When Shrewsbury people discovered that Mrs. Dutton was backing her niece, th_lame of gossip that had swept over the town died down in an incredibly shor_ime. Mrs. Dutton gave more to the various funds of St. John's Church than an_ther member—it was a Murray tradition to support your church becomingly. Mrs.
Dutton had lent money to half the business men in town—she held Nat Tolliver'_ote for an amount that kept him wakeful o' nights. Mrs. Dutton had _isconcerting knowledge of family skeletons—to which she had no delicacy i_eferring. Therefore, Mrs. Dutton was a person to be kept in good humour, an_f people had made the mistake of supposing that because she was very stric_ith her niece, it was safe to snub that niece, why, the sooner they correcte_hat mistake the better for all concerned.
Emily sold baby jackets and blankets and bootees and bonnets in Mrs.
Tolliver's stall at the big bazaar and wheedled elderly gentlemen into buyin_hem, with her now famous smile; everybody was nice to her and she was happ_gain, though the experience had left a scar. Shrewsbury folks in after year_aid that Emily Starr had never really forgiven them for having talked abou_er—and added that the Murrays never did forgive, you know. But forgivenes_id not enter into the matter. Emily had suffered so horribly that hencefort_he sight of any one who had been connected with her suffering was hateful t_er. When Mrs. Tolliver asked her, a week later, to pour tea at the receptio_he was giving her cousin, Emily declined politely, without troubling hersel_o give any excuse. And something in the tilt of her chin, or in the leve_lance of her eyes, made Mrs. Tolliver feel to her marrow that she was stil_olly Riordan of Riordan Alley, and would never be anybody else in the sigh_f a Murray of New Moon.
But Andrew was welcomed quite sweetly when he somewhat sheepishly called th_ollowing Friday night. It may be that he felt a little doubtful of hi_eception, in spite of the fact that he was sealed of the tribe. But Emily wa_arkedly gracious to him. Perhaps she had her own reasons for it. Again, _all attention to the fact that I am Emily's biographer, not her apologist. I_he took a way to get even with Andrew which I may not approve, what can I d_ut deplore it? For my own satisfaction, however, I may remark in passing tha_ do think Emily went too far when she told Andrew—after his report of som_ompliments his manager had paid him—that he was certainly a wonder. I canno_ven excuse her by saying that she spoke in sarcastic tones. She did not: sh_aid it most sweetly with an upward glance followed by a downward one tha_ade even Andrew's well-regulated heart skip a beat. Oh, Emily, Emily!
Things went well with Emily that Spring. She had several acceptances an_heques, and was beginning to plume herself on being quite a literary person.
Her clan began to take her scribbling mania somewhat seriously. Cheques wer_nanswerable things.
"Emily has made fifty dollars by her pen since New Year's," Aunt Ruth tol_rs. Drury. "I begin to think the child has an easy way of making a living."
An easy way! Emily, overhearing this as she went through the hall, smiled an_ighed. What did Aunt Ruth—what did any one know of the disappointments an_ailures of the climbers on Alpine Paths? What did she know of the despair_nd agonies of one who _sees_ but cannot _reach._ What did she know of th_itterness of one who conceives a wonderful tale and writes it down, only t_ind a flat and flavourless manuscript as a reward for all her toil? What di_he know of barred doors and impregnable editorial sanctums? Of bruta_ejection slips and the awfulness of faint praise? Of hopes deferred and hour_f sickening doubt and self-distrust?
Aunt Ruth knew of none of these things, but she took to having fits o_ndignation when Emily's manuscripts were returned.
"Impudence _I_ call it," she said. "Don't send that editor another line.
Remember, you're a Murray!"
"I'm afraid he doesn't know that," said Emily, gravely.
"Then why don't you tell him?" said Aunt Ruth.
Shrewsbury had a mild sensation in May when Janet Royal came home from Ne_ork with her wonderful dresses, her brilliant reputation, and her chow dog.
