"I wonder," thought Emily, "how much longer I have to live."
She had prowled that evening farther down the bay shore than she had ever gon_efore. It was a warm, windy evening, the air was resinous and sweet; the ba_ misty turquoise. That part of the shore whereon she found herself seemed a_onely and virgin as if no human foot had ever trodden it, save for a tiny, tricksy path, slender as red thread and bordered by great, green, velvet_heets of moss, that wound in and out of the big firs and scrub spruces. Th_anks grew steeper and rockier as she went on and finally the little pat_anished altogether in a plot of bracken. Emily was just turning to go bac_hen she caught sight of a magnificent spray of farewell-summer, growing fa_ut on the edge of the bank. She must get it—she had never seen farewell- summers of so dark and rich a purple. She stepped out to reach them—th_reacherous mossy soil gave way under her feet and slid down the steep slope.
Emily made a frantic attempt to scramble back but the harder she tried, th_aster went the landslide, carrying her with it. In a moment it would pass th_lope and go over the brink of the rocks, straight to the boulder-strewn shor_hirty feet below. Emily had one dreadful moment of terror and despair; an_hen she found that the clump of mossy earth which had broken away had held o_ narrow ledge of rock, half hanging over it; and she was lying on the clump.
It seemed to her that the slightest movement on her part would send it over, straight to the cruel boulders underneath.
She lay very still, trying to think—trying not to be afraid. She was far, fa_way from any house—nobody could hear her if she screamed. And she did no_ven dare to scream lest the motion of her body dislodge the fragment on whic_he lay. How long could she lie there motionless? Night was coming on. Aun_ancy would grow anxious when the dark fell and would send Caroline to loo_or her. But Caroline would never find her here. Nobody would ever think o_ooking here for her, so far away from the Grange, in the spruce barrens o_he Lower Bay. To lie there alone all night—to fancy the earth was slippin_ver—waiting for help that would never come—Emily could hardly restrain _hudder that might have been ruinous.
She had faced death once before, or thought she had, on the night when Loft_ohn had told her she had eaten a poisoned apple—but this was even harder. T_ie here, all alone, far away from home! They might never know what had becom_f her—never find her. The crows or the gulls would pick her eyes out. Sh_ramatized the thing so vividly that she almost screamed with the horror o_t. She would just disappear from the world as Ilse's mother had disappeared.
_What had become of Ilse's mother?_ Even in her own desperate plight Emil_sked herself that question. And she would never see dear New Moon again an_eddy and the dairy and the Tansy Patch and Lofty John's bush and the moss_ld sundial and her precious little heap of manuscripts on the sofa shelf i_he garret.
"I must be very brave and patient," she thought. "My only chance is to li_till. And I can pray in my mind—I'm sure God can hear thoughts as well a_ords. It is nice to think He can hear me if nobody else can. O God—Father'_od—please work a miracle and save my life, because I don't think I'm fit t_ie yet. Excuse my not being on my knees—You see I can't move. And if I di_lease don't let Aunt Elizabeth find my letter-bills ever. Please let Aun_aura find them. And please don't let Caroline move out the wardrobe when sh_ouse-cleans because then she would find my Jimmy-book and read what I wrot_bout her. Please forgive all my sins, especially not being grateful enoug_nd cutting a bang, and please don't let Father be very far away. Amen."
Then, characteristically she thought of a postscript. "And oh, _please_ le_omebody find out that Ilse's mother didn't do _that_."
She lay very still. The light on the water began to turn warm gold and rose. _reat pine on a bluff in front of her overflowed in a crest of dark bough_gainst the amber splendour behind it—a part of the beauty of the beautifu_orld that was slipping away from her. The chill of the evening gulf breez_egan to creep over her. Once a bit of earth broke off at her side and wen_own—Emily heard the thud of the little pebbles in it on the boulders below.
The portion upon which one of her legs lay was quite loose and pendent also.
She knew it might break off, too, at any moment. It would be very dreadful t_e there when it got dark. She could see the big spray of farewell-summer tha_ad lured her to her doom, waving unplucked above her, wonderfully purple an_ovely.
Then, beside it, she saw a man's face looking down at her!
She heard him say, "My God!" softly to himself. She saw that he was slight an_hat one shoulder was a trifle higher than the other. This must be Dea_riest—Jarback Priest. Emily dared not call to him. She lay still and he_reat, grey-purple eyes said, "Save me."
"How can I help you?" said Dean Priest hoarsely, as if to himself. "I canno_each you—and it looks as if the slightest touch or jar would send that broke_arth over the brink. I must go for a rope—and to leave you here alone—lik_his. Can you wait, child?"
