The High School concert in aid of the school library was an annual event i_hrewsbury, coming off in early April, before it was necessary to settle dow_o hard study for spring examinations. This year it was at first intended t_ave the usual programme of music and readings with a short dialogue. Emil_as asked to take part in the latter and agreed, after securing Aunt Ruth'_ery grudging consent, which would probably never have been secured if Mis_ylmer had not come in person to plead for it. Miss Aylmer was a granddaughte_f Senator Aylmer and Aunt Ruth yielded to family what she would have yielde_o nothing else. Then Miss Aylmer suggested cutting out most of the music an_ll of the readings and having a short play instead. This found favour in th_yes of the students and the change was made forthwith. Emily was cast for _art that suited her, so she became keenly interested in the matter an_njoyed the practices, which were held in the school building two evenings o_he week under the chaperonage of Miss Aylmer.
The play created quite a stir in Shrewsbury. Nothing so ambitious had bee_ndertaken by the High School students before: it became known that many o_he Queen's Academy students were coming up from Charlottetown on the evenin_rain to see it. This drove the performers half wild. The Queen's student_ere old hands at putting on plays. Of course they came to criticize. I_ecame a fixed obsession with each member of the cast to make the play as goo_s any of the Queen's Academy plays had been, and every nerve was strained t_hat end. Kate Errol's sister, who was a graduate of a school of oratory, coached them and when the evening of the performance arrived there was burnin_xcitement in the various homes and boarding-houses of Shrewsbury.
Emily, in her small, candle-lighted room, looked at Emily-in-the-Glass wit_onsiderable satisfaction—a satisfaction that was quite justifiable. Th_carlet flush of her cheeks, the deepening darkness of her grey eyes, came ou_rilliantly above the ashes-of-roses gown, and the little wreath of silve_eaves, twisted around her black hair, made her look like a young dryad. Sh_id not, however, _feel_ like a dryad. Aunt Ruth had made her take off he_ace stockings and put on cashmere ones—had tried, indeed, to make her put o_oollen ones, but had gone down in defeat on that point, retrieving he_osition, however, by insisting on a flannel petticoat.
"Horrid bunchy thing," thought Emily resentfully—meaning the petticoat, o_ourse. But the skirts of the day were full and Emily's slenderness coul_arry even a thick flannel petticoat.
She was just fastening her Egyptian chain around her neck when Aunt Rut_talked in.
One glance was sufficient to reveal that Aunt Ruth was very angry.
"Em'ly, Mrs. Ball has just called. She told me something that amazed me. I_his a _play_ you're taking part in to-night?"
"Of course it's a play, Aunt Ruth. Surely you knew that."
"When you asked my permission to take part in this concert you told me it wa_ _dialogue,"_ said Aunt Ruth icily.
"O-o-h—but Miss Aylmer decided to have a little play in place of it. _thought_ you knew, Aunt Ruth—truly I did. I thought I mentioned it to you."
"You didn't think anything of the kind, Em'ly—you deliberately kept me i_gnorance because you knew I wouldn't have allowed you to take part in _play."_
"Indeed, no, Aunt Ruth," pleaded Emily, gravely. "I never thought of hidin_t. Of course, I didn't feel like talking much to you about it because I kne_ou didn't approve of the concert at all."
When Emily spoke gravely Aunt Ruth always thought she was impudent.
"This crowns all, Em'ly. Sly as I've always known you to be I wouldn't hav_elieved you could be as sly as this."
"There was nothing of the kind about it, Aunt Ruth!" said Emily impatiently.
"It would have been silly of me to try to hide the fact that we were gettin_p a play when all Shrewsbury is talking of it. I don't see how you coul_help_ hearing of it."
"You knew I wasn't going anywhere because of my bronchitis. Oh, I see throug_t all, Em'ly. You cannot deceive _me."_
"I haven't tried to deceive you. I thought you knew—that is all there is t_t. I thought the reason you never spoke of it was because you were opposed t_he whole thing. That is the truth, Aunt Ruth. What difference is ther_etween a dialogue and a play?"
"There is _every_ difference," said Aunt Ruth. "Plays are wicked."
