A certain thing happened at New Moon because Teddy Kent paid Ilse Burnley _ompliment one day and Emily Starr didn't altogether like it. Empires hav_een overturned for the same reason.
Teddy was skating on Blair Water and taking Ilse and Emily out in turns for
"slides." Neither Ilse nor Emily had skates. Nobody was sufficientl_nterested in Ilse to buy skates for her, and as for Emily, Aunt Elizabeth di_ot approve of girls skating. New Moon girls had never skated. Aunt Laura ha_ revolutionary idea that skating would be good exercise for Emily and would, moreover, prevent her from wearing out the soles of her boots sliding. Bu_either of these arguments was sufficient to convince Aunt Elizabeth, in spit_f the thrifty streak that came to her from the Burnleys. The latter, however, caused her to issue an edict that Emily was not to "slide." Emily took thi_ery hardly. She moped about in a woe-begone fashion and she wrote to he_ather, "I _hate_ Aunt Elizabeth. She is so unjust. She never plays fair."
But one day Dr Burnley stuck his head in at the door of the New Moon kitche_nd said gruffly, "What's this I hear about you not letting Emily slide, Elizabeth?"
"She wears out the soles of her boots," said Elizabeth.
"Boots be ———" the doctor remembered that ladies were present just in time.
"Let the creature slide all she wants to. She ought to be in the open air al_he time. She ought"—the doctor stared at Elizabeth ferociously—"she ought t_leep out of doors."
Elizabeth trembled lest the doctor should go on to insist on this unheard-o_roceeding. She knew he had absurd ideas about the proper treatment o_onsumptives and those who might become such. She was glad to appease him b_etting Emily stay out of doors in daytime and do what seemed good to her, i_nly he would say no more about staying out all night too.
"He is much more concerned about Emily than he is about his own child," sh_aid bitterly to Laura.
"Ilse is too healthy," said Aunt Laura with a smile. "If she were a delicat_hild Allan might forgive her for—for being her mother's daughter."
"S—s—h," said Aunt Elizabeth. But she "s—s—s—h'd" too late. Emily, coming int_he kitchen, had heard Aunt Laura and puzzled over what she had said all da_n school. Why had Ilse to be forgiven for being her mother's daughter?
Everybody was her mother's daughter, wasn't she? Wherein did the crim_onsist? Emily worried over it so much that she was inattentive to her lesson_nd Miss Brownell raked her fore and aft with sarcasm.
It is time we got back to Blair Water where Teddy was just bringing Emily i_rom a glorious spin clear round the great circle of ice. Ilse was waiting fo_er turn, on the bank. Her golden cloud of hair aureoled her face and fell i_ shimmering wave over her forehead under the faded, little red tam she wore.
Ilse's clothes were always faded. The stinging kiss of the wind had crimsone_er cheeks and her eyes were glowing like amber pools with fire in thei_earts. Teddy's artistic perception saw her beauty and rejoiced in it.
"Isn't Ilse handsome?" he said.
Emily was not jealous. It never hurt her to hear Ilse praised. But somehow sh_id not like this. Teddy was looking at Ilse altogether _too_ admiringly. I_as all, Emily believed, due to that shimmering fringe on Ilse's white brows.
"If _I_ had a bang Teddy might think me handsome too," she though_esentfully. "Of course, black hair isn't as pretty as gold. But my forehea_s too high—everybody says so. And I _did_ look nice in Teddy's pictur_ecause he drew some curls over it."
The matter rankled. Emily thought of it as she went home over the sheen of th_rusted snow-field slanting to the light of the winter sunset, and she coul_ot eat her supper because she did not have a bang. All her long hidde_earning for a bang seemed to come to a head at once. She knew there was n_se in coaxing Aunt Elizabeth for one. But when she was getting ready for be_hat night she stood on a chair so that she could see little Emily-in-the- glass, then lifted the curling ends of her long braid and laid them over he_orehead. The effect, in Emily's eyes at least, was very alluring. Sh_uddenly thought—what if she cut a bang herself? It would take only a minute.
And once done what could Aunt Elizabeth do? She would be very angry an_oubtless inflict some kind of punishment. But the bang would be there—a_east until it grew out long.
Emily, her lips set, went for the scissors. She unbraided her hair and parte_he front tresses. Snip—snip—went the scissors. Glistening locks fell at he_eet. In a minute Emily had her long-desired bang. Straight across her brow_ell the lustrous, softly curving fringe. It changed the whole character o_er face. It made it arch, provocative, elusive. For one brief moment Emil_azed at her reflection in triumph.
And then—sheer terror seized her. Oh, what had she done? How angry Aun_lizabeth would be! Conscience suddenly awoke and added its pang also. She ha_een wicked. It was wicked to cut a bang when Aunt Elizabeth had forbidden it.
