That was the question Emily had now to answer. Or rather, the question Aun_lizabeth must answer. For on Aunt Elizabeth's answer, as Emily felt, everything depended. And she had no real hope that Aunt Elizabeth would le_er go. Emily might look longingly towards those pleasant, far-off, gree_astures pictured by Miss Royal, but she was quite sure she could never brows_n them. The Murray pride—and prejudice—would be an impassable barrier.
Emily said nothing to Aunt Ruth about Miss Royal's offer. It was Aun_lizabeth's due to hear it first. She kept her dazzling secret until the nex_eek-end, when Miss Royal came to New Moon, very gracious and pleasant, an_he wee-est bit patronizing, to ask Aunt Elizabeth to let Emily go with her.
Aunt Elizabeth listened in silence—a disapproving silence, as Emily felt.
"The Murray women have never had to work out for their living," she sai_oldly.
"It isn't exactly what you would call 'working out,' dear Miss Murray," sai_iss Royal, with the courteous patience one must use to a lady whose viewpoin_as that of an outlived generation. "Thousands of women are going int_usiness and professional life, everywhere."
"I suppose it's all right for them if they don't get married," said Aun_lizabeth.
Miss Royal flushed slightly. She knew that in Blair Water and Shrewsbury sh_as regarded as an old maid, and therefore a failure, no matter what he_ncome and her standing might be in New York. But she kept her temper an_ried another line of attack.
"Emily has an unusual gift for writing," she said. "I think she can d_omething really worth while if she gets a chance. She ought to have he_hance, Miss Murray. You know there isn't any chance for that kind of wor_ere."
"Emily has made ninety dollars this past year with her pen," said Aun_lizabeth.
"Heaven grant me patience!" thought Miss Royal. Said Miss Royal,
"Yes, and ten years from now she may be making a few hundreds; whereas, if sh_omes with me, in ten years' time her income would probably be as man_housands."
"I'll have to think it over," said Aunt Elizabeth.
Emily felt surprised that Aunt Elizabeth had even consented to think it over.
She had expected absolute refusal.
"She'll come round to it," whispered Miss Royal, when she went away. "I'_oing to get you, darling Emily B. I know the Murrays of old. They always ha_n eye to the main chance. Aunty will let you come."
"I'm afraid not," said Emily ruefully.
When Miss Royal had gone Aunt Elizabeth looked at Emily.
"Would you like to go, Emily?"
"Yes—I think so—if you don't mind," faltered Emily. She was very pale—she di_ot plead or coax. But she had no hope—none.
Aunt Elizabeth took a week to think it over. She called in Ruth and Wallac_nd Oliver to help her. Ruth said dubiously,
"I suppose we ought to let her go. It's a splendid chance for her. It's not a_f she were going alone—I'd never agree to that. Janet will look after her."
"She's too young—she's too young," said Uncle Oliver.
"It seems a good chance for her—Janet Royal has done well, they say," sai_ncle Wallace.
Aunt Elizabeth even wrote to Great-aunt Nancy. The answer came back in Aun_ancy's quavering hand:
"Suppose you let Emily decide for herself," suggested Aunt Nancy.
Aunt Elizabeth folded up Aunt Nancy's letter and called Emily into th_arlour.
"If you wish to go with Miss Royal you may," she said. "I feel it would not b_ight for me to hinder you. We shall miss you—we would rather have you with u_or a few years yet. I know nothing about New York. I am told it is a wicke_ity. But you have been brought up carefully. I leave the decision in your ow_ands. Laura, what are you crying about?"
Emily felt as if she wanted to cry herself. To her amazement she fel_omething that was _not_ delight or pleasure. It was one thing to long afte_orbidden pastures. It seemed to be quite another thing when the bars wer_lung down and you were told to enter if you would.
Emily did not immediately rush to her room and write a joyous letter to Mis_oyal—who was visiting friends in Charlottetown. Instead she went out into th_arden and thought very hard—all that afternoon and all Sunday. During th_eek-end in Shrewsbury she was quiet and thoughtful, conscious that Aunt Rut_as watching her closely. For some reason Aunt Ruth did not discuss the matte_ith her. Perhaps she was thinking of Andrew. Or perhaps it was an understoo_hing among the Murrays that Emily's decision was to be entirely uninfluenced.
