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Chapter 25 April Love

  • "June 10, 19—
  • "Yesterday evening Andrew Oliver Murray asked Emily Byrd Starr to marry him.
  • "The said Emily Byrd Starr told him she wouldn't.
  • "I'm glad it's over. I've felt it coming for some time. Every evening Andre_as been here I've felt that he was trying to bring the conversation around t_ome serious subject, but I have never felt quite equal to the interview, an_lways contrived to sidetrack him with frivolity.
  • "Yesterday evening I went to the Land of Uprightness for one of the las_ambles I shall have in it. I climbed the hill of firs and looked down ove_he fields of mist and silver in the moonlight. The shadows of the ferns an_weet wild grasses along the edge of the woods were like a dance of sprites.
  • Away beyond the harbour, below the moonlight, was a sky of purple and ambe_here a sunset had been. But behind me was darkness—a darkness which, with it_ang of fir balsam, was like a perfumed chamber where one might dream dream_nd see visions. Always when I go into the Land of Uprightness I leave behin_he realm of daylight and things known and go into the realm of shadow an_ystery and enchantment where anything might happen—anything might come true.
  • I can  _believe_  anything there—old myths—legends—dryads—fauns—leprechauns.
  • One of my wonder moments came to me—it seemed to me that I got out of my bod_nd was  _free_ —I'm sure I heard an echo of that 'random word' of th_ods—and I wanted some unused language to express what I saw and felt.
  • "Enter Andrew, spic and span, prim and gentlemanly.
  • "Fauns—fairies—wonder moments—random words—fled pell-mell. No new language wa_eeded now.
  • "'What a pity side-whiskers went out with the last generation—they would sui_im so,' I said to myself in good plain English.
  • "I knew Andrew had come to say something special. Otherwise he would not hav_ollowed me into the Land of Uprightness, but have waited decorously in Aun_uth's parlour. I knew it had to come and I made up my mind to get it over an_ave done with it. The expectant attitude of Aunt Ruth and the New Moon folk_as been oppressive lately. I believe they all feel quite sure that the rea_eason I wouldn't go to New York was that I couldn't bear to part with Andrew!
  • "But I was  _not_  going to have Andrew propose to me by moonlight in the Lan_f Uprightness. I might have been bewitched into accepting him. So when h_aid, 'It's nice here, let's stay here for a while—after all, I think there i_othing so pretty as nature,' I said gently but firmly that, though natur_ust feel highly flattered, it was too damp for a person with a tendency t_onsumption, and I must go in.
  • "In we went. I sat down opposite Andrew and stared at a bit of Aunt Ruth'_rochet yarn on the carpet. I shall remember the colour and shape of that yar_o my dying day. Andrew talked jerkily about indifferent things and then bega_hrowing out hints—he would get his managership in two years more—he believe_n people marrying young—and, so on. He floundered badly. I suppose I coul_ave made it easier for him but I hardened my heart, remembering how he ha_ept away in those dreadful weeks of the John house scandal. At last h_lurted out,
  • "'Emily, let's get married when—when—as soon as I'm able to.'
  • "He seemed to feel that he ought to say something more but didn't know jus_hat—so he repeated 'just as soon as I'm able to' and stopped.
  • "I don't believe I even went through the motions of a blush.
  • "'Why should we get married?' I said.
  • "Andrew looked aghast. Evidently this was not the Murray tradition o_eceiving a proposal.
  • "'Why? Why? Because—I'd like it,' he stammered.
  • "' _I_  wouldn't,' I said.
  • "Andrew stared at me for a few moments trying to take in the amazing idea tha_e was being refused.
  • "'But  _why?'_  he asked—exactly in Aunt Ruth's tone and manner.
  • "'Because I don't love you,' I said.
  • "Andrew  _did_  blush. I know he thought I was immodest.
  • "'I—I—think—they'd all like it,' he stammered.
  • " _I_  wouldn't,' I said again. I said it in a tone even Andrew couldn'_istake.
  • "He was so surprised I don't think he felt anything  _but_  surprise—not eve_isappointment. He didn't know what to do or say—a  _Murray_  couldn't coax—s_e got up and went out without another word. I thought he banged the door bu_fterwards I discovered it was only the wind. I wish he  _had_  banged th_oor. It would have saved my self-respect. It is mortifying to refuse a ma_nd then discover that his main feeling is bewilderment.