Janet was a Shrewsbury girl, but she had never been home since she had "gon_o the States" twenty years ago. She was clever and ambitious and she ha_ucceeded. She was the literary editor of a big metropolitan woman's magazin_nd one of the readers for a noted publishing house. Emily held her breat_hen she heard of Miss Royal's arrival. Oh, if she could only see her—have _alk with her—ask her about a hundred things she wanted to know! When Mr.
Towers told her in an off-hand manner to go and interview Miss Royal and writ_t up for the _Times,_ Emily trembled between terror and delight. Here wa_er excuse. But _could_ she—had she assurance enough? Wouldn't Miss Roya_hink her unbearably presumptuous? How could _she_ ask Miss Royal question_bout her career and her opinion of the United States' foreign policy an_eciprocity? She could never have the courage.
"We both worship at the same altar—but she is high priestess and I am only th_umblest acolyte," wrote Emily in her journal.
Then she indited a very worshipful letter to Miss Royal, and rewrote it _ozen times, asking permission to interview her. After she had mailed it sh_ould not sleep all night because it occurred to her that she should hav_igned herself "yours truly" instead of "yours sincerely." "Yours sincerely"
smacked of an acquaintanceship that did not exist. Miss Royal would surel_hink her presuming.
But Miss Royal sent back a charming letter—Emily has it to this day.
> "Ashburn, Monday.
> "DEAR MISS STARR:—
> "Of course you may come and see me and I'll tell you everything you want t_now for Jimmy Towers (God rest his soul, an' wasn't he my first beau!) an_verything you want to know for yourself. I think half my reason for comin_ack to P. E. I. this spring was because I wanted to see the writer of _Th_oman Who Spanked the King._ I read it last winter when it came out i_Roche's_ and I thought it charming. Come and tell me all about yourself an_our ambitions. You _are_ ambitious, aren't you? And I think you're going t_e able to realize your ambitions, too, and I want to help you if I can.
You've got something I never had—real creative ability—but I've heaps o_xperience and what I've learned from it is yours for the asking. I _can_elp you to avoid some snares and pitfalls, and I'm not without a bit of
'pull' in certain quarters. Come to Ashburn next Friday afternoon when
'school's out' and we'll have a heart-to-heart pow-wow.
> "Yours fraternally,
> "JANET ROYAL."
Emily thrilled to the ends of her toes when she read this letter. "Your_raternally"—oh, heavenly! She knelt at her window and looked out wit_nraptured eyes into the slender firs of the Land of Uprightness and the dew_oung clover-fields beyond. Oh, was it possible that some day she would be _rilliant, successful woman like Miss Royal? That letter made it see_ossible—made every wonderful dream seem possible. And on Friday—four mor_ays—she was going to see and talk intimately with her high priestess.
Mrs. Angela Royal, who called to see Aunt Ruth that evening, didn't exactl_eem to think Janet Royal a high priestess or a wonder. But then, of course, _rophetess is apt to have scant honour in her own country and Mrs. Royal ha_rought Janet up.
"I don't say but what she's got on well," she confided to Aunt Ruth. "She get_ big salary. But she's an old maid for all that. And as odd in some ways a_ick's hat-band."
Emily, studying Latin in the bay window, went on fire with indignation. Thi_as nothing short of _lese-majeste._
"She is very fine looking yet," said Aunt Ruth. "Janet was always a nic_irl."
"Oh, yes, she's nice enough. But I was always afraid she was too clever to ge_arried, and I was right. And she's full of foreign notions. She's never o_ime for her meals—and it really makes me sick the fuss she makes over tha_og of hers—Chu-Chin, she calls it. _He_ rules the house. He does _exactly_s he likes and nobody dare say a word. My poor cat can't call her soul he_wn. Janet is so touchy about him. When I complained about him sleeping on th_lush davenport she was so vexed she wouldn't speak for a day. That's a thin_ don't like about Janet. She gets so high and mighty when she's offended. An_he gets offended at things nobody else would dream of minding. And when she'_ffended with one she's offended with everybody. I hope nothing will upset he_efore you come on Friday, Emily. If she's out of humour she'll visit it o_ou. But I will say for her that she doesn't often get vexed and there'_othing mean or grudging about her. She'd work her fingers to the bone t_erve a friend."
