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Chapter 10 Growing Pains

  • There was a great deal of suppressed excitement in school during the last wee_n June, the cause thereof being Rhoda Stuart's birthday party, which was t_ake place early in July. The amount of heart-burning was incredible. Who wa_o be invited? That was the great question. There were some who knew the_ouldn't and some who knew they would; but there were more who were in trul_orrible suspense. Everybody paid court to Emily because she was Rhoda'_earest friend and might conceivably have some voice in the selection o_uests. Jennie Strang even went as far as bluntly to offer Emily a beautifu_hite box with a gorgeous picture of Queen Victoria on the cover, to keep he_encils in, if she would procure her an invitation. Emily refused the brib_nd said grandly that she could not interfere in such a delicate matter. Emil_eally did put on some airs about it.  _She_  was sure of her invitation.
  • Rhoda had told her about the party weeks before and had talked it all ove_ith her. It was to be a very grand affair—a birthday cake covered with pin_cing and adorned with ten tall pink candles—ice-cream and oranges—and writte_nvitations on pink, gilt-edged note-paper  _sent through the post-office_ —this last being an added touch of exclusiveness. Emily dreamed about tha_arty day and night and had her present all ready for Rhoda—a pretty hair- ribbon which Aunt Laura had brought from Shrewsbury.
  • On the first Sunday in July Emily found herself sitting beside Jennie Stran_n Sunday-school for the opening exercises. Generally she and Rhoda sa_ogether, but now Rhoda was sitting three seats ahead with a strange littl_irl—a very gay and gorgeous little girl, dressed in blue silk, with a large, flower-wreathed leghorn hat on her elaborately curled hair, white lace-wor_tockings on her pudgy legs and a bang that came clean down to her eyes. No_ll her fine feathers could make a really fine bird of her, however; she wa_ot in the least pretty and her expression was cross and contemptuous.
  • "Who is the girl sitting with Rhoda?" whispered Emily.
  • "Oh, she's Muriel Porter," answered Jennie. "She's a towny, you know. She'_ome out to spend her vacation with her aunt, Jane Beatty. I hate her. If _as her I'd never  _dream_  of wearing blue with a skin as dark as hers. Bu_he Porters are rich and Muriel thinks she's a wonder. They say Rhoda and he_ave been  _awful thick_  since she came out—Rhoda's always chasing afte_nybody she thinks is up in the world."
  • Emily stiffened up. She was not going to listen to disparaging remarks abou_er friends. Jennie felt the stiffening and changed her note.
  • "Anway, I'm  _glad_  I'm not invited to Rhoda's old party. I wouldn't  _want_o go when Muriel Porter will be there, putting on her airs."
  • "How do you know you are not invited?" wondered Emily.
  • "Why, the invitations went out yesterday. Didn't you get yours?"
  • "No—o—o."
  • "Did you get your mail?"
  • "Yes—Cousin Jimmy got it."
  • "Well, maybe Mrs Beecher forgot to give it to him. Likely you'll get it to- morrow."
  • Emily agreed that it was likely. But a queer cold sensation of dismay ha_nvaded her being, which was not removed by the fact that after Sunday-schoo_hoda strutted away with Muriel Porter without a glance at any one else. O_onday Emily herself went to the post-office, but there was no pink envelop_or her. She cried herself to sleep that night, but did not quite give up hop_ntil Tuesday had passed. Then she faced the terrible truth—that she—she, Emily Byrd Starr, of New Moon—had not been invited to Rhoda's party. The thin_as incredible. There  _must_  be a mistake somewhere. Had Cousin Jimmy los_he invitation on the road home? Had Rhoda's grown-up sister who wrote th_nvitations overlooked her name? Had—Emily's unhappy doubts were for eve_esolved into bitter certainty by Jennie, who joined her as she left the post- office. There was a malicious light in Jennie's beady eyes. Jennie liked Emil_uite well by now, in spite of their passage-at-arms on the day of their firs_eeting, but she liked to see her pride humbled for all that.
  • "So you're not invited to Rhoda's party after all."
  • "No," admitted Emily.
  • It was a very bitter moment for her. The Murray pride was sorely wrung—and, beneath the Murray pride, something else had been grievously wounded but wa_ot yet quite dead.
  • "Well, I call it dirt mean," said Jennie, quite honestly sympathetic in spit_f her secret satisfaction. "After all the fuss she's made over you, too! Bu_hat's Rhoda Stuart all over. Deceitful is no name for  _her_."
  • "I don't think she's deceitful," said Emily, loyal to the last ditch. "_elieve there's some mistake about my not being invited."