  • "Next morning Aunt Ruth, evidently suspecting something amiss from the brevit_f Andrew's call, asked me point blank what had happened. There's nothin_ubtle about Aunt Ruth. I told her just as point blankly.
  • "'What fault have you to find with Andrew?' she asked icily.
  • "'No fault—but he tastes flat. He has all the virtues but the pinch of sal_as left out,' I said, with my nose in the air.
  • "'I hope you don't go farther and fare worse,' said Aunt Rut_minously—meaning, as I knew, Stovepipe Town. I could have reassured Aunt Rut_n that point, also, had I chosen. Last week Perry came to tell me that he i_oing into Mr. Abel's office in Charlottetown to study law. It's a splendi_hance for him. Mr. Abel heard his speech the night of the inter-school debat_nd has had his eye on him ever since, I understand. I congratulated hi_eartily. I really was delighted.
  • "'He'll give me enough to pay my board,' said Perry, 'and I guess I can rustl_y clothes on some side line. I've got to hoe my own row. Aunt Tom won't hel_e.  _You_  know why.'
  • "'I'm sorry, Perry,' I said, laughing a little.
  • "' _Won't_  you, Emily?' he said. 'I'd like this thing settled.'
  • "'It is settled,' I said.
  • "'I suppose I've made an awful ass of myself about you,' grumbled Perry.
  • "'You have,' I said comfortingly—but still laughingly. Somehow I've never bee_ble to take Perry seriously any more than Andrew. I've always got the feelin_hat he just imagines he's in love with me.
  • "'You won't get a cleverer man than me in a hurry,' warned Perry. 'I'm goin_o climb high.'
  • "'I'm sure you will,' I said warmly, 'and nobody will be more pleased tha_our friend, Emily B.'
  • "'Oh,  _friends,'_  said Perry sulkily. 'It's not for a friend I want you. Bu_'ve always heard it was no use to coax a Murray. Will you tell me one thing?
  • It isn't my funeral—but are you going to marry Andrew Murray?'
  • "'It isn't your funeral—but I'm  _not,'_  I said.
  • "'Well,' said Perry, as he went out, 'if you ever change your mind, let m_now. It will be all right—if I haven't changed mine.'
  • "I have written the account of this exactly as it happened. But—I have als_ritten another account of it in my Jimmy-book as it  _should_  have happened.
  • I find I am beginning to overcome my old difficulty of getting my dream peopl_o make love fluently. In my imaginary account both Perry and I talked bee- yew-tifully.
  • "I think Perry really felt a little worse than Andrew did, and I felt sorr_bout it. I do like Perry so much as a chum and friend. I hate to disappoin_im, but I know he will soon get over it.
  • "So I'll be the only one left at Blair Water next year. I don't know how I'l_eel about that. I dare say I'll feel a little flat by times—perhaps at thre_' the night I'll wish I had gone with Miss Royal. But I'm going to settl_own to hard, serious work. It's a long climb to the crest of the Alpine Path.
  • "But I believe in myself, and there is always my world behind the curtain.
  • ********
  • "New Moon,
  • "June 21, 19—
  • "As soon as I arrived home to-night I felt a decided atmosphere o_isapproval, and realized that Aunt Elizabeth knew all about Andrew. She wa_ngry and Aunt Laura was sorry; but nobody has said anything. At twilight _alked it over in the garden with Cousin Jimmy. Andrew, it seems,  _has_  bee_eeling quite badly since the numbness of shock wore off. His appetite ha_ailed; and Aunt Addie indignantly wants to know if I expect to marry a princ_r a millionaire since  _her_  son is not good enough for me.
  • "Cousin Jimmy thinks I did perfectly right. Cousin Jimmy would think I ha_one perfectly right if I had murdered Andrew and buried him in the Land o_prightness. It's very nice to have  _one_  friend like that, though too man_ouldn't be good for you.
  • ********
  • "June 22, 19—
  • "I don't know which is worse—to have somebody you  _don't_  like ask you t_arry him or  _not_  have some one you  _do_  like. Both are rathe_npleasant.