"But this is such a _little_ one," pleaded Emily despairingly—and the_aughed because it sounded so ridiculously like the nursemaid's excuse i_Midshipman Easy._ Her sense of humour was untimely; her laughter infuriate_unt Ruth.
"Little or big, you are not going to take part in it."
Emily stared again, paling a little.
"Aunt Ruth—I _must_ —why, the play would be ruined."
"Better a play ruined than a soul ruined," retorted Aunt Ruth.
Emily dared not smile. The issue at stake was too serious.
"Don't be so—so—indignant, Aunt Ruth"—she had nearly said unjust. "I am sorr_ou don't approve of plays—I won't take part in any more—but you can see _must_ do it to-night."
"Oh, my dear Em'ly, I don't think you are quite as indispensable as al_that."_
Certainly Aunt Ruth was very maddening. How disagreeable the word "dear" coul_e! Still was Emily patient.
"I really am—to-night. You see, they couldn't get a substitute at the las_oment. Miss Aylmer would never forgive me."
"Do you care more about Miss Aylmer's forgiveness than God's?" demanded Aun_uth with the air of one stating a decisive position.
"Yes—than _your_ God's," muttered Emily, unable to keep her patience unde_uch insensate questions.
"Have you no respect for your forefathers?" was Aunt Ruth's next relevan_uery. "Why, if they knew a descendant of theirs was play-acting they woul_urn over in their graves!"
Emily favoured Aunt Ruth with a sample of the Murray look.
"It would be excellent exercise for them. I am going to take my part in th_lay to-night, Aunt Ruth."
Emily spoke quietly, looking down from her young height with resolute eyes.
Aunt Ruth felt a nasty sense of helplessness: there was no lock to Emily'_oor—and she couldn't detain her by physical force.
"If you go, you needn't come back here to-night," she said, pale with rage.
"This house is locked at nine o'clock."
"If I don't come back here to-night, I won't come at all." Emily was too angr_ver Aunt Ruth's unreasonable attitude to care for consequences. "If you loc_e out I'll go back to New Moon. _They_ know all about the play there—eve_unt Elizabeth was willing for me to take part."
She caught up her coat and jammed the little red-feather hat, which Uncl_liver's wife had given her at Christmas, down on her head. Aunt Addie's tast_as not approved at New Moon but the hat was very becoming and Emily loved it.
Aunt Ruth suddenly realized that Emily looked oddly mature and grown-up in it.
But the knowledge did not as yet dampen her anger. Em'ly was gone—Em'ly ha_ared to defy her and disobey her—sly, underhand Em'ly—Em'ly must be taught _esson.
At nine o'clock a stubborn, outraged Aunt Ruth locked all the doors and wen_o bed.
The play was a big success. Even the Queen's students admitted that an_pplauded generously. Emily threw herself into her part with a fire and energ_enerated by her encounter with Aunt Ruth, which swept away all hamperin_onsciousness of flannel petticoats and agreeably astonished Miss Errol, whos_ne criticism of Emily's acting had been that she was rather cold and reserve_n a part that called for more abandon. Emily was showered with compliments a_he close of the performance. Even Evelyn Blake said graciously,
"Really, dear, you are quite wonderful—a star actress—a poet—a buddin_ovelist—what surprise will you give us next?"
Thought Emily, "Condescending, insufferable creature!"
Said Emily, _"Thank_ you!"
There was a happy, triumphant walk home with Teddy, a gay good night at th_ate, and then—the locked door.
Emily's anger, which had been sublimated during the evening into energy an_mbition, suddenly flared up again, sweeping everything before it. It wa_nbearable to be treated thus. She had endured enough at Aunt Ruth'_ands—this was the proverbial last straw. One could not put up wit_everything,_ even to get an education. One owed _something_ to one'_ignity and self-respect.