  • Jennie stared.
  • "Then you don't know the reason? Why, Beth Beatty told me the whole story.
  • Muriel Porter hates you and she just up and told Rhoda that she would not g_o her party if you were invited. And Rhoda was so crazy to have a town gir_here that she promised she wouldn't invite you."
  • "Muriel Porter doesn't know me," gasped Emily. "How can she hate me?"
  • Jennie grinned impishly.
  • " _I_  can tell you. She's  _dead struck_  on Fred Stuart and Fred knows i_nd he teased her by praising  _you_  up to her—told her you were the sweetes_irl in Blair Water and he meant to have you for  _his girl_  when you were _ittle older. And Muriel was so mad and jealous she made Rhoda leave you out.
  • _I_  wouldn't care if I was you. A Murray of New Moon is away above suc_rash. As for Rhoda not being deceitful, I can tell you she  _is._  Why, sh_old you that she didn't know that snake was in the box, when it was he_hought of doing it in the first place."
  • Emily was too crushed to reply. She was glad that Jennie had to switch of_own her own lane and leave her alone. She hurried home, afraid that she coul_ot keep the tears back until she got there. Disappointment about th_arty—humiliation over the insult—all were swallowed up in the anguish of _aith betrayed and a trust outraged. Her love of Rhoda was quite dead now an_mily smarted to the core of her soul with the pain of the blow that ha_illed it. It was a child's tragedy—and all the more bitter for that, sinc_here was no one to understand. Aunt Elizabeth told her that birthday partie_ere all nonsense and that the Stuarts were not a family that the Murrays ha_ver associated with. And even Aunt Laura, though she petted and comforted, did not realize how deep and grievous the hurt had been—so deep and grievou_hat Emily could not even write about it to her father, and had no outlet fo_he violence of emotion that racked her being.
  • The next Sunday Rhoda was alone in Sunday-school, Muriel Porter having bee_uddenly summoned back to town by her father's illness; and Rhoda looke_weetly towards Emily. But Emily sailed past her with a head held very hig_nd scorn on every lineament. She would  _never_  have anything to do wit_hoda Stuart again—she couldn't. She despised Rhoda more than ever for tryin_o get back with her, now that the town girl for whom she had sacrificed he_as gone. It was not for Rhoda she mourned—it was for the friendship that ha_een so dear to her. Rhoda  _had_  been dear and sweet on the surface a_east, and Emily had found intense happiness in their companionship. Now i_as gone and she could never,  _never_  love or trust anybody again.  _There_ay the sting.
  • It poisoned everything. Emily was of a nature which even as a child, did no_eadily recover from or forget such a blow. She moped about New Moon, lost he_ppetite and grew thin. She hated to go to Sunday-school because she though_he other girls exulted in her humiliation and her estrangement from Rhoda.
  • Some slight feeling of the kind there was, perhaps, but Emily morbidl_xaggerated it. If two girls whispered or giggled together she thought she wa_eing discussed and laughed at. If one of them walked home with her sh_hought it was out of condescending pity because she was friendless. For _onth Emily was the most unhappy little being in Blair Water.
  • "I think I must have been put under a curse at birth," she reflecte_isconsolately.
  • Aunt Elizabeth had a more prosaic idea to account for Emily's langour and lac_f appetite. She had come to the conclusion that Emily's heavy masses of hair
  • "took from her strength" and that she would be much stronger and better if i_ere cut off. With Aunt Elizabeth to decide was to act. One morning she cooll_nformed Emily that her hair was to be "shingled."
  • Emily could not believe her ears.
  • "You don't mean that you are going to cut off my hair, Aunt Elizabeth," sh_xclaimed.
  • "Yes, I mean exactly that," said Aunt Elizabeth firmly. "You have entirely to_uch hair especially for hot weather. I feel sure that is why you have been s_iserable lately. Now, I don't want any crying."
  • But Emily could not keep the tears back.
  • "Don't cut it  _all_  off," she pleaded. "Just cut a good big bang. Lots o_he girls have their hair banged clean from the crown of their heads. Tha_ould take half my hair off and the rest won't take too much strength."
  • "There will be no bangs here," said Aunt Elizabeth. "I've told you so ofte_nough. I'm going to shingle your hair close all over your head for the ho_eather. You'll be thankful to me some day for it."
  • Emily felt anything but thankful just then.
  • "It's my one beauty," she sobbed, "it and my lashes. I suppose you want to cu_ff my lashes too."
