Emily of New Moon is the first in a series of novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery about an orphan girl growing up on Prince Edward Island. It is similar to the author's
Anne of Green Gables series. It was first published in 1923.
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The house in the hollow was “a mile from anywhere”—so Maywood people said. It was situated in a grassy little dale, looking as if it had never been built like other houses but had grown up there like a big, brown mushroom. It was reached by a long, green lane and almost hidden from view by an encircling growth of young birches. No other house could be seen from it although the village was just over the hill. Ellen Greene said it was the lonesomest place in the world and vowed that she wouldn’t stay there a day if it wasn’t that she pitied the child.
Emily didn’t know she was being pitied and didn’t know what lonesomeness meant. She had plenty of company. There was Father—and Mike—and Saucy Sal. The Wind Woman was always around; and there were the trees—Adam-and-Eve, and the Rooster Pine, and all the friendly lady-birches.
And there was “the flash,” too. She never knew when it might come, and the possibility of it kept her a-thrill and expectant.
Emily had slipped away in the chilly twilight for a walk. She remembered that walk very vividly all her life—perhaps because of a certain eerie beauty that was in it—perhaps because “the flash” came for the first time in weeks—more likely because of what happened after she came back from it.
It had been a dull, cold day in early May, threatening to rain but never raining. Father had lain on the sitting-room lounge all day. He had coughed a good deal and he had not talked much to Emily, which was a very unusual thing for him. Most of the time he lay with his hands clasped under his head and his large, sunken, dark-blue eyes fixed dreamily and unseeingly on the cloudy sky that was visible between the boughs of the two big spruces in the front yard—Adam-and-Eve, they always called those spruces, because of a whimsical resemblance Emily had traced between their position, with reference to a small apple-tree between them, and that of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge in an old-fashioned picture in one of Ellen Greene’s books. The Tree of Knowledge looked exactly like the squat little apple-tree, and Adam and Eve stood up on either side as stiffly and rigidly as did the spruces.
Emily wondered what Father was thinking of, but she never bothered him with questions when his cough was bad. She only wished she had somebody to talk to. Ellen Greene wouldn’t talk that day either. She did nothing but grunt, and grunts meant that Ellen was disturbed about something. She had grunted last night after the doctor had whispered to her in the kitchen, and she had grunted when she gave Emily a bedtime snack of bread and molasses. Emily did not like bread and molasses, but she ate it because she did not want to hurt Ellen’s feelings. It was not often that Ellen allowed her anything to eat before going to bed, and when she did it meant that for some reason or other she wanted to confer a special favor.
Emily expected the grunting attack would wear off over night, as it generally did; but it had not, so no company was to be found in Ellen. Not that there was a great deal to be found at any time. Douglas Starr had once, in a fit of exasperation, told Emily that “Ellen Greene was a fat, lazy old thing of no importance,” and Emily, whenever she looked at Ellen after that, thought the description fitted her to a hair.
So Emily had curled herself up in the ragged, comfortable old wing-chair and readThe Pilgrim’s Progressall the afternoon. Emily lovedThe Pilgrim’s Progress. Many a time had she walked the straight and narrow path withChristianandChristiana—although she never likedChristiana’sadventures half as well asChristian’s. For one thing, there was always such a crowd withChristiana. She had not half the fascination of that solitary, intrepid figure who faced all alone the shadows of the Dark Valley and the encounter with Apollyon. Darkness and hobgoblins were nothing when you had plenty of company. But to bealone—ah, Emily shivered with the delicious horror of it!
When Ellen announced that supper was ready Douglas Starr told Emily to go out to it.
“I don’t want anything tonight. I’ll just lie here and rest. And when you come in again we’ll have a real talk, Elfkin.”
He smiled up at her his old, beautiful smile, with the love behind it, that Emily always found so sweet. She ate her supper quite happily—though it wasn’t a good supper. The bread was soggy and her egg was underdone, but for a wonder she was allowed to have both Saucy Sal and Mike sitting, one on each side of her, and Ellen only grunted when Emily fed them wee bits of bread and butter.
Mike had such a cute way of sitting up on his haunches and catching the bits in his paws, and Saucy Sal hadhertrick of touching Emily’s ankle with an almost human touch when her turn was too long in coming. Emily loved them both, but Mike was her favourite. He was a handsome, dark-grey cat with huge owl-like eyes, and he was so soft and fat and fluffy. Sal was always thin; no amount of feeding put any flesh on her bones. Emily liked her, but never cared to cuddle or stroke her because of her thinness. Yet there was a sort of weird beauty about her that appealed to Emily. She was grey-and-white—very white and very sleek, with a long, pointed face, very long ears and very green eyes. She was a redoubtable fighter, and strange cats were vanquished in one round. The fearless little spitfire would even attack dogs and rout them utterly.
Emily loved her pussies. She had brought them up herself, as she proudly said. They had been given to her when they were kittens by her Sunday School teacher.
“Alivingpresent is so nice,” she told Ellen, “because it keeps on getting nicer all the time.”
But she worried considerably because Saucy Sal didn’t have kittens.
“I don’t know why she doesn’t,” she complained to Ellen Greene. “Most cats seem to have more kittens than they know what to do with.”
After supper Emily went in and found that her father had fallen asleep. She was very glad of this; she knew he had not slept much for two nights: but she was a little disappointed that they were not going to have that “real talk.” “Real” talks with Father were always such delightful things. But next best would be a walk—a lovely all-by-your-lonesome walk through the grey evening of the young spring. It was so long since she had had a walk.
