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Chapter 26 On the Bay Shore

  • "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?"
  • Emily reflected.
  • "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.