid the smallest subscription to the minister's salary of anyone in the
"And her just rolling in wealth!" they said indignantly. "Well, she didn't get her miserly
ways from her parents. THEY were real generous and neighbourly. There never was a
finer gentleman than old Doctor Lloyd. He was always doing kindnesses to everybody;
and he had a way of doing them that made you feel as if you was doing the favour, not
him. Well, well, let Old Lady Lloyd keep herself and her money to herself if she wants to.
If she doesn't want our company, she doesn't have to suffer it, that's all. Reckon she
isn't none too happy for all her money and pride."
No, the Old Lady was none too happy, that was unfortunately true. It is not easy to be
happy when your life is eaten up with loneliness and emptiness on the spiritual side,
and when, on the material side, all you have between you and starvation is the little
money your hens bring you in.
The Old Lady lived "away back at the old Lloyd place," as it was always called. It was a
quaint, low-eaved house, with big chimneys and square windows and with spruces
growing thickly all around it. The Old Lady lived there all alone and there were weeks at
a time when she never saw a human being except Crooked Jack. What the Old Lady
did with herself and how she put in her time was a puzzle the Spencervale people could
not solve. The children believed she amused herself counting the gold in the big black
box under her bed. Spencervale children held the Old Lady in mortal terror; some of
them--the "Spencer Road" fry--believed she was a witch; all of them would run if, when
wandering about the woods in search of berries or spruce gum, they saw at a distance
the spare, upright form of the Old Lady, gathering sticks for her fire. Mary Moore was
the only one who was quite sure she was not a witch.
"Witches are always ugly," she said decisively, "and Old Lady Lloyd isn't ugly. She's real
pretty--she's got such a soft white hair and big black eyes and a little white face. Those