“You put on your hood and mind you scoot back if it starts to rain,” warned Ellen. “Youcan’t monkey with colds the way some kids can.”
“Why can’t I?” Emily asked rather indignantly. Why mustshebe debarred from “monkeying with colds” if other children could? It wasn’t fair.
But Ellen only grunted. Emily muttered under her breath for her own satisfaction, “You are a fat old thing of no importance!” and slipped upstairs to get her hood—rather reluctantly, for she loved to run bareheaded. She put the faded blue hood on over her long, heavy braid of glossy, jet-black hair, and smiled chummily at her reflection in the little greenish glass. The smile began at the corners of her lips and spread over her face in a slow, subtle, very wonderful way, as Douglas Starr often thought. It was her dead mother’s smile—the thing that had caught and held him long ago when he had first seen Juliet Murray. It seemed to be Emily’s only physical inheritance from her mother. In all else, he thought, she was like the Starrs—in her large, purplish-grey eyes with their very long lashes and black brows, in her high, white forehead—too high for beauty—in the delicate modeling of her pale oval face and sensitive mouth, in the little ears that were pointed just a wee bit to show that she was kin to tribes of elfland.
“I’m going for a walk with the Wind Woman, dear,” said Emily. “I wish I could take you too. Do youeverget out of that room, I wonder. The Wind Woman is going to be out in the fields to-night. She is tall and misty, with thin, grey, silky clothes blowing all about her—and wings like a bat’s—only you can see through them—and shining eyes like stars looking through her long, loose hair. She can fly—but to-night she will walk with me all over the fields. She’s agreatfriend of mine—the Wind Woman is. I’ve known her ever since I was six. We’reold, oldfriends—but not quite so old as you and I, little Emily-in-the-glass. We’ve been friendsalways, haven’t we?”
With a blown kiss to little Emily-in-the-glass, Emily-out-of-the-glass was off.
The Wind Woman was waiting for her outside—ruffling the little spears of striped grass that were sticking up stiffly in the bed under the sitting-room window—tossing the big boughs of Adam-and-Eve—whispering among the misty green branches of the birches—teasing the “Rooster Pine” behind the house—it really did look like an enormous, ridiculous rooster, with a huge, bunchy tail and a head thrown back to crow.
It was so long since Emily had been out for a walk that she was half crazy with the joy of it. The winter had been so stormy and the snow so deep that she was never allowed out; April had been a month of rain and wind; so on this May evening she felt like a released prisoner. Where should she go? Down the brook—or over the fields to the spruce barrens? Emily chose the latter.
She loved the spruce barrens, away at the further end of the long, sloping pasture. That was a place where magic was made. She came more fully into her fairy birthright there than in any other place. Nobody who saw Emily skimming over the bare field would have envied her. She was little and pale and poorly clad; sometimes she shivered in her thin jacket; yet a queen might have gladly given a crown for her visions—her dreams of wonder. The brown, frosted grasses under her feet were velvet piles. The old, mossy, gnarled half-dead spruce-tree, under which she paused for a moment to look up into the sky, was a marble column in a palace of the gods; the far dusky hills were the ramparts of a city of wonder. And for companions she had all the fairies of the countryside—for she could believe in them here—the fairies of the white clover and satin catkins, the little green folk of the grass, the elves of the young fir-trees, sprites of wind and wild fern and thistledown. Anything might happen there—everything might come true.
And the barrens were such a splendid place in which to play hide and seek with the Wind Woman. She was so veryrealthere; if you could just spring quickly enough around a little cluster of spruces—only you never could—you wouldseeher as well as feel her and hear her. There she was—thatwasthe sweep of her grey cloak—no, she was laughing up in the very top of the taller trees—and the chase was on again—till, all at once, it seemed as if the Wind Woman were gone—and the evening was bathed in a wonderful silence—and there was a sudden rift in the curdled clouds westward, and a lovely, pale, pinky-green lake of sky with a new moon in it.
Emily stood and looked at it with clasped hands and her little black head upturned. She must go home and write down a description of it in the yellow account book, where the last thing written had been, “Mike’s Biograffy.” It would hurt her with its beauty until she wrote it down. Then she would read it to Father. She must not forget how the tips of the trees on the hill came out like fine black lace across the edge of the pinky-green sky.
And then, for one glorious, supreme moment, came “the flash.”
Emily called it that, although she felt that the name didn’t exactly describe it. It couldn’t be described—not even to Father, who always seemed a little puzzled by it. Emily never spoke of it to any one else.
It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside—but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond—only a glimpse—and heard a note of unearthly music.
This moment came rarely—went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it—never summon it—never pretend it; but the wonder of it stayed with her for days. It never came twice with the same thing. To-night the dark boughs against that far-off sky had given it. It had come with a high, wild note of wind in the night, with a shadow wave over a ripe field, with a greybird lighting on her window-sill in a storm, with the singing of “Holy, holy, holy” in church, with a glimpse of the kitchen fire when she had come home on a dark autumn night, with the spirit-like blue of ice palms on a twilit pane, with a felicitous new word when she was writing down a “description” of something. And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.
She scuttled back to the house in the hollow, through the gathering twilight, all agog to get home and write down her “description” before the memory picture of what she had seen grew a little blurred. She knew just how she would begin it—the sentence seemed to shape itself in her mind: “The hill called to me and something in me called back to it.”