Emily couldn't understand why she didn't write Miss Royal at once. Of cours_he would go. Wouldn't it be terribly foolish not to? She would never hav_uch a chance again. It _was_ such a splendid chance—everything mad_asy—the Alpine Path no more than a smooth and gentle slope—success certai_nd brilliant and quick. Why, then, did she have to keep telling herself al_his—why was she driven to seek Mr. Carpenter's advice the next week-end? An_r. Carpenter would not help her very much. He was rheumatic and cranky.
"Don't tell me the cats have been hunting again," he groaned.
"No. I haven't any manuscripts this time," said Emily, with a faint smile.
"I've come for advice of a different kind."
She told him of her perplexity.
"It's such a splendid chance," she concluded.
"Of course it's a splendid chance—to go and be Yankeefied," grunted Mr.
"I wouldn't get Yankeefied," said Emily resentfully. "Miss Royal has bee_wenty years in New York and she isn't Yankeefied."
"Isn't she? I don't mean by Yankeefied what you think I do," retorted Mr.
Carpenter. "I'm not referring to the silly girls who go up to "the States" t_ork and come back in six months with an accent that would raise blisters o_our skin. Janet Royal _is_ Yankeefied—her outlook and atmosphere and styl_re all U. S. And I'm not condemning them—they're all right. But—she isn't _anadian any longer—and that's what I wanted you to be—pure Canadian throug_nd through, doing something as far as in you lay for the literature of you_wn country, keeping your Canadian tang and flavour. But of course there's no_any dollars in that sort of thing yet."
"There's no chance to do _anything_ here," argued Emily.
"No—no more than there was in Haworth Parsonage," growled Mr. Carpenter.
"I'm not a Charlotte Bronte," protested Emily. "She had genius—it can stan_lone. I have only talent—it needs help—and—and—guidance."
"In short, pull," said Mr. Carpenter.
"So you think I oughtn't to go," said Emily anxiously.
"Go if you want to. To be quickly famous we must all stoop a little. Oh, go—go—I'm telling you. I'm too old to argue—go in peace. You'd be a fool no_o—only—fools do sometimes attain. There's a special Providence for them, n_oubt."
Emily went away from the little house in the hollow with her eyes rathe_lack. She met Old Kelly on her way up the hill and he pulled his plump na_nd red chariot to a standstill and beckoned to her.
"Gurrl dear, here's some peppermints for you. And now, ain't it hig_ime—eh—now, you know—" Old Kelly winked at her.
"Oh, I'm going to be an old maid, Mr. Kelly," smiled Emily.
Old Kelly shook his head as he gathered up his reins.
"Shure an' nothing like that will ever be happening to you. You're one av th_olks God really loves—only don't be taking one av the Prastes now—never on_v the Prastes, gurrl dear."
"Mr. Kelly," said Emily suddenly, "I've been offered a splendid chance—to g_o New York and take a place on the staff of a magazine. I can't make up m_ind. What do you think I'd better do?"
As she spoke she thought of the horror of Aunt Elizabeth at the idea of _urray asking Old Jock Kelly's advice. She herself was a little ashamed o_oing it.
Old Kelly shook his head again.
"What do the b'ys around here be thinking av? But what does the ould lad_ay?"
"Aunt Elizabeth says I can do as I like."
"Then I guess we'll be laving it at that," said Old Kelly—and drove of_ithout another word. Plainly there was no help to be had in Old Kelly.
"Why should I want help?" thought Emily desperately. "What has got into m_hat I can't make up my own mind? Why can't I _say_ I'll go? It doesn't see_o me now that I _want_ to go—I only feel I _ought_ to want to go."
She wished that Dean were home. But Dean had not got back from his winter i_os Angeles. And somehow she could not talk the matter over with Teddy.
Nothing had come of that wonderful moment in the old John house—nothing excep_ certain constraint that had almost spoiled their old comradeship. Outwardl_hey were as good friends as ever; but something was gone—and nothing seeme_o be taking its place. She would not admit to herself that she was afraid t_sk Teddy. Suppose he told her to go? That would hurt unbearably—because i_ould show that he didn't care whether she went or stayed. But Emily would no_lance at this at all.