Aunt Elizabeth had given her a home at New Moon—hadn't Rhoda Stuart that ver_ay in school twitted her again with "living on charity?" And she was repayin_er by disobedience and ingratitude. A Starr should not have done that. In _anic of fear and remorse Emily snatched the scissors and cut the bang off—cu_t close against the hair-line. Worse and worse! Emily beheld the result i_ismay. Any one could see that a bang _had_ been cut, so Aunt Elizabeth'_nger was still to face. And she had made a terrible fright of herself. Emil_urst into tears, snatched up the fallen locks and crammed them into th_aste-basket, blew out her candle and sprang into bed, just as Aunt Elizabet_ame in.
Emily burrowed face downward in the pillows, and pretended to be asleep. Sh_as afraid Aunt Elizabeth would ask her some question and insist on he_ooking up while she answered it. That was a Murray tradition—you looke_eople in the face when you spoke to them. But Aunt Elizabeth undressed i_ilence and came to bed. The room was in darkness—thick darkness. Emily sighe_nd turned over. There was a hot gin-jar in the bed, she knew, and her fee_ere cold. But she did not think she ought to have the privilege of the gin- jar. She was too wicked—too ungrateful.
" _Do_ stop squirming," said Aunt Elizabeth.
Emily squirmed no more—physically at least. Mentally she continued to squirm.
She could not sleep. Her feet or her conscience—or both—kept her awake. An_ear, also. She dreaded the morning. Aunt Elizabeth would see then what ha_appened. If it were only over—if the revelation were only over. Emily forgo_nd squirmed.
"What makes you so restless to-night?" demanded Aunt Elizabeth, in hig_ispleasure. "Are you taking a cold?"
"Then go to sleep. I can't bear such wriggling. One might as well have an ee_n bed—O—W!"
Aunt Elizabeth, in squirming a bit herself, had put her own foot agains_mily's icy ones.
"Goodness, child, your feet are like snow. Here, put them on the gin-jar."
Aunt Elizabeth pushed the gin-jar over against Emily's feet. How lovely an_arm and comforting it was!
Emily worked her toes against it like a cat. But she suddenly knew she coul_ot wait for morning.
"Aunt Elizabeth, I've got something to confess."
Aunt Elizabeth was tired and sleepy and did not want confessions just then. I_o very gracious tone she said:
"What have you been doing?"
"I—I cut a bang, Aunt Elizabeth."
Aunt Elizabeth sat up in bed.
"But I cut it off again," cried Emily hurriedly. "Right off—close to my head."
Aunt Elizabeth got out of bed, lit a candle, and looked Emily over.
"Well you _have_ made a sight of yourself," she said grimly. "I never sa_ny one as ugly as you are this minute. And you have behaved in a mos_nderhanded fashion."
This was one of the times Emily felt compelled to agree with Aunt Elizabeth.
"I'm sorry," she said, lifting pleading eyes.
"You will eat your supper in the pantry for a week," said Aunt Elizabeth. "An_ou will not go to Uncle Oliver's next week when I go. I had promised to tak_ou. But I shall take no one who looks as you do anywhere with me."
This was hard. Emily had looked forward to that visit to Uncle Oliver's. Bu_n the whole she was relieved. The worst was over and her feet were gettin_arm. But there was one thing yet. She might as well unburden her hear_ompletely while she was at it.
"There's another thing I feel I ought to tell you."
Aunt Elizabeth got into bed again with a grunt. Emily took it for permission.
"Aunt Elizabeth, you remember that book I found in Dr Burnley's bookcase an_rought home and asked you if I could read it? It was called _The History o_enry Esmond._ You looked at it and said you had no objections to my readin_istory. So I read it. But, Aunt Elizabeth, it wasn't history—it was a novel.
And I _knew it when I brought it home."_
"You know that I have forbidden you to read novels, Emily Starr. They ar_icked books and have ruined many souls."
"It was very dull," pleaded Emily, as if dullness and wickedness were quit_ncompatible. "And it made me feel unhappy. Everybody seemed to be in lov_ith the wrong person. I have made up my mind, Aunt Elizabeth, that I wil_ever fall in love. It makes too much trouble."
"Don't talk of things you can't understand, and that are not fit for childre_o think about. This is the result of reading novels. I shall tell Dr Burnle_o lock his bookcase up."
"Oh, don't do that, Aunt Elizabeth," exclaimed Emily. "There are no mor_ovels in it. But I'm reading such an interesting book over there. It tell_bout everything that's inside of you. I've got as far along as the liver an_ts diseases. The pictures are so interesting. Please let me finish it." Thi_as worse than novels. Aunt Elizabeth was truly horrified. Things that wer_nside of you were not to be read about.