"Yes," breathed Emily. She smiled at him to encourage him—the little sof_mile that began at the corners of her mouth and spread over her face. Dea_riest never forgot that smile—and the steadfast child-eyes looking ou_hrough it from the little face that seemed so perilously near the brink.
"I'll be as quick as I can," he said. "I can't go very fast—I'm a bit lame, you see. But don't be frightened—I'll save you. I'll leave my dog to keep yo_ompany. Here, Tweed."
He whistled—a great, tawny-gold dog came in sight.
"Sit right there, Tweed, till I come back. Don't stir a paw—don't wag _ail—talk to her only with your eyes."
Tweed sat down obediently and Dean Priest disappeared.
Emily lay there and dramatized the whole incident for her Jimmy-book. She wa_ little frightened still, but not too frightened to see herself writing i_ll out the next day. It would be quite a thrilling bit.
She liked to know the big dog was there. She was not so learned in lore o_ogs as in lore of cats. But he looked very human and trusty watching her wit_reat kindly eyes. A grey kitten was an adorable thing—but a grey kitten woul_ot have sat there and encouraged her. "I believe," thought Emily, "that a do_s better than a cat when you're in trouble."
It was half an hour before Dean Priest returned.
"Thank God you haven't gone over," he muttered. "I hadn't to go as far as _eared—I found a rope in an empty boat up-shore and took it. And now—if I dro_he rope down to you, are you strong enough to hold it while the earth goe_nd then hang on while I pull you up?"
"I'll try," said Emily.
Dean Priest knotted a loop at the end and slid it down to her. Then he woun_he rope around the trunk of a heavy fir.
"Now," he said.
Emily said inwardly, "Dear God, _please_ —" and caught the swaying loop. Th_ext moment the full weight of her body swung from it, for at her firs_ovement the broken soil beneath her slipped down—slipped over. Dean Pries_ickened and shivered. Could she cling to the rope while he drew her up?
Then he saw she had got a little knee-hold on the narrow shelf. Carefully h_rew on the rope. Emily, full of pluck, helped him by digging her toes int_he crumbling bank. In a moment she was within his reach. He grasped her arm_nd pulled her up beside him into safety. As he lifted her past the farewell- summer Emily reached out her hand and broke off the spray.
"I've got it, anyhow," she said jubilantly. Then she remembered her manners.
"I'm much obliged to you. You saved my life. And—and—I think I'll sit down _oment. My legs feel funny and trembly."
Emily sat down, all at once more shaky than she had been through all th_anger. Dean Priest leaned against the gnarled old fir. He seemed "trembly"
too. He wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. Emily looked curiously a_im. She had learned a good deal about him from Aunt Nancy's casua_emarks—not always good-natured remarks, for Aunt Nancy did not wholly lik_im, it seemed. She always called him "Jarback" rather contemptuously, whil_aroline scrupulously called him Dean. Emily knew he had been to college, tha_e was thirty-six years old—which to Emily seemed a venerable age—and well- off; that he had a malformed shoulder and limped slightly; that he cared fo_othing save books nor ever had; that he lived with an older brother an_ravelled a great deal; and that the whole Priest clan stood somewhat in aw_f his ironic tongue. Aunt Nancy had called him a "cynic." Emily did not kno_hat a cynic was but it sounded interesting. She looked him over carefully an_aw that he had delicate, pale features and tawny-brown hair. His lips wer_hin and sensitive, with a whimsical curve. She liked his mouth. Had she bee_lder she would have known why—because it connoted strength and tenderness an_umour.
In spite of his twisted shoulder there was about him a certain aloof dignit_f presence which was characteristic of many of the Priests and which wa_ften mistaken for pride. The green Priest eyes, that were peering and uncann_n Caroline's face and impudent in Jim Priest's, were remarkably dreamy an_ttractive in his.
"Well, do you think me handsome?" he said, sitting down on another stone an_miling at her. His voice was beautiful—musical and caressing.
Emily blushed. She knew staring was not etiquette, and she did not think hi_t all handsome, so she was very thankful that he did not press his question, but asked another.
"Do you know who your knightly rescuer is?"
"I think you must be Jar—Mr Dean Priest." Emily flushed again with vexation.
She had come so near to making another terrible hole in her manners.
"Yes, Jarback Priest. You needn't mind the nickname. I've heard it ofte_nough. It's a Priest idea of humour." He laughed rather unpleasantly. "Th_eason for it is obvious enough, isn't it? I never got anything else a_chool. How came you to slide over that cliff?"
"I wanted this," said Emily, waving her farewell-summer.
"And you have it! Do you always get what you go after, even with deat_lipping a thin wedge between? I think you're born lucky. I see the signs. I_hat big aster lured you into danger it saved you as well, for it was throug_tepping over to investigate it that I saw you. Its size and colour caught m_ye. Otherwise I should have gone on and you—what would have become of you?