She found Ellen Greene waiting for her on the sunken front-doorstep. Emily was so full of happiness that she loved everything at that moment, even fat things of no importance. She flung her arms around Ellen’s knees and hugged them. Ellen looked down gloomily into the rapt little face, where excitement had kindled a faint wild-rose flush, and said, with a ponderous sigh: “Do you know that your pa has only a week or two more to live?”
Emily stood quite still and looked up at Ellen’s broad, red face—as still as if she had been suddenly turned to stone. She felt as if she had. She was as stunned as if Ellen had struck her a physical blow. The colour faded out of her little face and her pupils dilated until they swallowed up the irides and turned her eyes into pools of blackness. The effect was so startling that even Ellen Greene felt uncomfortable.
“I’m telling you this because I think it’s high time you was told,” she said. “I’ve been at your pa for months to tell you, but he’s kept putting it off and off. I says to him, says I, ‘You know how hard she takes things, and if you drop off suddent some day it’ll most kill her if she hasn’t been prepared. It’s your duty to prepare her,’ and he says, says he, ‘There’s time enough yet, Ellen.’ But he’s never said a word, and when the doctor told me last night that the end might come any time now, I just made up my mind thatI’d do what was right and drop a hint to prepare you. Laws-a-massy, child, don’t look like that! You’ll be looked after. Your ma’s people will see to that—on account of the Murray pride, if for no other reason. They won’t let one of their own blood starve or go to strangers—even if they have always hated your pa like p’isen. You’ll have a good home—better’n you’ve ever had here. You needn’t worry a mite. As for your pa, you ought to be thankful to see him at rest. He’s been dying by inches for the last five years. He’s kept it from you, but he’s been a great sufferer. Folks say his heart broke when your ma died—it came on him so suddent-like—she was only sick three days. That’s why I want you to know what’s coming, so’s you won’t be all upset when it happens. For mercy’s sake, Emily Byrd Starr, don’t stand there staring like that! You give me the creeps! You ain’t the first child that’s been left an orphan and you won’t be the last. Try and be sensible. And don’t go pestering your pa about what I’ve told you, mind that. Come you in now, out of the damp, and I’ll give you a cooky ‘fore you go to bed.”
Ellen stepped down as if to take the child’s hand. The power of motion returned to Emily—she must scream if Ellen even touched hernow. With one sudden, sharp, bitter little cry she avoided Ellen’s hand, darted through the door and fled up the dark staircase.
Ellen shook her head and waddled back to her kitchen.
“Anyhow, I’ve donemyduty,” she reflected. “He’d have just kept saying ‘time enough’ and put it off till he was dead and then there’d have been no managing her. She’ll have time now to get used to it, and she’ll brace up in a day or two. I will say for her she’s got spunk—which is lucky, from all I’ve heard of the Murrays. They won’t find it easy to overcrowher. She’s got a streak of their pride, too, and that’ll help her through. I wish I dared send some of the Murrays word that he’s dying, but I don’t dast go that far. There’s no telling whathe’d do. Well, I’ve stuck on here to the last and I ain’t sorry. Not many women would ‘a’ done it, living as they do here. It’s a shame the way that child’s been brought up—never even sent to school. Well, I’ve told him often enough what I’ve thought of it—it ain’t onmyconscience, that’s one comfort. Here, you Sal-thing, you git out! Where’s Mike, too?”
Ellen could not find Mike for the very good reason that he was upstairs with Emily, held tightly in her arms, as she sat in the darkness on her little cot bed. Amid her agony and desolation there was a certain comfort in the feel of his soft fur and round velvety head.
Emily was not crying; she stared straight into the darkness, trying to face the awful thing Ellen had told her. She did not doubt it—something told her it was true. Why couldn’t she die, too? She couldn’t go on living without Father.
“If I was God I wouldn’t let things like this happen,” she said.
She felt it was very wicked of her to say such a thing—Ellen had told her once that it was the wickedest thing any one could do to find fault with God. But she didn’t care. Perhaps if she were wicked enough God would strike her dead and then she and Father could keep on being together.
But nothing happened—only Mike got tired of being held so tightly and squirmed away. She was all alone now, with this terrible burning pain that seemed all over her and yet was not of the body. She could never get rid of it. She couldn’t help it by writing about it in the old yellow account book. She had written there about her Sunday School teacher going away, and of being hungry when she went to bed, and Ellen telling her she must be half crazy to talk of Wind Women and flashes; and after she had written down all about them these things hadn’t hurt her any more. But this couldn’t be written about. She could not even go to Father for comfort, as she had gone when she burned her hand so badly, picking up the red-hot poker by mistake. Father had held her in his arms all that night and told her stories and helped her to bear the pain. But Father, so Ellen had said, was going to die in a week or two. Emily felt as if Ellen had told her this years and years ago. It surely couldn’t be less than an hour since she had been playing with the Wind Woman in the barrens and looking at the new moon in the pinky-green sky.
“The flash will never come again—it can’t,” she thought.
But Emily had inherited certain things from her fine old ancestors—the power to fight—to suffer—to pity—to love very deeply—to rejoice—to endure. These things were all in her and looked out at you through her purplish-grey eyes. Her heritage of endurance came to her aid now and bore her up. She must not let Father know what Ellen had told her—it might hurt him. She must keep it all to herself andloveFather, oh, so much, in the little while she could yet have him.