When Aunt Ruth had gone out to interview the grocer's boy, Mrs. Royal adde_urriedly,
"She's greatly interested in you, Emily. She's always fond of having pretty, fresh girls about her—says it keeps her feeling young. She thinks your wor_hows real talent. If she takes a fancy to you it would be a great thing fo_ou. But, for pity's sake, keep on good terms with that chow! If you offen_him,_ Janet wouldn't have anything to do with you supposing you wer_hakespeare himself."
Emily awoke Friday morning with the conviction that this was to be one of th_rucial days of her life—a day of dazzling possibilities. She had had _errible dream of sitting spellbound before Miss Royal, unable to utter on_ord except "Chu-Chin," which she repeated parrot-like whenever Miss Roya_sked her a question.
It poured rain all the forenoon, much to her dismay, but at noon it cleared u_rilliantly and the hills across the harbour scarfed themselves in fairy blue.
Emily hurried home from school, pale with the solemnity of the occasion. He_oilet was an important rite. She must wear her new navy-blue silk—no questio_bout that. It was positively long and made her look fully grown up. But ho_hould she do her hair? The Psyche knot had more distinction, suited he_rofile, and showed to better advantage under her hat. Besides, perhaps a bar_orehead made her look more intellectual. But Mrs. Royal had said that Mis_oyal liked pretty girls. Pretty, therefore, she must be at all costs. Th_ich black hair was dressed low on her forehead and crowned by the new sprin_at which Emily had dared to buy with her latest cheque, in spite of Aun_lizabeth's disapproval and Aunt Ruth's unvarnished statement that a fool an_er money were soon parted. But Emily was glad now that she had bought th_at. She _couldn't_ have gone to interview Miss Royal in her plain blac_ailor. This hat was very becoming with its cascade of purple violets tha_ell from it over the lovely, unbroken waves of hair, just touching the milk- whiteness of her neck. Everything about her was exquisitely neat and dainty: she looked—I like the old phrase—as if she had just stepped from a band-box.
Aunt Ruth, prowling about the hall, saw her coming downstairs and realized, with something of a shock, that Emily was a young woman.
"She carries herself like a Murray," thought Aunt Ruth.
The force of commendation could no further go, though it was really from th_tarrs that Emily had inherited her slim elegance. The Murrays were statel_nd dignified, but stiff.
It was quite a little walk to Ashburn, which was a fine old white house se_ar back from the street amid great trees. Emily went up the gravel walk, edged with its fine-fringed shadows of spring, as a worshipper approaching _acred fane. A fairly large, fluffy white dog was sitting half-way up th_ravel walk. Emily looked at him curiously. She had never seen a chow dog. Sh_ecided that Chu-Chin was handsome, but not clean. He had evidently bee_aving a glorious time in some mud puddle, for his paws and breast wer_eeking. Emily hoped he would approve of her, but keep his distance.
Evidently he approved of her, for he turned and trotted up the walk with her, amiably waving a plumy tail—or rather a tail that would have been plumy had i_ot been wet and muddy. He stood expectantly beside her while she rang th_ell, and as soon as the door was opened he made a joyous bound on the lad_ho stood within, almost knocking her over.
Miss Royal herself had opened the door. She had, as Emily saw at once, n_eauty, but unmistakable distinction, from the crown of her gold-bronze hai_o the toes of her satin slippers. She was arrayed in some marvellous dress o_auve velvet and she wore pince-nez with tortoise-shell rims, the first o_heir kind to be seen in Shrewsbury.
Chu-Chin gave one rapturous, slobbery wipe at her face with his tongue, the_ushed on into Mrs. Royal's parlour. The beautiful mauve dress was spotte_rom collar to hem with muddy paw-marks. Emily thought that Chu-Chin full_eserved Mrs. Royal's bad opinion and mentally remarked that if he were _her_og he should behave better. But Miss Royal did not reprove him in any way, and perhaps Emily's secret criticism was subconsciously prompted by he_nstant perception that Miss Royal's greeting, while perfectly courteous, wa_ery cold. From her letter Emily had somehow expected a warmer reception.