  • Aunt Elizabeth  _did_  distrust those long, upcurled fringes of Emily's, whic_ere an inheritance from the girlish stepmother, and too un-Murray-like to b_pproved; but she had no designs against them. The hair must go, however, an_he curtly bade Emily wait there, without any fuss, until she got th_cissors.
  • Emily waited—quite hopelessly. She must lose her lovely hair—the hair he_ather had been so proud of. It might grow again in time—if Aunt Elizabeth le_t—but that would take years, and meanwhile what a fright she would be! Aun_aura and Cousin Jimmy were out; she had no one to back her up; this horribl_hing must happen.
  • Aunt Elizabeth returned with the scissors; they clicked suggestively as sh_pened them; that click, as if by magic, seemed to loosen something—som_trange formidable power in Emily's soul. She turned deliberately around an_aced her aunt. She felt her brows drawing together in an unaccustomed way—sh_elt an uprush as from unknown depths of some irresistible surge of energy.
  • "Aunt Elizabeth," she said, looking straight at the lady with the scissors, _"my hair is not going to be cut off._  Let me hear no more of this."
  • An amazing thing happened to Aunt Elizabeth. She turned pale—she laid th_cissors down—she looked aghast for one moment at the transformed or possesse_hild before her—and then for the first time in her life Elizabeth Murra_urned tail and fled—literally fled—to the kitchen.
  • "What is the matter, Elizabeth?" cried Laura, coming in from the cook-house.
  • "I saw—Father—looking from her face," gasped Elizabeth, trembling. "And sh_aid, 'Let me hear no more of this'—just as  _he_  always said it—his ver_ords."
  • Emily overheard her and ran to the sideboard mirror. She had had, while sh_as speaking, an uncanny feeling of wearing somebody else's face instead o_er own. It was vanishing now—but Emily caught a glimpse of it as it left—th_urray look, she supposed. No wonder it had frightened Aunt Elizabeth—i_rightened herself—she was glad that it had gone. She shivered—she fled to he_arret retreat and cried; but somehow, she knew that her hair would not b_ut.
  • Nor was it; Aunt Elizabeth never referred to the matter again. But severa_ays passed before she meddled much with Emily.
  • It was a rather curious fact that from that day Emily ceased to grieve ove_er lost friend. The matter had suddenly become of small importance. It was a_f it had happened so long ago that nothing, save the mere emotionless memor_f it, remained. Emily speedily regained appetite and animation, resumed he_etters to her father and found that life tasted good again, marred only by _ysterious prescience that Aunt Elizabeth had it in for her in regard to he_efeat in the matter of her hair and would get even sooner or later.
  • Aunt Elizabeth "got even" within the week. Emily was to go on an errand to th_hop. It was a broiling day and she had been allowed to go barefooted at home; but now she must put on boots and stockings. Emily rebelled—it was too hot—i_as too dusty—she couldn't walk that long half-mile in buttoned boots. Aun_lizabeth was inexorable. No Murray must be seen barefooted away from home—an_n they went. But the minute Emily was outside the New Moon gate sh_eliberately sat down, took them off, stowed them in a hole in the dyke, an_ranced away barefooted.
  • She did her errand and returned with an untroubled conscience. How beautifu_he world was—how softly blue was the great, round Blair Water—how gloriou_hat miracle of buttercups in the wet field below Lofty John's bush! At sigh_f it Emily stood stock still and composed a verse of poetry.
  • > Buttercup, flower of the yellow dye, > I see thy cheerful face > Greeting and nodding everywhere > Careless of time and place.
  • >
  • > In boggy field or public road > Or cultured garden's pale > You sport your petals satin-soft, > And down within the vale.
  • So far, so good. But Emily wanted another verse to round the poem off properl_nd the divine afflatus seemed gone. She walked dreamily home, and by the tim_he reached New Moon she had got her verse and was reciting it to herself wit_n agreeable sense of completion.
  • > You cast your loveliness around > Where'er you chance to be, > And you shall always, buttercup, > Be a flower dear to me.
  • Emily felt very proud. This was her third poem and undoubtedly her best.
  • Nobody could say  _it_  was very blank. She must hurry up to the garret an_rite it on a letter-bill. But Aunt Elizabeth was confronting her on th_teps.
  • "Emily, where are your boots and stockings?"
  • Emily came back from cloudland with a disagreeable jolt. She had forgotten al_bout boots and stockings.
  • "In the hole by the gate," she said flatly.
  • "You went to the store barefooted?"
  • "Yes."
  • "After I had told you not to?"
  • This seemed to Emily a superfluous question and she did not answer it. Bu_unt Elizabeth's turn had come.