There were three things she could do. She could thump the old-fashioned bras_nocker on the door until Aunt Ruth came down and let her in, as she had don_nce before—and then endure weeks of slurs because of it. She could fly up- street and down-street to Ilse's boarding-house—the girls wouldn't be in be_et—as she had likewise done once before, and as no doubt Aunt Ruth woul_xpect her to do now; and then Mary Carswell would tell Evelyn Blake an_velyn Blake would laugh maliciously and tell it all through the school. Emil_ad no intention of doing either of these things; she knew from the moment sh_ound the door locked just what she would do. She would walk to New Moon—an_tay there! Months of suppressed chafing under Aunt Ruth's perpetual sting_urst into a conflagration of revolt. Emily marched out of the gate, slamme_t shut behind her with no Murray dignity but plenty of Starr passion, an_tarted on her seven-mile walk through the midnight. Had it been three time_even she would have started just the same.
So angry was she, and so angry she continued to be, that the walk did not see_ong, nor, though she had no wrap save her cloth coat, did she feel the col_f the sharp April night.
The winter's snow had gone but the bare road was hard-frozen and rough—n_ainty footing for the thin kid slippers of Cousin Jimmy's Christmas box.
Emily reflected with what she considered a grim, sarcastic laugh that it wa_ell, after all, that Aunt Ruth had insisted on cashmere stockings and flanne_etticoat.
There was a moon that night, but the sky was covered with curdled grey clouds, and the harsh, bleak landscape lay dourly in the pallid grey light. The win_ame across it in sudden, moaning gusts. Emily felt with considerable dramati_atisfaction that the night harmonized with her stormy, tragic mood.
She would _never_ go back to Aunt Ruth's that was certain. No matter wha_unt Elizabeth might say—and she _would_ say aplenty, no doubt of that—n_atter what anyone would say. If Aunt Elizabeth would not let her go anywher_lse to board she would give up school altogether. She knew it would cause _remendous upheaval at New Moon. Never mind. In her very reckless moo_pheavals seemed welcome things. It was time somebody upheaved. She would no_umiliate herself another day—that she would not! Aunt Ruth had gone too fa_t last. You could not safely drive a Starr to desperation.
"I have done with Ruth Dutton for ever," vowed Emily, feeling a tremendou_atisfaction in leaving off the "Aunt."
As she drew near home the clouds cleared away suddenly, and when she turne_nto the New Moon lane the austere beauty of the three tall Lombardies agains_he moonlit sky made her catch her breath. Oh, how wonderful! For a moment sh_lmost forgot her wrongs and Aunt Ruth. Then bitterness rushed over her sou_gain—not even the magic of the Three Princesses could charm it away.
There was a light shining out of the New Moon kitchen window, falling on th_all, white birches in Lofty John's bush with spectral effect. Emily wondere_ho could be up at New Moon: she had expected to find it in darkness and ha_eant to slip in by the front door and up to her own dear room, leavin_xplanations to the morning. Aunt Elizabeth always locked and barred th_itchen door every night with great ceremony before retiring, but the fron_oor was never locked. Tramps and burglars would surely never be so ill- mannered as to come to the front door of New Moon.
Emily crossed the garden and peeped through the kitchen window. Cousin Jimm_as there alone, sitting by the table, with two candles for company. On th_able was a stoneware crock and just as Emily looked in he absently put hi_and into it and drew out a chubby doughnut. Cousin Jimmy's eyes were fixed o_ big beef ham hanging from the ceiling and Cousin Jimmy's lips move_oundlessly. There was no reasonable doubt that Cousin Jimmy was composin_oetry, though why he was doing it at that hour o' night was a puzzle.
Emily slipped around the house, opened the kitchen door gently, and walked in.
Poor Cousin Jimmy in his amazement tried to swallow half a doughnut whole an_hen couldn't speak for several seconds. Was _this_ Emily—or an apparition?
Emily in a dark-blue coat, an enchanting little red-feather hat—Emily wit_indblown night-black hair and tragic eyes—Emily with tattered kid slippers o_er feet—Emily in this plight at New Moon when she should have been soun_sleep on her maiden couch in Shrewsbury?
Cousin Jimmy seized the cold hands Emily held out to him.
"Emily, dear child, what has happened?"
"Well, just to jump into the middle of things—I've left Aunt Ruth's and I'_ot going back."
Cousin Jimmy didn't say anything for a few moments. But he did a few things.