She heard him cough in the room below: she must be in bed when he came up; she undressed as swiftly as her cold fingers permitted and crept into the little cot bed which stood across the open window. The voices of the gentle spring night called to her all unheeded—unheard the Wind Woman whistled by the eaves. For the fairies dwell only in the kingdom of Happiness; having no souls they cannot enter the kingdom of Sorrow.
She lay there cold and tearless and motionless when her father came into the room. How very slowly he walked—how very slowly he took off his clothes. How was it she had never noticed these things before? But he was not coughing at all. Oh, what if Ellen were mistaken?—what if—a wild hope shot through her aching heart. She gave a little gasp.
Douglas Starr came over to her bed. She felt his dear nearness as he sat down on the chair beside her, in his old red dressing-gown. Oh, how she loved him! There was no other Father like him in all the world—there never could have been—so tender, so understanding, so wonderful! They had always been such chums—they had loved each other so much—it couldn’t be that they were to be separated.
“Winkums, are you asleep?”
“No,” whispered Emily.
“Are you sleepy, small dear?”
Douglas Starr took her hand and held it tightly.
“Then we’ll have our talk, honey. I can’t sleep either. I want to tell you something.”
“Oh—I know it—I know it!” burst out Emily. “Oh, Father, I know it! Ellen told me.”
Douglas Starr was silent for a moment. Then he said under his breath, “The old fool—thefatold fool!”—as if Ellen’s fatness was an added aggravation of her folly. Again, for the last time, Emily hoped. Perhaps it was all a dreadful mistake—just some more of Ellen’s fat foolishness.
“It—it isn’t true, is it, Father?” she whispered.
“Emily, child,” said her father, “I can’t lift you up—I haven’t the strength—but climb up and sit on my knee—in the old way.”
Emily slipped out of bed and got on her father’s knee. He wrapped the old dressing-gown about her and held her close with his face against hers.
“Dear little child—little beloved Emilykin, it is quite true,” he said, “I meant to tell you myself to-night. And now that old absurdity of an Ellen has told you—brutally, I suppose—and hurt you dreadfully. She has the brain of a hen and the sensibility of a cow. May jackals sit on her grandmother’s grave!Iwouldn’t have hurt you, dear.”
Emily fought something down that wanted to choke her.
“Father, I can’t—I can’t bear it.”
“Yes, you can and will. You will live because there is something for you to do, I think. You have my gift—along with something I never had. You will succeed where I failed, Emily. I haven’t been able to do much for you, sweetheart, but I’ve done what I could. I’ve taught you something, I think—in spite of Ellen Greene. Emily, do you remember your mother?”
“Just a little—here and there—like lovely bits of dreams.”
“You were only four when she died. I’ve never talked much to you about her—I couldn’t. But I’m going to tell you all about her to-night. It doesn’t hurt me to talk of her now—I’ll see her so soon again. You don’t look like her, Emily—only when you smile. For the rest, you’re like your namesake, my mother. When you were born I wanted to call you Juliet, too. But your mother wouldn’t. She said if we called you Juliet then I’d soon take to calling her ‘Mother’ to distinguish between you, and she couldn’t endurethat. She said her Aunt Nancy had once said to her, ‘The first time your husband calls you “Mother” the romance of life is over.’ So we called you after my mother—hermaiden name was Emily Byrd. Your mother thought Emily the prettiest name in the world,—it was quaint and arch and delightful, she said. Emily, your mother was the sweetest woman ever made.”
His voice trembled and Emily snuggled close.
“I met her twelve years ago, when I was sub-editor of theEnterpriseup in Charlottetown and she was in her last year at Queen’s. She was tall and fair and blue-eyed. She looked a little like your Aunt Laura, but Laura was never so pretty. Their eyes were very much alike—and their voices. She was one of the Murrays from Blair Water. I’ve never told you much about your mother’s people, Emily. They live up on the old north shore at Blair Water on New Moon Farm—always have lived there since the first Murray came out from the Old Country in 1790. The ship he came on was called theNew Moonand he named his farm after her.”
“It’s a nice name—the new moon is such a pretty thing,” said Emily, interested for a moment.
“There’s been a Murray ever since at New Moon Farm. They’re a proud family—the Murray pride is a byword along the north shore, Emily. Well, they had some things to be proud of, that cannot be denied—but they carried it too far. Folks call them ‘the chosen people’ up there.
“They increased and multiplied and scattered all over, but the old stock at New Moon Farm is pretty well run out. Only your Aunts, Elizabeth and Laura, live there now, and their cousin, Jimmy Murray. They never married—could not find any one good enough for a Murray, so it used to be said. Your Uncle Oliver and your Uncle Wallace live in Summerside, your Aunt Ruth in Shrewsbury and your Great-Aunt Nancy at Priest Pond.”
“Priest Pond—that’s aninterestingname—not a pretty name like New Moon and Blair Water—but interesting,” said Emily. Feeling Father’s arm around her the horror had momentarily shrunk away. For just a little while she ceased to believe it.
Douglas Starr tucked the dressing-gown a little more closely around her, kissed her black head, and went on.