"Of course I'll go," she said aloud to herself. Perhaps the spoken word woul_ettle things. "What would I do next year if I didn't? Aunt Elizabeth wil_ertainly never let me go anywhere else alone. Ilse will be away—an_erry—Teddy too, likely. He says he's bound to go and do something to ear_oney for his art study. I _must_ go."
She said it fiercely, as if arguing against some invisible opponent. When sh_eached home in the twilight, no one was there and she went restlessly al_ver the house. What charm and dignity and fineness the old rooms had, wit_heir candles and their ladder-backed chairs and their braided rugs! How dea_nd entreating was her own little room with its diamond paper and its guardia_ngel, its fat black rose-jar and its funny, kinky window-pane! Would Mis_oyal's flat be half so wonderful?"
"Of course I'll go," she said again—feeling that if she could only have lef_ff the "of course" the thing _would_ have been settled.
She went out into the garden, lying in the remote, passionless beauty of earl_pring moonlight, and walked up and down its paths. From afar came the whistl_f the Shrewsbury train—like a call from the alluring world beyond—a worl_ull of interest, charm, drama. She paused by the old lichened sun-dial an_raced the motto on its border, "So goes Time by." Time did go by—swiftly, mercilessly, even at New Moon, unspoiled as it was by any haste or rush o_odernity. Should she not take the current when it offered? The white Jun_ilies waved in the faint breeze—she could almost see her old friend the Wind- Woman bending over them to tilt their waxen chins. Would the Wind Woman com_o her in the crowded city streets? Could she be like Kipling's cat there?
"And I wonder if I'll ever have the flash in New York," she thought wistfully.
How beautiful was this old garden which Cousin Jimmy loved! How beautiful wa_ld New Moon farm! Its beauty had a subtly romantic quality all its own. Ther_as enchantment in the curve of the dark-red, dew-wet road beyond—remote, spiritual allurement in the Three Princesses—magic in the orchard—a hint o_ntriguing devilment in the fir wood. How could she leave this old house tha_ad sheltered and loved her—never tell me houses do not love!—the graves o_er kin by the Blair Water pond, the wide fields and haunted woods where he_hildhood dreams had been dreamed? All at once she knew she could not leav_hem—she knew she had never really wanted to leave them. _That_ was why sh_ad gone about desperately asking advice of impossible outsiders. She ha_eally been hoping they would tell her not to go. That was why she had wishe_o wildly that Dean were home—he would certainly have told her not to go.
"I belong to New Moon—I stay among my own people," she said.
There was no doubt about this decision—she did not want any one to help her t_t. A deep, inner contentment possessed her as she went up the walk and int_he old house which no longer looked reproachfully at her. She found Elizabet_nd Laura and Cousin Jimmy in the kitchen full of its candle magic.
"I am not going to New York, Aunt Elizabeth," she said. "I am going to sta_ere at New Moon with you."
Aunt Laura gave a little cry of joy. Cousin Jimmy said, "Hurrah!" Aun_lizabeth knitted a round of her stocking before she said anything. Then—
"I thought a Murray would," she said.
Emily went straight to Ashburn Monday evening. Miss Royal had returned an_reeted her warmly.
"I hope you've come to tell me that Miss Murray has decided to be reasonabl_nd let you come with me, honey-sweet."
"She told me I could decide for myself."
Miss Royal clapped her hands.
"Oh, goody, goody! Then it's all settled."
Emily was pale, but her eyes were black with earnestness and intense feeling.
"Yes, it's settled—I'm not going," she said. "I thank you with all my heart, Miss Royal, but I can't go."
Miss Royal stared at her—realized in a moment that it was not the slightes_se to plead or argue—but began to plead and argue all the same.
"Emily—you can't mean it? Why can't you come?"
"I can't leave New Moon—I love it too much—it means too much to me."
"I thought you wanted to come with me, Emily," said Miss Royal reproachfully.
"I did. And part of me wants to yet. But away down under that another part o_e will not go. Don't think me foolish and ungrateful, Miss Royal."
"Of course I don't think you're ungrateful," said Miss Royal, helplessly, "bu_ do—yes, I do think you are awfully foolish. You are simply throwing awa_our chances of a career. What can you ever do here that is worth while, child? You've no idea of the difficulties in your path. You can't get materia_ere—there's no atmosphere—no—"
"I'll create my own atmosphere," said Emily, with a trifle of spirit. Afte_ll, she thought, Miss Royal's viewpoint was the just the same as Mrs. Ale_awyer's, and her manner _was_ patronizing. "And as for material—peopl_live_ here just the same as anywhere else—suffer and enjoy and sin an_spire just as they do in New York."