"Won't you come in and sit down?" said Miss Royal. She ushered Emily in, wave_o a comfortable chair, and sat down on a stiff and uncompromising Chippendal_ne. Somehow, Emily, sensitive at all times and abnormally so just now, fel_hat Miss Royal's selection of a chair was ominous. Why hadn't she sun_hummily into the depths of the big velvet morris? But there she sat, _tately, aloof figure, having apparently paid not the slightest attention t_he appalling mud-stains on her beautiful dress. Chu-Chin had jumped on th_ig plush davenport, where he sat, cockily looking from one to the other as i_njoying the situation. It was all too evident that, as Mrs. Royal ha_oreboded, something had "upset" Miss Royal, and Emily's heart suddenly san_ike lead.
"It's—a lovely day," she faltered. She knew it was an incredibly stupid thin_o say, but she had to say something when Miss Royal wouldn't say anything.
The silence was too awful.
"Very lovely," agreed Miss Royal, not looking at Emily at all but at Chu-Chin, who was thumping a beautiful silk and lace cushion of Mrs. Royal's with hi_et tail. Emily hated Chu-Chin. It was a relief to hate him, since as yet sh_id not dare to hate Miss Royal. But she wished herself a thousand miles away.
Oh, if she only hadn't that little bundle of manuscripts on her lap! It was s_vident what it was. She would never dare to show one of them to Miss Royal.
Was this outraged empress the writer of that kind, friendly letter? It wa_mpossible to believe it. This must be a nightmare. Her dream was "out" with _engeance. She felt crude and bread-and-buttery and ignorant and dowdy—an_oung! Oh, so horribly young!
The moments passed—not so very many, perhaps, but seeming like hours to Emily.
Her mouth was dry and parched, her brain paralysed. She couldn't think of _olitary thing to say. A horrible suspicion flashed across her mind that, since writing her letter, Miss Royal had heard the gossip about the night i_he old John house and that her altered attitude was the result.
In her misery Emily squirmed in her chair and her little packet of manuscript_lipped to the floor. Emily stooped to retrieve it. At the same moment Chu- Chin made a flying leap from the davenport at it. His muddy paws caught th_pray of violets hanging from Emily's hat and tore it loose. Emily let go o_er packet and clutched her hat. Chu-Chin let go of the violets and pounced o_he packet. Then, holding that in his mouth, he bolted out of the open glas_oor leading to the garden.
"Oh, what a relief it would be to tear my hair," thought Emily violently.
That diabolical chow had carried off her latest and best story and a number o_hoice poems. Heaven knew what he would do with them. She supposed she woul_ever see them again. But, at least, there was fortunately now no question o_howing them to Miss Royal.
Emily no longer cared whether Miss Royal was in a bad humour or not. She wa_o longer desirous of pleasing her—a woman who would let her dog behave lik_hat to an invited guest and never reprove him! Nay, she even seemed to b_mused at his antics. Emily was sure she had detected a fleeting smile on Mis_oyal's arrogant face as she looked at the ruined violets scattered over th_loor.
There suddenly popped into Emily's mind a story she had heard of Lofty John'_ather, who was in the habit of telling his wife,
"When people do be after snubbing you, Bridget, pull up your lip, Bridget, pull up your lip."
Emily pulled up her lip.
"A very playful dog," she said sarcastically.
"Very," agreed Miss Royal composedly.
"Don't you think a little discipline would improve him?" asked Emily.
"No, I do not think so," said Miss Royal meditatively.
Chu-Chin returned at this moment, capered about the room, knocked a smal_lass vase off a taboret with a whisk of his tail, sniffed at the ensuin_ragments, then bounded up on the davenport again, where he sat panting. "Oh, what a good dog am I!"
Emily picked up her note-book and pencil.
"Mr. Towers sent me to interview you," she said.
"So I understand," said Miss Royal, never taking her eyes off her worshippe_how.
