"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.
"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.