First he tiptoed across the kitchen and carefully shut the sitting-room door; then he gently filled the stove up with wood, drew a chair up to it, pushe_mily into it and lifted her cold, ragged feet to the hearth. Then he lighte_wo more candles and put them on the chimney-piece. Finally he sat down in hi_hair again and put his hands on his knees.
"Now, tell me all about it."
Emily, still in the throes of rebellion and indignation, told it pretty fully.
As soon as Cousin Jimmy got an inkling of what had really happened he began t_hake his head slowly—continued to shake it—shook it so long and gravely tha_mily began to feel an uncomfortable conviction that instead of being _ronged, dramatic figure she was by way of being a bit of a little fool. Th_onger Cousin Jimmy shook his head the smaller grew her heroics. When she ha_inished her story with a defiant, conclusive "I'm _not_ going back to Aun_uth's, anyhow," Cousin Jimmy gave a final wag to his head and pushed th_rock across the table.
"Have a doughnut, pussy."
Emily hesitated. She was very fond of doughnuts—and it had been a long tim_ince she had her supper. But doughnuts seemed out of keeping with rebellio_nd tumult. They were decidedly reactionary in their tendencies. Some vagu_limmering of this made Emily refuse the doughnut.
Cousin Jimmy took one himself.
"So you're not going back to Shrewsbury?"
"Not to Aunt Ruth's," said Emily.
"It's the same thing," said Cousin Jimmy.
Emily knew it was. She knew it was of no use to hope that Aunt Elizabeth woul_et her board elsewhere.
"And you walked all the way home over those roads." Cousin Jimmy shook hi_ead. "Well, you _have_ spunk. Heaps of it," he added meditatively betwee_ites.
"Do you blame me?" demanded Emily passionately—all the more passionatel_ecause she felt some inward support had been shaken away by Cousin Jimmy'_ead.
"No-o-o, it was a durn mean shame to lock you out—just like Ruth Dutton."
"And you see—don't you—that I can't go back after such an insult?"
Cousin Jimmy nibbled at the doughnut cautiously, as if bent on trying to se_ow near he could nibble to the hole without actually breaking through.
"I don't think any of your grandmothers would have given up a chance for a_ducation so easily," he said. "Not on the Murray side, anyhow," he adde_fter a moment's reflection, which apparently reminded him that he knew to_ittle about the Starrs to dogmatize concerning them.
Emily sat very still. As Teddy would have said in cricket parlance, Cousi_immy had got her middle wicket with the first ball. She felt at once tha_hen Cousin Jimmy, in that diabolical fit of inspiration, dragged he_randmothers in, everything was over but the precise terms of surrender. Sh_ould see them all around her—the dear, dead ladies of New Moon—Mary Shiple_nd Elizabeth Burnley, and all the rest—mild, determined, restrained, lookin_own with something of contemptuous pity on her, their foolish, impulsiv_escendant. Cousin Jimmy appeared to think there might be some weakness on th_tarr side. Well, there wasn't—she would show him!
She _had_ expected more sympathy from Cousin Jimmy. She had known Aun_lizabeth would condemn her and even Aunt Laura would look disappointe_uestion. But she had counted on Cousin Jimmy taking her part. He always ha_efore.
"My grandmothers never had to put up with Aunt Ruth," she flung at him.
"They had to put up with your grandfathers." Cousin Jimmy appeared to thin_hat this was conclusive—as anyone who had known Archibald and Hugh Murra_ight have very well thought.
"Cousin Jimmy, do you think I ought to go back and accept Aunt Ruth's scoldin_nd go on as if this had never happened?"
"What do _you_ think about it?" asked Cousin Jimmy. _"Do_ take a doughnut, pussy."
This time Emily took the doughnut. She might as well have some comfort. Now, you can't eat doughnuts and remain dramatic. Try it.
Emily slipped from her peak of tragedy to the valley of petulance.
"Aunt Ruth has been _abominable_ these past two months—ever since he_ronchitis has prevented her from going out. You don't know _what_ it's bee_ike."
"Oh, I do—I do. Ruth Dutton never made anyone feel better pleased wit_erself. Feet getting warm, Emily?"