“Elizabeth and Laura and Wallace and Oliver and Ruth were old Archibald Murray’s children. His first wife was their mother. When he was sixty he married again—a young slip of a girl—who died when your mother was born. Juliet was twenty years younger than her half-family, as she used to call them. She was very pretty and charming and they all loved and petted her and were very proud of her. When she fell in love with me, a poor young journalist, with nothing in the world but his pen and his ambition, there was a family earthquake. The Murray pride couldn’t tolerate the thing at all. I won’t rake it all up—but things were said I could never forget or forgive. Your mother married me, Emily—and the New Moon people would have nothing more to do with her. Can you believe that, in spite of it, she was never sorry for marrying me?”
Emily put up her hand and patted her father’s hollow cheek.
“Of courseshe wouldn’t be sorry.Of courseshe’d rather have you than all the Murrays of any kind of a moon.”
Father laughed a little—and there was just a note of triumph in his laugh.
“Yes, she seemed to feel that way about it. And we were so happy—oh, Emilykin, there never were two happier people in the world. You were the child of that happiness. I remember the night you were born in the little house in Charlottetown. It was in May and a west wind was blowing silvery clouds over the moon. There was a star or two here and there. In our tiny garden—everything we had was small except our love and our happiness—it was dark and blossomy. I walked up and down the path between the beds of violets your mother had planted—and prayed. The pale east was just beginning to glow like a rosy pearl when some one came and told me I had a little daughter. I went in—and your mother, white and weak, smiled just that dear, slow, wonderful smile I loved, and said, ‘We’ve—got—the only—baby—of any importance—in—the world, dear. Just—think—of that!’”
“I wish people could remember from the very moment they’re born,” said Emily. “It would be so very interesting.”
“I dare say we’d have a lot of uncomfortable memories,” said her father, laughing a little. “It can’t be very pleasant getting used to living—no pleasanter than getting used to stopping it. But you didn’t seem to find it hard, for you were a good wee kidlet, Emily. We had four more happy years and then—do you remember the time your mother died, Emily?”
“I remember the funeral, Father—I remember itdistinctly. You were standing in the middle of a room, holding me in your arms, and Mother was lying just before us in a long, black box. And you were crying—and I couldn’t think why—and I wondered why Mother looked so white and wouldn’t open her eyes. And I leaned down and touched her cheek—and oh, it was so cold. It made me shiver. And somebody in the room said, ‘Poor little thing!’ and I was frightened and put my face down on your shoulder.”
“Yes, I recall that. Your mother died very suddenly. I don’t think we’ll talk about it. The Murrays all came to her funeral. The Murrays have certain traditions and they live up to them very strictly. One of them is that nothing but candles shall be burned for light at New Moon—and another is that no quarrel must be carried past the grave. They came when she was dead—they would have come when she was ill if they had known, I will say that much for them. And they behaved very well—oh, very well indeed. They were not the Murrays of New Moon for nothing. Your Aunt Elizabeth wore her best black satin dress to the funeral. For any funeral but a Murray’s the second best one would have done; and they made no serious objection when I said your mother would be buried in the Starr plot in Charlottetown cemetery. They would have liked to take her back to the old Murray burying-ground in Blair Water—they had their own private burying-ground, you know—no indiscriminate graveyard forthem. But your Uncle Wallace handsomely admitted that a woman should belong to her husband’s family in death as in life. And then they offered to take you and bring you up—to ‘give you your mother’s place.’ I refused to let them have you—then. Did I do right, Emily?”
“Yes—yes—yes!” whispered Emily, with a hug at every “yes.”
“I told Oliver Murray—it was he who spoke to me about you—that as long as I lived I would not be parted from my child. He said, ‘If you ever change your mind, let us know.’ But I did not change my mind—not even three years later when my doctor told me I must give up work. ‘If you don’t, I give you a year,’ he said, ‘if you do, and live out-of-doors all you can, I give you three—or possibly four.’ He was a good prophet. I came out here and we’ve had four lovely years together, haven’t we, small dear one?”
“Those years and what I’ve taught you in them are the only legacy I can leave you, Emily. We’ve been living on a tiny income I have from a life interest that was left me in an old uncle’s estate—an uncle who died before I was married. The estate goes to a charity now, and this little house is only a rented one. From a worldly point of view I’ve certainly been a failure. But your mother’s people will care for you—I know that. The Murray pride will guarantee so much, if nothing else. And they can’t help loving you. Perhaps I should have sent for them before—perhaps I ought to do it yet. But I have pride of a kind, too—the Starrs are not entirely traditionless—and the Murrays said some very bitter things to me when I married your mother. Will I send to New Moon and ask them to come, Emily?”
“No!” said Emily, almost fiercely.
She did not want any one to come between her and Father for the few precious days left. The thought was horrible to her. It would be bad enough if they had to come—afterwards. But she would not mind anything much—then.
“We’ll stay together to the very end, then, little Emily-child. We won’t be parted for a minute. And I want you to be brave. You mustn’t be afraid ofanything, Emily. Death isn’t terrible. The universe is full of love—and spring comes everywhere—and in death you open and shut a door. There are beautiful things on the other side of the door. I’ll find your mother there—I’ve doubted many things, but I’ve never doubtedthat. Sometimes I’ve been afraid that she would get so far ahead of me in the ways of eternity that I’d never catch up. But I feelnowthat she’s waiting for me. And we’ll wait for you—we won’t hurry—we’ll loiter and linger till you catch up with us.”
“I wish you—could take me right through the door with you,” whispered Emily.
“After a little while you won’t wish that. You have yet to learn how kind time is. And life has something for you—I feel it. Go forward to meet it fearlessly, dear. I know you don’t feel like that just now—but you will remember my words by and by.”