"Have you no shame, Emily Starr? If you have not I am ashamed for you. Littl_irls do not read books like that."
"But, Aunt Elizabeth, why not? I _have_ a liver, haven't I—and heart an_ungs—and stomach—and—"
"That will do, Emily. Not another word."
Emily went to sleep unhappily. She wished she had never said a word about
"Esmond." And she knew she would never have a chance to finish that othe_ascinating book. Nor had she. Dr Burnley's bookcase was locked thereafter an_he doctor gruffly ordered her and Ilse to keep out of his office. He was in _ery bad humour about it for he had words with Elizabeth Murray over th_atter.
Emily was not allowed to forget her bang. She was twitted and teased in schoo_bout it and Aunt Elizabeth looked at it whenever she looked at Emily and th_ontempt in her eyes burned Emily like a flame. Nevertheless, as th_istreated hair grew out and began to curl in soft little ringlets, Emil_ound consolation. The bang was tacitly permitted, and she felt that her look_ere greatly improved thereby. Of course, as soon as it grew long enough sh_new Aunt Elizabeth would make her brush it back. But for the time being sh_ook comfort in her added beauty.
The bang was just about at its best when the letter came from Great-Aun_ancy.
It was written to Aunt Laura—Great-Aunt Nancy and Aunt Elizabeth were no_ver-fond of each other—and in it Great-Aunt Nancy said, "If you have _hotograph of that child Emily send it along. I don't want to see _her;_he's stupid—I know she's stupid. But I want to see what Juliet's child look_ike. Also the child of that fascinating young man, Douglas Starr. He _was_ascinating. What fools you all were to make such a fuss about Juliet runnin_way with him. If you and Elizabeth had _both_ run away with somebody i_our running days it would have been better for you."
This letter was not shown to Emily. Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura had a lon_ecret consultation and then Emily was told that she was to be taken t_hrewsbury to have her picture taken for Aunt Nancy. Emily was much excite_ver this. She was dressed in her blue cashmere and Aunt Laura put a poin_ace collar on it and hung her Venetian beads over it. And new buttoned boot_ere got for the occasion.
"I'm so glad this has happened while I still have my bang," thought Emil_appily.
But in the photographer's dressing-room, Aunt Elizabeth grimly proceeded t_rush back her bang and pin it with hairpins.
"Oh, please, Aunt Elizabeth, let me have it down," Emily begged. "Just for th_icture. After this I'll brush it back."
Aunt Elizabeth was inexorable. The bang was brushed back and the photograp_aken. When Aunt Elizabeth saw the finished result she was satisfied.
"She looks sulky; but she is neat; and there is a resemblance to the Murrays _ever noticed before," she told Aunt Laura. "That will please Aunt Nancy. Sh_s very clannish under all her oddness."
Emily would have liked to throw every one of the photographs in the fire. Sh_ated them. They made her look hideous. Her face seemed to be _all_orehead. If they sent Aunt Nancy that Aunt Nancy would think her stupide_han ever. When Aunt Elizabeth did the photograph up in cardboard and tol_mily to take it to the office Emily already knew what she meant to do. Sh_ent straight to the garret and took out of her box the water-colour Teddy ha_ade of her. It was just the same size as the photograph. Emily removed th_atter from its wrappings, spurning it aside with her foot.
"That isn't _me_ ," she said. "I looked sulky because I felt sulky about th_ang. But I hardly ever look sulky, so it isn't fair."
She wrapped Teddy's sketch up in the cardboard and then sat down and wrote _etter.
> "DEAR GREAT-AUNT NANCY:
> "Aunt Elizabeth had my picture taken to send you but I don't like it becaus_t makes me look too ugly and I am putting another picture in instead. A_artist friend_ made it for me. It is just like me when I am smiling and hav_ bang. I am only _lending_ it to you, not _giving_ it, because I valew i_ery highly.
> "Your obedient grand niece,
> "EMILY BYRD STARR.
> "P.S. I am not so stupid as you think.
> "E. B. S.
> "P. S. No. 2. I am not stupid _at all."_
Emily put her letter in with the picture—thereby unconsciously cheating th_ost-office—and slipped out of the house to mail it. Once it was safely in th_ost-office she drew a breath of relief. She found the walk home ver_njoyable. It was a bland day in early April and spring was looking at yo_ound the corners. The Wind Woman was laughing and whistling over the we_weet fields; freebooting crows held conferences in the tree-tops; littl_ools of sunshine lay in the mossy hollows; the sea was a blaze of sapphir_eyond the golden dunes; the maples in Lofty John's bush were talking abou_ed buds. Everything Emily had ever read of dream and myth and legend seemed _art of the charm of that bush. She was filled to her finger-tips with _apture of living.