_Emily:_ "May I trouble you to answer a few questions?"
_Miss Royal, with exaggerated amiability:_ "Charmed."
(Chu-Chin, having saved enough breath, springs from the davenport and rushe_hrough the half-opened folding doors of the dining-room.)
_Emily, consulting note-book and recklessly asking the first question jotte_own therein:_ "What do you think will be the result of the Presidentia_lection this fall?"
(Emily, with compressed lips, writes down in her note-book: "She never think_bout it." Chu-Chin reappears, darts through parlour and out into the garden, carrying a roast chicken in his mouth.)
_Miss Royal:_ "There goes my supper."
_Emily, checking off first questions:_ "Is there any likelihood that th_nited States Congress will look favourably on the recent reciprocit_roposals of the Canadian Government?"
_Miss Royal: "Is_ the Canadian Government making reciprocity proposals? _ever heard of them."
(Emily writes, "She never heard of them." Miss Royal refits her pince-nez.)
_Emily, thinks:_ "With a chin and a nose like that you'll look very witch- like when you grow old." _Says_ : "Is it your opinion that the historica_ovel has had its day?"
_Miss Royal, languidly:_ "I always leave my opinions at home when I take _oliday."
(Emily writes, "She always leaves her opinions home when she takes a holiday,"
and wishes savagely she could write her own description of this interview, bu_nows Mr. Towers wouldn't print it. Then consoles herself by remembering tha_he has a virgin Jimmy-book at home and takes a wicked delight in thinking o_he account that will be written in it that night. Chu-Chin enters. Emil_onders if he could have eaten the chicken in that short time. Chu-Chin, evidently feeling the need of some desert, helps himself to one of Mrs.
Royal's crocheted tidies, crawls under the piano with it and falls to chewin_apturously.)
_Miss Royal, fervently: "Dear_ dog!"
_Emily, suddenly inspired:_ "What do you think of chow dogs?"
_Miss Royal:_ "The most adorable creatures in the world."
_Emily to herself:_ "So you've brought _one_ opinion with you." _To Mis_oyal: "I_ do not admire them."
_Miss Royal, with an icy smile:_ "It is evident that your taste in dogs mus_e quite different from mine."
_Emily, to herself:_ "I wish Ilse were here to call you names for me."
(A large, motherly grey cat passes across the doorstep outside. Chu-Chin bolt_ut from under the piano, shoots between the legs of a tall plant stand, an_ursues the flying cat. The plant stand has gone over with a crash and Mrs.
Royal's beautiful rex begonia lies in ruins on the floor, amid a heap of eart_nd broken pottery.)
_Miss Royal, unsympathetically:_ "Poor Aunt Angela! Her heart will b_roken."
_Emily:_ "But that doesn't matter, does it?"
_Miss Royal, gently:_ "Oh, no; not at all."
_Emily, consulting note-book:_ "Do you find many changes in Shrewsbury?"
_Miss Royal:_ "I find a good many changes in the people. The younge_eneration does not impress me favourably."
(Emily writes this down. Chu-Chin again reappears, evidently having chased th_at through a fresh mud puddle, and resumes his repast of the tidy, under th_iano.)
Emily shut her note-book and rose. Not for any number of Mr. Towers would sh_rolong this interview. She looked like a young angel, but she was thinkin_errible things. And she hated Miss Royal—oh, how she hated her!
"Thank you, that will be all," she said, with a haughtiness quite equal t_iss Royal's. "I'm sorry to have taken so much of your time. Good-afternoon."
She bowed slightly and went out to the hall. Miss Royal followed her to th_arlour door.
"Hadn't you better take your dog, Miss Starr?" she asked sweetly.
Emily paused in the act of shutting the outer door and looked at Miss Royal.
"I said, hadn't you better take your dog?"
"Yes. He hasn't quite finished the tidy, to be sure, but you might take i_long. It won't be much good to Aunt Angela now."
"He—he—isn't _my_ dog," gasped Emily.
"Not your dog? Whose dog is he then?" said Miss Royal.