"I _hate_ her," cried Emily, still grasping after self-justification. "It'_orrible to live in the same house with anyone you hate—"
"Poisonous," agreed Cousin Jimmy.
"And it _isn't_ my fault. I _have_ tried to like her—tried to pleas_er—she's always twitting me—she attributes mean motives to everything I do o_ay—or _don't_ do or say. I've never heard the last of sitting in the corne_f the pew—and failing to get a star pin. She's always _hinting_ insults t_y father and mother. And she's always _forgiving_ me for things I haven'_one—or that don't need forgiveness."
"Aggravating—very," conceded Cousin Jimmy.
"Aggravating—you're right. I know if I go back she'll say 'I'll forgive yo_his time, but don't let it happen again.' And she will _sniff_ —oh, Aun_uth's sniff is the hatefulest sound in the world!"
"Ever hear a dull knife sawing through thick cardboard?" murmured Cousi_immy.
Emily ignored him and swept on.
"I can't be _always_ in the wrong—but Aunt Ruth thinks I am—and says she has
'to make allowances' for me. She doses me with cod-liver oil—she never lets m_o out in the evening if she can help it—'consumptives should never be ou_fter eight o clock.' If _she_ is cold, _I_ must put on an extr_etticoat. She is always asking disagreeable questions and refusing to believ_y answers. She believes and always will believe that I kept this play _ecret from her because of slyness. I never thought of such a thing. Why, th_hrewsbury _Times_ referred to it last week. Aunt Ruth doesn't often mis_nything in the _Times._ She twitted me for days because she found _omposition of mine that I had signed 'Emilie.' 'Better try to spell your nam_fter some unheard-of-twist,' she sneered!"
"Well, wasn't it a bit silly, pussy?"
"Oh, I suppose my grandmothers wouldn't have done it! But Aunt Ruth needn'_ave kept it up as she did. _That_ is what is so dreadful—if she'd speak he_ind on a thing and have done with it. Why, I got a little spot of iron-rus_n my white petticoat and Aunt Ruth harped on it for weeks. She was determine_o find out _when_ it was rusted and _how_ —and I hadn't the least idea.
Really, Cousin Jimmy, when this had gone on for three weeks I thought I'd hav_o scream if she mentioned it again."
_"Any_ proper person would feel the same," said Cousin Jimmy to the beef ham.
"Oh, any _one_ of these things is only a pin-prick, I know—and you think I'_illy to mind it—but—"
"No, no. A hundred pin-pricks would be harder to put up with than a broke_eg. _I'd_ sooner be knocked on the head and be done with it."
"Yes, that's it—nothing but pin-pricks all the time. She won't let Ilse com_o the house—or Teddy, or Perry—nobody but that stupid Andrew. I'm so tired o_im. She wouldn't let me go to the Prep dance. They had a sleigh drive an_upper at the Brown Teapot Inn and a little dance—everybody went but me—it wa_he event of the winter. If I go for a walk in the Land of Uprightness a_unset she is sure there is something sinister in it— _she_ never wants t_alk in the Land of Uprightness, so why should _I_? She says I have got to_igh an opinion of myself. I _haven't_ — _have_ I, Cousin Jimmy?"
"No," said Cousin Jimmy thoughtfully. "High—but not _too_ high."
"She says I'm always displacing things—if I look out of a window she'll tro_cross the room and mathematically match the corners of the curtains again.
And it's 'Why—why—why'—all the time, _all_ the time, Cousin Jimmy."
"I know you feel a lot better now that you've got all that out of you_ystem," said Cousin Jimmy. "'Nother doughnut?"
Emily, with a sigh of surrender, took her feet off the stove and moved over t_he table. The crock of doughnuts was between her and Cousin Jimmy. She _was_ery hungry.
"Ruth give you enough to eat?" queried Cousin Jimmy anxiously.
"Oh, yes. Aunt Ruth keeps up one New Moon tradish at least. She has a goo_able. But there are no snacks."
"And you always liked a tasty bite at bed-time, didn't you? But you took a bo_ack last time you were home?"
"Aunt Ruth confiscated it. That is, she put it in the pantry and served it_ontents up at meal times. These doughnuts _are_ good. And there is alway_omething exciting and lawless about eating at unearthly hours like this, isn't there? How did you happen to be up, Cousin Jimmy?"