"You don't know a thing about it," said Miss Royal, rather pettishly. "You'l_ever be able to write anything really worth while here—no big thing. There'_o inspiration—you'll be hampered in every way—the big editors won't loo_arther than the address of P. E. Island on your manuscript. Emily, you'r_ommitting literary suicide. You'll realize that at three of the clock som_hite night, Emily B. Oh, I suppose, after some years you'll work up _lientele of Sunday-school and agricultural papers. But will that satisfy you?
You know it won't. And then the petty jealousy of these small prunes-and- prisms places—if you do anything the people you went to school with can't d_ome of them will never forgive you. And they'll all think you're the heroin_f your own stories—especially if you portray her beautiful and charming. I_ou write a love story they'll be sure it's your own. You'll get so tired o_lair Water—you'll know all the people in it—what they are and can be—it'll b_ike reading a book for the twentieth time. Oh, I know all about it. 'I wa_live before you were borned,' as I said when I was eight, to a playmate o_ix. You'll get discouraged—the hour of three o'clock will gradually overwhel_ou—there's a three o'clock every night, remember—you'll give up—you'll marr_hat cousin of yours—"
"Well, some one like him, then, and 'settle down'—"
"No, I'll never 'settle down,'" said Emily decidedly. "Never as long as _ive—what a stodgy condition!"
—"and you'll have a parlour like this of Aunt Angela's," continued Miss Roya_elentlessly. "A mantelpiece crowded with photographs—an easel with an
'enlarged' picture in a frame eight inches wide—a red plush album with _rocheted doily on it, a crazy-quilt on your spare-room bed—a hand-painte_anner in your hall—and, as a final touch of elegance, an asparagus fern will
'grace the centre of your dining-room table.'"
"No," said Emily gravely, "such things are not among the Murray traditions."
"Well, the spiritual equivalent of them, then. Oh, I can see your whole life, Emily, here in a place like this where people can't see a mile beyond thei_ose."
"I can see farther than that," said Emily, putting up her chin. "I can see t_he stars."
"I was speaking figuratively, my dear."
"So was I. Oh, Miss Royal, I know life is rather cramped here in some ways—bu_he sky is as much mine as anybody's. I may not succeed here—but, if not, _ouldn't succeed in New York either. Some fountain of living water would dr_p in my soul if I left the land I love. I know I'll have difficulties an_iscouragements here, but people have overcome far worse. You know that stor_ou told me about Parkman—that for years he was unable to write for more tha_ive minutes at a time—that he took three years to write one of his books—si_ines per day for three years. I shall always remember that when I ge_iscouraged. It will help me through any number of white nights."
"Well"—Miss Royal threw out her hands—"I give up. I think you're making _errible mistake, Emily—but if in the years to come I find out I'm wrong I'l_rite and admit it. And if _you_ find out you were wrong write me and admi_t, and you'll find me as ready to help you as ever. I won't even say 'I tol_ou so.' Send me any of your stories my magazine is fit for, and ask me fo_ny advice I can give. I'm going right back to New York to-morrow. I was onl_oing to wait till July to take you with me. Since you won't come I'm off. _etest living in a place where all they think is that I've played my card_adly, and lost the matrimonial game—where all the young girls—except _you_ —are so abominably respectful to me—and where the old folks keep telling me _ook so much like my mother. Mother was _ugly._ Let's say good-bye and mak_t snappy."
"Miss Royal," said Emily earnestly, "you do believe—don't you—that _ppreciate your kindness? Your sympathy and encouragement have meant more t_e—always will mean more to me than you can ever dream."
Miss Royal whisked her handkerchief furtively across her eyes and made a_laborate curtsey.
"Thank you for them kind words, lady," she said solemnly.
Then she laughed a little, put her hands on Emily's shoulders and kissed he_heek.
"All the good wishes ever thought, said, or written go with you," she said.
"And I think it would be—nice—if any place could ever mean to me what it i_vident New Moon means to you."
At three o'clock that night a wakeful but contented Emily remembered that sh_ad never seen Chu-Chin.