Whom do you belong to that you are let risk your life on these dangerou_anks? What is your name—if you have a name! I begin to doubt you—I see yo_ave pointed ears. Have I been tricked into meddling with fairies, and will _iscover presently that twenty years have passed and that I am an old man lon_ince lost to the living world with nothing but the skeleton of my dog fo_ompany?"
"I am Emily Byrd Starr of New Moon," said Emily, rather coldly. She wa_eginning to be sensitive about her ears. Father Cassidy had remarked o_hem—and now Jarback Priest. Was there really something uncanny about them?
And yet there was a flavour about the said Jarback that she liked—like_ecidedly. Emily never was long in doubt about anyone she met. In a fe_inutes she always knew whether she liked, disliked, or was indifferent t_hem. She had a queer feeling that she had known Jarback Priest fo_ears—perhaps because it seemed so long when she was lying on that crumblin_arth waiting for him to return. He was not handsome but she liked that lean, clever face of his with its magnetic green eyes.
"So you're the young lady visitor at the Grange!" said Dean Priest, in som_stonishment. "Then my dear Aunt Nancy should look after you better—my _very_ear Aunt Nancy."
"You don't like Aunt Nancy, I see," said Emily coolly.
"What is the use of liking a lady who won't like me? You have probabl_iscovered by this time that my Lady Aunt detests me."
"Oh, I don't think it's as bad as that," said Emily. "She must have some goo_pinions about you—she says you're the only Priest who will ever go t_eaven."
"She doesn't mean that as a compliment, whatever you in your innocence believ_t to be. And you are Douglas Starr's daughter? I knew your father. We wer_oys together at Queen's Academy—we drifted apart after we left it—he wen_nto journalism, I to McGill. But he was the only friend I had at school—th_nly boy who would bother himself about Jarback Priest, who was lame an_unchbacked and couldn't play football or hockey. Emily Byrd Starr—Star_hould be your first name. You look like a star—you have a radiant sort o_ersonality shining through you—your proper habitat should be the evening sk_ust after sunset—or the morning sky just before sunrise. Yes. You'd be mor_t home in the morning sky. I think I shall call you Star."
"Do you mean that you think me pretty?" asked Emily directly.
"Why, it hadn't occurred to me to wonder whether you were pretty or not. D_ou think a star should be pretty?"
"No," she said finally, "the word doesn't suit a star."
"I perceive you are an artist in words. Of course it doesn't. Stars ar_rismatic—palpitating—elusive. It is not often we find one made of flesh an_lood. I think I'll wait for you."
"Oh, I'm ready to go now," said Emily, standing up.
"H'm. That wasn't what I meant. Never mind. Come along, Star—if you don't min_alking a bit slowly. I'll take you back from the wilderness at least—I don'_now that I'll venture to Wyther Grange to-night. I don't want Aunt Nancy t_ake the edge off you. And so you don't think me handsome?"
"I didn't say so," cried Emily.
"Not in words. But I can read your thoughts, Star—it won't ever do to thin_nything you don't want me to know. The gods gave me that gift—when they kep_ack everything else I wanted. You don't think me handsome but you think m_ice. Do you think you are pretty yourself?"
"A little—since Aunt Nancy lets me wear my bang," said Emily frankly.
Jarback Priest made a grimace.
"Don't call it by such a name. It's a worse name even than bustle. Bangs an_ustles—they hurt me. I like that black wave breaking on your white brows—bu_on't call it a bang—ever again."
"It _is_ a very ugly word. I never use it in my poetry, of course."
Whereby Dean Priest discovered that Emily wrote poetry. He also discovere_retty nearly everything else about her in that charming walk back to Pries_ond in the fir-scented dusk, with Tweed walking between them, his nos_ouching his master's hand softly every now and then, while the robins in th_rees above them whistled blithely in the afterlight.
With nine out of ten people Emily was secretive and reserved, but Dean Pries_as sealed of her tribe and she divined it instantly. He had a right to th_nner sanctuary and she yielded it unquestionably. She talked to him freely.
Besides, she felt _alive_ again—she felt the wonderful thrill of livin_gain, after that dreadful space when she had seemed to hang between life an_eath. She felt, as she wrote to her father afterwards, "as if a little bir_as singing in my heart." And oh, how good the green sod felt under her feet!
She told him all about herself and her doings and beings. Only one thing sh_id not tell him—her worry over Ilse's mother. _That_ she could not speak o_o any one. Aunt Nancy need not have been frightened that she would carr_ales to New Moon.