"A sick cow. Thought I'd better sit up and look after her."
"It was lucky for me you were. Oh, I'm in my proper senses again, Cousi_immy. Of course, I know you think I've been a little fool."
"Everybody's a fool in some particular," said Cousin Jimmy.
"Well, I'll go back and bite the sour apple without a grimace."
"Lie down on the sofa and have a nap. I'll hitch up the grey mare and driv_ou back as soon as it begins to be daylight."
"No, that won't do at all. Several reasons. In the first place, the road_ren't fit for wheels or runners. In the second place we couldn't drive awa_rom here without Aunt Elizabeth hearing us, and then she'd find out all abou_t and I don't want her to. We'll keep my foolishness a dark and deadly secre_etween you and me, Cousin Jimmy."
"Then how are you going to get back to Shrewsbury?"
"Walk? To Shrewsbury? At this hour of the night?"
"Haven't I just walked from Shrewsbury at this hour? I can do it again and i_on't be any harder than bumping over those awful roads behind the grey mare.
Of course, I'll put something on my feet that will be a little more protectio_han kid slippers. I've ruined your Christmas present in my brain-storm. Ther_s a pair of my old boots in the closet there. I'll put them on—and my ol_lster. I'll be back in Shrewsbury by daylight. I'll start as soon as w_inish the doughnuts. Let's lick the platter clean, Cousin Jimmy."
Cousin Jimmy yielded. After all, Emily was young and wiry, the night was fine, and the less Elizabeth knew about some things the better for all concerned.
With a sigh of relief that the affair had turned out so well—he had reall_een afraid at first that Emily's underlying "stubbornness" had been reache_nd then, whew!—Cousin Jimmy settled down to doughnuts.
"How's the writing coming on?" he asked.
"I've written a good deal lately—though it's pretty cold in my room mornings, but I love it so—it's my dearest dream to do something worth while some day."
"So you will. _You_ haven't been pushed down a well," said Cousin Jimmy.
Emily patted his hand. None realized better than she what Cousin Jimmy migh_ave done if _he_ had not been pushed down a well.
When the doughnuts were finished Emily donned her old boots and ulster. It wa_ very shabby garment but her young-moon beauty shone over it like a star i_he old, dim, candle-lighted room.
Cousin Jimmy looked up at her. He thought that she was a gifted, beautiful, joyous creature and that some things were a shame.
"Tall and stately—tall and stately like all our women," he murmured dreamily.
"Except Aunt Ruth," he added.
Emily laughed—and "made a face."
"Aunt Ruth will make the most of her inches in our forthcoming interview. Thi_ill last her the rest of the year. But don't worry, Cousin darling, I won'_o any more foolish things for quite a long time now. This has cleared th_ir. Aunt Elizabeth will think it was dreadful of you to eat a whole crockfu_f doughnuts yourself, you greedy Cousin Jimmy."
"Do you want another blank-book?"
"Not yet. The last one you gave me is only half-full yet. A blank-book last_e quite a while when I can't write stories. Oh, I wish I could, Cousi_immy."
"The time will come—the time will come," said Cousin Jimmy encouragingly.
"Wait a while—just wait a while. If we don't chase things—sometimes the thing_ollowing us can catch up. 'Through wisdom is an house builded, and b_nderstanding is it established. And by knowledge shall the chambers be fille_ith all precious and pleasant riches'—all precious and pleasant riches, Emily. Proverbs twenty-fourth, third and fifth."
He let Emily out and bolted the door. He put out all the candles but one. H_lared at it for a few moments, then, satisfied that Elizabeth could not hea_im, Cousin Jimmy said fervently,
"Ruth Dutton can go to—to—to—" Cousin Jimmy's courage failed him, "—t_eaven!"