“I feel just now,” said Emily, who couldn’t bear to hide anything from Father, “that I don’t like God any more.”
Douglas Starr laughed—the laugh Emily liked best. It was such a dear laugh—she caught her breath over the dearness of it. She felt his arms tightening round her.
“Yes, you do, honey. You can’t help liking God. He is Love itself, you know. You mustn’t mix Him up with Ellen Greene’s God, of course.”
Emily didn’t know exactly what Father meant. But all at once she found that she wasn’t afraid any longer—and the bitterness had gone out of her sorrow, and the unbearable pain out of her heart. She felt as if love was all about her and around her, breathed out from some great, invisible, hovering Tenderness. One couldn’t be afraid or bitter where love was—and love was everywhere. Father was going through the door—no, he was going to lift a curtain—she likedthatthought better, because a curtain wasn’t as hard and fast as a door—and he would slip into that world of which the flash had given her glimpses. He would be there in its beauty—never very far away from her. She could bear anything if she could only feel that Father wasn’t very far away from her—just beyond that wavering curtain.
Douglas Starr held her until she fell asleep; and then in spite of his weakness he managed to lay her down in her little bed.
“She will love deeply—she will suffer terribly—she will have glorious moments to compensate—as I have had. As her mother’s people deal with her, so may God deal with them,” he murmured brokenly.
Douglas Starr lived two weeks more. In after years when the pain had gone out of their recollection, Emily thought they were the most precious of her memories. They were beautiful weeks—beautiful and not sad. And one night, when he was lying on the couch in the sitting-room, with Emily beside him in the old wing-chair, he went past the curtain—went so quietly and easily that Emily did not know he was gone until she suddenly felt the strangestillnessof the room—there was no breathing in it but her own.
“Father—Father!” she cried. Then she screamed for Ellen.
Ellen Greene told the Murrays when they came that Emily had behaved real well, when you took everything into account. To be sure, she had cried all night and hadn’t slept a wink; none of the Maywood people who came flocking kindly in to help could comfort her; but when morning came her tears were all shed. She was pale and quiet and docile.
“That’s right, now,” said Ellen, “that’s what comes of being properly prepared. Your pa was so mad at me for warning you that he wasn’t rightly civil to me since—and him a dying man. But I don’t hold any grudge against him.Idid my duty. Mrs. Hubbard’s fixing up a black dress for you and it’ll be ready by supper time. Your ma’s people will be here tonight, so they’ve telegraphed, and I’m bound they’ll find you looking respectable. They’re well off and they’ll provide for you. Your pa hasn’t left a cent but there ain’t any debts, I’ll saythatfor him. Have you been in to see the body?”
“Don’t call himthat,” cried Emily, wincing. It was horrible to hear Father calledthat.
“Why not? If you ain’t the queerest child! He makes a better looking corpse than I thought he would, what with being so wasted and all. He was always a pretty man, though too thin.”
“Ellen Greene,” said Emily suddenly, “if you say any more of—those things—about Father, I will put the black curse on you!”
Ellen Greene stared.
“I don’t know what on earth you mean. But that’s no way to talk to me, after all I’ve done for you. You’d better not let the Murrays hear you talking like that or they won’t want much to do with you. The black curse indeed! Well, here’s gratitude!”
Emily’s eyes smarted. She was just a lonely, solitary little creature and she felt very friendless. But she was not at all remorseful for what she had said to Ellen and she was not going to pretend she was.
“Come you here and help me wash these dishes,” ordered Ellen. “It’ll do you good to have something to take up your mind and then you won’t be after putting curses on people who have worked their fingers to the bone for you.”
Emily, with an eloquent glance at Ellen’s hands, went and got the dish towel.
“Your hands are fat and pudgy,” she said. “The bones don’t show at all.”
“Never mind sassing back! It’s awful, with your poor pa dead in there. But if your Aunt Ruth takes you she’ll soon cure you of that.”
“Is Aunt Ruth going to take me?”
“I don’t know, but she ought to. She’s a widow with no chick or child, and well-to-do.”
“I don’t think I want Aunt Ruth to take me,” said Emily deliberately, after a moment’s reflection.
“Well,youwon’t have the choosing likely. You ought to be thankful to get a home anywhere. Remember you’re not of much importance.”
“I am important to myself,” cried Emily proudly.
“It’ll be some chore to bringyouup,” muttered Ellen. “Your Aunt Ruth is the one to do it, in my opinion.Shewon’t stand no nonsense. A fine woman she is and the neatest housekeeper on P. E. Island. You could eat off her floor.”
“I don’t want to eat off her floor. I don’t care if a floor is dirty as long as the tablecloth is clean.”
“Well, her tablecloths are clean too, I reckon. She’s got an elegant house in Shrewsbury with bow windows and wooden lace all round the roof. It’s very stylish. It would be a fine home for you. She’d learn you some sense and do you a world of good.”
“I don’t want to learn sense and be done a world of good to,” cried Emily with a quivering lip. “I—I want somebody to love me.”
“Well, you’ve got to behave yourself if you want people to like you. You’re not to blame so much—your pa has spoiled you. I told him so often enough, but he just laughed. I hope he ain’t sorry for it now. The fact is, Emily Starr, you’re queer, and folks don’t care for queer children.”
“How am I queer?” demanded Emily.