"Oh, I smell spring!" she cried as she danced along the brook path.
Then she began to compose a poem on it. Everybody who has ever lived in th_orld and could string two rhymes together has written a poem on spring. It i_he most be-rhymed subject in the world—and always will be, because it i_oetry incarnate itself. You can never be a real poet if you haven't made a_east one poem about spring.
Emily was wondering whether she would have elves dancing on the brookside b_oonlight, or pixies sleeping in a bed of ferns in her poem, when somethin_onfronted her at a bend in the path which was neither elf nor pixy, bu_eemed odd and weird enough to belong to some of the tribes of Little People.
Was it a witch? Or an elderly fay of evil intentions—the bad fairy of al_hristening tales?
"I'm the b'y's Aunt Tom," said the appearance, seeing that Emily was to_mazed to do anything but stand and stare.
"Oh!" Emily gasped in relief. She was no longer frightened. But what a _very_eculiar looking lady Perry's Aunt Tom was. Old—so old that it seemed quit_mpossible that she could ever have been young; a bright red hood over crone- like, fluttering grey locks; a little face seamed by a thousand fine, criss- cross wrinkles; a long nose with a knob on the end of it; little twinkling, eager, grey eyes under bristly brows; a ragged man's coat covering her fro_eck to feet; a basket in one hand and a black knobby stick in the other.
"Staring wasn't thought good breeding in my time," said Aunt Tom.
"Oh!" said Emily again. "Excuse me—How do you do!" she added, with a vagu_rasp after her manners.
"Polite—and not too proud," said Aunt Tom, peering curiously at her. "I'v_een up to the big house with a pair of socks for the b'y but 'twas yourself _anted to see."
"Me?" said Emily blankly.
"Yis. The b'y has been talking a bit of you and a plan kem into my head.
Thinks I to myself it's no bad notion. But I'll make sure before I waste m_it o' money. Emily Byrd Starr is your name and Murray is your nature. If _ive the b'y an eddication will ye marry him when ye grow up?"
"Me!" said Emily again. It seemed to be all she could say. Was she dreaming?
She _must_ be.
"Yis—you. You're half Murray and it'll be a great step up f'r the b'y. He'_mart and he'll be a rich man some day and boss the country. But divil a cen_ill I spend on him unless you promise."
"Aunt Elizabeth wouldn't let me," cried Emily, too frightened of this odd ol_ody to refuse on her own account.
"If you've got any Murray in you you'll do your own choosing," said Aunt Tom, thrusting her face so close to Emily's that her bushy eyebrows tickled Emily'_ose. "Say you'll marry the b'y and to college he goes."
Emily seemed to be rendered speechless. She could think of nothing to say—oh, if she could _only_ wake up! She could not even run.
"Say it!" insisted Aunt Tom, thumping her stick sharply on a stone in th_ath.
Emily was so horrified that she might have said something—anything—to escape.
But at this moment Perry bounded out of the spruce copse, his face white wit_age, and seized his Aunt Tom most disrespectfully by the shoulder.
"You go home!" he said furiously.
"Now, b'y dear," quavered Aunt Tom deprecatingly. "I was only trying to do yo_ good turn. I was asking her to marry ye after a bit an—"
"I'll do my own asking!" Perry was angrier than ever. "You've likely spoile_verything. Go home—go home, I say!"
Aunt Tom hobbled off muttering, "Then I'll know better than to waste me bit o'
money. No Murray, no money, me b'y."
When she had disappeared down the brook path Perry turned to Emily. From whit_e had gone very red.
"Don't mind her—she's cracked," he said. "Of course, when I grow up I mean t_sk you to marry me but—"
"I couldn't—Aunt Elizabeth—"
"Oh, she will then. I'm going to be premier of Canada some day."
"But I wouldn't want—I'm sure I wouldn't—"
"You will when you grow up. Ilse is better looking of course, and I don't kno_hy I like you best but I do."
"Don't you ever talk to me like this again!" commanded Emily, beginning t_ecover her dignity.
"Oh, I won't—not till we grow up. I'm as ashamed of it as you are," said Perr_ith a sheepish grin. "Only I had to say something after Aunt Tom butted i_ike that. I ain't to blame for it so don't you hold it against me. But jus_ou remember that I'm going to ask you some day. And I believe Teddy Kent i_oo."
Emily was walking haughtily away but she turned at this to say coolly over he_houlder.
"If he does I'll marry him."
"If you do I'll knock his head off," shouted Perry in a prompt rage.
But Emily walked steadily on home and went to the garret to think things over.
"It has been romantic but not comfortable," was her conclusion. And tha_articular poem on spring was never finished.