  • "I have decided that I only imagined certain things in the old John house. I'_fraid Aunt Ruth was right when she used to say my imagination needed a curb.
  • This evening I loitered in the garden. In spite of the fact that it was Jun_t was cold and raw, and I felt a little lonely and discouraged an_lat—perhaps because two stories of which I had hoped a good deal came back t_e to-day. Suddenly I heard Teddy's signal whistle in the old orchard. O_ourse I went. It's always a case of 'Oh, whistle and I'll come to you, m_ad' with me—though I would die before I would admit it to any one but m_ournal. As soon as I saw his face I knew he had some great news.
  • "He had. He held out a letter, 'Mr. Frederick Kent.' I never can remember tha_eddy's name is Frederick—he can never be anything but Teddy to me. He has wo_ scholarship at the School of Design in Montreal—five hundred dollars for tw_ears. I was instantly as excited as he was—with a queer feeling behind th_xcitement which was so compounded of fear and hope and expectancy that _ouldn't tell which predominated.
  • "'How splendid for you, Teddy!' I said, a little tremulously. 'Oh, I'm s_lad! But your mother—what does she think of it?'
  • "'She'll let me go—but she'll be very lonely and unhappy,' said Teddy, growin_ery sober instantly. 'I want her to come with me, but she won't leave th_ansy Patch. I hate to think of her living there all alone. I—I wish sh_idn't feel as she does about you, Emily. If she didn't—you could be such _omfort to her.'
  • "I wondered if it occurred to Teddy that I might need a little comforting too.
  • A queer silence fell between us. We walked along the To-morrow Road—it ha_rown so beautiful that one wonders if any to-morrow can make it mor_eautiful—until we reached the fence of the pond-pasture and stood there unde_he grey-green gloom of the firs. I felt suddenly very happy and in those fe_inutes part of me planted a garden and laid out beautiful closets and bough_ dozen solid silver teaspoons and arranged my attic and hemstitched a doubl_amask table-cloth—and the other part of me just  _waited._  Once I said i_as a lovely evening—it wasn't—and a few minutes later I said it looked lik_ain—it didn't.
  • "But one  _had_  to say something.
  • "'I'm going to work hard—I'm going to get everything possible out of those tw_ears,' Teddy said at last, staring at Blair Water and at the sky and at th_andhills, and at the green leisurely meadows, and at everything but me.
  • 'Then, perhaps, when they're up I'll manage to get to Paris. To go abroad—t_ee the masterpieces of great artists—to live in their atmosphere—to see th_cenes their genius immortalized—all I've been hungry for all my life. An_hen I come back—'
  • "Teddy stopped abruptly and turned to me. From the look in his eyes I though_e was going to kiss me—I really did. I don't know what I would have done if _ouldn't have shut my own eyes.
  • '"And when I come back—' he repeated—stopped again.
  • "'Yes?' I said. I don't deny to this my journal that I said it a trifl_xpectantly.
  • "'I'll make the name of Frederick Kent mean something in Canada!' said Teddy.
  • "I opened my eyes.
  • "Teddy was looking at the dim gold of Blair Water and scowling. Again I had _eeling that night air was not good for me. I shivered, said a few polit_ommonplaces, and left him there scowling. I wonder if he was too shy to kis_e—or just didn't want to.
  • "I  _could_  care tremendously for Teddy Kent if I let myself—if he wanted m_o. It is evident he doesn't want me to. He is thinking of nothing but succes_nd ambition and a career. He has forgotten our exchange of glances in the ol_ohn house—he has forgotten that he told me three years ago, on Georg_orton's tombstone, that I was the sweetest girl in the world. He will mee_undreds of wonderful girls out in the world—he will never think of me again.
  • "So be it.
  • "If Teddy doesn't want me I won't want him. That is a Murray tradition. Bu_hen I'm only half Murray. There is the Starr half to be considered. Luckil_I_  have a career and an ambition also to think about, and a jealous goddes_o serve, as Mr. Carpenter once told me. I think she might not tolerate _ivided allegiance.
  • "I am conscious of three sensations.
  • "On top I am sternly composed and traditional.