“You talk queer—and you act queer—and at times you look queer. And you’re too old for your age—though that ain’tyourfault. It comes of never mixing with other children. I’ve always threaped at your father to send you to school—learning at home ain’t the same thing—but he wouldn’t listen to me, of course. I don’t say but what you are as far along in book learning as you need to be, but what you want is to learn how to be like other children. In one way it would be a good thing if your Uncle Oliver would take you, for he’s got a big family. But he’s not as well off as the rest, so it ain’t likely he will. Your Uncle Wallace might, seeing as he reckons himself the head of the family. He’s only got a grown-up daughter. But his wife’s delicate—or fancies she is.”
“I wish Aunt Laura would take me,” said Emily. She remembered that Father had said Aunt Laura was something like her mother.
“Aunt Laura!Shewon’t have no say in it—Elizabeth’s boss at New Moon. Jimmy Murray runs the farm, but he ain’t quite all there, I’m told—”
“What part of him isn’t there?” asked Emily curiously.
“Laws, it’s something about his mind, child. He’s a bit simple—some accident or other when he was a youngster, I’ve heard. It addled his head, kind of. Elizabeth was mixed up in it some way—I’ve never heard the rights of it. I don’t reckon the New Moon people will want to be bothered with you. They’re awful set in their ways. You take my advice and try to please your Aunt Ruth. Be polite—and well-behaved—mebbe she’ll take a fancy to you. There, that’s all the dishes. You’d better go upstairs and be out of the way.”
“Can I take Mike and Saucy Sal?” asked Emily.
“No, you can’t.”
“They’d be company for me,” pleaded Emily.
“Company or no company, you can’t have them. They’re outside and they’ll stay outside. I ain’t going to have them tracking all over the house. The floor’s been scrubbed.”
“Why didn’t you scrub the floor when Father was alive?” asked Emily. “He liked things to be clean. You hardly ever scrubbed it then. Why do you do it now?”
“Listen to her! Was I to be always scrubbing floors with my rheumatiz? Get off upstairs and you’d better lie down awhile.”
“I’m going upstairs, but I’m not going to lie down,” said Emily. “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”
“There’s one thing I’d advise you to do,” said Ellen, determined to lose no chance of doing her duty, “and that is to kneel down and pray to God to make you a good and respectful and grateful child.”
Emily paused at the foot of the stairs and looked back.
“Father said I wasn’t to have anything to do with your God,” she said gravely.
Ellen gasped foolishly, but could not think of any reply to this heathenish statement. She appealed to the universe.
“Did any one ever hear the like!”
“I know whatyourGod is like,” said Emily. “I saw His picture in that Adam-and-Eve book of yours. He has whiskers and wears a nightgown. I don’t like Him. But I like Father’s God.”
“And what is your father’s God like, if I may ask?” demanded Ellen sarcastically.
Emily hadn’t any idea what Father’s God was like, but she was determined not to be posed by Ellen.
“He is clear as the moon, fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,” she said triumphantly.
“Well, you’re bound to have the last word, but the Murrays will teach you what’s what,” said Ellen, giving up the argument. “They’re strict Presbyterians and won’t hold by any of your father’s awful notions. Get off upstairs.”
Emily went up to the south room, feeling very desolate.
“There isn’t anybody in the world who loves me now,” she said, as she curled up on her bed by the window. But she was determined she would not cry. The Murrays, who had hated her father, should not see her crying. She felt that she detested them all—except perhaps Aunt Laura. How very big and empty the world had suddenly become. Nothing was interesting any more. It did not matter that the little squat apple-tree between Adam-and-Eve had become a thing of rose-and-snow beauty—that the hills beyond the hollow were of green silk, purple-misted—that the daffodils were out in the garden—that the birches were hung all over with golden tassels—that the Wind Woman was blowing white young clouds across the sky. None of these things had any charm or consolation for her now. In her inexperience she believed they never would have again.
“But I promised Father I’d be brave,” she whispered, clenching her little fists, “and I will. And Iwon’tlet the Murrays see I’m afraid of them—I won’tbeafraid of them!”
When the far-off whistle of the afternoon train blew beyond the hills, Emily’s heart began to beat. She clasped her hands and lifted her face.
“Please help me, Father’s God—notEllen’s God,” she said. “Help me to be brave and not cry before the Murrays.”
Soon after there was the sound of wheels below—and voices—loud, decided voices. Then Ellen came puffing up the stairs with the black dress—a sleazy thing of cheap merino.
“Mrs. Hubbard just got it done in time, thanks be. I wouldn’t ‘a’ had the Murrays see you not in black for the world. They can’t say I haven’t done my duty. They’re all here—the New Moon people and Oliver and his wife, your Aunt Addie, and Wallace and his wife, your Aunt Eva, and Aunt Ruth—Mrs. Dutton,hername is. There, you’re ready now. Come along.”
“Can’t I put my Venetian beads on?” asked Emily.
“Did ever any mortal! Venetian beads with a mourning dress! Shame on you! Is this a time to be thinking of vanity?”
“It isn’t vanity!” cried Emily. “Father gave me those beads last Christmas—and I want to show the Murrays that I’ve gotsomething!”
“No more of your nonsense! Come along, I say! Mind your manners—there’s a good deal depends on the impression you make on them.”