"I wrote a whole poem yesterday when it rained and I couldn't get out," sh_aid. "It began,
> I sit by the western window > That looks on Malvern Bay—"
"Am I not to hear the whole of it?" asked Dean, who knew perfectly well tha_mily was hoping that he would ask it.
Emily delightedly repeated the whole poem. When she came to the two lines sh_iked best in it,
> Perhaps in those wooded islands > That gem the proud bay's breast—
she looked up sidewise at him to see if he admired them. But he was walkin_ith eyes cast down and an absent expression on his face. She felt a littl_isappointed.
"H'm," he said when she had finished. "You're twelve, didn't you say? Whe_ou're ten years older I shouldn't wonder—but let's not think of it."
"Father Cassidy told me to keep on," cried Emily.
"There was no need of it. You _would_ keep on anyhow—you have the itch fo_riting born in you. It's quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?"
"I think I shall be either a great poetess or a distinguished novelist," sai_mily reflectively.
"Having only to choose," remarked Dean dryly. "Better be a novelist—I hear i_ays better."
"What worries me about writing novels," confided Emily "is the love talk i_hem. I'm sure I'll never be able to write it. I've tried," she conclude_andidly, "and I can't think of _anything_ to say."
"Don't worry about that. _I'll_ teach you some day," said Dean.
"Will you—will you really?" Emily was very eager. "I'll be so obliged if yo_ill. I _think_ I could manage _everything_ else very nicely."
"It's a bargain then—don't forget it. And don't go looking for anothe_eacher, mind. What do you find to do at the Grange besides writing poetry?
Are you never lonesome with only those two old survivals?"
"No. I enjoy my own company," said Emily gravely.
"You would. Stars are said to dwell apart, anyhow, sufficient unt_hemselves—ensphered in their own light. Do you really like Aunt Nancy?"
"Yes, indeed. She is very kind to me. She doesn't make me wear sunbonnets an_he lets me go barefooted in the forenoons. But I have to wear my buttone_oots in the afternoons, and I hate buttoned boots."
"Naturally. You should be shod with sandals of moonshine and wear a scarf o_ea-mist with a few fire-flies caught in it over your hair. Star, you don'_ook like your father, but you suggest him in several ways. Do you look lik_our mother? I never saw her."
All at once Emily smiled demurely. A real sense of humour was born in her a_hat moment. Never again was she to feel quite so unmixedly tragic ove_nything.
"No," she said, "it's only my eyelashes and smile that are like Mother's. Bu_'ve got Father's forehead, and Grandma Starr's hair and eyes, and Great-Uncl_eorge's nose, and Aunt Nancy's hands, and Cousin Susan's elbows, and Great- great-Grandmother Murray's ankles, and Grandfather Murray's eyebrows."
Dean Priest laughed.
"A rag-bag—as we all are," he said. "But your soul is your own, and fire-new, I'll swear to that."
"Oh, I'm so glad I like you," said Emily impulsively. "It would be _hateful_o think any one I didn't like had saved my life. I don't mind _your_ savin_t a bit."
"That's good. Because you see your life belongs to me henceforth. Since _aved it it's mine. Never forget that."
Emily felt an odd sensation of rebellion. She didn't fancy the idea of he_ife belonging to anybody but herself—not even to anybody she liked as much a_he liked Dean Priest. Dean, watching her, saw it and smiled his whimsica_mile that always seemed to have so much more in it than mere smiling.
"That doesn't quite suit you? Ah, you see one pays a penalty when one reache_ut for something beyond the ordinary. One pays for it in bondage of some kin_r other. Take your wonderful aster home and keep it as long as you can. I_as cost you your freedom."
He was laughing—he was only joking, of course—yet Emily felt as if a cobwe_etter had been flung round her. Yielding to a sudden impulse she flung th_ig aster on the ground and set her foot on it.
Dean Priest looked on amusedly. His strange eyes were very kindly as he me_ers.
"You rare thing—you vivid thing—you starry thing! We are going to be goo_riends—we _are_ good friends. I'm coming up to Wyther Grange to-morrow t_ee those descriptions you've written of Caroline and my venerable Aunt i_our Jimmy-book. I feel sure they're delicious. Here's your path—don't g_oaming again so far from civilization. Goodnight, My Star of the Morning."
He stood at the cross-road and watched her out of sight.
"What a child!" he muttered. "I'll never forget her eyes as she lay there o_he edge of death—the dauntless little soul—and I've never seen a creature wh_eemed so full of sheer joy in existence. She is Douglas Starr's child— _he_ever called me Jarback."
He stooped and picked up the broken aster. Emily's heel had met it squarel_nd it was badly crushed. But he put it away that night between the leaves o_n old volume of _Jane Eyre,_ where he had marked a verse,
> All glorious rose upon my sight > That child of shower and gleam.