  • "Underneath that, something that would hurt horribly if I let it is being kep_own.
  • "And underneath that again is a queer feeling of relief that I still have m_reedom.
  • ********
  • "June 26, 19—
  • "All Shrewsbury is laughing over Ilse's last exploit and half Shrewsbury i_isapproving. There is a certain very pompous young Senior who acts as ushe_n St. John's Church on Sundays, who takes himself very seriously and who_lse hates. Last Sunday she dressed herself up as an old woman, borrowing th_oggery from a poor relation of Mrs. Adamson's who boards with her—a long, full, black skirt, bordered with crape, a widow's bonnet, and a heavy crap_idow's veil. Arrayed thus, she tottered down the street and paused wistfull_t the church steps as if she couldn't possibly climb them. Young Pomposit_aw her, and, having some decent instincts behind his pomposity, wen_allantly to her assistance. He took her shaking, mittened hand—it _was_haking all right—Ilse was in spasms of laughter behind her veil—and assiste_er frail, trembling feet up the steps, through the porch, up the aisle an_nto a pew. Ilse murmured a broken blessing on him, handed him a tract, sa_hrough the service and then tottered home. Next day, of course, the story wa_ll through the school and the poor lad was so guyed by the other boys tha_ll his pomposity oozed out—temporarily at least—under the torture. Perhap_he incident may do him a world of good.
  • "Of course I scolded Ilse. She is a glad, daring creature and counts no cost.
  • She will always do whatever she takes it into her head to do, even if it wer_o turn a somersault in the church aisle. I love her—love her—love her; an_hat I will do without her next year I do not know. Our to-morrows will alway_e separated after this—and grow apart—and when we meet occasionally it wil_e as strangers. Oh, I know—I know.
  • "Ilse was furious over what she called Perry's 'presumption' in thinking _ould ever marry him.
  • "'Oh, it was not presumption—it was condescension,' I said, laughing. 'Perr_elongs to the great ducal house of Carabas.'
  • "'Oh, he'll succeed, of course. But there'll always be a flavour of Stovepip_own about him,' retorted Ilse.
  • "'Why have you always been so hard on Perry, Ilse?' I protested.
  • "'He's such a cackling oaf,' said Ilse morosely.
  • "'Oh, well, he's just at the age when a boy knows everything,' I said, feelin_uite wise and elderly. 'He will grow more ignorant and endurable after _hile,' I went on, feeling epigrammatic. 'And he has improved in thes_hrewsbury years,' I concluded, feeling smug.
  • "'You talk as if he were a cabbage,' fumed Ilse. 'For heaven's sake, Emily, don't be so superior and patronizing!'
  • "There are times when Ilse is good for me. I know I deserved that.
  • ********
  • "June 27, 19—
  • "Last night I dreamed I stood in the old summer-house at New Moon and saw th_ost Diamond sparkling on the floor at my feet. I picked it up in delight. I_ay in my hand for a moment—then it seemed to elude my grasp, flash throug_he air, leaving a long, slender trail of brilliance behind it, and become _tar in the western sky, just above the edge of the world. 'It is my star—_ust reach it before it sets,' I thought, and started out. Suddenly Dean wa_eside me—and he, too, was following the star. I felt I must go slowly becaus_e was lame and could not go fast—and all the time the star sank lower an_ower. Yet I felt I couldn't leave Dean. Then just as suddenly—things  _do_appen like that in dreams—so nice—without a bit of trouble—Teddy was besid_e, too, holding out his hands to me, with the look in his eyes I had see_wice before. I put my hands in his—and he drew me towards him—I was holdin_p my face—then Dean gave a bitter cry, 'My star has set.' I turned my hea_or just a glance—the star was gone—and I woke up in a dull, ugly, rainy daw_ith no star—no Teddy—no kiss.
  • "I wonder what the dream meant—if it meant anything. I must not think it did.
  • It is a Murray tradition not to be superstitious.
  • ********
  • "June 28, 19—
  • "This is my last night in Shrewsbury. 'Good-bye, proud world, I'm going home
  • '—to-morrow, when Cousin Jimmy is coming for me and my trunk in the ol_xpress waggon and I will ride back in that chariot of state to New Moon.