Emily walked rigidly downstairs before Ellen and into the parlour. Eight people were sitting around it—and she instantly felt the critical gaze of sixteen stranger eyes. She looked very pale and plain in her black dress; the purple shadows left by weeping made her large eyes look too large and hollow. She was desperately afraid, and she knew it—but she would not let the Murrays see it. She held up her head and faced the ordeal before her gallantly.
“This,” said Ellen, turning her around by the shoulder, “is your Uncle Wallace.”
Emily shuddered and put out a cold hand. She did not like Uncle Wallace—she knew that at once—he was black and grim and ugly, with frowning, bristly brows and a stern, unpitying mouth. He had big pouches under his eyes, and carefully-trimmed black side-whiskers. Emily decided then and there that she did not admire side-whiskers.
“How do you do, Emily?” he said coldly—and just as coldly he bent forward and kissed her cheek.
A sudden wave of indignation swept over Emily’s soul. Howdaredhe kiss her—he had hated her father and disowned her mother! She would have none of his kisses! Flash-quick, she snatched her handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her outraged cheek.
“Well—well!” exclaimed a disagreeable voice from the other side of the room.
Uncle Wallace looked as if he would like to say a great many things but couldn’t think of them. Ellen, with a grunt of despair, propelled Emily to the next sitter.
“Your Aunt Eva,” she said.
Aunt Eva was sitting huddled up in a shawl. She had the fretful face of the imaginary invalid. She shook hands with Emily and said nothing. Neither did Emily.
“Your Uncle Oliver,” announced Ellen.
Emily rather liked Uncle Oliver’s appearance. He was big and fat and rosy and jolly-looking. She thought she would not mind so much ifhekissed her, in spite of his bristly white moustache. But Uncle Oliver had learned Uncle Wallace’s lesson.
“I’ll give you a quarter for a kiss,” he whispered genially. A joke was Uncle Oliver’s idea of being kind and sympathetic, but Emily did not know this, and resented it.
“I don’tsellmy kisses,” she said, lifting her head as haughtily as any Murray of them all could do.
Uncle Oliver chuckled and seemed infinitely amused and not a bit offended. But Emily heard a sniff across the room.
Aunt Addie was next. She was as fat and rosy and jolly-looking as her husband and she gave Emily’s cold hand a nice, gentle squeeze.
“How are you, dear?” she said.
That “dear” touched Emily and thawed her a trifle. But the next in turn froze her up instantly again. It was Aunt Ruth—Emily knew it was Aunt Ruth before Ellen said so, and she knew it was Aunt Ruth who had “well—welled” and sniffed. She knew the cold, grey eyes, the prim, dull brown hair, the short, stout figure, the thin, pinched, merciless mouth.
Aunt Ruth held out the tips of her fingers, but Emily did not take them.
“Shake hands with your Aunt,” said Ellen in an angry whisper.
“She does not want to shake hands with me,” said Emily, distinctly, “and so I am not going to do it.”
Aunt Ruth folded her scorned hands back on her black silk lap.
“You are a very ill-bred child,” she said; “but of course it was only what was to be expected.”
Emily felt a sudden compunction. Had she cast a reflection on her father by her behaviour? Perhaps after all she should have shaken hands with Aunt Ruth. But it was too late now—Ellen had already jerked her on.
“This is your Cousin, Mr. James Murray,” said Ellen, in the disgusted tone of one who gives up something as a bad job and is only anxious to be done with it.
“Cousin Jimmy—Cousin Jimmy,” said that individual. Emily looked steadily at him, and liked him at once without any reservations.
He had a little, rosy, elfish face with a forked grey beard; his hair curled over his head in a most un-Murray-like mop of glossy brown; and his large, brown eyes were as kind and frank as a child’s. He gave Emily a hearty handshake, though he looked askance at the lady across from him while doing it.
“Hello, pussy!” he said.
Emily began to smile at him, but her smile was, as always, so slow in developing that Ellen had whisked her on before it was in full flower, and it was Aunt Laura who got the benefit of it. Aunt Laura started and paled.
“Juliet’s smile!” she said, half under her breath. And again Aunt Ruth sniffed.
Aunt Laura did not look like any one else in the room. She was almost pretty, with her delicate features and the heavy coils of pale, sleek, fair hair, faintly greyed, pinned closely all around her head. But it was her eyes that won Emily. They were such round blue,blueeyes. One never quite got over the shock of their blueness. And when she spoke it was in a beautiful, soft voice.
“You poor, dear, little child,” she said, and put her arm around Emily for a gentle hug.
Emily returned the hug and had a narrow escape then from letting the Murrays see her cry. All that saved her was the fact that Ellen suddenly pushed her on into the corner by the window.
“And this is your Aunt Elizabeth.”
Yes, this was Aunt Elizabeth. No doubt about that—and she had on a stiff, black satin dress, so stiff and rich that Emily felt sure it must be her very best. This pleased Emily. Whatever Aunt Elizabeth thought of her father, at least she had paid him the respect of her best dress. And Aunt Elizabeth was quite fine looking in a tall, thin, austere style, with clear-cut features and a massive coronet of iron-grey hair under her black lace cap. But her eyes, though steel-blue, were as cold as Aunt Ruth’s, and her long thin mouth was compressed severely. Under her cool, appraising glance Emily retreated into herself and shut the door of her soul. She would have liked to please Aunt Elizabeth—who was “boss” at New Moon—but she felt she could not do it.
Aunt Elizabeth shook hands and said nothing—the truth being that she did not know exactly what to say. Elizabeth Murray would not have felt “put about”
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