Emily went back to Shrewsbury through the clear moonlight. She had expecte_he walk to be dreary and weary, robbed of the impetus anger and rebellion ha_iven. But she found that it had become transmuted into a thing of beauty—an_mily was one of "the eternal slaves of beauty," of whom Carman sings, who ar_et "masters of the world." She was tired, but her tiredness showed itself i_ certain exaltation of feeling and imagination such as she often experience_hen over-fatigued. Thought was quick and active. She had a series o_rilliant imaginary conversations and thought out so many epigrams that sh_as agreeably surprised at herself. It was good to feel vivid and interestin_nd all-alive once more. She was alone but not lonely.
As she walked along she dramatized the night. There was about it a wild, lawless charm that appealed to a certain wild, lawless strain hidden deep i_mily's nature—a strain that wished to walk where it would with no guidanc_ut its own—the strain of the gypsy and the poet, the genius and the fool.
The big fir-trees, released from their burden of snow, were tossing their arm_reely and wildly and gladly across the moonlit fields. Was ever anything s_eautiful as the shadows of those grey, clean-limbed maples on the road at he_eet? The houses she passed were full of intriguing mystery. She liked t_hink of the people who lay there dreaming and saw in sleep what waking lif_enied them—of little children's dear hands folded in exquisite slumber—o_earts that, perhaps, kept sorrowful, wakeful vigils—of lonely arms tha_eached out in the emptiness of the night—all while she, Emily, flitted b_ike a shadowy wraith of the small hours.
And it was easy to think, too, that other things were abroad—things that wer_ot mortal or human. She always lived on the edge of fairyland and now sh_tepped right over it. The Wind Woman was really whistling eerily in the reed_f the swamp—she was sure she heard the dear, diabolical chuckles of owls i_he spruce copses—something frisked across her path—it might be a rabbit or i_ight be a Little Grey Person; the trees put on half-pleasing, half-terrifyin_hapes they never wore by day. The dead thistles of last year were gobli_roups along the fences: that shaggy, old yellow birch was some satyr of th_oodland: the footsteps of the old gods echoed around her: those gnarle_tumps on the hill field were surely Pan piping through moonlight and shado_ith his troop of laughing fauns. It was delightful to believe they were.
"One loses so much when one becomes incredulous," said Emily—and then though_hat was a rather clever remark and wished she had a Jimmy-book to write i_own.
So, having washed her soul free from bitterness in the aerial bath of th_pring night and tingling from head to foot with the wild, strange, sweet lif_f the spirit, she came to Aunt Ruth's when the faint, purplish hills east o_he harbour were growing clear under a whitening sky. She had expected to fin_he door still locked; but the knob turned as she tried it and she went in.
Aunt Ruth was up and was lighting the kitchen fire.
On the way from New Moon Emily had thought over a dozen different ways o_aying what she meant to say—and now she used not one of them. At the las_oment an impish inspiration came to her. Before Aunt Ruth could—o_ould—speak Emily said,
"Aunt Ruth, I've come back to tell you that I forgive you, but that this mus_ot happen again."
To tell the truth, Mistress Ruth Dutton was considerably relieved that Emil_had_ come back. She had been afraid of Elizabeth and Laura—Murray famil_ows were bitter things—and truly a little afraid of the results to Emil_erself if she had really gone to New Moon in those thin shoes and tha_nsufficient coat. For Ruth Dutton was not a fiend—only a rather stupid, stubborn little barnyard fowl trying to train up a skylark. She was honestl_fraid that Emily might catch a cold and go into consumption. And if Emil_ook it into her head _not_ to come back to Shrewsbury—well, that would
"make talk" and Ruth Dutton hated "talk" when she or her doings was th_ubject. So, all things considered, she decided to ignore the impertinence o_mily's greeting.
"Did you spend the night on the streets?" she asked grimly.
"Oh, dear no—I went out to New Moon—had a chat with Cousin Jimmy and som_unch—then walked back."
"Did Elizabeth see you? Or Laura?"
"No. They were asleep."
Mrs. Dutton reflected that this was just as well.
"Well," she said coldly, "you have been guilty of great ingratitude, Em'ly, but I'll forgive you this time"—then stopped abruptly. Hadn't that been sai_lready this morning? Before she could think of a substitute remark Emily ha_anished upstairs. Mistress Ruth Dutton was left with the unpleasant sensatio_hat, somehow or other, she had not come out of the affair quite a_riumphantly as she should have.