  • "These three Shrewsbury years seemed so long to me when I looked ahead t_hem. And now, looking back, they seem as yesterday when it has passed. _hink I've won something in them. I don't use so many italics—I've acquired _ittle poise and self-control—I've got a bit of bitter worldly wisdom—and I'v_earned to smile over a rejection slip. I think that has been the hardes_esson of all to learn—and doubtless the most necessary.
  • "As I look back over these three years some things stand out so much mor_learly and significantly than others, as if they had a special meaning al_heir own. And not always the things one might expect either. For instance, Evelyn's enmity and even that horrible moustache incident seem faded an_nimportant. But the moment I saw my first poem in  _Garden and Woodland_ —oh, that  _was_  a moment—my walk to New Moon and back the night of the play—th_riting of that queer little poem of mine that Mr. Carpenter tore up—my nigh_n the haystack under the September moon—that splendid old woman who spanke_he King—the moment in class when I discovered Keats' lines about the 'air_oices'—and that other moment in the old John house when Teddy looked into m_yes—oh, it seems to me these are the things I will remember in the halls o_ternity when Evelyn Blake's sneers and the old John house scandal and Aun_uth's nagging and the routine of lessons and examinations have been for eve_orgotten. And my promise to Aunt Elizabeth  _has_  helped me, as Mr.
  • Carpenter predicted. Not in my diary perhaps—I just let myself  _go_  here—on_ust have a 'vent'—but in my stories and Jimmy-books.
  • "We had our class day exercises this afternoon. I wore my new cream organd_ith the violets in it and carried a big bouquet of pink peonies. Dean, who i_n Montreal on his way home, wired the florist here for a bouquet of roses fo_e—seventeen roses—one for each year of my life—and it was presented to m_hen I went up for my diploma. That was dear of Dean.
  • "Perry was class orator and made a fine speech. And he got the medal fo_eneral proficiency. It has been a stiff pull between him and Will Morris, bu_erry has won out.
  • "I wrote and read the class day prophecy. It was very amusing and the audienc_eemed to enjoy it. I had another one in my Jimmy-book at home. It was muc_more_  amusing but it wouldn't have done to read it.
  • "I wrote my last society letter for Mr. Towers tonight. I've always hated tha_tunt but I wanted the few pennies it brought in and one mustn't scorn th_ase degrees by which one ascends young ambition's ladder.
  • "I've also been packing up. Aunt Ruth came up occasionally and looked at me a_ packed but was oddly silent. Finally she said, with a sigh,
  • "'I shall miss you awfully, Emily.'
  • "I never dreamed of her saying and feeling anything like that. And it made m_eel uncomfortable. Since Aunt Ruth was so decent about the John house scanda_'ve felt differently towards her. But I couldn't say I'd miss her.
  • "Yet something had to be said.
  • "'I shall always be very grateful to you, Aunt Ruth, for what you have don_or me these past three years.'
  • "'I've tried to do my duty,' said Aunt Ruth virtuously.
  • ********
  • "I find I'm oddly sorry to leave this little room I've never liked and tha_as never liked me, and that long hill starred with lights—after all, I've ha_ome wonderful moments here. And even poor dying Byron! But by no stretch o_entiment can I regret parting from Queen Alexandra's chromo, or the vase o_aper flowers. Of course, the Lady Giovanna goes with me. She  _belongs_  i_y room at New Moon. She has always seemed like an exile here. It hurts me t_hink I shall never again hear the night wind in the Land of Uprightness. Bu_'ll have my night wind in Lofty John's bush; I think Aunt Elizabeth means t_et me have a kerosene lamp to write by—my door at New Moon shuts  _tight_ —and I will not have to drink cambric tea. I went at dusk to-night to tha_ittle pearly pool which has always been such a witching spot to linger nea_n spring evenings. Through the trees that fringed it faint hues of rose an_affron from the west stole across it. It was unruffled by a breath and ever_eaf and branch and fern and blade of grass was mirrored in it. I looke_n—and saw my face; and by an odd twist of reflection from a bending bough _eemed to wear a leafy garland on my head—like a laurel crown.
  • "I took it as a good omen.
  • "Perhaps Teddy was only shy!"